Next Time on Stars End

Last Sunday we recorded our latest episode as we continued to bask in The Naked Sun.

In this episode, we talk about the middle section of Asimov’s novel as published in the November 1956 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.

That corresponds to chapters 7 through 12 in the book.

There’s less hype this time except for the presence of part one in the October issue; Part two was not mentioned in Campbell’s Things to Come and wasn’t on the issue’s cover. Who is James H. Schmitz by the way? I don’t know!

But that doesn’t mean that nothing happened in this installment!

We see the aftermath of the assassination attempt of Hannis Gruer and learn what constitutes “sociology” on Solaria. We meet Gruer’s stand-in as Head of Security and watch as Baley gets to go walkabout across the planet. We also learn an uncomfortable amount about Solarian childrearing and witness a second, seemingly impossible assassination attempt on this world so filled with three-laws robots!

Here’s John W. Campbell’s blurb that precedes this installment!

Second of Three Parts. Lije Baley was investigating a murder. Usually, an alibi proves physical impossibility; on robot-dominated Solaria, a different question arose. Is a robot’s conditioning “physical” or “psychological” impossibility? And is there any such thing as “psychological impossibility”? And if it exists for robots, does it for humans…?

Astounding Science Fiction November 1956

The illustrations this time are again by H. R. Van Dongen.

The available scans were not great, but I cleaned up the images as much as possible. If I keep this up, I may need to learn a lot more about that process.

Season 3, Episode 19: coming soon to anywhere the finest podcasts are sold!


  • Asimov, Isaac. “The Naked Sun, part 2” Astounding Science Fiction, November 1956, pp. 96-151.
  • Asimov, Isaac. The Naked Sun, ©1956, 1957, 1983, Bantum Spectra

2 thoughts on “Next Time on Stars End

  1. Dear Dr. K,

    I wanted to thank you, somewhat belatedly (because I read this post originally, I think, only a few days after it was originally posted), for your aside “Who is James H. Schmitz by the way? I don’t know!”

    That question, as it turns out, is one well worth asking – and answering! – as I found out when I looked him up. (Most of the following info, and all of the quotes, are from the James H. Schmitz Wikipedia page. Because I’m a serious scholar like that…)

    Schmitz, born in Germany to American parents and mostly raised there, was a respected and “craftsmanlike” writer, known for space opera, deep and complex aliens, and his depictions of strong female characters, this last an interesting contrast vis-à-vis Asimov’s well-known shortcomings in this area, a topic which has been discussed on the podcast.

    “During the 50s and 60s ‘Space Opera’ and James H. Schmitz were almost synonymous.” – Greg Fowlkes (And Schmitz was also tapped to write the introduction to The Universes of E.E. Smith, suggesting that he must know something about the subject!)

    “James H. Schmitz was considerably better at people than van Vogt was, crafting even his villains as complicated, psychologically complex, and non-stereotypical characters, full of surprising quirks and behaviors that you didn’t see in a lot of other Space Adventure stuff.” – Gardner Dozois

    “The Schmitz Woman, for instance, is every bit as tough and competent as the Heinlein Woman—who, to be fair, isn’t prone to fainting in a crisis either—but without her annoying tendency to think that nothing in the universe is as important as marrying Her Man and settling down to have as many babies as possible.” – Gardner Dozois

    His probably best-known work is the novel The Witches of Karres, nominated for a Hugo award in 1967, though it lost, perhaps unsurprisingly, to Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress in its second year in the voting!

    People also seem to like his story collection Agent of Vega, which is the book that introduced Mercedes Lackey to SF. And Lackey later, long after Schmitz’s demise, actually helped write a sequel to The Witches of Karres (called The Wizard of Karres).

    So now you know! Or at least know as much as I, the Wikipedia “instant expert”, know at this point.

    And, as I have now become intrigued, I may try to go and actually read one of Schmitz’s books, probably Agent of Vega. As soon, that is, as I get done with a certain Asimov robot novel. (Ahem.) It seems that, somehow, I am now a short story and part of an additional novel behind the podcast. (Clearly my life priorities are completely screwed up. But I will strive to do better!)


  2. Also — because one good comment deserves another, and why shouldn’t I write both of them? — I wanted to point out that the cover that you show from November 1956’s Astounding was painted by the immortal Kelly Freas.

    I actually looked that up because the front spaceman struck me as very “Kirby-esque”: the broad face, the slightly manic expression, the somewhat blocky right hand, and just the overall physique. I didn’t think for a second that Jack Kirby actually did the cover, since he wasn’t a painter and didn’t work for SF magazines, but the parallels just made me curious to know who did.


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