Monday, December 31, 2007

Database viewer for Palm

Besides writing in good old WordStar for DOS, I
also use a legacy program for maintaining my contacts database: I use Alpha Four for DOS version 1.1b (from 1990), which stores its data in the old dBase *.dbf format.

(I use it because WordStar can read data from .dbf files, and because it works well, and because I spent a lot of time many years ago creating forms and templates for it, which still do exactly what I need.)

Anyway, yesterday I found a very nice Palm database viewing/editing program that supports (among other formats) dBase *.dbf, and syncs the files between my Palm OS handheld (a Sony Clie TH55) and my Windows XP computer: Database Viewer Plus (or "DBViewerPlus") from Cellica. It works well, so I registered it.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Twin studies

I've always been fascinated by studies of identical twins separated at birth, because they shed so much light on the nature-vs.-nurture debate. This one is particularly fascinating, in part because of the questionable ethics involved.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A gentleman of impeccable taste ...

... can be found here, over at The Breathing Corpse blog.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, December 28, 2007

EverNote: way cool software

I've just started experimenting with EverNote, a way cool program good for (among other things) organizing all those little research clippings a writer grabs from various places on the Internet.

It has a really slick interface, and I think it's going to be quite useful -- so I went ahead and registered it. It's on sale until January 15, 2008, for US$19.95, instead of the usual US$49.95 price.

And I gotta say I like their Google AdWords ad (you'll see it if you google "evernote": Info management that's so good our competition buys the keyword.
The competition, apparently, is Microsoft's OneNote, but the reviews I found online seemed to generally agree that EverNote is a slicker, more-feature-rich product. So far, I like it a lot.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

RJS in Report on Business Magazine

The January 2008 edition of Report on Business Magazine -- one of Canada's top glossy magazines, distributed for free with the Friday 28 December 2007 edition of The Globe and Mail: Canada's National Newspaper -- contains a series of emails from the future by Robert J. Sawyer, along with comments from a bunch of other people about the future.

You'll find some of the pieces, including mine, here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The actual title is ...

Remember that Classic Star Trek episode about the Greek god Apollo?

The title of that episode is not "Who Mourns for Adonis?" -- despite the fact that you see it rendered that way frequently.

No, the title actually is "Who Mourns for Adonais?" It's a line from the poem "Adonaïs: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats" by Percy Bysshe Shelley; you can read the poem here.

"Adonaïs" is Shelley's own coinage, apparently a blending of the Greek "Adonis" (beautiful young man) and the Hebrew "Adonai" (used in place of YHWH as a name of the God of the Hebrews during prayer recitation).

Now you know. :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

RJS in Report on Business Magazine on Friday

Canadian fans of my work: grab a copy of The Globe and Mail on Friday, December 28, 2007. It will include the January 2008 edition of the monthly Report on Business Magazine, which has ... well, it's not quite a story, but it is a creative piece by me in it.

Remember, Friday is the only day you can get the ROB Magazine -- it's free with The Globe, but only on that day.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

When 70 years after the death of the creator isn't enough ...

Egypt has decided to essentially copyright its antiquities, according to this article from the BBC. How they're going to enforce this, and why other countries should pay any attention, I'm not quite sure ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

One of the most pleasant Christmases in years

Carolyn and I started the day by visiting her mother's house, where her side of the family had gathered, and then it was off to the home of my brother Peter and his wife Jacquie for a wonderful turkey dinner. A really nice day.

Among Carolyn and my presents were some TV shows on DVD, including:
  • Little Mosque on the Prairie, Season 1 (Canadian sitcom)
  • Extras, Season 2 (HBO sitcom)
  • Corner Gas, Season 4 (Canadian sitcom)
  • Seinfeld, Season 5
plus Battlestar Galactica: Razor and the new "Quantum Edition" of What the Bleep do we Know?, plust the new tin-box The Monkees Collector's Edition CD set, Spock vs. Q -- the sequel on audio cassette, and a lovely model Parasaurolophus, gift cards to our local cinema and Chapters, and lots of nice sweaters and shirts.
The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A great site for free ebooks

Over at, you'll find 19,000 ebooks available in all popular reader formats, including my own favorite, eReader, plus Kindle, Mobipocket, Rocket, Palm DOC, HTML, and many more -- the site will even produce a custom PDF to your exact specifications (font, type size margins, line spacing).

