Annalee Newitz writes about science, pop culture, and the future. She’s the editor in chief of io9, a publication that covers science and science fiction, and has over 5 million readers every month. She’s the author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction. She’s also published in Wired, The Smithsonian Magazine, The Washington Post, 2600, New Scientist, Technology Review, Popular Science, Discover, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. She’s co-editor of the essay collection She’s Such A Geek (Seal Press), and author of Pretend We’re Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture (Duke University Press). Formerly, she was a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a lecturer in American Studies at UC Berkeley. She was the recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT, and has a Ph.D. in English and American Studies from UC Berkeley. For more: http://www.techsploitation.com
How did you get involved with SF blog io9? How has running the blog changed your relationship to the SF field?
I was working at Wired in 2007, when I was approached by the managing editor at Gawker Media about starting a science fiction site for the network. I spent a lot of time going back and forth with Gawker president Nick Denton about what the site would be like, and we agreed it should fundamentally be about how we are living in a science fictional age, and that it’s time to rekindle people’s optimism about the future. I pushed hard for the site to be half science and half science fiction coverage – I like to think of science fiction as the cultural wing of a larger scientific project. I’m really happy with how it turned out. One nice way that io9 has changed my relationship to SF is that it has allowed me to interview a lot of my favorite writers and scientists. But really, the main thing is that I always wished I could read a site like io9, and now I can, thanks to our incredible team of writers.
Tell us about your book Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction.
It’s a science non-fiction book about how life on Earth has come close to being destroyed five times already in the planet’s 4.5 billion year history, and humanity has almost gone extinct a number of times too. Given all that we know about this rather grim history of mass destruction, we can tease out some survival strategies. I explore all the ways we might survive the next mass extinction – from moving underground, to building future cities out of living biological materials, and going into space. So it’s a hopeful book about the apocalypse.
You’re best known for your non-fiction writing, but you occasionally write short fiction, too. What do you get out of writing fiction that you don’t from non-fiction?
In fiction, you don’t have to worry that people will lose their jobs or friends if you tell the truth about their lives.
You co-edited anthology She’s Such a Geek (2006) with Charlie Jane Anders, and helped run other magazine for years. Any plans to do more anthology or magazine editing in the future?
I’m already editing io9, which is probably my favorite magazine editing job I’ve ever had. But the fact is that I love doing collaborative projects, so I’m certain there are more anthologies and magazines in my future.