Saturday, April 29, 2006

Canadian Worldcon members: save envelope!

The latest progress report for L.A. Con IV (the Los Angeles Worldcon) will be going out shortly. SAVE THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE! You'll need the Personal Identification Number from the mailing label in order to vote for the Hugos online.

(U.S. progress reports don't go in envelopes, but the ones to Canada do -- which means the label isn't on the actual report for copies sent here.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Better late than never ...

Aurora Award nominating is now over, but Dennis Mullin has at last posted a "provisional" list of potentially eligible works.

The Quotable Rob Sawyer

Penguin Canada has just published The Penguin Dictionary of Popular Canadian Quotations, edited by John Robert Colombo.

To my absolute delight, 23 quotations from my writings appear in the book, on topics such as "Privacy," "Humanity," "Immortality," "Gods," "The Moon," "Society," and, of course, "Science Fiction."

(Not that anyone's counting, but Margaret Atwood is only quoted 20 times, Spider Robinson 4 times, and William Gibson and Phyllis Gotlieb one time a piece ...)

It's a beautiful book, and I'm truly thrilled to be so well represented in it.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Rollback done!

Today, Monday, April 24, 2006, I finished final revisions on my seventeenth novel, Rollback. I started the book on Monday, May 16, 2005 (just shy of one year ago), and did a total of six drafts. Unusually for me, the book got shorter as time went on -- I cut 10,000 words while preparing the fourth draft.
  • First draft Friday, November 18, 2005: 93,857 words
  • Second draft Monday, November 28, 2005: 94,823 words
  • Third draft Wednesday, December 14, 2005: 94,668 words
  • Fourth draft Monday, January 16, 2006: 84,678 words
  • Fifth draft Sunday, February 26, 2006: 83,858 words
  • Sixth draft Monday, April 24, 2006: 84,007 words

Analog will serialize the whole novel starting in its October 2006 issue (on sale August 1st), and Tor will publish the book in hardcover in eleven months' time (the official pub date is April 1, 2007).

As I said, Rollback is my 17th novel. In additon, I've edited four anthologies and done three collections of my shorter work (the third of which will be published next year), so this means I've now finished my 24th book.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Monday Spotlight: End of an Era TV series pitch

I spent a fair bit of time this past week on stuff related to various potential TV/film adaptations of my novels and short stories, as well as looking at a media project somebody else wanted me to be involved with. And that put me amind of a pitch I put together six years ago to turn my novel End of an Era into a TV series. Of course, almost nothing that gets done for film/TV gets bought or produced, and this was no exception ... Still, it's a fun piece, although it contains major spoilers for the novel.

End of an Era TV Series Proposal

Talking Shop

One reason I was particularly disappointed to miss Eeriecon was that I was looking forward to talking shop with colleagues I don't see often enough, including Guests of Honor Harry Turtledove, Tanya Huff, and Esther Freisner, and other fine con-goers such as James Alan Gardner, Mark Garland, and Nancy Kress.

But I did manage a pretty good dose of shop talk this past week, anyway. On Thursday, I had lunch in Toronto with Robert Charles Wilson, and Friday night I had dinner in Boston with Jeffrey A. Carver -- both Bob and Jeff are fellow Tor authors, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them.

I missed Eeriecon, thanks to United Airlines

To my considerable sadness and frustration, I didn't make it to Eeriecon after all. My apologies to anyone who went hoping to see me there.

I hadn't planned to arrive until Saturday evening, because Saturday morning I was giving a keynote address to the annual meeting of the Federation of State Medical Boards, which was being held in Boston. The conference's theme was "The Challenge of Change," and my talk was entitled "Everything Is Different Tomorrow." The program book described my talk thus:

What is the future of professional certification in a world in which things change overnight? Is a doctor licensed in 1980 competent in the post-Human Genome Project world? How will we handle testing and upgrading in the age of annual paradigm shifts? And just what does it mean to know something in the information age -- do you have to actually know it, or only know how to find it?

I stuck pretty close to that outline, and started off by talking briefly about the best-known doctor of tomorrow: Dr. McCoy, from Star Trek (and got a lot of laughter when I suggested that any doctor whose most frequent saying is, "He's dead, Jim," probably should have his licensed revoked). The talk seemed to go over very well, and I quite enjoyed giving it.

I scooted from the conference to Logan airport in Boston. I wanted to get from there to Niagara Falls, New York, where Eeeriecon was being held. The closest major airport to Niagara Falls is in Buffalo, but there are no direct flights between Buffalo and Boston on a Saturday, so I'd planned to fly from Boston to Washington, D.C., and from D.C. to Buffalo.

