DAVID BRIN recommends science fiction that teaches and inspires

As with any branch of human storytelling, science fiction offers a spectrum of quality and depth, ranging from Star Wars romps to the profound explorations of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Mary Shelley. A key element in all is fascination with change, and how human beings respond when challenged by it. In other words, there is no genre more relevant to this rapidly transforming world we live in, where citizens of all ages are called upon to contemplate issues that would have boggled their grandparents: environmental degradation, the extinction and creation of new species, cloning, artificial intelligence, instant access to all archived knowledge, and the looming prospect that a coming generation (perhaps the very next one) may have to wrestle with the implications of physical immortality.

Here I offer a a short discussion of ways science fiction fans can help teachers, librarians, parents and students bridge the gap between sci-fi shoot-'em-ups and real, literary Science Fiction where ideas foster debate about present-day situations and consequences, encouraging engagement in truly exploratory adventures of the mind.

for those who love to teach

a compilation of resources from David Brin and many other teachers

teaching science fiction

how science fiction teaches science

Many efforts are being made to link science fiction to educational curricula. See these classroom guides, Perfect Pairs, K-2 and Perfect Pairs, 3-5.

Here are some more great teacher resources:

  • The American Journal of Physics offers a course description for teaching modern physics using science fiction to undergraduates.
  • Astronomical Society of the Pacific has compiled a list of science fiction stories strong in astronomy and physics.
  • A lesson planning guide from Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute.
  • From Kenyon College, a syllabus to teach biology using science fiction.
  • Awesome teaching ideas to integrate science across the curriculum.
  • Science-based lesson plans for teachers, using popular movies and other film resources to illustrate science.
  • If you're planning a field trip, click here to learn more about the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle.
  • strength by resources

    bringing science fiction to academia

    Slowly, some universities are becoming reputable centers for scholarship of and about science fiction.

  • The Eaton Collection at the University of California, Riverside, has long been such a center of excellence.
  • The English Department at the University of Kansas, led by the eminent author and professor, James Gunn.
  • The Merrill Collection at the Toronto Public Library has joined the ranks of august SF-adept institutions.
  • The Paskow Science Fiction Collection is housed at Temple University.
  • At the University of Liverpool, Andy Sawyer established the Science Fiction Foundation.
  • In addition, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection in the Cushing Library at Texas A&M houses the papers and manuscripts of Chad Oliver, Michael Moorcock, and George R. R. Martin, among the 110 archival collections related to science fiction.
  • science fiction invades the classroom

    Brin's resources to teach science

    Plenty of curated resources for students learning any branch of science!

  • At Scoop.It, Brin has compiled articles and websites which illuminate how science can be taught in the classroom (or at home) in interesting and fun ways. Another Scoop.It compilation contains online resources for teachers and parents interested in teaching science fiction.
  • This Pinterest page collects resources for teachers and parents to use to teach science fiction in the classroom, and another page compiles book recommendations for YA readers.
  • Of course, you're welcome to use the stories David Brin has posted on this site to create educational materials for your own use.

  • Aficionado: Taking advantage of the latest high-risk adrenaline sport, one rocket-jockey plummets into the Carribean toward a meeting with dolphins that explores the meaning of intelligence.
  • The Giving Plague: Explores concepts of biology ranging from disease and symbiosis to safety of the blood supply, to the very nature of altruism.
  • Private Lives: Science fiction isn’t a predictive medium. It is a speculative genre, invested in creating plausible scenarios extrapolated from current developments.
  • Reality Check: Takes on the subject of reality itself. How would you recognize if you were living in a computer simulation?
  • Shelter of Tradition: In 2050 Shanghai, a mother and her child must flee dark forces in broad daylight while evading the gaze of a hundred million cameras on every ledge and lamp-post.
  • Shoresteading: What will life be like, in the after-effects of global climate change? How will an ordinary man provide for his family?
  • Those Eyes: A devastating deconstruction of so-called UFOs. If any of the tales are true, then the UFO gray critters do not deserve our respect, only contempt.
  • Tumbledowns: Today's public imagination has been captured by Mars. But once that desert planet had a rival for the affection of science fiction readers — back when the oceans of Venus, our sister world, stirred our spirits!
  • Feel free to use these Brin-created book discussion guides.

