Thursday, March 30, 2006

Surrey International Writers' Conference

I'm delighted to have accepted an invitation to be a presenter at this year's Surrey International Writers' Conference, being held just outside Vancouver, British Columbia, October 19-22. Also on the program: Donald Maass, who is one of the top agents in the science-fiction field.

The page about me at the Surrey website.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Video of a party at my place

(UPDATED: Thanks to my friend H. Don Wilkat for reprocessing the videos into smaller files.)

For those of you with entirely too much bandwidth on your hands, Marcel Gagne has provided me with two video recordings from the most recent open fandom party we held at Carolyn and my place, on Saturday, January 14, 2006. They both play nicely in Windows Media Player.

This one is 22 megabytes, and lasts about a minute and a half. It shows lots of people, and is a walk-through including my office, my living room, my sun room, and my kitchen.

And this one is just 2 megabytes, and shows all the shoes lined up outside my door.

"Identity Theft" as a web page

In addition to the other formats I've previously had my current Hugo and Nebula Award finalist "Identity Theft" available in, I've now added it as a plain, ordinary HTML web page, for those who like to read in a web browser:

All the available formats can be accessed here:

SciFi Wire on Rollback and Analog

SciFi Wire, the news service of the SciFi Channel, has a nice write-up about the sale of serialization rights for my upcoming Rollback to Analog:

Analog serializing Rollback

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Speakers' bureau

The speakers' bureau I work with -- the wonderful Speakers' Spotlight -- has updated their page about me.

Bulgarian translations online

If you read Bulgarian, you might enjoy these authorized translations of my short story "Gator" and my essay "The End of Science Fiction." And there's a bit more about me here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Analog to serialize Rollback

[Analog logo]

Stanley Schmidt at Analog Science Fiction and Fact has bought serialization rights to Robert J. Sawyer's seventeenth novel, Rollback. Analog will run the book's full text in four installments, in its October, November, and December 2006 issues, and its January-February 2007 double issue. The first installment will be on sale August 1, 2006.

"I'm thrilled to be back in Analog," says Sawyer, whose last appearance there — with the short story "Shed Skin" in the January-February 2004 issue — won the Analytical Laboratory Award, voted on by Analog's readers, for best short story of the year; "Shed Skin" was also a Hugo Award finalist.

"The single most important thing a book needs is word-of-mouth," says Sawyer. "The beauty of serialization is that on the day Rollback hits the stores in hardcover, 40,000 people will have already read it. You can't beat that kind of exposure."

That exposure has paid off handsomely for Sawyer's previous Analog serials. The Terminal Experiment, which Analog ran under Sawyer's preferred title of Hobson's Choice, won the 1995 Nebula Award for Best Novel of the Year, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award. Sawyer's Starplex was the only 1996 novel to be a finalist for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards. And his Hominids won the 2003 Hugo Award.

Rollback is Sawyer's fourth novel to be serialized in Analog — a record for serial sales to Stanley Schmidt, who has been the magazine's editor since 1978. Analog is the largest-circulation SF magazine in the world.

"For me, Analog has always been the very definition of science fiction," says Sawyer. "I started buying it when I was 12, at a corner store next to my junior high school in Toronto; the clerk kept ordering it in each month just for me after that. I fondly remember waiting eagerly for the next installment in whatever serial the magazine was then running — and it thrills me to think that people are going to be doing that with Rollback."

Following its serialization, Tor Books will publish Rollback in hardcover in April 2007 — marking 10 years of Sawyer being with Tor; it's his ninth new novel for them, and the second book on a two-book contract that began with Mindscan, which has just come out in paperback after a successful run in hardcover. Sawyer's editor at Tor is David G. Hartwell.

Here's a sneak peek at the dustjacket blurb for Rollback:

Dr. Sarah Halifax decoded the first-ever radio transmission received from aliens. Thirty-eight years later, a second message is received — and Sarah, now 87, may hold the key to deciphering this one, too ... if she lives long enough.

