Wednesday, May 31, 2006

CBS News Quote of the Day!

CBS News sends out a daily newsletter called "Inside Scoop," with highlights about the day's news coverage. It always begins with the "Quote of the Day," and today's quote is this:

"Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace."
-- Robert J. Sawyer

Woohoo! The quote is from Chapter 14 of my novel Calculating God, and the speaker is Hollus.

Way, way cool! (For more on the quotable Rob Sawyer, see this earlier blog entry.)

Many thanks to my friend Chicago lawyer Howard Reich for drawing this to my attention.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Spanish Mindscan

I'm pleased to announce the sale of Spanish rights to my Mindscan to Ediciones B.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Monday Spotlight: The Age of Spiritual Machines

Back in 1999, Ray Kurzweil published a fascinating book called The Age of Spiritual Machines. Rather than do a traditional review, The Ottawa Citizen newspaper invited me and A.K. Dewdney -- who used to be Scientific American's games columnist -- to have a dialog between us about the book.

That piece was great fun to produce, and I think it still makes good reading, so I'm offering it up as this week's Monday Spotlight, highlighting one of the 500+ articles on my website at

On Ray Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Aurora Award nominations

I'm delighted to announce that I'm nominated for not one, not two, but three Aurora Awards this year -- one nomination in each of the three English-language professional categories. This hasn't happened since -- well, since the last time I did the same thing, back in 1998. :)

My nominations this year are:

The full ballot in all categories is here.

In the Long-Form English category, four of the six finalists -- Julie E. Czerneda, Edo van Belkom, Robert J. Sawyer, and Robert Charles Wilson -- have previously won the award, and Karin Lowachee and Caitlin Sweet are major authors, so it's going to be quite the race.

In the Short-Form English category, I'm not just thrilled about my own nomination, but also Karl Schroeder's for "Alexander's Road," since that was the one original story in his collection The Engine of Recall published under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint -- making this the first award nomination for a work in that line.

This is the fourth award nomination for "Identity Theft." It's already won the 6,000-euro Premio UPC, and been nominated for both the Nebula and the Hugo.

And, as happens more and more these days, I'm competing with my own students: in the Short-Form English category, Derwin Mak, Douglas Smith, and Hayden Trenholm have all taken workshopping courses I've led.

I'm delighted to see my friend Randy McCharles get a long-overdue Aurora nomination for Fan Organizational. And I'm especially thrilled to see the anthology In Places Between: The Top Five Stories of the Robyn Herrington Short Story Contest 2005 be nominated for Fan Publication. Not only was Robyn one of my writing students, but she was also one of my dearest friends; my upcoming novel Rollback is dedicated to her.

Voting deadline is June 26, 2006; winners will be announced at the SF convention TT20, being held in Toronto July 7-9, 2006. Any Canadian may vote; the voting fee (which helps cover the cost of manufacturing the very nifty trophies) is Cdn$6.

Edo van Belkom wins Silver Birch!

My great buddy Edo van Belkom just won the Ontario Library Association's Silver Birch Award. His winning book was Wolf Pack, which also won last year's Aurora Award. The Silver Birch is a gigantic award in Canada, and I'm totally thrilled for Edo.

The Silver Birch is voted on by kids in Ontario:

The Silver Birch Awards are given by Grade 4, 5 and 6 students in a spectacular ceremony held annually in May before fifteen hundred of their peers. The children choose winners in Fiction and Non-Fiction when they cast their ballots on the province-wide Voting Day earlier in the same month. It is the most democratic and unbiased process possible when the children make their choice. The program is administered by the Ontario Library Association and run by teacher-librarians and teachers in schools and by children's librarians in public libraries. But the choice belongs to the children. And, in their tens of thousands, they know what they are doing.

They most certainly do. Way to go, Edo!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Robotech and me

Had a wonderful two-hour lunch today with Tommy Yune, co-director of the recently completed movie Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. To my absolute delight, Tommy told me I get a "thanks to" credit at the end of the film.

Why's that, you ask? Well, back in early 2003, I was hired by Harmony Gold to write a series bible for a potential revival of Robotech. I worked very closely with Tommy on that (he flew to Toronto from Los Angeles so we could work together at my home from Sunday, February 15, to Friday, February 21, 2003).

As often happens in Hollywood, the project ended up going in other directions, and my proposal (called Robotech: Rendezvous with Destiny) was never made. But Tommy says it was an important part of the development process for the final film they did end up producing. I haven't seen the full film yet (it was just screened at Cannes!), but the excerpts I've seen look amazingly good.

I'm tickled pink about all this: I have nothing but fond memories of the time I spent working on reviving Robotech, and Tommy and I have remained great friends ever since. (He's in Toronto right now for Anime North, Canada's biggest anime convention.) Mecha forever!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A great Rob and Bob interview -- from 1998!

I stumbled across this today: an interview (transcribed from audio tape) done by Therese Littleton for when Robert Charles Wilson and I were on book tour together the first time, back in 1998, when he was promoting his Darwinia, and I was promoting Factoring Humanity.

It's a great interview: you can read the whole thing here.

Jack Vance is this year's Most Collectable Author

I see that Barry R. Levin Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature -- the world's leading SF rare-book dealer, located in Santa Monica -- has named Jack Vance this year's recipient of The Collectors Award from Most Collectable Author of the Year. And an excellent choice he is, too!

I was honored to get this same honor two years ago. The trophy is stunning and gigantic, a beautiful tower of Lucite surmounted by a polished travertine sphere representing a planet. A complete list of previous author winners:

2005 (18th annual): Jack Vance
2004 (17th annual): Susanna Clarke
2003 (16th annual): Robert J. Sawyer
2002 (15th annual): Neil Gaiman
2001 (14th annual): J.K. Rowling (2nd time)
2000 (13th annual): J.K. Rowling (1st time)
1999 (12th annual): Neal Stephenson
1998 (11th annual): Peter F. Hamilton
1997 (10th annual): Stephen Baxter
1996 ( 9th annual): Stephen King (3rd time)
1995 ( 8th annual): Lois McMaster Bujold
1994 ( 7th annual): Anne Rice
1993 ( 6th annual): Michael Crichton
1992 ( 5th annual): Stephen King (2nd time)
1991 ( 4th annual): Dan Simmons
1990 ( 3rd annual): Stephen King (1st time)
1989 ( 2nd annual): Salman Rushdie
1988 ( 1st annual): Dean R. Koontz

Also given annually: awards to Most Collectable Book of the year, and a Lifetime Collectors award. Information on this year's winners are here, and past winners are here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

They love me in Pittsburgh

Ann Cecil reviews me twice in the current issue of Sigma (May 2006, Issue Number 242), the newsletter of Parsec, the Pittsburgh SF club.

