Illustration from the cover of Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower

How Octavia E. Butler Became a Legend

The early inspiration and experiences that shaped the visionary science fiction storyteller.
New York city from Hoboken, New Jersey, c. 1800

The Early American Radical Fiction of John Lithgow

In the early 1800s, the Scottish immigrant wrote an anonymous tract imagining equality. He was worried about the brand-new American republic.
A photograph of Terry Southern and a still from Dr. Strangelove

Terry Southern’s Lucid Absurdities

From his novels Candy and The Magic Christian to his work on Dr. Strangelove and Barbarella, Terry Southern sought to expose madness.
From From canal boy to president by Horatio Alger, 1881

The Creepy Backstory to Horatio Alger’s Bootstrap Capitalism

In a famous essay, a scholar uncovered difficult truths about Alger, whose name has been associated with the "rags to riches" myth.
An illustration of four people standing and wearing masks

Choosing Love over Eugenics

Some writers see contagion as a metaphor for community—proof that we exist within an interdependent network and not as autonomous disconnected islands.
The title page of Life and confession of Ann Walters, the female murderess

How “Female Fiends” Challenged Victorian Ideals

At a time when questions about women's rights in marriage roiled society, women readers took to the pages of cheap books about husband-murdering wives.
Isaac Asimov. Photo by Jay Kay Klein, courtesy Regents of the University of California

Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall

The science fiction author Isaac Asimov engaged in forms of unwanted touching with countless women. It set the tone for the entire genre.
Mark Twain and James Fenimore Cooper

Mark Twain v. James Fenimore Cooper

A trial in the court of public opinion.
Walter Benn Michaels

Walter Benn Michaels: What’s His Deal?

The literary critic Walter Benn Michaels challenges the prevailing trends of postmodernist theory.