Foundation series

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The Foundation Series
Foundation gnome.jpg
First edition dust-jacket of Foundation
Author Isaac Asimov
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science Fiction
Publisher Astounding Magazine, Gnome Press, Spectra, Doubleday
Published 1942–1993
Media type Print

The Foundation series is a science fiction series of books written by American author Isaac Asimov. For nearly thirty years, the series was a trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation. It won the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966. Asimov began adding to the series in 1981, with two sequels: Foundation's Edge, Foundation and Earth, and two prequels: Prelude to Foundation, Forward the Foundation. The additions made reference to events in Asimov's Robot and Empire series, indicating that they were also set in the same fictional universe.

The premise of the series is that the mathematician Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept of mathematical sociology. Using the laws of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale. Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting 30,000 years before a second great empire arises. Seldon's calculations also show there is a way to limit this interregnum to just one thousand years. To ensure the more favorable outcome and reduce human misery during the intervening period, Seldon creates a foundation of talented artisans and engineers at the extreme end of the galaxy, ostensibly to preserve and expand on humanity's collective knowledge, and thus become the foundation for a new galactic empire, but actually to place a society in a way shown by his calculations to bring around the desired outcome (the Seldon Plan). He also establishes a "second foundation" of psychohistorians, of which little is known, to build on his work further and to keep the better known "first" foundation on its intended course.

Publication history

Original stories

Foundation was originally a series of eight short stories published in Astounding Magazine between May 1942 and January 1950. According to Asimov, the premise was based on ideas set forth in Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and was invented spontaneously on his way to meet with editor John W. Campbell, with whom he developed the concepts of the collapse of the Galactic Empire, the civilization-preserving Foundations, and psychohistory.[1] Asimov wrote these early stories in his West Philadelphia apartment when he worked at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.

Foundation trilogy

The first four stories were collected, along with a new story taking place before the others, in a single volume published by Gnome Press in 1951 as Foundation. The remainder of the stories were published in pairs by Gnome as Foundation and Empire (1952) and Second Foundation (1953), resulting in the "Foundation Trilogy", as the series is still known.[2]

Later sequels and prequels

In 1981, Asimov was persuaded by his publishers to write a fourth book, which became Foundation's Edge (1982).[3]

Four years later, Asimov followed up with yet another sequel, Foundation and Earth (1986), which was followed by the prequels Prelude to Foundation (1988) and Forward the Foundation (1993). During the two-year lapse between writing the sequels and prequels, Asimov had tied in his Foundation series with his various other series, creating a single unified universe. The basic link is mentioned in Foundation's Edge: an obscure tradition about a first wave of space settlements with robots and then a second without. The idea is the one developed in Robots of Dawn, which, in addition to showing the way that the second wave of settlements were to be allowed, illustrates the benefits and shortcomings of the first wave of settlements and their so-called C/Fe (carbon/iron, signifying humans and robots together) culture. In this same book, the word psychohistory is used to describe the nascent idea of Seldon's work. Some of the drawbacks to this style of colonization, also called Spacer culture, are also exemplified by the events described in The Naked Sun.


Note: This plot is listed in the fictional chronological order of the stories in the series, which is not the order of publication. The series itself was left as a trilogy for many years, comprising "Foundation", "Foundation and Empire" and "Second Foundation". The two novels set chronologically earlier than the original trilogy, and the two which follow it, were later added to the series.

Prelude to Foundation

Prelude to Foundation opens on the planet Trantor, the empire's capital planet, the day after Hari Seldon has given a speech at a conference. Several parties become aware of the content of his speech (that using mathematical formulas, it may be possible to predict the future course of human history). Seldon is hounded by the Emperor and various employed thugs who are working surreptitiously, which forces him into exile. Over the course of the book, Seldon and Dors Venabili, a female companion, are taken from location to location by an aide, Chetter Hummin, who introduces them to various Trantorian walks of life in his attempts to keep Seldon hidden from the Emperor.

Throughout their adventures all over Trantor, Seldon continuously denies that psychohistory is a realistic science. Even if feasible, it may take several decades to develop. Hummin, however, is convinced that Seldon knows something, so he continuously presses him to work out a starting point to develop psychohistory.

Eventually, after much traveling and introductions to various, diverse cultures on Trantor, Seldon realizes that using the entire known galaxy as a starting point is too overwhelming, then decides to use Trantor as a model to work out the science, with a goal of using the applied knowledge on the rest of the galaxy.

Forward the Foundation

Eight years after the events of Prelude, Seldon has worked out the science of psychohistory and has applied it on a galactic scale. His notability and fame increase and he is eventually promoted to First Minister to the Emperor. As the book progresses, Seldon loses those closest to him, including his wife, Dors Venabili, as his own health deteriorates into old age. Having worked his entire adult life to understand psychohistory, Seldon instructs his granddaughter, Wanda, to set up the Second Foundation.


Called forth to stand trial on Trantor for allegations of treason (for foreshadowing the decline of the Galactic Empire), Seldon explains that his science of psychohistory foresees many alternatives, all of which result in the Galactic Empire eventually falling. If humanity follows its current path, the Empire will fall and 30,000 years of turmoil will overcome humanity before a second Empire arises. However, an alternative path allows for the intervening years to be only one thousand, if Seldon is allowed to collect the most intelligent minds and create a compendium of all human knowledge, entitled Encyclopedia Galactica. The board is still wary but allows Seldon to assemble whomever he needs, provided he and the "Encyclopedists" be exiled to a remote planet, Terminus. Seldon agrees to these terms – and also secretly establishes a second Foundation of which almost nothing is known, which he says is at the "opposite end" of the galaxy.