She calls my Mindscan "highly recommended," and of the anthology Down These Dark Spaceways, edited by Mike Resnick and containing my "Identity Theft," she has this to say:

This is one of the best anthologies I have ever read. Mike Resnick got an all-star lineup of contributors: the six stories (novellas) are by Resnick, Robert Reed, Catherine Asaro, Jack McDevitt, David Gerrold, and Robert Sawyer. All of them are good, both as mysteries and as science-fiction. I read one right after the other, in each case sucked in by the premise, and yet each story is vivid and memorable.

Best of the lot is the last story, by Robert Sawyer. "Identity Theft" is on the Hugo ballot, and it is easy to see why. The story starts with the classic cliches [of hard-boiled detective fiction] and then twists and twists, until the reader is breathless keeping up. The conclusion is non-stop action -- literally slam-bang.

I was just going to dip into this anthology, and instead found myself addicted. Highly Recommended; this one is worth joining the SFBC.

Winnipeg con report

KeyCon in Winnipeg this past weekend was wonderful. At 500 attendees, I'm told it was the best turnout in years. And although this was only KeyCon 23, it was impressive to see preparations already well underway for KeyCon's 25th anniversary, in 2008.

I'd never met the other guests of honour before, but we all got along famously: fellow author Jacqueline Carey, gaming guest Barron Vangor Toth, and artist guest Ruth Thompson. I was honored and thrilled to be the first repeat author Guest of Honour the con had ever had; I'd previously been there in 2003.

I was worried about my reading, since it was scheduled for the ungodly hour of 10:00 p.m. Friday night, but I had a good crowd. I read a smorgasbord of Sawyer: scenes from Frameshift, Hominids, Humans, Calculating God, and the short-short stories "If I'm Here, Imagine Where They Sent My Luggage" and "Ours to Discovery."

Saturday afternoon, fabulous local artist Robert Pasternak gave me a tour of his terrific studio, which was filled with amazing science-fiction toys and other great things. After that, the con showed one of my favourite films, Quatermass and the Pit, and I did a half-hour talk about why I like it so much (and gave away hardcovers of Mindscan to those who could answer trivia questions about the film; the books were donated by H.B. Fenn and Company, Tor's Canadian distributor).

The dealers' room was good, and Chapters was on-hand with huge displays of Jacqueline and my books. Sunday night's Guest of Honour dinner was fabulous -- and was followed by watching fireworks from the 15th-floor consuite on honour of the Queen's birthday.

Monday morning was spent SMOFing with John Mansfield (chair of the Winnipeg worldcon in 1994, and part of the Montreal in 2009 Worldcon bid committee) and Linda Ross-Mansfield.

All in all, an extremely well-run, very enjoyable convention. Thank you, Winnipeg!

Guest of honor in Orlando in 2007

I've just been asked to be one of the Author Guests of Honor at the science-fiction convention Oasis 20, to be held May 25-27, 2007 (next year), in Orlando, Florida.

I was previously Guest of Honor at Oasis 16, and for their 20th anniversary, Oasis is inviting back all its previous GoHs. It's going to be one hell of a party! Oasis 16 was one of the best conventions I've ever been to, so I'm really looking forward to this.

Also, it gives me two US guest-of-honor gigs in the States during the first eight weeks of Rollback's release, which will be fabulous for promoting the book.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Stardance Project

My great friend Jeanne Robinson -- wife of writer Spider Robinson -- was shortlisted to go into space aboard the Shuttle as part of the NASA's Civilians in Space program. After the Challenger disaster, that program got cancelled, and Jeanne never got to go into space, where she would have pioneered zero-gravity dance, as described in the novel Stardance that she and Spider wrote together.

But the dream lives on. Spider, Jeanne, and Michael Lennick -- producer of Discovery Channel's Rocket Science and author of the screenplay adaptation of my Illegal Alien -- plus Hugo Winning artist Ron Miller and others, have teamed up to make a computer-generated film based on Stardance -- and they need your help! Check out how you can become an honorary stardancer by visiting the project's website at

Mindscan nominated for Campbell Memorial

I am delighted to report that my Mindscan is a finalist for this year's John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

The nominees are:
  • Transcendent, by Stephen Baxter
  • The Meq, by Steve Cash
  • Child Of Earth, by David Gerrold
  • Mind's Eye, by Paul J. McAuley
  • Seeker, by Jack McDevitt
  • Learning The World, by Ken MacLeod
  • The Summer Isles, by Ian R. MacLeod
  • Counting Heads, by David Marusek
  • Mindscan, by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Accelerando, by Charles Stross
  • The World Before, by Karen Traviss
  • Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson

The Campbell Memorial is the only major award given exclusively to science fiction; fantasy works are not eligible. It is also the only major juried award in the science-fiction field. This year's jurors are:

  • Gregory Benford
  • Paul A. Carter
  • James Gunn
  • Elizabeth Anne Hull
  • Christopher McKitterick
  • Farah Mendlesohn
  • Pamela Sargent
  • T.A. Shippey

This is my third time being nominated for the Campbell Memorial Award (which is not to be confused with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, given alongside the Hugos each year). My previous Campbell Memorial Award nominations were for Calculating God and Hominids.

The winner will be announced at Campbell Conference and Awards Banquet, July 6-9, 2006.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday Spotlight: Star Trek V

People find my website when searching on all sorts of terms. One term that recently brought a nice person to my site was "Sybok" (I know it was a nice person, because he went on to send me a couple of emails). Sybok is the name of Spock's half-brother in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and he's a character I'm rather fond of: the laughing Vulcan. If you've read my books, such as Calculating God, you know I'm fascinated by the science vs. religion debate, and Sybok nicely symbolizes that.

Also, back in 2000, I got to work with William Shatner for a few days. He was lined up to be executive producer of a computer-animated TV series I created for Nelvana, a Canadian animation house (a damn good series called Exodus: Mars, that, sadly, never got made); Bill and I went around to various networks in Hollywood, pitching the series together. I found him to be highly creative, highly intelligent, highly pleasant, and highly professional -- and, of course, he was the director of Star Trek V.

