The Robot City Dedication

Some (But Not All) Who Are Fondly Remembered

One of the small self-indulgent privileges of being a writer is the dedication page, but the privilege is not without its dangers. The intent is to honor, but the act is inescapably presumptuous, tying the person’s name to a work they frequently haven’t read, and might not care for. Many writers, sensing a trap, restrict themselves to naming spouse, children, and those who are safely dead. This strategem is also a defense against the second great danger of dedications, namely, bruised feelings over not being named.

When I finished Isaac Asimov’s Robot City: Odyssey, in August, 1986, I blithely ignored both of those dangers. Librarian Joy von Blon had wanted to shelve my novels Emprise and Enigma in the Heritage library, but had encountered official resistance to her theory that any student mature enough for the prose was mature enough for the content. Robot City was a work-for-hire that borrowed Asimov’s universe of positronic robots, and therefore not wholly “mine.” But it was also a squeaky-clean young adult novel, and so I thought Joy should have no trouble keeping in the collection.

Moreover, I was even then packing the house, preparing to leave Indiana for mid-Michigan, where my wife was already on the job with her new employer. Robot City was not only my first YA novel, but it would be the last fiction I wrote as a resident of Indiana. It seemed only appropriate to use it to say a special goodbye:

For all the students
who made my seven years teaching time well spent,
but especially for

Wendy Armstrong
Todd Bontrager
Kathy Branum
Jay & Joel Carlin
Valerie Eash
Chris Franko
Judy Fuller
Chris & Bryan Hackett
Kean Hankins
Doug Johnson
Greg LaRue
Julie Merrick
Kendall Miller
Matt Mow
Amy Myers
Khai & Vinh Pham
Melanie & Laura Schrock
Sally Sibrt
Stephanie Smith
Tom Williams
Laura Joyce Yoder
Scott Yoder

And for Joy Von Blon,
who made sure they always had something good to read.

There was no easy or obvious stopping point once I started singling out particular students, and the dedication as published surely didn’t exhaust the set of all those who earned my respect and left me with good memories. In the years since, I have often worried that the disappointment of those not named added up to more than the pleasure taken by the 26 who were. To this day I don’t know how many of them, apart from Joy, ever learned of the dedication, let alone saw a copy. By the time the book appeared, I was out of state (and in the middle of a divorce), and no longer knew how to reach them all.

But for good or ill, those 26 names have turned out to be very well-traveled. Isaac Asimov’s Robot City: Odyssey was published in paperback by Ace Books in July, 1987, with a first printing of over 100,000 copies. There were at least three US reprints, eight foreign editions, an audio recording, and even a computer game. And after several years out of print, the Robot City series was reissued in November 1999 as a trade paperback and e-book by Simon & Schuster’s iBooks imprint.

I hope no one minds too much.

Michael Kube-McDowell, 8 March 2005