A wealthy industrialist offers to pay for Sarah to have a rollback — a hugely expensive experimental rejuvenation procedure. She accepts on condition that Don, her husband of sixty years, gets a rollback, too. The process works for Don, making him physically twenty-five again. But in a tragic twist, the rollback fails for Sarah, leaving her in her eighties.

While Don tries to deal with his newfound youth and the suddenly huge age gap between him and his wife, Sarah struggles to do again what she'd done once before: figure out what a signal from the stars contains. Exploring morals and ethics on both human and cosmic scales, Rollback is the big new SF novel by Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Robert J. Sawyer.

"Robert J. Sawyer is just about the best science fiction writer out there these days."The Rocky Mountain News

"One of the foremost science fiction writers of our generation."SF Site

"A writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation."The New York Times

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Monday Spotlight: Consider Her Ways

I'll be out most of tomorrow, so I'm posting this a bit early ...

I edit Robert J. Sawyer Books, which is one of Canada's handful of small-press SF imprints. I've been lucky enough to be involved with some of the other ones over the years. Back in 1997, Carolyn and I edited Tesseracts 6 for Tesseract Books (now part of EDGE Publishing), and in 2001 I wrote the introduction for one of the volumes of the Bakka Books imprint, which sadly no longer exists. But that intro is our Monday Spotlight this week, highlighting one of the 500+ documents on my website at my thoughts on one of the early classics of Canadian SF, Frederick Philip Grove's Consider Her Ways.

My week

Sometimes you just need to get away from the ringing phones and all that jazz ...

Carolyn and I hopped in the car on Tuesday morning and went down to my dad's vacation home on beautiful Lake Canandaigua, one of the Finger Lakes in Western New York, for some peace and quiet. The place is perched on a cliff right on the edge of the lake, and the development is mostly deserted in the winter.

Friday night, we tuned into the Sci-Fi Channel (which we can't get in Canada; we get the terrific Canadian alternative, Space: The Imagination Station, instead), and watched two episodes of the new Doctor Who (the series aired a year ago in Canada, but I didn't see all the episodes then). Actually, I'd see one of these episodes (the one about the people gathering on a space station to watch the Earth be incinerated as the sun expanded billions of years from now), but the other -- with Charles Dickens -- was new to both of us. Anyway, they were both terrific.

And on Saturday, we went into Rochester, New York (about an hour away), to catch an absolutely terrific production of one of my all-time favorite plays, Inherit the Wind, at the Geva Theatre. The Clarence Darrow character was played by JG Hertzler, known to Star Trek fans as Klingon General Martok from Deep Space Nine. He was excellent, as was John Pribyl, the fellow who played the William Jennings Bryan character. It was a truly excellent production, much better than the one I saw at Stratford (Ontario) a few years ago. (Pictures.)

Today, we drove home (about four hours) listening to an unabridged reading of The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, which is just terrific.

Tomorrow, I'm off to York University, to speak to Paul Fayter's class. Paul is teaching Mindscan this semester. And on Tuesday, I'm doing another episode of More 2 Life with Mary Ito on TVOntario -- that's live in Ontario at 2:00 p.m.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Encyclopaedia Britannica rebuts Nature

Encyclopaedia Britannica has issued a lengthy -- and fascinating -- rebuttal to the report in Nature magazine that said that Britannica was not significantly better than Wikipedia.

"Nature’s research was invalid. As we demonstrate below, almost everything about the journal’s investigation, from the criteria for identifying inaccuracies to the discrepancy between the article text and its headline, was wrong and misleading. Dozens of inaccuracies attributed to the Britannica were not inaccuracies at all, and a number of the articles Nature examined were not even in the Encyclopædia Britannica. The study was so poorly carried out and its findings so error-laden that it was completely without merit. We have produced this document to set the record straight, to reassure Britannica’s readers about the quality of our content, and to urge that Nature issue a full and public retraction of the article."

