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November 07, 2003

Six Degrees of David Brin

Have something to say about David Brin? I'm introducing him as a speaker at the Sunday, November 16 membership meeting at our annual state conference.

In the spirit of Transparent Society, the book that earned him this speaking engagement, I'm going to Google him and run him through databases and maybe even try to look up his kindergarten class...

Of course, I first searched lii.org--we have some author sites, but I was pretty sure his wasn't there. (The spell-checker responded: "brin was not found -- try these words: brain brian brien bring")

Then, naturally, I googled him to find his official Web site, which includes an impressive (and very California-flavored) bio.

I'm already liking the guy. He's as nervous about blogging as I am. It feels like literary barebacking (oh dear--did I say that in public?). But I'm a little worried, because the talk is just over a week away and I've only read Postman. This guy is no one-trick pony; he must have titanium arms, because he's been flailing at keyboards for over two decades.

Oh, hey, he's written a lot of short fiction. I know! I'll read a couple of stories and spice up my intro with a well-placed reference or two.

Back to Google... and then, on to the value-added databases! Wonder if a trip to Bancroft would be worth it?

Posted by kgs at November 7, 2003 02:21 PM

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Hi Karen--

FWIW (which may be nothing), I've been more or less avidly reading Brin since I stumbled across "the Practice Effect" in the mid-80's. I read a *lot* of sf, and his is some of the finest-- real science, interesting stories with some whap-you-upside-of-the-head ideas in them, some of which are in there almost as asides. It's no accident that he is known as one of the "Killer B's" of sf (along with G. Benford and G. Bear). The fact that he is speaking was fairly instrumental in getting me interested in attending this conference.

He's probably best known for the "Uplift Universe" cycle of stories-- currently 6 novels and a couple of stories, an extremely interesting look into a future in which we reach space to discover it already populated with sentients who have all become intelligent (sapient) via a process of genetic tinkering known as "uplift" and who range between amused and dismissive and violently rejecting of humans and their claim to have actually *evolved*. Humans have by then uplifted chimps and dolphins to become spacefaring...it's really great stuff. Nothing like trying to glimpse into someone else's head to rattle your ideas about what's in yours, and Brin does a rather exceptional job of believable alien (and Earth-being) psychology.

Of possible interest (and not too long) is a fascinating look at the Lord of the Rings universe...from the "Dark Side". (Who *really* are the elitist and the regular guy here? Nothing is what you think it is...) Interesting ideas in there about the nature of our hierarchical society, evil, hubris and the whole megillah. A link is on it from his web site, but here's the first installment: http://www.davidbrin.com/tolkienarticle1.html

I bet he had a lot of fun with the latest novel "The Kiln People". Ostensibly, it's the idea that you can make copies of yourself to go out and do various tasks while you do whatever rolled into a detective novel..but remember those whaps on the head? They're there, all right.

Last but not least, I don't want to spoil the book ("The Practice Effect"-- an early novel, somewhat silly but a lot of fun) for anyone who would like to read it, but a reference during the intro that "practicing" our profession might improve it considerably might not come amiss.

Sallie Pine

Posted by: Sallie Pine at November 7, 2003 05:51 PM

Terrific response, Sally! Enough posts such as these and by next Sunday I'll sound like a Brin groupie!

Posted by: K. G. Schneider at November 8, 2003 07:48 AM

Goodonya, Prof. Schneider, for the cool and slightly risque colloquialism!

Mr. Brin was a guest of a sci-fi convention I attended a couple of years ago and he was great fun. I don't read a lot of "Hard SF", but I do really like his short fiction and I plan to test-drive one of his novels once I graduate.

He's very involved in philanthropic causes, as you can see from his website, especially education.

Outside of the fandom, though, he may be more famous for his pop culture critiques that appeared in Salon.com:


Fun stuff.

Posted by: Eli Edwards at November 8, 2003 09:38 AM

Nice post, Eli! You've inspired me to enable hotlinked URLs in the comment field...

Posted by: K. G. Schneider at November 8, 2003 12:42 PM

David Brin wrote to say, "let me know if the blog folks want any responses from me." Questions for Mr. Brin, anyone?

Posted by: K. G. Schneider at November 9, 2003 10:44 AM

I was privileged to introduce David Brin when he spoke at the ALA summer conference in Atlanta on his book Transparent Society. He is an entertaining and interesting speaker. His comments are timely and appropriate to the work of CLA.

Posted by: Cynthia Pirtle at November 12, 2003 05:11 PM

So many questions...but I'd be interested in his response to this one: Given the population explosion on the planet and the interest by the corporate types that want to sell us stuff and the government that wants to keep track of us (at the very least for tax purposes), was this not inevitable? I mean to say, we've developed some pretty nifty tools for doing various things, and it so happens here's computers and the internet and search engines and now many of us are giving up some privacy. Wouldn't something *else* have come along if these particular gadgets had not? And can't we develop them in turn to learn to hide ourselves if we choose to? There have been very few locks made that someone hasn't eventually managed to crack. Does he believe this is uncrackable? I don't think just shining the light back on the ones looking at us is enough, nor do I think that it's impossible to do more. I guess that's really two questions, but I'm interested in his views of the inevitability of this (or not) and where he sees it going.

Posted by: Sallie Pine at November 12, 2003 06:15 PM

This is very interesting stuff; thanks for pointing me to Brin's essay on Tolkien as a paean to modern civilized values (as opposed to romantic pastoralism). I wonder how Brin would relate to Daniel Quinn's ideas which regard civilization as an oppressive unnatural system imposed on humanity at the start of the agricultural revolution. Here's a link for more info: http://www.ishmael.com/

Posted by: Jonathan Betz-Zall at November 13, 2003 12:11 PM

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