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Descent by Ken MacLeod

DESCENT Ken MacLeod

Author of 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Award-nominated Intrusion tells a science fiction story for the twenty-first century – what happens when conspiracy theorists meet Big Brother?
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THE LASCAR’S DAGGERGlenda Larke

The start of a brand new epic fantasy trilogy from the author of the Stormlord series – full of scheming, spying, action and adventure.
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Posts Tagged ‘Existence’

EXILES, Uplift and a message to any lurking aliens out there

Exiles, an omnibus edition of the Uplift Storm Trilogy containing Brightness Reef, Infinity's Shore and Heaven's Reach by the Hugo, Locus, Nebula and Campbell award-winning science fiction author David BrinToday 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.

New covers for some of David Brin's most classic and award-winning science fiction novels : UPLIFT (containing Sundiver, Startide Rising and The Uplift War), Exiles (containing Brightness Reef, Inifinity's Shore, Heaven's Reach), The Postman, Earth and Existence

Civilisation: are we doomed? SKYFALL and 3 other ways of looking at it . . .

The poster for the latest Sam Mendes bond movie Skyfall, starring Daniel CraigLast 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 »

Talking whales? And David Brin on…MTV? Something’s up…

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?

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MTV Shows

 

The questions David Brin is asking are timely. Because a recent discovery suggests that perhaps certain animals have the ability to push their limits further…

Research shows that a beluga whale called NOC made vocalisations that sounded extremely close to human speech. What’s more – this wasn’t exactly easy for the whale involved. As an io9.com article explains further, it had to adjust its own vocal mechanics and inflate part of its blowhole (through which it usually breathes) to make these sounds.

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.

EXISTENCE by the award-winning author of the Uplift novels, David Brin, a science fiction book featuring the beginnings of genetic uplift of animals by human beingsUPLIFT: an omnibus edition of the three science fiction novels SUNDIVER, STARTIDE RISING and THE UPLIFT WAR, by the award-winning author David Brin, and featuring genetic uplift of animals by human beingsEXILES: an omnibus edition of the three science fiction novels BRIGHTNESS REFF, INFINITY'S SHORE and HEAVEN'S REACH, by the award-winning author David Brin, and featuring genetic uplift of animals by human beings

 

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David Brin, award-winning science fiction author of EXISTENCE and the UPLIFT novels

David Brin – photo by Cheryl Brigham

== Essential Questions About Alien Life ==

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?

EXISTENCE by the award-winning author of the Uplift novels, David Brin, a science fiction book about first contact, the near future and a possible coming apocalypseI 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.

(See a collection of articles and speculations about the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI))

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 »

Top 5 most unusual alien conspiracy theories

On Tuesday, i09 posted an article called “10 Tips for Generating Killer Science Fiction Story Ideas”. The first tip, right bang at the top is “Look at the big unanswered questions – Like, why haven’t we heard from other intelligent civilizations yet?

The cover for the ground-breaking science fiction novel Existence, featuring first contact, from the award-winning author of the Uplift novels, David BrinIt 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 . . .

<Digimax S600 / Kenox S600 / Digimax Cyber 630> A dalek from Doctor Who to illustrate the article "top 5 weirdest alien conspiracy theories"

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.

Perhaps this could explain a lot? Read the rest of this entry »

Cover launch! EXISTENCE and the new-look David Brins

EXISTENCE, a science fiction novel from the award-winning David Brin, admired by Stephen Baxter

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:

‘Cleverly argued and uncomfortably plausible’ SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

‘A masterpiece of rock-hard SF’ SUN

‘Brin tackles a plethora of cutting-edge concepts…with the skill of a visionary futurologist’ GUARDIAN

‘Bursting with ideas, including near-future tech, first contact with aliens, and the exploration of what it means to be human’ i09.com

‘Existence is my top SF novel of 2012 and I recommend it without hesitation’ SFFWORLD.COM

But it’s not just EXISTENCE that we’re releasing this winter. We’re also giving a makeover to some of David Brin’s most classic titles. See the new-look covers below in all their glory…

New-look covers for David Brin's classic science fiction titles EARTH, POSTMAN, the UPLIFT trilogy and the second Uplifgt triology, called EXILES

See more info about each title below! Read the rest of this entry »

Trailer for EXISTENCE by David Brin

Released today is EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ) - the phenomenal new science fiction novel from the multi-award winning David Brin. A book that io9 said will “make you think about the future in a whole new way.

