Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Book Lover's Ball 2007

It's going to be one swanky night! I had a blast last year, and am very much looking forward to this year's Book Lover's Ball in Toronto, a gala, black-tie evening at the Liberty Grand, raising funds for the Toronto Public Library.

Ponter Bodditski

I'm pleased to announce the sale of Polish rights to all three volumes of my "Neanderthal Parallax" trilogy (Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids) to Solaris. Yay!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rob on ICE

I'll be keynote speaker at the ICE 2007 conference being held in Toronto on March 21-22, 2007. ICE stands for "Interactive Content Exchange," and the conference is billed as "the world's coolest interactive content business event."

Now, it's fair to say that I do a lot of keynotes, so I wouldn't want anyone to think I got this gig just because my broski, Alan Sawyer, is one of the organizers. :) Alan is one of Canada's top new-media gurus, and I'm really looking forward to speaking at this event.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Separating SF and Fantasy in bookstores

Got asked by a newspaper reporter in New Jersey today to comment on the "nuts" idea that a local bookseller had divided science fiction and fantasy into separate sections. Here's what I had to say:

Actually, it's not nuts at all -- nuts was when Ottawa's House of Speculative Fiction separated the male and female authors into two sections (although it was a great conversation starter!).

And, in fact, there's good precedent. Chapters/Indigo -- Canada's largest bookstore chain -- always separates science fiction and fantasy into different sections. It's an accident of US publishing history that the two genres are thought of as related: as it happens, it was Donald A. Wollheim, an SF editor, who brought out the first US edition of what was then a unique work, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. If someone else had scooped that up first, the two genres would never have been commingled.

And, really, SF has always had a lot more in common with mystery than with fantasy. Both SF and mystery prize rational thinking and deduction, and require the reader to pick up clues about what's really going on as they read the story. Fantasy and SF, on the other hand, are diametrically opposed: one is reasoned, careful extrapolation of things that really could happen; the other, by definition, deals with things that never could happen.

So, more power to your bookseller!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Action Potential

Right up to the day of the Tor sales conference, my novel Mindscan had the title Action Potential, which I thought was quite wonderful. Not only is it a cool term from neuroscience, but it also worked well with the plot of the book, since it dealt with an exploration of what actions any of us might have the potential to perform in desperate times (I'm thinking particularly of Jake taking hostages).

Well, the sales force didn't like that title, and so the book got changed to Mindscan. I can't complain; I coined that title, too (in fact, it was a rejected possible title for my much-earlier novel The Terminal Experiment).

Anyway, as I noted a little while ago, my discarded Evolving God (a working title for Calculating God) was picked up by Barbara J. King for her new anthropology book on the origins of religion.

And now I see that someone else thought Action Potential a cool title, too. Since November of 2005 (after Mindscan came out), the journal Nature Neuroscience has been using it as the title of their blog.

I am now waiting to be vindicated and see the blockbuster novel called The Grand Old Man of Physics, which was my working title for Starplex, and which my then agent convinced me to change on the grounds that it was "the worst title he'd ever heard." :)

Seriously, I wish him no ill over this; he was doubtless right that it wasn't a commerical title. Sadly, Starplex turned out to be not much better. In those pre-Google days, how was I to know that a leading maker of those little plastic collection bottles they give you to pee in when you visit the doctor is also called Starplex?

Keep Toronto Reading

February is Keep Toronto Reading month -- a celebration of the written word in Canada's largest city. Of course, I'm taking part. I'll be at the Book Lover's Ball on Thursday, February 15, 2007, and doing a free literary lunch along with Karl Schroeder on Wednesday, February 28.

You can read more about Keep Toronto Reading month here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, January 29, 2007

Visiting Janis Ian

Carolyn and I spent the afternoon with Janis Ian, the Grammy Award-winning folk singer best known for "At Seventeen" and "Society's Child." Janis lives in Nashville, Tennessee -- which is where we were getting our flight home after Chattacon (in Chattanooga).

Janis took us out for a great barbecue-chicken lunch, then we hung around her place for a few hours before heading to the airport.

Janis is a big science-fiction fan (and has an amazingly good SF book collection). She's published nine SF stories of her own, and edited (with Mike Resnick) the anthology Stars, containing SF and fantasy stories inspired by her songs (including my own "Immortality," inspired by "Society's Child").

It was fun comparing notes about the ways in which our two industries -- recording and publishing -- are similar and different (and screwed up!).

