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The Foundation Project: An Introduction

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Twenty one years ago, at the tender age of seventeen, I read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series for the very first time. No one had recommended the books to me, and I knew absolutely nothing about the series – I just happened to pick the first one off the shelf of the book store I was visiting. Even though it was the first science fiction novel I ever read, I instantly fell in love with Foundation and eagerly devoured the entire series. I was amazed at the breadth of the series and totally fascinated by the idea of psychohistory. The Foundation novels quickly became my all-time favorite books.

There Is Nothing Like The First Time

My original tattered copy of Foundation

Nine years later, during a summer I spent in Chicago, I finally re-read my beloved Foundation novels. For many years I had wanted to read them again, but I had purposely put them off because I didn’t want to “dilute” my love for them. However, as I plowed through the books on the 21st floor of my high-rise Westin hotel I found that I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much as the first time. Why not? Who’s to say – perhaps because I was much better read by that time, but honestly I think it was because the books didn’t live up to the extremely high standards I had built up in my mind over the years. While I found them to be good, the experience was nothing like it had previously been.

3rd Time’s The Charm?

Now, twelve years after my second reading of the Foundation novels I have the itch to try them again and see how they pan out. And so I shall. I consider myself to be much more well read, especially after spending the last two and a half years reviewing science fiction short stories, so I am very eager to see how my experience will be this time around.

So, with all that in mind I am starting a different kind of summer project. This time I will re-read the Foundation novels, bringing all my super SF reviewing powers to bear, and see how they hold up. Feel free to join me. I know that not everyone loves (or even likes) Isaac Asimov and his Foundation novels – but I do. The books have been around for over 50 years and are still in print and very easy to find. Check out your local library if nothing else. I welcome any comments you might have about the series, and look forward to hearing what others think.

And We’re Off!

Today I started off the project by reading the introduction to my original 1989-purchased Foundation novel. These 10 pages, written by Isaac himself in the early 1980’s after he finished writing Foundation’s Edge, talk about how the Foundation novels came to be. It seems that the idea for them started in 1941 when Asimov was just a 21 year old grad student. He came up with an idea for a set of science fiction stories about the fall of a galatic empire – roughly based on The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He pitched the idea, it was accepted, and the first four “parts” (i.e. short stories) were published in the early 1940’s in Astounding magazine. The first Foundation novel, compiled years later, is made up up these first stories in addition to one that Asimov wrote just to make the beginning of the novel “less abrupt.” I can’t wait to jump in and re-familiarize myself with Hari Seldon and the Psychohistory project!

Any other Foundation lovers out there? I’d love to hear what you think of the series.

4 thoughts to “The Foundation Project: An Introduction”

  1. Original magazine version of the second book (Mule, I think) of the original Foundation Trilogy is online, though in an inconvenient format as RAR files of scans. I’d linked it sometime back.

    Note the later books, in publication order but not in story’s timeline, of what now goes as the expanded Foundation series, weren’t authored by Asimov, but by other authors contracted by his widow after his death. He wrote the three originals, plus a few sequels later which link up Foundation with his other series – Spacers & [something – Empire?].

  2. Thanks Tinkoo,

    I tried searching your site but couldn’t find the online link – do you have it?

    Yeah, I have only read the Foundation novels written by Asimov himself, and have never tried any of the other ones. How were they?

  3. Mule is buried somewhere in this page; search for Asimov on that page. I think I’d created it on one of the lazy days; but you should be able to locate the relevant Astounding issues on this page by finding novel’s original publication dates elsewhere. (ISFDB says they appeared in November/December 1945 issues; both issues are linked from above page).

    Original Trilogy is the best, though I’d started getting impatient with the third book. Rest of Asimov’s sequels are ok – kept me interested most of the time. Other authors’ 3 books are actually prequels in timeline, though written later – they mostly detail Hari Seldon’s early life & Empire in the process of its rot; I don’t think I really enjoyed them.

    I read it when I wasn’t experienced in the genre. Not sure how I’ll respond today.

  4. Tinkoo,

    Thanks for the link – that page looks like it has lots of good stuff on it!

    I agree that the 3 original novels were the best. I also enjoyed the 4th and 5th ones too, even though they were written many years later. I heard once that Asimov wasn’t too happy with number 5 (Foundation & Earth) and that it was getting hard to find that book, but I don’t know if it was true.

    I have read the 2 prequels that Asimov wrote, and although they were good I have never read them again. I would like to give them a try now and see how they measure up.

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