Spacer (Asimov)


Spacer (Asimov)

In Isaac Asimov's Foundation/Empire/Robot series, the Spacers were the first humans to emigrate to space. About a millennium thereafter, they severed political ties with Earth, and embraced low population growth and extreme longevity (with lifespans reaching 400 years) as a means for a high standard of living, in combination with using large numbers of robots as servants. At the same time, they also became militarily dominant over Earth.

Asimov's novels chronicle the gradual deterioration of the Spacer worlds and the disappearance of robots from human society. The exact details vary from book to book, and in at least one case—the radioactive contamination of Earth—later scientific discoveries forced Asimov to retcon his own future history. The general pattern, however, is as follows:

In the vague period between Asimov's near-future robot stories (of the type collected in "I, Robot") and his Robot novels, emigrants from Earth establish colonies on fifty worlds, the first being Aurora, the last Solaria, and the Hall of the Worlds located on Melpomenia, the nineteenth. Sociological forces possibly related to their sparse populations and dependence on robot labor lead to the collapse of most of these worlds; their dominance is replaced by new, upstart colonies known as "Settler" worlds. Unlike their Spacer predecessors, the Settlers detested robots, and so by the time of the Empire novels, robotics is almost an unknown science.

Roger MacBride Allen's "Caliban" trilogy portrays several years in the history of Inferno, a planet where Spacers recruit Settlers to rebuild the collapsing ecology.

In "Foundation and Earth", Golan Trevize visits several of these worlds. We learn the eventual fate of Aurora ("The Robots of Dawn") and also Solaria, the setting of the earlier novel "The Naked Sun".

Wider connections

Asimov's novel "Nemesis" hints that the Spacers may have been descendants of human beings selected by a non-human intelligence for their mental characteristics. However, except for a brief mention in "Forward the Foundation", the "Nemesis" plotline is entirely unlinked with the rest of Asimov's science-fiction canon. (The internal logic of the Robot-Empire-Foundation saga demands that robots be present on Earth prior to the Spacer worlds' colonization, yet "Nemesis" contains no robots, making the continuity difficult to accept.)

Further, another story within the story arc establishes the Spacer's mastery of myco-food (food derived from fungi), which they then retain all through history up to their inclusion in the Imperium on Trantor in the sector of Mycogen. The Spacers control of myco-food makes the farming operations of Solaria seem more puzzling, until we remember that Solaria was aberrant even by Spacer standards.

In a somewhat similar vein, Mark W. Tiedemann's "Robot Mystery" trilogy also portrays the Spacers as a group genetically distinct from Earthpeople and their Settler descendants. Tiedemann's trilogy, set between "The Robots of Dawn" and its sequel "Robots and Empire," attempts to update Asimov's work to reflect more recent scientific and science-fictional speculation, for example explaining the lack of nanotechnology in Asimov's robot-ridden society. According to Tiedemann's "Aurora" (2002), the cumulative effects of genetic alterations (due partly to nanotech devices since abandoned) have separated Spacers from the rest of humanity, to such an extent that the word "human" in the Three Laws of Robotics may no longer apply to them.

In his "Lucky Starr" series of juvenile (or in modern parlance, "young adult") novels, Asimov describes the "Sirians" in terms which resemble those for the Spacers.

External links

* [http://www.asimovonline.com/oldsite/spacers_rise_and_fall.html The Rise and the Fall of the Spacers]


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