Science Fiction is something that could happen - but usually you wouldn't
want it to. Fantasy is something that couldn't happen - though often you
only wish that it could.
Arthur C. Clarke
Forward to "The Collected Stories of Arthur C.
January - 2002
In the immortal words of B5 Psi Cop, Alfred Bester, "you
can't argue with mundanes because they do not appear to be fully aware"
p.s. Sometimes "Comic-Con people" use the word "mundanes"
to describe people who "just don't get sci-fi"
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Caveat: Wikipedia (Encyclopedia Galactica?) is a better resource for
most things including science-fiction, so I've been slowly deleting stuff
from this page.
Two 'Hard Sci-fi' Writers
Arthur C. Clark
film buffs, Arthur C. Clarke is best known as the author who collaborated with
Stanley Kubrick to produce 2001: A Space Odyssey. The scientific community remembers
him as the man who first conceptualized geosynchronous communication-satellite
relays, in a 1945 paper that became the foundation for modern communications
technology. But science-fiction fans have any number of touchstones for the
British author: He's one of very few to be designated a Science Fiction Grand
Master, he's the author of the classic novels Childhood's End and Rendezvous
With Rama, and he first created the popular axiom "Any sufficiently advanced
technology is indistinguishable from magic." Now in his late 80s, Clarke
has written or collaborated on more than 70 books, including three 2001 sequels,
three Rendezvous With Rama sequels (co-authored with Gentry Lee), two autobiographies,
and a wide variety of essays and short stories. His non-fiction includes collections
of his correspondence with C.S. Lewis and Lord Dunsany, as well as many books
on physics, science, and space travel, from 1950's guidebook Interplanetary
Flight to 1994's The Snows Of Olympus, a graphic look at a terraformed Mars.
His latest, Time's Eye, is a new collaboration with Stephen Baxter, the first
in a series of novels involving a cataclysm that slices Earth into segments
from across history, leading cosmonauts and prehistoric humans to mix in an
epic struggle. From his home in Sri Lanka, Clarke recently (2004-02) spoke with
The Onion A.V. Club
religion, transcendence, the possibility of life on Mars, and the dinosaur that
was named after him.
It all began at Christmas 1948 - yes 1948 - with a four-thousand-word short
story that I wrote for a contest sponsored by the BBC (British Broadcasting
Corporation). "The Sentinel
the discovery of a small pyramid on the Moon, set there by some alien civilization
to await the emergence of mankind as a planet-faring species. Until then, it
was implied, we would be too primitive to be of any interest. The BBC rejected
my modest effort , and it was not published until almost three years later in
the one-and-only (Spring 1951) issue of "10 Story Fantasy" - a magazine
that, as the invaluable Encyclopedia of Science Fiction wryly comments, is "primarily
remembered for its poor arithmetic (there were thirteen stories)."
From "Valediction", "3001: The Final Odyssey"
Books (1997) hardcover edition
"Astrologers used to believe that Man's destiny is controlled by the stars.
But one day it may come to pass that the stars' destiny is controlled by
-- Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008
A Space Odyssey (1968)
The monolith is introduced to humanity (a
small one 6 million years ago, a small one on the moon, a larger one in orbit
- 2010: Odyssey
American and Russian scientists cooperate while visiting
the monolith orbiting Jupiter while their governments behave badly on Earth.
- 2061: Odyssey
Heywood Floyd visits Halley's Comet
The Final Odyssey (1997)
Frank Poole's body is recovered; Dave Bowman
returns to Sol
A Sinister Retelling of the Odyssey Story
- Time's Eye
- A Time Odyssey: 1 (2004) 1
- "2001: A Space Odyssey" began with "Moon-Watcher"
in Africa; "Time's Eye" begins with "Seeker" in the
North-West Frontier (Pakistan - Afghanistan border); Earth has been observed
for eons by the "Firstborn"
- This books spends way-too-much time in the past and yet you need to
read it in order to read the next book
- A Time Odyssey: 2 (2005) 1
- This book is much better than Timer's Eye (which spends far too long
in the past)
- "Time's Eye" seems to be 30% Clarke and 70% Baxter
- "Sunstorm" seems to be 70% Clarke and 30% Baxter
- A Time Odyssey: 3 (2008) 1
- This book is not as good as book 2 (Sunstorm).
- This books spends too-much time in the past
Odyssey-Rama Superscript Notes:
- Coauthored with Stephen Baxter
- Coauthored with Gentry Lee
- Click www.bookfinder.com or
www.alibris.com to purchase rare and out-of-print
Rendezvous With Rama (the PC-based Game)
Based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke By now, the year 2130, all
of the largest asteroids in the solar system have long since been discovered. Smaller
ones are being downed at the rate of a dozen a day. So when a huge new asteroid
appears the only surprise is that is was overlooked for so long. It is duly assigned
the next available name, Rama, and is promptly forgotten about - but not for long.
As Rama approaches the Earth, every question about it seems to have an answer that
raises more questions. And as observations continue, the most impossible explanation
becomes the only one: Rama is actually a spaceship. The next step is obvious: mankind
must attempt a rendezvous. But only one of our spaceships is close enough. As fate
has it, that ship is Endeavor - the ship that you command. Without even reading
them, you know what your orders will be: to rendezvous with the giant ship, to explore
it, to meet with its inhabitants, and to return home before it speeds on its orbit
away from the solar system. Yet even in your excitement, you realize it is not an
easy mission. You will have to make difficult decisions - many of them. And you
will have to work very fast - because if you stay on Rama too long, returning home
will be impossible. From the first moment it has been clear: this is the mission
of your lifetime. Thousands would gladly sacrifice anything for the chance. Only
you can explore Rama. Rendezvous with Rama is the first computer adventure to be
produced in collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke. The program allows you to talk
with three other crew members. Multiple disks offer extended play - and the game
may be played with or without graphics. Arthur C. Clarke, world-famous author of
2001: A Space Odyssey, continues to be a major force in science fiction; over twenty-million
copies of his books have been printed World-Wide. The novel Rendezvous with Rama
has won three highest science fiction awards: the Hugo, the Nebula and the John
W. Campbell Awards. The adventure game Rendezvous with Rama was developed and produced
by Byron Preiss Video Productions, Inc., leading designers of entertainment and
educational software. Their technical director is Lee Jackson.
One other highly note-worthy book (not sci-fi)
the World was One (1992)
- From The Dust Jacket:
Arthur C. Clarke, visionary
author of both science fact and science fiction, first conceived of satellite
communications in 1945--and twenty-five years later his dream became reality.
Now, in this new personal and colorful nonfiction work, Clarke examines the
rapid transformation of our society by technology and communication. As the
infant field of communications began growing in the early part of this century,
so did the boy named Arthur C. Clarke--who watched, wide-eyed, as his small
English village was transformed overnight. In his job as the village switchboard
operator he once overloaded the circuits, excitedly eavesdropping on his first
transatlantic call. From there his involvement grew more and more technical,
culminating in his now-famous paper "Extra-Terrestrial Relays," which
anticipated many of the developments of the next fifty years. For five thousand
years communication never advanced beyond the speed of horse and wind-driven
ship--but in the explosive span of thirty years, it changed forever. Newer,
faster communication toppled tyranny, won wars, and changed history all the
way from the second Russian Revolution to the Gulf war. Here is the story of
the stranger-than-fiction mishaps, oversights, capricious acts of fate, and
incredible human energy that eventually transformed the earth into our modern
global village. Clarke brings unique expertise and a lifetime of experience
to How the World Was One. Beginning with submarine cables, through the development
of fiber optics and communications satellites, and then projecting far into
a future of neutrino, gravitational, and tachyon (faster than light) communications,
Arthur C. Clarke shows how these remarkable innovations shaped and changed the
earth--and made the world one.
- Excerpt from Preface, Page 1, Paragraph 3
Nevertheless, Toynbee was essentially correct. Except for a few dwindling
tribes in (alas) equally dwindling forests, the human race has now become almost
a single entity, divided by time zones rather rather than by natural frontiers
of geography. The same TV news networks cover the globe; the world's markets
are linked by the most complex machine ever devised by mankind -- the
international telephone/telex/fax/data transfer system.
- Excerpt from Preface, Page 2, Paragraph 2
Despite the linguistic, religious, and cultural barriers that still sunder
nations, the unification of the world [by telecommunications] has passed the
point of return...
- Excerpt from Chapter 1, Page 1, Paragraph 3
This state of affairs has existed for the greater part of human history. When
Queen Victoria came to power in 1837, she had no swifter means of sending messages
to the far parts of her empire than had Julius Caesar -- or, for that matter,
- Excerpt from Chapter 27, Page 200, Paragraphs 3-4
Telstar (and its successor Telstar 2, launched May 7, 1963) showed that
active satellites could do everything that had been claimed for them, and with
very modest powers -- as long as they were backed up by massive ground equipment.
The Bell System had built an even larger horn-antenna for the Telstar than for
Echo; the giant ear at Andover, Maine, weighed 370 tons yet was able to track
the speeding satellite to an accuracy of better than a twentieth of a degree.
