Mark Dery

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Mark Dery
Mark Dery
Mark Dery
Born (1959-12-24) December 24, 1959 (age 62)
Braintree, Massachusetts
OccupationCultural critic, freelance journalist, lecturer

Mark Dery (born December 24, 1959)[1] is an American author, lecturer and cultural critic. An early observer and critic of online culture, he helped to popularize the term 'culture jamming' and is generally credited with having coined the term 'Afrofuturism' in his essay "Black to the Future" in the anthology Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture.[2] He writes about media and visual culture, especially fringe elements of culture for a wide variety of publications, from Rolling Stone to BoingBoing.

Early life and education[edit]

Dery was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He grew up in Chula Vista, California.[3] He earned a B.A. from Occidental College in 1982. He is of Anglo-Irish-Scottish descent with some distant French ancestry.[4]


From 2001 to 2009, Dery taught media criticism, literary journalism, and the essay in the Department of Journalism at New York University.[5]

In January 2000, he was appointed Chancellor's Distinguished Fellow at the University of California, Irvine.[6] In the summer of 2009, he was a scholar in residence at the American Academy in Rome, Italy.[7] In 2017, he taught "Dark Aesthetics" (the Gothic, the Grotesque, the Uncanny, the Abject, and other transgressive aesthetics) at Yale University.[8]

Writing career[edit]

An early contributor to the study of cyberculture and the cultural effects of the digital age, Dery has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, Lingua Franca, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Spin, Wired,, BoingBoing, and Cabinet, among other publications. Dery’s books include monographs such as Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century (1996) as well as the edited anthology Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture (1994) and a collection of essays, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-By Essays on American Dread, American Dreams (2012). Both Escape Velocity and I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts have been translated into other languages.

Mark Dery talking at monochrom's Arse Elektronika 2007

In 1990, Dery's New York Times article "The Merry Pranksters and the Art of the Hoax" offered an early discussion in the mainstream media of the practice of "cultural jamming" by an emergent generation of activists.[9]

In Flame Wars, Dery wonders, in an essay titled "Black to the Future," why "so few African-Americans write science fiction, a genre whose close encounters with the Other – the stranger in a strange land – would seem uniquely suited to the concerns of African-American novelists?"[2] In the piece, Dery interviews three African-American thinkers — science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany, writer and musician Greg Tate, and cultural critic Tricia Rose — about different critical dimensions of Afrofuturism, and it is in his introductory essay to "Black to the Future" that Dery coins the term 'Afrofuturism', which now figures prominently in studies of black technoculture.[2] He defines it as:

"Speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth- century technoculture — and, more generally, African-American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future — might, for want of a better term, be called Afro futurism."[2]

Dery's essay "Cotton Candy Autopsy: Deconstructing Psycho Killer Clowns" in The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink (1999) is his close reading of the "evil clown" meme.

In 2018, Dery released a biography of the artist and illustrator Edward Gorey, entitled Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey. Widely reviewed,[10][11][12][13][14][15] the book is the first biography of the eccentric figure, putting Gorey's idiosyncratic creations into a more personal context.[16]


  • Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing and Sniping in the Empire of Signs. Open Magazine Pamphlet Series, 1993.
  • Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture (ed.). Duke University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8223-1540-8
  • Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century. Grove Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8021-3520-X
  • The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink. Grove Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8021-3670-2
  • I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-By Essays on American Dread, American Dreams. University of Minnesota Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8166-7773-3
  • Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey. Little, Brown and Company, 2018, ISBN 978-0316188548


  1. ^ Contemporary Authors Online, s.v. "Mark Dery" (accessed February 12, 2008).
  2. ^ a b c d Yaszek, Lisa. "Afrofuturism, Science Fiction, and the History of the Future". Socialism and Democracy, vol.20, no.3, November 2006, pp.41–42.
  3. ^ Dery, Mark (Summer 2005). "In Search of Ancient Astronauts: A Requiem for the Space Age". Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  4. ^ "Bad Thoughts & The Politics Of The Polysyllabic: An Interview With Mark Dery". April 7, 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  5. ^ "Journalism at NYU". Archived from the original on April 6, 2008. Retrieved 2006-05-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) (accessed February 12, 2008).
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-09. Retrieved 2013-12-20.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) "UC Irvine library website." (Accessed December 20, 2013).
  7. ^ [1] "V2_Institute for Unstable Media." (Accessed December 20, 2013)
  8. ^ "Bio/Photos?. Mark Dery website. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  9. ^ DeLaure, Marilyn, and Moritz Fink. "Introduction". In Culture Jamming: Activism and the Art of Cultural Resistance, edited by Marilyn DeLaure and Moritz Fink. NYU Press, 2017, p. 7.
  10. ^ Szalai, Jennifer (2018-11-28). "A New Biography Takes On Edward Gorey, a Stubborn Enigma and Master of the Comic Macabre". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  11. ^ Acocella, Joan (2018-12-03). "Edward Gorey's Enigmatic World". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  12. ^ "Edward Gorey: master of the macabre". The Spectator. 2018-12-08. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  13. ^ "More chains than clank | The unclubbable Edward Gorey". TheTLS. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  14. ^ "Book review: Born to be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  15. ^ November 28, Steve Silberman; November 28, 2018 Updated; 2018; Pm, 6:42. "Godfather of Goth: 'Born to Be Posthumous,' a biography of Edward Gorey". Datebook | San Francisco Arts & Entertainment Guide. Retrieved 2019-05-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Gottlieb, Robert (2018-12-31). "Superb Oddities: Robert Gottlieb Reviews a Biography of Edward Gorey". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-05-30.

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