Included are almost all the Project Gutenberg offerings (but formatted for your favorite reading software) and a lot of more recent Creative Commons material.

What I'm reading now, courtesy of, is "Valley of Dreams," the little-known sequel to Stanley G. Weinbaum's SF classic "A Martian Odyssey."

The site is the work of one guy, a fellow named Matthew McClintock. He offers all the books for free, but I just sent him a small PayPal donation to show my appreciation.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Monday, December 24, 2007

OMG, Jeanne Robinson is going zero-G!

My great friend Jeanne Robinson -- co-author of Stardance with her husband Spider -- is going to get a zero-G flight experience next week. Read all about her adventure in her new blog -- and about the Stardance movie project here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sontarans rock

The very first Doctor Who serial I ever watched was "The Time Warrior," featuring the third (and still my favourite) Doctor, Jon Pertwee.

When I first saw it, I had no idea that it was a turning point in the series: it contained not only the first-ever mention of the name of The Doctor's home planet (Gallifrey), but also the introduction of one of his most popular companions, Sarah Jane Smith -- and was also the introduction of what, to this day, are my favourite aliens from the series, the Sontarans (of which Linx or Lynx [you see both spellings online although the actual call sheet for the production of the episodes uses the former], played by Kevin Lindsay, shown above, was the first).

A site called The Mind Robber gathers everything we know about Sontarans under the title We Love Sontarans, and also contains the news that in the fourth series of the new Doctor Who, the Sontarans will follow in the footsteps (treadmarks?) of the Daleks and the Cyberman, returning to the show, with a new, updated look:

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fascinating left-brain / right-brain test

Check it out:

Right Brain v Left Brain

For me (and I'm right-handed) she spins clockwise, unless I focus on the lower-left corner of the frame, in which case she spins counter-clockwise, or "anti-clockwise," as they say on this Australian site -- which prompted Carolyn, who is also right-handed and also saw the dancer spinning clockwise, to quip that maybe she spins the other way south of the equator due to the Coriolis effect ... ;)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Dept. of Unfortunate Subtitles

Save The Cat!, subtitled "The Last Book On Screenwriting That You'll Ever Need!" ...

... now has a sequel!

(But both books -- Save the Cat! and Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies -- are excellent. More info at author Blake Snyder's website)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

eBooks that really aren't properly hyperlinked

I'm getting tired of ebooks that aren't properly formatted, and so I posted the following on the Fictionwise discussion forum, in response to Fictionwise's founder Steve Pendergrast saying it only costs $20 or $25 to convert a title to an ebook, and they can convert 50 or so a week, with just one staffer doing it:

If I may be so bold, both your in-house and outside service-bureau converters are doing a crappy job of late on conversions. It used to be if you bought an ebook in a secure format, footnotes or endnotes were properly formatted as hyperlinks that you could jump to; now, they very often aren't -- making the ebook harder, not easier, to use than the printed version, because of the difficulty of flipping to the footnotes.

A recent example: Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.

For an ebook that you're charging six dollars more for than Amazon charges for the print edition, that the notes aren't hyperlinked is just unacceptable.

Rather than getting the process down to the cheapest, most quick-and-dirty method, I respectfully submit that the long-term health of ebooks depends on making the ereading experience more rewarding and user friendly than the print experience. But have a look at, say, your mutliformat release of this book, which you say you did in-house:

The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction.

