Today Orbit UK is proud to release EXILES (UK | ANZ), an omnibus edition of the critically acclaimed science fiction trilogy, the Uplift Storm series by David Brin. It contains BRIGHTNESS REEF, INFINITY’S SHORE and HEAVEN’S REACH.
These novels, like all books in the multi-award winning Uplift universe, revolve around the theme of biological “uplift” – which is where one species genetically enhances another species to make it sentient.
The intergalactic civilisation called the Five Galaxies is made up of a multitude of sentient races, with each species having its own “patron” race, responsible for uplifting it. But it’s a mystery why humanity seems to be the only species in the universe that hasn’t been uplifted by another patron race . . .
This theme seems to reflect many fundamental questions we have about our own existence. Why do we appear to be alone in the universe as the only form of intelligent life? And if there are other intelligent life forms out there – how will they view us?
Being an active member of SETI, the organisation which conducts scientific research on life in the universe, David Brin is very qualified to talk on this subject. I thought Orbit readers might be interested to read David Brin’s recent post “An Open letter to Alien Lurkers”. It’s his plea to intelligent alien life forms to make sure they don’t get the wrong end of the stick about us humans. To paraphrase a few of the messages within this great piece:
—> If you’ve been monitoring humans’ TV, radio and internet for years now – please be reassured: we’re not all THAT crazy, violent or extreme. Our fiction exaggerates our actions, and our news just covers the bad stuff. But most of us are actually quite relaxed, stable, peaceful beings.
—> If you’re seeing us as dangerous competitors – please don’t. The more civilised we get, the more we realise that competition and cooperation aren’t mutually exclusive. We might be able to add something to the galactic community – and a little bit of competition is always healthy. So please can we talk about it before you either overlook us or blow us to smithereens?
—> If the reason you haven’t contacted us yet is because you’re waiting for us to reach some milestone level of cilivisation, then please could you give us a helping hand with this? We’re very keen to learn!
Trust me, it’s very worth checking this brilliant piece out.
EXILES (UK | ANZ) is the final in a number of beautiful reissues we’ve produced for some of David’s most prestigious and best-known titles, to celebrate the release of his recent masterpiece EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ). All of these books can be seen below in their full glory.
This week we’ve released UPLIFT (UK | ANZ), an omnibus edition of the first three award-winning Uplift books. It’s one of the most highly regarded classic science fiction series ever written. And it’s no surprise – because I can’t help but seeing signs everywhere that David Brin seems to get things so very right . . .
In the Uplift universe, humans have the technology to enhance the intelligence of other species – such as dolphins and apes – and they have raised these animals to our own level of consciousness. In fact, in these books no species has ever reached a level of sentience without being genetically “uplifted” by another race. But humans are the only ones who have seemingly never been helped out in this way . . .
This book raises some very interesting questions. Why does humanity seem to be the only species on Earth to have broken through what you might call a “glass ceiling” of sentience? What makes us so different to all the other species? And if we could genetically “uplift” other species – should we?
This question is much more pertinent now than you might think.
Recently, as reported by the New York Times, scientists have been experimenting with increasing the intelligence of monkeys by using brain implants. Granted, the research is aimed at helping people who’ve had their brain damaged through dementia, strokes or injury – rather than trying to help out the little furry dude involved. And for the moment, it’s just a case of the monkey being able to match up some objects and pictures a little better than usual – rather than hold a conversation about the meaning of life and the universe.
But the question arises – how long will it be until we really can raise an animal’s intelligence level to that of a human being?
Perhaps not that long, according to an article from the University of Edinburgh. It claims that a new gene has been discovered that might have played a crucial role in our development towards using tools and language. This gene is unique to humans, and seems to have developed after we evolved from apes. What’s more – it seems to have come from nowhere. It emerged fully-formed, over an incredibly brief period of time, from DNA thought to be “non-coding”, or else termed “junk DNA”. (David Brin asks, of course – might it have been “donated”?)
The very isolation of this gene, which brings us a step closer towards working out what makes us human, could also bring us closer to being able to artificially create it within other species. And if we can do this – what might these new, more intelligent animals be like? And what could we learn about the world and our place within it? But what risks might we also take by doing so? Planet of the Apes, anyone?
If this question interests you as much as it does me, check out David Brin’s Hugo, Locus and Nebula award-winning UPLIFT (UK | ANZ), an omnibus containing SUNDIVER, STARTIDE RISING and THE UPLIFT WAR – out now.
