CONTRARY BRIN: Science fictional scenarios


I try to vary my postings among several main topic areas. Yeah, a fair amount of (maybe too much) politics and international stuff and war… And big Science News dumps! About space and astronomy, most often. but also postings about biology and such, that lead to fascinating discussions in the CONTRARY BRIN comments community! (See below.)

Then there’s science fiction. Let’s do that, this time. Down below I’ll talk about projects to build future scenario models of the Earth! But first…

== General cool sci fi stuff ==

Folks have written in to say they found useful my writing advice on the recent “Writing Excuses” podcast. “I just wanted to tell you that I thought you were fantastic, and provided a lot of useful insight,” someone wrote. Well thanks! See also “Advice to rising writers posted on my website.

The ‘Godfather of modern sustainability’, John Elkington, interviews me for the renowned TOPIA site. Topics range from environmental SF to Kim Stanley Robinson and Dr. Strangelove and Sputnik and Vernor Vinge and Afro-Futurism all the way to today’s cults who share a central spite toward all the skilled or fact-loving professions. A side riff rails (as you’d expect) at the nastiest character in all of human mythology – Yoda! But only briefly. Mostly it’s about reasons (even now) for optimism.

Here is an interesting YouTubed dissection of my Uplift Universe diving into the races, planets and underlying basis of Uplift. 20 minutes in, the author describes some aspects of colony worlds that I seem to have forgotten! The computer voice takes some tolerance, but it’s a fun and very detailed examination.  

A cool survey of a dozen novels that qualify as ‘mind-blowing’… !

Origin Story: Also noteworthy is this article, by Sabrina Dahlan, about the range of sci fi authors who had origin stories at UCSD (the University of California, San Diego campus) ranging from Kim Stanley Robinson and Gregory Benford to Vernor Vinge and me, Nancy Holder, Aimee Bender and the lively Cat Valente… all the way to… many upcoming young authors!

A nice online review of both my graphic novel The Life Eaters and the Hugo runner-up novella it was based upon: ‘Thor Meets Captain America’ – from my collection The River of Time. Also in The Best of David Brin stories… my best stuff! 

And another podcast review of the Uplift Universe by Sci Fi Snob.

== Short Stories ==

I’ve always liked super short stories. Rob Sawyer beat my entry to the Village Voice  super short contest, decades ago with a great 250 worder!  My own was almost as good. I’ve since done several more. Some call these ‘drabbles.’ And now there is a magazine devoted to them – though only at the 100 word length.

I did win WIRED Magazine’s competition for 6-word stories. Well-known is Hemingway’s classic about ‘baby shoes.’  Poignant and effective. But almost always these ultra shorts only set an ironic situation. There’s no action, conversation or plot twists etc. Not possible at that length?

My own six-worder – that won the contest – had (has) three separate scenes. Cosmic setting. Action. Conversation. Poignant feelings… 

,,,all in six words. I have others here.

==Great Podcasts! ==

A while back, I gave an extensive list of science podcasts, so much good listening you can access while driving or puttering around.  Now more!

Vinton Cerf offers fascinating insights into the origins of the Internet and the Web. Vint is so entertaining! 

UFOs again. My friend, economics Prof. Robin Hanson, goes into “Bayseian appraisal of possible explanations fir UAPs.” Though I think there’s a much simpler, plausible explanation for most of those few UAPs that aren’t demonstrably optical illusions. And it requires no violation of any laws of physics!

In Episode 19 of The Futurists, David Brin expounds on the interplay between scientific research and storytelling in shaping society’s future. 

== Down with all the kings ==

Did that diss on UFO-stuff rile some of you, even beyond my wrath at Yoda?

 Well, now let’s make many of you even angrier! 

The insidious pro-monarchy messages of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings can be found everywhere, especially in the archetype paean to monarchy – The Lion King. Sure, as in Tolkien, you root for the banished prince who dines with the troops and share’s jokes with common folk, in preference over the nasty, sadistic usurper, fine. If that’s the only, binary choice, then sure, I’ll fight for Aragorn over Sauron, Ender over simplistically genocidal fools, John Snow over Cercei, Mufasa over Skar.

