Chehabi Discusses Isaac Asimov’s Novels in BU Today

Houchang Chehabi, Professor of International Relations and History at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, published an op-ed as part of BU Today‘s POV series discussing the work of “Boston University’s most prolific faculty member,” Isaac Asimov (Hon.’80). 

In the article, titled “POV: Why Isaac Asimov’s Novels Still Speak to Us Today, 100 Years after His Birth,” Chehabi explores the parallels between the world of Asimov’s science fiction and our current reality dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Two books in particular – The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun – carry similarities to the global situation currently being tackled. In the books, “Spacers” who live on other planets in large estates are cared for by robots, but they cannot mingle with the general population of Earth due to compromised immune systems. Therefore, people of Earth visiting “Spacers” must undergo sterilization in order to meet them in person.

An excerpt:

As I compare my relative comfort to the distress of all those who do not receive a monthly paycheck, cannot work from home, or live in quarters so cramped that social distancing is impossible, I cannot help noticing the parallels between my here and now and the bifurcated society depicted in Asimov’s two dystopian novels. Will those angry people who protest on the streets against confinement measures one day turn their resentment against people like me? If so, what form will it take? I hope the analogy ends here, for in Asimov’s universe, the Spacers eventually die out.

The full article can be read online.

Houchang Chehabi has taught at Harvard and has been a visiting professor at the University of St. Andrews, UCLA, and the Universidad Argentina de la Empresa. He has published two books, Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism: The Liberation Movement of Iran under the Shah and Khomeini (1990) and Distant Relations: Iran and Lebanon in the Last 500 Years (2006). Chehabi has written numerous articles, book reviews, and translations. You can read more about him here.