“I really don’t want to test my introversion and find out where the vein peters out and empties into the magma core of horror.”
Jim Ottaviani, award-winning & best-selling author of graphic novels about scientists (think Hawking, Feynman, Fossey, Turing), provides a COVID check-in from Ann Arbor, MI. We talk about how he’s balancing his day job and comics writing with the compulsion to read the news and graph out infection rates. We also get into whether his science background has helped his perspective on the pandemic, how the university model might change when we’re past this, and what new books he has coming (fingers crossed). You also get a story from me about the limits of risk mitigation plans. Give it a listen! And go check out Jim’s work and his 2016 appearance on the podcast!
“This is teaching us what primates really are.”
About our Guest
Jim Ottaviani is the author of thirteen (and counting) graphic novels about scientists, ranging from physicists to paleontologists to behaviorists. His latest, Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier, illustrated by Maris Wicks, features the first women astronauts. Others include Hawking, illustrated by Leland Myrick, tells the story of the renowned cosmologist and icon. Other books include 2016’s The Imitation Game, a biography of Alan Turing illustrated by Leland Purvis, which came out in 2016 and spent more than a month on the New York Times bestseller list; Primates, about Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas with art by Maris Wicks; and Feynman, with Leland Myrick, a book about the Nobel-prize winning physicist, bongo-playing artist, and raconteur Richard Feynman which debuted as a #1 New York Times bestseller list for graphic novels. His books are probably the only ones to have received praise from both Nature and Vampirella Magazine . . . and everything in between, from Physics World to Entertainment Weekly to Discover to Variety to Time.
Credits: The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Jim by me. It’s on my instagram.
It’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2016’s pod-guests and asked them about the favorite book(s) they read in the past year, as well as the books or authors they’re hoping to read in 2017! More than 30 responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) Just in time for you to make some Hanukkah and/or Christmas purchases, The Virtual Memories Show offers up a huge list of books that you’re going to want to read! Give it a listen, and get ready to update your wish lists!
This year’s Guest List episode features selections from more than 30 of our recent guests (and one bonus guest)! So go give it a listen, and then visit our special Guest List page where you can find links to the books and the guests who responded.
(painting of Scribners bookstore by Bob Eckstein from his new book, Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers)
About our Guests
The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Glen Baxter, Ross Benjamin, Harold Bloom, MK Brown, Nina Bunjevac, Hayley Campbell, David M. Carr, Myke Cole, Liza Donnelly, Bob Eckstein, Glynnis Fawkes, Rachel Hadas, Liz Hand, Glenn Head, Virginia Heffernan, Harry Katz, Ed Koren, David Leopold, Arthur Lubow, Michael Maslin, David Mikics, Ben Model, Christopher Nelson, Jim Ottaviani, Ann Patty, Burton Pike, Frank Sorce, Willard Spiegelman, Leslie Stein, Tom Tomorrow (a.k.a. Dan Perkins), Andrea Tsurumi, Carol Tyler, Jim Woodring, and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. Most of the episode was recorded on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Myke Cole’s segment was recorded at a friend’s apartment in NYC on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC.
“My willingness to pick and choose and throw out stuff that doesn’t work for the story may be part of my engineering background.”
Jim Ottaviani joins the show to talk about his new graphic biography, The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded, drawn by Leland Purvis (Abrams ComicArts). We get into how Jim went from nuclear engineering to writing comics about scientists, the amazing life of Alan Turing, why emotional truth plus factual truth must be greater than 100%, the challenge of conveying hard concepts and theories to lay-readers, the difference between ordinary geniuses and extraordinary geniuses, how his engineering background feeds his storytelling mode, and more! Give it a listen! And buy The Imitation Game (Abrams ComicArts)!
“I work pretty hard to understand things so that I can convey the ‘Eureka!’ moment.”
We also talk about how he learned not to over-write his scripts and trust his artists, his method for keeping up with hard science news, his progression from short stories to 200-page books, the perils of writing about people smarter than himself, his own “Eureka!” moment, and whether Alan Turing was the most tragic figure in science in the 20th century (I stump for Nikolai Vavilov).
About our Guest
Jim Ottaviani has worked in news agencies and golf courses in the Chicago area, nuclear reactors in the U.S. and Japan, and libraries in Michigan. He still works as a librarian by day, but stays up late writing comics about scientists. When he’s not doing these things, he’s spraining his ankles and flattening his feet by running on trails. Or he’s reading. He reads a lot. Elsewhere on the web you can find him at www.gt-labs.com. He’s the writer of a number of comics about science and scientists, including Two-Fisted Science, Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists, the New York Times bestseller Feynman, and the recently published The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded, from Abrams ComicArts.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same setup. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. B/w photo of Jim by me. I can’t find a credit for the top picture, but it ran in Concentrate Ann Arbor.