Monday, April 19, 2010

Upcoming Canadian events for Watch

All events are free and open to the public. I'll be reading from Watch, doing a Q&A, and signing books at each one:

# Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver Public Library Central Branch
Alma VanDusen Room on the lower level
350 West Georgia Street
In conjunction with (but not at) White Dwarf Books
Wednesday, May 5, 2010, at 7:30 p.m.

# Calgary, Alberta
Pages on Kensington
1135 Kensington Road NW
Friday, May 7, 2010, at 7:30 p.m.

# Edmonton, Alberta
Audreys Books
10702 Jasper Avenue
Saturday, May 8, 2010, 3:00 p.m.

# Ottawa, Ontario
Clock Tower Brew Pub
575 Bank Street
In conjunction with (but not at) Perfect Books
Monday, May 10, 2010, 7:30 p.m.

# Halifax, Nova Scotia
Spring Garden Road Memorial Public Library
5381 Spring Garden Road
Sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts
Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 7:00 p.m.

# Waterloo, Ontario
Words Worth Books
100 King Street South
Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 7:00 p.m.

# Winnipeg, Manitoba
McNally Robinson
1120 Grant Avenue
Saturday, May 22, 2010, at 2:00 p.m.
(and at Keycon the rest of that weekend)

# Prince George, British Columbia
Books and Company
1685 3rd Avenue
Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 7:00 p.m.
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Watch subway ads

As they did for Wake (see here), Penguin Canada is advertising Watch in Toronto subway cars -- and I happened to be on the subway today, and managed to get these shots. (Thanks also to my friend Lance Sibley, who also sent me a photo that he took.) This is made out of awesome!

Robert J. Sawyer online:


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

WWW: Watch now out!

Today is the official publication date for WWW: Watch, second volume in my WWW trilogy. The US edition is out in hardcover from Ace Science Fiction, and the Canadian edition is out in hardcover from Viking Canada (Penguin).
Sawyer shows his genius in combining cutting-edge scientific theories and technological developments with real human characters. --The Globe and Mail
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Toronto book-launch party for Watch

Join me for the Toronto book-launch party for Watch, the second book in the WWW trilogy, this Tuesday, Apirl 6, 2010, at 7:00 p.m. at The Dominion on Queen pub, 500 Queen Street East (East, not West), Toronto, with book sales by Bakka-Phoenix Books, and the unveiling of the new Watch book trailer!

Admission is free and everyone is welcome!
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Another Kuroda

I revealed in this blog post that the character of Kuroda, the information theorist from my WWW trilogy consisting of Wake, Watch, and Wonder, is named for the PROBE Control telemetry specialist Kuroda from the 1972 TV series Search, which had a big influence on me.

But I should note that there's another Kuroda in science fiction: the man known as "The Last Kamikaze" from the episode of that title from The Six Million Dollar Man. The Kuroda on Search was played by Byron Chung; the Kuroda on SMDM was played, absolutely brilliantly, by John Fujioka. For those who thought SMDM nothing but mindless action adventure, I commend "The Last Kamikaze" to your attention: I can't watch it without getting tears in my eyes. You can read all about the SMDM character in the Bionic Wiki here.

Judy Burns wrote "The Last Kamikaze" (and its sequel, "The Wolf Boy"), and co-wrote the original Star Trek episode "The Tholian Web."
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Star Trek: The Motion Picture 30 years on

Today, December 7, 2009, is the 30th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. has a nice appreciative essay.

In tribute, I offer this sneak peek at a scene from Watch, the second volume of my WWW trilogy, coming in April 2010 from Ace (US), Penguin (Canada), and Gollancz (UK); in this scene, Caitlin, her father, and Webmind watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture. If you haven't read Wake, the first book yet, note that this contains some spoilers for that book.
"Another movie?" suggested her dad.

"Sure," said Caitlin.

Perhaps another one about AI, Webmind sent to her post-retinal implant.

"Webmind wants to see something else about artificial intelligence," Caitlin said.

They stood by the thin cabinets containing his DVD collection. Her father's mouth curved downward; a frown. "Most of them are negative portrayals," he said. "Colossus: The Forbin Project, The Matrix, The Terminator, 2001. I'll definitely show you 2001 at some point, only because it was so influential in the history of artificial intelligence -- a whole generation of people went into that field because of it. But it's almost all visuals, without much dialog; we should wait until you can process imagery better before having you try to make sense out of that, and ..."

