|Empire series, Foundation Series location|
|Created by||Isaac Asimov|
|Genre||Science fiction space opera|
|Notable locations||Imperial Palace, Galactic Library, Streeling University, 800 administrative sectors|
|Notable characters||Hari Seldon, Cleon I, Cleon II, Preem Palver, Arkady Darrell|
Trantor was first mentioned in Asimov's short story, "Black Friar of the Flame", later collected in The Early Asimov, Volume 1. It was described as a human-settled planet in the part of the galaxy not ruled by an intelligent reptilian race (later defeated). Later, Trantor gained prominence when the 1940s Foundation series first appeared in print (in the form of short stories). Asimov described Trantor as being in the center of the galaxy. In later stories he acknowledged the growth in astronomical knowledge by retconning its position to be as close to the galactic center as was compatible with human habitability. The first time it was acknowledged in novel form was in Pebble in the Sky.
Geography and history
The earlier history of Trantor is recapitulated in The Currents of Space, mentioning the five worlds of the Trantorian Republic growing into the Trantorian Confederation and then Trantorian Empire (evidently modeled on the Roman Republic, originally ruling only part of central Italy, developing into the vast Roman Empire).
At the time when Currents takes place, Trantor controls about half of the worlds in the Galaxy, while the other half is divided into innumerable independent worlds and miniature empires – which naturally makes a Trantorian Ambassador a person of great consequence on any of the still-independent worlds.
Later on, conquest of the entire galaxy made the Galactic Empire, with Trantor as its capital planet, a reality; the planet no longer sending out ambassadors, but only governors to royal subject worlds. This situation had already existed for thousands of years at the time of Pebble in the Sky, the next chronological book on this timeline.
Trantor is depicted as the capital of the first Galactic Empire. Its surface of 194,000,000 km2 (75,000,000 sq mi, approx. 40% of Earth's surface area), implying a radius of around 4000 km (somewhere in between the Earth and Mars), was, with the exception of the Imperial Palace, entirely enclosed in artificial domes.
It consisted of an enormous metropolis (an ecumenopolis) that stretched deep underground, and was home to a population of 45,000,000,000 (45 billion) human inhabitants at its height (although Second Foundation mentions a figure ten times that of administrators alone), a population density of 232 per square kilometre (600 per square mile, similar to the current population density of Germany or Connecticut). Its population was devoted almost entirely to either administration of the Empire or to maintenance of the planet itself, including energy provided by "heatsinks" (geothermal core taps) and production of food via underground farming and yeasts, as described in Prelude to Foundation.
The Encyclopedia Galactica states further on Trantor: "As the centre of the Imperial Government for unbroken hundreds of generations and located, as it was, toward the central regions of the Galaxy among the most densely populated and industrially advanced worlds of the system, it could scarcely help being the densest and richest clot of humanity the Race had ever seen."
One of the prominent features of Trantor was the Library of Trantor (variously referred to as the Imperial Library, the University of Trantor Library, and the Galactic Library), in which librarians index the entirety of human knowledge by walking up to a different computer terminal every day and resuming where the previous librarian left off.
Near Trantor were twenty agricultural worlds which supplied food which the world-city could not grow for itself, and the "Summer Planets", where the Emperor went for vacation. Around 260 FE, a rebel leader named Gilmer attempted a coup, in the process sacking Trantor and forcing the Imperial family to flee to the nearby world of Delicass, renamed Neotrantor. After the sack, the population dwindled rapidly from 40 billion to less than 100 million. Most of the buildings on Trantor were destroyed during the sack, and over the course of the next two centuries the metal on Trantor was gradually sold off, as farmers uncovered more and more soil to use in their farms. Eventually the farmers grew to become the sole recognised inhabitants of the planet, and the era of Trantor as the central world of the galaxy came to a close. It began to develop a dialect very different from Galactic Standard Speech, and the people unofficially renamed their planet "Hame", or "home".
As revealed to the reader at the end of Second Foundation, not all these farmers were what they seemed, with the now-rustic Trantor serving as the centre of the Second Foundation. From Trantor, the Second Foundationers secretly guided the development of the Galaxy (roughly parallel to the city of Rome becoming, after the fall of its empire, the headquarters of the Papacy, with its enormous influence on the development of Medieval Europe). Indeed, their self-perception as leaders of the future Second Empire is captured in the Second Foundationers' use of the word "Hamish" to describe the farmers despite reserving for themselves use of the word "Trantorian". It is noted that it was the Second Foundation which ensured that the famed library would survive the sacking of Trantor and the destruction of its urban culture – especially significant, considering that the library was vital to the Second Foundation itself.
In the Asimov canon, where events of this time are depicted mainly from a Foundation perspective, the Fall of Trantor is mentioned only as a piece of faraway news and in various later short references. However, Harry Turtledove attempted to fill in the details in his "Trantor Falls", focusing on the efforts by the Second Foundation to survive during the sacking of Trantor (published in the 1989 Foundation's Friends, where various writers took up the Foundation universe).