And don’t forget that in January we’ll also be releasing EXILES (UK | ANZ), an omnibus containing the three Uplift Storm novels BRIGHTNESS REEF, INFINITY’S SHORE and HEAVEN’S REACH.
And if you’re really keen, check out this awesome Uplift merchandise. A great Christmas present for a nerd near you!
Last weekend, along with millions of other people I’m sure, I went to see the latest Sam Mendes Bond movie, SKYFALL. I found the film highly entertaining – with some very impressive action scenes, a slickest of slick opening sequence, a surprisingly believable plot (for an action movie I mean…), and a rather irresistible performance from the easy-on-the-eye Daniel Craig.
But I also found it interesting (with my Orbit hat on) that this time, 007 wasn’t having to save the world by disarming a nuclear warhead (think MOONRAKER or THUNDERBALL) or stopping the spread of a deadly virus (think ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE) or prevent an evil communist plot (think CASINO ROYALE and a whole host of other Bonds).
This time, Bond’s role was to combat the destruction looming from the leak of confidential information – by the world’s most sophisticated cyber-terrorist. Highly believable in this age of Wikileaks and hackers being potentially extradited for infiltrating US military systems.
It seems that the disasters befalling the various James Bonds have been evolving through the years – seemingly to keep up with the ways in which our world, our technology and our political and social struggles have been constantly changing. Because it appears that as we progress as a species, the potential pitfalls waiting to bring down Western world and civilisation itself seem to be constantly evolving too – and growing dangerously more numerous by the day. Read the rest of this entry »
Is it just me, or is science fiction starting to get more of the attention it deserves? It’s great to see that even MTV are getting in on the action – by filming David Brin at WorldCon 2012.
The topic was: why haven’t more species on Earth naturally self-uplifted to full sentience? With dolphins and apes sharing a similar intelligence level, and with parrots, crows, sea lions . . . and even prairie dogs being not too far behind, is there some kind of sentience “glass ceiling” that prevents bright creatures breaking through? And, if so, how did humanity manage to break through it and progress so far?
Is this an example of a whale trying to reach out to us and meet us halfway? Could this open up possibilities for communication between different species?
And then that raises an even bigger question. Should it now be our duty and obligation to offer other “pre-sapient” species a helping hand? We do, after all, now seem to have the tools of science to be able to do so – as shown by this article on making monkeys smarter using brain implants. Or would that just be the ultimate form of arrogance?
These are among the questions being raised not just in the interview above, but also in David Brin’s classic and award-winning Uplift books, which are soon to be re-released in the omnibus editions UPLIFT (UK | ANZ) and EXILES (UK | ANZ). And he also portrays the beginnings of the uplift process in his latest book: EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ), released as a paperback this November.
And now the news from Alpha Centauri . . . (oh, I’ve waited for so long to utter those words! News. From Alpha Centauri) . . .
After an incredible decade, in which the number of planets known beyond our solar system increased from zero to several thousand, astronomers have detected an Earth-sized world orbiting between the two stars nearest to our system, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B. Much too hot to sustain life, it nevertheless will help in narrowing down the search space for others. Moreover, now we have a target for the first interstellar probes, which are already under discussion. Indeed, the youngest of you readers may live to see the launch.
Ah, but this raises the perennial question. If planets are more common than we ever thought, then what about life-worlds? And even alien intelligences?
I have been involved in this topic all my life, having grown up in Southern California, the part of human civilization least rooted in the familiar, traditional or . . . perhaps . . . sane. I am best-known today as an author of novels and stories about our many possible-plausible futures, including some that explore a wide range of possible extraterrestrial civilizations. My scientific career, ranging from optics to astrophysics, led to papers about SETI in the 1980s that include what is still the only full review article in the field, compiling all then public theories for what I called The Great Silence, but that is now more widely known as the Fermi Paradox.
The Fermi Paradox refers to a question posed by the great physicist Enrico Fermi in the 1940s, demanding: “If it seems so likely the universe may host other life forms, how come we haven’t seen any signs?” Not just of radio beacons, but of mighty structures that our own descendants might someday build out there in space. Or leakage from chatty commerce between civilizations. Or indeed, any trace that the Earth was visited during the 2 billion years that it was “prime real estate” with an oxygen atmosphere, but nothing higher than slime molds to defend it. Read the rest of this entry »
It seems to me they’re taking their cue from one of science fiction’s great masters there, as David Brin asks exactly that question his latest novel EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ).
