Asimov’s struggle with aliens

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image. Click here to see the image credits.


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