And so, for today's Monday Spotlight, highlighting one of the 500+ documents on my website at, I offer up this little essay from 1991 on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

That '70s Show finale

I was born in 1960, which is the same year the kids on That '70s Show were supposedly born. I had a fondness for this show, when it first started back in 1998, because parts of it echoed my own teenage years. And so I tuned in tonight for the hour-long series finale.

It was just okay. It should have been poignant and moving, but it wasn't really, even though original star Topher Grace returned for the final few minutes.

In fact, as I sat waiting for the ending credits, I found myself thinking about another, earlier show I'd very much liked, The Wonder Years, about growing up in the 1960s, and that program's final episode, which still chokes me up whenever I think about it, even though that finalé first aired 13 years ago. Here's the closing narration from that episode:

Things never turn out exactly the way you planned. I know they didn't with me. Still, like my father used to say, "Traffic's traffic, you go where life takes you," and growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you're in diapers, the next you're gone, but the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul.

I remember a time, a place, a particular Fourth of July, the things that happened in that decade of war and change. I remember a house like a lot of houses, a yard like a lot of yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. I remember how hard it was growing up among people and places I loved.

Most of all, I remember how hard it was to leave. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back in wonder.

That's good writing.

And I still look back in wonder, too.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I should have been an agent

I think I should have been an agent. Not only am I spending a lot of my time these days (a) reviewing deals that I'm being offered and (b) negotiating deals with other authors for books under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint -- but I'm finding I'm actually enjoying the wheeling and dealing.

At the Nebula banquet, Harlan Ellison made a comment about how many authors in this field just ignore the business aspects, to their peril (and, I'd add, to the peril of authors in general, since they create a climate in which publishers and producers are used to being rapacious and getting away with it), but I actually dig all this stuff.

So far this week, I've written detailed memos to my agents about two new film option proposals and a request from one of my older publishers to modify the ebook clause in a contract we did years ago, plus done a lot of work (including doing up some accompanying spreadsheets) on a lengthy memo about my next book project, and provided some additional paper work related to my upcoming writer-in-residence gig in Kitchener, Ontario. It's all kind of fun, actually -- I can see why my agents enjoy their work. :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rollback galleys for Analog

I received the page proofs from Analog today for all four parts of the serialization of my next novel, Rollback. This is my last chance to make corrections. The whole novel will be serialized in Analog's October, November, and December 2006 edition, and the combined January-February 2007 edition, with the hardcover following in April 2007 from Tor. More about the serialization is here.

V-Con Master Classes in Writing

I don't have anything to do with these (although I do plan on attending V-Con), but my friend Clint Budd asked me to help spread the word about the Master Classes in Writing Genre Fiction on Friday, October 6, 2006, being offered in conjunction with V-Con, the Vancouver SF convention. You can read more about it on the V-Con website, and a lot of extra detail is in this PDF brochure. The instructors are Barbara Hambly, Matthew Hughes, Alma Alexander, and Lisa Smedman -- I know all four of them, and think very highly of them all.

My workshops at Surrey

Got asked today to submit details for the two workshops I'm going to lead at the Surrey International Writers' Conference in British Columbia this October, and thought some people reading this might appreciate an advance peek:

Mastering Point of View: Learn the strengths and weakness of first-person and third-person narration, and how to avoid point-of-view pitfalls. Most beginning writers have a hard time choosing the appropriate point of view for their stories -- and an even harder time sticking to it. Printed fiction can be more powerful than film, TV, or stage plays because it allows us to get inside the head of our viewpoint character -- to actually become someone in the story. But a poor choice of point-of-view character can leave the reader uninvolved, and violations of the limited perspective provided by a specific point of view can rip the reader right out of the story.

A Top-Down Approach to Science Fiction Writing: Science Fiction is often called "the literature of ideas," but where do those ideas come from? How do you turn a grandly cosmic vision into an intimately human story? What is the relationship between theme and plot? And how do you take the classic elements of science fiction -- time travel, starships, alien beings, artificial intelligence, alternate worlds -- and do something fresh with them, when so many other writers have already mined the same topics?

I also volunteered to do twelve 15-minute blue-pencil café sessions, in which I'll do cold evaluations of three-page (double-spaced) samples of attendees' writing.

Other speakers with an SF/F connection this year include agents Donald Maass and Rachel Vater, Del Rey editor Jim Minz, Bantam Spectra editor Juliet Ulman, and authors Diana Gabaldon and Jack Whyte.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Nice stuff in the mail

More Japanese royalties showed up today, this time for Golden Fleece and End of an Era.

And the May 2006 New York Review of Science Fiction arrived recently, with a nice review of my short-story collection Iterations, saying "Sawyer evokes both the classic sense of wonder and the spirit of exploration ... and is capable of emotional subtlety and emotional impact." (The review comes four years after the book's publication, but, hey, better late than never!)

Tonight is "Third Monday," one of Toronto's two monthly fannish pub nights; I try to make it to both when I'm in town -- and I'm heading off now ("Third Monday" is at Orwell's, 3373 Bloor Street West at Islington, starting at 7:00 p.m. -- everyone is welcome).

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Monday Spotlight: Why writers go to conventions

It's just after midnight here in Toronto, on Sunday night; ToBeCONtinued, such as it was, is now over, and, had things gone according to plan, I'd have just arrived back home now from Chicago.

All the troubles with ToBeCONtinued got me to thinking about just why writers go to SF conventions in the first place. It's not the first time I've pondered that. In fact, The Ottawa Citizen -- the leading newspaper in Canada's capital city -- paid me to contemplate that very question back in 1999, which is when this little article by me first appeared; it'll serve nicely as this week's Monday Spotlight, highlighting one of the 500+ documents on my website at

Rave review for Rogue Harvest

The wonderful SF magazine Talebones has just posted a rave review of Danita Maslan's Rogue Harvest, one of the books under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint for Canada's Red Deer Press.

We'll be using this redaction on the trade-paperback edition of Danita's book, coming this fall: "A delight, expertly crafted; a wonderful read." You can read the full review by Honna Swenson here.

ToBeCONtinued: Palmer recants, apologizes

As I said in this post, Bob Palmer lied to an author friend of mine whom Palmer was trying to entice to replace me as Guest of Honor about why I wasn't attending ToBeCONtinued 5 this weekend, and my friend, knowing I am a dual US/Canadian citizen, with no travel restrictions whatsoever, asked Palmer to explain why he was saying I couldn't enter the States.

