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Isaac Asimov
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2012 Reads > FOUND: Asimov's review of his own Foundation trilogy

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message 1: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Sep 17, 2012 05:15PM) (new)

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
My edition of Foundation has an introduction written by Asimov titled "The Story Behind the 'Foundation'". In it, he relates Foundation's genesis, evolution, publication history, and reception.

Most amusing is his story at being pressued by his publisher in the early 80's to revisit the Foundation series (there had been fan & publisher interest in continuation of the series for awhile). At that time he had been long away from the Foundation and even ficiton writing in general, producing non-ficton by the ton instead.

Bribed with a huge advance from the publisher, he sat down to re-read his own trilogy:

"I had to. For one thing, I hadn't read the Trilogy in thirty years and while I remembered the general plot, I did not remember the details. Besides, before beginning a new Foundation novel I had to immerse myself in the style and atmosphere of the series.

I read it with mounting uneasiness. I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did. All these volumes, all the nearly quarter of a million words, consisted of thoughts and of conversations. No action. No physical suspsense.

What was all the fuss about, then? Why did everyone want more of that stuff? - To be be sure, I couldn't help but notice that I was turning the pages eagerly, and that I was upset when I finished the book, and I wanted more, but I was the author, for goodness' sake. You couldn't go by me.

I was on the edge of deciding it was all a terrible mistake and of insisting on giving back the monkey, when (quite by accident, I swear) I came across some sentences by science-fiction writer and critic, James Gunn, who, in connection with the Foundation series, said, 'Action and romance have little to do with the success of the Trilogy - virtually all the action takes place offstage, and the romance is almost invisible - but the stories provide a detective-story fascination with the permutations and reversals of ideas.'

Oh, well, if what was needed were 'permutations and reversals of ideas,' then that I could supply. Panic receded..."

...And he goes on to cheerily relate resuming work on the series.

I thought this was a great quote from the author himself, because it underscores a lot of reactions we've seen on these forums: "Argh! It's just people sitting around talking endlessly"...."Yet for some it's somehow still compelling"..."so it that the ideas are really intersting, or is that Asimov's skill as a story-teller manage to make a whole lotta talking compelling for some readers", etc...


Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments I found an Asimov review of George Orwell's 1984 he was asked to write by his editor. What I found fascinating is that Asimov levelled a lot of the same criticisms towards Orwell that commentators on this site levelled towards him. Some examples:

"Orwell imagines no new vices, for instance. His characters are all gin hounds and tobacco addicts, and part of the horror of his picture of 1984 is his eloquent description of the low quality of the gin and tobacco.

He foresees no new drugs, no marijuana, no synthetic hallucinogens. No one expects an s.f. writer to be precise and exact in his forecasts, but surely one would expect him to invent some differences."


"Orwell had no feel for the future, and the displacement of the story is much more geographical than temporal.

The London in which the story is placed is not so much moved thirty-five years forward in time, from 1949 to 1984, as it is moved a thousand miles east in space to Moscow.

Orwell imagines Great Britain to have gone through a revolution similar to the Russian Revolution and to have gone through all the stages that Soviet development did. He can think of almost no variations on the theme. The Soviets had a series of purges in the 1930s, so the Ingsoc (English Socialism) had a series of purges in the 1950s."


Now in all fairness, Foundation was one of Asimov's earliest works, while 1984 was the last work of a celebrated author and often held up as Orwell's magnum opus. But both these reviews really inform Asimov's development as a writer. He really did reread Foundation and say, "This thing is full of rookie mistakes! Let's not do those again."


message 3: by Martin (new)

Martin (martinc36au) | 80 comments He must of. He predicted no social advancements at all - woman were still 2nd class citizens throughout.


message 4: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 185 comments Martin wrote: "He must of. He predicted no social advancements at all - woman were still 2nd class citizens throughout."

Depending on where you look, women are, unfortunately, still regarded as second class citizens. Things are getting better, but that doesn't mean that it still doesn't happen. Hell, just in America we can see some groups trying to push women back into being second class citizens. We can see it in the attempts block women from getting equal pay for equal work, trying to redefine rape as only violent nonconsentual sex (rather than just it being nonconsentual sex), or the whole "legitimate rape" thing that popped up recently, among other topics. And that's just within the past eight months.


message 5: by Martin (new)

Martin (martinc36au) | 80 comments Couldn't agree more.


message 6: by Mapleson (new)

Mapleson | 94 comments In Asimov's defence, at the time he was young and sheltered, and didn't really interact or date women until the time of the first Foundation short story was published in 1942. At that point, he married his first wife, and you can see the quality and quantity of female characters drastically improve from that point on (seen in published works of 1944 and later).


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