The Empire Will Fall
June 24, 2020 3:14 AM   Subscribe

Foundation is a new TV series being adapted from Isaac Asimov's novels. Airing next year on Apple TV+, the show stars Jared Harris as Hari Seldon, Lee Pace as Brother Day, Lou Llobell as Gaal, Leah Harvey as Salvor, Laura Birn as Demerzel, Terrence Mann as Brother Dusk, and Cassian Bilton as Brother Dawn.

Despite considering himself a feminist, Asimov was a serial harasser.
posted by adrianhon (163 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
The stories haven't aged that well but the trailer looks AMAZING.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:38 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


I read the first novel after hearing and reading a lot of praise about it. I'm usually pretty forgiving when SF is dated, but it was so dated that it took me out of the story again and again. And while Asimov was incredibly prolific, he wasn't the best stylist, shall we say. Maybe I should just keep at those books, do they get better?

Sorry for the derail; the trailer does look amazing. Looks very well made.
posted by zardoz at 3:56 AM on June 24 [8 favorites]


Who could play The Mule?
posted by sammyo at 3:58 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


[Asimov] wasn't the best stylist, shall we say. Maybe I should just keep at those books, do they get better?

The style does not get better, no. He had a lot of interesting ideas, but couldn’t write his way out of a wet paper bag, to mix a metaphor. A tv adaptation should be able to improve on things, I would think.
posted by cardboard at 4:15 AM on June 24 [10 favorites]


It's going to be interesting seeing whether the producers treat this as a normal show, one mostly set in a single period and with a consistent cast, or follow the episodic framework of the books.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:31 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Leah Harvey as Salvor Hardin? Yes, please.

I loved the books when I was 12, but bounced hard off a recent attempt to re-read. It looks like they're leveraging the Star Wars connection really hard (both explicitly and in the visuals and music), but if it gets butts on couches to watch a more diverse exploration of some of the themes from the books, I am here for it.
posted by Mogur at 4:39 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


The hardest thing about shooting Foundation, as Asimov himself noted, is that virtually all of the action takes place off screen. It will definitely take a lot of work to make it acceptable to a modern audience.

And yeah, there can be no doubt that Asimov belongs on the planet of problematic sci-fi authors.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:53 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


OH NO... this is like my LOTR trauma all over again.
posted by Mrs Potato at 4:54 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


my question is why this story and why now?

why this versus a modern author like Jemisin or Okorafor or {insert fav not old/dead white guy here}?

(though i devoured the books as a child... Asimov was my entry into SF... I can't remember a thing about them)
posted by kokaku at 5:14 AM on June 24 [25 favorites]


belongs on the planet of problematic __________.

Wouldn't it be nice if that was an option?
posted by terrapin at 5:17 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Maybe I should just keep at those books, do they get better?

The tone takes a major shift starting in the the fourth book, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily better.

As per cardboard above, Asimov is considered a great for his ideas. His writing was meh.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:20 AM on June 24


Well, that looks beautiful. So does David Lynch's Dune, though. Although I'm one of the weird heretic tribe of fans of that film.

I tried to read the books when I was young, and there was a BBC radio adaptation. I just remember it as a lot of grey, though. Difficult to tell what was going on, if anything. Mostly, I realise now, I just liked the Chris Foss covers.

I guess I don't like exposition to get in the way of my aesthetic pleasure.

Any good reason why this Asimov now? Personally I think it would be more now to adapt the Robot stories, (especially if they could catch the tone of Tales From the Loop). Or the related Elijah Bailey books.
posted by Grangousier at 5:35 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


Any good reason why this Asimov now?

I think a large empire in decline is on everybody’s mind.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:38 AM on June 24 [63 favorites]


This looks like the first thing on Apple TV that has appealed to me at all, but I am an easy sell on big SF stuff. The trailer didn't benefit from some bullshit about apple wanting to improve people's lives. Maybe because I was watching on a monitor but it seemed to have mostly been shot in near darkness, hopefully the whole thing is not going to be like that.
posted by biffa at 5:45 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


The tone takes a major shift starting in the the fourth book

There are only three Foundation books.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:48 AM on June 24 [27 favorites]


Three coauthored brand extensions came out a couple of decades ago
posted by Mrs Potato at 5:52 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


They're thinking of "Foundation's Edge", I think.

(on posting. jinx!)
posted by Mogur at 5:54 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Any good reason why this Asimov now?

Except for the very start of the series ("We must get the emperor's permission to set up an electronic monastery!") the series is pretty much just a framework for setting old-school SF stories in. It's potentially like the Star Wars universe, except even more open because you don't need to worry about midichloroquine bringing balance to the Force, or whatever. So if the initial series is popular, they have a really good thing going.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:58 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


my question is why this story and why now?

Why now: Everyone is casting around for their own premium content so there's lots of spaghetti being chucked at the wall.

Why this: People making these decisions are mostly at-least-middle-aged white men. Also I expect that the licensing costs per unit of pre-existing popularity were low.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:05 AM on June 24 [17 favorites]


Diversifying the cast is great but also a really obvious thing to do with anything by Asimov.

But I really liked how they've updated the whole aesthetic, with that beanstalk and whatever's going on with that looks-like-a-black-hole. It would have been hard to put this show together in a 40s/50s aesthetic without lampshading the intense silliness.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:10 AM on June 24


"if ever there were a company that was hoping to better peoples lives through it's technology, it's Apple"

Goyer unironically comparing Apple with the Foundation is the future we deserve, I guess.
posted by Think_Long at 6:10 AM on June 24 [13 favorites]


Why now: Everyone is casting around for their own premium content so there's lots of spaghetti being chucked at the wall.

Yeah, it was hard not to notice the embedded Apple commercial/call out within the larger commercial for the series being shown on Apple TV+.

On preview: Think_Long beat me to it.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:11 AM on June 24


I really enjoyed the books. I'm glad they were written. I'm glad I read them. I am the target audience for this. It sounds awful. Surely there are enough creative people in the world that we can invent new stories.
posted by eotvos at 6:12 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


lots of spaghetti being chucked at the wall.

Where is the Grey Lensman?

(oh so problematic, but cool aliens and they (spoilers) smashed two suns together to finally kill the superbaddies).
posted by sammyo at 6:13 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]


I'm kind of meh about this.

Twenty years ago (has it really been that long?) when Lord of the Rings and the Star Wars prequels were in theaters and there was a decent Dune miniseries on the SciFi channel, I daydreamed constantly about what Foundation adaptation would look like in very much of a why-can't-my-favorite-thing-which-is-obviously-superior-be-on-screen-too kind of way.

But I've kind of grown up since then, and seeing a bunch of nerds on the edge of the galaxy use math to "save" civilization by secretly manipulating planets of unwitting people into doing stuff in aggregate on the big screen might have been vindicating when I was a shy, friendless nerd about to pursue a major in math who spent most of my time on IRC in the basement, it just feels kind of gross now.

Also, the Rinkworks.com Book-A-Minute summary of The Foundation Trilogy is one of my favorite bits of old-school Internet humor.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:15 AM on June 24 [17 favorites]


Also, Foundation's defining "event" as it were (the fall of the empire and the presumed dark ages to follow) kind of loses its urgency the more you study history and realize that the period between the Fall of Rome and the Renaissance wasn't some huge multi-century void of barbaric savagery and universal suffering.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:28 AM on June 24 [22 favorites]


"if ever there were a company that was hoping to better peoples lives through it's technology, it's Apple"

That was a weirdly gross little bit of sucking up to the corporation.
posted by octothorpe at 6:34 AM on June 24 [8 favorites]


Where is the Grey Lensman?

You need to bring this up with Ryan Reynolds.
posted by bonehead at 6:41 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]


Man, I appreciate the depth of discussion here, really, but y'all some downers.

Could it be better via a completely new story from a current author who needs the big break and rips up the ground in terms that are relevant to current events from a modern perspective of present events and historical assessments? Sure, I guess. But doing all those things is just as likely to lead to a flop that's as much a waste and worthy of pages of break down as well, yes I'm looking at you Mortal Engines or any number of Zombie setting wannabe knock offs or, sadly, Dominion.

I don't know, I, Robot was far from perfect but it attempted to use the very interesting material that Asimov drew upon (pre-history and rules of robotics among them) in a way that modern audiences in a theater can, maybe, consume. I think maybe folks these days, at least the ones in said theater and many on the Netflix couch, aren't able to wrap their heads around concepts that are better presented in books.

Blah, ramble ramble ramble. I need coffee.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:44 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]



Any good reason why this Asimov now?

I think a large empire in decline is on everybody’s mind.


That, plus the already mentioned desires to a) keep the Big Epic Series branch of Peak TV™ going, and b) at least a few of the aging fans of quote-endquote "Classic Science Fiction" probably figure that Asimov hasn't gotten his adaptation due in the manner of Heinlein and Clarke. That there are so many things wrong with these things--people finally admitting that Asimov was a creep; that the whole concept of the "grand old men of SF" is itself hugely problematic; the ignoring or sidelining of women and POC in SF for decades; the way that the Big Epic Series branch has of steamrollering some of the bigger, more interesting concepts of the material that it adapts--may be beside the point; the beast needs to be fed.

