Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer reading is having a store-wide sale (that ends today) so I decided to stock up on ebooks for the summer. Here's what I just bought:

  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition by Stephen King
  • Doctor Strangelove, or Red Alert by Peter Bryant
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  • Mastering The Business of Writing by Richard Curtis
  • This Business of Publishing by Richard Curtis
  • Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar...: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Daniel Klein
  • Present at the Future: From Evolution to Nanotechnology, Candid and Controversial Conversations on Science and Nature by Ira Flatow
(In Canadian schools, we don't do much Steinbeck, and so I have to confess to never having read him. My friend Richard Curtis was my first literary agent, and is the best writer of articles about the business of publishing there is. Ira Flatow hosts NPR's Science Friday, on which I was once a guest for a panel discussion along with Leonard Nimoy.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Worldcon program schedule

Here's my schedule, at least as it stands now, for Denvention 3, this year's World Science Fiction convention, being held in Denver from Wednesday, August 6, through Sunday, August 10:

"Canadian Science Fiction," Fri, 10:00

"A World Made of Birds -- What would the Earth be like if the Dinosaurs Had Lived?," Fri, 11:30 (moderator)

Kaffeeklatch, Fri, 17:30

"Digging up SF: Paleontology in SF," Sat, 10:00 (moderator)

"The Evolution of Science Fiction," Sat, 14:30

Reading from Wake, Sat, 16:00

"Holy Holographic eBooks! Ideas for next gen reading technologies," Sun, 13:00

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Audible and science fiction has recently released editions of my Hominids, Humans, Hybrids, Calculating God, The Terminal Experiment, and Flashforward. You can get them all here.

This is all part of a big push into science fiction for, and over at io9, they have an interview with Steve Feldberg about all this. Check it out.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Saturday, June 28, 2008

SF Crowsnest interviews RJS

Geoff Willmetts over at Stephen Hunt's SF Crowsnest -- one of Europe's most popular SF sites -- interviews Robert J. Sawyer right here.

The teaser for the interview says:
Our glorious editor GF Willmetts sits down with Canadian science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer to chat about whether aliens visiting Earth are likely to be friendly or aggressive, dropping pop-cultural references into his books, why Rob's turning down offers to write short fiction for $1.25 a word, and why what really attracts people to scifi is the need to be amazed.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Exporting Celtx index-card text

On May 31, 2008, in this post, I mentioned I was using the index-card feature in a free program called Celtx to plot out my new novel, Watch.

But I didn't like doing that, because Celtx provided no way to export the index-card text to an ASCII file, or a word-processing document -- I didn't want all my notes trapped in a specific program. And so I devised a method to export them; in broad strokes, this method is useful for getting text out of just about any application that doesn't have an export function (or copy-all-to-clipboard function) of its own. Here's the technique:

Print the index cards using any printer that produces Adobe Acrobat PDF files as output (I happen to use the DocuCom PDF driver, but any PDF printer should work, including the various free ones available online).

Note: it doesn't matter whether you print card borders or background colors; this method works no matter which settings you choose.

Once the PDF is produced, open it in Adobe Reader (the free Acrobat PDF viewer); I'm using version 8 on an XP machine, but, again, any version should work.

Choose Edit | Select All (or just hit Alt-A)

Choose Edit | Copy (or just hit Alt-C)

The text of all your index cards is now in your clipboard; open a word-processing program or notepad program, and paste it in (usually with Edit | Page, or Alt-V).

Hint: I changed all my Celtx scene tags to have the tag names enclosed in curly brackets. Instead of "Plot A," I made it "{Plot A}," etc. That makes it very easy to find the end of each card in your exported text file, so that you can add an extra line space, or otherwise break up the text file into individual cards.

For instance if your scene tags all begin with a curly bracket, then in Microsoft Word searching on:


and replacing it with:


gives you two carriage returns (an extra blank line) at the beginning of each index card's exported text, since ^p -- typed as caret (shift-6) then p -- is Word's code for a carriage return.

(Of course, I'm exporting to WordStar for DOS, not Word!)

It takes longer to explain the exporting process above than it does to do it; the actual process takes only seconds, and works very well, at least for me. Smile

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fact catching up with Fiction: The Terminal Experiment

This has been a good month for fact catching up with fiction in the novels of Robert J. Sawyer ...

Not only is CERN's Large Hadron Collider, which I wrote abut in 1999's Flashforward, finally about to come on line, but now the Parliament of Spain has approved a resolution to grant some human rights to apes, under the terms of the Declaration on Great Apes, which I wrote about in my 1995 Nebula Award-winning novel The Terminal Experiment:
When Peter Hobson had taken a university elective in taxonomy, the two species of chimpanzees had been Pan troglodytes (common chimps) and Pan paniscus (pygmy chimps).

