Following Asimov's Foundation

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Greg Bear talks about the second book in the Second Foundation Trilogy

It's tough to be the man in the middle, but Greg Bear makes it look easy in Foundation and Chaos, the second book of the Second Foundation Trilogy. The original Foundation series was enormous in scope -- not just in time and space, but in mind-bending new concepts and disciplines -- and its author, Isaac Asimov, is possibly the most famous name in 20th-century science fiction. But Bear, Gregory Benford, and David Brin are science fiction powerhouses in their own right, and Asimov himself blessed the Second Foundation project before his death. Bear's work is bookended by Benford's Foundation's Fear and The Secret Foundation, Brin's finale to the trilogy, which will be published in March 1999. Bear recently responded to a few questions that's Barrie Trinkle posed via e-mail. How did you, Benford, and Brin plot out the entire Second Foundation Trilogy? Did you agree on some boundary conditions -- the end points of each book -- and each take full creative license from those points, or were there internal plot elements you agreed to set up for each other?

Greg Bear: Gregory and David plotted their books and left me a little tiny space in between, which, coincidentally, was all I needed. I wanted to write about the trial of Hari Seldon [the hero of the Foundation series] and the political machinations Asimov did not have space to describe in the first section of the first Foundation novel. I followed Gregory's characters and wording and incorporated his original characters, Joan and Voltaire, the sims. David takes over from where my novel leaves off and covers the very end of Hari Seldon's life. Asimov's Foundation Trilogy is legendary, but the new generation of SF readers who cut their teeth on cyberpunk may not be familiar with it. Were you writing purely for fans of the original trilogy or planning to pull in new readers as well? Would new readers benefit from reading the Second Foundation trilogy first, then playing "catch up" with Asimov's, or do you advise all readers to begin at the very beginning?

Bear: The original Foundation Trilogy is pretty much a perennial in publishing, with many millions of copies sold. If we capture a tenth of all those readers, we'll end up on the New York Times bestseller list! Readers who aren't familiar with the original trilogy could begin there, and reading the later novels, where Isaac incorporates the robot universe, will certainly provide background for my novel. But all of us have made efforts to bring the reader up to speed quickly on the details and background. Will the door be open at the end for a third Foundation trilogy?

Bear: Isaac's universe is so vast that anything is possible. I have half-jokingly suggested placing the Dune books in one corner of the Foundation, with the Star Wars books and movies occurring in some backwater area! You've put out three big books ( Slant, Dinosaur Summer, and Foundation and Chaos) in the last eight months! What's next?

Bear: I'm currently working on a novel about catastrophic evolution and human speciation in our lifetime: Darwin's Radio. Startling developments in biology and evolutionary theory open the way for a really startling view of how a species reproduces itself... and I think readers will find my take on the next human species very surprising. No big brains, no telepathy, no hive-minds with pale blue eyes and blond hair... something completely different and quite beautiful. Darwin's Radio will probably be published by Del Rey in 1999, just in time for the zeroes to start ticking over!

Featured Titles

Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear

Slant by Greg Bear

Dinosaur Summer by Greg Bear, et al

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