Visions of the Future

Science fiction author David Brin’s greatest claim to fame (or infamy) may be his book The Postman, which inspired the notorious Kevin Costner flop of the same name. But don’t hold that against Brin; like many a seer, he can’t be held accountable for the wayward members of his flock. Despite Costner’s ponderous direction and guileless performance, the basic premise of The Postman distills Brin’s core thematic concerns: a dystopian future can only be forestalled by embracing community and egalitarianism. Which isn’t to say that Brin is a technophobe obscuring regressive messages in sci-fi garb. He’s an avowed futurist with an ultimately optimistic vision of how technology and democracy can bring about, if not utopia, then a better tomorrow. Brin doesn’t balk at investigating the big questions about humanity and its future, which is evident with his latest novel, the grandly-named Existence. The premise recalls Arthur C. Clarke by way of Douglas Adams -- a space-faring garbage man discovers an alien artifact containing both wonder and peril to all of mankind. From this familiar yet effective seed, Brin explores the breadth of the human experience, from generosity to avarice, and examines the threadbare strings that precariously bind civilization.
Sat., June 23, 1 p.m., 2012

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