Last Revised: Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Ace, July 1987
(ISBN 0-441-73122-8)First edition cover art by Paul Rivoche
Looking Back: Robot City was one of the first of the modern “borrowed universe” or “apostrophe” series, wherein young writers wrote novels linked to the names or the works of one of the field’s Gray Eminences. (Locus later coined the term “sharecrop novel” to describe such projects.) RC was the creation of book packager Byron Preiss, who developed the outline with Asimov during a series of New York lunches, made the deal with Berkley, and hired the writers (who were then supervised by Byron Preiss Visual Productions staffer David Harris). I was offered the opportunity to write all six books in the original RC series, but I had other prospects (later that year, I signed a two-book contract with Ace that would produce Alternities and The Quiet Pools) and opted only to write the first volume.

It proved a difficult and frustrating project. The outline was very sketchy, and the transcripts of the Preiss-Asimov lunches were not terribly helpful. My main character had amnesia, and was not to learn anything significant about himself before he left my care. The outline also called for the introduction of intelligent aliens into the “Robot Universe”–this when Asimov had taken pains in more than one robot novel to explain the lack of intelligent aliens. When I questioned BPVP about this, I was told, in effect, ‘Don’t worry–we’ll make the aliens go away at the end.’

The work-for-hire-plus contract with BPVP was dated November 13, 1985, and the 63,000-word first draft was delivered May 4, 1986 (a mere three days late). The first edition was published July, 1987, with a first printing of 107,000 copies and my name almost invisible on the front cover (and absent from the spine). There were at least four printings (though I’ve never seen a copy from the second). By the third printing, the cover had been changed slightly, with my name larger and highlighted in a bright yellow box. I heard rumors that this was in response to Ace receiving complaints about deceptive packaging, but no one at Berkley or BPVP ever confirmed that that was the reason for the change. Because it was BPVP, and not me, who had the contract with Berkley, hard information was even more difficult than usual to come by. I don’t know to this day how many total copies were printed, or how many were sold. – K-Mac

Revised cover
(3rd printing)
BPVP’s busy subrights manager licensed the Robot City series to:

  • Caedmon (audiobook), 1988
  • Bastei Verlag (West Germany), 1988
  • Orbit (U.K.), 1988
  • J’ai Lu (France), 1989
  • Kadokawa Shoten (Japan), 1989
  • Editorial Molino (Spain), 1989
  • Interno Giallo (Italy), 1991 – tr. by Laura Pignatti
  • J.M. Meulenhoff (Netherlands), 1994
  • Donauland (Austria), unknown
    Copy needed! See Scavenger Hunt page.
  • Byron Preiss Multimedia/WEA Visual Entertainment [PC computer game], 1995

ISAAC ASIMOV’S ROBOT CITY reissue from iBooks/S&S


In the late 1990s, the Robot City series reappeared in new editions from Byron Preiss’s imprint iBooks (no relationship to the Apple app). The books were originally released as three 2-in-1 editions in trade paperback (reportedly print-on-demand) and e-book. A few years later, individual mass market editions followed. Both featured new and, to my eye, more dignified cover art.

At upper left is the cover of the first volume
of the 1999 trade paperback reissue, containing
Book 1, Odyssey by Michael Kube-McDowell,
and Book 2, Suspicion, by the late Mike McQuay.
ISBN: 0-671-03893-1 / $14.00

At lower left is the cover of the first volume
of the 2004 mass market paperback reissue, containing
Book 1, Odyssey by Michael Kube-McDowell
ISBN: 0-743-47924-6 / $5.99

In July, 2005, publisher Byron Preiss was killed in an auto accident on Long Island; he was just 52 years old. ibooks Inc. filed for bankruptcy a year later, which effectively shut down the iBooks publishing program for a time. Eventually, the assets of iBooks were acquired by John Colby, who revived the imprint–including, in 2013, another edition of Odyssey in a 6″ x 9″ format. I’m not privy to the reason, but for the first time the series title was Byron Preiss’s Robot City, and it was promoted as A Byron Preiss Robot Mystery. The art was the same as the 1999 edition, and the font size for my name just as small. As of September 2017, this edition is still available on Amazon (via Prime, even), but there’s no sign of the rest of the series or the Robots & Aliens sequel. (Some do appear on the iBooks web site.)

Book 1, Odyssey by Michael Kube-McDowell
ISBN: 978-1596879645 / $19.95

Variations on a theme:
Cover Gallery and International Edition Guide

Robouniversum Isaaca
Asimova “Odysea”
Kzinti Klub
ISBN 80-7176-039-0
(combo with McQuay’s
Book 2, “Suspicion”)
The Netherlands
Meulenhoff, 1994
ISBN 90-290-4691-0
“La cite des robits”
Ja’i Lu, 1989
ISBN 2-277-22573-8
(combo with McQuay’s
Book 2, “Suspicion”)
“Die Odyssee”
Bastei Lubbe, 1988
ISBN 3-404-23079-5
Interno Giallo, 1991
ISBN 88-356-0096-0
Kadokawa Shoten, 1989
ISBN 4-04-273301-8
Editorial Molino, 1989
ISBN 84-272-3271-3
Great Britain
Orbit, 1988
ISBN 0-7088-8280-3

Bastei Lubbe, 1993
ISBN 3-404-23138-4
(3-in-1 with McQuay’s Book
2 “Suspicion” and Wu’s Book
3 “Cyborg”)

United States
Ace (1st printing), July 1987
ISBN 0-441-73122-8

United States
Ace (3rd printing)

United States
S&S – iBooks, Nov 1999
ISBN 0-671-03893-1
(combo with McQuay’s
Book 2, “Suspicion”)

United States
S&S – iBooks, June 2004
ISBN 0-743-47924-6
(not seen)

Robotváros I.
Valhalla Páholy, 1993
ISBN 963-7632-46-8
tr. by Greguss Ferenc

The Robot City Dedication