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 learn

a compilation of resources from David Brin and many lifelong learners

inventing future tech

why inventors should

MIT researchers Dan Novy and Sophia Brueckner argue that the mind-bending worlds of authors such as Philip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke can help us not just come up with ideas for new gadgets, but anticipate their consequences. Science fiction can be used to inspire a new generation of inventors and tinkerers to think about the technologies of the future.

science and sci-fi

science, explained?

Although Scotty, the chief engineer on Star Trek, frequently protested that he "could not break the laws of physics," film and tv series popularizations are well known for breaking physical laws. Physics World considers books that explain the physics behind them as a new way of learning about science. But it's a complicated relationship between science and sci-fi.

holograms and Star Wars

finding the science in science fiction

This NSTA paper discusses the advantages and challenges of using science fiction movies and TV shows to introduce scientific concepts to an elementary classroom. It includes two instructional episodes, using scenes from movies, to engage students in critiquing science as presented in the films.

prevent and prepare for the future

self-preventing prophecies

Science fiction can be like the stick that a wary traveler pokes into the ground ahead of him, to see where snakes and quicksand may lie. The degree to which we escaped the destiny portrayed in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four, for example, may be owed in part to the way his chilling tale affected millions, who then girded themselves to fight "Big Brother" to their last breath. Since then, many other dystopian novels rocked the public's conscience or awareness and generated their own calls and alarms to prevent their nightmares.

learning from science

asking questions about science fiction

Any science fiction fan knows the genre generates more questions than it answers. How is Science Fiction defined? What's the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy? David Brin has compiled some of the more interesting answers to these questions and more.

Frodo reading

learning from pop culture

Grab the popcorn! From Star Wars to Star Trek, from Brin's The Postman to Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 and Frank Miller's 300, here's a compilation of David's unusual and frequently amusing articles on movies and TV shows.

Brin's bookshelf

recommended reading

Naturally David Brin recommends his books and shorter fiction. But he finds these books inspiring and well worth recommending to readers of all ages. From classics to the newest releases, science fiction offers fiction to enthrall every reader.

NASA rocket designs

our engineering manual

NASA has a page offering "ship-building lessons" for would-be explorers, including access to their Space Educators' Handbook. Students will learn to sketch and analyze science fiction rockets and robots found in movies, comics or novels. Or see this essay from their blog describing how to design a rocket in 6 easy steps.

science fiction films

films that get the science right

Movies can captivate kids' attention — and they can be used to illustrate basic science concepts in the real world. From Apollo 13 to The Right Stuff, from Lorenzo's Oil to Awakenings, from Contact to Gattaca, historical and science fiction films can be used to pique student's interest — and entertain.

Also: Here are some science-based lesson plans for teachers, using popular movies and other film resources to illustrate science.

reading science

pros and con-ventions

Ever since Greg Benford, Greg Bear, and I first raised these questions, a number of SF-oriented clubs and fan groups have focused their con-auctions, fund-raisers, and charity drives toward raising SF literacy in their own communities. In many cases this begins with meeting English teachers and/or librarians and finding out their needs. What else can fan orgs do?

  • Recruit guest speakers to visit classes or school assemblies and give inspirational talks about science, writing, or history... anything to fire enthusiasm and imagination at an age when these are precious, flickering things.
  • Donate funds to buy SF books, sponsor a reading club, or hold a writing contest, to encourage a love of SF and the creativity that helps produce more of it.
  • Persuade bookstores to offer discounts for teens.
  • Hold a special session at every local con and invite teachers to attend for free, to share ideas with fans and pros.
  • Organize contests for SF-related stories, essays, and artwork created by students, with awards and prizes to be presented at the convention.
  • Offer "junior" or "student" admission fees to attract some of the brightest local teens to attend local cons.
  • There is self-interest operating here. Authors who give talks often acquire new fans. Local conventions that sponsor a SF club may soon have new members.

    activism 101

    inspiring grass-roots activism

    We've all heard about declining literacy in America. Sherry Gotleib tells that when she first opened the Change of Hobbit bookstore, in L. A., it thronged when the local junior high let out. Over time, these customers stayed loyal, but weren't replaced. In the store's final years, Sherry's average customer was gray-flecked or balding, and the few teens who showed up focused on media or comics.

    Polls show an aging of the SF readership. Science fiction themes are popular in films, comics, and games, but the genre's literary heart faces demographic collapse. Worst of all, countless kids forget how to say the most beautiful word in any language: "Wow!"

    According to Professor Jim Gunn, some of this demographic situation may be turning around. "There are signs that the teaching of science fiction is picking up again, that young people are beginning to read imaginative literature again, and that the early efforts of organizations such as "Reading for the Future" may be bearing fruit at last!"

    With a love of "the good stuff" comes the belief that a problem is something to solve, that the future is in our hands, that what we do now matters, that fans working together can create a better world?

    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

    Contrary Brin blog

    Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More

    social media influencer

    Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More

    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

    transparency expert

    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

    speaker & consultant

    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

    Contacting BRIN

    All the Ways in the World to Reach David Brin

    an ornery, contrary BLOG, and other insightful wormholes!

    Do not enter if you want a standard "Party" line! Contrary Brin's incendiary posts on science, sci-fi and politics and its engaged, opinionated community poke at too-rigid orthodoxies, proposing ideas and topics that fascinate — and infuriate. See for yourself, and if you like — subscribe for more.

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


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