Stars End S3E33

“Use the Podcast But Not to Justify Needless Harm to Individuals”

We interrupt our regular program!

Dateline: Capitol District, Trantor

This just in: AppleTV+ has announced the premiere date for Foundation, Season 2: 14 July 2023.

That means that we, at Stars End will be wrapping up Season 3 of the podcast and strapping in for Season 4!

Release Date! Trailer! New Episodes! We’ll talk about it! You’ll listen! It’s a psychohistorical necessity!

You can watch the trailer along with us on the episode right here.

Meanwhile still in season 3, we reach the climax of not merely Robots and Empire but The Great and Glorius Az’s Robot novels collectively! Do we finally get a satisfying ending? You’ll have to listen to find out! And just how philosophical do we get this time? We’re not saying! So tune in and join us already! We promise that no co-host melted down in the recording of this podcast! Probably.

This could very well be where the climax of the novel happens!

And speaking of meltdowns, the ultimate confrontation between Daneel and Giskard on the one hand Amadiro and Mandamus on the other play out against the backdrop of Three Mile Island. In Asimov’s future, this sounds like a vast deserted wilderness and maybe it is 3000 years hence. Not so today. Three Mile Island itself is pretty small, barely big enough for a nuclear power plant or two. Fun fact: TMA-2, the reactor that suffered a partial meltdown and was shut down in 1979 is currently in a state called “Post defueling monitored storage.” It will be officially decommissioned in 2052.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program. If this has been an actual emergency you would have been instructed where to tune in your area for Foundation and official Asimovalia.

Stars End S3E32

“The Very Word Podcast is Taboo in Polite Society”

We hit some big, philosophical issues in this episode.

As a mathematician, it seems odd that I’m frequently the one to point out that some things can’t be quantified. We’re reaching the limits of quantifiability with the Three Laws of Robotics, just as we did with Psychohistory. How do you quantify harm? Take the First Law, for example. Even within a single human, there’s psychological harm or physical harm, at least if you’re Giskard. How do you compare the two? It’s not even possible to measure the two things with the same unit. What’s bigger: 17 furlongs or 200 degrees on the Rankine scale? And there’s also social harm, financial harm, legal harm… the list goes on.

How is this not the cover for The Naked Sun?

It’s even trickier if the question is about the amount of harm between two humans. And what about the Zeroth Law? Quantifying harm between groups of humans? Species of humans? Collections of sapient beings that might be humans? That way, it seems, lies madness. What’s bigger: royal blue or next Tuesday? The only possible path to an answer is the ability to predict the consequences of any action. That brings us back to Psychohistory. It’s a vicious circle.

We get into it as Daneel continues to evolve into a Zeroth Law robot in chapters 15, 16, and 17 of Robots and Empire. Meanwhile, we revisit the caves of steel, experience the pomp and circumstance surrounding Gladia’s visit to Earth, meet a government functionary, and witness an assassination attempt! Plus: a space maneuver worthy of Captain Kirk himself! You’ll enjoy this one!

We also ask: do college professors think? We never quite get to the bottom of that one, either.

Let’s go!

Stars End S3E31

“Ceterum Censeo Delenda Est Podcast”

Joanne and I stayed in a hotel one night last week and I was delighted to discover a pancake robot while enjoying the continental breakfast.

I know that sounds pretty damn cool, but it was disappointing. Do you have a mental picture of a pancake robot? Whatever it is, I’d wager it isn’t a box. This one looks like a ⁠box⁠.

Today the feeling is more akin to bewilderment. I searched for a picture of the pancake robot and got a truly absurd number of hits. There are lots of pictures and cartoons that look like that mental picture from before. Another that ⁠looks like a 3-D printer making love to a hot plate⁠. Also, an annoyingly catchy song that even has its own video. I did not see any of that coming. Well, mostly.

But let’s get back to Daneel and Giskard, the more traditional science fictional robots who never seem to make pancakes even though they could.

In this episode, we continue our odyssey through the excellent Robots and Empire and talk about Part 4: Aurora, or, if you prefer Chapters 11 through 14, The Old Leader, The Plan and the Daughter, The Telepathic Robot, and The Duel.

Together we’ll see how Amadiro and Mandamus’ plan to destroy Earth starts to come together, Vasilia’s machinations to regain possession of Giskard, and watch in real-time as Daneel evolves into the first-ever 4-laws robot, saving Giskard from Vasilia and in turn, Giskard saving Daneel from destruction! It’s great and you’ll want to join us!

Also, there is some Latin. There may even be pancakes.

Stars End S3E30

“Keep Your Mind on the Podcast and Do Not Let the Trailing Off of a Single Thread Affect You.”