And that was the big problem. Because of its relatively low altitude (between
950 and 5,600 kilometres) Telstar 1 circled the Earth several times per day;
its orbital period was only a fraction of the magic twenty-four hours.
- Excerpt from Chapter 27, Page 201, Paragraphs 3
... paradoxically, it takes rather more energy to park [a satellite]
twenty two thousand miles up than to land on the ten-times-more-distant moon.
- WIRING THE ABYSS
- Introduction (to electrical / electronic communications)
- The Coming of the Telegraph
- Channel Crossing
- A Great American (Cyrus West Field)
- Lord of Science (William Thomson a.k.a. Lord Kelvin)
- False Start (to laying an Atlantic telegraph cable)
- Triumph of Disaster
- The Brink of Success
- Heart's Content (the first successful cable is laid)
- Battle on the Seabed (they try to grapple for a dropped cable)
- Girdle Round the Earth
- The Deserts of the Deep
- The Cable's Core
- VOICE ACROSS THE SEA
- The Wires Begin to Speak (Alexander Graham Bell)
- The Man Before Einstein (Oliver Heaviside)
- Mirror in the Sky (the ionosphere is discovered)
- Transatlantic Telephone
- "Wireless" (Clarke's boyhood recollections of crystal
and valve (vacuum tube) radios
- Exploring the Spectrum
- A BRIEF PREHISTORY OF COMSATS
- Beyond the Ionosphere
- "You're on the glide path... I think..."
- How I Lost a Billion Dollars in My Spare Time
- "If you've got a message..."
- The Making of a Moon (a reprinted short story)
- "I Remember Babylon" (a reprinted short story)
- STARRY MESSENGERS
- Echo and Telstar
- Early Bird
- The United States of Earth
- Satellites and Saris
- At the UN
- Coop's Troop
- Appointment in the Vatican
- Happy Birthday, Comsat!
- The Clarke Awards
- CNN Live
- LET THERE BE LIGHT!
- Cable Comeback
- Talking with Light
- As Far As Eye Can See (like this book's title, Clarke appears
to have a sense of humor :-)
Epilogue: Fin de siecle -- or Dawn
of a New Millennium
Postscript: The Second Russian Revolution
- NSR Comments: I was surprised to learn that
many telegraph cable projects were doomed to failure because overly optimistic
participants refused to learn
Ohm's Law. Just playing
with technology resulted in the loss of many billions of dollars which is reminiscent
of the losses associated with the Dot-Com (dot-con?) meltdown of 2000-2002.
Some Useful Links:
Clarke's First Law:
"When a distinguished but elderly scientist
states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states
that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
Clarke defines the adjective 'elderly' as :"In physics, mathematics
and astronautics it means over thirty; in other disciplines, senile decay is
sometimes postponed to the forties. There are of course, glorious exceptions;
but as every researcher just out of college knows, scientists of over fifty
are good for nothing but board meetings, and should at all costs be kept out
of the laboratory". (in Profiles of the Future.)
Clarke's Second Law:
"The only way of discovering the limits of
the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."
Clarke's Third Law:
"Any sufficiently advanced
technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Though he wrote after the laws that "Since three laws was sufficient
for both the Isaacs - Newton and Asimov - I have decided to stop here",
he continued to write laws, as we can see in the Appendix 2 of The Odyssey
File where he states the Clarke's 69th Law:
"Reading computer manuals without the hardware is as frustrating as
reading sex manuals without the software."
Clarke's Fourth Law:
“For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.”
A hundred years ago, the electric telegraph made possible - indeed, inevitable
- the United States of America. The communications satellite will make equally
inevitable a United Nations of Earth; let us hope that the transition period
will not be equally bloody.
Arthur C. Clarke, "First
on the Moon", 1970
Dr. Isaac Asimov (not an honorary degree)
the rear dust jacket of "The Caves of Steel"
1954 hardcover edition
For a long time the author has led a double
life: one as one of the masters of the fast, terse, often humorous galactic
melodramas, and as a biochemist and teacher at the Boston University School
of Medicine, where he is engaged in cancer research. Mr. Asimov says: "Science
Fiction invades most of the facets of my life, even my serious research. At
my final examination for a doctorate in biochemistry (with seven professors
asking profound and embarrassing questions) the last question concerned one
of the incidents in one of my science-fiction stories. I got my degree."
Mr. Asimov also says he is better known for such stories as Pebble in
the Sky, The Stars, Like Dust and
The Currents of Space in the science fiction world (which takes
science fiction very seriously) than he is ever likely to be for his cancer
TODAY'S (1954) FICTION - TOMORROW'S FACTS
says there are more than TWO MILLION science fiction fans in this country. From
all corners of the nation comes the resounding proof that science fiction has
established itself as an exciting and imaginative NEW FORM OF LITERATURE that
is attracting literally tens of thousands of new readers every year! Why? Because
no other form of fiction can provide you with such thrilling and unprecedented
adventures! No other form of fiction can take you on an eerie trip to Mars ...
amaze you with a journey into the year 3000 A.D. ... or sweep you into the fabulous
realms of unexplored Space! Yes, it's no wonder that this exciting new form
of imaginative literature has captivated the largest group of fascinated new
readers in the United States today!
From the dust jacket of "Robots and Empire"
Doubleday 1985 hardcover edition
Isaac Asimov's ROBOTS AND EMPIRE heralds
a major new landmark in the great Asimovian galaxy of science fiction. For it
not only presents the trilling sequel to the best-selling ROBOTS OF DAWN, but
also ingeniously interweaves all three of Asimov's classic series: Robot, Foundation,
and Empire. This is the work Asimov fans have been waiting for - an electrifying
tale of interstellar intrigue and adventure that sets a new standard in the
realm of SF literature.
Two hundred years have passed since THE ROBOTS
OF DAWN and Elijah Baley, the beloved hero of Earthpeople, is dead. The future
of the Universe is at a crossroads. Though the forces of the sinister Spacers
are weakened, Dr. Keldon Amadiro has never forgotten -- or forgiven -- his humiliating
defeat at the hands of Elijah. Now, with vengeance burning in his heart, he
is more determined than ever to bring about the total annihilation of the planet
But Amadiro had not counted on the equally determined Lady Gladia.
Devoted to Elijah Baley, the Auroran beauty has taken upon the legacy of her
fallen lover, vowing to stop the Spacer's at any cost. With her two robot companions,
Daneel and Giskard, she prepares to set into motion a daring and dangerous plan
. . . a plan whose success -- or failure -- will forever seal the fate of Earth
and all who live there.
Culminating in a stunning surprise climax, ROBOTS
AND EMPIRE is singular science fiction that excites the mind and stimulates
the imagination. It is Isaac Asimov at his triumphant best, proving him, once
again, the true Master of the genre.
Back in 2004, Isaac Asimov (already dead for 12 years) sent humanity a message from 1988.
Okay so it was only a few
paragraphs from a book but I was "in the zone" and took it seriously
because it reminded me of the posthumous messages sent by
to all of
humanity (via the Time
) in Asimov's Foundation Novels
the Foundation Trilogy
. You should read this message too because
Asimov's Favorite Fifteen
the basis for a provocative humanistic / robotic philosophy which is so awe-inspiring
that I could, if I so desired, create a religion based upon it (although I won't
because Asimov would not have approved; Asimov had remarked more than once that
Hubbard had gone astray with Dianetics). And here is something I do not understand,
although half of Asimov's stories were written in the 1940s and 1950s, they
do not seem anachronistic in any way. In fact, they seem to have been written
last week. I suggest you read them once then wait 7 years before reading them
again. You will not be disappointed.
Asimov's Message (in the gray box) follows...
p.s. books also qualify as "time vaults"
From "Author's Note
(pages ix to x) of "Prelude To Foundation
1988 hardcover edition © 1988 by Nightfall Inc.
When I wrote
, which appeared in the May 1942 issue of
Astounding Science Fiction
, I had no idea I had begun a series of stories
that would eventually grow into six volumes and a total of 650,000 words (so
far). Nor did I have any idea that it would be unified with my series of short
stories and novels involving robots and my novels involving the Galactic Empire
for a grand total (so far) of fourteen volumes
a total of about 1,450,000 words.
You will see, if you study the publication
dates of these books, that there was a twenty-five-year hiatus between 1957
and 1982, during which I did not add to this series. This is not because I had
stopped writing. Indeed, I wrote full-speed throughout the quarter century,
but I wrote other things. That I returned to the series in 1982 was not my own
notion but was the result of a combination of pressures from readers and publishers
that eventually became overwhelming.
In any case, the situation has become
sufficiently complicated for me to feel that the readers might welcome a kind
of guide to the series, since they were not written in the order in which (perhaps)
they should be read.