According to the original Foundation Trilogy (1951), Asimov states (by way of the Encyclopedia Galactica), "the impossibility of proper administration ... under the uninspired leadership of the later Emperors was a considerable factor in the Fall." To support the needs and whims of the population, food from twenty agricultural worlds brought by ships in the tens of thousands, fleets greater than any navy ever constructed by the Empire. "Its dependence upon the outer worlds for food and, indeed, for all necessities of life, made Trantor increasingly vulnerable to conquest by siege. In the last millennium of the Empire, the monotonously numerous revolts made Emperor after Emperor conscious of this, and Imperial policy became little more than the protection of Trantor's delicate jugular vein" (Encyclopedia Galactica).
In Prelude to Foundation (1989), Asimov indicates that this was not always so: originally, most of Trantor's basic food needs were fulfilled by Trantor's "vast microorganism farms". Yeast vats and algae farms produced basic nutrients, which were then processed with artificial flavors into palatable food. The subterranean farms, however, depended entirely on care provided by tik-toks (lesser robots), and their destruction following an abortive uprising (chronicled in Foundation's Fear) left the Imperial capital largely dependent upon food brought from other worlds. Hindsight observers might recognize that it was therefore the tik-tok uprising, perhaps more than any other single event, that set the stage for Trantor's sack and the final collapse of the Galactic Empire. Foundation's Edge mentions algae growing on Trantor, which is called a totally inadequate source of food, so it is possible some of the later Emperors attempted to rectify the situation with limited success. Trantor is, of course, again able to produce its own food after the sack by Gilmer, with the increasing amount of usable land as the metal on the surface was removed and sold.
Trantor represents several different aspects of civilization: it is both the center of power in the galaxy and its administrative headquarters. It is also an illustration of what could eventually happen to any urbanized planet. Asimov used the Roman Empire as the creative basis for the Foundation series, so Trantor is in some sense based on Rome at the height of the Roman Empire. Trantor also illustrates the mentality of human beings that was first encountered in Asimov's The Caves of Steel, wherein human technology will ultimately result in a complete encapsulation of a population, and that population will eventually suffer psychosis associated with that total encapsulation. Asimov did once say that these encapsulated cities represented the kind of place in which he would like to live (in real life, Asimov was an agoraphobic who spent virtually all his time writing inside his New York City apartment; he seldom travelled and when he did, only by train and never by airplane). He did not even realize how distasteful some people found this until someone asked him about it.
Inspired by Trantor
There have been some serious attempts to illustrate a planet like Trantor in the Star Wars films by George Lucas, the first being Coruscant (which was in some early sources called "Jhantor", in homage to Trantor). Coruscant is one of the more convincing images on screen we have today of Isaac Asimov's conception of the world-girdling city of Trantor. Coruscant is a planet-covering open-air city, while Trantor's buildings are all subterranean or under domes due to worsening weather conditions. Asimov's Trantor thus differs from Coruscant in that Trantor is more practically adapted to inclement weather, although weather control devices are used on both planets. It should be noted that there is a planet called Trantor in the Star Wars universe, and it is also an ecumenopolis and the home of trantor pigeons (and is located in the galaxy's Deep Core).
In the Runaway series of adventure games, Trantor is home planet of this universe's alien species. However, no connection besides the name are made to the original.
Races on Trantor
Although by 22,500 years in the future, there had been much racial intermarriage and most people were multiracial, according to Asimov, in the Galactic Empire as a whole as well as on Trantor itself, there were still some recognizable populations primarily descended from the original races on Earth. What we call Caucasians were called Westerners, what we call East Asians were called Easterners, and what we call Black people were called Southerners. No one could remember why these names were used because no one remembered human origins on Earth.
Each planet in the Galactic Empire is divided into administrative sectors. Trantor had over 800, averaging 50,000,000 people each, in 240,000 km2 (93,000 sq mi), about the size of Uganda or the U.S. state of Kansas. The known sectors are:
- Dahl—One of the poorer sections of Trantor. The main job of the lower class is heatsinking, where workers supervise the conversion of heat from the planet's core directly into electric power by sinking extremely long rods into the inner core of the planet (the three other major sources of electric power were hydroelectric dams on the underground rivers, fusion energy, and solar energy from Trantor's sun, both from rooftop solar arrays and from solar energy satellites orbiting Trantor that beamed microwave energy to the surface); 'heatsinkers' were generally looked down upon by other Dahlites, though they were better paid than anyone in Dahl due to their difficult working conditions. Naturally, most Dahlites hated the Empire and its soldiers (colloquially labelled 'sunbadgers'). Dahlites were dark skinned, black-haired, and fairly short. Dahlite males wore large, thick mustaches, and all carried knives (considered to be primitive weapons). Rather than using 'Mr.', 'Mrs.', or 'Dr.', as forms of address, Dahlites always used 'Master' and 'Mistress' (never 'Doctor'). The name Dahl may be reference to the Indian dalit or untouchable caste. Known Dahlites: Yugo Amaryl, Mother Rittah, Raych Seldon, Jirad and Casilia Tisalver.
