When I wrote "Foundation," which appeared in the May 1942 issue of Astounding




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Prelude to Foundation

by

Isaac Asimov


Author's Note

When I wrote "Foundation," which appeared in the May 1942 issue of Astounding

Science Faction, I had no idea that I had begun a series of stories that would

eventually grow into six volumes and a total of 650,000 words (so far). Nor did

I have any idea that it would be unified with my series of short stories and

novels involving robots and my novels involving the Galactic Empire for a grand

total (so far) of fourteen volumes and a total of about 1,450,000 words.

You will see, if you study the publication dates of these books, that there was

a twenty-five-year hiatus between 1957 and 1982, during which I did not add to

this series. This was not because I had stopped writing. Indeed, I wrote

full-speed throughout the quarter century, but I wrote other things. That I

returned to the series in 1982 was not my own notion but was the result of a

combination of pressures from readers and publishers that eventually became

overwhelming.

In any case, the situation has become sufficiently complicated for me to feel

that the readers might welcome a kind of guide to the series, since they were

not written in the order in which (perhaps) they should be read.

The fourteen books, all published by Doubleday, offer a kind of history of the

future, which is, perhaps, not completely consistent, since I did not plan

consistency to begin with. The chronological order of the books, in terms of

future history (and not of publication date), is as follows:

1. The Complete Robot (1982). This is a collection of thirty-one robot short

stories published between 1940 and 1976 and includes every story in my earlier

collection 1. Robot (1950). Only one robot short story has been written since

this collection appeared. That is "Robot Dreams," which has not yet appeared in

any Doubleday collection.

2. The Caves of Steel (1954). This is the first of my robot novels.

3. The Naked Sun (1957). The second robot novel.

4. The Robots of Dawn (1983 ). The third robot novel.

5. Robots and Empire (1985). The fourth robot novel.

6. The Currents of Space (1952). This is the first of my Empire novels.

7. The Stars, Like Dust- (1951). The second Empire novel.

8. Pebble in the Sky (1950). The third Empire novel.

9. Prelude to Foundation (1988). This is the first Foundation novel (although it

is the latest written, so far).

10. Foundation (1951). The second Foundation novel. Actually, it is a collection

of four stories, originally published between 1942 and 1944, plus an

introductory section written for the book in 1949.

11. foundation and Empire (1952). The third Foundation novel, made up of two

stories, originally published in 1945.

12. Second foundation (1953). The fourth Foundation novel, made up of two

stories, originally published in 1948 and 1949.

13. Foundations Edge (1982). The fifth Foundation novel.

14. Foundation and Earth (1983). The sixth Foundation novel.

Will I add additional books to the series? I might. There is room for a book

between Robots and Empire (5) and The Currents of Space (6) and between Prelude

to Foundation (9) and Foundation (10) and of course between others as well. And

then I can follow Foundation and Earth (14) with additional volumes-as many as I

like.

Naturally, there's got to be some limit, for I don't expect to live forever, but

I do intend to hang on as long as possible.


Mathematician

CLEON I- . . . The last Galactic Emperor of the Entun dynasty. He was born in

the year 11,988 of the Galactic Era, the same year in which Hari Seldon was

born. (It is thought that Seldon's birthdate, which some consider doubtful, may

have been adjusted to match that of Cleon, whom Seldon, soon after his arrival

on Trantor, is supposed to have encountered.)

Having succeeded to the Imperial throne in 12,010 at the age of twenty-two,

Cleon I's reign represented a curious interval of quiet in those troubled times.

This is undoubtedly due to the skills of his Chief of Staff, Eto Demerzel, who

so carefully obscured himself from public record that little is known about him.
Cleon himself . . .

ENCYLOPEDIA GALACTICA

(All quotations from the Encyclopedia Galactica here reproduced are taken from

the 116th Edition, published 1,020 FE by the Encyclopedia Galactica Publishing

Co., Terminus, with permission of the publishers.)

1.

Suppressing a small yawn, Cleon said, "Demerzel, have you by any chance ever

heard of a man named Hari Seldon?"

