the worlds of UPLIFT

worlds of UPLIFT

Will humans raise other species to sapience? Explore the novels -- and science -- behind UPLIFT.

what is UPLIFT?

David Brin's Uplift Universe portrays humanity's desperate struggle for survival in a dangerous universe... and how we may cope by taking wise partners with us on this journey. Artificial intelligence is one way that we may add diversity to our civilization. But in this series we've done it by giving a boost in intelligence to some of our fellow creatures on Planet Earth. Dolphins and apes -- especially -- seem trapped under a "glass ceiling" that limits their ability to speak, to argue, to create, to use tools, to invent and take part in Terran culture. But what if we, the first species on Earth to cross the wide gulf of sapience, were to turn around and offer a hand to others? To pass on the gift (that sometimes threatens to be a curse) of fully empowered mind?

And then, what if we find out that's the normal thing to do? What if others have been performing "uplift" for a very long time, out there amid the myriad stars?

Billions of years ago, an alien race known as the Progenitors began to genetically alter lower species, granting them intelligence, so they can enter Galactic civilization, and achieve star-faring status. No species has ever reached the stars without the guidance of a patron -- except humankind. Humans, by their own initiative achieved star-faring status, and uplifted their own clans, chimpanzees and dolphins. But it's a dangerous universe, and established alien clans don't look favorably upon upstart Earthlings, who claim to have started on their own.

These best-selling space epics interweave multiple viewpoints, both human and alien, with complex story lines and solid science. David Brin comments, "Each story in the Uplift Universe deals with some issue of good and evil -- or the murky realm between." Science Fiction critic John Clute writes that Brin "takes on the galaxy with all the exuberance of an E.E. Smith reborn. There is a ladder to the stars in these books, and humanity (with our new partners) claws upward into pole position in the Five Galaxies."

Among the most popular features of these series are the non-human characters, especially the neo-dolphins and neo-chimps whose thoughts, reactions and psychological stresses are expressed in ways that readers find transfixing and moving. Both strange and strangely familiar... awkward, beautiful and fun.

This Hugo and Nebula award-winning series by David Brin, one of the most inspiring recent works of science fiction, includes the novels, Sundiver, Startide Rising, The Uplift War, and the second uplift trilogy: Exiles, which includes Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore, and Heaven's Reach.



Gorilla My Dreams

In this humorous story set in the Uplift Universe, chimpanzees and dolphins are helping humans choose the next species for uplift when powerful alien starships arrive to wipe out all life on Earth. This comedy is available for purchase on Amazon's kindleAmazon US kindle and Smashwords.


I wrote the storyline, scenario and opening sequence to the famous Dreamcast game (now ported to Playstation 2!)... ECCO THE DOLPHIN: DEFENDER OF THE FUTURE. The scenario is special for its emphasis on an interesting science fictional back story. But the real excitement lies in Appaloosa Inc.'s vivid new 3-D worlds and rendering-on-the-fly technology. The underwater worlds of Ecco are truly wonderful to behold, and the game playing is outtasight. The wonderful old Dreamcast game has been re-issued as a downloadable for the Nintendo Wii. For a great (and impartial) review of Ecco the Dolphin, see the GameSpot review.

what's OUR ROLE in the cosmos?

From Pierre Boule to H.G. Wells, nearly all tales about 'uplift' of other species assumed that it would be done stupidly -- because stupidity leads to errors and conflict, which transform any concept into an action plot! What's more challenging is to write a story that shows humanity doing something well, or at least openly, with good intentions -- and yet still crafting a story filled with action and excitement, where Crichtonian errors can get discovered through vibrant criticism.

an "UPLIFT" in our FUTURE?


The novel Earth is known for its many predictions that were realized. Did the Uplift novels like Startide Rising and Existence predict the latest scientific innovation? "Scientists have successfully enhanced the intelligence of rhesus monkeys using a brain implant, albeit temporarily.... And it's clear that this precedent-setting breakthrough is just the tip of the iceberg: Ongoing advancements in pharmacology, genetics, and cybernetics hold huge promise for the further development of 'uplift' technologies."

an UPLIFTED Game of Thrones?

blastr compiled a list of 12 sci-fi epic adventures to rival the George R. R. Martin/HBO series Game of Thrones. Seems Uplift made the list! blastr called the Uplift series "one of the most fascinating pieces of sci-fi worldbuilding you'll ever pick up."

