Science Fiction and Hollywood

David Brin

Come along with legendary science fiction author and astrophysicist David Brin on a quirky quest for unusual insights into the power of forward-looking media!

DAVID BRIN's Vivid Tomorrows

McFarland, 2021

My 3rd non-fiction book reconnoiters famous SF media — from E.T. and Star Trek to The Arrival and Gattaca — and how they help craft a civilization that's obsessed with self-criticism, suspicion of authority, individualism and tolerance, along with appreciation of ecology and diversity... values that might save us all! But shouldn’t we at least understand how these relentlessly proselytized values made us unique among all human societies, across 6000 years?

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Hollywood — and science fiction — helped make the world we see today and the future that’s unfolding, for well and ill. Do you dare dissect how and what they teach?

Can science fiction — especially sci-fi cinema — save the world? It already has, many times. Retired officers testify that films like Doctor Strangelove, Fail-Safe, On the Beach and War Games provoked changes and helped prevent accidental war. Soylent Green and Silent Running recruited millions of environmental activists. The China Syndrome and countless movies about plagues helped bring attention to those failure modes. And the grand-daddy of "self-preventing prophecy" — Nineteen Eighty-Four — girded countless citizens to stay wary of Big Brother.

It’s not been all dire warnings. While optimism is much harder to dramatize than apocalypse, both large and small screens have also encouraged millions to lift their gaze, contemplating how we might get better, incrementally, or else raise grandchildren worthy of the stars.

Come along with legendary science fiction author and astrophysicist David Brin on a quirky quest for unusual insights into the power of forward-looking media.

How does the romantic allure of feudalism tug at the men and women who benefited the most from its decline?

Why does almost every Hollywood film preach Suspicion of Authority, along with tolerance, diversity and personal eccentricity?

How do these seemingly-contradictory messages help keep us free?

Though some critiques are offered from a lifetime of respect and love and gratitude, no one is spared scrutiny — not Spielberg or Tolkien or Cameron or Costner... nor Dune or demigods or zombie flicks. And certainly not George Lucas or Ayn Rand!

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table of contents or more about Brin's novels

table of contents

Science Fiction and Cinema: Saving the Future by Believing There Will Be One

Part One: A Flickering Light on the World
1. The Self-Preventing Prophecy: How a Dose of Nightmare Might Tame Tomorrow's Perils
2. Society and Citizens Are Fools! The Favorite Cliché of Cinema and Fiction
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Shining Light on How Far We've Come
4. Living in a Science Fictional World: Biology and Destiny and Life 'n' Such
5. A Quirky Must-see Guide to Science Fiction Movies

Part Two: Admirable (But Flawed) Blockbusters
6. J'accuse George Lucas ... or Zola Meets Yoda
7. Avatar. Just Avatar.
8. Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkien vs. the Modern Age

Part Three: Grinding Axes
9. Roll Over, Frank Miller: Street Kids Are Better Than Those 300 Spartans!
10. Atlas Shrugged: The Hidden Context of Book and Film
11. Demigods and "Chosen Ones" ... Would It Hurt If Humanity Got to Play, Too?
12. Getting Science Fictional About a Better World: Marxists and Feminists and Feudalists and Libertarians, Oh My!

Part Four: Heroes and Villains
13. Name That Villain: Bad Guys and Aliens in Sci-Fi Movies
14. King Kong Is Back! The Ape in the Mirror
15. The Matrix: Tomorrow May Be Different
16. A Mini-Rant: Why All Those Zombies Mean You'd Better Vote!
17. Buffy the Old-Fashioned Hero

Part Five: Dark Visions and Hope
18. Dune: What This Classic Teaches About "Point of View"
19. The Postman: The Book vs. the Movie
20. Man Against Machine: Surrogates, Clones and Dittos
21. Gravity: Unbearable Lightness ... but Solid Storytelling
22. Great Opening Lines from Science Fiction Tales
23. From Metaphor to Movie Magic — or Why We're Such Good Liars

David Brin in the world

Brin's vivid tomorrows

  • Brin's science fiction novels
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  • articles, interviews and essays about space exploration and the seti search
  • articles, interviews and essays about science discoveries and developments
  • film & media queries

    Queries about film or media rights to any DAVID BRIN books or stories can be addressed to his film agent:
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    Created-By Agency
    (with cc: to David Brin)

    a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

    To learn more, visit his books page, or see his "about me" page or detailed biography.

    DAVID BRIN author


    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

    shorter fiction

    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

    Contrary Brin blog

    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

    social media influencer

    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 scientist


    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

    transparency expert

    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

    speaker & consultant

    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

    future/tech advisor

    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

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  • pages about BRIN's science fiction

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  • all about Brin's uplift universe
  • a selection of book reviews
  • Brin's special-order books for sale
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  • Brin reviews sci fi films — including The Postman
  • a compilation of great sf books to read
  • recommended sf films
  • science fiction that teaches
  • BRIN's nonfiction explorations

  • privacy, security, accountability and transparency
  • designing and crafting our amazing 21st Century
  • predicting and projecting our near and far future
  • leading and following our politics and economy
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  • scanning our sky for habitable (inhabited?) worlds
  • Contacting BRIN

    All the Ways in the World to Reach David Brin

    an ornery, contrary BLOG, and other insightful wormholes!

    Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's incendiary posts on science, sci-fi and politics and its engaged, opinionated community poke at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate — and infuriate. See for yourself, and if you like — subscribe for more.

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    more vivid tomorrows

    William H. Calvin, neurophysiologist and author of How Brains Think

    "David Brin's nonfiction marvel, The Transparent Society, is what Lewis Mumford or Thorstein Veblen might write, could they contemplate our increasingly webbed world and its prospects for social change. It's what Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson would be writing these days about technology and democracy."

    ZD Net

    Science fiction is as much a literature of the moment as it is of the future. This book, then, is both a warning and an encouragement: a novel that engages with the world we're building and tries to show us a way to become a mature civilisation rather than a raggle-taggle band of individuals. Technology has libertarian roots, but in the end we build the tools that construct a civil society. In Existence Brin shows us the world our technology is building, and then poses one of the biggest questions: what is it all for?

    Paul Di Filippo, Locus Mag

    "This anthology satisfies on many levels. It offers dramatic storytelling, grand ideas, and mutually divergent speculations which hew to no particular ideological party line. If we enter the transparent world with any kind of foreknowledge, it will be due to well-conceived and well-executed projects such as this one."

    Goodreads community review

    "Our modern day struggles may not be born of a disaster of epic proportions, but more than ever do I see these two conflicting archetypes emerging in our own society as it becomes increasingly polarized. The harsh survivalists... the counter to the Musketeers 'All for one. One for all' bent on their own self-interest and independence versus the weak who gather as beacons of community and the champions of mans responsibility towards their fellow man. On which side do you lay? Which side will survive the struggle in the end?"

    final thoughts ...

    ... for this page, at least ...

    can we have more vivid tomorrows?

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