Into his plot, David weaves a number of possible answers to the “Fermi Paradox” – the conundrum of why we haven’t we heard from any alien life forms yet when it’s scientifically probable that they do exist. And the story that results is certainly killer. In fact it’s pretty darn mind-blowing.
But importantly, behind David’s writing is an extremely rich, in-depth scientific understanding of the world and the patterns of our progress within it (he is, after all, a real-life astrophysicist and consultant to NASA).
However, out there on the interwebs, there are also a multitude of fun conspiracy theories about where the aliens are hiding. And some of these are, in my humble opinion, just a tad more unlikely. . . Not that we don’t love hearing about them!
I trawled the internet looking for these theories, and here’s a run-down of my personal top 5 for your reading pleasure . . .
1. WORLD LEADERS = SHAPE-SHIFTING REPTOIDS. . .
There exists a rather widespread theory stating that thousands of years ago, extraterrestrials from the “Draco” constellation came to earth and mated with humans, forming reptilian-human crossbreeds.
These beings are hiding amongst us, and they only serve the agenda of the reptilian race. Famous such reptilian-human hybrids include: George W. Bush, Tony Blair, The Rothschilds, Vladimir Putin, The British Royal Family (I’m assuming including Kate Middleton?) etc.
This November, we’re releasing the paperback edition of David Brin’s science fiction masterpiece EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ). It’s his first novel to be released in ten years, and he’s truly returned in triumphant form.
It’s a breathtaking novel about First Contact – one that asks ‘why are we alone?’ and ‘are all civilisations doomed to fail?’ And it does it in spectacular, imaginative, mind-boggling, heart-thumping style.
See the paperback cover to the left and just a few of the reviews this unmissable book has been receiving:
David Brin’s upcoming science fiction novel EXISTENCE (UK |ANZ) centres around the discovery of an alien artifact floating high in Earth’s Orbit. It also boldly suggests that our continued existence was never a given. So we wanted to ask, what could First Contact mean for mankind? Are we on a tipping point? Read on for a collection of short excerpts from the book – and see this instance of First Contact from multiple angles . . .
In all of human history, only a few cultures ever managed to guide themselves across such a transition after making contact with superior outsiders, without first passing through long generations of intimidation and victimhood. Or tearing themselves apart . . .
THE MOMENT OF DISCOVERY
Gerald Livingstone is a galactic garbage trawler, clearing up the residue of mankind’s now long-forgotten forays into the galaxy. The strangely alien artifact he stumbles across calls to him subliminally . . .
Could this really be a messenger from some alien civilization?
Bare fingertips hovered over the translucent surface, causing ripples to flow, as if preparing to meet him at the point of contact. Whatever lay within . . . it somehow knew. It sensed the nearness of living flesh.
What if it really is alien? And dangerous?
He couldn’t help suddenly imagining the oblong ovoid — gripped between his thighs — as something out of science fiction. A cuckoo’s egg. Perhaps a Trojan Horse. “Contamination” could work both ways. Might it be a terrible mistake to touch the thing? Read the rest of this entry »
In the year 2050, will we still be fretting over the end of the world? A dark bit of quasi-fictional non-fiction . . . and some between-chapter excerpts from the upcoming science fiction novel EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ).
A Myriad Paths of Entropy
Does the universe hate us? How many pitfalls lie ahead, waiting to shred our conceited molecule-clusters back into unthinking dust? Shall we count them? Today, our means of self-destruction seem myriad – though we at Pandora’s Cornucopia will try to list them all! So adjust your AI-ware, your im-VR-sive wraparounds, your omnivision eyeptics and dive right in.
At one level, none of this is new. Men and women always felt besieged. By monsters prowling the darkness. By their oppressive rulers, or violent neighbors, or capricious gods. Yet, didn’t they most often blame themselves? Bad times were viewed as punishment, brought on by wrong behavior. By unwise belief.
We modern folk snort at the superstitions of our ancestors. We know they could never really wreck the world, but we can! Zeus or Moloch could not match the destructive power of a nuclear missile exchange, or a dusting of plague bacilli, or some ecological travesty, or ruinous mismanagement of the intricate aiconomy.