So many questions

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I finished Prelude to Foundation last night and I have SO MANY QUESTIONS!

  • Is Daneel the Mule? No, that doesn’t make sense – the Mule has precious feelings and Daneel does not. Is the Mule related to Daneel? Offspring?
  • Can robots have offspring?
  • Who is Daneel in the Foundation books, then? Does he make it to those books or is he discovered and killed?
  • If he is killed, how many robots remain in the post-collapse galaxy?
  • Daneel talks about a Plan B to save the galaxy outside of psychohistory – is Star’s End his plan B, or is that Seldon’s Plan B?
  • If Star’s End is Seldon’s Plan B, then is creating a species who can tamper with human emotions Daneel’s Plan B?
  • If that is his Plan B, why doesn’t he tell Hari about it so that he can consider it in his psychohistory calculations?

It could be that all of these questions are answered in Forward the Foundation, or in one of the other two books in the series: Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth. Holy crap I have three books left to read? Dune didn’t take this long.

Moving on to other topics. I found the rest of the book since my last post to be less blatantly sexist. Dors does a good job of defending herself and being a strong female character, calling out gender-based stereotypes and prejudices when she comes across them. Raschelle was also an example of strong female leadership. Asimov wrote these women to be strong, so good on him for that.

It is too bad, then, that Raschelle’s only perceived weakness, which allows her to be defeated in the end, is her womanhood. It is also too bad that in the end Dors, an consistently strong and intelligent female character, turns out not to be a woman at all, but a robot. I wish Asimov would have left Dors a woman.

I could have done without the last couple of chapters as well, where Hari, desperate as he is for companionship and love, more or less forces himself and his affection on to Dors. How many times does this woman have to turn you down, Hari?

She tells him that he should find other historians to work with him. He says he wants her. He knows she’s a robot who has to follow the Laws of Robotics, so she has to make sure psychohistory happens, so he tells her that if she leaves he won’t work. She stays.

She tells him she is incapable of love, and that the only time she engages in physical intimacy is when she feels that to not do so would hurt the person coming on to her. She has never asked to be, nor wanted to be, kissed. Hari decides he doesn’t care because he wants her and that’s that (that’s almost a direct quote). So he tells her to kiss him, and she doesn’t want to hurt him, so she does. Now Dors is his historian/lover robot.

Well, Hari wouldn’t be the first to have a robot for a lover, I guess…

So far my sense is that I should have read iRobot instead.

Okay enough talking -gotta go to work!

I guess I wasn’t done yet… (“It’s okay you can trust me” cont’d)

but-wait-theres-more

Looks like I published my last post too early because I have more to say!

Later, during breakfast, Hari has a happy moment:

…looking at the woman on the other side of the table and feeling that she might make this exile of his seem a little less like exile. He thought of the other woman he had known a few years ago, but blocked it offer with a determined effort…” (p.88)

This effectively sets up a binary view of Dors and “the other woman” in the readers’ minds. Her character is now primarily defined by her contrast to Hari’s previous lover. Everything she does from here on out in the novel will be within the context of being Hari’s romantic interest.

I’m not surprised by this, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

At least Asimov writes Dors as an intelligent and educated character. Even then, however, Dors’ field of study – history – is almost immediately established as inferior and less useful than that of Hari’s – mathematics. Furthermore, its value is then only in what it can offer in servitude to Hari’s psyschohistory.

The subtext here is that although Dors is educated, her field is lofty and superfluous. It has no real societal value or potential for meaningful contribution. That is, until Hari and his psychohistory come along, suddenly giving purpose to Dors’ academic field; in essence, to her work and education. What a knight-in-shining armour, rescuing her from a life of obscurity and inconsequential study and giving her work merit and significance, am I right? Barf.

Then there’s this lovely exchange, when Hari asks to use her department’s library:

“Would I be able to get permission to use the history library?”

Now it was she who hesitated. “I think that can be arranged. If you work on mathematics programming, you’ll probably be viewed as a quasi-member of the faculty and I could ask for you to be given permission. Only -“

“Only?”

“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you’re a mathematician and you say you know nothing about history. Would you know how to make use of a history library?”

Seldon smiled. “I suppose you use computers very much like those in a mathematics library.”

“We do, but the programming for each speciality has quirks of its own. You don’t know the standard reference book-films, the quick methods of winnowing and skipping. You may be able to find a hyperbolic interval in the dark…”

“You mean hyperbolic integral,” interrupted Seldon softly.

Dors ignored him (p.91)

When Dors thinks Hari might not know something, she has to take special care to protect Hari’s feelings. She first explains she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, then presents her concern about his lack of specialized knowledge using his own words: ‘I’m not saying you don’t anything about history, you said you don’t know anything about history.’ Even then she doesn’t say outright that he doesn’t know how to work the computers, but instead asks him whether he would be able to. This invites him not only to demonstrate his intelligence (“I know things!”) but also for her to explain why it’s only the nuances he wouldn’t know, and that’s through no fault of his own (“each speciality has quirks of its own”).

Then, when she mistakes “hyperbolic integral” for “hyperbolic interval” Hari interrupts her and corrects her without any pretext or explanation or care for her feelings. Just BAM! You’re wrong and I’m smarter than you.

When Hari was at a disadvantage, Dors took care not to hurt his ego and strategically set up the conversation so that he doesn’t come out feeling stupid. Contrastingly, when Dors makes a mistake with a mathematical term, even though Hari knows mathematics is not her area of specialization, he’s right in there with his correction. “Softly” my ass.