The full rebuttal is here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

RJS Hugo stats

This is my tenth Hugo nomination; my third nomination since winning the best-novel Hugo in 2003 for HOMINIDS (subsequent ones were for the novel HUMANS, the short story "Shed Skin," and now for "Identity Theft"); my third nomination for short fiction (previous ones were for the short stories "The Hand You're Dealt" from the anthology FREE SPACE and "Shed Skin" from ANALOG and THE BAKKA ANTHOLOGY); and my fourth consecutive year being on the Hugo ballot.

In total, I've been on the Hugo ballot in nine out of the past eleven years. My Hugo nominations are:

1996 for The Terminal Experiment

1997 for Starplex

1998 for Frameshift and "The Hand You're Dealt"

1999 for Factoring Humanity

2000 for Calculating God

2003 for Hominids

2004 for Humans

2005 for "Shed Skin"

2006 for "Identity Theft"

Hugo Award finalist!

I'm delighted to announce that my "Identity Theft" is a Hugo finalist in addition to being a Nebula finalist. Woohoo! The full list of Hugo finalists is on the Locus Online website.

You can read "Identity Theft" free online through Fictionwise or on my website (the versions on my website are printable). See this entry of my blog for the links.

Monday, March 20, 2006


There are lots of programs for the PC, the Palm, and other platforms that make use of Princeton's WordNet database, turning it into a dictionary (which isn't what it was meant to be, but still ...). Of all the Windows ones, I like WordWeb best -- and it's free. It lives in my system tray, and I use it for quick word lookups.

(In case you didn't know, "sawyer" means: 1. One who is employed to saw wood, or 2. Any of several beetles whose larvae bore holes in dead or dying trees especially conifers.)

New Scientist Podcasts

I really like these -- and not just because Ivan Semeniuk, my old buddy from Discovery Channel Canada, is one of the contributors:

New Scientist Podcasts

"Identity Theft" at Fictionwise

As part of its promotion of Nebula Awards nominees, my novella "Identity Theft" is now available as a free ebook in all standard ebook formats from

For the current week, I'm featured right on the Fictionwise main page:

And if you prefer other formats, the full text of "Identity Theft" is available thorugh my website as:

an unrestricted (printable) PDF file

a Microsoft Word document

an RTF file



Monday Spotlight: Letter to Beginning Writers

Time for another Monday Spotlight, pointing out one of the 500+ documents on my web site at

I often get writers asking me very basic questions via email, and so I've put together a canned response. If you're a wannabe writer, you might find my Letter to Beginning Writers useful. Best of luck!

25,000 messages!

Holy Moses! My news group at passed the 25,000-message mark yesterday! The group was founded in May 2001, and now has over a thousand members. Come have a look!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Capricorn One soliloquy

You don't often see soliloquies in movies, and everyone says you shouldn't have them in books, either. But I like them -- Antony's funeral oration from Julius Caesar is one of my favorite bits of theater. Well, here's a nice long soliloquy from an SF film: 621 words spoken uninterrupted by Hal Holbrook as the Director of NASA in one of my favorite films from the 1970s, Capricorn One. It's all one long speech:

Okay, here it is. I have to start by saying that if there was any other way, if there was even a slight chance of another alternative, I would give anything not to be here with you now. Anything. Bru, how long have we known each other? Sixteen years. That's how long. Sixteen years. You should have seen yourself then. You looked like you just walked out of a Wheaties box. And me, all sweaty palm and deadly serious. I told everybody about this dream I had of conquering the new frontier, and they all looked at me like I was nuts. You looked at me and said, "yes."

I remember when you told me Kay was pregnant. We went out and got crocked. I remember when Charles was born. We went out and got crocked again. The two of us. Captain Terrific and the Mad Doctor, talking about reaching the stars, and the bartender telling us maybe we'd had enough. Sixteen years. And then Armstrong stepped out on the Moon, and we cried. We were so proud. Willis, you and Walker, you came in about then. Both bright and talented wise-asses, looked at me in my wash-and-wear shirt carrying on this hot love affair with my slide-rule, and even you were caught up in what we'd done.

