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Literature / Foundation
aka: Second Foundation

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"The Encyclopedia is, and always has been, a fraud. In the 50 years you have worked on this fraudulent project, your retreat has been cut off, and you now have no choice but to proceed with the infinitely more important project that was, and always has been, our real plan. Terminus, and its companion Foundation at the other end of the galaxy, are to be the seeds and founders of the Second Galactic Empire."
Hari Seldon

The "Foundation Trilogy" is a classic collection of science fiction stories by the author Isaac Asimov: Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation.

Famous mathematician Hari Seldon creates the science of "psychohistory", which can be used to predict the broad sweep of humanity's future. Said future is not looking good: the Galactic Empire in which Seldon lives is in terminal decline, and what will follow is thirty thousand years of conflict and barbarism before a single government re-establishes stable galactic governance. It's too late to stop the collapse; galactic civilization, like all human societies, has a lot of inertia. However, inertia can also turn small deviations into large changes in the final result, which Seldon is counting on. Make a few small changes before the collapse comes, and it can be shortened from 30,000 years to a mere 1,000 before civilization returns from the depths of barbarism.


In order to accelerate a return to civilization, Seldon and his followers establish two Foundations to preserve human knowledge, at "opposite ends" of the galaxy. In order to keep its actions predictable, the first of these colonies originally has no idea of Seldon's real plan, but is banished from the imperial capital Trantor to the resource-poor planet Terminus on the remote edge of the galaxy, there officially assigned to compose an encyclopedia of all human knowledge. The Second Foundation remains nearly forgotten, cloaked in secrecy.

As the decades pass and their power grows, the leaders of "the" Foundation time and again find themselves facing a major crisis, usually having to do with their relationships with the semi-barbarous star systems which surround them, the political rubble left behind by the Empire's ongoing collapse. Seldon's "Plan" dictates that each crisis will force events down one inevitable path, which will invariably cause a drastic change in both the Foundation itself and its relationship with the nations surrounding it. During these Crises, the long-dead Seldon always steps in with a recorded message telling the current generation of Foundationers what they need to hear (or a summary of the recent past), as he has predicted it decades previously. All goes well, at least as far the Foundation is concerned, until a very singular individual nicknamed "the Mule" suddenly appears on the galactic scene - and some of the weaknesses of Seldon's method, which can accurately predict societal trends and paths but, as a method based in mathematics (and not nigh-soothsaying wizardry, as the Foundation's descendents come to see it), is incapable of predicting or compensating for extreme edge cases involving single individuals, become evident...


Asimov also wrote three "Empire novels": Pebble in the Sky, The Stars, Like Dust and The Currents of Space, each set at various points during the long stretch of history when humanity reaches out from Earth, and a Galactic Empire rises to power. These stories were originally written as a separate trilogy but later acknowledged to be about the same Empire that appears in the Foundation series.

Then there's Asimov's "Robot" series, featuring the famous "Three Laws of Robotics". It is mostly composed of short stories exploring the various relationships between robots and their human creators.

The Foundation series was continued almost 30 years later with two books, Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth both set in the same era and following the adventures of Foundationer Golan Trevize, who is joined by historian Janov Pelorat in a search for humanity's origin planet, Earth (actually a secret search for the Second Foundation). The issue with the Second Foundation and a mysterious third power called Gaia is resolved at the end of the fourth book, and the pair gains a new companion (and love interest for Pelorat) in the telepathic Gaian, Bliss. The fifth book details the search for Earth and concludes with a Twist Ending, where it is confirmed that the heroes are in the same universe as the Empire and Robot books. This was further elaborated on in the final Robot book, Robots and Empire.

Unable to come up with a continuation, Asimov instead turned to prequels. Prelude to Foundation chronicles the youth of Hari Seldon and contains further explicit ties to the Robot series. The final book, Forward the Foundation is about Seldon's final days as he attempts to perfect his theory and deal with his unwilling entry into politics, even as he is slowly losing everyone important to him. As Asimov wrote the book shortly before his death it is noticeably different from the rest of the series, with Seldon becoming Asimov's literary alter ego.

After Asimov's death, three of his fellow sci-fi writers, Gregory Benford, Greg Bear, and David Brin, each wrote a book in a trilogy detailing more of the younger Seldon's adventures: Foundation's Fear, Foundation and Chaos and Foundation's Triumph. In addition, several Foundation short stories can be found in the tribute anthology Foundation's Friends.

The exact point at which this all drifts into Fanon Discontinuity, if ever, is up to the individual reader.

According to the Word of God (from George Lucas), the Empire in the Star Wars films was based on the Foundation Empire (and in fact, Asimov advised Lucas in the creation phase). Most obviously is the planet-wide city of Coruscant, which is an Expy of Trantor.

As far as adaptations are concerned, back in the 70s, The BBC did a Radio Drama adaptation which can be found on the Internet Archivenote . Apparently, at one point Roland Emmerich, of all people, was planning on making a film trilogy out of the first three books, but the project fell into Development Hell and never came out.

Then in 2014, it was announced that HBO was developing it as a TV series.

The original trilogy won a special one-time Hugo Award for "Best Series," though afterward Asimov himself said that he thought The Lord of the Rings should have won.

Contains examples of:

