The opening chapters of my 21st novel, Triggers, coming April 3 in hardcover, ebook, and Audible editions, are now online. Publishers Weekly says the book is “a turbo-charged techno-thriller” and Booklist says it combines “a thriller’s pacing and a chilling near-future world.”
The opening chapters of my 21st novel, Triggers, coming April 3 in hardcover, ebook, and Audible editions, are now online. Publishers Weekly says the book is “a turbo-charged techno-thriller” and Booklist says it combines “a thriller’s pacing and a chilling near-future world.”
For the 30th anniversary of the Aurora Awards — Canada’s top honour in science-fiction and fantasy writing — all previous nominees were presented with commemorative pins. Most of the nominees received theirs at ceremonies at SF conventions across Canada held in 2010 (I got mine at Keycon in May of that year). But Vancouver’s William Gibson, who has been nominated for the Aurora numerous time (including for his collaboration with Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine), and has won it twice (for Mona Lisa Overdrive and Virtual Light), didn’t make it to any of those conventions.
And so, at the request of the Aurora Awards administrators, when I interviewed Bill on stage at the Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library on January 12, 2012, I had the honour of presenting him with his pin. That’s me on the left handing the pin to Bill.
I was asked to write a sentence about my favorite sentence from someone else’s science-fiction work. The sentence I chose was from James White’s “Tableau”:
Through them could be seen a tiny, three-dimensional picture in full detail and colour of the original war memorial, placed there to remind viewers that there was nothing great or noble or beautiful about war.And here’s my sentence commenting about it:
As a pacifist and an idealist whose writing often veers toward Utopian fiction, I’m sometimes embarrassed by the prevalence of military science-fiction books (not to mention SF movies and TV shows with “Wars” or “Battle” in the title) that seem to glorify armed combat, but this lyrical sentence — the concluding one from Belfast writer James White’s “Tableau,” my all-time favorite science-fiction story — proved to me early on that there is also room in this field for hopeful, peaceful, upbeat swords-into-plowshares visions of sunnier tomorrows.(Illustration: the statue “Swords into Plowshares” on the grounds of United Nations headquarters.)
Nominations are now open for the Hugo, Nebula, and Aurora Awards — the time when writers (cough, cough) respectfully remind you of what they had published in the previous year that’s eligible for these awards.
The title of the final book — the one currently eligible for awards — is styled WWW: Wonder in the United States and just Wonder in Canada and the rest of the world. All of these editions appeared in 2011; feel free to cite any one of them on a nomination form. :)
- Sawyer, Robert J. WWW: Wonder (Ace Science Fiction [US], April 2011)
- Sawyer, Robert J. Wonder (Penguin Canada, April 2011)
- Sawyer, Robert J. Wonder (Gollancz [UK], May 2011)
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.
The previous volumes in the series have done well with awards: Wake was nominated for the Hugo Award, both Wake and Watch won the Aurora Award, and Watch won the Hal Clement Award. Wake was also nominated for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and Watch was also nominated for the Audie Award, the Canadian Authors Association’s Fiction Award, and the Sunburst Award. Volume 3, Wonder, was a finalist for the GoodReads Choice Award.
Below is a summary of the reviews Wonder has received. Thanks for your kind consideration!
“The third and final thriller in the WWW saga is an engaging climax to an intriguing story line. Action-packed; the tale ties up seemingly every thread. Readers will enjoy Robert J. Sawyer’s deep look at the Web age of American power in which leaders believe they need threats like Big Brother is watching you even when none exists.” —Alternative-Worlds.com
“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)
“Most notably, Sawyer’s understanding of science and technology help to draw the reader into the story. By simplifying complex theories, Sawyer is able to make the idea of emerging Internet consciousness believable.
“Wake, Watch, and Wonder are all must-reads for any fan of science fiction. Pop-culture references, a great sense of wit and humour and shout-outs to the kings of science fiction, coupled with Sawyer’s seamless timeline creates a quick-paced, enjoyable, and refreshing read.” —CanCulture
“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
“Wonder is a worthy third and final chapter to this series. In Webmind, Sawyer has created perhaps the most well-realized artificial intelligence in science-fiction.
“Sawyer is producing some of the most intelligent sci-fi out there. He has a knack for combining lofty, challenging ideas with an exceptional sense of story to create works that manage to be simultaneously deeply compelling and eminently readable. Complex characters and complex ideas are interwoven into a narrative that draws the reader into the world that Sawyer has created. —Allen Adams in The Maine Edge (Bangor, Maine)
“The third volume in Sawyer’s trilogy is a thought-provoking and often humorous look at future technology, calculating both its advantages and its disadvantages with regard to the human response. Entertaining and insightful, with pokes at social media and a clear look at many sides of a timely issue, this story should attract technophiles and general sf fans alike.” —Library Journal
“Canada’s science fiction superstar looks on the bright side of tomorrow. The tension in this third novel is quite sharp. With Webmind’s increasing power and understanding, he begins to exert his influence on individuals and nations. It may or may not have humanity’s best interests at heart, and it may not be stoppable, either way.” —Prairie Dog: Regina’s Independent Voice
“The various plot strands are fully interconnected in this final volume: the teenage Caitlin, the ape Hobo, and the Chinese whistleblower Wai-Jeng find their lives continue to be altered by their involvement with Webmind, while Peyton Hume of the WATCH team tries to find a way to curtail the intelligence’s power.
“The multitude of references to pop culture continue in this novel, with the 1970s Buck Rogers TV version inspiring one of the most striking visual images in the story when Webmind addresses the United Nations (and one of the best gags in the book, which Sawyer gives to Jon Stewart). And equally, fundamental questions are discussed: does human morality really improve with every generation? Will future generations regard our attitude to abortion in the same way we look at those who kept slaves? The vast array of characters Sawyer has created allows him to present different sides of arguments with equal validity without the book suddenly feeling as if it’s become a didactic — and provides some new insight into his characters along the way.
“Verdict: The conclusion to one of the best SF trilogies of modern times.” —Sci-Fi Bulletin
“Sawyer is exploring questions of intelligence, humanity, and technology’s impact on our lives. What happens when we encounter a being with far greater intelligence than we have, but none of our physical limitations?
