Cover illustration by Patrick Farley.
Introduction by Catherine Asaro.
About the Book:
One doesn’t have to know the world perfectly, in order to know it better. That lesson—first taught by Galileo—dwells at the core of both science and science fiction, according to legendary author David Brin. Dangers and great challenges confront the characters of his stories and award-winning novels such as The Uplift War and The Postman. But even when the odds are steep and disaster looms, there remain possibilities…
…such as when a hero climbs an impossible mountain to confront Fate itself, in “The Loom of Thessaly,” or when world powers battle over a Vegas magician’s knack for prediction, in “The Tell,” or uncovering ancient terrors long-buried under an urban landfill (“Detritus Affected”), or when a mother in labor fights to save her child from an invention gone-wrong (“Dr. Pak’s Preschool”). Brin has thrilled readers in almost thirty languages by presenting vastly imaginative—and well-grounded—challenges set in times that might yet come… along with a sometimes razor-thin hope we’ll persevere.
In this major retrospective collection of shorter work, gathered from across an extraordinary career spanning decades, you’ll find wonder via David Brin’s unparalleled talent at imagination, extrapolation, hard headed optimism, and plain old fun. Here, you will find “The Crystal Spheres,” the Hugo Award winning short story that first brought Brin wide acclaim, posing one more—colorfully strange—answer to: “Are we alone in the universe?” Before The Postman won awards as a novel and became a major motion picture, that tale of a storyteller reviving dreams of a better world originated in the Hugo-nominated novella that’s included here. Confronting one of the oldest challenges in modern SF—“What if the Nazis won?”—Brin presents an unexpected answer in “Thor Meets Captain America.” And his penchant for offering I-hadn’t-thought-of-that! answers, as well as questions, erupts in “Stones of Significance,” a post-Singularity world where human identity can and will survive technological evolution.
Writing of that last story, Brin says that “Ideas are like fruit, watered with patience and observation—but pollinated by surprise!” Here, in more than twenty stories representing the best work of a masterful writer, readers will find an entire orchard of ideas, rooted in guarded optimism and stretching skyward towards a multitude of possible worlds.
From Publishers Weekly:
“Spanning over three decades, these 21 short stories from Brin, best known for his Uplift universe novels, demonstrate the author’s mastery of detailed worldbuilding in short-form works… The variety of plots on offer is matched by subtle, well-shaded characterizations. This is an impressive feat of speculation.”
Table of Contents:
Lift Your Gaze!
- Insistence of Vision
- The Crystal Spheres
- The Loom of Thessaly
- Transition Generation
It’s alive. So be wary.
- The Giving Plague
- Dr. Pak’s Preschool
Persevere! (Tales of the Coss)
- The Logs
- The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss
Things may just get weird.
- Detritus Affected
- Mars Opposition
- Toujours Voir
- The River of Time
Light. Let it Shine!
- The Tell
- The Escape
- The Postman
- A Need for Heroes
- Thor Meets Captain America
And good news may get…complicated…
- Stones of Significance
- Reality Check
The Crystal Spheres
(excerpt from the Hugo Award-winning short story)
It was just a luckychance that I had been defrosted when I was—the very year that farprobe 992573-aa4 reported back that it had found a goodstar with a shattered crystalsphere. I was one of only twelve deepspacers alivewarm at the time, so naturally I got to take part in the adventure.
At first I knew nothing about it. When the flivver came, I was climbing the flanks of the Sicilian plateau, in the great valley a recent ice age had made of the Mediterranean Sea I had once known. I and five other newly awakened Sleepers had come to camp and tramp through this wonder while we acclimated to the times.
We were a motley assortment from various eras, though none was older than I. We had just finished a visit to the once-sunken ruins of Atlantis, and were hiking out on a forest trail under the evening glow of the ring-city high overhead. In the middle latitudes, night was now a pale thing. Nearer the equator, there was little to distinguish it from day, so glorious was the lightribbon in the sky.
The Giving Plague
You think you’re going to get me, don’t you? Well, you’ve got another think coming, ’cause I’m ready for you.
That’s why there’s a forged card in my wallet saying my blood group is AB Negative, and a MedicAlert tag warning that I’m allergic to penicillin, aspirin, and phenylalanine. Another one states that I’m a practicing, devout Christian Scientist. All these tricks ought to slow you down when the time comes, as it’s sure to, sometime soon.
Even if it makes the difference between living and dying, there’s just no way I’ll let anyone stick a transfusion needle into my arm. Never. Not with the blood supply in the state it’s in.
And anyway, I’ve got antibodies. So you just stay the hell away from me, ALAS. I won’t be your patsy. I won’t be your vector.
I know your weaknesses, you see. You’re a fragile, if subtle devil. Unlike TARP, you can’t bear exposure to air or heat or cold or acid or alkali. Blood-to-blood, that’s your only route. And what need had you of any other? You thought you’d evolved the perfect technique, didn’t you?
What was it Leslie Adgeson called you? The perfect master? The paragon of viruses?”
It annoyed Io’s best friend to give birth to a four kilo cylinder of tightly wound, medium grade, placental solvent filters.
For five long months Perseph had kept to a diet free of sugar, sniff, or tobac—well, almost free. The final ten weeks she’d spent waddling around in the bedouin drapery fashion decreed for pieceworkers this year. And all that for maybe two thousand dollars worth of industrial sieves little better than a fabricow might produce!
Perseph was really ticked.
At first, during the early months of exile, I seethed with resentment. Our mother had no business yanking us from Moscow, no matter how painful the city had become. Wasn’t it bad enough, with our father declared an Enemy of the Czar? Denounced by People, Coss and State? How could she thereupon haul her daughters along, like huddled gypsies, following the slender rails to a stark and snowy place. To a community of self-banished outcasts, encamped within distant sight of the prison-gulag where father (according to bribed hints) was held.
Physicians swear a Hippocratic Oath whose central vow is “do no harm.” I wonder—how many other professions might do well to set that goal above all others?
Schliemann, uncovering Troy, gave birth to modern archaeology, begetting it in sin. His clumsy pits tore through the gates and temples of forty levels—three thousand years—callously scattering what might have been sifted, deciphered, all to prove a fact that wasn’t going anywhere. Patience would have revealed the same truth, in time.
The next wave of diggers learned from Schliemann’s wrongs. They went about “restoring” ancient sites, sweeping dust from Disney-prim aisles of artfully restacked columns. Such conceit.
Today, we save dust, sampling pollen grains to tell what blossoms once grew on the hills surrounding Karakourom, or Harrapa, or fabled Nineveh.
In truth, we have conceits all our own.
Stones of Significance
No one ever said it was easy to be a god, responsible for billions of sapient lives, having to listen to their dreams, anguished cries, and carping criticism.
Try it for a while.
It can get to be a drag, just like any other job.
- David Brin
- 633 pages
- eBook Edition