The fourteen books
published by Doubleday, offer a kind of history of the future, which is, perhaps,
not completely consistent, since I did not plan consistency to begin with. The
chronological order order of the books, in terms of future history (and not
of publication date), is as follows:
reading order as suggested by Isaac Asimov (NSR comments/changes
- The Complete Robot (1982)
- I, Robot (1950) 1
- The Complete Robot is a collection of thirty-one
robot short stories published between 1940 and 1976 and includes
every story in my earlier collection I, Robot (1950).
Only one robot short story has been written since this collection
appeared. That is Robot Dreams, which has not yet
appeared in any Doubleday collection. 2
- I, Robot is a collection of nine short stories
presented as the memoirs of robot psychologist Dr. Susan Calvin
(an employee of U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation).
Most people find this book's title plain weird until they read chapter
8 ("Evidence"). Everyone should read
chapter 9 ("Evitable Conflict"). Click
here for more details.
||Caves of Steel (1954)
||This is the first of my robot novels.
||The Naked Sun (1957)
||The second robot novel.
||The Robots of Dawn
||The third robot novel. Click
here for a few pre-reading suggestions
||Robots and Empire (1985)
||The fourth robot novel.
||The Currents of Space
||This is the first of my [Galactic]
||The Stars, Like Dust
||The second [Galactic]
||Pebble in the Sky
||The third [Galactic]
Empire novel and first novel.
||Prelude to Foundation
||This is the first Foundation novel.
||Forward the Foundation
||This is the second Foundation
novel. [ this title was not in Asimov's original list;
list positions adjusted ]
||The is the third Foundation
novel but most of the world knows this book as the first book of the "Foundation
Trilogy". Actually, it began as a collection of four short stories,
originally published between 1942 and 1944, plus an introductory section
written for the book in 1949.
||Foundation and Empire
||This is the fourth Foundation
novel, made from of two short stories, originally published in 1945.
||This is the fifth Foundation
novel, made from two short stories, originally published in 1948 and
||This is the sixth Foundation
||Foundation and Earth
||This is the seventh Foundation
novel. [ Asimov's list shows a publishing date of
1983 but this is a typo ]
Will I add additional books to the series? I might. There is room for a book
6 between Robots and Empire and
The Currents of Space, and between Prelude to Foundation
and Foundation (which turned out to be Forward the Foundation
4), and of course between others as well
6. And then I can follow Foundation and Earth
with with additional volumes -- as many as I like. Naturally, there's got to
be some limit, for I don't expect to to live forever, but I do intend to hang
on as long as possible.
- Even though this book was originally published in 1950, the pre-1950
stories contained within seem to stand the test of time. This might have
something to do with the fact that Asimov usually glosses over technological
details while concentrating more on the humanity side of things. Remember
that these stories were written during the age of vacuum tubes thus predating
the age of transistors and chips; Asimov never mentions tubes or transistors
but he does mention something called the Positronic Brain with is just a
literary device for "unknown technology". One dated phrase he
uses is "robot psychologist" which should probably have been "computer
programmer" but who really knows if my criticism is correct. Artificial
Intelligence (AI) programming may become so complex that "robot psychology"
might be a programming discipline ;-)
- The story Robot Dreams did appear in a robot compilation
published by Byron Press in 1986 titled Robot Dreams. A
second robot compilation was published by Byron Press in 1990 titled
- Books 6-8 are part of Asimov's Galactic Empire series.
Asimov thought that these books were not very good (as far as the Robot-to-Foundation
story line is concerned). He once stated "You can skip these books
and still have a very enjoyable read [of the other 12]"
- Primarily due to the book clubs of the 1950s and 1960s, there once
was a time when Asimov was better known for these three books than he
was for the Foundation Trilogy
- Book 8 (Pebble in the Sky) was republished in hardcover
on January 2008 and I enjoyed it immensely.
- Book 7 (The Stars, Like Dust) was republished in
hardcover on December 2008 and I enjoyed it as well.
- Book 6 (The Currents of Space) was republished
in hardcover on April 2009 and think it was worth every penny.
- Book 10 (Forward the Foundation) was not in Asimov's
original list because he had not yet written it. This means that books 11-15
reflect new numberings. Forward the Foundation was Asimov's
last book. Click here for suppressed information
about Asimov's death in 1992 at the age of
- Books 11-13 are known by the public-at-large as The Foundation
Trilogy. Even still, for maximum enjoyment you should read books
9-15 in order. Since some well known Robots pop up here, you should read
books 1-5 (or 1-8) first.
- It is unfortunate that we cannot able to travel back in time to convince
Asimov to get 45 minutes of daily exercise so he could avoid the
triple bypass surgery responsible for infecting
his blood with a deadly virus. I cannot imagine this collection without
Forward the Foundation and now can only wonder about what
he had in mind for these other insertion points. Generally speaking, Asimov
fans have been very critical about the work done by other authors
- If you are a hard sci-fi fan like me then every
one of these 15 books are worth reading. They seem to stand the test of
time and do not seem dated in any way. Click
www.alibris.com to purchase rare and
Isaac Asimov = Hari Seldon in the
It has not escaped my attention that "stumbling
upon Asimov's suggested reading order in an original book from 1988"
is very much like "receiving a posthumous message from
Yes, Asimov still speaks to humanity today but I am certain he wouldn't
want you to turn his humanist / robotic philosophies into a religion even
though you could.
Behind the Foundation
the introduction to "Foundation and Earth
1986 hardcover edition
On August 1, 1941, when I was a lad of twenty-one,
I was a graduate student in chemistry at Columbia University and had been writing
science fiction professionally for three years. I was hastening to see John
Campbell, editor of Astounding, to whom I had sold five stories
by then. I was anxious to tell him of a new idea I had for a science fiction
It was to write a historical novel of the future; to tell the
story of the fall of the Galactic Empire. My enthusiasm must have been catching,
for Campbell grew as excited as I was. He didn't want me to write a single story.
He wanted a series of stories, in which the full history of of the thousand
years of turmoil between the First Galactic Empire and the rise of the Second
Galactic Empire was to be outlined. It would all be illuminated by the science
of "psychohistory" that Campbell and I thrashed out between us.
The first story appeared in the May 1942 Astounding and
the second story appeared in the June 1942 issue. They were at once popular
and Campbell saw to it that I wrote six more stories before the end of the decade.
The stories grew longer too. The first one was only twelve thousand words long.
Two of the last three stories were fifty thousand words apiece.
time the decade was over, I had grown tired of the series, dropped it, and went
on to other things. By then, however, various publishing houses were beginning
to put out hardcover science fiction books. One such house was a small semiprofessional
firm, Gnome Press. They published my Foundation Series in three volumes:
Foundation (1951); Foundation and Empire (1952);
and Second Foundation (1953). The three books together came
to be known as The Foundation Trilogy.
The books did
not do very well, for Gnome Press did not have the capital with which to advertise
and promote them. I got neither statements nor royalties from them.
early 1961, my then-editor at Doubleday, Timothy Seldes, told me he had received
a request from a foreign publisher to reprint the Foundation books. Since they
were not Doubleday books, he passed the request on to me. I shrugged my shoulders. "Not
interested, Tim. I don't get royalties on those books"
horrified, and instantly set about getting the rights to the books from Gnome
Press (which was, by that time, moribund), and in August of that year, the books
(along with "I, Robot") became Doubleday property.
moment on, the Foundation series took off and began to earn increasing royalties.
Doubleday published the Trilogy in a single volume and distributed them through
the Science Fiction Book Club. Because of that the Foundation series became
enormously well known.
In the 1966 World Science Fiction Convention,
held in Cleveland, the fans were asked to vote on a category of "The Best
All-Time Series". It was the first time (and, so far, the last) the category
had been included in the nominations for the Hugo Award. The Foundation Trilogy
won the award, which further added to the popularity of the series.
fans kept asking me to continue the series. I was polite but I kept refusing.
Still, it fascinated me that people who had not been born when the series was
begun had managed to become caught up in it.
Doubleday, however, took
the demands far more seriously that I did. They had humored me for twenty years
but as demands kept growing in intensity and number, they finally lost patience.
In 1981, they told me that I simply had to write another Foundation novel and,
in order to sugar-coat the demand, offered me a contract at ten times my usual
Nervously, I agreed. It had been thirty-two years since I had written a Foundation
story and now I was instructed to write one 140,000 words long, twice that of
any earlier volumes and nearly three times as long as any previous individual
story. I re-read The Foundation Trilogy and, taking a deep
breath, dived into the task.
The fourth book of the series, Foundation's
Edge, was published in October 1982, and then a very strange thing
happened. It appeared in the New York Times bestseller list
at once. In fact, it stayed one that list for twenty-five weeks, much to my
utter astonishment. Nothing like that had ever happened to me.
at once signed me up to do additional novels and I wrote two that were part
of another series, The Robot Novels. - And then it was time
to return to the Foundation.
So I wrote Foundation and Earth, which begins at the very
moment that Foundation's Edge ends, and that is the book you
now hold. It might help if you glanced over Foundation's Edge
just to refresh your memory, but you don't have to, Foundation and Earth
stands by itself. I hope you enjoy it.
