Category Archives: writing

Seven Sci Fi Questions

Here I’ve collected some of my recent answers for science fiction and future-oriented questions I was asked over on Quora. You can follow more of the in-depth discussions and multiple viewpoints on the Quora site.

Where should I begin with hard Sci Fi books?

rendezvous-ramaArthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama is an excellent start. Sample Poul Anderson at his best with Brain Wave and Tau Zero! Move on to Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement. Totally strong about some scientific matter, every single time, Clement writes entertainingly as well. Some of the older hard SF authors must-reads include Robert Forward (Dragon’s Egg) and Charles Sheffield.

Definitely try the novels of Robert Sawyer (Quantum Night or Hominids) and Stephen Baxter (Manifold:Time or Raft). Greg Bear is particularly strong for biology! Try his novel Eon. Gregory Benford (Timescape or In The Ocean of Night) for solid physics and astrophysics. For sure, Larry Niven’s Ringworld. C.J. Cherryh’s Downbelow Station. Carl Sagan’s Contact.

200px-VernorVinge_RainbowsEndVernor Vinge (Fire Upon the Deep or Rainbows End) writes far-seeing hard SF. The Red Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson should be on your list. Also The Forever War by Joe Haldeman; Spin by Robert Charles Wilson; Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress. Other authors you might try include Alastair Reynolds, Greg Egan, Allen Steele and Peter Watts.

My own Heart of the Comet takes you on a wild adventure filled with science and romance, tragedy, disaster, heroism, redemption and a triumphant humanity, bound in new directions they never imagined. My novel Earth takes a look at our planet fifty years in the future.

See also my extensive list of titles: Recommended Science Fiction and Fantasy novels.

Which Science fiction ideas could come to life?

61m1amovnylStart with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein… the creation of life, by human hands. It has already happened, by some interpretations and we’ll go the rest of the way, shortly. Or George Orwell’s 1984 —can anyone deny that Big Brother looms? Robert Heinlein predicted religious dictatorship in the United States (see Revolt in 2100). Unfortunately, nuclear apocalypse tales (like my own The Postman) could come true.

In Earth I predicted average citizens would all be equipped with video cameras in easy reach and this would change power, on our streets.

What are some Sci Fi novels that really make you think?

Almost anything by Banks, Egan, Bear, Stephenson, Tiptree and Liu Cixin will make you go “huh, I never thought of that.” Likewise LeGuin and Kim Stanley Robinson… though you have to wade through some preachiness.

Of course, Philip K. Dick or Arthur C. Clarke. Charles Stross. Asaro knows her stuff, as do Sloncziewski and Landis. Ted Chiang. Bacigalupi. Michael Chabon. Pro or con, Joanna Russ will make your neurons buzz. Varley. Oh, and Nancy Kress!

What are some interesting depictions of the world after the Technological Singularity?

KurzweilSingularityCoverFor a general overview of the concept of the Technological Singularity, delve into Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity in Near: When Humans Transcend Biology as a good starting point. Other books include The Rapture of the Nerds: A tale of the singularity, post-humanity, and awkward social situations, and James Barrat’s Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era.

In fiction, Singularities are hard to portray, which is why Vernor Vinge depicts only the beginnings of takeoff in Rainbows End and a vague Aftermath in Marooned in Real Time. Generally it’s hard to write stories about effectively becoming gods… though I’ve taken up the challenge several times. e.g. in the stories “Stones of Significance” and “Reality Check” (both contained in my collection, Insistence of Vision.) One of these shows an optimistic scenario, reasoning out why AIs would want to be part of ‘humans”. The other explores the biggest curse of gods…

…which is likely to be ennui.

accelerandoOther examples of Singularity and post-Singularity fiction include Charles Stross’s Accelerando, William Hertling’s A.I. Apocalypse, John C. Wright’s The Golden Age, Daniel Suarez’s Daemon, Ramez Naam’s Nexus.

In fact though, very few SF authors have attempted to portray positive singularities. Lots of AI or transcendence-driven apocalypses, since those drive dramatic plots. But positive ones are hard to figure while still having room for human scale tension.

Iain Banks portrays one daring scenario… in which the AI are gods, all right but they care about us and give regular humans a pretty good life… and give challenges to those regular humans who seem capable of something more. I hint at something similar in Earth, where the planet becomes godlike but humanity is allowed to maintain vibrant individualism because that is healthier.

See the reason why there are so many damn dystopias and dire apocalyptic scenarios.

Do you believe we’ve already reached the Singularity?

The apparent steep decline in IQ of the American and other electorates would appear to indicate that intelligence has already moved to artificial matrices.

What made Morpheus from The Matrix such a compelling character?

campbell-heroMorpheus was a standard Campbellian Mentor Figure who summons the hero on a quest. (See Joseph Cambell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.) A few of the stages of the Hero’s Journey were skipped. For example the Refusal to the Call was very very brief, as Neo almost gets out of the limo. So brief it hardly counts.

Morpheus is more of a Gandalf than an Obiwan, but both of them wield swords. All three were played by classic, uber-actors. All were smug mystics… if you find that sort of thing “compelling.”

Are there any science fiction stories where humans are morally ambiguous?

Poul Anderson showed aliens’ perspectives and complaints about humans, very well. I’m finishing one in which humans have chosen to be like Trek’s “Romulans”… bitterly opposed to a brash young race that is vigorous, sexy, lucky — every trait we thought would be ours.

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Explore Science Fiction: The Literature of the Future

Explore the outer reaches of Science Fiction!

sci-fi-sitesWhether you’re a science fiction pro, a teacher or occasional reader, these websites offer a wealth of background, history and insight into the genre, ranging from timelines of the future to lists of great books, from literature maps to compilations of spaceships, as well as sites that help with writing and world-building. Plus links to science fiction podcasts, SF publishers, fanzines, online magazines and more.

Plus, see updates on two new Science Fiction Museums set to open… Enjoy!

science-fiction-history-mapHistory of Science Fiction: this fantastically detailed graphic by Ward Shelley charts the evolution of the genre of Science Fiction, showing its roots in the fantastic tales of legend, fables and mythology, through the filter of the Enlightenment and the tales of Verne, Wells and Kafka, onward to the emergence of Space Opera, CyberPunk, and Horror.. with side branches extending to SF’nal films  such as Star Wars and Star Trek.

Literature Map: The Tourist Map of Literature. Enter your favorite author to get relevant author suggestions for similar books to explore. For example, try: What do other readers of Robert A. Heinlein like to read? This map suggests books by Larry Niven, Vernor Vinge, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny and David Brin.

SciFi+100+Books+excerptA Flowchart to NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books:  SF Signal has created a decision tree flowchart to help you work through NPR’s list of top SFF books, asking branching questions such as: Do you prefer fantasy or science fiction? Do you like cyberpunk? Are you ready to blast off into space? What kind of aliens do you like?

A Plotting of Fiction Genres: This guide from Fast Co. charts connections between various literary genres, ranging from Crime to Horror, from Thriller to Paranormal to Hard SF.

100 Great (and accessible) Science Fiction Short Stories by Women: a list of classic stories (many available online) from Zenna Henderson, Pamela Sargent, Octavia Butler, CJ Cherryh and other excellent authors.

A compilation of Lists of Science Fiction books: with links to Best-of lists by NPR, The Guardian, io9 and numerous other lists of books to sample, from classics to new authors.

Links useful for teaching science fiction: how to use SF in the classroom. Plus, see resources for using science fiction to teach science.

ScienceFictionYoungAdultListGreatest Science Fiction & Fantasy books lists my own personal favorite novels, with entries by Heinlein, Sheckley, Brunner, Bester, Bear and Benford, plus my list of Recommended Science Fiction for Young Adults.

An extensive listing of Science Fiction authors on Twitter.

==Timelines of Sci Fi ==

timeline-far-futureTimeline of the Far Future: BBC offers this graphic on peering deeply into our future: What could happen in a thousand years? A million? A quintillion? Or a hundred quintillion?

The Future According to Films: This site (by TremulantDesign) offers an extensive timeline based on the visions of Science Fictional movies, ranging from Blade Runner to Rollerball, Surrogates to Terminator and Lost in Space.

A Visual Timeline of the Future Based on Famous Fiction: Brainpickings offers this graphic (created by designer Giorgia Lupi), which charts the year each novel was published against the future date the book portrays: for instance, Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, published 1966, set around 2075 — extending out to 802701, setting for H.G. Wells The Time Machine.

Stories of the Past and Future: xkcd maps settings of literary works as a function of the date of publication. Which futuristic visions are now obsolete (2001, Space 1999…and which are still plausible? The chart also shows period fiction.

Illustrated Timeline of Robots: this timeline (from Pinfographics) charts the appearance in literature of robots, ranging from Karel Capek’s R.U.R. to Robbie, the Dalek, the Iron Giant, Bender and WALL-E.

Prediction or Influence? A chart of Sci Fi books that predicted the future.

== Spaceships and Rockets ==

atomicRocketLogoAtomic Rockets: A truly detailed site (from Winchell Chung) devoted to rocket and spaceship design, and getting the science right in science fiction. An excellent resource for authors seeking scientific accuracy, help with equations. It offers designs and illustrations behind rocket design, space stations, spacesuits, weapons and much more!

Historic Spacecraft: An amazing site of space history, with photos, info, updates and drawings by Richard Kruse, covering space probes, rockets, rovers, launch pads, and timelines, cut-away views, and more.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 10.46.52 AM

Fastest Sci Fi Ships in the universe: This chart from Blastr (by Fat Wallet) compares fifty of the fastest rockets, spacecraft and battleships, with entries from Battlestar Galactica, Prometheus, Transformers, Star Trek, Halo, Star Wars and Doctor Who.

