Thursday, May 31, 2007

DiChario nominated for Campbell Memorial

I am thrilled to report that Nick DiChario's A Small and Remarkable Life, published under the Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint, has been short-listed for one of the most prestigious awards in all of science fiction: The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Novel of the Year.

The short list is here.

The Campbell Memorial is the principal juried award in the field, bestowed by a blue-ribbon panel of American and British academics and authors.

As it happens, I myself won the award last year for my novel Mindscan, so you'll find a lot of information about it in my press release for that win.

For the record, this is the second award nomination for an RJS Books publication; the first, last year, was the Aurora Award -- Canada's top SF award -- for best short work in English, for "Alexander's Road," the one original story in Karl Schroeder's collection The Engine oF Recall, as you can see here.

Can I pick 'em, or what? :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

China, here I come!

To my astonishment and delight, my Chinese publisher has just informed me that I've won the Galaxy Award, China's top science-fiction award, in the category "Most-Popular Foreign Author of the Year." Go me!

And I will: all the way to Chengdu, China, to collect the award in person in August, and to attend the 2007 International SF/Fantasy Conference in Chengdu, where the award will be given. Carolyn's coming along; it should be a blast!

Others attending from North America, as I understand it, include David Brin, Frederik Pohl and Betty Ann Hull, and Locus editor Charles N. Brown.

Carolyn and I won't be continuing on to Japan for the World Science Fiction Convention the following week, though. Instead, we'll be heading back to Canada's far north for our writing retreat at Berton House.

By the way, this means, I've now won the top SF awards in the United States (the Nebula), France (Le Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire), Japan (the Seiun, which I've won three times), and Spain (the Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficcíon, which I've also won three times); I've also won Canada's top SF award, the Aurora, nine times, but I don't group that with the others because only Canadian authors are eligible for it; the Nebula and the Premio UPC are open to authors regardless of nationality, and the Chinese, Japanese, and French awards all have categories for foreign work.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Aurora nominations looming; full-text of Sawyer story

Nominations for the 2007 Aurora Awards -- the Canadian science fiction and fantasy awards -- are now open. You can get the nominating ballot here. Any Canadian, whether or not resident in Canada, may nominate, and there's no charge to do so.

My own story, eligible for nomination, is the SF/mystery "Biding Time," from the anthology Slipstreams, is available right here as a Word document -- enjoy!

(Deadline for nominations is POSTMARKED by Friday, June 15, 2007.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Another keynote

I'm off to Montreal tonight to give the keynote address tomorrow moring at the conference "Reasons to Hope, Knowledge to Cope -- Innovations in Cancer Patient Education," being presented by the Cancer Patient Education Network Canada. I do a lot of keynotes for corporations and organizations, talking about the current and projected state of science and technology. More on me as a keynote speaker is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

ABC's LOST and Flashforward

I have to confess to never having watched an episode of the ABC TV series Lost, but I know it's hugely popular -- and I know it has a main character named Sawyer.

Well, a fan both of Lost and my work, points out that the name of a funeral home in a recent episode is "Hoffs/Drawlar" -- which is an anagram of Flashforward, the title of my 1999 novel.

And he's enumerated other similarities here.


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How I spent Memorial Day

Author Adam-Troy Castro and his wife Judi picked us up at the hotel at 10:00 a.m. and we drove the 50 miles to the Kennedy Space Centre (getting slightly lost on the way). The Castros' rental car's windshield got so plastered with splattered insects ("love bugs," we were told they were called) that we actually had a very hard time seeing though the glass.

At one point, I asked if people knew what ate love bugs -- then supplied my answer: Herbie-vores. :)

We started our visit to the Kennedy Space Center (which was remarkably uncrowded, given that this was the Memorial Day holiday) by watching the 3D Imax film Walking on the Moon, which was spectacular -- all four of us were teary-eyed by the end. We then took the bus tour to the launch-complex viewing platform (where we could see the top of the Shuttle Atlantis on the pad), and to the newly enclosed Saturn V viewing facility.

We lingered so long at various places (but enjoyable so) that we didn't get to go to the third station on the tour, devoted to the International Space Station, but that was okay. We ran into San Diego fan Cary Meriwether and his girlfriend Michele at KSC, and spent part of our day with them, as well.

We finished our day by doing the Shuttle launch simulator, a new ride (it opened on Friday!) that supposedly accurately mimics a Shuttle launch by simulating three Gs. Although it was purported to be similar in vomit-inducing abilities to the Mission to Space ride at Epcot that we'd done on Friday of last week, it was actually quite tame, and we all enjoyed it. But I was very disappointed in the conclusion, which has the shuttle hanging upside down, with the Earth overhead -- because, while looking on the day side of Earth, they had the sky filled with brilliant (Christmas-tree light) stars. You can't see the stars in space when the Earth is lit up by the sun; there's too much glare, and the stars are too faint.

For NASA to opt for a Hollywood-style version of space, instead of simulating the real thing, was a huge disservice in my view.

After, Adam, Judi, Carolyn, and I went to Cattleman's on International Drive for a nice, late steak dinner.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Singularity video

There's a good video here about The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Check it out, and Digg it if you like it!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

SFBC's Things to Come

Anybody out there got a copy of the bulletin/catalog of the Science Fiction Book Club, that has my Rollback listed as a main selection? If you don't need your copy, I'd love to have it for my files. My address is:

Robert J. Sawyer
100 City Centre Drive
PO Box 2065
Mississauga ON
Canada L5B 3C6

Many, many thanks!


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wilson and Sawyer's Toronto

Karen Bennett has a wonderful survey article on her website entitled The Speculative Torontos of Robert Charles Wilson and Robert J. Sawyer. Check it out!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Rollback book tour comes to an end

And so, with the end of Oasis 20, the SF convention in Orlando, Florida, at which I was one of the Guests of Honor this weekend, the book tour for Rollback, my 17th novel, comes to an end.

From Vancouver, B.C., to Washington, D.C.; from Toronto to Denver; from Calgary to Orlando -- 18 cities all across the continent: signings, readings, and talks; two convention guest-of-honorships; lots of radio, TV, newspaper, and magazine interviews; a bunch of bestsellers' list appearances; and a whole lot of fun spread over six amazing, exhilarating, exhausting weeks.

Special thanks to Carolyn Clink, who did enormous work organizing the tour; Janis Ackroyd, my publicist at H.B. Fenn and Company; Alexis Saarela, my publicist at Tor; Harold Fenn of H.B. Fenn and Tom Doherty of Tor Books; Mike Brett-Surman and Kim Moeller; Randy McCharles; Paul Schuch; the Library of Congress; the Saskatchewan Library Association; the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers; Genrecon; Oasis; all the booksellers; all the librarians; all the journalists; and to Rob's Angels -- the wonderful women who helped out as my handlers across Canada: Bonnie Jean Mah in Vancouver, Barb Galler-Smith in Edmonton, Kirstin Morrell in Calgary, and Bev Geddes in Winnipeg. The tour would have been impossible without all of you! THANK YOU!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dinner on the Robman

In 2004, Mike Resnick was commissioned to edit an original anthology for the Science Fiction Book Club entitled Down These Dark Spaceways. It consisted of six novellas, all by award-winning SF writer, all hard-boiled-detective SF.

The Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) in Spain sponsors the world's largest cash prize for science-fiction writing, the 6,000-euro Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficción -- which happens to be given for novellas. Mike Resnick, Jack McDevitt, and I all submitted our manuscripts from Down These Dark Spaceways. The Premio UPC (called "the most important science fiction award in Europe" by Brian Aldiss) uses blind judging -- the jurors receive the manuscripts with pseudonyms attached. When Jack, Mike, and I submitted our novellas, we made a pact: if one of us should win, he would have to take the other two (and their spouses) out to dinner next time we were all together at the same con.

And, well, I won (and, in fact, it was my third time winning the Premio UPC -- a record). My novella was "Identity Theft," which also went on to be nominated for both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award, and is under option to a Hollywood production company. And this weekend Jack, Mike, and I are all together here at Oasis 20 in Orlando, Florida, and so I took them out, along with their wives, to a nice steak-and-seafood place called Fishbones. We were joined by Michael Bishop and his wife Jeri. A great time was had by all!

Left to right around the table: Jack McDevitt, Maureen McDevitt, Michael Bishop, Jeri Bishop, Carolyn Clink, Robert J. Sawyer, Carol Resnick, Mike Resnick.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, May 25, 2007

Florida evening

How's this for a group of people on one convention panel? Mike Bishop, Jack McDevitt, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Joe Haldeman, Mike Resnick, and Robert J. Sawyer? You don't usually get a line-up that stellar, if I do say so myself, even at a Worldcon, but that was the roster for the 7:00 p.m. panel on "When was SF's real golden age?" tonight at Oasis, here in Orlando, Florida.

The con is off to a great start, and has a really nice dealers' room. Carolyn and I had dinner with Mike and Carol Resnick, plus Barbara Delaplace, a fine writer, fellow Canadian, and old friend from CompuServe (and widow of writer Jack Haldeman); it was great to see her after so many years. The evening was spent outside enjoying the cool breeze and fountains with Jack and Maureen McDevitt, Kathleen Ann Goonan, and Barbara Delaplace.

And now: bed. :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


The fourth and final phase of the Rollback book tour is coming to an end; this was the by-plane in the USA part. Last weekend, I was in Denver, and this weekend I'm in Orlando, Florida -- where the weather is gorgeous!

I'm one of the Guests of Honor at Oasis 20, the annual SF convention here. We just had a wonderful two-hour buffet lunch with Michael Bishop and his wife Jeri (joined for part of it by Mike Resnick), and I've already signed a bunch of books. So, yay!

Yesterday, Carolyn and I went to EPCOT at DisneyWorld; it was a letdown -- my favorite pavillion there, "The Living Seas," formerly sponsored by United Technologies, was one of the best, if not the best, indoor aquarium I'd ever seen ... but most of the tanks are gone, replaced with -- I kid you not -- big-screen TVs showing characters from Finding Nemo. Ugh. We did do the Mission to Mars space simulator, which really did feel like multiple-G acceleration (simulated by spinning the simulator, although you have no sense that it's spinning, only that you're being press down upon by a great weight). It upset my stomach, I must say, but Carolyn loved it.

Anyway, must head back to the con!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Publicity Doesn't Just Happen: A Case Study

When Publishers Weekly did its cover story on science fiction (in their April 2, 2007, issue), the lead interview was with me, Robert J. Sawyer. The article, by Bethanne Kelly Patrick and Michael Coffey, began:

Robert J. Sawyer knows a thing or two about the future.