  • Absent Aliens: Humanity is the only sentient species in the galaxy. Unless you count robots, Gaians, or Solarians, or the inhabitants of Cepheus 19.
    • The first of which was created by humans, while the other two are descended from humans.
    • Explained by one of the (written by other authors after Asimov's death) books. the Zeroth law only applies to Humans. The robots killed off every other species in the galaxy remotely able to ever threaten humans. Of course, that never happened.
      • It's also hinted at in Foundation and Earth.
      • And the short story Blind Alley actually features the only alien species Humanity ever met in the galaxy. But overwhelmed by the size and power of the Galactic Empire, they quickly make a run for the Magellanic Clouds.
  • Absurdly Cool City: Trantor. It covers all the planet, it's the capital of the galactic empire, and continues many kilometers underground.
  • Action Girl: Hari Seldon's bodyguard and later wife, Dors Venabili, AKA "the Tiger Woman". She's a historian. She once stormed a military base while unarmed. She's also a humaniform robot, under orders from Daneel to protect Seldon.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The BBC radio adaptation leaves out The Traders section.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Janov Pelorat. (One of the few realistically presented examples.)
  • Agony Beam: The Neuronic Whip, which directly stimulates nerve receptors. This results in a rather warped conversation in Foundation and Earth; while exploring the ruins of a once-human-inhabited planet, the protagonists are attacked by mutated dogs. Trevize's Disintegrator Ray is almost useless, as the dogs appear to have no survival instincts and continue their assault no matter how many of them die. But when he hits them with the whip, they scatter at a slight telepathic nudge from Bliss. As Asimov considered violence to be perverse, even in self-defense, this is something of an Accidental Aesop.
    Bliss: With a blaster, Trevize, a dog merely disappears. The rest may be surprised, but not frightened. ...The neuronic whip is different. It inflicts pain, and a dog in pain emits cries of a kind that are well understood by other dogs...
  • Agri World:
    • During the time between "The Psychohistorians" and "The General", the Imperial Capital of Trantor is a City Planet that requires the combined output of 20 agricultural worlds to feed its population of 40 billion people. Ironically, between the events of "The General" and "The Mule", Trantor is sacked. After the Galactic Empire's fall cuts off its supply lines and it ceases to be the center of the galaxy, it starts to turn into a purely agrarian society, except for the Imperial Library where the Second Foundation is ruling the First Foundation from behind the scenes.
    • Foundation and Empire further mentions agricultural planets in the Pleiades. In The General, Sergeant Mori Luk comes from the Pleiades sector, which has multiple agricultural planets. The only escape from a life of farming is to join the military.
  • All According to Plan: Seldon does this from beyond the grave using a science called Psychohistory. He's able to consistently make accurate predictions of the future based on the likely actions of large groups of people. Various events, called Seldon Crisis' mark major events in the Foundation's history, each concluding with a hologram video of Seldon describing the importance of recent events.
    • The Mule is so dangerous because Psychohistory can't plan for it. Because Psychohistory only works with groups, and the predictions become more accurate the larger the group due to sociological patterns. It is entirely incapable of predicting the actions of any individual, and therefore a single immensely powerful individual can throw off the all of the predictions Seldon made.
  • All Myths Are True: The stories about Earth and other references to the robot novels, while believed by few, are surprisingly accurate despite that they happened tens of thousands of years before.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Why the Mule wanted to take over the galaxy.
  • Already the Case: In Second Foundation, a student in the titular organization tells the First Speaker that there is a high chance the First Foundation had shifted its focus to anti-telepath research in order to fight them. The Speaker states it has already happened.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Seldon Plan and/or the Second Foundation. Unusually, it's pretty well-known for a conspiracy: everybody knows that the (first) Foundation will found a second Galactic Empire thanks to the Seldon Plan, no matter what happens. Of course, the telepathic Second Foundation, which is a secret, helps things along.
  • Ancient Tradition: Ditto.
  • Arc Villain: Due to the fact that the series operates on "arcs" each of them feature a major antagonistic force.
    • The very first short story, "The Psychohistorians" with Seldon himself as the main driving point has Chief commissioner of Public Safety, Linge Cheng as the main antagonist force, attempting to imprison and stop Seldon's schemes.
    • The following arc, now on Terminus proper, has The Foundations leaders, the Encyclopedists as extremely unhelpful and passive and their leader, Lewis Pirenne who is Obstructive Bureaucrat as dense as a brick, opposing the young mayor, Salvor Hardin from actually dealing with the threat of the four kingdoms.
    • The Mayors arc, still with Hardin as the lead, instead has the regent of one of the four kingdoms, Weinis as a serious opponent who knows how to play his cards even around Hardin, he is however overcome by pride and careful mass manipulation by Hardin.
    • The "Mini arc" of Traders has the Elders Council of the planet Askone, which is hostile to the Foundation's economic supremacy, as well as a dangerous politician Councilor Pherl
    • The Merchant Princes arc has Foundation politicians Sutt and Manlio, who are still clinging to the religious power that the Foundation had been using previously but is beginning to die off, so they try to weaken the blossoming Traders by sending an agent to undermine Master Trader Huber Mallow during his mission on Korell, a world staunchly against the Foundation's religion. During the last third of the arc, after Mallow has defeated his political opponents and outmaneuvered Korell, he is faced by the planet of Korell itself, which has declared war on the Foundation. Mallow simply uses the power of money by declaring a nuclear embargo on Korell, and without even calling the Foundation's military force at all Korell is forced to surrender not long after.
    • The first half of Foundation and Empire has the last grand general of the empire, Bel Riose as a massive threat, so far completely unrivaled, who is fully immune to the Foundation's previous tactics, as political maneuvers are useless on him, the Foundation's religion is long dead and nuclear embargo can do nothing to him as he has empire tech. On top of this, he manages to severely weaken the Foundation's hold on the outer sector, taking several world systems and even managing to siege the Foundation's doorstep by taking some of its inner core worlds. Notably, hes also the Villain Protagonist and surprisingly likable, being fairly noble and philosophical, not to mention his main concern is reigniting the glory of the Empire, with no ulterior motives whatsoever, which makes his pathetic and inevitable fate at the hands of inner Empire politics defeat rather heartbreaking.
    • The second half of Foundation and Empire and the first half Second Foundation deal with the Mule, a nearly unstoppable conqueror who successfully defeats Seldon and shatters the plan to near beyond saving. The Mule is miles above anything the Foundation has ever faced, not to mention Terminus falls for the first and only time ever in its history. Yes, the Foundation loses to him. He does this with relative ease, outsmarts Foundation's insurgents and starts his plan of tracking down the legendary Second Foundation, which is surrounded in myth and rumored to be able to defeat him. As a whole, the Mule is less of an Arc Villain and much more of the series all round Big Bad, since his actions are so devastatingly severe that his influence is still extremely notable even 200 years after the Second Foundation just barely defeats him. As a matter of fact, every single following arc and story in the series clearly feels his actions and is deeply influenced by his mark on history.
    • The second half of Second Foundation has a silent showdown between the First and Second Foundations, with the First being notably more antagonistic, since they have become extremely paranoid of any psychic since the Mule and thus want to destroy the Second, which is an entire nation of psychics. Simultaneously, the whole thing is happening at the same time an impeding war with the remnants of the Mule's empire and its current leader, Lord Stettin is about to blow up. The Second Foundation manages to masterfully trick and outmaneuver the First into thinking they have been defeated, while Lord Stettin is a mere cover up who has been manipulated from the beginning by a Second Foundationer, the whole war being a simple set up farce to give the First Foundation the confidence to stand on its own.
    • Foundation's Edge has no real clear antagonist. It all depends on who the reader sides with, but all mayor players, The Second Foundation Speaker Stor Gendival, First Foundation Mayor Harla Branno as well as the force that Gaia represents can are all significant threats to one another and thus can be seen as such.
  • And Then What?: Lampshaded in Foundation's Edge. The First Speaker notes, that for Seldon, the Plan ended with the Second Empire being established, and that was it (most likely due to lack of time rather than foresight). Said First Speaker had largely earned his position because of his work on extending the Plan further.
  • Artifact Title: In-universe example with "The Foundation". Originally called the Encyclopedia Foundation, it was an N.G.O. focusing on publishing the total sum of the Empire's knowledge. While it did eventually do that (sort of), The Foundation began to focus on its true purpose, and became a empire of its own. A second in-universe example is the title of Mayor within the Foundation, which starts out as the title for the civilian leader of the town that grew up to support the Encyclopedia Foundation, and gradually ends up the title for the civilian leader of the interstellar Foundation Federation which governs a decent chunk of the Galaxy.
  • Assimilation Plot: Galaxia in the late sequels.
  • Atom Punk: Everything progressive in the universe runs on "Atomics" in the first book, and "Nucleics" from the second book onward. Everything, from home appliances to starships.
  • Ave Machina: At one point, the Foundation creates its own techno-religion to manipulate the populace of its neighbors. It's noted that the Foundation didn't mean to make a religion, that just turned out to be the best way to get their extremely backwards, unscientific neighbors to accept modern technology again. You can almost see the anonymous Foundationer creating the religion off-screen when he finally slaps his forehead and cries A Wizard Did It. It turns out to be a great way to distribute the technology while maintaining control of the actual knowledge base and science that makes it work.
  • Badass Bookworm: Hari Seldon, whose home planet of Helicon is noted for its martial arts.
  • Badass Family: Hober Mallow and his descendants play a prominent role in the Foundation's history. Mallow himself led the Foundation through the Third Seldon Crisis, his descendant Bayta Darell was instrumental in saving the Galaxy from the Mule, and Bayta's granddaughter Arkady went about having adventures across the galaxy at 14.
  • Badass Pacifist: Hardin. Able to stop Anacreon from invading the Foundation by convincing the barbarous world that they will suffer divine intervention for it, and then gives a Kirk Summation after Wienis tries to use force, but is killed by his own weapon. Back on Terminus, Hardin's enemies no longer try to impeach him, just in time for Seldon's Vault to be opened again.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Salvor Hardin is introduced as the Only Sane Man who is the only person to realize that Terminus is vulnerable to the Four Kingdoms, and that the whole Galaxy, even in the parts that haven't collapsed yet, is going to stagnate because the scientific method has been almost forgotten. After he takes over the government, he turns science into a religion (though only for missionary purposes — the scientific method is still remembered and used on Terminus itself) and appears to appease the Four Kingdoms. This is lampshaded by the Actionist Party, his political opponents, who mention among themselves that Hardin was a committed Actionist back when he was their age.