Your hyperlinked table of contents is completely useless in this anthology of articles, because there's no clue as to what topic the links will take you to. All the chapters actually have titles and individual authors. Chapter Four, for instance, is "The Many Faces of Science Fiction: Sub-Genres" by Kim Richards. But your quick-and-dirty table of contents just gives a useless list of non-descriptive hyperlinks:


No doubt it did cost you only $20 or $25 to do this conversion, but spending a little more to get it right would have been preferable from the consumer's point of view. Touting the hypothetical benefits of ebooks over printed ones but not actually delivering those benefits in the finished product is no way to grow an industry.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Friday, December 21, 2007

Seven RJS novels coming from

I've been a very satisfied customer since March 2001, and so I'm particularly delighted to report that has jut bought audio-book rights to seven of my novels:Plus the complete Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, consisting of:And (as they are released in print form) my complete upcoming WWW trilogy, consisting of:
  • Wake
  • Watch
  • Wonder
I won't be recording the narration myself; it'll all be done by professional voice artists.

I really do listen to material from all the time, and I'm thrilled to have them making such a big commitment to me. My thanks to them, and to Chris Lotts, my agent who handled the negotiations.

( is the world's leading retailer of downloadable audiobooks -- their titles can be played on iPods, Palms, desktops, mobile phones, many MP3 players, etc. etc., and can be burned to CD.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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WordStar: an oldie but a goodie!

I still write with WordStar for DOS, and I note that today marks the 15th anniversary of the file-stamp date on the last version ever released: WordStar for DOS 7.0 Revision D was finalized December 21, 1992.

I've customized the hell out of WordStar over the years, and love it. It's fast, rock-solid, wonderfully optimized for use by touch typists, feature-rich, and much better at text manipulation than Word or WordPerfect in my humble opinion. And, since it can save files in RTF, which every Windows wordprocessor can read, I can't think of any reason to switch.

Sure, someday new Windows computers will stop coming with any DOS support, but (a) there will be an endless supply of old ones on eBay, and (b) Linux or other platforms will always have decent DOS emulators, I'm sure.

Anyway, time to put WordStar to work -- as I myself go back to work on the homestrecth form Wake, the 18th novel I've written with WordStar.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


My wonderful publicist

Today is the last day my wonderful publicist Janis Ackroyd will be with H.B. Fenn and Company, the Canadian distributor for Tor Books. A great many of the good things that have happened to me in the last few years have been the result of Janis's very hard work. Janis is moving on to new challenges, and I'm going to miss working with her ... but she'll always be my friend.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, December 20, 2007

No, no, really, I don't want you to do my homework for me ....

Spoiler alert! But if you've read my Calculating God you might enjoy these questions a grade-12 student just sent me. Needless to say, I told him he'd have to come up with his own answers. :)

1. Who did you mean your audience to be when you wrote this book and what did you want them to get out of it after they read the novel? In short, what was your goal in writing this novel? Does the development of any of the characters symbolize this goal?

2. How would you classify the enlightenment of Tom's character at the end of the novel? In the last few pages, Tom reminisces about when he first became fascinated with fossils. What did he find in that first fossil? (A sense of mystery? His love for science?) His last words are that he has found something he hadn't known he was looking for. What has he found at death? (True friendship? The meaning of life?) Does he finally believe in God or the purpose of faith? How are Hollus and the other aliens affected by finally finding what they have been searching for?

3. Who or what event/circumstance had the greatest affect on Thomas Jericho's enlightened character? What influence ultimately led him to make this decisions he does at the end of the novel?

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

The 10 Best Science Fiction Stories About Religion

Gabriel McKee's blog "SF Gospel" has this fascinating list of The 10 Best Science Fiction Stories About Religion.

I'm particularly pleased to see him skipping such simplistic fare as Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star" and "The Nine Billion Names of God," and Isaac Asimov's "The Last Question," which usually choke such lists; and I'm delighted to see him including Michael Bishop's unaccountably little known "The Gospel According to Gamaliel Crucis."

(However, my own list would have included Michael Moorcock's original short version of "Behold the Man," which I think is a better, tighter work than the later novel; in a note at the end of the blog entry, McKee says he's excluded it because of the existence of the novel, and that's fair enough.)

