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David Brin -- Imagining the Future

Updated on October 24, 2016

An Eye to the Future

"Anyone who wants simple, pat stories should buy another author's product. The real universe ain't that way, and neither are my fictive ones. "

Trained as a scientist, David Brin is an award-winning author, who is also one of the most insightful commentators on the issues of our day. His science fiction novels, Startide Rising, The Uplift War, Kiln People, and The Postman, provide amazing glimpses into possible futures for humanity and our planet. His books have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo and Nebula awards, His post-apocalyptic novel, The Postman, was made into a movie by Kevin Costner. In all, his books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

David emphasizes that science fiction is the literature of the future: "Science and imagination should interface with each other. That's what good science fiction is really about; to shine light into the future, to explore possibilities."

David writes and speaks widely about space exploration, SETI, and how technology shapes our future. He is passionately outspoken about issues involving privacy; his nonfiction book, The Transparent Society, deals with secrecy and accountability in our modern age.

Existence: a large scale look at the cosmos

For a hundred years, people have been abandoning things in space, and Gerald Livingston has to clean up the mess. Only... there's something spinning a little bit higher than he expects. It isn't on the orbital maps. An hour after he grabs the Object and brings it in, rumors fill Earth's infomesh about an "alien artifact." Thrown into the maelstrom of worldwide shared experience, this is a game-changer. A message in a bottle; an alien capsule that wants to communicate. The world reacts as humans always do: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence. And insatiable curiosity.

"In his usual fashion David Brin has written an understated masterpiece that is a truly amazing complex piece of literature. Brin is a fantastic writer who has gone back to the well and delivered an absolute gem..."

--Book People (Austin, TX)

For more information, see: http://www.davidbrin.com/existence.html

Otherness, David Brin's short story collection won the Locus Award for Best Collection in 1995. It includes the story, "Giving Plague."

Quotes from David Brin

"Change is the principal feature of our age and literature should explore how people deal with it. The best science fiction does that, head-on. "

"Science fiction can infect children with the dangerous mental habit of imagining things different than they are."

"To ride the tsunami that change has become in modern times -- science fiction turns the reader from a hapless recipient of change into an explorer."

We live in an Enlightenment civilization that is boldly trying to go where no one has gone before."

"It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power."

"When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else. "

"Why must conversions always come so late? Why do people always apologize to corpses?"

I earn my living as a writer. In other words, as a magician, shaman, metaphorist. By chant and incantation, I create images, characters, alternate realities in other minds. It is an ancient venerable profession. All tribes have had storytellers, who wove legends round the campfire. My specialty involves epics not about long ago, but times and places yet to come. It attempts to weave realistic might-bes and vivid might have-beens. Above all, it is the literature of change. --David Brin

David Brin Live: The Road to the Future

It's too easy to lapse into negativity/pessimism when considering the problems we face: war, political instability, economic trouble, global warming. Indeed, vast inequalities of wealth exist across the globe. Technology must be pat of the solution. We must develop innovative problem-solving skills to face the complex world of the future -- and to raise standards of living across the world. For the first time, the entire world community is able to communicate -- across borders and nationalities -- to share strategies and seek solutions.

On David Brin and Science Fiction

David Brin comments, "Science fiction is badly named - it should have been called speculative history. Whether you are in a parallel reality or exploring the future, it is all about the implications of change on human lives. The fundamental premise of sci-fi is not spaceships and lasers - it's that children can learn from the mistakes of their parents."

"Although Brin is known as a hard SF writer, he doesn't let that get in the way of telling a good story. As John Clute put it, "he writes tales in which the physical constraints governing the knowable Universe are flouted with high-handed panache." -- from The Space Opera Renaissance, by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer.

An excerpt from his short Story, Stones of Significance:

"No one ever said it was easy to be a god, responsible for billions of sapient lives, having to listen to their dreams, anguished cries, and carping criticism. Try it for a while.

It can get to be a drag, just like any other job.