Photo: That's Janis and me, standing in from of her wall of gold and platinum records and other awards.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Chattacon 32

Carolyn and I have just finished a very pleasant weekend at Chattacon 32 in Chattanooga, Tennessee -- which is being held in the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel. I was the author guest of honor, along with Kevin J. Anderson, and Wen Spencer was the special guest. At my reading, I read a bit from Mindscan and Rollback -- and both were very well received.

I really enjoyed getting the chance to talk shop with Kevin and Wen, plus Tor author David B. Coe, author Rebecca Moesta, Edmund Schubert (the editor of Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show), Alethea Kontis from Igram, booksellers Larry Smith and Sally Kobee, SciFi Dimesnions editor John C. Snider, and others -- and, of course, talking to all the Tennessee fans. I also had a nice photo shoot session with Beth Gwinn, and judged the masquerade along with Beth and Carolyn.

All in all, a really nice time.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Birthstones cover

The next book being published under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint is Birthstones, by Phyllis Gotlieb.

The cover, designed by Karen Thomas Petherick, is magnificent. To really appreciate it, check out this PDF, which shows the full dustjacket.

We'll be launching the book on Friday, March 2, 2007, at Toronto's Ad Astra SF convention, at which Phyllis is guest of honour.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site sucks

These bastards suck. If you sign up, your email box will get flooded with messages -- not from long-lost friends, but from the service itself trying to get more money out of you.

And then, just when you think you're finally done with the sons of bitches, they send you one of these, with no advance warning at all, stealing another US$59 out of your pocket:
Thank you for your renewal! As you requested, your Classmates Gold membership was automatically renewed on January 24, 2007. The credit card on file for your account was billed US$59 for another 2 years of membership without interruption of your Gold member status.
I signed up because I was organizing a reunion two years ago, but being involved with was of negligible help.

My recommendation is to stay away from this service. And, hey, to any entrepreneur out there, you want to find the next big business niche for a social-networking site? Make a replacement for that's fun, free to end users, and easy to use. Classmates is awkward, rapacious, and won't even let you post or access email addresses -- everything must go through them. Bastards.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I hurt my coccyx ...

... which is a lot more fun to say than it is to do. :(

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Down with UPS!

(A pun that reads better on the page than said outloud ...)

Stephen Mann, a computer-graphics professor at the University of Waterloo, has very nicely articulated why we Canadians hate getting packages shipped to us by United Parcel Service. Please, please, please, use the regular U.S. mails. See what Mann has to say right here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Game designer Mike Bond reads me!

Turns out Mike Bond, lead designer on Koei’s racing game Fatal Inertia for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, is a big fan of my work -- how cool is that!

(And what great company to be in: he says his favourite authors are Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and yours truly.)

Read the interview with him, in which he names his favourite music, films, writers, etc., over at Gamasutra. Woot!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Robert Sawyer, CARB chairman

Given that I've been a low-carb dieter for almost three years now, I thought this Google news alert that landed in my mailbox today was funny:

Robert Sawyer, CARB chairman

It's a different Rob Sawyer of course ... and CARB turns out to the California Air Resources Board. :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rejected Rob

To my surprise, I'm mentioned in a column by Robert Fulford in today's National Post newspaper here in Canada. It's about writers who have had work rejected, and he cites me and Ursula K. LeGuin, among others:
Robert J. Sawyer, the highly successful Canadian science-fiction writer, recently noted that he has 142 rejection slips in his file. He usually puts a rejected story right back in the mail, on the same day, sending it off to another magazine. One story was rejected 18 times. On the 19th submission it found a good home and within days after publication was chosen for an anthology.
The story of mine he's referring to, by the way, is "Lost in the Mail," still one of my favourites. Fictionwise has it here on their RJS page, and I say a few words about it here, in a comment written at the time it was a finalist for the Aurora Award.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Monday, January 22, 2007

Off to Tennessee this weekend

Kevin J. Anderson -- who is one of my best friends in this industry -- and I are the Author Guests of Honor at Chattacon in Chattanooga, Tennessee, this weekend. My programing schedule:

Fri 7p - GOH speeches followed by reception

Sat 10a - panel with Snider, Douglas, Buettner - Post 9/11 - has SF missed the mark?

Sat 11a - reading

Sat 4p - autographs

Saturday night: masquerade judge

Sun 12p - panel with Anderson - Benevolent Dictators and Galactic Overlords (future politics)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Rob on the radio on Monday

Just a reminder that I'm on Toronto's JAZZ.FM91 tomorrow morning at 9:20 talking about the future of listening to music. The program is called Benmergui in the Morning.

