David Brin: Wikis


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David Brin

Born October 6, 1950 (1950-10-06) (age 59)
Glendale, California
Occupation Novelist, NASA consultant
Genres Science fiction
Notable work(s) Startide Rising, The Postman
[http://www.davidbrin.com/ Official website]

Glen David Brin, Ph.D. (born October 6, 1950) is an American scientist and award-winning author of science fiction. He has received the Hugo,[1] Locus,[2][3][4] Campbell[5] and Nebula Awards.[6]



Brin was born in Glendale, California in 1950. In 1973, he graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in astronomy. He followed this with a Master of Science in applied physics in 1978 and a Doctor of Philosophy in space science in 1981, both from the University of California, San Diego.

He currently lives in southern California with his daughter Ari Brin and sons Terren and Ben Brin.



Brin's body of science fiction, when taken as a whole, is normally categorized as hard science fiction.

The Uplift stories

Although they make up a minority of David Brin's works, his Uplift stories, set in a common "universe" or projected future history, have won a large following in the SF community, twice winning the international Science Fiction Achievement Award (Hugo Award) in the Best Novel category.

This future history depicts a huge galactic civilization responsible for "uplifting" all forms of life which are potentially capable of building and operating interstellar spaceships for themselves. The stories focus almost exclusively on oxygen-breathing species but make it clear that there are other "orders of life", of which hydrogen-breathers are the most important. In the "Uplift" novels humans are economically and technologically the weakest spacefaring race, and are an anomaly since they have no "patron" species responsible for their uplift from animal pre-sapience. As a result several races are eager to force humans to become their clients; but galactic law saves humans from this fate because they are patrons themselves, having already made considerable progress in uplifting dolphins and chimpanzees before developing faster-than-light space travel and thus attracting the attention of galactic civilization. Some of the more aggressive races regard as heresy the humans' claim to have evolved naturally to their current level of intelligence, and therefore wish to exterminate them; while many of the others see humans' lack of patrons as an opportunity to bully them mercilessly. It does not help that humans have a relatively non-hierarchical society with rather informal habits of speech, while most of galactic society is rather feudal and very particular about etiquette, especially deference.

The Uplift novels are:

Additionally, "Aficionado", was published in the limited-edition collection Tomorrow Happens, and is a short-story prequel to the novels. This story was originally published as "Life in the Extreme" in Popular Science Magazine Special Edition (August 1998). This story is also freely available on Brin's website for reading.

Brin has also co-authored with Kevin Lenagh Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe.

There is a detailed Uplift supplement for the roleplaying game GURPS allowing players to play out adventures in the universe described in these novels. Although Brin did not write the GURPS supplement, he did contribute information to it.

Several of his novels refer to the fictional Anglic language, a future variety of English.

Brin has contrasted the Uplift saga—in which humans find themselves one minor species among a universe of many thousands of more advanced races—with his short story "The Crystal Spheres" (available in the collection The River of Time), in which humans begin searching for extraterrestrial life only to learn that the universe is empty of other sapient life... almost.

Other fiction

Brin has written several stand-alone novels:

His short fiction has been collected in:

Other well-known works by David Brin include his book that completes and ties up all of the loose ends in the legendary Asimov's Foundation Universe:

Brin wrote the storyline for the video game Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future.

Brin also wrote a number of articles criticising several science-fiction and fantasy series, including Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings. On Star Wars Brin focused on what he called George Lucas's "agenda", describing how he saw the basis of the Star Wars universe as profoundly anti-democratic. These essays inspired a debate-format book: Star Wars On Trial which clashed "defense vs prosecution" testimony covering a dozen political and philosophical and storytelling charges against the Star Wars Universe. Brin also criticised The Lord of the Rings for what he perceived to be their unquestioning devotion to a traditional elitist social structure, their positive depiction of the slaughter of the opposing forces, and their romantic backward-looking worldview.

Concerns and themes of his work

Many of Brin's original works (works not set into pre-existing series or "universes") focus on the impact on human society of technology humankind develops for itself, a theme which commonly appears in contemporary North American science-fiction. This is most noticeable in The Practice Effect, Glory Season and Kiln People.