My new client wore the trim, effortlessly athletic figure of a neo-traditionalist human. Beneath a youthful-looking brow, minimal cranial implants made barely noticeable bulges, resembling the modest horns of some urbane Mephistopheles. Other features were stylishly androgynous, though broad shoulders and a swaggering stride made the male pronoun seem apropos.

House cross-checked our guest's credentials before ushering him along a glowing guide beam, past the Reality Lab to my private study.

I've always been proud of my inner sanctum; the sand garden, raked to fractal perfection by a robot programmed with my own esthetic migrams; the shimmering mist fountain; a grove of hybrid peach-almond trees, forever in bloom and fruiting.

My visitor gazed perfunctorily across the harmonious scene. Alas, it clearly did not stir his human heart.

Well, I thought, charitably. Each modern soul has many homes. Perhaps his true spirit resides outside the skull, in parts of him that are not protoplasm.

--continue reading at

Author Guest of Honor at WorldCon

David was the author guest of honor at the 65th Science Fiction World Con in Yokohama, Japan in 2007. Michael Whelan, pictured with David, was the artist guest of honor.

David Brin on the Craft of Writing

What does it take to succeed as an author? David Brin offers advice to aspiring writers, on the importance of story-telling, and how to seek feedback to improve the quality of their work.

How Science Shapes David's Books

Trained as a scientist, David draws upon his technical background to give his books an air of realism, coupled with a dramatic flair. David earned his Ph.D. in astrophysics at UCSD, doing research on the physical composition of comets. He then served as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Space Institute. His technical papers cover a range of topics, from astronomy and optics to alternative dispute resolution and human evolution.

Are David's books "hard science fiction?" David comments: "I have never claimed my uplift universe to be "hard" SF! If other people call it so, well, that's not my fault. Sure, it contains loads of gosh-wow references to golly-true science! But it also contains "playing-with-the-net-down Faster-Than-Light travel in spades! Not one FTL method but five! Ten! As many as I could think of! Why? Well, at one level it is self-aware self-satire. If I am going to have FTL (needed for this universe) then heck if I won't have fun presenting EVERY kind I can come up with! Oh... but then work out the logic of how each would impact a vast civilization. I did the same thing in The Practice Effect, and in Kiln People... wherein I went "gosh what if!?"... but then rigorously built the universe that resulted, and used it as a fun-house mirror to reflect back upon our world. Because of this, I am not at all ashamed of the net-down parts of the Uplift Universe. I connected with more people and got more of them conversing with real science (while having fun) than might have been possible otherwise."

David travels frequently to speak on how technology shapes our future. He also does technical consulting for corporations and government., on issues such as homeland security, national defense, SETI and nanotechnology. David appears frequently on radio and TV, including episodes of "The Universe" and on the History Channel's "Life After People." He also was a regular cast member on "The ArciTECHS."

David Brin on why we Explore Space

Space exploration has more than paid for itself in terms of spin-offs that have enhanced our everyday life. Consider the revolution in computers, GPS technology, weather satellites, water purification, solar panels and fuel cells, just to name a few.

As an author, it's not my job to be right. It's my job to find things that are being overlooked; things that are plausible. -- David Brin

A Remarkable Look at the Near Future

David Brin's ecological thriller, Earth is a prophetic vision of the near future. Set in the year 2038, it is a cautionary story of the harm that may befall our planet's environment, and of science experiments gone awry. Most remarkable is the fact that Brin's book made a large number of predictions that hit the mark. It foretold an early version of the World Wide Web as well as email spam. It predicted the advent of global warming, and described levees breaking along the Mississippi river. It described artificially created black holes, the use of subvocal input devices, predictions registries, disputation arenas, and laser bug zappers, among others. For a more complete tally of the predictions made in this book, see the links below:

Weighing the Future: How do predictions pan out?

Some of the predictions from David's novels include the citizens using personal cameras to record news footage, eyeglass cameras, and privacy as a vanishing commodity. He also described rising sea levels and the use of dirigibles for mass transporation. We have yet to see a Helvetian War against Switzerland to open the secret banking accounts....