Cleon had been Emperor for just over ten years and there were times at state

occasions when, dressed in the necessary robes and regalia, he could manage to

look stately. He did so, for instance, in the holograph of himself that stood in

the niche in the wall behind him. It was placed so that it clearly dominated the

other niches holding the holographs of several of his ancestors.

The holograph was not a totally honest one, for though Cleon's hair was light

brown in hologram and reality alike, it was a bit thicker in the holograph.

There was a certain asymmetry to his real face, for the left side of his upper

lip raised itself a bit higher than the right side, and this was somehow not

evident in the holograph. And if he had stood up and placed himself beside the

holograph, he would have been seen to be 2 centimeters under the 1.83-meter

height that the image portrayed--and perhaps a bit stouter.

Of course, the holograph was the official coronation portrait and he had been

younger then. He still looked young and rather handsome, too, and when he was

not in the pitiless grip of official ceremony, there was a kind of vague good

nature about his face.

Demerzel said, with the tone of respect that he carefully cultivated, "Hari

Seldon? It is an unfamiliar name to me, Sire. Ought I to know of him?"

"The Minister of Science mentioned him to me last night. I thought you might."

Demerzel frowned slightly, but only very slightly, for one does not frown in the

Imperial presence. "The Minister of Science, Sire, should have spoken of this

man to me as Chief of Staff. If you are to be bombarded from every side-"

Cleon raised his hand and Demerzel stopped at once. "Please, Demerzel, one can't

stand on formality at all times. When I passed the Minister at last night's

reception and exchanged a few words with him, he bubbled over. I could not

refuse to listen and I was glad I had, for it was interesting."

"In what way interesting, Sire?"

"Well, these are not the old days when science and mathematics were all the

rage. That sort of thing seems to have died down somehow, perhaps because all

the discoveries have been made, don't you think? Apparently, however,

interesting things can still happen. At least I was told it was interesting."

"By the Minister of Science, Sire?"

"Yes. He said that this Hari Seldon had attended a convention of mathematicians

held here in Trantor - they do this every ten years, for some reason---and he

said that he had proved that one could foretell the future mathematically."

Demerzel permitted himself a small smile. "Either the Minister of Science, a man

of little acumen, is mistaken or the mathematician is. Surely, the matter of

foretelling the future is a children's dream of magic."

"Is it, Demerzel? People believe in such things."

"People believe in many things, Sire."

"But they believe in such things. Therefore, .it doesn't matter whether the

forecast of the future is true or not. If a mathematician should predict a long

and happy reign for me, a time of peace and prosperity for the Empire- Eh, would

that not be well?"

"It would be pleasant to hear, certainly, but what would it accomplish, Sire?"

"But surely if people believe this, they would act on that belief. Many a

prophecy, by the mere force of its being believed, is transmuted to fact. These

are 'self-fulfilling prophecies.' Indeed, now that I think of it, it was you who

once explained this to me."

Demerzel said, "I believe I did, Sire." His eyes were watching the Emperor

carefully, as though to see how far he might go on his own. "Still, if that be

so, one could have any person make the prophecy. "

"Not all persons would be equally believed, Demerzel. A mathematician, however,

who could back his prophecy with mathematical formulas and terminology, might be

understood by no one and yet believed by everyone."

Demerzel said, "As usual, Sire, you make good sense. We live in troubled times

and it would be worthwhile to calm them in a way that would require neither

money nor military effort-which, in recent history, have done little good and

much harm."

"Exactly, Demerzel," said the Emperor with excitement. "Reel in this Hari

Seldon. You tell me you have your strings stretching to every part of this

turbulent world, even where my forces dare not go. Pull on one of those strings,

then, and bring in this mathematician. Let me see him."

"I will do so, Sire," said Demerzel, who had already located Seldon and who made

a mental note to commend the Minister of Science for a job well done.

2.

Hari Seldon did not make an impressive appearance at this time. Like the Emperor

Cleon I, he was thirty-two years old, but he was only 1.73 meters tall. His face

was smooth and cheerful, his hair dark brown, almost black, and his clothing had

the unmistakable touch of provinciality about it.

