Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Latest RJS print newsletter

Since 1995, Carolyn and I have been putting out an occasional newsletter that goes to booksellers, publishing professionals, and media with news about me and my books. A PDF of the latest issue (#24) is now available right here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

My Galaxy Award trophy

Note to self: glass trophies are hard to photograph. :)

Robert J. Sawyer with the Galaxy Award, China's top science-fiction award; Rob won in the category of "Most Popular Foreign Author."

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Actually, I think this is Kansas, Toto

I'm delighted to announce that I will be giving the keynote address at the dedication ceremony for the The David J. Williams III Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Collection at Kansas State University, in Manhattan, Kansas, at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 4, 2007. More info on the collection is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sawyer in Manitoba

I am the solo opening-night reader for the inaugural year of Words Alive, the Brandon Book Festival, in Brandon, Manitoba. Come see me on Thursday, November 8, at 7:30 p.m.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, October 28, 2007

International Festival of Authors

I was one of the authors participating in the International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront, in Toronto, this past week. I'm afraid my time was marred by the Cold From Hell, but I still enjoyed myself immensely. Tuesday night, I did a reading along with Spider Robinson, Jasper Fforde, and poet Jay MillAr; many people said it was the best reading they'd ever seen me do -- which was very gratifying, since I was indeed under the weather.

Last night, the final Festival dinner was held, and I sat opposite Eric Wright, one of Canada's finest mystery writers, and next to poet Chris Dewdney at Le Select Bistro; absolutely wonderful.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On winning the Aurora Award

To my astonishment and delight, I won my tenth Aurora Award on Sunday (the Auroras are the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards, established in 1980).

Michael Walsh and Clint Budd, who organized the ceremony, did an amazing job, with a wonderful banquet (something done too infrequently for the Auroras) followed by a witty Aurora keynote address by Matthew Hughes -- the first time the Auroras have included a keynote speaker. As it happened, I was master of ceremonies for this year's Aurora Awards -- my seventh time having the honour to fulfill that particular role.

Although many people praised my performance as MC, to be honest I thought I managed about a 7 out of 10. I was tired: the ceremony was held Sunday afternoon, and not only did I have con fatigue by that point, but I'd been on the road for 16 days leading up to the ceremony. Still, people laughed in all the right places, and I was pleased.

The biggest bit of drama came when the Best Short-Form Work in English award was announced. The wonderful artist Martin Springett came up to the podium to present the award, and after announcing the nominees, he opened the envelope and read out the supposed winner: John Mierau.

As MC, I was standing off to the side and could clearly see the card Martin had taken out of the envelope; he'd read it correctly. I was applauding John's win when Michael Walsh stepped out from behind the table that held the Aurora trophies, and said, "There's been a mistake."

VCon 32, this year's Canadian National Science Fiction Convention ("CanVention"), had allowed on-site voting for the Auroras (in addition to the traditional mail-in voting), and so voting had closed just 18 hours before the awards banquet began.

Michael had been involved in counting the ballots Saturday night, and had handed a master copy of the ballot to his wife, Susan Walsh, on which he'd checked off the winners in each category. Susan then wrote out the cards naming the winners to go in the envelopes -- a job done late at night, when everyone was tired. Near as I can figure it out, Susan looked at the sheet, saw that the winner was from the anthology Slipstreams, and so wrote down the name of one of the authors who had been in that book, the aforementioned John Mierau.

But Michael had actually marked the other story from Slipstreams, a little number called "Biding Time," by one Robert J. Sawyer. After suitable apologies for the error -- stretching the suspense in the process -- he announced that I, in fact, had won the award.

Thank God John was not in attendance (I remember being at a Worldcon when Richard and Nikki Lynch were announced as winners of the best-fanzine Hugo only to have Richard (I think) recognize that an error had been made when he looked at the name on the trophy). John's a very fine writer, and I'm sure he will be taking home an Aurora down the road.

It was an odd sensation. I hadn't expected to win (my money was on James Alan Gardner's charming "All the Cool Monsters at Once"), and I'd prepared a schtick as MC, which I delivered anyway, in case my writing student Hayden Trenholm had beaten me, doing my best James Earl Jones as Hayden and intoning, "Then I was the learner; now I am the master"). I went in the space of about a minute from "well, I didn't expect to win anyway," to "good for John!" to "oh, crap, something's gone wrong with the ceremony I'm MCing," to "say what?"