Palmer has sent this reply to my friend (quoted in its entirety -- the ellipsis points are how the original ends; the odd capitalization is in the original, too):

"Apologies To Mr Sawyer And You For Us Not Booking His Travel On Time. No Issues With Crossing Exist, Just Us Not Booking Travel On Time. Sorry For Previous Emails Being Wrong. Sorry Mr. Sawyer. Tbc..."

Saturday, May 13, 2006


I haven't seen it yet, but in theory the DAW anthology Slipstreams edited by Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers was issued earlier this month, containing my short story "Biding Time" -- the second Alex Lomax detective story. (Alex Lomax is the detective in my current Hugo Award-finalist "Identity Theft".)

To Be Continued acknowledges its error on site

In a comment to this posting on my blog, Lis Riba provides this link to a photo on LiveJournal of a poster behind the registration desk on site at ToBeContinued, going on right now in Illinois (emphasis added):

To Be Continued 5

Due to cancellations and space issues the following items and people will not be at this year show:

Aaron Douglas
Bob Eggleton
Weta Workshop

Internet Café
Art Show
Critter Crunch

Finally, due to an error on our part Robert J. Sawyer will not be in attendance. Our apology to him.

We apologize for any inconvenience this caused you. We have a great show still planned with a lot of great panelists and Guests of Honor and hope you will enjoy the convention.

To Be Continued

Friday, May 12, 2006

Some of my favourite movies

In case anyone was wondering:

Quatermass and the Pit was originally released in North America as Five Million Years to Earth ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

DNTO outline

Here's what you'll hear in the first hour of this week's Definitely NOT The Opera, on CBC Radio One (1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., Saturday, May 13 (listen online) -- I'm part of the show:

What exactly makes a geek? Do you just have to be smart? Wear glasses? Like science? We’ll find out when we talk to a guy who likes science, and is one of the smartest folks on CBC Radio -- Quirks and Quarks host Bob McDonald.

And while we’ve got Bob around, let’s pit his wit against a young lady who has a way with words. What with documentaries like Spellbound, spelling bee champs are more chic than geek these days, as we’ll find out when we talk to 12-year-old champion speller Leslie Newcombe - and find out if she can best Bob in the great DNTO spell-off.

And we’ll ask Bob and Leslie to help us out with an entirely different contest - Lost In Translation.

Our comic in L.A., John Wing Jr., will give us his take on geeks in his latest Letter From America.

Science fiction -- it’s not just for geeks anymore. We’ll talk to award-winning sci-fi author Robert J. Sawyer about why the genre is more popular than ever.

But you know, geekery isn’t just about science or fiction or science fiction. You can also be a music geek. Our own resident musicgeekocologist, Mark Rheaume, will tell us about history’s ultimate music nerd.

And speaking of nerdy music... we’ll have tunes from Weezer, Cake, the Five Man Electrical Band, Elvis Costello, and Van Dyke Parks.

SNL's "Weekend Update"

I'm a big fan of the "Weekend Update" segment on NBC's Saturday Night Live, and I've got to say the current anchor team of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler is absolutely marvelous -- the best in years: funny, pointed, with fabulous chemistry. Check out samples of their news reports (these from the March 11, 2006, edition -- and you can read other weeks using the pulldown menu at the left).

Indeed, often I only tune into SNL at 12:10 a.m., just to catch "Weekend Update." But tomorrow (Saturday, May 13, 2006), SNL's guest host is Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the musical guest is Paul Simon! Oh, I am so going to be watching!

Nice things!

A bunch of good things:

I recently bought a couple of the wonderful die-cast Product Enterprises vehicles from Gerry Anderson's old Supermarionation TV series; these are tough to find outside the UK. I got Fireball XL5 (above) and Stingray at Toronto's Silver Snail comic-book shop, and just scored a Supercar (colour version) and an Eagle Transporter (from Space 1999) on eBay from a US dealer. I'm absolutely delighted with the two I've already got -- they are just gorgeous!

Went to my alma mater, Ryerson University, today, for the grand opening of their new HDTV studios (I graduated in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in Radio and Television Arts). A bunch of my old professors were there, and it was a treat to see them again. And to show off the new HDTV field-production equipment, Ryerson had produced a series of mini-documentaries about (cough, cough) illustrious alumni which they showed on giant HDTV monitors during the ceremony, including one about me. It was great to see old friends and the new facilities.

Just sold Italian rights to my Hugo Award-nominated novella "Identity Theft." It's going to be done as a standalone book, under the Odissea imprint -- cool!

And my buddy Daniel Dern pointed out that Michelle West compares me to best-selling mystery writer Walter Mosley -- no, no, wait, it's even better: she compares Walter Mosley to me -- in the June 2006 The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, calling Mosley's new novel The Wave, "a very Robert Sawyer-esque speculative novel -- if you like Robert Sawyer'’s novels, you should read this one." The full review is here.

Got a royalty check from Japan yesterday for Starplex -- nice to see a book that came out ten years ago still generating income.

And remember how I posted last week about going off to give a talk for a big technology firm at the last minute? Well, the firm was Computer Associates, and a vice-president there just sent along a wonderful comment about my abilities as a keynote speaker:

Thanks again for coming to our meeting. I don't have to tell you the talk hit the spot, as you personally saw how the audience engaged in a lively Q&A at the end of your presentation. This continued into the coffee break, which really shows how much your words provoked the reaction I was hoping for, namely a thought-provoking break from our organizational/technical discussions. Informal feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive. I am glad you could come on short notice. Your participation certainly contributed to the success of our event.

And, finally, not having to go to ToBeCONtinued this weekend means I get to help my mom celebrate Mother's Day -- in fact, I've now arranged for my two brothers to join Carolyn and me in taking her out for lunch. We're actually doing it on Saturday, instead of Sunday, and I know it'll be lots of fun.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sigh -- more ToBeCONtinued crap

So now the ToBeCONtinued website says this: "Due to cancelations Aaron Douglas, Robert Sawyer, and Weta will not be at the convention. Causing us to scale back our program somewhat." Again, WTF? I did NOT cancel.

Oh, and look here: an apology! What's that? You don't see it? Well, you must be using a screen resolution of 1024x768 or less, 'cause you have to scroll to the second page of a "Click image to enter" page to see it -- yup, there it is, in red type on a black background, hidden below the ads. Touched, I am.