McKee wrote the wonderful nonfiction book The Gospel According to Science Fiction -- a fine choice to keep in mind for the "Best Related Book" Hugo Award as we gear up to nominating works from 2007 in the next few weeks.

(As for short work of my own about religion, has my "Come All Ye Faithful" and my short-short "The Abdication of Pope Mary III," which Publishers Weekly called "gobsmacking.")

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Harder Star Trek trivia

My friend Shoshana Glick mentions in a comment to this post of mine that those weren't really very hard Star Trek questions on Jeopardy! a few days ago. I agree.

So, here are a few super-hard ones of my own devising, with suggested Jeopardy! dollar values. If you know the answers, put them in a comment to this blog entry.

$200: James Kirk's middle name is Tiberius, as established in the animated episode "Bem" by David Gerrold, and reaffirmed by General Chang in the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. But where in The Original Series do we see his middle initial as something else? And what initial was it?

$400: We all know that Jim Kirk eventually ends up wearing eye glasses, because he's allergic to retinax -- but where do we see a member of the Enterprise crew wearing eye glasses prior to that? (Which episode, and in what room?)

$600: "The Conscience of the King" and "The Immunity Syndrome" contain glaringly contradictory statements about the history of the Vulcan people. In what way do they disagree?

$800: Gene Roddenberry has a cameo of sorts in one episode of the original series. What was it? (Which episode, what role?)

$1,000: Kirk tells Captain Christopher in "Return to Tomorrow" that the Enterprise's command authority is "the United Earth Space Probe Agency," a name never heard again. But Kirk refers to the organization by its acronym UESPA (which he pronounces "yoo-spa") in one other episode -- which one?

Final Jeopardy: Jim Kirk's brother George Samuel Kirk -- called Sam -- is established in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" Sam's family appears in "Operation -- Annihilate!" Although he's referred to only as Sam in dialog in that later episode, there's still an acknowledgment that his full name really is George Samuel Kirk. What is it?

(Yes, I really do know my Star Trek -- in fact, back in the early 1980s, I even wrote part of a Star Trek novel, which you can read here.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Interzone now at Fictionwise

The great British SF magazine Interzone joins Asimov's, Analog, and F&SF in being available in all standard ebook formats at For Interzone, see here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Star Trek on Jeopardy!

See here.

Of course, I knew all the answers. :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Family Guy: That novel you're workin' on

Stewie comments on Brian's progress in writing a novel
(from Family Guy)

(Actually, today was a very good writing day.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What ever happened to WordStar?

What ever happened to WordStar, the grand old word-processing program for CP/M and MS-DOS? And what about its clone, NewWord, published by NewStar Software?

John C. Dvorak explains:

What ever happened to WordStar?

What ever happened to NewWord?

I still use WordStar for DOS 7.0 (and have been a WordStar user for 24 years, as of this week!), and love it for all these reasons. WordStar 7.0 was built on the NewWord codebase.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

SF quotes about religion, including RJS

Stumbled on this fascinating database, which quotes various SF and fantasy books about real religious groups, including excerpts from my Flashforward and Calculating God.

I've just sent them an email, though, because they had an amusing typo. In Flashforward, a character says, "Souls are about life immortal" -- but they transcribed that as "Souls are about life immoral," which is quite a different notion ... :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Neuromancer print run

I get all kinds of interesting questions in email, including this one:
For several years, I have been collecting 1st, 2nd and 3rd printings of the original Ace Science Fiction Specials pb of "Neuromancer" (William Gibson).

The ISBNs are 0-441-56956-0, 0-441-56957-9, and 0-441-56958-7, respectively.

I'm very much interested in knowing how many copies of these early editions - the only ones with cover art by Andy Warhola - were printed.