"It's here," says the Hugo Award-winning author of 18 science fiction books. And that's not necessarily good for the science fiction/fantasy category, in his view. "The genre is having a hard time retaining readers who see that today's world is in no way related to the visions SF was peddling in the last century." Today's world was supposed to be about "living in outer space," says Sawyer, "not living in cyberspace." And the cyberpunk world envisioned by William Gibson was wrong -- "that world is not underground and malevolent, but above ground and universal."

Sawyer's own writing (he publishes with Tor) vies for timelessness by plumbing eternal philosophical and ethical questions, albeit in a futuristic setting. But Sawyer is also a publisher, with his own imprint at Red Deer Press in Calgary, where he is challenged to find other writers with strategies that can attract readers in a tough market. Sawyer points to several "metrics" that spell the dire situation for traditional SF/fantasy, such as the closing of specialty bookstores and the steep drop in circulation at magazines like Analog and Asimov's ...

Tremendous publicity (and in the issue that came out the week my 17th novel Rollback was released, to boot!). But publicity like that doesn't just happen. Stephanie Stewart, the wonderful US marketing director for Fitzhenry & Whiteside, for which I edit the Robert J. Sawyer Books science-fiction imprint, knew that PW had an SF feature coming up, and had me send in the following comments to them, precisely in hope of getting our line included in the roundup; not only did that result in the lead interview, but also a spotlight on Phyllis Gotlieb's new novel Birthstones, which I edited for the Robert J. Sawyer Books line.

Here's the pitch -- comments designed to whet the appetite for an interview -- that we sent to Publishers Weekly on February 27, 2007:

Robert J. Sawyer edits Robert J. Sawyer Books, the science-fiction imprint of Toronto's Fitzhenry & Whiteside. He's won both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for best novel of the year, and his own works are published by Tor (most recently, Rollback, an April 2007 title which received a starred review from PW). Despite his own in-category success, he thinks the future of SF lies not with dedicated imprints but with breaking out of the genre box and reaching a mainstream audience. A few of his thoughts:

Without intending to, Arthur C. Clarke put a best-before date on science fiction: 2001. Now that the future is here, the genre is having a hard time retaining readers who see that today's world -- with fundamentalism in resurgence -- is in no way related to the visions SF was peddling in the last century.

In many ways, the science-fiction label has become a liability, and the science fiction that sells best -- be it Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, or Michael Crichton's Next -- eschew not only the genre name but all the standard marketing symbols, as well. The old publishing adage that all you had to do to sell an SF book is put a spaceship on the cover doesn't work anymore; oh, there's still a core audience that will buy such books, but it's a shrinking core.

There's been much discussion in the SF field that the small press is the future of the genre, but the problem with most small-press SF imprints is that they exist in isolation: they are standalone imprints, unaffiliated with larger houses. When Calgary's Red Deer Press -- for more than 30 years, one of Canada's leading literary publishers -- approached me to develop a science-fiction imprint for them, I was immediately intrigued, because instead of developing my own catalog, the books would be appearing in an established catalog, alongside quality works of all types. (In 2005, Red Deer Press was bought by Toronto's Fitzhenry & Whiteside, and in the U.S., my imprint now appears in the Fitzhenry catalog.)

This was the opposite of the ghettoization of SF, and it's exactly what I see as the future of the genre: the moving of SF works into the mainstream. The irony, to date, has been that it's authors coming out of other categories -- Walter Mosley from the mystery field and Nora Roberts (writing futuristic mysteries now as J.D. Robb) from the romance field, for instance -- who are having the greatest success with their breakout SF.

Despite the SF writer's supposed stock-in-trade, which is seeing a perspective light-years wider than that of mundane writers, most writers in the SF field seem incapable of seeing outside the SF box, while others, who aren't so anchored in the traditional SF marketplace, have no problem nimbly exploiting SF tropes in works that are sold to a broad, mainstream audience.

With the line I edit for Fitzhenry & Whiteside, , I've been looking for writers who will have wider-than-genre appeal -- and I've been cherry-picking them from within the established SF marketplace. Many of the authors we've worked with had previous books published by established SF publishers, including Baen (known for its oh-so-genre covers) and Tor (the largest house in the SF field), but weren't finding large audiences within the core SF demographic such houses go after.

Our next two books are both by authors previously published by Tor. Phyllis Gotlieb isn't just an SF writer -- she's also a feminist writer, in the mold of Ursula K. LeGuin. And she's a poet of wide renown in Canada. Tor packaged her previous books as space opera; we've given her new book Birthstones a beautiful mainstream cover, and hope to find her that wide audience that doesn't know that it likes science fiction.

Matthew Hughes, author of The Commons, which we're doing later this year, was previously packaged by Tor as an SF adventure writer -- and he does tell a rollicking good yarn. But his principal strength is in the psychological astuteness of his work, in which he writes about Jungian archetypes and the power of myth: we're shifting his market position from being the stepson of golden-age SF editor John. W. Campbell to being the stepson of Joseph Campbell, the author of A Hero with a Thousand Faces, and, again, we think we can find a wider market for him amongst people who never thought they would read an SF book. There is a future for SF, but it's a future that depends on getting more than just science-fiction readers to buy the books.

Publishers Weekly was indeed intrigued by what I had to say, and on Thursday, March 22, 2007, they submitted follow-up questions, which I immediately answered; they also followed the questions below up with a phone interview:

1. Why is breaking out of the SF box to reach a mainstream audience so important? Has traditional SF "jumped the shark?"

If it had just jumped the shark, that would be fine -- at least people would understand what's going on. But SF has instead executed a parabolic maneuver with an exemplar of the cartilaginous order Selachii at its focus -- which amounts to the same damn thing, but in modern SF fashion is said in a way that is so jargon-laden, so exclusionary, and so unwelcoming of newcomers that they simply aren't let in. It's almost as though much modern SF has a hazing ritual: if you can survive the first few chapters, maybe we'll give you a story worth reading.

Here's the opening paragraph of Chapter 2 of Glasshouse by Charles Stross (Ace/Penguin USA), widely being touted as one of the best SF books of this past year (a 2006 title most critics think will be on the 2007 Hugo ballot, to be announced this weekend); I doubt any non-habitual SF reader would continue on after encountering this (and, yes, "Is" is capitalized as shown -- even common words are made difficult in modern SF):
The Invisible Republic is one of the legacy polities that emerged from the splinters of the Republic of Is, in the wake of the series of censorship wars that raged five to ten gigaseconds ago. During the wars, the internetwork of longjump T-gates that wove the subnets of the hyperpower together was shattered, leaving behind sparsely connected nets, their borders filtered through firewalled assembler gates guarded by ferocious mercenaries. Incomers were subjected to forced disassembly and scanned for subversive attributes before being rebuilt and allowed across the frontiers. Battles raged across the airless cryogenic wastes that housed the longjump nodes carrying traffic between warring polities, while the redactive worms released by the Censor factions lurked in the firmware of every A-gate they could contaminate, their viral payload mercilessly deleting all knowledge of the underlying cause of the conflict from fleeing refugees as they passed through the gates.
The readership of the average SF paperback has plunged from 100,000 in the 1970s to 20,000 in the current decade; the circulation of the major SF magazines has dropped from 160,000 to 40,000 in the same period. General readers are devouring books with SF sensibilities -- Michael Crichton's Next, Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, and Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, not to mention The Da Vinci Code -- but they're staying away from the SF section, and so those authors who want a wide readership have to find ways to be shelved in general fiction.

2. You say that SF is having a hard time retaining readers in a world that "is in no way related to the visions SF was peddling in the last century." Could you discuss further?

Although SF is not in fact about prediction, the general public thinks that it is. And whether it was Arthur C. Clarke predicting giant orbiting space stations and glib talking computers by the year 2001, or William Gibson suggesting that a punk-style hacker underground would be running the world by, well, right now, the visions turned out to be wrong. Instead of Clarke's manned voyages to Jupiter and beyond, we haven't had a human leave Earth orbit for 35 years now; and instead of cyberpunks, we got Wikipedia and Time naming "You" -- us, the average joe who freely and altruistically creates online content -- its person of the year.

In our materialistic world, SF's selling point for rational, busy people had become that it was a way of gaining insight into the future (and, as Alvin Toffler said, reading it would help avoid future shock). But with SF being so wrong in the short term, and so far out in the long term -- technologies that are, in Arthur C. Clarke's own words, indistinguishable from magic -- readers are preferring fantasy: honest escapism, engagingly told.

3. A corollary: is part of the problem that our world(s) has expanded so far and so fast that people naturally look for narrower and more inward-facing perspectives?

I don't dispute that statement, but, in fact, there is lots of inward-facing in SF. One editor I know quips that mainstream literature is about the inner lives of ordinary people, and SF is about the outer lives of extraordinary people -- but I totally disagree. Judith Merril, the late, great SF anthologist of the 1950s and 1960s, quite rightly said that SF should be at least as much about inner space -- the human condition, human psychology -- as about outer space. Works that provide insight and reflection are there in the field: certainly in the books I'm publishing under my imprint, and, I like to think, in the books I myself am writing.

4. Tell us about Matthew Hughes -- is he really renowned author Joseph Campbell's stepson? Psychological SF seems like a very exciting direction...

For many years, SF really concentrated on the hard sciences: physics, chemistry, astronomy. The soft sciences of psychology, sociology, and anthropology got short shrift. But there have always been some good works of psychological SF, and we're seeing more and more these days.

Like most SF writers today, Matthew Hughes has a day job -- the field has become a hobby, not a profession, because of the declining market share. He writes speeches, mostly for politicians. That is, he's always trying to find the right symbolism and metaphor to allow the person ultimately presenting the speech to achieve a very specific psychological effect. SF often makes manifest what we normally only think of as abstractions, and Matt is totally doing that in The Commons: different aspects of human psychology become tangible characters in his book; it's a very insightful study, and, yes, I do think Joseph Campbell would be proud.

5. You're an established, prize-winning author. Will you continue to publish with Tor? Or will your own works now come out from Fitzhenry & Whiteside?

I actually already have one book from them, my first short-story collection Iterations; that's how I got involved with them in the first place. And I'm talking about doing another one with them, too: a second short-story collection, Identity Theft.

Doing my collections with them makes sense. Single-author short-story collections are the worst-selling type of book in the SF field (multi-author anthologies are the second worst; novels are the only things that sell well). I've seen authors with Tor and others take year to get the orders for their novels back up to the level they were at before the same big house did their short-story collection, and so I want to keep my collections separate, and clearly small-press, so as not to confuse my bookstore stats.