Oh, and I guess a few details weren't properly ironed out with the hotel. The con website now says:

Due to space problems there will be no art show at To Be Continued this year. All art mailed in will be returned to Artists in the condition it arrived in.

Chicago Games Quest has been canceled this year due to space problems. Sorry for the trouble.

Due to space problems we have been forced to greatly reduce our film schedule to Saturday night starting at 5pm only. We will be showing the Movie Trailer Panel, Lego Film, Zathura, and Serenity. Sorry for the inconvienience.

Due to space problems we have had to cancel our Luau.

Due to hotel problems we regret the we have to cancel our consuite. The hotel has social areas to meet and gather as well as restaurants and bar. Sorry for any trouble this causes you.

Film options

Well, it's probably time for some good news. I've recently done a couple of movie-option deals I'm very pleased about; both deals were negotiated by Eli Kirschner of Created By, my Hollywood agents, although as it happens both are with Toronto companies.

The first is an option on my most-recent novel, Mindscan, with Scott Calbeck, a producer/screenwriter here in Toronto.

The second is on my Nebula Award-winning The Terminal Experiment with Toronto's Divani Films, headed by producer Srinivas Krishna -- we're just finishing up crossing the T's and dotting the I's on the long-form agreement, but the project (with my blessing) has already received development funding from Telefilm Canada, as you can see in this press release.

To quote from the release:

Telefilm Canada is pleased to announce its support of 83 highly original and distinctively Canadian English-language feature films in development -- ranging from outrageous comedies to insightful dramas, from heart pounding thrillers to evocative love stories.

Telefilm's Development Component, through the Canada Feature Film Fund, is designed to assist producers as they develop their project from the screenwriting stage through to the packaging stage.

Telefilm Canada is a federal cultural agency dedicated to the development and promotion of the Canadian film, television and new media industries. With the objective of building larger audiences for Canadian cultural products, the Corporation acts as a partner to the private sector through investments in diverse productions with wide appeal.

Go to ToBeCONtinued; have fun!

Big-name Chicago fan Steven H. Silver posted the following in my Yahoo! Groups newsgroup. I replied there, but I thought I should also post my reply here. Steven said:

Many people in Chicago fandom have announced their plans to avoid the con this weekend, partly due to the con's treatment of Rob. Many others weren't planning on going because of past dealings with certain members of the con committee. Many who are going have plans to explain what happened whenever they have the opportunity.

My response: Well, I thank people for setting the record straight. But I'm certainly not asking anyone to boycott this convention. I fully understand that the fault is that of Bob Palmer -- one person -- and that presumably many other, good people have worked on and financially supported this convention. Go, have a good time, drink a toast to an absent friend, and enjoy. :)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Why I'm so upset ...

Just to be clear, the reason I'm so upset about Bob Palmer's lie about my ability to travel to the States is that my livelihood depends on me being able to routinely do that, and if this unfounded story gets around that I couldn't make it to an American con because I'm supposedly not allowed to enter the US, that would kill me being invited to future American cons.

People who heard what Palmer was saying might say to others, "You're thinking of asking Rob Sawyer to be GoH? Oh, don't do that -- I heard he wasn't able to come to ToBeCONtinued, because they wouldn't let him across the border."

Likewise, I often do paid speaking engagements in the States (at several thousand dollars a pop), and, again, I can't have people thinking, "Oh, sure, I hear this Sawyer guy gives a good keynote, but I understand he left some conference in the lurch when it turned out at the last minute that he couldn't get across the border -- something in his past, I guess." In his haste to cover his own ass, Palmer cared not one whit about what his lie might do to my ability to make a living.

And so I have to loudly, completely, and totally quash this. As I said in this entry, "I'm a US citizen [with a] US passport. I have a US Social Security card, too; I can travel to, live in, work freely in, and even move to the United States anytime I wish, without restrictions." That is 100% true.

In the past year, I've been Guest of Honor at Apollocon in Houston, Special Guest at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Guest of Honor at CopperCon in Phoenix, Toastmaster at Norwescon in Seattle; a presenter at the Writers of the Future, also in Seattle; given keynotes at meetings in Phoenix, Boston, and New York; and been on book tour to New York, Michigan, California, and Oregon. If any of you hear anyone repeating Palmer's lie as if it were truth, please, please, please direct them here.

Again, the truth is there are absolutely no restrictions on my ability to travel to the US.

Definitely Not the Opera

I'll be a guest on CBC Radio One's Definitely Not the Opera, hosted by Sook-Yin Lee (above), this Saturday afternoon, May 13, 2006. The show airs from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in all time zones, except in Newfoundland, where it's half an hour later.

At the moment they think I'll be in the first hour. You can listen online here. Definitely Not the Opera is billed as "Your weekend guide to modern culture."

(I'm actually recording the show tomorrow afternoon.)

Why I won't be at ToBeCONtinued

Here's the story of why I'm not going to be at ToBeCONtinued this weekend as Author Guest of Honor, and why I am livid at the convention's chair, Bob Palmer.

Palmer wouldn't let me buy my own plane tickets, and postponed buying them for me until -- well, until forever. The con starts in less than three days, and I am not coming. How did I find out that I wasn't coming? Why, when a friend -- a writer who lives in driving distance of where ToBeCONtinued is being held -- called me to say that the con had just offered my friend the chance to be Guest of Honor in my place. That's right: Bob Palmer didn't even bother to tell me that I'd been dumped before he started asking other people to take over as Guest of Honor.

As if that wasn't bad enough, he totally and completely lied to my friend -- and God knows who else -- about why I wasn't coming. The truth -- that he simply waited way too long to book my plane tickets, so that the price had risen to an astronomical figure -- is abundantly clear if you read the email exchanges between us here.

As you can see, I was a complete pro, and a gentlemen. When the tickets reached triple what they would have cost had Palmer let me book them when I offered to do so, I wrote to him and said:

"I feel a moral obligation to offer to not come to your convention.

"Had tickets been booked in a timely fashion, they would have cost the con about one third of the current amount. I have no desire to bankrupt ToBeContinued. I was flattered to be asked to be GoH, and would happily consider coming in that role next year (with tickets purchased well in advance), instead, if that makes better sense for the convention -- or simply never attending at all.

"I'm not looking to blame anyone for the delays or lapses in communication, and have no anger or animosity -- and I don't want you to feel pressured to spend money the con can't afford. If it's better for the con for me not to come, given the airfares available at this late date, simply say so, and that will be the end of the matter."

