Blind Alley

From the Asimov Reviews website:

[My comments in square brackets]

In the universe of the Galactic Empire (which would include eventually the Foundations), a non-human race is discovered and carefully herded to a planet to use as a combination zoo, laboratory, and reservation. Desperately unhappy, they are dying off, until the administrator in charge of their cage launches a clever plan to buy them escape and freedom.

This is a marvelous story for a number of reasons. One is its treatment of non-human intelligences, which Asimov abandoned temporarily early in his career to avoid continuing conflict with John Campbell over the innate superiority of (Anglo-Saxon) humanity over any other kind of intelligence.

[John Campbell sounds like a Solid Solomani Patriot, frankly speaking!

Story Idea: a crypto-Azimov, enjoying his fame and high status on his Solomani homeworld, secretly curious about the Imperium, but not willing to draw the interest of SolSec.

Story Idea II: the less-than-100% Loyalist Azimov, getting more and more way of his rapidly expanding rabid fanbase and their love of his alien-free galaxy…]

This is the only story in the Foundation universe to deal with non-humans—well, discounting robots, the Solarians of Foundation and Earth, and Gaia from Foundation’s Edge.

I also am delighted by Asimov’s illustration of working the system from within. Loodun Antyok manipulates everybody about him brilliantly and manages to accomplish what is truly best for the non-humans without compromising his own position as, essentially, the Emperor’s zookeeper.

[I don’t recommend this in real life: too many opportunities to sell out completely — while lying to yourself about “how your heart’s in the right place” — and a decreasing likelihood to actually make a difference when you get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do so.]

And I am also delighted by Asimov’s satire of bureaucratese. Asimov was working for the government at the time and used this opportunity to vent his frustration with the official mindless style he was forced to use (as he would later do again regarding his dissertation, Kinetics of the reaction inactivation of tyrosinase during its catalysis of the aerobic oxidation of catechol by writing “The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline”).

[Good for Vilani specialists.]

So this is definitely one of Asimov’s best stories from the 1940’s and, indeed, one of the best of his career.

About Alvin Plummer

I'm working to build a better world, a world that blesses Christ and is blessed by Him. I hope that you're doing the same!
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