Back in the 20th century, I was an academic.


I got my Ph.D. in English and American Studies from UC Berkeley in 1998, and worked at Berkeley for a couple of years as a lecturer.

During my academic days, I published a number of scholarly articles and co-founded a semi-academic online zine called Bad Subjects.

In 2002-2003, I was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.

I still love visiting university campuses, working with students, and giving lectures, and do it as often as I can. 

I have given invited lectures at MIT, Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, Trinity University (Texas), Olin College of Engineering, Lund University in Sweden, the Santa Fe Institute, and many others.

MIT Comm Forum

I still visit college campuses. I had a blast participating in this long-running MIT discussion series, talking about ancient civilization and the far future with Charles C. Mann and Tom Levenson.

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Pretend we're dead

My Ph.D. thesis was about representations of monsters and psychopaths in 20th century American pop culture. I focused on a few character tropes, including the mad scientist, the zombie, and the cyborg, and traced how stories about them changed over a hundred-year arc. In 2006, Duke University Press published a much-improved version of my dissertation in the form of a book.


white trash

Look--it's my first book! In 1997, I co-edited this anthology of academic essays and memoirs with Matt Wray. It's about the intersection of race and class among poor whites in the United States. It got a lot of mainstream media attention for a scholarly work, eventually culminating in a New York Times Magazine story about our research.