Instead of taking me up on that offer, and telling people honestly what had happened, here's what Bob Palmer said in an email to the writer he wanted to have replace me:

"Robert J. Sawyer was suppose to appear as our Author guest and had to cancel due to travel restrictions from Canada entering the US."

What the fuck? Travel restrictions? I'm a US citizen -- and Palmer knows that. I told him so in email on April 26 -- I even gave him my US passport number. I have a US Social Security card, too; I can travel to, live in, work freely in, and even move to the United States anytime I wish, without restrictions.

Even if I weren't a US citizen, I'd still be able to freely travel to the States as a Canadian citizen (I am a dual citizen), unless the US government had imposed "travel restrictions" on me "entering the US" -- which it only would have if I had a criminal record; Palmer's message to my friend implies that I have one. But I don't: I've never been arrested or charged with any crime; hell, I've never even had a parking ticket.

My author friend who was asked to replace me knows I'm a US citizen, and so called Palmer on this, saying: "Just out of curiosity, what travel restrictions are preventing Rob Sawyer from entering the US from Canada? He's a US citizen."

Did Palmer come clean, admitting that the only reason I wasn't going to be at ToBeCONtinued was because Palmer himself had failed to buy my plane tickets in a timely fashion? No. Instead he replied:

"Without getting into the long drawn out story it basicaly has to do with the airline we were using not so much customs. He very much wanted to bring his wife along and it could not happen. Thats the basic problem."

Again, what the fuck? As you can see in the email transcripts, I never once suggested or even hinted that ToBeCONtinued should pay for my wife to come, or ever made my attendance contingent on her being able to come. On April 20, I wrote to Palmer, saying I wanted to bring my wife along AT MY OWN EXPENSE:

"I know you've only offered to pay for my travel, but I'd like to bring my wife Carolyn Clink along at my own expense. Given that, it might be simplest if I booked my flight directly, and had you reimburse me for half the total (that is, for my part of the airfare)."

But Palmer wouldn't let me book the tickets. When the price had risen from Cdn$355 to Cdn$494 because of the delay imposed by Palmer, I told him I wouldn't be bringing my wife along, and said "I'm coming alone." There was no question about my attendance.

And as for the airline, I had merely said I had a preference for Air Canada, as I am a high-status member of their frequent-flyer program, but that I'd fly any airline at all if it was substantially cheaper, saying only "please don't bump me to another carrier just to save five or ten dollars."

My absence from ToBeCONtinued has NOTHING AT ALL to do with customs. My absence from ToBeCONtinued has NOTHING AT ALL to do with the airline the con was planning to use. My absence from ToBeCONtinued has NOTHING AT ALL to do with not being able to bring my wife along. And my absence from ToBeCONtinued has NOTHING AT ALL to do with "travel restrictions" on me entering the US. Every single one of those suggestions is a lie.

The sole and complete cause of my absence is Bob Palmer's failure to arrange for my travel to the con, despite many reminders by me over a period of weeks that he should do so.

Again, I apologize to any readers of mine who had hoped to see me at this convention.

-- Rob Sawyer

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

I will not be at ToBeCONtinued

More on this later, but I wanted to get the word out. I won't be at ToBeCONtinued this weekend; the con never got around to booking tickets for me, despite my repeated reminders.

ToBeCONtinued: not sure if I'll be there

In theory, 72 hours from now I should be boarding a plane, and heading to Chicago for the convention ToBeCONtinued, at which I am supposed to be Author Guest of Honor.

I say "in theory" because the convention was supposed to book my airline tickets, and, despite numerous reminders on my part, no tickets have been booked.

I had volunteered to buy tickets myself, back when they would have cost US$312, but the con chair wouldn't let me do that -- he wanted to see if he could get a better deal.

I've watched as the prices have gone up and up and up as we get closer to the travel date; right now, the cheapest non-direct flight is US$777, and the cheapest direct flight is US$972.

On Sunday -- when tickets could be had for US$100 less than they cost now -- I sent an email to the con, which said in part:

I feel a moral obligation to offer to not come to your convention.

Had tickets been booked in a timely fashion, they would have cost the con about one third of the current amount. I have no desire to bankrupt ToBeContinued. I was flattered to be asked to be GoH, and would happily consider coming in that role next year (with tickets purchased well in advance), instead, if that makes better sense for the convention -- or simply never attending at all.

I'm not looking to blame anyone for the delays or lapses in communication, and have no anger or animosity -- and I don't want you to feel pressured to spend money the con can't afford. If it's better for the con for me not to come, given the airfares available at this late date, simply say so, and that will be the end of the matter.

And I went on to outline some options for getting me to the con, should they still wish to do so. I've had no reply.

It's still possible that tickets may materialize in time for me to make the convention, but I feel an obligation to let those who might be planning to go specifically to see me to know that my attendance is now in doubt.

Just so there's no possible confusion about what went down, I've uploaded a complete record of the emails exchanged on the topic of my travel to my website (with names of the concom members and such things as phone numbers and passport numbers removed). You can read it here.

If I hear anything new, I'll post it here. Please accept my profound apologies; I am truly sorry for the inconvenience this has caused any of my readers.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Locus bestsellers' list corrected

As I discussed in this entry, the Locus paperback bestsellers' list published in the May 2006 issue incorrectly listed my Mindscan as being in its first month on the list; this is in fact its second consecutive month on the list -- quite a rare achievement, especially for an SF novel.

Locus Online has corrected the error: the corrected list is here.

My brother Alan's blog -- new media

My brother Alan is a strategy consultant for IBM Global Business Services, specializing in digital media and the Media and Entertainment industry. He has his own blog, called Alan Sawyer's Media Views. Check it out!

A busy week

On Tuesday of last week, I got a call from my speakers' bureau, asking me if I could give a talk two days hence in New York for a major technology company that was flying in its top 25 tech people from its offices worldwide for a meeting. Of course, I said yes. I gave a talk on the technological singularity, touching on nanotech, AI, programmable matter, the semantic web, and lots of other fun things, and it was very well received. Plus, I have to admit that I find it way cool that I get paid more to give a one-hour talk these days than I got as an advance for my first novel ... :)

As it happens, an old friend of mine lives not far from the company's offices, and so I arranged to get together with him. Back in 1989, he and I were two of the six members of the WordStar Advisory Board, a group of power-users of the word-processing program WordStar who consulted directly with the programmers and management of the company (and twice got flown in to the company's headquarters in California).

