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Many of Asimov's science fiction novels, either by original design or later retconning, take place in the same shared universe. Most prominently in that universe, we find Hari Seldon's "Foundation" - but the Robot novels, Pebbles in the Sky, The Currents of Space and many others all take place in this same "shared universe."

I have never been able to definitively determine if his novel The Gods Themselves is supposed to be part of this same universe - I can find no hard evidence one way or the other.

Has anyone seen any passages in any of the novels that would preclude or support this novel taking place in the same shared universe?

  • 1
    @OghmaOsiris - Thanks for the input. This issue was discussed in this meta.literature question, and the consensus of those participating at the time was "for...content that does overlap, I say let folks ask it wherever they please." For my part, I put the question in the community I was most interested in participating with, and I'm (more than) pleased with the answer that was given here. – TML Aug 17 '11 at 3:01
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In the author's note at the beginning of "Prelude to Foundation" Asimov writes a brief chronology for the universe.

When I wrote "Foundation," which appeared in the May 1942 issue of Astounding Science Faction, I had no idea that I had begun a series of stories that would eventually grow into six volumes and a total of 650,000 words (so far). Nor did I have any idea that it would be unified with my series of short stories and novels involving robots and my novels involving the Galactic Empire for a grand total (so far) of fourteen volumes and a total of about 1,450,000 words.

Here is the accompanying list:

  1. The Complete Robot (1982). This is a collection of thirty-one robot short stories published between 1940 and 1976 and includes every story in my earlier collection 1. Robot (1950). Only one robot short story has been written since this collection appeared. That is "Robot Dreams," which has not yet appeared in any Doubleday collection.
  2. The Caves of Steel (1954). This is the first of my robot novels.
  3. The Naked Sun (1957). The second robot novel.
  4. The Robots of Dawn (1983 ). The third robot novel.
  5. Robots and Empire (1985). The fourth robot novel.
  6. The Currents of Space (1952). This is the first of my Empire novels.
  7. The Stars, Like Dust- (1951). The second Empire novel.
  8. Pebble in the Sky (1950). The third Empire novel.
  9. Prelude to Foundation (1988). This is the first Foundation novel (although it is the latest written, so far).
  10. Foundation (1951). The second Foundation novel. Actually, it is a collection of four stories, originally published between 1942 and 1944, plus an introductory section written for the book in 1949.
  11. foundation and Empire (1952). The third Foundation novel, made up of two stories, originally published in 1945.
  12. Second foundation (1953). The fourth Foundation novel, made up of two stories, originally published in 1948 and 1949.
  13. Foundations Edge (1982). The fifth Foundation novel.
  14. Foundation and Earth (1983). The sixth Foundation novel.

Since "Foundation and Earth" (1983) was written after "The Gods Themselves" (1972) I think this is probably good evidence against "The Gods Themselves" being intended as part of the series.

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The Gods Themselves is clearly apart from the rest of Asimov's other works (well, that and “Gold”). I don't have a definitive reference, but I don't think Asimov seriously considered making is a part of his main universe.

If you consider the plot, it would be hard to reconcile: the society should be roboticized, and there shouldn't be a thriving moon base, in the chronology of the robot stories.

You'll note that ISFDB classifies The Gods Themselves as a standalone novel (mind, they also classify The End of Eternity as standalone, which is more debatable).

  • I'd never heard of ISDFB before, thanks for the pointer. – TML Aug 17 '11 at 3:02
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As well as Asimov's list of Robots / Empire / Foundation books not including 'The Gods Themselves', there are also two points in the books themselves which demonstrate that 'Gods' is not part of the Robots / Empire / Foundation continuity.

Firstly... there are no robots in 'The Gods Themselves'. In the Robots stories as collected in 'I, Robot' and 'The Complete Robot', robots existed on Earth before humans settled other planets in our solar system, and were then banned from Earth but allowed to work on those other planets. They're simply not present in 'The Gods Themselves'. They're not present, or even mentioned, in the first section, which is set on Earth. They're also not present or mentioned in the third section, which is set on Luna (the Moon). This is a very strong indicator that 'The Gods Themselves' is set in a different continuity than the Robots / Empire / Foundation stories.

Secondly... at the end of 'The Gods Themselves', humans have a power source called The Electron Pump. This provides almost limitless power, by "pumping" electrons between universes. This power source is never mentioned in the Robots / Empire / Foundation stories, ever.

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