I decided to return to the classics of science fiction. I have read science fiction for a number of years but there are some standbys that I missed the first time through. Most noticeable on the list of works I missed on the first go is Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. Alright. That is not entirely true. I did not miss it entirely. I attempted to read Foundation when I was eleven. I remember it being promoted as “the most important work of modern science fiction.” The Foundation series collection of novels and short stories won a special one-time-only Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1966.
But here is the thing-the thing that I could not get past at the wise age of eleven. The premise of the series is the fall and renaissance of a galactic empire of astounding scale. Quadrillions of people scattered across tens of thousands of worlds, the plot moves forward at a pace of approximately a hundred years per chapter. The characters I just met in the last chapter are all dead at the beginning of the next. Asimov’s humans do not live much past eighty. But I wanted a hero! I wanted someone who was there from the beginning and would ride off into the sunset at the close of the last page-to return in the next sequel. This business with the main characters dying every chapter just would not do.
So, after about eighty pages it was out with Hari Seldon and in with John Carter. John Carter and the princesses, the gods, the warlords, the chessmen, the master minds, and the swordsmen of Mars. Edgar Rice Burroughs knew how to tell a story for young boys! Because what I wanted was pulp fiction not this psychohistorical drama played out over a thousand years. Besides, the editions I read all included fantastic covers illustrated by Michael Whelan. I remember those covers, alone, were worth the price of admission.
So it is more than twenty-five years later. Asimov wrote four more books in the series: two sequels and two prequels. In addition he worked to tie in his Robot series and his Empire series into the same fictional world. After Asimov’s death other science fiction authors added an additional six books to the whole endeavor. I decided that I owed it to myself to read the original trilogy all the way through.
And that is exactly what I have set out to do. It is amazing what a little personal history can do for your perspective.
- Prelude to Foundation, 1988, Isaac Asimov
- Forward the Foundation, 1993, Isaac Asimov
- Foundation, 1951, Isaac Asimov
- Foundation and Empire, 1952, Isaac Asimov
- Second Foundation, 1953, Isaac Asimov
- Foundation’s Fear, 1997, Gregory Benford
- Foundation and Chaos, 1998, Greg Bear
- Foundation’s Triumph, 1999, David Brin
- Foundation’s Edge, 1982, Isaac Asimov
- Foundation and Earth, 1986, Isaac Asimov