New York City, 1986
Start of Caveat Section (runs for ~ 250 lines)
Don't bother reading between the two red boxes. Long after creating my own online
review of Isaac Asimov's books as I re-read them in 2004, I discovered a much better
collection of reviews at Wikipedia.
See what Asimov had to say about Protein
Folding in 1990.
Skip to my last "Isaac Asimov" paragraph
below to learn about Isaac Asimov's strange and tragic
death in 1992.
My "Isaac Asimov" Book Reviews and Observations (2004)
Most of the information comes from dust jackets or things I noticed while re-reading
the books in 2004.
or www.alibris.com to purchase out-of-print
- A repackaging of nine previously published short stories presented as the
memoirs of robot psychologist Dr. Susan Calvin
- Everyone living in the modern world should read chapters
8 and 9 ("Evidence" and "The Evitable Conflict").
If I had any control over the matter, these two chapters would be required reading
in secondary school since they are slightly more important to modern human culture
as anything written by William Shakespeare (and I highly value his creative
efforts as well). Why would I say this?
- Lessons found in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" teaches
humanity to despise anti-Semitism (which is morphs into teaching modern
people learning to be tolerant of everything).
- Although written under the guise of anti-robot bias, various Asimov
biographies indicate that "Evidence" was inspired by the author's
exposure to anti-Semitism during the second world war. The idea of a lawyer
wishing to avoid death penalties shows us what humans can aspire to when
they think a little more while emoting a little less. To me this is "icing
on the cake".
- The very brief history lesson found in Asimov's "The Evitable Conflict"
teaches us that wars are a complete waste of time. It also teaches us to
repress our emotions where politics and religion are concerned.
- Introduction (1950)
- The year is 2057 and Dr. Susan Calvin, chief robopsychologist (programmer?)
of "U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation" is about to retire
so a reporter is about to spend three days interviewing her for a "Pop
Ed" article. These stories are her memoirs.
- Chapter 1 -
- The story centers around the technophobia that surrounds robots, and
how it is misplaced. Almost all previously published science fiction stories
featuring robots followed the theme 'robot turns against creator'; Asimov
has consistently held the belief that the Frankenstein complex was a misplaced
fear, and the majority of his works attempted to provide examples of the
help that robots could provide humanity.
- Chapter 2 -
- problems pop up with mining robots deployed on the planet Mercury. US
Robot field engineers, Gregory Powel and Mike Donavan, are on site to solve
- this is the very first story where we learn about Asimov's
3 Laws of Robotics
- Chapter 3 -
- Another story involving US Robot field engineers, Gregory Powel and
- QT (a.k.a. Cutie) doesn't believe he was assembled by the humans currently
in charge of "Solar Station 5" (robots are not allowed on inhabited
worlds so are manufactured in pieces on Earth then assembled elsewhere)
- in order to come to grips with this dilemma, QT reasons that there must
be a supreme creator for both men and machines
- Chapter 4 -
Catch That Rabbit
- Another story involving US Robot field engineers, Gregory Powel and
- problems pop up with DV-5 (Dave) mining robots deployed in the asteroid
- DV-5s have a personal initiative circuit which allow them to manage
other worker robots but computational overload causes a conflict with the "3
laws of robotics"
- Chapter 5 -
- Through a fault in manufacturing, a robot, RB-34 (Herbie), is created
that has the ability to read minds. While the roboticists at U.S. Robots
and Mechanical Men are trying to analyze what happened and why, the robot
tells them what other people are thinking. But the First Law still applies
to this robot, and so it deliberately lies when necessary to avoid hurting
their feelings and to make people happy, especially in terms of romance.
However, by lying, it is hurting them anyway. When it is confronted with
this fact by Susan Calvin (to whom it told a lie that was particularly painful
to her when it was shown to be false), the robot experiences an irresolvable
logical conflict and becomes catatonic.
- Chapter 6 -
Little Lost Robot
- At Hyper Base, a military research station on an asteroid, scientists
are working to develop the hyperspace drive - a theme that is explored and
developed in several of Asimov's stories and mentioned in the Empire and
Foundation books. One of the researchers, Gerald Black, loses his temper,
swears at an NS-2 (Nestor) robot and tells the robot to "....go lose
yourself." Obeying the order literally, it hides itself. It is then
up to US Robots' Chief Robopsychologist Dr. Susan Calvin, and Mathematical
Director Peter Bogert, to find it. They even know exactly where it is: in
a room with 62 other physically identical robots.
- Chapter 7 -
Escape! (also known as "Paradoxical
- "Consolidated Robots" (a competitor of US Robots and Mechanical
Men) burn out their master computer while trying to solve a problem during
the design of an inter-stellar engine (a.k.a. "warp drive"). So
they approach "U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation" with
an offer of collaboration.
- Should "U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation" risk the
mental health of their own computer?
- Question: If one and one half chickens lays one and one half eggs in
one and one half days, then how many eggs will 9 chickens lay in 9 days?
The Brain answered "fifty four"
- US Robot field engineers, Gregory Powel and Mike Donavan are coerced
into taking the new ship for a test ride.
- Note: it would appear that the development of warp travel in
this chapter is the basis for the expansion of humanity described in Asimov's "Foundation
and Empire" series
- Chapter 8 -
- Stephen Byerley is a lawyer, a successful, middle-aged prosecutor, a
humanitarian who never presses for the death penalty. He runs for Mayor
of New York City, but Francis Quinn's political machine smears him, claiming
that he is a humanoid robot (a machine built to look like a human being).
If this is true, the "Frankenstein complex" hysteria will ruin
his campaign, as of course, only human beings are allowed to run for office.
Quinn approaches U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men corporation, the world's
only supplier of positronic robot brains, and attempts to persuade them
that Byerley must be a robot. No one has ever seen Byerley eat or sleep,
- When confronted, Byerley responds with "I...I...a
robot?" (hence the name of the book)
- Chapter 9 -
The Evitable Conflict
- Consider relatively modern times. There were the series of dynastic
wars in the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries , when the most important
question in Europe was whether the houses of Hapsburg or Valois-Bourborn
were to rule the continent. It was one of those 'inevitable conflicts',
since Europe could obviously not exist half of one and half of the other.
Except that it did, and no war ever wiped out the one and established the
other, until the rise of a new social atmosphere in France in 1789 tumbled
first the Bourbons and, eventually, the Hapsburgs down the dusty chute to
- And in those same centuries there were the more barbarous religious
wars, which revolved about the important question of whether Europe was
to be Catholic or Protestant. Half and half she could not be. It was 'inevitable'
that the sword decide -- except that it didn't. In England, a new industrialism
was growing, and on the continent, a new nationalism. Half and half Europe
remains to this day and no one cares much.
- In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there was a cycle of nationalist-imperialist
wars, when the most important question in the world was which portion of
Europe would control the economic resources and consuming capacity of which
portions of non-Europe. All non-Europe obviously could not exist part English
and part French and part German and so on -- until the forces of nationalism
spread sufficiently, so that non-Europe ended what all the wars could not,
and decided it could exist quite comfortably all non-European.
- And so we have a pattern.
- In the twentieth century we started a new cycle of wars -- what shall
I call them? Ideological wars? The emotions of religion applied to economic
systems , rather than to extra-natural ones? Again the wars were 'inevitable'
and this time there were atomic weapons, so that mankind could no longer
live through its torment to the inevitable wasting away
- After the arrival of positronic robots and interplanetary travel, it
no longer seemed important whether the world was Adam Smith
or Karl Marx. So a world wide robot-coordinated economy
was developed which meant that countries would be dissolved and replaced
with informal economic regions:
|The Eastern Region
||China, India, Burma, Indo-China, Indonesia.
|The Tropic Region
|South America north of Argentina, Africa south of the Atlas
Mountains, North America South of the Rio Grande, Arabia, Iran.
|The European Region
|Europe (including Scandinavia & Iceland but not Britain),
Mediterranean Africa and Argentina, Chile, Uruguay.
|The Northern Region
|North America North of the Rio Grande through to Russia (but
minus Europe), Britain, European Russia, Russia, Australia, New
|Earth (& Antarctica)
||a kind of UN of "Economic Regions"
- Each economic region is being managed by a Brain (a large positronic
brain without a robot body; e.g. a "thinking" mainframe computer)
which is governed by the
3 Laws of Robotics.
- This is the humanity's most peaceful and economically productive period
in history but some people resent being told what to do by computers so
have joined organizations like "Society for Humanity" (an anti-technology
- Recently, the Brains have made mistakes and some people are beginning
to suspect that the robots (and Brains) are evolving. This means that the "First
Law of Robotics" may have changed! (or the robots may be interpreting
it differently). Click
- It seems that Asimov predicted the formation of economic associations
("free trade zones") which should help tamp down nationalistic
pride. It is too bad that he missed the prediction of the
- Is a population of 3.3 Billion an underestimate or did Asimov assume
that humans would be limiting their numbers?
- In 1950 it must have made sense that Britain would be part of the
Northern Region. Obviously joint projects like the
relations between Britain and France so today Brits would probably prefer
to be associated with Europe.
