Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Genesis of Calculating God

My most popular novel seems to be Calculating God, and ten years ago today is when I came up with the idea for it.

On Thursday, December 17, 1998, I was down on the shore of Canandaigua Lake in Upstate New York, borrowing my father's vacation home there. I had a contract to write a novel for Tor called Up to Code (second book on the two-book contract that had also included Flashforward), but it wasn't going well. I noted this in my journal for that day:
Tried outlining more of Up to Code, but it just isn't credible. Meanwhile, received a fan E-mail that praised to the skies my characters and how they integrate with my premises. Of course, I have no real characters at all in Up to Code. Thought seriously about completely revamping the premise.

I first thought of making it more intimate: an alien ship and a human ship have a chance encounter in deep space; I then thought of an idea of an alien coming to Earth just to live with a human family, as a way of assessing the worthiness of our race.

And then it occurred to me to have an alien who was a "paleotheologist" -- someone looking for ancient fingerprints of God (although the word is really "theologian," not "theologist"). Carolyn suggested that maybe the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary layer is a galaxy-wide phenomenon, and he's come to investigate that.

I figured he could show up and say, look, I'm here to consult with a human paleontologist, and if all the rest of you leave me alone for the year I'll be here, I'll tell you how to cure cancer before I go (which suggests a kidnapping plot by someone desperate to have the cure right now). It's intriguing, anyway ...
And, indeed, it was intriguing, to me and to a lot of other people: Calculating God came out in 2000, has been continuously in print since, was nominated for a Hugo and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award, was named the best SF novel of the year by both and the Denver Rocky Mountain News, hit #1 on the Locus bestsellers' list, was my first national top-ten mainstream bestseller in Canada, has been translated into numerous languages, is widely taught at universities, and was the only book published as science fiction to make the Chapters/Indigo list of the 100 best Canadian-authored books of all time. recently released an unabridged recording of Calculating God, and in March 2009, Tor is bringing out a new trade-paperback edition of Calculating God with a book-club discussion guide bound in.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


At December 17, 2008 9:41 AM , Blogger icowdave said...

Fantastic book! Well deserving of all the accolades, congratulations. I read the first chapter as an excerpt online and it hooked me. It's the first book I reach for when somebody tells me they don't like science fiction.

At December 18, 2008 9:10 PM , Blogger said...

This is the book that introduced me to your work, I received it as a gift in late 2005.

Its a fantastic read. You should be very proud of the result.

At January 15, 2009 3:55 PM , Blogger m. scott veach said...

Not sure if this has been brought up here before...

...but have you thought about publishing your professional journal in any way?

I find the excerpts you do post fascinating...

At January 15, 2009 3:59 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Thanks, Scott! Maybe someday ... ;)


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