Now, as it happened, prior to this win, I had nine Aurora Awards to my credit: four for best English novel, four for best English short story, and one for best English "Other." But that didn't make me the all-time Aurora champ; rather, it made me tied with Francophone writer Elisabeth Vonarburg; we each had nine a piece. But when I won for "Biding Time," I pulled ahead, becoming the undisputed record holder ...

... a title that lasted for about three minutes, because the next Aurora to be presented was "Best Long Form Work in French" -- and who should win that but mon cher amie Elisabeth. So, we're tied again. :)

As usual, the wonderful Frank Johnston made the Aurora trophies, but I have to say that this year's were particularly lovely; the maple wood bases were are just gorgeous.

To my delight and astonishment, somehow over Saturday night, all ten Aurora trophies had their plaques engraved with the winner's names (and, yes, the English short-form one does have my name on it). I'd flown to Vancouver with only carry-on luggage, but had to check my bag when I left on Monday, since the Aurora has sharp metal parts that wouldn't be allowed in the aircraft cabin.

"Biding Time" is a sequel to my Hugo- and Nebula-Award nominated novella "Identity Theft." It also is, incidentally, the last short story I plan to write, at least for the foreseeable future. Although I enjoy short fiction, I really feel a need to concentrate on my novels now.

"Biding Time" first appeared in the DAW anthology Slipstreams edited by John Helfers and Martin H. Greenberg; it's also been reprinted in The Penguin Book of Crime Fiction edited by Peter Robinson, and will be the closing story in my second short-story collection, "Identity Theft and Other Stories," coming from Red Deer Press in February 2008. I'm delighted to be going out with a winner.

Historical note: The core plot of "Biding Time," which is a hard-boiled detective story set on Mars, was originally part of my 16th novel Mindscan; the motivation used for the murder was the same one I'd originally written for Tyler Bessarian suing his mother Karen in that novel; I removed it at the request of my editor, David G. Hartwell, who found it too unsettling. But, as one reviewer said of "Biding Time," the story really does posit a genuinely new science-fictional motive for murder, and I'm delighted that I found a way to use it, and that, like Karen in Mindscan, it has now been ensured a small degree of immortality.

The full text of "Biding Time" has been up on my web site during the nominating and voting periods for the Auroras, and I'll leave it up a little while longer for those who are curious: it's here.

(Oh, and for those who might now be saying Rob Sawyer always wins the Aurora, I'll gently point out that I hold the record -- yes, beating even Elisabeth! -- for the most Aurora losses. I've been nominated 35 times for the Aurora to date, meaning I've got 10 wins and 25 losses, or a 1 in 3.5 success ratio; that's only slightly better than what random chance would dictate: there are usually five nominees in each Aurora category, so a purely random choice would have had me winning 1 in 5 times, for a total of seven, instead of ten, awards. I'm hardly a slam-dunk winner when it comes to the Auroras, and I truly am thrilled and grateful for each one.)

My Aurora Award wins:

Best Long-Form Work in English: Golden Fleece [1990], The Terminal Experiment [1995], Starplex [1996], and Flashforward [1999]).

Best Short-Form Work in English: "Just Like Old Times" [1993], "Peking Man" [1996], "Stream of Consciousness" [1999], "Ineluctable" [2002]), and "Biding Time" [2006].

Best Work in English (Other): Relativity, a collection of essays and stories, [2004]

Pictured above: Robert J. Sawyer with the one that almost got away ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Full list of Prix Aurora Award winners 2007

See photos of the ceremony in Vancouver (of which I was master of ceremonies) in Jean-Louis Trudel's blog; also see the official list -- now up! -- here.

Read Rob's report on the ceremony here.

Best Long-Form Work in English
* Children of Chaos, Dave Duncan (Tor Books)

Best Long-Form Work in French
* Reine de Mémoire 4. La Princesse de Vengeance,, by Élisabeth Vonarburg (Alire)

Best Short-Form Work in English
* "Biding Time," Robert J. Sawyer (Slipstreams edited by Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers, DAW [and also in The Penguin Book of Crime Stories, edited by Peter Robinson])

Best Short-Form Work in French
* "Le regard du trilobite," Mario Tessier (Solaris 159)

Best Work in English (Other)
* Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine, Karl Johanson, editor

Best Work in French (Other)
* Aux origines des petits hommes verts
Jean-Louis Trudel (Solaris 160)

Artistic Achievement
* Martin Springett []

Fan Achievement (Publication)
* Brins d'Éternité,, réd. Guillaume Voisine

Fan Achievement (Organizational)
* Cathy Palmer-Lister (Con*Cept)

Fan Achievement (Other)
* Fractale-Framboise,
Éric Gauthier, Christian Sauvé, Laurine Spehner

Read Rob's report on the ceremony here.

