from the
series of novels by
Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov

This page:

Foundation and Empire
Second Foundation


science fiction

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Copyright © 1951 by Isaac Asimov

Part I

The Psychohistorians

Q. Can you prove that this mathematics is valid?

A. Only to another mathematician.

Q. (with a smile) Your claim then, is that your truth is of so esoteric a nature that it is beyond the understanding of a plain man. It seems to me that truth should be clearer than that, less mysterious, more open to the mind.

A. It presents no difficulties to some minds.



Part II

The Encyclopedists

“Throughout you have invariably relied on authority or on the past—never on yourselves.”

His fists balled spasmodically. “It amounts to a diseased attitude—a conditioned reflex that shunts aside the independence of your minds whenever it is a question of opposing authority. [...] And that’s wrong, don’t you see?”



Part III

The Mayors

“You’re making them too important.”

“Why go through all the ceremonies of an official mayor’s audience? I’m getting too old for red tape. Besides which, flattery is useful when dealing with youngsters—particularly when it doesn’t commit you to anything.”

“It says: ‘Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.’ That’s an old man’s doctrine, Mr. Mayor.”

“I applied it as a young man, Mr. Councilman—and successfully. You were busily being born when it happened, but perhaps you may have read something of it in school.”



“The temptation was great to muster what force we could and put up a fight. It’s the easiest way out, and the most satisfactory to self-respect—but, nearly invariably, the stupidest.”

But Courtiers don’t take wagers against the king’s skill. There is the deadly danger of winning.



“The fact is that even if you are the regent and my uncle, I’m still king and you’re still my subject. You oughtn’t to call me a fool and you oughtn’t to sit in my presence, anyway. You haven’t asked my permission. I think you ought to be careful, or I might do something about it—pretty soon.”

Wienis’ gaze was cold. “May I refer to you as ‘your majesty’?”


“Very well! You are a fool, your majesty!”

“We must strike first. It’s simply self-defense.”

“You’re what they call a man of peace, aren’t you?”

“I suppose I am. At least, I consider violence an uneconomical way of attaining an end. There are always better substitutes, though they may sometimes be a little less direct.”




“There is an old fable,” said Hardin, “as old perhaps as humanity, for the oldest records containing it are merely copies of other records still older, that might interest you. It runs as follows:

“A horse having a wolf as a powerful and dangerous enemy lived in constant fear of his life. Being driven to desperation, it occurred to him to seek a strong ally. Whereupon he approached a man, and offered an alliance, pointing out that the wolf was likewise an enemy of the man. The man accepted the partnership at once and offered to kill the wolf immediately, if his new partner would only co-operate by placing his greater speed at the man’s disposal. The horse was willing, and allowed the man to place bridle and saddle upon him. The man mounted, hunted down the wolf, and killed him.

“The horse, joyful and relieved, thanked the man, and said: ‘Now that our enemy is dead, remove your bridle and saddle and restore my freedom.’

“Whereupon the man laughed loudly and replied, ‘The hell you say. Giddy-ap, Dobbin,’ and applied the spurs with a will.”




Part IV

The Traders
1. [...] a motto adopted from one of Salvor Hardin’s epigrams, “Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right!”



3. “There’s something about a pious man such as he. He will cheerfully cut your throat if it suits him, but he will hesitate to endanger the welfare of your immaterial and problematical soul.”
Part V

The Merchant Princes
3. “Hardin once said: ‘To succeed, planning alone is insufficient. One must improvise as well.’ ”

“You can’t maintain discipline that way.”

Mallow said icily, “I can. There’s no merit in discipline under ideal circumstances. I’ll have it in the face of death, or it’s useless.”

10. “Fighting and scars are part of a trader’s overhead. But fighting is only useful when there’s money at the end, and if I can get it without, so much the sweeter. Now will I find enough money here to make it worth the fighting? I take it I can find the fighting easily enough.”

text checked (see note) Jul 2005

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Foundation and Empire

Copyright © 1952 by Isaac Asimov
based upon published material orignally copyrighted by Street and Smith Publications, Inc.

Part I

The General
1. Search for Magicians

“Unfortunately, an uninformed public tends to confuse scholarship with magicianry, and love life seems to be that factor which requires the largest quantity of magical tinkering.”

“And so would seem most natural. But I differ. I connect scholarship with nothing but the means of answering difficult questions.”

The Siwennian considered somberly, “You may be as wrong as they!”



3. The Dead Hand

“Do whatever you wish in your fullest exercise of freewill. You will still lose.”

“Because of Hari Seldon’s dead hand?”

“Because of the dead hand of the mathematics of human behavior that can neither be stopped, swerved, nor delayed.”

The two faced each other in deadlock, until the general stepped back.

He said simply, “I’ll take that challenge. It’s a dead hand against a living will.”

4. The Emperor

“I live,” snapped the Emperor with exasperation, “if you can call it life where every scoundrel who can read a book of medicine uses me as a blank and receptive field for his feeble experiments. If there is a conceivable remedy, chemical, physical, or atomic, which has not yet been tried, why then, some learned babbler from the far corners of the realm will arrive tomorrow to try it. And still another newly-discovered book, or forgery more-like, will be used as authority.

“By my father’s memory,” he rumbled savagely, “it seems there is not a biped extant who can study a disease before his eyes with those same eyes. There is not one who can count a pulse-beat without a book of the ancients before him.”



