David Brin is a scientist and author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and the Hugo award winning best-sellers Startide Rising and The Uplift War. (The Postman was released as a major film in 1998.) He is also known as a premiere commentator on modern technological trends and their effects on society. Brin’s non-fiction book — The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? — deals with provocative issues of openness and liberty in the new wired-age.
Here’s the chat transcript from 2000 when the gang at OtherSpace interviewed him:
OS – Sunday, September 17, 2000
OtherSpace Conference Center
An expansive conference center with seating for hundreds of observers and a raised dais for guest speakers, complete with a podium, lectern and a pitcher of water. A state-of-the-art sound system provides voice amplification that carries the speaker’s words to the farthest rows.
David_Brin has connected.
Connely whimpers. “It wasn’t a LOUD funky beat.”
Stargazer grins at Connely, “behave”
Voltari waves at David_Brin, “Hello :)”
Gildar waves to Mr.Brin.
Connely grins and looks to Mr. Brin.
Stargazer bows to Mr. Brin.
David_Brin says, “Hi folks”
Carduus sits patiently, nodding at the speaker.
David_Brin says, “”I was told no quotes” – brin”
Gildar says, “Hello”
David_Brin says, “like this? -db””
Snowmist arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Snowmist has arrived.
Snowmist sighs. “Late, as always…”
Stargazer says gently, “you don’t need to add the trailing quote
David_Brin says, “agh — db”
Stargazer smiles at Mr. Brin.
Snowmist says, “Force of habit. :P”
Yazmar arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Yazmar has arrived.
David_Brin says, “hi snowmist & stargazer… great names – db”
Snowmist waves to Mr. Brin.
Snowmist bows. “Thankye.”
Stargazer says, “thanks”
David_Brin says, “oh, do you see me ID’d any other way, or should I keep adding –db”
Marson says, “We see your ID. It prefixes your name with what you say”
Jasra says, “you don’t have to add the -db… we see who it is”
David_Brin says, “Okay, then hi folks”
Jasra says, “Hello!”
Connely says, “Hi!”
Carduus says, “Heya.”
Gildar says, “Hi.”
Tasha arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Tasha has arrived.
Stargazer puts her hand up, “How!”
Tasha quickly and quietly jumps into a seat in the back.
Brody says, “Welcome to OtherSpace, everyone. Thanks for coming. Our guest today is David Brin, a scientist and author who has won the prestigious Hugo Award for science fiction for his novels Startide Rising and The Uplift War. His novel The Postman was made into a 1998 movie starring Kevin Costner. He’s written columns for Salon (some of you may recall his controversial columns regarding Star Wars) and other publications. His non-fiction book – The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? – deals with provocative issues of openness and liberty in the new wired-age.”
Kalouri says, “We have it on the best authority that you are, in fact, David Brin and not a 14-year-old boy in Michigan. So hello :)”
Rasputin arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Rasputin has arrived.
Stargazer loves the Postman stories
David_Brin says, “If I were such a 14 year old boy I’d pretend to be someone much sexier!”
Brody says, “We’re honored David can join us, but his time *is* limited. So, here’s how this will work. I have collected about 10 questions in advance. I’ll pose those to David. Once they are answered, if he has time left, then perhaps we can open the floor to further questions. It’ll be up to our guest.”
Kalouri sees your point.
Snowmist HEHS! “Oh, he’s hit the nail right on the head…”
Bellemore arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Bellemore has arrived.
David_Brin says, “Fire away Brody…”.
Bellemore sits down.
Brody nods. “Ok, here comes question No. 1.”
Tkagorth asks: “What inspired you to write the infamous ‘Star Wars Rant?’”
David_Brin says, “I go to movies with a control panel of dials called Maturity, Plot, Character, Mentall age… and try to adjust them so’s I can enjoy the flick. For instance, The Fifth Element… I set Maturity and Plot Making Sense down to zero and ripped out those wires, and had a great time!”
Vandervere arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Vandervere has arrived.
David_Brin says, “But there are some dials I won’t move. One is called Basic Human Decency. Except for Empire Strikes Back, the SW films were downright evil”
David_Brin says, “Did I get through that time?”
Stumppaw nods. “Came through fine.”
Carduus says, “if evil was the end.”
David_Brin says, “Evil was the end of what? No it was. Just kidding.”
Rainhawk arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
Rainhawk has arrived.
