Foundation series

The Foundation Series
Foundation gnome.jpg
First edition dust-jacket of Foundation


AuthorIsaac Asimov
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
GenreScience Fiction
PublisherAstounding Magazine, Gnome Press, Spectra, Doubleday
Published1942–1993
Media typePrint

The Foundation series is a science fiction book series written by American author Isaac Asimov. First collected in 1951, for thirty years the series was a trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. It won the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966.[1][2] Asimov began adding new volumes 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 stories is that, in the waning days of a future Galactic Empire, the mathematician Hari Seldon spends his life developing a theory of psychohistory, a new and effective mathematical sociology. Using statistical laws of mass action, it can predict the future of large populations. Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting 30,000 years before a second empire arises. Although the inertia of the Empire's fall is too great to stop, Seldon devises a plan by which "the onrushing mass of events must be deflected just a little" to eventually limit this interregnum to just one thousand years. To implement his plan, Seldon creates the Foundations – two groups of scientists and engineers settled at opposite ends of the galaxy – to preserve the spirit of science and civilization, and thus become the cornerstones of the new galactic empire.

A key feature of Seldon's theory, which has proved influential in real-world social science,[3] is an uncertainty or incompleteness principle: if a population gains knowledge of its predicted behavior, its self-aware collective actions become unpredictable.

Publication history

Original stories

The original trilogy of novels collected 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 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.[4] 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 introductory story, as a fixup published by Gnome Press in 1951 as Foundation. The later 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.[5]

Later sequels and prequels

In 1981, Asimov was persuaded by his publishers to write a fourth book, which became Foundation's Edge (1982).[6]

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), published after his death in 1992. 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.

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