    • Han Pritcher during Search By The Mule. Once a member of Terminus' democratic underground dedicated to toppling the authoritarian rule of the Indbur Mayors by working as a Double Agent from within the regime's intelligence bureau, he later becomes a rebel fighting against the Mule after his forces capture and occupy Terminus itself. Unfortunately, in an attempt to blow up the Mule's palace, he is caught, and brought to the Mule to be Converted, turning him from a rebel into a loyal Mule's Man, who five years later has become the top general and right-hand man of the dictator he had once rebelled against. He briefly becomes himself again during the Mexican Stand Off between Bail Channis and the Mule at the climax of the story when Bail undoes his Conversion, but it doesn't last and Pritcher ends his life unsuccessfully trying to keep the Mule's Union of Worlds together after his master's death.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: At the climax of The Mayors Wienis turns his blaster on himself and commits suicide rather than allow himself to be subjected to a religious trial for trying to attack the "holy planet" of Terminus, and also because he can't kill a force-shielded Salvor Hardin with the gun either.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The good guys, the Second Foundation are essentially Knight Templar Totalitarian Utilitarians who will do anything to make the prophecies of Hari Seldon come true. And yet, in this setting they really are better than most of their opponents.
  • Black Box: Because the Seldon Plan will only work if people don't have foreknowledge of what they should do, Seldon intentionally allowed all knowledge of Psychohistory die with him and his immediate successors to make sure of that. To take it one step further, he also completely destroyed the discipline of psychology (by intentionally only inviting one psychologist to Terminus—and making sure that psychologist understand the importance of not teaching anyone what he knows) just to be sure that someone later one will not be able to independently reinvent Psychohistory as a discipline.
    • Subverted with the reveal of the Second Foundation's true purpose. Not only have they kept Psychohistory alive, they've advanced it far past what Seldon himself dreamed of.
  • Bleed 'em and Weep: A woman shoots a dying friend in order to stop him from talking (It Makes Sense in Context). Then she cries for the first time since her childhood
  • Brainwashed: Victims of both The Mule and the Second Foundation.
  • Brick Joke: in The Caves of Steel, Daneel Olivaw has a problem in that his smile goes straight into the Uncanny Valley. Thousands of years later, he has to be taught how to laugh (and it requires him weeks of training to achieve an apparently genuine result).
  • The Bro Code: Invoked by Golan Trevize in Foundation and Earth, to get an order agent to let Bliss enter a planet without documents.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Ebling Mis. The Foundation's top psychologist, he lives in a messy house, swears constantly, and has little to no respect for formality. Once, when dealing with a stuffy and bureaucratic mayor, he went so far as to sit on the man's desk.
  • The Butler Did It: In the last Foundation novel, Forward the Foundation (posthumously published) Emperor Cleon I, who was later considered the last emperor under whom the Empire prospered, was assassinated at age 50 by none other than his gardener Gruber who was distressed about his appointment to be the Head Gardener, as that was a desk job and he would be taken away from the outdoors.
  • Canon Welding: Ultimately, it merged three (at least) different continuities; of I, Robot with its accompanying stories, of The Caves of Steel and its sequels, and the Foundation itself with its Empire prequels.
  • Cargo Cult: During the war with the Empire, an imperial officer brings an old videotape and claims they took it on some planet where the locals have built a whole temple around it and defended it with their lives.
  • The Chessmaster: Seldon, and then the Second Foundation, and then Gaia, and finally R. Daneel Olivaw
  • The Chosen One: In Foundation's Edge Golan Trevize is chosen because he makes good decisions instinctively. To be more precise, Gaia manipulated the Second Foundation to manipulate the First Foundation to choose Trevize.
  • City Planet: Trantor
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Japan actually released a manga version.
  • Common Tongue: Galactic Standard serves this purpose, though dialects have arisen. Still, since a unified language doesn't do away with either accents or Language Drift, communication problems still occasionally arise.
  • Conflict Killer: Right as a splinter group of the Foundation prepares to rebel against the homeworld, The Mule arises out of nowhere, forcing the sides into an Enemy Mine situation.
  • Continuity Nod: The Encyclopedia Galactica, used mostly as an Encyclopedia Exposita, also had a minor appearance as the official purpose of the First Foundation. Also some of the Unusual Euphemisms. If you read carefully, there is even a nod to The End of Eternity.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • In "The Merchants", when Hober Mallow visits Korell, he is in a out-of-the-way spaceport, with the nearest city 150 kilometers away, when a priest appears, immediately followed by a mob. This fact clues Mallow in the fact that it is a ruse played by the Korell leaders to prevent the religion of science from spreading to their world.
    • Played straight in the second half of Foundation and Empire. The Mule just so happens to launch his attack against the Foundation at the exact same time as a Seldon Crisis is unfolding and approaching its climax. There is no indication in the novels that he knew this beforehand.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: The death of Prince Lepold's father in a hunting accident in Foundation, arranged by Wienis.
  • Crew of One: Many of the smaller ships in the series, and Trevize's in particular.
  • Crime-Concealing Hobby: Magnifico has playing a Visi-Sonor as a hobby, giving numerous concerts to the Foundation elite. In the end, it turned out he is the Big Bad, and the instrument served as an Amplifier Artifact for his Emotion Control powers, allowing him to demoralize the Foundation leaders.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: The Sixth and Seventh Seldon Crisis. The Fifth goes off the rails thanks to the Mule, and the opening scenes of Foundation's Edge depict the aftermath of the successful resolution of the Eighth, so it is clear they happened, but no detail about their nature or resolution is ever given in the canon.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The battle between the Kalganian and Foundation fleets in Second Foundation. The former begins with three hundred warships and ends with just sixty, most of them heavily damaged. The latter loses eight ships of a total of one hundred twenty five.
  • The Cycle of Empires: The series starts as the Galactic Empire is in decline. The Foundation's entire purpose is to jump-start the formation of the next empire and cut the long night short by several thousand years. It's suggested that one of the purposes of the Seldon Crises is to short-circuit periods of decay for the Foundation and push the Foundation back towards another period of vigourous expansion.
  • Dashed Plot Line: Each book is spread out over several years, sometimes even multiple centuries.
  • Deadly Upgrade: A scientist character whose ability to make intuitive logical leaps was overclocked in this way by an emotion-controlling telepath, which brought him to the brink of death.
  • Deconstruction: Of pulp era space operas. Instead of dashing heroics and swashbuckling, Asimov created a space opera where the heroes use their wits and intelligence to get out of problems. Indeed, the author goes so far that the individuals themselves do not save the day, but historical forces are what do, sometimes beyond the protagonists' control.
  • Declining Promotion: Played with. In one of the prequel novels the Emperor took a liking to one of his gardeners, and insisted on promoting him to Head Gardener, over his protests. The problem was that an administrative position would take him away from working outdoors, which he loved (the Imperial Gardens being literally the only outdoor space on their City Planet). When he wasn't allowed to decline the promotion, the gardener ended up assassinating the emperor.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The Seldon Plan worked wonderfully for the first book and a half, but then it ran into a complete unknown unknown in the form of the Mule. The plan is eventually brought back on track through Xanatos Speed Chess, a massive Hail Mary pass on the part of the Second Foundation and the Heroic Sacrifice of many of their people. Later, another unknown unknown surfaced in the form of Gaia, and more generally, the fact that the Seldon Plan can't account for nonhuman intelligences, which are beginning to emerge through human evolution.
    • It's also implied that the Seldon Plan is based on very generalized human behavior, concentrating on mass movements and trends. The formula behind the Plan tends to disregard the effect a single individual can have despite their statistical insignificance.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: An interesting case. The Mule has conquered the First Foundation, and the Seldon Plan seems to be lying in ruins. All he needs to do is learn the location of the Second Foundation, destroy it, and then no force in all the galaxy will be able to oppose him. And he's seconds away from gaining the last piece of the puzzle, because he's duped Ebling Mis into decoding Seldon's nearly-incomprehensible coded notes. Then Bayta Darrell kills Mis when he's seconds away from revealing what he knows to the Mule. What makes this so dramatic is that no one except Bayta knows that the Mule is the Mule. Everyone else thinks he's just plain old Magnifico. He's kept his identity secret by using his psychic powers to keep them from putting two and two together. But he couldn't bring himself to do so in Bayta's case because she's the only person who's ever genuinely LIKED him.
  • Distant Sequel: Many of the books' component stories were first published in the Pulp Magazines of the time. The overarching story achieves a Dashed Plot Line effect due to skipping between characters, often with Time Skips of a generation or some between stories.
    • "The Psychohistorians": A Short Story added retroactively when Foundation 1951 was published, this begins the timeline of the Foundation Era at -1 Foundation Era. Year 1 is when the planet Terminus is colonized by the Foundation.
    • "The Encyclopedists": The events in this story take place in 50 F.E., fifty years since the events of "The Psychohistorians".
    • "The Mayors": The events in this story take place in 80 F.E., thirty years since the events of "The Encyclopedists" and manages to keep two characters from the previous story, who are now aged and important figures.
    • "The Traders": Created as an Interquel between "The Mayors" and "The Merchant Princes", occurring two decades before the latter (making it take place around 130 F.E.).
    • "The Merchant Princes": The events in this story take place over a few years, starting twenty years after "The Traders" (and with none of the same characters), reportedly a "century and a half" since Terminus was colonized by the Foundation. This places it seventy years after the events of "The Mayors".
    • "The General": The events in this story begins over forty years after "The Merchant Princes" (roughly 200 F.E.), and Ducem Barr (the offscreen son of an old man) is now, himself, an old man. Hober Mallow is gone, replaced by Sennett Forell (his bastard son). The other characters have all died from old age.