Brin's Jewish heritage may be the source of two other strong themes in his works. Tikkun Olam ("repairing the world", i.e. people have a duty to make the world a better place) is originally a religious concept but Brin, like many non-orthodox Jews, has adapted this into a secular notion of working to improve the human condition, to increase knowledge, and to prevent long-term evils. Brin has confirmed that this notion in part underscores the notion of humans as "caretakers" of sentient-species-yet-to-be, as he explains in a concluding note at the end of Startide Rising; and it plays a key role in The Uplift War, where the Thennanin are converted from enemies to allies of the Terragens (humans and other sapients that originated on Earth) when they realize that making the world a better place and being good caretakers are core values of both civilizations. Many of Brin's novels emphasize another element of Jewish tradition, the importance of laws and legality, whether intergalactic law in the Uplift series or that of near-future California in Kiln People but, on the other hand, Brin has stated that "Truly mature citizens ought not to need an intricate wrapping of laws and regulations, in order to do what common sense dictates as good for all".[7]

The "Uplift" stories also feature themes which are conspicuous in Brin's Web site: the dangers of contact with more advanced races (his reservations about Active SETI); his dislike of stories which glorify elitist and backward-looking cultures (Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings); the necessity and difficulty of holding the powerful to account for their actions; and the dangers of the "rising mass frenzy of self-righteousness" (a good description of the Jophur).


  • The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? (1998) ISBN 0-7382-0144-8 - won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association
  • Star Wars on Trial : Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Debate the Most Popular Science Fiction Films of All Time (2006) ISBN 1-932100-89-X
  • Various scientific papers have been released in the years since his doctoral and postdoctoral work in space physics, cometary studies, optics and spacecraft design for the California Space Institute.

Brin consults and speaks for a wide variety of groups interested in the future, ranging from Defense Department agencies and the CIA to Procter & Gamble, SAP, Google and other major corporations. He has also been a participant in discussions at the Philanthropy Roundtable and other groups seeking innovative problem solving approaches.


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

It's 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.

Glen David Brin (born October 6, 1950) is a well-known American author of science fiction. He is the winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards as well as the Interstella War Award. He lives in Southern California and has been both a NASA consultant and a physics professor.



One more piece for the Great Jigsaw puzzle.
There were times when Robert actually envied his ancestors, who had lived in dark ignorance, before the 21st century, and seemed to have spent most of their time making up weird, ornate explanations of the world to fill the yawning gap of their ignorance.
  • I hate the whole ubermensch, superman temptation that pervades science fiction. I believe no protagonist should be so competent, so awe-inspiring, that a committee of 20 really hard-working, intelligent people couldn't do the same thing.
  • It's 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 they do act, they think of it as service, which has limits. The tyrant, though, seeks mastery, for which he is insatiable, implacable.
    • The Postman (1997), p. 267
    • Variant: 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.
      • As quoted in Values of the Wise : Humanity's Highest Aspirations (2004) by Jason Merchey, p. 120
    • This is very similar to the expression by Frank Herbert in Chapterhouse: Dune (1985): "All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted."
  • One more piece for the Great Jigsaw puzzle.
    I find it truly stunning how many people can shrug off stuff like this, preferring instead a tiny, cramped cosmos just 6,000 years old, scheduled to end any-time-now in a scripted stage show of unfathomable violence and cruelty.
    An ancient and immense and ongoing cosmos is so vastly more dramatic and worthy of a majestic Creator. Our brains, capable of exploring His universe, picking up His tools and doing His work, seem destined for much greater tasks than cowering in a small groups of the elect, praying that some of our neighbors will go to perdition...

The Uplift War (1987)

  • There were times when Robert actually envied his ancestors, who had lived in dark ignorance, before the 21st century, and seemed to have spent most of their time making up weird, ornate explanations of the world to fill the yawning gap of their ignorance. Back then, one could believe in anything at all. Simple, deliciously elegant explanations of human behavior. It apparently never mattered whether they were true or not, as long as they were incanted right. Party lines and wonderful conspiracy theories abounded. You could even believe in your own sainthood if you wanted. Nobody was there to show you, with clear experimental proof, that was no easy answer, no magic bullet, no philosopher's stone. Only simple, boring sanity. How narrow the Golden Age looked in retrospect.
    • Ch. 53
  • She had called in the debt that parents owe a child for bringing her, unasked, into a strange world. One should never make an offer without knowing full well what will happen if it is accepted.
    • Ch. 73

Brightness Reef (1995)

  • It's how creativity works. Especially in humans. For every good idea, ten thousand idiotic ones must first be posed, sifted, tried out, and discarded. A mind that's afraid to toy with the ridiculous will never come up with the brilliantly original.
    • Ch. 25

Orbit interview (2002)