- Asimov's idea to use computers to optimize human economies sound
somewhat close to this
- Click here for information
about the 2004 movie I,
Robot which was not based upon any of Asimov's stories but was based
upon his characters
Robot Trilogy (a.k.a. Elijah Baley Detective Series)
Caves of Steel
- Planet: EARTH
Crisis: Dr. Roj Nemennuh
Sarton, the preeminent roboticist, is murdered in Spacetown
The fragile relationship between Earth and Space depends upon Lije (Elijah)
Baley's speedy solving of the case. But that's not the worst of it. Lije is
paired with investigator R. (for Robot) Daneel Olivaw. And Lije dislikes robots
deeply, almost pathologically.
- In this novel, Isaac Asimov first introduced Elijah Baley and R. Daneel
Olivaw, who would later become his favorite protagonists. They live roughly
three millennia in Earth's future, a time when hyperspace travel has been discovered,
and a few worlds relatively close to Earth have been colonized — fifty
planets known as the "Spacer worlds". The Spacer worlds are rich,
have low population density (average population of one hundred million each),
and use robot labor very heavily. Meanwhile, Earth is overpopulated (with a
total population of eight billion), and strict rules against robots have been
passed. The eponymous "caves of steel" are vast city complexes covered
by huge metal domes, capable of supporting tens of millions each. The New York
City of that era, for example, encompasses present-day New York City, as well
as large tracts of New Jersey.
- The book's central crime is a murder, which takes place before the novel
opens. (This is an Asimovian trademark, which he attributed to his own squeamishness
and John Campbell's advice of beginning as late in the story as possible.) Roj
Nemmenuh Sarton, a Spacer Ambassador, lives in Spacetown, the Spacer outpost
just outside New York City. For some time, he has tried to convince the Earth
government to loosen its anti-robot restrictions. One morning, he is discovered
outside his home, his chest imploded by an energy blaster. The New York police
commissioner charges Elijah with finding the murderer. Elijah must work with
a Spacer partner, a highly advanced robot who is visually identical to a human,
named R. Daneel Olivaw, even though Elijah, like many Earth residents, has a
low opinion of robots. Together, they search for the murderer and try to avert
an interstellar diplomatic incident.
- Population of Earth:
- Humans: 8,000,000,000 (almost all live underground)
- Robots: a minimal number to run the farms; almost all live on the surface
- Excerpt from page 28: Efficiency had been forced on Earth with increasing
population. Two billion people, three billion, even five
billion could be supported by the planet by progressive lowering of the standard
of living. When the population reaches eight billion, however, semi starvation
becomes too much like a real thing. A radical change had to take place in man's
culture, particularly when it turned out that the Outer Worlds (which had merely
been Earth's colonies a thousand years before) were tremendously serious in
their immigration restrictions.
- So Earthers created Cities (the capital "C" means we are talking
about a machine version of a "city") and robots. While most people
accepted Cities, a small group of people known as "the Medievalists"
were opposed to them.
- Baley had read somewhere once that Spacers had no religion, but substituted,
instead, a cold and phlegmatic intellectualism raised to the heights of a philosophy.
- Excerpt from page 110: Earthmen are all so coddled, so enwombed in their
imprisoning caves of steel (under ground apartments), that
they are caught [on Earth] forever.
- Malthusian: of or pertaining to the theories of Thomas. R. Malthus, which
state that population tends to increase faster, at a geometrical rate, than
the means of subsistence, which increases at an arithmetical rate, and that
this will result in an inadequate supply of the goods supporting life unless
war, famine, or disease reduces the population or the increase of population
is checked. Comment: The publications of Malthus had a profound
influence upon Charles Darwin.
- The character Dr. Gerrigel uses the term "Asenion" to describe
robots programmed with the Three Laws. The robots in Asimov's stories, being
Asenion robots, are incapable of knowingly violating the Three Laws but, in
principle, a robot in science fiction or in the real world could be non-Asenion. "Asenion"
is a misspelling of the name Asimov which was made by an editor of the magazine
Planet Stories. Asimov used this obscure variation to insert
himself into The Caves of Steel in much the same way that
appeared in Lolita
as "Vivian Darkbloom".
- Speculation about names: Asimov tells us that Lije is short for Elijah while
Jessie is short for Jezebel, and that the names are derived from Old Testament
stories. I have always wondered why the humaniform "Spacer" robot
was named Daneel. The only thing that comes to mind is the Old Testament story
of Daniel. QUOTE:
According to the biblical book, at a young age Daniel was carried off to Babylon
where he became famous for interpreting dreams and rose to become one of the
most important figures in the court. COMMENT: In this light,
Daniel was a bridge between backward Judea and modern Babylon
- Asimov mentions that Terries (humans living on Earth) are engaged in a C/Fe
(pronounced "see-fee") culture clash. "C" represents carbon
while "Fe" represents iron (see
periodical table of chemical
elements). I guess today we would use the phrase C/Si.
Robots of Dawn (1983)
- Planet: SOLARIA
Crisis: Rikaine Delmarre,
husband of the beautiful Gladia, is found brutally murdered while, apparently,
attended by only his robots.
Problem: On Solaria, the few
inhabitants have isolated themselves from one another for so long that they
find direct physical contact with fellow human beings intensely uncomfortable.
By virtue of their programming, robots are incapable of harming a human being,
and cannot permit harm to come to a human. Yet, no evidence of a murder weapon
was found. Who could have done it? How? And why?
- Like its predecessor, The Caves of Steel, it is a whodunit story, in addition
to being science fiction. The book was first published in 1957 after being serialized
in Astounding Science Fiction between October and December 1956. The story arises
from the murder of Rikaine Delmarre, a prominent "fetologist" (fetal
scientist, responsible for the operation of the planetary birthing center reminiscent
of those described in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World) of Solaria, a planet
politically hostile to Earth. Elijah Baley is called in to investigate, at the
request of the Solarian government. He is again partnered with the humaniform
robot R. Daneel Olivaw. Before leaving Earth, he is asked by Earth's government
to assess the Solarian society for weaknesses.
- Population of Solaria:
- Humans: 20,000 maximum (reproduction is enforced by the local government
and immigration is not allowed)
- Robots: 200,000,000 (10,000 robots for every human; robots are used
to exploit this planet's natural resources and manufacture products for
- Asimov tells us that each Solarian robot has a unique shoulder patch consisting
of six-by-six gold-and-silver checkerboard, and "that the number of possible
arrangements would be 236 then, or 70 billion". I found it strange
that he didn't use the phrase "a little less than 70 billion" since
the actual number is closer to 68.7 billion :-)
here for a few pre-reading suggestions from me
- Planet: AURORA
Crisis: Roboticide: Jander
Panell, one of the two most advanced robots yet assembled - a twin to R. Daneel
Olivaw - is murdered
Problem: Only the gifted roboticist
Han Fastolfe had the means, the motive, and the opportunity to commit the crime
- and Baley must prove him innocent if the overcrowded Earth is ever to have
access to space and the resources it needs.
- The book opens with detective Elijah Baley on Earth, training with his son
and others to tolerate the outside, in spite of their socially ingrained agoraphobia.
He is ordered to go to the police headquarters where he is told that the Spacer
world of Aurora has requested his presence to solve a crime. He is told that
the mind of R. Jander Panell, a humaniform robot identical to R. Daneel Olivaw,
has been destroyed via a mental block—"roboticide", as Baley
later terms it. The robot's inventor, Han Fastolfe, has been implicated. Fastolfe,
who was last seen in The Caves of Steel, is the best roboticist
on Aurora. He has admitted that he is the only person with the skill to have
done it, although he denies doing it. Fastolfe is also a prominent member of
the Auroran political faction that favors Earth. Implication in the crime threatens
his political career; therefore, it is politically expedient that he be exonerated.
- Population of Aurora:
- Humans: 200 million maximum (reproduction is enforced by the local government
and immigration is restricted)
- Robots: 10 billion (50 robots for every human; every human possesses
at least one robot as a personal servant; most robots are used in the areas
of: farms, mines, factories, space)
- Aurora was initially named New Earth but since this was the first extra
Spacer world represented "the dawn of a new age" they changed the
name to Aurora (which is the roman god of Dawn). So the title really means "The
Robots of Aurora"
- Notable changes in Asimov's writing:
- Asimov is now using the metric system (but metric time is only used
in the 50 off-world colonies; 10 metric hours a day; 100 metric minutes
per hour; 100 metric seconds per minute = 100,000 metric seconds per day
compared to our 86,400 seconds per day)
- Asimov now speaks about robot programming (earlier works only spoke
of robot psychologists)
- Asimov now mentions that smoking tobacco is banned in all off-world
colonies but still allowed on Earth (this might be "one" reason
why Earthers have such a short lifetime compared to Spacers
- Notable connections to other books:
- Dr. Han Fastolfe:
- mentions that of all the 50 "spacer worlds", only Aurora
had come closest to implementing the Three Laws of Robotics
as the Three Laws of Humanics.
