Petra Mayer

Petra Mayer is an editor (and the resident nerd) at NPR Books, focusing on genre fiction. She brings to the job passion, speed-reading skills, and a truly impressive collection of Doctor Who doodads. You can also hear her on the air, and on the occasional episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour.

Previously, she was an associate producer and director for All Things Considered on the weekends. She handled all of the show's books coverage, and she was also the person to ask if you wanted to know how much snow falls outside NPR's Washington headquarters on a Saturday, how to belly dance, or what pro wrestling looks like up close and personal.

Mayer originally came to NPR as an engineering assistant in 1994, while still attending Amherst College. After three years spending summers honing her soldering skills in the maintenance shop, she made the jump to Boston's WBUR as a newswriter in 1997. Mayer returned to NPR in 2000 after a roundabout journey that included a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a two-year stint as an audio archivist and producer at the Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She still knows how to solder.

I was in New York for the weekend, visiting a friend who lives on West 27th Street. We'd been in at an event in Brooklyn; in the cab home, the radio had been saying something about an explosion in Chelsea, on 23rd Street between 6th and 7th — four blocks from her home. The part of my brain that always wants to believe nothing's wrong said, "Oh, it's a gas leak. A transformer explosion. It'll mess up the traffic but we'll be home in an hour." I think everyone has that voice in their head, to...

Snidely Whiplash may have been famous for yelling, "Curses, foiled again!" And those "meddling kids" have spoiled many a villainous plot. But sometimes, good doesn't win the day. Sometimes the bad guys get away with it. And if we're going to talk about villains, let's talk about the biggest of the Big Bads, the Grand-daddy of Ghouls, the Imperator of Iniquity — Satan himself. Specifically, the version of Satan set down by John Milton in Paradise Lost . Like a lot of kids, I first encountered...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ELISE HU, HOST: It was literally a dark and stormy night here in Washington, D.C., last night, an appropriate backdrop for the crowds of eager readers in wizard robes. They packed a local bookstore for something no one thought would ever happen again, a midnight "Harry Potter" book release party. NPR's Petra Mayer, who doesn't like to admit she's probably a Hufflepuff, was there. PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: There are a lot of people in...

This year at San Diego Comic-Con, one of the biggest phenomena isn't just inside the convention center, it's all around. Yes, there are billboards and installations trumpeting things like Doctor Strange and Fear the Walking Dead. But the crowds of people here aren't looking up; they're mostly staring down at their phones, playing Pokémon Go. In fact, the overwhelmingly popular game has pretty much taken over the informal economy of Comic-Con. There are always people outside the convention...

Author Lois Duncan has died at the age of 82. She was the queen of teen thrillers, a pioneer in the young adult suspense genre. Long before vampires sparkled or hunger was a game, Duncan was writing tense, scary stories for teenagers. Books like Down a Dark Hall and Stranger With My Face kept a generation of readers up at night. "You have girls switching bodies with each other, and you have girls at a boarding school being possessed by long-dead artists," says publisher Lizzie Skurnick, who...

The free-speech organization PEN American Center says it is giving its 2016 PEN/Allen award to author J.K. Rowling. The prize honors "a critically acclaimed author whose work embodies its mission to oppose repression in any form and to champion the best of humanity." In particular, the award recognizes Rowling's two charitable foundations — Volant , which works to alleviate poverty and social deprivation, especially among women and children, and Lumos , which helps institutionalized children...

The most prestigious prizes in American children's books were given out this morning: the John Newbery Medal for literature and the Randolph Caldecott Medal for illustration. Matt de la Peña becomes the first Hispanic author to win the Newbery, for his book Last Stop on Market Street , illustrated by Christian Robinson. It's the story of a young boy riding the city bus with his grandmother, and wondering why their family doesn't have a car. "The inclusion of diverse literature is so important...

We get so many books in the mail — hundreds every week — that we can't read them all, and sometimes all we can do with a book is say hey, that looks interesting, and file it away on the shelf. That's what happened to Anita Anand's book Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, which was definitely the One That Got Away from me this year. I put it aside with vague good intentions, and then I forgot about it — until Princess Sophia ended up in the news. When the movie Suffragette came out...

Marlon James has won this year's Man Booker literary award for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings . James is the first Jamaican-born author to win the prestigious prize, which has only been open to writers outside the British Commonwealth for the past two years. The prize made headlines earlier this year when organizers announced a longlist that included five Americans , up from four last year. Two of them made the final list — Anne Tyler, for A Spool of Blue Thread , and bookmakers'...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: If you're looking for a good science-fiction or fantasy book, you might look for the distinctive rocket ship logo of the Hugo Award. It's one of the most prestigious prizes in the genre. More women, writers of color have been winning Hugos lately, and that's caused a backlash from a group of mostly white male writers and fans. They call themselves the Sad Puppies. NPR's Petra Mayer reports on how this...

Pages