But United Airlines screwed up. Just before we were about to take off, the pilot decided we didn't have enough fuel, and so we had to wait forever on the tarmac for a fuel truck to come and top us up. By that time, weather had gotten bad, and we were additionally delayed because of that. Upshot was, I made it Dulles Airport too late for my connecting flight -- by a matter of minutes. I ended up having to spend the night alone at a Washington hotel, and since there were no flights to Buffalo from Washington today, ended up instead flying straight back to Toronto. I was, and am, really pissed at United Airlines. The pilot should have been monitoring his fuel levels -- and United did a terrible job of handling the displaced passengers. I will do everything in my power to avoid having to fly with them again.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Pleased as punch

I'm always tickled pink when one of my writing students has success. Best of all was probably when my student Pat Forde was nominated for a Hugo in 2003 (for best novella, for "In Spirit," from Analog); Pat had come to see me when I was writer-in-residence at the Richmond Hill Public Library in 2000, and he took my four-day intensive workshop at the University of Toronto in 2002.

But this one is pretty damn good, too: Susan Forest, who participated in a two-day workshop I ran for Calgary's Imaginative Fiction Writers' Association (IFWA) in 2003, just sold a story called "Immunity" to Asimov's Science Fiction -- way cool! I'm just delighted for her.

Hominids featured in online serial

Wow! Some major-league nice discussion of me and my book Hominids appears in the online serial "I, Death" (the link takes you to the chapter that concerns Hominids; scroll way up to the top of the page to read the serial from the beginning). The serial is dealing with rape, and Hominids is invoked for its sensitive handling of that issue.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Eeriecon this weekend

I won't show up until Saturday evening, 'cause I've got a speaking gig in Boston Saturday morning, but I'll be spending Saturday night and all day Sunday this weekend at Eeriecon in Niagara Falls, New York. It's usually a very good convention, and I recommend it.

A writer's life is always busy

Things I've done in the last day and a half:
  • Written an 1,800-word letter to my agent.

  • Written 900 words of responses to an email interview with a major web site about a recent award nomination.

  • Written 700 words of responses to an email interview for a Canadian computer publication about writers and blogs.

  • Written a brief greeting to the attendees of this year's Japanese national SF convention.

  • Reviewed and marked up a 13-page long-form option agreement for the recent The Terminal Experiment film option.

  • Reviewed a lengthy proposal from a Canadian broadcaster who wants me to write something for them.

  • Gathered together the various documents that make up the final manuscript for Terence M. Green's Sailing Time's Ocean, the next book coming out under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint, and submitted the package to the production department.

  • Did a bunch of other RJS Books stuff, including reviewing a children's SF manuscript, tracking down missing authors' copies, and making sure an ad we'd taken out was paid for.

  • Did some minor edits on Rollback.

  • Dealt with a ton of email.

  • Autographed a stack of my books purchased through my website.

  • Talked for an hour on the phone with a writer who is recovering from surgery.

  • Watched an hour of a documentary on PBS (in glorious high-definition) about the effect of impacts on the evolution of life, as craters figure prominently in a project I'm currently developing.

  • Made some arrangements for upcoming trips to Boston and Winnipeg.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Monday Spotlight: Asimov's Laws of Robotics

Sorry this is a day late; I was in Seattle yesterday. As part of that trip, I visited (for the third time) the Science Fiction Museum, which is quite wonderful. But I was sad to see that the Robot from Lost in Space had been taken off display, and replaced with one of the robots from the recent I, Robot movie. Still, that gives me an excuse to point out this little article I wrote years ago about Asimov's Laws of Robotics as our Monday Spotlight, highlighting one of the 500+ articles on my web site at

Monday, April 17, 2006

Brother Guy on Quirks and Quarks

Vatican astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno on CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks, Saturday, April 15, 2006:

I love science fiction. I love reading the stuff. And I'm fascinated because it's a way of doing thought experiments -- playing "what ifs?" One of the authors who's done a lot of this is Robert Sawyer, great Canadian author, and I've chatted with him at great length. We obviously don't see eye-to-eye on religion, but we do see eye-to-eye on science fiction and we have a lot of fun chatting about these things.

Hear the whole, quite fascinating, interview, as a podcast (scoll down; it's the last story on the page).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Odyssey deadline approaching!

