Isaac Asimov’s Future History
Thrilling Wonder Stories – Winter, 1955
IN THE current issue of our companion magazine, Startling Stories, we’re presenting a “future history” by Poul Anderson. This special feature shows how some of Anderson’s stories fit into a large and consistent pattern.
Here now – on the opposite page – is a similar future history from Isaac Asimov. We call it a “page” from his notebook because the scheme was not originally worked out as a consistent pattern and includes only about one-quarter of his total writings. Another quarter would be included in his robot history (mentioned in the note), and the remaining half is miscellaneous.
Asimov says of his history, “It’s not the beautiful job that Heinlein did, but was actually made up ad hoc. My cross-references in the novels are thrown in as they occur to me and did not come from a systematized history.
“The fact that I reach only 48,000 A.D. may be surprising – it surprised me! I had never once thought of the actual dates of my stories and now that I come to write them down, I find that I haven’t been so far flung as I thought. If some reader checks my stories carefully and finds that my dating is internally inconsistent, I can only say I’m not surprised.”
The latest Asimov story in this framework is The Portable Star.
A PAGE FROM ISAAC ASIMOV’S NOTEBOOK
A. EXPLORATION OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM
1975 Trends – First man-carrying flight to the moon, against social resistance.
1985 The Singing Bell – Settlement of the moon proceeds; mining operations set up.
2000 The Martian Way – Mars settled. Much of humanity still rebels against settlement of other planets. This is finally overcome.
2020 Ring Around the Sun – Venus settled. Mail service between planets established.
2050 Marooned Off Vesta – Passage across asteroid belt no longer a matter of exploration. Commercial flights across the belt begin.
2100 Heredity – The moons of Jupiter are settled.
Callistan Menace – Human eyes turn toward the intergalactic spaces.
Christmas on Ganymede – The hyperspatial drive is discovered about 5000 A.D.
B. EXPLORATION OF THE GALAXY
5500 The Portable Star – Flights to other stars become feasible in small space cruisers. Very little of the Galaxy explored.
6500 Misbegotten Missionary – Organized space exploitation begins. Mankind begins spreading outward.
8500 Sucker Bait – Population has increased to the point where the inner regions of the Galaxy are overcrowded. Government-sponsored emigration to the outer reaches are begun. Most of the Galaxy is now mapped and well-known. The old political structure is now incapable of handling the vast numbers of worlds. Earth’s last atomic wars render its crust largely radioactive about 10.000 A.D. and that is the last straw. The Galaxy breaks up into numerous political organizations.
C. GALACTIC EMPIRE
30,000 The Stars, Like Dust (Tyrann) – The star-regions begin to agglomerate into larger groupings. The empire of Tyrann grows and declines. Trantor grows less spectacularly. but more solidly.
34,500 The Currents of Space – Trantor has grown until half the Galaxy is under its sway. The Squires of Sark, with their control of kyrt-rich Fiorina, are the last independent group seriously to contest Trantor’s hegemony. Trantor becomes the Galactic Empire officially, about 35,000. Earth is all but forgotten.
36,500 Pebble in the Sky – Galactic Empire is at its height.
Blind Alley – Earth completely forgotten as origin of humanity. Slowly the Empire grows static and decadent. Hari Seldon is born about 47,000.
47,000 Foundation – The Galactic Empire settles into final decay.
Bride and Saddle – Galactic Empire’s last battle with the rising Foundation dates at 47,200
47,500 The Big and the Little – The Mule rises and falls somewhere about 47,300.
Dead Hand – The Second Galactic Empire is established at 48,000.
Now You See It – – And Now You Don’t
Note: A similar historical pattern can be constructed for those stories which do include the development of positronic robots, beginning with Strange Playfellow and ending with The Caves of Steel. There are also many stories that fit into neither pattern.
Foundation – (1951), 1966 Edition
Foundation and Empire – (1952), 1966 Edition
Second Foundation – (1953)