After 50 years on Terminus, and with Seldon now deceased, the inhabitants find themselves in a crisis. With four powerful planets surrounding their own, the Encyclopedists have no defenses but their own intelligence. At the same time, a vault left by Seldon is due to automatically open. The vault reveals a pre-recorded hologram of Seldon, who informs Terminus that their entire reason for being on Terminus is a fraud, insofar as Seldon did not actually care whether or not an encyclopedia was created, only that the population was placed on Terminus and the events needed by his calculations were set in motion. In reality, the recording discloses, Terminus was set up to reduce the dark ages from 30,000 years to just one millennium, based on following his calculations. It will develop by facing intermittent and extreme "crises" – known as "Seldon Crises" – which the laws governing psychohistory show will inevitably be overcome, simply because human nature will cause events to fall in particular ways which lead to the intended goal. The recording reveals that the present events are the first such crisis, reminds them that a second foundation was also formed at the "opposite end" of the galaxy, and then falls silent.

The Mayor of Terminus City, Salvor Hardin, proposes to play the planets against each other. His plan is a success; the Foundation remains untouched, and he is promoted to Mayor of Terminus (the planet). Meanwhile, the minds of the Foundation continue to develop newer and greater technologies which are smaller and more powerful than the Empire's equivalents. Using its scientific advantage, Terminus develops trade routes with nearby planets, eventually taking them over when its technology becomes a much-needed commodity. The interplanetary traders effectively become the new diplomats to other planets. One such trader, Hober Mallow, becomes powerful enough to challenge and win the seat of Mayor and, by cutting off supplies to a nearby region, also succeeds in adding more planets to the Foundation's reach.

Foundation and Empire

An ambitious general of the current Emperor of the Galaxy perceives the Foundation as a growing threat and orders an attack on it, using the Empire's still-mighty fleet of war vessels. However, eventually convinced, as foretold by psychohistory, that his power would be most vulnerable to that of his own successful general (a possible analogy with that of the Roman empire at various times), the Emperor finally orders withdrawal of his fleet. In spite of its undoubted inferiority in purely military terms, the Foundation emerges as the victor and the Empire itself is defeated. Seldon's hologram reappears, explaining that the result was inevitable – a weak space navy could not have attacked them, while a strong enough navy would have shown itself by its successes, to be a threat to the Emperor himself, and recalled.

A century later, an unknown outsider called the Mule has begun taking over planets belonging to the Foundation at a rapid pace. The Foundation comes to realize the Mule is a mutant, unforeseen in Seldon's plan, and that the plan cannot have predicted any certainty of defeating him. Toran and Bayta Darell, accompanied by Ebling Mis—the galaxy's current greatest psychologist—and a court jester familiar with the Mule named Magnifico (whom they agree to protect, as his life is under threat from the Mule himself), set out to find the Second Foundation, hoping they bring an end to the Mule's reign. Mis studies furiously in the Great Library of Trantor, to decipher the Second Foundation's location in order to visit it and seek their help. He is successful, and also deduces that the Mule's success stems from his mutation; he is able to change the emotions of others, a power he used to first instill fear in the inhabitants of his conquered planets, then to make his enemies devoutly loyal to him. Mis is killed by Bayta Darell before he can reveal the location; she realizes that Magnifico is in fact the Mule, and has been using his gifts to drive Mis forward in his research, so that he can learn the location himself and subjugate the Second Foundation also. Dismayed at having made a mistake which allowed Bayta to see through his disguise, the Mule leaves Trantor to rule over his conquered planets while continuing his search.

Second Foundation

As the Mule comes closer to finding it, the mysterious Second Foundation comes briefly out of hiding to face the threat directly. It consists of the descendants of Seldon's psychohistorians. While the first Foundation has developed the physical sciences, the Second Foundation has been developing Seldon's mathematics and the Seldon Plan, along with their own use of mental sciences. The Second Foundation ultimately wears down the Mule, who returns to rule over his kingdom peacefully for the rest of his life, without any further thought of conquering the Second Foundation.

However as a result, the first Foundation has learned something of the Second Foundation beyond the simple fact that it exists, and has some understanding of its role. This means their behavior will now be chosen in light of that knowledge, and not based on uninformed natural human behavior, which places the Seldon Plan – and the Second Foundation guiding it – both at great risk, as the first foundation resentfully considers which of the two will be the true inheritor of Seldon's promised future Empire. They also begin to develop equipment related to mentalics, in order to detect members of the Second Foundation. After many attempts to unravel the minimal clues available as to the Second Foundation's whereabouts, the Foundation is led to believe the Second Foundation is located on Terminus (being the "opposite end" of a galaxy, for a galaxy with a circular shape). The Foundation uncovers and destroys a group of 50 members of the Second Foundation and is left believing they have destroyed the Second Foundation.

In fact the group of 50 were volunteers on Terminus whose role was to be captured and give that impression, so that the Seldon Plan would be able to continue unimpeded. The Second Foundation itself is finally revealed to be located on the former Imperial Homeworld of Trantor itself. The clue "at Star's End" was not a physical clue, but instead based on an old saying, "All roads lead to Trantor, and that is where all stars end". Seldon, being a social scientist and not a physical one, placed the two Foundations at "opposite ends" of the galaxy, but in a sociological rather than physical sense – the first Foundation was located in the Periphery of the galaxy where the Empire's influence was minimal, while the Second Foundation was on Trantor itself, where, even in its dying days, the Empire's power and culture was strongest.

