Galactic Empire (series)
The Galactic Empire series (also called the Empire novels or trilogy) is a science fiction sequence of three of Isaac Asimov's earliest novels, and extended by one short story. They are connected by their early place in his published works and chronological placement within his overarching Foundation Universe, set around the rise of Asimov's Galactic Empire, between the Robot and Foundation series to which they were linked in Asimov's later novels.
Works in the series
In order of internal chronology the Empire series consists of:
- The Stars, Like Dust (1951)
- The Currents of Space (1952)
- Pebble in the Sky (1950), his first novel
- "Blind Alley" (1945), a short story also set between the Robot and Foundation series
(However, Asimov stated in 1988 in the "Author's Note" to Prelude to Foundation that book #6 was "The Currents of Space" (1952), and that this was "the first of my Empire novels," and that book #7 was "The Stars, Like Dust" (1951), which was "[the] second Empire novel.")
The three Empire books, first published between 1950 and 1952, are Asimov's three earliest novels published in his own name (David Starr, Space Ranger was published before The Currents of Space, but had been published under his pen name "Paul French", and the Foundation books were collections of linked short stories rather than continuous novels).
Pebble in the Sky was originally written in the summer of 1947 under the title "Grow Old with Me" for Startling Stories, whose editor Sam Merwin, Jr. had approached Asimov to write a forty thousand word short novel for the magazine. The title was a misquotation of Robert Browning's Rabbi ben Ezra, the first few lines of which (starting "Grow old along with me! / The best is yet to be...") were included in the final novel. It was rejected by Startling Stories on the basis that the magazine's emphasis was more on adventure than science-heavy fiction (despite the editor inviting Asimov to write the latter as an experiment for the magazine), and again by John W. Campbell, Asimov's usual editor. In 1949, Doubleday editor Walter I. Bradbury accepted the story on the suggestion of Frederik Pohl, on the condition it was expanded to seventy thousand words and the title changed to something more science fiction oriented; it was published in January 1950 as Pebble in the Sky. "Grow Old With Me" was later published in its original form along with other draft stories in The Alternate Asimovs in 1986.
The Stars, Like Dust was originally serialised under the title Tyrann in Galaxy Science Fiction from January to March 1951, and was published as a novel by Doubleday later that year. The first paperback edition was an Ace Books double novel along with Roger Dee's An Earth Gone Mad; The Stars, Like Dust was retitled The Rebellious Stars for this edition without Asimov's consent. The novel was reprinted in with the Foundation Trilogy, The Naked Sun and I, Robot in a hardback selected works edition in 1982 by Littlehampton Book Services.
The Currents of Space was originally serialised in Astounding Science Fiction from October to December 1952 before being published by Doubleday as a novel the same year.
The books have been reprinted a number of times as a trilogy (as well as many times separately): in 1986 by Ballantine Books as "Galactic Empire Novel[s]", in 1992 by Spectra as "The Empire Novels" and in 2010 along with The End of Eternity by Orb Books, in both print and Kindle editions.
After the publication of The Currents of Space in 1952, all three novels (the only Asimov novels published at that time) were collected into an omnibus titled Triangle. They were republished again as a single volume, The Empire Novels, in 2002 by the Science Fiction Book Club.
"Blind Alley" was published before any of the novels; written in 1944, it was accepted by John W. Campbell later that year and published in Astounding Science Fiction in March 1945. It was 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. It has never been published together with the novels, as it is connected only on the basis of being set during the Galactic Empire, after the Robot stories and before the Foundation series.
Development and themes
These stories are set in the same future as the Foundation series, which had appeared in magazines starting in 1942. The tie is not close, and they are only loosely connected to each other, each being a complete tale in its own right. Their main common points are Asimov's idea of a future Galactic Empire, certain aspects of technology — hyperdrive, blaster pistols, "neuronic whips", the possible invention of the "Visi-Sonor" — and particular locations, such as the planet Trantor. Another connection was later established with Robots and Empire, where Asimov revealed how Earth became radioactive, as mentioned in all three novels. Some sources further this argument by asserting that The Stars, Like Dust takes place about one thousand years following the events of Robots and Empire. Also, the calendar used on spaceships in The Stars, Like Dust is the same that the Spacers introduce Lije Baley to in The Robots of Dawn.
