Randall Nowan (Stranger in Paradise)

He jumped, rose slowly in the air with a freedom he had never felt, and jumped again when he landed, and ran, and jumped, and ran again, with a body that responded perfectly to this glorious world, this paradise in which he found himself.

A stranger so long and so lost — in paradise at last.

— {{{2}}}
Randall Nowan
Portrayed by
Appears in Stranger in Paradise
Year 1974

Randall Nowan is a supporting character in the science-fiction short story Stranger in Paradise by Isaac Asimov.

Publishing history

Asimov began writing Stranger in Paradise in July 1973. It was rejected by editors Judy-Lynn del Rey of Ballantine Books and Ben Bova of Analog Science Fiction, before being accepted by Jim Baen of Galaxy Science Fiction. It was published in the May–June 1974 issue of Galaxy's sister magazine If.[1]

It was reprinted in The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories (1976),[2] The Complete Robot (1982)[3] and The Complete Stories: Volume 2 (1992).[4]


Stranger in Paradise illustration

William Anti-Aut and Anthony Smith are brothers living on Earth some 500 years after an unspecified Catastrophe took place. William is a homologist, someone who studies human genetics, and is attempting to cure autism. Anthony works in telemetrics, and his latest project is attempting to land a robot on Mercury.

The problem is that they don't have computers powerful enough to steer the robot remotely. Anthony proposes to build a computer that works like a human brain, an endeavor for which they will need a homologist. His brother William is recruited into the project.

The computer they end up designing performs poorly when they test in on Earth. Anthony is dejected, but William implores him to send the robot to Mercury, arguing that the robot is just clumsy because it's built for Mercury, not Earth.

When the robot is sent to Mercury, it is delighted at its new environment, jumping and running around with joy. William reveals that it is Randall's brain steering the robot.


"It's Randall who's in paradise," said William. "He's found the world for whose sake he autistically fled this one. He has a world his new body fits perfectly in exchange for the world his old body did not fit at all."
— {{{2}}}

Randall has a rare type of autism, characterised by a slow onset. He is described as "[shrinking] completely within the wall of his skin, unconcerned, unreachable". The creche in which he is being raised is about to "cancel" (euthanise) him, when William's team at the New York Institute for the Science of Man is alerted of his presence.

Within the story, the understanding of autism is that autistic people don't fail to receive sensory input or interpret it. Rather, they disapprove and reject of all impressions, meaning they still have potential for fully developed communication if they experience an impression of which they do approve. Furthermore, one can't try to persuade a person out of their autism, since autistics also disapprove of others.

William and his researchers learn more about which kinds of sensory inputs Randall approves of studying him under EEG while he is placed in "conscious arrest", a state in which the brain is divorced from the body.


Peter Mandler for Science Fiction Review magazine criticized the clumsy plot and described the prose as "some of Asimov's worst".[5]


  1. Asimov, Isaac (1976). The Bicentennial Man. New York: Fawcett Crest. p. 92. Retrieved 2024-04-09.
  2. Asimov, Isaac (1976). The Bicentennial Man. New York: Fawcett Crest. Retrieved 2024-04-09.
  3. Asimov, Isaac (1982). The Complete Robot. New York: Doubleday & Company. Retrieved 2024-04-09.
  4. Asimov, Isaac (1992). The Complete Stories: Volume 2. Doubleday & Company. Retrieved 2024-04-09. Retrieved 2024-04-09.
  5. Mandler, Peter (August 1975). Geis, Richard E. (ed.). "Would You Believe—Second Best?". Science Fiction Review. p. 27. Retrieved 2024-04-09.

External links