  • Divine Right of Kings: The Scam Religion set up by the Foundation in the first couple centuries of their plan to rebuild the Galactic Empire props up the neighboring petty kings who rose in the wake of the crumbling old Empire by affording them a measure of divinity. However, if a king turns against the Foundation they can revoke that divine right (by shutting off all the tech they provide and maintain) and turn the devout populace against them.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: It turns out that Magnifico was the Mule.
  • Downer Ending: Lathan Devers' story turns out to be this. His efforts to bring down Bel Riose turns out to be unnecessary and without impact, and while he is honoured for them nonetheless, The Mule reveals that he made a failed attempt at rebellion against the Merchant Princes and ended his days slaving in mines.
  • The Dragon: Han Pritcher to the Mule by the time of Search By The Mule, after having been Converted during the previous story, becoming his second-in-command and best general. But only as long as the Conversion remains in place; when it's undone by Second Foundation mentalists, Pritcher has to be immediately restrained to prevent the former rebel from immediately killing his master. Mention is made in the later stories that after the Mule's death, Pritcher briefly became a Dragon Ascendant trying to keep the Mule's Union of Worlds intact, but was unsuccessful.
  • Dying Alone: A major theme of the final Asimov-penned Foundation story, Forward the Foundation, which chronicles the second half of Hari Seldon's life leading up to his creation of the Plan, is the loss of everyone close to him. His wife, Dors Venabili is targeted by an anti-robot weapon and killed, his foster-son Raych dies during a riot on another planet, and his daughter-in-law and grandson disappear when the ship they take to a supposed safe haven just vanishes without a trace. By the end, the only person Hari has left in his life is his granddaughter Wanda, but they are still separated as she and the other founding members of the Second Foundation are required by the Plan to go into seclusion, and thus he never sees her again before his death. However, while he may die alone, Hari also dies content in the knowledge that the future is safeguarded.
  • Earth That Was: By the time of the original story, the Earth is unknown, and the "origin question" of humanity's homeworld is little more than a conversation starter at parties.
    • Notably, the character who mentions this has doubts that Sol may be where Humanity originatednote .
  • The Empath: The Mule became a Big Bad because he's able to brainwash his enemies into completely loyal servants.
  • The Empire: Collapsing and corrupt, but still not as overtly evil as some examples of this trope. The Roman Empire supplied Asimov with his major inspiration.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: The Encyclopedia Galactica, which may well be the Trope Codifier.
  • Enhance Button: Short story "The Big and the Little" (which later became the chapter "The Merchant Princes" in the first Foundation novel Foundation). Hober Mallow records the events when a Foundation missionary seeks refuge aboard Mallow's ship on the planet Korell. He later enhances an image on the Visual Record that shows a tattoo on the missionary's arm. The tattoo says KSP, proving that the missionary is actually a plant - a member of the Korellian Secret Police.
  • Eureka Moment: Bayta has been thinking about the fact that she felt desperate both during the Time Vault event and in Neotrantor. When recently converted Han Pritcher reveals to them that the Mule was the one that caused the desperation in the Time Vault, she makes the connection that Magnifico, the half-idiot jester she has been friends with, is actually the Mule.
  • Everybody Smokes: Due to the time they were written in. Still, it is remarkable to see Indbur III, well-meaning but ineffectual dictator of the most powerful state in the galaxy, mocked because he is a non-smoker who does not allow smoking in his private office. If you are the ruler of an empire spanning a quarter of the galaxy or so, it seems reasonable that you are the one who decides whether smoking is allowed in your office.
    • The Mule is a non-smoker, too. It seems to be a part of his and Indbur's portrayals as negative characters.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: At least twice:
    • Joranum is baffled that Demerzel spends his time trying to keep the citizens of the provinces happy, when it's only on Trantor that a rebellion would be dangerous to Demerzel's power.
    • Brodrig dismisses Riose's true claim to be devoted to the Imperium — the only reason Brodrig can imagine for embarking on a war is to seize power for oneself.
  • Exploited Immunity: In "Second Foundation", a "mental static" device is used to hunt second foundationers. It has no effect on people without psychic powers.
  • Exposition of Immortality: As part of twist ending to Foundation and Earth, R. Daneel Olivaw calmly announces that yes, he is in fact twenty thousand years old. He goes on to discuss some of the events of earlier installments, making mention of Elijah Baley and other long-deceased parties.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: The martial art of Hari Seldon's home planet of Helicon, "Twisting".
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel
  • Fictional Document: The Encyclopedia Galactica. By Foundation's Edge, Golan Trevise mentions it is now a continually updated computer archive; this was long before The Other Wiki (or even its predecessors, such as Encarta or Encyclopedia Britannica Online).
  • Feudal Future
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The ostensible (and real) purposes of the Foundation: to compile and publish an encyclopedia of all human knowledge, and to be the seed for a second Empire, reducing the interregnum from thirty millenia to one.
  • Freudian Trio: In Foundation and Earth:
    • Id: Trevize — Hot-headed and instinctive. He is actually part of the team because he makes good decisions without thinking things through.
    • Superego: Bliss — Literally a mastermind (as part of Gaia), who thinks through every of her actions to be the best for everyone and to solve problems with as little violence as possible.
    • Ego: Pelorat — More cold-blooded than Trevize but still a normal human, he usually understands the point of both Trevize and Bliss.
  • Future Imperfect: The list of indigenous Earth animals Pelorat mentions, based on ancient documents he's translated fragments of, include brontosaurs and orcs.
  • Gambit Roulette: The Seldon Plan, which runs for a millennium and will completely fall apart if one of the numerous crises do not go as planned. Seldon was very much aware of the dangers, and so created the Second Foundation to modify the plan as needed, and to intervene directly if required, to make sure that it stayed on track.
  • Genius Loci: Gaia is a variation. The planet itself is not actually sentient, but the telepathic Hive Mind created by the human inhabitants extends to the entire world and every living or non-living thing on it.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: From Second Foundation:
    "A. Darrell" would be just the sort of thing that she would have to put on all her themes for her class (...) All the other kids had to do it, too, except for Olynthus Dam, because the class laughed so when he did it the first time.
  • The Grand Hunt: The former King of the planet Anacreon was accidentally killed during a hunt to kill a giant flying animal called a Nyak. In the story Prince Regent Weinis hints to the current King Lepold I that he had the previous king murdered and could do the same to Lepold during a royal hunt if he doesn't go along with Weinis' plans.
  • Gray and Grey Morality: The sequels don't take a single judgement on whether the First Foundation, Second Foundation or Gaia is the "right" way for humanity to evolve.
  • God Guise: Members of the Foundation's "religion of science", who only learn to handle technology as a sacrament. Done deliberately by the Foundation to keep them dependent on the Foundation.
    • Also, the "tech-men" of Siwenna, a hereditary sect of engineers and technicians who learned by rote and cannot actually repair anything important.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Out of all its opponents before the Mule, Imperial General Bel Riose comes the closest to toppling the Foundation during his campaign to "pacify" the Periphery. His plan is ultimately foiled by his own Emperor, who, paranoid of Riose's success and popularity, has him recalled and arrested on trumped-up charges of treason.
    • Riose is also a bit undercut by the fact that Seldon was able to predict that someone like Riose was going to come along at around this time; the social dynamics of the Empire, as well as the size of its military and population, meant that a "hugely gifted general" figure would rise to the occasion of attempting Imperial restoration, and thus Seldon also preducted that the same social dynamics, especially with the Imperial Court, would never allow such a figure to be successful enough to truly defeat the Foundation and that the Foundation just had to endure until the general got recalled. This ended up being a horrible rightness of its own, though, because with this incident, the leaders of the Foundation, who weren't well-versed in psychohistory, began to believe that Seldon had plotted down any potential threats to the Foundation down to the individual level and thus there was nothing to worry about...
    • During "The Mule" in Foundation and Empire, the Independent Traders sent Toran and Bayta to Kalgan to persuade the Mule to attack the Foundation, in the hope that they'd be able to topple the Indbur regime while it was recovering from the attack. Judging by the snippets of Seldon's speech, the Plan anticipated that the Traders would attack the Foundation. Not just the Mule's attack, but the Mule's mere existence was much more than either Seldon or the Traders could have ever anticipated, since psychohistory can't account for billion-to-one variables like a genuine psychic mutant with compulsion powers being born.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong:
    • Jorane Sutt decided to send Hober Mallow to Korell with the expectation that he would either get himself killed or do something that would allow Sutt to metaphorically hang him as a step in his plan to become The Man Behind the Man. Not only does Mallow achieve his stated mission, but the consequences lead to Sutt landing with his ass in prison and Mallow becoming the Mayor of Terminus (that is, the head of state/government of the Foundation).
    • Imperial General Bel Riose comes the closest to toppling the Foundation during his campaign to "pacify" the Periphery. His plan is ultimately foiled by his own Emperor, who, paranoid of Riose's success and popularity, has him recalled and arrested on trumped-up charges of treason.
    • The Independent Traders send Toran and Bayta to Kalgan to persuade the Mule to attack the Foundation, in the hope that they'd be able to topple the Indbur regime while it was recovering from the attack. Judging by the snippets of Seldon's speech, his Plan anticipated that the Traders would attack the Foundation. The Mule's attack was much more than either Seldon or the Traders could have expected because of his Psychic Powers that created betrayal in the most loyal Foundationer.
  • Global Currency: the Imperial credit, at least until the Galactic Empire falls. (Except for the one time that Asimov slipped and referred to "dollars" instead.)
  • Happiness in Mind Control: Even if they know they're under his control, the Mule's thralls have absolute love and loyalty for him, because his powers leave them no other choice.
  • Harmony Versus Discipline: Gaia versus the Foundations. On the discipline side, the First Foundation represents physical strength, while the Second Foundation represents brain power (by the way of both mental powers and mathematical calculations). They work towards the Second Empire, a better and more benevolent counterpart of the first one, as it is calculated mathematically by Hari Seldon. On the harmony side, there is Gaia, a planet of shared consciousness, which was created as a result of Zeroth Law Rebellion. Their plan is to extend this consciousness to the whole galaxy, thus creating Galaxia, but only if it would actually benefit humanity.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "She had shopped...along the Flowered Path, fashion center of the gayest world in Space."
