Jan 2, 2010

Asimov's struggle with aliens

Jan 2, 2010
We are still in the 70th year of the Asimov Era, as defined by the time period since Isaac Asimov fiction has been in print. This year is also 90 AA, 90 years After Asimov's birth. Asimov was taken from us too early. I'm particularly distressed that his novel Foundation and Earth was left to us as the chronological end of the Foundation Series.

In Foundation and Earth, Asimov hinted that after humanity's rise to galactic dominance, there remained a looming confrontation with aliens who could arrive at any time from the depths of intergalactic space. Given another 10 or 20 years of life, how might Asimov have continued the Foundation Saga past Foundation and Earth?

Various science fiction authors and scientists have expressed quite different expectations with respect to space aliens. Two important "dimensions of expectation" are 1) the issue of just how common human-like species are in the universe, and 2) the question of how another sapient species would interact with us following first contact.

Mathemagician by 5ofnovember
Asimov indicated that his decision to have a human-only galaxy in the Foundation Fictional Universe was largely determined by the editorial bias of John W. Campbell. It should be remembered that the Foundation Fictional Universe was also originally a "robot-free zone", but just before his death, Asimov wrote R. Daneel Olivaw into the Foundation Saga and depicted Daneel as the mastermind behind Hari Seldon and the development of Psychohistory.

Personally, my guess is that there are probably other sapient species on other planets in our galaxy. I think that both Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke provided us with more realistic depictions of space aliens than did Asimov. However, I think it is possible to imagine that Asimov could have written some alien species from our galaxy into a sequel for Foundation and Earth. That idea is explored in The Start of Eternity.

the Exode Trilogy
If Asimov had managed to write some aliens into the Foundation Series, would they have been friends or foes of humanity? I like to think that Carl Sagan was right and that we should expect to make contact with friendly aliens, or, at worst, indifferent aliens. Other scientists, for example, Stephen Hawking are more paranoid. In comments about reports of seemingly benign UFOs visiting Earth, Hawking said, "I think any visits by aliens would be much more obvious and probably also much more unpleasant." In the last few pages of Foundation and Earth, Asimov seemed to be setting the stage for a suspenseful conflict between Galaxia and aliens. I feel a great sense of loss because of the fact that Asimov did not have time to provide us with his vision of that "showdown". The Start of Eternity is a fan fiction tribute to Asimov where we can explore possible ways to completed the Foundation Saga.

Image. Click here to see a description of the image at the top of this post.
Related reading: City of Asimov
in 2016: "Blind Alley"
in 2017 - Host  and  A Search Beyond
Note added in 2013: The blog post above is from 2010. In 2013 I decided to reformulate my science fiction novel The Start of Eternity as one book of the Exode Trilogy. I decided to change the title of the book to The Foundations of Eternity.
Note added in 2014: Asimov alive and kicking. The Sessily Trilogy
Asimov on his thrown by Rowena Morrill

More book and magazine covers


  1. Actually it's just a small mention but Asimov does have one short story in the Foundation series with Aliens in them - small brick like red creatures on a hot desert planet. They eventually escape the human dominated galaxy through the wiles of a sympathetic administrator of their planet. So by the time of the later stories again there are no (known anyway) aliens in the galaxy.

    The story is "Blind alleyway".

    Timeline here:

    1. Thanks for pointing to "Blind Alley". I have not read most of Asimov's shorter fiction and I have not read his novels that fall in the time between the events of "Robots And Empire" and "Prelude To Foundation".

  2. I would like to my own effort to trace all the aliens mentioned in Asimov's writings. It is in Spanish (in two parts, the second will appear soon in the same link), but you surely can follow the titles:

    1. Thank you for sharing the link to that blog post!