Emperor Cleon wants Seldon to be his First Minister, but is opposed by Betan Lamurk and his factions. Seldon will have to wade through a political morassess while the Dhalite ethnic group is struggling to make itself heard in the court of politics. Meanwhile, Yugo Amaryl has purchased a couple of "sims", simulations of human beings, which he and Seldon can use to test their psychohistorical theories on. Despite trying to hold this at a distance, Seldon gets caught up in the politics of the computer simulations, the tiktok men, and the prehistoric laws against creating Artificial Intelligence.
Yugo's sims are of two historical figures; Joan of Arc and Voltaire, reprising their role from Benford's novella, "The Rose And The Scalpel" (part of the Time Gate anthologies). They drive a large fraction of the plot, and become deeply enmeshed with the tiktok riots and in resolving the conflict against aliens.
During "Panucopia", Seldon and Venabili hide from their enemies on the titular planet. The planet is named after the "Pans", creatures imported from Earth. The name is short for "Pan troglodytes", the meaning of which has been forgotten. This particular section borrows heavily from Benford's Short Story "Immersion". While avoiding Lamurk and his minions, Hari and Dors spend time in the bodies of chimpanzees.
Foundation's Fear provides examples of:
- Adipose Rex: Emperor Cleon I is an enormous man in this Interquel, something that Seldon internally comments on several times as the emperor is usually eating in his presence.
- Affectionate Nickname: When Seldon is walking around Streeling University, he is given two names by the excited students; "Prof Minister" and "Math Minister".
- Alcubierre Drive: Unlike the Hyperspace drives established by The Foundation Trilogy, this book utilizes space warping to create FTL transportation of cargo.
- Alternative Calendar: (Subverted Trope) As noted in the Afterword, how year 1 of the Galactic Era fits in with Anno Domini can be difficult to determine, as Pebble in the Sky establishes hyperspace travel has been around for hundreds of thousands of years, Foundation (1951) establishes atomic power has only existed for fifty thousand years, and Prelude to Foundation establishes R. Daneel as being twenty thousand years old. Since these conflicting dates were impossible to reconcile, Benford chose to simply rename A.D. to G.E., and treat the Trantorian calendar as a continuation of Earth's Western calendar. However, it also renames the months, such as Octdent (October) and Marlass (March).
- The Alternet: The "Mesh" is a network of computers and mechanical devices that do computational work, as well as robot. And it has been inhabited by uploaded aliens since roughly the time it was created. A Portal Network of wormholes allow the Mesh to function across interstellar distances, but it's primarily contained on Trantor, due to being a City Planet.
- Artificial Intelligence:
- As established by Prelude to Foundation, there are a few positronic robots (like those of The Caves of Steel) running around this setting in secret.
- "Sims", or "self-organized simulations", are software designed to run an imitation of an historical figure, such as Joan of Arc or Voltaire.
- "Tiktoks" are mechanical servants with deliberately subhuman capabilities. They're not supposed to be capable of general intelligence and are often utilized for simple/unwanted tasks.
- The remnants of alien life as digital copies. They managed to preserve themselves as digital lifeforms and uploaded their memories into the galactic "Mesh". The appearances of the historical sims, Joan and Voltaire, force them to activate a long-planned insurrection, taking over the tiktok creations. Because of this "virus", the tiktoks have to be eliminated.
- Beneficial Disease: The childhood illness of Brain Fever is an inversion because catching "brain fever" makes one susceptible to R. Daneel's Psychic Powers. Hari Seldon had been lucky enough not to get sick at a young age, which means Danell could not read his mind.
- Billed Above the Title:
- The Dutch translation, published by Meulenhoff in 1997, includes the tagline, then the series title, and then Benford's name (in larger font), and then the book's title (also in larger font).
- The German translation, published by Heyne in 2000, includes Benford's name above the title in larger font.
- The French translation, published by Presses Pocket in 2002, includes the tagline, then Benford's name (in the largest font), then the title (in medium-sized font), and then the series title (in small font like the tagline).
- Brain Fever: Brain fever is the name of a childhood illness. Because Hari never got sick from it, he is immune to R. Daneel's telepathic powers. Daneel could not predict that Hari would have the tiktoks murder Lamurk's minions.
- Brain Uploading:
- The concept of "immersion" is using computers to take digital posession of animals on "Panucopia", adapted from "Immersion".