Size comparison of Science Fictional Spaceships: an epic illustration by Dirk Lochel that shows side by side comparisons of spacecraft from Star Trek to Star Wars, Dr. Who to Stargate and Starship Troopers. Really fun to explore.

Spaceship Alphabet: Do you know your sci fi spaceship ABCs? An illustration by Scott Markley that charts craft ranging from Andromeda to Death Star to Yamata and Z’gal.

== Some fun and useful sites  ==

sci-fi-world-generatorSci Fi World Generator: Create a new world. Specify the percent water and ice for your planet; choose a radius and rotation rate, and this site will generate a plausible atmosphere, geologic composition, and suggest details such as atmospheric pressure, gravity, escape velocity — and see what your world looks like.

scifiFifty years of Visionary SciFi Computer Interfaces: This info graphic on Glow Media charts futuristic visions of computer interfaces, ranging from the flashing lights of Lost in Space, to the tricorders of Star Trek, from the immersive VR of Minority Report to the holograms of Avatar.

From Doctor Who to Superman, Princess Leia to Arthur Dent: a chart of science fictional characters who have survived their planet’s destruction.

Worldbuilding links: lists websites, resources and suggestions for constructing your world for fiction or gaming. See more: Advice for Writers.

Top 100 Things I’d Do if I Ever Became an Evil Overlord: As if you haven’t thought about this! “Shooting is not too good for my enemies.” This list by Peter Anspach addresses many of the cliched images from books and movies.

Have fun with this: Pulp-o-Mizer generates customizable retro pulp magazine covers.

== Sites of Science Fiction ==

WWEWorlds Without End: An extensive resource for everything about Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, with compilations of Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Clarke and Stoker Award lists, Classics of SF, plus book reviews and author interviews, pages devoted to authors and publishers. They also have a BookTrackr to chart your personal reading lists. Plus lists of YA books, and lists of Banned SFF.

Strange Horizons: an online magazine of speculative fiction, featuring short stories of science fiction, fantasy and horror, as well as book reviews, interviews and nonfiction articles.

encyclopedia-science-fictionThe Encyclopedia of Science Fiction offers a wealth of info about the field: with an Author A-Z, plus entries for films, games, comics, awards, fanzines…and much more to explore!

io9: We come from the Future: the go-to site for all the latest news about popular culture and futurism, covering science fiction books, shows, comics, and movies, by Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz.

Lightspeed: an online science fiction and fantasy magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams. Lightspeed includes stories, both reprints and originals, author interviews, podcasts and nonfiction articles.

UnknownSF Signal: Winner of the Hugo Award for best fanzine, this site offers reviews of books and movies, as well as Sci Fi podcasts, and columns on writing, comics anime and more.

Clarkesworld: A Hugo-award winning science fiction and fantasy magazine (published by Neil Clarke), with short stories, podcasts, articles and interviews.

Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine: the award-winning SF magazine, now available online, with reviews, new short fiction and news.

Tor.com offers new SF short stories by top authors, book reviews and extensive coverage of what ‘s new in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Baen Books offers updates on new Science Fiction and Fantasy releases, plus e-books and author interviews.

Locus Online offers news, book reviews and columns covering what’s new in Science Fiction. Locus also maintains a list of upcoming Science Fiction Conventions across the world.

sff_logo_smallSFFWorld.com offers news, articles, discussion forums, author interviews, book and movie reviews, short stories, book give-aways, advice on writing, and guest posts.

SF Chronicles: This British site offers discussion forums to meet up and converse about writing, your favorite authors, books, TV shows and films, along with encouragement and advice for aspiring authors.

SFWA: The website of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America has information for writers, educators, and readers, including advice and legal resources for writers.  As does the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA).

== Sci Fi Centers & Musuems ==

Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction: This website (developed by Jim Gunn at the University of Kansas) offers news, background, essays, and courses on Science Fiction, covering the craft of writing and marketing books, with an emphasis on education: AboutSF offers resources for teachers about using Science Fiction in the classroom.

Arthur C Clarke Center for ImaginationThe Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination: This new center at the University of California, San Diego (founded by Sheldon Brown) aims to bring science, art, literature and technology in order to better understand the nature of human imagination. It hosts seminars, speeches and research.

The Museum of Science Fiction (MOSF): This new museum, set to open in Washington D.C., (founded by Greg Viggiano) will feature interactive exhibits on the literature and media of science fiction that will entertain and educate — and open our eyes to the possibilities of the future.

The Hollywood Sci Fi Museum: This interactive, educational museum is set to open in 2018 in Hollywood, California (founded by Huston Huddleston), and will present exhibits from science fiction TV shows and films that will include a Hall of Interactive Robots, and a Hall of Spaceships.

UnknownThe Heinlein Society: dedicated to preserving the legacy of the great Robert A. Heinlein and paying it forward, with scholarships, blood drives and educational materials. Support this worthy cause.

The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University (directed by Ed Finn) explores the intersection of science and the fantastic, hosting seminars, workshops and publishing anthologies such as Hieroglyph.

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Hall of Fame inside the Experience Music Project in Seattle, honors the greats of SF literature.

== Sci Fi Podcasts ==

18717 Starship Sofa: An Audio Science Fiction Magazine presents podcasts of SF short stories. Host Tony Smith also conducts author interviews, discussions, reviews and non-fiction articles.

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy: an interview and talk show focusing on fantasy and science fiction books, movies, games and comics (run by David Barr Kirtley and John Joseph Adams).

Unknown-1Escape Pod offers weekly podcasts of science fiction short stories (edited by Norm Sherman).

GeeksOn is a podcast covering topics for…geeks. Science Fiction, movies, role playing games, comics, anime and more…

Once and Future Podcast: a weekly discussion about fantasy and science fiction books, as well as author inteviews (hosted by Anton Strout).

== A few more links ==

Goodreads Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club: Join other readers to discuss and rate books. Get book recommendations and create a bookshelf of your favorite books.

SciFi on Reddit: reader-suggested links to what’s new and noteworthy in science fiction.

Templeton Gate offers news and reviews covering speculative fiction books, shows, movies and comics.

Directory of Science Fiction sites with links to SF fanzines, online magazines and more.

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Science Fiction Authors on Twitter

A sampling of Science Fiction – or Speculative Fiction — authors on Twitter, many with interesting things to say about books, the craft of writing, SF news, as well as science and the future. In alphabetic order (compiled by Anonymous), the brief descriptions and selected works don’t begin to do justice to these fantastic authors. Yes, the list veers toward the SF end of SFF, with emphasis on writers of novels, rather than short stories. Apologies for the those who have been inadvertently left off. And many well-known authors, Connie Willis or Kim Stanley Robinson, don’t have accounts (probably because they’re busy writing)…

Daniel Abraham, Best-selling author and producer, half of the James S.A. Corey team (The Expanse, Leviathan Wakes) @AbrahamHanover

John Joseph Adams, editor of Science Fiction anthologies (Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Brave New Worlds) @JohnJosephAdams

Saladin Ahmed, Locus Award winning author (Throne of the Crescent Moon, Engraved on the Eye) @saladinahmed

SCIENCE-FICTION-AUTHORS-TWITTERBuzz Aldrin, Astronaut, Lunar Module pilot and moonwalker, as well as a SF author, collaborating with John Barnes (Encounter with Tiber, The Return) @TheRealBuzz

Charlie Jane Anders, Founding editor of io9, short story writer and Science Fiction author (All the Birds in the Sky) @charliejane

Lou Anders, Science Fiction author and Hugo Award winning editor (Frostborn, Nightborn) @LouAnders

Kevin J. Anderson, Best-selling Science Fiction author (The Sisterhood of Dune, Hellhole)   @TheKJA

Lou Aronica, Science Fiction author, editor and publisher (Blue, Differential Equations) @laronica

Catherine Asaro, Nebula Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Saga of the Skolian Empire, The Quantum Rose)   @Catherine_Asaro

Madeline Ashby, Science Fiction author and consultant (Company Town, iD) @MadelineAshby

Neal Asher, English Science Fiction author (The Departure, Zero Point)  @nealasher

Margaret E. Atwood, Booker Prize, Arthur C. Clarke Award winning author and poet (The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake) @MargaretAtwood

Paolo Bacigalupi, Locus, Hugo and Nebula Award wining Science Fiction author (The Windup Girl, The Water Knife)  @paolobacigalupi

John Barnes, Science Fiction and YA author  (Tales of the Madman Underground, Meeting Infinity) @JohnBarnesSF

Steven Barnes, Science Fiction author and frequent collaborator with Niven and Pournelle (Beowulf’s Children, Lion’s Blood) @StevenBarnes1

Elizabeth Bear, Hugo and John W. Campbell Award winning Science Fiction author  (Hammered, Blood and Iron) @matociquala

Greg Bear, Nebula, Locus and Hugo Award winning Science Fiction author (Darwin’s Radio, Queen of Angels) @greg_bear

Chris Beckett, Arthur C. Clarke Award winning Science fiction author (Dark Eden, The Holy Machine) @chriszbeckett

Lauren Beukes, South African SF author, comics writer and journalist (Broken Monsters, The Shining Girls) @laurenbeukes

Ben Bova, Six time winner of the Hugo Award;  Science Fiction and non-fiction author and Editor (Grand Tour series, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame)  @BenBova

David Brin, Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Campbell Award winning Science Fiction author (Startide Rising, The Postman)  @davidbrin

Tobias S. Buckell, Science Fiction author (Sly Mongoose, Halo: The Cole Protocol) @tobiasbuckell

Emma Bull, Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Falcon, Bone Dance) @coffeeem