I remember when Glenn made his first orbit in Mercury, they put up television sets in Grand Central Station, and tens of thousands of people missed their trains to watch. You know, when Apollo 17 landed on the Moon, people were calling up the networks and bitching because reruns of I Love Lucy were canceled. Reruns, for Christ's sake! I could understand if it was the new Lucy show. After all, what's a walk on the Moon? But reruns! Oh, geez!

And then suddenly everybody started talking about how much everything cost. Was it really worth twenty billion to go to another planet? What about cancer? What about the slums? How much does it cost? How much does any dream cost, for Christ's sake? Since when is there an accountant for ideas? You know who was at the launch today? Not the President. The Vice-President, that's who. The Vice-President and his plump wife. The President was busy. He's not busy. He's just a little bit scared. He sat there two months ago and put his feet up on Woodrow Wilson's desk, and he said, "Jim. Make it good. Congress is on my back. They're looking for a reason to cancel the program. We can't afford another screw-up. Make it good. You have my every good wish." His every good wish! I got his sanctimonious Vice President! That's what I got!

So, there we are. After all those hopes and all that dreaming, he sits there, with those flags behind his chair, and tells me we can't afford a screw-up. And guess what! We had a screw-up! A first-class, bona-fide, made-in-America screw-up! The good people from Con-Amalgamate delivered a life-support system cheap enough so they could make a profit on the deal. Works out fine for everybody. Con-Amalgamate makes money. We have our life-support system. Everything's peachy. Except they made a little bit too much profit. We found out two months ago it won't work. You guys would all be dead in three weeks. It's as simple as that. So, all I have to do is report that and scrub the mission. Congress has its excuse, the President still has his desk, and we have no more program. What's sixteen years? Your actual drop in the bucket! All right. That's the end of the speech. Now, we're getting to what they call the moment of truth. Come with me. I want to show you something.

David Feintuch, R.I.P.

SF author David Feintuch died on Friday. I didn't know him well, but I always enjoyed it when we ran into each other, and I was very fond of him.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Tanya Huff TV series

Tanya Huff is one of my oldest and dearest friends -- we first met when were both students at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto in 1979. So I am just so totally tickled pink that Canada's Space: The Imagination Station has ordered 22 hour-long episodes of a TV series based on Tanya's popular Blood books. Way to go, Tanya! I'm also thrilled for my mystery-writing friend Maureen Jennings, who got a 13-episode order for a series based on her books. Woohoo! Here's the Toronto Star report:

Three new series for CHUM
Mar. 17, 2006. 01:00 AM

CHUM Television has ordered three new one-hour TV drama series for the fall and cancelled two others.

The Murdoch Mysteries from Shaftsbury Films, starring Peter Outerbridge, has been picked up for 13 episodes. Based on Maureen Jennings's novels and set in late-Victorian Toronto, the casting may prove to be a problem. Outerbridge already stars in another Shaftesbury series, ReGenesis. Will he be able to fit in two hour-long series a year?

Also picked up is Blood Ties, based on Tanya Huff's popular Blood novels. This one-hour series has a commitment for 22 episodes and will be shot in Vancouver with casting still to be announced.

Also picked up is the hour drama Across The River To Motor City about an insurance investigator in 1960s Windsor and Detroit. Six episodes have been ordered.

CHUM also cancelled two Canadian dramas. Demise of The Collector was expected but not the stylish Godiva's, which had garnered some critical praise in its second year, as well as popularity with younger viewers.

-- Jim Bawden

Scientific Advisory Board

I'm pleased to be joining Ray Kurzweil, David Brin, Gregory Benford, and two -- count 'em, two -- Nobel Laureates (physicist Frank Wilczek and economist Sir Clive W.J. Granger), among others, on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Lifeboat Foundation. The Lifeboat Foundation describes its purpose thus:

The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, dedicated to ensuring that humanity adopts the powerful technologies of genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics safely as we move towards the Singularity. This humanitarian organization is pursuing all possible options, including relinquishment when feasible (we are against the U.S. government posting the recipe for the 1918 flu virus on the internet), and helping accelerate the development of defensive technologies including anti-biological virus technology, active nanotechnological shields, and self-sustaining space colonies in case the other defensive strategies fail.

