Saturday, 25 February 2017

Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series

When I wrote about the author Isaac Asimov, I confessed he is my favourite author, and the one who introduced me to science fiction. Before I go on to talk about other authors from the Golden Age of science fiction, I want to introduce you to his most famous works – or should that be work, because in later life he bound them all together in one series.

The Robot series was originally separate from the Foundation series. The Galactic Empire novels were published as independent stories, set earlier in the same future as Foundation. Later in life, Asimov synthesized the Robot series into a single coherent "history" that appeared in the extension of the Foundation series.



The Robot series

The first book is I, Robot (1950), a collection of nine previously published short stories woven together as a 21st-century interview with robopsychologist Dr. Susan Calvin. The next four robot novels The Caves of Steel (1953), The Naked Sun (1955), The Robots of Dawn (1983), and Robots and Empire (1985) make up the Elijah Baley series, and are mysteries starring the Terran Elijah Baley and his humaniform robot partner, R. Daneel Olivaw.

They are set thousands of years after the short stories, and focus on the conflicts between Spacers — descendants of human settlers from other planets, and the people from an overcrowded Earth, who mostly live underground. Mirror Image, one of the short stories from The Complete Robot anthology, is also set in this time period (between The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn), and features both Baley and Olivaw. Another short story, Mother Earth, is set about a thousand years before the robot novels, when the Spacer worlds chose to become separated from Earth.

The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun are both considered classics of the genre, but the later novels were also well received, with The Robots of Dawn nominated for both the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1984, and Robots and Empire shortlisted for the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1986.

Asimov’s Laws

Asimov is the man who invented the Three Laws of Robotics which ensure that robots are safe to work with:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The Galactic Empire series

The Galactic Empire series (also called the Empire novels or trilogy) is a science fiction sequence of three of Isaac Asimov's earliest novels, and extended by one short story. They are connected by their early place in his published works and chronological placement within his overarching Foundation Universe, set around the rise of Asimov's Galactic Empire, between the Robot and Foundation series to which they were linked in Asimov's later novels.

The Foundation series

The Foundation series is a science fiction series of books which is the core of Asimov’s Galatic Empire stories. 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 Galactic 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 also foresees an alternative where the interregnum will last only one thousand years. To ensure the more favorable outcome, Seldon creates a foundation of talented artisans and engineers at the extreme end of the galaxy, to preserve and expand on humanity's collective knowledge, and thus become the foundation for a new galactic empire.

 The Complete Set 
[adapted from Wikipedia]


Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz

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