Michael was honored to be asked to do this cover art for a posthumous tribute to Isaac Asimov in “Asimov’s Science Fiction” magazine.
After 30 years, Isaac Asimov began to weave his 2 most famous series together in his novel FOUNDATION AND EARTH. In this scene the author described the discovery of a huge statue, a remnant of a long-lost civilization. To symbolize the convergence of the 2 series, the artist used the robot Giskard from his cover art for ROBOTS OF DAWN as the model for the statue.
The “sun” in this story is Isaac Asimov’s symbol of Man’s destiny among the stars, beckoning Earthlings to leave the womb of their home planet. The protagonist, Baley, comes to realize that humanity must go forth into space or face cultural stagnation.
Using the sun metaphor as a jumping-off point, I posed Baley among the security of the trees, staring boldly at the sun–and at the call of space. The arrow is the symbol for a spaceship pointing the way outward from his heart. The robot holds the bow representing the means for using the arrow/spaceship because, as we find out later in Robots and Empire, robots are the force primarily responsible for the exodus of humanity.
Having passed through terrible destruction, the former hub of the Galaxy in Isaac Asimov’s classic opus is now a pastoral world. The young heroine Arkady stands on the edge of a high metallic ruin and the last remnants of the long lost Empire rise to form the shape of an archway leading through the lessons of the past to a new bright future. Natural forces have regained dominance. The beautiful blue sky has a few clouds signifying the renewed freedom of weather no longer controlled by the city planet and native life forms are attacking the metal. With Michael Whelan cover art, what looks like a simple portrait has many layers of meaning.
The definitive cover art for this definitive work by one of the greatest minds in science fiction literature, Isaac Asimov. Hari Seldon and the city/planet Trantor inspire and permeate the whole Foundation series; they are the books’ ultimate symbols and so the only choice for the first cover.
In the composition, Michael suggested the stately grandeur of the monumental civilization at the height of its power. As in the Greek and Roman columns of antiquity, the towers represent the tradition, law, and bureaucracy of the book’s thousand year empire and in front is the benevolent grand architect of the next millennium. The light is low on the horizon-it could be dawn or dusk, or both-signifying the impending doom of Trantor and the rise of the Foundation.
On Seldon’s lapel is a raven, the nickname given him by the citizens of Trantor. He is bound to confinement in the wheelchair, but he has the stars and planets in his lap as he looks with confidence to the future he so clearly sees.
What makes someone human? Can a robot be murdered? What is the future of human relationships and what is the ultimate destiny for the human race? These are huge issues that Isaac Asimov deals with in his novel ROBOTS OF DAWN, but of course the extraordinary author also tells a great story! The pivotal plot element is the robot Giskard and Michael hints at the major themes by posing him in a human-like stance as he gazes skyward to the stars where the destiny of man-and robot-ultimately awaits. Note the face of the Terran police detective Elijah Bailey in the rocks.
The remarkable Dr. Isaac Asimov described Michael Whelan and the cover to his novel FOUNDATION’S EDGE this way, “It seems to me to be rather marvelous to be able to illustrate not a concrete scene but an abstract imponderable, and in such a way that it seems to brighten and deepen the book even to the writer himself.”
Cover Art for FOUNDATION AND EARTH by Isaac Asimov.
TRANTORIAN DREAM (Foundation’s Edge) is simply one of the most iconic covers in science fiction. It was also the first Michael Whelan illustrated for Isaac Asimov, one of the best selling and most beloved authors of the 20th century.
Whelan followed with perhaps an even more iconic image, his portrait of Giskard for Robots of Dawn before returning to illustrate the original Foundation trilogy.
Today, his illustrations for Asimov—particularly the Foundation series—stand out as high points in a singular hall of fame career, which begs the question of whether there has been a more perfect pairing of author and artist?
That’s what makes this exquisite preliminary concept for TRANTORIAN DREAM such a rare opportunity. It is science fiction history.
Cover Art for FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE by Isaac Asimov.