The frown flipped; a smile. "... and they don't call it Star Trek: The Motionless Picture for nothing," he said. "Let's watch it instead. It's got a lot of talking heads -- but it's also one of the most ambitious and interesting films ever made about AI."

And so they settled on the couch to give the Star Trek movie a look. This was, her father explained, the "Director's Edition," which he said was much improved over the tedious cut first shown in theaters when he was twelve.

Caitlin had read that the average length of a shot in a movie was three seconds, which was the amount of time it took to see all the important details; after that, apparently, the eye got bored. This film had shots that went on far longer than that -- but the three-second figure was based on people who'd had vision their whole lives. It took Caitlin much more time to extract meaning from a normal scene, and even longer when seeing things she'd never touched in real life -- such as starship control consoles, tricorders, and so on. For her, the film seemed to zip by at ... well, at warp speed.

Even though Webmind was listening in, her dad turned on the closed-captioning again so Caitlin could practice her reading.

The film did indeed make some interesting points about artificial intelligence, Caitlin thought, including that consciousness was an emergent property of complexity. The AI in the film, like Webmind, had "gained consciousness itself" without anyone having planned for it to do so.

Fascinating, Webmind sent to her eye. The parallels are not lost on me, and ...

And Webmind went on and on, and suddenly Caitlin had sympathy for her dad not liking people talking during movies.

Very interesting, Webmind observed when the film suggested that after a certain threshold was reached, an AI couldn't continue to evolve without adding "a human quality," which Admiral Kirk had identified as "our capacity to leap beyond logic." But what does that mean, precisely?

Caitlin had to keep the dates in mind: although the film was set in the twenty-third century, it had been made in 1979, long before Deep Blue had defeated grand master Garry Kasparov at chess. But Kirk was right: even though Deep Blue, by calculating many moves ahead in the game, ultimately did prove to be better at that one narrow activity than was Kasparov, the computer didn't even know it was playing chess. Kasparov's intuitive grasp of the board, the pieces, and the goal was indeed leaping beyond logic, and it was a greater feat than any mechanical number crunching.

But it was the subplot about Spock, the half-human half-Vulcan character, that really aroused Caitlin's attention -- and apparently Webmind's, too, because he actually shut up during it.

To her astonishment, her dad had paused the DVD to say the most important scene in the whole film was not in the original theatrical release, but had been restored in this director's cut. It took place, as almost the whole movie did, on the bridge of the Enterprise. Kirk asked Spock's opinion of something. Spock's back was to him, and he made no reply, so Kirk got up and gently swung Spock's chair around, and -- it was so subtle, Caitlin at first didn't recognize what was happening, but after a few seconds the image popped into clarity for her, and there was no mistaking it: the cool, aloof, emotionless, almost robotic Spock, who in this movie had been even grimmer than Caitlin remembered him from listening to the TV shows with her father over the years, was crying.

And, although they were facing almost certain destruction at the hands of V'Ger, a vast artificial intelligence, Kirk knew his friend well enough to say, in reference to the tears, "Not for us?"

Spock replied, with infinite sadness. "No, Captain, not for us. For V'Ger. I weep for V'Ger as I would for a brother. As I was when I came aboard, so is V'Ger now." When Spock had come aboard, he'd been trying to purge all remaining emotion -- the legacy of his human mother -- to become, like V'Ger, like Deep Blue, a creature of pure logic, the Vulcan ideal. Two heritages, two paths. A choice to be made.

And, by the end of the film, he'd made his choice, embracing his human, emotional half, so that in the final scene, when Scotty announced to him, in that wonderful accent of his, that, "We can have you back on Vulcan in four days, Mr. Spock," Spock had replied, "Unnecessary, Engineer. My business on Vulcan is concluded."

"What did you think?" Caitlin asked into the air as the ending credits played overtop of the stirring music.

Characters flashed across her vision: I'm a doctor, not a film critic. She laughed, and Webmind went on. It was interesting when Spock said, "Each of us, at some time in our lives, turns to someone -- a father, a brother, a god -- and asks, 'Why am I here? What was I meant to be?'" Most uncharacteristically, Webmind paused, then added: He was right. We all must find our place in the world.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Canadian booktour for Watch starting to shape up

Had a fabulous meeting with Adrienne Kerr, my new editor at Penguin Canada, yesterday, followed by an amazing meeting with the whole marketing team there.