  • The Postman (or — for teachers and students — a classroom study guide)
  • Existence
  • Earth
  • The Tinkerers
  • Ray Bradbury at his desk

    more useful recommendations from writers

  • See author Gregory Benford's essay, "Teaching SF through Physics — Or the Other Way Around," offers suggestions for using stories to illuminate and test physical laws.
  • Explore issues such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), biology, ecology and environmental control using Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.
  • Author Brian Stableford discusses the forward-looking technology of science fiction where advances in biotechnology play a key role in shaping human society.
  • Author Julie Czerneda is one of those who have labored to create materials useful to teachers and librarians using "the good stuff" to entice bright young minds. Here you will find her classroom resources.
  • the Out of Time series

    create new and better books for kids to read

    Consider this quandary: Science fiction images and adventures are more popular than ever, especially with young people, yet very little high quality science fiction is aimed straight for the vast market of adventure-minded teens. While the brightest teens soon graduate to reading more challenging books for grownups, many are discouraged by a scarcity of good, intelligent tales written just for them.

  • Recently, David Brin revived his Out of Time series for YA readers, featuring wholly original science fiction adventure novels, each one by a respected author of proved ability and vision.
  • SFWA recently established the Andre Norton Award for excellence in young-adult science fiction and fantasy as a way of emphasizing its importance. Their nominees and winners make wonderful additions to any bookshelf.
  • See David's list of compelling sf for children and young adults.
  • reading science

    turn kids on to reading... and the future!

    A myriad of subjects are probed at the literary end of science fiction. In fact, some classrooms are wrestling with concepts at the very cutting edge — embedded in tales they devour between colorful paper covers.

  • Books that explore the edges of tolerance, like those of Octavia Butler and Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr.).
  • Books that ponder biological destiny, penned by Greg Bear and Joan Slonczewski, or the physical sciences, by Robert Forward and Gregory Benford.
  • Books designed by Julie Czerneda and Hal Clement to revolve around teaching themes.
  • And books by Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury that instruct almost invisibly, because the authors were teachers at heart.
  • reading science

    storming the classroom

    Most fan organizations have in their charters a major provision for "outreach and education." Yet this seldom gets priority. Here is a relatively painless approach, already tried with success at several conventions, offering a win-win situation for all: the Saturday morning SF-education mini-conference.

    It starts by simply gathering all the routine "SF/youth/education" panels into a cohesive group, then making a real effort to invite area teachers and librarians to attend that part of the con for free (with reasonable upgrades for those wanting to stay). Some teachers can then be recruited to help adjust next year's program to further meet their needs.

    In a year or two, the mini-conference can be granting credential credit with momentum all its own. Moreover, it can be a money-maker for the convention, as attendees convert their free half-day memberships and tell their friends! Later, corporate sponsorships become a real possibility.

    With teachers and librarians on board, you can generate great projects that involve kids in creative ways; for example, running a science fiction reading, writing and art contest in area schools, culminating in a grand awards ceremony at the local con.

    This kind of thing has worked already — at Worldcon in Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, and every year in Salt Lake City.

    If nothing else, running a focused "SF & Education Miniconference" sure beats scattering the usual youth- and education-related panels all over the weekend. It seems worthwhile to focus some effort on the future, since that's what SF is all about.

    great science reads for curious children

    letting others have their say

    Ada Twist's Big Project Book for Stellar Scientists, by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

    Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos, by Stephanie Roth Sisson

    Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, by Randall Munroe

    The Everything Kids' Science Experiments Book, by Tom Robinson

    The Elements Book: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Periodic Table, by DK and The Smithsonian Institution

    Moonbound: Apollo 11 and the Dream of Spaceflight, by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

    The Science Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained, by DK

    Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women, by Catherine Thimmesh and Melissa Sweet

    Never Too Young: 50 Unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference, by Aileen Weintraub and Laura Horton

    My First Human Body Book, by Patricia J. Wynne and Donald M. Silver


    Continue reading more articles for those who love to learn a lifetime's worth of science.

    a brief intro to science fiction author DAVID BRIN

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

    DAVID BRIN author


    David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More

    shorter fiction

    Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More

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    DAVID BRIN scientist


    David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More

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    Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More

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    Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 300 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings. Learn More

    future/tech advisor

    Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More

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    Questions? Concerns? Email DAVID BRIN at mail@davidbrin.com


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