“With the help of a speaking ape, a planet-wide community of true-believers, and a liberal dose of classic science fictional tropes, Sawyer shows that, in addition to being a very talented and creative writer, he’s also as big a fan of sf as any of us.
“Along the way, nations will fall, people will grow, and even bad guys will learn it’s more fun to be good. WWW: Wonder is a very satisfying conclusion to Sawyer’s trilogy of tomorrow, or possibly just 20 minutes into the future. Read it now, before you’re living through it.” —Ian Randall Strock at SF Site
“Vernor Vinge initially predicted that the Singularity would arrive before 2030. Ray Kurzweil places it in 2045. Those predictions are too conservative for Canadian science fiction juggernaut Robert J. Sawyer: in his WWW trilogy, whose third volume, Wonder, appears in April, the Singularity arrives in the autumn of 2012.
“If anyone is ideally suited to bring this rich vein of sci-fi angst into day-after-tomorrow territory, it’s Sawyer. The Ottawa native is one of the most successful Canadian authors of the past few decades, with twenty novels to his credit, including The Terminal Experiment (which won the 1995 Nebula Award for best novel), Hominids (which won the Hugo Award in 2003), and FlashForward (which in 2009 was turned into a television series on ABC). He’s also a meticulous realist.
“The resulting novels function as extended philosophical thought experiments. The real tension isn’t about Webmind’s advent and evolution; it’s about how humans will (or should) react to it. As Wonder‘s plot twists and weaves, you’re drawn relentlessly toward the finish, eager to find out whether Webmind will turn out to be a blessing or a curse.” —Alex Hutchinson in The Walrus
“Canadian sci-fi master Robert J. Sawyer’s artificial-intelligence trilogy reaches its conclusion in another delightful piece of fiction.
“The sequel to Wake and Watch, Wonder boasts lots of accessible scientific ideas and excellent characterization. Better yet, it’s proudly and even defiantly set in Canada.
“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
Five years ago this month, TORO Magazine asked me to recommend four “must-read” science-fiction books. Half a decade later they’re still great reads:
THE TIME MACHINE by H.G. Wells (Tor): Wells created it all: time travel, space voyages, alien invasions, genetic engineering, antigravity, invisibility — you can’t write SF without riffing on good ole H.G. But he also knew that all those things were mere trappings; SF is really a medium for social commentary — and he rips the British class system a new one here.
GATEWAY by Frederik Pohl (Del Rey): The job of good science fiction is to combine the intimately human and the grandly cosmic, and no one has ever done it better than Pohl in this book. Robinette Broadhead recounts his ill-fated encounter with a black hole in sessions with a computerized shrink, in what I think is the finest novel the field has ever produced. (And for all those MFA-in-creative-writing types who think a book has to have a likable protagonist to be moving and engaging, here’s the proof that you’re wrong.)
THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger (Vintage): Sometimes when mainstream authors dabble in SF it goes wrong, like Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. Other times, it’s a resounding success, such as this brilliant, heart-breaking story of a librarian unstuck in time, a tale that’s both philosophically and scientifically literate.
GRAVITY WELLS by James Alan Gardner (Eos): SF has always shone at short lengths, and there simply is no better writer of short stories in or out of the field than James Alan Gardner of Kitchener, Ontario. This collection contains fourteen of his wry, knowing, mind-bending tales including the Aurora Award-winning “Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large” and the Hugo Award-nominated “Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Blood Stream.”
Robert J. Sawyer‘s novel Watch, the second volume of his WWW Trilogy, won the Aurora Award today — Canada’s top honour in science fiction and fantasy — for Best Novel of the Year. The award was presented at the 31st annual Canadian National Science Fiction Convention, SFContario 2, in Toronto. The vote ranking:
1st: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer (Penguin Canada)
2nd: Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay (Penguin Canada)
3rd: Stealing Home by Hayden Trenholm (Bundoran)
4th: Destiny’s Blood by Marie Bilodeau (Dragon Moon)
5th: Black Bottle Man by Craig Russell (Great Plains)
Watch is published in Canada by Penguin Group (Canada). The US edition, under the title WWW: Watch, is from Ace Science Fiction, and the British edition is from Orion.
Earlier this year, Watch won the Hal Clement Award for Best Young-Adult Science Fiction Novel of the Year, presented at the World Science Fiction Convention in Reno.
Watch continues the interwoven coming-of-age stories begun in Wake of formerly blind math genius Caitlin Decter, chimpanzee-bonobo hybrid Hobo, and Webmind, a consciousness that has spontaneously emerged on the World Wide Web. Last year, Wake, the first volume of the WWW trilogy, also won the Aurora Award for Best Novel of the Year.
Of Watch, Analog Science Fiction and Fact — the world’s top-selling English-language science-fiction magazine — says, “Sawyer leads the reader through questions of the nature of consciousness, identity, privacy, morality, and empathy across the gulfs that separate intelligent beings from one another. The book is chock-full of ideas that will stay with you long after you finish the last page. This is science fiction at its best.”
For the first time ever, this year the Best Novel Aurora Award carried a cash prize. The $500 prize was bestowed by SF Canada, the national association of Canadian science fiction and fantasy writers.
The complete list of Aurora Award winners this year:
- Best Novel: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer (Penguin Canada)
- Best Short Form: “The Burden of Fire” by Hayden Trenholm (Neo-Opsis #19)
- Best Poem/Song: “The ABCs of the End of the World” by Carolyn Clink (A Verdant Green) [Clink is Sawyer's wife]
- Best Graphic Novel: Goblins by Tarol Hunt
- Best Related Work: The Dragon and the Stars, edited by Derwin Mak and Eric Choi (DAW)
- Best Artist: Erik Mohr
- Best Fan Filk: Dave Clement and Tom Jeffers
- Best Fan Organizational: Helen Marshall and Sandra Kasturi, Toronto SpecFic Colloquium
- Best Fan Other: John Mansfield and Linda Ross Mansfield, Aurora Award pins
A complete list of previous Aurora Award winners in the fiction categories can be found here. This was Sawyer’s twelfth Aurora Award win (he is the all-time record holder for this award), and his forty-sixth award win overall. His other award wins include the World Science Fiction Society’s Hugo Award for Best Novel of the Year (for Hominids), the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Nebula Award for Best Novel of the Year (for The Terminal Experiment), and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award — the top juried award in the science-fiction field — for Best Novel of the Year (for Mindscan).