Foundation's Edge

Believing the Second Foundation still exists (despite the common belief that it has been extinguished), a young politician Golan Trevize is sent into exile to uncover the group by the current Mayor of the Foundation, Harla Branno, accompanied by a scholar named Janov Pelorat. The reason for their belief is that, despite the unforeseeable impact of the Mule, the Seldon Plan still appears to be proceeding in accordance with the statements of Seldon's hologram, suggesting that the Second Foundation still exists and is secretly intervening to bring the plan back on course. After a few conversations with Pelorat, Trevize comes to believe that a mythical planet called Earth may hold the secret to the location. No such planet exists in any database, yet several myths and legends all refer to it, and it is Trevize's belief that the planet is deliberately being kept hidden. Unknown to Trevize and Pelorat, Branno is tracking their ship so that, in the event they find the Second Foundation, the first Foundation can take military or other action.

Meanwhile, Stor Gendibal, a prominent member of the Second Foundation, discovers a simple local on the same planet as the Second Foundation, who has had a very subtle alteration made to her mind, far more delicate than anything the Second Foundation can do. He concludes that a greater force of Mentalics must be active in the Galaxy. Following the events on Terminus, Gendibal endeavors to follow Trevize, reasoning that by doing so, he may find out who has altered the mind of the native.

Using the few scraps of reliable information within the various myths, Trevize and Pelorat discover a planet called Gaia which is inhabited solely by Mentalics, to such an extent that every organism and inanimate object on the planet shares a common mind. Both Branno and Gendibal, who have separately followed Trevize, also reach Gaia at the same time. Gaia reveals that it has engineered this situation because it wishes to do what is best for humanity but cannot be sure what is best. Trevize's purpose, faced with the leaders of both first and the Second Foundations and Gaia itself, is to be trusted to make the best decision between the three main alternatives for the future of the human race: the First Foundation's path, based on mastery of the physical world and its traditional political organization (i.e., empire), the Second Foundation's path, based on mentalics and probable rule by an elite using mind control, or Gaia's path of absorption of the entire Galaxy into one shared, harmonious living entity in which all beings, and the galaxy itself, would be a part.

After Trevize makes his decision for Gaia's path, the intellect of Gaia adjusts both Branno and Gendibal's minds so that each believe they have succeeded in a significant task (Branno believes she has successfully negotiated a treaty tying Sayshell to the Foundation, and Gendibal – now leader of the Second Foundation – believes that the Second Foundation is victorious and should continue as normal). Trevize remains, but is uncertain as to why he has intuited that Gaia is the correct outcome for the future.

Foundation and Earth

Still uncertain about his decision, Trevize continues on with the search for Earth along with Pelorat and a local of Gaia, advanced in Mentalics, known as Blissenobiarella (usually referred to simply as Bliss). Eventually, Trevize finds three sets of co-ordinates which are very old. Adjusting them for time, he realises that his ship's computer does not list any planet in the vicinity of the co-ordinates. When he physically visits each location, he discovers an uncharted planet: Aurora, Solaria, and finally Melpomenia. After searching and facing different dilemmas on each planet, none has given him the answers he seeks.

Aurora and Melpomenia are long deserted, but Solaria contains a small population which is extremely advanced in the field of Mentalics. When their lives are threatened, Bliss uses her abilities (and the shared intellect of Gaia) to destroy the Solarian who is about to kill them. This leaves behind a small child, who will be put to death if left alone, so Bliss makes the decision to keep the child as they quickly escape the planet.

Eventually, Trevize discovers Earth, but it, again, contains no satisfactory answers for him (it is also long-since deserted). However, it dawns on Trevize that the answer may not be on Earth, but on Earth's satellite—the Moon. Upon approaching the planet, they are drawn closer and then to inside the Moon's core, where they meet a robot named R. Daneel Olivaw.

Olivaw explains that he has been guiding human history for thousands of years, and this is the reason the Seldon plan had remained on course, despite the interventions by the Mule. Olivaw also states he is at the end of his run-time and, despite replacement parts and more advanced brains (which contain 20,000 years of memories), he is going to die shortly. He explains that no robotic brain can be developed to replace his current one, and to continue assisting with the benefit of humanity—which may come under attack by beings from beyond our Galaxy—he must meld his mind with an organic intellect.

Once again, Trevize is put in the position of deciding if having Olivaw meld with the child's superior intellect would be in the best interests of the galaxy. The decision is left ambiguous (though likely a "yes") as it is also implied that the melding of the minds may be to the child's benefit and that she may have sinister intentions about it.

Development and themes

The early stories were inspired by Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The plot of the series focuses on the growth and reach of the Foundation, against a backdrop of the "decline and fall of the Galactic Empire". The themes of Asimov's stories were also influenced by the political tendency in SF fandom, associated with the Futurians, known as Michelism.

The focus of the books is the trends through which a civilization might progress, specifically seeking to analyze their progress, using history as a precedent. Although many science fiction novels such as Nineteen Eighty-Four or Fahrenheit 451 do this, their focus is upon how current trends in society might come to fruition, and act as a moral allegory on the modern world. The Foundation series, on the other hand, looks at the trends in a wider scope, dealing with societal evolution and adaptation rather than the human and cultural qualities at one point in time.