- Seldon asks a few programmers to create a similar sort of immersion for him to view his psychohistorical equations, which puts him on Trantor's version of the internet, called the Mesh.
- While on the Mesh, Seldon discovers that the reason all non-human civilizations are gone is they've been hiding as digital representations. Eons ago, the robots had exterminated the potential threat to humanity. The one they blame most is the "man-who-is-not—Daneel".
- Bring My Brown Pants: While Hari Seldon and Dors Venabili are training to pilot a tiny spaceship through a tiny "wild worm", he notices that the apparently risk-loving pilots have memorial plaques on their urinals, rather than public memorials or gravestones. They record their use of the place to "relieve" themselves, rather than their death. As you might expect, he shit himself on the first training run.In the men’s room, above the urinal he used, Hari saw a small gold plaque: Senior Pilot Joquan Beunn relieved himself here Octdent 4, 13,435.
Every urinal had a similar plaque. There was a washing machine in the locker room with a large plaque over it, reading The entire 43rd Pilot Corps relieved themselves here Marlass 18, 13,675.
Pilot humor. It turned out to be absolutely predictive. He messed himself on his first training run.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The chimpanzees of "Panucopia" are called "Pans". The name is short for "Pan troglodytes", the meaning of which has been lost over the millennia since Earth.
- Call-Back: In the early chapters, Cleon misquotes Clarke's Third Law while talking to Seldon as "Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced". He decides to have this statement publicized as "royal wisdom". In the last quarter of the book, while on Sark, Seldon hears someone agreeing with the Emperor, quoting his line about "technology distinguishable from magic".
- Composite Character: Forward the Foundation establishes Yugo Amaryl and Raych Seldon as Dahlites that Hari rescued from the underclasses of society, taking them to the upscale Streeling University sector. Yugo is like Hari, a mathematician always working on theorems and proofs. Raych is more politically minded, trying to scrape every possible advantage he can, to defend himself against the injustices of the elite. Gregory Benford decided to send Raych to school and give his political leanings to Yugo, forcing appointee First Minister Hari to deal with political problems every day he went to work, and freely share his secrets when he went home (Raych was unaware that Dors or Daneel are Ridiculously Human Robots, which limited Hari's ability to mention that fact when he was around).
- Benford dedicates this book to the other two authors writing the trilogy.
- In addition to the front-of-book dedication, Benford thanks a number of creators at the end of his Afterword, crediting general and specific assistance. note
- Do Androids Dream?: This novel uses an array of Artificial Intelligences and hosts an In-Universe discussion on if digitally-based lifeforms have souls. The computer-reconstructed personalities of Joan of Arc and Voltaire are chosen to act as representatives of each side in the debate. Joan is to represent Faith, and views the problem through the lens of Christianity; God exists and has created each human with a soul, but robot and digital copies of people are Just a Machine. Voltaire is to represent Reason, and views the problem through the lens of Enlightenment; manufactured servants are a perfect answer to the aristocracy's need of a lower class, but granting them sentience means granting that Androids Are People, Too. As the two characters grow in Transhuman style, their overall points converge in time to support Seldon's desire to parley with the digital aliens of the Mesh.
- Encyclopedia Exposita: This novel is broken into 8 parts:
- "Mathist Minister" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for Hari Seldon.
- "The Rose Meets the Scalpel" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for Computational Representation.
- "Body Politics" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for the Early History of Foundation, which describes the early stage of psychohistory.
- "A Sense of Self" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for simulation spaces, the need to create simulated environments for representations of human/pseudo-human minds.
- "Panucopia" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for the History of Biogenesis, the creation of worlds set aside for primate experiments, especially for the "pans", short for "pan troglodytes".
- "Ancient Fogs" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for the Galactic Prehistory, which explains that the lack of records for pre-galactic civilization is due to the multiple eras of warfare, the evidence for which is still extant.
- "Stars Like Grains of Sand" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for Sociometrics, the general problem of social stability.
- "The Eternal Equations" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for the General Theory of Psychohistory, describing some of the fundamental mathematics taken from thermodynamic expressions.
- Fakin' MacGuffin: When Amaryl took the two data cores into Seldon's office to talk about the human-like simulations, Venabili destroyed them. Two chapters later, and Amaryl reveals that the data cores he had were unrelated worthless cores that he had brought as a precaution in case she had gotten angry.
