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«Nightfall And Other Stories», Isaac Asimov

To John W. Campbell, Jr. for making "Nightfall" possible, and for thirty years of friendship; and

 

To the memory of Anthony Boucher and Groff Conklin

 

 The writing of "Nightfall" was a watershed in my professional career. When I wrote it, I had just turned twenty-one. I had been writing professionally (in the sense that I was submitting my stories to magazines and occasionally selling them) for two and a half years, but had created no tidal wave. I had published about a dozen stories and had failed to sell a dozen others.

 Then John W. Campbell, Jr., the editor of Astounding Science Fiction, showed me the Emerson quotation that starts "Nightfall." We discussed it; then I went home and, over the course of the next few weeks, wrote the story.

 Now let's get something straight. I didn't write that story any differently from the way I had written my earlier stories-or, for that matter, from the way I wrote my later stories. As far as writing is concerned, I am a complete and utter primitive. I have no formal training at all and to this very day I don't know How To Write.

 I just write any old way it comes into my mind to write and just as fast as it comes into my mind.

 And that's the way I wrote "Nightfall."

 Mr. Campbell never sends letters of acceptance. He sends checks, instead, and very promptly, and that is an excellent way of handling the matter. I always found it thrilling. I received a check for "Nightfall" but my initial pang of delight was almost instantly snuffed out by the fact that Mr. Campbell had made a mistake.

 Standard payment at that time was a munificent 1 cent a word. (No complaints, folks; I was glad to get it.) The story was 12,000 words long and therefore I expected $120.00, but the check was for $15.00.

 I groaned. It would be so simple to cash the check and ask no questions, but the Ten Commandments, as preached to me by my stern and rockbound father, made it absolutely necessary to call Mr. Campbell at once and make arrangements for a new and smaller check.

 It turned out there was no mistake. The story seemed so good to Mr. Campbell that he gave me a bonus of ј cent a word.

 I had never, till then, received so huge a payment for any story, and that was just the beginning. When the story appeared, it was given the lead position and the cover.

 What's more, I was suddenly taken seriously and the world of science fiction became aware that I existed. As the years passed, in fact, it became evident that I had written a "classic." It has appeared in ten anthologies that I know of-including one British, one Dutch, one German, one Italian, and one Russian.

 I must say, though, that as time passed, I began to feel some irritation at being told, over and over again, that "Nightfall" was my best story. It seemed to me, after all, that although I know no more about Writing now than I knew then, sheer practice should have made me more proficient, technically, with each year.

 The thing has preyed on my mind, in fact, until the idea of this book came to me.

 First appearance-Astounding Science Fiction, September 1941. Copyright, 1941, by Street amp; Smith Publications, Inc.; copyright renewed, 1968, by Isaac Asimov.

 I have never included "Nightfall" in any of my own collections of stories because it always seemed to me to have been so well anthologized that it must be familiar to all my readers. Yet perhaps that's not so. Most of my readers weren't even born when the story first appeared and perhaps many of them haven't seen the anthologies.

 Besides, if it's my best story, then I want it in one of my own collections. I can also include other stories of mine that have proven successful in one way or another but have not appeared in any of my own collections.

 So, with Doubleday's kind permission, I have prepared Nightfall and Other Stories, with all the tales in the order of publication. "Nightfall" itself is the first and now you can see for yourself how my writing has developed (or has failed to develop) with the years. Then you can decide for yourself why (or if) "Nightfall" is better than the others.


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