Guest of Honor Ada Palmer

Guest of Honor Ada Palmer

Ada Palmer’s first science fiction novel Too Like the Lightning (volume one of Terra Ignota, from Tor Books) explores how humanity’s cultural and historical legacies might evolve in a future of borderless nations and globally commixing populations. She teaches in the University of Chicago History Department, studying the Renaissance, Enlightenment, classical reception, the history of books, publication and reading, and the history of philosophy, heresy, science and atheism, and is the author of Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance (Harvard University Press). She often researches in Italy, usually in Florence or at the Vatican. She composes fantasy, SF and mythology-themed music, including the Viking mythology musical stage play Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok (available on CD and DVD), and often performs at conventions with her vocal group Sassafrass. She also researches anime/manga, especially Osamu Tezuka, early post-WWII manga and gender in manga, and worked as a consultant for many anime and manga publishers. She blogs for, and writes the philosophy & travel blog

General, History First:

Ada Palmer is a historian of the Renaissance, Enlightenment, classical reception, the history of books, and the history of philosophy, heresy, science, and atheism. She teaches in the History Department at the University of Chicago, and often does research in Italy, especially Florence and Rome.  Her first nonfiction book Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance (Harvard University Press, 2014) explores the impact of the rediscovery of classical atomism on the birth of modern thought.  Her first science fiction novel Too Like the Lightning (forthcoming from Tor, May 2016) is a tale of global politics in the year 2454, set in a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance and borderless nations, and written in the a style of an eighteenth-century philosophical novel like Candide.  She is also the composer for Sassafrass, an a cappella group performing fantasy, SF and mythology-themed music, whose Viking musical stage play “Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok” came out on CD and DVD in 2015.  She researches and publishes on anime/manga, has worked as a consultant for various anime and manga publishers, blogs for, and writes the philosophy and travel blog


Music focused:

Ada Palmer is the primary composer for Sassafrass. Sassafrass began at Bryn Mawr College as a way of escaping the monotonous  pop music performed by all the other singing groups. It was inevitably drawn into filk since all the members were already fans. Ada herself had been attending cons since middle school when her father started taking her to Dr. Who conventions, but Balticon gets credit for getting her and Sassafrass into a filk circle for the first time; Sassafrass’s song, “Somebody Will”, a space-themed exploration single from Sassafrass’s Friend in the Dark album, has been nominated for Pegasus’s Best Filk Song in 2011, 2012, and now 2015.   Because Ada studied a lot of music theory and especially Renaissance music, her compositions tend to be multi-part a cappella, with Renaissance, Medieval and, often, modal harmonies. Ada’s current project is a Viking-themed album “Sundown”, whose songs, when put together, tell the story of the creation and destruction of the Norse cosmology focusing on the murder of Baldur. Ada and Sassafrass have traditionally been most active on the East Coast, but the job market has taken Sassafrass members all over the country, so now they perform in a lot of unpredictable venues; they recently performed at Worldcon 2015 and Mythcon, and have completed a successful Kickstarter to raise funding for the upcoming Friend in the Dark.

Academic focused:
Ada Palmer is an Assistant Professor in the History Department at the University of Chicago. She is a cultural and intellectual historian focusing on long-durée intellectual history and the recovery of classical thought in the Italian Renaissance. Her published monograph, Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance, uses Renaissance manuscript and print editions of Lucretius’ Epicurean didactic epic De Rerum Natura to expose how humanist reading practices controlled the distribution of newly-rediscovered radical ancient philosophy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and how this affected the capacity of classical radicalism to influence scientific and religious thought at the dawn of the modern era. Much of her research has been conducted in rare books libraries, especially in Rome and Florence, where she worked with Renaissance copies of classical texts, both manuscripts and printed books. She has been a Fulbright scholar in Italy and a graduate reader and later a fellow at the Villa I Tatti Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. Her article “Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance” (Journal of the History of Ideas, 73:3, [July 2012]: 395–416) won the 2013 I Tatti Prize for Best Article by a Junior Scholar.

Anime & Manga focused:

Ada Palmer is the founder of, now the primary English language web resource for information about Osamu Tezuka’s life, works and international publication history.  She has worked as a consultant for Tezuka Productions and numerous American manga and anime publishers.  She blogs about anime and manga for, and used to write a bi-weekly column on manga, cosplay, fashion and otaku culture for (2005-2007).  She has also worked as an Historical and Linguistic Consultant for FUNimation, and used to be a Mythology and Language Consultant for ADV Films (2005-9) and an Anime Network Field Representative (2004-6). Her work on manga has also brought her into the cosplay world, where she creates and competes, but usually runs, cosplay events. She has staffed many conventions, and for nine years has overseen cosplay events at Anime Boston, running their Masquerade and other events including her signature Cosplay Human Chess. Ada has made Anime Boston a trendsetter in the cosplay world, creating new events like the Anime Dating Game, and setting a record for the most cosplay events at any convention worldwide, with thirteen separate events and activities designed for types of costumers and cosplayers.