Interview online at SFFWorld (19 July 2002)
  • We already live a very long time for mammals, getting three times as many heartbeats as a mouse or elephant. It never seems enough though, does it? Most fictional portrayals of life-extension simply tack more years on the end, in series. But that's a rather silly version. The future doesn't need a bunch of conservative old baby-boomers, hoarding money and getting in the grand-kids' way. What we really need is more life in parallel — some way to do all the things we want done. Picture splitting into three or four "selves" each morning, then reconverging into the same continuous person at the end of the day. What a wish fulfilment, to head off in several directions at once!
  • I like to be surprised. Fresh implications and plot twists erupt as a story unfolds. Characters develop backgrounds, adding depth and feeling. Writing feels like exploring.
  • 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.
  • I maintain contacts with researchers in dozens of fields, both for fun and to keep up. In fact, any well-read citizen can stay reasonably current nowadays, by reading any of the popular science magazines that describe remarkable advances every week, in terms non-specialists can understand. The advance of human knowledge has become — at long last — a vividly enjoyable spectator sport! And a growing movement toward amateur science shows there is room for participants at every level.
  • Every marvel of our age arose out of the critical give and take of an open society. No other civilization ever managed to incorporate this crucial innovation, weaving it into daily life. And if you disagree with this ... say so!

A rant about stupidity... and the coming civil war... (2009)

"A rant about stupidity... and the coming civil war..." at Contrary Brin (4 October 2009)
  • I've long felt that the best minds of the right had useful things to contribute to a national conversation — even if their overall habit of resistance to change proved wrongheaded, more often than right. At least, some of them had the beneficial knack of targeting and criticizing the worst liberal mistakes, and often forcing needful re-drafting.
    That is, some did, way back in when decent republicans and democrats shared one aim — to negotiate better solutions for the republic.
    Alas, today's Republican Establishment seems not only incapable but uninterested in negotiation or deliberation. It isn't just the dogmatism, or lockstep partisanship, or Koolaid fantasies spun-up by the Murdoch-Limbaugh hate machine. Heck, even though "culture war" is verifiably the worst direct treason against the United States of America since Fort Sumter, that isn't what boggles most.
    It's the stupidity. The vast and nearly uniform dumbitudinousness of ignoring what has happened to conservatism, a transformation of nearly all of the salient traits of Barry Goldwater from:
  • prudence to recklessness
  • accountability to secrecy
  • fiscal discretion to spendthrift profligacy
  • consistency to hypocrisy
  • civility to nastiness
  • international restraint to recklessness...
  • This is not about classic left-vs-right anymore. (As if that metaphor ever held cogent meaning.) Not when every measure of national health that conservatives ought to care about — from budget balancing to small business startups, to military readiness, to States' Rights, to the economy, to individual liberty, to control over immigration at our borders — does vastly and demonstrably better under democrats. With nearly 100% perfection.
    (Fact avoidance is even worse when you encompass ALL of history. Ask today's conservatives which force destroyed more freedom and nearly every competitive market, across 5,000 years. Which foe of liberty and enterprise did Adam Smith despise? Hint: it wasn't "socialism" or "government bureaucrats.")
    No. Given their lack of any other tangible accomplishments across the last fifteen years, one must to conclude that the core agenda of Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch and their petroprince backers really is quite simple.
    To find out just how far they can push "culture war" toward a repeat of 1861.
  • Step back for a minute and note an important piece of psychohistory — that every generation of Americans faced adversaries who called us "decadent cowards and pleasure-seeking sybarites (wimps), devoid of any of the virtues of manhood."
    Elsewhere, I mark out this pattern, showing how every hostile nation, leader or meme had to invest in this story, for a simple reason. Because Americans were clearly happier, richer, smarter, more successful and far more free than anyone else. Hence, either those darned Yanks must know a better way of living (unthinkable!)... or else they must have traded something for all those surface satisfactions.
    Something precious. Like their cojones. Or their souls. A devil's bargain. And hence — (our adversaries told themselves) — those pathetic American will fold up, like pansies, as soon as you give them a good push.
    It is the one uniform trait shown by every* vicious, obstinate and troglodytic enemy of the American Experiment. A wish fantasy that convinced Hitler and Stalin and the others that urbanized, comfortable New Yorkers and Californians and all the rest cannot possibly have any guts, not like real men. A delusion shared by the King George, the plantation-owners, the Nazis, Soviets and so on, down to Saddam and Osama bin Laden. A delusion that our ancestors disproved time and again, decisively — though not without a lot of pain.
  • The Union will awaken. It always has. We always will.
  • There was one exception to the rule that all our foes have committed the Decadence Assumption. Ho Chi Minh never underestimated America. His avowed hero was George Washington and he remained in awe of the U.S., all his life. He remains the only enemy leader who ever defeated us at war, and then only because our hubris (not decadence) got the better of us.


  • Costner's film captured the main character's motives, while removing 30 IQ points.

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