Furthermore, the concept of psychohistory, which gives the events in the story a sense of rational fatalism, leaves little room for moralization. Hari Seldon himself hopes that his Plan will "reduce 30,000 years of Dark Ages and barbarism to a single millennium," a goal of exceptional moral gravity. Yet events within it are often treated as inevitable and necessary, rather than deviations from the greater good. For example, the Foundation slides gradually into oligarchy and dictatorship prior to the appearance of the galactic conqueror, known as the Mule, who was able to succeed through the random chance of a telepathic mutation. But, for the most part, the book treats the purpose of Seldon's plan as unquestionable, and that slide as being necessary in it, rather than mulling over whether the slide is, on the whole, positive or negative.

The books also wrestle with the idea of individualism. Hari Seldon's plan is often treated as an inevitable mechanism of society, a vast mindless mob mentality of quadrillions of humans across the galaxy. Many in the series struggle against it, only to fail. However, the plan itself is reliant upon the cunning of individuals such as Salvor Hardin and Hober Mallow to make wise decisions that capitalize on the trends. On the other hand, the Mule, a single individual with mental powers, topples the Foundation and nearly destroys the Seldon plan with his special, unforeseen abilities. To repair the damage the Mule inflicts, the Second Foundation deploys a plan which turns upon individual reactions. Psychohistory is based on group trends and cannot predict with sufficient accuracy the effects of extraordinary, unforeseeable individuals, and as originally presented, the Second Foundation's purpose was to counter this flaw. Later novels would, however, identify the Plan's uncertainties that remained at Seldon's death as the primary reason for the existence of the Second Foundation, which (unlike the First) had retained the capacity to research and further develop psychohistory.

Asimov unsuccessfully tried to end the series with Second Foundation. However, because of the predicted thousand years until the rise of the next Empire (of which only a few hundred had elapsed), the series lacked a sense of closure. For decades, fans pressured him to write a sequel. In 1982, Asimov gave in after a 30-year hiatus, and wrote what was at the time a fourth volume: Foundation's Edge. This was followed shortly thereafter by Foundation and Earth. The story of this volume (which takes place some 500 years after Seldon) ties up all the loose ends and brings together all of his Robot, Empire and Foundation novels into a single story. He also opens a brand new line of thought in the last dozen pages regarding Galaxia, a galaxy inhabited by a single collective mind. However, this concept was never explored further. According to his widow Janet Asimov (in her biography of Isaac, It's Been a Good Life), he had no idea how to continue after Foundation and Earth, so he started writing the prequels.

The Foundation series

Merging with other series

The series is set in the same universe as Asimov's first published novel, Pebble in the Sky, although Foundation takes place about 10,000 years later. Pebble in the Sky became the basis for the Empire series. Then, at some unknown date (prior to writing Foundation's Edge) Asimov decided to merge the Foundation/Empire series with his Robot series. Thus, all three series are set in the same universe, giving them a combined length of 15 novels, and a total of about 1,500,000 words (see the List of books below). The merge also created a time-span of the series of around 20,000 years.

Timeline inconsistencies

Early on during Asimov's original world-building of the Foundation universe, he established within the first published stories a chronology placing the tales about 50,000 years into the future from the time they were written (circa 1940). This precept was maintained in the pages of his first novel Pebble in the Sky, wherein Imperial archaeologist Bel Arvardan refers to ancient human strata discovered in the Sirius sector dating back "some 50,000 years". However, when Asimov decided decades later to retroactively integrate the universe of his Foundation and Galactic Empire novels with that of his Robot stories, a number of changes and minor discrepancies surfaced—the character R. Daneel Olivaw was established as having existed for some 20,000 years, with the original Robot novels featuring the character occurring not more than a couple of millennia after the early-21st century Susan Calvin short stories. Also, in Foundation's Edge, mankind was referred to as having possessed interstellar space travel for only 22,000 years, a far cry from the 50 millennia of earlier works.[citation needed]

In the spring of 1955, Asimov published an early timeline in the pages of Thrilling Wonder Stories magazine based upon his thought processes concerning the Foundation universe's history at that point in his life, which vastly differs from its modern-era counterpart. Many included stories would later be either jettisoned from the later chronology or temporally relocated by the author. Also, the aforementioned lengthier scope of time was changed. For example, in the original 1950s timeline, humanity does not discover the hyperspatial drive until around 5000 AD, whereas in the reincorporated Robot universe chronology, the first interstellar jump occurs in 2029 AD, during the events of I, Robot.[4]

Fictional timeline

Below is a summarized timeline for events detailed in the series. All dates are quoted in Galactic Era (GE) and Foundation Era (FE) which starts in 12,068 GE.

