June 2022


Although there are further sequels, Second Foundation is the last of Asimov’s original Foundation trilogy compiled from earlier stories published in magazines. While I started with a later prequel, I have no immediate plans to proceed to the sequels and will alternate back to non-fiction for the next book, treating this like the last entry in a single fictional work. I did bring up the question in my previous post as to whether “The General” should have more sensibly been lumped in with the first book while “The Mule” should have been grouped with the stories of Second Foundation. One thing I neglected at the time is relative size: The Mule was a longer story than The General published in multiple parts (and The General was already significantly longer than the individual stories of the first book). Second Foundation is also divided into two with the second story (“Search by the Foundation”) being significantly longer than the first (“Search by the Mule”). I can see reasoning for grouping the stories as originally collected: Foundation & Empire has two stories of the worthiest opponents the Foundation faced, even if the second story serves as a sort of reversal of the first. Second Foundation doesn’t actually have any representatives of the First Foundation as protagonists in the first story, instead focusing on The Mule & his lackeys with the Second Foundation as effectively the secretive antagonists to them. They retain that status well after The Mule is gone in the longer second story which brings back the First Foundation as protagonists out-of-their-depth like the Mule’s men had been. Search by the Mule only takes place 5 years after The Mule, which is a much shorter time than usual between Foundation stories (even if the continuation wasn’t as immediate as I expected), whereas Search by the Foundation takes place decades/generations later (a more similar gap). So chronologically, The Mule and Search by the Mule could have been grouped together, but even a story as long as Search by the Foundation might not be long enough to make up a novel by itself and Asimov stopped writing short Foundation stories after that (not counting “The Psychohistorians”).

(more…)

The first Foundation novel was a true anthology, entirely consisting of short stories, only the first of which was newly written for the book rather than previously appearing in a magazine. Foundation and Empire moves away from that in that it’s still multiple stories, all of which appeared in print earlier, but there are just two of them and they are each of novella length with ten internal chapters. Each is now named after an antagonist to the Foundation who engages in the most successful military attack so far, but the first of these (“The General”) is more in keeping with the earlier stories than the other (“The Mule”). Arguably, The General should have been included in the first Foundation collection, serving as the final story in that mold (even if it’s a much longer version of one) which states definitively what is to happen with each “Seldon Crisis”. The Mule is not only almost double the length of The General (and it was published in two parts, in two sequential issues of the magazine), it ends on a cliffhanger to be resolved in the stories of the final entry in the trilogy. Thus it arguably should have been included with them (though I admittedly haven’t read them yet), forming a single coherent novel like Prelude was and unlike the short stories separated in time format.

(more…)