The short story "Blind Alley" is the only story set in the Foundation universe to feature intelligence not of human origin; Foundation and Earth features non-human intelligences (of Solaria and Gaia), but they are descended from or created by humans.
Asimov later integrated them into his all-engulfing Foundation series. Some contortion was required to explain how the robots of the Robot series are almost completely absent from the Galactic Empire novels. In reality, this is because Asimov wrote the original Robot and Foundation short stories as separate series.
Merging the Empire series with Asimov's other series
In terms of the timeline of Asimov's so-called "greater Foundation series," there is one children's book which bridges the gap between the Robot series and the Empire series. Asimov published a children's book, The Heavenly Host, in 1975. A slightly shorter version of this story was first published in Boys' Life magazine, December 1974. According to the book, this story takes place when humans are "spreading out through hundreds and thousands of worlds." Chronologically, this would place The Heavenly Host after Robots and Empire and before The Stars, Like Dust. However, as this is a children's book and it involves an intelligent non-human species, it does not fit neatly into Asimov's Robot/Empire/Foundation universe, in which humans are the only intelligent species in the galaxy.
Asimov later integrated the Robot Series into his all-encompassing Foundation series, making R. Daneel Olivaw appear again twenty thousand years later in the age of the Galactic Empire, in sequels and prequels to the original Foundation trilogy; and in the final book of the Robots series—Robots and Empire—we learn how the worlds that later formed the Empire were settled, and how Earth became radioactive (which was first mentioned in Pebble in the Sky).
The Stars, Like Dust states explicitly that the Earth is radioactive because of a nuclear war. Asimov later explained that the in-universe reason for this perception was that it was formulated by Earthmen many centuries after the event, and which had become distorted, due to the loss of much of their planetary history. This work is generally regarded as part of the Empire series, but does not directly mention either Trantor or the Spacer worlds. One character is seen with a visi-sonor, the same musical instrument that is played by the clown Magnifico in Foundation and Empire. Based on details from the novel, such as Earth still being mostly habitable and the absence of a unified galactic government, it probably would fall during the early formation of the Empire (before it expanded to encompass the galaxy).
Asimov's novels set in the greater Robot/Empire/Foundation universe
The foreword to Prelude to Foundation contains the chronological ordering of Asimov's science fiction books. Asimov stated that the books of his Robot, Empire, and Foundation series "offer a kind of history of the future, which is, perhaps, not completely consistent, since I did not plan consistency to begin with." Asimov also noted that the books in his list "were not written in the order in which (perhaps) they should be read."
The following novels are listed in chronological order by narrative:
- I, Robot (1950) - a standalone fixup novel of 9 short stories about robots
- The Positronic Man (1992) - a standalone robot novel, co-written with Robert Silverberg, based on Asimov's 1976 novelette "The Bicentennial Man"
- Nemesis (1989) - a standalone novel, loosely connected to the Robot/Empire/Foundation series, set in the early days of interstellar travel
- The Caves of Steel (1954) - first Robot Series/R. Daneel Olivaw novel
- The Naked Sun (1957) - second Robot Series/R. Daneel Olivaw novel
- The Robots of Dawn (1983) - third Robot Series/R. Daneel Olivaw novel
- Robots and Empire (1985) - fourth Robot Series/R. Daneel Olivaw novel
- The Currents of Space (1952) - first Empire Series novel
- The Stars, Like Dust (1951) - second Empire Series novel
- Pebble in the Sky (1950) - third Empire Series novel
- Prelude to Foundation (1988) - first Foundation Series novel
- Forward the Foundation (1993) - second Foundation Series novel
- Foundation (1951) - third Foundation Series novel
- Foundation and Empire (1952) - fourth Foundation Series novel
- Second Foundation (1953) - fifth Foundation Series novel
- Foundation's Edge (1982) - sixth Foundation Series novel
- Foundation and Earth (1986) - seventh Foundation Series novel
- The End of Eternity (1955) - a standalone novel, loosely connected to the Robot/Empire/Foundation series, about a time-altering organization
- The Early Asimov, Chs. "The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline", "Mother Earth"
- The Early Asimov, Ch. "Blind Alley"
- Codex, Regius (2014). From Robots to Foundations. Wiesbaden/Ljubljana. ISBN 978-1499569827.
- Asimov, Isaac (1988). Prelude to Foundation. New York, NY: Bantam Dell. ISBN 978-0-553-90095-8.[verification needed]