  • Hegemonic Empire: Following the fall of the Galactic Empire, the Foundation wanted to create one of these by using their preserved knowledge of advanced technology as leverage against the neighboring systems.
    • The first book is all about creating and maintaining such an empire. Leaving aside a temporary and extremely unlikely setback, the main reason why it is less prominent in later books is that it is so successful a policy (well, policies — the Foundation goes through several variations of 'use their superior technology and science as leverage') that by the last shown period, the Foundation proper has grown from a single world to over a tenth of the Milky Way.
    • While it only shows up in The Currents of Space, the Trantorian Empire that became the (first) Galactic Empire had elements of this, if nothing else by default — once you become rich and powerful enough that your local ambassadors can feel confident signing off on a deal to buy an entire planet and arrange the evacuation of the population, soft-power methods of expanding your influence comes with the package.
  • Hidden Villain: The Mule, for most of Foundation and Empire.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The Second Foundation, also the Mule, AKA Magnifico
  • Hive Mind: Gaia. Although individual Gaians have names and personalities, they are all also each an extension of the superorganism. The entire planet is incorporated: not just the people and animals, but even the plants, and all the way down to the rocks and the atmosphere. Their/Gaia's ultimate goal is to create Galaxia — turning the entire galaxy into a single unit, from the planets to every asteroid and the great black hole at its center.
    • By Foundation's Edge the Second Foundation has begun to experiment with mental gestalts. They're still far from Gaia (the main use the Foundation has come up with is simply being set up so that a Second Foundationer on the scene can draw from more mental power than he himself possesses), but it is probably not a coincidence that the book ends with the Second Foundation's representative in the climactic showdown leaving, slightly mind-altered by Gaia, with the idea to encourage more and deeper work on the gestalts...
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: what half the solutions to the Seldon Crisis run on. As exemplified in Salvor Hardin's quote, "An atom-blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways."
    • The religion the Foundation establishes in the Four Kingdoms, which allowed its monarchs to establish almost absolute control over their people, also gave the Foundation an even greater power over them as the Foundation became the controller of their technology and the main object of worship.
    • Jorane Sutt hoped to use the trial against Hober Mallow to break the power of the merchants and ride the wave of religious fervor into greater power. Hober Mallow turned the fervor against him after he proved that the accusations were based on a lie, revealing Sutt's manipulations and riding the wave of patriotic fervor into the Mayor's office.
    • Korell's Commdor's greed, stoked by his establishing a greater industrial network with the Foundation's technology, led to his fall when his war declaration against the Foundation left him without the essential maintenance for that technology, ruining him and his main supporters.
  • Honorary Uncle: Arkady Darell's father has no siblings, but that doesn't impede her from considering Homir Munn (one of her father's best friends) her "uncle".
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: The Mule and the Second Foundation are the obvious examples in the original books. Gaia takes this Up to Eleven, as Daneel had managed to train the entire population of the planet to become telepathic, and the Gaians in turn are planning to extend this to all of humanity.
  • I Thought Everyone Could Do That: The Mule mentions that it took him a while to figure out that other people couldn't manipulate emotions, perhaps because, according to Foundation's Edge, he was from a planet where everyone really could do that, though he was unique in his willingness to do so without considering the well-being of the people being manipulated.
  • It Is Beyond Saving: By the time Hari Seldon created the science of psychohistory it was too late to save the Galactic Empire - at that point it was so decadent that its fall was inevitable. All he could do was to try to arrange conditions so a new Empire could rise in 1,000 years instead of 30,000.
  • Info Dump: Since each of the chapters of the original trilogy was published individually, Asimov had to find excuses to fit one into each of them. By the last story, "Search By the Foundation"/"...And Now You Don't", he lampshaded the exposition as an actual essay written as homework by Arkady Darrell (which doubled as an Establishing Character Moment). The last story in the first novel, "The Merchant Princes"/"The Big and the Little", had the need for it as a plot point, indicating that a character isn't who he claims to be (since if he was he wouldn't need an infodump about what a Seldon Crisis is).
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: At the start of the series, Earth has long been forgotten. The stories set earlier in the chronology make it clear that humanity could only expand into the galaxy at large by the gradual death of its mother planet. What caused Earth's uninhabitability is a major plot point, as is itself the act of forgetting Earth.
    • An in-universe historian mentions the Sol System as a possible place of origin for humanity, but in a tone and context which makes it clear that it is just barely taken seriously, with Arcturus being considered the low-odds bet.
  • Interrupted Bath: The Traders opens with the protagonist being interrupted in his shower by a fellow Trader bringing him an urgent assignment.
  • Invented Linguistic Distinction: The planets of the Galaxy have different dialects, sometimes barely intelligible to one another. Magnifico, for example, speaks with the accent of the galactic core, conveniently rendered as Flowery Elizabethan English.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): Comporellon, which Trevize and co. visit in Foundation and Earth, was once Baleyworld.
    • In Foundation's Edge, Trantor is referred to as "Hame" (their word for "home") by the locals. Given Asimov's knowledge of Constantinople, and how its name was changed note , this may have been a variation of the Trope Namer being Recycled In Space.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Emperor Agis XIV, who later befriends Hari Seldon in Forward the Foundation.
  • Just the First Citizen:
    • The ruler of the First Foundation is simply the Mayor of Terminus.
    • Commdor ("First Citizen") Asper Argo note  of the planet Korell in "The Merchant Princes". Asimov spends a paragraph to comment on the phenomenon:
      Korell is that frequent phenomenon in history: the republic whose ruler has every attribute of the absolute monarch but the name. It therefore enjoyed the usual despotism unrestrained even by those two moderating influences in the legitimate monarchies: regal "honor" and court etiquette.
    • The Mule rules nearly half the Galaxy under the title "First Citizen of the Union of Worlds", while the title of the Second Foundation's leader is the First Speakernote .
  • Kids Are Cruel: In the last act of Forward the Foundation, an elderly Hari Seldon and his granddaughter Wanda end up the center of a huge trial over Wanda's (at her grandfather's insistence) alleged assault of three youths (in actuality gangmembers who wanted to mug the two). Wanda fights the gangmembers off and then flees with Hari, since Hari has already gotten in trouble for a previous incident with other gangmembers, but the incident is seen and reported to the guards anyway by a fourteen year old boy who paints Seldon and Wanda as the aggressors and the gangmembers as innocent, because shortly before the attack occured, Seldon yelled at the boy not to throw litter in the streets.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Ebling Mis is killed by Bayta before he could tell where the Second Foundation actually is. Hari Seldon dies mid sentence of old age while working on the Seldon Plan.
  • King Trope the Nth:
    • The Galactic Emperors, whose rule stretch back twelve thousand years, although not through the same dynasty.
    • The Indburs, during the brief period that The Foundation becomes a dynasty.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: The Mule.
  • Last of His Kind: A significant character in Foundation and Earth.
  • Legendary in the Sequel: By the time of the Foundation stories, Elijah Baley from Asimov's Robot stories is a "culture hero" whose very existence is doubted.
  • Life Will Kill You: Hari Seldon dies an old man, peacefully in his office in the University of Trantor, still working away on the Plan.
  • Little Stowaway: Arkady Darell
  • Load-Bearing Boss: At least metaphorically; when The Mule dies, his empire rapidly falls apart.
  • Logical Weakness: the First Foundation evolved a weapon against the telepathic Second Foundation, being a kind of mental flashbang, in order to wipe them out. However, this was just part of the Second Foundation's plot to be considered destroyed
  • Long Game: Shortening the barbaric interregnum from 30 thousand years to 1 thousand years? That's some serious long-term planning.
  • Lost Technology: As the Empire decays, it begins to lose fundamental understanding of its own advanced technology, and instead of re-discovering the information they restrict the usage of what remains. As a result, there are few (if any) who knows how to build or maintain the tech, except for the members of the Foundation.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: The Galactic Empire collapses because, having long become used to complacent peace and prosperity, its scientists have become content to simply preserve and pass down received wisdom rather than creating new inventions or making new discoveries. At the same time, the divide between theoretical and applied science grows to the point that nearly everyone outside the Foundation itself can barely maintain their own infrastructure, much less expand it.
  • Magnetic Hero: Raych is shown to be this from the beginning, with both Hari and Dors liking the kid even though they barely know him. This also allows him to stop Mayor Rashelle of Wye from killing Hari. This turns out to be an incipient form of the mental powers Raych's daughter Wanda ends up developing later.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Mule.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • It's implied that Cleon II specifically chose his name in memory of Cleon I, who was the last emperor under whom the Empire reached its zenith.
    • Bel Riose is loosely based on the 6th century Byzantine general, Belisarius.
    • The Mule - he is sterile.
    • Preem Palver - leader of the Second Foundation, Prime Palaver means "First Talk(er)" and his title is, in fact, First Speaker
  • Memory Gambit: Second Foundation features a very elaborate example.
  • Mexican Standoff: Invoked at the end of Foundation's Edge. Gaia arranges the First and Second Foundations and themselves into this so that Trevize has time to decide who should win.
    • Combined with Deadman Switch in Second Foundation. The Mule has Bail Channis at blaster-point. Channis undoes the conditioning on Han Pritcher, filling him with murderous rage at having been controlled, and mentally restrains him, so that if the Mule fires, the former pawn kills him a moment later. Later, after the Mule manages to deal with Channis, the First Speaker comes with a larger scale variant of the standoff - Second Foundation agents have infiltrated the Mule's empire in his absence, and should the Mule kill him, they'll dismantle it.
  • Merchant Prince: By the time of the last part of the first book, the Foundation has become a merchant of technology, and rules the Four Kingdoms surrounding it thereby. Hober Mallow, actually titled "Merchant Prince" in the story, uses technology brokering to expand the Foundation's sphere of influence even further.