Any advise you can provide on how I might go about seeking an answer to this question would be much appreciated.
My answer:

That's a very good question. William Gibson himself might know, but publishers actually only report copies sold, not copies printed, to authors. His editor on Neuromancer, Terry Carr, would have known, but he's dead. Gibson's current editor, at Penguin USA (Ace's parent company), is Susan Allison, and she might have access to the old print-run figures (but, then again, they might be in long-archived paper files), although publishers normally consider that sort of information proprietary, and so she might not give it out.

If I had to guess, though, I'd say the first printing of a 1984 first novel in mass-market paperback for which the publisher had high hopes (which they did have for this book; that's why it was done in the Ace New Specials Line) would have been between 20,000 and 50,000 copies. Back then, it wouldn't have been economical to do any mass-market title in fewer than 10,000 copies, so that's the absolute minimum, I should think.

If anybody's got a better answer, I'll pass it on to my correspondent.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

10,000 ebooks for Mobipocket and Kindle

There used to be a guy online called Blackmask who formatted Project Gutenberg public-domain titles for various ebook readers. He folded his tent, but his old DVD of 10,000 titles for Mobipocket reader (a format supported by Amazon's new Kindle, the iRex iLiad, and just about every other ebook-reading device) is available again from a nice lady in England.

Yeah, you could scrounge all this from other sources -- but it's neatly organized here (with a browser interface that makes it easy to find what you want), and includes, in addition to the Mobipocket versions, HTML versions of each ebook, too -- so that you can convert them to other formats in future. With fast shipping to North America included, it's just US$23.99 -- worth every penny, in my view.

Cut and paste this line into eBay's search box to find this disk (don't worry if it wraps on your screen; it'll paste fine as a single line -- and, yes, that's a period, not a comma, in 10.000):


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, December 17, 2007

If it weren't for the Worldcon in Denver ...

... I'd be going here. I love Julian Jaynes's The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.

(That's Jaynes above; more on the Denver World Science Fiction Convention -- the same damn weekend -- is here.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, December 16, 2007

So much for the paperless office

Almost 12 years ago, in January 1996, I bought a then state-of-the-art printer, a Lexmark Optra R+ monochrome laser printer (16 pages per minute; max resolution 1200 dpi). It's been having a few problems of late -- the fan stalls sometimes, and the duplexer stopped working. So, this morning Carolyn and I swapped out the printer for an identical spare I'd picked up on eBay a while ago.

(I've got a ton of accessories not shown in the picture above: extra lower paper tray, the aforementioned duplexer, a dual-tray rear feeder, flash ROM for permanently downloaded fonts -- all of those were working fine, and the duplexing problem was with the main unit, not the duplexer.)

But before retiring the original unit, I checked the page count: it had printed 272,335 pages for us in 12 years. That's over a quarter of a million sheets -- over 500 reams of paper!

(Yeah, I could just give up on the Optra and get a brand-new printer, but I have this terrific print driver for WordStar for DOS that I customized very heavily for use with it, and modern printers really don't have good DOS support (or a decent built-in Courier; Courier New is way too spindly). 'Sides, I did buy a new printer not that long ago: a color laser printer from Dell -- but I much prefer the Optra for printing manuscripts, and that's something, as the above figures attest, I do a lot.)

If anyone out there also uses WordStar 7.0, and would like a copy of the print driver I customized, it's here -- just rename it to OPTRA.PDF (yeah, PDF -- "printer definition file") and put it in your WordStar directory.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Happy Birthday, Arthur C. Clarke

Sir Arthur C. Clarke turns 90 today -- and he's sent a birthday update to the world via this YouTube video.

I've never met him (although I did meet his brother Fred once, so, genetically, I've met 50% of Sir Arthur!), but he is, and always has been, my favourite SF author, ever since my father (who, now 83 himself bears, a startling resemblance to Sir Arthur, I must say) took me to see 2001 in 1968. And, of course, there's no doubt that my first novel, Golden Fleece, about a murdering AI running a spaceship, is a homage to Clarke's Hal.

Happy birthday, Sir Arthur!