And I can't say that the idea doesn't have some appeal to me, as I ate up a whole bunch of Asimov books back in the seventies, when I was just starting out in SF. Especially as they seem to be more or less directly addressing some of the issues above, such as casting a woman of color as Hardin. I mean, I never thought I'd watch, let alone like, a TV series of Watchmen, so who knows.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:46 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


I, Robot was a lot better and more Asimovian (in terms of the ideas it played with) than most people give it credit for.
posted by signal at 7:15 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]


Also, I feel truly large space or fantasy epics are way to big for the screen, any screen.
I'm not a purist, and have a serious problem with the idea of 'classic' anything, but I might stand firm in the 'SF&F is about books, dammit' position.
TV and movie adaptations can be fun, but they're hardly significant, IMO.
posted by signal at 7:19 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I was never able to get into the Foundation series, but this looks slick enough that I'll probably give it a shot (I'm pretty easy for anything with good production values). But I have to admit I'm a bit tired of watching the world burn fictionally while it also burns on the news.

Still, A++ space ships, so.
posted by invincible summer at 7:23 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I, too, enjoyed the Foundation books when I was a teenager in the 80s/90s, remember almost nothing about them now, and see no reason for this adaptation to exist.

If we're going to get prestige series of old sci-fi titles, can I at least request a limited series of my favorite Foundation rip-off, Orson Scott Card's* The Worthing Saga? The flashback framing and short story content make it perfect for episodic TV, and the empire-in-decline themes are very fitting today. Anyone?

*Yes, I realize that Card is problematic and awful. I still love this book.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:25 AM on June 24


Regarding the apple ad before the trailer, meh. This whole new trailer-for-the-trailer thing that happens now makes sense I guess: it's the little ad before the show that gives us time to hit the fullscreen button on youtube. Normally it's just shots of the trailer we're about to see. Having it be an ad for AppleTV doesn't bother me; frankly it makes more sense than spoiling the trailer with shots from the trailer.

Regarding the Foundation stories: Asimov did mention that most of the action takes place off screen. Not unlike Dune actually. And frankly, I'm okay with that. Shakespeare did the same thing. The limitations of budget for most tv shows are going to limit your visuals somehow. What I'd like to see is really, really good writing being shown through great actors to take up that slack. I am totally okay with watching a sci-fi tv series and never seeing a space battle. Give me good writing and I'll eat it up.

Plus, the foundation is potentially a perfect series to turn into tv because it kind of sucks. Asimov created a great setup, but since his stories are a little bit hot garbage, there's plenty of room to improve upon the original text. I dunno how I feel about David Goyer helming this whole thing, but I'm willing to give this a chance.
posted by nushustu at 7:26 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


If we're doing never-to-be-delivered requests, I want Jack Williamson's "The Legion of Time", where a crew of warriors from throughout history are rescued from certain death on battlefields to save the future. Action-packed adventure that would make a great movie.

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" is a better sentiment but a worse movie.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:32 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Any good reason why this Asimov now?
For such an influential and prolific author there have been only 2 major films (I, Robot and Bicentennial Man) adapted from his books, and they're in the "not great, not terrible" category. Asimov was not a "good" writer, but he was good at ideas, so his work should have been a gold mine for adaptations, like PKD's. I guess that the main problem was that the large-scale sci-fi environments that his books require was much too expensive until recently, particularly for TV shows. That's the case of many "Golden Age" (and even later) sci-fi writers actually. Of course, a lot of it has not aged well: the reason why Starship Troopers is a good movie is that it was a satire of the book's horrid politics.
posted by elgilito at 7:32 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


there's plenty of room to improve upon the original text.

[Major spoiler alerts] I got really, really angry when he finished the Robot series with "oh, it was all because there's one robot that can manipulate everything." Then I got really, really angrier when the same thing happened at the end of "Foundation and Earth." He couldn't think of a way to wrap up his stories, because yes, he was good at ideas that segued into one another, but that's not satisfying storytelling.
posted by Melismata at 7:37 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Making "The Empire Will Fall" the tagline of your show while the empire is falling down around you is... something.
posted by Glibpaxman at 8:13 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]


TheophileEscargot, agreed, I second your motion for a Jack Williamson "Legion of Time" movie. Actually Williamson's "Legion of Space" would make a very action-packed movie as well.

But I think Hollywood is missing a bet, they should make movie versions of C. L. Moore's "Northwest Smith" stories. The character is basically a mix of Indiana Jones and Han Solo, moving through a space opera universe with a pinch of H. P. Lovecraft in the background. What's not to like?
posted by Nyrath at 8:14 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


the writing in foundation is a lot more tolerable if you think of it as notes for a story, rather than as an actual series of novels. i think best-case scenario this adaptation could be the actual fleshed-out non-notes version.

also though i think (as we’ve started to get at in this thread) a version of foundation where the foundation is understood as morally grey (or even kind of evil) might be pretty interesting. upthread ronbutnotstupid noted that the story gets less compelling the more you realize that the period between the roman empire and the early modern period was in fact not a blank dark nightmare hellscape. wouldn’t it be interesting to have a version of foundation where instead of “rebuilding civilization,” the foundation goes out and, crusader-style, smashes up the thriving space-byzantines and sacks space-constantinople? isn’t it possible to view them not as the last rational people with secret knowledge of the future, but instead as a pack of heavily-armed imperialists devoted to a weird religion? and really, can’t we read psychohistory as a cult, especially once the mule happens and seldon’s predictions all go sideways?

oh goddammit this is making me want to want to write a ripoff of foundation. i don’t have time for this! i need to get done of my ripoff of alexander bogdanov first! i can’t think about a “what if foundation but they’re nuts” story until i am done with my “what if lenin but in space” thing. i can’t.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:24 AM on June 24 [10 favorites]


Let's go with more women, I want the Ship who Sang to be brought to life. The set would be cheap, the brawn handsome and maybe we can sigh, fanpop style, over an engraved anime style etching of the brain in the pillar.
posted by Mrs Potato at 8:24 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


>>The tone takes a major shift starting in the the fourth book

>There are only three Foundation books.
>posted by MartinWisse at 5:48 AM on June 24 [+] [!]

>Three coauthored brand extensions came out a couple of decades ago
>posted by Mrs Potato at 5:52 AM on June 24 [+] [!]

>They're thinking of "Foundation's Edge", I think.
posted by Mogur at 5:54 AM on June 24 [+] [!]


There were four additional novels:
Foundation's Edge
Foundation and Earth
Prelude to Foundation
Forward the Foundation

...but I believe MartinWisse was joking.

Also, Mrs Potato is misremembering — Asimov was the sole author of all of them.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:25 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


It has been centuries.
posted by Mrs Potato at 8:26 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


iirc forward the foundation was only like 90% finished when asimov died, and some other big-name sci-fi writer stitched the missing parts together.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:30 AM on June 24


i might be the only one, but i kinda liked the “oh hey that one robot? the only fully fleshed-out character asimov ever wrote? he’s still around and he’s been playing god for like tens of thousands of years!” thing. though as is so often the case in asimov the story is kind of wrecked by how his good-guy characters are treated as unquestionably good, even when they’re doing stuff that is, um, questionable. to say the least.

like you’d think that someone would go up to that one robot and be like “so... you’ve been controlling all of human history all the way from [event that’s a spoiler] down to the present day? like, the sinister suffocating multi-millennia omnipresent space empire was your idea? that’s the best you could do? seriously?”
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:35 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


can I at least request a limited series of my favorite Foundation rip-off, Orson Scott Card's* The Worthing Saga?

Only if someone can get the rights in a way that denies OSC any involvement and they let allllllllll the repressed gay come flying out in a stern and mighty rainbow.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:39 AM on June 24 [24 favorites]


I think that part of the problem with making a movie or series based on Foundation is that so many other properties have stolen from it over the years that it's going to feel like a copy of those. It's sort of the same problem that the people who turned Princess of Mars into John Carter had or anyone who tries to film Neuromancer.

I mean over the last 40 years, we've had 11 movies, countless books, video games and animated series about the rise and fall of a certain galactic empire.
posted by octothorpe at 8:40 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


I find the political message of Foundation to be horrifyingly imperialistic. "Our version of civilization is the only valid one, there is no possibility of a better world than that, and we will toy with or destroy millions of people's lives to achieve that version of civilization again." It's American adventurism in space.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:50 AM on June 24 [10 favorites]


The tone takes a major shift starting in the the fourth book

There's a gap of 30 years between the writing in the third and fourth books.
posted by Slothrup at 8:53 AM on June 24


Personally, I am not stunned that a story written in 1942 by a 22 year old is not the most amazing prose ever written.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:54 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]


what if foundation but they’re nuts

So . . . Special Circumstances?

