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The Best sci-fi:  More similar than you thought?


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On the top of every list of the best sci-fi novels ever, their always appear one of two names:  Frank Herberts Dune and Isaac Asimov's Foundation.  These two novels have both won Hugo and Nebula awards, and both been named The Greatest Piece of Science Fiction Litreature Ever Written.  Now, superficially, these novels are at opposite ends of the Sci-Fi spectrum.  Dune being considered one of the most revolutionary "soft" sci-fi novels ever, and Foundation, instead of revolutionizing "hard" sci-fi, did the opposite by seemingly perfecting it.  However, when you actually take a close look, there are remarkable simularities between these two acclaimed and seemingly different novels, both in the themes they explore and the actual "paths" they took to becoming novels.

First of all, neither Dune nor Foundation are, in truth, novels.  They are both actually collections of stories published in science fiction magazines.  Dune was originally written as three books (as can be seen in the combined novel) and was published in Analog as two books, the first being titled "Dune World" and the second "Prophet Of Dune".  Asimov's short stories, which would later be combined into the Foundation Novel, were published in the sci-fi magazine of Astounding.

The major overall theme of both of these novels (and both series's) is, to borrow a term from Dune, the "Golden Path", which is, in essence, a set of events throughout time which garauntee humanities survival.  They do this through, in Foundation, Seldons discovery of "pyschohistory", which is the use of history and mathematics to properly predect the future, with the underlying law that no one man can make a difference, only vaste numbers of people can.  In Dune they use Prescience to determine the path.  Prescience being the ability to view the past, present, and all possible futures, along with the actions needed to be taken to garuntee one path over another.  In Foundation, Seldon insures that the path he chose will continue by starting a secret society which is deicated to the study of pyschohistroy and determining what actions must be taken to insure mankinds survival.  In Dune, Paul Atredies, knowing that it will kill his love, impregnates her with a son who also will be prescient and will form a symbiotic relationship with creatures called sandtrout, which will let him live thousands of years and create the Golden Path.  

One more interesting simularity is that even though both of these are sci-fi novels taking place thousands of years in  the future, they are both fuedalistic governments with Emperors ruiling over them.  

Then lets not ignore the remarkable fact that in both series's, there are only two types of intellegent life, and they are Humans and robots.  There are absolutly no aliens, even though vast areas of the universe have been explored and colonized in both series's.  There is, however, a hint at the end of the Foundation series that in future novels aliens may appear and engage in a war agains't humans.  This is also true in Dune, as the Spaceing Guild in Dune (which holds a monopoly over intersteller travel) arms its vessels with shields and lasguns "Just in case."  There are also two beings at the end of the Last Dune novel which, before the final couple paragraphs, had never been seen or heard of before.  While it is likley that they were an evolved form of mutated humans known as "Face Dancers", it is entirly possible that they are, in fact, aliens.

Finally, as mentioned before, Robots (Artificial Intellegence) also exist in both novels, and, strangly enough, both shared the same fate.  In both series Humans eventually decided that A.I. was a threat to them, and launched a war to rid the universe of "thinking machines".  These wars are not part of the series themslves, but in both cases have spin-off series discribing them.

So, as I have shown, these two novels, both of which sit at the apex of there own corners of sci-fi, are more similar than they seem.  And I still prefer Dune.

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