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The Story Behind the Foundation
On August 1, 1941, when I was a lad of twenty-one, I
was a graduate student in chemistry at Columbia University and had been
writing science fiction professionally for three years. I was hastening
to see John Campbell, editor of Astounding , to whom I had sold
five stories by then. I was anxious to tell him a new idea I had for a
science fiction story.

It was to write a historical novel of the future; to tell the story of
the fall of the Galactic Empire. My enthusiasm must have been catching,
for Campbell grew as excited as I was. He didn't want me to write a
single story. He wanted a series of stories, in which the full history
of the thousand years of turmoil between the fall of the First Galactic
Empire and the rise of the Second Galactic Empire was to be outlined. It
would all be illuminated by the science of "psychohistory" that Campbell
and I thrashed out between us.

The first story appeared in the May 1942 Astounding and the second
story appeared in the June 1942 issue. They were at once popular and
Campbell saw to it that I wrote six more stories before the end of the
decade. The stories grew longer, too. The first one was only twelve
thousand words long. Two of the last three stories were fifty thousand
words apiece.

By the time the decade was over, I had grown tired of the series,
dropped it, and went on to other things. By then, however, various
publishing houses were beginning to put out hardcover science fiction
books. One such house was a small semiprofessional firm, Gnome Press. They
published my Foundation series in three volumes: Foundation (1951); Foundation and Empire (1952); and Second Foundation (1953). The three books together came to be known as The Foundation
Trilogy .

The books did not do very well, for Gnome Press did not have the
capital with which to advertise and promote them. I got neither statements
nor royalties from them.

In early 1961, my then-editor at Doubleday, Timothy Seldes, told
me he had received a request from a foreign publisher to reprint the
Foundation books. Since they were not Doubleday books, he passed the
request on to me.

I shrugged my shoulders. "Not interested, Tim. I don't get royalties
on those books."

Seldes was horrified, and instantly set about getting the rights
to the books from Gnome Press (which was, by that time, moribund) and
in August of that year, the books (along with I, Robot ) became
Doubleday property.

From that moment on, the Foundation series took off and began to earn
increasing royalties. Doubleday published the Trilogy in a single
volume and distributed them through the Science Fiction Book Club. Because
of that the Foundation series became enormously well-known.

In the 1966 World Science Fiction Convention, held in Cleveland, the
fans were asked to vote on a category of "The Best All-Time Series." It
was the first time (and, so far, the last) the category had been included
in the nominations for the Hugo Award. The Foundation Trilogy won the award, which further added to the popularity of the series.

Increasingly, fans kept asking me to continue the series. I was polite
but I kept refusing. Still, it fascinated me that people who had not
yet been born when the series was begun had managed to become caught up
in it.

Doubleday, however, took the demands far more seriously than I
did. They had humored me for twenty years but as the demands kept
growing in intensity and number, they finally lost patience. In 1981,
they told me that I simply had to write another Foundation novel and,
in order to sugar-coat the demand, offered me a contract at ten times
my usual advance.

Nervously, I agreed. It had been thirty-two years since I had written
a Foundation story and now I was instructed to write one 140,000 words
long, twice that of any of the earlier volumes and nearly three times
as long as any previous individual story. I re-read The Foundation
Trilogy and, taking a deep breath, dived into the task.

The fourth book of the series, Foundation's Edge , was published
in October 1982, and then a very strange thing happened. It appeared in
the New York Times bestseller list at once. In fact, it stayed on that
list for twenty-five weeks, much to my utter astonishment. Nothing like
that had ever happened to me.

Doubleday at once signed me up to do additional novels and I wrote
two that were part of another series, The Robot Novels  And
then it was time to return to the Foundation.

So I wrote Foundation and Earth, which begins at the very moment
that Foundation's Edge ends, and that is the book you now hold. It might
help if you glanced over Foundation's Edge just to refresh your memory,
but you don't have to. Foundation and Earth stands by itself. I hope
you enjoy it.

 Isaac Asimov, New York City, 1986

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