My book How to Mars was inspired by the crazy (and quite possibly fraudulent) Mars One project, which promised to send a couple dozen people on a one-way trip to Mars. This raised two questions for me: Who would sign up for something like that? And what would it really be like if they went? Well, Mars One seems to have gone silent, but at least I finished the book!

How To Mars

How To Mars

I was born and raised in the great city of Philadelphia, home of America's first library, first art museum, first hospital, first public school, and first zoo. On top of that, the first computer in the world—ENIAC—was created at our own University of Pennsylvania! Some even claim that ice cream was invented in Philly, but I think that may be pushing it.

I’m married to a rabbi. This fact doesn’t get me discounts on challah or circumcisions or anything, but my wife did once give me a t-shirt that says “real men marri rabbis,” so that’s something.

I have a degree in social psychology and another in fiction-writing. These fields both offer good and contrasting ways to learn about the world: social psychology studies how people behave on average and fiction looks closely at one individual to teach us something about all of us. As a person who loves to make big things from small things, writing fits me best.

I’ve taken one Astronomy course in my entire life—back in high school—and I don’t remember even one thing I learned. The teacher had a killer moustache, though.

I write poetry, too. In my experience, some ideas want to be fiction and others want to be poems. So, if I only wrote in one of those forms, a lot of my ideas would fade away unfulfilled. Can’t have that.

I teach at Georgetown University, and I also work in their center for teaching and learning: The Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS). We try to help faculty teach as effectively and inclusively as possible.


Back to Philly: I once ended up in the newspaper and on the evening news for scattering printed-out poems (mine and others’) all over the city, under the alias Philly Poetry Provider. As the Philly Poetry Provider, I of course gave the inaugural (and fictional) PPP award to a writer named David Ebenbach.

Another time I ended up in the news was when I sent new fiction and poems to President George W. Bush each month in response to his policies. I doubt he read a word of it, but I like to think that the FBI has a collection of my work in a drawer somewhere.

When I found out How to Mars was getting published, to celebrate I bought myself a personalized football jersey from the high school in Mars, Pennsylvania. Their athletes call themselves the Fightin’ Planets.