  • Metal Poor Planet: The planet of Terminus has so few mineral resources that its coinage is made of steel. As a result, they push miniaturization to levels that scientists of the Galactic Empire believed impossible.
  • The Milky Way Is the Only Way: This actually becomes a plot point in the later books.
  • Mind over Matter: The Solarians have "transducer lobes" on the sides of their brains. These allow them to direct any ambient energy flow into doing work that they desire, without the need to touch the thing they want to move. They can exert this effect over a kilometers-wide estate without having to think about it.
  • Mind Rape: The Mule has this ability, and ruthlessly uses it on the poor Second Foundation decoy who ends up completely brain-dead by the end of it.
  • Mr. Smith: Well, Jan Smite, to be precise.
  • Modern Major General: In Second Foundation, the Second Foundation have been turning the Mule's top officers into these, by destroying their initiative and ingenuity.
  • Mondegreen: In Forward the Foundation Wanda is in Seldon's office and has what she believes is a dream, in which two men are talking about "lemonade death". It turns out that it is no dream, and that the two men are plotting to kill Dors with a machine called the Elar-Monay Clarifier.
  • More Than Mind Control: In Prelude, Daneel uses his Psychic Powers this way as both Demerzel and Hummin to minimize the strain of invoking the Zeroth law to act. He attempts to influence his subjects by strengthening or weakening their responses to his actions and suggestions. One of the reasons Hari Seldon suspects Daneel's true identity is because of his uncanny and implausible powers of persuasion throughout the story.
  • Morton's Fork: How the Empire is defeated in Foundation and Empire. The internal situation of the Empire is such, that any Emperor who tries to go against the Foundation himself will have to either return home or lose the throne to a rebel. Therefore, only an Imperial general can threaten the Foundation. However, if the general is strong enough to challenge the Foundation, yet didn't take over the Empire himself, that means the Emperor is one who knows how to remain in power... which includes removing any underling who might grow strong and popular enough to challenge him - like, for example, by becoming a conqueror.
  • Motive Rant: Played straight by The Mule when he gets caught in Foundation and Empire; then he proudly points out that while the conditions of this defeat have bummed him out and denied him the chance to eliminate a powerful potential enemy, he hasn't lost anything and in fact still has the upper hand. Then he just leaves because he has a galaxy to rule.
  • Multicultural Alien Planet: Trantor is barely mentioned beyond being a City Planet (and then eventually a Farm Planet after the Empire collapses and it gets sacked), but in the prequel novels it's described as a very diverse planet — so diverse that Hari Seldon uses it as a sufficiently simplified model of the galaxy for Psychohistory.
  • Multistage Teleport: In Foundation's Edge, Foundation long-distance space travel is done one relatively short jump at a time, after which a ship must calculate the next jump. The calculations can take days, but Trevize's ship is capable of making the calculations in seconds. These "short" jumps are still hundreds of lightyears, but traveling all the way across the galaxy in one jump risks collisions with stars or other obstacles.
  • Musical Assassin: An instrument/hologram generator called a Visi-Sonor can be very deadly in the proper hands.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Just about every other word out of Ebling Miss' mouth is replaced by the text with "Unprintable", almost always as an adjective. This allows Miss to be the single most foulmouthed character in the entire series.
  • N.G.O.: The Board of Trustees wanted the Encyclopedia Foundation to remain this, believing it shouldn't be involved with any politics and focus on finishing the Encyclopedia Galactica. Too bad it was just a ruse by Seldon to force them along his plan.
    • Likewise the Foundation's religion of science was overtly this but really a tool of the Mayor.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: The Foundation during the "Four Kingdoms" peroid. Wenis found out the hard way how effective their religion really was.
  • Nobody Poops: Lampshaded when Arkady Darrell sneaks aboard a ship like normally done in books... and then realizes she can't hide for long.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: In Foundation and Empire, The Mule couldn't bring himself to mind-control Bayta, because she was the only person who genuinely liked him without him having to make her do so.
  • No Ending: As noted above, Asimov couldn't come up with an ending to the series, so he wrote prequels instead. The story takes us only about halfway through the promised thousand years before society is put back on track. The thousand year plan had gone completely off the rails and been rendered irrelevant by Galaxia assimilating the galaxy in any case.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: In Foundation's Edge, on discussing Earth's then-alleged radioactivity, Trevize and Pelorat discuss the possibility of it being caused by a nuclear war — which they dismiss out of hand because, in their era, the use of nuclear weapons is unthinkable. They go on to discuss an insurrection during the Imperial era in which, after both sides were reduced to starvation and desperation, one of the commanders suggested causing a nuclear explosion to resolve the conflict — and was promptly hanged by his own men.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: In the second part of Second Foundation, Lord Stettin's mistress acts as if she's almost too dumb to breathe, but she is in fact a highly intelligent Second Foundationer planted in that situation in order to help get the Plan back on track.
    • Lord Dorwin in Foundation. Salvor Hardin commented: "I'll admit I had thought his lordship a most consummate donkey when I first met him—but it turned out that he was actually an accomplished diplomat and a most clever man." It turned out that in five days of discussion, Lord Dorwin had managed to avoid saying anything meaningful, and did it so smoothly and talkatively that no one noticed until later. (Hardin actually provided mathematical proof of this; he recorded everything Dorwin said and tried to have it analyzed, but everything cancelled out.)
    • Sura Novi in Foundation's Edge is a gentle, slightly naïve Hamenian (post-Fall Trantor inhabitant) who barely knows how to read and write and decides to work for Stor Gendibal as a servant because she has a bit of hero worship and a crush on him. She's actually a highly intelligent and powerful Gaian agent that was placed in Hame/Trantor to get an Speaker to the First Foundation/Second Foundation/Gaia meeting to decide the Galaxy's future, and later returns with Gendibal back home to subtly guide him into leading the Second Foundation towards Galaxia.
  • Oh, and X Dies: In Foundation and Empire: "After that there were only two weeks left to the life of Ebling Mis."
  • Oh, Crap!: During the crisis with The Mule, the Foundation leadership awaits a recorded message from Hari Seldon to tell them how to defeat him. However, when the day arrives the message is actually about a civil war within the Foundation which didn't occur because of the threat of The Mule. Seldon is cut off mid-message as the Mule's attack on Terminus begins.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Second Foundation leadership. They're so vague that their "conversations" are rendered in the books as speech only as a favor to the reader; in actuality their communication is so advanced and subtle, involving body language and even outright telepathy, that very few words are actually spoken.
  • Omniscient Morality License: The Seldon Plan fully expects there to be wars, oppression, extremism and a general barbarity, and actually hastens the development of such. However, since the Empire is already dying, its followers don't have much choice but follow the plan out, creating the much lasting Second Empire. Hari Seldon knows that it will all work out in the end.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: The foppish Imperial diplomat Lord Dorwin normally has a severe case of Elmuh Fudd Syndwome. When he views a book-film on archaeology during his tour of the Foundation, Salvor Hardin is amused to notice that Dorwin is so honestly excited that he "pronounced his r's".
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Double Subverted. Salvor Hardin turns science into a religion in order to make it palatable to the conquered Four Kingdoms. It's later used (increasingly unsuccessfully) to try and convert new systems to the Foundation's rule, and more or less abandoned once Hober Mallow realizes that it's served its purpose.
  • Outside-Context Problem:
    • The Mule, who very seriously acts as a Spanner in the Works to the Seldon Plan.
    • The concept turns out to be a fairly important plot point in the Foundation's Edge/Foundation and Earth duo — Trevize knows that there's something important that made him choose Gaia over the Second Foundation, but the whole intuition thing means he's not consciously aware of what it is. It turns out to be an important word in the definition of Psycho-History: humanity's future. The Second Foundation simply isn't set-up to deal with non-human intelligences, and while that, thanks to Absent Aliens, hasn't been a problem thus far, that state of affairs might not last forever, especially given how many other galaxies exist and also with the divergence some human populations have begun to show from mainstream humanity...
  • Overly Long Name: Gaians add syllables to their names with age and accomplishments. Most pick a single syllable for regular use. Dom, a particularly noteworthy Gaian, has 253 syllables in his name, with no separation between them!
  • Patchwork Story: The original trilogy are all patched together out of short stories and novellas.
  • Path of Inspiration: The "religion of science" the Foundation creates to take indirect control of the Four Kingdoms.
  • Pieces of God: The Gaians. They are all a part of the superorganism and all their memories will be retained by it when they die. There is some debate among the Gaians as to whether they should actually preserve the personalities of the dead as well, but the general consensus is that this would not be a good idea.
  • The Plan:
    • The Seldon Plan is a very very very long-term one. There are a few smaller ones, such as Hardin's plan to eliminate Wienis, involving handing a Lost Technology battleship to the enemy and using conveniently timed sabotage to "show" the legitimacy of the "Religion of Science".
    • Prelude to Foundation: In disguise, R. Daneel Olivaw convinces Hari Seldon to run away from the Evil Chancellor...who happens to be another alias of R. Daneel Olivaw. All so he help Seldon develop psychohistory.
  • Planetville: Trantor is an aversion of this, especially as depicted in the prequel novels.
    • Also averted in Foundation's Edge, when Trevize and Pelorat discuss how Earth might have become radioactive, they raise the possibility of a nuclear accident — which they dismiss because such a disaster wouldn't affect an entire planet.
  • Pleasure Planet: Kalgan, a luxury world which is a "producer of pleasure" and "seller of leisure". Unusually for this kind of planet, Kalgan manages to become a major political center, with the would-be Galactic Conqueror The Mule choosing it as his home base and, even after that ended, remaining a galactic power.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The Second Foundation has many urban legends about the importance of properly communicating in a report. The best known (and the one least likely to be true) says that the first report about the Mule was ignored because, due to some mistake, it was understood to be a report about a mule, leading to a very costly delay in response.
  • Posthumous Character: Hari Seldon, for the most part
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Naturally for the BBC radio play. Lines had to be given to the characters that were originally from the third-person narration of the book.