David_Brin says, “”People can check out my web site (www.davidbrin.com)and see all 3 of the Star Wars articles. It’s caused a storm and burned my bridges with 25 percent of Hollywood… how many of YOU have publicly spat in the eye of a billionaire??? ;-)”
Snowmist hms. “Would you advise it?
Jasra doesn’t know any
Bellemore threw a cream pie at one.
David_Brin says, “But that’s the point! We live in the 1st decent human civilization in which the aristocrats can’t have you snuffed for being a critic or pain the the butt!”
Stargazer looks at Bellemore, “That was you?”
Snowmist hees! “Indeed. So we should get our blows in while we still have the chance?😛
David_Brin says, “That’s worth defending, but Lucas says we should have dictators and kings. Said so to the NY Times!”
MacDonald arrives from Freewheeling <Tomin Kora>.
MacDonald has arrived.
Brody nods. “His quote was something about a benevolent dictator being ideal because he could get things done, yes?”
David_Brin says, “Can I put in a point at an angle here?”
Brody nods. “Sure.”
Gildar says, “He didn’t say we should have kings or dictators, he said it was the preferable form of government if people were inherently benevolent instead of inherently greedy.”
David_Brin says, “Back in 1970 I sat at a teletype at Caltech…”
David_Brin says, “and exchanged messages with other folks by the first computer net, in a chat mode very much like this …”
David_Brin says, “sequence of scrolling screens. Isn’t it time, after 30 years, for something better?”
Bellemore says, “Except, there was no ANSI colour… :)”
David_Brin says, “heh”
Stargazer says, “this form will never die”
David_Brin says, “I’m starting a small software company of my own to develop a chat interface that’ll blow you away. Inquire in 12 months!”
Brody will remember that, David
Yazmar wonders why our guests are threatening to destroy us… ;P
Hikaru says, “Well, there is several movements to move to graphical interfaces for MUSHING … so who knows where it will all go.”
Brody says, “You want the next question, or do you want to keep going on Star Wars? Up to you.”
Bellemore says, “Next Question!”
David_Brin says, “Up to the gang… but next sounds good”
Brody nods. “Coming right up.”
Gildar asks: “What is your overall opinion on the movie version of ‘The Postman’?”
Bellemore mutters something under her breath.
David_Brin says, “I have posted a lengthy discussion of this on my web site… I think you’ll find it amusing.”
Kreshnak chuckles. “And then I’m sure we’ll all share ours.”
David_Brin says, “Basically the one thing that Costner got right…”
David_Brin says, “was the one thing I NEEDED him to get right… the basic decency of the character and the story…”
Yazmar says, “It was like Waterworld, only with dirt.”
Jasra nods and agrees
David_Brin says, “It was sort of a goofy cousin of the book… with gorgeous cinematography …”
David_Brin says, “and a few very moving scenes… and some that were HUH???…”
Kalouri says, “I notice that’s the second time you’ve mentioned basic human decency.”
David_Brin says, “So all told, I ain’t ashamed. But the book is much better! ;-)”
Gildar nods, “Ok,”
Brody agrees. “The book is excellent.”
Bellemore says, “How true.”
Gildar frowns, “I gotta read it.”
Hikaru says, “Yep. I dare to dream of the day Hollywood actually does a book justice.”
Hikaru says, “Great book, Gildar. read it ASAP.”
Bellemore says, “Keep on dreaming, Hikaru. :)”
David_Brin says, “Thanks! I’m now working on KILN PEOPLE… about making one-day cheap copies of yourself out of clay…”
Stargazer says, “Book is better, I read some of the stories in a scifi mag”
Gildar says, “It’s on my list…of about 50…”
David_Brin says, “Firing them in the kiln and sending them out to run errands…”
Brody grins at the concept.
Gildar says, “Specialists?”
Stargazer oohs and likes that idea
David_Brin says, “A dream come true, if you’re busy… but lots of story twists…”
Bellemore doesn’t have to…
Yazmar says, “Brody’s beaten you to it, DB.”
Jasra says, “Like what if it rains?”
David_Brin says, “Anybody out there read FOUNDATION’S TRIUMPH?”
Bellemore says, “Nope.”
Brody bahs. “Specialists aren’t made of clay ;)”
Kreshnak says, “A commentary on human cloning, or not. You be the judge.”