But the split between chimps and humans had occurred just 500,000 generations ago, and they still have 98.4% of their DNA in common. In 1993, a group including evolutionist Richard Dawkins and bestselling science-fiction writer Douglas Adams published the Declaration on Great Apes, which urged the adoption of a bill of rights for our simian cousins.

In took thirteen years, but eventually their declaration came to be argued at the UN. An unprecedented resolution was adopted formally reclassifying chimpanzees as members of genus Homo, meaning there were now three extant species of humanity: Homo sapiens, Homo troglodytes, and Homo paniscus. Human rights were divided into two broad categories: those, such as the entitlement to life, liberty, and freedom from torture, that applied to all members of genus Homo, and other rights, such as pursuit of happiness, religious freedom, and ownership of land, that were reserved exclusively to H. sapiens.

Of course, under Homo rights, no one could ever kill a chimp again for experimental purposes -- indeed, no one could imprison a chimp in a lab. And many nations had modified their legal definitions of homicide to include the killing of chimps.

Adriaan Kortlandt, the first animal behaviorist to observe wild chimpanzees, once referred to them as "eerie souls in animals' furs." But now Peter Hobson was in a position to see how literally Kortlandt's observation should be taken. The soulwave existed in Homo sapiens. It did not exist in Bos taurus, the common cow. Peter supported the simian-rights movement, but all the good that had been done in the last few years might be undone if it were shown that humans had souls but chimps did not. Still, Peter knew that if he himself did not do the test, someone else eventually would ...
(Excerpt from Chapter 12 of The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer; scene written Thursday, July 29, 1993.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

SciFi Wire on Identity Theft

Over at SciFi Wire, the news service of the SciFi Channel, John Joseph Adams interviews Robert J. Sawyer about his new collection, Identity Theft and Other Stories.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Video: "A Galaxy Far, Far Away" My Ass!

OMG, this is the coolest thing ever!

Back on October 2, 2007, I gave a talk at the University of Waterloo entitled "A Galaxy Far, Far Away" My Ass!, about science fiction's relevance for the here and now.

TVOntario's lecture series Big Ideas was on hand to record it, and an MP3 of the soundtrack has been online here for a while.

Well, a fine fellow named Evan Steacy has now taken that soundtrack and put images to it, making a wonderful trio of YouTube videos out of my talk. He came up with the perfect image for just about every point I was making.

Episode 1: Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and Frankenstein (6 minutes, 48 seconds)

Episode 2: H.G. Wells and Jules Verne (4 minutes, 0 seconds)

Episode 3: Star Wars (5 minutes, 17 seconds)

Or you can watch them right here:

Episode 1: Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and Frankenstein (6:48)

Episode 2: H.G. Wells and Jules Verne (4:00)

Episode 3: Star Wars (5:17)

Many, many thanks, Evan!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Canadian SF editors

Three of Canada's science-fiction editors were all together in the same room at Keycon in Winnipeg last month, and Hayden Trenholm nicely took a picture of us all. Left to right:

Robert J. Sawyer, editor of Robert J. Sawyer Books, the science-fiction imprint of Fitzhenry & Whiteside; Rob lives just outside Toronto, Ontario.

Virgina O'Dine, co-publisher of Bundoran Press; Virginia lives in Prince George, British Columbia.

Brian Hades, publisher of Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy and Tesseract Books; Brian lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Click on the photo for a larger version.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Janis Ian on Saturday Night Live this weekend

Granted, it's a repeat -- from 33 years ago! To commemorate the passing of George Carlin, the first-ever host of Saturday Night Live, that very first episode is being repeated this Saturday night, June 28, 2008, on NBC in SNL's usual timeslot -- and one of the musical guests on that historic first episode was my friend Janis Ian, who performed her hit "At Seventeen."

That's Janis on that SNL broadcast above, and me and Janis at her place in Nashville in January 2007 below.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Risk is our business

Just gave a keynote in Huntsville, Ontario, at the Deerhurst Resort -- which will host the 2010 G8 summit. The keynote was for The MEARIE Group (MEARIE = "Municipal Electric Association Reciprocal Insurance Exchange"), at a conference on risk management, and I ended my keynote by doing a William Shatner impression, reading what I think is Kirk's greatest speech from all of Star Trek, this bit from "Return to Tomorrow."
McCoy: "Then I'll still want one question answered to my satisfaction: Why? Not a list of possible miracles, but a simple, basic understandable why that overrides all danger. Let's not kid ourselves that there is no potential danger in this."

Kirk: "They used to say if man could fly, he'd have wings. But he did fly. He discovered he had to. Do you wish that the first Apollo mission hadn't reached the moon, or that we hadn't gone on to Mars, and then to the nearest star? That's like saying that you wished that you still operated with scalpels and sewed your patients up with catgut like your great-great-great-great-grandfather used to. I'm in command. I could order this. But I'm not -- because Doctor McCoy is right in pointing out the enormous danger potential in any contact with life and intelligence as fantastically advanced as this. But I must point out that the possibilities, the potential for knowledge and advancement is equally great. Risk ... risk is our business. That's what this starship is all about. That's why we're aboard her."
YouTube has the whole exchange here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Analog weighs in ...