Monica Byrne, Upcoming Science Fiction author and playwright (The Girl in the Road) @monicabyrne13

Pat Cadigan, Arthur C. Clarke Award winning Science Fiction author (Synners, Fools)  @Cadigan

Christian Cantrell, Software developer and Science Fiction author (Containment, Equinox) @cantrell

Orson Scott Card, Hugo and Nebula Award wining Science Fiction author (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead) @orsonscottcard

Jeff Carlson, Science Fiction and thriller author (Plague Year, Plague War)  @authorjcarlson

Adam-Troy Castro, Science Fiction, Fantasy and YA author (Tangled Strings, Emissaries from the Dead) @adamtroycastro

Becky Chambers Science Fiction author (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, A Closed & Common Orbit) @beckysaysawr

C.J. Cherryh, Hugo and Locus Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Cyteen, The Pride of Chanur) account no longer exists

Wesley Chu, John W. Campbell Award winning Science Fiction author (Time Salvager, Time Siege) @wes_chu

Liu Cixin , Chinese Science Fiction author, winner of the Hugo Award and the Galaxy Award (The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest) @liu_cixin

Ernest Cline, Best-selling author and screenwriter (Ready Player One, Armada) @erniecline

Peter Clines, Science Fiction and horror author (The Fold, 14) @PeterClines

August Cole, Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center, director of The Art of the Future  (Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War, War Stories from the Future (ed.)) @august_cole

Eoin Colfer, Young adult Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Artemis Fowl, The Supernatualist)   @eoincolfer

Brenda Cooper, Science Fiction author (The Silver Ship and the Sea, Wings of Creation)   @brendacooper

James S.A. Corey, New York Times best-selling pseudonym (The Expanse, Nemesis Games) @JamesSACorey

Paul Cornell, Award-winning author and screenwriter for Doctor Who (The Severed Streets, Who Killed Sherlock Holmes) @Paul_Cornell

Bruce Coville, author of Young Adult fiction (My Teacher Is An Alien, Aliens Ate My Homework) @brucecoville

Katherine Cramer, Science Fiction author and editor (The Hard SF Renaissance, The Year’s Best SF Series) @KathrynECramer

Justin Cronin, New York Times best-selling author, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award (The Passage, The Twelve) @jccronin

Julie Czernada, Science Fiction and Fantasy author and editor (This Gulf of Time and Stars, No Place Like Home) @julieczernada

Jack Dann Award-winning Science Fiction and Historical fiction author (The Memory Cathedral, The Silent) @jackmdann

Ellen Datlow, Hugo Award winning Science Fiction and Horror editor (The Best Horror of the Year, Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror)  @EllenDatlow

Aliette de Bodard, Software engineer, Nebula and Locus Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (House of Shattered Wings, In Morningstar’s Shadow) @aliettedb

Charles de Lint, Fantasy and Horror author (The Onion Girl, Widdershins)  @cdelint

Cory Doctorow, John W. Campbell and Locus Award winning Science Fiction author (Little Brother, Makers)   @doctorow

Diane Duane, Young adult and Science Fiction and Fantasy author (So You Want to Be a Wizard, Wizard’s Dilemma, plus many Star Trek novels) @dduane

Tananarive Due, Science Fiction, fantasy and mystery author, screenwriter and producer (Ghost Summer, The Lake ) @TananariveDue

Scott Edelman, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror author and editor (What Will Come After, What We Still Talk About)  @scottedelman

Kate Elliott, Fantasy and Science Fiction author (The Crown of Stars, Cold Steel) @KateElliottSFF

Eric Flint, Science Fiction author and editor. Writer of alternate histories. (1632, 1636: The Saxon Uprising)  @EricFlint

Gregory Frost, Fantasy and Science Fiction (Lyrec, Shadowbridge)  @gregory_frost

Neil Gaiman, Locus, Hugo and Nebula Award winning Science Fiction Author (American Gods, Coraline). Also Graphic Novels (The Sandman)  @neilhimself

Charles E. Gannon, Professor and Best-selling and Nebula nominated author (Fire with Fire, Raising Caine) @cegannon1

David Gerrold, Hugo and Nebula Award winning Science Fiction author and screenwriter (The Man Who Folded Himself, The Martian Child) @DavidGerrold

William Gibson, Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Award winning Science Fiction and Cyberpunk author (Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive)  @GreatDismal

Max Gladstone, Science Fiction/Fantasy author (Full Fathom Five, Last First Snow) @maxgladstone

Kathleen Goonan, John W. Campbell Award winning Science Fiction author (In War Times, This Shared Dream) @KathleenGoonan

Steven Gould, New York Times best-selling Science Fiction author and short story writer (Jumper, Reflex) @StevenGould

Daryl Gregory, Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Afterparty, Harrison Squared) @darylwriterguy

Nicola Griffith, Nebula and James Tiptree Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author and editor (Ammonite, With Her Body)  @nicolaz

Lev Grossman, John W. Campbell Award winning Fantasy and Young Adult author (The Magicians, The Magician King)  @leverus

Eileen Gunn, Nebula Award winning Science Fiction author and editor (Stable Strategies and Others, The Wiscon Chronicles) @eileen_gunn

Elizabeth Hand, Nebula and World Fantasy Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Walking the Moon, Winterlong) @Liz_Hand

William Hertling, Science Fiction author (Avogadro Corp., A.I. Apocalypse) @hertling

Nancy Holder, Bram Stoker Award wining Science Fiction and Horror Author (Pretty Little Devils, Wicked: Revelation), as well as works in the Buffyverse  @nancyholder

Nalo Hopkinson, Aurora and Locus Award winning Fantasy and Science Fiction author (The New Moon’s Arms, So Long Been Dreaming)  @nalohopkinson

Jason M. Hough, Best-selling author (The Darwin Elevator, Zero World) @JasonMHough

Hugh Howey, Best-selling Science Fiction author (Wool, Sand) @hughhowey

N.K. Jemison, Locus Award winning author, Hugo nominee and short story writer  (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Killing Moon) @nkjemisin

Guy Gavriel Kay, Canadian author, poet, and producer (River of Stars, Children of Earth and Sky) @guygavrielkay

Kay Kenyon, Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Maximum Ice, The Braided World)  @KayKenyon

T. Jackson King, Science Fiction Author and reporter (Stellar Assassin, Escape from Aliens) @TJacksonKing

Dani Kollin, Prometheus Award winning Science Fiction author, with brother Eytan Kollin (The Unincorporated Man, The Unincorporated Woman) @dkollin

Ted Kosmatka, Science Fiction writer (The Flicker Men, The Games) @TKosmatka

Mary Robinette Kowal, John W. Campbell Award winning Author and puppeteer (Shades of Milk and Honey, Forest of Memory) @MaryRobinette

Nancy Kress, Hugo and Nebula Award winning Science Fiction author (Beggars in Spain, Probability Space) @nancykress

Mur Lafferty, Campbell Award and Parsec winning author and podcaster  (Six Wakes, Playing for Keeps) @mightymur

Margo Lanagan, World Fantasy Award winning author (Yellowcake, Tender Morsels ) @margolanagan

Ann Leckie, Hugo and Nebula Award winning author (Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Mercy) @ann_leckie

Ursula K. Le Guin,  Booker Prize, Hugo, Nebula, Locus Award winning science fiction and fantasy author (The Left Hand of Darkness, Lavinia) @ursulaleguin

Paul Levinson, Locus Award winning Science Fiction author (Silk Code, The Plot to Save Socrates) @PaulLev

Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Science Fiction author (Hero, To Kiss or To Kill) @JLichtenberg

Ken Liu, Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy award winning author and translator (Grace of Kings, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories) @kyliu99

Ian McDonald, British Science Fiction author , winner of the Hugo, Locus, Philip K. Dick and John W. Campbell awards (Luna: New Moon, The Dervish House) @ianmcdonald

Seanan McGuire, John W. Campbell Award winning science fiction author, who also writes under the name Mira Grant (Feed, Symbiont)  @seananmcguire

Maureen McHugh, Hugo, Locus and James Tiptree Jr. Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (China Mountain Zhang, Half the Day is Night) @maureenmcq

Will McIntosh, Hugo Award winning Science Fiction and YA author (Burning Midnight, Soft Apocalypse) @WillMcIntoshSF

Vonda N. McIntyre, Hugo and Nebula Award winning Science Fiction author (Dreamsnake, The Moon and the Sun), also many novels in the Star Trek Universe @vondanmcintyre

Ken MacLeod, Scottish Science Fiction author (The Stone Canal, The Sky Road)  @amendlocke

George R. R. Martin, Best-selling Hugo and Nebula Award winning Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror author (Game of Thrones, A Dance with Dragons) @GeorgeRRMartin

Elizabeth Moon, Nebula and Robert A. Heinlein Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (The Speed of Dark, Kings of the North) @emoontx

Richard K. Morgan, Science Fiction and Fantasy novelist (Altered Carbon, Thirteen) @quellist1

James Morrow, Award winning Science Fiction author (Towing Jehovah, Galapagos Regained( @jimmorrow11

Ramez Naam, Tehnologist, public speaker and author  of nonfiction as well as Philip K. Dick and Prometheus Award winning Science Fiction (Nexus, Apex, Crux) @ramez

Linda Nagata, Nebula and Locus Award winning Science Fiction author  (Vast, Memory)  @LindaNagata

Annalee Newitz, founder of io9, tech editor at Ars Technica, non-fiction author (Scatter, Adapt and Remember) @Annaleen

Emma Newman, Author of urban fantasy and science fiction (Planetfall, After Atlas) @EmApocalyptic

Garth Nix, Australian fantasy and YA novelist (Shade’s Children, To Hold the Bridge) @garthnix