Book launch at Toronto's Ad Astra

Join us for the launch of A Small and Remarkable Life, the first novel by Hugo and World Fantasy Award finalist Nick DiChario, at Ad Astra, Toronto's annual science-fiction convention, Friday, March 31, at 8:00 p.m. in the Reflections Room of the Crowne Plaza Toronto Don Valley Hotel, 1250 Eglinton Avenue East.

We'll also be celebrating the second anniversary of Robert J. Sawyer Books. Bakka-Phoenix will be on-hand to sell copies, and we'll also be unveiling the trade-paperback reissues of our earlier titles by Marcos Donnelly and Andrew Weiner. Refreshments will be served.

"With a persistence and sensitivity worthy of his quirky hero, DiChario quietly explores the big questions: faith, love, hope, and the true nature of reality. A must for everyone who cares about good fiction." -- Hugo Award-winner Nancy Kress

"I've been waiting a long time for this book. Hell, everyone has been waiting a long time for this book." -- Nebula Award-winner Mike Resnick, from his introduction

"Nick DiChario has the uncanny ability to evoke strangeness from the commonplace and to make the small loom large indeed. Here is a deeply moral science fiction novel that will appeal to readers of all persuasions." -- Hugo Award-winner James Patrick Kelly

Robert J. Sawyer Books is the science-fiction imprint of Red Deer Press, a Fitzhenry & Whiteside company.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The #1 Sawyer in the world ...

... at least according to Google. To my astonishment, I discovered by accident today that if you search on "sawyer" at, I'm the first hit. Take that, Diane Sawyer! Bite me, Tom Sawyer! In your face, Sawyer Brown! :)

Hominids on Edmonton Journal Bestsellers List

Those Neanderthals just keep rollin' along. Hominids was number nine on the Fiction bestsellers list published in The Edmonton Journal last weekend; The Journal is the major paper in the capital city of Alberta, Canada. Not bad for a book that's coming up on four years old!


1. (2) Saturday -- Ian McEwan

2. (-) Gilead -- Marilynn Robinson

3. (-) The Brown Family -- Mark Kozub-

4. (3) Angels & Demons -- Dan Brown

5. (5) Three Day Road -- Joseph Boyden

6. (-) The Continuity Girl -- Leah McLaren

7. (-) The Mobile Library -- Ian Sansom

8. (-) The Five People You Meet in Heaven -- Mitch Albom

9. (-) Hominids -- Robert J. Sawyer

10. (-) The Time Traveler's Wife -- Audrey Niffenegger


1. (1) The Judgment of Paris -- Ross King

2. (-) Hold Onto Your Kids -- Gordon Neufeld

3. (-) Night -- Elie Wiesel

4. (2) Riding with Rilke -- Ted Bishop-

5. (-) Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to Do With Pigs -- Katherine Barber

6. (-) Marley & Me -- John Grogan

7. (7) Greetings from Cool Breezes -- Jeananne Kirwin-

8. (-) The Gift of Reading -- David Bouchard

9. (-) A Million Little Pieces -- James Frey

10. (-) Collapse -- Jared Diamond

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hominids nominated for Ontario Library Association award

Headline: Robert J. Sawyer science-fiction novel nominated for Ontario Library Association Award

The Ontario Library Association has unveiled the ten-book shortlist for its second annual readers'-choice Evergreen Award. On the list: the science-fiction novel Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer.

The shortlist was compiled from titles nominated by librarians. Readers will vote for their favorite book during Ontario Public Library Week (October 16-22, 2006) through library Web sites and branch ballot boxes. Between now and then, the shortlisted books will be promoted in libraries provincewide.

