Jesse Weill runs a company that manufactures “dreamies”—prerecorded dream sequences for artistic consumption. We follow him through the course of the day as he deals with various problems: acquiring new talent, fending off the government which wants to crack down on pornography, and keeping his best talent in line.
This is a gentle story. Robert A. Heinlein accused Asimov making money off of his own neuroses in it, however, since it ends with the pathetic description of Sherman Hillary, perhaps the most talented author of dreamies in the world, who cannot live a normal life because he’s always off in a corner, making up a new dreamie no matter where he is or what he should be doing. Asimov admitted he was guilty, but it doesn’t matter. Hillary is definitely a sharp character and well-portrayed. One ends up with an awful lot more sympathy not so much for Asimov himself, but for his poor first wife who had to put up with his eccentricities without—unlike Janet, Asimov’s second wife—really enjoying the result.
Hillary and Weill himself are sharply drawn, as I say, and interesting. Most of the other characters are background and not worth remembering. The concept of a dreamie—sort of a VR experience, really—is interesting, and Asimov cannot help but make the comparison to motion pictures which it killed off. Strangely, he downplays the idea of a mass-media here, and might be accused of a certain amount of elitism in that. Certainly one cannot blame him for failing to appreciate just how powerful a phenomenon TV would become.
This is not perhaps the high point of Earth is Room Enough, but it’s a pleasant enough story and it brings the collection to a satisfying end nonetheless.