Naomi Novik, Hugo and John W. Campbell Award winning author of alternate history (Crucible of Gold, Tongues of Serpents) @naominovik

Nnedi Okorafor, Professor of creative writing and Hugo Award winning author (The Book of Phoenix, Lagoon) @Nnedi

Daniel José Older, Author of urban fantasy and young adult novels (Shadowshaper, Bone Street Rumba) @djolder

Malka Older, Science Fiction and thriller author (Infomocracy, Null States) @m_older

Peter Orullian, writer of epic fantasy (Trial of Intentions, The Unremembered) @PeterOrullian

Eliot Peper, writer of science fiction thrillers (Cumulus, Neon Fever Dream) @eliotpeper

Gareth L. Powell, Winner of the BSFA Award for best novel (Ack-Ack Macaque, The Recollection) @garethlpowell

Sir Terry Pratchett may be the greatest writer of fantasy and comedy, winner of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, now deceased (The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic) @terryandrob

Tim Pratt, Hugo Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author (Spell Games, Dead Reign)   @timpratt

Cherie Priest, Locus Award winning Science Fiction and Horror author (Boneshaker, Fatham)   @cmpriest

Hannu Rajaniemi, Locus and John W. Campbell Award winning Science Fiction author and mathematician (The Fractal Prince, The Causal Angel) @hannu

Cat Rambo, Fantasy and Science Fiction author and editor (Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight)  @catrambo

Marguerite Reed, Philip K. Dick Special Citation award winning author  (Archangel) @MargueriteReed9

Mike Resnick, Multiple Hugo and Locus Award winning Science Fiction author (Starship: Mutiny, Santiago)  @ResnickMike

Alastair Reynolds, Former ESA scientist, Science Fiction author (The Medusa Chronicles, Blue Remembered Earth) @AquilaRift

Rudy Rucker, Philip K. Dick Award winning Science Fiction author and mathematician (Software, Realware)  @rudytheelder

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Hugo Award winning Science Fiction and Fantasy author and editor (Hitler’s Angel, Totally Spellbound) , as well as works in the Star Trek universe @KristineRusch

Geoff Ryman, Professor of writing, author of Science Fiction, fantasy and historic novels (Was, The Unconquered Country) @geoffryman

Brandon Sanderson, Science Fiction,  fantasy and  author (Calamity, Firefight) @BrandSanderson

Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell  Award winning Science Fiction author (Rollback, Flashforward) @RobertJSawyer

John Scalzi, John W. Campbell and Hugo Award winning author (Fuzzy Nation, Old Man’s War)   @scalzi

Lawrence M. Schoen, Award-winning author (Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, Buffalito Destiny) @klingonguy

Karl Schroeder, Aurora Award winning Science Fiction author (Permanence, The Sunless Countries)  @KarlSchroeder

Scott Sigler, Parsec Award winning Science Fiction and Horror author (Infected, Contagious)  @scottsigler

Dean Wesley Smith, Science Fiction author (Laying the Music to Rest, The Hunted) @DeanWesleySmith

Michael Stackpole, Science Fiction and Fantasy author and Game Designer (I, Jedi, Evil Trimphant) @MikeStackpole

Bruce Sterling, Hugo and Campbell Award winning Science Fiction and Cyberpunk author (Distraction, The Caryatids) @bruces

Neal Stephenson, Hugo, Locus and Prometheus Award winning Science Fiction author (Quicksilver, The Diamond Age) @nealstephenson

Charles Stross, Locus and Hugo Award winning Science Fiction author (Halting State, Rule 34) @cstross

Rachel Swirsky, Nebula Award winning short story writer (How the World Became Quiet, A Memory of Wind)  @rachelswirsky

Lavie Tidhar , Seiun Award and World Fantasy Award winning author (Central Station, A Man Lies Dreaming) @lavietidhar

Ian Tregillis, Physicist and Science Fiction author (The Rising, The Mechanical) @ITregillis

Hayden Trenholm, Science Fiction and mystery writer ( Blood & Water, Strangers Among Us) @HaydenTrenholm

Catherynne Valente, James Tiptree, Andre Norton award winning SF and Fantasy author (Fairyland, Radiance) @catvalente

Jeff VanderMeer, Fantasy and Science Fiction author (Finch, City of Saints and Madmen) @jeffvandermeer

Andy Weir, Best-selling Science Fiction author (The Martian) @andyweirauthor

Scott Westerfeld, Young adult and Science Fiction author (Leviathon, Uglies)  @ScottWesterfeld

Fran Wilde, Andre Norton Award winning Science fiction and fantasy author (Updraft, Cloudbound) @fran_wilde

Daniel H. Wilson, Roboticist and New York Times best-selling author (Robopocalypse, Robogenesis) @danielwilsonpdx

G. Willow Wilson, World Fantasy Award winning and Graphic Novel author (Alif the Unseen, The Butterfly Mosque) @GWillowWilson

Gary K.Wolfe, Science Fiction editor and critic @garykwolfe

Alyssa Wong, Nebula Award winning author of science fiction and horror (A Fist of Permutations and Wildflowers ) @crashwong

Charles Yu, Science Fiction novelist and short story writer (How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Third Class Superhero) @charles_yu

 

Other Science Fiction sites:

SFX Magazine, Sci Fi and Fantasy Magazine  @SFXmagazine

StarShipSofa Podcast of Science Fiction stories @StarShipSofa

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction and Fantasy News @LocusChat

SF Signal, a Science Fiction blog @sfsignal

The Hugo Awards, News on the Hugos @TheHugoAwards

io9, Commentary and updates on Science, Science Fiction and Media @io9

SFWA Authors, Blog posts from members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America   @SFWAauthors

Clarkesworld, Online Science Fiction Magazine @clarkesworld

Tor Books, Science Fiction and Fantasy News @torbooks

Baen Books, Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing @BaenBooks

Ace Science Fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing @AceRocBooks

Museum of Science Fiction, to open in Washington DC @Museum_SciFi

Hollywood Science Fiction Museum, to open in Hollywood, @hollywoodscifi

Fantasy Faction, Fantasy Book Reviews @FantasyFaction

B&N SF & F, Barnes & Noble Science Fiction & Fantasy @BNSciFi

SF Encyclopedia, Updates from the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction @SFEncyclopedia

SF Editor’s Picks, editor’s Science Fiction recommendations @SFEditorsPicks

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Heinlein and Beyond This Horizon

Robert A. Heinlein was a question-asker.

heinlein-beyond-horizonI consider Robert Heinlein’s most fascinating novel to be his prescriptive utopia Beyond This Horizon. (A prescriptive utopia is where an author “prescribes” what he or she believes a better civilization would look like.) While Heinlein did opine, extensively, about society in many books, from Starship Troopers to Glory Road, it is in Beyond This Horizon that you’ll find him clearly stating This Is The Way Things Ought To Be.

And it turns out to be a fascinating, surprisingly nuanced view of our potential future.

Like most Heinlein novels, Beyond This Horizon divides pretty evenly into two parts and it is only the second half that I hold in high regard. Heinlein wrote the first half at behest of the famed editor of Astounding Magazine, John W. Campbell, who was then holding forth on one of his favorite themes . . . that “an armed society is a polite society.”

anecdotes-historyIn pushing this strange notion, Campbell was behaving very much like his arch-nemesis, Karl Marx. A few anecdotes and a good just-so story outweigh a hundred historical counter-examples. But no matter. Heinlein did as good a job of conveying Campbell’s idea in fiction as anybody could. So much so that the first half of Beyond This Horizon has been cited by state legislators in both Texas and Florida, proposing that all citizens go around armed! Naturally, this leads (paradoxically) to a wild shoot-em-up, in the first half of Beyond This Horizon… which RAH suddenly veers away from at the midway point.

heinlein-star-beastThis division between halves is typical of Heinlein novels and it makes reading them an interesting, multi-phase experience. Generally, RAH was a master at starting his tales–in fact, I recommend that all neo writers study carefully the first few pages of any Heinlein tale, for his spectacularly effective scene-setting and establishment of point-of-view. (The opening scene of The Star Beast is the best example of show-don’t-tell that anyone can find.) Alas, most of his novels reach a vigorous climax, concluding part one… and then peter out disappointingly in the last half, amid a morass of garrulous talk.

But this is where Beyond This Horizon reverses all expectations. Sure, part one is action and part two is talk, as usual… only in this case, the action is silly and the talk is terrific! In fact, this is where Robert Heinlein displays how broad his intellectual reach can take us.

heinlein-libertarianHere we see the clearest ever expression of his political philosophy, which is demonstrably neither “fascist” nor anywhere near as conservative as some simple-minded critics might have us think.

Indeed, his famed libertarianism had limits, moderated and enriched by compassion, pragmatism and a profound faith that human beings can improve themselves, gradually, by their own diligence and goodwill.

heinlein-solutionI was amazed by many other aspects of this wonderful book-within-a-book, especially by Heinlein’s startlingly simple suggestion for how to deal with the moral quandaries of genetic engineering — what’s now called the “Heinlein Solution” — to allow couples to select which sperm and ova they want to combine into a child, but to forbid actually altering the natural human genome.

Thus, the resulting child, while “best” in many ways (free of any disease genes, etc), will still be one that the couple might have had naturally. Gradual human improvement, without any of the outrageously hubristic meddling that wise people rightfully fear. It is a proposal so insightful that biologists 40 years later are only now starting to discuss what may turn out to be Heinlein’s principal source of fame, centuries from now.

heinlein-biographyhWhen it comes to politics, his future society is, naturally, a descendant of the America Heinlein loved. But it has evolved in two directions at once. Anything having to do with human creativity, ambition or enterprise is wildly competitive and nearly unregulated. But where it comes to human needs, the situation is wholly socialistic. One character even says, in a shocked tone of voice: “Naturally food is free! What kind of people do you take us for?”

