over chaos, intuition over science. Often, this is couched in terms of feminine wisdom over the type of greedy knowledge pursued by rapacious Western (read “male”) society. One unfortunate upshot has been a tendency to associate feminism with opposition to technology.

This novel depicts a society that is conservative by design, not because of something intrinsic to a world led by women. (Many fine tales have been woven of high-tech matriarchal cultures.) On Stratos, the founders’ objective was a pastoral solution to the problem of human nature—a solution that has many intelligent and forceful adherents today.

They have a point. Anyone who loves nature, as I do, cries out at the havoc being spread by humans, all over the globe. The pressures of city life can be appalling, as are the moral ambiguities that plague us, both at home and via yammering media. The temptation to seek uncomplicated certainty sends some rushing off to ashrams and crystal therapy, while many dive into the shelter of fundamentalism, and other folk yearn for better, “simpler” times. Certain popular writers urgently prescribe returning to ancient, nobler ways.

Ancient, nobler ways. It is a lovely image… and pretty much a lie. John Perlin, in his book A Forest Journey, tells how each prior culture, from tribal to pastoral to urban, wreaked calamities upon its own people and environment. I have been to Easter Island and seen the desert its native peoples wrought there. The greater harm we do today is due to our vast power and numbers, not something intrinsically vile about modern humankind.

Technology produces more food and comfort and lets fewer babies die. “Returning to older ways” would restore some balance all right, but entail a holocaust of untold proportion, followed by resumption of a kind of grinding misery never experienced by those who now wistfully toss off medieval fantasies and neolithic romances. A way of life that was nasty, brutish, and nearly always catastrophic for women.

That is not to say the pastoral image doesn’t offer hope. By extolling nature and a lifestyle closer to the Earth, some writers may be helping to create the very sort of wisdom they imagine to have existed in the past. Someday, truly idyllic pastoral cultures may be deliberately designed with the goal of providing placid and just happiness for all, while retaining enough technology to keep existence decent.

But to get there the path lies forward, not by diving into a dark, dank, miserable past. There is but one path to the gracious, ecologically sound, serene pastoralism sought by so many. That route passes, ironically, through successful consummation of this, our first and last chance, our scientific age.

* * *

Comments and criticism by many individuals helped elimnate even worse blunders than the purchaser finds in this published version. Among my insightful helpers: Bettyann :vles, Carol Shetler, Jean Lee, Steven Mendel, Brian Kjerulf, Trevor Placker, Dave Clements, Amanda Baker, Brian Stableford, Eric Nilsson, Dr. Peter Markiewicz, Dr. Christine Carmichael, Jonathan Post, Deanna Brigham, Joy Crisp, and Diane Clark were helpful during this phase.

Thanks also go out to members of Caltech Spectre, who surveyed an uncompleted draft and mailed many comments while my wife and I lived in France. Participating members included Marti DeMore, Kay Van Lepp, Ann Farny, Teresa Moore, Dustin Laurence, Eric C. Johnson, Gorm Nykreim, Erik de Schutter, M.D., Steve Bard, Greg Cardell, Steinn Sigurdsson, Alex Rosser, Gil Rivlis, Michael Coward, Michael Smith, David Coufal, Dustin Laurence, David Palmer, Andrew Volk, Mark Adler, Gregory Harry, D. J. Byrne, Gail Rohrbach, Carl Dersheim, and Vena Pontiac.

For technical advice on biology, as well as general criticism, I am grateful to Karen Anderson; Jack Cohen, D.Sc.; Professor William H. Calvin; Janice Willard, D.V.M.; Mickey Zucker, M.D.; and professors Jim Moore, Carole Sussman, and Gregory Benford.

Deserving special thanks, as always, are Ralph Vicinanza and Lou Aronica, as well as Jennifer Hershey, Betsy Mitchell, and Amy Stout, for their patience, Gavin Claypool for invaluable assistance, and, especially, Dr. Cheryl A. Brigham, without whom none of the good parts would have been possible. Blame me for the bad stuff.


David Brin is the author of ten novels—Sundiver, Startide Rising, The Practice Effect, The Postman, Heart of the Comet (with Gregory Benford), The Uplift War, Earth, Glory Season, Otherness and Brightness Reef—as well as a short-story collection, The River of Time. He has a doctorate in astrophysics and has been a NASA consultant and a physics professor. He lives in southern California, where he is at work on his next novel, Infinity’s Shore, the sequel to Brightness Reef.

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