Learn more about the contributors in this issue.

A Londoner since 1980, Alice Rawsthorn has kept a knowing eye on the city’s creative community, which blossomed, she says, “in a ramshackle, grassroots way.” Formerly the director of the Design Museum and a journalist with the Financial Times, she is the design critic for the International Herald Tribune, a member of the board of Arts Council England, and a trustee of the Whitechapel Gallery. Her essay, “London Calling,” is a guide to what makes the city fast, from the Gherkin, left, to the Frieze Art Fair.


The publisher of Skeptic magazine — which is dedicated to “exploring the facts surrounding controversial ideas and extraordinary claims” — Michael Shermer describes himself as a “scientist who studies belief systems for a living.” In this month’s “Beware the Puppet Master,” he considers why we believe that fixing the economy should be a top-down operation.

Bulgarian-born photographer Plamen Petkov lives and works in New York with his wife and their chocolate Lab. He is best known for still lifes of lipsticks and jewels for advertising clients, and editorial projects such as the oil-coated flowers he shot for Fast Company earlier this year. His photo illustration of the Chinese flag opens our special report on China In Africa.

Investigative reporter Richard Behar has traveled to more than 40 countries, including Brunei, China, Cuba, Cyprus, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Russia, and collected a shelfful of journalism honors, including a National Magazine Award and Business Journalist of the Year. For Fast Company, he spent four-and-a-half weeks in Africa — and another three months recovering.

When Alex Kotlowitz first moved to Chicago, he figured it would be a good place to try to make sense of America for a few years. It has been 25 and counting. His adopted hometown has been a major focus of his work, from his celebrated first book, There Are No Children Here, about two brothers struggling to grow up in now-demolished public housing, to his essay in “Fast Cities 2008.”