And, in the interesting-coincidence department, I got an email today from Jerry Good, who had been my instructor in radio production theory back in 1979-1980 at Ryerson; he'd just finished (and enjoyed!) the NEANDERTHAL PARALLAX trilogy.

People are kind enough to say that I'm good on radio; I owe that, of course, to the wonderful radio teachers I had at Ryerson, including Jerry.

As Venus Flytrap once said: "On the air? I am the air!" :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Denny Doherty, R.I.P.

I am a huge fan of the Mamas and the Papas, and usually have a CD of theirs in my CD changer.

Denny Doherty, the Canadian member of the group, passed away on Friday, here in Mississauga. He was far too young to go; just 66.

I was telling a friend just a couple of weeks ago that one of my big regrets was missing the play "Dream A Little Dream" that Doherty wrote about the Mamas and the Papas, when it was at the Hart House Theatre in Toronto in 2001.

I will miss him, and tonight, I will listen again to his music. Nothing unusual about that, except this time, it'll make me sad.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Writers of the Future blog has some nice photos ...

... of me!

They were taken by Carolyn on the set of the Rogers Television morning show in Kicthener-Waterloo, Ontario, last Monday, where I was a guest talking about the contest (after struggling through some of the worst winter weather we've had this year to get there -- the normally one-hour drive took two, and we watched cars going off the road left and right as we carefully made our way along).

Check out the blog, and click on the little versions of the photos to see bigger ones.

(And scroll down in the blog to see more interesting stuff; for some reason, my browser is displaying a lot of blank space before the next entry there.)

Interesting facts: there are now 65,000 mass-market paperback copies of the latest volume in print, which is a huge number, and Neil Gaiman has just offered a terrific blurb:
Writers of the Future has a record of nurturing and discovering writers who have gone on to make their mark in the science fiction field. Long may it continue!

Meanwhile, on Thursday I received the latest batch of stories I'm supposed to judge for the contest ... so I better get to it!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, January 19, 2007

Rollback a Main Selection of the SFBC

I am totally thrilled and delighted to announce that my forthcoming novel Rollback will be a Main Selection of Doubleday's Science Fiction Book Club in May 2007.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Jazzy Rob

I'll be on "Benmergui in the Morning" on Toronto's Jazz FM91 this coming Monday, January 22, 2007, starting around 9:20 a.m. Toronto (Eastern) time, talking about the future of listening to and distributing music.

The show is hosted by Ralph Benmergui. You'll be able to listen online via the link on the station's web site.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Climate change added to Doomsday Clock

Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight
And I wish the Canadian government would wake up and do more to combat global warming. I'm not often ashamed of Canada's record on the world stage, but I am over this.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Publishers Weekly loves Rollback

The first review of my upcoming Rollback is in, and it's a corker: Publishers Weekly -- the trade journal for the book business -- has given Rollback a "starred review," their highest honor; starred reviews "denote books of exceptional merit."

An excerpt from the review, which is in the 15 January 2007, edition:
Canadian author Sawyer (Mindscan) once again presents likable characters facing big ethical dilemmas in this smoothly readable near-future SF novel. Sawyer, who has won Hugo and Nebula awards, may well win another major SF award with this superior effort.
Go me! :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I'm a dual U.S./Canadian citizen. I frankly don't often pay attention to U.S. holidays, since I live in Canada. But I do like to note the occurrence of Martin Luther King Day each year. Dr. King is one of my personal heroes, and I try to honor him in my work when I can.

For instance, the epigram at the beginning of Starplex is a quote from him:
Even though the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
And I have the president of the United States quote the "I have a dream" speech in this piece from Hybrids.

And Pierre quotes him in Frameshift:
"I'm not fishing for compliments here," [said Molly]. "Let me finish. I know I'm pretty -- people have told me that ever since I was a little girl. My sister Jessica has done a lot of modeling; my mother still turns heads, too. She used to say the biggest problem with her first marriage was that her husband had only been interested in her looks. Dad is an executive; he'd wanted a trophy wife -- and Mom was not content to be just that. You're the only man I've ever known who has looked beyond my outer appearance to what's inside. You like me for my mind, for . . . for . . ."

"For the content of your character," said Pierre.