Earth
Earth

it's fifty years in the future. A microscopic black hole has accidentally fallen into the Earth's core and the entire planet is in danger of being destroyed within two years. A team of scientists frantically searches for a way to prevent the ultimate disaster. But while they look for an answer, others argue that the only way to save the Earth is to let its human inhabitants become extinct: to let the million-year evolutionary clock rewind and start over.

 

David Brin Speaks on Privacy & Secrecy

How do we keep privacy and empower citizens when cameras become smaller and proliferate daily? On the tenth anniversary of the release of "The Transparent Society: Will Technology force us to choose between Privacy and Freedom," author David Brin discusses issues of transparency and accountability in an age of increasing surveillance.

The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us To Choose Between Privacy And Freedom?
The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us To Choose Between Privacy And Freedom?

David Brin takes some of our worst notions about threats to privacy and sets them on their ears. According to Brin, there is no turning back the growth of public observation and inevitable loss of privacy--at least outside of our own homes. Too many of our transactions are already monitored: Brin asserts that cameras used to observe and reduce crime in public areas have been successful and are on the rise. There's even talk of bringing in microphones to augment the cameras. Brin has no doubt that it's only a matter of time before they're installed in numbers to cover every urban area in every developed nation.

 

A post-apocalyptic novel by David Brin: A wanderer who who trades tales for food and shelter in the dark and savage aftermath of a devastating bio-war, borrows the jacket of a long-dead postal worker to protect himself from the bitter cold. The old, worn uniform still has power as a symbol of hope, and with it Gordon begins to weave his greatest tale, of a nation on the road to recovery.

This best-selling and award-winning work (Nominee for the 1986 Nebula and Hugo Awards; Winner of the Locus and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards for best novel; "Best" from the American Library Association), The Postman was the basis for a 1997 motion picture of the same name, starring and directed by Kevin Costner.

Kevin Costner in The Postman

David's post-apocalyptic thriller, The Postman, was made into a movie by Kevin Costner.

The Postman
The Postman

Set after a major war has destroyed much of America, leaving behind isolated towns, Gordon Krantz seeks shelter in an abandoned postal van, and dons the mail carrier's uniform for warmth. Finding a bag of letters, he takes them to the next town in exchange for food. Without realizing his role, he delivers hope to isolated communities. This book is infinitely better than Kevin Costner's movie.

 

What if you could be in more than one place at a time. Kiln People, a noir detective novel explores a future in which everyone can make copies of themselves.

One-Minute Review of Kiln People

Spotlight on Kiln People

David's novel Kiln People is a fast-moving and fun noir detective story, set in a future when new technology enables people to physically be in more than two places at once.

Kiln People (The Kiln Books)
Kiln People (The Kiln Books)

In this sci-fi-meets-noir novel, this wish has come true. In Brin's imagined future, folks are able to make inexpensive, disposable clay copies of themselves. These golems or "dittos" live for a single day to serve their creator, who can then choose whether or not to "inload" the memories of the ditto's brief life. But private investigator Albert Morris gets more than he, or his "ditective" copies, bargain for when he signs on to help solve the mysterious disappearance of Universal Kilns' co-founder Yasil Maharal--the father of dittotech.

 

Startide Rising, the second book in David's Uplift Series, won the 1983 Hugo, Locus and Nebua Awards for Best Science Fiction Novel. The Terran exploration vessel, Streaker, crewed by humans and uplifted dolphins, has discovred a derelict fleet of 50,000 ancient starships in a shallow cluster. Streaker removes artifacts, bearing witness of the famed Progenitors, the first race to uplift species. In a rush to hide from battling alien armadas, Streaker crashes on the uncharted water world of Kithrup. There the crew must quench a mutiny, while undertaking repairs, and escape the powerful alien crafts who seek her secret. Published in 1983.

A Look at the Uplift Universe

David Brin's Uplift Universe portrays humanity's desperate struggle for survival in a dangerous universe -- ruled by technologically advanced alien races. Billions of years ago, an alien race known as the Progenitors began to genetically alter lower species, granting them intelligence, so they can enter Galactic civilization, and achieve star-faring status. No species has ever reached the stars without the guidance of a patron - except mankind. Humans, by their own initiative achieved star-faring status, and uplifted their own clans, chimpanzees and dolphins. But it's a dangerous universe, and established alien clans don't look favorably upon the upstart Earthlings.