I'm writer-in-residence at Odyssey: The Fantasy Writing Workshop this summer in New Hampshire. The applicaton deadline is just two days away, hence this reminder:

Odyssey Workshop

Studying to become a writer

Got asked by a friend what advice I'd give his daughter on what to study at university or college in order to become a creative writer or journalist. Here's what I had to say:

My advice for someone who wants to actually make a living in creative writing (in general) or science fiction (in particular) is NOT to study those things at university. Study anything else instead -- seriously. Most creative-writing programs graduate people who at best will place stories with publications that "pay" in copies. And there are NO good undergraduate programs for SF writing. If your daughter wants a good grounding in writing SF, she should go to the six-week Odyssey, Clarion, Clarion West, or Clarion South workshops:

Clarion West
Clarion South

After getting an undergrad degree in something else (psychology is an excellent area of study for a writer, as characterization is nothing but the art of dramatizing psychology), she might want to consider what is, as far as I know, the only program in which one can do a master's in writing commercial SF:

Seaton Hill

Journalism is another matter: many newspapers or other media outlets prefer to hire people with journalism degrees. But for creative writing, you need not just to be able to write (which is all a creative-writing program purports to teach you) but also have something to write about (which a good liberal-arts or general-sciences education will give you).

(For my own part, I have a degree in broadcasting, and took courses in psychology, sociology, English literature, and history of drama.)

I wish your daughter the best of luck!



Literary Review of Canada

Those in Canada might be interested to know that my review of The Dance of Molecules, Ted Sargent's nonfiction book about nanotechnology, appears in the April edition of Literary Review of Canada. My 1,200-word review begins:

In 2000, Bill Joy, the chief scientist for Sun Microsystems, published his now-famous anti-technology manifesto entitled "Why The Future Doesn't Need Us" in Wired magazine. In it, he outlined technologies that he feared might spell the end of our species, major among which was nanotechnology. Although Ted Sargent doesn't mention Joy in his new book The Dance of Molecules, he's clearly responding to Joy's doomsaying, cheerleading all the way.

Terminal Experiment on audio

Got asked today about the availability of my books on audio. Only one has been released so far, the Nebula Award-winning The Terminal Experiment, and you can find the audio version right here.

Also, my Hugo-nominated short story "Shed Skin" is available as an MP3 here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A wise and intelligent blogger

Michael A. Burstein pointed out this wise and intelligent blogger on LiveJournal to me:


Monday, April 10, 2006

Neanderthals nominated for Seiun Award

Courtesy of Toshiko Shichiri, Chair of The 45th Japan Science Fiction Convention, known as "Michinoku SF Festival ZUNCON," and Hirohide (Jack R.) Hirai, Staff/Overseas Relations for that convention, here are this year's nominees for the Seiun Awards in the translated categories. Often called "the Japanese Hugos," the Seiuns are Japan's top honor in science-fiction writing. The finalists are:

  • Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan
  • Diaspora, by Greg Egan
  • Neanderthal Parallax Trilogy (Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids) by Robert J.Sawyer
  • Revelation Space, by Alastair Reynolds
  • Space Chantey, by R.A. Lafferty
  • The Swords of Lankhmar, by Fritz Leiber
  • Tuf Voyaging, by George R.R. Martin
  • Venus Plus X, by Theodore Sturgeon

  • Bernardo's House, by James Patrick Kelly
  • The Empire of Ice Cream, by Jeffrey Ford
  • Glacial, by Alastair Reynolds
  • The Human Front, by Ken MacLeod
  • Singleton, by Greg Egan
  • The Sources of the Nile, by Avram James Davidson
  • A Study in Emerald, by Neil Gaiman
  • The Voluntary State, by Christopher Rowe

The winners will be announced at the 45th Japan Science Fiction Convention, July 8-9, 2006, and the awards will be re-presented at L.A.Con IV, the World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles, August 23-28, 2006.

Monday spotlight: Frameshift structural analysis

Just finished a wonderful weekend in Calgary, attending the Spring 2006 Write-Off weekend organized by Danita Maslan for the Imaginative Fiction Writers' Association (IFWA). I knew it was going to be a great trip, 'cause I got recognized by the staff in the bookstore at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, and asked to sign stock, which I happily did.

This morning, I was driven to the Calgary airport by writer Barb Geiger, and noted that she is currently reading my Seiun Award-winning and Hugo Award-nominated Frameshift. And so, for today's Monday Spotlight, highlighting one of the 500+ articles on my website at I offer this: A Structural Analysis of Frameshift. (Note that this document contains spoilers -- if you haven't yet read Frameshift, you might want to hold off reading this.)