"Martin Luther King. Nobel laureates are a hobby of mine, and I've always had a fondness for great oratory -- even when it's in English." Pierre closed his eyes, remembering. "`I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.'" He looked at Molly, then shrugged slightly. "Maybe it's because I might have Huntington's, but I do try to look beyond simple genetic traits, such as beauty." He smiled. "Not to say that your beauty doesn't move me."

And I give my fictional lawyer Dale Rice the privilege of knowing King in Illegal Alien:
During his sixty-seven years of life, Dale Rice had heard the name for what he was change from Colored to Negro to Black to African-American. When he'd been born, there were still people alive who had been called slave.

Dale had white hair but black eyebrows, and large pouches of skin beneath his rheumy eyes. His nose was wide and misshapen. His three-hundred-pound body resembled an Aztec step pyramid; over it, he usually wore a charcoal-gray Armani suit, the pants held up by suspenders.

His wide, smooth face had seen a lot of history. Dale had been born in Montgomery, Alabama. He was a young man in 1955 when Rosa Parks was arrested there for refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white man.

In 1961, Dale had become a Freedom Rider, testing the Supreme Court's order outlawing segregation in bus terminals. When the bus he was on pulled into Anniston, Alabama, a mob of white men with clubs, bricks, metal pipes, and knives was waiting. The bus was fire bombed, and as the black and white passengers escaped they were savagely beaten; it was during this fight that Dale's nose had been broken.

In 1963, he and two hundred and fifty thousand other people marched on Washington, D.C., and heard the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., give his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Dale Rice had known King, and he'd known Malcolm X. He knew Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan. There were those who called him the top civil-rights lawyer in the United States. Dale himself thought that was probably true; he also thought it very sad that after all this time the United States still needed civil-rights lawyers.
You probably heard a sound-bite or two today from Dr. King's speech on the mall in Washington, but if you haven't listened to the whole thing or read it all recently, it's worth doing so. It makes me misty every time I hear it. The text, and the video, are here.

Anybody in Ottawa reading this?


Anybody in Ottawa out there? The people in Ottawa I asked to pick up today's Ottawa Citizen for me are out of town, it turns out. I could really use a couple of copies of today's edition (Monday, January 15). I only need the page my article appears on (page A11). Many thanks to anyone who can help!

All best wishes.


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Michael Crichton: Stranger than Truth

I have an op-ed piece on Michael Crichton's tendency to bend the truth in his fiction in today's Ottawa Citizen, the largest circulation newspaper in Canada's capital city. You can read it online here.

(An op-ed piece is an article that appears opposite the Editorial -- that is, on the facing page; it's an opinion piece by someone other than the newspapers' editors.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Evolving God: interesting title

Barbara J. King is just about to come out with a book entitled Evolving God. As it happens, that particular title wording was one of the working titles I used for my own novel Calculating God, as you can see here.

Why did I change it, given that it was apt? Because if your eye runs over it quickly, Evolving God can look like Loving God.

Dr. King's book is about the scientific origins of religious belief, which, as anyone who has read Hybrids knows, is a particular interest of mine.

By the way. Carolyn and I listened to a wonderful anthropology course by Dr. King a while ago from The Teaching Company -- in fact, earlier we'd listened to and very favourably rated her audition lecture for The Teaching Company (which has customers review potential new courses).

Dr. King's book comes out on Tuesday; I've got it on pre-order from Amazon.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Talebones loves Boarding the Enterprise

A very nice review of Boarding the Enterprise, the Star Trek essay collection edited by Robert J. Sawyer and David Gerrold, is online now at Talebones. Check it out.


Press Release for Rollback

I have excellent publicists at Tor and H.B. Fenn (Tor's Canadian distributor); Alexis Saarela is my publicist at Tor and Janis Ackroyd is my publicist at Fenn.

But I also always do up a press release of my own for my novels, in addition to the ones they do. And that press release for Rollback is now online as a web page and as a very pretty PDF.

As I've said on my website in an article on getting good press, it's important to find a news angle for your story, because no one but your mother cares that you've written a novel. For Rollback, I'm stressing the prospects for extending the human lifespan ...


Friday, January 12, 2007

Kliatt on Mindscan

With all this talk about my upcoming novel Rollback, I wouldn't want to forget good old Mindscan, my current book.

