Annalee Newitz: Scatter, Adapt and Remember


Annalee Newitz
Doubleday, Hardcover, May 14, 2013, $26.95;
Trade Paperback, April 8, 2014, $16.00
ISBN-10: 0385535910, ISBN-13: 978-0385535915

Newitz reports:

Annalee Newitz

This is a book about how humanity might survive the worst disaster that could ever befall our planet. Mass extinctions have happened at least five times before in Earth's history, and they are generally associated with climate change — which is why many scientists believe we may be in the early stages of one right now.

What we know for sure is that mass extinctions are basically inevitable, regardless of whether we cause one or it comes in the form of a flaming ball of rock from space. Is there anything we do now to make sure that Homo sapiens is one of the species that survives? I talked to scientists, futurists, engineers, philosophers, and city planners about what it would take for us make it through this terrifying disaster.

I developed the idea because I've always been fascinated by disaster movies, and I wanted to write about a realistic scenario in which disaster isn't just inevitable but plausible. About halfway through researching the book, I realized that humans actually have a chance of surviving this kind of catastrophe. And that was when I decided that I wanted to focus on survival.

I wish I'd come up with a better strategy for storing my research notes before I started. At first, I wasn't tracking all the sources I was reading, and it was a nightmare when I went to do my endnotes.

Luckily, I did come up with a system about a quarter of the way through the project: For each chapter, I kept a running file of all the sources I consulted and everyone I interviewed. Then, when I was finished, it was relatively easy to convert that file into endnotes.

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April 9, 2014

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

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