H.G. Wells’ Advice on Science Writing

H.G. Wells is remembered today for his science fiction, but he had a solid foundation — and an enduring interest — in science fact. As a university student in London in the 1880s, he was deeply influenced by a course with Thomas Henry Huxley, a biologist so fiercely committed to evolutionary theory that he was known […]

Shakespeare Was a Journalist

This past Saturday, the world celebrated the birthday of a guy named William Shakespeare. He was born in Stratford-on-Avon in England on April 23, 1564, and died on or about the same date in 1616. Pretty much every reputable Shakespeare scholar and literary historian argues—based on historical evidence—that this William Shakespeare was the author, alone […]

Redux: The Xenotopian Impulse

Until last week, I’d never heard of the Broomway. Now I long to walk it. The Broomway is a paradox: a path through the ocean, a six-century-old walkway that disappears each day. It begins on the southeastern coast of England and heads straight out to sea, crossing about three miles of sand and mudflats until […]

The Puffin’s Progress

Stephen Kress has studied Atlantic puffins for more than forty years, so you might think that he knows everything there is to know about them. He’d be the first to admit that he doesn’t. Until very recently, in fact, neither he nor anyone else even knew where the little rascals were most of the time. Puffins used to be […]

Simplify, Simplify

I’ve owned only one copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and I’ve owned it since high school. It’s a 1980 Signet Classic paperback, original price $1.75. Inside the creased front cover, in ballpoint pen, a long-ago student has scrawled, “I want to go to sleep. I’ll never last 1 hr + 20 min reading!” I wasn’t that student—I […]

Antevernals in the Anthropocene

Over the past twenty years, naturalist David Lukas has hiked thousands of miles of trails in the Sierra Nevada, most of them accompanied by a slim, sturdy little book called Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms. Lukas likes nature and he likes words, and he especially likes to know the history and meaning of our words about […]

Let Us Celebrate The Lack Of Total Failure

This past Friday evening, when I heard that the 195 nations represented at the COP21 climate meeting in Paris had reached a draft agreement, I was pleasantly surprised. On Saturday morning, when I saw the stronger-than-forecast draft text, I was shocked. And on Saturday afternoon, when the final agreement was signed—signed!—I was thrilled. The Paris agreement won’t singlehandedly head off the worst […]

Redux: Freelancing Still Sucks. Still, Long Live Freelancing.

This post was a response to a column called “Freelancing Sucks,” which was published just about a year ago. Well, freelancing still sucks—and we still need freelancers. Last month, Fast Company senior editor Reyhan Harmanci published a column called “Freelancing Sucks.” She wrote: Everyone knows this: the freelancers, who are forced to beg for months-late checks; the editors, […]