Jasra says, “not yet”
Gildar shakes his head sadly, “No…all the others though…”
Hikaru says, “I don’t think that one was written by Asimov was it? I’ve avoided reading the ones done after his death.”
David_Brin says, “A clone is human, deserves rights, and takes decades to mature. And when it does, it won’t be YOU. These copies carry all your memories and desires, but only last a day.”
Vandervere says, “I thought it was a phenomenal book. Gratuitous kudoes.”
Snowmist lol! “Say, you know there’s a pretty good novel by the same name. Why don’t we borrow some stuff from it!”
Kreshnak says, “But if it possesses my memories, it would believe and feel itself to be me, wouldn’t it?”
David_Brin says, “Asimov’s widow asked the Killer Bees of Science Fiction — Bear, Benford, and Brin — to tie up all the loose ends in his universe. I did the final book, tying it all together.”
Hikaru says, “Only as of that moment…. your not the sum of your memories, what of new memories, new experiences, etc, that alters who you are.”
David_Brin says, “Thanks Vandervere!”
Tasha says, “So are they supposed to be a solution to the “clone’s rights” debate?”
Jasra will have to read them then
David_Brin says, “Oh, some other news. The producer who made Hunt For Red October has picked up an option on Startide Rising…”
David_Brin says, “That’s the Hugo winner that features dolphins getting into trouble in space.”
Hikaru says, “Nice.”
Brody hehs! “That answers one of the down-the-line questions.”
Stargazer says, “wow”
Hikaru says, “I love that book.”
Brody says, “What’s the status on it, beyond being optioned?”
David_Brin says, “They’ve done 2 drafts of a screenplay. Fine action and faithful to the book. But expensive to film!”
Hikaru says, “I hope its faithful to the book!”
Brody nods. “Excellent. Ready for the next question?”
David_Brin says, “Another question Brody?”
Brody nods. “Coming right up.”
Mikhar asks, “In the Uplift novels, you gave humans a reversal role of what has happened in human history, where the discrimation was placed upon them instead of the other way around, however given human nature, wouldn’t it be automatic after the initial shock that humans themselves would try to be the conquerors?”
David_Brin says, “I don’t think so. Look at your own question! It reflects the rising maturity we’ve seen in recent years…”
David_Brin says, “also reflected by Star Trek’s Prime directive…”
David_Brin says, “though I admit there are old superman themes running around too, like Star Wars…”
David_Brin says, “But look at how the film STARSHIP TROOPERS worked at two levels… for the masses it gave a shootemup…”
David_Brin says, “But for the more thoughtful, there were serious questions about the possibility that humanity was at fault for the war.”
Vandervere says, “Quite right. I was glad they preserved the social statements and questions which Heinlein posed in the book.”
David_Brin says, “In my uplift universe I try to reflect this new thoughtfulness. We are NOT the kickass top predators. We have to learn to live — and thrive — a bit lower on the food chain.”
Vandervere says, “Would probably do us good. With dominance comes complacency and stagnation. Look at every great civilisation and empire which humanity has ever spawned.”
David_Brin says, “I may have to leave soon. But you are a great gang and lively minds…”
David_Brin says, “Do drop by http://www.davidbrin.com/”
David_Brin says, “Look especially at the contest I’m running $1,000 prize for web sites that use sci fi to help teachers!”
David_Brin says, “anyone still there?”
Hikaru says, “Yep.”
Jasra says, “of course”
Brody nods. “We’re here. Thanks very much for coming.”
Tasha nods. “I em here.”
Kalouri says, “Thought you were wrapping up.”
Gildar nods yeah.
Hikaru says, “Come back again :)”
David_Brin says, “time for a last question… a short one… from any of you”
Connely nods, “Yeah.”
Brody glances around. “Raise a hand.”
Kalouri says, “And not the boxers/briefs thing again, Gildar :)”
David_Brin says, “okay then. I wish you all much success and adventure…”
Gildar says, “Wha?!”
David_Brin says, “in these exciting times…”
Yazmar waves, “Thanks for stopping by.”
Snowmist grins and waves. “Thanks for coming by.”
Brody waves to David. “Thanks much for your time.”
David_Brin says, “remember to be a member of a civilization!”
Stargazer says, “thanks Mr. Brin.”
Vandervere says, “Amen. Thanks for the pithy advice. :)”
Connely says, “Thank you, Mr. Brin.”
David_Brin has disconnected.