None of this fits into the dogma of Ayn Rand, whose followers have taken over the libertarian movement. If Robert Heinlein was a libertarian, it was clearly of a more subtle kind, less historically or anthropologically naive, more compassionate… and more interesting.

But here’s the crux. For the most part, with Robert Heinlein, you felt he wasn’t so much lecturing or preaching as offering to argue with you! His books let you fume and mutter and debate with this bright, cantankerous, truly American soul, long after his body expired.

writer-science-fictionAnd this joy in argument – in posing and chewing over thought experiments – is the very soul of what it means to be a writer or reader of science fiction.

Finally, for more about Heinlein, see the extensive new two-volume biography by William H. Patterson, Jr.:

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Vol. 1 (1907 – 1948): Learning Curve., followed by volume two:

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Vol. 2: The Man Who Learned Better, 1948 to 1988.

–David Brin

http://www.davidbrin.com

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Science Fiction II: the literary stuff

== SF that’s for reading and the mind ==

ThreeBodyProblem1The Three-Body Problem is part one of an award-winning trilogy by Liu Cixin— and is arguably the best Chinese science fiction novel ever translated into English. Liu uses the “three-body problem” of classical mechanics to ask some terrifying questions about human nature and what lies at the core of civilization.

The series explores the world of the Trisolarans, a race that is forced to adapt to life in a triple star system, on a planet whose gravity, heat, and orbit are in constant flux. Facing extinction, the Trisolarans plan to evacuate and conquer the nearest habitable planet, and finally intercept a message—from Earth. The Three-Body Problem, due out in October 2014, has been translated into English by award winning writer, Ken Liu.

Special note… TTBP deals very closely with the issue of the Fermi Paradox and whether we should shout “yoo-hoo!” into the cosmos  — a quandary about which I’ve also written, from time to time.

Now see Stephan Martiniere’s way-cool cover for the coming Tor Boooks edition!

I’ve long maintained that the health of an enlightened and progressive society is measured by how vibrant is its science fiction, since that is where true self-critique and appraisal and hope lie. If so, the good news stretches beyond China!

== Sci fi with a latin beat ==

Science-Fiction-genresHorizon-expansion has been the core cause of the liberal west, increasing the circle of tolerance, diversity and respect… and no literary genre has explored these issues more deeply or broadly than science fiction. Despite an absurd reputation for being “dominated by old white guys,” SF has actually been pretty joyfully accepting and welcoming… though any field will exhibit noxious old habits that need cleansing or at least interrogation. For years the James Tiptree Award (named after the great SF author Alice Sheldon) encouraged exploration of gender issues in SF. The Carl Brandon Society provides a center for discussion of the future as it relates to ethnic issues, especially in science fiction.

In another welcome endeavor, there are moves to form a support group for latino sci-fi writers. We should all enthusiastically back any endeavors that will draw more bright writers from the cultural background of Cervantes and Marquez! Not only will we benefit from horizon-expanding insight and art (and social criticism!) But there are so many parts of the world that will reciprocally benefit from the greatest gift of all… more science fiction!

The posting at La Bloga is informative. Alas, it wrangled much to much about the politics of such a support org and speaks far too little about positive goals. Like how to get sci-fi excitement to latino youth and students. How to encourage the feed stock of sci fi thinking so that more young writers emerge, and how to spread the memes of future, change and exploration back into the grand Hispanic culture whose vibrancy is already a marvel to the world.

Although, the SF movement still has a center! And here’s an interesting article about why the future seems so often to be set in California. Yes… so? Hey, Heinlein explained it. The continent is tipped and everything loose rolls down into this corner.

The-martianOf course, space is the frontier! An old-fashioned “can-do” sci fi novel, The Martian, by Andy Weir, updates Robinson Crusoe and Marooned with lots of fascinating, problem-solving verve. A best-seller that arose out of self-published versions, Weir’s tale portrays an astronaut, abandoned for dead on the red planet, finding ways to survive until rescue can finally arrive… in 500 days.

== And a Saharan What-If tale! ==

Here’s a fun what-if scenario. When the Americas began breaking off from Eurasia, two possible north-south rifts might have made the sea-spreading divide. What if the other one – the loser in our world, stretching from the Congo to Morocco — had taken off? Arfrica’s western bulge would have stayed linked to Brazil. The resulting globe map is… creepy!

This is a cute story. I love the assertive, can-do ghostbusters-style ethos. Also kind of reminiscent of Eric Flint’s 1632 series. Southern Fried Cthulhu by Steve Poling.

== Brin-stuff ==

Vint Cerf’s recent hangout interview (TWiT Hangouts) was spectacular and wise. Classic Vint … sagacious and well-worth watching/listening. (And all right, I enjoyed late in the podcast when he gave me and my novel Kiln People a shout-out.)

Meanwhile the same novel is highlighted in a very interesting essay by Dean Burnett in the Guardian, about Mind-Swapping… whether or not this familiar sci fi and movie trope might ever actually come true.

Google-author-talk Talks at Google has uploaded my speech: David Brin, “Existence” – a one hour talk about pretty much everything (!) that I gave at Google HQ last winter.

Here’s a lovely mention of The Postman in the Arkansas Times, in the context of “books that women recommend to men, when they become more-than-passing interested in them as potentially more than a friend.” Pleasant and wise.

While we’re at it. This page takes you on a tour of the weapons used in the movie The Postman.

 

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Science-Fictional News — some dark and some hopeful

Shall we start with something positive?  In a world of media flattened by cowardly sameness and copycat repetition, the Syfy Channel  apparently intends to keep the faith and offer us some challenging material, next year. Two ringworldminiseries will join the previously-announced adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle”Larry Niven’s “Ringworld” and Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End.”  Some other projects sound above-average, as well.  Will a renaissance of creative boldness arise out of …SyFy?

I’ll give this to SyFy. They produce a lot of schlock but they also have guts! One result is a ratio of good (and sometimes great) stuff compared to fails that is way above Sturgeon’s law.

But our field has also suffered blows, of late. Awful news: the plight and fight of my colleague, the brilliant science fiction author Iain Banks against cancer.  This, piled onto the similar battle of Jay Lake, reminds me of how I felt when we lost — so prematurely — Charles Sheffield… and Octavia Butler and Robert Forward and others who have passed beyond our view in this strange, transitional age, when possibilities can seem so bright but the grinding fate of our cave ancestors still rules our path.

== Sci fi miscellany ==

Book People – Austin’s best book store – tallied their top ten list for this year’s Hugos. Ah well. Late, but flattering. Thanks!  “In his usual fashion David Brin has written an understated masterpiece that is a truly amazing complex piece of literature.  Brin …has gone back to the well and delivered an absolute gem…”  Ah well, it is a year crowded with wonders!  Nominees for the 2013 Hugo Award for best in science fiction include novels by John Scalzi, Kim Stanley Robinson, Mira Grant, Lois McMaster Bujold and Saladin Ahmed — to be awarded at the World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio in August.

Back to indie media… “New” looks like it could be a terrific short sci fi film with tons of heart. Indie screenwriter and producer John Harden is trying to finance it kickstarter style and has created a really sweet intro-preview-pitch you may enjoy.  This is the path that may take us to a realm of bold new (even sometimes optimistic) stories that aren’t tired rehashes.

StandOnZanzibarA terrific retrospective review of John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar (1969) re-introduces that epochal and stunning science fiction novel to new clades of younger sf readers.  Without question, it is one of the great literary achievements of our field and possibly of any and all genres.  I deliberately modeled both EARTH and EXISTENCE after Brunner’s masterpiece, emulating his vividly broad-canvas approach and his ethos, while avoiding a few small mistakes… (and inventing my own, I am sure.) Lately, similar credit was acknowledged by Kim Stanley Robinson. If you haven’t read Stand on Zanzibar, do so.  Put aside any other recreational reading.  You will thank me.

The conspiracy theory behind the destruction of the Death Star. Was it an inside job? Watch a hilarious (and incredibly on-target) satire of conspiracy theory videos in general… that also skewers the childish illogic of the Lucas universe, with its chain of self-indulgent coincidences.  Of course, every point in the video is lifted from one of my riffs in STAR WARS ON TRIAL. (Which is even more on-target and funny, Brin assures you, with a perfectly straight face.)

Confused by the state of publishing, with the last major national bookstore chain in decline and e-books rapidly taking over?  Have a look at a fascinating article about our new world by the bright young SF author (and my sometime collaborator) Jeff Carlson.  Insights galore.

empireAnother bright young SF writer, Adrian Tchaikovsky has a series of quasi-fantasy novels set in a world containing a huge diversity of  societies, both insect and human. His essay about this diversity of social experiments (on the Tor site) is fascinating.  He also addresses the perennial question: why do so many fantasy tales obsess on inherited oligarchy and kingdoms as a model of governance, which history shows to have been an extremely dumb and unsuccessful pattern, ruining freedom and hopes for most of our ancestors, most of the time. Till we wised up. Very interesting.  Give Adrian a try!  