I won't name the people who've had problems with having the same publisher do their short-story collection as their novels, but I will name a success besides myself from the approach I'm advocating: one of the hot new SF authors of this century is Karl Schroeder, and my imprint did a wonderful collection of his short stories, with an introduction by British SF superstar Stephen Baxter. We sandwiched it in between two of Karl's novels for Tor: Permanence and Lady of Mazes -- and Karl's Tor numbers continued to build nicely, with the collection -- which obviously sold many fewer copies, as collections do -- having no negative impact on his novel numbers.

But I'm going to leave my novels with a major publisher, for several reasons. First, of course, Fitzhenry & Whiteside is branding its SF as "Robert J. Sawyer Books" -- which was their idea, not mine; it certainly has got us a lot of bookseller attention, and major buys for all our titles from Chapters/Indigo -- Canada's major chain -- so I guess their instinct was correct. But having a book of my own under that imprint would look like vanity press!

Second, of course, the small press just can't touch the advances I'm getting from Tor: the advances, editorial fees, cover artist fees, and so on, for all the books I've done to date under my imprint combined don't come anywhere near equaling the advance I get for a single book of my own from Tor. I'm lucky enough to be one of the few full-timers left in the SF field (there are certainly fewer than 100, and probably fewer than 50), and staying with a big house is a necessity for maintaining that.

You mentioned awards: these have been absolutely key to my success. In all aspects of business, branding is the hot topic these days, and being branded as both a Hugo Award winner and a Nebula Award winner has been key to why I've survived with a major publisher in a shrinking marketplace. But I'm one of the lucky ones -- I know that. And the work I do with my imprint is a way of paying back that karmic debt: there are lots of great manuscripts out there in this wonderful field, and I'm delighted to be able to give a few of the very best a good home.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Membership rates to Denver Worldcon going up

Sadly, I won't be at this year's Worldcon in Japan. But having just returned from a trip to Denver, and been reminded of what a beautiful city it is, I can't wait until next year's Worldcon, which will be there.

And I noted this morning, while looking at the convention's website, that membership rates go up in EIGHT DAYS, on May 31, 2007. So, if you're thinking of going, now's the time to get your membership; Worldcon memberships are fully transferable, and there's rarely a problem selling one at a later date.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Author's comment for the SFBC

My Rollback is a current featured selection of the Science Fiction Book Club. The SFBC asked me for a comment on the book as its author; here's what I had to say:
One of the most interesting panels I ever saw at a science-fiction convention had Larry Niven and Mike Resnick on it. The moderator asked them each to describe the kind of SF they wrote. Larry said he writes things that remind him of the stories that hooked him on the genre when he was a teenager. Mike said he writes stories that appeal to him as a middle-aged man.

Of course, I immediately thought of counterexamples: Nivenesque stories by Mike, and Resnickish tales by Larry -- but I've often wondered how one might do both, combining that grandly cosmic sense-of-wonder with the down-to-Earth and intimately human. I don't know if it's possible to succeed on both levels, but I do know that there's no other genre that even tries to be fractal -- to be fascinating and beautiful at scales large and small. That's one of the many reasons I love being a science-fiction writer.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Calgary Herald links

Here's a link to the review of Rollback in The Calgary Herald:
Rollback; Robert J. Sawyer
The Calgary Herald
Sun 20 May 2007
Page: C3
Section: Books & The Arts
Byline: Dan Healing

SCI FI - Talk about a slow conversation.

When Dr. Sarah Halifax decodes the first radio message ever received from aliens and helps write a response, the Canadian scientist is a vital 39-year-old.

But when the reply arrives from Sigma Draconis, a planet 18.8 light years from Earth, she's a frail 87-year-old standing impatiently in line for an appointment with the Grim Reaper.

And the reply seems written especially for her. Her life is suddenly worth billions and that's what a billionaire with an interest in aliens spends on "rollbacks" -- medical procedures designed to make recipients 25 again -- for Sarah and her retired CBC soundman husband, Don.

The human element of the drama takes centre stage when the rollback works for Don, but not Sarah. With a young mind, body and libido, will he desert her? Or, will he stick with her as she makes decisions that set the course for the human race?

This latest offering from sci-fi award collector Robert J. Sawyer meets all the requirements of summertime reading -- it's light at barely 300 pages, it's populated with likeable characters, it engages the imagination and it's hard to put down.

And it has robots. Can it get any better than that?
And here's a link to the Herald's bestsellers' list, showing Rollback at number 9 in the fiction category:
Calgary Bestsellers
For The Calgary Herald
Published: Sunday, May 20, 2007


1 (1) Divisadero, Michael Ondaatje. A haunting story that ranges from northern California to central France.

2 (-) The Halifax Connection, Marie Jakober A Canadian counter-intelligence novel set in the 1860s.

3 (-) Falling Man, Don DeLillo. How events of Sept. 11 have changed our world.

4 (4) The Children Of Hurin, J.R.R. Tolkein. A fantasy with orcs, dragons, dwarves and elves.

5 (3) The Horseman's Graves, Jacqueline Baker. A German immigrant community on the Saskatchewan-Alberta border.

6 (-) Fluttertongue 4, Steven Ross Smith. A long poem looks at meanings of words and ponders language itself.

7 (-) Rant, Chuck Palahnuik. A fictional oral history of serial killer Buster (Rant) Casey.

8 (7) The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon. A whodunit, a love story and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption.

9 (-) Rollback, Robert J. Sawyer. A new science-fiction novel by the award-winning Canadian author.

10 (5) Lullabies for Little Criminals, Heather O'Neill. A 13- year-old girl with no mother and a heroin-addicted father.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Orlando, here I come!

I'm Guest of Honor at Oasis 20 this weekend along with Mike Resnick, Joe Haldeman, Michael Bishop, Kathleen Ann Goonan, and Jack McDevitt. Check it out!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Calgary Herald reviews Rollback

Dan Healing reviews Rollback in the Sunday, May 20, 2007, Calgary Herald, the major newspaper in that city. The review is on page C3; I haven't yet been able to find it online, but it concludes: "This latest offering from sci-fi award collector Robert J. Sawyer meets all the requirements of summertime reading -- it's light at barely 300 pages, it's populated with likeable characters, it engages the imagination and it's hard to put down. And it has robots. Can it get any better than that?"

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Yet another bestsellers' list

Rollback is number 9 on the fiction bestsellers' list in Calgary, Alberta, as published in The Calgary Herald, the major newspaper there:

Calgary Bestsellers
The Calgary Herald
Sun 20 May 2007
Page: C3
Section: Books & The Arts
Source: For The Calgary Herald

1 (1) Divisadero, Michael Ondaatje. A haunting story that ranges from northern California to central France.

2 (--) The Halifax Connection, Marie Jakober A Canadian counter-intelligence novel set in the 1860s.

3 (--) Falling Man, Don DeLillo. How events of Sept. 11 have changed our world.

4 (4) The Children Of Hurin, J.R.R. Tolkein. A fantasy with orcs, dragons, dwarves and elves.

5 (3) The Horseman's Graves, Jacqueline Baker. A German immigrant community on the Saskatchewan-Alberta border.

6 (--) Fluttertongue 4, Steven Ross Smith. A long poem looks at meanings of words and ponders language itself.

7 (--) Rant, Chuck Palahnuik. A fictional oral history of serial killer Buster (Rant) Casey.

8 (7) Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon. A whodunit, a love story and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption.

9 (--) Rollback, Robert J. Sawyer. A new science-fiction
novel by the award-winning Canadian author.

10 (5) Lullabies for Little Criminals, Heather O'Neill. A 13- year-old girl with no mother and a heroin-addicted father.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, May 21, 2007

Fictionwise 25% off sale

Dozens of my short stories are available through, including Aurora winners and finalists for the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker Awards -- and their all 25% off right now, as part of Fictionwise's 7th anniversary sale.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Biblio's Bloggins

What a great name for a book-lover's blog: Biblio's Bloggins. Brilliant! The fact that the blogger loves Rollback, calling it "Sawyer's best yet," is just gravy ... :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Denver Rocks!

Phase Four (of four!) of the book tour for Rollback is now underway: by-plane in the United States.

It started on Friday, May 18, 2007, when I flew from Toronto to Denver. The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers had brought me in to run a day-long workshop for them -- and they kindly agreed to let me do a bookstore signing the night before. And the place to sign when you're in Denver is the Tattered Cover, a wonderful, giant independent bookstore (actually, they have a couple of branches in Denver; I was at the one on East Colfax).

The event brought out a good crowd of 40 people: a mix mostly of those involved with the RMFWs; those involved in MileHiCon, the Denver science-fiction convention (at which I was guest of honor last year); and those who had seen the event promoted in-store or who had heard my interview earlier that day (by phone, from Toronto, just before I headed to the airport) with radio station KHOW.

One woman, who bought a copy of Rollback, said she had never bought a novel before in her life, but couldn't resist after hearing me describe Rollback in the interview. Woot!

Mark Graham, the man quoted (if not by name) on most of my dust jackets introduced me to the audience. He's the reviewer for The Rocky Mountain News who called me "just about the best science-fiction writer out there." He gave a witty, comprehensive introduction, then I read from Rollback, answered questions, and signed books. It was a really, really pleasant event -- and we managed to drum up some more business there for the next day's RMFW workshop, so it was mutually beneficial.

The workshop itself was held on Saturday, May 19, 2007, at the Denver History Museum, a wonderful venue. We started at 9:00 a.m. and went through to 3:00 p.m. (even skipping our afternoon coffee break, so we could cover more material). The audience was terrific -- totally attentive, and filled with wonderfully perceptive questions. Feedback on the seminar was hugely positive, and so Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers were pleased.

I got to the airport in time to catch an earlier flight. United bumped me up to United Plus (not as good as Executive Class, but still with extra leg room), and gave me a whole emergency exit row; I had a well-deserved nap on the flight.

I'm in Calgary right now, for what's left of the Victoria Day weekend (long-weekend, celebrating the Queen's birthday). I'm home briefly in Toronto starting Tuesday, then Thursday Carolyn and I head out for the final stop on the Rollback book tour: Orlando, Florida, where I'm one of five guests of honor (along with Michael Bishop, Joe Haldeman, newly minted Nebula winner Jack McDevitt, and Mike Resnick -- quite a line-up!) at the SF convention Oasis.


