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Munroe, Randall

Entry updated 28 September 2022. Tagged: Artist, Author.

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(1984-    ) US online Comics writer and artist with a degree in physics, formerly a NASA roboticist. He is best known for his xkcd webcomic, published since September 2005, which despite the limitations of stick-figure artwork has gained great popularity among sf fandom and the broader "geek culture" for its witty, original, Internet-savvy approach to Physics, Mathematics, philosophy, Computers, human quirks and relationships, and popular culture in general. A much-cited Zeitgeist moment is "Duty Calls" (20 February 2008 #386), where a character refuses to come to bed: "I can't. This is important. [...] Someone is wrong on the Internet." Munroe's and his readers' favourites from the first 600 comics are assembled as xkcd: volume 0 (graph coll 2010). The title "xkcd" is a deliberately meaningless, unpronounceable set of letters.

Munroe was shortlisted for the Hugo as best fan artist in 2011 and 2012; he won a Hugo for best graphic story in 2014 with the slow-motion animation "Time" (25 March-29 July 2013 #1190), whose 3099 images appeared initially at half-hour and later at one-hour intervals. Beginning with two of Munroe's familiar stick-figure characters (female and male) building an increasingly elaborate sandcastle-based structure at the seaside, "Time" becomes a quest to understand the steadily, anomalously rising sea level. On close reading it gradually emerges that the setting is the Mediterranean basin in the Far Future some 11,000 years hence (clued by Star patterns during a prolonged night sequence); the Straits of Gibraltar have long been blocked and the much reduced Mediterranean is hypersaline like the Dead Sea; but the barrier is now breached, the ocean returning and the couple's lowland (seabed) community threatened with Disaster. The challenge of interpreting the back-story of "Time" was eagerly taken up by's substantial online fan community.

The nonfiction What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (coll 2014), partly based on reader queries from the blog, plays with such offbeat Thought Experiments as calculating the effect – locally apocalyptic, it proves – of a Baseball hurled at the Relativistic speed of 0.9c. A follow-up volume is What If? 2: Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (coll 2022). [DRL]

see also: Asteroids.

Randall Patrick Munroe

born Easton, Pennsylvania: 17 October 1984


graphic works

  • xkcd: volume 0 (San Francisco, California: Breadpig, 2010) [coll: graph: pb/Randall Munroe]



What If?

individual titles


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