The History of the Positronic Robot Stories and Foundation Stories, 1989-1993

By the summer of 1989, Isaac Asimov was one of the best-known science fiction writers in the world. He had been appearing in print in one venue or another for fifty years. Since 1982, he had written seven science fiction novels, five of them either Positronic Robot novels or Foundation novels. Desiring a break from the grueling (though satisfactory and financially rewarding) work of writing novels, Asimov decided that his next Foundation book would be written as a series of five novellas rather than as a single continuous novel. The stories would follow Hari Seldon's career from Prelude to Foundation to "The Psychohistorians", taking place at ten year intervals in Seldon's life.

Unfortunately, after starting work on the first story, "Forward the Foundation", in June 1989, Asimov's health began to deteriorate. By December 1989, he was spending most of his time in bed, and by January 1990 he had been hospitalized. He emerged from the hospital in February 1990 and resumed writing at a slower pace.

"Forward the Foundation" appeared in the November 1991 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (or Asimov's for short). It takes place eight years after the events in Prelude to Foundation. Forty-year-old Hari Seldon and his assistant Yugo Amaryl continue to develop psychohistory at Streeling University. However, Seldon's research is disturbed by the appearance of a demagogue named Jo-Jo Joranum, who seeks to depose and replace Eto Demerzel, the Emperor Cleon's first minister and Seldon's patron. Although Joranum claims to be from an obscure world called Nishaya, Seldon learns that he is actually a native of the Trantorian sector of Mycogen. Seldon leaks word to Joranum that Demerzel is actually a robot. Being Mycogenian, Joranum is ready to believe the story, for the Mycogenians originated on the Spacer world of Aurora, and robots are part of their mythology. However, when Demerzel is able to demonstrate conclusively that he is a human being (no easy task, since he really is a robot), the blow to Joranum's ambitions is fatal. His bid for power falls apart, and Cleon has him exiled to Nishaya. Unfortunately for Seldon, Demerzel chooses to resign as first minister, and Cleon appoints Seldon himself to replace him.

The next story, "Cleon the Emperor" appeared in the April 1992 issue of Asimov's. Hari Seldon at fifty has been Cleon's first minister for ten years. When he learns that the Joranumite movement is resurfacing in Dahl Sector, he sends his adopted son Raych, once a Dahlite street urchin, there to learn what he can about it. Raych becomes caught up in a plot hatched in Wye Sector to infiltrate the Imperial Palace and assassinate Seldon and Cleon. Although Seldon and Raych are able to foil the Wyan plot, Cleon is assassinated anyway by a crazed gardener.

The third story, "The Consort", appeared in the April 1993 issue of Asimov's. At sixty, Hari Seldon has been back at Streeling University for ten years directing the Psychohistory Project, while the Empire is ruled by a military junta that took over after Cleon's assassination. When the current leader of the junta, General Tennar, decides to remove Seldon from his position at the Project and replace him with someone more pliable, Seldon's wife Dors prevents him. Afterwards, Seldon attempts to have the General deposed, and Tennar attempts to have Dors killed. Both attempts are successful.

Asimov's health continued to deteriorate throughout 1990 and 1991. Although he finished a rough draft of a fourth story, he was unable to complete a final draft, and he wrote a brief epilogue in place of the fifth story. Asimov finally died of heart and kidney failure on April 6, 1992. Following his death, his wife Janet worked with Doubleday to edit the fourth story and the epilogue, which were collected together with the three Asimov's stories to form Forward the Foundation. The first story, "Forward the Foundation", became Part I, "Eto Demerzel". "Cleon the Emperor" became Part II, "Cleon I", and "The Consort" became Part III, "Dors Venabili".

In Part IV, "Wanda Seldon", Seldon at seventy finds himself on the verge of failure. Conditions on Trantor have deteriorated, and both the populace in general and the Commission of Public Safety, who control the government of Trantor, have come to blame Seldon. Now that psychohistory has been perfected, Seldon has been able to confirm that the Empire is falling, and that nothing can be done to stop it. He is known as Raven Seldon, a harbinger of doom. Funding for the Psychohistory Project has dried up, and now Seldon is unable to put into operation a plan he has conceived to lessen the impact of the Empire's fall and bring about the creation of a Second Empire from the ruins. However, Seldon learns that his granddaughter Wanda has an unusual ability to influence the emotions of other people. Although Wanda herself isn't strong enough to change another person's mind, she meets another mentalic named Stettin Palver, and they discover that their combined abilities are greater than either alone. With the help of Wanda and Stettin, Seldon is able to convince the head of the Imperial Library to allow the Psychohistory Project to operate there.

Part V, "Epilogue", ends with the eighty-one-year-old Seldon musing on the end of his life and the beginning of his plan to rescue human civilization from thirty millennia of darkness. Seldon dies while the Prime Radiant projects the unfolding equations of his Thousand-year Plan. His last thought is of Dors.

Forward the Foundation was published by Doubleday in April 1993, one year after Asimov's death.

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Johnny Pez