- Ery—The sector in which Wanda Seldon and Stettin Palver met Bor Alurin.
- Imperial—The sector in which the Imperial Palace and the Galactic Library lie. When Seldon first visited Trantor to deliver his speech at the Decennial Convention, fashion in the sector called for bold, bright colors and wearing hats without chinstraps. According to Asimov, many of the inhabitants of this sector were tall Northerner yellowhairs, implying that they were people of what we call Nordic ancestry.
- Millimaru—The sector Raych claimed to be (and maybe was) born in when he infiltrated the Joranumite movement.
- Mycogen— As Asimov explains in Prelude to Foundation, their name is formed from the Greek stems myco- (meaning 'yeast' or other types of fungi) and -gen (meaning 'maker' or 'producer'), which matches the description of Mycogen as specialized in breeding and exporting yeast, or "microfood", to other portions of Trantor. It kept the best for itself; the food eaten by Seldon in Mycogen was the best he had ever had on Trantor. Mycogenians were descendants of the ancient Spacer world Aurora and lamented the loss of their ancient homeworld and culture, including robots. They lived by a strict religion they considered to be 'history'. The scripture of the Mycogenians mentions Aurora, robots, and other topics, and during the events of Prelude to Foundation Hari Seldon found a long-inactive robot, which was revered by the Mycogenians. The 'high priest' was the leader of the council of elders, the government of Mycogen. During an adolescent rite of passage, all Mycogenians were completely depilated, so they could differentiate between themselves and non-Mycogenians. Because hair is considered so repulsive, most Mycogenians are repelled by its appearance and rare foreign visitors must wear skincaps at all times. The sight and feel of hair was considered similar to pornography by Mycogenians. By tradition they usually wear a cloak called a 'kirtle'; men always wear a white kirtle, women a gray one. Mycogenian names are organised by 'cohort', and individuals are numbered as part of a series. Known Mycogenians: Mycelium 72, Raindrop 43, Raindrop 45, Sunmaster 14, Skystrip 2.
- Nevrask— One of the last sectors to hold out against Gilmer during the Great Sack
- North Damiano— A sector with a prominent University, involved in co-operative Nephelometry with Streeling University. North Damiano University operates Jet-downs equipped with sensory electronics.
- Streeling—At the time Hari Seldon first arrived on Trantor, fashions in Streeling were not quite so boldly colorful as in the Imperial Sector. It was the site of Streeling University, a prestigious university noted for being almost completely out of the hands of the Empire. It later gained fame for housing Hari Seldon and his "Seldon Psychohistory Project".
- Wye—The ancient Dacian Dynasty of Emperors are the direct ancestors of the hereditary Mayoralty of the sector of Wye. Located by the South Pole, Wye exercised a good deal of political power, because it was the site where excess heat across the planet was released. If it shut down those systems, the heat would build up and destroy Trantor. During the time of Seldon's flight, Wye was preparing an army for a coup. This action was stopped by Eto Demerzel, and the military of Wye disbanded. Known Wyans: Mayor Mannix IV, Mayor Rashelle I.
- Ziggoreth— A sector with a prominent University. Ziggoreth University is involved in co-operative Nephelometric research with Streeling University, and operates Jet-downs equipped with sensory electronics.
- In the original Foundation Trilogy, there is no indication of Trantor being divided among wildly diverse cultures; likewise, the surface is described as covered with towers rather than domes. Its depiction in Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation may be considered another example of retconning.
- Although some have been confused by the apparent conflict between Trantorian self-sufficiency in terms of food supply in Prelude and the subsequent characterization in Encyclopedia Galactica of the planet as dependent upon twenty agricultural worlds for food, there is no conflict. Prelude depicts an earlier period of Imperial history, and as subsequently explained in Foundation's Fear, the food situation on Trantor changed precisely because its subterranean farms were shut down in the wake of the abortive tik-tok rebellion. That book directly establishes that it was this decision that made Trantor dependent on the produce of twenty agricultural worlds—ironically, the same worlds over which Neotrantor would hold its last, feeble sway.
- Pebble in the Sky By Isaac Asimov, page 27
- The Foundation Trilogy By Isaac Asimov, page 13
- Foundation and Empire By Isaac Asimov, page 73
- Note reference to domes in the "Product Description"
- Foundation's Edge By Isaac Asimov, page 98
- Foundation and Empire
- Turtledove, Harry. "Trantor Falls". Foundation's Friends, edited by Martin H. Greenberg. Tor, 1989.
- Foundation's Edge By Isaac Asimov, page 79
- The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, page 13
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov, page 62
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov, page 61
- Sf: the Other Side of Realism By Thomas Clareson, page 344
- The Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov By Joseph F. Patrouch, page 117
- Prelude to Foundation By Isaac Asimov, page 118
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- Playgrounds of the Mind
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- Prelude to Foundation By Isaac Asimov, page 47