|Genre(s)||Science fiction short story|
|Published in||Astounding Science Fiction|
|Publisher||Street & Smith|
|Media type||Print (Magazine, Hardback & Paperback)|
|Publication date||March 1945|
|Preceded by||Pebble in the Sky|
|Followed by||Prelude to Foundation|
"Blind Alley" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. It was first published in the March 1945 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, and later included in the collection The Early Asimov (1972).
Written in 1944, "Blind Alley" was accepted by John Campbell later that year and published in Astounding Science Fiction in March 1945. It was first anthologised by Groff Conklin in The Best of Science Fiction, the first of Asimov's stories to have been reprinted, and was later included in The Early Asimov (in 1972, along with a very brief history of its origins), The Asimov Chronicles in 1989 and in volume 2 of The Complete Stories in 1992.
Conklin included the story in a number of anthologies: the 1963 edition of The Best of Science Fiction, Great Stories of Space Travel also published that year and The Golden Age of Science Fiction in 1980. It also appeared in Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 7 edited by Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg in 1982, and Intergalactic Empires edited by Asimov, Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh in 1983.
The few remaining members of an intelligent non-human alien race have been removed from their dying planet and transferred to a human-occupied planet Cepheus-18 (hence their name, Cepheids). The planet is intended to be utilised as a combination zoo, laboratory, and reservation for the creatures, and they are being studied, without too much success, by a scientific group that regards them as little more than experimental animals. The race is in danger of dying out.
The Civilian Supervisor, a career Imperial administrator, sincerely attempts to help the creatures using his deep knowledge of how the Imperial bureaucracy works to manipulate events. By submitting reports and encouraging others to submit reports, he manages to have a fleet of huge spaceships deliver a bulky cargo for the benefit of the Cepheids. Suspecting they can read his thoughts, he goes through his actual plan in his mind in their presence. It works. They commandeer the ships, whose holds are large enough to carry them all, and depart the galaxy to find a new world of their own, an outcome that official policy had forbidden. However, the supervisor has protected himself from any blame associated with the disaster by his masterful documentation.
The author utilises a turgid long-winded bureaucratic style of phraseology for the many memoranda that are a part of the story; this was based on that in use by the US Navy, Asimov's employers at the time.
The aliens' predicament in a human-dominated galaxy is similar to the eventual fate of humans in the alternative futures of The End of Eternity. It does however have a very different ending — the Cepheids steal the spacecraft and head for an independent life in the Magellanic Clouds.
The Foundation and Earth character Golan Trevize says that no human ship has ever penetrated the Magellanic Clouds, nor the Andromeda Galaxy or other more distant galaxies. It is not known whether Asimov intended to make a link between those novels and this short story.
The Second Foundation trilogy
In the 'Second Foundation' trilogy, a series of books authorized by the estate of Asimov, a race of Aliens within the Foundation Universe is mentioned who appear to be in circumstances similar to the Cepheids. Although they are not mentioned by name, a major character in this story is. A subplot in Foundation's Triumph investigates the problem raised in this story.
- The Early Asimov, Ch. "Blind Alley"
Pebble in the Sky
The Early Asimov
Prelude to Foundation