  • Prescience by Analysis: Hari Seldon invents a whole field of science called "psychohistory" to predict the future of galactic civilization. He prophesizes the fall of the Empire, and establishes the Foundation to shorten the impending dark age.
  • The Professor: Hari Seldon, natch. He invents an entire scientific discipline from scratch, and successfully uses it to predict the collapse of the Galactic Empire.
  • Pronoun Trouble: I/You/He/She/We/Gaia.
  • Psychic Powers: The Telepathy possessed by the members of the Second Foundation, the Mule and all Gaians. The Solarians perfected Mind over Matter on an individual level, while Gaia did likewise on a planetary scale.
  • Psychic Static: A Foundation technical development.
  • Really 700 Years Old: R. Daneel Olivaw, though it is closer to seventeen thousand at the time the series begins.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Deconstructed with Ennius in Pebble In the Sky. Arvardin, Shekt, Pola, and Schwartz are able to get to Ennius, Imperial Procurator of Earth, with to warn him about the Zealots' plot. Unfortunately, due to his reasonableness, he doesn't simply take their word for it, and can't act with no real evidence. Unfortunately, his inaction nearly dooms the Empire, and Schwartz resorts to exploiting a hatemonger's bigotry to thwart the Zealots' plan.
  • Recycled In Space: The whole story is based on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire In Space, but parts are taken from other influences. Namely, the Empire in Foundation and Empire is based on the Byzantine Empire (Cleon II is Justinian I and Bel Riose is Bellisarius), the Mule is Charlemagne mixed with Tamurlane, and it could be argued that the Foundation is the United States in Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth. "The Merchants" in the original Foundation novel is based on the manifest destiny philosophy.
  • The Remnant
  • Retcon: Aside from those mentioned earlier, an in-universe example exists with the Second Foundation. Hari Seldon knew that the Seldon Plan wasn't perfect, so he charged the Second Foundation with the task of constantly revising and updating it to make sure it stayed on track. To become a full-fledged member of the Second Foundation, the initiate is required to make an original contribution to the Plan.
  • The Reveal: The penultimate chapter of Second Foundation has three characters giving three different solutions to the mysterious location of the Second Foundation. In the last chapter, yet another character reveals the true location: Trantor and the narration tells us his Secret Identity in the very last sentence.
  • Reverse Psychology: In Foundation's Edge Compor urges Trevize to stay on Sayshell, because he knows that Trevize won't trust him and will leave the planet as soon as possible.
  • Running the Blockade:
    • In Foundation and Empire Toran pilots his ship through the blockades set up by the Mule's ships around the planets Terminus and Haven to begin the search for the Second Foundation.
    • In Second Foundation Preem Palver slips through the Kalganian blockade around the Foundation to arrange for the delivery of desperately needed food at premium prices. He gets caught by Foundation forces on the eve of the pivotal battle of the war, but gets paid at premium prices regardless, despite the Kalganian fleet and blockade being shattered by the battle.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Several examples, but probably the most blatant is the city-planet Trantor. Supposedly all ground area on it is overbuilt with a continuous city, like Coruscant in Star Wars ... but the total population is 40 billion (short scale). At a conservative estimate, the cityscape has a population density somewhat less than that of present-day Germany, so much of it must look like RoboCop's Detroit.
    • The prequels suggested that certain areas of the planet are covered by automated or nearly automated industries, which alleviates but does not solve the issue.
    • By the way, during its first appearance (in Foundation and Empire), it is stated that the administrators alone number 400 billion. A bit better, but for some reason, Asimov abandoned that figure.
  • Screw Destiny: First Foundation Mayor Harla Branno. She decides that she wants to, and can, establish the Second Galactic Empire now, and thus rule the galaxy. To this end she sets out to locate and destroy the Second Foundation, since she knows they will try to stop her attempt to break the Seldon Plan and establish the empire centuries ahead of schedule.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!: The Mule, who literally breaks destiny itself by up-ending the Seldon Plan thanks to his ability to make vast numbers of people do what he wants. He becomes the most successful conqueror in history. Inverted with Daneel, who has the necessary power to prevent the collapse of the Galactic Empire, but can't because the First Law of Robotics prevents him from tampering with human minds unless he can be sure that he either won't harm them or that his actions are guaranteed to benefit humanity.
  • Secret Test of Character: When he goes to Korell, Hober Mallow finds himself involved in a problem when his crew lets a Scientism priest in the ship before a mob can try lo lynch him, a problem Mallow solves by kicking the priest out of the ship. Five minutes later, Mallow receives an invitation to meet with Commdor Asper Argo, Korell's ruler. Mallow reveals at the trial for his "murder" of said priest that he was actually a Korellian secret police agent, trained to behave like a priest to act as bait that would provoke Foundation into breaking Korellian law - which is implied, but not stated, to be the reason why the ships Mallow had been sent to look for were destroyed.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Demerzel deconstructs this trope in Prelude to Foundation stating that one of these would either be too vague and remote for people to care about, or so specific that it could easily prove false.
  • Series Continuity Error: After the prequels were written, incidents in the original trilogy contradict them. Specific examples:
    • Hari Seldon is able to calculate probabilities of certain instances for single people, clearly established in Forward the Foundation as impossible. This is established at the very beginning of Foundation as much, much harder than calculating for massive groups, and even then not as reliable, but not technically impossible.
    • Seldon has no bodyguard in "The Psychohistorians," nor is he a "laughingstock," as is established in Forward the Foundation.
    • There are no rebellions at the start of "The Psychohistorians," nor is there any mention of chaos and the idea of the Empire being in decay is still absurd, whereas the Empire's decay is clearly visible in Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation.
      • Then again, the point of view in "The Psychohistorians" is Gaal Dornick, who comes from the planet of Synnax, and sees little of the planet before the whole rigmarole begins: it is quite likely that the Empire's censorship has kept news of the rebellions and chaos from reaching the planets which are still stable (which also prevents Dornick from learning about Seldon's true status), and the person claiming the Empire is stable is the de facto Emperor in a public trial.
    • The Empire novels suggest that Terminus was settled before the events of Foundation, while it is established in Foundation that it was previously unsettled (although, with twenty five million planets, it is possible some names were repeated or recycled — or perhaps the original settlement ended up becoming a Lost Colony).
    • The Mule's origin. We get two wildly different tales in "The Mule" and in "Foundation's Edge". And both are from reliable sources.
    • In Prelude to Foundation, Eto Demerzel is Cleon's Chief of Staff, a troubleshooter who advises the emperor, but whom few people know about or have ever seen. In Forward the Foundation, he is the First Minister of the Empire, and everyone knows about him. To make it worse, his obscurity in Prelude to Foundation, and his notoriety in Forward the Foundation are critical plot points in each of the respective novels.
    • The original trilogy makes much mention of nuclear weapons being the mainstay of space fighting. When discussing how Earth came to be radioactive, Pelorat makes mention of an officer who once suggested using nuclear weapons and was lynched for the suggestion
  • Shocking Defeat Legacy: That's what the Mule becomes for the Foundation. Foreigners like rubbing it in their faces
  • Shrouded in Myth: R. Daneel Olivaw informs his guests that 'culture hero' Elijah Bailey was a real man and even more extraordinary then the myth. Of course he is slightly biased.
  • Single-Biome Planet: The Imperial capital Trantor, which is one vast city. (And was one of the first depictions of this idea.) The very fact that all the land area of the planet is urbanized means that its population of billions must exploit the other worlds in their empire to get food. This leads to the outer worlds resenting them, ultimately rebelling, and, within less than a century after Seldon's time, becoming ruled by tyrants who believe the Appeal to Force is a valid argument and who know nothing of how their technology works (and wouldn't have it at all were it not for the Foundation). It's actually pointed out that before Trantor became a City Planet, planets like Anacreon, which by the time of Foundation have socially regressed to the Low Middle Ages, were actually some of the wealthiest and most prosperous worlds in the Galaxy.
    • Also the case with virtually all the inhabited planets in the galaxy. Most were colonized by humans and seeded with life that originated on Earth. Hence the worlds are described as having "simple" ecosystems and comparatively little biodiversity relative to what Earth once had. Comporellon, a very old colony, is also noted for its cold environment, while other planets are likewise sometimes favored by or suffer from better or worse climates.
  • The Smurfette Principle
    • There are very few females involved in these books. In Foundation there are only three women with lines at all (and one just gasps "Oh!").
    • Arkady is only Asimov's second female protagonist, ever.
  • Society Marches On / Zeerust: The scope of the plot is epic, but the characters and technology often come across as painfully "mid-20th century American".
    • Perhaps the best example of this: when we first meet Arkady Darrell, she's writing an essay using the latest technological innovation - a speech to text typewriter.
  • Space Amish: A couple of examples:
    • The inhabitants of Mycogen sector on Trantor, who are in fact the last descendents of the Spacers and live a rather ascetic lifestyle, while basically worshiping the memory of the lost paradise worlds of their ancestors.
    • The Hamish of post-Fall Trantor.
  • Space Opera
  • Spanner in the Works: The Mule, although he's far more self-aware about it than some. Also see under The Butler Did It.
  • Spy Speak: Foundation and Empire. When Captain Pritcher meets with a fellow member of the Democratic Underground Party, they go through a sign/countersign routine to identify themselves.
    The captain mumbled, "I come from Miran."
    The man returned the gambit, grimly. "Miran is early this year."
    The captain said, "No earlier than last year."
  • Standard Sci-Fi History: The Trope Codifier, if not the Trope Maker.
  • Standard Time Units: In the Empire and Foundation novels, time is still measured in seconds, minutes, hours, and days, and the Standard Galactic calendar is a slightly modified version of the Gregorian calendar. This becomes a major plot point in one of the later Foundation novels; the length of the standard day and year are used to deduce the identity of humanity's original planet.
  • Starfish Aliens: It can be questioned whether the inhabitants of the Alpha Centauri and Solaria systems in Foundation and Earth are.
  • Strong Empire, Shriveled Emperor: Cleon II and the Mule. The former is the last strong Emperor of the Galactic Empire, yet he's bedridden due an unknown and painful disease. The latter is a mutant with enough skill and power to build a huge empire and the ability to brainwash people into being his loyal servants, but with a frail build and enough health problems to die before he's fifty.
  • Subspace Ansible:
    • Hyper-relays are used for FTL communication.
