Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

New $1,000 science-fiction award

by Rob - January 25th, 2013

For Immediate Release: New $1,000 Science-Fiction Award

  • New $1,000 cash award for science fiction writing
  • Theme: interstellar fiction
  • Readers and editors are invited to nominate works
  • Coordinating judge: Robert J. Sawyer
  • To be presented at the 2013 Campbell Conference

LIFEBOAT TO THE STARS AWARD

The Lifeboat Foundation will present the “Lifeboat to the Stars” award along with $1,000 to the winner at the 2013 Campbell Conference.

The “Lifeboat to the Stars” award will be for the best work of science fiction of any length published in 2011 or 2012 contributing to an understanding of the benefits, means, and difficulties of interstellar travel.

Coordinating judge is Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell Award-winning science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer. Editors and readers are invited to nominate eligible works — novels, novellas, novelettes, or short stories — by emailing Sawyer at sawyer@sfwriter.com.

Sawyer will present the award — and the $1,000 prize — at this year’s Campbell Conference, June 13-16, 2013, at the Oread Hotel in Lawrence, Kansas.

Working with coordinating judge Sawyer will be consulting judge Greg Bear. Also consulting on the choice of winner will be Catherine Asaro, Jason Batt, Sherry E. Bell, Kevin M. Berry, Don V. Black, Stephan Vladimir Bugaj, Brenda Cooper, David Gerrold, Niklas Jdrvstret, Jim Karkanias, Rouslan Krechetnikov, Wes Kretzschmar, Eva-Jane Lark, Mike E. McCulloch, George Perry, Allen Steele, John K. Strickland Jr, and Allen G. Taylor.

The award was suggested by Frederik Pohl and James Gunn, and named by Gunn.

About Lifeboat Foundation

The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies, including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics/AI, as we move towards the Singularity.

Contact:

Robert J. Sawyer
sawyer@sfwriter.com

For your Hugo consideration: Triggers

by Rob - January 12th, 2013

Now that Hugo Award nominations are officially open, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that my novel Triggers, published in the US by Ace Science Fiction following serialization in the January-February, March, April, and May 2012 issues of Analog (and Audio version from Audible), is eligible for nomination in the Best Novel category.

Some review excerpts:

Triggers has the pacing of an episode of 24 and the philosophical sensibilities of an Isaac Asimov novel.” — Andrew Zimmerman Jones in Black Gate

“A thriller’s pacing and a chilling near-future world. Sawyer’s strength is in the overarching ideas of his stories, and he certainly delivers here.” — Booklist

“There’s lots of fascinating stuff here about how human memory works, and Sawyer expertly explores the personal as well as political consequences of his high-concept premise.” — Financial Times

Triggers is a meditation on memory, as well as dealing with contemporary issues such as technology, science and race. An out-and-out thriller, with multiple characters, fast-paced chapters and a core mystery that needs solving — fast.” — Fresh Air (CBC Radio One)

“Sawyer is at the height of his powers here. A mature storyteller, sharing his worlds with us at his own easy stride. I couldn’t put it down.” — January Magazine (a “Best of the Year” pick)

“The Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of Calculating God and The WWW Trilogy delivers a tense, race-against-the-clock adventure with a surprise ending. It should appeal to mainstream thriller readers as well as its target market.” — Library Journal

“Sawyer delivers another high-concept thriller built on intriguing SFnal ideas.” — Locus (a “New & Notable Books” pick)

“There are few authors writing today that bring such a strong combination of literate storytelling and complex ideas to the page. Robert J. Sawyer is one of the best in the business right now, and Triggers is him at his finest.” — The Maine Edge (Bangor, Maine)

“Engaging and full of fascinating ideas. Triggers uses a techno-thriller plot but the approach is more that of a philosophical inquiry.” — Morning Star (UK)

“No one digs into a sci-fi thought experiment with quite the zest that Robert J. Sawyer does. Sawyer doesn’t stint the thriller framework, but the story’s real joy is the care he takes in exploring the details of the memory-sharing.” — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Sawyer is a pacifist at heart, and it’s refreshing to hear a voice advocating peace in a genre that often glorifies war. Triggers is an action movie with a big science-fiction finish and an optimistic message.” — Mississauga Life

“A turbo-charged techno-thriller. Sawyer offers an escape from the recent run of near-future dystopias in a combination of classic and contemporary science fiction.” — Publishers Weekly

“Robert J. Sawyer’s greatest gift has always been his ability to incorporate the human element into stories about complex scientific ideas, and Triggers is one of his most emotional and successful to date. Despite the near-dystopian setting, Triggers is haunting in its optimism. It was a joy to read.” [Five stars out of five.] — San Francisco Book Review

“Verdict: Not to be missed.” — Sci-Fi Bulletin

“Intriguing, with plenty of suspense — Triggers was fast-paced and exciting. This science fiction thriller was completely riveting from beginning to its climactic end.” — SciFiChick.com

Triggers is an imaginative and technical tour de force.” — Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Triggers is constantly gripping on the surface and seriously provocative deep down.” — Tom Shippey in The Wall Street Journal

More reviews are here.

The Canadian edition of Triggers is from Penguin Canada, and the British one is from Orion Gollancz.

Robert J. Sawyer online:
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Call for papers

by Rob - January 5th, 2013

In honour of the donation of Robert J. Sawyer‘s papers and archives to McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, that institution is hosting an academic conference entitled “Science Fiction: The Interdisciplinary Genre” Friday, September 13, through Sunday, September 15, 2013.

The call for papers (CFP) is here.

Special guests at the conference are Hugo Award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer, Order of Canada member John Robert Colombo, Aurora Award-winning author Julie E. Czerneda, Hugo Award-winning editor David G. Hartwell, Aurora Award-winning author Élisabeth Vonarburg, Hugo Award-winning author Robert Charles Wilson, and Chris Szego of Bakka Phoenix Books.

This is sure to be the largest academic conference about science fiction in Canada in 2013, and the biggest academic conference on Canadian science fiction ever held. The conference will be open to the general public.

Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer has called science fiction “the literature of intriguing juxtapositions,” and so it is, combining a wide range of disciplines including anthropology, astronomy, computer science, evolutionary biology, gender studies, history, literature, philosophy, psychology, religious studies, and sociology.

We’re interested in papers from all academic areas, with a focus on Canadian science fiction in general and Sawyer’s oeuvre in particular.

The call for papers is here. The conference is being chaired by McMaster professors Nicholas Serruys and C. Annette Grisé. For more information, contact Prof. Serruys at serruys@mcmaster.ca or 905-525-9140, ext. 23756.

Sawyer’s archives will be housed and displayed alongside McMaster’s massive collection of Bertrand Russell material, its large H.G. Wells collection, and its extensive archival holdings in Canadian literature, including the papers of Pierre Berton, John Robert Colombo, Margaret Laurence, Farley Mowat, and publisher Jack McClelland.

Photo by Christina Frost

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Three For The Future

by Rob - October 28th, 2012

Thirty years ago, the November 1982 issue of Leisure Ways (the members’ magazine for the Canadian Automobile Association) published “Three For the Future” — three short-short science-fiction stories by Terence M. Green, Robert J. Sawyer, and Andrew Weiner, collected and introduced by John Robert Colombo. Last night, at John’s house, we all got together for a 30th anniversary reunion party — complete with readings of the stories. I’ve put up a web page with the text of all three stories and John’s introduction HERE

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Unveiling the Red Planet Blues cover

by Rob - October 16th, 2012

I’m thrilled to unveil the cover for my twenty-second novel, Red Planet Blues, and to announce a new, earlier publication date. To accommodate my Canadian book tour, Red Planet Blues will now come out in both the US and Canada one week earlier than originally planned. The new date is Tuesday, March 26, 2013 (with the Toronto launch party on Monday night, March 25). The US publisher is Ace Science Fiction; the Canadian publisher is Penguin Canada (which will release the book under its Viking imprint).

The cover art is by Tony Mauro; art director was Rita Frangie. And, yes, those are fossils in the lower right …

Click here or on the image above to see the cover full-size (a four-megabyte JPEG).

Robert J. Sawyer online:
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RTA School of Media Wall of Fame

by Rob - September 22nd, 2012

On Saturday, September 22, 2012, the RTA School of Media Wall of Fame was unveiled at my alma mater, Ryerson University in Toronto; I am thrilled to be one of the initial twelve inductees.

The Wall of Fame is sponsored by the RTA School of Media (formerly the School of Radio and Television Arts, the top-rated broadcasting school in Canada, established 1953) and the RTA Alumni Association.

The initial twelve honorees are:

  • Dave Devall, Guinness World Record holder for “longest career as a weather forecaster’”
  • Jocelyn Hamilton, Vice President, Original Programming, Kids, Comedy, Drama, at Corus Entertainment.
  • Bill Lawrence, CBC weather forecaster, host of Tiny Talent Time
  • Terry O’Reilly, co-founder Pirate Radio, author, CBC Radio host
  • Keith Pelley, President, Rogers Media Inc.
  • Valerie Pringle, television host and journalist
  • Robert J. Sawyer, science-fiction writer
  • Doug Sellars (deceased), former executive producer of CBC Sports, and former executive vice-president of Fox Sports in Los Angeles
  • Arthur Smith, Executive Producer of the reality show Hell’s Kitchen
  • Steven H. Stern, film director, producer, and writer
  • Virginia Thompson, owner of Vérité Films and producer of Corner Gas
  • Kim Wilson, Creative Head, Children’s and Youth Programming at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

The citation beneath my photo on the Wall of Fame reads:

Robert J. Sawyer (class of 1982) is one of only eight writers in history — and the only Canadian — to win all three of the world’s top awards for best science-fiction novel of the year: the Hugo (which he won for Hominids), the Nebula (for The Terminal Experiment), and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (for Mindscan). According to the U.S. trade journal Locus, he has won more awards for his novels than anyone else in the history of the science-fiction and fantasy fields.

