CONTRARY BRIN: Science Fiction roundup

Let’s start with a pair of eerily almost-exact predictions. First here’s a prophetic image from my graphic novel, Tinkerers. (published circa 2008.) The slogan was: “New for 2024: The Apple/Honda iCar!” Check the rumors about an announcement next year.


And another. Some of you already saw my op-ed in Newsweek. “Soon, Humanity Won’t Be Alone in the Universe,” about ChatGPT and other ’empathy bots” appearing exactly on-schedule. 

Putting myself on the line farther ahead… this pod-compendium of coming events is both slick and cool – tho the host is Russian (Kaspersky) – from more commensal days. The kicker? Their Earth 2050 simulation is one of the coolest. Anyway, here’s me blathering about how by 2050 we may all be solving problems in collaboration with AI – dealing with the ‘P Shortage’ and getting rich from the wealth of asteroids. A four parter!

 How I wish we had the Predictions Registry. Above all, because it would undermine the credibility of blowhards who are wrong a lot!  But also because… well, you know…

Okay let’s do a science fiction roundup!  And below that… an anniversary…

== Roundup of some recommended SF reading ==

Visionary Histories, a collection of twenty nonfictional “histories of the future” by David J. Staley, explores a range of topics: the future of artificial intelligence, of democracy, of capitalism, of education, of labor and leisure, as well as the future social and economic consequences of COVID-19 and other pandemics. (Published by ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination.)

A selection of some of the bold new SFF books of the past year (or so), by bright young authors include: 

Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel; 

Children of Memory, by Adrian Tchaikovsky; 

Upgrade, by Blake Crouch; 

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, by Becky Chambers; 

A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine;

Goliath, by Tochi Onyebuchi, and

Babel, by R.F. Kuang.

Excellent and thought provoking stories by the skilled and inquisitive Kay Kenyon, in Dystopia: Seven Dark and Hopeful Tales. And of course, a good time to revisit her excellent novels .

Hard SF author Wil McCarthy started his series about trillionaires dominating space with Rich Man’s Sky. Now he shows a game show being used to manage the colonization of Mars, in Poor Man’s Sky, wherein average folk start getting some of their own. A novel  about ordinary people asserting their power and dignity amidst the intrigues of an extraterrestrial oligarchy.  With murders and riots and cool space hardware.

The Terraformers, a new novel by Annalee Newitz, a vivid tale of the challenges of terraforming and colonizing a recently discovered exoplanet, while uncovering unexpected complications and mysteries. Sample the first chapters on the site.

Rising young author Torion Oey has a new novel – Not James – in which  a doppelgänger of King James is pursued by guards, magicians, and thieves, all in search for the man who calls himself “Not James.”

Astronomer Andrew Fraknoi’s latest science-fiction story, “Auction Prospectus” takes the unusual form of an auction prospectus, explores the idea of “lurkers” — possible alien probes that might be hidden out of our sight among the smaller bodies of our solar system. Reminiscent of themes explored in my novel Existence.

This roundup – 12 Memorable Times Science Fiction Books Sent in the Clones!  – mentions Kiln People, along with others such as Altered Carbon, The Quantum Thief, Never Let Me Go, and Six Wakes – which explore possible cloning scenarios.

Pasadena, California will soon have a bookstore named after the remarkable Octavia Butler: Octavia’s Bookshelf. And Octavia’s Kindred now released as a TV series. How I miss her. An honorary Killer B! And it’s getting lonely out here.

==Brin News ==

Two classic takes on our near future: 

I have recently re-released two of my novels that were out of print: Existence and Kiln People, both with gorgeous new cover artwork by Patrick Farley! See a stirring 3 minute video trailer!

== And an ill-timed anniversary… ==

“A nameless drifter dons a postman’s uniform and a bag of mail as he begins a quest to inspire hope to the survivors living in post-apocalyptic America.” Just a month or so ago, the 25th anniversary of The Postman film… which Kevin Costner brought out opposite James Cameron’s Titanic, in one of the most epic scheduling decisions, ever! I say more about the experience and the film in links below. But let me add just one thing here up top. 

I deem Costner’s movie to be visually and musically among the most beautiful works of cinema of all time. 

And it was faithful to the heart messages of my novel. 

Brains… we could discuss. The first half was savvy and well-written! And the 2nd half had some brilliant moments. (“THAT is a man.”) 

On my website, I’ve posted a more extensive reaction to the movie – and comparison with the book.

Anyways, Costner gave me something to say to folks in airports! I am not at all ashamed to be associated with a flawed but utterly gorgeous and big-hearted epic. If only he ever bought me a beer. Or five. Maybe ten…. I’d’ve been happy with one. With ten, we’d’a beat Titanic. Alas.

Swerving from mighta-beens. Here’s a recent podcast interview I did – about Artemis and deep space, robotics and the future – for Media Death Cult.

== SF Predicts ==

We started with predictions, so let’s finish that way.

Other prophets?

From How science fiction predicted recent high-tech developments in chemistry, from newly developed materials to vat-grown meat.

From the latest CES Show: futuristic products envisioned by science fiction, including a flying car, a hydrofoil boat, bendable table screens, AI-driven baby stroller, eyeglasses that translate speech – and much more.

And finally… Slate’s Future Tense offers a roundup of twelve Sci-Fi stories from 2022 that best illuminated the problems of climate change and the future.

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