(above: Sir Arthur C. Clarke)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, December 14, 2007

Auction for Sawyer manuscript with Freas sketches

An interesting auction on eBay: the working copy of the manuscript for my novelette "Ineluctable" with Analog editor Stan Schmidt's notations, and artist Frank Kelly Freas's rough sketches on it (Kelly did the art for the story).

I've got nothing to do with this auction -- just thought it was interesting (the link will go dead at some point; eBay doesn't keep listings around for long).

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

15,000 more ebooks for Amazon's Kindle -- plus SF mags!, very wisely in my view, has made virutally all of their Multiformat ebooks (mostly short stories, but lots of novels, too) available in the format used by the Amazon Kindle eBook reader (and the Sony Reader, too). Check it all out here.

And that means -- very cool! -- that Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Asimov's Science Fiction, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction are now available for the Kindle, too!

Oh, and lots of my short fiction is available; it's all here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Earth and Moon

A reader wrote to me today, "Earth and Moon should always be capitalized; and if your line editors are sloppy, then tell them so!" (In Mindscan, much of which does take place on Earth's natural satellite, I made a conscious choice not to capitalize "moon.")

My response:

On the capitalization of Earth, Moon, etc., we'll have to have a discussion. I agree on Earth, as it is the commonly accepted proper name of our planet in English and there are no other "Earths."* But note that Analog magazine (and analogy!) can take this to ridiculous lengths: Analog's style guide is to capitalize: Earth, Moon, Sun, Galaxy (when referring to our own), and even Universe.

Actually, one could argue that there are no other proven universes, and so capitulate to Analog's arcane point about capitalizing it, but there are lots of other moons, galaxies, and suns, and so I might argue that all of these phrases are correct:

Earth's moon
Earth's moon Luna
Luna, Earth's moon

Earth's sun
Earth's sun Sol
Sol, Earth's sun

Earth's galaxy
Earth's galaxy, the Milky Way
The Milky Way, Earth's galaxy

Earth's universe
Earth's universe Fred
Fred, the universe containing Earth

Still, by analogy:
My house is in the valley.
Which valley?
The San Fernando Valley.

(Yes, lots of people would capitalize "valley" in the first sentence -- but lots of others wouldn't.)

There's also the question of whether "solar system" refers generically to any system of stars and planets, or specifically to our own, since "solar" is derived from the proper name of our sun (as used in SF contexts, anyway).

But, to me, "Solar system" and "Solar System," look wrong, although I'll accede to "Sol system" (since we never say "Alpha Centaurian system" but always "Alpha Centauri system"); in general, I prefer "solar system," and consider the argument that the term should only be used to refer to our own (a) pedantic, and (b) to fly in the face of already well-established common usage.

* I said there were no other Earths, but, in fact, in discussions of exoplanets -- those outside our solar system -- we do routinely refer to "hot Jupiters" and "other Earths," but that's a very specialized and quite recent usage, and shouldn't dictate how we generally refer to our planet, although it's interesting that the long-in-common-use term "the Earth" -- meaning the Earth, our Earth -- might need to be retained, instead of the definite article falling by the wayside as such things often do over time ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, December 9, 2007

AI Podcasts

Oodles of them, right here, courtesty of The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intellegence.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, December 8, 2007

OSC's IGMS has interview with RJS for free

How's that for a lot of initials? Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show -- a wonderful online magazine -- has made its interview with me in the current issue, conducted by the always insightful Darrell Schweitzer, available right here for free.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Dual Citizenship

I often get email from students asking me questions about my science-fiction writing, but today's email contained questions from a student on an entirely different topic: dual citizenship (I hold both Canadian and American citizenship):
In my Honors Colloquium on immigration, the discussion arose about the merits and problems with dual citizenship. My instructor said he was against anyone having dual citizenship because of the loyalty issues.

If you have time, could you quickly answer a few questions for me?

How easy was it for your parents to get you dual citizenship? Were there extra steps they had to prove to get US Citizenship for you?

Do you find having dual citizenship is a benefit? Are there any concerns others have when they know you have dual citizenship?