Next Year's CanVention: KeyCon 25 in Winnipeg, a four-day con over the Victoria Day weekend

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Aurora Awards -- English pro

I'll get the full list up as soon as I can confirm it, but the three English pro categories for the Auroras went to:

Long-Form: Dave Duncan
Short-Form: Robert J. Sawyer
Other: Neo-Opsis


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 interviews Robert J. Sawyer -- the online site of the famed business magazine -- interviews Robert J. Sawyer in his capacity as futurist.

They only used a portion of the interview we did; here's the whole thing:

I'm both a science-fiction writer and a futurist -- which are related but distinct disciplines. A futurist's goal is usually to predict the future, but a science-fiction writer's goal is often to prevent the future, by depicting a plausible but undesirable scenario with enough credibility that society decides to make a course-correction to avoid that vision becoming reality.

No one would say that George Orwell's Nineteen Eight-Four was a failure as science fiction just because the real 1984 turned out to be so different from the predictions he'd made in 1948, when he was writing that book. Rather, he was wonderfully successful because in direct response to his thought experiment about where society might be headed we prevented, or at least staved off for a time, the kind of technological totalitarianism he foresaw.

I'm a huge advocate that science-fiction writers make the best futurists: A futurist on his or her own is good at extrapolating statistical trends and telling you what the population size might be in a given year, or how big the economy will be. But real science fiction -- not Star Wars escapism, but thoughtful works that reasonably extrapolate not just technological but also social trends -- does more than just project cold data forward. A science-fiction writer's job is to go further, placing all that in societal context: what will the changes coming down the pike actually mean to lives of ordinary people at work, at home, at play.

I like to think, regardless of which hat I'm wearing, that I've got a good track record of successful predictions. Most science-fiction writers totally missed the World Wide Web, but I predicted it in 1982, and even had the name almost right, calling it the TerraComp Web, "Terra" being Latin for "Earth."

And in 1998, in my Hugo Award-nominated novel Factoring Humanity, I wrote about the democratization of media, and the consequent loss of truly high-quality work: "A thousand channels to choose from, from all over the world, plus all the desktop-TV crap being produced out of people's homes coming in over the net." (The term "desktop TV," of course, was by analogy to the then-current revolution in "desktop publishing.")

Still, to date, the prediction I've gotten the most recognition for is suggesting in 1995, in my Nebula Award-winning The Terminal Experiment, that the Pope right now would be named Benedict XVI. That wasn't a wild guess, but rather what seemed reasonable extrapolation, given the fact that Popes usually take names to honor a predecessor they see as a role model.

But you asked a couple of specific questions. I'll note gently that your questions are loaded, in that they ask for two examples of failures, and none of successes. Your first question -- "What's one thing you were sure would happen, but didn't?" -- seeks a sin of commission, a prediction that turned out to be wrong. And your second question -- "What's something that happened and totally surprised you?" -- seeks a sin of omission.

But, anyway, for me the answer to both is the essentially the same: like so many science-fiction writers and futurists, I predicted a rational twenty-first century, a new millennium in which old superstitions and fundamentalist religion would have faded into the background -- and so I was shocked by the rise to the heights of power of the Religious Right in the United States (even though I did predict fraud using electronic voting machines in my first novel, 1990's Golden Fleece ...).

It's a mistake many futurists have made. We assume the rest of humanity is like us: forward-thinking, rational, and enamored of science. I mentioned Nineteen Eighty-Four before; the other famous work of prediction named after a year is Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that had orbiting hotels and chatty artificial intelligences and suspended animation and cities on the moon by the turn of the century -- none of which we got.