Truly a tour-de-force of storytelling, it’s his first novel to be released in ten years, and in the words of the Guardian: ‘It’s been well worth the wait’.

To mark this fantastic event we have released a first edition of the book with a limited-edition 3D cover. Watch the trailer below to see what lies ahead . . .

 

First contact with alien life . . . how will the world react?

David Brin's new science fiction novel EXISTENCE, about first contact with alien lifeDavid Brins 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 »

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Existence, a new novel of our future from the award-winning science fiction author David Brin, author of the Uplift novels, EARTH, and THE POSTMANIn 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.

Oh, we’re mighty. But are we so different from our forebears? Read the rest of this entry »

Prometheus, First Contact and David Brin’s EXISTENCE

Poster for the movie Prometheus and how it relates to David Brin's science fiction novel EXISTENCEOn Friday night I could barely contain my excitement. I – along with thousands upon thousands of  people across the country – had tickets to PROMETHEUS, undoubtedly the most talked-about science fiction film release of the year so far. And where better to see it, but the glorious Empire cinema on Leicester Square, in 3D.

The air was filled with anticipation as we all crammed through the doors and were handed our 3D specs. And then when the opening scenes began, with sweeping views across spectacular landscapes on Earth, enhanced by the 3D effects (probably the most unobtrusive and therefore effective I’ve seen in a movie so far) – we knew that this was going to be something big. And then, when the shadow of a city-sized spaceship began to darken the landscape, it began to feel truly epic.

What bigger a subject is there than first contact with alien life?

Existence, a new science fiction novel from David Brin about first contact with alien life - and how it relates to the Prometheus filmI couldn’t help but constantly draw parallels with David Brin‘s new novel EXISTENCE, and not just because of the 3D effect (with our first edition featuring a very cool 3D cover). But because at the heart of EXISTENCE is the discovery of an alien artefact floating in Earth’s orbit, picked up by a galactic garbage trawler. It appears to be a message in a bottle, an invitation to “join us” from another sentient species out in the vastness of the universe. At the same time, another artefact is found in the ruins of a sunken beach-front mansion, which warns humanity away from making contact with this other life form.

This highlights the question which forever prods at us and teases us. It’s the dilemma at the very centre of both PROMETHEUS and EXISTENCE: would making contact with an alien life form be a good idea? Would these (presumably more intelligent) beings have an inherent desire to help humanity, to set us straight, sort out our squabbling, or offer us a shiny new planet when we’ve trashed our own beyond repair? Or would they in fact just try to eat our faces, use us as lovely host organisms and generally be bad news for the continuing future of mankind?

Now we all know that PROMETHEUS is a prequel to the other ALIEN films, so could safely assume that these otherwordly creatures were not going to be our BFFs. But what a thrilling experience to see the journey up until that point: where we hope to find out that mankind can have a meaningful and significant place within the universe by uniting with another sentient species. And then how awesomely epic to see those hopes dashed in spectacular, breathtaking and violently dramatic ways?

I’m glad to say that my expectations for PROMETHEUS were certainly met. The special effects are magnificent – the kind where you have to pinch yourself to remember that this isn’t real footage, and that massive organic-looking Titus of an alien spaceship did not actually just rise from behind them yonder hills. And even if it sometimes seems that the need for great effects can take over from the need for flawless acting, the performance of Michael Fassbender more than made up for it, as the eerie robot David. The pace of the film was also a real strong point. There wasn’t a single moment when my concentration lapsed and the plot was sturdy enough (although not as strong as the original ALIEN movies). Overall it was a totally enthralling, enjoyable experience.

If I was going to have one small criticism, it would be that the characters seemed a tad nonplussed when they finally discover solid proof of alien life. Whereas the beauty of EXISTENCE is that it really focuses on the question of how proof of alien life would affect mankind. What would the initial evidence of alien life mean for all different people in different walks of life? Would the politician try to veil the truth from the general public? Would the journalist become set on letting the public know what they’re in for? Would the anti-technology prophet claim that the only way to survive would be to end democracy? What would it mean for each  of us? How would the world react? Is this the end, or a new beginning?

I won’t give any spoilers, but what happens all feels frighteningly, awe-inspiringly real. EXISTENCE is set a few decades in the future, but who knows if the day when we’ll actually be answering some of these questions is closer than we think? Let’s see if 2012 might really be as significant a year as the Mayans thought…

PROMETHEUS is at cinemas nationwide now, and EXISTENCE (UK | ANZ) will be released on 21st June 2012 with a limited edition 3D cover.

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