Would my instructor be correct in that loyalty to both countries would be an issue, though Canada and the United States are not enemies?

And finally, concerning global issues and politics now, do you feel that dual citizenship should be as easy to acquire as it was forty years ago, or do you lean more toward limiting new dual citizenships to the point that they are almost eliminated?
My reply:
My mother was a US-citizen graduate student temporarily resident in Canada when I was born; mine was a foreign-soil birth to an American national temporarily abroad. She reported in person to the U.S. embassy in Ottawa upon giving birth in that city, and had my birth registered as such, which, in 1960, was sufficient to grant dual citizenship.

The benefits are obvious: I can freely live and work anywhere in Canada or the United States, and since my job is portable, and since I travel so much, that's a real plus. No one has ever reacted negatively to my circumstances, which, frankly, simply aren't that unusual anymore.

(The downsides: I file tax returns with both the IRS and the Canada Revenue Agency (although because of reciprocal treaties, I'm not doubly taxed, but it's still a pain); when US selective-service registration was reactivated in 1980, I had to -- and did -- register and was at risk of being drafted.)

Your instructor may be right about loyalty but is misguided in asserting its value, I feel; many of the world's problems today are caused by blind allegiance to a single country or block -- whether it's Iranian extremists, or "Homeland" security. When the European Union decided to simply walk away from a millennium of warfare among its members, the first step was making citizenship essentially EU-wide, eliminating much jingoistic partisanship.

And, just as the spread of multinational companies has ended the threat of much international war (it's impossible to conceive of the U.S. and Japan ever being in a shooting war again, since so many businesses have major presences in both countries), the deployment of people around the globe with larger-than-local allegiance gives us the wider perspective needed to tackle environmental issues that know no borders.

Indeed, your instructor is a bit of a throwback and misguided; it's easier today to acquire dual citizenship as an American than it was 40 years ago; 40 years ago, you essentially had to be born with it (as I was) -- now, the United States, very much in response to pressure from the rest of the world, which has long had a more enlightened attitude about this, much more readily recognizes dual citizenship.

Forty years ago, my mother could get her children dual US-Canadian citizenship, but there was no mechanism for her herself to obtain it; today, she could easily have both if she wanted to (and my great friend, SF writer Robert Charles Wilson, born in the US, but resident in Canada for four decades now, got his Canadian citizenship last year without the US requiring him to relinquish his American citizenship).

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, December 7, 2007

Arisia, here I come!

Just a quick note to say I'll be at the science-fiction convention Arisia over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, January 18-21, 2008, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Walter Hunt

My buddy Walter H. Hunt, author of the Dark Wing series from Tor, is in Toronto for a conference, and so we had lunch today.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Home at last! In the last six days, I've taken eight flights -- something that's always risky in winter. Indeed, one of my flights was almost canceled, and for two of the others, my connections ended up being so tight (because my earlier flights on those days had been delayed by bad weather) that I had to run to make them. For one, I literally made it to the aircraft with seconds to spare.

My worst travel day was this past Monday, December 3, 2007. I started the day in Victoria, British Columbia, where I gave the keynote address to the Canadian Home Care Association (about the future of medical technology). As soon as my talk was over, I high-tailed it to Victoria's airport, and started my first of four flights that day to get me to Kansas State University, where I was delivering another keynote the next day.

The four flights were Victoria to Vancouver, Vancouver to Denver, Denver to Kansas City, and Kansas City to Manhattan, Kansas (where K-State is located). I thought I was home free after I got on my Vancouver flight on time, because the weather was only bad in the Pacific Northwest (as we Canadians kindly humour the Americans by calling that part of the world; it's really our Pacific Southwest). But it turned out that my flight from Denver to Kansas City originated in Portland, and was delayed there almost two hours because of the huge storm that just hit that area. As I said, I made it to the final flight -- Kansas City to Manhattan, Kansas, with less than a minute to spare.