The 2009-2010 ABC TV series FlashForward was based on his novel of the same name, and he was one of the scriptwriters for that show. He is a member of both the Writers Guild of Canada and the Writers Guild of America, and has almost 700 radio and TV appearances to his credit.

Click above for larger photo

At the induction ceremony (left to right): Virginia Thompson, Jocelyn Hamilton, Kim Wilson, Robert J. Sawyer, Valerie Pringle, Terry O’Reilly, Arthur Smith, Keith Pelley, Dave Devall

Ten years prior, in September 2002, I received Ryerson’s Alumni Award of Distinction; I am one of only eighty people so honoured in Ryerson’s history. Of the initial twelve RTA Wall of Fame inductees, only Dave Devall, Valerie Pringle, and myself are also Alumni Award of Distinction recipients.

I very much enjoyed my time as a student at Ryerson — graduating 30 years ago, in 1982, with a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree in Radio and Television Arts. I also spent a year on staff in the School of Radio and Television Arts (the 1982-83 academic year), and returned to Ryerson in the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 academic years to teach continuing-education courses in science-fiction writing. In 2008, for Ryerson’s sixtieth anniversary, I was commissioned by the university to write this piece about the university’s future.

Photo by Christina Molendyk

Robert J. Sawyer online:
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Sparkling Mike Resnick

by Rob - August 25th, 2012

My great friend and mentor Mike Resnick is Guest of Honor at Chicon 7, the 2012 World Science Fiction Convention, which begins next week in Chicago. To commemorate that, here’s the introduction I wrote for Mike’s 2003 collection Resnick at Large: Resnick Speaks His Mind on Everything.


Here’s something most people don’t know about Mike Resnick. His middle name — I kid you not — is Diamond.

Now, as a writer myself (one of the legions who have learned much of their craft by reading Resnick and being mentored by him), I know how important the symbolism of names is, but my wife always balks when I use one that’s too obviously appropriate. And yet, Diamond really is a perfect name for Mike.

First, of course, the guy’s brilliant. All you have to do is read any of his dozens of books to know that.

Second, he’s multifaceted. Mike writes some of the most socially relevant fiction in the history of SF (see the “Kirinyaga” stories, for instance), but he also writes lots of laugh-out-loud funny stuff. And, of course, he’s not just an award-winning novelist and an award-winning short-story writer, but also a screenwriter, a magnificent essayist, a wonderful fan writer, and an indefatigable anthology editor.

Third, he’s transparent. There is absolutely no guile in our Mr. Resnick. He speaks plainly — even bluntly; writes with Asimovian clarity; and makes no secret of his ambitions.

Fourth, as the Diamond Merchants Association’s slogan has it, “a diamond is forever.” Most twentieth and twenty-first century SF writers will be quickly forgotten. Not Mike. Because his work is often parable, it goes beyond being mere entertainment (although it most assuredly is entertaining); Mike writes passionately about things that matter to him and will matter to us, as a species, far into the future.

Fifth, like a diamond, our man Mike is known by his statistics: he’s won four Hugo awards, a Nebula award, a Locus award, the Prix Eiffel, two Ignotus awards, the Seiun award, the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya’s SF award, six Science Fiction Chronicle awards, four Asimov’s readers’ polls, a Hayakawa SF Magazine readers’ poll, and ten — count ‘em, ten — HOMer Awards voted on by the members of the SF Literature forums on CompuServe.

Sixth, Michael Diamond Resnick is the very symbol of generosity. No writer in recent history has done more to encourage beginning talent. He’s bought lots of first stories for his anthologies (and gotten jaded fools like me back into writing short fiction after having given it up), he freely dispenses advice on all aspects of the writing game, and he’s constantly taking time to promote other writers.

(I’ll give you an example: every year at the SF convention Eeriecon in Niagara Falls, New York, I do a panel on Friday evening called “The Late Night Talk Show,” where I pretend to be Jay Leno, and interview the other convention guests about whatever they want to promote. Mike was Guest of Honor at Eeriecon one year, and when it came time for me to interview him, he said, “You’ll all hear enough about me over the weekend. I’d rather talk about another writer who excites me,” and he spent his whole time in the spotlight promoting William Sanders instead. That’s class.)

Seventh, as the saying goes, a diamond is a girl’s best friend. There is no better marriage in the SF industry than that between Mike and his lovely, charming, witty wife Carol. Mike always refers to Carol as his “uncredited collaborator,” and he dedicates every single book to her first, and then, secondarily, to somebody else.

Eighth, diamonds are associated with Africa, the continent with the world’s best mines. Mike’s affinity with Africa is well known, and his nickname throughout the SF world is Bwana. Not only does he edit the Resnick Library of African Adventure, and frequently visits that continent, but his African-tinged tales — from short works like “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” and “The Manamouki” to novels like Ivory, Paradise, Inferno, and Purgatory — are the sort of thoughtful, important writing that let the rest of us hold our heads high when we say we’re science-fiction writers.

But, enough from me. It’s time to hear from Mike. Turn the page, and say hello to a true gem of a man.

Photo by Laura Domitz

Robert J. Sawyer online:
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History-making Aurora Award win

by Rob - August 15th, 2012

To my absolute astonishment and delight, my twenty-first novel, Wonder, has just won the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Award (“the Aurora”) for Best Novel of the Year.

An excerpt from the official Aurora Awards press release:

Mississauga, Ontario, author Robert J. Sawyer has done it again. Not only is this his third consecutive Aurora Award for Best English Novel, it gives him an Aurora for all three novels in his celebrated “WWW” science-fiction series.

On Saturday night, August 11, 2012, in Calgary, at the Aurora Awards Banquet, Mr. Sawyer won the coveted award for his novel Wonder, the third volume of his “WWW” trilogy. Last year, he won for Watch (the second volume), and in 2010 he won for Wake (the first volume). All three books are published by Penguin Group (Canada); Mr. Sawyer’s editor, Adrienne Kerr (pictured with Sawyer above), was present along with him at the ceremony in Calgary.

Along with the trophy, Mr. Sawyer was presented with a cheque for $500 from SF Canada, Canada’s Science Fiction and Fantasy writers association.

For over 30 years, members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA) have chosen exceptional Canadian works for these trophies. This year the awards ceremony was held in Calgary in conjunction with the When Words Collide festival.

Wonder completes the story of Caitlin Decter, the formerly blind 16-year-old girl who discovers that a vast consciousness has spontaneously emerged in the background of the World Wide Web. She becomes Webmind’s mentor, protector, and public face. The WWW trilogy is published in the US by Ace Science Fiction and in the UK by Gollancz. The audio books are available from Audible.com (downloadable) and Blackstone (physical media), and all three novels were main selections of the Science Fiction Book Club.

Wonder hit #1 on the Amazon.ca science-fiction bestsellers’ list, was the #1 bestselling hardcover for the entire year of 2011 at Toronto’s Bakka-Phoenix Books, was named “Bookseller’s Pick of the Year” for adult science fiction or fantasy by the Canadian publishing trade journal Quill & Quire, and was a finalist for the CBC Bookie Awards. Some reviews of the book:

“Not just an adventure story, Wonder is also (like its predecessors) a starting point for speculations on ethics and morality, the meaning of consciousness and conscience, and the place of intelligence in the cosmos. This is Robert J. Sawyer at his very best.”

Don Sakers in Analog


“For those of you science fiction fans who have yet to experience Robert J. Sawyer, you’re missing out on one of the most though-provoking writers in the genre. His narrative is a unique fusion of highly intelligent scientific speculation; emotionally-powered, character driven storylines; and offbeat humor mixed with subtle pop culture references. In WWW: Wonder, for example, Sawyer brilliantly references some iconic science fiction images — the Lawgiver from Planet of the Apes, The Six Million Dollar Man, Erin Gray from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, etc.

“This trilogy doesn’t portray humankind in the best of lights but there is an undeniable sense of optimism at work, an irrepressible hope. These novels will change the way you look at the world — and if the epilogue of WWW: Wonder doesn’t deeply affect you, doesn’t utterly blow you away, chances are good that you aren’t human …

“The title of this novel says it all … readers looking for that glorious sense of wonder missing in much of contemporary science fiction will find that and more in this outstanding trilogy. A literary beacon of light in a genre dominated, at least recently, by doom and gloom.”

Paul Goat Allen’s official review for Extrapolations, Barnes and Noble’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog


“Bucking the dystopian trend of presenting a world threatened by humanity’s own creations, Sawyer presents scientific advances in a kinder, gentler way. It’s key to his now completed trilogy — Wake, Watch and the newly released Wonder.

“It’s telling that Wonder is the first of the trilogy that has a villain in the form of the Pentagon’s obsessive expert on artificial intelligence, Col. Peyton Hume. The lack of antagonists in much of Sawyer’s work is another area where he strays from doom-and-gloom prophecies of the future.”

Eric Volmers in The Calgary Herald (where Wonder hit #1 on the Fiction Bestsellers list)


“Fast-paced and immediately engaging. Drawing from and distilling a vast pool of scientific, mathematical, political and social theories, Sawyer educates readers on such topics as game theory, government conspiracy, scientific responsibility and modern morality, while encouraging them to ask questions.

