Blog (Ex Urbe)

On my blog, Ex Urbe, I write essays about history, philosophy, mythology, science fiction and fantasy, movies, comics, food, and other topics.  I often discuss my research travel, especially my times in European cities including Florence and Rome.  I also post travel photography, focusing on historic sights and art.  Many of my essays are more casual examinations of topics I have been teaching or researching, ways of sharing my work in a lighter and more public setting than the classroom or academic books.

A model of the heavens, made for the Medici, at the Florentine Museum of the History of Science.
Travel photos, like this Medici model of the heavens, are another blog feature.


Recommended Ex Urbe Entries:

I also regularly post historical photos & facts on twitter as Ada_Palmer tagged #historypix


I also sometimes blog for  There I write about fiction, the craft of writing, mythology, history, literature, television, and manga & anime.


RSS The Latest Posts

  • Self-Care & Healthy Work Habits for the Pandemic July 30, 2020
    Short version: I’m posting today to share two files I made for my university. One is a Healthy Work Habits and Self-Care Guide for the Pandemic Crisis, which many people have said they found helpful and refreshingly different from others that are going around (details below).  Some bits are academia specific but most of it is […]
  • Black Death, COVID, and Why We Keep Telling the Myth of a Renaissance Golden Age and Bad Middle Ages June 4, 2020
    “If the Black Death caused the Renaissance, will COVID also create a golden age?” Versions of this question have been going around as people, trying to understand the present crisis, reach for history’s most famous pandemic.  Using history to understand our present is a great impulse, but it means some of the false myths we […]
  • Uncanny Censorship Essay & Writing POV June 3, 2020
    Below you’ll find some news, links to excerpts from Terra Ignota book 4, and a discussion of point-of-view in the craft of writing, but I’m posting today mainly to announce that I have an essay about censorship and its relationship with genre fiction in this month’s Uncanny Magazine, which is now free to read online.  […]
  • 2019 Campbell Speech + Refugee Charity Fundraiser August 19, 2019
    It was my honor last night to, for the second time, present the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, on behalf of last year’s brilliant winner Rebecca Roanhorse who couldn’t attend this year. Many have asked me to post the text of the speech, which was unluckily disrupted by automated voice recognition subtitles […]
  • Thoughts on a Bad Pain Day and How Teamwork Accumulates June 19, 2019
    I wrote 752 words of my novel after the pain set in today. I’m a writer. Getting the words down, advancing the project, is everything to me, my joy, my vocation, my activism, my chance to pay it back and pay it forward, everything. Today about 11:15 AM I felt a “bad pain day” starting […]
  • Stoicism’s Appeal to the Rich and Powerful March 27, 2019
    I was recently interviewed for a piece in the Times on why the philosophy of stoicism has become very popular in the Silicon Valley tech crowd. Only a sliver of my thoughts made it into the article, but the question from Nellie Bowles was very stimulating so I wanted to share more of my thoughts. […]
  • Milton’s Arguments Against EU Copyright Directive Article 11 and Article 13 March 24, 2019
    It’s spring 2019 and crises are coming thick and fast, but one of them which may have an extra deep, extra wide, extra lasting, and extra invisible impact is the new proposed EU Copyright Directive, whose Article 11 and Article 13 propose, among other things, to (A) radically and permanently change who owns news and […]
  • 2018 Campbell Speech, How New Authors Expand Fields (+Censorship, Manga) October 14, 2018
     This year I was honored to present the 2018 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon’s Hugo Awards Ceremony, and several people have asked me to post my presentation speech, in which I used Japanese examples to talk about the invaluable impact of new authors expanding the breadth of what gets explored […]
  • Censorship Project + A Brief History of Book Burning September 26, 2018
    Today I’m delighted to announce my big new project, a collaboration with Cory Doctorow and Adrian Johns: Censorship and Information Control during Information Revolutions  You can learn about it from the project website, and support it on Kickstarter. The idea: Revolutions in information technology always trigger innovations in censorship and information control, so we’re bringing […]
  • From Ada’s AMA: Minutiae Ignota February 24, 2018
    On 11th January 2018, Ada did a marathon “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit. This last post collects the questions and answers that are about the Terra Ignota world and don’t fit anywhere else. There may be minor spoilers, but I’m not reproducing the specific spoilers that were marked as such (partly because they’re impossible […]