My friend's name is Kevin Lee (he was our token WordStar 2000 user), and there are several references to him and other WordStar Advisory Board members in my Quintaglio trilogy (Far-Seer, Fossil Hunter, and Foreigner). The praenomen syllable Wab, used by several characters, is short for WordStar Advisory Board (and the female lead in the series, Novato, is named after the town where WordStar was headquartered). Wab-Babnol is in honor of Kevin (who back then lived in Babylon, New York); the province Kev'toolar is named after him; and there's a Quintaglio sailor named Vek-Inlee, which is an anagram of his name (Kevin is a sailor). Anyway, he and I had a wonderful dinner together -- it'd been eleven years since we'd seen each other, and we had a fabulous time catching up.

Saturday was also all about old friends: Carolyn and I got together with two high-school buddies, Gillian and Helena, to play Trivial Pursuit (the Canadian edition of Genus Five, a very good version of the game). Helena and I formed a team, and we beat (but just barely) Carolyn and Gillian in a very enjoyable game. We were then joined by Carolyn's brother David and Gillian's 19-year-old daughter Denise, and I took everyone out to dinner at my favorite Toronto-area pizza place, Dante's (in Thornhill). After that, everyone came back to Carolyn and my place to watch the classic Star Trek episode "Court-Martial" on DVD on my 50" big-screen TV, followed by another screening of "In Harm's Way," the wonderful Trek fan film I adore. Helena stayed overnight at our place. It was a terrific, pleasant day.

Free at last!

As of today, I have no pending deadlines, no articles due, and no short-story commitments, plus I've wrapped up all revisions on my next novel, Rollback, which is coming out in April 2007.

It's my intention to not take on other side projects for the foreseeable future; I just want to concentrate on my next novel without distractions.

Of course, I do have things coming up: I'm teaching for a week at Odyssey in July; teaching for another week at Banff in September; and have agreed to be Writer-in-Residence at the Kitchener, Ontario, Public Library in October and November (I'll post more about this soon).

And I have a full schedule of conventions to attend this year, plus the Writers of the Future awards banquet, plus whatever speaking engagements come up. And I'm sure there will be some things to do surrounding the release of Boarding the Enterprise, the 40th-anniversary Star Trek essay collection David Gerrold and I have co-edited; it comes out August 1, 2006. And there's always something to be done for Robert J. Sawyer Books, the line of SF books that I edit.

But my principal creative energies will be focused on my next novel, and I'm very happy about that. And as a sign of my seriousness about this, I just turned down a major project for a Canadian broadcaster -- I'm a novelist, and I want to be writing a novel right now.

Monday Spotlight: Nebula Lists

Well, my novella "Identity Theft" didn't win the Nebula on the weekend -- the trophy went to Kelly Link for her "Magic for Beginners." But "Identity Theft" is still eligible for the Hugos being given later this year. :)

The best-novel Nebula went to Joe Haldeman's Camouflage, which, like several previous Nebula winning novels, including Frank Herbert's Dune, Lois McMaster Bujold's Failling Free and my own The Terminal Experiment, was first serialized in Analog.

And so, for our Monday spotlight, highlighting documents from my website at, today I offer up three up-to-date lists, each of which gives a different perspective on the winners:

Saturday, May 6, 2006

"Identity Theft" Nebula Award essay

Today's the day that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America are giving out the Nebula Awards, and my "Identity Theft" is a finalist in the best-novella category.

All the nominees were invited to submit short essays about their stories and brief biographies, which will appear in the issue of the SFWA Bulletin that is being given out to attendees of the Nebula banquet tonight. Here's what I had to say:


There's a tendency in our industry to pooh-pooh theme anthologies. Somehow, the notion of writing a story to order strikes people as inherently wrong, and the idea that a story might be commissioned, as opposed to written on spec, seems outrageous to some. I disagree. For me, many of the greatest challenges I've faced as a writer came from anthology commissions, and they've resulted in me successfully going in directions I simply never would have otherwise.

When I sit down to do a new novel contract, my publisher is, quite rightly, looking for me to propose something that plays to my strengths and builds on my existing audience (and all those who complain about commissioned stories never seem to discuss novel commissions, the engine that drives our industry -- but I digress). But when a short-fiction editor approaches me for a theme anthology, very often it's in an area that is new to me, and those commissions have inspired me to produce some of the work I'm most proud of.

Ed Kramer asked me to do libertarian SF a few years ago -- me, the bleeding-heart big-government Canadian liberal -- and the result was the Hugo Award finalist "The Hand You're Dealt." Ed came to me later looking for horror -- me, the hard-SF quantum-computers-and-aliens guy -- and the result was the Bram Stoker Award finalist "Fallen Angel." My Hugo finalist last year, "Shed Skin," likewise was commissioned for an anthology, one that also contained work by such other hacks as Nalo Hopkinson and Cory Doctorow, produced in honor of Bakka, the SF bookstore we all used to work at.

And this year, "Identity Theft" isn't just a Nebula finalist, it's also a Hugo finalist and has already won the world's largest cash prize for SF writing, the 6,000-euro Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficción -- in blind judging, I might add. And yet, I never would have written it -- or even once thought about creating an SF hard-boiled-detective story -- if Mike Resnick hadn't come knocking. If it weren't for theme anthologies, and commissioned works, if it weren't for creative and versatile editors like Mike Resnick and Ed Kramer and Marty Greenberg and Julie E. Czerneda and John Helfers, and for publishers like DAW and now the Science Fiction Book Club that have vigorously supported the original-anthology market, quality stories like these by myself and dozens of other authors simply wouldn't exist. My hat is off to those editors and publishers, and I am honored and thrilled to be the first-ever Nebula nominee for an original Science Fiction Book Club publication.


Robert J. Sawyer is the author of 17 science-fiction novels including the Nebula Award winner The Terminal Experiment (serialized in Analog as Hobson's Choice), the Hugo Award winner Hominids, the Nebula and Hugo Award finalist Starplex, and the Seiun Award winners End of an Era, Frameshift, and Illegal Alien.

Three of his ten Hugo nominations and four of his nine Aurora Award wins have been for short fiction, and he's won the Crime Writers of Canada's Arthur Ellis Award, Analog magazine's Analytical Laboratory Award, and Science Fiction Chronicle's Reader Award, all for best short story of the year, as well as France's Le Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire for Best Foreign Short Story of the Year.

