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ASIMOV: The Foundation Series

Asimov, Isaac. 1988. Prelude to Foundation. New York: Doubleday.

It is the year 12,020 G.E. and Emperor Cleon I sits uneasily on the Imperial throne of Trantor. Here in the great multidomed capital of the Galactic Empire, forty billion people have created a civilization of unimaginable technological and cultural complexity. Yet Cleon knows there are those who would see him fall -- those whom he would destroy if only he could read the future.

Hari Seldon has come to Trantor to deliver his paper on psychohistory (psychosociology, p.76), his remarkable theory of prediction. Little does the young Outworld mathematician know that he has already sealed his fate and the fate of humanity. For Hari possesses the prophetic power that makes him the most wanted man in the Empire ... the man who holds the key to the future -- an apocalyptic power to be known forever after as the Foundation. (A simulacrum of the galactic society) -- Back cover.

Asimov, Isaac. 1951. Foundation. New York: Doubleday.

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire had ruled supreme. Now it was dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory could see into the future -- a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that would last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathered the best minds in the Empire -- both scientists and scholars -- and brought them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for future generations. He called his sanctuary the Foundation.

But soon the fledgling Foundation found itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind's last best hope was faced with an agonizing choice: Submit to the barbarians and be overrun -- or fight them and be destroyed. -- Back cover.

Asimov, Isaac. 1952. Foundation and Empire. New York: Doubleday.

Led by its founding father, the great psychohistorian Hari Seldon, and taking advantage of its superior science and technology, the Foundation survived the greed and barbarism of its neighboring warrior planets. Yet now it must face the Empire -- still the mightiest force in the Galaxy, even in its death throes. When an ambitious general determined to restore the Empire's glory turns the vast Imperial fleet toward the Foundation, the only hope for the small planet of scholars and scientists lies in the prophecies of Hari Seldon.

But not even Hari Seldon could have predicted the birth of the extraordinary creature called the Mute -- a mutant intelligence with a power greater than a dozen battle fleets ... a power that could turn the strongest -- willed human into an obedient slave. -- Back cover.

Asimov, Isaac. 1953. Second Foundation. New York: Doubleday.

After years of struggle, the Foundation lay in ruins -- destroyed by the mutant mind power of the Mule. But it was rumored that there was a Second Foundation hidden somewhere at the end of the Galaxy, established to preserve the knowledge of mankind through the long centuries of barbarism. The Mule had failed to find it the first time-but now he was certain he knew where it lay.

The fate of the Foundation rested on young Arkady Darell, only fourteen years old and burdened with a terrible secret. As its scientists girded for a final showdown with the Mule, the survivors of the First Foundation began their desperate search. They too wanted the Second Foundation destroyed ... before it destroyed them. -- Back cover.

Asimov, Isaac. 1982. Foundation's Edge. New York: Doubleday.

At last, the costly and bitter war between the two Foundations had come to an end. The scientists of the First Foundation had proved victorious; and now they return to Hari Seldon's long-established plan to build a new Empire on the ruins of the old. But rumors persist that the Second Foundation is not destroyed after all -- and that its still-defiant survivors are preparing their revenge. Now two exiled citizens of the Foundation -- a renegade Councilman and a doddering historian -- set out in search of the mythical planet Earth ... and proof that the Second Foundation still exists.

Meanwhile someone -- or something -- outside of both Foundations seems to be orchestrating events to suit its own ominous purpose. Soon representatives of both the First and Second Foundations will find themselves racing toward a mysterious world called Gaia and a final, shocking destiny at the very end of the universe! -- Back cover.


Asimov, Isaac. 1988. Foundation and Earth. New York: Doubleday.

Centuries after the fall of the First Galactic Empire, Mankind's destiny lay in the hands of Golan Trevize, former Councilman of the First Foundation. Reluctantly he chose the mental unity of Galaxia (Gaia/Bliss) as the only alternative to a future of unending chaos.

But Mankind as massmind was not an idea Trevize was comfortable with. So he journeyed in search of humanity's legendary home, fabled Earth, hoping there to find a solution to his dilemma.

Yet Earth had been lost for thousands of years, and no one could say exactly where it was or if, indeed, it existed at all. More important, Trevize suspected he might not like the answers he found there... -- Back cover.

Asimov, Isaac. 1993. Forward the Foundation. New York: Doubleday.

Here, from a grand master of science fiction, is the long-awaited final novel of the greatest science fiction series ever told. Completed just before his death, Forward the Foundation is the crowning achievement of a great writer's life, a stirring testament to the creative genius of Isaac Asimov.

