Thursday, November 27, 2008

Re-reading Flashforward after a decade

My first novel, Golden Fleece, came out 18 years ago this month. I never go back and read my own novels after they're published. Part of that is fatigue -- the author has to read through the entire manuscript so many times when polishing a book, and then again when it's copyedited, and once more to proofread the typesetting; by the time our book is actually out, it's the last thing most of us want to look at.

And part of that is fear, I guess: an uneasy feeling that we might cringe, or want to rewrite some more, or wish we'd done things differently.

But my 1999 novel Flashforward (or Flash Forward) is, of course, very much in my mind of late, because ABC, the most-watched TV network in the United States, is making a series pilot based on the book. And, well, if it gets picked up for a series, I'm going to write one of the episodes, so I thought I should refamiliarize myself with the book, which I haven't read in a decade.

As it turns out, recently made Blackstone Audio's version Flashforward available as an unabridged audio book -- so I downloaded it into my iPod and I've been listening to installments as I do my morning treadmilling. I finished listening today.

And, what did I think after a decade?

Welllll, colour me immodest, but damn, that's a fine piece of work.

I mean, I know I should have know that it's a good book: it won the Aurora Award (and -- ahem, Aurora voters! -- was my last book to do so); an excerpt from it won Spain's Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficción, worth US$7,000 back then, the world's largest annual cash prize for SF writing; and it got me my first starred review (denoting a book of exceptional merit) in Publishers Weekly, saying:
A creative, soul-searching exploration of fate, free will, and the nature of the universe. Sawyer shifts seamlessly among the perspectives of his many characters, anchoring the story in small details. This first-rate, philosophical journey, a terrific example of idea-driven SF, should have wide appeal.

But, y'know, Flashforward has never been one of my favourites from my oeuvre; for whatever reason, I've always tended to discount Flashforward and Illegal Alien, despite lots of people telling me that one or the other of them is their favourite among my books.

(As I've often said, an author's take on a given book has more to do with how he or she felt while writing it -- what was going on in his or her life at the time -- rather than anything objective about what's actually on the page.)

I had forgotten huge parts of Flashforward, and I'd forgotten how intricate it was, and how all the plot elements go snick-snick-snick, coming together at the end.

And I was astonished to see that the seeds of my latest novel, Rollback, are clearly in there, with the same dilemma Don and Sarah face in that later book spelled out. And I'd totally forgotten all the very neat stuff about Supernova 1987a and its aftermath, and lots of the cool philosophical ramblings.

But listening to it, in Mark Deakins's terrific reading, actually let me see it with fresh eyes (and hear it with fresh ears!). And, you know what? It's worth every penny of the pile of money ABC is paying for the rights. :) I'm proud to have written it, and, really, there's next to nothing I'd change if I had to do it over again.

For a novel that's about seeing the future, I guess it would have been nice back when the book came out to have gotten a glimpse of what I myself was going to think about it a decade later (not to mention knowing in advance that it was going to generate so much money!), but now that the future is here, I'm very glad and very content.

More about the book is here, and you can get the Audible version here here. And the scoop about the TV pilot is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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At November 27, 2008 4:53 PM , Blogger Annie said...

I giggle every time I hear about the "Bad Sex in Fiction Prize," and other not so fabulous lists, such as the Razzies, etc. I was just wondering....a prolific award winner such as yourself...have you ever made any lists or won any prizes that you were embarrassed by?

At November 27, 2008 7:30 PM , Blogger Mark said...

I love Flashforward, Rob, so I guess you have to put me in that camp, though I have a deep fondness for the Neanderthal series too.

At November 27, 2008 8:06 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Annie, not that I'm aware of. ;) Mark, thank you!

At August 09, 2009 4:31 PM , Blogger Brigid said...

Some things you predicted did not come about (men's fashions).

But how in the world did you predict Pope Benedict XVI?


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