Brin’s ‘Existence’ shoots for the stars
By Danny Bloom
CHIAYI CITY, Taiwan –Veteran science fiction author David Brin (The Postman; The Uplift Trilogy; Earth) — also a guest columnist for San Diego Jewish World and the son of founding San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage publisher Herb Brin — has a new book coming out soon titled Existence and it’s headed for the stars.
In a recent email interview, Brin explained how the idea for the novel came to him, noting: ”In addition to being a fiction author, I am also an astronomer and one of my areas of research is SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). So, of course, all this overlaps with science fiction. You might say that I have been exploring the concept of ‘the alien’ all my life. Along the way, I became involved in the arguments over the so-called Great Silence — the question of why we see no signs of other civilizations out there.
“Might planets be rare? That is being answered right now as we discover solar systems all around us. Might life itself be harder to start than we imagined? Or intelligence? Or technology?’ Might all intelligent races stumble over the same sets of disasters, over and over again such as nuclear war or ecological mismanagement?
“So you can see where the book’s title. Existence comes from. But the story is not all somber! Ultimately, it is a book about human endurance and hope.”
One of the main characters in the novel is a man named Gerald Livingston. When I asked for particulars, Brin told me: “Gerald is an astronaut who has a special, though low-rated, job — piloting a whirlingtether craft that snags orbital space junk to clean up the mess we humans have sent up into space above the Earth. One day he grabs something unusual. Something very unusual.”
Early rumors on Earth start circulating about this unusual object that Livingston snags — which appears to be an ”alien artifact.” I asked Brin what the early first rumors on Earth speak of. He explained: “People ask: Is it a spaceship? A message in a bottle? It appears to carry virtual passengers who try to communicate with us. But how? And is this the first such stone from space? Or have there been others?”
In the book, the alien artifact is what Brin has described elsewhere as a ”game changer.” I asked him to explain what he meant by that term, without, of course, giving away any surprises. He noted: ‘If we got contact with alien civilizations, would that not be a ‘game changer’? Especially if they offered us cool new technologies? Ah, but what if there’s a price to pay?”
Readers will want to know what the aliens want to communicate to the Earthlings, of course. Brin told me: ”On the book trailer I created online, viewers can see what their first words are — ‘Join us’ — ! Ah, but what does it mean?”
After contact with the ”aliens”, there are many reactions on Earth .
Fear is one of the reactions. I asked Brin to tell me a little more about this first reaction. He replied:
”How do you think your neighbors would react to such news? With a wide range of emotions and reactions, from fear to hope and so on. We are a highly-diverse species! Is that a strength or a weakness?”
As we ended the brief email exchange, Brin added: ”Thanks for this brief interview and introduction to my new book Existence and I hope readers, new ones and old ones, will have fun exploring the ideas in the book! ”
Bloom is Taiwan bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World. His cyber-interests extend all over and beyond this world. He may be contacted at email@example.com
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