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David Brin

David Brin


Glen David Brin is a well-known American author of science fiction. He is the winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards as well as the Interstella War Award. He lives in Southern California and has been both a NASA consultant and a physics professor.


  • It's said that "power corrupts," but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power. When they do act, they think of it as service, which has limits. The tyrant, though, seeks mastery, for which he is insatiable, implacable.
    • The Postman (1997), p. 267
    • Variant: It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.
      • As quoted in Values of the Wise : Humanity's Highest Aspirations (2004) by Jason Merchey, p. 120
    • This is very similar to the expression by Frank Herbert in Chapterhouse: Dune (1985): "All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted."

  • One more piece for the Great Jigsaw puzzle.
    I find it truly stunning how many people can shrug off stuff like this, preferring instead a tiny, cramped cosmos just 6,000 years old, scheduled to end any-time-now in a scripted stage show of unfathomable violence and cruelty.
    An ancient and immense and ongoing cosmos is so vastly more dramatic and worthy of a majestic Creator. Our brains, capable of exploring His universe, picking up His tools and doing His work, seem destined for much greater tasks than cowering in a small groups of the elect, praying that some of our neighbors will go to perdition...

The Uplift War (1987)

  • There were times when Robert actually envied his ancestors, who had lived in dark ignorance, before the 21st century, and seemed to have spent most of their time making up weird, ornate explanations of the world to fill the yawning gap of their ignorance. Back then, one could believe in anything at all. Simple, deliciously elegant explanations of human behavior. It apparently never mattered whether they were true or not, as long as they were incanted right. Party lines and wonderful conspiracy theories abounded. You could even believe in your own sainthood if you wanted. Nobody was there to show you, with clear experimental proof, that was no easy answer, no magic bullet, no philosopher's stone. Only simple, boring sanity. How narrow the Golden Age looked in retrospect.
    • Ch. 53

  • She had called in the debt that parents owe a child for bringing her, unasked, into a strange world. One should never make an offer without knowing full well what will happen if it is accepted.
    • Ch. 73

Brightness Reef (1995)

  • It's how creativity works. Especially in humans. For every good idea, ten thousand idiotic ones must first be posed, sifted, tried out, and discarded. A mind that's afraid to toy with the ridiculous will never come up with the brilliantly original.
    • Ch. 25

Orbit interview (2002)

Interview online at SFFWorld (19 July 2002)

  • We already live a very long time for mammals, getting three times as many heartbeats as a mouse or elephant. It never seems enough though, does it? Most fictional portrayals of life-extension simply tack more years on the end, in series. But that's a rather silly version. The future doesn't need a bunch of conservative old baby-boomers, hoarding money and getting in the grand-kids' way. What we really need is more life in parallel — some way to do all the things we want done. Picture splitting into three or four "selves" each morning, then reconverging into the same continuous person at the end of the day. What a wish fulfilment, to head off in several directions at once!

  • 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.

  • Change is the principal feature of our age and literature should explore how people deal with it. The best science fiction does that, head-on.

  • I maintain contacts with researchers in dozens of fields, both for fun and to keep up. In fact, any well-read citizen can stay reasonably current nowadays, by reading any of the popular science magazines that describe remarkable advances every week, in terms non-specialists can understand. The advance of human knowledge has become — at long last — a vividly enjoyable spectator sport! And a growing movement toward amateur science shows there is room for participants at every level.

  • Every marvel of our age arose out of the critical give and take of an open society. No other civilization ever managed to incorporate this crucial innovation, weaving it into daily life. And if you disagree with this ... say so!

A rant about stupidity... and the coming civil war... (2009)

"A rant about stupidity... and the coming civil war..." at Contrary Brin (4 October 2009)

  • I've long felt that the best minds of the right had useful things to contribute to a national conversation — even if their overall habit of resistance to change proved wrongheaded, more often than right. At least, some of them had the beneficial knack of targeting and criticizing the worst liberal mistakes, and often forcing needful re-drafting.
    That is, some did, way back in when decent republicans and democrats shared one aim — to negotiate better solutions for the republic.
    Alas, today's Republican Establishment seems not only incapable but uninterested in negotiation or deliberation. It isn't just the dogmatism, or lockstep partisanship, or Koolaid fantasies spun-up by the Murdoch-Limbaugh hate machine. Heck, even though "culture war" is verifiably the worst direct treason against the United States of America since Fort Sumter, that isn't what boggles most.
    It's the stupidity. The vast and nearly uniform dumbitudinousness of ignoring what has happened to conservatism, a transformation of nearly all of the salient traits of Barry Goldwater from:
  • prudence to recklessness
  • accountability to secrecy
  • fiscal discretion to spendthrift profligacy
  • consistency to hypocrisy
  • civility to nastiness
  • international restraint to recklessness...

  • This is not about classic left-vs-right anymore. (As if that metaphor ever held cogent meaning.) Not when every measure of national health that conservatives ought to care about — from budget balancing to small business startups, to military readiness, to States' Rights, to the economy, to individual liberty, to control over immigration at our borders — does vastly and demonstrably better under democrats. With nearly 100% perfection.
    (Fact avoidance is even worse when you encompass ALL of history. Ask today's conservatives which force destroyed more freedom and nearly every competitive market, across 5,000 years. Which foe of liberty and enterprise did Adam Smith despise? Hint: it wasn't "socialism" or "government bureaucrats.")
    No. Given their lack of any other tangible accomplishments across the last fifteen years, one must to conclude that the core agenda of Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch and their petroprince backers really is quite simple.
    To find out just how far they can push "culture war" toward a repeat of 1861.

  • Step back for a minute and note an important piece of psychohistory — that every generation of Americans faced adversaries who called us "decadent cowards and pleasure-seeking sybarites (wimps), devoid of any of the virtues of manhood."
    Elsewhere, I mark out this pattern, showing how every hostile nation, leader or meme had to invest in this story, for a simple reason. Because Americans were clearly happier, richer, smarter, more successful and far more free than anyone else. Hence, either those darned Yanks must know a better way of living (unthinkable!)... or else they must have traded something for all those surface satisfactions.
    Something precious. Like their cojones. Or their souls. A devil's bargain. And hence — (our adversaries told themselves) — those pathetic American will fold up, like pansies, as soon as you give them a good push.
    It is the one uniform trait shown by every* vicious, obstinate and troglodytic enemy of the American Experiment. A wish fantasy that convinced Hitler and Stalin and the others that urbanized, comfortable New Yorkers and Californians and all the rest cannot possibly have any guts, not like real men. A delusion shared by the King George, the plantation-owners, the Nazis, Soviets and so on, down to Saddam and Osama bin Laden. A delusion that our ancestors disproved time and again, decisively — though not without a lot of pain.

  • The Union will awaken. It always has. We always will.

  • There was one exception to the rule that all our foes have committed the Decadence Assumption. Ho Chi Minh never underestimated America. His avowed hero was George Washington and he remained in awe of the U.S., all his life. He remains the only enemy leader who ever defeated us at war, and then only because our hubris (not decadence) got the better of us.


  • Costner's film captured the main character's motives, while removing 30 IQ points.

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