Only will we always be suckers for the implicit lesson? That binary is our only choice? Toward terrible or less-terrible versions of autarchy? It still winds up dumping us into the same horrid system that made a hellscape of the last 6000 years. 

Moreover, guess what? Justifying monarchy or autarchy or ‘noble’ rule with comparison to Nature is an utter lie!

 Dig it, folks. Despite all the romantic propaganda from nostalgia junkies like Tolkien and Lucas etc., there is no lion king!  

Let me reiterate, monarchy is an artificial human invention and there is no lion king in Nature. 

Even predator species at the top of the food chain lead tense lives. And when lions get too numerous, they (especially the cubs) are hunted down and killed by gangs of young male cape buffalo – the Jacobins of the veldt! And my new favorite land animal.

I don’t expect Hollywood to lose its obsession, of course, urging the beneficiary citizens of a mighty, enlightenment Revolution to wallow back into a wretchedly failed and deeply unjust tradition. But do lift your head, now and then, and grasp why real science fiction is the rebel genre! 

And kings suck.

== Prophetic stuff ==

Here are ten books that ‘accidentally showed us our future’. Well. In the case of Earth (#4 on the list), it was no accident!  Kinda creepy though.

A fun rumination on the plausibility of the post-scarcity, utopian society portrayed in Star Trek.

Want some guarded optimism? My older essay about the onrushing future is getting more relevant with each passing day… “Singularities & Nightmares”…

== Miscellany ==

Here’s a lovely article paying tribute to a great film’s 25th anniversary… to GATTACA. And while I agree it is a truly first rank motion picture – among the best – alas, I feel hardly anyone even remotely understands it. 

Was that (typically) arrogant to say? Sure! But ranking GATTACA as a ‘dystopia’ does not do it justice. 

The society portrayed in GATTACA is NOT a tyrannical regime or dystopic nightmare! In fact, the script takes great pains to show that the kind of discrimination suffered by Ethan Hawke’s character is illegal! That there is major public debate going on, over how to solve the problem that employers are using genetic testing anyway, despite prejudice being against the law. A law that has failed Hawke’s character, in his campaign to achieve supremely ambitious dreams.

Hence it is a far more complicated story than just a lone hero vs. simplistic oppression. And that’s a good thing! Because that fact makes the tale more pertinent to our modern struggles, not less.

In fact, what’s tasty is to realize that the protagonist is not – in fact – right to do what he’s done. And now for a SPOILER that explains my point.

Sure, it’s spectacularly brave and perseverant and ingenious of him to inveigle his way through every test, into a deep space mission. But in fact, he does have a genetic heart defect! He is endangering his crewmates and billions of taxpayer dollars by tricking his way onto that crew. 

It’s still admirable! And when he returns home, he will thus help to shatter the lazy/unjust reliance on genetic proclivities. That end might justify his means… and risks. That is, if he succeeds. 

He’s still an arrogant, self-centered jerk… but when have we seen that in a movie, before? And rooted for the hero-jerk to prevail over mistakes or villainy?

As I said, GATTACA is complicated! It makes some folk think. It is a truly wonderful film.  One of the best.

== And finally… ==

An interesting, highly-opinionated, intelligent and sometimes strange series of rants – by Bookpiled – about a wide range of SF novels by a fellow just now taking a deep dive into classics (and some not) of science fiction. Way fun… though I only had time to watch a few. Generally above-average tastes and recommendations

And… way cool cars that never were. These were AI generated…

…and some that almost happened.

And yes, now… at last… finally…

Speaking of cars. In 2006 my graphic novel TINKERERS I made many on-target (and some not) predictions. But the top bullseye goes to this image that accurately forecast a new product within a single future year!

And yes, that is the exact year when the iCar is expected (as of now) to appear.

So there.


Okay, here’s another loving tribute to my bro and fellow Killer B… the late -great Greg Bear. I posted my own reminiscences here.

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