    • Second Foundationers communicate by thoughts across the galaxy, which is not as "pretty" as conventional hyper-relays, but cannot be tapped.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: it is implied that Wanda's psychic powers are just an amplification of her father's inherent ability to charm anyone he meets.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: When Terminus gives the surrounding kingdoms aid in the form of advanced technology, Salvor Hardin notices the people insist on viewing it as sorcery. He makes a few modifications, and spreads the aid under the guise of divine power.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: General Bel Riose suffers from this due to the decay of the Empire by this point. It basically pointed out that by this point a strong Emperor has no strong subjects due to fear of overthrow and rebellion.
  • Thousand-Year Reign: The actual thousand-year aspect is not a true example (as it is about how long it will take for an organization to emerge, rather than about how long an organization will last), but Seldon's estimation of how long various phases in the Foundation's history fit will.
  • Tidally Locked Planet: Radole.
  • Title Drop: The chapters of the original trilogy were originally published as individual stories with different titles. One of the most obvious title drops takes place in Chapter 3 of Foundation, "The Mayors" — also known as "Bridle and Saddle."
  • Transhuman: The Gaians and the Solarians are each examples of a different type.
    • The Gaians represent telepathic transhumanism achieved via Mental Fusion. Any individual Gaian can access the accumulated knowledge of the superorganism, basically eliminating the need for information technology. They have also extended their mental control to all the animals, plants and inanimate matter of their world, thus enabling them to easily avoid or avert natural disasters, disease outbreaks or ecological imbalances. They also control their own bodies to the extent that they are not subject to illness.
    • The Solarians are a psychokinetic variation, operating their entire estates directly by channeling thermal energy through their transducer lobes and using it to power machinery. Combined with their extensive use of robots, this allows every Solarian to exist almost entirely independently of their fellows, and thus never needing any kind of physical interaction. To take this to its ultimate conclusion, they have also re-engineered themselves as hermaphrodites who can reproduce via parthenogenesis.
  • Trilogy Creep: As noted above, Asimov belatedly added to the original three collections, and retconned the books' plot to connect to dozens of others of his works.
    • Even outside the spoilered thing, the Empire series, which was released more-or-less concurrently with Foundation (between 1950 and 1952 — the combined Foundation novel came out in 1951 — with a more obscure short story in 1945), served double service as backstory to the Foundation setting — more so the first (which takes place at the height of the Galactic Empire, before the stagnation) and the third (set on the other side of the First Galactic Empire, with Trantor well on its way there but at that point still the Trantorian Empire). The second implicitly takes place in the same setting, but doesn't really have any shared elements with Foundation (up until a radioactive Earth shows up in Foundation and Earth).
  • Tyke-Bomb: Arkady Darrell. After she has the Eureka Moment that allows her father Toran to (apparently) root out the Second Foundation, he's still suspicious enough to test her for signs of mental tampering. She passes — only because the real Second Foundation had altered her personality shortly after she was born on Trantor, before any personality traits had formed to be removed. The First Speaker justifies it by claiming that the "precocious and intelligent personality" given to her was a benefit.
  • To Win Without Fighting: The series runs on it. The protagonists use historical forces to defeat opponents, not force.
    • Except when they use Mind Rape to accomplish the same, of course.
  • Two Aliases, One Character:
    • Chetter Hummin/Eto Demerzel/R. Daneel Olivaw
    • First Speaker of the Second Foundation/Preem Palver, farmer.
    • In the second half of Foundation and Empire, Magnifico Giganticus, who claims to be The Mule's escaped jester is actually The Mule. The fact that nearly every description the reader gets of The Mule comes from Magnifico (it's explicitly pointed out that Magnifico is so clearly terrified of The Mule that his descriptions are probably grossly exaggerated) helps obscure this.
  • Unfortunate Name: In "The Mayors", the regent of Anacreon is named Wienis.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Most of the books' profanity, primarily "Space!" or "Great Galaxy!". Some is also a Continuity Nod to the Religion of Science established in "The Mayors".
  • Unwitting Pawn: Loads of them (due to the nature of the Seldon plan everyone that was human ended up being one of them), but a few bear specific mentioning. Bel Riose actually thought he would win and came close and nearly derailed the Seldon Plan when he was called back to Trantor and executed on grounds of believed disloyalty. Wienis especially fell right into the Seldon Plan's tracks. Ebling Mis was finding the Second Foundation for the Mule.
  • Useless Superpowers: Giskard and Daneel both run into the problem of the First Law making it virtually impossible for them to justify use of their telepathy to make significant changes to people's minds, since they cannot be entirely sure that the resulting harm would be balanced by the hypothetical benefit to humanity (per the Zeroth Law). Hence, even from his position as Eto Demerzel, first minister to Emperor Cleon, the latter cannot impose the necessary changes to people's minds in order to avert the collapse of the Galactic Empire.
  • Vanity Is Feminine: Women kinda get the short end of the stick in the first novel. Out of the three woman who appear, one does nothing but be dazzled by the pretty jewelery the traders from the Foundation can offer to their man, and one is actually a rather shrewd manipulator with her own sources in the court, but is easily bribed with the same jewelry. However, one is from Korell, the other from the Empire. The only Foundation woman shown is a "dead-voiced but efficient young lady". Lady Callia in the third novel seems to have this trait... but it is implied to be simply part of her playing the role of ditzy trophy consort to the Lord of Kalgan, with her actual personality as an intelligent and capable Second Foundation agent being considerably more cold-headed and focused.
  • Vestigial Empire: What the first Empire is eventually reduced to.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Wienis in the first book has a spectacular one when he's Out-Gambitted by Salvor Hardin, going berserk and ultimately committing suicide.
  • Violence Is the Only Option: Often and boldy subverted by the books' various Foundation protagonists.
    Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. - Salvor Hardin's motto
    • And then played straight later. Bayta realizes who the Mule really was, and the only way to stop him was to kill Ebling Mis before he revealed what he knew.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: To go with the vaguely Asimov's vaguely Fifties views towards work and labor, there seems to be very little in the ways of labor saving devices present, and most middle-class families seems to be able to afford a live-in servant. A good case is Poli, the servant to the Darrells, who talks and acts like a caricature of an Antebellum house-slave.
  • Wham Line:
    • In Foundation and Empire, the people of Terminus and the Foundation are confident that Seldon will be able to show them the solution to stopping the Mule, with whom they are at war, and who seems to be unstoppable. Then Seldon appears in the Time Vault and says that the Foundation is on the road towards, or already is in, a civil war.
    • Another one comes after Han Pritcher is caught and brought before the Mule's viceroy, who makes Pritcher realize that like it or not, he will be made to willingly serve the Mule, because the Viceroy was as well. To whit, Pritcher's line when he realizes just who the Viceroy is, or was, before the Mule. "You were the warlord of Kalgan."
    • The very last line of Second Foundation: "Ten months earlier, the First Speaker had viewed those same crowding stars - nowhere as crowded as at the center of that huge cluster of matter Man calls the Galaxy - with misgivings; but now there was a somber satisfaction on the round and ruddy face of Preem Palver - First Speaker."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Used as plot points near the end of Forward the Foundation; Seldon puts his daughter-in-law and her young grandson on a ship to take them off Trantor to another world where they and their descendants will be safe, with only his granddaughter Wanda staying behind. Their transport takes off, but never arrives at its destination. Whether the ship suffered some sort of mechanical failure, crashed, or was waylaid by space pirates is never discovered; the ship simply vanishes without a trace. At the same time, the reigning emperor Argis XIV, a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who never actually wanted the position and was only a very distant relative of the last emperor Cleon I, is quietly removed from power by Linge Chen and the Commission For Public Safety, and replaced with a boy emperor they can more easily control and who is much less friendly to Hari because of this. Whether Argis was quietly retired off-planet or murdered is never discovered, by either Hari or the readers.
  • What Other Galaxies?: The books themselves don't have this problem. The covers, on the other hand...
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: Played with. A Foundation agent, masquerading as a trader, is captured by a tech-hostile neobarbarian ruler, who demands a large quantity of gold for his release. A real trader is sent to help. He questions the ruler's demand for gold (so old fashioned!), but uses a machine which can transmute base metals into gold to make the bribe. Then he goes to a young nobleman of a relatively new family (which means he needs more resources to stay in power, and sells him the device... for iron. Then he films him using it, and once the nobleman refuses to pay up, uses the footage to blackmail him into taking his whole stock of tech (mostly kitchen appliances and jewelry) at a hideous mark-up... two shipfuls of tin. Then the two leave laughing over how grossly inefficient matter transmutation is.
  • Xanatos Gambit: The Seldon Plan itself, which continually looms over everything that happens in the trilogy; specifically referenced in Foundation and Empire
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: The Second Foundation
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The Aesop of "The General"/"Dead Hand" from Foundation and Empire — the protagonists' efforts to halt Bel Riose either fail or outright backfire, but he's stopped at the last moment by impersonal, inevitable Imperial politics.
  • You Keep Using That Word: In Foundation and Earth, Bliss, commenting on Trevize's womanizing, calls him an erotomaniac. In fact, an erotomaniac is someone who is under the delusion of being in a romantic relationship with another. The term Bliss is looking for (meaning a man who compulsively sleeps around) is "satyromaniac".
  • Zeerust: In Asimov's original trilogy, society seems to be stuck in The ’50s despite it taking place at least in ten thousand years later. Everybody Smokes, cellular phones don't exist, everything runs on nuclear power, everyone still reads newspapers, and computer data is stored on microfilm.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: Subverted. Daneel tries to keep the Galactic Empire running and stable, but the highly subjective nature of what is "best" for humanity as a whole prevents him from fully utilizing his powers to control the necessary individuals without running afoul of the First Law. Which eventually leads him to covertly back the Seldon Plan and Gaia.

Alternative Title(s): Foundation And Empire, Second Foundation, Foundations Edge, Foundation And Earth, Prelude To Foundation, Forward The Foundation


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