14 March 2010

The Fun They Had - Isaac Asimov

The Fun They Had is a short short story by Isaac Asimov. Its length of roughly one thousand words is nigh on perfect, however, for in those one thousand words Asimov produces a perfect children's story with a point that's just twisty enough for most kids. And it is aimed at children, there's no doubt, and the premise is almost laughably simple. Or it would be if the story didn't make an intriguing social comment on the nature of education as a socialising influence with such gleeful innocence.

Asimov was, apparently, rather at a loss to explain the popularity of the story, which was originally written in 1951 for a newspaper and later published in Science Fiction And Fantasy Magazine. Of course, the story's length and simplicity lends it well to school literature texts for younger readers, and the story received more requests for inclusion in anthologies than any of his other stories.

In the story, Margie finds a book. And books, in 2155, are pretty peculiar. 'I guess you throw it away once you're done with it.' her brother says, and they muse on how much better their electronic book readers are - you can use them over and over again. But this mysterious object from the attic is quite fascinating to Margie, and to Tommy too. Much more interesting, in fact, than the mechanical teacher, which Margie secretly hopes might break down forever. In Margie's book it tells her all about school, about meeting friends in the playground, about homework and sitting together with your own desk. You'll have guessed the point by now - it is aimed at children after all...

"Margie was thinking about how the kids must have loved it in the old days. She was thinking about the fun they had."

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