Isaac Asimov: THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY

Published: 1951-1952
Winner or Rec? Recs.
Started reading: July 18th, 2014
Finished reading: July 23rd, 2014

Epic Reading Project books #2, 3, 4

Okay, I’m going to be honest here. Brace yourselves. I hated these books. I hate Asimov. I know, I know, so influential on the genre, one of the fathers of modern scifi, blah blah blah — I don’t care. He drives me up the fucking wall.

For one thing, he doesn’t think much of women. He only includes women when they’re someone’s wife or daughter, and even then he doesn’t do much with them. There are no women in the background, no women supporting characters. It’s a neckbeard utopia as far as the eye can see.

One of the parts of the trilogy I remember most vividly is a scene of explicit misogyny. I’m going to tell you about it, but it’s not really a spoiler, since the characters only appear once:  The commodore of a planet is negotiating with a merchant from the Foundation, who is offering to supply him with loads of wonderful new technology that the commodore and his people don’t have. The commodore isn’t particularly interested, but the merchant gives him a few tech baubles as a negotiation present and suggests the commodore give them to his wife.

Now, Asimov doesn’t actually use the exact words “frigid bitch”, but that is absolutely the assumption we’re supposed to make about her, given his descriptions. She’s awful, and a nag, and makes the commodore’s life a living hell, and she’s always insulting him, etc…  So he goes to her with the present, and she harangues him about everything, and he tells her to keep her wagging tongue still. “At your orders?” she says. So he gives her the bauble, tells her again to keep still, and turns it on for her. And she gasps in awe… and shuts up.

Because if you have a nagging wife, just throw some pretty things at her and she’ll shut up and leave you alone, amirite? 😀 #theworldaccordingtoAsimov

This could have been such a neat book — it’s about the rise and fall of the Foundation, basically the Roman Empire IN SPAAAAAAAAACE. But Asimov has truly offensive attitudes towards women, and he doesn’t really understand human emotion. Your mileage may vary. I know people who like these books a lot, but goddamn, I don’t see the appeal at all.

If you’re a straight white man who isn’t interested in expanding his worldview at all or seeing diversity, you’ll probably like this book. If you’re anyone else… best of luck with it? And please let me know your thoughts. Feel free to tell me I’m Wrong On The Internet in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “Isaac Asimov: THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY

  1. Friend says:

    Did you read the entire trilogy or just the first book? I, for one, /hated/ the first book, and I only picked up the second (and then the rest of the series) after reading the Robot Series 3 years later. But there are some very enjoyable, well-rounded women in the series. Notably, in Second Foundation, Arkady and Bayta. And there are many more women (with depth and intrigue) in the rest of his books. Asimov wrote many essays on feminism, was an early feminist himself, and admits that he was a lousy nerd when he wrote Foundation as an explanation for the misogyny and lack of women. He makes up for it, though. Don’t hate him. You still might not like his writing style though.

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    • Alexandra says:

      I read all three! 🙂 I think I mentioned that in the post, didn’t I…? I didn’t feel like Arkady and Bayta WERE all that well-rounded, though. And, to be quite honest, just because someone is a feminist and writes essays on feminism doesn’t mean they’re exempt from major fuckups and internalized misogyny — like the horrifically offensive scene between the commodore and his wife that I mentioned before, which occurs in the second book. And the fact that there are almost no women side characters, no women in the background — not just in the first book, but in the whole series. It’s important that we keep examining these things so that we can keep moving forward as a society. Good on Asimov for identifying as a feminist. Good on him for writing essays to support it. Doesn’t make me loathe THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY even a millimeter less. XD

      And I do loathe Asimov. He drives me up the fucking wall. But just to be clear: When I say that, I’m referring to his body of work, not the actual human person himself. I don’t care about *Isaac* one way or the other. Isaac is more than twenty years dead. Asimov lives on as what Isaac left behind — a body of work which was a huuuuuuuuge formative influence on modern scifi (and modern science!) as we know it today. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t give me fits of irritation. AND THAT’S OKAY. It’s okay that it irritates the everloving shit out of me! It’s okay that I read the TRILOGY while fantasizing about throwing the whole thing out my friend’s fifth-floor apartment window! And it’s okay that other people adore his work! One tiny person on one tiny blog getting tied up in knots over it doesn’t change the fact that it is an important book, and that Asimov is an important figure in the history of the genre.

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