As Hari Seldon struggles to perfect his revolutionary theory of psychohistory and ensure a place for humanity among the stars, the great Galactic Empire totters on the brink of apocalyptic collapse. Caught in the maelstrom are Seldon and all he holds dear, pawns in the struggle for dominance. Whoever can control Seldon will control psychohistory -- and with it the future of the Galaxy.

Among those seeking to turn psychohistory into the greatest weapon known to man are a populist political demagogue, the weak-willed Emperor Cleon I, and a ruthless militaristic general. In his last act of service to humankind, Hari Seldon must somehow save his life's work from their grasp as he searches for its true heirs -- a search that begins with his own granddaughter and the dream of a new Foundation. -- Back cover.

BRIN, BEAR, BENFORD: The Second Foundation Trilogy

The Foundation series began in World War II, as America arced toward its zenith as a world power. The series played out over decades as the United States dominated the world's matters in a fashion no other nation ever had. Yet the Foundation is about imperium and decline. Did this betray an anxiety, born even in the moment of approaching glory?

I had always wondered if this was so. Part of me itched to explore the issues which lace the series.

The idea of writing further novels in the Foundation universe came from Janet Asimov and the Asimov estate's representative, Ralph Vicinanza. Approached by them, I at first declined, being busy with physics and my own novels. But my subconscious, once aroused, refused to let go the notion. After half a year of struggling with ideas plainly made for the Foundation, persistently demanding expression, I finally called up Ralph Vicinanza and began putting together a plan to construct a fittingly complex curve of action and meaning, to be revealed in several novels. Though we spoke to several authors about this project, the best suited seemed two hard SF writers broadly influenced by Asimov and of unchallenged technical ability: Greg Bear and David Brin.

Bear, Brin; and I have kept in close touch while I wrote this first volume (Foundation's Fears), for we intend to create three stand-alone novels which nonetheless carry forward an overarching mystery to its end. Elements of this make their first appearance here, to amplify further through Greg Bear's Foundation and Chaos, finding completion in Brin's Third Foundation. (These are preliminary titles.) I have planted in the narrative prefiguring details and key elements which shall bear later fruit. . . .

I had always wondered about crucial aspects of Asimov's Empire:

Why were there no aliens in the galaxy?
What role did computers play? Particularly, vs. robots?
What did the theory of psychohistory actually look like?
Finally, who was Hari Seldon -- as a character, a man?

This novel attempts some answers. It is my contribution to a discussion about power and determinism which has now spanned over half a century.

Of course, we know some incidental answers. The term "psychohistory" was commonly used in the thirties and appears in the 1934 Webster's Dictionary; Isaac greatly extended its meaning, though. He didn't want to deal with John W. Campbell's notorious dislike of aliens who might be as clever as we, so his Foundation had none. But it seemed to me there might be more to the matter.

As well, Asimov's uniting of his robot novels and the Foundation series became intricate and puzzling. The British critic Brian Stableford found this "comforting in its claustrophobic enclosure." There are no robots in the early Foundation novels, but they are behind-the-scenes manipulators in both Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation.

Some form of advanced computing machines must underlie the Empire, surely. Isaac remarked that "I just put very advanced computers in the new Foundation novel and hoped that nobody would notice the inconsistency. Nobody did." As James Gunn remarked, "More accurately, people noticed but didn't care."

Asimov wrote each novel at the level of the then current scientific understanding. Later works updated the surrounding science. Thus his galaxy is more detailed in later books, including in Foundation's Edge both advanced computers and a black hole at the Galactic Center. Similarly, here I have depicted our more detailed knowledge of the Galactic Center. In place of Isaac's "hyperspace" ships I have used wormholes, which have considerably more theoretical justification now than they did when Einstein and Rosen introduced them in the 1930s. Indeed, wormholes are allowed by the general theory of relativity, but must have extreme forms of matter to form and support them. (Matt Visser's Lorentzian Wormholes is the standard work on current thinking.)

Isaac wrote much of his fiction in a style he termed "direct and spare," though in the later works he relaxed this constraint a bit. I have not attempted to write in the Asimov style. (Those who think it is easy, to write clearly about complex subjects should try it.) For the Foundation novels he used a particularly bare-boards approach, with virtually no background descriptions or novelistic details.

Note his own reaction when he decided to return to the series and revisited the trilogy:
"I read it with mounting uneasiness. I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did. All three volumes, all the nearly quarter of a million words, consisted of thoughts and conversation. No action. No physical suspense."

But it worked, famously so. I could not manage such an approach, so have taken my own way.

