Foundation Day

Today, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation makes its television debut on Apple TV+. I haven’t watched it yet, but I plan to watch the first two episodes, which were released last night, before the end of the day. It has been a long journey from original concept to the silver screen. H.B.O. attempted to do it and failed. Isaac Asimov first got the idea for Foundation on August 1, 1941. It was 8 months before the first story, “Foundation” appeared in the May 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story was written before the United States had entered the Second World War and was published after we’d entered the war. Today’s debut of the series marks just over 80 years from first concept of the story to appearance on television.

The original 1942 “Foundation” story is not the story that appears at the beginning of the first Foundation novel. That novel, and the two that followed, were fixups–collections of the original stories woven together in a more seamless narrative. The first part of the Foundation novel, “The Encyclopedists” was actually written in 1950. The original 1942 “Foundation” story makes up the second part of the Foundation novel. In the original story, Hari Seldon made only brief appearance during his life at the very beginning of the story. It was only with the addition of “The Encyclopedists” that Seldon was introduced more fully during his life.

The original “Foundation” story in my copy of the May 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.

I’ve written a fair amount about Foundation here on the blog. My post popular Foundation post is one I wrote back in 2009. It’s a post aimed to recommend the best order in which to read the original Foundation books called “If you are planning on reading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation…” That post has received more than 50,000 views in recent years, which isn’t bad, considering it is something I wrote in 12 years ago. In recent weeks, I’ve seen a big uptick in interest in that post. More recently, I wrote some thoughts on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and the Apple TV+ adaptation. During my Vacation in the Golden Age, when I went through the first 40+ issue of Astounding Science Fiction beginning with the July 1939 issue, I wrote more about Foundation in Episode 35.

Although Foundation is probably Isaac Asimov’s most popular science fiction novel, it is not my favorite Asimov fiction. That title belongs to his story, “The Bicentennial Man” which makes my very short list of “perfect” stories. (Also on that list: Ray Bradbury’s “The Rocket Man” and Harlan Ellison’s “The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore.”) Foundation is a novel of ideas, not so much emotion. There is much more of the latter in Asimov’s later fiction (Forward the Foundation is my favorite of the series) and “The Bicentennial Man” is the height of this. There was a mediocre movie made of “The Bicentennial Man” starring Robin Williams. It wasn’t bad, it just doesn’t capture the beauty of the original story. This is part of the reason for the trepidation I have this morning as I get ready to watch Foundation. Will the Apple TV adaptation do the story justice?

Come back in a few days and I’m sure I’ll have some answers to this question. In the meantime, if you watch Foundation on Apple TV, I hope you enjoy it, and I hope even more that it encourages you to check out the Foundation novels, and go beyond and find more of Asimov’s fiction and nonfiction that you’ll enjoy as well.

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