Mark Graham from the Denver Rocky Mountain News; Chris from Tattered Cover

"Torchape," aka Pat Smythe, a regular on my Yahoo! Groups discussion group joined the fun at Tattered Cover

Robert J. Sawyer wearing his favorite T. rex shirt and a rack of his books at Tattered Cover

Scott Brendel, workshop coordinator for the Rocky Moutain Fiction Writers, introduces Rob

The crowd for Rob's worksop

And this one is a duck ....

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, May 18, 2007

The loonie is killing me ...

As a guy who makes most of his money in US dollars, but lives in Canada, the high value of the loonie (Canadian dollar) is killing me. It's at a 30-year high today, according to this report in The Globe and Mail.

One of the reasons for my switch to a cross-border Penguin Canada / Penguin USA deal was to diversify my income, so that some was coming in US dollars and some was coming in Canadian dollars. :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rollback promo on YouTube

Check it out!

(Craig Rintoul of BookBits produced this.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jackson Reads

I spent a wonderful day today at A.Y. Jackson Secondary School in North York (part of Toronto), as the guest author for the "Jackson Reads" celebration.

I did events all day long: an assembly for all the grade-10 students in the morning; lunch (Swiss Chalet chicken!) with the faculty; and two afternoon sessions, one with ESL (English as a Second Language) students, and one with a mixed group, including Writers' Craft (creative writing) students. It was a blast, and I had a great time -- and, to my surprise, sold a ton of books to students!

Special moment: one of the students brought along a copy of the Chinese edition of Calculating God for me to sign (Jackson is a very culturally diverse school).

The students were polite, intelligent, and asked really tough questions, ranging from "Do you believe in God?" to "How much money do you make?" (I got a laugh when I said, "More than your principal.")

I started my talk to the grade-10s by saying I'd spent the summer 30 years ago at their school (the North York Board of Education had a special summer enrichment program for the top 30 math/science students who had just finished grade 11 drawn from all the Board's schools back then; it was held at A.Y. Jackson) -- and I told them how I'd taken a girl I'd met at Jackson on a date to a little SF movie that summer called Star Wars ...

Truly a great day!

Above: sign on a display of my books in the Jackson library; below, the grade-10 assembly in the cafetorium.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

International Reading Association

I spent Monday night and all day Tuesday at the International Reading Association conference, which this year was in Toronto, a massive (11,000 people) convention of educators and librarians involved with reading and literacy.

Monday night, May 14, 2007, Tor YA publisher Kathleen Doherty took Carolyn and me, Charles de Lint, graphic-novel author Tim Eldred, Tor publicist Dot Lin, Tor YA editor Susan Chang, and librarian Jennifer Montgomery out to dinner at Ruth's Chris steakhouse.

Left to right: Jennifer Montgomery, Susan Chang, Robert J. Sawyer, Carolyn Clink, Dot Lin, Tim Eldred:

And the other side of the table, Kathleen Doherty and Charles de Lint:

Tor sponsors the International Reading Association's "Science Fiction / Fantasy / Graphic Novel Special Interest Group," now in its second year; the chair is Jennifer Montgomery. At the SIG's meeting on Tuesday morning, May 15, 2007, the guest speakers were (in order) the authors Charles de Lint, Robert J. Sawyer, Jane Yolen, Tim Eldred, and Jessica Day George. Everyone who came to the SIG got this goodie bag, with free copies of books by all of us (in my case, it was Hominids):

There was a great crowd:

Robert J. Sawyer speaks passionately about the need for science-fiction support -- nay, evangelism! -- on the part of teachers and librarians:

Tor had a great booth at the International Reading Association tradeshow:

How do I know it was a great booth? Look at all these books by me!

I spent a lot of Tuesday afternoon helping Dot Lin (left) and Susan Chang man the booth (although we all escaped, along with Kathleen, Tim, and Jennifer, for a terrific lunch out):

Meanwhile, over at the Fitzhenry & Whiteside booth, there was a great display of the books I edit for their Robert J. Sawyer Books line, along with the anthologies Julie E. Czerneda did for them:

The evening was a dinner party at Crush Wine Bar -- hosted by Tor for a group of 35! Carolyn and I sat at a long table with Sylvia Fenn of H.B. Fenn and Company, Tor's wonderful Canadian distributor, and others -- and I have to say the steak here was better than the one at Ruth's Chris! It was a terrific evening, lasting from 6:30 to 10:30. Kathleen Doherty was amazing, and made sure everyone had a fabulous time.

Here's the special menu:

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

A discussion of the state of SF

... from last weekend's Nebula Awards conference is reported on by Galley Cat here. It's fascinating reading.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rollback filk!

That's Dr. Paul Shuch, Executive Director Emeritus of The SETI League.

Paul is an accomplished filker (science-fiction folk-song artist) and he's written a lovely filk based on my novel Rollback. You can read the filk here on Paul's website.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rob on Denver radio on Friday

I'll be on KHOW AM630 in Denver this Friday, May 18, at 9:00 a.m. Denver/Mountain time (11:00 a.m. in Toronto/New York). If you're not in Denver, you can still listen live here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rob in Denver on Friday

Come on out and see me in Denver this Friday night, May 18, 2007, at 7:30 p.m., at Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax Avenue at Elizabeth Street. I'll be reading from and signing Rollback.

And on Saturday, I'm doing a day-long writing seminar for The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

I'm delighted to be returning to Denver!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

GenreCon photos

And Jeffrey Beeler's GenreCon photos are here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

GenreCon article

The Sarnia Observer has a nice article on last weekend's GenreCon, at which I was guest of honour.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, May 14, 2007 interviews Rob

Hard interviews Robert J. Sawyer about Rollback here.

One of my comments in that interview: "There are clocks -- biological, financial, societal -- clicking in the background of everything we do. How liberating it would be not to have just a handful of decades to live! How great the art we create might be if someone could spend five hundred years on their magnum opus.”

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

RJS "Author Tour Stop"

Wonderful writer and publisher Vera Nazarian has a great LiveJournal, which has an occasional feature called "Author Tour Stop" -- and the current Author Tour Stop is by one Robert J. Sawyer, discussing his book Rollback. You can read the whole thing (as well as Vera's comments on the book) here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Starred review in Library Journal -- woot!

Library Journal, the bible for librarians, has given Robert J. Sawyer's Rollback a starred review -- denoting a book of exceptional merit.

The review concludes: "Above all, the author's characters bear their human strengths and weaknesses with dignity and poise. An elegantly told story for all libraries; highly recommended."

You can read the whole review here.

This is the second starred review for Rollback; it also got a starred review from Publishers Weekly, the trade journal of the book business.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

MT Void loves Rollback

Joe Karpierz reviews Robert J. Sawyer's Rollback in the 4 May 2007 edition (whole number 1439!) of the long-running fanzine MT Void, published the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society.

The review conlcudes: "This is probably Sawyer's most character-driven story to date, and it doesn't take away from the free flow of thoughts and ideas that we've come to expect from a Sawyer novel. This is a terrific and worthy entry in the Sawyer catalog. I strongly recommend you get out to your local bookseller and buy this immediately. I enjoyed it immensely."

Read the whole review here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rollback #1 at Bakka "by a huge margin"

Chris Szego, the manager of Toronto's SF specialty bookstore Bakka-Phoenix Books, has posted the April bestsellers' list for the store (which she reports to Locus, the SF trade journal). Note what she says about Rollback's placement in the top position. :)

And note, too, that I have two titles in the top three: my Aurora Award-winning essay collection Relativity is third on the list -- woohoo!

Hardcover Titles

1. Rollback, Robert J. Sawyer (by a huge margin -- more than the rest of the hardcovers put together)

2. Children Of Hurin, J.R.R. Tolkien (sadly, not the deluxe version)

3. Relativity, Robert J. Sawyer

4. 1634: The Baltic War, David Weber & Eric Flint

5. Lees Of Laughter's End, Steven Erikson*

6. Sun Over Breda, Arturo Perez-Reverte

7. New Moon's Arms, Nalo Hopkinson

8. Ysabel, Guy Gavriel Kay

9. Name Of The Wind, Patrick Rothfuss

10. Last Colony, John Scalzi

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Fair Warning

For all of July, August, and September, 2007, I will be on a writing retreat at Berton House.

During that time, I will only deal with the most-pressing of business-related emails, and I won't be answering general questions, giving writing advice, writing introductions to other people's books, blurbing other people's novels, or doing "just one small favor" that "will only take five minutes" for anyone.

Sorry, but this is my get-away-from-it-all time, and my sole priority will be working on my new novel, Wake.

Hope you all understand! :)



The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

What can you tell about a person by the books he or she reads?

Who knows? But here's what I ordered from last night:

Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century Howard Bloom; Paperback; CDN$ 16.05

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph From the Frontiers of Brain Science Norman Doidge; Hardcover; CDN$ 15.50

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything Christopher Hitchens; Hardcover; CDN$ 16.49

The first was because my great friend Pat Forde recommended it when I was at his place on Friday; the second because Norman and I were on TVOntario's The Agenda a couple of weeks ago; the third because it was much discussed by people in Kitchener on Friday, and Martin Levin wrote about it in his column in the Books section of yesterday's Globe and Mail. Also, did didn't hurt that has both the Doidge and the Hithcens at 50% off right now, because they're best-sellers.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Canadian Press reviews Rollback

Kim Covert of The Canadian Press wire service recently reviewed Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer. The review ran in many Canadian newspapers including the Montreal Gazette, the Ottawa Citizen, the Vancouver Sun, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, and the Regina Leader Post.

It can be read online here and here and here and here, among others.

Says Covert: "Sawyer's novels are always part science and part philosophical exercise, raising questions of morality and ethics in the future that resonate in the present. He doesn't get too heavy-handed with either the science or the morality, which makes his books interesting for fans of all genres. This is a good, quick-paced and thought-provoking read."

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rocky Mountain News's "Pick of the Week"

Rollback is the Science Fiction "Pick of the Week" for this week in the Denver Rocky Mountain News. Yay!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Jack McDevitt wins Nebula

Yay! I'm jumping up and down! My great friend, and one of the best writers in the business, has finally gotten the major award he has so long deserved: Jack McDevitt has just won the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Nebula Award for Best Novel of the Year, for his novel Seeker. Way to go, Jack!