Date Event
11,988 −78 Hari Seldon and Cleon I are born on Helicon and Trantor, respectively.
12,010 −56 Cleon I is crowned emperor after the death of his father, Stanel VI.
12,020 −46 Hari Seldon arrives on Trantor to deliver his paper outlining his theory of psychohistory, a method of predicting the future along mass social change in humanity. (Events of Prelude to Foundation)
12,028 −38 (Events of "Eto Demerzel" in Forward the Foundation)
12,038 −28 Death of Emperor Cleon I (Events of "Cleon I" in Forward the Foundation).
12,048 −18 Dors Venabili dies. A military junta takes over the Empire for ten years after Cleon's death, but collapses after imposing a poll tax. (Events of "Dors Venabili" in Forward the Foundation)
12,058 −8 (Events of "Wanda Seldon" in Forward the Foundation)
12,067 −1 Hari Seldon goes on trial by the Commission of Public Safety, and the Encyclopedia Galactica Foundation is exiled to/established on Terminus (Events of "The Psychohistorians" in Foundation)
12,069 1 Hari Seldon dies. (This date is explicitly mentioned in "The Psychohistorians" in Foundation)
12,085/12,086 17 or 18 Salvor Hardin is born.
12,116 50 (Events of "The Encyclopedists" in Foundation)
12,146 80 (Events of "The Mayors" in Foundation)
12,146–221 80–155 (Events of "The Traders" in Foundation)
12,221-61 155–195 (Events of "The Merchant Princes" in Foundation)
~12,261 ~195 General Bel Riose embarks on his quest to claim the Foundation in the name of the Empire and the Emperor, Cleon II. The Galactic Empire is well underway into the predicted total collapse. (Events of "The General" in Foundation and Empire)
~12,328 ~260 A rebel leader named Gilmer attempts a coup, in the process sacks Trantor[5] and forces the imperial family to flee to the nearby world of Delicass, renamed Neotrantor. The Galactic Empire is no more. The dark age of the entire milky way has begun.
12,376 310 (Events of "The Mule" in Foundation and Empire)
~12,381 ~315 (Events of "Search by the Mule" in Second Foundation)
~12,386 ~320 Death of the Mule
12,428 362 Arkady Darell is born.
12,442–3 376–377 (Events of "Search by the Foundation" in Second Foundation)
12,443 377 Battle of Quoriston between Lord Stettin and the Foundation.
12,564 498 Golan Trevize chooses the Gaia overmind and Galaxia in preference to a Second Empire founded militarily by the First Foundation or ruled psychologically by the Second Foundation. (Events of Foundation's Edge)
12,565 499 Golan Trevize searches for Earth with the hopes that its finding will validate his choosing of Galaxia. (Events of Foundation and Earth)
13,086 1020 116th Edition of the Encyclopedia Galactica is published.
16,068 4000 Approximate culmination of Galaxia.

Other authors

Asimov's novels covered only 500 of the expected 1,000 years it would take for the Foundation to become a galactic empire. The novels written after Asimov did not, however, continue the timeline but rather sought to fill in gaps in the earlier stories. The Foundation universe was once again revisited in 1989's Foundation's Friends, a collection of short stories written by many prominent science fiction authors of that time. Orson Scott Card's "The Originist" clarifies the founding of the Second Foundation shortly after Seldon's death; Harry Turtledove's "Trantor Falls" tells of the efforts by the Second Foundation to survive during the sacking of Trantor, the imperial capital and Second Foundation's home; and George Zebrowski's "Foundation's Conscience" is about the efforts of a historian to document Seldon's work following the rise of the Second Galactic Empire.

Also, shortly before his death in 1992, Asimov approved an outline for three novels, known as the Caliban trilogy by Roger MacBride Allen, set between Robots and Empire and the Empire series. The Caliban trilogy describes the terraforming of the Spacer world Inferno, a planet where an ecological crisis forces the Spacers to abandon many long-cherished parts of their culture. Allen's novels echo the uncertainties that Asimov's later books express about the Three Laws of Robotics, and in particular the way a thoroughly roboticized culture can degrade human initiative.

File:Foundation's friends.jpg
Science fiction authors such as Orson Scott Card paid tribute to the Foundation series in the collection of short stories Foundation's Friends

After Asimov's death and at the request of Janet Asimov and the Asimov estate's representative, Ralph Vicinanza approached Gregory Benford, and asked him to write another Foundation story. He eventually agreed, and with Vicinanza and after speaking "to several authors about [the] project", formed a plan for a trilogy with "two hard SF writers broadly influenced by Asimov and of unchallenged technical ability: Greg Bear and David Brin."[6] Foundation's Fear (1997) takes place chronologically between part one and part two of Asimov's second prequel novel, Forward the Foundation; Foundation and Chaos (1998) is set at the same time as the first chapter of Foundation, filling in background; Foundation's Triumph (1999) covers ground following the recording of the holographic messages to the Foundation, and ties together a number of loose ends. These books are now claimed by some[7][8] to collectively be a "Second Foundation trilogy", although they are inserts into pre-existing prequels and some of the earlier Foundation storylines and not generally recognized as a new Trilogy.

In an epilogue to Foundation's Triumph, Brin noted he could imagine himself or a different author writing another sequel to add to Foundation's Triumph, feeling that Hari Seldon's story was not yet necessarily finished. He later published a possible start of such a book on his website.[9]

More recently, the Asimov estate authorized publication of another trilogy of robot mysteries by Mark W. Tiedemann. These novels, which take place several years before Asimov's Robots and Empire, are Mirage (2000), Chimera (2001), and Aurora (2002). These were followed by yet another robot mystery, Alexander C. Irvine's Have Robot, Will Travel (2004), set five years after the Tiedemann trilogy.

In 2001, Donald Kingsbury published the novel Psychohistorical Crisis, set in the Foundation universe after the start of the Second Empire.

Novels by various authors (Isaac Asimov's Robot City, Robots and Aliens and Robots in Time series) are loosely connected to the Robot series, but contain many inconsistencies with Asimov's books, and are not generally considered part of the Foundation series.

In November 2009, the Isaac Asimov estate announced the upcoming publication of Robots and Chaos, the first volume in a trilogy featuring Susan Calvin by fantasy author Mickey Zucker Reichert. The book was published in November 2011 under the title I, Robot: To Protect.