(I kid, but Banks def. took some inspiration from Foundation).
posted by aspersioncast at 8:55 AM on June 24 [7 favorites]


There were four additional novels:
Foundation's Edge
Foundation and Earth
Prelude to Foundation
Forward the Foundation
Also, Mrs Potato is misremembering — Asimov was the sole author of all of them.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:25 AM on June 24


Also The Second Foundation Trilogy Authorized by the Estate of Isaac Asimov:
Foundation's Fear by Gregory Benford
Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear
Foundation's Triumph by David Brin
posted by DanSachs at 8:57 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I kid, but Banks def. took some inspiration from Foundation

I'd murder for a decent string of Culture-inspired movies/TV series.
posted by Ber at 9:08 AM on June 24 [13 favorites]


If we are mad about JKR being a committed transphobe on Twitter, it seems like we should be at least a little bit critical of an author who was a racist misogynist in his published pages.

Harry Seldon might be one of the most damaging characters in socialist fiction. Asimov’s vision for a socialist utopia is powered up patriarchy: Seldon is the one Wise Great White Man who has figured it all out and cannot be questioned.

Sure, the Foundation is foundational to most late 20th century sci-fi, but a moderately intelligent reader can pick up all the relevant details contextually via other media. If I had to chose a dead white guy to read, I strongly prefer Douglas Adams or Philip K Dick. But I’d really rather see more voices than the same crew of white guys that we’ve all been reading since grade school.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:09 AM on June 24 [8 favorites]


On a personal level, I'm with several other folks here--more of a 'hmmm' reaction. But allegorically speaking, I think Foundation addresses a common or, uh, first-pass understanding of science fiction--something like, 'science fiction writers try to imagine likely futures'--so from that POV, it's effectively science fiction about science fiction and a story concept that makes a lot of sense, even if it's hard to film. And anecdotally I feel like I've met at least a half-dozen people (young and old) who on learning I have an interest in SF/F spontaneously relate their feelings about Foundation. It still seems like a going concern, and an approach that incorporates contemporary perspectives and develops some of the setting details could be fun.
posted by Wobbuffet at 9:10 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


St. Pratchett is a dead white guy, how about a series based on his works?
posted by Ber at 9:13 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]


> If I had to chose a dead white guy to read, I strongly prefer Douglas Adams or Philip K Dick.

like 20 years ago i was the guy who evangelized hard for pkd, but these days i really recommend not revisiting him. one of the ways his mental illness manifested was in the form of a white-hot raging misogyny. like dude spent his days getting into exploitative and just wildly inappropriate relationships with dark-haired girl-children, and then blaming those dark-haired girl-children for not just his screwed-up personal life but for flaws in the fabric of reality itself.

i’d like to say he got away from that in his later work, the stuff inspired by the total psychotic break he had in 1974, but uhhh i’m sufficiently uncertain about that that i’ve made a point of never rereading valis again.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:18 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I bounced off a reread a few years ago, too... So much cardboard...

The thing I like about Foundation is the scale of the story telling. Chapters in fifty year chunks, with major characters just showing up for one chapter, laying their single brick in the historical space, and then disappearing into memory. It's a very different narrative form, telling a really big story; it's compelling, even if the story ends up on the wrong side of history in so many ways... I'd love to see more like it, but with better scholarship, let's say.

(When I started reading the Expanse, o had hoped for something similar, but with new characters each novel, instead of following the fscking mary sue captain for nine books, but whateva.)
posted by kaibutsu at 9:19 AM on June 24 [7 favorites]


Re: Pratchett adaptation: They already did that, and Going Postal is great.

While I patiently wait for the big budget version of Rendezvous with Rama, this will do, and might well make me subscribe. I read the Foundation trilogy several times as a kid, but have not been able to complete it as an adult. Still, if adapted appropriately, this could be a fun universe for a series to unfold in.
posted by bouvin at 9:24 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


oh goddammit this is making me want to want to write a ripoff of foundation. i don’t have time for this! i need to get done of my ripoff of alexander bogdanov first! i can’t think about a “what if foundation but they’re nuts” story until i am done with my “what if lenin but in space” thing. i can’t.

I've had a kernel of an idea for an Anti-Foundation (Antifo?) fanfic rattling around my skull for years. More like a Third Foundation kind of thing, except you'd call them like The Undermine or something like that, secretly manipulating to thwart the return of empire.

I devoured The Foundation books when I was a low teen but I wouldn't recommend them now. It's a cool idea but not great writing and like RonButNotStupid I kind of have issue with the whole concept of civilization and imperialism Asimov was pushing. I can see them making good tv though. The whole Foundation traders having adventures in the 4 kingdoms seems made for episodic television. With some judicious modernization this could be something. And it at least looks fantastic.
posted by rodlymight at 9:25 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Dune is pretty much Foundation with the Mule as the hero of the story.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:34 AM on June 24 [24 favorites]


why this versus a modern author like Jemisin or Okorafor

I'm going to go with "bigger audience", along with "old white guys make the decisions". Foundation's been around for 70 years; time for three generations of people to read it.

That doesn't explain why not Butler, though, or Delany. I think their works would be hard to film. But give the Parabales books a treatment like Handmaid's Tale has gotten and I think it could work. I'd rather see Lilith's Brood, but that might be hard to make into appealing TV. I don't know where you even begin with Delany. I'd love to see a movie of Dhalgren if that were possible but Delany has a lot more approachable stuff for TV serialization.

As for Jemisin, back in 2017 it was announced that TNT was developing The Fifth Season for TV. Haven't heard anything about it in awhile though, has there been bad news? I gotta think three Hugos in a row counts for some momentum; the writer's done her part.
posted by Nelson at 9:36 AM on June 24


As long as we're fantasizing, The Female Man with a few tweaks could be an incredible prestige TV series.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:44 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


While I patiently wait for the big budget version of Rendezvous with Rama

I just realized that I'd really prefer a small budget version of Rendezvous with Rama. Let's give the group that made Moon twice the budget to work with (that would be $10 million instead of $5 million) and let them make something true to the book. Trying to make a blockbuster out of what is a quiet, meditative work with a single easily defused conflict would be a disaster.

Or worse, a blockbuster would incorporate things from the supposedly-sequels-while-abandoning-the-tone-and-originality-of-the-first-in-favor-of-a-f@cking-soap-opera.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:45 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


I wrote...
> Also, Mrs Potato is misremembering — Asimov was the sole author of all of them.

DanSachs wrote...
> Also The Second Foundation Trilogy Authorized by the Estate of Isaac Asimov:
> Foundation's Fear by Gregory Benford
> Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear
> Foundation's Triumph by David Brin


Sorry Mrs Potato, it was I who was misremembering (or not remembering).
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:47 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Asimov’s vision for a socialist utopia is powered up patriarchy: Seldon is the one Wise Great White Man who has figured it all out and cannot be questioned.

So I read Seldon differently: that he has made a major discovery. He knows things will get bad and he wants to prevent it. But the powers that be don't want to believe it, so they suppress it. And Seldon, playing a much longer game, makes his own plans outside the structures of power.

It's almost a parallel to global warming: everyone sees it coming, but no one does anything to prevent it. I think if Asimov was writing it fir the first time today there would probably be an environmental angle to the fall of the Empire. Universal Space Warming. Something.

I also think Seldon parallels the life of a precocious child like Asimov probably was - everyone picks on you for being smart but you end up being right in the end!!11 It's a big of an author-insert wish-fulfillment that the egghead gets proven right in the end except this time he saves civilization itself instead of simply getting the girl. It wasn't cool to be a smart guy like Asimov in the late 40's/early 50's.

Anyway, my opinions about this are very similar to everyone else's: Asimov was revered then revealed to be a creep, it's ok to like him but he's super problematic. His works are foundational [sic] to what we know as science fiction today, yet they're not well written both by modern standards and even the standards of his time. But the book has big ideas and it's own appeal. I don't think there's really much to adapt on the screen in the book honestly. - it will be a few characters with the same names and the word "psychohistory" repeated a lot, but the show will be its own thing. I'll probably begrudgingly subscribe to Apple TV+ for a couple months to watch it.
posted by GuyZero at 9:48 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]


I want to see an earnest film of the Chanur books.

Kkktktkt.
posted by clew at 9:55 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


While I patiently wait for the big budget version of Rendezvous with Rama

I just realized that I'd really prefer a small budget version of Rendezvous with Rama

Big or small, you have to keep the cyborg chimpanzee slaves.
posted by rodlymight at 9:59 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


The whole Foundation traders having adventures in the 4 kingdoms seems made for episodic television.

No, if we're going to Interstellar Trade than I want to play Nicholas van Rijn himself.
posted by Mrs Potato at 10:00 AM on June 24


I'd murder for a decent string of Culture-inspired movies/TV series.