To be eligible for the Evergreen Award, books must be by a living Canadian author, and can be either fiction or nonfiction. Sawyer's Hominids is the only genre-fiction novel to make the shortlist this year. Last year's winner was the novel Crow Lake by Mary Lawson.

At 12.5 million people, Ontario is the most-populous of Canada's ten provinces -- home to four out of every ten Canadians. It contains both Canada's capital city of Ottawa and its largest city, Toronto; the 99-branch Toronto Public Library -- just one of the systems participating in the Evergreen Award program -- is the busiest public-library system in North America, with 325,000 patrons borrowing over half a million books each week.

The complete short list, alphabetical by author last name, is:

Three Day Road
by Joseph Boyden
Penguin, 2005

The Greek for Love
by James Chatto
Nonfiction (travel memoir)
Random House Canada, 2005

An Audience Of Chairs
by Joan Clark
Alfred A. Knopf, 2005

Snowshoes and Spotted Dick: Letters From a Wilderness Dweller
by Chris Czajkowski
Nonfiction (memoir letters)
Harbour Pub., 2003

Sweetness In The Belly
by Camilla Gibb
Doubleday Canada, 2005

The Girls
by Lori Lansens
Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2005

Race Against Time
by Stephen Lewis
Nonfiction (CBC Massey Lectures)
Anansi, 2005

Lady Franklin's Revenge
by Ken McGoogan.
Nonfiction (Biography)
HarperCollins Canada, 2005

Paul Moves Out
by Michel Rabagliati
Young-Adult Fiction
Drawn & Quarterly, 2005

by Robert J. Sawyer
Science Fiction
Tor Books, 2002

Hominids previously won the World Science Fiction Society's Hugo Award -- the top international prize for SF writing -- and was the "One Book, One Community" choice for Waterloo Region (consisting of the Ontario cities of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge, and surrounding communities) in 2005. Sawyer is also currently a finalist for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Nebula Award for Best Novella of the Year.

Sawyer, 45, was born in Ottawa and now lives in Mississauga, Ontario. Hominids was his thirteenth novel; his latest -- number sixteen -- is MINDSCAN. Both are published by Tor Books, New York, and distributed in Canada by H.B. Fenn and company.

Information about the Evergreen Award is here:

The online version of the shortlist is here:

Information on Hominids:

Book Club discussion group guide for Hominids:

Monday, March 13, 2006

Interview on author web sites

I did a via-email interview today for the newsletter of the Canadian Authors Association on the topic of author web sites:

Robert J. Sawyer of Mississauga, Ontario, is one of only sixteen writers in history to win the science-fiction field's top two awards: the Hugo Award for Best Novel of the Year (which he won for The Terminal Experiment) and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Nebula Award for Best Novel of the Year (which he won for Hominids). He gave the keynote address at the 1997 Annual Meeting of the Canadian Authors Association, and wrote the article about science fiction for The Canadian Writer's Guide: Official Handbook of the Canadian Authors Association.

1. When do you think is a good time for a writer to create his or her web site?

You need a website a few months before your first book hits the stores. Prior to that, it doesn't really do any good -- no one is going to go looking for it. Yes, there are occasional stories of writers who have posted work on the web, and then found a traditional publisher via that route, but that is about as common as winning the lottery -- and, just as likely, a print publisher will say they don't want your book now that it's been given away on the web.

2. What features are necessary? What unnecessary features do you commonly see on other writers' web sites?

Most necessary of all: an easy, memorable URL. I have both and registered, with both pointing to the same website. When I started out, my website was at -- and, quite rightly, no one went to see it; my buddy Kevin J. Anderson made his about that time, and I realized I needed something short and sweet, too. Don't use a name that's tied into your current book, though. My friend John E. Stith did that with back when his current novel was Reunion on Neverend, but now that's hardly the book people think of when they think of him.

Unnecessary: a "welcome" page -- one of those silly "click here to enter" things; Flash animation or other visual distractions.

3. What three items are most important to place on a web site?

You need: a bio; a good, publication quality author photo (linked from a smaller thumbnail) -- see mine at; sample chapters; the book cover; and an email link for yourself. Everything else is optional.