The full list of winners:

Novel: Seeker - Jack McDevitt (Ace, Nov05)

Novella: Burn - James Patrick Kelly (Tachyon Publications, Dec05)

Novelette: "Two Hearts" - Peter S. Beagle (F&SF, Oct/Nov05)

Short Stories: "Echo" - Elizabeth Hand (F&SF, Oct/Nov05)

Scripts: Howl's Moving Castle - Hayao Miyazaki, Cindy Davis Hewitt, and Donald H. Hewitt (Studio Ghibli and Walt Disney Pictures, U.S. Premier 10 Jun05. Based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones.)

Winner of the second ever Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy: Magic or Madness - Justine Larbalestier (Penguin Razorbill, May05)

Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master: James Gunn

Author Emeritus: D.G. Compton

Service to SFWA: Brook and Julia West

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Gospel According to Science Fiction

Just got a copy of the wonderful new book The Gospel Gospel According to Science Fiction by Gabriel McKee (published by Westminster John Knox Press). It's a fabulous survey of how science fiction has treated religion, god, spirituality, and so on over the years -- and it has good discussions of my novels The Terminal Experiment, Flashforward, Calculating God, Hominids, Hybrids, and Mindscan. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I'm really enjoying it. In its starred review, denoting a book of exceptional merit, Publishers Weekly says, "This fascinating hybrid of theology and science fiction is creative, lucid and contains impressive scholarship." I agree.

McKee, the founder of the blog, has a Master of Theological Studies from the Harvard Divinity School, and previously wrote a book about religion in the works of Philip K. Dick.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

The End of the Road Show

The by-car Southern Ontario book tour for Rollback could not have ended better. We had a packed house at the Chapters Bookstore on Fanshawe Road in London, Ontario. They'd originally only had a handful of chairs set up, but people kept pouring in, and they had to keep getting more chairs. It was a great audience, with great questions, and, at the end, the events coordinator there said to me, "Thank you for showing me what's possible for an author event." Go me! :)

I hit the road four weeks ago today promoting Rollback, starting with the book launch at Toronto's Bakka-Phoenix Books. I've done events now in Toronto, Ontario; near Rochester, New York; Albany, New York; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Virginia; Alexandria, Virginia; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Vancouver, British Columbia; Edmonton, Alberta; Calgary, Alberta; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Oshawa, Ontario; Vaughan, Ontario; Kitchener, Ontario; Sarnia, Ontario; and London, Ontario. I did events at a nice mixture of science-fiction specialty stores, independent bookstores, big chain stores, and public libraries.

I hit the local bestsellers' lists in Winnipeg, and Canada's national BookManager bestsellers' list.

I got major review coverage; lots of radio interviews, including nationally on the CBC, CBC affiliates in Regina, Calgary, and Windsor; other stations in Montreal, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Philadelphia, Olympia (Washington state), Nashua (New Hampshire), and even Vienna, Austria, plus the National Public Radio affiliate in Rochester, New York; TV interviews in Toronto, Kitchener, Edmonton, and Winnipeg; lots of online and blog coverage; and major write-ups in the arts weeklies in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Saskatoon; and the cover of Quill & Quire the Canadian publishing trade journal.

And now, at last, I'm done with the different-city-every-day whirlwhind. I still have events in Denver next weekend and Orlando the weekend after, but the marathon of book touring is over. Whew!

The Chapters chain has always been very good to me, and I'm very grateful for their support; this is the sign on the London store

A placard advertising my event

The place was packed!

Who am I to argue with the sign?

Cool shirt!

Dinner afterwards at Swiss Chalet with members of Science Fiction London, the local SF club

Rob's old friend Richard Gibbens, a member of Science Fiction London

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

GenreCon Guest of Honour

Today, Saturday, May 12, 2007, was the final day of Phase Three of the Rollback book tour: by car in Southern Ontario.

Carolyn and I woke up at 9:00 a.m. in Sarnia, Ontario (just across the river from Michigan), and hustled over to the Sarnia Public Library for the sixth annual GenreCon, a free, public one-day festival of genre fiction held there.

I was the Guest of Honour, even though I could only be there for the first three hours. Still, I had a blast. I did a solo talk about science fiction from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (the only solo event at the conference); the next hour was a meet-and-greet (with a lucky draw for three copies of Rollback, donated by H.B. Fenn and Company). Then there was a panel discussion on genre-crossing, moderated by Sarah Zettel.

A great crowd for Rob's talk.

Rob signs a book for Jeffrey Allan Beeler, one of the organizers of GenreCon (the other organizer was Ellen Dark)

Bestselling fantasy writer Kelley Armstrong and bestselling science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer

A panel discussion on crossing genres. Left to right: fantasy writers Caitlin Sweet and Kelley Armstrong, moderator (and SF writer) Sarah Zettel, short-story writer Jean Rae Baxter, and SF writer Robert J. Sawyer. Sarah was in favour of genre jumping; Rob was against it (unless you're very prolific, and even then you should do it under separate names); the conversation was quite lively.

GenreCon was a great event. Many thanks to the sponsors: the County of Lambton and the Bookkeeper -- and to H.B. Fenn and Company, Tor's Canadian distributor, who paid for my hotel and donated copies of Rollback as prizes.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, May 11, 2007


Carolyn and I hit the road at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, May 11, 2007, for a trip to Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. I did two TV interviews there. The first was on Daytime on Rogers Cable; the second was the noon news on CKCO, the KW CTV affiliate.

I've had a long, pleasant association with KW; Carolyn and I lived there in 1980; my Hominids was the "One Book, One Community" reading choice for all of Waterloo region in 2005, and I was the Edna Staebler Writer-in-Residence at the Kitchener Public Library last year.

After the noon news interview, Carolyn and I met up with Hugo-nominated SF writer Pat Forde and Linux guru Marcel Gagné at Solé for a wonderful, leisurely lunch, then headed off to meet Pat's newly adopted daughter, Maeve. We all hung out for the afternoon -- a welcome respite in the very hectic Rollback book tour, and at 5:30 repaired to Eastside Mario's (Italian restaurant) for dinner with the SR PJs ("Senior Pajamas"), my writers' group -- which consists of Pat, Hugo-finalist James Alan Gardner, and wonderful new writer Suzanne Church -- as well as Marcel, his wife, Sally Tomasevic, and their son Sebastian (Hominids is dedicated to Sally and Marcel).

Then it was time for my reading and talk at the Chapters superstore in Kitchener. We had a packed house, and despite me being totally exhausted, the event went well.

After that, Carolyn and I hit the road for the two-hour drive to Sarnia, Ontario, where we stayed overnight in a hotel; tomorrow, I'm guest of honour at GenreCon, the free, one-day, all-genres convention at the Sarnia Public Library (other guests include superstar fantasy writer Kelley Armstrong and Crime Writers of Canada president Rich Blechta, plus my writing-group buddy Suzanne Church).

Some photos:

My first interview of the day was on Daytime, the Rogers Cable morning news show.

Host Mark Paine interviewed Robert J. Sawyer about Rollback

Next up was the noon news at CKCO, the Kitchener CTV affiliate

A beauty shot of the Rollback cover

Robert J. Sawyer on CKCO noon newscast

Hugo-nominee Patrick Forde and Carolyn Clink at Eastside Mario's for dinner

A placard advertising Rob's event at Chapters in Kitchener

A packed house at Chapters

Long-time friend Fraser Gunn. Rob and Carolyn shared an apartment in Waterloo with Fraser Gunn and Lynn Conway in the summer of 1980.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Rob on CTV in southern Ontario on Friday

Most people in Toronto and much of southern Ontario can get the Kitchener CTV affiliate CKCO (Channel 13 there) if you have anything beyond basic cable. And I'll be interviewed at about 12:30 p.m. (give or take) tomorrow, Friday, May 11, on the CKCO Noon News about Rollback, and my reading that night at the Chapters at 135 Gateway Park Drive in Kitchener. So: set your VCRs!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Coles, CBC, Vaughan -- quite a day!

Day Two of Phase Three of the Rollback went very well. It began with a lunchtime signing at the Coles bookstore in Royal Bank Plaza, one of the massive banking tours at the heart of downtown Toronto. I was delighted that my old friend Howard Cohen dropped by -- he's one of my high-school buddies who didn't happen to make it to the Northview Heights reunion last weekend.

After the signing, I had a wonderful lunch with Fergus Heywood of the CBC, where we talked about a very interesting project we both hope will soon get the go-ahead ...

Then it was over to the CBC Broadcasting Centre, for an interview by CBC News Sunday, where I did a lengthy interview about my op-ed piece in the Ottawa Citizen that I call "A Bright Idea for Atheists. We did the interview in the Barbara Frum Atrium -- where a bit of Rollback takes place. I'll post word here when it's going to air.

After that, I headed up to the CBC radio studios on the third floor of the Broadcasting Centre, and was interviewed remotely for 10 minutes by Barbara Peacock, host of Crosstown on CBC Radio One in Windsor, Ontario.

Then it was off to the Pierre Berton Resource Library in Vaughan (which bills itself as "The City Above Toronto"), where I did another reading and Q&A about Rollback. (Mary Vaughan in Hominids and its sequels is named for this city.)

A few photos:

It never hurts to bribe the customers! Coles provided a big plate of Tim Hortons cookies

Nice rack!

I signed 14 books at Coles for Galadia Murphy, whose husband is a big fan of my books.

CBC News was on-hand to record my signing as B-roll for the interview about the atheism op-ed piece.

Entrance to the Pierre Berton Resource Library in Vaughan, Ontario. Carolyn and I lived in Vaughan from 1992 to 2000 (although this wonderful library was built after we left). Pierre Berton was one of Canada's greatest nonfiction writers; it's his childhood home that Carolyn and I will be living at in the Klondike this summer.

Old friends from Forest Hills North, the condo building Carolyn and I lived in for eight years in Vaughan; the Forhilnor race in Calculating God are named in honour of that building.

More old friends: Lawrence Fox and Gail Copeland came out to the event at the Pierre Berton Resource Library.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

A pun I'm proud of

I make lots of puns, but I'm particularly pleased with this one that came to me as I was giving a talk during the Rollback book tour.

I referred to George Orwell's Animal Farm as "a roman à cleft hoof."

Hee hee hee.

(Don't get it? A roman à clef is the term used in literary circles for a novel that you won't understand fully unless you know what it's really about; the term is French for "novel with a key." Animal Farm appears to be about, well, animals on a farm, but it's really about the Russian revolution; cows and other farm animals have cleft hooves. Yeah, yeah, I know: it's not funny if you have to explain it. Still ...)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Oshawa, by gosh!

The by-car in Southern Ontario part of the Rollback book tour is off to a roaring start.

