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By Greg Bear
I met Isaac Asimov on three occasions, the longest being a seder held in New York during a Nebula Banquet weekend. We never had a chance to sit and talk for very long, and I regret that. He was witty, friendly, enthusiastic. On another and prior occasion, again in New York, we encountered each other at a publishers party sponsored by the Science Fiction Writers of America. He was being lionized and hounded for interviews. Hurrying from place to place, he looked down at my nametag, made a surprised face, said, "So you're Greg Bear! I'm glad you weren't around when I was getting started!"
One of the finest compliments I've ever received.
When the chance was offered to write a novel set in the "Foundation" universe, even with the generous support of Janet Asimov and Isaac's agent Ralph Vicinanza, I was understandably reluctant. Our styles are very different; "Foundation" is an icon! Lightning almost never strikes twice...
But the offer was impossible to pass up. Isaac's biggest influence, for me, came from the Robot novels, which he had integrated into "Foundation." Like most science fiction readers, the image of Trantor, a world covered with steel and aluminum, lingered...There were larger issues of predestination and freedom in his books that he had not had time to touch upon. Science fiction is a continuing dialog of ideas, one generation to the next. Gregory Benford and David Brin had agreed to do the first and last of this new trilogy. Both are good friends, excellent writers. If I was going to work in a master's most famous world, I would never have a better opportunity.
Rereading Isaac's work, reacquainting myself with his tone and style and his characters and events, I felt as if I were once again meeting the master, as an old friend, this time for an extended chat-the length of a novel.
I have lived with Isaac for a year now. (His legendary speed did not rub off on me!) I found the relationship more than pleasant-it was convivial, challenging, and it taught me a great deal about what makes the "Foundation" novels masterpieces. Walk a mile in another man's style, put on the masks of his characters, and I think you get to know him quite intimately. Isaac was a good man.
It's been fascinating to write about Daneel and Hari, and to add a few characters, make a few new connections. I hope I've added my own perspective and abilities.
Think of this novel as a bridge... Reaching from an eleven-year-old boy, first reading I, Robot, to the twenty-first century, just around the corner. Isaac Asimov has been with me every step of the way.