B007JL6IYU.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_SL300_Then ponder news about Chinese Science Fiction: The Political Schism between Chinese Science Fiction and Fantasy. It’s important, get used to it.  Especially, get ready for the debut, next year, of “The Three Body Problem,” a huge science fiction hit in China, by the towering new talent over there, Liu Cixin. I am reading the English translation by our own Ken Liu and enjoying it immensely. No… I mean seriously-immensely. I consider Liu Cixin to be much more than the top science fiction author in China.  When you read him, you’ll agree he’s one of the best in the world.

smith-people-fell3Meanwhile, is SF finally getting respect in its heartland?  Astonishing. this is the second time in a year that Atlantic has published an essay that is at  least somewhat favorably inclined toward science fiction.  For decades they ran a vendetta against SF, commissioning execrable hit pieces like clockwork.  But this article about the great stylist Cordwainer Smith — one of my favorite short story writers — is insightful and should lead many curious minds to our field.  An added note: Smith (aka Paul Linebarger) was among those who – along with Pierre Boulle and H.G. Wells) pioneered tales about what I have called the “uplift” of higher animals, bestowing upon them the mixed-promethean-mephistofelian gifts of speech and logical thought. My main innovation was not to portray humanity doing this stupidly and cruelly. But I stand on giant shoulders.

== And more sci fi miscellany ==

Language derivation, the tracing of linguistic roots, has finally entered the 21st Century. Computer program finds root words of modern languages.

washapprovedAccording to newflashes popping up around the web, the Washington Academy of Sciences has created a seal of approval for the scientific accuracy of novels. Alas, as my colleague – the sharp Nancy Fulda – points out, there is less here than meets the eye.Kinda disappointing execution of what I (naturally) took to be a very good idea.

Despite being harried by fans of the Most Interesting Man in the World — (Hey guys, I am the BALD interesting guy) — I really love that ad campaign.  Now it turns out that the actor who plays the MIMITW – Jonathan Goldsmith – played a red shirt in the original Star Trek series… and lived!  You can imagine the lines.  Or read them on iO9.  My favorite? The Borg want to be assimilated by HIM.

BraveNewWorldThe 1950s radio dramatization of BRAVE NEW WORLD, introduced by Aldous Huxley, is available online.

The High Frontier, Human Colonies in Space, by Gerald K. O’Neill, now free on Kindle.

Choose your next author based on the genre and how he or she looks?  I wish they chose a better picture of me!  The URL seems to say Find…MEAN… author!

How to porpoise like a dolphin…  Water-jet booties that solve all the jet-pack problems. What a great idea… and like the best – obvious in retrospect.

Eric S. Raymond is a personality of some note in the hacker community. His essay on the political movements in science fiction — while incomplete and two-dimensional – nevertheless is well-balanced and thoughtful.  I went “huh!” a couple of times.

Finally, Bruce Sterling talks a lot about how new media and methods kill older ones: e.g. the death of both bookstores and the personal computer, and he makes some interesting metaphor-parallels with the cliff dwellers in the eleventh century American southwest.  He does this sort of thing very well and I’m glad he is in the world.  I agree with most of it and find the rest interesting, and can shrug aside the preening.  In the end, however, after a very long Chautauqua meal, I think back upon what I had read and ask: what do I know now that I did not know before reading Bruce’s speech? That Sergey Brin is brilliant and useful?

I knew that already.

==Looking to the Future==

starshipcentury-300x297Want to spent a few days contemplating the our future in space? Attend the StarShip Century Symposium May 21 and 22 at UCSD. Speakers include Gregory Benford, Neal Stephenson, Freeman Dyson, Vernor Vinge, David Brin, Geoffrey Landis, Allen Steele, Paul Davies, John Cramer, Jill Tarter, Robert Zubrin, Joe Haldeman, and others, as part of the opening ceremonies for the new Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Be sure to register to attend.

The ideas of a 100 year program to create a starship will be explored – from the development of an interplanetary economic infrastructure, to the structural requirements, the human factors and speculations on what we might find.

Come, contribute…and find inspiration!

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Questions I am frequently asked about… (Part IV) Prediction and the Future

Continuing this compilation of questions that I’m frequently asked by interviewers. This time about…

 == THE FUTURE== 

–Your writing touches on the impact of technology upon humanity, and its power to change our daily lives. Can you expand upon that? 

Let me ask you (and the reader) this: have you ever flown through the sky? Or walked into a dark room and made light happen, with the flick of your fingertip? Once upon a time, these were exactly the powers of gods! So why don’t you feel like one? 

Because we gave these powers to everyone, that’s why. Ironically, the moon landings seemed less marvelous because we all shared in the experience via TV. The fantastic images that our space probes have taken of solar system glories would seem magical and almost religiously marvelous if you and I had to sneak into the palace, risking arrest, in order to view them. Or if we had to crack open a wizard’s secret grimoire. 

lordoftherings_wideweb__430x244,1Take the palantir from Lord of the Rings, a crystal window on Gandalf’s desk through which he can explore ideas, gather information, view far-away events and communicate instantly across great distances…there are only three differences between the palantir and your laptop:

(1) The wizards and elfs kept such wonderful things for themselves,

(2) the result was calamity, horrible war and near-loss of everything, 

(3) it sure helped make a romantic story, captivating millions.  

If only you and a dozen other folks were on the internet, able to see far and access all knowledge, we’d all be in awe of you, too! But then.. it wuldn’t work so gud…..

As for the future? Get ready to be even more godlike! If we’re lucky, future advances will also be shared with everybody and so you won’t notice! Too bad. But hopefully, we’ll be wise. 

–What is your record as a prognosticator? 

self-deceptionWhen prediction serves as polemic, it nearly always fails. Our prefrontal lobes can probe the future only when they aren’t leashed by dogma. The worst enemy of agile anticipation is our human propensity for comfy self-delusion. 

Peering ahead is mostly art. We all have tricks. One of mine is to look for “honey-pot ideas” drawing lots of fad attention. Whatever is fashionable, try to poke at it! Maybe 1 percent of the time you’ll find a trend or possibility that’s been missed. Another method is even simpler: Respect the masses. Nearly all futuristic movies and novels—even sober business forecasts—seem to wallow in the same smug assumption that most people are fools. 

This stereotype led content owners to envision the Internet as only a delivery conduit to sell movies to passive couch potatoes. Even today, many of the social-net and virtual-world companies treat their users like giggling 13-year-olds incapable of expressing more than a sentence at a time. Never gifted with the ability to engage in of actual discourse. All right, maybe that does describe most of our fellow citizens! (Especially the extremes of both right and left.) Still, people will surprise you.  And over the long run, their collective wisdom rises. And in small groups they can be positively brilliant.

A contrarian trick that has served me well is to ponder a coming technology and then imagine, What if everybody gets to use it? In really smart ways? Many of those imaginings have come true. (Readers maintain a Predictions Registry page that tracks hits and misses for my novel Earth.)

–Are you pessimistic or optimistic about the future – and why? 

tomorrowsworldI am known widely as an optimist. This is not quite true. What I am is a contrarian. And hence, when I see cynics and despair junkies all around me — around all of us – screeching simpleminded whines and playground sneers, I am naturally drawn to poking at their lazy models of the world. 

Even if the pessimists and cynics were right… and they aren’t… they are totally not being helpful. Their attitude is the quintessence of laziness and voluptuously smug self-indulgence.   A rationalization for indolence. 

Dig it. All hope in the world has been achieved by problem-solvers.  We need more of them. All the can-do pragmatic problem-solvers we can get. 

–In your opinion, are we headed for a dystopic or utopian future? 

Again, people tend to call me a propagandist for optimism, because I occasionally portray society as not totally stupid… or our fellow citizens as something slightly more evolved than sheep.  In fact, I am an optimist only by comparison to the reflexive contempt-for-the-masses that you see in most knee-jerk fiction these days. 

Actually, I’m kind of a gloomy guy. History shows how often and how easily bright beginnings failed, giving way to darkness once again. We have a genius for snatching failure from the jaws of success. It will not surprise me if our present renaissance collapses. If we betray our values for short-term expediency.  It has happened countless times before. 

on-beach-nevil-shute-paperback-cover-artBut Science Fiction fights that trend, even in (the best) dystopias! Our dark warnings poke the ground, finding pitfalls and quicksand just ahead. The topmost warnings – those that seem vivid and convincing – turn into self-preventing prophecies that deeply affect great numbers of people, ensuring that a particular mistake won’t happen. Consider stories such as Dr. Strangelove, On The Beach, The China Syndrome, Silent Spring, Soylent Green, and so on. These drew attention from millions of people toward possible doomsday scenarios. Millions who became active, fighting for a better future. Were those efforts futile? Or are we here today because of them? 

1984The greatest self-preventing prophecy was surely George Orwell’s chilling Nineteen-Eighty Four. Who does not feel girded, inoculated by the metaphors of Big Brother and the Ministry of Truth? Determined to the cause of preventing them ever from coming true? If we manage to preserve freedom and hold all the big-time liars accountable, it will be in no small part thanks to science fiction. 

I just wish more authors would notice what they are a part of…a vast process of error-discover and error-detection that constitutes part of our society’s immune system against terrible mistakes. So by all means write warning-dystopias! But try to be original and helpful. You did not invent black leather. Or mirrorshades. And the people may not all be fools. Who knows?  They might actually listen to you… heed your warnings… and thus make you a false prophet. 

Read the story of Jonah.  And then snap out of it!  Your job is to be credible. To help us notice and avert. It is not your task to prove right.

Scare folks with plausible failure modes. Make them worry… and help make it not happen.

 –Is there hope for the future? 

I foresee a 60% chance that we’ll eke through the crises ahead and make it to an era when humans become mature and careful planet-managers, instead of frantic over-exploiters. One when we have found solutions to the critical choices before us and passed most of the harsh tests, raising new generations who are both mighty and wise. 

I don’t view those odds as “optimistic” at all! Not when the alternatives are horrible. Such probabilities are barely good enough to justify having kids, then using every day to help them become joyful problem-solvers who will be net-benefits to the world. 