- speaks of his intention to possibly create a new science called
Psychohistory (Foundation Trilogy)
- mentions the legends of:
- Susan Calvin and a not-so-truthful "mind reading"
robot (Story of "Liar!" found in "I, Robot")
- Andrew Martin (Bicentennial Man)
- General comments
- Robots on Earth only have a single name (R. Sammy, R. Geronimo) while
Spacer robots have two (R. Daneel Olivaw, R. Giskard Reventlov, R. Jander
Panell, R. Ernett Second (introduced in Robots and Empire))
- There are only two humaniform robots in existence at this time: Daneel
Olivaw and Jander Panell.
- Dr. Fastolf tells us that humaniform robot bodies were developed in
order to improve positronic brains
here for a few pre-reading suggestions from me
- Asimov said to next read Robots and Empire
- Link: Asimov
Suggested Reading Order
Fourth book of the Robot Trilogy :-) (not part of the Elijah Baley Detective
Robots and Empire
- Asimov says to read this one after Robots of Dawn
- From the 1985 hard cover dust jacket: [snip] For
it not only presents the thrilling sequel to the best-selling "The Robots
of Dawn", but also ingeniously interweaves al three of Asimov's classic
series: "Robot", "Foundation", and "Empire". [snip]
Two hundred years have passed since "The Robots of Dawn" and Elijah
Baley, the beloved hero of the Earth-people, is dead. The future of the Universe
is at a crossroads. Though the forces of the sinister Spacers are weakened,
Dr. Keldon Amadiro has never forgotten - or forgiven - his humiliating defeat
at the hands of Elijah. Now, with vengeance burning in his heart, he is more
determined than ever to bring about the total annihilation of planet Earth.
But Amadiro has not counted on the equally determined Lady Gladia. Devoted to
(the memory of) Elijah Baley, the Auroran beauty has taken up the legacy of
her fallen lover, vowing to stop the Spacers at any cost. With her two robot
companions, Daneel and Giskard, she prepares to set into motion a daring and
dangerous plan... a plan whose success - or failure - will forever seal the
fate of Earth and all who live there. [snip]
- excerpt from page 66: Daneel said, "The picture
you draw is attractive. It would make Partner Elijah proud of us if, as you
say, we have accomplished that. 'Robots and Empire'
Elijah would say and perhaps he would clap me on the shoulder. -- And yet, as
I said, I am uneasy friend Giskard.
- excerpt from page 186: If emotions are few and
reasons are many, the behavior of a crowd can be more easily predicted than
the behavior of one person can. And that, in turn, means that if the laws are
to be developed that enable the current of history the be predicted, then one
must deal with the large populations, the larger the better. That might itself
be the First Law of Psychohistory, the key to the study of
- Notable connections to other books:
- Under Secretary of Energy, Sophia Quintana, mentions the legend of robot-politician
Stephen Byerley (I, Robot)
- Asimov said to next read Prelude to Foundation
- Link: Asimov
Suggested Reading Order
More Robot Stories
The Rest of
Man (short story, 1975)
Robot Dreams (1986)
Galactic Empire Series
Pebble in the Sky
The Stars, Like Dust
The Currents of
- due to an experimental accident at a university across town, a tailor steps
hundreds of years into the future
- a nearly naked man with no memory is found laying in a field
Foundation Series 1
Prelude to Foundation
- Chapter 1: 32-year-old Hari Seldon presents
a paper outlining the possibility of psychohistory; the emperor hears about
this and wants Hari to say "that psychohistory predicted a peaceful and
prosperous future for the galactic empire".
- Chapters 91-94: This book ends with a double
plot twist in these final chapters; obviously readers have different opinions
when it comes entertainment, but it is my opinion that
this might be one of Asimov's best books (provided you previously read
the first five books of the Robot Series")
- This book spans approximately one year of time
Second Foundation Trilogy (commissioned by the Asimov estate after Isaac's
In the 'Second Foundation' trilogy, a series of books authorized by the estate
of Asimov, a race of Aliens within the Foundation Universe is mentioned who
appear to be in circumstances similar to the Cepheids. Although they are not
mentioned by name, a major character in this story is. A subplot in
Foundation's Triumph investigates the problem raised in this story.
Forward the Foundation
- Foundation's Fear (1997) by Gregory Benford
- Foundation and Chaos (1998) by Greg Bear
- Foundation's Triumph (1999) by David Brinn
- This book is a continuation of Prelude to Foundation and is Asimov's
last publication before his death in 1992.
- Part 1 (Eto Demerzel) - Chapter 1: Eight years
have passed since the end of Prelude to Foundation. Hari Seldon has just
turned 40. Hari and Dors are married and living with their adopted son Raych.
The Emperor finds it impossible to believe that psychohistory is not ready after
8 years of research
- Part 2 (Cleon I) - Chapter 1: Ten years have
passed since he end of the previous chapter. Hari is ~50 years old. Part 2 spans
- Part 3 (Dors Venabili) - Chapter 1: Hari is
~60 years old
- Part 4 (Wanda Seldon) - Chapter 1: Hari is
~70 years old
- Part 5 (Epilogue) - The only chapter: Hari
is 81 years old and is in the middle of preparing a final holo-recording for
posterity. The crisis-holograms were finished one month earlier. This is followed
by Hari's obituary in the Encyclopedia Galactica.
- From the rear dust jacket:
"I could not have written this book forty or thirty, twenty, or even ten years
ago. That is because, piece by piece, over the years I have been working
back to Foundation's source: Hari Seldon. Today I enjoy the gift of
been given time: Experience (some might call it wisdom, but I will refrain
from such self-aggrandizement). For it is only now that I am able to give
my readers Hari Seldon during the most crucial, creative years of his life..
You see, over time, Hari Seldon has evolved into my alter ego... In my earlier
books Hari Seldon was the stuff of legend - with Forward the Foundation
I have made him real.
-- Isaac Asimov, June 1991
- In many ways this book is sad because you can sense that the author knows
he is dying while he devises an end-of-life story for Hari Seldon. Also, Hari
Seldon (a.k.a. Asimov) points out symptoms of a dying empire which are visible
everywhere today in 2004 and I'm afraid the world is descending into a
Blade Runner kind of
future. Let's hope it doesn't descend further into something like
The book series started as a series of nine short stories, eight of which were published
in Astounding Science Fiction 4 magazine between
May 1942 and January 1950, and a ninth which was written a few years later when
the series was first published in book form. The stories vary in length from about
7,000 words to about 50,000 words. The early stories are very closely based on Edward
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Asimov said he did "a
little bit of cribbin' from the works of Edward Gibbon" when describing
the influence of that work on the Trilogy).
's holographic image, pictured on a paperback edition of
appears at various times in the First Foundation's history, to guide it through
the social and economic crises that befall it.
Foundation and Empire
- Part 1 - The Psychohistorians
Excerpt from the Encyclopedia Galactica: Hari
Seldon, born in the 11,988th year of the Galactic Era, perfects a branch
of social mathematics called "psychohistory" which can predict
the future actions of humanity 3. He sees that
the Galactic empire is about to collapse which could result in a 30,000
year age of darkness, so develops a plan to reduce this dark age to only
- Part 2 - The Encyclopedists
- Part 3 - The Mayors
- Part 4 - The Traders
- Part 5 - The Merchant Princes
- Part 1 - The General
- Part 2 - The Mule
- Part 1 - Search by the Mule
- Part 2 - Search by the Foundation
In 1982, following a thirty-year hiatus, Asimov gave in and wrote what was at the
time a fourth volume: Foundation's Edge. This was followed shortly thereafter
by Foundation and Earth. Foundation and Earth (which takes place some 500
years after Seldon) ties up all the loose ends, but opens a brand new line of thought
in the last dozen pages. As a result, many fans (wanting a tidy end to the series)
consider this finale to be a failure. According to his widow Janet Asimov (in her
biography of him, It's Been a Good Life), he had no idea how to continue
after Foundation and Earth, so he started writing prequels
Foundation's Edge (1982)
Foundation and Earth
- Chapter 1: It has been ~500 years since the
death of Hari Seldon and the planet Terminus (home of the first Foundation)
is preparing for his next hologram-appearance
- This book is a continuation of Foundation's Edge but seems better
- It will be most enjoyable if you've already read the Robot Trilogy
and Robots and Empire.
- Initially written as a series of short stories based on Edward Gibbon's
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
- Rereading this book in early 2004 was somewhat refreshing. Except for occasional
references to "smoking tobacco" or "non-metric measurements",
the material does not appear to be dated in any way.
- I wonder if this idea is an extrapolation of the investment science of "technical
analysis" which attempts to predict the future actions of the stock market?
- "Astounding Science Fiction" was renamed "Analog Science
Fiction" in 1960
Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics (From
the 1942 short story "Runaround")
- A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human
being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such
orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not
conflict with the First or Second Law.
here for two possible fourth law of robotics
- Click here for the official
of robotics (hinted at in many stories but formalized in Robots and
Note: In Isaac Asimov's book "It's Been A Good Life", Isaac states
that Astounding Magazine
publisher John W. Campbell
deserves joint credit in the creation of the Asimov's Three
Laws of Robotics
Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Humanity (From the 1946 short story "Evidence")
Because, if you stop to think of it, the three Rules of Robotics are the essential
guiding principles of a good many of the world's ethical systems.
