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Prelude to Foundation

posted on June 29, 2021

The interesting backstory as to how Prelude to Foundation came about is that one day, as Asimov was sharing an elevator ride in his apartment building with a young man who also lived there, the young man apparently suggested that Asimov write about how Hari Seldon came to develop Psychohistory. And the premise for a new book landed right in Asimov’s lap. I once had a band director call me to say that he had taken his band to Carnegie Hall and asked if I wanted to hear about it. I immediately dropped what I was working on and started taking notes. How cool is it when something like that happens? As a result, we get a deeper dive into the early life of Hari Seldon, a man who was merely a peripheral figure in the early Foundation novels. While his physical presence may have been slight, Seldon’s influence on those books was, of course, massive.

I’ve tried to be careful about spoilers, but, hey, this stuff has been out there for decades. If you haven’t read it by now, you’ve certainly had what the judicial system refers to as “implied access”,  so, henceforth, I’m throwing spoilers to the wind. The setting for the book is Trantor, the seat of the galactic empire and the ultimate home of the Second Foundation, where we find Seldon on his first trip there. Everything that Seldon does neatly folds into what we already know as Psychohistory and shows what led to it’s development. As he backfills Seldon’s and Psycohistory’s backstory, Asimov also insinuates elements from the robot stories as he begins the process of weaving his science fiction novels into one great tapestry. Reading this work as it was published back in the day was fun, but it’s a different kind of fun to read it in it’s fictional chronological order. It’s a ringside seat to a master storyteller at work.