Free transhumanism lecture! Free snacks! Plus you get to be part of the studio audience for TVOntario’s Big Ideas series: it’s all happening this Monday night, November 21, 2011, at 7:00 p.m. at The Gardiner Museum in Toronto, 111 Queen’s Park (just across the screet from the ROM). Sponsor: The Literary Review of Canada, co-producing with TVOntario’s Big Ideas.
IMPORTANT: Seating is limited. Please RSVP to: email@example.com
Robert J. Sawyer, Canada’s leading science-fiction author and internationally respected futurist, on the tomorrow we imagine — and the one we are creating.
When Marshall McLuhan Published Understanding Media, in 1964, the U of T English professor’s radical arguments about technology’s role in shaping human existence made him a unique media oracle. Now, 100 years after McLuhan’s birth, many simply take as given that our future will be shaped, not by ethical or cultural precepts, but by our fast-changing technological advances.
In fact, we’re approaching the moment — not too far off — at which computer intelligence will exceed that of humans. Today, some already dream of uploading their consciousnesses into artificial bodies or virtual worlds; others wish to radically prolong their lives or enhance their bodies through biotechnology. These changes are feared by some, embraced by others, and point to key questions: What will it mean to be human in the future? Can we look forward to a utopian tomorrow? Might some of us simply become obsolete?
Robert J. Sawyer, another homegrown oracle, promises a few answers. Sawyer is Canada’s leading science fiction writer, winner of over 40 national and international awards for his bestselling fiction, including the Nebula, the Hugo, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. His keen insights into the human impact of technological change have led to consulting work for corporate clients such as Google, and Sawyer has also advised bodies from the Canadian Federal Department of Justice to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. On November 21st, he will discuss how to approach our brave new future without (too much) fear and trembling.
Quill & Quire, the Canadian publishing trade journal, has posted its Booksellers’ Picks of the Year: Science Fiction and Fantasy.
The adult choice is Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer; the young-adult choice is Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston.
You can read the article here.
The January-February 2012 double issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact is on sale now — in print and electronic formats. It contains part one of the four-part complete serialization of my 21st novel, Triggers. The serial will continue in the March, April, and May 2012 issues.
Analog (formerly Astounding Stories) is the oldest English-language science-fiction magazine still being published, and is also the top-selling English-language science-fiction magazine in the world.
This is my sixth novel serialization in Analog — by far the most by any author since editor Stanley Schmidt took over the magazine in 1978. My previous Analog serials were the Nebula Award-winning The Terminal Experiment, the Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated Starplex, the Hugo Award-winning Hominids, and the Hugo Award-nominated Rollback, and the Hugo Award-nominated Wake.
Triggers will be out in book form on April 3, 2012, from Ace Science Fiction in the US; Penguin Canada in Canada; Gollancz in the UK — as well as on Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and from Audible.com.
The Analog cover is above; the North American book cover is below.
If you’re in or near Toronto and have never been to a science-fiction convention, give this one a try: SFContario 2, Friday evening, November 18, through late Saturday afternoon, November 20.
First, it’s got great guests: Aurora Award-winning Canadian hard-SF writer and foresight specialist Karl Schroeder, Hugo and Campbell Award-winning SF writer John Scalzi, and Year’s Best editor Gardner Dozois — plus senior Tor Books editor David G. Hartwell and his coeditor of the other major Year’s Best, Kathryn Cramer, and Canadian editors/publishers Virginia O’Dine (Bundoran Press) and Sandra Kasturi and Brett Alexander Savory (CZP), and Canadian authors galore including Hugo winner Robert J. Sawyer, Aurora winners Julie E. Czerneda, Hayden Trenholm, Randy McCharles, and Douglas Smith, Aurora nominee Marie Bilodeau, and many more.
Second, it’s the Canadian National Science Fiction convention this year (“the CanVention”), and the Aurora Awards will be presented there.
Third, it’s got parties! All convention attendees are welcome at them, so come out and have fun.
It will be fun, informative, and a great networking opportunity. Join us!
Doranna contends that the book is out of print, and so the rights should be reverted to her. Fitzhenry & Whiteside says, no, in fact the book is in print, and so the reversion clause doesn’t pertain.
Who’s right? There’s no question: Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
Fitzhenry & Whiteside isn’t just a publisher, it’s also one of Canada’s largest book distributors (they used to distribute Ace Science Fiction, and they do distribute EDGE, Canada’s largest SF line). A quick call to Bakka-Phoenix, Canada’s oldest SF specialty store, revealed that Dun Lady’s Jess is indeed available via the distributor Fitzhenry & Whiteside to any bookseller that wants it; the title is listed in the distributor’s catalog.
The contract language in question is this: “in print through normal trade channels.” Doranna’s own blog post makes it clear that the book is certainly in print — there are 1,600 physical copies available for shipment (and, checking, I find that they are traditional web-offset copies from the first and only printing — not print-on-demand or ebook editons; the book is in-print not just in some nebulous new-paradigm sense, but in the classic, normal, traditional sense of the term).
As for “normal trade channels,” Fitzhenry & Whiteside is a Canadian publisher. What constitutes “normal trade channels” in Canada?
Well, how ’bout via Chapters.Indigo.ca, Canada’s largest bookstore chain? Dun Lady’s Jess is available for purchase there: Chapters.Indigo.ca
Or maybe you prefer to shop at McNally Robinson, Canada’s major indepedent? They’ll sell you a copy, too: McNallyRobinson.com
Or Amazon.ca? They show the book as In Stock — that is, it’s in their own warehouse, not just the publisher’s: amazon.ca
Or perhaps you want to pick it up in a physical brick-and-mortar bookstore? It’s in stock and on the shelf at World’s Biggest Bookstore (the Chapters/Indigo store in downtown Toronto) (verifiable via the “Find It In Store” feature at the Chapters.Indigo.ca link above).
Oh! And the book is also in stock and on the shelf at Sentry Box in Calgary, a bricks-and-mortar science-fiction and fantasy bookstore.
On October 21, 2011, bookseller Andrew S. Balfour added this comment: I work for one of the booksellers on Rob’s list up there. I can say, with absolute certainty, that this book is just as available as any other in-print book. The fact that it’s not on our shelves has nothing to do with availability, and everything to do with the fact that, when we did stock the book, it didn’t sell.There certainly are such things as reversion-of-rights clauses that require the publisher to meet a threshold number of actual physical copies sold or a threshold number of dollars earned to keep a book in print. But this contract doesn’t have any such language. The book is in print — copies exist — and it is available through “normal trade channels” in the country in which it was published.
