Editor’s Note: Expanding Our Vision

When I was a young teenager, I devoured science fiction. I figured that by the turn of the 21st century we would have a colony on Mars, or at least the moon, so science fiction seemed like tomorrow’s news today.

My reading habits have long since changed—literary fiction, mysteries and thrillers, and longform journalism, for the most part—but I’ll occasionally pick up a science fiction novel and let my imagination journey to other worlds. The experience is enjoyable only if the characters are well drawn and interest me, and—let’s be honest—character development is not always a strength of science fiction writers.

So I was pleased to discover Jack McDevitt MALS ’72, who has written a series of books featuring Alex Benedict and Priscilla Hutchins, enterprising “xenoarchaeologists” whose discoveries on alien worlds land them in major controversies and danger, all the while opening their minds to new possibilities for how life has evolved in the universe (page 20). That’s a great canvas for flights of imagination. Perhaps McDevitt’s work also appeals to me because he didn’t start writing fiction until he was in his 50s and is still pounding the keyboard at age 81. Why stop, he says, when you love what you do? Now that’s an inspiration!

I hope others are inspired by his devotion to craft at such a well-seasoned age, but I’ve also been thinking about the alumni we haven’t profiled, about the challenge of making sure that Wesleyan magazine fairly and broadly represents a wide range of alumni and their accomplishments. To a certain extent that’s the nature of the beast. We publish three times a year and the constellation of alumni with great stories to tell dwarfs the space we have. That said, some alumni believe we could do better.

I know this because we recently completed our annual reader survey, in which we asked a sample of our alumni audience for feedback. We were once again pleased to see the overwhelming majority of alumni read the magazine frequently or at least occasionally, and most say it strengthens their connection to Wesleyan. We asked for suggestions for improvement, and it was more than gratifying to see that many readers took the time to oer substantive responses.

To comment on just one theme that emerged: A number of alumni wrote in some detail that we should seek out alumni whose accomplishments are significant but perhaps not widely known, that we underplay our alumni in science and the arts, and that we simply miss a lot that’s going on in current affairs and culture.

To those of you who wrote comments, thank you. You have given us a humbling reminder that, as with predicting colonies on Mars, our vision can be faulty and limited. A truism about editing a magazine is that it’s always possible to do better the next time. We’re fortunate to work in a community that sets the bar high.

William Holder ’75, editor

William L. Holder ’75 served as editor of Wesleyan from 1994 until he retired in 2018.