Isaac Asimov suspends his writing -- The world's greatest science-fiction writer takes time off after having an operation

The future lies before us, all right, but we may have to face it without the monumental projections of Isaac Asimov. One of the world’s most prolific authors and arguably the 20th century’s greatest science-fiction writer, Asimov has done the unthinkable. He has stopped writing at the age of 72, and after turning out 440 books, he may never write again. Asimov says that a November operation for an enlarged prostate produced complications that have forced him to hang up his word processor. ”I’m very tired, so I’m cutting down on all my writing,” says the author of The Currents of Space, The End of Eternity, and the Foundation trilogy.

Asimov’s suspended projects include his much-anticipated novel, Forward the Foundation, which Doubleday had planned to publish last October. (Doubleday will publish an anthology of previously written short stories in April.) The author also retired his popular monthly column for Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine in December — after 33 years and 399 articles.

In sci-fi circles, the author’s decision to quit his column has spurred talk that Asimov may soon retire for good. ”Asimov is obsessed with numbers, so his decision to stop after 399 columns is pretty serious,” says John Klute, the Encylopedia of Science Fiction‘s coeditor. ”When he stops writing, the field will lose one of its most penetratingly reasonable voices.”

Forward is now set for October ’93; Asimov has already completed four of the five novellas that will make up the book. Though he does plan to finish it, the author says he doesn’t know when. ”I know the fans are expecting it,” he says from his Manhattan home. ”But you can’t let your fans dictate your life.”