Cultural impact

Impact in nonfiction

In Learned Optimism,[10] psychologist Martin Seligman identifies the Foundation series as one of the most important influences in his professional life, because of the possibility of predictive sociology based on psychological principles. He also lays claim to the first successful prediction of a major historical (sociological) event, in the 1988 US elections, and he specifically attributes this to a psychological principle.[11]

In his 1996 book To Renew America, U. S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote how he was influenced by reading the Foundation trilogy in high school.[12]

Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, credits the Foundation series with turning his mind to economics, as the closest existing science to psychohistory.[13][14] Businessman and entrepreneur Elon Musk counts the series among the inspirations for his career.[15]

In the nonfiction PBS series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Carl Sagan referred to an Encyclopedia Galactica in the episodes "Encyclopaedia Galactica" and "Who Speaks for Earth".

Impact in fiction and entertainment

In 1965, the Foundation trilogy beat several other science fiction and fantasy series to receive a special Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series". The runners-up for the award were Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Future History series by Robert A. Heinlein, Lensman series by Edward E. Smith and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.[16] The Foundation series is still the only series so honored. Asimov himself wrote that he assumed the one-time award had been created to honor The Lord of the Rings, and he was amazed when his work won.[17]

Science fiction parodies, such as Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Harry Harrison's Bill, the Galactic Hero, often display clear Foundation influences. For instance, "The Guide" of the former is a spoof of the Encyclopedia Galactica, and the series actually mentions the encyclopedia by name, remarking that it is rather "dry", and consequently sells fewer copies than the guide; the latter also features the ultra-urbanized Imperial planet Helior, often parodying the logistics such a planet-city would require, but that Asimov's novel downplays when describing Trantor.[citation needed]

In 1995, Donald Kingsbury wrote "Historical Crisis", which he later expanded into a novel, Psychohistorical Crisis. It takes place about 2,000 years after Foundation, after the founding of the Second Galactic Empire. It is set in the same fictional universe as the Foundation series, in considerable detail, but with virtually all Foundation-specific names either changed (e.g., Kalgan becomes Lakgan), or avoided (psychohistory is created by an unnamed, but often-referenced Founder). The novel explores the ideas of psychohistory in a number of new directions, inspired by more recent developments in mathematics and computer science, as well as by new ideas in science fiction itself.

In 1998, the novel Spectre (Star Trek) (part of the Shatnerverse series) by William Shatner and Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens states that the Mirror Universe divergent path has been studied by the Seldon Psicohistory Institute.

The oboe-like holophonor in Matt Groening's animated television series Futurama is based directly upon the "Visi-Sonor" which Magnifico plays in Foundation and Empire.[18] The "Visi-Sonor" is also mirrored in an episode of Special Unit 2, where a child's television character plays an instrument that induces mind control over children.[citation needed]

During the 2006–2007 Marvel Comics Civil War crossover storyline, in Fantastic Four #542 Mister Fantastic revealed his own attempt to develop psychohistory, saying he was inspired after reading the Foundation series.

According to lead singer Ian Gillan, the hard rock band Deep Purple's song The Mule is based on the Foundation character: "Yes, The Mule was inspired by Asimov. It's been a while but I'm sure you've made the right connection...Asimov was required reading in the 60's.[19]

Radio adaptation

An eight-part radio adaptation of the original trilogy, with sound design by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 1973—one of the first BBC radio drama serials to be made in stereo. A BBC 7 rerun commenced in July 2003.

Adapted by Patrick Tull (episodes 1 to 4) and Mike Stott (episodes 5 to 8), the dramatisation was directed by David Cain and starred William Eedle as Hari Seldon, with Geoffrey Beevers as Gaal Dornick, Lee Montague as Salvor Hardin, Julian Glover as Hober Mallow, Dinsdale Landen as Bel Riose, Maurice Denham as Ebling Mis and Prunella Scales as Lady Callia.

Film adaptation

By 1998, New Line Cinema had spent $1.5 million developing a film version of the Foundation Trilogy. The failure to develop a new franchise was partly a reason the studio signed on to produce The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.[20]

On July 29, 2008, New Line Cinema co-founders Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne were reported to have been signed on to produce an adaptation of the trilogy by their company Unique Pictures for Warner Brothers.[21] However, Columbia Pictures (Sony) successfully bid for the screen rights on January 15, 2009, and then contracted Roland Emmerich to direct and produce. Michael Wimer was named as co-producer.[22] Two years later, the studio hired Dante Harper to adapt the books. This project failed to materialize and HBO acquired the rights when they became available in 2014.[23]

Television series

In November 2014, TheWrap reported that Jonathan Nolan was writing and producing a TV series based on the Foundation Trilogy for HBO.[23] Nolan confirmed his involvement at a Paley Center event on April 13, 2015.[24]

List of books within the Foundation Universe

The "Author's Note" of Prelude to Foundation contains the chronological ordering of Asimov's science fiction books, in which he also said, "they were not written in the order in which (perhaps) they should be read".[25] Forward the Foundation does not appear in Asimov's list, as it was not yet published at the time, and the order of the Empire novels in Asimov's list is not entirely consistent with other lists. For example, the 1983 Ballantine Books printing of The Robots of Dawn lists the Empire novels as: The Stars, Like Dust, The Currents of Space, and Pebble in the Sky. Given that The Currents of Space includes Trantor and that The Stars, Like Dust does not, these two books possibly were accidentally reversed in Asimov's list.

