David Brin's best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed in 1997) plus explorations of our near-future in Earth and Existence. His award-winning novels and short stories explore vividly speculative ideas through a hard-science lens. His nonfiction book, The Transparent Society, won the American Library Association's Freedom of Speech Award for exploring 21st Century concerns about security, secrecy, accountability and privacy.
A movie version of The Postman premiered December 1997, and was promptly killed by both Titanic and attacks by cynical critics. If you missed it, do see the flick in video. It's a flawed and uneven but ambitious rendition of the novel, with some stirring moments and wonderful visual imagery that make it well worth looking at. It's far better than the critics said... though not what it could have been if Costner had stayed closer to the book. (For Brin's personal reaction to Kevin Costner's production, see "The Postman, the Movie.")
("Discussions" in Hollywood are always "preliminary"... until suddenly things happen.)
One of the problems with so-called light entertainment today is that somehow, amid all the gaudy special effects, people tend to lose track of simple things, like story and meaning. They stop noticing the moral lessons the director is trying to push. Yet these things matter. Perhaps that's why my most infamous film review was the series I wrote about Star Wars for Salon Magazine. I've posted a page on this site which provides links to the Salon articles, and follow it up with my comments and responses to the heated online reaction.
In Star Wars on Trial, two dozen wonderfully articulate authors 'testify' either for the prosecution or the defense. Is SW fantasy disguised as science fiction? Does the series spread doom-pessimism about democracy? Has it been a let-down since 'The Empire Strikes Back'? Does it even make any sense? Be prepared for a wild, extravagant 'trial' — brash and entertaining and downright fun!
From Apollo 13 to The Right Stuff, from Lorenzo's Oil to Awakenings, from Contact to Gattaca, these historical and science fiction films can be used to illustrate basic science concepts in the real world.
What criteria do you use to judge whether or not you like a movie? Or a novel for that matter? We all have our standards, considering issues such as story-telling, consistency of plot, whether the work is dramatic enough, whether the characters seem plausible or believable. But there’s one you never hear mentioned, and that is civilization. It’s the context within which we all live. It’s what we depend upon for our daily life, our food, our electricity... for the livelihood that enables us to be able to buy movie tickets! So why is civilization almost never a topic, never a character in our films? Indeed, the assumption that civilization is useless dominates most films, because it makes it easy to put your hero in pulse-pounding jeopardy.
Arthur C. Clarke's brilliant book was made into a 1968 movie. Yes, its pace is glacial by today's standards. No, we don't have a vacation destination on the moon and probably won't. Is the film still as relevant and "fresh" as the books or as dead as Pan Am? Ponder the following two hoary old clichés: 'Isn't it a shame that human decency and justice haven't kept pace with our technological progress?' and 'No past era featured as much cruelty and misery as this one.'
Release of this film inspired a book in the Smart Pop series, King Kong is Back! David Brin wrote the Introduction which examined the ape's relevance to a 21st Century audience (as opposed to a 1933 or 1975 audience).
King Kong is an ape, but so much more. He's proto-man, primitive, solitary and fiercely proud, representing everything about us that the architects and builders of our great and grand civilization aimed to ignore, or leave behind.
In this review Brin looks at the way Tolkien's book reflected his experiences in WWI (and between the two Great Wars) and how Jackson's films reflect post-Cold War (and early 9/11) attitudes about heroism and evil-doers. The Lord of the Rings is lovingly crafted, seductive — and profoundly backward-looking. But why not look at things through the Dark Lord's eye for a change? (Also available on Salon.)
Glad to see this old tribute of mine — "Buffy vs. The Old-Fashioned 'Hero'" — re-posted by SmartPop Books. It was written a decade ago, when the "kick-ass" female warriors were Xena and Charlie's Angels and of course, the Buff-Maistress herself — archetypes who challenged us to "change the way people view authority."
Did The Matrix start a trend? Is Cyberpunk a new form of Romantic nostalgia? In retrospect, cyberpunk was probably the finest free promotion campaign ever waged on behalf of science fiction. Brilliantly managed, and backed by some works of estimable value, it snared and reeled in countless new readers, while opening fresh opportunities in Hollywood and the visual arts. True, the self-important rhetoric and whines of persecution sounded ironic — at times even hilarious. However, the CP rebels did shake things up.
So we rented Atlas Shrugged. After all, I often talk about Ayn Rand, and her passionate followers have effectively taken over the U.S. Libertarian movement and influence much of the rhetoric we hear from the Republican Right — even though no libertarian policies have ever actually been enacted during Republican rule. So, I thought, why not give her acolytes one more shot at selling me on her biggest, most-central tale? An honest person does that. Whereupon, with a sigh but opening my ears and mind, I slid the disk into the player....
Several of David Brin's book and film reviews, and a number of other essays, have been collected into Through Stranger Eyes. From sober reflections on Jared Diamond's Collapse, and Rebecca Solnit's River of Shadows, to scientific ponderings on Feynman and Gott, along with appraisals of great authors like Brunner, Resnick, Zelazny, Clarke, Verne, and Orwell — more than two dozen reviews and commentaries that are sure to enlighten, entertain, possibly infuriate or even make you laugh, but above all, offer some perspectives you never imagined before.
David Brin published an article in the NY Daily News about how we can 'live long and prosper.'
And watch a vivid History Channel show "Star Trek: Secrets of the Universe." Brin was one of the pundits illuminating both scientific and dramatic themes of the wonderful Star Trek cosmos.
Frank Miller’s "300" and "Sin City" films feature a veritable tsunami of outright and deliberate historical lies. So why must I enumerate them? Because we need to lift our heads — as consumers — and demand better! One can have vivid action without lobotomization. We can have movies that are true to their subject matter (e.g. history) without being dry or boring.
David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More
Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More
Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More
Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More
David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More
Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More
Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 200 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings.Learn More
Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was cited as one of the top 10 writers the AI elite follow. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More
All the Ways in the World to Reach David Brin
"Brin slathers a sober and hard-edged landscape at one turn, and in the next pinpoints with pixel clarity the humanity all jumbled up in the epic action. On every page we see the dirty, lined, broken faces of hardscrabble existence, but we also see them light up at the simple gesture of receiving a piece of mail from a long-lost loved one. And we see mythopoesis right in our faces."
— SF Site Reviews
"Brin's canny sensitivity about the complexities of human nature transcends gender barriers in a novel that is not so much about 'women's issues' as the necessity for change and variability. As in Earth, the author demonstrates his ability to empathize with all his characters. This complex and gripping tale belongs in most libraries."
— Library Journal
"A magnificent effort ... their story gets better, and better, and better."
"More than any writer I know, David Brin can take scary, important problems and turn them sideways, revealing wonderful opportunities. This talent shows strongly in Kiln People, a novel which is deep and insightful and often hilarious, all at the same time."
"The Postman was written as an answer to all those post-apocalyptic books and films that seem to revel in the idea of civilization's fall. It's a story about how much we take for granted — and how desperately we would miss the little, gracious things that connect us today. It is a story about the last idealist in a fallen America. A man who cannot let go of a dream we all once shared. Who sparks restored faith that we can recover, and perhaps even become better than we were. It would take a special kind of actor to play the lead role — a ragged survivor, deeply scarred, yet still willing to hope. In this era of cynicism, we need reminders of the decency that lies within."