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

My blog is now syndicated on LiveJournal

Some kind soul has arranged for this blog of mine to be syndicated to LiveJournal. If you prefer to read it there, add this page to your LJ Friends List.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Too true, too true ...

My friend Andrew Weiner forwarded this bit of humor to me from The Onion:

Science-Fiction Novel Posits Future Where Characters Are Hastily Sketched


From my friend bookseller Dan Foster:

"On Wednesday of this week at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06."

(Dan's an American; in Canada and most of the rest of the world, which logically writes dates as day/month/year, the magic date will be May 4, not April 5.)

Monday, April 3, 2006

Jean-Pierre Normand

Woohoo! I just got the go-ahead to commission an all-new cover painting by five-time Aurora Award-winning artist Jean-Pierre Normand for the trade-paperback reissue of Karl Schroeder's The Engine of Recall, which we published last year in hardcover under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint.

Jean-Pierre has done covers for Analog, Asimov's, and On Spec. You can see a gallery of his work here.

Planet of the Apes ultimate DVD collection

Got it!

The ape head package is quite large; maybe 3/4 lifesize. Look at the picture above, with the DVDs in front -- that gives you an idea of the scale. The head is well made, but to me it just doesn't look like Caesar; the likeness in the much, much smaller (6" body height) Medicom Caesar figure is a lot closer. Still, it's impressive. I bought this in Canada from a Canadian source [Costco, Canadian$149], and the packaging here says that 2,000 sets, with their own run of limited serial numbers, have been produced for the Canadian market -- on top of the 10,000 for the U.S., so this isn't quite as rare as Fox is making it out to be.

(Given that the population ratio of Canada to the US is 10:1, it's interesting that they chose to do a 5:1 ratio for runs of this product -- it implies that they think PLANET OF THE APES is twice as popular on a per capita basis in Canada as it is in the U.S.)

The set has the additional footage for BATTLE that's not been seen in a North American DVD release before, but it's still missing the prologue that was filmed but never shown from ESCAPE (Cornelius, Zira, and Milo in the cockpit of Taylor's ship). I emailed my friend Eric Greene, who included a still from that scene in the trade-paperback edition of his wonderful PLANET OF THE APES AS AMERICAN MYTH (Eric's text commentary also appears on the POTA DVD in this set) to see if that footage still exists; he says he's never seen any sign that it still does, sad to say -- the still may be the only thing that's survived.

Anyway, a cool collectible, and I'm glad I bought it.

Monday Spotlight: What's wrong with the Auroras?

Just got back from Ad Astra, Toronto's annual SF convention. As usual, there was much SMOFing about the Aurora Awards (SMOF: Secret Master of Fandom, a person who is influential behind the scenes in fanish activities), and so I thought it might be time to dust off this piece I wrote back in 1997 entitled "What's Wrong with the Aurora Awards?" for this week's Monday spotlight, highlighting one of the 500+ documents on my website at

(The Aurora Awards website is here, at the memorable URL of

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Ad Astra

Ad Astra -- Toronto's science-fiction convention -- celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary this past weekend. I had a terrific time. Highlights included the launch of Nick DiChario's book A Small and Remarkable Life, a wonderful lunch with members of my Yahoo! Groups discussion group, another wonderful lunch with Del Rey editor-in-chief Betsy Mitchell, seeing old friend Terry Brooks, spending time with so many of my writing students and with members of The Fledglings, the writers' workshop I formed with the most-talented people who came to see me when I was writer-in-residence at the Merril Collection, Saturday-night dinner with good friends, lots of great parties, and more. Truly, a very fine con.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

MobileRead Network

Curious about the future of ebook-reading devices? This is the site you should read.

Nick DiChario's book launch

We had the launch party tonight for Nick DiChario's first novel, A Small and Remarkable Life, the latest (and fifth) title under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint. Damn, but the book looks gorgeous -- and we had cover flats for the new trade-paperback editions of Marcos Donnelly's Letters from the Flesh and Andrew Weiner's Getting Near the End, and they look gorgeous, too. Our designer/art director, Karen Petherick, is absolutely terrific.

Of course, I didn't need the drama in my life of Nick's books arriving -- if you'll excuse the pun -- just in the nick of time; they should have been back from the printer a couple of weeks ago, instead of showing up literally just in time. But, in the end, the launch party, which was held at Toronto's Ad Astra science-fiction convention, came off fabulously. This marks the second anniversary of RJS Books, and the third consecutive Ad Astra at which we've held a launch party.