We're definitely going to have a cross-Canada book tour for Watch next spring. Anchor points will include Ad Astra in Toronto (at which I'm guest of honour); Keycon in Winnipeg (which will be the Canadian National Science Fiction Convention next year, and at which, fandom willing, perhaps Wake will be an Aurora finalist), plus Halifax (which I missed -- except for a radio interview at the CBC studios there -- last time).

Other cities will almost certainly include Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, plus more of Southwestern Ontario, which got short-shrift last time.

(That's the US cover above; the Canadian one will lack the "WWW:" prefix and have a different quote.)
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Monday, June 15, 2009

First look at Watch cover

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Here's the first look at the cover for Watch, second volume of my WWW trilogy. This is the American version for Ace Science Fiction; the Canadian version for Penguin Canada will be similar, but will lack the "WWW:" in front of the title.

The cover design is by Rita Frangie, and the cover art is by Tony Mauro. Watch will be published in hardcover in April 2010.

I think this is a gorgeous follow-on to the lovely cover for Wake, below:

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Wake in major computing publication

I worked very hard to come up with a plausible scenario for the World Wide Web gaining consciousness for my novel WWW: Wake, and I'm thrilled to have a chance to share some of that background with the members of the Association for Computer Machinery, the world's largest educational and scientific computing society. The last page of the June 2009 issue of ACM's glossy monthly magazine Communications of the ACM is a fanciful piece by me entitled Webmind Says Hello that outlines some of the notions I was playing with in my novel.

If you're one of the 83,000 members of that organization -- or go to just about any university (almost all subscribe to CACM), you can read my piece. I'm quite proud of it, and also proud of the other professionals who have taken notice of the work I've put into this novel, such as the Center for Congitive Neuroscience at Penn, which had me in to give a talk earlier this month, or Google Waterloo, which is having me in to give a talk next week.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Podcast: Sawyer neurosciences talk at Penn

On Wednesday, May 6, 2009, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer gave an invited 90-minute talk at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience [pictured] at the University of Pennsylvania ("Penn"). Sawyer was the first science-fiction writer ever invited to speak at the Center.

Sawyer's talk delved into the cognitive science, neuroscience, and other areas that informed the portrayal of a sentient World Wide Web in his 2009 novel Wake and the uploaded consciousnesses in his 2005 John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winning novel Mindscan.

SPOILER WARNING: His talk contains major spoilers for both books, giving away significant plot points; please do not listen to the talk until you've read these books. (However, he talks about them separately -- first Wake, then Mindscan.)

The talk is here as an MP3 file.

"Thank you again for making the trip to Penn! It was wonderful to finally meet you, after enjoying so many of your books. Your talk exceeded my fondest hopes -- it was so clear and interesting and provocative! -- and the group adored it."

-- Martha J. Farah, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience

"I enjoyed your talk immensely. It fit the bill perfectly in showing how excellent speculative hard science fiction can be informed by and inform those of us in the cognitive neurosciences."

-- Anjan Chatterjee, M.D.
Professor of Neurology

Information on booking Robert J. Sawyer as a speaker is here.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Thursday, May 7, 2009 is now live!

Penguin Group (Canada) has created a gorgeous, Flash-content rich web site to promote my WWW trilogy (the novel Wake, and its forthcoming sequels, Watch and Wonder).

Check out for a nifty book trailer, Wake wallpapers, FAQs, and much more. It's a work-in-progress -- Penguin will be tweaking, expanding, and updating the site continously -- so comments are welcome!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Friday, April 10, 2009

WWW milestones

Yesterday, Wake started showing up in Canadian bookstores (and I myself saw the nice display of copies at the Indigo on Yonge Street just north of the 407 in Greater Toronto).

And I got to do something that's very special: I got to autograph the first copy of the finished book. I always annotate that copy ("First copy signed by the author"), and the one for Wake went to Kelly Smith, a friend from Willowdale Junior High. (It also got inscribed, "Thanks for the kiss all those years ago" -- but that's another story ...)

See, last night, a few of us who went to Willowdale Junior High or Northview Heights Secondary School got together at the Kelsey's restaurant next to that Indigo for a little reunion (made possible by the magic of Facebook). Kelly (as well as old friends Roberta Torkoff [now Roberta Blank] and Ginter Karosas) went off to the store during dinner to buy copies of Wake, which was very kind of them.

And today, right on the heels of Wake coming out, I finished my final revisions on Watch, the second volume in the WWW trilogy.