And, as it happened, I saw a very nice new review of it today, from Kliatt, the principal reference used by schools and libraries for choosing young-adult material. Says the reviewer, Dr. Lesley Farmer:
Want to read a SF story that creates a movie in your mind? Then Mindscan should be your choice. Jake Sullivan is the appealing protagonist. This is high-quality, clever and thought-provoking near-future SF. The characters are nuanced, and the plot is believable. The story is a nonstop feast and inspiration for a great movie. Recommended.



Tweaks to the Rollback cover

The cover for Rollback has been slightly revised. The illustration is the same, but the typography is different, and even nicer). The new version looks like this:

My name is now in a typeface called Minion, and the title of the book is in Yearling Light.

The old version looked like this:

You'll find a high-res version of the new cover, in all its glory, here -- your browser may shrink it; if so, click on the image to see it full size. Note that there's subtle detail in the background -- it's not uniformly black; you may have to turn up the brightness on your monitor to see this.

Many thanks to Irene Gallo and her team at Tor for another wonderful cover!


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Coming on Monday: Rob's op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen

This Monday, January 15, 2007, the Ottawa Citizen -- the largest-circulation newspaper in Canada's capital city -- will carry an op-ed piece by me, Robert J. Sawyer, on Michael Crichton's tendency to blend fact and fiction in his books.

(An op-ed piece is an article that appears OPosite the EDitorial page; it's an opinion piece by someone other than the newspaper's editors.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A bunch of nice things

Lots of nice news in the last 48 hours. First, I'm going to be this year's Guest of Honour at GenreCon, the nifty one-day genre-fiction con held in Sarnia, Ontario; the date is Saturday, May 12. Robert Charles Wilson and I were at GenreCon two years ago for the Rob and Bob Tour for Mindscan and Spin, and we had a blast.

Second, A.Y. Jackson, a high school in Toronto, has selected my Far-Seer as the book for its school-wide "Jackson Reads" program; I'll be going in to spend a day with the students in April.

The Ottawa Citizen commissioned another op-ed piece from me -- more about that later.

Got a reprint story of mine accepted for the limited-edition anthology being put together by Stephen Jones for the Toronto World Horror Convention.

Got asked to appear on the Toronto radio program Benmergui in the Morning on Jazz FM91, to talk about the future of music-listening technology; I'll post the air date here as soon as I know it.

Received my membership reimbursement from last year's Worldcon (panelists have to buy a membership like anyone else, but if the con makes money, they get a refund).

Betsy Wollheim of DAW Books phoned, just to thank me for blurbing one of her upcoming books.

A friend gave me DVDs with copies of most of the episodes of Search, a 1972 TV series I loved that's never been released commercially on VHS or DVD.

Life be good. :)


Monday, January 8, 2007

The Robman on CBC's The Hour

CBC Television's The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos has posted the clip of me -- Robert J. Sawyer -- talking about the future of transportation which first aired Monday, January 2, 2007.

It's a funny clip in a way. They recorded me in front of a green screen, and then simply keyed in a plain white background (rather than shooting me in front of a white background to begin with). And although it's a canned piece, they played it to The Hour's live studio audience, so it ends up with a silly (but appreciative) laugh track. Anyway, here it is. (3 minutes, 45 seconds)

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Rollback pitch to the Fenn sales force

Behind-the-scenes bonus: Robert J. Sawyer's three-minute audio pitch (MP3) for Rollback, prepared for the sales force of H.B. Fenn, Tor's Canadian distributor (a short presentation by Rob on the book and its marketing, one of several such presentations about the season's major titles that the sales people receive to listen to in their cars.)  

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Opening chapters of Rollback

The opening chapters of Rollback are now available to whet your appetitie on my website as a web page, a Word document, an RTF file, and a PDF. Read 'em online, download them, print them out, or synch them to your PDA or ebook reader.

The book comes out April 3, 2007, from Tor.


Booking school visits

My buddy Edo van Belkom put me onto Authors' Booking Service, which specializes in getting authors gigs in schools and libraries in Ontario. So, if you're a teacher or librarian who'd like to have me come visit, have a look here.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Sawyer, Schroeder are predicting the future -- again

Today's Toronto Sun, along with Sun newspapers across Canada, has a long, very good article by Vivian Song, in which Robert J. Sawyer, Karl Schroeder, and Richard Worzel predict what the remaining decades of this century have in store.

(You can skip the "astrologist's" predictions that appear at the end -- the Ottawa Sun wisely chose to do just that in their version, as did the Winnipeg Sun in theirs.)

The London Free Press also has a version of the article -- woohoo!

This is completely separate from the CBC television thing I mentioned earlier, by the way.