To anyone in later times who knew of Hari Seldon only as a legendary demigod, it

would seem almost sacrilegious for him not to have white hair, not to have an

old lined face, a quiet smile radiating wisdom, not to be seated in a

wheelchair. Even then, in advanced old age, his eyes had been cheerful, however.

There was that.

And his eyes were particularly cheerful now, for his paper had been given at the

Decennial Convention. It had even aroused some interest in a distant sort of way

and old Osterfith had nodded his head at him and had said, "Ingenious, young

man. Most ingenious." Which, coming from Osterfith, was satisfactory. Most

satisfactory.

But now there was a new-and quite unexpected-development and Seldon wasn't sure

whether it should increase his cheer and intensify his satisfaction or not.

He stared at the tall young man in uniform-the Spaceship -and- Sun neatly placed

on the left side of his tunic.

"Lieutenant Alban Wellis," said the officer of the Emperor's Guard before

putting away his identification. "Will you come with me now, sir?"

Wellis was armed, of course. There were two other Guardsmen waiting outside his

door. Seldon knew he had no choice, for all the other's careful politeness, but

there was no reason he could not seek information. He said, "To see the

Emperor?"

"To be brought to the Palace, sir. That's the extent of my instructions. "

"But why?"

"I was not told why, sir. And I have my strict instructions that you must come

with me-one way or another."

"But this seems as though I am being arrested. I have done nothing to warrant

that."

"Say, rather, that it seems you are being given an escort of honor -if you delay

me no further."

Seldon delayed no further. He pressed his lips together, as though to block of

further questions, nodded his head, and stepped forward. Even if he was going to

meet the Emperor and to receive Imperial commendation, he found no joy in it. He

was for the Empire-that is, for the worlds of humanity in peace and union but he

was not for the Emperor.

The lieutenant walked ahead, the other two behind. Seldon smiled at those he

passed and managed to look unconcerned. Outside the hotel they climbed into an

official ground-car. (Seldon ran his hand over the upholstery; he had never been

in anything so ornate. )

They were in one of the wealthiest sections of Trantor. The dome was high enough

here to give a sensation of being in the open and one could swear-even one such

as Hari Seldon, who had been born and brought up on an open world-that they were

in sunlight. You could see no sun and no shadows, but the air was light and

fragrant.

And then it passed and the dome curved down and the walls narrowed in and soon

they were moving along an enclosed tunnel, marked periodically with the

Spaceship-and-Sun and so clearly reserved (Seldon thought) for official

vehicles.

A door opened and the ground-car sped through. When the door closed behind them,

they were in the open-the true, the real open. There were 250 square kilometers

of the only stretch of open land on Trantor and on it stood the Imperial Palace.

Seldon would have liked a chance to wander through that open land-not because of

the Palace, but because it also contained the Galactic University and, most

intriguing of all, the Galactic Library.

And yet, in passing from the enclosed world of Trantor into the open patch of

wood and parkland, he had passed into a world in which clouds dimmed the sky and

a chill wind rued his shirt. He pressed the contact that closed the ground-car's

window.

It was a dismal day outside.

3.

Seldon was not at all sure he would meet the Emperor. At best, he would meet

some official in the fourth or fifth echelon who would claim to speak for the

Emperor.

How many people ever did see the Emperor? In person, rather than on holovision?

How many people saw the real, tangible Emperor, an Emperor who never left the

Imperial grounds that he, Seldon, was now rolling over.

The number was vanishingly small. Twenty-five million inhabited worlds, each

with its cargo of a billion human beings or more---and among all those

quadrillions of human beings, how many had, or would ever, lay eyes on the

living Emperor. A thousand?

And did anyone care? The Emperor was no more than a symbol of Empire, like the

Spaceship-and-Sun but far less pervasive, far less real. It was his soldiers and

his officials, crawling everywhere, that now represented an Empire that had

become a dead weight upon its people-not the Emperor.

So it was that when Seldon was ushered into a moderately sized, lavishly
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