The endless adventures of man’s mind.
In Fact and Fancy, Dr. Asimov has drawn inspiration from the realm of pure scientific fact, without permitting himself to be confined by its inflexible borders. Beginning with statements that are solidly rooted in accepted truth, he has given rein to his highly ingenious imagination and constructed hypothetical situations that are at once fanciful and completely reasonable.
The many intriguing questions explored by Dr. Asimvo range from What lies beyond the planets (just possibly, a lot of ice!), to When can you escape the reach of gravity (you can’t—ever!). These and other fascinating, informative speculations offer a treasury of brilliant, startling ideas—logical extensions of today’s science and more stimulating than the wildest fictions!
This is the very first of the F&SF essay collections, and among my favorites. Since the F&SF essay collections are my very favorites among Asimov’s many non-fiction books, this means that I like this book very, very much.
One reason that I like this book so much is that I read it for the first time while I was still comparatively young, of course. And I like it a lot because it set the tone for all that came after. Some of the essays in this collection, to be sure, are more like the material from Only a Trillion than the later F&SF collections, but still many of the achieve the standard, chatty tone that became characteristic of the series. And the book has a bit more mathematics than became typical for the series as a whole, and I am one who always appreciates that. (This includes the throw-away footnote that states that eiπ = -1, which caused Asimov so much grief later on.)
But the fact is that some of the individual essays are among my favorites of all, such as “The Sight of Home,” which discusses stellar brightnesses (and how that relates to Sol), or “Heaven on Earth,” which has a unique and interesting way of showing the angular sizes of important astronomic bodies. And “The Planet of the Double Sun” not only has one of the best all-time titles but is a worthwhile examination of what it would really be like to live in a double stellar system.
Some of the essays have not aged well—“Here It Comes; There It Goes,” in particular—but most stand still and have obtained much of the needed updating in Asimov on Astronomy and its cronies, which reprint and update them.
The F&SF essay collections—particularly the earlier ones—tend to be troves of useful information which is virtually impossible to find elsewhere without specialized reference material. That definitely includes this collection.