What I do

I write novels, movies and nonfiction. I speak on science and democracy. I produce presidential science debates. I run campaigns. I build things. I comment in the media on science, politics and climate change. I start and lead organizations. I teach about communicating.


I am a novelist, a nonfiction writer, and a filmmaker. I live in a renewable energy house I designed and built with my own hands.


I speak to audiences worldwide about science, politics, climate change, journalism, writing and communication.


I start, run, assist and lead businesses and organizations that effect positive change.

Good stories, like good science, come from exploring
the narratives of nature, seeking meaning.


Below is a collection of some of my work.

  • Sins Of Our Fathers
    Coming November 1, 2014

    Money, race and power

    JW is the banking industry's go-to guy for learning how to get around the Community Reinvestment Act and its requirements for lending in disadvantaged communities. He teaches other bankers in towns near Indian reservations how to profit from casino deposits without exposing themselves to reservation lending losses. But JW has been stealing to support his gambling addiction. When his boss discovers his crime, he gives him an ultimatum: prison, or use his skills to sabotage the creation of a competing, Native American-owned bank and its visionary founder, Johnny Eagle. A riveting tale about ambition, economic competition, love, and institutional racism, Sins of Our Fathers explores grand themes of risk, loss, redemption, and the utter necessity—and equally utter impossibility—of empathy.

  • Fool Me Twice
    The science-politcs book that started a national conversation
    Winner, Minnesota Book Award

    “One of the most important books published in the last decade.”

    - TV News Anchor Don Shelby

    “Whenever the people are well informed,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “they can be trusted with their own government.”

    But what happens in a world dominated by complex science? Are the people still well-enough informed to be trusted with their own government? And with less than 2 percent of Congress with any professional background in science, can our government be trusted to lead us in the right direction?

    Buy it now.

  • House of Sand and Fog
    Motion Picture (screenwriter & co-producer)
    Three Academy Award Nominations

    This gripping motion picture tells the story of Massoud Amir Behrani, a proud Iranian immigrant (Ben Kingsley), who purchases a small Northern California bungalow at a county auction in a desperate attempt to rebuild his dwindling family fortunes.

    But the house has been taken illegally by the county from Kathy Nicolo, a recovering alcoholic (Jennifer Connelly). Their escalating conflict explores the varying meanings of the American dream.

  • Articles & Essays
    Articles, Interviews and Essays

    I have appeared in many publications and media outlets, including Rolling Stone, Scientific American, Science, Salon, Issues in Science and Technology, Nature Medicine, Huffington Post, National Public Radio, New Scientist, and more. I've collected a few of them and some of my radio appearances here. (in process)

  • Breezy: A Renewable Energy Home
    A Renewable Energy Home

    Breezy is not a book or film; it is architecture and construction, and my home. I designed Breezy in a rambling Cape Cod style that was well-suited to the rolling Glacial moraine of Eastern Minnesota near the Saint Croix River. I backed it into a South-facing hill on thirty acres, giving it a low Northern profile and an expansive Southern orientation. It is super-insulated, passive solar, earth-bermed, with recycled old-growth fir, wind power, and geothermal heating. We took two years to build it with our own hands. It has been written up in several publications and toured by more than ten thousand people as an example of green architecture.

  • Writers United for All Families

    Seventeen Readings on Love and Liberty

    In a remarkable afternoon, seventeen award-winning authors wrote and read original short poems and essays on why everyone from liberals to libertarians should oppose restriction of same-sex marriage.

    Featuring works by: Lois West Duffy • Jacque Fletcher • Michael Hall • Nor Hall • Patricia Hampl • Greg Hewett • Kathryn Kysar • Jim Lenfestey • Jim Moore • Darby Nelson • Shawn Lawrence Otto • John Reimringer • Kate St Vincent Vogl • Kurtis Scaletta • Don Shelby • Faith Sullivan • RD Zimmerman

    Edited by Shawn Lawrence Otto. Profits from sales are donated to efforts supporting marriage equality.

    Buy it: Amazon iTunes

I speak to audiences worldwide about science, politics and writing. My talks are dynamic and entertaining, with data and images that come alive, and video clips that stun.


New York. Helsinki. Washington. Torino. Denver. Your event.

Watch a sample or book me for your event.

  • “Mr. Otto was a huge hit. His variously funny, sobering, and motivating lecture was frequently interrupted by laughter and applause. At the end, the audience gave him a standing ovation, a rarity at this conference where the standard is traditionally very high.”

    Gwendolyn Freed, Nobel Conference Organizer

  • “Shawn’s energetic plenary resulted in a standing room only crowd… what was most interesting was how faux science seems to be more acceptable than reality to the general public and often to our elected officials.”

    Meg Morris, Chair, NY Federation of Solid Waste Associations

a blog from the intersection of science, politics and the creative culture


Coming soon...

April 23, 2014

I will resume blogging once I get my old blog posts ported over—and after finishing my current book's line edit! Stay tuned...
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December 1, 2013

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November 29, 2013

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November 28, 2013

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October 28, 2013

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