I found that the-details of Trantor, of psychohistory and the Empire, called out to me as I began thinking about this novel -- indeed, they led me on my subconscious quest of the underlying story. So the book is not an imitation Asimov novel but a Benford novel using Asimov's basic ideas and backdrop.

Necessarily my approach has harkened back to the older storytelling styles which prevailed in the SF of Isaac's days. I have never responded favorably to the recent razoring of literature by critics -- the tribes of structuralists, post-modernists, deconstructionists. To many SF writers, "post-modern" is simply a signature of exhaustion. Its typical apparatus -- self-reference, heavy dollops of obligatory irony, self-conscious use of older genre devices, pastiche, and parody -- betrays lack of invention, of the crucial coin of SF, imagination. Some deconstructionists have attacked science itself as mere rhetoric, not an ordering of nature, seeking to reduce it to the status of the ultimately arbitrary humanities. Most SF types find this attack on empiricism a worn old song with new lyrics, quite quaintly retro.

At the core of SF lies the experience of science. This makes the genre finally hostile to such fashions in criticism, for it values its empirical ground. Deconstructionism's stress on contradictory or self-contained internal differences in texts, rather than their link to reality, often merely leads to literature seen as empty word games.

SF novels give us worlds which are not to be taken as metaphors but as real. We are asked to participate in wrenchingly strange events; not merely watch them for clues to what they're really talking about. (Ummm, if this stands for that, then the other stuff must stand for . . . Not away to gather narrative momentum.) The Mars and stars and digital deserts of our best novels are, finally, to be taken, as real, as if to say: Life isn't like this, it is this. Journeys can go to fresh places, not merely return us to ourselves.

Even so, I've indulged myself a bit in the satirical scenes depicting an academia going off the rails, but I feel Isaac would have approved of my targets. Readers thinking I've gone overboard in depicting the view that science does not deal with objective truths, but instead is a battleground of power politics where "naive realism" meets relativist worldviews, should look into The Golem by Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch. This book attempts to portray scientists as no more the holders of objective knowledge than are lawyers or travel agents.

The recent "re-norming" of the Scholastic Aptitude Tests so that each year the average is forced to the same number, thus masking the decline of ability in students, I satirize in the very last pages of the novel; I hope Isaac would have gotten a chuckle from seeing the issue framed against an entire galaxy. -- (Benford 1998:599-605).


Benford, Gregory. 1998. Foundation's Fears. HarperCollins Publisher.

Fate -- and a cruel Emperor's arbitrary power -- have thrust Hari Seldon into the First Ministership of the Empire against his will. As the story opens, Hari is about to leave his quiet professorship and take on the all but impossible task of administering twenty-five milion inhabited worlds from the all-steel planet Trantor. With the help of his beautiful boi-engineered "wife" Dors and his alien companion Yugo, Seldon is still developing the science that will transform history (psychohistory/psychosociology; Asimov 1988:76), never dreaming that it will ultimately pit him against future history's most awesome threat. -- Back cover.


Bear, Greg. 1999. Foundation and Chaos. HarperCollins Publisher.

With Hari Seldon on trial for treason, the Galactic Empire's long-anticipated migration to Star's End is aboout to begin. But the mission's brilliant leader, R. Daneel Olivew, has discovered a potential enemy far deadlier -- and closer -- than he ever imagined. One of his own kind.

A freak accident erases the basic commandments in humanform robot Lodovik Trema's positronic brain. Now Lodovik's services to humankind is no longer, bounded by destiny, but by will. To ensure his loyalty, Daneel has Lodovik secretly reprogrammed. But can he be trusted? Now, other robots are beginning to question their mission -- and Daneel's strategy.

And stirrings of rebellion, too, are infecting their human couterparts. Among them is a young woman with awesome psychic abilities, a reluctant leader with the power to join man and robot in a quest for common freedom . . . or mutual destruction. -- Back cover.


Brin, David. 1999. Foundation's Triumph. HarperCollins Publisher.

The second Foundation Trilogy begins with Gregory Benford's Foundation's Fears, telling the origins of Hari Seldon, the Foundation's creator. Greg Bear's Foundation and Chaos relates the epic tale of Seldon's downfall and the first stirrings of robotic rebellion. Now, in David Brin's Foundation's Triumph, Seldon is aboout to escape exile and risk everything for one final quest -- a search for knowledge and the power it bestows. The outcome of this final journey may secure humankind's future -- or witness its final downfall. -- Back cover.

Emmerich, Roland, Emmerich, Ute and Weber, Marco (Producers), & Rusnak, Josef (Director). 1999. The Thirteenth Floor [DVD]. Culver City, CA: Columbia Pictures.