But it wasn't that the things Clarke predicted where impossible; it's just that he assumed when writing that screenplay in 1966, that the world's enthusiasm for space, which he so keenly felt, couldn't possibly peter out. Hundreds of science fiction writers predicted the first man to walk on the moon would do so in the 1960s; not a single one predicted the last person would do so just three years later. When we fail in our prediction, as science-fiction writers and futurists, it's because, down deep, even if our visions are occasionally apocalyptic, we're really optimists: we love the future, and we want it to hurry up and get here.


As a science-fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer is one of only seven writers in history to win all three of the world's top awards for best science-fiction novel of the year: the Hugo (which he won for Hominids), the Nebula (which he won for The Terminal Experiment) and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (which he won for Mindscan). He's also the only writer ever to win the top SF awards in the United States, Canada, China, France, Japan, and Spain. His latest novel, Rollback (published by Tor), looks at the bioethics of life prolongation.

As a futurist, Sawyer has done consulting for CA (Computer Associates), Kodak, Motorola, NASA, and Canada's Federal Department of Justice. He's given dozens of futurism keynotes, including to the Federation of State Medical Boards, the Association of Biomedical Communications Directors, and the Canadian Public Relations Society, and he is a frequent futurism commentator for Discovery Channel Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. His physical home is in Toronto; online, he's at

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


WordFest: Hangin' with Meg

Sorry to be so scarce of late, but I've been too busy having a ball. From October 9-14, 2007, I was a participant at WordFest: The Banff-Calgary International Writers Festival in Alberta, and I'm now at the follow-up writers-only Summit Salon in Banff, one of my favourite places in the world. WordFest is one of Canada's top literary festivals, with writers from all over the world giving readings and panel discussions.

Above: that's me and Academy Award-nominated actress Meg Tilly, star of Agnes of God, who is now a major author (she was reading from her young-adult novel Porcupine, published by Tundra, the YA imprint of Canada's McClelland & Stewart). Meg and I and three others had a fabulous evening out at the James Joyce pub, just two doors down from Calgary's wonderful McNally Robinson bookstore.

Below: the science-fiction and fantasy contingent for this year's WordFest: William Gibson (who read from Spook Country), Charles de Lint (who read from Little (Grrl) Lost), and Robert J. Sawyer (who read from Rollback).

Festival season continues in Canada: next week I'm at the International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront in Toronto.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, October 4, 2007

RJS Quoted in #1 Bestseller

One of the hottest nonfiction books around for the last several months has been The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss.

It's hit #1 on the New York Times bestsellers' list, and #1 on the Wall Street Journal bestsellers' list, and, as I write this, its sales rank is #49 out of all books available there.

And I'm pleased as punch to note that this quote appears prominently on page 86 of the book:
Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace. -- ROBERT J. SAWYER, Calculating God
Go me!

(I'm also listed in the book's index.)

More on Calculating God

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

What a week!

I've been crazy busy. Sunday was Word on the Street, Toronto's open-air book fair; I was there selling books from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (including doing a reading).

Monday, I did four hours of talks at Upper Canada College (above), one of Toronto's ritziest private boys' schools.

Tuesday, it was off to the University of Waterloo, where I gave a talk to physics undergrads, toured the Institute for Quantum Computing (along with Carolyn and fellow writer Pat Forde), and gave an evening keynote in honour of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the department of Physics and Astronomy.

Wednesday was another reading in downtown Toronto.

And today, among other things, was a photo shoot: the Mississauga Public Library has licensed the American Library Association's "Get Caught Reading" poster program, and I'm to be a poster boy for their version.

In the wee spaces between all this, I judged the third quarter of this year's Writers of the Future contest, drafted a guest editorial for a magazine, attended a meeting at the offices of a big pharma company I'm giving a keynote for later in the month, and did a conference call with a Hollywood producer whose got one of my novels under option.

And tomorrow -- one week to the day after returning from 91 days on the road -- I get on a plane for the four-hour flight to Calgary.

And you know what? I'm looking forward to that flight: four uninterrupted hours, with no ringing phones or incoming email or meetings to attend, during which I can just work on Wake, my current novel. And I've scored an emergency-exit row seat with lots of leg (and laptop!) room, so -- yay!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sawyer, deLint at WordFest in Calgary

I'm off to Calgary for WordFest: the Banff-Calgary International Writers Festival, and so is my buddy Charles de Lint (above), as well as Tom Wayman, and we're all reading together at the Vertigo Theatre Centre -- Playhouse on Saturday, October 13, at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are $14. All the details are here, and you can buy tickets here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site