Carolyn and I decided to drive over to Oshawa starting at 3:00 p.m., to avoid the rush-hour traffic (we had to get from the west side of the Greater Toronto Area, where we live, to the east side). We got to Oshawa around 4:30 and did a drop-in signing at the Chapters bookstore there.

They had a lot of my books on hand, which was great.

After the books were signed, Olga Filina, the Customer Experience Manager at that Chapters, took Carolyn and me out to dinner at Caseys; I had an excellent bison burger (but didn't eat the bun!)

Then it was off to the Oshawa Public Library, where I gave a talk about the science-fiction genre to an audience of 30, and did a reading from Rollback. My talk was advertised in part by this large poster in the library.

Greg Rist from Rogers Durham is doing a half-hour TV documentary about me and my work; he interviewed me in my home on April 2, 2007, and came out tonight to get more footage, as well as some quotes from people in the audience

As always, I like to think I made a few good points in my talk. The library gave people cards to rate my talk -- I got five out of five from everyone, except one patron who gave me four out of five. The nerve! :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rob on CBC Radio One Windsor on Thursday

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 10, 2007, I will be interviewed starting at 4:30 p.m. or so on CBC Radio One in Windsor, Ontario, on Crosstown with Barbara Peacock (pictured); you can listen online here (select the Windsor feed; Windsor is on Eastern Time -- same as Toronto and New York).

I'll be in the Toronto CBC studios, doing a hook-up with Barbara, who will be in Windsor. We'll be talking about Rollback and GenreCon, at which I'm Guest of Honour on Saturday.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Southern Ontario book tour

Phase Three of the Rollback book tour begins tonight: Southern Ontario. Here are my events -- please come out and say hello! All events (including Genrecon) are totally free.

Free Public Reading from Rollback and Talk
Oshawa Public Library
"Science Fiction: Does the Future Have a Future?"
(plus reading from Rollback)
McLaughlin Branch
65 Bagot Street
Oshawa, Ontario
Wednesday, May 9, 2007, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Signing Rollback
Royal Bank Plaza
Toronto, Ontario
Thursday, May 10, 2007, 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m.

Free Public Reading from Rollback and Talk
Vaughan Public Library
Pierre Berton Resource Library Branch
4921 Rutherford Road
Woodbridge, Ontario
Thursday, May 10, 2007, 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Reading from and signing Rollback
135 Gateway Park Drive
Kitchener, Ontario
Friday, May 11, 2007, 7:00 p.m.

Guest of Honor
Genrecon 2007
Sarnia Branch, Lambton County Library
124 Christina St. South
Sarnia, Ontario
Saturday, May 12, 2007
(Rob will only be there from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.)

Reading from and signing Rollback
86 Fanshawe Park Road East
London, Ontario
Saturday, May 12, 2007, 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Promoting Books Online

I got asked recently by the author of a popular-science book about the brain for some tips related to promoting his book. As a Canadian, he's having the same experience I am: major media exposure (resulting in large sales) in Canada, and much less attention in the States. Here's what I had to say:

The U.S. is a very tough nut to crack. I get major media in Canada, too, but have a hard time getting anything in the U.S. As I'm sure you know, the best place to promote books in the U.S. media is probably NPR; for your book, an interview on NPR's Science Friday with Ira Flatow would be a natural (it's the counterpart of Quirks and Quarks here); I've been on Science Friday, and it's a great show. Another good one for your book (and my current one, Rollback) is A Touch of Grey (seniors of course are interested in brain function, and over-50s are the biggest market for hardcover books, because they have the disposable income). They did a great, in-depth interview with me recently.

Your website is good, but it lacks the two things that have driven the most traffic to my own site. Number one: an actual sample chapter of the text. People don't want to read ABOUT the book; they want to sample the book. For my current novel, I'm giving away 10,000 words out of 100,000 online; in your own case, at least one case-study chapter online would be appropriate.

Number two: something that's value-added. The biggest draw for my website isn't the stuff about my books per se; rather, it's the stuff on how to write and sell science fiction.

In your case, a few brain-teaser exercises might be useful, or a checklist to see if you've lost any of your cognitive function, or whatever. People don't link to sites that just promote books (if they really want to point to your book, they'll point to its page on Amazon); rather, they link to interesting, useful, or fun things they think others should check out.

Also, a blog helps; the net is all about social interactions. See how Tom Stafford and Matt Webb are selling (their very interesting) book Mind Hacks, for instance.

Best of luck!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

#2 Bestseller at McNally Robinson Winnipeg

Go me! Rollback is #2 on the hardcover fiction bestsellers list for McNally Robinson in Winnipeg. Take that, Harry Potter! Eat lead, J.R.R. Tolkien! :)

1-Divisadero-Michael Ondaatje

2-Rollback-Robert J. Sawyer

3-Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows-J.K. Rowling (preorders)

4-The Children of Hurin-J.R.R Tolkien

5-Simple Genius-David Baldacci

(McNally Robinson is the major bookstore in Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

New deal with Penguin in Canada and USA

Well, since it's the lead story right now on the (by subscription) website for Quill & Quire, the Canadian publishing trade journal, and since I'm scheduled to speak about this today (Tuesday, May 8, 2007) to Cynthia Good's class in the Creative Book Publishing Program at Humber College, I suppose I should say something here, too:

After 17 novels for which his North American rights have gone to U.S. publishers, Hugo Award-winning Canadian science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer now has a domestic Canadian publisher. He's splitting his Canadian and U.S. rights for his next three books in a six-figure deal, with Barbara Berson at Penguin Canada acquiring rights north of the border, and Ginjer Buchanan at Penguin USA getting them south of it.

"Starting eleven years ago, back in 1996, Cynthia Good at Penguin Canada began making overtures about getting my titles for that company," says Sawyer, 47. "But neither Ace Science Fiction nor Tor Books, my two U.S. publishers at that time, wanted to give up my Canadian rights, and so we weren't able to make this happen; I still needed a strong U.S. publisher, and Penguin had no real presence in the SF field in the U.S. back then. But a few years ago, Penguin USA acquired Berkley Putnam, which included Ace, an imprint I'd happily done six novels for between 1992 and 1997."

Also, since signing his last contract with Tor, Sawyer's Hominids won the Hugo Award for Best Novel of the Year -- SF's top honour. Several publishers let Sawyer's New York agent, Ralph Vicinanza, know that they'd be interested in acquiring Sawyer, should he become available. "H.B. Fenn has done a fabulous job promoting my books in Canada; I owe much of what I am to Harold and Sylvia Fenn and their wonderful crew," Sawyer said. But working with a U.S. publisher through a Canadian distributor meant receiving a lower, export royalty for Canadian sales from Tor. "And now that Penguin in the States has Ace, Ralph was able to structure a handsome deal with separately accounted advances and full royalties on both sides of the border," Sawyer says.

The joint deal plays to Sawyer's relative strengths on both sides of the border. "In the states, I'm a successful genre-fiction writer, with a loyal following in the SF section," says Sawyer. "But in Canada, I've had considerable breakout success, gathering a large mainstream audience; Fenn has done a tremendous job positioning me out-of-category. Under this new deal, in the U.S., I'll be published quite happily under the Ace imprint; over the last few years, Ace has really concentrated on hard SF, while other U.S. genre lines have shifted heavily to fantasy, so it's the perfect home for me there. And in Canada, I was wowed by what Penguin has managed to do positioning genre writers Guy Gavriel Kay, Jack Whyte, and R. Scott Bakker outside the fantasy category -- not to mention their success in breaking out mystery writers, such as Peter Robinson, who was based there for many years."

Sawyer's new contract covers the three volumes of his planned WWW trilogy, about the World Wide Web gaining consciousness, and the relationship humanity builds with this nascent global brain. "I'm calling it `William Gibson meets William Gibson,'" says Sawyer. "William Gibson the novelist wrote Neuromancer, which, although a wonderful book, is now almost a quarter of a century old and portrays a kind of hacker-subculture-rules-the-world streetwise vision that's totally at odds with Time magazine having named `You' as its most recent Person of the Year -- us, average joes who create content for, and live our social lives in, the online world. And William Gibson the playwright wrote The Miracle Worker, about Annie Sullivan who helped lift Helen Keller -- a vast intellect, trapped in a world of darkness and silence -- out into full consciousness."

Sawyer will spend all of July, August, and September at the Berton House Writing Retreat in Dawson City, working on the first volume, Wake; the subsequent books have working titles of Watch and Wonder. "Expect a lot of mosquitoes in Wake," says Sawyer.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Another bestsellers' list!

Woohoo! Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer is currently #13 on Canada's Bookmanager hardcover fiction bestsellers' list.

The Bookmanager list is complied from point-of-sale data collected from 230 independent Canadian booksellers (Bookmanager is the company that makes the software used by most Canadian bookstores). The list is published in several Canadian newspapers, including The National Post, The Vancouver Sun, and The Regina Leader-Post, and is also reported by the trade journals Quill & Quire and Canadian Bookseller.

Here's the list:

Hardcover Fiction
Week Ending April 28, 2007

Rank (Last Week) Weeks on List

1 (4) 2wks Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje $34.99 (McClelland&Stewart)

2 (3) 2wks The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien & Christopher Tolkien $34.95 (HarperCollins)

3 (5) 2wks The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith $29.95 (Knopf)

4 (2) 4wks On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan $27 (Knopf)

5 (1) 9wks Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella $30 (Dial)

6 (6) 31wks For One More Day by Mitch Albom $26.95 (Hyperion)

7 (8) 12wks The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill $34.95 (HarperCollins)

8 (11) 10wks The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson $25 (Doubleday)

9 (10) 7wks Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult $29.99 (Atria)

10 (13) 6wks Death Comes for the Fat Man by Reginald Hill $34.95 (Doubleday)

11 (7) 8wks 300 by Frank Miller & Lynn Varley $35.99 (DarkHorseComics)

12 (9) 8wks Helpless by Barbara Gowdy $32.95 (HarperCollins)

13 ( -) 1wk Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer $29.95 (Tor)

14 (15) 16wks Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay $34 (Viking)

15 (10) 2wks I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark $29.99 (Simon&Schuster)

(The paperback of my Mindscan was also a Bookmanager bestseller back in January 2006)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Northview Heights reunion

The by-plane across-Canada part of the Rollback book tour ended when I touched down at Toronto's Pearson International Airport at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, May 4, 2007.

Carolyn picked me up at the airport -- but we didn't go home. Instead, we headed through awful rush-hour traffic to Le Parc, a conference centre, for the Friday Night gala part of the 50th-anniversary reunion for our high school, Northview Heights Secondary School, which opened its doors in 1957. (We paused en route at Carolyn's brother David's place, so I could shower and change into my suit.)

