The first and last time I read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, I was in college, in the early 1970s. I loved it then, and now that I’ve just re-read it almost 50 years later, I still love and admire it.
This science fiction classic is older than I am, but it still holds a wealth of truth and meaning, even though many outward things have changed in my lifetime. When I was born, man hadn’t been beyond our planet’s atmosphere, there were no cordless phones, let alone cell phones. Scientists were just beginning to understand the mysteries of the atom. The stars were fuzzy shapes seen through earth’s atmosphere. Computers were rooms full of reels, tubes, and wires. The whole control room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center hadn’t been developed yet, and when it was, it carried the same capacity that we can fit in our pockets now, or on our wrists.
So how can it be that books written before 1950 still have something to say to our modern age? Because I believe Asimov in this series has dealt with the fundamentals of human thought and behavior. And he’s done it the way only a very skillful and well-educated scientist/author can.
For me it boils down to the truth that human nature doesn’t really change. We can be in a setting far in the past, such as The Clan of the Cave Bear, the less-distant past of the European Middle Ages, in books by Sharon K. Penman, the more contemporary settings of most modern fiction set in the twentieth century, or the far distant future that most sci-fi writers use. Human beings, no matter when they are living, all have the same mental processes, emotions, foibles, faults, and all.
As an author of fiction (mostly science fiction, I confess), I am seeking in my own small way to emulate great thinkers and writers like Asimov. Perhaps I’m hoping to catch a better glimpse of some far-off truth by attempting to stand on the shoulders of these giants who came before me. (I know there’s a quote to that effect somewhere, but I can’t remember who said it.) And I’ll keep on looking for this “Great Beyond” until my dying day, I suppose.