|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 the only intelligent non-human alien race the Galactic Empire has discovered have been removed from their dying planet and transferred to the much more pleasant Cepheus-18 (hence their name, "Cepheids"). The planet is a combination zoo, laboratory, and reservation for the creatures. The scientists that study the Cepheids differ on whether to treat them as sentient beings or as animals, but agree that the aliens are in danger of extinction as they have ceased to reproduce. The Cepheids' leader admits that his race would likely have soon died out on its dangerous home world; the aliens, however, have nothing to live for in a galaxy completely ruled by humans who provide for all their physical needs, and they are prohibited from leaving the Empire.
The civilian supervisor, a career administrator, attempts to help the creatures using his thorough knowledge of the Imperial bureaucracy. By submitting reports and encouraging others to submit reports, he arranges for a fleet of hundreds of spaceships to deliver a bulky cargo to the Cepheids. Suspecting they can read his thoughts, the administrator goes through his plan in his mind in their presence. His plan works; the Cepheids commandeer the ships, and leave for the Magellanic Clouds to find a new world of their own. The supervisor has protected himself from any blame for the escape by his ingenious bureaucratic maneuvers, and is duly given another assignment.
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