“Once again, Sawyer shows mastery in his ability to move between complex scientific concepts and genuine and realistic characters … and serves up a healthy dose of social commentary and critique.

“Sawyer manages to not only make each book work individually, but with Wonder, has adroitly drawn together seemingly disparate threads. There are nuances, themes and subtleties that flow beautifully when the trilogy is read as a whole, and the ability to take it as a work in its entirety, to savour the plot and allow the intricacies of the theories and concepts to meld in one’s mind, is definitely the preferred approach.”

The Globe and Mail: Canada’s National Newspaper


“Verdict: The conclusion to one of the best SF trilogies of modern times.”

Sci-Fi Bulletin


Wonder is not only a superb conclusion to a tremendous trilogy, but stands alone as one of the best books that Sawyer has ever written.”

Nick Martin in Winnipeg Free Press

Kerr and Sawyer photo by Tim Reynolds. Trophy photo by Robert J. Sawyer. Click on photos for high-resolution publication-quality versions.

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The movie Contact

by Rob - August 7th, 2012

I got asked yesterday what my favorite parts of the movie Contact were — the questioner took it as a given that I must love the film. Well, I know we’re all supposed to like it because it was based on a book by Carl Sagan, and because, y’know, it’s about a kick-ass female scientist, but I actually have real problems with it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love SETI, and I was the only novelist invited to speak at the SETI Institute’s first SETIcon in 2010 — and was the only novelist invited to speak at the second SETIcon, held this year. But in Rollback, my own novel about SETI, my character of Sarah Halifax, herself a SETI astronomer, reflects on the movie’s problems:

Like most astronomers, Sarah fondly remembered the movie Contact, based on Carl Sagan’s novel of the same name. Indeed, she argued it was one of the few cases where the movie was actually better than the overlong book. She hadn’t seen it for decades, but a reference to it in one of the news stories about the attempts to decrypt the response from Sigma Draconis had brought it to mind. With pleasant anticipation, she sat down next to Don on the couch to watch it on Wednesday night. Slowly but surely she was getting used to his newly youthful appearance, but one of the reasons she felt like watching a movie was that she’d be doing something with Don in which they’d be sitting side by side and not really looking at each other.

Jodie Foster did a great job portraying a passionate scientist, but Sarah found herself smiling in amusement when Foster said, “There are 400 billion stars out there, just in our galaxy alone,” which was true. But then she went on to say, “If only one out of a million of those had planets, and if just one out of a million of those had life, and if just one out of a million of those had intelligent life, there would be literally millions of civilizations out there.” Nope, a million-million-millionth of 400 billion is so close to zero as to practically be zero.

Sarah looked at Don to see if he’d caught it, but he gave no sign. She knew he didn’t like being interrupted by asides during movies — you couldn’t memorize trivia the way he did if you weren’t able to concentrate — and so she let the screenwriter’s minor flub pass. And, besides, despite its inaccuracy, what Foster had said rang true, in a way. For decades, people had been plugging numbers made up out of whole cloth into the Drake equation, which purported to estimate how many intelligent civilizations existed in the galaxy. Foster’s wildly inaccurate figure, pulled out of the air, was actually quite typical of these debates.

But Sarah’s amusement soon turned to downright cringing. Foster went to see a large corporation to get funding for SETI, and, when it initially turned her down, she went ballistic, exclaiming that contacting an extraterrestrial civilization would be the biggest moment in human history, more significant than anything anyone had ever done or could possibly imagine doing, a species-altering moment that would be worth any cost to attain.

Sarah cringed because she remembered giving such patently ridiculous speeches herself. Granted, the detection of the original signal from Sigma Draconis had been page-one news. But until the second message had been received, it had been over thirty years since a mention of aliens had appeared on the front page or main screen of any newspaper that didn’t have the words “National” and “Enquirer” in its title.

It wasn’t just SETI researchers who had overhyped the impact of such things. Sarah had forgotten that then-president Bill Clinton appeared in Contact, but there he was, talking about how this breakthrough was going to change the world. Unlike the cameos by Jay Leno and Larry King, though, which had been specifically staged for the movie, she immediately recognized the Clinton speech as archival footage — not about the detection of alien radio messages, but about the unveiling of ALH84001, the Martian meteorite that supposedly contained microscopic fossils. But despite the presidential hyperbole, that hunk of rock hadn’t changed the world, and, indeed, when it was ultimately discredited several years later, there was almost no press coverage, not because the story was being buried, but rather because no one in the public even really cared. The existence of alien life was a curiosity to most people, nothing more. It didn’t change the way they treated their spouses and kids; it didn’t make stocks rise or fall; it just didn’t matter. Earth went on spinning, unperturbed, and its denizens continued to make love, and war, with the same frequency.

As the film continued, Sarah found herself getting increasingly pissed off. The movie had its extraterrestrials beaming blueprints to Earth so humans could build a ship that could tunnel through hyperspace, taking Jodie Foster off to meet the aliens face-to-face. SETI, the movie hinted, wasn’t really about radio communication with the stars. Rather, like every other cheapjack Hollywood space opera, it was just a stepping stone to actually going to other worlds. From the beginning with Jodie Foster’s cockeyed math, through the middle with the stirring speeches about how this would completely transform humanity, to the end with the totally baseless promise that SETI would lead to ways to travel across the galaxy and maybe even reunite us with dead loved ones, Contact portrayed the hype, not the reality. If Frank Capra had made a propaganda series called “Why We Listen,” Contact could have been the first installment.


Robert J. Sawyer online:
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Curiosity and the Olympics

by Rob - August 6th, 2012

Of course, I’m thrilled that Curiosity is now safe on the surface of Mars. And I’m by no means a sports fan. But I’ve been a bit dismayed by all the comments — almost de rigueur it seems among those who self-identify as geeks — to the effect that Curiosity‘s triumph is more important than, or better than, or our version of, the Olympics.

The Olympics are an example of the best, most-positive things that can come out of international competition. And when we had international competition in space exploration, we went in twelve years from the first satellite in orbit to the first footprints on the Moon.

Today, in the non-competitive but still nationally directed business of NASA space probes, we’re celebrating the fact that after thirty-six years — more than a third of a century — we’ve gone from landing the first probe on Mars to, well, doing that again … and we’re still likely decades from seeing footprints on the red planet.

Rather than trumpet that this human achievement is better than that human achievement, how about instead celebrating the fact that, in both individual and collective endeavors, in both competitive and cooperative undertakings, there are so many ways in which our species strives for and, in its best moments, achieves greatness?

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Humanism in the Arts Award

by Rob - August 5th, 2012

On Saturday, August 4, 2012, at the annual conference of Humanist Canada, held this year in Montreal in conjunction with the General Assembly of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, bestselling science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer was presented with Humanist Canada’s first-ever Humanism in the Arts award (click the photo above for a high-resolution version).

Humanist Canada was founded in 1968 as Humanist Association of Canada. Its founding patron was Bertrand Russell and its first president was Henry Morgentaler.

Comments made by the award’s presenter at the award banquet at the Hilton Bonaventure:

Good evening, I am Laura-Lee Balkwill, Vice-President of Humanist Canada. It is my honour to present our very first Humanism in the Arts Award.

The idea for this award was sparked by a conversation with a young artist who talked about the importance of the arts in symbolizing the values of a culture and telling its story. Look at all of the art that has been celebrated for its depictions of religion, of war, and of important historical figures. And I thought, who will tell our story? Where can we find the symbols of our values, our aspirations, our tragedies, and our triumphs?

Much of our focus as Humanists, as secularists, is devoted to science — usually defending the value of science over ideology as a basis for law, for policy, even, as Chris DiCarlo argued last night, for morality. As important as this focus is, it is not the sum of Humanism, just as it is not the sum of the human experience. Art inspires, it communicates, it reaches people; often more effectively than the most erudite scientific paper or philosophical treatise. Art reflects the Zeitgeist of its times and can often inspire us to do better.

I did a little research on Humanism and the arts. The term first crops up in the European Renaissance, which signified a shift from the glorification of religious figures to the celebration of humans. During the middle ages, humans were depicted as tiny penitent creatures — dwarfed by angels, gods, and demons. In the Renaissance, painters, sculptors, poets, playwrights, and composers made humans the heroes of their art. This laid the foundation for the emergence of secular art, of the representation of the everyday lives of people, of art that offered social commentary, criticism and idealism.

The Board of Humanist Canada agreed that we needed to seek out representations of Humanist values and ideals in all forms of art — to celebrate their exploration of humanity, their depiction of our capacity for greatness as well as our failures.

The recipient of our first Humanism in the Arts Award is Robert J. Sawyer — a best-selling Canadian author who has published twenty-one novels and been published in the journals Science and Nature. He has won every major award for science fiction that you can think of, including the Hugo and the Nebula as well as the crime-fiction Arthur Ellis Award. The people in his novels, such as Calculating God, Factoring Humanity, Rollback, Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids, Wake, Watch, and Wonder — and that’s just a small sample — wrestle with fundamental questions of existence and morality; they talk about faith in god and atheism, they confront ethical dilemmas, and sometimes they do the right thing and sometimes they don’t. Each point of view is presented genuinely, without condescension.

One of the pleasures of reading Rob’s books is that it is difficult to predict who is going to win — the good guys and the bad guys are not always obvious. Reasonable people can disagree — sometimes passionately — sometimes violently — sometimes peacefully. His writing reflects the kind of discourse we are no longer accustomed to — where more than one side of the story is presented and considered.