Currently in development hell at Amazon. Which is better than not even being in development hell, but only just.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:02 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


isn’t it possible to view them not as the last rational people with secret knowledge of the future, but instead as a pack of heavily-armed imperialists devoted to a weird religion?

Asimov purposely began each story with an excerpt from a far-future edition of the Encyclopedia Galactica to suggest that the story is being told by someone who's safely living in the Second Empire. The version of events that we're getting is definitely a product of The Foundation, and there's no doubt that it must skew heavily in their favor.

I like the idea of the Foundation being a kind of Dark Enlightenment/Objectivist gathering of Peter Thiels, Mark Zuckerbergs, and Elon Musks who honestly believe that their status, intelligence, wealth, control over technology and information is part of some noble, quasi-religious "plan" that involves setting fire to civilization so it it can be rebuilt in their favor. After all, we've already had at least one notable real-life terrorist cult inspired by The Foundation, and I'm sure the idea of a select group of people remaking society by disrupting technology probably resonates within certain white, male tech bro circles.

The first time I ever felt queasy about The Foundation came in college when I accidentally went on an impromptu lunch date with a girl who turned out to be a huge Randroid. She had never heard of it before, and when I explained the plot, she got really excited and started talking about how similar Seldon is to Adam Smith and how Asimov must have known Rand and promised that she would read it right away.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 10:05 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]


> That doesn't explain why not Butler, though, or Delany.

re: butler, there’s a movie coming out soonish that’s basically kindred with the serial numbers filed off.

re: delany, i would kill any one of you for a big-budget extremely x-rated hbo series based on dhalgren. it would speak to our times.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:09 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Killing a person to get a TV show made does indeed speak to our times.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:11 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]


look the world is complicated sometimes you have to make hard decisions
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:13 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]


Years ago, I was gifted a big volume of the original Foundation trilogy by someone who knew I was a sci fi obsessive. Despite devouring everything sci fi related I could get my hands on when I was a kid, I never got around to reading it. So during the COVID quarantine, I went searching for stuff in my bookshelf to keep me from doomscrolling all day. I alternated between Foundation books and Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea trilogy.

It was a pretty fascinating experiment. I had read a lot of Asimov's nonfiction, Caves of Steel, and I, Robot, and had fond memories of it all. But Le Guin is so much better as a writer, it's not even funny. Her prose is just pristine and even comforting. A decently budgeted Earthsea adaptation would have a lot of potential to get LOTR big, IMHO.

Foundation was fascinating in its own way. I was glad I had read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, because a lot of times it felt like Asimov was saying, "If I'd been in charge, here's how we would have handled it". It's very much a product of post-war American empire at the height of its power. "We'll get the whole empire thing right this time, where so many have failed." It didn't quite work out like that, did it? And his women characters are...bad. They're just bad. Not that any of his characters have particular depth beyond what he needs them to do for the sake of the story.

But if Hitchcock is right, and mediocre books make the best films, a series adaptation could work in the right hands Expose the original work's biases, tackle the urge to control that psychohistory implies, do the big space battles onscreen. It could work. Then I saw the writer was the same guy who did Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. This is going to be a trainwreck.

Dune is pretty much Foundation with the Mule as the hero of the story.

You just blew my mind.
posted by vibrotronica at 10:14 AM on June 24 [13 favorites]


The Foundation series is amazing. Sometimes amazingly good, sometimes amazingly bad.

Whatever you do, don't try to listen to it as an audio book.

When you're reading it and Asimov gets a sexist and preachy and condescending (or is just repeating himself *again* in case the reader is too stupid to get it yet), you can skip those parts. Skim until the stilted expository conversation is done, and then continue reading on through the next big idea.

In audiobook format...you're kinda stuck with every. single. stupid. word. It's maddening.

I grew up reading those books. All of them. I read his non-fiction too. My favorite bit is from a book published before we were *sure* about the existence of black holes, where he talks about their theoretical existence.

That was good a laugh.

He was a terrible writer and, apparently, kind of an asshole. But then, lots of people that are smart in one area are boneheads in the rest of their life. Not an excuse, just saying. Take his great ideas and run with them, and try like hell to ignore the sexist patriarchal gibber jabber in between.
posted by jaded at 10:22 AM on June 24


Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon: "look the world is complicated sometimes you have to make hard decisions"

Oh, look at Mr. "The Cold Equations" here.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:28 AM on June 24 [17 favorites]


And his women characters are...bad. They're just bad. Not that any of his characters have particular depth beyond what he needs them to do for the sake of the story.

Yes, very much this. Asimov's female characters are terrible (Homer: "that's bad") but once you start looking at the male characters, he's just a bad writer (Homer: "that's good")
posted by GuyZero at 10:35 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]




Hey, this looks really good. But yeah, it does look really dark, in a non-metaphorical way.

But I just knew there'd be people crapping all over this in the comments here. Has there ever been an expensive piece of entertainment that wasn't somehow connected to corporations—or even just general concepts and themes—of a somehow problematic nature?

As for Asimov: I've read some of his stuff, agree the writing was not-great. Plus: characters smoking cigarettes!
posted by SoberHighland at 10:43 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, I feel Asimov was such a hack. Obviously some people love or loved the series. Hell, Paul Krugman liked the "ideas" (meaning essentially social science.) I feel it was graded on a really easy curve against weak competition.

The first book was a collection of short stories--mostly mediocre ones--with a framing device (psychohistory) that lets Asimov "tell" the ideas he wasn't talented enough to "show." Then he ad libs the Mule and the Second Foundation and magic mind control into existence. The Second Foundation undercuts the premise of the first book: It's not that history can be predicted, it's that people can be manipulated by a group of conspirators.

There are writers who make it up as they go along and leave me feeling joy and their inventiveness and creativity. This wasn't one of them.

It's almost a parallel to global warming: everyone sees it coming, but no one does anything to prevent it. I think if Asimov was writing it fir the first time today there would probably be an environmental angle to the fall of the Empire. Universal Space Warming. Something.

I mean sure, but even read this way the solution is "tech bros could have saved you just listened." It's not great.

Me using "tech bros" is obviously anachronistic but the problem existed at that time and was a nasty tic in early SF, which often catered to people who imagined themselves as the lonely geniuses unappreciated by the idiot mob..
posted by mark k at 10:46 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Has there ever been an expensive piece of entertainment that wasn't somehow connected to corporations—or even just general concepts and themes—of a somehow problematic nature?

All your faves are problematic
There's no ethical consumption under capitalism
etc
etc

I think it's still worth talking about. There are still legions of people out there loving Ayn Rand unironically so it's not like this has sunk into everyone's skull yet.
posted by GuyZero at 10:47 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Grangrousier: I tried to read the books when I was young, and there was a BBC radio adaptation. I just remember it as a lot of grey,...

Kids love government theory and interstellar trade negotiations!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:53 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


why this versus a modern author like Jemisin or Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor's novel Who Fears Death was announced but like N.K. Jemisin’s ‘The Fifth Season’ (as mentioned above by Nelson) may have fallen into development hell.
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:55 AM on June 24


> Me using "tech bros" is obviously anachronistic but the problem existed at that time and was a nasty tic in early SF, which often catered to people who imagined themselves as the lonely geniuses unappreciated by the idiot mob..

“fans are slans”
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:55 AM on June 24 [7 favorites]


Asimov's stuff gets more boring the longer it is, so his short stories are OK, novellas are dull, novels are worse, etc. Foundation was a trilogy.
posted by w0mbat at 10:56 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


“fans are slans”

Not being a hundred, I wasn't around when this was coined and I've never been clear whether it was meant ironically or not.
posted by GuyZero at 11:02 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


it super wasn’t
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:06 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


I think it was a bit of both.

(young people - Slan was a novel by very bad writer A.E. Van Vogt that featured a hidden group of super-evolved humans. )
posted by Chrysostom at 11:06 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Hey Van Vogt had some good stuff!

And yeah, fans then and now have some serious simultaneous persecution & god complexes.
posted by GuyZero at 11:09 AM on June 24


Personally, I am not stunned that a story written in 1942 by a 22 year old is not the most amazing prose ever written.

Oh, his prose remained pretty enh right to the end. No one ever read Asimov for styling. I even presented on him in a creative writing class, and my take-away was: learn from his discipline and productivity, not his command of the English language.

Different authors have different strengths - Jeanette Winterson's prose is beautiful, but her world-building is slight and insubstantial when she's creating a historical/fantasy setting (which is why all her best work, like Written on the Body, is set in contemporary UK). Asimov had fascinating ideas and some good world/universe building - for that I could ignore the stilted dialogue and pedestrian prose.

It is disappointing to learn that the man who wrote Susan Calvin (not a big deal now, but it was then) was such a creep. But I've learned that most of the "greats" of our past were flawed in all the ways - I'm more just pleasantly surprised when I find out who really was a mensch (like Terry Pratchett).
posted by jb at 11:11 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Asimov purposely wrote boringly and saw that as his style:
"There is writing which resembles the mosaic of glass you see in stained-glass windows. Such windows are beautiful in themselves and let in the light in colored fragments, but you can't expect to see through them. In the same way, there is poetic writing that is beautiful in itself and can easily affect the emotions, but such writing can be dense and can make for hard reading if you are trying to figure out what's happening.

