For fifteen years, from 2002 through 2016, I was the book critic and lead technology writer at Time magazine. I wrote 21 cover stories while I was there, including features on the Singularity, Jonathan Franzen, drone technology, the renaissance of fusion power, Star Wars, the development of the Xbox, several on Apple, and “Person of the Year” stories on Mark Zuckerberg and, notoriously, You. All of my work there is archived at Time.com.
I’ve also written for the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, The Believer, Salon, Slate, NPR, Buzzfeed, The Week and many other places. Below are a few samples:
“Tour de Force,” Vanity Fair, Summer 2019
A cover story about Star Wars, with photos by Annie Liebovitz.
“How Not to Write Your First Novel,” Buzzfeed, August 2014
A cautionary about how I went to a small town in Maine and didn’t write my first novel.
“The Death of a Civil Servant,” The Believer, May 2010
When he was a young man Leonard Woolf spent seven years as a colonial administrator in Ceylon. While he was there he roomed with an early fantasy nerd, and their complicated relationship says a lot about the complicated interconnections between Modernism and fantasy.
“Good Books Don’t Have to be Hard,” the Wall Street Journal, August 2009
An essay in the Wall Street Journal about the legacy of Modernism and the revival of plot. I’ve been called an idiot on the Internet a lot in my day, but rarely as often as for this piece. And yet I still believe I’m right! A concise version of the same argument, with reactions to a few rebuttals, is here.
“The Gay Nabokov,” Salon, May 2000
Vladimir Nabokov almost never mentioned his brother Sergei, who was gay and had a strange, colorful and tragic life. After Sergei died in a Nazi concentration camp he haunted his famous brother, and his novels.
“When Words Fail,” Lingua Franca, April 1999
Deep in the bowels of Yale’s Beinecke Library sits the Voynich manuscript, the world’s most mysterious book. Written entirely in code and filled with botanical, astrological and pornographic illustrations, it has consumed lives and ruined reputations, but nobody has deciphered it yet.