The list is based on a reddit thread, so feel free to upvote Uplift.

why david brin hates yoda, loves UPLIFT

As he describes to Wired Magazine: The concept of "uplift" is one of the most popular that I've put in my novels, and people love to read where I portray the endgame, and that is dolphins and chimps are almost ready -- they can talk to us, they can add their wisdom to our culture. These novels set 200 years in the future are about this endgame, about where the dolphins and the chimps are proving themselves. And it's a wonderful, glorious thing. We've expanded the range of what it means to be human. We've expanded the range of wisdom that can participate, compete and partake in this wonderful enlightenment of ours.


Underbrain Industries

Need a gift for your nerdy sci-fi friends? Underbrain Industries offers T-shirts, mugs and caps with logos from the Uplift Universe -- like symbols of the Five Galaxies, dolphins & chimps posing for the Uplift Center, and the Terragens Marines patch. And the Eye-Q symbol for the Quantum Eye oracle computer in Existence! Got civilization? This will ensure that you do.

can SCIENCE uplift other species? should we?

It's one thing to portray this endeavor in fiction: the prospects, dangers and hopes for increasing animal -- and possibly human -- intelligence. But could it happen in real life? And if so, what are the ethical, biological, and political drawbacks? If both right and left oppose it, out of reflex, how could such a program ever start? And would the goal -- an Earth civilization filled with diverse and beautifully different minds -- be worth the pain of getting there? Preliminary questions are asked in Existence and also in this online essay.

Also, in a recent issue of Scientific American, I was asked to speculate about whether science will be able to uplift non-humans. But we've always done this. For example, when we bring a new generation of barbarians, er, children, into the world. Our recent fixation on the notion of diversity as a general good has led to countless subdivisions of interest groups, subcultures and passionate hobby-obsessions, even Klingon-speakers. An endless tidal surge of style-variations that seem joyfully alien to many.

How better to improve our overall wisdom than by increasing the range of minds who are engaged in our great conversation?


One question that keeps getting asked about Existence: Is it an Uplift prequel? Certainly, one subplot features some very special dolphins -- see "Aficionado," a short story incorporated into the novel -- which demonstrates that nature is already "uplifting" these intelligent creatures.

But Existence takes on other challenges of our near future, like crowdsourcing and radical transparency ("The Smartest Mob") and rising sea levels ("Shoresteading"). Will we be able to Uplift ourselves in time to meet these challenges?


To celebrate the UK release of Existence in paperback, Orbit Books (UK) has re-released the Uplift books as two omnibus editions, with specially-designed new covers.


David Brin communicating with a dolphin


MTV stopped by WorldCon 2012 and asked David Brin a few questions about Uplift. Watch this interview here.


Computer Graphic Society

Announcing the winning entries for the Computer Graphic Society's CG Challenge: Illustrate Alien Relations in the Uplift Universe. The CG Society is home to one of the largest and rapidly growing collections of the most fantastic alien images. In Uplift Universe - Alien Relations, contestants were challenged to go beyond the simple creation of an alien, and show the interaction between humans and aliens which comprises the Uplift novels.

click to see larger version


The website TV Tropes compiled a series of Uplift-inspired tropes, including: Alien Invasion, Assimilation Plot, Banana Peel, Batman Gambit, Bizarre Alien Biology, Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism, Evil Matriarch, Kill it With Water....



"Aficionado" (also a part of Existence) takes you on a wild rocket ride -- the new sport of the super-rich in 2050. Hacker Sander is spoiled, temperamental and a champion rock-jock, expert at the game of Space War... till a crash landing throws him into lethal peril. His sole hope? A tribe of strangely savvy dolphins with a secret need of their own.


The idea of intelligence augmentation, of humans and other species, is a favorite among science fiction writers and filmmakers. Here are just a few examples:

famous fictional DOLPHINS...

Uplift isn't the only place where fictional dolphins swim. These clever underwater companions navigate film and television and books.

... PRIMATES too

Orangs, chimps, and apes are a favorite foil for fiction. Though I wrote elsewhere about one giant, lovelorn ape, writers tend to prefer primates as tricksters. See these examples from fiction and screen.


