Date: 01 October, 1991 — $7.99 — Book
Fiction, Science Fiction
Isaac Asimov confessed himself baffled by the enduring popularity of his Foundation "trilogy", which was actually a compilation of a series of short stories that he had written up about the interregnum between the fall of the Galactic Empire and the rise of a new Empire. In fact, the Foundation series won the Hugo for best science-fiction series of all time, the only time such an award has been noted.
And it's easy to understand his bafflement. By the standards of the time— and, to a certain extent, today— the stories seem to be overwhelmingly dull, with no battles described, no heroics, no enduring love stories... just people finding a way out of difficulties.
And therein lies the key. Foundation is popular because it is thoughtful. There are thousands of stories featuring the dim-brain hero, and all too few about the saavy thinkers, the ones who see the crisis coming and avert it with minimal effort.
The premise is fairly simple: Hari Seldon was a brilliant mathematician who figured out a means of accurately measuring and predicting mass human behavior, and figured out that the Empire was doomed to fail. Unfortunately, his predictions also included thirty thousand years of debased life as all the knowledge of humanity was lost and had to be rediscovered. In order to avert this fate, he managed to wrangle a foundation of encyclopædists, to conserve that knowledge.
Unbeknownst to them, he'd set them up so that conditions would create a new Empire from their seed in a mere thousand years. And by his predictions, he'd wangled conditions so that they'd be forced onto that path one way or another.
It's good stuff, in nicely manageable bits. Go. Read.