I do like that Dors ignores him and keeps going, though. You go, girl.

SO THEN When Dors offers to help him learn by inviting him to join a course she gives on library use, Hari asks for private lessons with a “suggestive tone.” Giggity giggity goo!

She turns him down, but again does so in a way that protects his feelings and ego:

She did not miss it [his suggestive tone]. “I dare say I could [give you private lessons], but I think you’d be better off with more formal instruction…You will be competing with the other students all through and that will help you learn. Private tutoring will be far less efficient, I assure you” (p.92)

She diffuses the rejection by framing it to be in his interest, rather than as an actual rejection of his advance. This makes the rejection easier for Hari to accept, because it provides him with an ‘out’ which enables him to walk away, pride intact, which is not as embarrassing as an out-right rejection. Dors even appeals to Hari’s competitiveness, offering him an opportunity to take up a challenge, turning this conversation from one where Hari has to accept rejection to one where he is accepting a challenge.

Wow. I see Dors has played Protect-the-Male-Ego before. Well played, Dors, well played indeed.

joan well played

Second Foundation: what a twist!

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***spoilers***

seriously…so many spoilers.

Similar to Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation is presented in two parts. Part One was about the Mule’s search for the Second Foundation, and Part Two was about the Foundation’s search for the same thing. Guess which one finds it? Guess where it is?

GUESS! GUESS!

Okay, fine, don’t guess. I’ll just tell you.

The Mule doesn’t find it, but he does die trying, so good on him for perseverance (don’t get mad, I warned you there were spoilers). Team Foundation wins! And who figures it all out? A 14-year old girl! Woo!

…except not really. The Second Foundation actually gives itself up to the 14-year old girl by Controlling her – a system of subtle mind-manipulation. So…hurray teamwork?

The Mule spends five years searching every inch of the galaxy he can looking for the Second Foundation, and comes up empty handed. He even blows up a planet in the effort, which was not a very classy move on his part. It’s shortly after the planet blow-up that he is killed, which is a nice moment for the readers.

But then, something weird happened to me in Part One of the book. You see, the Second Foundation is a stranger to me, but the Mule is not. The Mule is someone I met a while ago and got to know. He is a sad, neglected clown-man with a severe inferiority complex, taking out his feelings of emasculation on an entire galaxy. Despite that, I found myself rooting for him – which makes no sense at all. I’m not defending it, I’m just letting you know what happened to me, and it was weird.

Part Two fixed all of that for me, thankfully. I still wasn’t voting for the Second Foundation, though (why do I dislike them??). I was on Team Arkady #FTW.

In Part Two, which takes place 60 years after Part One, we’re introduced to Arkady, a young woman who doesn’t know she has puppet masters controlling her. Which is twisted for so many reasons. I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole; I’ll never climb back out.

MOVING ON.

Arkady’s dad joins a secret Foundation committee dedicated to finding the Second Foundation. Arkady figures out that the Second Foundation has been on Terminus all along (“DAD! OMFG! A CIRCLE HAS NO END! GET IT?? NO END!!!” – I’m paraphrasing here.) Her dad, Darrell, and his gang of anti-Second-Foundationers hunt them down and kill them all. So that takes care of that, everyone is safe again, and the Foundation now runs unopposed for position of Future Ruler of the Galactic Empire 2.0.giphy

EXCEPT IT WAS A TRICK! (cue dramatic sound effect)

it turns out the whole thing was set up by those sneaky Second Foundationers in order to make the Foundation think they’re dead and no longer a threat, when really they still are.What a twist! Terminus was never their HQ. They were lying the whole time!

Now I’m probably moving on the Prelude to Foundation. I say probably because I also picked up a few new books this week, and still have a number of unread books waiting for me on my bookshelf, not to mention that I need to finish Henry IV, already! So, yes, probably.

Second Foundation (spoilers)

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I really enjoyed Foundation and Foundation and Empire books one and two in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. I found Asimov’s strategy for dealing with a story line which spans across nearly a hundred years to be enjoyable, and the transition characters do a good job of bridging generations. This approach was undoubtedly out of necessity, as the books were originally published as separate short stories.

The series opens with the foretelling of the collapse of the Galactic Empire, which is exactly what it sounds like. Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian genius (psychohistory = using math to predict the future…a.k.a. the future application of actuarial science), predicts that the Empire is about to implode and he puts together a plan to drastically expedite the process of re-establishment. This process will take a thousand years, though, and although humanity has figured out how to predict the future, it has not had the same success with time travel or immortality. As a result, old Hari will be long dead by the time the galaxy settles itself out. That, however, is not a concern for Hari, because his plan is just that good.

Essentially we are presented with an entire galaxy which is reset to zero in evolutionary terms; although they have space ships they’re still barbarians without nuclear power (animals, right?!). Hari’s plan will take them through every step of evolution, culminating in the establishment of a brand spankin’ new and shiny Empire 2.0.

What is really interesting is that, in this plan, rule by trade (i.e. economy/capitalism) is an evolutionary step-up from religious rule. Chalk one up for the separation of church and state!

I’m now kind of stuck on Second Foundation. I don’t know if that’s because I’m reaching Foundation-overload, and I need to take a break from the series and come back to it, or if it’s because I haven’t invested myself in the fate of the Second Foundation at all, so I’m really not caring very much whether the Mule takes it over or not…

My husband is bugging me to eat the dinner he made me and play video games with him, so I’m going to go do that now.

Peace out!