Guest blogger: Steven Johnson!

Sbj2009Beach-1 I'm happy to welcome our new guest blogger, Steven Berlin Johnson! I've long been an admirer of Steven's extraordinary writing. He's the author of six books, most of which will be familiar to Boing Boing readers, including the recent bestsellers Everything Bad Is Good For You and The Ghost Map.

His new book is The Invention Of Air: A Story Of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth of America. Cory described it as "a wide-ranging, learned, engrossing biography of the polymath pioneering scientist, Joseph Priestley. Priestley, a contemporary of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, was a kind of radical scientist/politician/theologian, an all-but-unimaginable combination in today's world of politicised science and deep fractures between faith and empiricism." (For other in depth reaction to the books' political implications and Steven's work in general, see these reviews from Daily Kos and Salon.)

Steven's also the founder of three influential web sites: the late lamented online magazine FEED, the community site, and most recently the hyperlocal service He'll be blogging at Boingboing from his book tour over the next two weeks; if you want to see him in person he's posted a schedule of events on his blog.

Please give Steven a warm welcome!


  1. I’m diggin the plastic. Was the name inspired by the idea of brain plasticity? I think I must have heard of the blog before but thought it was a “shiny happy plastic crap” store. What a lovely surprise! And welcome.

  2. Didn’t I just hear this guy on Science Friday? NPR? Very cool addition to this crew. I look forward to reading his posts.

  3. I picked The Ghost Map up while bored out of my mind on a layover at Salt Lake. Who knew horrible deaths could be so fascinating? It reads almost like a historical crime drama, sans the homicidally intentioned human element. Descriptions of London pre-modern sewage system are horribly humorous. Then you imagine actually living there and thank your luck that you didn’t. High volume death, superstition, budding science, and a figure dedicated to reasoning out the answers, all make for a good read at our distance of 150+ years. Though, as Steven points out, many places in the world lack modern sewage and teeter on the brink, or are already in the midst, of this same terrible and preventable outbreak. Pick it up if you get a chance.

    Welcome Steven! Looking forward to your posts.

  4. Awesome. Heard nothing but praise so far for the Joseph Priestly biography, Steve.

    Plus this Plastic article alone was enough to inspire me to register.

    Thanks to boingboing for once again connecting the cool! Bring it on Steve!

  5. Welcome Steven!

    And someone should post something on BB Offworld about your presence here. I’m sure Offworld readers appreciate any accomplished writer who realizes that “Videogames are challenging, they exercise and help develop important cognitive skills, and don’t make people [any more] violent” is about as true as “Switching your morning beverage from an alcoholic one to a caffeinated one will make you more productive”. (I’m paraphrasing, by the way, just using quotes for the sake of clarity).

    I hope you enjoyed your stay in Seattle, by the way. Thanks for coming!

  6. just finished listening to your interview on npr science friday (via podcast) – great stuff, looking forward to your posts this week.

  7. Howdy Steve! We recently had “The Ghost Map” and then, because hubby really enjoyed that, “The Invention of Air” playing in the house :D
    VERY ENJOYABLE! Thank you!

  8. Steve had a very cool interview on KQED this morning. I didn’t get to hear it all cause I was running around for work. But what I did hear was great. This is history the way you should learn it. For those of you in the SF Bay area Steve will be flogging his book at a couple of bookstore events in S.F. on Thursday I think and a couple more on Friday. Steve is a good story teller, enlightening as well as entertaining. Since I don’t remember the exact when and where of his appearances maybe Steve could post the when and where of his bookstore events. (I think the good folks at Boing Boing would let ya get away with a little self promotion.) Looking forward to your posts (no pressure now :)

  9. Looking forward to your posts here on BB. I’ve enjoyed your books for years.

    Your “good news reported!” story above was a nice read to cap of a long day.

  10. Heya Steven.

    Amongst all the ridiculously interesting people who have been guest-blogging, I’m most excited to see you here.

    I’m afraid reading your books has lead to a dirty habit where I ambush family / friends / strangers on dive boats (an ant expert who worked with the professor quoted in Emergence) with cool info, including all the gory details of cholera.

    Unfortunately, The Ghost Map has become particularly relevant in South Africa right now with the outbreaks of cholera in the devastation that is Zimbabwe that are spreading into South Africa.

    What frustrates me is that our government and, more unforgivably, our media aren’t providing basic information on how to survive long enough to get medical care by staying hydrated, just like on Broad Street, only at least then they had the excuse that they didn’t understand germs.

    On the positive side, I loved the news snippet I picked up about six months ago that scientists were looking into using deactivated cholera bonded with cocaine molecules to provoke an immunicological response to block the effects of the drug as a potential medical cure for addiction (forgive my unscientific layperson’s recap from memory).

    Anyway – welcome! Looking forward to your posts.

    – Lauren

Comments are closed.