David Brin

David Brin
David Brin
Born October 6, 1950 (1950-10-06) (age 61)
Glendale, California
Occupation Novelist, NASA consultant
Genres Science fiction
Notable work(s) Startide Rising, The Postman


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][2] Locus,[3][4][5] Campbell[6] and Nebula Awards.[7]



Brin was born in Glendale, California in 1950. In 1973, he graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in astrophysics. 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.

Brin is a 2010 fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.[8]

He currently lives in southern California with his children.

His ancestors come from Poland, from the area around Konin. His grandfather was drafted into the Russian army and fought in the Russian-Japanese War of 1905.[9]



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

The Uplift stories

About half of Brin's works are in his Uplift Universe. These 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 apparent "patron" species responsible for their uplift from animal pre-sapience (Whether their patron abandoned them or whether humans gained sentience on their own is never definitively settled). 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. Many sentients 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, Brin wrote two short stories set in the Uplift universe, "Temptation" and "Aficionado". "Temptation" appeared in Robert Silverberg's anthology Far Horizons: All New Tales from the Greatest Worlds of Science Fiction and is set after the events in the Infinity's Shore. "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). Both stories are also freely available on Brin's website. Brin has stated that he intends to return to the uplift universe at some point, but is not currently working on anything.

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 a number of stand-alone novels:

  • The Practice Effect (1984)
  • The Postman (1985) -- Campbell and Locus SF Awards winner, Hugo Award nominee, 1986;[15] Nebula Award nominee, 1985 [16] Originally appeared, in substantially different form, as a three-part novella in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. (Filmed by Kevin Costner as a major motion picture)
  • Heart of the Comet (1986) (with Gregory Benford) -- Locus SF Award nominee, 1987 [13]
  • Earth (1990) -- Hugo and Locus SF Awards nominee, 1991 [17] (Contains many successful predictions of current trends (such as global warming) and technologies: Earth Prediction wiki)
  • Glory Season (1993) -- Hugo and Locus SF Awards nominee, 1994 [18]
  • Kiln People (2002) -- Campbell, Clarke, Hugo, and Locus SF Awards nominee, 2003.[19] Kiln People (published in the UK as Kil'n People) had the unusual distinction of finishing second in four different awards for best SF/fantasy novel of 2002—the Hugo, the Locus, the John W. Campbell Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award; each time finishing behind a different book.

Graphic Novels:

  • Forgiveness (2002) -- set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe
  • The Life Eaters (2003) -- published by the Wildstorm imprint of DC Comics, art by Scott Hampton
  • Tinkerers (2010) -- discussion of the causes of the decline of American manufacturing [20]

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[21] 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[22] for what he perceived to be its unquestioning devotion to a traditional elitist social structure, its positive depiction of the slaughter of the opposing forces, and its 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".[23]

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).


  • 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.


  1. ^ 1984 Hugo Awards, Best Novel:Startide Rising by David Brin (Bantam, 1983), The Hugo Awards
  2. ^ Who's Getting Your Vote?, October 29, 2008, Reason
  3. ^ Startide Rising, Science Fiction & Fantasy Books, WWEnd
  4. ^ The Postman, Science Fiction & Fantasy Books, WWEnd
  5. ^ The Uplift War, Science Fiction & Fantasy Books, WWEnd
  6. ^ 1986: 1st - The Postman, David Brin, 2003: 2nd - Kiln People, David Brin, The John W. Campbell Memorial Award
  7. ^ http://www.sfwa.org/awards/archive/pastwin.htm[dead link]
  8. ^ IEET > Fellows > David Brin
  9. ^ DAVID BRIN REVEALED: A two-year-long interview with Slawek Wojtowicz
  10. ^ "1984 Award Winners & Nominees | Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award | WWEnd". Worldswithoutend.com. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1984. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  11. ^ "1983 Award Winners & Nominees | Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award | WWEnd". Worldswithoutend.com. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1983. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  12. ^ "1988 Award Winners & Nominees | Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award | WWEnd". Worldswithoutend.com. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1988. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  13. ^ a b "1987 Award Winners & Nominees | Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award | WWEnd". Worldswithoutend.com. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1987. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  14. ^ "1996 Award Winners & Nominees | Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award | WWEnd". Worldswithoutend.com. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1996. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  15. ^ "1986 Award Winners & Nominees | Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award | WWEnd". Worldswithoutend.com. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1986. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  16. ^ "1985 Award Winners & Nominees | Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award | WWEnd". Worldswithoutend.com. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1985. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  17. ^ "1991 Award Winners & Nominees | Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award | WWEnd". Worldswithoutend.com. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1991. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  18. ^ "1994 Award Winners & Nominees | Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award | WWEnd". Worldswithoutend.com. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1994. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  19. ^ "2003 Award Winners & Nominees | Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award | WWEnd". Worldswithoutend.com. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=2003. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  20. ^ "Forward | Graphic Novel". Forward.msci.org. http://forward.msci.org/tinkerers/graphicnovel.html. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  21. ^ Star Wars
  22. ^ The Lord of the Rings
  23. ^ http://www.reformthelp.org/rights/moderation/goal.php[dead link]

External links


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