I think we’ll squeak by. Alas, the glorious civilization that may emerge after a century of hard times could be missing some fine treasures… manatees, blue whales, krill, the Amazon Rain Forest, privacy… and every human being who wasn’t immune to Virus X. 

UNIVERSEFAKEI had a thought, lately. Heaven and Hell may not be such bizarre thoughts, after all! Consider our godlike descendants, with power at their fingertips to compute and emulate any reality. They will be able to ‘call up’ simulated versions of people from times past, especially 20th century folk, what with all the data available about us, including photos, video, skin cells in all our old letters and scrap books, etc. What will they do with that power? (See my short story, Stones of Significance.)

Those who helped build the utopia of tomorrow will be remembered, immortalized, in software simulations by our descendants. Those who hindered progress, who obstructed or simply did nothing, will at best not be invited back. At worst, they might be assigned unpleasant roles in software scenarios. Might the old notion of Purgatory have some resurrected relevance, after all? I leave possible extrapolations of this idea to the reader. 

See more articles on: Creating the Future.

-What is humanity’s greatest flaw? 

Humans are essentially self-deluders. The mirror held up by other people helps us to perceive our own errors… though it hurts.  In his poem “To a Louse,” Robert Burns said: 

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us 
To see oursels as others see us! 
It wad frae monie a blunder free us, 
An’ foolish notion…” 

(“Oh would some power, the gift give us, to see ourselves as other see us. It would from many blunders free us, and foolish notions…”) 

CITOKATE3Or, my own aphorism is CITOKATE: Criticism Is The Only Known Antidote to Error. Too bad it tastes so awful, to be on the receiving end…  so that most of us never even thank our enemies for pointing out our mistakes for us.  Think about that. If criticism is the only way we catch our delusional errors, why do we resent those out there who willingly, eagerly, give us what we need, in order to do better and to be better?

It is a gift economy!  After your foe as heaped upon you a laundry list of things to fix, you should thank him or her… and then return the favor!  Purely (of course) out of the kindness of your heart.

(A side note: look at the end of every book I publish.  There are 50+ names. Pre-readers and critics who helped find errors or slow-patches or inconsistencies.  I don’t mind praise, as well.  But it is a lower priority than quality control. Looking at criticism that way is a great tool for success.)

–Would you rather be living 100 years from now, when we’ll presumably have access to so many more answers? 

Is it better to sow than to reap? Jonas Salk said our top job is to be “good ancestors.” If we in this era meet the challenges of our time, then our heirs may have powers that would seem godlike to us — the way we take for granted miracles like flying through the sky or witnessing events far across the globe. If those descendants do turn out to be better, wiser people than us, will they marvel that primitive beings managed so well, the same way we’re awed by the best of our ancestors? I hope so. It’s poignant consolation for not getting to be a demigod. 

–What concerns do you have about the future? 

SecrecyI am concerned about one thing, above all, understanding how and why humanity escaped (at last) from its old, vicious cycle of feudalism and began a tremendous enlightenment. One that included vital things like science, democracy, human rights and science fiction. I’ve come to see that openness – especially being receptive to free-flowing criticism — has been key. Secrecy is the thing that makes every evil far worse than it would have been. It is especially pernicious when practiced by the mighty.

And that is what we’ll talk about next time.

==

Part 1: Questions on Writing and Science Fiction

Part 2: Questions on Science Fiction and Fantasy

Part 3: Questions on Brin books, Uplift, and The Postman 

David Brin

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Questions I’m often asked. Part II: About Science Fiction!

Continuing a compilation of questions that I’m frequently asked by interviewers. This time, we’ll talk about…

 == SCIENCE FICTION==

 –What are your favorite Science Fiction novels?

GreatestSFReadingLIstStand on Zanzibar, by John Brunner, was simply creepy in how well it peered ahead and how accurate was its vision, as well as breakthroughs in both style and substance. It should be read alongside Vonnegut and Huxley and Heller. Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny, was a breakthrough in multicultural SF that was also gorgeous and exciting and all about rebellion! Ursula LeGuin’s Lathe of Heaven was darn near perfect. Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End is a gem of recent “singularity fiction.” Herbert and Heinlein provoke vivid arguments and I like that!  Bear and Robinson poke hard at our biological destiny. Banks and Stephenson believe in us and make me feel we might make it; that counts for something. For short fiction: Robert Sheckley and Alice Sheldon were peerless.

 See also my full list of personal favorite Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels.

 –Which authors have most influenced your writing? 
 

201817627023143561_yPwhWOwz_cI grew up on Robert Heinlein and Robert Sheckley, moved on to Aldous Huxley and James Joyce, then thawed out a bit with Vonnegut and Amis and Sharpe. Finally, I decided to become a storyteller, and reacquainted myself with the clear, almost tribal rhythms of Poul Anderson. (See my list of recommended SF books for Young Adults.)

My favorite depends on which “me” you ask. The Serious Author in me, who comments on deep human trends, would like to think that he’s grounded by Huxley and Orwell. Popper and Locke. Brunner, Sheffield and Wells. Gilman and Delaney. Shakespeare and Donne and Homer and Swift and Defoe. Some night-crawling with Poe and Coleridge. Some world-girdling with Kobayashi Issa and Scholar Wu and South Sea tales.

LordLightOn the other hand, I can’ t write more than a page of heady philosophy or social speculation without feeling an itch… the itch to blow something up. To make something exciting happen. Or something fun. That’s when I know I’ve been influenced by the storytellers who made Science Fiction exciting. Like Anderson or Zelazny. 

But I guess the ones I revere most are those who briefly left me speechless. Unable to write or even move, because something in a perfect story left me stunned. Changed. I guess in that category I’d put Tiptree and Varley. Vonnegut at his best. Shakespeare. And Philip K. Dick. 

Ideally, those three personalities — the thinker, entertainer and “writah” — can get along. Collaborate. Work together in crafting a tale that speaks to the brain, heart, and organs of adrenaline. Well, you can try. 

–As a genre, where is SF heading? Will the more general population start to take it serious eventually? 

201817627023414467_oGTcLw10_cIn a general sense, Science Fiction is about expanding the available range of settings beyond the parochial present or familiar, freeing literature by extending it into realms of the possible. Fantasy goes farther, by diving into the improbable or impossible. 

This happens to match what’s done by our most recent and powerful portions of the human brain, the prefrontal lobes, or the “lamps on the brow,” that we use every day to explore our options, making up scenarios about tomorrow or the next day. These organs let us ponder the whole notion of “future” as a place, a destination. Nothing could be more human. 

Let others wall themselves in with their rigid genre boundaries and absurdly oppressive notions of “eternal verities,” needing to pretend that today’s familiar obsessions will last forever. (They won’t.) No verity is eternal, though some lessons are best learned and re-learned. 

PokeSticksWe in SF specialize in imagining that things might be different than they are. In exploring prefrontally the potential dangers and opportunities. As long as that’s our playground, no literary ghetto will fence us. 

–Has a fictional work every made you angry. If so, which one? 

Oh tons!  I try not to get my blood pressure or dander up though.

Heck, I even feel mildly positive toward Kevin Costner, who on-balance did more good than bad in his (visually gorgeous and big-hearted) film adaptation of my post-apocalyptic novel, The Postman. (See my essay on the Costner movie.)

Only a few works make Frankmillerme stark fuming outraged. For example,see how I eviscerate Frank Miller’s horrifically evil and despicably lying piece of propaganda-for-evil — a movie called “300.”    

In other cases, such as when I co-edited STAR WARS ON TRIAL, I am less angry than concerned that people are missing an important chance to weigh the bad alongside the good. Star Wars has many appealing traits… but Yoda is one evil little oven mitt!

–How do you feel about Fantasy novels? 

Clearly we need both romance and reason, even in creative arts such as fiction. Craft without imagination is like a mill without wheat. Imagination without craft is extravagant… and sterile. 

LordOfRingsThe trend toward feudal-romantic fantasy may seem harmless. Heck, I enjoy Tolkien and steam punk and some of the best fantasists. But dreaming wistfully about kings and lords and secretive, domineering wizards is a sugary path that leads ultimately to betrayal. Because kings and lords and wizards were never our friends! Indeed, for most of history they were the chief plague destroying hope for humankind. 

Oh, some kings and wizards were less bad than others. But they were all “dark lords.” Our fixation on them is a legacy of the 10,000 years in which feudalism reigned, when chieftains controlled the fables by ordering the bards what to sing about. A long, grinding era when humanity got nowhere. When the strong took all the women and wheat, and forced everyone else to recite fables about how right it was. 

Till some of us finally rebelled. (Especially women!) It’s the Great Enlightenment and the most wonderful story ever told. The story that should have us all transfixed and loyal and grateful as all outdoors. 

201817627023538708_eFnT5b8r_cWe are heirs of the mightiest and best heroes who ever lived. Pericles, Franklin, Faraday, Lincoln, Pankhurst, Einstein, Marshall and so on. Heroes of flesh and blood, any one of whom was worth every elf and dragon and fairy ever imagined.  

For more, see my article: On the Differences between Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Look, I like a dragon. I just want to remember who gave us a world in which I can go meet a dragon any time that I want — in books and stories and flicks. Not a world in which I cower in actual fear, because I actually think they are actually out there, because some king and his “sages” are keeping all the books for themselves. Imagination and good writing are enough magic for me.  FOr the rest?  Give me light. Let’s share light.

–David Brin

http://www.davidbrin.com

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Questions I am frequently asked about… Writing and Science Fiction

DBWebSiteI’ve been working with Cheryl and Beverly to thoroughly revise my web site. If you haven’t browsed davidbrin.com in a while, have a look! It’s now fleshed out and filled with even more fabulousness! 

