Isaac Asimov's Foundation and the trilogy named after it represent a pinnacle in science fiction. Science fiction lovers from every walk of life have joined together to praise Asimov and Foundation. Furthermore, this series has been awarded the first Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Series. Not before or since the publication of Foundation has this award been given. Despite this recognition, the mainstream literary critics ignore works of science fiction as candidates for more prestigious awards. Instead, science fiction is often dismissed as technology-dependent literature, immature in character development, theme, and structure. A large portion of the literary world still levels a sniff and a scoff toward Foundation and indeed the entire genre of science fiction.
Asimov's Foundation can be seen as an archetype demonstrating the validity of science fiction and refuting these criticisms. It is argued that the writings of Asimov are the foundation upon which much of science fiction is built upon. From the outset Asimov maintained a strong faith in the genre, believing that its status will be enhanced with time. "If enough people read science fiction or are, at least, sufficiently influenced by people who read science fiction" he wrote, "enough of the population may come to accept change…."(Asimov 4)
Several differences between Foundation, and therefore science fiction exemplified by Foundation, and the other divisions of literature must be considered before judging the genre. First, a whole different approach must be taken before judgment. Foundation deals with a nearly limitless range of possibilities. Therefore, the mind must be adapted to put aside incredulity and disbelief.
Secondly, Foundation deals with events on a gargantuan, fantastic scale. No living person has ever experienced a single part of the world of this novel, except in his imagination. No frame of reference exists against which to compare the ideas and events in Asimov's writing. In addition, there is an irresistible literary punch in Foundation which, upon impact, causes cartilage to crack and blood to flow (literary cartilage, of course). Asimov raises the level of suspense in Foundation to an agonizing level before reaching the unexpected conclusion.
Third, contrary to popular belief, science fiction is not "children's stories," "fairy tales," or "escape literature." Fielder and Mele argue this point quite effectively:
It is this which has always made it seem rather ironic to me that science fiction is continually lumped under the heading of "escape literature," and usually as the most extreme kind, in fact. Yet it does not escape into the "isn't" as most fiction does, but into the "just might possibly be." It is an odd form of escape that rankles its critics with atom bombs, overpopulation, bacterial warfare, trips to the moon, and other such phenomena, decades before the rest of the world had to take up the problems.
No, no, if science fiction...