I have just watched episode 9 of Apple TV+’s adaptation of Asimov’s FOUNDATION and it has once again made me depressed to the point of tears welling in my eyes, and yet I feel compelled to go on watching. Such is its mentalic power. I think the show was made by the Mule, or rather by one of his a mutant precursors, a sub-Mule.
One aim of the show is to teach us all to be both predictive psycho-historians and slaves to the Mule. The twists are predictable (as is the boredom), but the details still surprise, and disappoint, yet we continue to watch.
The psycho-historic predictability is in the main lines of narrative, but the Mule is in the details.
The betrayals are predictable, even the double-, reverse-, and meta-betrayals. Seldon is predictable, the salvific special powers are predictable. Even the move from atheistic critique of religion (Asimov) to American religiosity is a surprising detail at first but its growing presence and thematic importance is predictable.
The various swaps and changes can be seen as psycho-historically legitimated, to bring the story up to date, but swapping concepts is on another level of interference altogether. SF is a literature of ideas, so concept-swap is the ultimate betrayal.
Asimov was an atheist, but now Apple’s version of FOUNDATION is turning it into a typical American theodicy of faith, the soul, and belief in the afterlife versus cynicism, the will to power, and the nihilist void.
The major swaps and twists are unsurprising, but one “detail” that I did not predict was when a narratively “Good” character shot a “Bad” character in the back, to stop them from doing something that might or might not have had bad consequences.
“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”, indeed.
If Asimov is Seldon, then Goyer is the Mule.