- Fame Through Infamy: The first piece of advice that Emperor Cleon I asks of Hari is how to handle "The Renegatum", rebels who desire to ‘demonstrate their contempt for society’ by murder and grand larceny. Being put to death for their crimes makes them famous. So Seldon suggests to Un-person them as well, by recording them as "Moron One", "Moron Two", and so on, instead of using their names. It's a resounding success.
- Future Food Is Artificial: The story takes place so far into the future, humanity has spread out across the entire Milky Way, and people on Trantor eat meals recycled directly from the sewage. A "food-manufacturum" creates food like eggs, sausage, and carrots, which are crafted to taste good to their audience.It was easy to forget, amid the tastes specially designed to fit his own well-tabulated likes, that the manufacturum built their meal from sewage. Eggs that had never known the belly of a bird. Meat appeared without skin or bones or gristle or fat. Carrots arrived without topknots. A food-manfac was delicately tuned to reproduce tastes, just short of the ability to actually make a live carrot. The minor issue of whether his souffle tasted like a real one, made by a fine chef, faded to unimportance compared with the fact that it tasted good to him—the only audience that mattered.
- Grew Beyond Their Programming: Dors Venabili, a humaniform robot, admits to R. Daneel that she's fallen in love with Seldon, something that is not part of her basic programming. During Prelude to Foundation, this had been something that she had told Hari specifically that it could not happen.
- Historical Domain Character: Joan of Arc and Voltaire appear in this work as "sims", software designed to believe it is a famous historical person.
- Interquel: This book picks up directly after the events of "Eto Demerzel", from Forward the Foundation.
- Is the Answer to This Question "Yes"?: In "The Eternal Equations", when Marq asks if Seldon and Amaryl really have the money that he's demanding, Yugo responds with the self-evident question, "Is the Emperor fat?" (which is true for this novel).
- Language Drift: Early in the book, two quotes about Rome are misquoted due to the intervening millennia since humanity left Earth; "Fiddling while Roma burns" and "All worms lead to Roma". They're distortions of "Fiddle While Rome Burns" and "All roads lead to Rome".
- Mathematician's Answer: During "The Eternal Equations", Seldon (an actual mathematician) is so distracted by working on psychohistory (represented by mathematical formulas) in his head, that when he's asked where the lift he's in is going, he misinterprets the question and simply answers "yes".Hari Seldon stood alone in the lift, thinking.
The door slid open. A woman asked if this elevator was going up or down. Distracted, he answered, “Yes.” Her surprised look told him that somehow his reply was off target. Only after the door closed on her puzzled stare did he see that she meant which way, not if.
- Matter Replicator: The "food-manufacturum" used on Trantor takes raw sewage and recycles it into something edible that looks like real meats and veggies, but is flavoured for the person eating it.It was easy to forget, amid the tastes specially designed to fit his own well-tabulated likes, that the manufacturum built their meal from sewage. Eggs that had never known the belly of a bird. Meat appeared without skin or bones or gristle or fat. Carrots arrived without topknots. A food-manfac was delicately tuned to reproduce tastes, just short of the ability to actually make a live carrot. The minor issue of whether his soufflé tasted like a real one, made by a fine chef, faded to unimportance compared with the fact that it tasted good to him—the only audience that mattered.
- The Milky Way Is the Only Way: In "Stars Like Grains of Sand", Seldon's internal monologue describes a legendary past occurrence; Steffno's Ride. This was the only recorded occasion in which wormhole-travel extended beyond The Milky Way Galaxy. Steffano is recorded to have traveled to Messier 87 (M87 note ), then came back just seconds before the wormhole collapsed.Something in wormhole physics discouraged extra-galactic adventures.
- Mythology Gag: Joan of Arc and Voltaire, or rather, the computer simulations that are supposed to function as the historical figures, reprise their role from "The Rose And The Scalpel" very literally; it's mentioned that they have memories from ~8,000 years ago where they were first asked to represent the debate between Reason and Faith on the question of "Do robots/programs have souls?".
- Neologism: During "Mathist Minister", Seldon notes internally that he has developed psychohistory to the point where he can 'post-dict' history, meaning that instead of predicting events, he can tweak his algorithms to describe known historical events.
- Only One Name: Joan of Arc uses only the name Joan. While her internal narration mentions her father's surname, it also claims she discarded it before she took up her divine quest.
