WE Online Main Home
Spring 2000
NewsMakers Factoids WE Home (This Issue)
Enter a search phrase here

This Issues WE Cover Photo


New Horizons
Program helps single parents continue their education...

Fact, Fiction, Future
Futurist, author David Brin is Mesa College’s commencement speaker...

Student Athletes Win-Win-Win
Lisa Williams heads hottest women’s basketball team in area...

Space Age Technology
Rapid prototyper finds design flaws early...

Price Scholars
Students earn scholarships with community service...

Mesa Battles Teacher Shortage
College to run teacher training program under state grant...

Innovative Outreach CD
Miramar College wins kudos for business-card-size CD...

Down Memory Lane at Miramar College
Campus old-timers recall early days...

USA Today Honors Grad
National spotlight on Mesa and Miramar College alumna Michelle Coble...

Chancellor’s Column
League of Women Voters gives Leaders of Vision Award...

Miscellaneous tidbits of news...

Accomplishments by faculty and staff...

Fact, Fiction and the Future

David Brin

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be Mesa College’s commencement speaker, but this year that’s exactly who they’ve booked.

David Brin may be better known for his best selling science fiction novels, but he’s also a CalTech- and UCSD-educated electrical engineer with a doctorate in space physics. He was also a fellow at the California Space Institute and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Today what’s out of this world are his writing plots. He follows in the steps of Isaac Asimov and other scientists who also found satisfaction in teaching, and ultimately in taking their thinking beyond the quantifiable to the fictional.

Brin’s teaching days included two years at Mesa College in the early 1980s, where he taught creative writing and engineering physics part time.

“I found my experience at Mesa most rewarding. The broad mix of student ages and backgrounds, the intense seriousness of those wanting to get ahead, the live interest of those who were there simply to explore—it was wonderful.”

Brin has also taught part-time at UCSD, SDSU, Grossmont College and Clairemont Continuing Education Center. But, while he was in love with teaching, his mounting success as a novelist was impossible to ignore.

His novel The Postman became a big- budget Kevin Costner film in 1997, while another of his books, Startide Rising, is being developed as a movie by Paramount Pictures. Several of his novels have earned the prestigious Hugo and Nebula science fiction awards. His 1989 ecological thriller foreshadowed global warming, cyber warfare and near-future trends like the World Wide Web.

In his 1988 nonfiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, Brin deals with a range of unexpected threats and opportunities facing our wired society. His chief argument, that openness fosters freedom more effectively than secrecy, has created intense controversy.

“I’ve learned that you cannot pay back the previous generations, but you can pay forward,” he told the Union-Tribune in August 1999. “It’s today’s kids who have the job completing what the World War II generation started. By 2050, we’re going to have something that looks just a bit like utopia, or else this poor planet will be fried. There is no middle ground.”

Brin is author of more than a dozen science fiction novels, a nonfiction book examining the impact of future technology, and countless magazine and journal articles. Asked how teaching influenced his writing, he replied, “Nobody truly understands a subject until they try to teach it. Students can expose every smug, unjustified assumption that you relied on. That is why, to this day, I think of my books as excuses to explore. I circulate my [unpublished] manuscripts widely, as if to a class of bright students who are eager to pounce on a teacher’s errors.”

Some day Brin hopes to return to the classroom. “Teaching is the best job. Everything else is a demotion.”

David Brin