"Plate glass, on the other hand, has no beauty of its own. Ideally, you ought not to be able to see it at all, but through it you can see all that is happening outside. That is the equivalent of writing that is plain and unadorned. Ideally, in reading such writing, you are not even aware that you are reading. Ideas and events seem merely to flow from the mind of the writer into that of the reader without any barrier between."
I don't know if he was capable of writing more interesting prose but it seems like he consciously wrote the way he did.
posted by octothorpe at 11:29 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


my take-away was: learn from his discipline and productivity, not his command of the English language.

Asimov's non-fiction writing was pretty good I think, very clear and easy to understand. I had some of his books on physics and I think one on the human bloodstream as a kid and they really made the subjects very approachable.

His fiction writing is indeed wooden.
posted by GuyZero at 11:30 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Skimming through this the comments, I'm seeing a lot of people touching on the problems with Asimov's writing (paid by the word!), his characters (usually paper-thin and powered by tropes), and his themes (empires are great, how can we get to another one *as quickly as possible*?), but I'm not seeing nearly enough commentary on how bad the core idea underlying the Foundation series is.

Most of the backbone of Foundation was published during WWII, at a time when it seemed like all Europe had known for a generation was war and instability, while at the same time truly mind-blowing discoveries were being made in physics. In this context, Asimov struck upon a bad idea that appealed very profoundly to the science fiction zeitgeist that would coalesce in the post-war years: "What if the social sciences are bullshit and human society is really just physics?" And not, mind you, the deeply weird and uncertain physics we now understand follows necessarily from quantum mechanics, but the intermediary physics of the 1940s that existed in popular consciousness; a physics that was best embodied by Einstein and Fermi and Oppenheimer, a physics of heroic mathematicians who were also larger-than-life caricatures.

This enthusiastic scientific positivism made anything seem possible, if only this special class of people could be allowed to work their wonders unfettered by society. So of course predicting the future is possible (historians should just be physicists!), and of course we should create a pocket society of scientists to work in secret and develop walnut-sized nuclear reactors. Then they'll overwhelm the galaxy with their superior technology and usher in a new empire! Never mind that this premise is just the scientific-positivism version of Atlas Shrugged. Never mind that the idea that history could be physics doesn't make sense even if it's true (we knew even the three-body problem was not solvable in a general way in the 19th century, and quantum weirdness was only getting weirder from there on out). And never mind the inherent contradiction between a world in which history is deterministic and one in which only the Special Science Men can alter its course.

It's clear, reading the stories chronologically, that Asimov had realized some of his ideas were bad because he kept ret-conning them in his sequels. The first novel was, after all, not a novel at all, but a stapled-together bundle of stories written years before. Foundation and Empire basically refutes the core thesis of the original stories by introducing The Mule (and why not, because it's impossible to reconcile the dueling instincts that "Heroes Can Change The World" and "History Should Be Physics," so we may as well protect our Heroes), and then Second Foundation undermines the whole exercise by introducing an even more secret society tasked with retroactively fixing the bad predictions. Everything about the series smacks of a jumbled heap of ideas, often contradictory, that was being thrown together without a plan and would eventually fall apart if allowed to continue.

I don't think it's an an accident that Asimov stopped writing Foundation books in 1953; where do you go after you fix your own bad ideas using what amounts to the Illuminati? He had other (and, frankly, more interesting) ideas to write about. He was only drawn back to writing about Foundation in the 1980s because, apparently, he was offered a sufficiently lucrative contract to do so, and the results were not impressive.

In short: Foundation's popularity stems from appealing to a uniquely myopic view of science as a "solution" to the "problem" of having to understand history and culture, in which the unwashed masses exert no agency and progress is measured by how small we can make nuclear reactors. It's an embarrassing reflection of its era, and one that is absurd to be adapting now.

But then again, you probably knew that the moment the trailer had Seldon say, "It's not a theory," a sentence no writer with even a passing understanding of science would write.
posted by belarius at 11:35 AM on June 24 [36 favorites]


GuyZero - thank you for the correction. You're right, Asimov was a good writer of non-fiction - in fact, his is some of the only non-fiction which I have read for pleasure and which helped me understand even difficulty scientific concepts.
posted by jb at 11:35 AM on June 24


That's a great précis, belarius.

Personally, I am willing to give some latitude to someone writing a story positing "night is coming, but we can bring back the light" in the spring of 1942, when night was falling all over. Particularly when the writer was a Jewish Russian émigré.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:41 AM on June 24 [16 favorites]


god though this thread is really making me want to read the rewrite of foundation where the foundation is just a bunch of crypto-randian tech-determinist imperialists swarming out of their galaxy-scale version of elon musk’s mars bunker. folx we gotta do this.

(also the interactions between this stuff and asimov’s radical politics are super illuminating, right? they show that technological determinism is one of the fail states of socialism...)
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:41 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Agree that Dhalgren would be incredible as serial TV. I think we've probably seen enough from Ellison, Matheson, and PKD for a while.

I feel it was graded on a really easy curve against weak competition.

Agreed; Heinlein and the often-forgotten Fredric Brown were much better stylists (but still often hackneyed), Clarke and Sturgeon were more consistent (but still full of cliches and self-parody), H. Beam Piper falls apart when you scratch the surface (and was politically even shittier than Heinlein).

If we're digging up Sci Fi corpses, Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton) was quite prolific, a contemporary of Asimov, and not a dude. Her first novel, Star Man's Son, 2250 A.D., would be fucking amazing adapted for TV in the right hands - it's got post-apocalyptic wasteland, ruin porn, dart-throwing mutants, animal companions, hidden secrets . . . and her writing style was actually decent.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:45 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Kind of makes me think of the bit in World War Z where the survivalists think they've got it all figured out, and they're just a bunch of dipshits that are obstructing the actual revival of society.

(there's some of that in Brin's The Postman, too)
posted by Chrysostom at 11:46 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


he was offered a sufficiently lucrative contract to do so, and the results were not impressive.

I can't believe you're badmouthing the revelation that an immortal robot/sex-toy was the real power behind saving human civilization all along!
posted by GuyZero at 11:51 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


(there's some of that in Brin's The Postman, too)

I remember reading that and thinking, "this would make a great movie" and um.
posted by octothorpe at 11:52 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


The Mule is the only thing worth saving.
posted by Mrs Potato at 12:22 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I said that. But I won't take it back. Let it sit out there a while.
posted by Mrs Potato at 12:23 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


No, if we're going to Interstellar Trade than I want to play Nicholas van Rijn himself.

With the full admission that I have never met you, the physicality of Van Rijn calls for a slightly dissolute Oliver Platt.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:40 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I think Asimov was at his best with short stories. He was a bit like Agatha Christie. He was good at creating logic puzzles around the Three Laws of Robotics, or how the Dead Hand of Hari Seldon was going to resolve this particular crisis. It was incredibly satisfying to read the stories and try to work out ahead of the author how they were going to stop Speedy running in circles round the selenium pool. Otherwise he wasn't that great in terms of prose or suspense or action or character.

I don't see how it's going to work on screen, but maybe they'll find a way. Or they might just try to shoehorn a space adventure around the basic setup.

It's easy to sneer at Asimov like it's easy to sneer at Agatha Christie. But creating puzzles that fit together neatly but aren't immediately obvious is a more difficult trick than people think.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:40 PM on June 24 [15 favorites]


...they might just try to shoehorn a space adventure around the basic setup.

Bingo. It's an expensive TV miniseries. It's not a socio-political solution for the 21st century's problems. I dunno... I'll watch it.

Good point about Agatha Christie and Asimov. Also: they created these things at a time when none of these things existed. Or at least similar stories weren't well-known or popular.
posted by SoberHighland at 1:13 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I don't know if he was capable of writing more interesting prose but it seems like he consciously wrote the way he did.

God that is weak defense he offers. His writing is hackneyed and for me at least often distractingly bad. There are writers who write simply but with remarkably clarity, such that when you finish the book you remember their story and characters vividly even though a single phrase never jumps out at you.

Asimov was not one of those. He jammed ideas and exposition clumsily into his stories, and his writing was noticeably artificial when characters dealt with things like emotions or attempted normal conversation. I agree some of his short stories were perfectly acceptable, as one idea in 10 pages is a decent ratio, even if the writing is bad.
posted by mark k at 1:27 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


My pitch for a Foundation series that I would like to see: take the setting and initial premise, then break from the Asimov stories at one essential point: psychohistory is a total failure. After a prologue for exposition on the empire and Seldon's ideas and plan, jump ahead a century to where it's becoming increasingly obvious that Seldon's map does not describe the sociopolitical territory. We're introduced to a cast of characters at the Foundation, true believers, skeptics, and cynics, and we watch as they struggle to deal with the fact that the society they were raised in was founded on a mistake.
posted by skymt at 1:40 PM on June 24 [4 favorites]


Saladin Ahmed is one of the writers working on the new Foundation series. That makes it more likely that this adaptation will be interesting to me.