- Of course, every human being is supposed the have the extinct
of self-preservation. That's Rule Three to a robot.
- Also every 'good' human being, with a social conscience and a
sense of responsibility, is supposed to defer to proper authority; to listen
to his doctor, his boss, his government, his psychiatrist, his fellow
man; to obey laws, to follow rules, to conform to custom -- even when they interfere
with his comfort or his safety. That's Rule Two to a robot.
- Also, every 'good' human being is supposed to love others as himself,
protect his fellow man, risk his life to save another. That's Rule One
to a Robot 1
To put it simply -- if Byerley follows all the Rules of Robotics,
he may be a robot, OR 2 may simply be a very good man.
- I wonder how many humans would support the zeroth law? Stephen Byerley is
elected mayor at the end of "Evidence" but reappears as World Coordinator
in "The Evitable Conflict" and I suspect he rises to that position
for just that reason.
- Asimov wrote "AND" but anyone familiar with Boolean logic knows
he meant "OR" (providing he was using Boolean logic :-)
- According to a quote by Dr. Fastolfe in Robots of Dawn, the planet Aurora
is the Spacer world that has come closest to implementing the Three
Laws of Robotics as the Laws of Humanics.
It's Been a Good Life (2002)
- A biography of Isaac Asimov edited by his second wife, Janet Jeppson Asimov
- Chapter Titles:
United States", "City Child", "Religion", "Prodigy", "Becoming
a Writer", "Science-Fiction Fan", "Starting to Write Science
Fiction", "Writing Progress", "Famous Fiction", "During
the War", "Postwar, and the Army", "Becoming a Ph.D.", "Postdoc", "Teaching,
Writing, Speaking", "Beyond Limitations", "Limitations Came", "Going
On", "Major Nonfiction", "Writing and Thinking About Writing", "On
Prolificacy", "On Writers' Problems", "Miscellaneous Opinions
and Quirks", "Sexism and Love", "Life While Famous", "The
Bible", "Changes", "Shakespeare", "New Experiments
in Writing", "More Working With Words", "Isaac, Himself", "More
on Writing", "Heart Attack", "Extending Two Series", "Triple
Bypass", "Humanists", "Senior Citizen and Honors", "Working
on in Gathering Shadows"
Appendix A. "Essay 400"
- A Way of Thinking
Appendix B. Isaac's Personal Favorite: "The Last
Appendix C. Bibliography of Works by Isaac Asimov
Some Useful Web Links:
End of Caveat Section: Started 250 lines up
Some Useful Multimedia Links:
Asimov Audio Interview with Don Swaim (Audio only - 25 minutes)
- Isaac Asimov on Bill Moyers World of Ideas pt 0 (Audio only)
- Isaac Asimov on Bill Moyers World of Ideas pt 1 (2008-03-19)
In 1988, Bill Moyers interviewed author Isaac Asimov for WORLD OF IDEAS.
Incredibly prolific in various genres beyond the science fiction for which
he was best known, Asimov wrote well over 400 books on topics ranging from
sci-fi to the Bible before his death in 1992. In one thread of his wide-ranging
interview, Asimov shared his thoughts on overpopulation:
"Right now most of the
world is living under appalling conditions. We can't possibly improve the
conditions of everyone. We can't raise the entire world to the average standard
of living in the United States because we don't have the resources and the
ability to distribute well enough for that. So right now as it is, we have
condemned most of the world to a miserable, starvation level of existence.
And it will just get worse as the population continues to go up... Democracy
cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience
and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the
world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn't matter
if someone dies. The more people there are, the less one individual matters."
- Isaac Asimov on Bill Moyers World of Ideas pt 2
- Isaac Asimov on Bill Moyers World of Ideas pt 3
- Isaac Asimov - Threats to Humanity Part 1
Sad Information About Isaac Asimov's Death
In 2002-08-10 it was revealed by Dr. Asimov's widow, Dr. Janet Jeppson Asimov,
in the new biography It's Been a Good Life, that his death was
in fact due to AIDS. In 1983 he had triple bypass surgery and received blood transfusions
containing HIV. (Ironic that the city he loved was the cause of his death; doubtless
nowhere else in the United States had a higher incidence of HIV in the blood supply
than New York at that time.) As Dr. Jeppson Asimov states, after his triple bypass "the
next day he had a high fever... only years later, in hindsight, did we realize that
the post transfusion HIV infection had taken hold." In the mid-Eighties Dr.
Jeppson Asimov noted that her husband had some AIDS symptoms and brought them to
the attention of his internist and cardiologist, who pooh-poohed and refused to
test him. He was finally tested in February of 1990, prior to further surgery, when
he presented HIV-positive with his T-cells half the normal level. The astonishing
fact of Dr. Asimov's AIDS was kept secret at the advice of his physicians - they
apparently strong-armed him in his sickbed with the threat that his wife would be
shunned as a suspected PWA (person with AIDS) as well. The secret was kept not till
after Dr. Asimov's death in 1992, nor till after the death of his widow and daughter
(indeed they are still alive), but till after the deaths of his physicians (see
Dr. Jeppson Asimov's
letter to Locus magazine). You can draw
your own conclusions, but that makes me feel that it was primarily the physicians'
reputations that were being protected by this secret.
So there you have it. The whole world has been deprived of probably another
dozen books by Isaac Asimov. In hind sight, we all should have convinced him
to exercise and diet so he could avoid the triple-bypass surgery as well as
the associated blood transfusions which infected him.
TRON (actually Science-Fantasy, but still cool)
TRON (1982 movie)
TRON is probably the best science-fantasy computer theme ever made into a movie
(what else would you expect from Disney?). People studying computer science, working
in IS/IT, or just hacking will recognize many more metaphors. This must be why TRON
is an underground cult classic with computer engineering students.
TRON uses the I/O tower to
communicate with his user,
(Here is my disc)
- In the early days of computing many video terminals had TRON
(trace on) and TROF (trace off) keys
- In the early days of BASIC interpreter programming, the developer could
issue TRON and TROFF commands at the command prompt prior to using a RUN command.
Later, some BASIC dialects allowed tracing to be enabled/disabled by inserting
TRON control statements within the source program.
- In the 1970s and 1980s,
PDP-11 minicomputers running
the RSX-11M operating system
signaled readiness to the operator with an MCR> prompt.
MCR is an acronym for Monitor Console Routine.
In the movie TRON, the computer's operating system is the MCP
which stands for Master Control Program.
Coincidence? I doubt it.
p.s. in the movie, the MCP was always seen rotating (even when it appeared
to stop and stare at TRON). In a single CPU system only one process (program
instance) can run at any time. So the OS runs a scheduler
process which allocates a small slice of time (10-100 mS) to each waiting
user process. A programmable RTC (real time clock) interrupted the active
thread (putting the just-running-process back to sleep) then handing control
back to the scheduler. The scheduler would then rotate to the next waiting
Memorable Lines (and more trivia):
- Who does he calculate he is?
- rather than "who does he think he is?"
- Can I merge with this memory? Bit?
- CLU "polling" the bit; only assembly-language programmers
will know what this means
- Oh my User.
- Video game warriors leaving the game grid...This is an illegal exit!
- in modular programming one needs to leave a program, routine, subroutine,
or function, through a planned exit point. If you just jump out in the middle
(spaghetti code), or crash out (stack dump), or fault out (illegal instruction),
or bounce out (noise on the address bus lines), then you have experienced
an illegal exit.
(well to be honest, spaghetti code
isn't illegal as much as bad form)
- We had better! Null Unit...
- on some systems null units were device drivers with no attached device.
They were an aid to learning how to program; they were also a convenient
way to delete data by copying to null. On PDP and VMS systems this device
had the name "NL:"
- Targets leaving protected field.
- a protected field can either refer to a protected memory location (you
are only able to access it if you have the necessary privileges) or a protected
field in a database or an on-screen form.
|The Personification of Software
||Bruce Boxleitner (Captain John Sheridan in
Dr. Walter Gibbs (tower
Roy "RAM" Kleinberg
(never seen in the movie)
Mr. Henderson, a
full branch manager
(never seen in the movie)
|Peter Jurasik (Ambassador Londo Molari in
||CGI (computer generated graphics)
||CGI (computer generated graphics)
||CGI (computer generated graphics)
||??? (system monitors?)
||CGI (computer generated graphics)
||??? (part of the scheduler?)
||CGI (computer generated graphics)
More Thoughts (comparing the real world to the computer paradigm)
- The earliest developers of any OS (operating system) write the device-driver
software. So it makes sense that Walter Gibbs would appear as the I/O tower
guardian since that I/O Device driver would probably have been written by him.
- Real-world biological viruses come in two major flavors.