It is because we find Humanist values and ideals so thoroughly represented in his work, that we are pleased to present this Humanism in the Arts Award to Robert J. Sawyer.

The glass trophy is etched with these words:

HUMANISM IN THE ARTS 2012
This Award is presented to
ROBERT J. SAWYER

for his thoughtful exploration of the secular point of view (most notably in “Calculating God” and the “Neanderthal Parallax” trilogy), and for his stirring descriptions of the wonder inherent in scientific exploration throughout his novels and essays.

His respectful treatment of both religious-minded and secular-minded characters and his articulate and often moving depictions of their struggles with their respective worldviews are in keeping with Humanist principles and represent a conversation we would like to continue.

Robert J. Sawyer’s latest novel is Triggers, published by Penguin in Canada, Ace in the US, and Gollancz in the UK. It features a Republican US president attempting to guard the secret that he’s an atheist.

(Click photo for high-resolution version.)

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Yet another Aurora Award?

by Rob - July 30th, 2012

So, the Aurora Awards committee — which has been AWFULLY proactive — has announced its intention to lobby for the creation of YAAA (Yet Another Aurora Award) at this year’s CanVention AGM, which takes place at When Words Collide in Calgary, August 12-14. My take:

They want to create a YA novel award. Note that YA fiction is already eligible for the best-novel Aurora, and has been nominated and won in that category in the past; nothing excludes YA fiction from making the ballot right now. Note, too, that the best-novel award currently comes with a $500 prize courtesy of SF Canada — one wonders if the people behind the YA initiative intend the $500 prize to now be split? Note too that JUST LAST YEAR we added a new category to the Auroras (poetry/song lyrics).

My position is this for ANY award, not just the Auroras: you want to add a new category? Fine. Show me what your likely ballot might have looked like for the last three years if that category existed.

There are five finalists in each Aurora category (unless there’s a tie), so tell me, folks: what five Canadian YA SF&F novels would have been on your ballot last year (works published in 2010), the year before (works published in 2009), and the year before that (works published in 2008).

DON’T just list five Canadian YA SF&F novels — no one disputes that five were likely published each year. List five WORLD-CLASS, AWARD-CALIBRE ONES for each of those years. Maybe they exist, maybe they don’t — but if you want my vote and support at the AGM, it’s up to you to convince me that they do. Because otherwise you’re cheapening the status of being an Aurora finalist. We don’t want to have any more categories in which just about everyone who does any work — regardless of quality — in that area becomes essentially an automatic nominee, because, y’know, we need five works to flesh out the ballot.

I’ve been arguing for years for those proposing new categories to put forth sample ballots from previous years. As I said in 1997:

Periodically, new Aurora categories are suggested. Among those put forth recently include best graphic novel, best TV show or movie, best poem, and best web site — many presumably with separate French and English trophies to be presented. I believe there already are too many Aurora Awards; adding more simply cheapens the value of each one. However, when a new category is proposed, I believe the proposer should be required to put forth mock ballots listing full slates of credible nominees for the previous three years in the suggested category: if five truly award-caliber works cannot be found in each of the preceding three years in a proposed award category, clearly there is insufficient quality work being done in that area in Canada to justify an annual competitive award for it.
Regardless of what sample ballots are put forth, if any, at this year’s AGM, I’m going to introduce a motion that we adopt this bylaw: whenever a new Aurora Awards category is created, a five-year moratorium is imposed on adding any additional categories.
Robert J. Sawyer online:
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Should writers shy away from mentioning skin color?

by Rob - July 13th, 2012

An email I recently received said, “I just started your novel Triggers and was wondering why you repeatedly point out that one character is black and another is white. I am not criticizing the book; I only find it unusual and had not seen anything like this before.”

My reply:


I’ve done it in most of my books. It’s my response to the usual technique, which I find racist and offensive, of only mentioning the color of skin when it isn’t white. That is, when you say you’ve never seen anything like this before, what you almost certainly mean is you’ve never seen it mentioned when a character is white before; there are thousands upon thousands of novels that do point out skin color — but only when it isn’t white. And to me, that’s wrong.

To me, it’s silly to describe eye color, hair color, shirt color, and so on, and pretend that no one in the scene would have noticed skin color (indeed, if a police officer asked you to describe a person, and you provided any of those other details but feigned “not to have noticed” the color of the skin, you would not be believed, nor should you be).

In fact, I address the issue directly, in my novel Watch, where I write:

Caitlin’s friend Stacy was black, and Caitlin had often heard people trying to indicate her without mentioning that fact, even when she was the only African-American in the room. They’d say things to people near Caitlin like, “Do you see that girl in the back — the one with the blue shirt? No, no, the other one with the blue shirt.” Caitlin used to love flustering them by saying, “You mean the black girl?” It had tickled both her and Stacy, showing up this “suspect delicacy” as Stacy’s mom put it.

That “suspect delicacy” interests me a great deal. Obviously, no one would suggest that filmmakers or TV producers should wash out the colors on their productions to remove the skin color of people; why should novelists be so coy as to not mention it? Or why should they be forced to use euphemisms, which are often contrived (“she was sporting a nice tan;” “his dreadlocks flew behind him as he ran”), or lapse into often offensively stereotypical dialect to convey race?

Obviously, skin color — and eye color, and hair color, and the color of one’s shirt, and the color of one’s shoes — doesn’t define who one is, but it does in part describe the person, and my job is to describe reality. My characters live in a multicultural world, and my fiction celebrates that diversity. Indeed, as you’ll see later in Triggers, I write:

He looked left and right, recognized left, and headed that way, and — ah! — there it was, a door painted in a pinkish beige that his old pencil-crayon set had called, back in the days of easy racism, “flesh.”

Also, you might find it interesting to google the discussion of the casting of African-Americans in roles for the movie version of The Hunger Games. Novelist Suzanne Collins was not, for many readers, specific enough in her character descriptions, and that allowed demonstrably racist readers to people her story in their heads with an all-white cast, something she never intended, and something those racist readers had a hard time dealing with when the books were brought to the screen. Here’s an example.

I prefer to vividly celebrate all the wonderful variety of humanity. As BookBanter‘s review of Triggers said, “Sawyer should be applauded for a wonderfully diverse cast, as readers are immediately introduced to a powerful female secret service agent, an impressive African-American female doctor who is the president’s primary physician, and the interesting Dr. Singh, who is actually Canadian, which is Sawyer’s own nationality.”

All best wishes.


My original correspondent replied: “Thanks for taking the time to answer my e-mail, truth be told, I didnt expect one. I now see it from your point of view and agree with your approach.”

This fine fellow wasn’t the first to ask about this (although it doesn’t come up often). For those who are curious, here’s the opening scene of Triggers, in which the skin color of four characters is noted in some way, two white, two black; I stand by my contenion that this wouldn’t have raised a single eyebrow if I’d only mentioned, as so many other books do, the skin color of the African-American characters.

Susan Dawson — thirty-four, with pale skin and pale blue eyes — was standing behind and to the right of the presidential podium. She spoke into the microphone hidden in her sleeve. “Prospector is moving out.”

“Copy,” said the man’s voice in her ear. Seth Jerrison, white, long-faced, with the hooked nose political cartoonists had such fun with, strode onto the wooden platform that had been hastily erected in the center of the wide steps leading up to the Lincoln Memorial.

Susan had been among the many who were unhappy when the president decided yesterday to give his speech here instead of at the White House. He wanted to speak before a crowd, he said, letting the world see that even during such frightening times, Americans could not be cowed. But Susan estimated that fewer than three thousand people were assembled on either side of the reflecting pool. The Washington Monument was visible both at the far end of the pool and upside down in its still water, framed by ice around the edges. In the distance, the domed Capitol was timidly peeking out from behind the stone obelisk.

President Jerrison was wearing a long navy-blue coat, and his breath was visible in the chill November air. “My fellow Americans,” he began, “it has been a full month since the latest terrorist attack on our soil. Our thoughts and prayers today are with the brave people of Chicago, just as they continue to be with the proud citizens of San Francisco, who still reel from the attack there in September, and with the patriots of Philadelphia, devastated by the explosion that shook their city in August.” He briefly looked over his left shoulder, indicating the nineteen-foot-tall marble statue visible between the Doric columns above and behind him. “A century and a half ago, on the plain at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln mused about whether our nation could long endure. But it has endured, and it will continue to do so. The craven acts of terrorists will not deter us; the American spirit is indomitable.”

The audience — such as it was — erupted in applause, and Jerrison turned from looking at the teleprompter on his left to the one on his right. “The citizens of the United States will not be held hostage by terrorists; we will not allow the crazed few to derail our way of life.”

More applause. As she scanned the crowd, Susan thought of the speeches by previous presidents that had made similar claims. But despite the trillions spent on the war on terror, things were getting worse. The weapons used for the last three attacks were a new kind of bomb: they weren’t nukes, but they did generate super-high temperatures and their detonation was accompanied by an electromagnetic pulse, although the pulse was mostly free of the component that could permanently damage electronics. One could conceivably guard against the hijacking of airplanes. But how did one defend against easily hidden, easily carried, hugely powerful bombs?

“Each year, the foes of liberty gain new tools of destruction,” continued Jerrison. “Each year, the enemies of civilization can do more damage. But each year we — the free peoples of the world — gain more power, too.”

Susan was the Secret Service agent-in-charge. She had line-of-sight to seventeen other agents. Some, like her, were standing in front of the colonnade; others were at the sides of the wide marble staircase. A vast pane of bulletproof glass protected Jerrison from the audience, but she still continued to survey the crowd, looking for anyone who seemed out of place or unduly agitated. A tall, thin man in the front row caught her eye; he was reaching into his jacket the way one might go for a holstered gun — but then he brought out a smartphone and started thumb-typing. Tweet this, asshole, she thought.