Tom Easton, who will retire this year as book reviewer for Analog, reviews Nick DiChario's Valley of Day-Glo (which was published under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint) and my own Identity Theft and Other Stories in the September 2008 issue. The review concludes:

"Fitzhenry & Whiteside is a Canadian house that deserves cross-border attention. I've mentioned it in the past in connection with some of Julie Czerneda's work, and here it is again with two books of very different flavors that are both worth your time and money. If you want absurdity, go with the DiChario. If you want a more traditional, accessible approach, grab the Sawyer."

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wake and Analog ... getting closer

I received today the page proofs for the first of the four serialization installments of my next novel Wake, which will appear in Analog, starting with the November 2008 issue (which will be out in September). Yay!

I wrote an article today for my alumni magazine, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Ryerson's founding -- looking ahead at what the next sixty years might hold. (I graduated from Ryerson in 1982 with a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree in Radio and Television Arts; fantasy author Tanya Huff and I were in the same class.)

And I worked on a keynote I'm giving day after tomorrow in Huntsville (Ontario cottage country) for the MEARIE Group, Canada's only insurance provider dedicated to the energy industry.

Meanwhile, I got invited to the Frye Festival today, a literary festival in Moncton, New Brunswick, in honour of the great Canadian English professor Northrop Frye; I was delighted to say yes.

Once I finish giving that talk on Wednesday morning, I have nothing at all on my schedule -- not even a lunch date -- for the next three weeks. All of that time will be heads-down working on Watch the second book in my WWW trilogy.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sony Reader showstoppers

On my way to my signing in Rochester yesterday, I stopped at a Borders store to play with the PRS-505, the latest model of eBook reader from Sony. It's a nice, attractive, solid-feeling unit, and, at $299, not badly priced as these things go.

But it had several showstoppers for me.

Number one (and huge): no dictionary support. Come on, Sony! Even the Rocket eBook a full decade ago let you tap on a word and look it up while reading; not only doesn't the Sony reader ship with a dictionary (the Kindle does), it doesn't even offer a way to add one in; there's no support for looking up words within documents.

Number two: There's a mirror-like strip of polished metal at the top and the bottom of the case (it looks like a black strip in this photo). There's no excuse for putting reflective features (glossy finishes, mirror metal) on something that's meant to be read. This will just reflect room lights back into your eyes.

Number three: crappy page layout. The biggest cost of an ebook reader is the e-ink display, and you should be able to get the most out of the real estate. But the Sony formats books with giant margins, and insists on putting page headers on every page. Thanks, guys, but I know what book I'm reading -- and if I've forgotten, I can always look. Wasting screen space on headers is dumb, dumb, dumb.

Number four: no way to turn off right justification. It looks lousy at large point sizes, and should be user-selectable; it isn't.

Number five: proprietary ebook format. Yeah, I know, that's the way ebook-hardware vendors hope to make their money, but, sorry, I'm not willing to lock my library into devices from a specific manufacturer.

Number six: uncomfortable to hold. See those right-angle corners at the lower left and lower right? They dig into your palm. Corners should be rounded, guys (Kindle makes the same mistake).

Number seven: tiny page-turn buttons. The Kindle probably goes overboard in the other direction, but the ones on the Sony are just too small. (They're the little half-moon buttons at the far right.)

Number eight: command to switch from portrait to landscape is buried several menus deep. It should be something you can do at any time with the push of a button.

So, the second generation is an improvement over the first, no question. Let's see what the third generation offers!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Rochester rocked!

The joint reading and signing by Nick DiChario, Nancy Kress, and Robert J. Sawyer at the Barnes and Noble in Pittsford (Rochester), NY, or Saturday night rocked -- we all read well, 100 people showed up -- it was standing room only (about 70 chairs were filled), and we sold a ton of books. Many thanks to everyone who came out!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

George Carlin passes on

Last week, I posted my comments on the American Film Institute's list of the top-10 SF films, and suggested some of my own substitutions for that list.

That list only went to ten places, but one that's on my own list of the top 20 SF films is Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Seriously. If you've never seen it, you should. It gets all the time-travel stuff exactly right; all the historical stuff right; and is very, very clever and funny -- a much better film than Back to the Future, for my money. And it starred George Carlin.

Carolyn and I went to see George Carlin perform in Las Vegas in 1994. He died yesterday. R.I.P, Mr. Carlin.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Friday, June 20, 2008

Hugo deadline approaching; free copies of nominees

The deadline for voting in the 2008 Hugo Awards is approaching rapidly.

