Foundational Readings

The internet has since its inception been a remarkable tool for gathering and sharing information. Lately it’s been both better and worse than it used to be and one of the reasons that it’s both is Archive.org.

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It’s a literal treasure trove of information. Think of it as an internet library. If you’re looking for something, especially something out of print, there’s a good chance that it’s there, scanned and ready to be checked out. Archive.org was especially gracious during the lockdown. In May 2020, when I taught Science Fiction, all the novels we covered as well as most of the short stories were available there for my students to use free of charge. It was a huge help.

So, why better and worse? Well, having access to “a literal treasure trove of information” has a bit of a downside. When I’m researching something like, for example, Asimov Trivia there are things to find that I’ve never even heard of and didn’t know I needed. Sometimes this is helpful, like when I discovered Isaac Asimov Presents: SuperQuiz (See Episode 5). Other times it’s not; I take a long and winding road that doesn’t lead anywhere. Next thing I know I’m 6 books over and barely even aware of where I started or what I was doing. That’s fun, but it’s not productive unless serendipity lends a hand. No kidding. Paragraph two got put on hold while I looked up something random.

Suffice it to say that Archive.org is, well, astounding. But “What does this have to do with Foundation?” you might be wondering. If you’re following Stars End: A Foundation Podcast or even if you’re merely looking forward to the forthcoming Apple TV+ series you might be wanting to reread the books. They’re all there for sure.

But what I’m really excited about is that Archive.org has many issues of John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction. That’s the seminal SF pulp that defined the genre. There we find the original Foundation stories 8 years before they were collected into book form. This is the DNA of the Foundation series. As the story was developing, while Asimov was figuring out how psychohistory works, we can see this universe evolve in Astounding. And as an added bonus, we can read the stories with their original artwork, enjoying them as few have been able for almost eight decades. So here are the pieces of Foundation as they appeared in Astounding Science Fiction. Not too different. With his prodigious output, Asimov was known for writing rather than rewriting but I’ll note the changes that I noticed.

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Foundation isn’t actually a novel, it’s what is known as a “fix-up,” a collection of short stories linked together with a framing sequence. “The Psychohistorians” is that framing sequence and is the only part of Foundation that was original to the book. It introduces Hari Seldon and sets up the universe replacing a much shorter introduction that ran as part of the next story.

The Encyclopedists” originally ran in the May 1942 issue of Astounding under the title “Foundation.” Other than the short introduction that was supplanted by “The Psychohistorians” it’s largely the same as the version from the book.

There are two lovely illustrations by Manuel Islp and the issue also features “Asylum” by A. E. Van Vogt and “Beyond this Horizon” by Robert Heinlein writing as Anson MacDonald.

Here’s the entire issue Astounding Science Fiction, May 1942.

The story continues just a month later as “The Mayors” was published under the title “Bridle and Saddle.”

John W. Campbell showed a lot of enthusiasm for this story. Taking up half of the previous issue’s coming attractions, it was the lead story for the month, it was featured on the cover and was graced with 4 (Count ’em! 4!) lovely illustrations by Charles Schneeman. You can click on any image in the gallery for a better look.

For a science fiction adventure story the art work sure shows a lot of people sitting in chairs.

The issue also includes “My Name is Legion” by Lester Del Rey, “Proof” by Hal Clement and “The Slaver” by L. Ron Hubbard who actually wrote some Science Fiction before branching out into… let’s call it other areas.

Astounding Science Fiction, June 1942.


The Traders,” the shortest section of Foundation was published as “The Wedge” in Astounding’s October 1944 issue with little or no fanfare. This story has the most significant difference between the magazine and book versions. Here the main character is named Lathan Devers rather than Limmar Ponyets as it is in Foundation. The story has three illustrations by Frank Kramer.

Astounding Science Fiction, October 1944

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“The Big and the Little” appeared in the August 1944 Issue of Astounding and once again it’s very similar to “The Merchant Princes.” There’s a difference that’s noticeable immediately though, rather than opening with a quote from the Encyclopedia Galactica, it begins with a different quote that prefigures the names of the sections of Foundation.

“Three Dynasties molded the Beginning: the Encyclopedists, the Mayors, and the Traders…”

Ligurn Vier, ‘Essays on History’

We never really see the traders as a formal dynasty leading the Foundation but perhaps we can infer one; in this story, we meet the third major figure in Foundation History after Hari Seldon and Salvor Hardin the first of the Merchant Princes, Hober Mallow.

Like “Bridal and Saddle,” “The Big and the Little” is both the lead and cover story for this issue. It is illustrated with six pictures rendered by Paul Orban.

Astounding Science Fiction, August 1944

We’ll be back soon with the stories from Foundation and Empire. Meanwhile, I’m inspired to work on a project that uses Archive.org.

References:

If you haven’t already, this is a perfect time to check out our podcast.

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