Northview meant a great deal to me. I had lots of friends, lots of fun, always had a girlfriend, was active in many things (co-founded the science fiction club; founded and edited the school newspaper, The Northview Post; was the voice of the morning announcements in my final year; and ended up as valedictorian), and enjoyed an eclectic array of courses (Latin, Film Studies, an independent studies biology course for which I got to research dinosaurs). So, it was with great happiness I returned to the school this weekend to see old friends and reminisce.

I must say it was gratifying how many people -- even from decades other than when I attended the school -- recognized me and came up and told me how much they liked my books. In fact, the Saturday night entertainment in Northview's wonderful theatre was hosted by Art Nefsky, who explained in his opening remarks how he got the job being emcee: "We contacted Howie Mandel's agent [Mandel now hosts Deal or No Deal, and was at Northview a few years before I was], but he's in Vegas; Harvey Atkin hosted last night at the gala, so we couldn't ask him to do it again; Robert J. Sawyer is brilliant -- but can he sing and dance? -- and so you're stuck with me." :)

As part of an auction to raise funds to help renovate the school, I donated this: "You've won the right to have a supporting character named after you or a friend or relative of your choice in Wake, the next novel by Hugo and Nebula Award-winning science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer. We'll work out the details -- which physical characteristics and personality traits you'd like me to spotlight -- but I reserve the right to kill your character in a manner of my choosing, if the plot demands it!"

The high bid was $450, and the winner was alumnus Stephen Bloom, who wants me to included his mother Anna Bloom in my next book.

Det-Yenalb himself! The high priest in my novel Far-Seer is named for my old friend Ted Bleaney, seen here at the Friday night banquet

The reunion continued all day Saturday at the school. No sooner had I arrived than I ran into Northview's other Hugo Award winner. That's me on the left, and Mike Glicksohn, who won the best-fanzine Hugo Award in 1973, on the right. I'm Northview class of 1979; Mike was class of 1964.

And -- gak -- that's what I looked like in 1979, at 19 years of age (back then, Ontario, unique among jurisdictions in North America, went to Grade 13 in high school); resemblance to Rasputin, the mad monk, is purely coincidental.

All three Sawyer boys went to Northview. That's my older brother Peter D. Sawyer, now 52, on the left, and my younger brother Alan B. Sawyer, now 45, on the right; Robert J. Sawyer, in the middle, just turned 47.

Both Clink girls went to Northview, too. That's Carolyn, my wife, on the left, and her younger sister Pat Beckett (who was called Patsy Clink back in the day) on the right. Pat was my first girlfriend; we dated the year I was in grade 10.

In Grade 13 (1978-79), my friend Rick Gotlib and I shared an office, because we were the heads of the student government. Posing outside the office door: my girlfriend from that year, Anne Ptasznik, who is now a very fine playwright.

Speaking of girlfriends, that's Lorian Fretz (formerly Lorian Fraser), who was my girlfriend in 1978; her son Geoffrey was one of my writing students a couple of years ago at the University of Toronto

I swear we all used to have hair! Alan Getgood, Robert J. Sawyer, and David Livingstone Clink in the 1970s decade room at the reunion. All three were members of NASFA, the Northview Association for Science Fiction Addicts, and David is now my brother-in-law. Afsan, the name of the main character of my novel Far-Seer, is NASFA spelled backwards.

English teacher Robert E. Howley, the staff sponsor for NASFA, and Robert J. Sawyer, its co-founder.

How cool is this! A bunch of my books on the shelf of my own high school's library!

Lory Corso and Donna Beach, who I've known since my days at Churchill Public School

Robert J. Sawyer, Neil Schechtman; Neil and I were in kindergarten together. Neil's mom is Emmy Award-winning make-up artist Beverley Schechtman.

One of the absolute highlights of my high-school years was a school trip to Rome in March 1977; here's a little reunion from that trip: Anita Auerback, Robert J. Sawyer, Lori Beckerman, Richard M. Gotlib (Rick co-founded NASFA with me)

A quick dinner break at Swiss Chalet (a barbecue-chicken place near Northview that we all remembered from the 1970s). Anne Ptasznik, Carolyn Clink, Gillian Clinton.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

SF people have become used to all the little slights and put-downs that readers and writers of science fiction have to endure in the mainstream media. And that's why this article from today's Toronto Star -- the largest-circulation newspaper in Canada -- charmed me so much. Google Alerts drew it to my attention because of a passing mention of my own work, but what the article consists of is just a pair of interviews with nice, normal people who love science fiction. One is Michael Lennick, a great friend of mine, and the other is Georgie Bell Johnson, a retired school teacher who does her church newsletter.

As readers of this blog know, I've just returned from 20 days of touring to promote my novel Rollback, and of course that experience underscored for me how pleasant, varied, and normal the science-fiction reading audience is -- but that fact so rarely gets reflected in mainstream coverage of the genre that I really do think the article from The Star is noteworthy.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, May 4, 2007

Saskatoon a success -- and finally home!

You know a book tour is ending well when you get bumped up to Executive Class for the flight home. Woohoo!

Today, I finished the second -- and longest -- of the four phases of the book tour for Rollback, my 17th novel. This was the by-plane cross-Canada part, and included stops in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Saskatoon.

And an absolutely wonderful trip it was! Every event went well, I saw a lot of old friends and made some new ones, we got lots of media coverage, and lots of books were sold.

Yesterday, H.B. Fenn and Company (Tor's Canadian distributor) had me take Kent Pollard and Ian Goodwillie from the Saskatoon McNally Robinson out to lunch; Chris Pepin -- who was my wonderful handler from the Saskatchewan Library Association -- joined us, and we had a great time talking about bookselling, writing, libraries and more.

My final event for this phase of the tour, last night (Thursday, May 3, 2007), was giving the Mary Donaldson Memorial Lecture, a public lecture given each year as part of the annual meeting of the Saskatchewan Library Association (pictured: me and PJ, the Saskatchewan Library mascot, who came by my talk).

We had an audience of 125, and Kent, Ian, and others from bookseller McNally Robinson were on hand at the Frances Morrison Library to sell books. The whole evening was fabulous: I was on fire, if I do say so myself; the audience was wonderful; and the questions they asked were great; we sold lots of books; and there was a fabulous reception at the library afterwards. After that, it was off to Maguire's, a lovely pub, for drinks with librarian Peggy Sarjeant (the widow of fantasy writer and paleontologist William A.S. Sarjeant), Geoffrey Ursell and his wife Barbara, and Jeff Cutler from the Canadian Light Source, the synchrotron located in Saskatoon.

I'm back home in Toronto now, and have four days off -- then I embark on Phase Three of the Rollback book tour. Phase One was by-car in the U.S.; Phase Two, just finished, was by-plane in Canada; Phase Three is by-car in Southern Ontario (and lasts four days); and Phase Four is by-plane in the US (with stops in Denver and Orlando). For details of the remaining stops, see here here.

A few pictures from Mary Donaldson Lecture:

The Saskatchewan Library Association banner

Robert J. Sawyer and Chris Pepin, who served as Rob's guide, handler, and host on behalf of the SLA

Old friends Les and Ellen Dickson, who are active not only in science-fiction fandom but also with the Saskatoon Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Rob presenting the Mary Donaldson Memorial Lecture. His topic: "Science Fiction as a Mirror for Reality"

The "World's Best Phi-Fi Writer" T-shirt -- a gift from Montreal fan Debi Ancel -- makes another appearance when Rob speaks about how the genre should really be called "Philosophical Fiction"

Kent Pollard: bookseller from the Saskatoon McNally Robinson, author, and long-time member of
Rob's Yahoo Groups! discussion group

Ian Goodwillie of Saskatoon's McNally Robinson bookstore

After Rob's talk, a crowd converges on the book-sales table -- woohoo! Wearing the white sweater: Saskatoon playwright Geoffrey Ursell

Stephanie Hollinger and Robert J. Sawyer; Stephanie presented Rob with a sketch she'd made of Sal-Afsan, the main character from Rob's 1992 novel Far-Seer

Stephanie Hollinger's sketch of Sal-Afsan, from the Robert J. Sawyer novel Far-Seer

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Mary Donaldson Memorial Lecture -- tonight!

I'm in Saskatoon right now to present the Saskatchewan Library Association's Mary Donaldson Memorial Lecture; that's Mary Donaldson above. If you're in town, come on out! It's tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Frances Morrison Library; it's free!

My topic is:

Many people dismiss science fiction as escapism -- but they're wrong. From its roots with H.G. Wells to the political allegory of the new Battlestar Galactica, science fiction has always been a powerful vehicle for commenting on the here-and-now. Join Hugo and Nebula-Award winner Robert J. Sawyer for a discussion of how science fiction lets us explore the burning issues of today ... in the guise of talking about tomorrow.
The Mary Donaldson is one of Canada's most prestigious lectures (and it comes with a hefty speaking fee -- woot!), and I'm totally honoured and thrilled to have been asked to present this year's talk.

Although some of the names below may not mean much to non-Canadians, the previous presenters have been a veritable Who's Who of Canadian arts and culture, and I'm absolutely delighted to be included in their number. (Stephen Lewis, who gave the 1990 lecture, is a particular hero of mine, and in my novel Flashforward I made him UN Secretary General; broadcaster Adrienne Clarkson went on to really be Canada's Governor General; and it's Pierre Berton's house I'm going to for my writing retreat this summer).

Here's the full list of presenters of the Mary Donaldson Memorial Lecture.