These space epics interweave multiple viewpoints, both human and alien, with complex story lines and solid science. David Brin comments, "Each story in the Uplift Universe deals with some issue of good and evil -- or the murky realm between." Science Fiction critic John Clute writes that Brin "takes on the galaxy with all the exuberance of an E.E. Smith reborn. There is a ladder to the stars in these books, and humanity claws upward into pole position in the Five Galaxies."

Sundiver, Startide Rising, the Uplift War were the first novels in this series, followed by a second trilogy that includes Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore and Heaven's Reach.

David discusses Brightness Reef

David Brin discusses Brightness Reef, the first novel of his new Uplift trilogy -- which follow the adventures of his award-winning books, Startide Rising and The Uplift War. Brightness Reef takes us to a new galaxy, where humans struggle to find their place in the galactic civilization. The planet Jijo has been set off limits for colonization, but refugees escaping persecution have founded colonies in secret. When a starship crashes on Jijo, bringing a mysterious visitor, their fragile society is threatened.

Startide Rising (The Uplift Saga, Book 2)
Startide Rising (The Uplift Saga, Book 2)

This Hugo and Nebula award winning novel, set in the Uplift Universe, is a beautifully crafted book showing the struggles of humans and dolphins to survive in a dangerous universe. The Terran spaceship Streaker - crewed by 150 uplifted dolphins, seven humans, and one uplifted chimpanzee - discovers a derelict fleet of 50,000 spaceships the size of small moons in a shallow cluster. They appear to belong to the Progenitors, the legendary "first race" which uplifted the other species. The captain's gig is sent to investigate but is destroyed along with one of the derelict craft - killing 10 crew members. Streaker manages to recover some artifacts from the destroyed derelict

 
The Uplift War (The Uplift Saga, Book 3)
The Uplift War (The Uplift Saga, Book 3)

Billions of years ago, an alien race known as the Progenitors began the genetically engineered techniques by which non-intelligent creatures are given intelligence by one of the higher races in the galaxy. Once "Uplifted," these creature must serve their patron race before they, in turn, can Uplift other races. Human intelligence, which developed by itself (and brought about the Uplifting of chimpanzees and dolphins), is an affront to the aliens who plan an attack, threatening a human experiment aimed at producing the next Uplift. Such is the premise of this novel, which won the 1988 Hugo Award.

 
Brightness Reef (The Uplift Trilogy, Book 1)
Brightness Reef (The Uplift Trilogy, Book 1)

Millennia ago the Five Galaxies decreed the planet Jijo off limits. But in the last thousand years six races have begun resettling Jijo, embracing a pre-industrial life to hide their existence from the Galactics. Overcoming their differences, the Six have built a society based on mutual tolerance for one another and respect for the planet they live on. But that has all changed with an event the Six have feared for hundreds of years: the arrival of an outside ship. Author David Brin has returned to his popular Uplift universe in this, the first book of a new trilogy.

 
Heaven's Reach (The Second Uplift Trilogy #3)
Heaven's Reach (The Second Uplift Trilogy #3)

The final volume of the Uplift Trilogy chronicles the adventures of a handful of primitives from the planet Jijo who have left or been taken from their homes only to be swept into the intrigues of galactic politics. The novel also continues the story of the fugitive Earth starship Streaker, pursued across the galaxy for its precious cargo of ancient artifacts.

 

Authorized by the Isaac Asimov estate, the Second Foundation Trilogy continues Isaac Asimov's famous Foundation universe. Gregory Benford and Greg Bear wrote the first two novels, and now David Brin’s Foundation's Triumph, carries the theme of Asimov's epic universe to its logical conclusion. Hari Seldon is about to escape and risk everything for one final quest -- a search for knowledge and the power it bestows. The outcome of this final journey may secure humankind's future -- or witness its final downfall.

