The Uplift Sequence Critical Essays

David Brin


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Brin meshes the extrapolation of current or projected scientific knowledge to its possible conclusions with space operatic themes (pioneered by such writers as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Olaf Stapledon, and Jack Williamson) such as galactic struggle and interactions between species. He has noted that he tries “to make use of the scientific thrills this century keeps dropping in our laps.” Brin’s visions capture the interest of readers and foreshadow the imaginative future of technology. In the Uplift Sequence, one new technology is the knowledge and ability to provide terrestrial animal species with advanced intelligence, or to “uplift” dolphins or chimpanzees, among others, to sentience. Brin projected further volumes to supplement the first three.

Stretching back into prehistory, humans have felt themselves to be part of nature. Native Americans and South Americans worshiped spirits of animals and natural elements, and almost every religious mythos has a sun god or a rain god. Humans have also felt separated from nature. The very ability to ponder philosophical quandaries seems to take humans away from the animals with whom many crave affinity. People find comfort in picturing animals as being like people, giving them their own cultures, languages, customs, and morals. This anthropomorphism is evident in literature and entertainment throughout history. Images of animals that are clothed, bipedal, working and talking, having families, and living in houses abound from myths and legends to modern cartoons and comic books, from books such as Aesop’s Fables (1484) and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908) to television and film creations such as Jim...

(The entire section is 695 words.)