Rob's latest novel is Mindscan from Tor, and his next, Rollback, will be serialized in Analog starting in the October 2006 issue, with the hardcover to follow from Tor in April 2007. His novels have earned starred reviews in Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Kliatt, and Quill & Quire, have hit the top-ten national mainstream bestsellers' lists in Canada, and have reached number one on the Locus bestsellers' list. He runs an intensive week-long SF writing workshop in Banff, Alberta, each year, will be writer-in-residence at Odyssey this summer, and edits the Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint for Fitzhenry & Whiteside, one of Canada's leading publishers. His million-plus-word website is at

Friday, May 5, 2006

Nebula Awards musing

So, Mike Resnick asked me to do an essay for Nebula Awards Showcase 2007, which will be the next volume in SFWA's annual series of anthologies. It's been a while since I did such an essay (I had one in the volume that came out in 1994), and so I thought I should just get a flavor of what these books are like lately by reading the reviews. And I stumbled on this 2,500-word essay, which is (as I write this, anyway), the first of three reviews shown of Nebula Awards Showcase 2005. I'm referring to the review entitled "There Isn't a Science Fiction Writers of America Anymore" posted December 17, 2005, by Antinomian, from Estonia.

I don't necessarily agree with the review, and it's certainly not politically correct -- but it's as thoughtful and entertaining an essay about science fiction as I've read of late.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Two months on the Locus Bestsellers' List

Well, it probably only matters to me, but I feel compelled to note that the SF trade journal Locus has incorrectly listed my novel Mindscan's standing on the bestsellers' list published in that magazine's just-released May issue (and online on the Locus website since last Thursday, April 27, 2006).

This month's Locus paperbacks bestsellers' list (published in the May 2006 issue covering the data period of February 2006) has Mindscan listed as follows:

#6. Mindscan, Robert J. Sawyer (Tor)
Months on list: 1
Last month: -

Although the #6 ranking is presumably correct, the rest of it is not right. This isn't Mindscan's first month on the list in paperback; rather, this is its second. Last month's paperback bestsellers' list (published in April 2006, data period January 2006) had Mindscan as follows:

#9. Mindscan, Robert J. Sawyer (Tor)
Months on list: 1
Last month: -

So, the correct listing this month should be:

#6. Mindscan, Robert J. Sawyer (Tor)
Months on list: 2
Last month: 9

Given how rare it is for books -- especially SF ones -- to make the Locus bestsellers' list for two months in a row, this seems worth noting.
  • In the May 2006 list, Locus has only 2 of 11 paperbacks listed as being on for a second consecutive month, both of which are fantasy.

  • In the April 2006 list, Locus has only 3 of 10 paperbacks listed as being on for a second consecutive month, and all are fantasy.

  • In the March 2006 list, only two of 11 paperbacks are on for a second consecutive month, and both are fantasy.

  • In the February 2006 list, only one of 10 paperbacks is on for a second consecutive month, and it's a fantasy.

  • In fact, you have to go back four months, to the January 2006 list, to find another SF paperback that's been on for two consecutive months (S.M. Stirling's Dies The Fire).

Incidentally, Mindscan was also on the Locus bestsellers' list in hardcover, hitting number 4 on the list that was published in the July 2005 issue, covering the data period of April 2005.

The Mindscan hardcover also appeared on the following Canadian bestsellers' lists:
  • Saskatoon Star Phoenix, hardcover bestsellers, combined fiction and nonfiction (all genres), April 30, 2005, at #3.

  • Winnipeg Free Press, hardcover fiction (all genres), April 24, 2005, at #6.

  • McNally Robinson, combined chain-wide fiction and nonfiction hardcovers (all genres), April 30, 2005, at #6.

  • McNally Robinson Winnipeg, Fantasy, SF, and Horror hardcovers, April 2005, at #1.

  • McNally Robinson Saskatoon, Fantasy, SF, and Horror hardcovers, April 2005, at #1.

For the full text of those lists, see this entry in my blog archives (hit refresh once the page fully loads if you don't see the right entry).

Monday, May 1, 2006

GoH at RavenCon in Richmond, Virginia

I'm pleased to announce that I've accepted an invitation to be Guest of Honor at RavenCon 2007 in Richmond, Virginia. The dates are April 27-29, 2007 -- which means I'll be in Virginia on my birthday. That's very appropriate, since, on my actual birth day, back in 1960, I started off in Virginia (my mother's name is Virginia) ... :)

Monday Spotlight: RJS in the Classroom

My books are often taught in schools. For today's Monday Spotlight, highlighting one of the 500+ documents on my website, I'm featuring this page, which gathers quotes from teachers and students who've used my books in the classroom, and links to a PDF brochure that discusses such use of my books in more detail.

Seeing Things

On Saturday afternoon, I went to see United 93. There were a total of 15 people in the theatre -- an ominous sign during opening weekend. I don't know if the small turnout was related to the beautiful weather (I happened to be in Calgary that day), or a general reluctance on the part of people to relive such painful memories, but I do urge people to see this film. It is not in the least bit sensationalistic, and it's all the more effective for that. Astonishingly, several of the key roles are played by the people who actually held them in real life, and they are absolutely captivating.

As it happens, Saturday was also my birthday, and Randy McCharles -- chair of the 2008 World Fantasy Convention, which will be in Calgary -- threw a party for my birthday at his house. It was terrific, and as part of it, we watched the fan-made Star Trek: The Original Series program In Harm's Way. It was my third time seeing it, and I totally love it. The script is terrifically clever, and involves a meeting between Captain Christopher Pike aboard the Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk aboard the Farragut (yes, the Farragut), and Commodore Matt Decker. The familiar Trek characters are all played by enthusiastic amateurs, and the guest-star roles are filled by professional actors who actually appeared in classic Trek: Malachi Throne as a Klingon captain, BarBara Luna as a human woman, and William Windom back in the saddle as Commodore Decker.

Sunday night, I watched the best-ever classic Columbo episode on DVD: "Any Old Port in a Storm," with guest star Donald Pleasance. The episode was directed by Leo Penn (who also directed some classic Trek episodes, and is Sean's father), and was written by, of all people, Stanley Ralph Ross, who wrote lots of classic Batman episodes. Absolutely first rate.

"Sawyer's Neanderthals Wow Japan"

That's the headline on a story that came out today on SciFi Wire, the news service of the SciFi Channel. There full text of the story is here.