4. How has your site help your career and exposure?

It's been huge -- but, remember, I've had the site for over ten years now, and it's got over a million words of material on it. I sell thousands of dollars worth of copies of my own books through my website each year, have had speaking engagements and writing assignments worth tens of thousands of dollars come to me because of it, been quote in a page-one article in USA Today because of it (and been that newspaper's online edition's Writer of the Month because of it), and, of course, most important of all, attracted a lot of new readers.

5. What was the biggest hurdle in creating your site? in attraction visitors?

Creating the website: zero hurdles. It's easy, inexpensive, and anyone can do it.

To attract visitors you need to rank highly on Google. I wanted to make sure if anyone searched on either "Robert J. Sawyer" or "science fiction writer," they'd find me (it's searches on the latter that resulted in most of the good things I mentioned in the previous answer). Learn to use Meta tags (keywords embedded in the code for your web page), and make sure you frequently repeat the terms you want Google to rank you on. Look at my main page at and count the times "science fiction writer" and "Robert J. Sawyer" appear; there are times when an easier flow for the text might have suggested me writing "SF writer" and just "Rob," but I don't do that -- I hammer the terms that I want Google to find. The only individual science-fiction writer who has a page rank higher than me on Google right now is Robert A. Heinlein, and I'll gladly take a back seat to him any day.

Also, put your website name everywhere: on your book's jacket, in your "about the author," on your letterhead, and on your business cards (you do have those, don't you? -- if not, get some; mine are from, but, for God's sake, pay the few bucks for the ones without their advertising on the back; you're a professional, not a pauper).

6. If you could caution a writer who wants to build a web site against one thing, what would that be?

Falling into the "Field of Dreams" trap of thinking, "If I build it, they will come." No, they won't -- not unless you publicize the URL, design a page that Google will rank highly, and, ideally, offer a reason other than just promoting your book for people to come. By far the most popular things on my website, besides the information about my own books, are my columns on how to write:

Italian Mindscan

I'm pleased to report that Italian rights to my novel Mindscan have sold to Mondadori. Woohoo!

Monday Spotlight: Outline for Neanderthal trilogy

There's a discussion going on right now in my Yahoo! Groups newsgroup about outlining novels -- and so I thought it would be approprirate for today's Monday Spotlight to highlight the outline from which the entire "Neanderthal Parallax" trilogy (Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids) sold to Tor. It was quite a short outline to sell three books with, but, hey, it did the trick! (This article also discusses why I decided to commit trilogy ...)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Top ten things to know about Square One

When people in the Greater Toronto Area ask me where I live, I tell them, "Just north of Square One" -- which is a shopping mall in Mississauga, the 650,000-person city adjacent to Toronto that I live in (Pearson International Airport is actually in Mississauga, not Toronto). Here are ten facts about Square One:

1. With the reclassification of the West Edmonton Mall as an entertainment complex, Square One is now the largest retail shopping centre in Canada.

2. Square One was in existence before Mississauga. With the shopping centre's grand opening in October of 1973, this makes it one year older than Mississauga, which was incorporated in 1974.

3. Square One is home to the largest Wal-Mart in the world (two floors and 220,000 square feet).

4. Square One was originally to be named "Huron Square".

5. Nance MacDonald, General Manager for Square One, was the youngest female mall manager in Canada when she was appointed to the position in 1978.

6. Square One cost $44 million to build--a bargain figure, at the time!

7. Before a big meeting to attract Bay Street "suits" to invest in the construction of Square One, one of the members of the original management team had to chase a herd of cattle out of the company's parking lot!

8. In 1978, Square One received the Energy Conservation Recognition Award for its innovative computerized temperature control system, the first in a Canadian mall.

9. Square One was the official emergency evacuation centre when a freight train carrying propane fuel derailed creating an explosion that threatened the community with its toxic fumes in 1979.