5. The War Begins

“I’ve seen wars and I’ve seen defeats. What if the winner does take over? Who’s bothered? Me? Guys like me?” He shook his head in derision.

“Get this,” the trader spoke forcefully and earnestly, “there are five or six fat slobs who usually run an average planet. They get the rabbit punch, but I’m not losing peace of mind over them. See. The people? The ordinary run of guys? Sure, some get killed, and the rest pay extra taxes for a while. But it settles itself out; it runs itself down. And then it’s the old situation again with a different five or six.”



7. Bribery “There’s probably no one so easily bribed, but he lacks even the fundamental honesty of honorable corruption. He doesn’t stay bribed, not for any sum.”
Part II

The Mule
11. Bride and Groom “The laws of history are as absolute as the laws of physics, and if the probabilities of error are greater, it is only because history does not deal with as many humans as physics does atoms, so that individual variations count for more.”



12. Captain and Mayor

As a general thing, he discouraged self-analysis and all forms of philosophy and metaphysics not directly connected with his work.

It helped.

His work consisted largely of what the War Department called “intelligence,” the sophisticates, “espionage,” and the romanticists, “spy stuff.” And, unfortunately, despite the frothy shrillness of the televisors, “intelligence,” “espionage,” and “spy stuff” are at best a sordid business of routine betrayed and bad faith. It is excused by society since it is in the “interest of the State,” but since philosophy seemed always to lead Captain Pritcher to the conclusion that even in that holy interest, society is much more easily soothed than one’s own conscience—he discouraged philosophy.




To him, a stilted geometric love of arrangement was “system,” an indefatigable and feverish interest in the pettiest facets of day-to-day bureaucracy was “industry,” indecision when right was “caution,” and blind stubbornness when wrong, “determination.”



13. Lieutenant and Clown It is the invariable lesson to humanity that distance in time, and in space as well, lends focus. It is not recorded, incidentally, that the lesson has ever been permanently learned.
15. The Psychologist

He was needed, and he knew it.

And so it happened, that when others bent their knee, he refused and added loudly that his ancestors in their time bowed no knee to any stinking mayor. And in his ancestors’ time the mayor was elected anyhow, and kicked out at will, and that the only people that inherited anything by right of birth were the congenital idiots.

Inevitably, he said, “What is the meaning of this?”

It is the precise question and the precise wording thereof that has been put to the atmosphere on such occasions by an incredible variety of men since humanity was invented. It is not recorded that it has ever been asked for any purpose other than dignified effect.



The door at the far, long end opened, and, in far too dramatically coincident a fashion to suggest anything but real life, a plainly-costumed notable stepped in.

19. Start of the Search

“How long have you thought that?”

“I never thought that, in the sense of believing it. It is merely an alternative to be considered.”

text checked (see note) Jan 2006

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Second Foundation

Copyright © 1953 by Isaac Asimov
Based upon published material originally copyrighted by Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 1948, 1949

Part I

Search by the Mule
2. Two Men without the Mule “Where history concerns mainly personalities, the drawings become either black or white according to the interests of the writer. I find it all remarkably useless.”



6. One Man, the Mule—and Another “It was a sign of decaying culture, of course, that dams had been built against the further development of ideas.”



He never created a finished product. Finished products are for decadent minds. His was an evolving mechanism [...]
Part II

Search by the Foundation
7. Arcadia

“Why do you think it is stupid to go to windows instead of to doors?”

“Because you advertise what you’re trying to hide, silly. If I have a secret, I don’t put tape over my mouth and let everyone know I have a secret. I talk just as much as usual, only about something else. Didn’t you ever read any of the sayings of Salvor Hardin? He was our first Mayor, you know.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Well, he used to say that only a lie that wasn’t ashamed of itself could possibly succeed. He also said that nothing had to be true, but everything had to sound true. Well, when you come in through a window, it’s a lie that’s ashamed of itself and it doesn’t sound true.”



8. Seldon’s Plan

Speech, originally, was the device whereby Man learned, imperfectly, to transmit the thoughts and emotions of his mind. By setting up arbitrary sounds and combinations of sounds to represent certain mental nuances, he developed a method of communication—but one which in all its clumsiness and thick-thumbed inadequacy degenerated all the delicacy of the mind into gross and gutteral signaling.

“The most hopelessly stupid man is he who is not aware that he is wise.”
“In all the known history of Mankind, advances have been made primarily in physical technology; in the capacity of handling the inanimate world about Man. Control of self and society has been left to chance or to the vague gropings of intuitive ethical systems based on inspiration and emotion. As a result, no culture of greater stability than about fifty-five percent has ever existed, and these only as the result of great human misery.”
10. Approaching Crisis

“You must have brought me interesting results, or you would not be so filled with anger.”

The Student put his hand upon the sheaf of calculating paper he had brought with him and said, “Are you sure that the problem is a factual one?”

“The premises are true. I have distorted nothing.”

“Then I must accept the results, and I do not want to.”

“Naturally. But what have your wants to do with it?”

12. Lord

It was a pleasure world in the sense that it made an industry—and an immensely profitable one, at that—out of amusement.

And it was a stable industry. It was the most stable industry in the Galaxy. When all the Galaxy perished as a civilization, little by little, scarcely a feather’s weight of catastrophe fell upon Kalgan. No matter how the economy and sociology of the neighboring sectors of the Galaxy changed, there was always an elite; and it is always the characteristic of an elite that it possesses leisure as the great reward of its elite-hood.



text checked (see note) Nov 2007

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