Today was also very nerve-wracking, even though the itinerary was much simpler: Manhattan, Kansas, to Kansas City, then Kansas City to Toronto. But my flight out of Manhattan was delayed 90 minutes -- in Kansas City, where it was originating (it just shuttles back and forth), thanks to freezing rain there.

Fortunately for me, the Kansas-Toronto flight was delayed 10 minutes, or I never would have caught it. (Kansas City is a very frustrating airport: you can't pre-print your own Air Canada boarding passes for use at it (even though you can for use at many other U.S. airports), and you can't change gates (I had to go simply from A12 to A14) without going through security a second time; getting the boarding pass and going through security again delayed me so much that if the flight to Toronto had been on time, I'd have been stranded.

I was so tired, and so stressed, that instead of writing on the flight home (I do a lot of my writing on airplanes), I just curled up with a good ebook: Caleb Carr's wonderful The Alienist (despite the title, not science fiction -- "alienist" is an old-fashioned term for psychiatrist, and, indeed, was one of the titles I considered for my novel about alien psychiatry, 1994's Foreigner).

Ah, well. In the end, the trip was worth it. Although I got to see nothing at all of Victoria, my talk for the Canadian Homecare Associating was extremely well received, and I had a wonderful time at Kansas State University, first speaking at their science-fiction class (taught by Carol Franko), where the students were studying my Hugo-nominated 1997 short story "The Hand You're Dealt," then at a wonderful lunch in a gorgeous dining room on campus, then giving the keynote at the dedication of the new David J. Williams III Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror Collection there, then at a wonderful signing for my books (I was amazed at how many sold!), and then again at a wonderful dinner out with David's sister and cousin and some of the K-State Librarians.

All that was on Tuesday; yesterday -- Wednesday -- I just hung around Manhattan, getting some peace and quiet to work on my novel Wake, and enjoying a nice dinner out with Roger Adams, the librarian who had arranged the donation of the Williams collection and had arranged for me to speak at K-State.

I now have nothing major at all on my schedule for the next five weeks, during which time I'm going to finish Wake (it's due January 15, 2008). I'm looking forward to just sitting in my living-room La-z-boy with the fireplace going and working on the book.

(For those who've been to my home: I do have an office with its own La-z-boy, but in winter, I tend to work at a second workstation in the living room, so that I can enjoy the fireplace there.)

Of course, as soon as Wake is done, it's back to travel: I'm going to Arisia in Cambridge, Massachusetts, January 18-21, and then I'm off to Calgary to give a keynote address on stem-cell research for the Calgary City Teachers' Association Conference (and I give a keynote on global warming and Canada's future the next week back in Toronto to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment).

And then, of course, there's the trip to Patagonia ... but more about that later ... ;)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

BookBlog reviews

Nicholas Collins's BookBlog has nice reviews of Rollback and Fossil Hunter.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

New SF Collection at Kansas State University

(Photo: Sara Morgan, Robert J. Sawyer, Roger Adams)

On Tuesday, December 4, 2007, Robert J. Sawyer gave the keynote address ("Science Fiction as a Mirror for Reality") at the Dedication Ceremony of the David J. Williams III Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Collection, at Kansas State University. The collection, consisting of 3,000 items, includes a complete run of Arkham House volumes.

Williams, who lived in Richmond, Kentucky, worked for the U.S. National Security Agency and passed away in 2001. The dedication ceremony was attended by his sister Sara Morgan, who orchestrated K-State's acquisition of the material, in conjuction with Roger Adams of the Special Collections department of K-State's Hale Library, where the Williams Collection is now housed.

The David J. Williams III Collection

Coverage of Sawyer's talk from the K-State newspaper

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, December 3, 2007

A nice review of Foreigner

A very nice review (scoll down, past the cover copy) of my Foreigner is here.

(And thanks to Kirstin Morrell for drawing this to my attenion.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Odyssey workshop applications open

I'm not teaching there in 2008, but I do recommend Jeanne Cavelos's Odyssey workshop. Check it out.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site