Monday, August 11, 2014


Ever the gentleman, Isaac Asimov moved beyond a pair of quite unfair reviews written 1955 issues of Imagination: Science Fiction and Fantasy by engineer and fiction writer Henry Bott. Reviews that must have been as painful as they were hyperbolic. After responding heatedly in an earlier issue, Asimov offers the friendly hand of peace in the April 1955 issue, which Bott and his publisher, William Hamling, having generated tons of free publicity in the science fiction world via these provocative reviews, accept with every show of the same gentlemanliness.  
Asimov's letter of conciliation appeared in the Editorial column, bookened by Hamling's comments:

Last month we presented an open letter by our book reviewer, Henry Bott, in reply to
an article by Isaac Asimov, in which Isaac took issue with Bott's reviews in Madge. We offered Mr. Asimov an opportunity to reply this month, if he so chose. He did. Forthwith, Isaac Asimov's open letter to Imagination

It seems that Henry Bott annoyed me with some of the things he said about me in his reviews which I thought were unfair and uncalled for. It seems also that I have annoyed him with some of the things I said in return. Well, that sort of thing can go on forever without much profit to anyone.
Instead I would like to return a soft answer. In fact, I would like to praise Henry Bott and point out that despite my own sour thoughts about him, he can indeed write a fair review. I am not too proud or stubborn to admit I was wrong in that respect and to apologize for that.
To make my point clearer, I would like to specify the review I mean and point out just why I think it is fair and decent.
On page 122 of the February 1955 issue of IMAGINATION, Mr. Bott reviews a book called LUCKY STARR AND THE OCEANS OF VENUS, by one Paul French.
Now Mr. Bott is not so crazy-wild about the book. He doesn't give it a rave review. He explains that in his opinion it is a juvenile which is suitable only for beginners in the field. He also expresses the thought that the book is not as good as juveniles written by authors such as Heinlein.
Still, despite this, he is careful to point out that he thinks it "is far superior to the comic strip science fiction        pattern," that it"is entertainment in its way and it won't upset anyone." He also says that Paul French shows "inventiveness and a richness of imagination," and that "he could produce a superior piece of work if he could pay more attention to detail."
I am sure that Mr. French, on reading this review ,would feel quite good about the kind words and would feel no rancor at. all about the eminently fair criticism. In fact, I am sure he would say that he does his best to make his juveniles as good as Mr. Heinlein's, and that perhaps he will improve as he. continues to try. He would also ask Mr. Bott to feel free—if he ever has the time—to give' him examples of just where he has fallen short in matters of detail. Mr. French would explain that he learned a great deal from helpful reviewers and editors in the past and hopes to continue learning in the future.
I am positive that Mr. French would say all this. The reason I am positive is that Paul French and Isaac Asimov) are the same person.
I feel certain that Mr. Bott knew this rather open secret and, under the circumstances, his review is all the more kind and fair.
I am very happy that Mr. Bott does not dislike my work quite as much as he himself seemed to think he did in last month's editorial. I certainly find that I, myself, do not dislike his work quite as much as I had thought I did.
I shall continue to write as well as I can and I feel sure that Mr.

Bott will continue to review books in this excellent combination of calmness and dignity, even when he doesn't like the book.
—Isaac Asimov

We're pleased to publish this conciliatory letter, with the knowledge that peace now
reigns among all
concerned. To give credit where it is due, Henry Bott, of course knew that Paul French. was an Asimov nom de plume. Matter of fact, we (blushingly admitted) I edited out a paragraph of the review containing a reference to this fact, because the review had to fit an allotted space. At any rate, it's nice to know that Hank's fairly favorable review spread enough balm into Gilead to still the troubled waters. See you next month.

This concludes our reprise of this incident from science fiction history.

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