The barriers that separate fantasy from reality are shattered in this stylish, mind-jarring thriller, where two parallel worlds collide in a paradoxysm of deception, madness and murder.

On the thirteenth floor of a corporate tower, high-tech visionary Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko, The Long Kiss Goodnight) and his high-strung colleague Whitney (Vincent D'Onofrio, Men In Black) have opened the door to an amazing virtual world -- circa 1937 Los Angeles. But when the powerful leader of their secret project (Armin Mueller-Stahl, Shine, The X-Files) is discovered slashed to death, Hall himself becomes the prime suspect.

Arriving fro Paris is the beautiful and mysterious Jane Fuller (Gretchen Mol, Rounders) claiming to be the murder victim's daughter. Her instant, magnetic attraction to Hall only further blurs the lines of what is real. Is he the killer? Is the inscrutable Jane somehow connected? To find the answer, Hall must cross the boundaries into the simulated reality he has helped create -- and confront the astonishing truth about his own existence. (Based on the novel by Daniel Galouye, SIMULACRON-3) -- DVD Jacket

Galouye, Daniel F. 1964. SIMULACRON-3. New York: Bantam Books.

The world of the future builds its policies on public opinion samplings! But Rien Reactions, Inc. realized that old-fashioned public opinion polls were too slow, inaccurate, and unstable on which to base a conforming society.

So scientific researchers Morton Lynch, Hannon Fuller, and Douglas Hall built a total environment simulator -- SIMULACRON-3 -- into which they fed subjective analogs and got human reaction results...

But Lynch disappeared, Fuller was murdered, and Hall was charged with both crimes!

The Hall discovered that his world was nothing but a total environment simulator for a governing world as large to his as his was to his own miniature simulator world -- and that he was marked for extinction! -- Back cover.

Kushner, Donald (Producer) & Steven Lisberger (Director). 1982, 2002. TRON: 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition [DVD]. Los Angeles: Walt Disney Productions.



Mason, Andrew and Alex Proyas (Producers) & Alex Proyas (Director). 1998. Dark City [DVD]. Los Angeles: New Line Home Video, Inc.

When John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell, Dangerous Beauty) awakens in a strange hotel room, he finds that he is wanted for a series of brutal murders. The problem is he can't remember a thing. Pursued by the police (William Hurt) and haunted by The Strangers, mysterious beeings who possess the ability to stop time and alter reality, he seeks to unravel the twisted riddle of his identity. But in a city where reality is the ultimate illusion, discovering the truth could be fatal. (This is the ultimate in social experimentation through simulation) -- DVD Jacket

Silver, Joel (Producer) & The Wachowski Brothers (Director). 1999. Matrix [DVD]. Burbank, CA: Warner Brothers.

Perception: Our day-in, day-out world is real.

Reality: That world is a hoax, an elaborate deception spun by all-powerful machines of artificial intelligence that control us.

Mind-warp stunts. Techno-slammin' visuals. Mega-kick action. Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne lead the fight to free humankind in The Matrix, the see-and-see-again cyberthriller written and directed by the Wachowski brothers (Bound). The story sears, the special effects stake out new moviemaking territory -- the movie flat-out rocks. (The character, Neo, hides $2000 in a hollowed out book titled Simulacra & Simulation) -- DVD Jacket

WHEN WE LAST VISITED THE MATRIX, computers had taken over the planet and imprisoned the human race in a computer-generated "reality." Keanu Reeves played Neo, a hacker turned superhero recruited to save his a fellow man, and the movie ended with him literally taking flight. It was a cliff-hanger that might as well have been subtitled "Watch for the sequel, coming soon to a theater near you -- that is, if this thing makes any money." And it did -- $459 million worldwide. More than a sleeper blockbuster, it was a blazingly original collage of martial arts, Oscar-winning special effects and hightoned philosophy borrowed from sources as diverse as Plato, the Bible and Snow White. Since Larry and Andy Wachowski, the fraternal directing duo, had always envisioned The Matrix as part one of a trilogy, Warner Bros. quickly put not one but two more Matrix films into production. "The first movie was like The Hobbit for The Lord of the Rings," says producer Joel Silver. "It's the setup to the big story."

The Wachowski brothers are currently in residence at the Fox studios in Sydney, Australia, simultaneously shooting Matrix Reloaded (part two) and Matrix Revolutions (part three). The movies won't come out until 2003 (Reloaded in May, Revolutions in either August or November), but the hype has already begun. This month (05/2002) a trailer for Reloaded hits theaters, and not since the Star Wars movies has a film inspired so much breathless anticipation on the Internet. -- Jess Cagle, Sydney


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