Welcome to this week’s annals of Slate Plus! My name is Rachel Gross, and I’ll be your guide. Normally I’m Slate’s trusty editorial assistant, but today I’m shedding the second half of my title to become this week’s featured Slate editor. Imagine me as Clark Kent, flinging off the specs and officewear to reveal my S+ spandex bodysuit underneath. And voilà: Now I’m ready to take you on a journey through the Slateisverse!
Because that, dear readers, is what this week is all about: startling transformations. New beginnings. Origin stories. We here at Slate take great joy in revealing how things came to be, from the colorful history of gay culture to the evolution of latex condoms to the rise of sentences starting with the word bitch. Of course, as a science writer, I’m biased—some of the juiciest and most illuminating stories in science are about how things got their start, be it the discovery of a life-changing vaccine or the birth of an interstellar nebula. Because it’s only by understanding where we come from that we can appreciate where we are now.
If you’ve been
gorging yourself on leisurely reading Slate lately, you may have noticed that this week has been especially teeming with origin stories: superheroes, marriages, journalists, the universe. Ready to unravel the fabric of our society and have your mind blown to atoms? Let’s get started!
Beyond the Ladyblog: Reporters, like fruit flies, can spawn pretty much anywhere. But the swirling meta-opinions of the ladyblog make it “an interesting place for a writer to hone her rhetorical tools,” writes Slate staff writer Amanda Hess. The thing is, “once they get sharp enough, she may begin to fantasize about impaling herself with them.” Hess launched her career in 2007 covering women’s issues for the then-brand-spanking-new Jezebel. Since then, she’s transformed herself into the magazine’s most incisive commenter on Internet culture. Read her exclusive Slate Plus essay on why “women” is kind of a crazy beat—but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sci-Fi Is for Slackers: Who among us has not gazed out the window of her high-rise office building and dreamed of starting anew? This slacker attitude, it turns out, is what we have in common with the heroes of science fiction. Consider Blade Runner’s Roy Batty, The Matrix’s Neo, and Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker—whose main motivation to become a Jedi stems from how much he hates his lame Tatooine farming gig. Future Tense’s Jacob Brogan argues that sci-fi is built on those who slothfully defy the chains that bind them. (I read this thoughtful piece while I was supposed to be working, and I suggest you do, too.)
Till Debt Do Us Part: Your wedding day is supposedly the first day of the rest of your life, so naturally, you want to make it memorable. But did you ever stop to think how many years of happiness you might have thrown away by striving to ensure that one day was as happy (read: decadent and drunken) as humanly possible? Find out, if you dare: Plug in how long you’ve been married (come on, you remember) and how much your wedding cost (even if you’ve tried to forget). Then get ready for some serious regret. (Or if, like me, you aren’t quite sold on this marriage business, learn from your elders’ mistakes.)
Evolution Solution: In this thoughtful essay, Vanessa Wamsley reflects on her days as a wee creationist kid, waiting with bated breath to contradict her biology teacher’s theory of evolution. It’s a tricky topic: How we teach Earth’s origins has become one of the thorniest debates in science policy. Yet Wamsley displays an impressive level of self-awareness, embarking on some major soul-searching (as well as solid reporting) to find that, no, beliefs in creationism and evolution can’t exist side by side. The more religious you are, the lower your scientific literacy. Bummer.
The Center Cannot Hold: To end on an ending story, let me take you back to my own place of origin—Orange County (holla!). The good ol’ OC has been in the news for a variety of reasons—including that one time when my very own Los Alamitos High School tried to block an AP environmental science course that mentioned climate change—but this week takes the cake. Courts reporter Dahlia Lithwick tells the story of a police and prosecutorial cover-up so massive that one expert described it as having “risen to the level of perjury and obstruction of justice.” Now a judge has disqualified all 250 prosecutors in the DA’s office for their misconduct—thanks in part to the efforts of one tenacious defense attorney.
Remember: We started at the bottom—now we’re here!