Jerrison went on: “I say now, to the world, on behalf of all of us who value liberty, that we shall not rest until our planet is free of the scourge of terrorism.”

Another person caught Susan’s attention: a woman who was looking not at the podium, but off in the distance at — ah, at a police officer on horseback, over by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“Before I became your president,” Jerrison said, “I taught American history at Columbia. If my students could take away only a single lesson, I always hoped it would be the famous maxim that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it—”

Ka-blam!

Susan’s heart jumped and she swung her head left and right, trying to spot where the shot had come from; the marble caused the report to echo. She looked over at the podium and saw that Jerrison had slammed forward into it — he’d been shot from behind. She shouted into her sleeve microphone as she ran, her shoulder-length brown hair flying. “Prospector is hit! Phalanx Alpha, shield him! Phalanx Beta, into the memorial — the shot came from there. Gamma, out into the crowd. Go!”

Jerrison slid onto the wooden stage, ending up face down. Even before Susan had spoken, the ten Secret Service agents in Phalanx Alpha had formed two living walls — one behind Jerrison to protect him from further shots from that direction; another in front of the bulletproof glass that had shielded him from the audience, in case there was a second assailant on the Mall. A male agent bent down but immediately stood up and shouted, “He’s alive!”

The rear group briefly opened their ranks, letting Susan rush in to crouch next to the president. Journalists were trying to approach him — or at least get pictures of his fallen form — but other agents prevented them from getting close.

Alyssa Snow, the president’s physician, ran over, accompanied by two paramedics. She gingerly touched Jerrison’s back, finding the entrance wound, and — presumably noting that the bullet had missed the spine — rolled the president over. The president’s eyes fluttered, looking up at the silver-gray November sky. His lips moved slightly, and Susan tried to make out whatever he was saying over the screams and footfalls from the crowd, but his voice was too faint.

Dr. Snow — who was an elegant forty-year-old African American — soon had the president’s long coat open, exposing his suit jacket and blood-soaked white shirt. She unbuttoned the shirt, revealing the exit wound; on this cold morning steam was rising from it. She took a length of gauze from one of the paramedics, wadded it up, and pressed it against the hole to try to stanch the flow of blood. One paramedic was taking the president’s vital signs, and the other now had an oxygen mask over Jerrison’s mouth.

“How long for a medical chopper?” Susan asked into her wrist.

“Eight minutes,” replied a female voice.

“Too long,” Susan said. She rose and shouted, “Where’s Kushnir?”

“Here, ma’am!”

“Into the Beast!”

“Yes, ma’am!” Kushnir was today’s custodian of the nuclear football — the briefcase with the launch procedures; he was wearing a Navy dress uniform. The Beast — the presidential limo — was five hundred feet away on Henry Bacon Drive, the closest it could get to the memorial.

The paramedics transferred Jerrison to a litter. Susan and Snow took up positions on either side and ran with the paramedics and Phalanx Alpha down the broad steps and over to the Beast. Kushnir was already in the front passenger seat, and the paramedics reclined the president’s rear seat until it was almost horizontal, then moved him onto it.

Dr. Snow opened the trunk, which contained a bank of the president’s blood type, and quickly set up a transfusion. The doctor and the two paramedics took the rearward-facing seats, and Susan sat beside the president. Agent Darryl Hudkins — a tall African American with a shaved head — took the remaining forward-facing chair.

Susan pulled her door shut and shouted to the driver, “Lima Tango, go, go, go!”


Robert J. Sawyer online:
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Financial Times loves Triggers

by Rob - May 25th, 2012

Financial Times — The Financial Times of London, one of the most-read newspapers in the world — just reviewed my novel Triggers. It’s a short but sweet review, but wonderfully quotable:

“It’s a national security nightmare — someone has access to the secrets lodged in the brain of the most powerful man in the world. There’s lots of fascinating stuff here about how human memory works, and Sawyer expertly explores the personal as well as political consequences of his high-concept premise.”
Financial Times
The reviewer is the acclaimed British author James Lovegrove.
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Seeing Star Trek: The Motion Picture as it was meant to be seen

by Rob - May 23rd, 2012

Spoiler Alert!

In 1979, before I’d yet seen Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a friend of mine came up to me and said, “So, what did you think when V’Ger turned out to be Voyager 6?” I’ve never had any idea what my reaction to that revelation would have been; I was robbed of that moment. But this week, I finally got to experience ST:TMP as it was meant to be seen …

I think most of the world was robbed of the power of the V’Ger revelation, anyway, because almost all of us who saw ST:TMP had already seen the classic Trek episode “The Changeling,” which involves the very similar revelation that a marauding super-advanced AI is actually an old Earth probe; we immediately dubbed ST:TMP “Where Nomad Has Gone Before.”

But on Sunday I watched the Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture with my friend Sherry Peters, who is new to classic Trek (but has now seen about half the episodes), and who hadn’t yet seen “The Changeling.” I got to vicariously share her experience as the big reveal was made in ST:TMP — seeing it as the fresh work that Harold Livingston and Robert Wise and Gene Roddenberry and Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner (the writer, director, producer, and studio executives behind the film) had seen it. Sherry liked the film (as do I) and she was surprised and pleased by the revelation. Her eyes went wide and she actually let out a little startled gasp.

The next day, I showed her “The Changeling” on Blu-ray. It took just eleven minutes into the episode (before we even got to the “Jackson Roykirk” bit) for her to say, “Wait a minute — this is the same thing as Star Trek: The Motion Picture!”

And seeing the two of them back-to-back, in that order, really does drive that home: both begin with super-high-powered energy bolts being fired, both have the crew shocked at old-style binary radio messages being sent, both have the Enterprise‘s computer banks being scanned at super-high speed (shorting them out in “The Changeling,” Spock actually smashing the console with interlaced fists to stop the uploading in ST:TMP), both have an AI wandering the Enterprise to learn about its people (Nomad itself; the Ilia probe); both have the visiting AI refer to the crew as “units” (or sometimes, in ST:TMP, as “carbon units”); both have the AI heading back to Earth to meet a “Creator” that it has misconceptions about, both have Spock mind-melding with the AI and from that learning the history of how an encounter with alien AIs led to the modification/enhancement of the original probe.

Of course, the endings of the two versions are very different. In “The Changeling,” Kirk does what he did to M5 and Landru and Mudd’s androids — arguing them to death. In ST:TMP, we get a transhumanist/singulatarian vision that’s quite lovely and much more upbeat.

And, to me, anyway, the real strength of TMP isn’t the V’Ger story: it’s Spock’s response to V’Ger, his character arc going from wanting to purge all his remaining emotions via the Kohlinar ritual, to his crying on the bridge when he realizes via the example of V’Ger how barren such an existence is, to his telling Scotty in the final scene that “My business on Vulcan is concluded.”

I do admire the movie, and enjoy seeing it again every few years (and one of my favorite scenes in my novel WWW: Watch has a character watching the film for the first time). But I got a particular kick out of finally seeing it, albeit vicariously, as its creators had intended it to be seen — thank you, Sherry!

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Texas Public Radio interview

by Rob - May 8th, 2012

A fabulous 18-minute Texas Public Radio interivew with me about Triggers, conducted by the masterful Dan Skinner, is online here. Give it a listen!

Texas Public Radio describes the interview thusly:

When you talk about finding your soul mate, quantum entanglement is probably something you didn’t think about when searching for that individual who would “complete” you. But in the science fiction novel Triggers, by Robert J. Sawyer, the notion of quantum entanglement plays a role in the story. President Jerrison is delivering a speech when he is shot.

He’s taken to a hospital where coincidentally a research doctor is experimenting with a medical device that could possibly erase traumatic memories. A terrorist bomb goes off near the hospital scrambling the medical device’s electronic pulses causing several patients to share memories, including the President’s, whose memories include information about a secret military operation. The task then becomes finding out who has shared the President’s memories, but in doing so medical ethics and other issues come into question.

Sawyer also talks with Skinner about the science behind the novel including theories about memories and how an individual recollects them. Robert J. Sawyer is a Hugo and Nebula Science Fiction writer award winner. More about Triggers and Sawyer’s other science fiction novels is online at www.sfwriter.com.

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30 years ago: working at Bakka

by Rob - May 8th, 2012

Pictured: Dune author Frank Herbert and Bakka owner John Rose, outside of Bakka’s old 282 Queen Street West location in Toronto, where Robert J. Sawyer worked in 1982; Bakka was named for “the weeper who mourns for all mankind” from Dune. Photo by Tom Robe from 1981.

Just about exactly thirty years ago, I started the best summer job I ever had. I worked at Bakka, the science-fiction bookstore in Toronto, for four months in the summer of 1982. What an education in bookselling!

Here are some of my memories of that time (from a 10,000-word autobiography of me from 2002 that appears in Contemporary Authors Volume 212):



Many writers have long resumes, listing all the odd jobs they did to support their craft. Not me; I’ve only ever had two jobs since graduating in 1982. Ryerson hired me to return for the following academic year to help teach television studio production techniques to second- and third-year students. I graduated in April 1982, and the job at Ryerson didn’t begin until September — meaning I had four months off with nothing to do. I’d moved away from home after my second year at Ryerson, and had bills to pay.