Also, re: adaptations of Nnedi Okorafor’s work, this year Hulu ordered a pilot of her series "Binti" with Okorafor as one of the authors of the pilot.
posted by brainwane at 1:50 PM on June 24 [5 favorites]


With the full admission that I have never met you, the physicality of Van Rijn calls for a slightly dissolute Oliver Platt.

That is true but I would not make a great dancer girl draped in a sarong, believe me. Just ask Potato, he tried ;p
posted by Mrs Potato at 1:54 PM on June 24


One thing that does recommend it, on second thoughts, is that if my impression of the books was blank-faced people in empty rooms (which may be, I confess, a result of my not being very good at reading) that certainly gives a lot of scope for adaptation. If a significant character is little more than a cypher, it honestly doesn't matter how you cast them. That won't stop people being outraged and pretending to be purists (rather than just people addicted to outrage), but still.
posted by Grangousier at 1:59 PM on June 24 [4 favorites]


oooh skymt I like your concept
posted by Mrs Potato at 2:00 PM on June 24


this thread is making me think that literally any other story set in the foundation universe is automatically more interesting than the original trilogy itself.

also I second mrs potato on liking skymt’s concept. what if seldon’s failure went really deep — like, what if he was so far off-base that the empire ended up never actually collapsing? and so everyone born on terminus is either desperately trying to leave or else a religious zealot insisting that that dang empire will fall any day now, yup, end of the empire’s coming real soon, you just gotta have faith...
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:07 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


the physicality of Van Rijn calls for a slightly dissolute Oliver Platt

You called? OP is my doppelganger, though not true as we've aged, as he still has hair.
posted by maxwelton at 2:09 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I wonder if Foundation in particular was difficult to write because it is a social science story rather than a character story, and we just aren't as able to relate to that. It's like if Atwood tried to focus on Handmaid's Tale in terms of social entities rather than in terms of individual characters. Things would read like a dry, history textbook and I distinctly remember feeling the chapters of Foundation being like that.

And maybe this is anthema but the whole premise and ramifications of predicting society is itself very hard to motivate and then write well about. Warp travel and time travel and aliens and AI are just easier for actual humans to relate with (fantasize about) than a story about a presbyopic God.
posted by polymodus at 2:11 PM on June 24


If we're digging up Sci Fi corpses, Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton) was quite prolific

I've sometimes thought that her broader Forerunner universe would make a good setting for a Bethesda-style RPG.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:16 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Grangousier: " If a significant character is little more than a cypher, it honestly doesn't matter how you cast them."

That's a very interesting point, I think. If people love a book because of its lapidary prose or strongly drawn characters - and I think we're all agreed that, if Asimov's work had virtues, those aren't it - it'd be hard to adapt for a different medium.

But if it's mostly the core *idea* that is neat, you can hang different things off of that skeleton, and of course, hire a cast in a more appropriate manner. Same with Rama, as mentioned upstream.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:24 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


It's been twenty-something years since I read Foundation, and I'm definitely not going to re-read it -- the suck fairy and I are well-acquainted -- so I'm going to watch this with only a vague memory of the plot and no particular expectations. I have no problem with loose adaptations and remixes and reimaginings as long as they're objectively good in their own right.

This has been an interesting thread -- as a teen I did not consider the problematic aspects of the premise, and I love the observation about Dune. I'm interested to see what a modern team of writers is going to make out of this.
posted by confluency at 2:26 PM on June 24


Oh hell yeah sign me up for a Forerunner game.

It's easy to sneer at Asimov like it's easy to sneer at Agatha Christie. But creating puzzles that fit together neatly but aren't immediately obvious is a more difficult trick than people think.


This is absolutely true and I feel I'd be doing 12yo me an injustice if I didn't confess to absolutely devouring Asimov as a kid. I still have a huge soft spot for the Robot stories in particular. The style hasn't aged well for me, but I'd never assert that it's not without redeeming value - hence bothering to comment on this thread.

Hell, one of the first original songs my bandmate brought to the table is based on the Foundation books, and it was probably the first time she and I fully nerded out together.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:30 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


i wanna revisit the robot series some day — as i remember it, the vibe of the books was basically equivalent to “scrappy crowded brooklyn vs the racist-ass suburbs and brooklyn wins thank you very much.” that kinda thing always pleases me.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:42 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


In this context, Asimov struck upon a bad idea that appealed very profoundly to the science fiction zeitgeist that would coalesce in the post-war years: "What if the social sciences are bullshit and human society is really just physics?"

Perhaps it's because of my education in the social sciences but I always interpreted the story as "What if the social sciences are legitimate science with precise modelling and predictive abilities that we perfect?" I imagine that your take it more in line with Asimov's, however, because I've read enough of his work to know that he was a pompous ass who was dismissive of non-technical sciences and scientific ideas with which he disagreed. (This comes across very clear in Asimov on Science Fiction.)

It's not completely on-topic but about a year ago I stumbled across volumes 1 and 2 of The Complete Stories, a series that drew together all of Asimov's short stories. I know how tremendously prolific he was so I began looking for the remaining volumes of the series only to find out that the series was aborted after the second volume. From what I can gather from the available reviews and information, the publisher began the series by selecting his best stories, largely from other collections that had already been compiled of his best and most popular stories. In working on the second volume, the publisher - and presumably readers, too - realized that this strategy meant that the series would grow worse as it progressed as the best and the good stories had been published first.
posted by ElKevbo at 2:47 PM on June 24 [5 favorites]


i wanna revisit the robot series some day — as i remember it, the vibe of the books was basically equivalent to “scrappy crowded brooklyn vs the racist-ass suburbs and brooklyn wins thank you very much.” that kinda thing always pleases me

Actually I've been thinking about "The Naked Sun" a lot these days; the plot gets into quite a bit of detail on what it's like to never actually see one another in person.
posted by Melismata at 3:04 PM on June 24 [4 favorites]


Belarius has it right: Foundation is a series of underminings. Seldon is undermined by the Mule, who's undone by the Second Foundation, which is neutralized by Gaia, which is surpassed by frigging R. Daneel Olivaw.

Unfortunately, that makes it sound way more interesting than it is, mostly because each group is less interesting than the last, and because the series remains in love with Hari Seldon though his actual work is shown over and over again to be meaningless.

So, the adapters have their work cut out for them. Do they do the whole space opera? Or just the first volume, when psychohistory remains a viable concept?

There's also an eleventh Foundation book— the unauthorized Psychohistorical Crisis, by Donald Kingsbury. It's actually pretty good. It throws out all of the other sequels and deals with psychohistory itself, and comes up with a new and better solution to the problem of the Second Foundation.
posted by zompist at 3:07 PM on June 24 [4 favorites]


I like Psychohistorical Crisis a lot - Kingsbury nailed Asimov's clunky names for people and planets - although it felt like it could have been trimmed down a bit.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:36 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Everything I've ever read about Foundation tells the story of how Asimov was inspired by Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall. I can't help but imagine being the editor he comes to with this idea.

Asimov: "I'm writing a space opera epic based on Gibbon."

Editor: "Damn that sound's sweet."

*Editor reads Foundation*

Editor: "welp"
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:43 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Psychohistorical Crisis is much better than its source books.
posted by signal at 3:49 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Her prose is just pristine and even comforting. A decently budgeted Earthsea adaptation would have a lot of potential to get LOTR big, IMHO.

IDK about the budget, but just about the biggest name in Anime already gave Earthsea a go.
posted by pwnguin at 4:20 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Editor: "welp"

Is that "welp" as in "welp", or "welp" as in "welp, this is going to win a Hugo, be translated into every major language, basically stay in print forever, and 80 years from now engender thoughtful discussion on a form of electronic media that no one has even dreamt of yet"?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:34 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


They're not mutually exclusive
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:41 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


The editor was Campbell, so it was probably a "Welp, at least he writes better than Doc Smith."
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:27 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


IDK about the budget, but just about the biggest name in Anime already gave Earthsea a go.

(sort of? iirc, the only thing in common with the books are some character names. and after watching it I think three times I still remember nothing that happened.)
posted by kaibutsu at 5:28 PM on June 24


The first book was a collection of short stories--mostly mediocre ones--with a framing device (psychohistory) that lets Asimov "tell" the ideas he wasn't talented enough to "show."
I think it was in the introduction to a collection of his short stories, annoyingly titled Buy Jupiter, where Asimov tells of how much he likes writing about people (or perhaps it was specifically men) sitting around and talking about big ideas because that let him write about those ideas without needing to construct an actual story around them. I should have taken that as a warning, because the book was horrible. I think I made it about three pages into Foundation.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:44 PM on June 24


My mindset towards Hollywood adaptations is one of infinite bounty. If an adaptation sucks, its rights will eventually pass along to another studio, and inevitably be remade, perhaps better. Media technology will eventually advance to the point that streaming amateurs can try their hand at adapting it, though perhaps animated or as a podcast radio show instead of in live-action. And finally, as a genre gets further filled out, more franchises will have a greater chance of being filmed or even re-filmed.