That says nothing about the publisher, any more than it says anything about the quality of the book. They can’t force us to order something we don’t want, and no one can control the interests of the reading public.
In conclusion: Not selling ≠ Not available
ETA: Okay, so what’s all the online bouhaha about? Well, the book is clearly in print, but Doranna wanted the publisher to revert the rights anyway. Fitzhenry’s response was not an uncooperative “sure, you can force it out of print — by buying up all the existing copies at your normal author discount [typically 40% off cover price].” No, they went the extra mile for Doranna and said if she really wanted to force this title out of print, she could buy the existing copies at cost. [Source: direct quote from Fitzhenry's Richard Dionne as posted by Doranna herself in her timeline of events; Richard is publisher of Red Deer Press, the division of Fitzhenry & Whiteside that produced Doranna's book.]
Dun Lady’s Jess has a Canadian list price of Cdn$21.95; 40% off that would be Cdn$13.75 a copy; that’s what Doranna’s contract said she should have paid if she wanted to buy copies. But even though the book wasn’t out of print, Fitzhenry offered her a chance to buy the books at cost. I’ve bought books at cost from Fitzhenry myself — trade paperbacks similar to the one in question; cost, in my case, ranged from $1.66 to $3.19 a copy, depending on the title.
There’s no contractual reason in Doranna’s case that Fitz should offer copies at such a low price, but they did. That was more than fair, since an “at cost” sale means the publisher makes not one cent in profit — Fitzhenry bent over backward to let the author accomplish what she wanted to accomplish, namely forcing this clearly in-print title out of print.
For those unfamiliar with Fitzhenry & Whiteside, this is a publisher that has published Pierre Berton, Alice Munro, Northrop Frye, Charlotte Gray, and David Suzuki — some of the top names in Canadian writing.
This is a publisher whose books have won multiple Governor-General’s Awards, Canada’s top literary prize.
This is a publisher whose Fifth House division was recently named Alberta Publisher of the Year by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.
This is a publisher that, over forty years in the business, has published many hundreds of titles to critical acclaim and commercial success.
This is not a publisher that abuses authors.
Note: there’s a lengthy comment thread attached to this blog post, with comments by Doranna Durgin, her agent Lucienne Diver, Victoria Strauss of the Writer Beware blog that Doranna originally posted in, booksellers, and others — and replies from me, covering a lot of ground about the business of publishing and distributing books. Click HERE to read the comments.
I stumbled today across this by-email interview I did in March 2007 for an American librarian preparing an article about Canadian science fiction, and I thought I’d share it here.
(1) Do you believe that there is a significant difference between Canadian and American SF? If so, how would you describe that difference?
I like to quip that American SF has happy endings, Canadian SF has sad endings — and British SF has no endings at all. Seriously, I do think we Canadians are much more interested in writing realistic emotional denouements — which often are ambiguous and sometimes downbeat — rather than heroic triumphs.
(2) What would you say is particularly Canadian about your writing?
The easy answer is the setting: most of my books are set in Canada. But beyond that, there’s a Canadian sensibility to my books, perhaps best displayed in my Hugo Award-winning Hominids and its sequels. As compared to Americans, Canadians are more secular, more environmentally conscious, more willing to trade individual liberty for collective security, and more open to alternative lifestyles — and those are precisely the traits I gave my modern-day Neanderthal characters in those books.
(3) Is there any significant conversation between Anglophone and Francophone science fiction in Canada, or are these really two separate literatures with little in common?
We all know each other, and like each other, but the sad truth is that although Canada is an officially bilingual country, what that really means is that most French Canadians can also read and speak English; very few English Canadians are comfortable in French. It’s a national embarrassment and a failure of our otherwise quite good public-education system. So the Francophone writers certainly know the major English-language SF books, but the reverse just isn’t true.
The only French-Canadian writer widely translated into English is Elisabeth Vonarburg, who writes in a sort of Ursula K. LeGuin voice.
(4) Can you give me a brief description of your most recent (or, if you prefer, your most significant) book?
My seventeenth novel Rollback comes out in April 2007, and I think it’s probably the best example yet of what I try to do as an SF writer. My mission statement, if you will, is to combine the intimately human with the grandly cosmic.
Rollback‘s plot involves communicating with aliens via radio about what morals and ethics might transcend species boundaries — that’s the grandly cosmic part. The novel tells the story of Sarah Halifax, an 87-year-old radio astronomer who is involved with this project is offered a “rollback,” an experimental procedural that will make her young again — so that she can keep up the dialog with the aliens, which, because of the slowness of the speed-of-light, takes almost 40 years between messages.
She refuses to have the rollback unless her husband of 60 years gets one, too — and the procedure succeeds for him, and fails for her. That’s the intimately human part: the impact the suddenly huge disparity in physical ages has on her husband’s relationship with her, with their children, and so on.
To my delight, Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, and Quill & Quire — the Canadian counterpart of PW said exactly what I was hoping reviewers would say, which is: “Sawyer handles the demands of the heart and the cosmos with equal skill” — which is precisely what good science fiction should do, in my opinion.
Here’s the US cover for Triggers, my 21st novel, coming April 3, 2012, from Ace Science Fiction in the US, Penguin Canada (under the Viking imprint) in Canada, and about the same time from Orion (under the Gollancz imprint) in the UK — with simultaneous audiobook (from Audible) and ebook editions.
Click the little version above for a full-size 300-dpi version (if your browser sizes that one down to fit your window, click the image to see full size).
Cover art is by Stephan Martiniere (who also di the cover for my novel Rollback. Jacket design by Diana Kolsky.
The jacket will also feature the photo of me below. You can click it for a large 300-dpi version, too.
My novel FlashForward (published by Tor and the basis for the ABC TV series of the same name) was published in 1999 but is set today. In it, as many hundreds of people have mentioned to me over the years, I correctly predicted that the current Pope would take the name Benedict XVI.
Well, here’s another prediction from that novel that just came true: I predicted that Saul Perlmutter and Brian P. Schmidt would be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work showing that the universe will expand forever. Today, they — along with Adam G. Riess — were named this year’s Nobel Laureates in that category. Congratulations to them!
