Shelves: ggn-nominations I never thought I would have laughed so hard at a book about evolution, but this story is told in such a humorous way and some of the illustrations are so silly that I found it hard to keep a straight face. The information itself is also fascinating. I kept setting the book aside to look up images of the Great Moa Bird or to watch a clip of David Attenbourg with I never thought I would have laughed so hard at a book about evolution, but this story is told in such a humorous way and some of the illustrations are so silly that I found it hard to keep a straight face. I will admit that my eyes glazed over during the first couple of chapters that deal with the pre-cambrian period, but I think this would be a useful tool for biology teachers and students.
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He holds a Ph. He also created the graphic novels "The Sandwalk Adventures" and "Optical Allusions," the latter funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation. Technically a sequel to "Stuff of Life," a book written by Mark Schultz and drawn by Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon in , "Evolution" picks up where the other book left off, continuing the story of how life on Earth evolved.
CBR News: How did you get involved in this project? He was talking about "Stuff of Life" and they asked me to read a copy for a quote on the back. When Zander initially mentioned it to me, my first reaction was, "Nah. For me, the story component is big. But I was contacted a little later, this is , by Howard [Zimmerman]. I have two pieces of comic book artwork hanging on my wall. One is a page from "The Replacement Gods" by Zander.
It was an opportunity I could absolutely not pass up. The opportunity to write a book that would get lots of press with two of my favorite artists on a topic that I love. The book is structured in the form of lecture. Did this make it easier for you as a teacher?
I decided when I started outlining the book that I was going to outline the way I taught the topic. I think that this is something that most faculty do naturally.
We create a narrative in order to engage our students. In this particular case, evolution is a story. It lends itself to that as long as numerous different plot lines are running and you want to be careful not to create "heroes" that imply that the vertebrate human is the ultimate "winner" of some sort of contest, but you can still tell stories about making transitions from one environment to the next.
You can lightly layer a narrative onto this story and I think that that becomes, for me, essential in engaging students. It feels odd to speak of it as sequel, even though it technically is. As far as what Mark Schultz and the Cannons did in "Stuff of Life," what carried over in terms of approach and structure in this book?
The big things were the premise. You have Bloort and the king. Obviously "Stuff of Life" was this terrific book on genetics, which is really the other half of evolution.
When we teach the evolution course here, I team teach it with a colleague named Randy Bennett. He does the population genetics component of it. Otherwise you worked with the same basic layout and approach? When you talk about evolution, one of the things that I think makes it really engaging are the weird life forms that exist now and existed in the past.
Finding a way to put the characters in that milieu without doing time travel. I have trouble writing a time travel story given how silly time travel is, especially since this is a science book. Bloort is giving the king and the prince the grand tour of this holographic museum so that they could be plopped right in the middle of the Cretaceous surrounded by dinosaurs.
They could be under the ocean and looking at an ice fish. The whole holographic museum was my attempt at doing that.
How was the writing process different for you? The way I write typically is to write a script with descriptions and dialogue and not a lot of visual explanations, so the first thing I had to start doing was really thinking about visually what I wanted to see. In some places I was very specific and in other places I was not. My goal in not being specific, sometimes, was because Kevin and Zander have these really astonishing imaginations. Plus they had done "Stuff of Life" and they have a great deal of experience in these explanatory educational comics so I wanted to give them the opportunity to really infuse the book with their selves and their own style.
Two months ago I thought I was done with the script for this Photosynthesis story. Every single page I rewrite a little bit. I reorganize a little bit. I redraw a little bit. They spotted mistakes, omissions, and they had just terrific suggestions.
So ultimately there was this cycling feedback between the writing and the art, it was just done between three people instead of internally with one. Can you imagine doing this project without your background? It would have been daunting. I thought about this a lot. Then of course there are a whole host of historians, physicists, geologists from whom I can scurry across campus and ask questions. When I have a question about a concept in evolution, the first thing I do is attempt to work through all the books on my shelf and what information I can glean from articles about what makes sense.
Here are two theories. How do I look at this? What weight do I ascribe to each one? I can run by these folks - what I see as the strengths and weaknesses - and get a sense of whether or not those trained in the field view it the same way. Howard was an educator in New York. Very well read. Very literate, just like the Cannons, in terms of basic science. Ultimately I was going to put these ideas in my terms and then Howard can come back to me and say, "You know what, you said this, is it really what you meant?
As someone who learned this in school, and forgot a lot of it, I was able to read the book and follow it all even though many of the terms and details were lost or seemed vaguely familiar.
To me, those are exciting discussions. That was part of the fun in working with Howard. Working through ideas and ways we can approach it. If I take Path A and explain it this way, what are the consequences? This is the other thing about writing a book about evolution.
There is this eight hundred pound gorilla in the room which is the creationist debate and the idea that if I say it this way, that could imply X and if I imply X, do I give fuel to people who are evolution-denialists.
This is always lingering in the back of your head. Then of course you have moments where you go into great, very specific details, the structure of our feet for example. However, we can generalize. You should always remember that you should think you can generalize these phenomena.
The phenomena that led to these changes were the result of the interaction between the genome and the environment. So when I see these changes here, I have this nice specific example. Well, I have millions of species. They must be experiencing similar pressures, changes, types of things going on. In terms of picking which ones to focus on, I think it comes down, frankly, to the ones that I think are cool.
In fact, when you argue science with scientists, this is when you get them at their most passionate, at their most human. The examples I picked are those that make butterflies flutter in my stomach and that make this expansive sense of wonder in my chest well up.
My challenge is to write it in such a way that it can excite others in a similar fashion. Where is the evidence and process wrong? Creationism is an attack on the end result, not the process or evidence, and refuses to acknowledge the evidence or process, so everyone ends up talking past each other. On the one hand, essentially the vilification of science, or evolution. It is not going to give me confidence to know that some sort of laying on of hands has been done on this aircraft.
There are, for scientists, a number of different approaches. I want to clearly lay out the facts for those who are interested and open to the idea.
For those who are already accepting the idea, give them a piece of work that gives them new examples and maybe just gives them an opportunity to revisit exciting ideas explained in a different way. The book has been embraced by many outlets and received good reviews. Is it a relief to see it out there and be recognized? This book to me is the true nature of comics, a great collaborative effort. So when I say "I," I really mean "we. Was that you? Was it the Cannons? I get to claim me on that one.
I still have all my dinosaur books. I said, "The Cannons should just go crazy. Dinosaur goodness". That is the direction I gave them for the two page spread and I think they delivered. What else are you working on right now? It was designed for a sensory biology class that I teach.
This is a non-majors class so this is a class that students take to get their natural science requirement. The approach is at the level.
Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth