Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy Birthday to me!

Sunday, April 29, 2007, was my 47th birthday, and I happened to be in Calgary, Alberta, a good waystation on the Rollback book tour (I was en route from Winnipeg to Vancouver; my actual event in Calgary is this coming Wednesday, May 2, 2007).

I spent most of my birthday at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, as part of the crew manning the booth for Con-Version, the Calgary SF convention that occurs each summer.

Since Kirstin Morrell is chair of Con-Version this year and also managing editor of Red Deer Press, the company for which I edit the Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint, the Con-Version booth was also selling the titles from my line (with Con-Version getting a cut).

We took a break for a late brunch at Nick's, a Calgary steak house, which is where the pictures below were taken (I'd forgotten to bring my regular camera, so these were taken with the little camera on my Sony Clie TH55 PDA):

Bruce Herrington; my novel Rollback is dedicated to his late wife Robyn Herrington, who was one of the most gifted writing students I've ever had

Kirstin Morrell, chair of the SF convention Con-Version 23 and Managing Editor of Red Deer Press

Val King, one of my writing students from a workshop in Calgary in 1996, and Randy McCharles, chair of next year's World Fantasy Convention in Calgary

Danita Maslan, author of the novel Rogue Harvest, published by Robert J. Sawyer Books

Special guest Abe Simpson, who was along to remind Rob that he wasn't really old yet!

Randy McCharles and science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer

First thing Monday morning, it was off to the Calgary Airport for my trip to Vancouver -- but I made a quick stop at the Coles bookstore there (which was open before 8:00 a.m.!), and signed their nice supply of copies of Rollback

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Check out the "The Page 69 Test" for my novel Rollback.

And there's more of interest here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, April 28, 2007

"I love Robert J. Sawyer's brain. Really, I do."

So begins the full-page article "Reeling in the years: Sci-fi hero Robert J. Sawyer's Rollback finds taint in the fountain of youth" in the Thursday, April 26, 2007, edition of FFWD (Fastforward), Calgary's free arts and entertainment weekly. It's a great piece -- part review of Rollback, part interview with me -- by Hugh Graham. Those in Calgary: pick up a copy! And don't forget to come to my reading at McNally Robinson there on Wednesday, May 2, at 7:00 p.m.

Winnipeg tour

The second phase of the Rollback book tour started yesterday (Thursday, April 26, 2007). This is the by-plane part, and I'll be hitting these Canadian cities over the next eight days: Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Saskatoon. Details are here.

The trip got off to a propitious start: the little bookstore at Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto had a nice face-out display of Rollback.

I was picked up at the Winnipeg airport by Bev Geddes, who was one of my writing students at the Banff Centre last September. After a quick lunch, Bev took me to the Shaw TV studios in Winnipeg, were I did an interview. We then had dinner with Chadwick Ginter, the SF buyer for McNally Robinson in Winnipeg; his girlfriend Wendy, who also works at McNally Robinson; and Judy, H.B. Fenn's Calgary sales rep, at a great place called Cafe Carlo.

Then at 7:00 p.m., I did my reading and signing at McNally Robinson. After that, it was off for a radio interview on CJOB at 10:00 p.m. -- and then the next morning (Friday, April 27, 2007) I appeared on Winnipeg CITY-TV's Breakfast Television, then high-tailed it for the Winnipeg airport, and flew from there to Calgary, Alberta, where I'm spending the weekend before heading off to Vancouver first thing Monday morning.

Some pictures:

Rollback face out at the airport bookstore in Toronto

Joanne Kelly of Shaw TV in Winnipeg records an interview with Rob; the interview will air every hour for 24 hours starting at noon Winnipeg time on Monday, April 30

Wendy and Chadwick from McNally Robinson; Robert J. Sawyer; Judy Parker from H.B. Fenn, Tor's Canadian distributor

Krista from McNally Robinson, who introduced Rob to the packed audience before his reading

Rob reading at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg

A wonderful banner in the window of McNally Robinson -- these guys know how to promote an event!

Winnipeg writer Bev Geddes who escorted Rob on his touring in that city -- despite being on crutches! -- at the end of the day

Jon Ljungberg, the host of Winnipeg's Breakfast Television, interviews Robert J. Sawyer bright and early on Friday, April 28

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy

Tee Morris's Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy podcasts Robert J. Sawyer from Ravencon -- for almost an hour! -- right here.

(This was in fact the Guest of Honor interview with me, conducted by Tee, at Ravencon in Richmond, Virginia, last weekend.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

No rest for the wicked!

My one day in Toronto was spent doing media -- three interviews, to be precise: Sounds Like Canada on CBC Radio One, which went fabulously; a half-hour phone for KAOS-AM in Olympia, Washington, which was also great; and a really pleasant face-to-face interview with The Mississauga News, the local newspaper here.

Tomorrow, I set out on Phase Two of the Rollback book tour: the by-plane part across Canada. Please come on out and see me at these events:

# Reading from and signing Rollback
McNally Robinson at Grant Park
1120 Grant Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Thursday, April 26, 2007, 7:00 p.m.

# Reading from and signing Rollback
White Dwarf Books
3715 West Tenth Avenue
Vancouver, British Columbia
Monday, April 30, 2007, 7:00 p.m.

# Reading from and signing Rollback
Audreys Books
10702 Jasper Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta
Tuesday, May 1, 2007, 7:30 p.m.

# Reading from and signing Rollback
McNally Robinson
120 8th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta
Wednesday, May 2, 2007, 7:00 p.m.

# Free Public Lecture
Mary Donaldson Memorial Lecture
Frances Morrison Library
(the main branch of the Saskatoon Public Library)
311-23rd Street East
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
(Book sales on site courtesy of McNally Robinson)
Thursday, May 3, 2007, 7:30 p.m.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sailing Time's Ocean review

A nice review of Terence M. Green's Sailing Time's Ocean, published under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint is here at Andy's Anachronisms.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Minister Faust interviews Robert J. Sawyer

Minister Faust is one of Canada's best SF authors (his latest is From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, published by Del Rey). He's just posted a lengthy interview with Robert J. Sawyer on his blog, The Original BRO-Log; the article also appears in the April 26 edition of Edmonton's VUE, the weekly arts newspaper there.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Indigo email promotion

Indigo -- the big Canadian bookstore chain -- sent out this email to its iRewards loyalty-program members who are interested in science-fiction titles. Nice to be featured up front!

(Many thanks to my high-school buddy Ted Bleaney who pointed this out to me.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Is speculative literature an endangered species?

I'm quoted in this article on that topic. Author Mike Collins quotes part of what I said in response to his email question; here's my full response:
I don't think there is a decline in reading per se; more people are reading more books than ever before -- all the stats show that. However, they're reading fewer different titles; everyone is looking for a sense of community in our fragmented world, and so wants to read the things that others are reading. There simply weren't runaway bestsellers like HARRY POTTER and THE DA VINCI CODE in an earlier era; those books shattered all previous sales records.

It's pointless to talk about the decline in reading "speculative" fiction, because there's no section in the bookstore labeled that -- and, after all, HARRY POTTER and THE DA VINCI CODE, along with Michael Crichton, Audrey Niffenegger, Neil Gaiman, and Christopher Paolini are all broadly "speculative," and they're all doing just fine, thank you very much.

What we're talking about is the decline of the commercial publishing category known as science fiction, and the fault for that, by and large, lies with the publishers and the authors. SF has become increasingly self-referential, smug, and inaccessible to newcomers. Without bringing new readers in, and keeping them, the field is being whittled away by natural attrition of its established readership base -- the trend is a straight line, down into the toilet, and it's going to be very, very hard to turn it around at this point.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sounds Like Canada

I'm going to be on CBC Radio One's Sounds Like Canada with Shelagh Rogers tomorrow morning (Wednesday, April 25, 2007) -- one of Canada's most-popular radio programs, heard coast-to-coast in Canada. Of course, we'll be talking about my just-released 17th novel Rollback.

I'm arriving at the Toronto CBC studio at 9:45 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday -- so that's the earliest the interview can be aired; I think the show is time-delayed in some parts of Canada, and I suspect I'm not going on until after the 10:00 a.m. Eastern time newscast. But, wherever you are, you can listen online to CBC Radio One's live audio feed; in fact, you can probably hear the interview multiple times, by picking an appropriate local CBC feed. Try the Toronto feed between 9:45 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., and you'll hear me.

I've been on Sounds Like Canada before, but this time the interview is particularly apt. Sarah Halifax, the SETI researcher in Rollback, is interviewed on Sound Like Canada, in chapter 14:
"We'd been so wrong," Sarah told Shelagh Rogers the next morning. Don wasn't the Toronto sound engineer for Sounds Like Canada -- Joe Mahoney was doing that these days -- but Don stood behind Joe as he operated the board, looking over Joe's shoulder at Sarah.

And, while doing so, he reflected on the irony. Sarah was in Toronto, but Shelagh was in Vancouver, where Radio One's signature program originated -- two people who couldn't see each other, communicating over vast distances by radio. It was perfect.

"Wrong in what way?" Shelagh's voice was rich and velvety, yet full of enthusiasm, an intoxicating combination.

"In every way," Sarah said. "In everything we'd assumed about SETI. What a ridiculous notion, that beings would send messages across the light-years to talk about math!" She shook her head, her brown hair bouncing as she did so. "Math and physics are the same everywhere in the universe. There's no need to contact an alien race to find out if they agree that one plus three equals four, that seven is a prime number, that the value of pi is 3.14159, et cetera. None of those things are matters of local circumstance, or of opinion. No, the things worth discussing are moral issues -- things that are debatable, things that an alien race might have a radically different perspective on ..."

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

The Very Small Array

After our visit to the Smithsonian, Carolyn and I knocked 500 km off the 1,000 km of our trip home to Toronto, arriving north of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, at 8:30 p.m. at the country home of Paul Shuch and Muriel Hykes. Paul is Executive Director Emeritus of The SETI League.

Paul is mentioned in Rollback, and is a huge SF fan. He and Muriel very nicely put us up for the night, and then we hit the road for the final leg of the trip back to Canada. But last night, Paul sang several of his filk songs to us, and this morning he showed off the Very Small Array, his collection of eight 1.8-metre radio telescopes in his backyard.

Paul Shuch in his basement lab

Robert J. Sawyer in front of the Very Small Array

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Don D'Ammassa reviews Rollback

Don D'Ammassa has weighed in with his review of my Rollback. Don is the long-time reviewer for Science Fiction Chronicle. Says Don, "Thoughtful, low key, and convincing. One of Robert Sawyer's strongest points as a writer is that his characters are always real people. Sawyer has repeatedly shown that he can portray very dramatic situations in an effective but unmelodramatic fashion."

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, April 23, 2007


Why my life rocks:

We stayed overnight Sunday, April 22, 2007, at the country home of Smithsonian paleontologist Mike Brett-Surman and Smithsonian exhibit designer Kim Moeller. On Monday morning, April 23, 2007, we got up at 5:45 a.m., and were out the door by 6:20 a.m., in hopes of beating the bulk of the traffic on the 60-mile drive into Washington, D.C.

We succeeded, getting there by about 7:40 p.m -- almost two and a half hours before the museum opened to the public. Mike had arranged for parking for us right at the Natural History Museum, and he gave Carolyn and me a private tour of the paleontology galleries -- we were the only ones in them! We also got a chance to see the Hope Diamond before anyone else came into its gallery.

After that, we got the behind-the-scenes tour of vertebrate paleontology, which was spectacular. And then Russell Feather, the head of the Smithsonian's gem collection, took us into the fabled (and closed to the public) Blue Room there, where we got to see the best of the gems that aren't on public display -- and from there, Russell took us into the vault, where truly valuable specimens are kept, and Carolyn got to try on over a million dollars worth of jewelry.

Then Carolyn and I headed off to the National Air and Space Museum, where we ogled the Apollo 11 command module, and headed to the lower level of the gift shop, which is where the 11-foot original filming miniature of the U.S.S Enterprise from classic Star Trek is on display. Of course, we'd seen the old girl before (15 years ago, at the 25th anniversary Star Trek exhibition at the Smithsonian), but I was particularly interested in seeing it again now that we have our own one-quarter scale Master Replica's duplicate of the filming miniature; I must say, I appreciate the detailing on the one we have even more after seeing the original again.

We then headed back to the Natural History Museum for lunch with Mike and Kim (in the staff restaurant -- much cheaper than the public one!). Then we said goodbye to our friends, and walked (in 85-degree heat!) to the World War II Memorial, the one memorial on the Mall that wasn't there the last time we were in Washington; it's magnificent. I only wish we'd had more time -- I would have liked to have made my way down to the Vietnam Memorial again, which figures so prominently in my novel Humans, but we had to hit the road, for the first leg of our two-day trip back home to Toronto.

Private tour of the dinosaur gallery; Robert J. Sawyer on left, Mike Brett-Surman on right

Mike loses a hand to a hungry theropod

Behind-the-scenes treasures in the paleontology department; they keep the Ark of the Covenant one aisle over

Carolyn Clink strikes gold in the Blue Room at the Smithsonian

Gemologist Russell Feather, Robert J. Sawyer, Mike Brett-Surman, and Kim Moeller at the Smithsonian

Carolyn Clink trying on priceless jewelry

The real thing: United Federation of Planets Starship U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701, no bloody A, B, C, or D

The World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Ravencon / Barnes and Noble

Carolyn and I had a great time at Ravencon in Richmond, Virginia. The convention is only in its second year, but it is clearly on its way to being one of the great regionals. I heard various attendance figures quoted; something approaching 700 people seems to be the right number (although, as is often the case at cons these days, a good hunk of those were gamers).

On Sunday, I was on two panels: one on AI, and the other on whether hard SF is still central to the science-fiction field. Then Carolyn and I had lunch with the artist Guest of Honor Steve Stiles and his wife, and then made a final circuit through the dealers room (chatting with Bud Webster; one of the highlights of the con for me was getting to spend some time with him). At 2:00 p.m., we hit the road -- with a passenger. Alexandria fan Keith Lynch, who often attends my kaffeeklatsches at Worldcons, needed a lift, and that's where we were headed, so we were happy to oblige.

My reading at Barnes and Noble in Alexandria wasn't as well attended as I'd have liked, but 5:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon is a lousy timeslot (although it was all I could fit into my schedule), plus it was an absolutely gorgeous day, and the entire store was deserted when I arrived -- I can't blame people for not wanting to be indoors! The SF reading group associated with the store had promised to come out in force, but only one member arrived in time for the start of my event (and only one more showed up by the end). Still, we had a nice audience of other people, and I was pleased to learn that the book club's reading choice for the previous month had been my Flashforward. Some of the people who did come out for the event came (they said) because of an events listing in The Washington Post; others, because of the in-store publicity; others still because of the notice on my website.

After the reading, Carolyn and I drove back to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to stay once more at the gorgeous river-side country home of paleontologist Mike Brett-Surman and his wife Kim Moeller, where we spent Sunday night. Mike and Kim have been great hosts -- thanks, guys!

Photos from the Barnes and Noble event:

A nice poster announcing the signing

Rob's youngest fan

Robert J. Sawyer signing books

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Jamie Rubin's Ravencon report

New writer Jamie Rubin had a great time at Ravencon, and I'm thrilled that I was part of it. Read Jamie's con report here.

"An early candidate for sci-fi book of the year"

... says The Kansas City Star of Robert J. Sawyer's Rollback in this review.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Ravencon rocks!

Ravencon, in Richmond, Virginia, is excellent -- a great science-fiction convention. I'm Author Guest of Honor here, and am being treated like royalty; it's very nice. :)

A few images:

My Kaffeeklatsch at noon today in the hotel restaurant. At left, Larry Hodges, one of my students from last year's Odyssey workshop

Guest of Honor interview, conducted by Tee Morris (on the left)

Another impassioned reading from Rollback

Revealing the "World's Best Phi-Fi Writer" T-shirt, a gift from Montreal fan Debi Ancel, in recognition of Rob's belief that the genre should really be called "philosophical fiction"

Fans lined up out the door at Rob's autographing session.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, April 20, 2007

Library of Congress

My talk at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., went well yesterday (Thursday, April 19) -- Carolyn said I was on fire. There's lots of security for federal buildings in Washington, but we were on the appropriate lists, and indeed had a parking space waiting for us, once we got through the very intimidating barriers, right out from of the Library of Congress.

My talk, "Science Fiction as Mirror for Reality," went over well, and gave rise to a lively Q&A. I was introduced by Colleen Cahill, of the Library of Congress. Present in the audience were Larry Hodges, once of my students from the Odyssey Workshop last summer; Dr. Michael K. Brett-Surman, the dinosaur specialist from the Smithsonian; and Sinya Shaeffer, a retired LoC librarian who had arranged for my previous talk at the Library of Congress in 1999. A person from the LoC gift shop was present to handle book sales.

After, a dozen of us went to a local Chinese restaurant for a wonderful lunch. Then Carolyn and I drove Mike Brett-Surman out to his wonderful home right on the Rappahannock River in rural Fredericksburg, Virginia; Carolyn and I stayed overnight there with Mike and his wife Kim Moeller; Kim also works at the Smithsonian, in exhibit design.

We had a great dinner out with Mike and Kim, and I gawked at their great collections of SF memorabilia and dinosaur art.

This morning (Friday, April 20, 2007), Mike and Kim took us sight-seeing, showing us some of the Civil War sites in and around Fredericksburg, then Carolyn and I hit the road for the hour-and-a-half drive to Richmond, for Ravencon, the science-fiction convention there at which I'm guest of honor this weekend.

Washington, D.C. -- but where is Klaatu?

The Library of Congress -- shhhh!

Librarian Colleen Cahill introduces Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer giving his talk "Science Fiction as a Mirror for Reality" ...

... in which Rob makes the point that "science fiction" might be better called "philosophical fiction" -- not sci-fi, but phi-fi -- causing him to reveal the T-shirt he was wearing, which says, "World's Best Phi-Fi Author," a gift to Rob last October from Montreal fan Debi Ancel.

Rob signs a book for retired LoC librarian Sinya Schaeffer

Dr. Michael K. Brett-Surman (the dinosaur specialist at the Smithsonian) and Carolyn Clink at the Chinese lunch after Rob's talk

Kim Moeller, Mike's wife, is a big Doctor Who fan; her license place commemorates the home planet of the Cybermen

Kim Moeller, Mike Brett-Surman, and Carolyn Clink visiting a Civil War site in Fredericksburg

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

QuillBlog has photo of Rob's hand

... as you can see here. :) There's also a link there to more photos from the Bakka-Phoenix launch for Rollback.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, April 19, 2007

40-minute radio interview online tonight

I will be interviewed tonight (Thursday, April 19) about Rollback for 40 minutes live (via phone) on CHED AM630 radio in Edmonton, Alberta, on the Lesley Primeau show. You can listen in real-time live on the internet. Just go to the CHED page, and click on "Listen Live."

The interview will run live starting at 7:05 p.m. EDMONTON TIME (which is Moutain time) -- that's 9:05 p.m. Eastern Time (Toronto/New York).

My publicist, the wonderful Janis Ackroyd, says Leslie always does amazingly good interviews.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

SciFi Wire interview

Rollback is the SciFi Channel's "SciFi Essential Book" for the month of April. And today, SciFi Wire, the news service operated by the SciFi Channel, put up a new interview with me about the book. Check it out!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hominids film option

I'm delighted to announce that Pebblehut Productions of Toronto has renewed their option on the film rights to my novel Hominids through to the end of a third year. Yay!

Hominids won the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novel of the Year.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Barnes and Noble event

Carolyn drove us 650 km today to get from New Hampshire to the Barnes and Noble in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, while I poked at my next novel Wake on my laptop. It was a day of tight schedules, so it was just fast food: Wendy's for lunch (their new chicken salad sandwich is quite good); Arby's for dinner (hey, I didn't know they had mozzarella sticks -- one of my secret vices).

We picked this Barnes and Noble store for a stop on the Rollback tour because my friend Walter Hunt recommended it, based on a successful event he'd had there -- the store has an active SF reading group called "Watch the Skies." Jeff of B&N organizes it, and was my terrific host for the evening.

As it happened, tonight was the reading-groups regular meeting, and they came out in force. All in all, a very pleasant evening that started with me signing at the front of the store for 45 minutes, then moving to the back to address the reading-group meeting. I did another reading, then we had a great Q&A. At the end, members of the club had thrown names of SF books into a bowl -- the titles being nominated for being the one everyone would read for their June meeting. I was asked to pick the winning title out of the bowl, and I did -- and I swear I didn't peek! The winner: Hominids by one Robert J. Sawyer. (Next month, they're doing Phobos by my pal Ty Drago.)

At the B&N, I bought a "Portable Professor" course on "Great Trials of the 20th Century" (Scopes, Sacco/Venzetti, Simpson, and 11 more) presented by Alan M. Dershowitz. I've long a big fan of the lectures packaged by The Teaching Company; I haven't tried Portable Professor yet, and am looking forward to it (both companies package university-level courses on audio).

After leaving B&N, Carolyn drove us another 150 km to our hotel, near Washington, DC, where I will give a talk at the Library of Congress tomorrow.

The signing table

Another impassioned reading off my Palm OS handheld ...

... to a nice, big crowd.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Toadstool, ho!

The book tour for Rollback continues.

Carolyn and I drove from Albany, New York, to Milford, New Hampshire, today. We'd been worried about the weather, but although we got a lot of rain, we didn't run into anything nasty, even as we went through the Berkshires; indeed, we got within 10 km of our destination before we had problems -- having to detour around a flooded section of Highway 101A.

On the way, we stopped for lunch in Bennington, Vermont, at a terrific new pub called Carmody's. As we continued along, it became obvious that we'd be arriving in New Hampshire much earlier than expected, so we pulled over in a small town and I sniffed around for an unsecured wifi connection. Finding one, I sent an email to Lois Ava-Matthews (formerly Lois Powers), who used to work at the Toadstool Bookstore and now runs the dealer's room for Readercon. I emailed her my cell number, and she called a few minutes later. She took us out for a wonderful dinner at Georgio's in Manchester. Then we went to the Toadstool, where I gave a reading and talk about Rollback. The crowd was small, but very appreciative and friendly.

Today was Carolyn's birthday, and Lois had gotten a cake and we all sang "Happy Birthday." And Lois gave me the store's copy of Publishers Weekly with the cover story on SF that begins with an interview with me; I'd only seen the online version and was very happy to get this.

Carolyn and I then drove for another hour, taking a hunk out of the 800 km we have to cover before tomorrow night. We passed the 1,000 km mark on our tour today.

I noted that my digital camera, which I bought on October 28, 2004, took its 10,000th picture this evening -- a number that would have been inconceivable in the days of film. If I threw out the camera now, which cost me Cdn$300, the cost per photo would work out to just three cents -- also a number inconceivable in the days of film.

Speaking of pictures, it's time to get caught up:

Robert J. Sawyer and host Bob Smith at WXXI-AM in Rochester, NY, on Monday, April 16; the hour-long interview on this NPR affiliate was fabulous

It's not all Rollback; here Rob signs a copy of his short-story collection Iterations at Flights of Fantasy in Albany

Sidewalk sign outside The Toadstool Bookshop in Milford, New Hampshire

At Toadstool, Rob signs a book for longtime fan Jeff Lyons while a new fan named Greg looks on

Carolyn Clink, birthday girl!

Carolyn's cake -- yum!

Rob finally got a of the April 2, 2007, issue of Publishers Weekly that interviews him

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Off to New Hampshire ...

... despite the flooding!

Tour update: the hour-long interview yesterday on WXXI 1370 AM in Rochester, New York, was great, as always. The drive from Rochester to Albany, New York, was a bit hairy, with lots of snow, but we made it in plenty of time for my evening reading at Flights of Fantasy. A good event, and I was pleased to see old friends jan howard finder (known as "the Wombat" in fannish circles) and Joe Berlant, the chair of this year's World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Carolyn and I stayed at the Microtel in Albany (watching with interest to see how Jon Stewart would handle the horror in Virginia on The Daily Show; his approach, to deal with it briefly in his opening, was the right one, I think). Carolyn and I, of course, are shocked and very saddened -- and we're en route to Virginia; I'm Guest of Honor at Ravencon in Richmond this weekend.

This morning, I did a half-hour via phone on the Woody Woodland Show on WSMN 1590 AM in Nashua, New Hampshire. New Hampshire has had massive flooding, and Woody himself -- the host -- was also phoning in his half of the interview, because the bridges were out. But he says I'll have no trouble making it to my signing tonight at 7:00 a.m. at the Toadstool Bookstore in Lorden Plaza, tonight at 7:00. But we've got to drive through mountains (the Berkshires to get there, and the weather doesn't look great ...


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rob to receive honourary doctorate

Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, has announced its 2007 list of recipients of honourary doctorates. I'm thrilled to be on the list, and will receive my honorary doctorate of letters on Saturday, June 2, 2007.

I've known about this since January 23 of last year, but only now am I seeing who else is getting doctorates at the same series of convocations (see below).

I am delighted to be on the list with all these fine people, but am particularly humbled and thrilled by the presence of Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine -- the nine African American students who courageously entered Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, on September 25, 1957, becoming the first black students ever to attend that previously all-white school. Those brave souls have always been heroes of mine, and I actually started to cry while I was telling Carolyn who else was on the honourary-doctorate list.

Here's the press release from Laurentian:

Laurentian University Announces Honourary Degree List

Laurentian University has announced the people who will receive honourary degrees at nine convocation ceremonies from May 29 to June 2, 2007.

About 2,200 people will graduate during the ceremonies. All nine spring convocation ceremonies will be webcasted at The following people will receive honourary degrees:

Bruce Mau, Doctorate of Letters, May 30, 2007, 10:00 a.m.

Sudbury-native Bruce Mau founded a design studio in Toronto in 1985, which is today one of the foremost and innovative design firms in the world: Bruce Mau Design Inc. After studying science and engineering at Laurentian University for one year, Bruce Mau immersed himself in the arts program of the Ontario College of Art & Design, but left prior to graduation to join the Fifty Fingers design group in 1980. After a brief sojourn in the UK, he returned to Toronto and became part of the founding group of Public Good Design and Communications. He left soon after to establish Bruce Mau Design Inc. and went on with a staff of brilliant thinkers to develop and design branding campaigns for Indigo Books and Roots, multi-billion marketing and communication strategies for a development project in Tokyo, Japan, and a biodiversity museum in Panama with the accomplished architect Frank Gehry. Bruce Mau believes that design helps us understand what we are doing to ourselves and to our world and that its power can be used to transform all aspects of daily life.

Minnijean Brown Trickey, Doctorate of Laws, May 31, 2007, 10:00 a.m.

Better known as one of the Little Rock Nine, Minnijean Brown Trickey entered the civil rights movement and America's consciousness when she passed through the front door of a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. She was one of a group of African-American teenagers who, under the gaze of 1,200 armed soldiers and a worldwide audience, faced down an angry mob to integrate Central High. This historic event was the beginning of her lifelong crusade for the rights of minorities. In the early 1960s, Minnijean Brown Trickey moved with her husband to northern Ontario. She became one of the charter members of the Native Human Services program at Laurentian University, earning her bachelor degree in 1991 and her masters (from Carleton) in 1994. Today, Minnijean Brown Trickey's courses, lectures, articles and reports provide audiences with a fascinating exploration of social change, diversity and the battle against discrimination and racism. Director Rob Thompson and producer, Maria Youngmee Shin, created a documentary of her life in 2000, and a monument was erected in her honour in Little Rock, Arkansas, for being part of the desegregation movement in the United States.

Pierre Bélanger, Doctorate of Laws, May 31, 2007, 2:30 p.m.

A graduate of Laurentian, Pierre Bélanger is a well-known entrepreneur in northeast Ontario and northwest Quebec. His devotion to the regions' economic development, education and environment is authentic and highly respected. In the early 1970s, he co-founded the Coopérative des artistes du Nouvel-Ontario (CANO), the major driving force behind the artistic and political birth of Franco-Ontario, At the same time, Pierre Bélanger inaugurated one of the first bison ranches in Ontario, Bisons du Nord Ontario Inc. His meat products are reputed and highly appreciated by the fine gourmets of the region and beyond. Pierre Bélanger is also the owner of a flourishing recreational vehicle trade business that has contributed in its early days to the success of the famous Boler Trailor Factory. Between 1983 and 2002, he was owner of the Earlton Zoo, a major tourist attraction in Ontario. In terms of community development, Mr. Bélanger has constantly been involved in regional and provincial economic development councils. In October 2005, he was named president of the Board of administrators of the Réseau de développement économique et d'employabilité du Canada (RDÉÉ Canada) and copresident of the Comité national de développement économique et d'employabilité.

Silken Laumann, Doctorate of Laws, June 1, 2007, 10:00 a.m.

Four-time Olympian Silken Laumann is one of Canada's most inspirational leaders, a best-selling author and a highly recognizable and beloved Canadian athlete. As the reigning world champion rower, she fought back from a devastating training accident to win a bronze medal in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, a moment that endeared her forever to Canadian sports fan. Silken Laumann was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1998, having won three Olympic medals and four World Championships. Although her competitive rowing career ended in 1999, her ability to inspire continued. In November 2003, she combined her passion for sport and youth by establishing The Silken Laumann Active Kid's Movement, a national charity to improve the quality of life for our children. She has also been Chairman of the International Board of Directors for the Right to Play, an international development agency dedicated to reintroducing play into the lives of children in refugee camps around the world. In 2006, Silken Laumann published Child's Play, an inspirational and simple guide to reconnecting with our kids through play, which has become a Canadian best-seller.

John Robert Cunningham, Doctorate of Science, June 1, 2007, 2:30 p.m.

John Robert Cunningham is one of Canada's most distinguished medical physicists. His contribution to medical radiation physics has earned him widespread recognition in our country and abroad. Former chief clinical physicist at the Ontario Cancer Institute and professor of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto, he developed innovative methods for radiation dose calculations used to treat cancer patients. He is still active as a consultant and an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta in the Department of Medical Physics. Dr. Cunningham has authored and co-authored an impressive number of books, chapters and scientific articles, including the seminal textbook The Physics of Radiology. Throughout his career, he has generously shared his expertise with students and colleagues and has served as a member of numerous national and international committees. Dr. Cunningham is a founding member and fellow of the Canadian College Physicists in Medicine, Fellow of the Canadian Association of Physicists in Medicine and a Fellow of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine. In September 2005, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Robert J. Sawyer, Doctorate of Letters, June 2, 2007, 2:30 p.m.

Called "the dean of Canadian science fiction" by The Ottawa Citizen and "by any reckoning, one of the most successful Canadian authors ever" by Maclean's, Robert J. Sawyer is one of only seven writers in history -- and the only Canadian -- to have won all three of the science-fiction field's top awards for best novel of the year. He's also won the top science fiction awards in Canada (nine times), Japan (three times), Spain (three times), and France, as well as an Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada. He is the author of 17 bestselling novels, including Calculating God, Flashforward, and Rollback. His Hugo Award-winning Hominids and its two sequels, Humans and Hybrids, are set in and around Sudbury, and feature the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory and Laurentian University. Robert often mentors new writers, and has taught writing at Ryerson, the University of Toronto, and the Banff Centre. He is also a frequent science commentator for Discovery Channel Canada, CBC Newsworld, and CBC Radio. Robert Sawyer was born in Ottawa in 1960, and now lives in Mississauga with his wife, poet Carolyn Clink.

[I was nominated for the honourary doctorate by Dr. Michael Emond, of Laurentian's department of psychology.]

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, April 15, 2007

CJAD interviews Rob

By kind permission of Peter Anthony Holder, the host of Holder Tonight on CJAD, Montreal's number-one newstalk radio station, here's a 20-minute interview with me talking about Rollback that first aired on Saturday, April 14, 2007. I think it's a terrific interview. Peter is a big SF fan, and asked wonderful questions.

Peter has been a great supporter of my work. He first interviewed me way back on June 19, 1997, talking about my then-current novel Frameshift, and has repeatedly had me on since. Thanks, Peter!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

U.S. Book Launch for Rollback

The drive down to the United States from Canada was fine and fast, with no hassles at the border. And the U.S. launch party for Rollback at Write Book and Gift in Honeoye Falls, New York, went really well -- in some ways better than yesterday's Bakka-Phoenix event.

The store is co-owned by Hugo finalist Nick DiChario, whose novel A Small and Remarkable Life I published under the Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint I edit for Fitzhenry & Whiteside. The store is two storeys tall, and the upper floor is used as a function space.

Nick and co-owner Dan Plumeau had set that space up for today with rows of chairs, and a nice raised stage for me. It was more comfortable for everyone than the standing-room only event at Bakka, and beside my reading I was able to do a lengthy and lively Q&A. We had 60 or more people show up -- which is great for a store in the middle of nowhere when the weather is crappy.

I was particularly touched that some friends who had to travel a considerable distance came: Dr. Richard Wilber, from Lewiston, NY; Chuck McGraw and Mark Garland from Syracuse, NY; and Dr. David DeGraff from Alfred, NY (David was an astronomy consultant for Rollback, and he teaches my Mindscan in his "Science in Science Fiction Course" at Alfred University). Nick's parents and aunt took care of providing refreshments (including wonderful, home-baked cookies).

After the signing, a bunch of us (including all those named above) headed out to The Brewery, Honeoye's pub. Astonishingly, despite a big, unruly group that showed up unannounced, the server got every single order correct. Also astonishing, for such a large group, was that when everyone threw in their money at the end to cover their portion of the bill, we ended up hitting the total (which had had 15% gratuity added on for the large group) exactly the first time out. And what was on the pub's TV but the this week's digitally remastered episode of classic Star Trek; for a number of people in our group, it was their first time seeing any of the new CGI effects (sadly, though, the episode was the awful "And the Children Shall Lead"). All in all, a wonderful event -- and Wayne Brown recorded the whole thing for the Rochester cable-access SF program Reality Fast Forward.

Carolyn and I spent the evening in Brockport, NY, at the home of Marcos Donnelly and his wife, Vikki. Marcos's Letters from the Flesh was the very first book published under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint. At their house, I did a phone interview with a reporter for FFWD ("Fast Forward"), the weekly arts paper in Calgary, Alberta, to promote my reading there on Wednesday, May 2, 2007. And during the day, I recorded separate interviews with Nick and Marcos, which will be turned into podcasts for the Robert J. Sawyer Books website.

Window display, with great poster of the Rollback cover provided by Tor

Mark A. Garland, Robert J. Sawyer, Chuck McGraw

Nick DiChario introducing Rob Sawyer

The crowd -- woohoo!

Rob signing books

The group that went to dinner; Rick Wilber at left

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Free Wifi on the New York State Thruway


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rob on Rochester, NY, NPR affiliate

That's Bob Smith, the host of 1370 Connection on the Rochester, New York, National Public Radio affiliate. I'll be the guest for a full hour tomorrow, Monday, April 16, 2007, starting at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. You can listen in real time here on the internet, or over the air in Rochester at 1370 AM. The topic, of course, is my 17th novel, Rollback. Bob always does fabulous interviews -- he reads the book cover to cover, and is very insightful.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Ed Kramer

Paula Guran documents the plight of my friend Edward E. Kramer here. Thank you, Paula! It's appalling how the horror-fiction and science-fiction communities have conveniently forgotten about Ed.

(I wrote four commissioned stories for anthologies edited by Ed; if you liked my stories "The Hand You're Dealt," "Peking Man," "Fallen Angel," or "Above It All," you have Ed to thank for their existence.)

Ed has had an invitation, which I reiterate every time I phone him, to come for a vacation at Carolyn and my place in Toronto, as soon as his current nightmare is over. Paula's stature in the horror field is huge, and I'm very pleased she's speaking up. Harlan Ellison also has been a great supporter of Ed through this ordeal, as has Bill Fawcett and Jody Lynn Nye. But the silence of so many others has been truly disgusting.

Besides his wonderful work as an anthologist, Ed is the co-founder of Dragon*Con. He is a gentleman, a gentle genius, and my friend. A nice bio of him is here, and tons about the criminal, unconscionable treatment of him by the authorities in Georgia is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, April 14, 2007

More pictures from the Rollback launch party

The official launch party for Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer was held today at Toronto's Bakka-Phoenix Books, where Rob worked 25 years ago.

Sadly, most of my pictures didn't turn out, but here are a few that did -- more or less. :)

Two of my favourite people in the world: Chris Szego, the manager of Bakka-Phoenix, and Janis Ackroyd, my fabulous publicist from H.B. Fenn, Tor's Canadian distributor

Robert J. Sawyer and Chris Szego

Rob reading from Rollback

The attentive -- and huge! -- audience.

Rob listening to how to spell an unusual name.

Rob with Raymond Alexander (who is Tuckerized as the Astounding Alexander in Flashforward) with a certificate he made for me that says, "If you continue to Flashforward eventually you will Rollback and then you can enjoy."

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Photos from the Bakka-Phoenix book launch

... are on Flickr, in the Quill and Quire photo pool. The ones by "Harbourlight" from today are from my launch -- that's the online name of Gene Wilburn; you can also see the pictures on Gene's page (where they're laid out better).

The launch was a huge success, and a very auspicious start to my book tour! I was amazed at the range of people who came out: two of my high-school English teachers, many of my former writing students, my mom, a couple of fans who came from Chicago for the event, some old high-school buddies, people from Quill & Quire (the Canadian publishing trade journal), people from H.B. Fenn and Company (Tor's Canadian distributor), the administrator of Berton House, other writers, and many more.

Bakka was packed, and the place was hoppin'. And we sold a ton of books! :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Student questions about Calculating God

It's the time of year when high-school students are doing book reports. I'm always flattered when one of them chooses to do something about one of my books -- and sometimes the students send me questions, which I do try to answer. The set of questions below came to me from a 17-year-old grade-11 student, who had decided to do his Independent Study Unit on my year-2000 Hugo-nominated novel Calculating God.

The first question I have is about your writing process. I am interested to know what your writing process is. For instance do you first pick a theme, then a choose a setting, then create the characters, and finish off with the plot? Or do you have a different writing process?

I'm totally thematically driven. I decide what philosophical issue I want to tackle first, research that in depth, and only then create the characters. Even then, they're not locked in stone. I'd written the first 100 pages or so of Calculating God before it occurred to me to go back and give Tom Jericho (who was originally named Bob Jackson) cancer, as a way of giving him a personal stake in the philosophical issues.

The second question I have is on your writing style. For instance, do you try to use a lot of stylistic devices? Do you always use a certain perspective within your novel? Does your novels usually contain side stories? Is sci-fi the only genre you include, or is there other genres that are mixed in with your novels?

I try for a clear, clean, simple prose style, very much in the manner of my writing idols, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Some of my novels are written from the third-person perspective, but for Calculating God I chose first person, because it made Tom's plight more immediate by letting us get inside his head. I definitely riff on works outside of the science-fiction genre, though; there's a lot in Calculating God that draws on the play Inherit The Wind, for instance. And I usually do have side stories or subplots, although there's not much of that in Calculating God.

My third question is on Calculating God. Where did you get the inspiration to come up with the setting, plot, themes, and characters located within Calculating God?

I was doing an enormous amount of reading about evolution and about criticisms of it (including Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution), so, as always for me, the idea and theme came from my nonfiction reading. The setting was the Royal Ontario Museum simply because I always loved that place (and, indeed, like Tom, I was a member of the ROM's Saturday Morning Club as a kid, and the story of Tom making a Parasaurolophus marionette for a ROM contest really happened to me). Also, I'd become very interested in the idea of loyalty and friendship in adverse times, and wanted to explore that in a fictional context -- hence the relationship between Tom and Hollus.

My last question is taken from the third question in the Reading Group Guide on Calculating God located on the website Do you believe that science and religion should be completely separate? Or do you believe that science and religion are two sides of the same coin -- two different ways of explaining our world?

Actually, I believe that science trumps religion, and that ultimately only what's provable, real, nonsupernatural, and objective matters in the end. In this, I'm much more on the side of Richard Dawkins than Stephen Jay Gould. See my essay here.

(More about Calculating God)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, April 13, 2007

Screen Captures from The Agenda

I was on TVOntario's The Agenda with Steve Paikin last night talking about neuroplasticity. You can get the whole program online, but here are a few screen captures:

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

McNally Robinson opening Toronto store

Woohoo! The wonderful Western Canadian bookstore chain McNally Robinson will be opening a store in Toronto, at the revamped Don Mills Centre, in August 2008.

This will give them stores in Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Manhattan, and Toronto. I love McNally Robinson!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Video podcast of The Agenda

Last night I was a guest on TVOntario's The Agenda -- an amazing program that devotes a full hour (no commercials, even!) to an indepth discussion of a single topic. The topic of last night's show: neuroplasticity.

For those who missed it, you can download the whole show as a 128 MB MP4 video file from this direct link, or select the program in video or just audio via a variety of RSS, iTunes, and podcasting links here. The one with me on it is "April 12 2007: Norman Doidge | The New Brain." I come in, as part of a lively panel discussion, at about the 20-minute mark.

More on this particular episode, and my fellow panelists, is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Quill at Bakka

Of course, Bakka-Phoenix Books subscribes to Quill & Quire, the Canadian publishing trade journal, for the store's own use, but it's not a magazine they normally carry for sale. But, because I'm on the cover and Bakka manager Chris Szego wrote an article for the May issue, they've brought in 20 copies for sale at my book launch for Rollback there on Saturday, April 14, at 3:00 p.m. in Toronto -- so here's your chance to get a copy of Rob Sawyer, cover boy! :)

(All the superstores in the Chapters / Indigo chain carry Quill & Quire, too, so you can also get it there -- but wouldn't you like a copy autographed by me and Chris?)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

And the CBC just called ...

... so I just did a quick-and-dirty phoner for Radio One about the sad passing of Kurt Vonnegut. Of course, I did my best to place him in the context of science fiction. I'm sorry to see him go.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rob on TVOntario's THE AGENDA tonight

I will be one of the guests on TVOntario's flagship current-affairs program The Agenda tonight.

The show is hosted by Steve Paikin. The topic is neuroplasticity -- the ability of our brains to do things evolution never designed them for, and to recover from severe damage.

From the producer: "It'll start off with a one-on-one interview with Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist and author of the recently published The Brain That Changes Itself. Following that there is going to be a discussion about the cultural implications of a brain no longer being seen as kind of a machine but a malleable organ. Beyond the help that new techniques can offer to those with brain-related injuries or deficits, the question we want to raise is what are the implications of a culture with even more malleable idea of personality and identity.

"The other participants are Bruce Wexler, a Yale psychiatrist and author of Brain and Culture; Jordan Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto; Judy Illes, a leading neuro-ethicist from Stanford; and Hugo Award-winning science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer, the author of Rollback."

The Agenda airs live tonight -- Thursday, April 12, 2007 -- at 8:00 p.m. throughout Ontario on TVOntario, and will be repeated again at 11:00 p.m. tonight, and then tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 5:00 a.m. The show last one hour. A video podcast will also be available.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Albany, New York, appearance

Just a note that my appearance in the Albany area is this coming Monday, April 16, 2007. The date is right both on my website and the website for Flights of Fantasy, the store I will be signing at, but the day of the week is wrong on the Flights of Fantasy site (where it says April 16 is a Wednesday).

Flights of Fantasy
488 Albany-Shaker Road
Loudenville, New York
(Near Albany)
Monday, April 16, 2007, 7:00 p.m.

Note from the store: "If you would like to join us for a dutch treat dinner with Rob, meet at the store at 4:45pm. Dinner will be at 5:00pm followed by the discussion and signing at 7:00pm."

By the way, I just did a great live interview on the Don Weeks Morning Show on Albany radio WGY to promote the event.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Calculating God film option

I'm pleased to announce that film rights to my Hugo Award-nominated novel Calculating God have been optioned by Rampage Entertainment in Vancouver.

For those who are curious, my properties currently under option are Hominids, Mindscan, The Terminal Experiment, the novella "Identity Theft" and its sequel "Biding Time," and now Calculating God.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


No sooner am I set up on MySpace than people start telling me Facebook is where all the really cool folks hang out now! Well, I'm happy to be both places. On MySpace, I'm here, and on Facebook I'm here.

Facebook asked for a favourite quote, and I always think this is good advice, so it's what I listed:
Beware the beast Man, for he is the devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport, or lust, or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him. Drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death." -- Planet of the Apes

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

A quick-and-dirty interview

I've been doing a lot of by-email interviews with newspapers and magazines to help promote Rollback. Most of these are done in a single, quick session at the keyboard. Here's a sample one I did last week for a paper in Richmond, Virginia (tying in to my appearance as Guest of Honor at Ravencon there, starting nine days from now).

How do you balance your creative writing life with the demands of marketing and book tours such as your planned 18-city tour this spring? Will you need a rollback when it's finished?

Totally! It's going to be an exhausting trip. But, then again, this is my 17th novel, so I'm sort of used to it by now. I write one book a year, on average, and end up spending one month out of that year on promoting the newest book. In no way is a book tour a vacation -- the itinerary is just crammed with bookstore and media events -- but it actually is something I look forward to. Writing is a lonely profession -- just you and the keyboard -- and touring gets me out of the house once a year to remind myself that there are people who care about my books; it's my time for being super-social, and I find it simultaneously exhausting and invigorating -- a strange combination!

Can you tell a little about creating your new book, Rollback? What sort of research and background reading did you do before sitting down to write it?

Rollback is about rejuvenation -- about making people physically young again. As a science-fiction writer, I'm constantly doing research, and I typically spend four months doing nothing but research for each new novel. I already knew a lot about genetics from writing a previous novel, Frameshift, so I didn't have to research that aspect, but I did read everything I could find on programmed cell death, telomeres (the little endcaps on chromosomes that grow shorter each time a cell divides -- when they're reduced to nothing, the cell dies), oxidation and free radicals (a couple of the things that cause aging), and so on. This actually hearkens back to the very first science fiction novel, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Victor who wanted to reverse death, says, "To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death." Well, I wanted to reverse aging, so first I had to understand it.

Rollback is also a novel about the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Again, that's something I've written about before, including in my novel Factoring Humanity, but I did a lot of research about possible ways of encoding information into complex messages, and that was quite fascinating.

Are there any social issues of the day that you think speculative fiction writers should be willing to take on?

You've got it exactly backwards! There are no social issues of the day that speculative fiction writers should not be willing to take on. In my own books, I've dealt with abortion issue, capital punishment, racism, sexism, affirmative action, gay rights, recovered memories of childhood abuse, corruption within the church, the politics of war, 9/11, creation vs. evolution, government funding for culture, and many others. Science fiction is a way of looking at our society through a distorting lens that lets us see truths that otherwise might remain hidden. Despite what people think they know about science fiction from watching Star Wars -- which is really fantasy, not SF, and unambitious fantasy at that -- good science fiction, starting right with H.G. Wells, has always been about social comment.

Have you started on your next book -- can we have a hint?

I'm working on a trilogy about the World Wide Web gaining consciousness, and the relationship it develops with humanity. The overall trilogy will be called the WWW series, and the three books will be titled Wake, Watch, and Wonder. These won't be the computer-takes-over stories or we-upload-into-the-computer stories; rather, I'm trying to work out a realistic way in which flesh-and-blood human beings might actually co-exist peacefully with advanced artificial intelligence.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Relativity at Bakka-Phoenix

Okay, yes, of course, I want you all to buy Rollback at my book launch at Bakka-Phoenix Books this Saturday, April 14, at 3:00 p.m. in Toronto.

But Bakka-Phoenix is one of the only places in all of Canada where you can also get Relativity: Essays and Stories, my small-press hardcover collection put out by Chicago's ISFiC Press. The book won the Aurora Award, and is reviewed very favourably here.

So, if picking up a copy of Rollback doesn't leave you feeling strapped, think about Relativity, too -- it's a book I'm very proud of, and this will be one of your few chances to get an autographed copy.

The publisher's catalog page for Relativity is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Blog T.O. interviews Rob

Blog T.O. -- the number-one blog about Toronto -- has just put a great interview with me online, conducted by Ryan Oakley.

A larger view of the Quill & Quire cover

Here's a bigger view of the Quill & Quire issue with Robert J. Sawyer on the cover, as discussed in the preceding blog entry.

UPDATE: And see here for the full text of the profile of Rob that appeared in that issue.

Photo by Kevin Kelly; art direction by Gary Campbell.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rob on the cover of Quill & Quire

Woohoo! I'm a cover boy! :)

Quill & Quire is the Canadian publishing trade journal -- the bible of the book trade in Canada -- and, to my delight, I'm on the cover of the May 2007 issue, which has just started shipping to subscribers and bookstores. The cover photo is by Kevin Kelly.

The issue features a profile of me by Gary Butler; a round-up article about 10 other Canadian SF author by Bakka-Phoenix manager Chris Szego; and an article by Scott MacDonald interviewing me, Robert Charles Wilson, Julie E. Czerneda, Karl Schroeder, and Cory Doctorow called "The Great SF Brain Drain: Why Do Canada's Science Fiction Authors Have to go South to get Published?"

Read all about the issue here, on Quill & Quire's official blog.

(Something not in this issue is a review of my Rollback; that's because Quill already ran their review last month. You can read it here.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

More Adventures in SciFi Publishing

Part two of the podcast interview with me at Adventures in SciFi Publishing is now online here.

And part one is still available.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Globe and Mail ad

This ad for the science-fiction novel Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer took up two-fifths of a page in the Books section of The Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper, on Saturday, April 7, 2007. The ad was placed by H.B. Fenn, Tor's Canadian distributor, and was designed by Nicole Simmons.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Remind me of who you are, please

A little request for the upcoming book tour. Please, if I know you, remind me of who you are when you come up to say hello. I'll be exhausted, jet-lagged, and seeing lots of people out of context, and I'm personally just not that good with faces (I almost never remember someone's face after the first time I meet them).

So, come up and say, "Hi, Rob -- it's John Smith, you taught me at Banff a few years ago," or, "Hi, Rob -- it's Jane Doe, we were at Ryerson together." (The hardest ones are people I know online who I've never seen in the flesh before -- honestly, I have no idea what you look like, and can't identify you in a police line-up ... or a bookstore signing!)

Really, I probably do remember you, and want to make the connection, but I'll need a gentle reminder.

I felt lousy all through a recent con I was at in the U.S. because someone said hi to me, and I didn't immediately place them. Turns out it was someone I'd met six months earlier at a Writers of the Future event: I knew I knew the person, but out of context, and out of the blue, thousands of kilometers away, I couldn't place him immediately. So, do us both a favor! And, yes, please, please, do come up and say hello!

Book tour schedule

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rob reviews Star Trek remastered

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the original Star Trek series, CBS -- the current owner of the series -- has been digitally remastering the classic episodes ... and completely redoing most of the special effects as computer-generated imagery. Each week, a new episode is released to syndication.

The best source of information about all this is The Trek Movie Report website. Every week, that site posts a featured review of the current episode, and this week, Robert J. Sawyer (that's me!) was the special guest reviewer. Read what I had to say about that giant-amoeba-in-space classic, "The Immunity Syndrome."

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, April 9, 2007

More World Horror Convention photos

Scott Edelman -- the editor of SciFi Weekly -- has posted his photos from the Toronto World Horror Convention, including the one above of yours truly. (Scott may also have the only picture ever of book collector Dave Willoughby in which Dave is not smiling.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Johnny Hart, R.I.P.

In the early years, B.C., the daily comic strip by Johnny Hart, was pure genius -- one of my absolute favourites. I also think it was what first introduced me to the notion of meta-fiction. Peter says to Curls, I think, one day: "I've discovered there's a pump inside us that makes us go! I'm going to call it a 'hart.'" The response from Curls: "Bootlicker."

Hart's Christianity came to the fore to the detriment of the strip in later years, sadly. The definition for "Science Fiction" in Wiley's Dictionary was, "Any scientific account that omits God."

Still, as the Spencer Tracy character says in Inherit the Wind of his late fundamentalist opponent, "A giant once lived in that body!"

Johnny Hart died over the weekend, while drawing. May he rest in peace.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Who's the hardest-working man in SF?


Locus Online has upcoming author events listed, including a good summary of the book tour for Rollback, showing 18 events for me over the next six weeks.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Message to

Hey,! Update your DataViewer software, for Pete's sake. It's been OVER TWO YEARS since you updated it (on February 23, 2005), and it really does need work; the Palm OS version has a truly crappy display and lousy interface. You've got some great text databases -- like the Concise Encyclopaedia Britannica -- available, but the software to read them with is in desperate need of an overhaul. I see you've been just as lazy with other platforms -- Pocket PC, Symbian OS have all gone over two years without an update. Are you serious about retaining customers and staying in business? Just askin'.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Blog T.O. loves Terence M. Green

Blog T.O. -- the most popular blog about Toronto -- raves today about Sailing Time's Ocean by Terence M. Green, published under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint, calling it "a wonderful, wise and emotional novel by one of Toronto's finest writers." The full review is here.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

ZtreeWin: Best file manager ever

ZtreeWin is a Windows clone of the old DOS Xtree program, fully updated to support modern operating systems and hardware. Way more powerful and easier to use than Windows Explorer; I use it all the time. I've been a registered user since 1997 -- and the program is regularly updated, and all those updates for a decade now have been free.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Defenders of Gravity -- a play about SF writers

This might be of interest for those in the Greater Toronto Area:
Defenders of Gravity

Thursday, April 12, 2007 to Friday, April 27, 2007

Defenders of Gravity is a new play written by Jeff Pearce and directed by Tom McHale. The play is a comedy-drama about a group of science fiction writers in New York in 1955. On a long weekend in the summer, the whole gang – Walter, Jack, Rachel, Fred, Benny and his new girl, Teresa – get together to write, talk, drink, flirt and think big. Their heads may often be up in the clouds, but they all have problems that will bring them crashing down to Earth.

Defenders of Gravity is a love letter to science fiction – minus aliens, spaceships, and atomic mushroom clouds. The play will open the new Playwrights of Spring Festival being produced by Theatre Aurora and Shadowpath Theatre Productions.

Theatre Aurora
150 Henderson Drive, Aurora ON

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Globe and Mail ad

The Books section of today's (Saturday, April 7, 2007) Globe and Mail: Canada's National Newspaper devotes 2/5ths of a page (two of the five columns of text on the page, top to botoom) to a fabulous ad for my new book, Rollback. I shudder to think how much it cost -- but I'm very, very grateful to my Canadian distributor, H.B. Fenn and Company, for placing this beautiful ad. Woohoo! The ad is on page 7 of the Books section.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Adventures in Scifi Publishing

The nifty podcast Adventures in Scifi Publishing from San Diego has part one of a new interview with me online now. Of course, the interview focuses on Rollback. The interviewer is Shaun Farrell.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, April 6, 2007

U.S. launch party for Rollback

... will be at The Write Book and Gift Shop in Honeoye Falls, New York (Finger Lakes region, near Rochester). Why there? 'Cause the co-owner of the store is Nick DiChario, Hugo and World Fantasy Award finalist.

The launch part will be held Sunday, April 15, at 3:00 p.m. Details are here. It's a great shop in a beautiful location.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rob on CBC Radio's Here and Now on Monday

I'll be an in-studio guest on CBC Radio One's Here and Now this Monday, April 9, starting at 4:50 p.m. Eastern time, talking about Rollback. Here and Now is heard throughout southern Ontario

CBC Radio One in Toronto is 99.1 FM; you can also listen online here.

Message that went out to Rob's mailing list today

This mailing went out today to all the people on my email list. If you'd like to be added directly to my email list -- I only send out notices once or twice a year -- drop me a note at:

Hello, Robert J. Sawyer reader!

