image: a single skinny eel against a blue background
Today’s eel: Every edition of this newsletter is named after an eel. Today’s is the Hawaiian garden eel (Gorgasia hawaiiensis). I can’t believe we haven’t talked about garden eels in the past in this newsletter, since I have a real soft spot for them. There are about 35 known species of garden eel and their namesake comes from the fact that they bury themselves in the sand and seem to almost grow, like a little eel garden.
If you’re a SCUBA diver, these eels are a real treat to find. All you have to do is float, quietly above them, and they’ll often emerge from the sand. They’re really one of my favorite eels to watch!
Unlike most eels, which swim freely to hunt, garden eels stay put in little holes in the sand, and let the food float to them. They secreting a mucus paste that sticks to the sides of the burrow, so they have a little anchor. (I did a bit of reading about what this paste actually is, and there’s very little in the literature about it. This paper says it’s made of “complex polysaccharides.”) Garden eels are the only eels that burrow in sand like this, and because of that burrowing you might never realize that they can get pretty long! Males of the Hawaiian garden eel species can get up to 25 inches.
image: a “field” of eels, all emerging from the sandy bottom like grass
Current status: Well, this is a little awkward isn’t it. It’s been a while. Like… a long while. I actually had a draft of this newsletter that I was almost done with but never sent. That was in March. It’s now December. Oops.
At this point it feels absolutely bizarre to make any attempt at summing up how weird this year has been. You lived it too! You know! This newsletter is going to be an attempt to sum up my year by listing the things I actually did and am proud of. But I’m going to be honest with you, newsletter readers, I put off writing this for weeks. Frankly this year was hard for me. Again this feels absolutely psychopathic to write out, because who was this year NOT hard for? (Aside from the billionaires, I guess.)
I did a lot this year, and yet it still feels like I did nothing somehow. So this is a list for me to put out there to remind myself that I did actually do things this year. Good things even! Big things!
image: me in Powells, seeing my book in a bookstore for the first time woooo!
A whole book, with a cover and pages and text and comics! A book you can purchase at stores! And get from the library! I’m really, really proud of the book — it was a huge project with so many moving pieces. Each chapter begins with a comic by a different, super talented comic artist. Then there’s an essay by me about that future idea. Mattie Lubchansky and Sophie Goldstein were hugely instrumental helping make the book a reality, and I can’t thank them enough.
The book is fun and weird and if you haven’t checked it out, please consider it? It’s been a weird, hard year to publish anything and I’ll be honest and say that the book hasn’t gotten much attention, which makes me sad because we worked really hard on it and I think it’s genuinely good. If you trust other people more here are some blurbs from smart humans:
Flash Forward has leapt from podcast to page, and it’s a brain-expanding joy to read. Packed with bizarre future scenarios that are often all too plausible, this book is a lesson in how to prepare for tomorrow by opening your mind. Funny, wise, and seriously weird, Flash Forward is a must-have for anyone who hopes to change the future. — Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous and Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age
Flash Forward is an essential work of imagination and journalism, as only Rose Eveleth could have created. Eye-opening and thought-provoking, it’s a powerful reminder, at this crucial moment in time, that the future is still ours to envision, through neither naïve optimism nor cynical nihilism, but instead a respect for history and a commitment to justice. — Ed Yong, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of I Contain Multitudes
I’ve always been a fan of Rose Eveleth’s podcast, but this marriage of ideas, ethics and imagery is next level! Every chapter is it’s own universe, and moving from one to the next is the best kind of visual and intellectual whiplash. Flash Forward is the book we need right now, a lesson in how to imagine and then create a more just future. — Jad Abumrad, Creator & Cohost of Radiolab
Rose Eveleth and her dream team of comics collaborators have produced a kaleidoscope of science fiction that defied my expectations. Forget neat utopias or predictable dystopias; the scenarios in this book are knotty, subtle, surprising, and frequently hilarious. I loved visiting these futures. — Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough
And if you have the book, and like it, it would mean the world to me if you reviewed it on Amazon or Goodreads. Right now there are a bunch of negative/low star reviews (especially on Goodreads) because the digital ARC that was sent out to readers was really low quality, so people couldn’t really see the art. A lot of reviews gave the book a low rating because of that. Yes, this is infuriating but there’s nothing I can do about it aside from ask folks to review the book to try and counteract those negative reviews.
image: a colorful iridescent sticker that says “SEIZE THE MEANS OF FUTURE PRODUCTION
Flash Forward closed out its seventh season, and we did some really fun and weird things — from mind control and crime, to living underground, to finding long lost friends using facial recognition. We did a four part ROBOTS mini-season! Julia hosted two episodes! We also made the decision to close the show up for a while, which I’ll talk about further down in this newsletter.
I EP’d a show for the first time, taking an idea from vague “huh that would make a good podcast” all the way through the pitching, sale, execution and publication. It’s called Say You’re Sorry and it’s an Audible Original. By going deep on nine different apologies — for everything from YouTube drama to sexual harassment to Cold War experiments — the show offers a new way to think about what it means to say you’re sorry. I got to work with an absolutely superstar roster on the show: Julia Furlan, Candance Manriquez Wren, Lisa Pollak, Ariana Martinez, Julia Llinas Goodman and more! Plus you hear two really brilliant hosts: Lux Alptraum and Siona Petrous.
I consulted on a big, fancy television project that will be out in the new year. I’m probably not supposed to say anything about it, but when it’s out I’ll let you know!
I got a New America Fellowship for a project that I’ve been working on for years.
I was on the Longform Podcast, which is still very surreal to me.
I took a wheel throwing class and learned to make (not very good) pots and mugs and vases on the wheel.
image: a set of shelves full of small, slightly wobbly looking pots, mugs, vases and a few sculptures
I also learned how to keep plants alive. Look at them! Look how alive they are!
image: a panorama of a living room filled with plants
Why do I still feel like I wasted my year? Brains are strange, aren’t they?
If you know me, or have read this newsletter before, you know that I love new years resolutions. Yes, I know that the data suggests that they are a bad idea and that people do not keep them. But I really like the opportunity to assess, to think about what’s working and what isn’t, and to mark some kind of change or attempt at a change. I like thinking about the future, okay?
This whole year, while I’ve been struggling with feeling like I’m doing nothing while also being burned out because I’m doing too much (again, brains, wyd), I’ve been thinking about what is next. I’ve spent the last ~seven years working in one setting on the Rose Machine, and I think it’s time to try a different one. And this isn’t just about pace and quantity (although that’s a part of it) it’s also about scope and tone and depth. Personally, it’s time for a shift.
A few weeks ago we announced that Flash Forward is ending in its current form. There are a lot of reasons for that, some economic (people seem to think that podcasting makes you big bucks but let me tell you, if you’re making an independent show that’s highly researched and produced, and you’re not a celebrity, that’s not the case!) and some of them are editorial. I break the whole thing down here so if you want more details head that way.
The key thing is that while I still believe in the premise of Flash Forward, and want to keep making work that imagines the future in creative, caring, thoughtful ways, I don’t think that the current format is the way to do it. It was a good seven years (almost 150 episodes!) and I’m excited to try something new. What that will be, is still up in the air. I want to give myself time to figure it out.
So that’s the big one. 2022 is the year of Flash Forward 2.0, figuring out what that might look like.
I’ll also be working on my New America project, a deep historical dive into the past, present and future of sex testing in athletics. This has been a passion project of mine for years, and I’m excited to finally have an institution see potential in it.
In the background, I’ve got three books I want to write. One is non-fiction, and the other are fiction. I’m hoping to get proposals/plot outlines/something finished for all of them by the end of 2022.
But mostly, overall, 2022 is a year of less frequent publishing, and more deep dives. You won’t get 20 episodes of Flash Forward, plus 20 episodes of Advice For And From The Future, plus a monthly WIRED column, plus freelance features, plus consulting, plus plus plus. I’m going to try another setting on the Rose Machine. One that’s a little less… machine like.
If you’ve read all the way down to the bottom here you might be someone who is interested in how you can support this new ✨vision✨ so here you go.
Thank you! I hope you’re all supported, safe, and finding joy where you can.
image: me sitting at a pottery wheel, messy, holding up a peace sign. There is clay in my hands, and probably face.
(By the way, I switched this newsletter over to Buttondown from Substack. If you were an annual paying Substack subscriber you should have gotten a refund of some kind, the Substack people tell me.)