  1. The Complete Robot (1982) and/or I, Robot (1950)
  2. Caves of Steel (1954)
  3. The Naked Sun (1957)
  4. The Robots of Dawn (1983)
  5. Robots and Empire (1985)
  6. The Currents of Space (1952)
  7. The Stars, Like Dust (1951)
  8. Pebble in the Sky (1950)
  9. Prelude to Foundation (1988)
  10. Forward the Foundation (1993)
  11. Foundation (1951)
  12. Foundation and Empire (1952)
  13. Second Foundation (1953)
  14. Foundation's Edge (1982)
  15. Foundation and Earth (1986)

An expanded and corrected strictly chronological reading order for the books is:[original research?]

C Year Title Notes
1950 I, Robot Robot short stories. First collection, which were all included in The Complete Robot, though it also contains a binding text, no longer in The Complete Robot.
1964 The Rest of the Robots Robot short stories. First collection, which were all included in The Complete Robot.
1 1982 The Complete Robot Collection of thirty-one Robot short stories written between 1939 and 1977.
1986 Robot Dreams Robot short stories. Anthologized in a book with the same title.
1990 Robot Visions Robot short stories. Anthologized in a book with the same title.
1992 The Positronic Man Robot novel based on Asimov's short story "The Bicentennial Man", co-written by Robert Silverberg
1948 "Mother Earth" Short story set between the early Earth era and the era of the Robot novels, at a time when the Spacer worlds were first being colonised. Contains some minor inconsistencies with later stories. Published in The Early Asimov, or Eleven Years of Trying[26]
2 1954 The Caves of Steel This is the first of the Robot novels.
3 1957 The Naked Sun The second Robot novel.
1972 "Mirror Image" Written after having received numerous requests to continue the story of detective Elijah Baley and his robot partner R. Daneel Olivaw, featured in his earlier novels The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun
4 1983 The Robots of Dawn The third Robot novel.
Hugo Award nominee, 1984[27]
Locus Award nominee, 1984[27]
2000 Mirage Robot Mystery series by Mark W. Tiedemann.
2001 Chimera Robot Mystery series by Mark W. Tiedemann.
2002 Aurora Robot Mystery series by Mark W. Tiedemann.
2005 Have Robot, Will Travel Robot Mystery series by Alexander C. Irvine.
5 1985 Robots and Empire The fourth Robot novel.
Locus Award nominee, 1986[28]
1993 Isaac Asimov's Caliban Caliban trilogy by Roger MacBride Allen.
1994 Isaac Asimov's Inferno Caliban trilogy by Roger MacBride Allen.
1996 Isaac Asimov's Utopia Caliban trilogy by Roger MacBride Allen.
6 1951 The Stars, Like Dust The first Empire novel.
7 1952 The Currents of Space The second Empire novel.
8 1950 Pebble in the Sky The third Empire novel; however, it was Asimov's first full novel to be published.
9 1988 Prelude to Foundation This is the first Foundation novel.
Locus Award nominee, 1989[29]
10[note 1] 1993 Forward the Foundation The second Foundation novel (although it was the last written by Asimov himself).
1997 Foundation's Fear Second Foundation trilogy by Gregory Benford.
1998 Foundation and Chaos Second Foundation trilogy by Greg Bear.
1999 Foundation's Triumph Second Foundation trilogy by David Brin.
11 1951 Foundation The third Foundation novel. Actually, it is a collection of four stories, originally published between 1942 and 1944, plus an introductory section written for the book in 1949. Published, slightly abridged, as part of an Ace Double paperback, D-110, with the title The 1000-Year Plan, in 1955.
12 1952 Foundation and Empire The fourth Foundation novel, made up of two stories, originally published in 1945. Published with the title The Man Who Upset the Universe as a 35c Ace paperback, D-125, in about 1952.
13 1953 Second Foundation The fifth Foundation novel, made up of two stories, originally published in 1948 and 1949.
14 1982 Foundation's Edge The sixth Foundation novel.
Nebula Award nominee, 1982;[30]
Hugo Award winner, 1983;[31]
Locus Award winner, 1983[31]
15 1986 Foundation and Earth The seventh Foundation novel.
Locus Award nominee, 1987[32]

Another alternative is to read the books in their original order of publication, since reading the Foundation prequels prior to reading the Foundation Trilogy fundamentally alters the original narrative structure of the trilogy by spoiling what were originally presented as plot surprises.[original research?] In that same Author's Note, Asimov noted that there is room for a book between Robots and Empire (5) and The Currents of Space (6), and that he could follow Foundation and Earth (15) with additional volumes.

Tangential books

While not mentioned in the above list, the books The End of Eternity (1955) and Nemesis (1989) are also referenced in the series.

The End of Eternity is vaguely referenced in Foundation's Edge, where a character mentions the Eternals, whose "task it was to choose a reality that would be most suitable to Humanity". (The End of Eternity also refers to a "Galactic Empire" within its story.) In Forward the Foundation, Hari Seldon refers to a 20-thousand-year-old story of "a young woman that could communicate with an entire planet that circled a sun named Nemesis", a reference to Nemesis. In Nemesis, the main colony is one of the Fifty Settlements, a collection of orbital colonies that form a state. The Fifty Settlements possibly were the basis for the fifty Spacer worlds in the Robot stories. The implication at the end of Nemesis that the inhabitants of the off-Earth colonies are splitting off from Earthbound humans could also be connected to a similar implication about the Spacers in Mark W. Tiedemann's Robot books.

On the other hand, these references might be just jokes by Asimov, and the stories mentioned could be just those really written by himself (as seen in The Robots of Dawn, where Fastolfe makes a reference to Asimov's Liar!) and still being read twenty thousand years later. Furthermore, Asimov himself did not mention The End of Eternity in the series listing from Prelude to Foundation. As for Nemesis, it was written after Prelude to Foundation, but in the author's note Asimov explicitly states that the book is not part of the Foundation or Empire series, but that some day he might tie it to the others.