Enter John Rose, the elfin proprietor of Bakka, Toronto’s science-fiction specialty bookstore. I’d been a regular customer of the store for eight years by this point, and John offered me a summer job. The pay was just $4.25 an hour; I probably could have found something somewhat more lucrative, but the chance to work in a science-fiction store was too appealing to pass up.

I worked the cash desk, shelved books, and counted inventory — but there was one part of the job I managed to avoid. Books go into bookstores on a returnable basis, meaning if they don’t sell, the retailer can return them to the publisher and owe nothing. But for paperback books — the format back then that most science fiction was published in — only the covers of the books are returned. They’re ripped from the body of the book, and the store destroys what’s left. The other clerks, who were long-term employees, all had to do this, but I managed not to have to do it; I said — only half-kidding — that I thought it would scar me for life.

I really didn’t end up making any money at Bakka. As an employee, I was entitled to a 40% discount on everything in the store, and I spent almost my entire earnings buying books.

Still, in June of that year, John Rose did something remarkable. He took me to the annual convention of the Canadian Booksellers Association. It was, in many ways, a crazy thing to do — John had to (a) pay me my wages for the day I attended, and (b) pay a fee to get me in. But John knew I wanted to be a writer, and he thought I should really see how the retailing industry works. The CBA convention — now called BookExpo Canada — is where publishers come to show retailers their upcoming books, and where big-name authors sign copies of their new books for retailers (the comparable American event is, not surprisingly, called BookExpo America).

That summer was an incredibly eye-opening experience for me. Many of my writing colleagues are astonished about how savvy I am about the business of publishing; well, the seeds of that came from that summer working in a bookstore, and that day at the CBA.

I went on to a successful writing career after working at Bakka, but I wasn’t the only one. In the two decades that have followed, several other Bakka employees — all hired long after I’d left — went on to writing careers, including Tanya Huff, Michelle West, Nalo Hopkinson, and Cory Doctorow. In honor of the store’s thirtieth anniversary in 2002, John Rose asked each of us to write an original SF story to be published in a limited-edition anthology. He couldn’t afford to pay us for the stories, but we all agreed — we all owed John far too much to worry about doing some work for free.

[My story for that anthology, "Shed Skin," went on to become a Hugo finalist, after having been reprinted in Analog (where it won the annual AnLab Award for best shorty story of the year) and was the seed from which my novel John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winning novel Mindscan grew; of course, that novel was dedicated to John Rose.]

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Triggers reviews including Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly

by Rob - April 21st, 2012

Reviews for Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer:


“Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer returns with a new hard science fiction novel which pulls together elements of a gripping political thriller with cutting edge psychological insights to create a story that works on many levels. Triggers has the pacing of an episode of 24 and the philosophical sensibilities of an Isaac Asimov novel, so any readers who were introduced to Sawyer through his television series FlashForward will find it particularly interesting.” –Andrew Zimmerman Jones in Black Gate


“Sawyer should be applauded for a wonderfully diverse cast, as readers are immediately introduced to a powerful female secret service agent, an impressive African-American female doctor who is the president’s primary physician, and the interesting Dr. Singh, who is actually Canadian, which is Sawyer’s own nationality. The book juggles an impressive cast of characters, which Sawyer does excellent job of keeping both straight and complex. A powerful novel.” –BookBanter


“A thriller’s pacing and a chilling near-future world. Sawyer’s strength is in the overarching ideas of his stories, and he certainly delivers here.” –Booklist


“Sawyer’s novel not only posits new ideas on the workings on the mind, but also offers a unique viewpoint on the roots of terrorism; not to mention a possible solution.” –FFWD, aka Fast Forward Weekly (Calgary, Alberta)


“Robert Sawyer’s body of work, though it covers a myriad of subjects, is uniformly optimistic in tone. His latest novel, Triggers, slides comfortably into that body of work, optimistic while attempting to address an inordinate number of social and racial issues.” –The Globe and Mail


“The Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of Calculating God and The WWW Trilogy delivers a tense, race-against-the-clock adventure with a surprise ending. It should appeal to mainstream thriller readers as well as its target market.” –Library Journal


“First and foremost, Robert J. Sawyer is a rip-roaring good storyteller. Triggers operates on both a global and a personal scale — sometimes simultaneously. By juxtaposing the problems of the entire world with the problems of individuals, Sawyer allows each equal importance. Each of these people deals with their new knowledge in different ways — and each deals with different consequences. It makes for a rich and compelling narrative.

“There are few authors writing today that bring such a strong combination of literate storytelling and complex ideas to the page. Robert J. Sawyer is one of the best in the business right now, and Triggers is him at his finest.” –The Maine Edge (Bangor, Maine)


“No one digs into a sci-fi thought experiment with quite the zest that Robert J. Sawyer does. Sawyer doesn’t stint the thriller framework, but the story’s real joy is the care he takes in exploring the details of the memory-sharing.” –Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Triggers is congruent with the best science-fiction in that it’s not about blasters, but about issues and social commentary. Sawyer’s novel falls right into line with the kinds of things he’s always written about: it’s an exploration of a part of consciousness — in this case, memory — packaged in an entertaining story. His prose is as clear and sharp as ever. But he also uses the book to explore issues such as empathy among humankind (a primary concern of the novel) and the brutal trauma of war. Sawyer is a pacifist at heart, and it’s refreshing to hear a voice advocating peace in a genre that often glorifies war.

Triggers is an action movie with a big science-fiction finish and an optimistic message.” –Mississauga Life


“A turbo-charged techno-thriller. Sawyer offers an escape from the recent run of near-future dystopias in a combination of classic and contemporary science fiction.” –Publishers Weekly


Triggers fully justifies the title of a techno-thriller. There are chases and stand-offs, terrorist threats, bombs and hostage situations. But they are never allowed to dominate the novel, because Triggers is also a medical drama, with many of the legal ramifications of medical accidents discussed. And it’s a love story, as people learn that barriers are sometimes things that we simply create for ourselves. It’s also a treatise on memory, identity, and perception. You come away with a lot of new viewpoints and ideas to think about.

“Verdict: Not to be missed.” –Sci-Fi Bulletin


Triggers is an imaginative and technical tour de force — a fascinating book that makes its bizarre situation seem real and possible and the people linked so strangely and sometimes unhappily to one another quite true. It’s hard to put down.” –Saskatoon StarPhoenix


Triggers has the hard-core military/political insights of Robert A. Heinlein, and the compassion of Theodore Sturgeon.” –Jonathan Vos Post


“Mr. Sawyer works through the permutations with one surprise after another, including the president’s deep, dark secret — now in somebody else’s possession — that would make him a one-termer for sure. The positive side is that the president can appreciate firsthand the cost of the orders he’s given. He now shares the memories of a returned Iraq veteran, called for him up by the trigger phrase “crying babies … and the smell of smashed concrete.”

“Techno-future, telepathy: The third ingredient is a consideration of terrorism itself. Mr. Sawyer, a Canadian, remembers what Pierre Trudeau did back in 1970, when he took such drastic action following the murder of one of his ministers that terrorist cells have never surfaced in Canada again. What might an American president do? Get away with doing? Be justified in doing? And is there another way out? Triggers is constantly gripping on the surface and seriously provocative deep down.” –Tom Shippey in The Wall Street Journal


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Triggers a Maclean’s and Globe and Mail Bestseller

by Rob - April 21st, 2012

Triggers debuted at #8 on the Fiction bestsellers list in Maclean’s: Canada’s National Newsmagazine in its first week out (list published April 12), and has moved up to #7 in its second week (list published April 19).

And it debuted at #7 on the Canadian Fiction bestsellers list in The Globe and Mail: Canada’s National Newspaper (list published April 14).

These are the two principal bestsellers lists in Canada; Triggers is a bona fide national top-ten mainstream bestseller in Canada.

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Edmonton event is at 7:00 p.m. …

by Rob - April 8th, 2012

… not 7:30 p.m., as incorrectly reported in a few places. The event for TRIGGERS takes place this Wednesday, April 11, at Audreys, 10702 Jasper Ave. NW, Edmonton at 7:00 p.m. Free; everybody welcome.

Triggers now out!

by Rob - April 3rd, 2012

Today is the official publication date of my 21s novel Triggers. The hardcover, ebook, and Audible.com versions are all out now. I begin my book tour tonight!

“Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer returns with a new hard science fiction novel which pulls together elements of a gripping political thriller with cutting edge psychological insights to create a story that works on many levels. Triggers has the pacing of an episode of 24 and the philosophical sensibilities of an Isaac Asimov novel, so any readers who were introduced to Sawyer through his television series FlashForward will find it particularly interesting.” –Andrew Zimmerman Jones in Black Gate

“A thriller’s pacing and a chilling near-future world. Sawyer’s strength is in the overarching ideas of his stories, and he certainly delivers here.” –Booklist

“The Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of Calculating God and The WWW Trilogy delivers a tense, race-against-the-clock adventure with a surprise ending. It should appeal to mainstream thriller readers as well as its target market.” –Library Journal

“No one digs into a sci-fi thought experiment with quite the zest that Robert J. Sawyer does. Sawyer doesn’t stint the thriller framework, but the story’s real joy is the care he takes in exploring the details of the memory-sharing.” –Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Triggers is congruent with the best science-fiction in that it’s not about blasters, but about issues and social commentary. Sawyer’s novel falls right into line with the kinds of things he’s always written about: it’s an exploration of a part of consciousness –; in this case, memory –; packaged in an entertaining story. His prose is as clear and sharp as ever. But he also uses the book to explore issues such as empathy among humankind (a primary concern of the novel) and the brutal trauma of war. Sawyer is a pacifist at heart, and it’s refreshing to hear a voice advocating peace in a genre that often glorifies war. Triggers is an action movie with a big science-fiction finish and an optimistic message.” –Mississauga Life

“A turbo-charged techno-thriller. Sawyer offers an escape from the recent run of near-future dystopias in a combination of classic and contemporary science fiction.” –Publishers Weekly

Triggers fully justifies the title of a techno-thriller. There are chases and stand-offs, terrorist threats, bombs and hostage situations. But they are never allowed to dominate the novel, because Triggers is also a medical drama, with many of the legal ramifications of medical accidents discussed. And it’s a love story, as people learn that barriers are sometimes things that we simply create for ourselves. It’s also a treatise on memory, identity, and perception. You come away with a lot of new viewpoints and ideas to think about. Verdict: Not to be missed.” –Sci-Fi Bulletin

Triggers has the hard-core military/political insights of Robert A. Heinlein, and the compassion of Theodore Sturgeon.” –Jonathan Vos Post

“Techno-future, telepathy: The third ingredient is a consideration of terrorism itself. Mr. Sawyer, a Canadian, remembers what Pierre Trudeau did back in 1970, when he took such drastic action following the murder of one of his ministers that terrorist cells have never surfaced in Canada again. What might an American president do? Get away with doing? Be justified in doing? And is there another way out? Triggers is constantly gripping on the surface and seriously provocative deep down.” –Tom Shippey in
The Wall Street Journal

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Toronto Star ad for Triggers: NYTBR back cover!

by Rob - April 1st, 2012

On Sundays, The Toronto Star — the largest-circulation newspaper in Canada — contains a version of the New York Times Book Review. Today, Sunday, April 1, 2012, the entire back cover of that section was devoted to this terrific ad produced by Penguin Group (Canada) for Triggers. Penguin Canada has been enormously supportive of my work, and I’m very proud to be published by them.

You can see a bigger version of the ad by clicking on the graphic above or this link.

Oh, and here’s the ad Penguin Canada took out in the same place last year for the release of Wonder.

Robert J. Sawyer online:
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The Wall Street Journal loves Triggers

by Rob - March 31st, 2012

Tom Shippey — the world’s top Tolkien scholar — reviews my novel Triggers in the March 31, 2012, edition of The Wall Street Journal. The review concludes:

Mr. Sawyer works through the permutations with one surprise after another, including the president’s deep, dark secret–now in somebody else’s possession–that would make him a one-termer for sure. The positive side is that the president can appreciate firsthand the cost of the orders he’s given. He now shares the memories of a returned Iraq veteran, called for him up by the trigger phrase “crying babies … and the smell of smashed concrete.”

Techno-future, telepathy: The third ingredient is a consideration of terrorism itself. Mr. Sawyer, a Canadian, remembers what Pierre Trudeau did back in 1970, when he took such drastic action following the murder of one of his ministers that terrorist cells have never surfaced in Canada again. What might an American president do? Get away with doing? Be justified in doing? And is there another way out? “Triggers” is constantly gripping on the surface and seriously provocative deep down.

You can read the whole review here.
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Two million words of science fiction

by Rob - March 28th, 2012

Now that I’ve received the first copies of my 21st novel, Triggers, I am delighted to realize that I have published two million words of science fiction in my career.

More than that — and here’s a claim very few authors can make — all two million words of it are still in print.

My early novels were shorter than my more recent ones. My first, Golden Fleece, published in 1990, was under 60,000 words; later books — including my Hugo Award-winning Hominids, my John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winning Mindscan, and my Aurora Award-winning Wake — were each 100,000 words. Rounding me up to the 2,000,000-word mark are the 180,000 words of short fiction I’ve published, which is collected in two beautiful matching volumes, Iterations and Other Stories and Identity Theft and Other Stories.

It astonishes me to think that I’ve even typed that number of words (it’s about 8,000 manuscript pages). But I’m very glad I did, and I’m super-grateful to all my readers who have been with me on this long, wonderful journey.


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Wanted to buy: Easton Press FlashForward

by Rob - March 20th, 2012

Anyone out there with a copy of the Easton Press signed leather-bound edition of my novel FlashForward they’d like to sell me? My authors’ copies went astray in the aftermath of the death of my literary agent, and I’d love to have a copy for my shelf. Send me an email at rob@sfwriter.com if you’d like to sell one. Thanks!

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Mississauga Life interview and review

by Rob - March 20th, 2012

Mississauga Life, a glossy magazine in Mississauga (Canada’s sixth-largest city, and where I live), has a lengthy, meaty interview with me in its March-April 2012 issue, as well as a wonderful review of Triggers, which says in part:

Triggers is congruent with the best science-fiction in that it’s not about blasters, but about issues and social commentary. Sawyer’s new novel falls right into line with the kinds of things he’s always written about: it’s an exploration of a part of consciousness — in this case, memory — packaged in an entertaining story. His prose is as clear and sharp as ever. But he also uses the book to explore issues such as empathy among humankind (a primary concern of the novel) and the brutal trauma of war. Sawyer is a pacifist at heart, and it’s refreshing to hear a voice advocating peace in a genre that often glorifies war.

Triggers is an action movie with a big science-fiction finish and an optimistic message.

Read the full interview and the entire review. Both the interview and the review are by Leo Graziani.

Photo by Leo Graziani

Triggers goes on sale two weeks from today, on April 3, 2012.
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John Demjanjuk, 1920-2012

by Rob - March 17th, 2012


John Demjanjuk passed away today at 91. He was the Cleveland autoworker who had been tried and convicted of being Ivan the Terrible, a horrific guard at the Treblinka death camp, and, when that conviction was overturned, was later convicted of being a different guard at the Sobibor death camp, a conviction that was on appeal at the time of his passing today in a nursing home.

I chronicled John Demjanjuk’s case — using actual trial transcripts — in my 1997 novel Frameshift.

On this day of Demjanjuk’s passing, here’s a scene from Frameshift. The character of Avi Meyer, below, is a fictitious agent with the Office of Special Investigations, the real division of the United States Department of Justice devoted to hunting down Nazi war criminals; the OSI was responsible for the original misidentification of John Demjanjuk as Ivan the Terrible. During the trial, Avi had been reading To Kill a Mockingbird, the story of African-American Tom Robinson, convicted of a crime he was physically incapable of committing.

Frameshift was a finalist for the Hugo and Aurora Awards, and won Japans’ Seiun Award for best foreign novel.


Avi Meyer sat in his apartment, mouth hanging open.

Demjanjuk had been found guilty, of course, and sentenced to death. The outcome had been obvious from the beginning of the trial. Still, there had to be an appeal: it was mandatory under Israeli law. Avi hadn’t been sent to Israel for the second trial; his bosses at the OSI were confident nothing would change. Surely all the claims filtering into the press were just clever ploys by Demjanjuk’s grandstanding attorneys. Surely the interview aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes with Maria Dudek, a skinny woman now in her seventies, with white hair beneath a kerchief, ragged clothing, and only a few teeth left, a woman who had been a prostitute in the 1940s in Wolga Okralnik near Treblinka, a woman who had had a regular john—a regular ivan—who operated the gas chambers there, a woman who had screamed in bought passion for him—surely this old woman was mistaken when she said her client’s name had not been Ivan Demjanjuk but rather Ivan Marchenko.

But no. Avi Meyer was watching all the OSI’s work unravel on CNN. The Israeli Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Meir Shamgar, had just overturned the conviction of John Demjanjuk.

Demjanjuk had now been held prisoner in Israel for five and a half years. His appeal had been delayed three years due to a heart attack suffered by Judge Zvi Tal. And during those three years, the Soviet Union had fallen and formerly secret files had been made public.

Just as Maria Dudek had said, the man who had operated the gas chamber at Treblinka had been Ivan Marchenko, a Ukrainian who did bear a resemblance to Demjanjuk. But the resemblance was only passing. Demjanjuk had been born April 3, 1920, while Marchenko had been born February 2, 1911. Demjanjuk had blue eyes while Marchenko’s were brown.

Marchenko had been married before the outbreak of World War II. Demjanjuk’s son-in-law, Ed Nishnic, had gone to Russia and tracked down Marchenko’s family in Seryovka, a village in the district of Dnepropetrovsk. The family had not seen Marchenko since he’d enlisted in the Red Army in July 1941. Marchenko’s abandoned wife had died only a month before Nishnic’s visit, and his daughter broke down and cried upon learning of the horrors her long-missing father had perpetrated at Treblinka. “It’s good,” she was reported to have said between sobs, “that mother died not knowing.”

When those words had been relayed to him, Avi’s heart had jumped. It was the same sentiment he’d felt upon learning that Ivan had forced his own father to rape a little girl.

The KGB files contained a sworn statement from Nikolai Shelaiev, the other gas-chamber operator at Treblinka, the one who had been, quite literally, the lesser of two evils. Shelaiev had been captured by the Soviets in 1950, and tried and executed as a war criminal in 1952. His deposition contained the last recorded sighting by anyone anywhere of Ivan Marchenko, coming out of a brothel in Fiume in March 1945. He had told Nikolai he had no intention of returning home to his family.

Even before Maria Dudek had spoken to Mike Wallace, even before Demjanjuk was stripped of his U.S. citizenship, Avi had known that the last name used by Ivan the Terrible while at Treblinka might indeed have been Marchenko. But that was of no significance, Avi had assured himself: the name Marchenko was intimately linked to Demjanjuk, anyway. In a form Demjanjuk had filled out in 1948 to claim refugee status, he had given it as his mother’s maiden name.

