R.I.P. Janet Asimov

I learned last night that Janet Asimov died on February 25. Janet was a psychiatrist, and a writer of books and essays. She was married to Isaac Asimov for the last 20 years of his life.

Over my many readings and re-readings of Isaac Asimov’s autobiographies, I felt like I came to know Janet as I came to know Isaac, without ever meeting them in person. Unlike Isaac Asimov, who died before I really started reading his works, I was fortunate enough to have a brief correspondence with Janet in the late 1990s. My correspondence began with my desire to express how much Isaac’s writing–fiction and nonfiction–meant to me, and how it shaped me as a writer. Janet sent me a courteous letter in response, dotted with stickers here and there across the page.

Sometime later, prompted by a 400th science column that Janet Asimov wrote on Isaac’s behalf for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Isaac Asimov had a regular science column in the magazine for decades, completing 399 columns before he died), I wrote to Janet urging publication of the remaining uncollected science essays. I told her that almost everything I learned about science, I learned from Isaac Asimov. Janet wrote back briefly, saying that she liked the idea. Alas, nothing ever came of the uncollected essays.

I’m sad to learn of Janet’s passing, but I know she lived a long life. She outlived her husband by nearly 27 years. I haven’t read Asimov’s memoirs for several years now, but I think I might crack them open again this spring.


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