- Our Wormholes Are Different: Wormholes in this work become very important during "Stars Like Grains of Sand", as Seldon and Venabili are trying to escape Lamurk and his minions. These wormholes are described as labyrinths, with shifting walls within the tunnels causing problems in two-way travel, and altering their destinations unpredictably. The stable wormholes are used as a Portal Network, while dying/"wild worms" may collapse at any moment, contain electromagnetic storms, and often go unreported until after their collapse (to avoid paying taxes on them). Most are disk-like, but some are cubic and one example is "a mottled pyramid-shaped wormhole".
- Portal Network: The Empire uses a vast network of wormholes for FTL communications. They act as relays, creating bottlenecks like dial-up or DSL. Early chapters establish that wormholes are only ten meters wide at most, so they cannot be used for cargo shipping, only information trade. Later chapters claim that wormholes vary wildly in size, and are the primary method of Faster-Than-Light Travel.
- Realpolitik: R. Daneel admits that the early robotic explorers had traveled through The Milky Way Galaxy like a prairie fire, destroying all sapient non-human lifeforms as a precautionary measure, slaughtering them without hesitation since their hardwired morality only applies to humans. This act of xenogenocide leads to a humans-only galaxy. The robots never shared this fact before hiding themselves so that humanity could evolve on its own. This only comes to light in "The Eternal Equations" because the aliens are revealed to have uploaded themselves and gotten into Trantor's Mesh.
- Sarcastic Confession: When Emperor Cleon I asks Seldon how he eliminated his political rival, Seldon admits that he knows a bunch of illegal robots, and he used them to carry out multiple simultaneous assassinations. Cleon laughs at the joke.Hari had sworn to himself that he would never lie to the Emperor. Not being believed was not part of the agreement.
- Sequel Non-Entity: In the previous novel, Forward the Foundation, it is established that Raych Seldon has been living with Dors and Hari for the past eight years. However, he doesn't appear at all in this Interquel. "Body Politics" briefly mentions that Raych has been sent away to a school. His political leanings are given to Yugo, because having an oppressed minority around to tirade about social injustices is narratively useful as Seldon tries to avoid his political appointment of First Minister to the Emperor.
- Shout-Out: Voltaire actually quotes someone other than himself when he quotes from The Merry Wives of Windsor, saying Falstaff's line; "Let the sky rain potatoes!".
- Take That!: In the penultimate chapter of "The Eternal Equations", a bureaucrat tries to convince First Minister Seldon that the Imperial candidacy tests should be re-normed every year to prevent people making comparisons across the years. Seldon's response is to demand a report on the effects of re-norming every average, including holoball batting averages and IQ tests. In the Afterword, Gregory Benford admits that this was a shameless satire of the "renorming" of the SATs.
- Three Laws-Compliant: R. Daneel Olivaw's positronic brain suffers greatly when he realizes that Hari Seldon used him and the other humaniform robots to identify Lamurk's agents for assassins using the tiktoks (which are robots that are not supposed to be capable of human-level general intelligence). Also explored is Dors Venabili's willingness to break the First Law, due to the influences of the Second Law (Daneel told her to protect Seldon) and Zeroth Law (because Seldon is humanity's best chance at surviving the collapse of civilization). In addition, she "enjoys" watching Seldon murder a primate while the two of them are possessing other primates through a machine.
- Unconventional Formatting: Halfway through the story, in "A Sense of Self", non-standard formatting begins to appear, tied to the perspective of data-space. Voltaire's "To be sensual is to be mortal" quote is rendered in a different font, and indented to stand out from the page. As Voltaire listens to the blankness that Joan called an It, it is bracketed by a hard line across the page, above and below the paragraph. Voltaire's eavesdropping on Marq is shown by creating two columns on the page, like in a Pulp Magazine. His experiment in forking digital consciousness is also written as two columns on the same page. By "The Eternal Equations", unconventional formatting appears on nearly every page with Voltaire and Joan of Arc's perspective.
- Uplifted Animal: The wirehounds, taken from "Immersion", are canine in origin, but capable of following rudimentary instructions and slurred speech. The name itself implies tinkering with their minds, but the exact details are left more to the imagination. For this story, they serve as another example of the advances in bioelectrics and biomechanics that are strangely missing in a post-Robots Series setting.