As part of this, we’ve thrown together a FAQ of sorts — a compilation of questions that I’m asked most often by interviewers. We’ll post them here by category, starting with… 

== ON WRITING == 

— Being an author wasn’t your first career choice; you earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics.  How did your multi-track career evolve? 

I came from a family of writers and always figured that storytelling would be my artistic side-line… most scientists have one. I knew science would be harder that storytelling and I respected it more, drawn to the Enlightenment’s greatest project. After all, every culture has had storytellers, but only one ever invested heavily in training a myriad brave investigators to find out heartofthecometwhat’s actually true, despite our preconceptions.

And indeed, I managed to contribute a few new bits of knowledge…. while maintaining passion for my art. (And I incorporate my science into my art, as in Heart of the Comet.)

Ah, but sometimes life takes a turn. Your pastime can take over and become the central profession. I was a pretty good scientist and I still keep my hand in the game. But civilization seems more eager for my art, for tales that shed a different kind of light on the transformations we’re all going through. And who am I to argue with civilization? 

— What is special about writing? What drew you from seeking scientific facts to literary truths?

LIteratuareLiterature was the first truly verifiable, repeatable and effective form of magic. Picture how it must have impressed ancient people to look at marks – on papyrus or clay – and know they conveyed the words of scribes and kings long dead. Knowledge, wisdom and art could finally accumulate. Death was robbed some of its sting. 

Writing still is magical. To create strings of black squiggles that millions of others skillfully de-code with just their eyes – into emotions and thoughts, or the struggles of believable characters – or spectacle beyond Hollywood’s wildest dreams. 

Still, despite all of that, science and the honesty that it engenders have been our true accomplishments. I believe in a literature that explores this revolution, that presents alternatives and hard choices and that might help us to be wise about the onrushing process of change. One that helps to remind science and progress that it needs a heart. I reject the dichotomy, the notion that these things oppose each other. 

When a chance came along to combine the two? Who wouldn’t grab the opportunity? 

–Was Science Fiction always your chosen genre? 

Though SF offers me the freedom I need to explore a world undergoing drama and change, I often tell writing students that their first work of fiction should be a murder mystery. 

SundiverOh, it can be an sci fi mystery, like my first novel, Sundiver. Or you might give it romance or set it in the wild west, or ancient Rome. What matters is that it should follow the plot patterns and revelatory structure of a mystery yarn. 

Why? Because only mysteries demand total storytelling discipline. No distractions or arty styling or array of gimmicks can mask or make up for bad plotting. This all becomes apparent when the reader finds out who-dunnit in a mystery. In the end, the reader knows whether or not you cheated.  And once you’ve had that lesson, you will never neglect it again. 

–Do you develop the world of a novel fully in your mind before beginning to write? 

I like to be surprised. Fresh implications and plot twists erupt as a story unfolds. Characters develop backgrounds, adding depth and feeling. Writing feels like exploring. 

Oh, I sometimes plot an outline in advance.  That works well.  Still, not too much detail! I like to be surprised. 

–Do you have any advice for up and coming writers? 

WritingQuote1Write. Love writing. Love stories. Love the sound of language, the vividness of description and ironies of the heart. The marvelous web of misunderstanding that is conversation. The astonishing, non-linear gyrations of cause and effect and surprise. 

Ray Bradbury said that – deep in the heart of the writer’s relationship with story and reader, there has to be love! Love the words. Love the tension that propels your plot and characters like a steam boiler. Love a civilization that gives you plenty to read and the food and shelter and safety to do it in comfort. Love to poke hard at that civilization’s flaws. Love the fact that you have enough conceit to think others might like to read your drivel! 

Only then, amid that love… be competitive! Aim to do it better than anybody else.  Have patience to refine your craft… but never stop burning. Burn like a flame. An inferno. 

Art is like any other exercise in skill: a combination of talent, hard work and learning from criticism. And luck. Any three of those things can make up for a deficit in the fourth one. But those three had better be really strong. 

CITOKATEThe core point? CITOKATE: Criticism Is The Only Known Antidote To Error! Seek and relish criticism, because that is how to get even better. If you put your work out there and look upon criticism as your friend — (not easy, but worthwhile) — you will improve. And having that attitude will gain you real advantages, leveraging your talent, however great or small it may be. 

Good luck. There are lots of ideas out there waiting to be mined. It’s not an endangered resource. 

writeadvicevideoThat’s only a very small summary of a long list. There’s lots more. After typing countless answers to requests for advice from would-be writers, I finally put it all together in a handy place. It’s available at http://www.davidbrin.com/advice.html.

=================

David Brin

http://www.davidbrin.com

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Herb Brin: Remembering a Remarkable Man

My father, Herb Brin was a poet, journalist, and publisher – and one of the most colorful figures to practice the craft of journalism, both in Chicago and Southern California. He passed away 10 years ago today. (2/17/1915 – 2/6/2003)

HB 1955Herb was born in 1915 in Chicago to a poor family of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia – in an era when signs posted on some windows read “No Jews and Dogs Allowed.”

In the years before America’s entry in World War II, Herb infiltrated the German-American Bund for the Anti-Defamation League, then became a gangland reporter for the legendary City News Bureau in Chicago. He quickly gained a reputation for tough and fearless reporting, but with a unique tone of heart and compassion.

Herb+plane&WACHerb served as an army reporter during World War II, then he joined the Los Angeles Times as a respected feature writer, covering everything from local pothole scandals to the Khruschev-Eisenhower summit and the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem. In 1954, he launched the Heritage Jewish newspapers across Southern and Central California. Its motto, inscribed above the masthead, was a commandment from Deuteronomy: “Justice, Justice Shalt Thou Pursue…”

As the paper’s star investigative reporter, Herb broke many stories, including early revelations about the heroism of Oskar Schindler, the crimes of Klaus Barbie, and the plight of Soviet Jewry and other oppressed peoples. He stood not far from Robert Kennedy the night the Senator was shot and killed. Herb’s social activism – generally liberal – took quirky, individualistic and sometimes downright contrary turns that sometimes irked friends on the left. But his willful independence and cheerfully cantankerous eagerness for a good story endeared him to thousands and helped to weld Southern California Jewry into a strong and eclectic community.

Herb traveled extensively, to Israel and Spain, Poland and Germany, writing poignant soul-searching reflections on history.  “Where there is conflict, pray for conscience,” wrote Herb.

WildflowersSmallerBrin was also a world-renowned poet, whose collections were prefaced by great names like Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who wrote,  “How a journalist, how an editor could also be a brilliant poet is a source of astonishment – and of gratitude.”

But none of these accomplishments even hint at the vividness of this “character” who made a strong impression upon everyone who met him: eager, argumentative, unfailingly generous, and always interested in the underdog.

HerbBioCoverNewRecited to tape just a few years before his passing, in 2003, Herb’s autobiography, Shouting for Justice: The Journey of a Jewish Journalist Across the Century of Hitler and Israel, touches upon the highlights of a most unusual and illuminating American life. A fighter for his people and for a more just world. See the extensive tribute page that contains selections from his autobiography, travelogues and poetry. 

JusticeJusticeNewCover“Not to the weak of heart does artistry belong,” Brin declares in the opening line of his book of poems, Justice, Justice, Poems Reflecting the Measures of Man. Herb brings to his poetry the same burning indignation against tyranny, the same compassion for the persecuted as he did to the readers of his widely-quoted Heritage column, “Across the City Desk.”

With every word and stanza, Herb holds a lantern to the humaniy and all too frequent inhumanity of mankind, as he weeps for a child’s tear, reminisces over lost love…or chronicles the pangs of aging.

A remarkable man — he is missed.

Here is a sampling of Herb’s poignant poetry, from his book, Poems of the Rubio: 

A Song of Magic

 PoemsRubioA child with a tear

Sheds a torment for me

His grief tears the heavens apart

 

Oh I’d bring him a song

To soften his wrong

And a trick

And a trick for a start

 

For the trace of a smile

I’d tumble a mile

I’d tangle the trees

For a child

 

And weave for him tales

Of high-flying whales

Of princes

Of kingdoms beguiled

 

Oh I’d sing him of places

Where monkeys made faces

At rhinos that frolic on air

And I’d pop a balloon

For my friend the baboon

And I’d dance with a laughing bear

 

A sob and a fear

Would soon disappear

And he’d laugh

At a tipsy giraffe

 

Or a turtle that sings

Of wondrous things

Or a lion on butterfly wings

 

Oh child of my heart

Oh child of my heart

Grief tears the heavens apart.

 ====    =====    ====

ConflictsCoverNew I Invented Time

 Hold back your clocks

Damn it, no requiem for me!

I’ll rust those gears

With the fine spray of seas

That sweep my autumn years.

 

Crusts of age clog my knees

But I’ll get along

At a lesser pace.

 

And softer my sighs

Gentler, more gentle

And as suns descend

I’ll get along

It’s moonlight saving time

For me.

 

CantoCropI’ve many a mountain yet to climb

And the hot breath of lips on mine

And the touch of tender hips.

 

Are there promises to keep?

Don’t count my ways

Don’t count my ways.

 

The brook, the stream, the massive sea

Hold many mysteries for me

And books unread

And paths untrod

Primeval forests beckon me.

 

Don’t speed my way to dreams undreamed

I’ve cantatas to create

I’ve heady lilacs yet to sense

And little foxes to divine.

 

Take back your clocks

Hold back your clocks

With searing breath of lips

On mine

I invented time. 

 ====    =====    ====

And this one from Wildflowers: A Garden of Jewish Verse

UnboundedManImage

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