Here’s the relevant passage from FlashForward (the opening paragraphs of Chapter 26):
Like every physicist, Theo waited with interest each year to see who would be honored with the Nobel Prize — who would join the ranks of Bohr, Einstein, Feynman, Gell-Mann, and Pauli. CERN researchers had earned more than twenty Nobels over the years. Of course, when he saw the subject header in his E-mail box, he didn’t have to open the letter to know that his name wasn’t on this year’s list of honorees. Still, he did like to see which of his friends and colleagues were getting the nod. He clicked the OPEN button
The laureates were Perlmutter and Schmidt for their work, mostly done a decade ago, that showed that the universe was going to expand forever, rather than eventually collapsing down in a big crunch. It was typical that the award was for work completed years previously; there had to be time for results to be replicated and for the ramifications of the research to be considered.
Well, thought Theo, they were both good choices. There’d doubtless be some bitterness here at CERN; rumor had it that McRainey was already planning his celebratory party, although that was doubtless just scurrilous gossip. Still, Theo wondered, as he did every year at this time, whether he’d someday see his own name on the list.
Just sent corrections for the paperback of Wonder to Ace and Penguin Canada — the very last work I’ll ever do on the WWW trilogy books. It’s the end of an era that began getting on to nine years ago, on Friday, January 10, 2003, when I wrote this in my journal:
Wrote 300 words explaining how I was going to expand “Shed Skin” into a novel to be called Skins, and, after wracking my brain for a couple of hours, came up with an idea that I liked for a second novel: consciousness emerges on the World Wide Web. Admittedly, not completely original (Clarke’s short story “Dial F for Frankenstein” comes to mind), but I checked on Amazon.com and Google, and couldn’t find any book that had actually done this. (I had been thinking of outlining a novel about humans adopting alien children, but I have yet to figure out how to develop that plot enough.)“Shed Skin” was a short story I wrote that went on to be a Hugo finalist; Skins became Mindscan, and the alien children idea eventually became Rollback. By “second novel,” I meant I was looking for a two-book contract; originally, the story of Webmind was only going to be a single novel, and the two-book contract would have been for Mindscan and that book. Wake, Watch, and Wonder ended up being my 18th, 19th, and 20th novels.
On the Facebook page for Con-Version XXVII, Calgary’s long-running science-fiction convention, con-com member Amilee Hagon posted the following on September 18:
Good evening everyone.Fortunately, Calgary’s terrific new literary convention When Words Collide will be coming back next year.
It is with deepest regret that I inform you all that until further notice Con-Version will not be going ahead as planned next year.
I am truly sorry for this and would ask that anyone who has pre-purchased tickets for the next Con-Version get in touch with Laurie Lalonde for a full refund. If you are unable to reach her for the refund please get in touch with Derek France who should be able to issue the refund on behalf of Con-Version.
Again we are sorry for the delay and more information is soon to follow.
Please get in touch with either Laurie Lalonde or Derek France for refunds.
Thanks you for your support.
A Glimpse into the Future on “Faster-than-Light Neutrinos”: Hope, Hype and Magic
World-renowned science-fiction writer and futurist comes to Canada Science and Technology Museum
Robert J. Sawyer was been called “a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation” by the New York Times, and declared “one of the most-successful Canadian authors ever” by Maclean’s. Sawyer has published 21 bestselling novels, one of which became the basis for the ABC television series, FlashForward.
Sawyer’s vision and perspective on the future of science has been called upon by organizations ranging from the Canadian Department of Justice to DARPA, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Sawyer will bring his vision of the future to the Canada Science and Technology Museum Monday, October 17, 2011, between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. as part of the museum’s programming for National Science and Technology Week., October 14-21.
A dynamic speaker, Sawyer can engage an audience with his science-fiction stories while inserting scientific principles in an understandable way. Scientifically rigorous and highly entertaining, Robert J. Sawyer is not to be missed.
FREE admission and parking!
I don’t think it was ever explained on air, but the Oxide Super stadium, where Suspect Zero is first spotted in the FlashForward TV series, is named that because it’s an anagram of Oedipus Rex, and alludes to this scene from my novel FlashForward, in which Theo (the character who became Simon on the show) reflects on Sophocles’s great tragedy:
Theo hadn’t been home for four years now, and he regretted it. Christ, he might be dead in twenty-one years — and he’d let a span of one-fifth that length slip by without hugging his mother or tasting her cooking, without seeing his brother, without enjoying the incredible beauty of his homeland. Yes, the Alps were breathtaking, but there was a sterile, barren quality about them. In Athens, you could always look up, always see the Acropolis looming above the city, the midday sun flaring off the restored, polished marble of the Parthenon. Thousands of years of human habitation; millennia of thought, of culture, of art.
Of course, as a youth, he had visited many of the famous archeological sites. He remembered being seventeen: a school bus had taken his class to Delphi, home of the ancient oracle. It had been pouring rain, and he hadn’t wanted to get off the bus. But his teacher, Mrs. Megas, had insisted. They had clambered over slippery dark rocks through lush forest, until they came to where the oracle had once supposedly sat, dispensing cryptic visions of the future.
That kind of oracle had been better, thought Theo: futures that were subject to interpretation and debate, instead of the cold, harsh realities the world had recently seen.
They’d also gone to Epidaurus, a great bowl out of the landscape, with concentric rings of seats. They’d seen Oedipus Tyrannos performed there — Theo refused to join the tourists in calling it Oedipus Rex; “Rex” was a Latin word, not Greek, and represented an irritating bastardization of the play’s title.
The play was performed in ancient Greek; it might as well have been in Chinese for all the sense Theo could make of the dialog. But they’d studied the story in class; he knew what was happening. Oedipus’s future had been spelled out for him, too: you will marry your mother and murder your father. And Oedipus, like Theo, had thought he could circumvent destiny. Forearmed with the knowledge of what he was supposed to do, why, he’d simply avoid the issue altogether, and live a long, happy life with his queen, Iocasta.
Except that, as it turned out, Iocasta was his mother, and the man Oedipus had slain years before during a quarrel on the road to Thebes had indeed been his father.
