Joel Gordon Hodgson is an American writer, comedian and television actor. He is best known for creating Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) and starring in it as the character Joel Robinson. In 2007 MST3K was listed as “one of the top 100 television shows of all time” by Time.com. Hodgson is currently “movie riffing” with fellow cast members of MST3K under the name Cinematic Titanic, performing live and producing content for DVDs and direct download. Building on his gift for designing toys and other gizmos, Hodgson built three robot puppets and created MST3K in 1988. He starred as the show’s long-suffering but inventive protagonist, Joel Robinson, who in the backstory is responsible for creating his own robot companions. Hodgson has claimed that the 1972 film Silent Running influenced the premise of the show.
Jonathan Allen Lethem is an American novelist, essayist and short story writer. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a genre work that mixed elements of science fiction and detective fiction, was published in 1994. It was followed by three more science fiction novels. In 1999, Lethem published Motherless Brooklyn, a National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel that achieved mainstream success. In 2003, he published The Fortress of Solitude, which became a New York Times Best Seller. In 2005, he received a MacArthur Fellowship. Lethem was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Judith Lethem, a political activist, and Richard Brown Lethem, an avant-garde painter. He was the eldest of three children. He is half-Jewish. His brother Blake became an artist, and his sister Mara became a photographer and writer. The family lived in a commune in the pre-gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood of North Gowanus (now called Boerum Hill). Despite the racial tensions and conflicts, he later described his bohemian childhood as “thrilling” and culturally wide-reaching. He gained an encyclopedic knowledge of the music of Bob Dylan, saw Star Wars twenty-one times during its original theatrical release, and read the complete works of the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. Lethem later said Dick’s work was “as formative an influence as marijuana or punk rock—as equally responsible for beautifully f*cking up my life, for bending it irreversibly along a course I still travel.”
Levardis Robert Martyn Burton, Jr., professionally known as LeVar Burton, is an American actor, director, producer and, author. Burton first came to prominence portraying Kunta Kinte in the 1977 award-winning ABC television miniseries Roots, based on the novel by Alex Haley. He is also well known for his role as Lt. Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as the host of the PBS children’s program Reading Rainbow. In 1986, Gene Roddenberry approached him with the role of the then Lieutenant Junior Grade Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series. La Forge is blind, but is granted “sight” through the use of a prosthetic device called a VISOR, which is worn over his eyes. La Forge is the USS Enterprise’s helmsman, and as of the show’s second season, its Chief Engineer. At the time, Burton was considerably better known than Patrick Stewart in the United States, due to the fame he gained from starring in Roots. The Associated Press stated that Burton’s role was essentially the “new Spock.”
Jules Gabriel Verne was a French author who pioneered the science fiction genre. He is best known for his novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before air travel and practical submarines were invented, and before practical means of space travel had been devised. He is the second most translated author in the world (after Agatha Christie). Some of his books have also been made into live-action and animated films and television shows. Verne is often referred to as the “Father of Science Fiction”, a title sometimes shared with Hugo Gernsback and H. G. Wells.
William Seward Burroughs II (also known by his pen name William Lee) was an American novelist, poet, essayist and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be “one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century.” His influence is considered to have affected a range of popular culture as well as literature. Burroughs wrote 18 novels and novellas, six collections of short stories and four collections of essays. Five books have been published of his interviews and correspondences. He also collaborated on projects and recordings with numerous performers and musicians, and made many appearances in films.
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. Born and educated in Russia, Rand moved to the United States in 1926. She worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood and had a play produced on Broadway in 1935–1936. After two initially unsuccessful early novels, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel The Fountainhead. In 1957, she published her best-known work, the philosophical novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward she turned to nonfiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own magazines and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982. Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith and religion. She supported rational egoism and rejected ethical altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism and statism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she believed was the only social system that protected individual rights. She promoted romantic realism in art. She was sharply critical of most other philosophers and philosophical traditions. The reception for Rand’s fiction from literary critics has historically been mixed and polarizing, with extreme opinions both for and against her work commonly being expressed. Nonetheless, she continues to have a popular following, as well as a growing influence among scholars and academics. Rand’s political ideas have been influential among libertarians and conservatives. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings.
Gregory Benford is an American science fiction author and astrophysicist who is on the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine. He is also a contributing editor of Reason magazine. As a science fiction author, Benford is perhaps best known for the Galactic Center Saga novels, beginning with In the Ocean of Night (1977). This series postulates a galaxy in which sentient organic life is in constant warfare with sentient mechanical life. Benford tends to write hard science fiction which incorporates the research he is doing as a practical scientist. He has worked on several collaborations with authors including William Rotsler, David Brin and Gordon Eklund. His time-travel novel Timescape (1980) won both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. A scientific procedural, the novel eventually loaned its title to a line of science fiction published by Pocket Books. In the late 1990s, he wrote Foundation’s Fear, one of an authorized sequel trilogy to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. Other novels published in that period include several near-future science thrillers: Cosm (1998), The Martian Race (1999) and Eater (2000).