CALIFORNIA Magazine Recognized in Best American Science and Nature Writing

Third Recognition in Ten Years by Prestigious Annual Anthology

The Cal Alumni Association is proud to announce that, for the third time in ten years, CALIFORNIA Magazine has been anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, the prestigious annual collection published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 

CALIFORNIA is the editorially independent print magazine of the Cal Alumni Association and mails quarterly to more than 90,000 dues-paying members. The publication originated in 1897 as the University of California Magazine and operated for many decades as the California Monthly. Since 2006, the magazine has been called simply CALIFORNIA.

image “It’s a great honor,” says CALIFORNIA Editor in Chief Pat Joseph of inclusion in the Best American series, “one that puts us in company with magazines like The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Wired. It’s a credit to our writers, of course, but also to the great subject matter we get to cover here at one of the world’s premier universities.” 

The story selected for inclusion in this year’s (2018) collection is “The Starship or the Canoe” by Kenneth Brower. The genesis of the article was the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a star in the constellation Aquarius.

As Brower explained in the story, “When my editor at CALIFORNIA proposed that, in light of this jackpot, I revisit an old book of mine, The Starship and the Canoe, I agreed on the spot. Would I like to apply the dialectic of my book, written 40 years ago, to the seven new exoplanets? Yes, I would. Three of seven are in the ‘Goldilocks Zone,’ not too hot for life, not too cold, just right. An ideal temperature for asking again a question posed by my book: To what should we be adapting? To this blue-green sphere down here, with its single sun, good for only 5 billion more years, or to the glittery firmament above?”

Brower’s essay appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of CALIFORNIA, themed Adaptation.

“To what should we be adapting? To this blue-green sphere down here, with its single sun, good for only 5 billion more years, or to the glittery firmament above?”

In his introduction to the 2018 volume, Best American guest editor Sam Kean pointed to Brower’s story as an example of writing that captures science’s intensely human quality. “There’s conflict and character and drama…, a real sense of craft and storytelling.” 

Other CALIFORNIA articles that have been anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature series over the years include Brendan Buhler’s “The Teeming Metropolis of You” (2012) and Keay Davidson’s “Blown Apart” (2009). Additionally, Richard Rodriguez’s “Disappointment” was included in The Best American Essays 2007. 

image “As an editor,” Joseph says, “inclusion in Best American feels like a recognition that we are doing journalism of the highest order and that CALIFORNIA is a writers’ magazine, a place where wordsmiths can do their best work.” Going forward, his ambition is to see stories selected for inclusion in other volumes in the Best American franchise, such as Best American Sports Writing, Best American Travel Writing, or even Best American Comics.

“We ran our first-ever comic article last summer,” explains Joseph. “Called ‘The Strange but True Story of the Einsteins of Berkeley,’ it was assigned by Design Director Michiko Toki and drawn by Marvel artist and graphic novelist Michael Cho, and brought a kind of ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ sensibility to what really was an incredible tale. It was an experiment and a successful one. We hope to do more like it in the future.” 


Aspiring contributors to CALIFORNIA should consult the magazine’s writers’ guidelines at California Online

Comments

Congratulations to CALIFORNIA Magazine and to brilliantly talented Ken Brower, whom I was privileged to meet in the Palau Islands in the 1970s. Harvey Helfand ’66, Albany, CA

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