In Isaac Asimov's 1957 novel The Naked Sun it is a plot point that the inhabitants of the planet Solaria are raised to be repelled by physical contact, a fairly common theme in Asimov's work. It is stated that Solarian children are gradually weaned off their inborn desire for human contact until they reach a state where almost all social interactions are carried out via sophisticated holographic TV. The one exception to this is sexual intercourse between husband and wife for the purpose of reproduction, which is seen by most (but not all) Solarians as a disgusting but necessary duty.

In Asimov's 1986 novel Foundation and Earth some of the characters visit Solaria millennia after the events in The Naked Sun. It says that during the intervening period the Solarians have genetically engineered themselves to be self-reproducing hermaphrodites, removing the last reason for them to ever have to meet in person.

It seems to me that the Solarians didn't need to go to all the effort of transforming themselves into practically a new species merely in order to bear children without sex. They could have done that in Elijah Bailey's time by using artificial insemination. (Possibly backed up by artificial wombs to avoid the necessity of giving birth.) Out-of-universe, the technology of artificial insemination was well known at the time when The Naked Sun was written. In-universe, without going into too much detail, it always struck me that people who never touched except for sex were not likely to have much luck getting to a stage where sex resulted in conception.

Though I greatly enjoyed Asimov's earlier novels I'm not much of a fan of his later work, so I don't know if Solaria is discussed anywhere else. It is many years since I read Foundation and Earth. Is it explained anywhere why the Solarians of Bailey's time made an exception to their "viewing not seeing" rule for sex when it would have been so easy not to? Or if it is not explained by Asimov, is there a plausible reason I have missed for this incongruity in their society?

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    "Dr. Delmarre used to say the time would come when unfertilized ova would be stored in banks at liquid-air temperatures and utilized for artificial insemination. In that way, eugenic principles could be truly applied and we could get rid of the last vestige of any need for seeing. I’m not sure that I quite go along with him so far, but he was a man of advanced notions; a very good Solarian.“ -
    – Valorum
    Sep 17, 2016 at 13:31
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    @Valorum, well remembered. I had forgotten that detail, although perhaps it was that line of dialogue which put the whole question into my head. However it reinforces my question rather than answering it. Why hadn't that time yet come? Given that Asimov had also seen that artificial insemination would have been more consistent with Solarian principles, did he ever say why it was not used? Sep 17, 2016 at 13:46
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    My impression was that they'd tried removing the "human element" and that it had produced a (test)generation of weird kids. Presumably they were loathe to do away with this element of interaction in case it provoked some kind of unforeseen response.
    – Valorum
    Sep 17, 2016 at 13:48

1 Answer 1


It probably has to do with the mores imposed on the publishing industry during the 1950s - essentially everything related to artificial sex, birth control, or anything else of that very general nature was verboten by the censors governing the magazine industry in those days. The comics industry had just been dealt a fairly crushing blow by Congress and it's a good bet that the pulp magazine industry didn't want to be the next target.

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    Welcome to the site =) It's not a bad thought, but for the moment this is pretty conjectural, do you have anything to back this up with?
    – Au101
    May 31, 2017 at 3:54

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