Join us as we continue our journey through Isaac Asimov’s masterpiece Robots and Empire, as we delve into chapters 7 through 10. 

In this episode, we take a closer look at “The Overseer,” “The Settler World,” “The Speech,” and “After the Speech,” as Asimov continues to link his major works into a future-historical tapestry.

We see how The First Law of Robotics can be undermined as foreshadowed in The Naked Sun.

We witness Gladia becoming the true successor to Elijah Baley’s legacy as she learns public speaking, articulates a political vision filled with peace and harmony, and changes the course of the rest of her life all in the space of a lazy afternoon.

And we watch as Elijah Baley lays the groundwork (dare I say “Foundation?”) for the Zeroth Law of Robotics from his deathbed.

And of course, Daneel and Giskard go on about the whole thing.

Please join us for our discussion about Robots and Empire, and where it’s taking the universe Asimov built.  Let’s go!

Stars End S3E29

“Humanity Whether in the form of Earth People or Spacers Must Podcast”

Join us as we continue to wind our way through Robots and Empire, the final book in Asimov’s Robot series, even if you count collections of short stories.

In this episode, we discuss chapters 3 through 6.  “The Crisis,” “Another Descendent,” “The Abandoned World,” and “The Crew.”  

In these chapters, the Great and Glorious Az establishes Robots and Empire as an important bridge between the Robot Stories, the Galactic Empire Novels, and the Foundation Saga; it’s both a prelude and a coda.  

Elijah Baley isn’t in this novel except in flashbacks, but his presence looms large.  Daneel and Giskard try to deduce what Elijah’s nemesis, Amadiro might try in the aftermath of Fastolfe’s death.  As they do, they’re forced to ponder the Three Laws of Robotics, which seem to be impeding their efforts.  Together, these discussions wrap up the Robot Stories.

Meanwhile, these two robots are pondering Elijah’s ability to predict, in broad brushstrokes, the future that has unfolded over the past two centuries, including an oncoming crisis.  Giskard, in particular, is trying to deduce the “Laws of Humanics” that Elijah must have understood to see so clearly.  In this, of course, we see the seeds of the Foundation.

How do the Galactic Empire Novels figure into all of this? For that, you’ll have to stay tuned.

Robots and Empire

A funny thing happened on the way to the podcast.

When I went to the Apple Books store, Robots and Empire had disappeared.

I own it, but I can’t download it to my iPad because it’s not in the store. The Kindle edition seems to be missing too. I’m hoping that means Doubleday is preparing a new edition.

But what about in the meantime? Well, there are used bookstores and hard copies.

But if you want to read along with an e-book, what are your options?

There are multiple versions that can be checked out at

And this one: Robots and Empire appears to be downloadable.

Should it be there? I don’t know. But it’s an option until Doubleday has a new edition out.

On a similar note, there isn’t an official audiobook available. I don’t think there’s ever been one. But there was a version with limited distribution for the print-disabled.

At least, I think that’s where this version comes from. It floats around the interwebs and most copies have terrible audio quality. It’s like it was recorded from a thirty-year-old audio cassette and the other side of the tape is bleeding through. This is by far the better copy on YouTube.

And here is the second part.

This should hold us until there’s a new edition and an audiobook from Doubleday. I’m looking forward to getting those when they come out.

Best of luck! When you’re caught up with the reading or even if you haven’t, our discussion starts here:

Our second episode on Robots and Empire, on chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6 will be out tomorrow! Enjoy the read! And the episode!

Stars End S3E28

“I Do Not Ask You to Like the Podcast – I Ask You to Trust It”

If you’re a fan of Issac Asimov, you probably like robots, the Three Laws of Robotics, and characters having long, expository conversations about interesting ideas.

If that’s true, then Robots and Empire is the book for you!  It features, except for when the plot forces its way in, our two favorite robots, Daneel and Giskard, having long, expository conversations about the Three Laws of Robotics.  Jon is quite outspoken about how those are his favorite bits.  Dan and I are more apt to keep that revelation to ourselves.

Robots and Empire lives in between the three Elijah Baley novels and the Foundation books.  As a consequence, it never seems to get the attention of Asimov’s other major novels; it’s never, for example, been made into an official mass-market audiobook.

But if you love the three Elijah Baley novels and the Foundation books and if you’ve bought into Asimov’s project to link most of his work into a tremendous future history, Robots and Empire isn’t just essential, it might even be the most important piece.

And we’re finally talking about it, starting, in this episode, with the first two chapters, “The Descendent” and  “The Ancestor.” You don’t want to miss this one!