Sophocles had written his version of the Oedipus story twenty-four hundred years ago, but students still studied it as the greatest example of dramatic irony in western literature. And what could be more ironic than a modern Greek man faced with the dilemmas of the ancients — a future prophesied, a tragic end foretold, a fate inevitable? Of course, the heroes of ancient Greek tragedies each had a hamartia — a fatal flaw — that made their downfall unavoidable. For some, the hamartia was obvious: greed, or lust, or an inability to follow the law.
But what had been Oedipus’s fatal flaw? What in his character had brought him to ruin?
They’d discussed it at length in class; the narrative form employed by the ancient Greek tragedians was inviolate — there was always a hamartia.
And Oedipus’s was — what?
Not greed, not stupidity, not cowardice.
No, no, if it were anything, it was his arrogance, his belief that he could defeat the will of the gods.
But, Theo had protested, that’s a circular argument; Theo was always the logician, never much for the humanities. Oedipus’s arrogance, he said, was only evidenced in his trying to avoid his fate; had his fate been less severe, he’d never have rebelled against it, and therefore never would have been seen as arrogant.
No, his teacher, had said, it was there, in a thousand little things he does in the play. Indeed, she quipped, although Oedipus meant “Swollen Foot” — an allusion to the injury sustained when his royal father had bound his feet as a child and left him to die — he could just as easily be called “Swollen Head.”
But Theo couldn’t see it — couldn’t see the arrogance, couldn’t see the condescension. To him, Oedipus, who solved the vexing riddle of the Sphinx, was a towering intellect, a great thinker — exactly what Theo felt himself to be.
The riddle of the Sphinx: what walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening? Why, a man, of course, who crawls at the beginning of life, walks erect in adulthood, and requires a cane in old age. What an incisive bit of reasoning on Oedipus’s part!
But now Theo would never live to need that third leg, would never see the natural sunset of his span. Instead, he’d be murdered in middle-age … just as Oedipus’s real father, King Laius, was left dead at the side of a well-worn road.
Unless, of course, he could change the future; unless he could outwit the gods and avoid his destiny.
Arrogance? thought Theo. Arrogance? It is to laugh.
The plane started its descent into nighttime Athens.
Just under a year ago, I reviewed the Lightwedge Verso ebook light. I thought it wasn’t bad, but could use some improvements. Now, Lightwedge has brought out a new ebook light called the Lightwedge Flex Neck Tech Light — and this one I don’t like at all.
I’m unhappy for four reasons:
(1) The clear plastic covering the LEDs isn’t flush with the cowling around the head; instead, it protrudes about a quarter of an inch — meaning light sprays all around, including directly into your eyes; I couldn’t find a comfortable angle for lighting the screen without having light pouring at me, too.
(2) When closed — so that the head is tucked into the clamp — the on/off button is exposed through a round hole and almost flush with the surface, making it very easy for the thing to accidentally get turned on while in your briefcase, or wherever, draining the batteries. Also, another round hole exposes the entire acrylic cover for the LEDs, so that it can easily be scratched in transit. Whoever thought putting the holes in the clamp was a good idea perhaps has a few too many holes in his head. :)
(3) There are only four tiny little dots of silicone on the clamp (two on each side, each about a quarter-inch in diameter) to prevent scuffing/marking whatever you attach the clamp to — and if you have a soft leather case for your ereader, these will leave indentations. It should have had a large silicone patch on each side of the clamp.
(4) The on/off switch makes an audible click when you press it. These sorts of lamps are often used for reading in bed without disturbing a partner; the switch should be silent (yes, this one is quieter than the switch on the Lightwedge Verso ebook light — but it’s still much noisier than it needs to be).
On the plus side, the neck is longer than on most ebook lights, and the clamp opens much wider.
If you are going to get one of these, get the all-black model. It’s the only one with a black neck; the other models have silver necks that will reflect light into your eyes.
This week marks my tenth anniversary as a reader of ebooks. I got in early because, as a science-fiction writer, I’d long been expecting this technology. After all, Captain Kirk read reports off a wedge-shaped device back in 1966, and the astronauts in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey used tablet computers for viewing documents.
I tried lots of devices early on: Palm OS personal-digital assistants with tiny screens, early dedicated devices with monochrome LCD screens (such as the long-gone Franklin eBookman and RCA REB-1100), and later, first-generation e-ink devices (such as the iRex iLiad).
Several things immediately convinced me this was better than reading on paper.
First, even early on, most ebook systems offered built-in dictionaries. In the days of paper books, I rarely bothered to haul a dictionary off the shelf; now, whenever I encounter a word whose meaning I’m not exactly sure of, I effortlessly look it up.
Second, ebooks let you set the font size to whatever you’re comfortable with. As your eyes get older, you’ll find e-reading is much more pleasant, since every title is automatically available in a large-print edition.
Third, having an infinitely big library without it taking up any space is great — and to have that library be portable is fantastic. This year, I’ve travelled through all 24 timezones — right around the world. Having hundreds of books with me on that trek was heaven for a compulsive reader.
Fourth, searching: when I’m doing research, the ability to search in a book for the specific term I’m looking for is indispensable.
Fifth, free public-domain classics: maybe there’s an irony in using twenty-first-century technology to read nineteenth-century books, but I’m way better read today because of Project Gutenberg.
I heard Margaret Atwood pooh-poohing dedicated ebook readers a while ago, saying you can’t use them in the bathtub. Actually, Margaret, you can: just seal them in a Ziploc bag, and you’re good to go, and if you drop it, you’re fine — whereas a paper book is ruined if it gets soaked. (Yes, you can put a paper book in a baggie, too — but you can’t change the page once it’s in there; you easily can with an ebook reader.)
One constantly hears people saying they don’t like reading off computer screens and so will never read ebooks. Well, yes, it’s true that you can read off such screens — but you can also read ebooks on devices such as the Kobo Touch, Kindle 3G, and Nook, which all have modern e-ink displays that are as easy on the eyes as printed paper. As I’ve often said, the single biggest barrier to widespread adoption of ebooks is that most people still haven’t seen a dedicated ebook reader.
I very much like e-ink devices, but I also do much of my reading on my iPhone 4 (where, in my opinion, the Kobo app runs circles around the Kindle app — and not just because Kobo recognizes that full justification looks awful on narrow screens, and so gives you the option of turning it off).
