The one and only thing I disliked about Asimov: the mule

chornedsnorkack

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I find it strange that something as scientific as mutation cannot be accounted for by psychohistory, meaning that the mules function in the story makes less sense the more I think about it.

Asimov kinda needed something to throw a wrench in the works though.
The failure of psychohistory is not strange in itself. The idea of psychohistory is that large numbers of people are capable of statistical treatment - even important people are unable to overcome the statistical effects of large numbers of common people. Mutant like Mule, however, breaks down the assumptions.

What´s odd, however, is what Mule does.
If it´s acceptable for him to leave his army for a year and hide under a false identity... why did he bother with army in the first place?

With the powers he discovered by age 22, the quickest way to wealth, power and influence would have been simply to get a passage to Terminus, get a job as a clown in Indbur´s court and take over Foundation from inside.
 

Al Jackson

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Of note, when Asimov wrote Foundation few people knew about Chaos Theory, it would take decades before it became an important topic. There is the implication that Hari Seldon constructed a deterministic (mathematical) method of predicting the future, it is now known that such a thing cannot be done. I don't know who came up with the Mule, John W Campbell, editor of Astounding, was mentoring Asimov at the time since the whole story was published in Astounding between 1940 and 1950, and it may have been him. Tho the unpredictability of The Mule was probably introduced as a dramatic element (after all the story need some kind of Big Surprise at that point in the story) , which worked for me. It is clever on Asimov's part that Seldon , himself, recognized a vulnerability in Psychohistory and came up with a solution.
 

picklematrix

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The failure of psychohistory is not strange in itself. The idea of psychohistory is that large numbers of people are capable of statistical treatment - even important people are unable to overcome the statistical effects of large numbers of common people. Mutant like Mule, however, breaks down the assumptions.

What´s odd, however, is what Mule does.
If it´s acceptable for him to leave his army for a year and hide under a false identity... why did he bother with army in the first place?

With the powers he discovered by age 22, the quickest way to wealth, power and influence would have been simply to get a passage to Terminus, get a job as a clown in Indbur´s court and take over Foundation from inside.
It just doesn't sit right with me that mutation would be the thing that breaks it down. The reason being that the larger the pool of people, and the wider area they populate (the galaxy) surely the greater the probability of mutation occurring?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the scientific worldbuilding of it all. My assumption was that the mules mutation was the product of chance, like with normal genetic mutation,and so would be inevitable in a large enough population, such as a galaxy wide population.

It made for my favourite arc in the foundation series, so it would still be necessary for narrative purposes, arguably, regardless of how HARD the scifi is/was.
 

Venusian Broon

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It just doesn't sit right with me that mutation would be the thing that breaks it down. The reason being that the larger the pool of people, and the wider area they populate (the galaxy) surely the greater the probability of mutation occurring?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the scientific worldbuilding of it all. My assumption was that the mules mutation was the product of chance, like with normal genetic mutation,and so would be inevitable in a large enough population, such as a galaxy wide population.

It made for my favourite arc in the foundation series, so it would still be necessary for narrative purposes, arguably, regardless of how HARD the scifi is/was.
It's been a long while since I read the books, but I note that 'Foundation and Empire' was published in 1952, so they were still getting to grips with genetics at the time. Possibly putting something to do with mutants made it very modern at the time.

Good fun (at least till Second Foundation - the other books pre and post I felt diminished greatly) but as @Al Jackson points out definitely not hard SF :)
 

Al Jackson

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It's been a long while since I read the books, but I note that 'Foundation and Empire' was published in 1952, so they were still getting to grips with genetics at the time. Possibly putting something to do with mutants made it very modern at the time.

Good fun (at least till Second Foundation - the other books pre and post I felt diminished greatly) but as @Al Jackson points out definitely not hard SF :)
Foundation and Empire , 1952, was compiled from Asimov's Foundation stories April 1845 , November and December 1945 , I don't think Asimov did much , if any, rewriting to tie the stories together. Asimov , like all of Campbell's top writers, was quite sophisticated in his thinking about the world building and his mutant Mule was a 'future fiction' aberration , not a freak.
Man I like Second Foundation very well, like Foundation and Empire it is a detective , problem to solve, and Asimov tells it well!
Foundation and Empire 1
Foundation and Empire 2
Foundation and Empire 3
 

Al Jackson

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Second Foundation is made of two 'novellas' in Astounding January of 1948, The Mule searching for Second Foundation and November 1948 Foundation searching for Second Foundation. I loved the titles of the two parts, Now You See IT , …, And Now You Don't!
51897
51898
 

Venusian Broon

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I don't think Asimov did much , if any, rewriting to tie the stories together.
When he started doing prelude and 'Earth' years later I just got vaguely annoyed that he was essentially trying to tie all of his SF together into a grand history. Some of that writing truly was filler (IMHO!)
 

picklematrix

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It's been a long while since I read the books, but I note that 'Foundation and Empire' was published in 1952, so they were still getting to grips with genetics at the time. Possibly putting something to do with mutants made it very modern at the time.

Good fun (at least till Second Foundation - the other books pre and post I felt diminished greatly) but as @Al Jackson points out definitely not hard SF :)
I havent even read the ones that link up with the Robots books. It didn't seem necessary to connect them, to me, and no one has gone out of their way to recommend them, so I've stuck with the more popular, higher rated ones.
 

Al Jackson

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When he started doing prelude and 'Earth' years later I just got vaguely annoyed that he was essentially trying to tie all of his SF together into a grand history. Some of that writing truly was filler (IMHO!)
It is really true , the whole tie together seems like the publisher flew the idea and Asimov bought it, maybe for money! The last more than 30 years has been one of Run-On series with a lot of tap dancing (A Song of Ice and Fire, for instance) …. The first novel was not so bad , Forward the Foundation, I think, the Hari Seldon backstory novel should have been better it seemed plodding and , well, rather dull.
 

chornedsnorkack

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It just doesn't sit right with me that mutation would be the thing that breaks it down. The reason being that the larger the pool of people, and the wider area they populate (the galaxy) surely the greater the probability of mutation occurring?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the scientific worldbuilding of it all. My assumption was that the mules mutation was the product of chance, like with normal genetic mutation,and so would be inevitable in a large enough population, such as a galaxy wide population.
As Ebling Mis pointed out, Mule simply had a very rare type of mutation.
The reason Seldon´s Plan worked in Dead Hand was that psychohistorically, the deeds of a great man born once in a century (like Bel Riose) were outweighed by deeds of less great men born ten in a century (like Cleon and Brodrig) and those in their turn were outweighed by the deeds of lesser men born hundred a century (like the unnamed generals and courtiers who ensured that Cleon would not grow up and stay Emperor without being properly paranoid of Bel Riose).
And that was a experimentally observed tendency.
Extrapolating it into even less frequent great men... this is where Seldon´s underlying observational availability gave out. Hari could not know whether the greatest man of a millennium might not be great enough to outwit the collective of lesser men.

Still, it is an odd coincidence that Mule was born in time for what should have been fifth crisis.

Had Mule been born a century earlier... Ducem Barr called Ammel Brodrig lowborn. Mule could easily have taken the position of Emperor´s private secretary, and moved on from that.
 

Finch

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Overall, I found The Foundation dull and ponderous . I once had a feeling of obligation to read what are considered to be cornerstone books . Out of the whole series, I thought the Mule is one of the better and more vivid characters.
 

BAYLOR

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I read the original series decades ago and I remember liking it a great deal. Whatever flaws books had, I didn't pay them any particular attention and no Issue with the the charter known as The Mule. As to the later books , the only one I tried was Foundations Edge which I found lacking and never finished .
 
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