The Story Behind the Title

Of all the books I’ve worked on, one I’m most proud of is Evolution: the Story of Life on Earth. When I worked for Byron Preiss Visual Publications, we tried for over a decade to sell a young-adult book on evolutionary science. But we were told it had to be a “balanced” view, i.e., include Creationism, because it had to pass the Texas library test. Since Texas has the largest public school population, it routinely winds up ordering more textbooks than any other state.  Because of this, textbook publishers are keenly aware of what will and what will not fly in Texas, and “evolution” was not a desired subject. Or so the wisdom went.

But in 2010, on the heels of the successful and well-reviewed volume, The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA, the publisher commissioned a sequel—on evolution. Brilliantly talented educator/author/illustrator Jay Hosler agreed to script it. He was already teaching an introductory course in evolution at Juniata College, as well as documenting the efficacy of using graphic supplements in the classroom. Art and design were once again handled by Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon, the same wonderful team from The Stuff of Life.

When it came time to lock in the book’s title, Jay and I had slightly different takes on it. I was calling it, Evolution: the History of Life. That bothered Jay, because history implies a linear progression, and that’s not the way evolution actually works. So, we changed “History” to “Story.” Then I told Jay I had problem with subtitling the book “The Story of Life.” I thought (and still do) that it’s awfully presumptuous of humans to assume that if there is other life in the universe, intelligent or otherwise, it has to be based on the same molecule that is at the core of all life on Earth, DNA. And so Evolution: The History of Life became Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth.

As for the good folks in Texas. . . .  Among other recognition, Evolution was chosen by the Texas Library Association for its 2012 “Maverick Graphic Novel List,” which recommends books to parents and teachers.

Thank you, Texas librarians.

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