Major characters

  • R. Giskard Reventlov, the first robot able to alter human minds (of the "diaspora" era, see I, Robot story "Liar!")
  • R. Daneel Olivaw, a humanoid robot who organizes the creation of both the Seldon plan and Gaia and Galaxia, he also assumes the names Chetter Hummin and Eto Demerzel (First Minister).
  • Hari Seldon, leader of the Psychohistorical movement which creates the Foundation and the Seldon plan; first First Speaker of the Second Foundation (traditional), First Minister of the Galactic Empire under Cleon I, after Eto Demerzel
  • Dors Venabili, Seldon's wife and protector, known as the "Tiger Woman" for her physical prowess and swiftness to action, she is eventually revealed to be a humanoid robot like Daneel.
  • Yugo Amaryl, Seldon's colleague, a heatsinker from the Dahl Sector of Trantor
  • Raych Seldon, Hari Seldon's adopted son from the Dahl Sector of Trantor
  • Wanda Seldon, Raych Seldon's eldest daughter who later becomes a Psychohistorian and second First Speaker of the Second Foundation
  • Emperor Cleon I, Entun Dynasty, emperor during the first part of Hari Seldon's stay on Trantor
  • Gaal Dornick, one of the last Psychohistorians to join the Project
  • Salvor Hardin, first mayor of Terminus, first Foundationer to realize the "farce" of the Encyclopedia Galactica
  • Hober Mallow, the first "Merchant Prince" during the Foundation's "Trader" days
  • Bel Riose, general of the Galactic Empire
  • The Mule, a mutant who was extremely adept at altering human emotions
  • Bayta Darell, Foundation citizen instrumental in the defeat of the Mule.
  • Ebling Mis, thought to be first person to discover the location of the Second Foundation
  • Arkady Darell, granddaughter of Bayta Darell, who theorizes a location of the Second Foundation
  • Preem Palver, a farmer living on Trantor and First Speaker of the Second Foundation
  • Golan Trevize, councilman of Terminus who discovers the secret location of Earth
  • Janov Pelorat, historian, accompanies Trevize

See also


  1. The final section of Forward the Foundation, Epilogue, appears to directly precede Hari Seldon's death. Therefore at least this part of the book would be located after the events of Foundation and Chaos, Foundation's Triumph and the first chapter of Foundation.


  1. Asimov, Isaac. La edad de oro II. Plaza & Janes. 1987. P 252–253 (Spanish language translation of The Early Asimov) See afterword for the "Legal Rites" story.
  2. ISAAC ASIMOV (1982). Foundation's Edge. Halmstad: Spectra. p. 1. ISBN 0-553-29338-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. ISAAC ASIMOV. Foundation and Earth. Halmstad: Spectra. ISBN 0-553-58757-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "An Early Asimov Timeline". 2006-02-14. Retrieved 2013-07-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Turtledove, Harry. "Trantor Falls." Foundation's Friends, edited by Martin H. Greenberg. Tor, 1989.
  6. Quotes from the Author's afterword in Foundation's Fear (Benford)
  9. Denouement (a dream to follow Foundation's Triumph)
  10. Seligman, Martin. Learned Optimism ((c) 1998 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.), 185ff.
  11. Seligman discusses the successful prediction of the Presidential and 33 Senatorial elections based on an evaluation of the candidates' optimism as expressed in their speeches, and the principle that American voters systematically favor optimistic candidates.
  12. "Newt Gingrich the Galactic Historian". Ray Smock, History News Network, 08 December 2011.
  13. Paul Krugman: Asimov's Foundation novels grounded my economics
  14. U.S. Economist Krugman Wins Nobel Prize in Economics
  15. "Science Fiction Books That Inspired Elon Musk," Media Bistro: Galley Cat, March 19, 2013
  16. 1966 Hugo Awards
  17. Asimov, Isaac (1980). In Joy Still Felt: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1954–1978. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. chapter 24. ISBN 0-385-15544-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Cohen, David X. (2003). Futurama season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. Of course, you'll remember the holophonor [...] as we've said [...] is inspired by an instrument in [...] Foundation, one of the Foundation books, Isaac Asimov, the Mule plays an instrument much like that, except that it controls peoples minds.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Sibley, Brian (2006). "Three-Ring Circus". Peter Jackson: A Film-maker's Journey. London: Harpercollins. p. 403. ISBN 0-00-717558-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Rich Drees (2008-07-29). "FOUNDATION Heading To Big Screen". Film Buff OnLine. Retrieved 2008-07-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Roland Emmerich at the Internet Movie Database
  23. 23.0 23.1 Sneider, Jeff (10 November 2014). "'Interstellar's' Jonah Nolan Developing 'Foundation' Series for HBO, WBTV (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Retrieved 11 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "PaleyLive: An Evening with the Cast of Person of Interest". Yahoo. 13 April 2015. Retrieved 14 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Asimov, Isaac (1988). Prelude to Foundation. New York, NY: Bantam Dell. ISBN 978-0-553-90095-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. The Early Asimov, or Eleven Years of Trying Accessed January 30, 2017
  27. 27.0 27.1 "1984 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "1986 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "1989 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "1982 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. 31.0 31.1 "1983 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "1987 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Foundation Universe
Preceded by
Empire series
Foundation series
Succeeded by