David Brin's Books and Awards

  • Sundiver,Bantam Books 1980
  • Startide Rising, Bantam 1983. WINNER: Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Awards for best novel
  • The Practice Effect, Bantam 1984
  • The Postman, Bantam 1985. NOMINEE: 1986 Nebula & Hugo Awards; WINNER: Locus & John W. Campbell Awards. American Library Assoc. "best" for young adults. Kevin Costner film 1997.
  • Heart of the Comet, Bantam (with Gregory Benford), 1986.
  • The River of Time, (short story collection) Bantam 1987
  • The Uplift War, Bantam 1987. NY Times Bestseller, Winner HUGO and LOCUS Awards 1988. Nebula nominee.
  • Earth, Bantam Spectra 1990. NOMINEE 1991 Hugo award for best novel (runner-up). NY Times Bestseller.
  • Glory Season, Bantam Spectra (hc), 1993. NOMINEE 1994 Hugo award for best novel.
  • Otherness, Bantam Spectra 1994. Story-essay collection. WINNER: LOCUS Award for Best collection, 1995.
  • Brightness Reef, Bantam Spectra 1995. NOMINEE 1996 Hugo award for best novel.
  • Infinity's Shore, Bantam Spectra 1996. Premio Italia: Best International Novel 2001.
  • Heaven's Reach, Bantam Spectra 1998.
  • Foundation's Triumph, (final book in Asimov 'foundation' series) Harper-Collins 1999.
  • Kiln People, Tor Books 2002. NOMINEE: Hugo Award (2nd place)
  • Contacting Aliens: Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe, with Kevin Lenagh, Bantam 2002.
  • The Life Eaters, DC Comics Hardcover 2004.
  • Sky Horizon, Subterranean Press 2007. WINNER: Hal Clement Award for best science fiction novel for young adult readers, 2008.
  • Through Stranger Eyes, a collection of book reviews, introductions and essays on popular culture
  • The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, 1998. Perseus Books. Winner: Obeler Freedom of Speech award.

Great David Brin stuff on Amazon

Free Short Stories and Articles by David Brin

Where to find out more...

Some claim that we must let our wisdom catch up with advances in technology, suggesting that we would be better off if we slowed or suppressed changes in technology. I disagree; I believe that technology has not yet caught up with our wisdom.

-- David Brin

Non-fiction works by David Brin

Star Wars on Trial: Science Fiction And Fantasy Writers Debate the Most Popular Science Fiction Films of All Time (Smart Pop series)
Star Wars on Trial: Science Fiction And Fantasy Writers Debate the Most Popular Science Fiction Films of All Time (Smart Pop series)

Debates on the authenticity of the Star Wars franchise and the hero-or-villain status of George Lucas are at the heart of these essays by bestselling science-fiction authors. The incredible popularity of the movies has led to the formation of strong emotions within the science fiction community on the strengths and flaws of the films, exemplified here by David Brin's attacks and Matthew Woodring Stover's defense of the movies. This intense examination of the epic works addresses a broad range of issues-from politics, religion, and the saga's overall logic to the impact of the series on bookshelf space as well as science-fiction film. The question Is George Lucas a hero for bringing science fiction to a mass audience or a villain who doesn't understand the genre he's working for? is discussed before a final "Judge's Verdict" on the greatness-or weakness-of the franchise is reached.

 
Through Stranger Eyes: Reviews, Introductions, Tributes & Iconoclastic Essays
Through Stranger Eyes: Reviews, Introductions, Tributes & Iconoclastic Essays

A collection of essay, book reviews and thoughts by David Brin on issues and literature of our time.

 

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      GrowWear 6 years ago

      Thank you for recommending David Brin. Very interesting. :)

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      kimmanleyort 6 years ago

      You have put a lot of work into this lens on David Brin, who sounds like a fascinating thinker and author. The only thing I would suggest is to summarize the Amazon reviews into your own words. ** Blessed by a Squid Angel **

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      Hello from a Squidoo Greeter! what an interesting lens and author you are...I always find it interesting that so much is written about outer-space, yet we really know nothing about our own sea/ocean on this earth...I have always believed that many answers to our health benefits lay in the ocean depths.