One of the biggest pluses of reading ebooks on smartphones is that you can do it in the dark. I turn the brightness way down on my iPhone, switch to the Kobo app’s night-reading mode (which gives me white letters on a black background), and read to my heart’s content.
I’m a writer; books are my life. And I’m a Canadian; I’m proud of my heritage. But I’ve got to say that when fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan said “the medium is the message,” he missed the boat on ebooks. The medium — paper book or ebook — is irrelevant. It’s the message — the content — that matters, and for me, for a full decade now, by far my favourite way to enjoy that content has been electronically. Give it a try: I bet you’ll become a convert, too.
Here’s a YouTube video of me showing off some of the ebook-reading hardware I’ve used over the years; it’s embedded below, but you’ll see it bigger if you watch it at YouTube via this link.
Star Trek debuted 45 years ago today. In honor of that, here’s a piece I wrote in 2006 for the 40th anniversary of Star Trek: the introduction to Boarding The Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, edited by David Gerrold and me (Robert J. Sawyer), and published by BenBella Books.
Last fall, I got invited to the Singapore Writers Festival, along with fellow science fiction authors Bruce Sterling and Norman Spinrad. Periodically, when we were out sightseeing in that beautiful city, people would notice our fancy name badges, or overhear us chatting about the festival, and ask who we were. At first we mentioned our books, but, of course, the titles elicited blank stares. And so I started simply pointing to Norman and saying, “This man wrote an episode of Star Trek.”
“Oh, wow!” people always replied. “Which one?”
“‘The Doomsday Machine,’” I said. And the appreciative nods began. Four decades on, and all over the planet, people still know and love Star Trek — indeed, they know it so well that they recognize individual episodes by their titles.
And of course, everyone is familiar with the catch phrases from the show: “Beam me up,” “He’s dead, Jim,” “the Prime Directive,” “warp factor six,” “At the time, it seemed the logical thing to do,” “phasers on stun,” “hailing frequencies open,” “Live long and prosper,” and the most-famous split infinitive in human history, “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Those last words, part of Star Trek‘s opening narration, were first heard on September 8, 1966, when the debut episode was broadcast. In a way, that narration was hopelessly optimistic: it promised a five-year mission for the starship Enterprise, but Star Trek was taken off the air after only three seasons.
But in another way, the words also turned out to be enormously shortsighted. Forty years on — time enough for eight five-year missions — Star Trek is such a major part of our culture that it’s almost impossible to imagine the world without it. More people today know who Mr. Spock is than Dr. Spock; the prototype of the Space Shuttle — still the most advanced spacecraft humanity has ever built — was named Enterprise; our cell phones flip open just like Captain Kirk’s communicator; and the original fourteen-foot model of good old NCC-1701 is on permanent display at the Smithsonian.
To date, there have been five primetime television Star Trek series, a Saturday-morning animated Star Trek series, ten Star Trek motion pictures and hundreds of Star Trek books. And it all started when a former cop and airline pilot named Eugene Wesley Roddenberry decided that maybe, just maybe, television audiences were ready for some adult science fiction. His “Wagon Train to the stars,” with its irresistible mix of gaudy sets, hammy acting and sly social commentary, has been warmly embraced now by two full generations of human beings.
Granted, for the first time in two decades, there’s no new Star Trek TV series in production, and, yes, there are no new Star Trek movies currently in the works. But if we’ve learned anything from the voyages of the Enterprise, it’s that even death is not permanent. Star Trek, no doubt, will live again.
And well it should: No TV series of any type has ever been so widely loved — or been so important. Yes, important: Star Trek was the only dramatic TV show of its day to talk, even in veiled terms, about the Vietnam conflict, and it also tackled overpopulation, religious intolerance and race relations (who can forget Frank Gorshin — Batman‘s Riddler — running about with his face painted half-black and half-white?). As William Marshall, who played cyberneticist Dr. Richard Daystrom in the episode “The Ultimate Computer,” said in an interview shortly before he passed away, it’s impossible to overstate the impact it had in the 1960s when white Captain Kirk referred to the black Daystrom as “Sir.” Was it any surprise, two decades later, that NASA hired Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura, to help recruit the first minority astronauts? Star Trek gave us an appealing vision of a tolerant future that included everyone.
And that future is still compelling. We may not be quite sure how to get there from here but, as Edith Keeler said in Harlan Ellison’s episode “The City on the Edge of Forever,” Star Trek taught us that the days and the years ahead are worth living for. More than anything else, the series was about hope.
To celebrate four decades of exploring strange new worlds, of seeking out new life and new civilizations, we’ve commissioned these commemorative essays. Some are by the people who actually made Star Trek: Norman Spinrad is here, along with D.C. Fontana, Howard Weinstein, and my coeditor, David Gerrold, all of whom penned adventures of Kirk, Spock and McCoy that actually aired on TV. Other essays are by people like me: the current crop of science fiction writers who were deeply influenced by Star Trek, and at least in part took up our profession because of it. Still others are by academics who have found in those original seventy-nine hour-long episodes much worth pondering. Together, in these pages, we celebrate Star Trek with all the over-the-top gusto of Jim Kirk, we analyze it with the cool logic of Commander Spock, and we explore its fallible, human side with the crusty warmth of “Bones” McCoy.
The first-ever book about Star Trek was the phenomenally influential The Making of Star Trek, published in 1968 when the original series was still in production. Written by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry, it made possible the Star Trek fan-following that exists today, providing us with photographs of the props that were only glimpsed on screen, official biographies of the characters, blueprints of the Enterprise and the Klingon battle cruiser, and the first ever Star Trek episode checklist. That book ended with these words: “Whither Star Trek? It really doesn’t matter. We have its legacy … all we have to do is use it.”
After forty years, we still don’t know where Star Trek is going. But one thing is sure: it’ll be a wondrous journey. So, come on aboard — we’re about to leave orbit. Mr. Sulu, ahead warp factor one!
I was recently asked by a journalist from Fox News Online for my thoughts about robot caregivers for the disabled, resulting in this brief article. But, as always in an interview, I sent him much more material than was actually used. Here are my fuller thoughts on the matter:
Absolutely robots will play a major role as caregivers for the disabled — and I don’t think it’ll be that many years in the future, either. The problem with a human caregiver is that he or she requires infinite patience and infinite kindness. We’ve all read the horror stories about the abuse of the disabled — they come mostly from harried workers snapping under the pressure. A robot won’t have that problem; it will simply perform its task reliably over and over again.