I'm delighted to announce the release of my 17th novel, Rollback, which has just been published by Tor. Rollback is a novel about rejuvenation and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. You'll find oodles about the book here.



The book is already out, but the official Canadian launch party in Toronto is Saturday, April 14, at 3:00 p.m. at Bakka-Phoenix Books, which is now at 697 Queen Street West (just west of Bathurst).

And the US launch party is Sunday, April 15, at 3:00 p.m., at Write Book and Gift -- the store co-owned by Hugo Award-finalist Nick DiChario -- in Honeoye Falls, NY.

In addition, I'll be traveling to 20 cities in the United States and Canada to promote the release of the ROLLBACK:

USA: Denver, CO; Orlando, FL; Honeoye Falls, NY; Albany, NY; Richmond, VA; Alexandria, VA; Washington, DC; Camp Hill, PA; Milford, NH

CANADA: Vancouver, BC; Edmonton, AB; Calgary, AB; Saskatoon, SK; Winnipeg, MB; Sudbury, ON; Sarnia, ON; London, ON; Woodbridge, ON; Toronto, ON; Oshawa, ON

The tour schedule, with dates, times, and venues, is here.


The early reviews for ROLLBACK have been great:

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: "Sawyer, who has won Hugo and Nebula awards, may well win another major SF award with this superior effort." (starred review, denoting a work of exceptional merit)

QUILL & QUIRE (the Canadian publishing trade journal): "ROLLBACK is a reminder of why Sawyer is one of our most highly regarded writers of speculative fiction, able to handle the demands of the heart and the cosmos with equal skill."

ANALOG: "Extraordinarily fresh and thought-provoking. ROLLBACK is a thoroughly engaging story, with some of the most memorable people you'll ever meet."

: "ROLLBACK is a shoo-in to be short-listed for next year's major awards."


More about ROLLBACK

The Robert J. Sawyer website

Rob's blog

Rob's 1,100-member discussion group

Rob in MySpace

Booking Rob as a Keynote Speaker

Thursday, April 5, 2007

World Horror Convention photos

Ellen Datlow has put up a selection of photos from the Toronto World Horror Convention on Flickr.

Her whole album is here.

This one, which is particularly nice of me, shows me and fellow Canadian writer Steve Erickson.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Casting a Rollback movie

The blog "My Book, The Movie" invites authors to daydream about who they'd like to see in a big-screen adaptation of one of their books. My musings on casting a Rollback movie are here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Publishers Weekly quotes Rob at length

The cover story in the current Publishers Weekly is about science fiction publishing, and it leads with a short interview with me, then goes into discussions of specific lines -- and in that section, I'm quoted again discussing Phyllis Gotlieb's Birthstones, the latest book under the Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint. A quote from the aritcle:

When asked if traditional SF has "jumped the shark," Robert J. Sawyer responds, "If it had just jumped the shark, that would be fine—at least people would understand what that means. But no. SF has instead executed a parabolic maneuver with an exemplar of the cartilaginous order Selachii at its focus, which amounts to the same damn thing, but in modern SF fashion it is said in such a jargon-laden, exclusionary and unwelcoming way that newcomers simply aren't let in."
The full text of the article is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

A Bright Idea for Atheists

Today's edition -- Wednesday, April 4, 2007 -- of The Ottawa Citizen contains an op-ed piece by Robert J. Sawyer on atheism and the Modern Skeptical Movement, which the paper is calling "Unhealthy Skepticism" (my original title was "A Bright Idea for Atheists"). It takes up most of a page (page 17).

The Ottawa Citizen is the largest circulation newspaper in Canada's capital city; an op-ed piece is an opinion article that appears opposite the editorial, and is written by someone other than the newspaper's usual staff.

My piece is an expansion of the comments I made at the grand opening of the Centre for Inquiry, Ontario.

The full text of the article is online here.

Pictured above: The Flying Spaghetti Monster; the Citizen ran the full version of this picture, which also shows Adam off to the left, and is captioned "Touched by his Noodly Appendage," with the article in the print version, as you can see below.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

"A shoo-in to be short-listed for next year's major awards"

So says SciFiDimensions in their review of Robert J. Sawyer's Rollback. Who am I to argue?

The full review is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

SciFi Essential Book

Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer is the SciFi Essential Book for April 2007, in Tor's cross-promotion program with SciFi Channel. Woohoo!

(If you want to read a longer excerpt than the one on the SciFi Channel website, look here.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sawyer op-ed in tomorrow's Ottawa Citizen

Tomorrow's Ottawa Citzien -- Wednesday, April 4, 2007 -- will carry my op-ed piece, which I entitled "A Bright Idea for Atheists." It's an expanded version of comments I made at the grand opening of the Centre for Inquiry, Ontario last month.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rollback now out!

It's showtime! Today -- Tuesday, April 3, 2007 -- is the official publication date for my 17th novel, Rollback. It's now shipping from online retailers, and people have reported buying it in retail stores.

On my website you'll find the opening chapters, the dustjacket text, a book-club / reading group discussion guide, and much more.

I'll be touring to 18 cities in support of the release -- check out the tour dates here.

The early reviews have been fabulous:
"Robert J. Sawyer has a way of taking familiar ideas, looking at them from new angles and in greater depth than almost anybody before him, and tying them together to create extraordinarily fresh and thought-provoking stories. Rollback is a thoroughly engaging story, with some of the most memorable people you'll ever meet." -- Analog

"Sawyer's investigation of rejuvenation loads a fascinating story with difficult issues. Don makes mistakes, yet he and Sarah are good people and thoughtfully constructed characters. Rollback exploits two staple sf tropes to produce a nicely executed, human-scale story." -- Booklist

"Rollback gets my vote as SF novel of the year. A joy to read." -- Jack McDevitt, author of Odyssey

"Canadian author Sawyer 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." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review, denoting a work of exceptional merit)

"The repercussions of the rollback surgery are genuinely surprising, but rooted firmly in the skillfully crafted and realistic thoughts and emotions of Don and Sarah. When the plotlines converge late in the book, it is a reminder of why Sawyer is one of our most highly regarded writers of speculative fiction, able to handle the demands of the heart and the cosmos with equal skill." -- Quill & Quire

"A fascinating human drama, where joy and tragedy take human form, rather than apocalyptic ones. All in all, it's a 'skytop' story, worth reading by genre and mainstream readers alike." -- SFRevu

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, April 2, 2007

Never been to a convention? Try this FREE one!

Genrecon is a one-day convention on Saturday, May 12, 2007, devoted to genre fiction: SF, fantasy, mystery, horror, romance. And it's free! It's in Sarnia, Ontario, just a few hours' drive from Toronto (and near Detroit). If you've never been to a con, and even if you have, come on out. Guest of honour is yours truly, Robert J. Sawyer, and other guests include bestselling fantasy writer Kelley Armstrong, Penguin fantasy author Caitlin Sweet, Rick Blechta (president of the Crime Writers of Canada). Check it out!

SciFi Weekly interviews Rob

The Slush God speaketh ... to Rob!

John Joseph Adams, assistant editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, interviews Robert J. Sawyer in the current issue of SciFi Weekly, the online magazine of the SciFi Channel. The interview is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, April 1, 2007

SFRevu reviews Rollback and interviews Rob

The April 2007 edition of Ernest Lilley's webzine SFRevu reviews Rollback, and features an interview with its author, Robert J. Sawyer.

The review concludes by saying that Rollback is "a fascinating human drama, where joy and tragedy take human form, rather than apocalyptic ones. All in all, it's a 'skytop' story, worth reading by genre and mainstream readers alike." The full text of the review is here, and the interview is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Toronto World Horror Convention

I may not have time to do a proper con report, what with Rollback officially being released in two days, so let me just say for the record that the Toronto World Horror Convention was one of the finest genre-fiction conventions ever in Toronto.

Many also said it was the finest World Horror Convention ever, and several people likened it to the best of the World Fantasy Conventions from the 1980s.

My own take: this particular convention was the closest thing to Readercon I've seen outside of Boston, and, frankly, was more fun and less stodgy than Readercon without in any way being less professionally focussed. A truly wonderful event. My hat is off to Amanda Foubister, Stephen Jones, Mandy Slater, and their very hard working team.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site