So I don't see it as a zero-sum game where adapting one of Asimov's pioneering works as taking away the resources from a Jemisin, or better yet Octavia Butler, adaptation. Surely in this future where every megacorp needs its own streaming service and each service needs an endless spate of original content that no one asked for, and don't forget the traditional networks have been jumping into the golden age of TV with infinite numbers of prestige dramas, there will be a time for every noteworthy work to be adapted. And if the adaptation sucks, just wait a decade or so and they'll remake it.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:48 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Also, if the Foundation gets the concept of psychohistory and the concept of cabals of people trying to manipulate events from the behind the scenes (probably unfortunate resonation in our modern day paranoid culture), hopefully we can get an adaptation of In the Country of the Blind by Michael Flynn. It's a good depiction of the puppet masters and wirepullers overestimating their own genius, wrapped up in an average yet compelling thriller, and the heroine is a woman of color. A bit of a counterpoint to Foundation.

I think if Asimov was writing it fir the first time today there would probably be an environmental angle to the fall of the Empire. Universal Space Warming.

Ah, so that's why the suns are fading.
posted by Apocryphon at 6:07 PM on June 24


Now that I've actually read (some) Gibbon, I'm kind of surprised that Asimov didn't take away the lesson that the Roman Empire was, in fact, irredeemably awful.
posted by whuppy at 6:22 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


so many other properties have stolen from it over the years that it's going to feel like a copy of those

Ah, just like watching Citizen Cane was for me until I did the research and realized all of the things it had done first.
posted by WaylandSmith at 6:30 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Well, Gibbon liked the Empire quite a bit, so if you're emulating Decline and Fall, you're probably not going to do it from a critical standpoint.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:33 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I mean, he had criticisms, but he also wrote:

If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:35 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


The Mule is like Trump, breaking the mold -- flouting all the rules and patterns and messing up the psychohistory mathematical models.
posted by lathrop at 6:48 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


> Well, Gibbon liked the Empire quite a bit

though as you know, Chrysostom, he was pretty dismissive of half of the entire empire (specifically, the latter half).
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:15 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


The last three volumes of Decline and Fall are Gibbon thinking, "Cripes, haven't these weirdos lost *yet*?"
posted by Chrysostom at 7:31 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Personally I'm betting this is overwrought sensationalistic claptrap. Beautiful visuals, lots of plot filler to make up for the basic simplicity of Asimov's world building. Tons of sturm und drang like the trek-killer JJ Adams. Sorry to seem a bit cynical about this.
The first Foundation book was like four scenarios or plot cycles that develop the ascendance of this small society of scientists on the back ass end of the galaxy who somehow seem to ascend through each crisis stronger and stronger while the Empire's reach grows weaker. All this due to Hari Seldon's science of psychohistory plotting the arc of a new civilization from the downfall of the current one.
One of the interesting plot elements is the recorded appearance of Hari Seldon at the height of each foreseen crisis where he sort of gives a few tips for surviving it, until the appearance of a mutant throws everything into disarray in the second book.
How do you spin that first book's fairly simplistic plot elements into that trailer's visual spectacle without totally spinnning the wheel on plot development that is not in the originals at all? Dunno, guess I'll find out.
Anyhoos, I'm holding out for the Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I've always thought that was the SF book that should really be a movie.
posted by diode at 8:30 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I never cared for Asimov's fiction but I did like his science fact essays in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I recall reading one introducing me to the concept of global warming back in the early 60s wherein he made an aside that without population control even in the most egalitarian utopia we might end up melting the ice caps from the collective heat from our appliances alone. A cheerful thought, that.

As for science fiction novels to made into films, I would like to see one made from Keith Roberts' Pavane. Or Jack Vance's Demon Princes or Emphyrio.

But then again, it would be so easy to ruin those. A Wizard of Earthsea comes to mind...
posted by y2karl at 8:47 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Pavana also has an ultimate message of "we're committing atrocities, but for the right reasons."
posted by Chrysostom at 8:57 PM on June 24


You are thinking of the line
Did she [the Church] hang and burn? A little, yes. But there was no Belsen. No Buchenwald. No Passchendaele.
I never cared for the way he introduced that whole riff of the Church having some sort of foreknowledge if not time travel in the coda. I could have done without it.

And as Algis Budrys and other reviewers noted, the coda was so needless.

It was a mosaic novel written in measures like the dance of the title. I guess he just didn't know how to tie it up.. Roberts's prose was beautiful all the same.

S'funny -- I lost my old paperback and recently bought a reprint to reread it. And realized the Historical Institute in Emphyrio and Vance's novels of the Gaean Reach approached the concept of technological suppression in a similar way.
posted by y2karl at 9:46 PM on June 24


Yes, that's what I was thinking of.

Pavane is an interesting comparison to Amis' The Alteration, as well.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:59 PM on June 24


taking away the resources from a Jemisin, or better yet Octavia Butler

Maybe just Butler, because Jemisin really did not cover herself in glory during the Dessen issue and yeah, sure, not as bad as some (hi Asimov you creepy fucking ass can we ignore you yet?) but really if we're just trading one asshole off against another than what does it matter anyway?
posted by aramaic at 10:04 PM on June 24


She hasn't been great towards the Internet Archive either, but to be fair, neither have many authors, and it's not without reason.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:18 AM on June 25


Nooooooooo the misogyny and homophobia and almost-Randian objectivism is baked so deep into his work. Why are we devoting energy to this. This hurts.
posted by LMGM at 7:03 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]


I'm glad I was 12 when I read it; it seemed like a monumental classic to me, at that time.
posted by thelonius at 8:50 PM on June 25


Well, belarius, said most of what I wanted to say but much better than I would have. Here's a couple more points:

Psychohistory is nonsense and the most equivalent nonsense we have is Big Data. Asimov's sci-fi concept was: What if the humanities are less successful at making predictions than physics simply because the sample size is too small? One planet full of people is not enough. But if you have an entire galaxy full of humans, then you have enough data to predict what they all will do.

So to me, the Foundation most closely resembles Google and Facebook and other companies that think if they collect enough data they can make better decisions for society than anyone else. They go on about how We Have Actual Data for what people say and want and think and do. So therefore their ideas are Data Driven unlike all the woo that the humanities can offer.
posted by straight at 10:16 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]


My favorite bit of technology not going the way Asimov expected is how he imagined fusion reactors that fit in your belt buckle and computers the size of a city block.
posted by straight at 10:18 PM on June 25 [8 favorites]


Romance author (and former chemist) Courtney Milan tweeted about how she is excited about this series, partly because Foundation helped inspire her interest in science.
As a young teenager, I dreamed about being able to make psychohistory.

As a young adult, I discovered that the underpinnings of psychohistory are basically the underpinnings of statistical mechanics in physics.

The basic idea behind a lot of stat mech is that you don’t need to know how individual trajectories of molecules go; they are random and unpredictable, but in the aggregate, the randomness cancels itself out.

I don’t think I was disappointed when I discovered that the basis of psychohistory is empirically false, and based on science that was not well-understood at the time Asimov wrote Foundation.

Randomness in the aggregate cancels out, but randomness about any particular trajectory multiplies. This is the stuff of chaos theory, and later complexity theory.

History is composed of wobbles and wibbles, and individual action accumulates in ways that we cannot predict.

You never know when individual action will push history one way or the other; what you do always matters.

You’ve probably heard the Jurassic Park-famous “butterfly flaps its wings in Central Park and it causes a hurricane” comment, and this is...really not an accurate statement of causation.

It’s a statement about rounding and the prediction of complex things.
.....
In any event, Asimov’s Foundation should be best understood as an alternate physical universe in which those phenomenon governed by complexity theory are rare events.

It’s not our universe.

But at the point when I was a freshman in college, thinking I hated science, and deeply depressed, the thing that pulled me out of my depression and into a degree in mathematics and chemistry, was discovering how Foundation was impossibly wrong.

Asimov...was truly not a great person.