And that got done just in time for me to hit the road promoting Wake: in two days, I leave for San Francisco (and am reading and signing at Borderland Books there Monday night at 7:00 p.m.).


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Penguin Canada accepts Watch

I have separate editors in New York and Toronto. Ginjer Buchanan, my New York editor at Ace, accepted Watch on Tuesday, March 17, and today Laura Shin, my editor at Penguin Group (Canada), accepted it, too, saying, "Watch is wonderful!"


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Sunday, March 22, 2009


So, I spent a lovely afternoon here in Orlando, in the shade by the pool, working on revisions to Watch, the second volume of my WWW trilogy.

My beta-test readers have been getting back to me, and I must say the response has been extremely positive, but these comments from one particular reader made my day:
The last ten pages or so of this novel had me exceptionally transported. When I finished the last page, I paused; and the next thought I had was, “He’s fucked. How the hell is he going to top this?” But I’m looking forward to finding out.

I spent a while trying to decide if this was the best “middle book” of a trilogy ever. The only thing that I could come up with that comes close is the middle book of F. M. Busby’s Demu Trilogy ... Watch is a great book.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Ginjer Buchanan, my editor at Ace Science Fiction in New York, just emailed me to say she thinks Watch, the second volume of my WWW trilogy, is "even better than Wake."

W00t! As Caitlin woud say, "I am made out of awesome!" :D

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Friday, February 27, 2009

To serialize a sequel?

Over in my Yahoo! Groups newsgroup, Martin Bennedik wrote:
I read Wake on my phone by downloading the ebook version of Analog from Fictionwise. Not only was the novel excellent, but I found this was a good way to get the book early and in a format which allowed me to take it with me on my commutes.

So I wonder if there is any chance for Watch being serialized in Analog, too?
Thanks for asking. I'm not planning to offer Watch to Analog. It was great publicity for launching the series to have the first volume serialized there (I did the same thing with the first volume of my Neanderthal Parallax series, Hominids), but I'm not sure it makes business sense to cannibalize overall book sales of the entire series.

Analog has about 26,000 readers (paid circulation in 2008); if they all bought the paperback (not the hardcover, just the paperback) of Watch, my income would be $18,000 in royalties ... whereas Analog would pay $4,000 (at 4 cents a word) for serialization rights.

Of course, not all Analog readers will love Wake enough to want to buy Watch, but some number will. Still, even with relatively conservative numbers, it might in fact be best for me personally to sell the serialization rights (assuming they'd want them) to Analog. Some plausible sounding numbers:

1 out of every 10 Analog readers decides they liked Wake well enough that they want to read Watch, too. Of those 2,600 people, three-quarters are content to wait for the paperback and one-quarter spring for the pricier hardcover.

Then the math looks like this (my paperback royalty from Ace is 70 cents a copy; my hardcover royalty is $2.50, on the first 5,000 copies and more thereafter):

((2,600*75%)*$0.70)+((2,600*25%)*$2.50) = $2,990

But that's what I get. What about my publishers (Ace in the US, Penguin/Viking in Canada, Orion in the UK)? What's their share? On serialization rights? Nothing at all. On book sales, well, they doubtless make at least as much profit as me per book sold (even after they bear all the expenses, too -- printing, distribution, promotion, editorial costs, etc. etc.).

Yes, I could sell the serialization rights without their permission, but my publishers have advanced me a lot of money for the book rights, and I owe it to them to help them earn that money back. :)

(I do think that serializing the first book is good for everyone -- me, Analog, and my book publishers, because we have 26,000 people who have read the book now before it comes out, and they can provide good word-of-mouth for the series when the first volume starts appearing in stores next month. But I'm not sure it makes sense to serialize later volumes.)

However, fear not: unlike Tor, which has been crappy about getting my books out as ebooks, Ace is vigorous on that front, so you'll certainly be able to read Wake, Watch, and Wonder electronically.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Monday, February 23, 2009

WWW#2: Watch delivered

I delivered the manuscript today for Watch, Volume 2 of my WWW trilogy, to Ginjer Buchanan at Ace in New York and Laura Shin at Viking (Penugin Canada) in Toronto. The book will be published in April 2010.

This is my 19th novel -- a number that frankly astonishes me. :)

I'm going to reward myself by watching another episode of Battlestar Galactica on DVD tonight ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Seven RJS novels coming from

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

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

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

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

New deal with Penguin in Canada and USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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