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.”
John Wilden Hughes, Jr. was an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He directed or scripted some of the most successful films of the 1980s and 1990s, including National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Weird Science, The Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Uncle Buck, Home Alone, and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. He is known as the king of teen movies as well as helping launch the careers of actors including Michael Keaton, Bill Paxton, Matthew Broderick, Macaulay Culkin, John Candy, Molly Ringwald, and the up-and-coming actors collectively nicknamed the Brat Pack. After dropping out of the Arizona State University, Hughes began selling jokes to well-established performers such as Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. Hughes used his jokes to get an entry-level job at Needham, Harper & Steers as an advertising copywriter in Chicago in 1970 and later in 1974 at Leo Burnett Worldwide. During this time, he created what became the famous Edge “Credit Card Shaving Test” ad campaign.
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.”
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).
Monte Cook is a professional table-top role-playing game designer and writer. Cook has been a professional game designer since 1988, working primarily on role-playing games. Much of his early work was for Iron Crown Enterprises as an editor and writer for the Rolemaster and Champions lines. Cook worked for Iron Crown Enterprises for four years; two as a freelancer and two as a full-time designer. During this period, he attracted fan and critical attention with the popular multi-genre setting Dark Space. Cook began working for TSR in 1992 as a freelancer, “writing a whole slew of stuff for the old Marvel game that never came out because the game got canceled”. Joining the TSR team, Cook designed Dungeons & Dragons modules such as Labyrinth of Madness (1995) and A Paladin in Hell (1998), and dozens of supplements to the Planescape line including The Planewalker’s Handbook (1996) and Dead Gods (1998). Cook also designed the conspiracy game Dark•Matter (1999).
Maurice Alberto “Mo” Rocca is an American writer, journalist, comedian and political satirist. Rocca, of Colombian (mother) and Italian (father) descent, attended Georgetown Preparatory School, the Jesuit boys school in North Bethesda, Maryland, and later went on to graduate from Harvard University in 1991 with a B.A. in literature. He served as president of Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals, performing in four of the company’s notorious burlesques and even co-authoring one (Suede Expectations). He is openly gay. Rocca was a regular contributor to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart from 1998 to 2003. His work included campaign coverage for Indecision 2000 and a regular feature entitled “That’s Quite Interesting.” Rocca’s satirical novel All the Presidents’ Pets: The Story of One Reporter who Refused to Roll Over, described as a blend of All the President’s Men, The DaVinci Code and Charlotte’s Web, was published by Crown Books in 2004.