Also, this is liberating for the person being cared for. A human being feels helpless when he or she has to ask another person to get something off a high shelf for them, or help them with their hygiene. But we don’t feel we’re imposing on robots; we’re empowered when we have one. A robot is just another tool, like a wheelchair — but it’s a life-changing tool that improves the quality of one’s existence markedly.
Ironically, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which was designed to help humans, did just about everything needed to be done to support robots in our day-to-day lives, too. Robots are mobility-impaired compared to most humans: they need ramps and elevators to get around, and thanks to that wonderful bit of legislation, they already have them.
I actually wrote a short story on this theme called “Uphill Climb,” which was published in Amazing Stories in March 1987, although I did it in reverse — if you make the world accessible for robots, you also make it accessible for people in wheelchairs.
There are no downsides to robots helping the disabled — in conjunction, of course, with loving human support, too; this is totally a triumph of technology — a problem that’s long needed solving that we’re finally on the verge of being able to solve.
Photo: Robert J. Sawyer and friend at MIT’s robotics lab
Today — August 30, 2011 — Ace Science Fiction releases a new US mass-market paperback of my Nebula Award-winning novel The Terminal Experiment. This beautiful edition features a new introduction by me.
The Terminal Experiment set an all-time record that still stands for the highest number of nominations in any category in the 45-year history of the Nebula Awards.
In addition to winning the Nebula, The Terminal Experiment also won Canada’s Aurora Award, was a finalist for the Hugo Award, was a finalist for Japan’s Seiun Award, and won the Homer Award (voted on by the 40,000 members worldwide of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe, then the world’s largest online service).
Prior to its original book publication, the full novel had been serialized in Analog Science Fiction and Fact (under my original title for it, Hobson’s Choice), then and now the world’s top-selling English-language SF magazine — my first novel to be serialized there. It was also my first novel to become an audiobook (still available, now through Audible.com), and was a selection of the Science Fiction Book Club.
The original edition (from HarperPrism) was one of Amazon.com’s top 100 bestselling titles store-wide for the entire year of 1996, and was later ranked one of the top 50 bestselling science-fiction titles of all time at Amazon.com.
The new paperback is available now throughout the US in physical and online bookstores (Canadian readers got a separate new edition from Penguin Canada recently).
Praise for The Terminal Experiment:
“A terrific mix of science, technological derring-do, and murder. A great story; a crackerjack novel.” –The Globe and Mail
“Robert J. Sawyer won the Nebula Award with this novel, and I would have voted for it. There is so much of interest in this book — artificial intelligence, a good murder mystery, a nicely realized near-future, and, as I’ve come to expect from Sawyer’s novels, thought-provoking philosophy. This is science fiction at its most thought provoking.” –SF Site
Below: the Nebula Award trophy for The Terminal Experiment:
Voting is now open for Canada’s Prix Aurora Awards. Any Canadian may vote. It’s free if you’re a member of this year’s Canadian National Science Fiction Convention (or “CanVanetion”), which is SFContario 2 in Toronto in November; if you’re not a member, the voting fee is $5.50.
The Globe and Mail: Canada’s National Newspaper has been running a feature called “My Books, My Place,” featuring writers in their favourite reading spots, and in the Saturday, July 9, 2011, edition, my living room is featured. Here’s the version at the Globe and Mail website, and below is a longer version of the same essay that I wrote for this blog:
Hugo Award-winning science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer’s latest novel is Wonder (Penguin Canada).
I have a lovely office in my home, but I almost never use it; I’ve migrated, both for reading and writing, into the living room of my penthouse condo in Mississauga. Part of it is to take advantage of my fireplace; part of it is the lovely views (including the sight of the jam-packed 403 full of commuters making their way into Toronto, and the pleasure I take in not being one of them). Part of it, too, was the final realization that the notion that you’re supposed to separate your work life and your home life just didn’t make sense for me: I’m a writer 24/7, and reading and writing in my living room reflects that.
I’m a member of the first generation of science-fiction writers to have come into the field through television and movies, instead of books. The limited-edition 33-inch model of Star Trek‘s Enterprise was an indulgence, but it acknowledges that debt; the first book that got me serious about wanting to be a writer was 1968′s The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry.
The Planet of the Apes statues are also an indulgence, I suppose — but it was through that series of films, before I’d read H.G. Wells, that I discovered that science fiction was a powerful medium for social comment. And the dinosaurs — that’s a Triceratops skull and a Stegosaurus reconstruction — remind me that I originally wanted to be a scientist, not a science-fiction writer. But at the time I was heading to university, the chances of being a world-class scientist in Canada seemed dim, whereas few if any had tested the proposition of whether one could be a world-class SF writer in this country.
I was an early adopter of ebooks — this is my tenth year of doing almost all my reading in that form. I have a letter rack next to my recliner that holds both my Kindle and my Kobo; each has its strengths and I like them both.
My next novel, Triggers, is about memory, and I’m reading the wonderful Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer; my editor Adrienne Kerr sent me a paper copy, so I’m reading it in that format. More than any other trait, our memories — what we recall about our own pasts — define who we are, and memory is a fallible and inaccurate faculty.
Meanwhile, my Kobo is loaded with Shelby Foote’s massive three-volume The Civil War: A Narrative, which is much less daunting in ebook form; you could kill a man with the paper editions. It might strike some as odd that a science-fiction writer reads history, but SF is about reasoned extrapolation into the future, and the only way to do that is by understanding the past. Foote’s prose style is absolutely engrossing — he presents fact with the sumptuousness of the best fiction writing.
Today is the 20th anniversary file-stamp date of the DOS TSR keyboard-macro program I use: SmartKey 6.0g Advanced, created by Australia’s FBN Software — an absolutely amazing program that I rely on daily. (I use WordStar for DOS, which is great on its own, but the combination of it with SmartKey has let me customize my writing tools precisely to my needs.)
Rest in peace, Martin H. Greenberg. Marty was a consummate anthologist. He bought one of my very first short stories (“The Contest,” for 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories, way back in 1984), and bought many others from me since, and I had the honor of late to serve with him on the jury for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. He was a friend, a gentleman, and a huge asset to the field.