But before the first trial, the marriage license of Demjanjuk’s parents, dated 24 January 1910, had come to light. It proved his mother’s maiden name wasn’t Marchenko at all; rather, it was Tabachuk. When Avi had questioned Demjanjuk about why he’d put “Marchenko” on the form, Demjanjuk had claimed he’d forgotten his mother’s real maiden name and, considering the matter of no consequence, had simply inserted a common Ukrainian surname to complete the paperwork.

Right, Avi had thought. Sure.

But now it seemed it had been the truth. John Demjanjuk was not Ivan …

… and Avi Meyer and the rest of the OSI had come within inches of being responsible for the execution of an innocent man.

Avi needed to relax, to get his mind off all this.

He walked across his living room to the cabinet in which he kept his videotapes. Brighton Beach Memoirs always cheered him up, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and …

Without thinking it through, he pulled out a two-tape set.

Judgment at Nuremberg.

Hardly lightweight but, at three hours, it would keep his mind occupied until it was time to go to bed.

Avi put the first tape in his VCR and, while the stirring overture played, popped some Orville Redenbacher’s in the microwave.

The movie played on. He drank three beers.

The tables had been turned at Nuremberg: Burt Lancaster played Ernst Janning, one of four German judges on trial. It seemed like a small, supporting role, until Janning took the stand in the movie’s final half hour …

The case against Janning hinged on the matter of Feldenstein, a Jew he’d ordered executed on trumped-up indecency charges. Janning demanded the right to speak, over the objections of his own lawyer. When he took the stand, Avi felt his stomach knotting. Janning told of the lies Hitler had sold German society: “`There are devils among us: Communists, liberals, Jews, Gypsies. Once these devils will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed.’” Janning shook his head slightly. “It was the old, old story of the sacrificial lamb.”

Lancaster spoke forcefully, bringing every bit of his craft to the soliloquy. “It is not easy to tell the truth,” he said, “but if there is to be any salvation for Germany, we who know our guilt must admit it, whatever the pain and humiliation.” He paused. “I had reached my verdict on the Feldenstein case before I ever came into the courtroom. I would have found him guilty whatever the evidence. It was not a trial at all. It was a sacrificial ritual in which Feldenstein the Jew was the helpless victim.”

Avi stopped the tape, deciding not to watch the rest even though it was almost over. He went to the bathroom and brushed his teeth.

But he’d accidentally pushed PAUSE instead of STOP. After five minutes, the tape disengaged and the TV blared at him—more of CNN. He returned to the living room, fumbled for the remote—

—and decided to continue on to the end. Something in him needed to see the finale again.

After the trial, after Janning and the other three Nazi jurists were sentenced to life imprisonment, Spencer Tracy—playing the American judge, Judge Haywood—went at Janning’s request to visit Janning in jail. Janning had been writing up memoirs of the cases he was still proud of, the righteous ones, the ones he wanted to be remembered for. He gave the sheaf of papers to Haywood for safekeeping.

And then, his voice containing just the slightest note of pleading, Lancaster again in full control of his art, he said, “Judge Haywood—the reason I asked you to come. Those people, those millions of people … I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it. You must believe it.”

There was a moment of silence, and then Spencer Tracy said, sadly, softly, “Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.”

Avi Meyer turned off the TV and sat in the darkness, slumped on the couch.

“Devils among us.” Hitler’s phrase, according to Janning. Back in his wooden storage cabinet, next to the blank spot for Judgment at Nuremberg was Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story.

Echoes, there. Uncomfortable ones, but echoes still.

Once these devils will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed.

Avi had wanted to believe that. Destroy the misery, let the ghosts rest.

And Demjanjuk—Demjanjuk—

It was the old, old story of the sacrificial lamb.

No. No, it had been a righteous case, a just case, a—

I had reached my verdict before I ever came into the courtroom. I would have found him guilty whatever the evidence. It was not a trial at all. It was a sacrificial ritual.

Yes, down deep, Avi Meyer had known. Doubtless the Israeli judges—Dov Levin, Zvi Tal, and Dalia Dorner—had known, too.

Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.

Mar Levin, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.

Mar Tal, it came to that …

Giveret Dorner, it came to that …

Avi felt his intestines shifting.

Agent Meyer, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.

Avi got up and stared out his window, looking out on D Street. His vision was blurry. We’d wanted justice. We’d wanted someone to pay. He placed his hand against the cold glass. What had he done? What had he done?

Now the Israeli prosecutors were saying, well, if Demjanjuk wasn’t Ivan the Terrible, maybe he’d been a guard at Sobibor or some other Nazi facility.

Avi thought of Tom Robinson, with his crippled black hand. Shiftless nigger—if he wasn’t guilty of raping Mayella Ewell, well, he was probably guilty of something else.

CNN had shown the theater that had been turned into a courthouse, the same theater Avi had sat in five years previously, watching the case unfold. Demjanjuk, even now not freed, was taken away to the jail cell where he’d spent the last two thousand nights.

Avi walked out of his living room, into the darkness.

Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.

But not even the ghosts stood to mark Avi Meyer’s exit.


 



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Wonder nominated for the CBC Bookie Awards

by Rob - March 14th, 2012

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has unveiled the five finalists for its second annual Bookie Awards, and my Wonder is on the list.

Anyone may vote for the awards, and you’re allowed to cast a ballot every day — you can vote today, tomorrow, the next day, and so on, once a day, until March 31. The ballot is HERE.

Wonder was named “Booksellers’ Pick of the Year” in the Science Fiction category by the Canadian publishing trade journal Quill & Quire, was a Main Selection of the Science Fiction Book Club, spent three months on the Locus bestsellers’ list, and is on the “Year’s Best” lists at Barnes and Noble and Audible.com.

Wonder is not only a superb conclusion to a tremendous trilogy, but stands alone as one of the best books that Sawyer has ever written.” —Winnipeg Free Press

“This is Robert J. Sawyer at his very best.” —Analog


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Triggers book tour dates

by Rob - March 14th, 2012

Robert J. Sawyer‘s twenty-first novel, Triggers, comes out in hardcover on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 — and Wonder, the concluding volume of his acclaimed WWW trilogy, comes out in paperback that day.

Join him on his book tour for events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Waterloo, Hamilton, and Ottawa:

  • Official Book Launch Party!
    Dominion on Queen
    500 Queen Street East
    Toronto, Ontario
    (in conjunction with but not at Bakka Phoenix Books)
    Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
    Dominion on Queen

  • Signing & Talk
    John M. Harper Branch Library
    500 Fischer-Hallman Road North
    Waterloo, Ontario
    (in conjunction with but not at Words Worth Books)
    Wednesday, April 4, 2012, at 7:00 p.m.

  • Signing & Talk
    Fish Creek Library Branch
    11161 Bonaventure Drive SE
    Calgary, Alberta
    (in conjunction with but not at Pages on Kensington Books)
    Tuesday, April 10, 2012 7:00 p.m.
    CPL: Fish Creek Branch

  • Signing & Talk
    Audreys Books
    10702 Jasper Avenue
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
    audreys.ca

  • Signing & Talk
    W2 Media Café
    111 W Hastings Street
    Vancouver, British Columbia
    (in conjunction with but not at White Dwarf Books)
    Thursday, April 12, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
    w2-media-cafe

  • Signing & Talk
    Mysterious Galaxy
    2810 Artesia Blvd.
    Redondo Beach (Los Angeles), California
    Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
    Mysterious Galaxy

  • Signing & Talk
    McNally Robinson
    1120 Grant Avenue
    Winnipeg, Manitoba
    Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.
    McNally Robinson

  • Signing & Talk
    Hamilton Public Library
    Central Branch
    55 York Street
    Hamilton, Ontario
    (in conjunction with but not at Bryan Prince Booksellers)
    Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
    Hamilton Public Library

  • Guest Writer
    Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo
    Calgary, Alberta
    April 27-29, 2012
    CalgaryExpo

  • Signing & Talk
    Clock Tower Brew Pub
    575 Bank Street
    Ottawa, Ontario
    (in conjunction with but not at Perfect Books)
    Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
    Clock Tower Brew Pub

  • Reading & Signing
    SF in SF (Science Fiction in San Francisco)
    The Variety Preview Room
    582 Market St. at Montgomery
    (1st floor of The Hobart Building)
    San Francisco, California
    (in conjunction with but not at Borderlands Books)
    Thursday, June 21, 2012, at 7:00 p.m.
    sfinsf.org

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Red Planet Blues

by Rob - March 2nd, 2012

My 22nd novel, formerly known as The Great Martian Fossil Rush, has a new official title: Red Planet Blues.

When I asked for suggestions online, hundreds of possibilities were put forth. Red Planet Blues was separately suggested by Jeff Beeler on Twitter, Nazrat Durand on my Facebook wall, André Peloquin on the forum maintained by Calgary’s Imaginative Fiction Writers Association, and Mike Poole here on my blog. Thanks to them, and to the more than one hundred other people who put forth ideas.

The title “Red Planet Blues” was previously used in 1989 by my wonderful friend, the Hugo Award-winning writer Allen Steele, for a novella that he later incorporated into his terrific 1992 Mars novel Labyrinth of Night. I’m using it for my book with Allen’s kind permission.

Why the change? My US publisher wanted something that played up the book’s noir mystery angle. Noir is a classy genre, and Red Planet Blues does a lovely job of capturing that; many of the other titles suggested — although clever — had a pulp feel that wasn’t quite right for how we’re positioning the book. Again, many thanks to everyone who participated.

Red Planet Blues will be published by Ace Science Fiction in the US and Penguin Canada in April 2013 (next year).

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