Contributing Editor Gregory Benford's conversation with Stephen Hawking ("Leaping the Abyss," page 24) explores the frontiers of the known universe, where science meets with science fiction. Benford's own career resides there too. He met Hawking in the 1970s while studying astrophysics at Cambridge. Now a professor at the University of California at Irvine, Benford is developing a design for an ultra-light, microwave-controlled spacecraft that could make the trip to distant Pluto in a swift five years. His second career as a science fiction author (Cosm, Timescape) is in hyperdrive: His most recent novel, Eater (Eos), is in development as a Fox TV mini-series.
"Five years with a daughter in public school made me a Republican," says Catherine Seipp, who takes schools to task for separating students from their asthma inhalers ("Asthma Attack," page 42). Seipp's political transformation was hardly inevitable. Although she grew up in conservative Orange County, she got out "as quickly as possible," heading north at 16 to attend the University of California in Los Angeles. Now comfortably situated in L.A.'s way-cool Silver Lake neighborhood, Seipp has written media criticism, news, and commentary for the likes of TV Guide, Child, Mediaweek, Penthouse, and Reason Online. She also pens a regular column about TV for United Press International.
Like Stephen Hawking, English professor Tom Peyser, a frequent reason contributor, is no stranger to alternate universes: "That's where most academics tend to live," he says. That explains why he finds so little of the real world in Empire, the neo-Marxist tome that was the toast of the intelligentsia last year ("Empire Burlesque," page 50). Peyser teaches at Virginia's Randolph-Macon College and is the author of Utopia and Cosmopolis: Globalization in the Era of American Literary Realism (Duke University Press). His new novel, W.W. (Xlibris), is a spirited send-up of self-absorbed academics -- himself included.