10. In 1980, at their Los Angeles convention, The International Council of Shopping Centres presented a special Maxi award to Square One for its major assistance during the Mississauga Train dereailment crisis.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Table of Contents for Boarding the Enterprise

The table of contents for Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek edited by David Gerrold and Robert J. Sawyer, coming in August 2006 from BenBella Books:

Welcome Aboard the Enterprise
Robert J. Sawyer

The Trouble With Trek
David Gerrold

Star Trek in the Real World
Norman Spinrad

I Remember Star Trek . . .
D. C. Fontana

All Our Tomorrows
Allen Steele

The Prime Question
Eric Greene

We Find the One Quite Adequate
Michael Burstein

Who Am I?: Personal Identity in the Original Star Trek
Lyle Zynda

What Have You Done With Spock’s Brain?!?
Don DeBrandt

Lost Secrets of Pre-War Human Technology
Lawrence Watt-Evans

Exaggerate with Extreme Prejudice
Robert A. Metzger

To Boldly Teach What No One Has Taught Before
David DeGraff

Who Killed the Space Race?
Adam Roberts

Alexander for the Modern Age
Melissa Dickinson

How Star Trek Liberated Television
Paul Levinson

Being Better
Howard Weinstein

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

By Dawn's Early Light

I really like this HBO TV movie, which stars (among other people) Darren McGavin, who just passed away, Martin Landau, and James Earl Jones. Gripping from beginning to end, and has it on for $6.99 on DVD. Right up there with Dr. Strangelove and Fail-Safe as far as films about the brink of nuclear war go ... is live

I finally got around to installing as a synonym for -- either one will take you to my website. :)

Monday, March 6, 2006

Hugo nomination deadline is this Friday

Just a polite reminder for those who were members of last year's Worldcon in Glasgow or are members of this year's Worldcon in Los Angeles that the Hugo voting deadline is this Friday (end of the day).

I hope you'll consider my novel Mindscan, published by Tor, and my novella "Identity Theft" from Down These Dark Spaceways -- "Identity Theft" is a current Nebula nominee.

Hugo nominators can find the full text of "Identity Theft" here as a PDF file and here as a Word document.

Of course, I'd be nothing without my editors: David G. Hartwell (who edited Mindscan) and Mike Resnick (who edited "Identity Theft") are both eligible in the Best Editor category -- and Mike, of course, is eligible for his fiction, too. And I have to say that Stephan Martiniere deserves a Hugo nomination for his wonderful work, which included the Mindscan cover.

SF writers and blogging

Carol Pinchefsky has written a very good article about SF writers and blogging, which includes quotes from me, for Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. You'll find it here.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Monday Spotlight: Jesuit Brothers

I used to make my living writing nonfiction. Twenty-one years ago this month, an article I wrote appeared in, of all things, Compass: The Jesuit Journal. I'd been hired by the Jesuits of Upper Canada to write an article about what it's like to be a Jesuit Brother; back then, I didn't know any, although today Vatican astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno is a friend of mine. To do the aritcle, I spent a "Day with the Jesuit Brothers" -- two decades on, it's still a day I fondly remember.

A contest for new writers

I think this is a very worthwhile short-story contest for emerging writers. It's held annually in conjunction with Con-Version, Calgary's SF convention, but submissions are open to anyone. The contest is named in honour of my great friend and writing student Robyn Herrington, who died two years ago.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Science Friday with Octavia Butler and David Brin

A very good half-hour podcast from NPR's Science Friday is here. It's hosted by Ira Flatow, and features Octavia Butler, who died last week, plus David Brin and Lawrence Krauss, on the occasion of the opening of the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle.

(I myself was a guest on Science Friday once, along with Leonard Nimoy and John Cramer, back in 1998; that one's only available in RealAudio, but you can still listen to it here, if you have the free RealPlayer installed.)

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Introduction to Boarding the Enterprise

The introduction to Boarding the Enterprise, coming in August 2006 from BenBella Books:

Welcome Aboard the Enterprise

by Robert J. Sawyer

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" (Season 2-Episode 24), 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" (1-28), 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!