But Foundation is meaningful to me, and it is delightful to hope that it will be transformed into a more inclusive vision.
posted by brainwane at 4:21 AM on June 26 [4 favorites]


I looked up Foundation in Brian Aldiss' great 1986 history of science fiction "Trillion Year Spree", and I think Aldiss makes some good points. Foundation is mentioned in a couple of chapters:
Asimov's famous Foundation series, too, is in marked reaction against the slam-bang space opera preceding it. 'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent' is quoted with great approval. Readers have complained that Asimov's characters talk too much. At least they are not blasting each other down. In such respects, Heinlein and Asimov brought literary law and order into magazine science fiction. Asimov's robot stories are amusing little puzzles, without the philosophical implications of Williamson's The Humanoids, Capek's robots, or Frankenstein's monster, from which they ultimately derive. But Asimov's achievement - which should not be forgotten - is that he banished those slavering metallic hordes, or those single mechanical men forever reaching for the nearest axe, which had been a boringly predominant feature of the magazines until Campbell's day.
Next section:
Asimov. What does one say in his praise that Asimov himself has not already said? 'Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus', says Cassius of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and many Cassiuses have risen to pay similar homage to Asimov. 'For many people the name Isaac Asimov is science fiction.' Thus spake Joseph F. Patrouch in 1974.

He is a great producer. He enjoys enormous popularity. He has become monstrous. Yet there is still something sane, even likeable, about many of his utterances. Asimov is the great sandworm of science fiction, tunnelling under its arid places. And the critic's job remains that of a small termite, tunnelling under Asimov.

Asimov employed the wide-angle lens for his view of life and it is a pity that his largest milestone, the Foundation trilogy, was written before SF authors were able to think of their books as books, not as short stories or serials in cheap magazines (magazines that would have been ephemeral but for the dedication of fans). Conceived as an organic whole, the Foundation series might have risen to greater majesty. As it is, we must judge the original trilogy as it was conceived and presented to the readers of Astounding between May 1942 and January 1950.

The first part of the sequence, the novelette 'Foundation' , was written by Asimov in August and September 1941 and bought by Campbell.

At once we are thrown into a situation where the Galactic Empire, a political unit involving tens of millions of inhabited planets, is in the first stages of collapse. A collapse brought about by indolence and complacency. The Foundation consists of a group of physical scientists established on the planet Terminus, on the galactic periphery. It is cut off from the centre of power, Trantor, by a revolt on Anacreon, and must maintain its independence by guile (because force is out of the question). The Foundation itself is the outward manifestation of 'psychohistory', an exact social science which deals with the statistically predictable actions of vast numbers of human beings. This highly mechanistic sociological reductionism - a kind of quantum physics applied to human beings - has been developed with one aim only: to prevent a ten-thousandyear Dark Age wherein the Galaxy might fall into technological barbarism.

Neither of these ideas bears moderately serious investigation.

Yet upon these structures Asimov builds his huge house of cards. One cannot seriously believe that all tens of millions of humansettied planets would suffer the same fate - the loss of acquired human knowledge and technological know-how - or that the whole vast edifice could possibly have functioned as a political entity in the first place.

Psychohistory is the peg upon which Asimov hangs his theoretical coat. For all the grandeur of this unlikely vision, it's a coat of shreds and patches, yet undoubtedly psychohistory and its working out over centuries account for its enduring popularity. Most of the stories in the Foundation sequence depend upon individual action by such as Salvor Hardin, Hober Mallow and others - and appear thus to run counter to psychohistorical theory. The 'time vault' appearances of psychohistory's creator, Hari Seldon, at predicted moments of crisis, our 'proof of psychohistory at work, seem more incredible coincidence than accurate scientific planning.

Even then, Asimov, under Campbell's influence, was leaving each story open for a sequel. It was to prove the beginning of a chain of unresolved endings being maintained to this day. Asimov's fiction is essentially of the puzzle-solving sort, detective novels of futuristic, set in a gimmick-ridden future not so very different from our own times in its psychology and social patternings. There is little genuine social or technological extrapolation (where is the complex computer technology of the future in Foundation, for instance?). All is modelled on the past, the known. Few imaginative risks are taken.

The models for Foundation were Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and a 1907 24-volume work, The Historians History of the World. For Asimov's final two volumes, Arnold Toynbee's Study of History was a major influence. All in all, then, what Asimov presents us with is Rome In Space. Not for the first time in Campbell's pages, but for the first time as epic. An epic in true Hollywood tradition, with extras hired for the day, rather wooden actors and plastic props. Very often Asimov didn't even bother with the grand visual aids - his is a non-sensual universe. We see little of it. We can't touch it. His principal actors talk much more than they act, and notice very little of their surroundings. We can forgive the youthful Asimov such deficiencies - he was only twenty-one when he began the series - but lament their presence.

In case we forget this is science and not a historical romance, Asimov provided us with a mutant telepath, Hider with clout, in the mis-shape of the Mule. He's there to upset the smooth workings of psychohistory. A proof of the discipline in the'negative.

Asimov recognizes his fictional limitations - and his immunity to twentieth-century literary influences, for instance - and his liberal views often emerge in his writings. He is a dove, not a hawk, and his vision of a galactic empire includes an abhorrence of nuclear weaponry which must be applauded.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:58 AM on June 26 [11 favorites]


See now that just makes me want to re-read that lovely duo of anti-nuke dystopian sci-fi novels, Earth Abides and A Canticle for Leibowitz. Both were at least adapted for radio. I can't see how the former could really be told in film.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:26 PM on June 26


First published in 1942... thinking of Foundation as a wish that intelligence could have forestalled the World Wars makes me more charitable towards the book.
posted by clew at 7:35 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media fame contrasted Foundation with Dune back in 1977:
The Bene Gesserit are based in part on the scientific wizards of Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy. Herbert's judgment on them is implicit in the way he has reversed the roles played by such scientists in Dune.

Herbert questioned the assumptions about science that he saw at work in Asimov's trilogy. In a recent essay, he wrote:

History… is manipulated for larger ends and for the greater good as determined by a scientific aristocracy. It is assumed, then, that the scientist-shamans know best which course humankind should take… While surprises may appear in these stories (e.g., the Mule mutant), it is assumed that no surprise will be too great or too unexpected to overcome the firm grasp of science upon human destiny. This is essentially the assumption that science can produce a surprise-free future for humankind.

Dune is clearly a commentary on the Foundation trilogy. Herbert has taken a look at the same imaginative situation that provoked Asimov's classic—the decay of a galactic empire—and restated it in a way that draws on different assumptions and suggests radically different conclusions. The twist he has introduced into Dune is that the Mule, not the Foundation, is his hero.

The Bene Gesserit are clearly parallel to the "scientist-shamans" of the Foundation. Their science of prediction and control is biological rather than statistical, but their intentions are similar to those of Asimov's psychohistorians. In a crumbling empire, they seek to grasp the reins of change. The Sisterhood sees the need for genetic redistribution—which ultimately motivates the jihad—and has tried to control that redistribution by means of their breeding program. The Kwisatz Haderach, the capstone of their plan, is not its only goal. Their overall intention is to manage the future of the race. Paul, like the Mule, is the unexpected betrayal of their planned future.

The irony is that Paul is not a freak but an inevitable product of the Bene Gesserit's own schemes. Although he has come a generation early in the plan due to Jessica's willfulness in bearing a son instead of a daughter, the real surprise is not his early birth but the paradox of the Sisterhood's achievement: the planned instrument of perfect control, the Kwisatz Haderach, was designed to see further than his creators, He could not help but know the emptiness of their dreams. The universe cannot be managed; the vitality of the human race lies in its random generation of new possibilities. The only real surety is that surprises will occur. In contrast to the Foundation trilogy's exaltation of rationality's march to predicted victory, Dune proclaims the power and primacy of the unconscious and the unexpected in human affairs. Paul's wild ride on the jihad, not the careful Bene Gesserit gene manipulation, provides the answer to the Empire's needs.
He goes on to discuss one of Herbert's short stories, "Operation Haystack," as the 'bridge' between Dune and Foundation.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:20 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


It's probably safe to assume that Leto II, giant talking historical determinist penis and God Emperor of Dune (and obvious inspiration for Jabba the Hutt), was a deliberate reference to Asimov and his reputation as a sex pest.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:23 PM on June 30


The universe cannot be managed; the vitality of the human race lies in its random generation of new possibilities. The only real surety is that surprises will occur. In contrast to the Foundation trilogy's exaltation of rationality's march to predicted victory, Dune proclaims the power and primacy of the unconscious and the unexpected in human affairs.

Oh I love this, thank you!
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:35 PM on June 30


and obvious inspiration for Jabba the Hutt
The [original Star Wars] script establishes Jabba to be a large, repulsive creature, an effect that George Lucas could not realize at the time. He is described as a "fat, slug-like creature with eyes on extended feelers and a huge ugly mouth."
Star Wars was released in 1977. God Emperor of Dune was published in 1981.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:24 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Yeah but Leto II was already like 3000 years old by then, so there would have been a lot of historical material to work from, and—
posted by cortex at 9:26 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


There are a couple of scenes in Return of the Jedi that are straight out of God Emperor, like the one where the [Bene Gesserit/Jedi] come to the throne room to use Voice on the giant slug creature but he says that it doesn't work on him, so they pull out a [flask of some spice thing/hand grenade] and threaten him with that instead. Jabba may already have been a slug creature in 1977, but he seems to have merged with Leto II in George Lucas' mind at some point before he appeared on film.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 10:29 PM on June 30


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