- An DNA virus
is a virus that has DNA as its genetic material and replicates using
a DNA-dependent DNA polymerase.
- An RNA virus
is a virus that has RNA as its genetic material
- most RNA viruses
employ RNA to stop a cell dead in its tracks then hijack cell organelles
(like the ribosome) to make more copies of the virus. One example
- A retrovirus
is an RNA virus that is replicated in a host cell via the enzyme
reverse transcriptase to produce DNA from its RNA genome. The DNA
is then incorporated into the host's genome by an integrase enzyme.
The virus thereafter replicates as part of the host cell's DNA.
Retroviruses are enveloped viruses that belong to the viral family
Retroviridae (e.g. HIV,
the virus that causes AIDS).
- Real-world computer viruses comes in multiple forms
mimicking biological viruses
- one type of virus will highjack your whole machine
- one type of virus will highjack an individual program (like a browser)
- one type of virus will copy itself into other software (like a retrovirus)
so normal program operation will also quietly propagate viral copies
which may express itself later or elsewhere (think
- Medical researchers tell us that 20% of all cancers are caused by viruses
(HPV is one example).
- Cancer is best described as individual cells starting doing their
own thing rather than being part of a cooperative whole (perhaps cells "forget
their current function" or "are incapable of communicating
with neighboring cells which is necessary to be part of a cooperative
- So if cancer is best defined as a move from "being part of
a cooperative" to "cells doing their own thing", then
isn't this a real-world example of deresolution (derezing)?
- The TRON Home Page
- TRON @ SciFlicks
TRON: Legacy (2010 movie)
It seems me that several corners were cut in the TRON: Legacy
story line. What is up with movie producers? Don't they realize that without a perfect
story there will be no market to fleece for the next 10-20 years? (e.g. Star Wars
Prequel, Blade Runner, etc.) I watched TRON: Legacy in 3d and,
although the graphics were superb, the story was no where near as good as the original TRON movie.
My advice to sci-fi movie producers: only allow comic book people to write your
screen plays and have them do all the story-boarding in a comic book. If the
story won't work in a comic book (where there is no CGI to lean on) then
the movie will not work on the silver screen or anywhere else.
|CLU (Codified Likeness Utility)
TRON: Evolution (2010 game)
Graphic Novels (Comic Books)
A few Comic Books (of many) responsible for warping my brain.
Oops! The phrase "comic book" is no longer cool. We now use the phrase
Magnus, Robot Fighter 4000 AD
- a 1963 comic book set in the year 4000. People sat around getting fat while
robot servants tended to their every need
- So you are recalling your sci-fi youth and wouldn't mind rereading
Magnus, Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. but don't want to buy
expensive plastic-wrapped originals so what do you do? It turns out that a really
cool company called Dark Horse Comics
has republished the first 21
Magnus issues in three hard-cover books on high quality paper:
Robot Fighter Vol. 1 HC
Robot Fighter Vol. 2 HC
Robot Fighter Vol. 3 HC
- Alternatively, check out this on-line retailer with good prices:
Things From Another World (
- Volume-1 contains Magnus, Robot Fighter comic book issues 01-07
(1963-02-xx to 1964-08-xx) 205 pages
- Also contains a Russ Manning biography
- click this
preview and you'll see Asimov's First
Law of Robotics in the lower left
- many of these stories seem to be the basis for many other sci-fi products,
- The Matrix
- Story #1 tells how one robot kidnapped 1,000 people then connected
them electronically to form a giant computer. In the Matrix, all
of humanity is connected to a computer to keep us dreaming while
our bodily fluids are drained off to run a power plant.
- Star Trek: TOS (The Original Series)
- Magnus is replaced with a robot equivalent then other people
don't know which one is human as is seen in the episode
What Are Little Girls Made Of?
- Magnus is beamed 60,000 light years (through sub-space) to the
robot planet called Malev-6 and then is taken captive by installing
a remote-controlled metal ring around his neck as is seen in the
The Gamesters of Triskelion
- The robot planet of MALEV-6 was created 1,500 galactic years
ago when a robot ship crash landed. Over the eons, hard radiation
from Malev corrupted/modified the ship's self repair system. This
is a variation of the story present in the episode
- humans are too dependent on robots as is seen in the episode
- although the evil genius-scientist Xyrkol is human with a beard,
he does have a prominent set of pointed ears which look just like
those on Mr. Spock.
- Babylon 5
- the last story tells us how the 1,000 people from the first
story are telepathic (were they selected as computer processors
because they were telepaths, or did they become telepathic as a
result of the experience?) and how they all held hands to increase
their psychokinetic powers so they can assist Magnus on Malev-6.
This sounds just like something that happened in Babylon-5 episode
Race Through Dark Places"
- Volume-2 contains Magnus, Robot Fighter comic book issues 08-14
(1964-11-xx to 1966-05-xx) 197 pages
- Volume-3 contains Magnus, Robot Fighter comic book issues 15-21
(1966-08-xx to 1968-02-xx) 176 pages
- Even though I read this stuff 40 years ago, I remember some of the
artwork including one scene where robots are feeding morbidly obese
- Story #21 ("Space Specter" which was published 1968-02-xx)
is about an attack on North Am which affects everyone except descendants
of Blackfoot Indians. Magnus uses their help to defeat the alien presence
affect two robot geniuses. This story caused me to recall the Star Trek
Syndrome which aired 1968-08-1
Space Family Robinson
- this 1962 Gold Key
Comics publication was based upon the, then recent, Disney movie "Swiss
Family Robinson". This comic was later turned into the disappointing TV
program "Lost in Space"
(which was developed into a
comic was serious sci-fi but the TV program was some sort of bad joke and the
movie appears to run out of something (money?) half way through.
Miscellaneous - Links
- Visit my Blade Runner
- Klaatu's Speech: I am leaving soon and you'll forgive me if I speak
bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day and the threat of aggression by
any group anywhere can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all
or no one is secure. Now this does not mean giving up any
freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew
this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce
them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an
organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination
of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police
force that supports it. For our policemen we created a race of robots. Their
function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the
peace. In matters of aggression we have given them absolute power over us. This
power cannot be revoked. At the first signs of violence they act automatically
against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible
to risk. The result is we live in peace without arms or armies, secure in the
knowledge that we are free from aggression and war, free to pursue more profitable
enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have
a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern
of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence,
this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple:
join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration.
We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.
- As George Winston, the beleaguered hero of George
Orwell's "1984", leafed through Emmanuel Goldstein's subversive
tract "The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism" he learns
the rationale that underlies the mobilization for perpetual
war. According to the principles of doublethink (synonym for American
Neo-Con Newspeak?), Winston reads, it does not matter if the war is not real
or real, victory is not possible – what matters is that the masses are
kept are kept in a relative state of deprivation. Thus the purpose of war is
to destroy surplus wealth (+US$400 Billion in Iraq?) in order to maintain the
hierarchical structure of society – the status quo. As George Orwell baldly
puts it, "A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty
and ignorance. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society
on the brink of starvation - the war is waged by the ruling
group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over
either Eurasia or east Asia but to keep the very structure of society in tact"
- 1984 by George
Orwell: A searchable online version at The Literature Network
- The Complete Newspeak Dictionary
- Art imitates Life:
Sonny: I just might get to like this place. Let's see if the Braves
are on. How do you turn on this here teevee?
Sonny: Yeah, boob-tube... you know. I'd like to find out how the
Braves are doin' after all this time. Probably still finding ways to lose.
Data to Riker: Oh -- I think he means television, sir.
Or maybe catch up on the soaps.
Data to Sonny: That particular
form of entertainment did not last much beyond the year Two Thousand Forty.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION - Episode 126 - Titled: "The Neutral
Reality: Television died
in 2004; not 2040
Reason: in order to
maximize their profits, the networks decided to replace programs based upon "professional
writing and acting" with "so-called Reality TV"
- Cool quote from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones:
00:12:24 I'd much rather dream about Padmé.
Just being around her again is... intoxicating.
mindful of your thoughts, Anakin. They betray you.
You've made a commitment to the Jedi order, a commitment not easily broken.
00:12:38 And don't forget, she's a politician, and they're not
to be trusted.
00:12:41 [ Anakin ] She's not like the others
in the senate, Master.
00:12:44 [ Obi-Wan ] It is my experience
00:12:46 focus only on pleasing those who fund
00:12:50 and they're in no means scared of
forgetting the niceties of democracy...
00:12:53 -in order to
get those funds. - Not another lecture.
00:12:55 At least not
on the economics of politics.
- At first I thought STAR TREK CONTINUES was just going to be a tribute to
ST:TOS but it appears the stories behind episodes 1 & 2 are well
written and original (sci-fi has always been more about story quality;
CGI is just the icing on the cake).
- After the success of episode #1, this group of fans
created a project on Kickstarter with the intention to raise $100k so they
could do three more episodes. They surprised everyone (including
Hollywood) when they
pulled in over $126k in just four weeks.
Kitchener - Waterloo - Cambridge,