1968: Mary E. P. Henderson: "Planning the Future by the Past"

1969: Frederick G. B. Hutchings: "The Impact of William Morris"

1970: Alberta Letts: "Provincial Library Service -- Today and Tomorrow"

1971: Lura G. Currier: "The Librarian in the Political Arena"

1972: Richard Blackwell: "A British Beaver's Eye View of the Book Trade"

1973: Carlyle King: "Far Horizons, Man Alone: Landscape and Man in Saskatchewan Writing"

1974: Allan R. Turner: "Bearing on the History of Saskatchewan"

1975: Roy B. Stokes: "I Had Forgotten About the Wind"

1976: A.L. Karras: "After Publication -- Reaction"

1977: Bede Hubbard: "The Humanist Imperative"

1978: Marion E. Gilroy: "Pioneers! O Pioneers! The Genesis of Regional Libraries"

1979: Eli Mandel: "Culture and Literacy: Contemporary and Canadian Writing"

1980: Donald C. Kerr: "Moving Pictures, the Great Dream"

1981: Andreas Schroeder: "Compensation for Authors, or the Search for the Elusive Red Jellybean"

1982: Frances Morrison: "Saskatchewan Libraries: Remembering Dreams and Recalling the Past"

1983: Patrick Lane: "The Liberal Vision and the Death of Culture"

1984: Emma LaRocque: "Three Conventional Approaches to Native People in Society and in Literature"

1985: John Sawatsky: "Librarians as Investigative Journalists"

1986: John Gray: "Learning to be Dull: the Canadian Cultural Experience"

1987: Adrienne Clarkson: "Canada: a Possible Vision"

1988: Mel Hurtig: "Speech on Free Trade":

1989: Wes Fine Day: "Education"

1990: Stephen Lewis: "The Struggle for Literacy Abroad and at Home"

1991: Pierre Berton: "Writing Narrative History"

1992: Barbara Clubb: "Discovering That Immeasurable Quality"

1993: Jean Dirksen: "The Joy of Empowerment: Library Leadership for The '90's

1994: Janet Lunn: "The Power of Story"

1995: Bill Richardson: "Truth be told: Coming Out as a Writer"

1996: Ben Wicks: "Caring in a Technological Age"

1997: Sharon Butala: "Lost in Cyberspace"

1998: Don Ching: "Public Enterprise in Saskatchewan: The
Ties that Bind"

1999: Mark Kingwell: "Storage/Retrieval"

2000: Roy Bonisteel: "Read Any Good Web Lately?"

2001: Roch Carrier: "The National Library of Canada: tradition in the new millennium"

2002: Glen Sorestad: "The Opening of Doors"

2003: Gail Bowen: "Ruth Rendell and Me"

2004: Tim Wynne-Jones: "This Place Is Totally ... This Place, Libraries: Real Community In A Virtual World."

2005: Arthur Black: "The Wit and Whimsy of Arthur Black"

2006: Dan Yashinsky: "Suddenly They Heard Footsteps: why we listen to told stories"

2007: Robert J. Sawyer: "Science Fiction as a Mirror for Reality"

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

I've landed on Planet S

Planet S is the biweekly free arts-and-entertainment newspaper in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan -- and the current issue contains this wonderful interview with me, conducted by Gregory Beatty. In the print edition, the interview takes up a full page, and the cover of the issue proclaims "Sci-Fi Sensei Comes to Saskatoon." Woohoo!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Calgary -- yeehaw!

The by-plane part of the Rollback book tour is drawing to a close. I'm now at the Calgary airport, in the Air Canada lounge, about to fly to Saskatoon for the final stop on the tour. The event in Calgary at McNally Robinson was excellent -- packed house, ton of books sold.

It was a very special event for me. Rollback is dedicated to my great friend Robyn Herrington, pictured above, who passed away in 2004 after a long battle with cancer. Robyn's parents, John and Gisela Brown, and her husband, Bruce Herrington, were at McNally for the event, and I began with a tribute to Robyn, who was a mainstay of the Calgary writing community.

Also on hand was Hugh Graham; Hugh had written this fabulous profile of me, which was in the current issue of FFWD (Fastforward), the Calgary arts-and-entertainment weekly. McNally Robinson had a stack of copies, and so I told everyone we had a special deal: buy a copy of Rollback, and we'd throw in a free copy of FFWD. This got a big laugh, 'cause FFWD is always free. Still, we gave away a lot of copies of it last night -- because we sold a lot of books!

Earlier in the day, I'd done a quick-and-dirty interview for CBC Radio One in Calgary, and I'd had a wonderful reunion with an old friend from public school, Rice Honeywell, who I hadn't seen in decades. That reunion came about because Rice, who lives in British Columbia, happened to be visiting Calgary on business, and on the weekend he literally walked into this sign out on the sidewalk in front of McNally Robinson:

He sent me an email, and we arranged to get together. We had a fabulous time catching up. Here's Rice:

In addition to the street sign, McNally had done a fabulous job promoting the event, including this gigantic banner (note bookseller in foreground for scale) behind the cash counter at the store for most of the last month:

My reading was introduced by Thomas Chalmers, the new events coordinator at McNally, while a giant tribble looked on in wonder:

(Actually, that's Danita Maslan's hair -- she was part of a big table of members of the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association, the writing group to which Robyn belonged, who came out for the event; my reading took place in McNally Robinson's Prairie Ink restaurant.)

After the reading, there was a huge line-up for my signature; I signed autographs for over an hour:

And, at the end of the night, high-school English teacher Kim Greyson, also a member of IFWA, took home the giant banner; he's going to put it up in his classroom:

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Edmonton was fabulous -- one of the very best stops on the entire Rollback book tour. I flew in from Calgary (only 250 km away), and was pleased to see that the Indigo bookstore at the Edmonton Airport had a whack of hardcover copies of Rollback. I signed their stock, then was picked up by Barb Galler-Smith, my longtime friend, and a very fine writer. Barb acted as my guide and handler in Edmonton.

We rushed from the airport to the Edmonton CTV studios, where I was interviewed on the noon newscast; a great interview.

Then we headed to the Edmonton City Centre mall, and went to the Coles store. There'd been a little miscommunication. I'd thought I was only doing a drop-in signing (where an author makes no public appearance, but signs the store's stock), and I'd said I'd show up sometime between 1:00 and 2:00. They'd thought I was doing a formal public signing between 1:00 and 2:00, and had a table all set up for me at the entrance to the store. I didn't get there until 1:30, sadly -- but some customers were waiting for me, and we actually sold a good number of books. And the enthusiasm of bookseller Irene Hall there made the whole trip to Edmonton worthwhile in itself!

I was met at the signing by Joel Gotlib, an old friend from Toronto. He's one of the weekend news anchors for the CTV station in Edmonton (and he makes appearances in my novels The Terminal Experiment and Flashforward). Joel, Barb, and I went to a pub (the Elephant and Castle, I think), and Barb patiently listened while Joel and I got caught up.

We then headed off to PALS, an Edmonton adult-literacy centre. Barb is on the board of directors, and my longtime friend Ann Marston, who is a wonderful fantasy writer, works there, and we got a chance to see her.

Then it was off to dinner with Minister Faust, his wife, and infant daughter. Minister Faust had written the very nice article about me in the current edition of Edmonton's VUE magazine, and he's also one of my SF-writing colleagues: author of Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad and From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain. It was great to spend time with him and his family, talking shop.

We then headed over to Audreys, a wonderful independent bookstore in Edmonton. Lots of old friends were there, including my Banff writing students Eileen Bell and Darlene Jones; SF artist Jim Beveridge; fan Jim Shannon (who is the most frequent commenter in this blog); and -- a special treat! -- Jerry Bellikka and his wife Lorraine. Jerry and I had been students together at Ryerson in Toronto; I hadn't seen him since 1982. He looked great -- and still has the best broadcaster's voice I've ever heard!

I thought I read particularly well (the acoustics were good, and the venue was comfortable -- both of which help), and the Q&A session was particularly good. And -- woohoo! -- we sold a ton of books.

After that, it was back to Barb Galler-Smith's place, where I crashed for the night. Early in the morning (of Wednesday, May 2, 2007), Barb drove me to the Edmonton airport, and at 8:00 a.m. I did a phoner interview from the Maple Leaf (Air Canada) Lounge at the airport with the CBC Radio One station in Regina, Saskatchewan (on Thursday -- tomorrow! -- I'm giving the Mary Donaldson Memorial Lecture at the annual meeting of the Saskatchewan Library Association).

Some photos, again taken with my Clie TH55; if you were at these events, and have better photos, please email some to -- thanks!

An intriguing sign at the CTV Edmonton studios, where Rob appeared on the noon newscast ... and I, for one, welcome our new robot masters!

Irene Hall of the Coles bookstore at Edmonton City Centre

Robert J. Sawyer and Joel Gotlib; Joel is one of the weekend anchors for CTV News in Edmonton

Wonderful window display at Audrey's, the bookstore Rob did his Edmonton event at

Canadian SF artist Jim Beveridge and Canadian SF writer Barb Galler-Smith; Barb was Rob's host and handler in Edmonton

A packed crowd in Edmonton; at the right-front is Jim Shannon, the most frequent commenter in this blog, and in the back at right is Minister Faust

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Still on book tour for Rollback ...

Vancouver was fabulous. Bonnie Jean Mah, who was one of my writing students at Banff in 2000, picked me up at the airport. We rushed off to Chapters on Robson Street, so I could sign stock.

The afternoon was spent with meetings. Bonnie Jean and I got the behind-the-scenes tour at Mainframe, Canada's leading computer-animation house, from studio head Paul Gertz. Then we headed over to Rampage Entertainment, the company that has optioned Calculating God, for a meeting with the business-affairs manager and the scriptwriter who is adapting the novel.

After that, there was another meeting, about which more later, if anything comes of it. :)

Then it was dinner. Bonnie Jean's husband Jeff and her seven-year-old daughter Sabrina joined us, as did old friends Daneen and Will McDermott, who drove up from Washington state.

The event at White Dwarf -- Vancouver's SF specialty store -- was excellent. The house was packed; in fact, next time, we're going to have to do my event at the local library (with White Dwarf as the bookseller, of course!). We sold out the entire stock of copies of Rollback, and, as this was the last day of the month, White Dwarf co-owner Jill was able to confirm that Rollback was the number-one bestselling book at White Dwarf for the month of April -- woohoo!

I spent the night in a hotel by the airport, then took an early shuttle to the airport, and flew off to Edmonton, the next stop on the tour. I'm exhausted, but having a blast!

Some photos:

Arriving at White Dwarf, Vancouver's SF specialty store

A packed house

An animated reading from Rollback

Writer Will McDermott and his wife Daneen, who came all the way from Washington State for Rob's reading

Ma, Mah! Rob with Bonnie Jean Mah and her daughter Sabrina

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Odyssey Podcast: Rob on Point of View

Odyssey: The Fantasy Writing Workshop has just released a podcast of my lecture on point of view, given last summer when I was writer-in-residence at the workshop. Have a listen here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Woohoo! First bestsellers' list appearance for Rollback

I'm kicking Tolkien's butt, at least in Winnipeg!

The Winnipeg Free Press bestsellers list for the week of April 22, 2007, in the hardcover fiction category:

1. Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

2. Effigy by Alissa York

3. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows (advance orders) by J.K. Rowling

4. Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer

5. The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Winnipeg Free Press is the major daily newspaper in the capital city of Manitoba.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site