Startide Rising

In Startide Rising, the second book of the Uplift Saga (and WINNER: 1983 Nebula, Hugo, and LOCUS Awards for Best Novel), the Terran exploration vessel Streaker, bearing one of the most important discoveries in galactic history, has crashed on the uncharted world of Kithrup. Above, in space, armadas of alien races clash in a titanic struggle to claim her. A handful of Streaker's human and dolphin crew battles armed rebellion and a hostile planet to safeguard her secret -- the fate of the Progenitors, the fabled First Race who seeded wisdom throughout the stars.


The Uplift War

In The Uplift War, the third book of the Uplift Saga (and NY Times Bestseller; WINNER: Hugo and LOCUS Awards for Best Novel, 1988; NOMINEE: 1988 Nebula award for best novel), a brutal alien race -- in search the Five Galaxies for the Streaker, bearer of the secret of the Progenitors -- seize the planet of Garth, an Earth colony. The humans and their Uplifted allies inhabiting Garth must battle their conquerors or face ultimate extinction. At stake: the existence of Terran society, Earth, and the fate of the entire Five Galaxies.



Sundiver is the first book in the Uplift Saga (and Brin's first published novel!). It is set in a future universe in which no species has ever reached for the stars without the guidance of a patron -- except perhaps mankind. Did some mysterious race begin the uplift of humanity aeons ago? And if so, why did they abandon us?


Brightness Reef

The first book in the Uplift Trilogy, Brightness Reef, chronicles life on the planet Jijo, long-abandoned by the advanced Buyur civilization. Now the Five Galaxies use patrols, guardian machines, and sanctions of law to prevent resettlement until the planet is once more ready for civilized life.

But it has been secretly resettled by renegade groups of sapient beings, fleeing persecution or neglect: the mysterious hoon, the crablike qheuens, the centaurlike urs, the wheel-borne g'Kek, the multiple-personality-bearing graeki, and humans from Earth. They hide under canopies of camouflage, in dread of Judgment Day, when the Five Galaxies will certainly discover their illegal colony.

Then the unthinkable happens. A strange starship arrives in Jijo's skies -- the Streaker. Do they bring long-feared judgment, or something far worse? Are they willing to destroy the six races of Jijo to cover their crimes?


Infinity's Shore

In Infinity's Shore, the second book in the Uplift Trilogy, it is truly the beginning of the end for the fugitive settlers of Jijo. As starships fill the skies, the threat of genocide hangs over the planet that once peacefully sheltered six bands of sapient beings. Meanwhile, the Streaker makes a desperate bid for refuge.

Then the crew finds a secret hidden since the galaxies first spawned intelligence -- a secret that could mean salvation for the planets and its inhabitants... or their ultimate annihilation.


Heaven's Reach

In Heaven's Reach, the final book in the Uplift Trilogy, the brutal enemy that has relentlessly pursued the fugitive settlers of Jijo for centuries has arrived. The Jijoans' only hope is the Earthship Streaker, crewed by uplifted dolphins and commanded by an untested human.

Yet more than just the fate of Jijo hangs in the balance. Streaker carries a cargo of ancient artifacts that may unlock the secret of those who first brought intelligent life to the Galaxies. Can age-old antagonists at last recognize the unity of all consciousness?


Steve Jackson Games re-issued the GURPS Uplift role-playing game, updated and expanded by the original author-designer, the incredible Stefan Jones! This long sought-after game (high bids on eBay!) will be a perfect match for Contacting Aliens: The Illustrated Guide To Aliens In David Brin's Uplift Universe. To purchase the original game, contact Steve Jackson Games.

For more information, Steve Jackson Games has posted a page for GURPS Uplift.


Contacting Aliens

Contacting Aliens has already generated excitement among fans of the Uplift worlds. Early drafts were snapped up by gamers who wanted to apply its wide range of alien drawings to their scenarios. Stefan Jones has revised and re-released his legendary GURPS Uplift game using this book as a model.



Completists eager for more in the Uplift Universe may be interested in reading the novella "Temptation." This work features the adventures of a female dolphin on Jijo who must escape from two of her own kind and then penetrate a deeply dangerous ancient secret. This novella answers several unresolved riddles left over from Heaven's Reach.

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Contact David Brin by email.