Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation: The little idea that became science fiction’s biggest series

I'm a little late with this, this actually happened last week.

I09: Blogging the Hugos: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation: The little idea that became science fiction’s biggest series
Josh Wimmer and Alasdair Wilkins — On the planet Terminus, a group of academics struggles to survive as the Galactic Empire crumbles. With no weapons, all they can rely on are the predictions of a dead genius named Hari Seldon. That's right - it's time to discuss Isaac Asimov's Foundation!

Welcome to Foundation Week, a Blogging the Hugos special event. In 1983, Isaac Asimov won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Foundation's Edge, in which he revisited his groundbreaking Foundation mythos for the first time in over thirty years. Because the Foundation series is such classic, quintessential, and beloved science fiction — the original stories won their own unique Hugo for Best All-Time Series in 1966, and influenced artists from Douglas Adams to George Lucas — Josh Wimmer and Alasdair Wilkins will be discussing each of the seven books between today and Sunday. We begin with Foundation, published in 1951.

(Spoilers follow.)

JW: For starters: Asimov wrote the first Foundation story when he was 21. And eventually, of course, the original Foundation Trilogy would win a special Hugo for Best All-Time Series, beating out supposed shoo-in The Lord of the Rings. Man, when I was 21, I hadn't even been promoted from waiter to bartender at Carlos O'Kelly's Mexican Cafe.

Anyway, if anyone reading this hasn't read the Foundation books (at least the first three), I feel pretty strongly that they should immediately stop whatever they're doing and rectify that. But on the off chance that some our you reading this aren't going to do that, I'll quickly summarize: The Foundation series began as a set of short stories Asimov wrote under the guidance of legendary Astounding Science Fiction editor John W. Campbell. The stories were inspired by Asimov's reading of Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and their premise is so simple, it feels almost inevitable:

There is a Galactic Empire, consisting of countless planets spread across millions of light-years. The brilliant Hari Seldon has used a science of his own invention, called psychohistory, to determine that the Empire is near collapse. Psychohistory is a blend of crowd psychology and high-level math. An able psychohistorian can predict the long-term aggregate behavior of billions of people many, many years in the future. (However, it only works with large groups: Psychohistory is almost useless for predicting the behavior of an individual. Also, it's no good if the group being analyzed is aware it's being analyzed — because if it's aware, the group changes its behavior.)

Read the entire blog entry at this link:
I09: Blogging the Hugos: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation: The little idea that became science fiction’s biggest series

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