Most people don't expect to find themselves mentioned in a novel. I certainly didn't. But that's what happened to me and I never would have known it except for an extraordinary coincidence.

Three faculty founded the Digital Media Design undergraduate program at UPenn: Julie Saecker-Schnieder of the faculty in the Graduate School of Fine Arts, Paul Messaris of the Annenberg School, and myself in Computer and Information Science. I am the Director of the program. We meet about every month or so to manage the program.

At one meeting Julie walked in and asked me if I knew that I was mentioned in a mystery novel called Skull Session. No, I hadn't known about that. Was it really about me or just a coincidence? No, it was about me and the software product we built here at Penn called Jack. No mistake here. How did she find out? Julie was on a long plane flight to Los Angeles and picked up a novel to read on the way. Apparently she is fond of mysteries and this novel was recommended in People Magazine.

The novel's author never contacted me directly; everything he used was gleaned from my webpages. What is even more surprising is that not a single other person has ever contacted me to say they read about me in the novel (not that I know that many people) -- just one of my closest colleagues!

POSTSCRIPT 1/17/06: So the last paragraph is no longer quite true.  I just found out that the mother of one of my former students is fond of listening to books on tape while she drives.  She happened to listen to Skull Session and asked her son if the discussion about "Virtual Jack" and "Dr. Badler" was real or not.  So that counts as another coincidence I guess, since she didn't know about the book reference in advance even though she knew who I was.