Better to Move by Foot or Slidewalk

Post-Automobile Environments in Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and Clarke’s The City and the Stars

Extrapolation (2021), 62, (2), 111–131.


This essay focuses on Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and Clarke’s The City and the Stars, two works published during the 1950s that both largely abolish the automobile as a stern rebuke to that decade’s enthusiastic acceptance of the car. However, these works hold differing ideas regarding desirable and effective alternatives to cars, for Caves of Steel favors machine-enhanced transportation in the form of slidewalks (a vast network of moving sidewalks), whereas City and the Stars privileges the simple act of walking. This essay demonstrates, therefore, how Asimov’s and Clarke’s privileging of different alternatives to automobility also reveals disagreements on two important questions: to what degree technology and human bodies should intertwine, and whether collectivism or individualism should hold greater priority.

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Author details

Withers, Jeremy