All ballots must be received by midnight (2400 hrs.) Pacific Daylight Time at the end of Monday, July 7, 2008. That's 17 days from now. :)

And, in case you missed the offer earlier, members of this year's Worldcon can get free electronic copies of four of this year's best-novel Hugo finalists right here.

(Included are Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer, The Last Colony by John Scalzi, Halting State by Charles Stross, and Brasyl by Ian McDonald.)

More about this year's Hugos can be found here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Hardcore Nerdity

It's my week for podcasts, it seems! Right on the heels of the SMOFcast podcast interview with me going online, Hardcore Nerdity has just put up an interview with me, recorded on Sunday, June 15, 2008, at BookExpo Canada.

The interviewer is Lesley Livingston. The interview with me starts at 19 minutes, 10 seconds (19:10) and goes to 25:10.

And there's lots of other neat stuff in the podcast, too. :)

Have a listen here -- I'm in "HCN# 7: Better Spork Than Spoon Alone!" (Or direct link to MP3.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Le Rollback? Oui, monsieur!

I'm pleased to announce the sale of French rights to my current Hugo Award-finalist Rollback to Editions Robert Laffont in Paris. The deal was made by Ralph Vicinanza in conjunction with Agence Littéraire Lenclud.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

The Logic of Life

I've been reading a lot of books on human behavior, the economics of daily life, and game theory, as research for my current novel, Watch, and because I often drop references to such things into my keynote addresses.

Although Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner is the most famous recent book of pop economics (and I did quite enjoy it), I think the best of the current lot is The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World by Tim Harford, a columnist for The Financial Times and Slate. The page for it is here.

Harford takes on fascinating topics -- starting with the increase in the number of teenage girls performing oral sex! -- and explains why each behavior is strictly rational in an economic sense.

Now, yes, the behavior may not be what some people want -- but that's the point of the book: unless social engineers understand why it makes sense for individuals to behave as they do (and Harford's thesis is that almost all people do what makes best sense for them under their specific circumstances), any hope of changing that behavior is doomed to failure.

Other topics tackled include why it makes rational sense for companies to pay their CEOs what seem to most of us to be obscene amounts of money, and the various forces that contribute to the continuing disadvantaging of African-Americans.

It's a fascinating read, and it's also extremely well-written: clear, witty, and well-organized. Highly recommended.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

SMOFcast interviews RJS

I was interviewed by the new podcast SmofCast at Keycon last month (18 May 2008), and you can listen to it here.

The interview with me comes on at 31 minutes, 40 seconds (31:40), and ends at 49:12.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Flashforward at

The Robert J. Sawyer blitz at continues!

They've just added my novel Flashforward to their collection of RJS unabridged audibooks (joining Calculating God, Hominids, Humans, Hybrids, and The Terminal Experiment, plus my Hugo-nominated short story "Shed SKin").

You can get all my Audible titles right here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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The Rochester Connection

An article about how Nick DiChario, Nancy Kress, and I all came to be doing a signing together in Rochester, New York, this coming Saturday appears in today's Canandaigua Daily Messanger. Check it out.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Srinivas Krishna and The Terminal Experiment

The Age is the oldest newspaper in Melbourne, Australia, and the 20 June 2008 edition has an article about Indian-Canadian filmmaker Srinivas Kirshna. Page two of the article notes:

"Krishna's next film project is a science fiction/fantasy epic based on Robert Sawyer's Nebula Award-winning novel The Terminal Experiment, about monsters on the internet."

Well, not exactly. It certainly is what Srinivas is working on (and he's into the second year of his option on The Terminal Experiment), but the treatment he's produced is for a very faithful adaptation of my novel, and I'm serving as a consultant on the adaptation. :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rochester, New York, event this Saturday

This Saturday, June 21, 2008, at 7:00 p.m., Robert J. Sawyer, Nancy Kress, and Nick DiChario will be reading and signing at:

Barnes & Noble
3349 Monroe Avenue
Pittsford (Rochester), New York

After, we'll be heading upstairs at Wegman's to the food court along with members of the Rochester Fantasy Fans, and anyone else who'd like to join us. If you're in the area, please come on out!

I'll be reading from Identity Theft and Other Stories, Nan will be reading from Nano Comes to Clifford Falls, and Nick will be reading from Valley of Day-Glo.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

AFI's top-ten genre films

The American Film Institute has revealed its list of the top-ten science-fiction films:

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
3. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
4. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
5. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
6. Blade Runner (1982)
7. Alien (1979)
8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
10. Back to the Future (1985)

It's not a bad list at all, and I'm pleased to see 2001 in first place. And I'll even grudgingly accept Star Wars: Episode IV.

But for my money, I'd drop E.T., Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Back to the Future, and replace them with Planet of the Apes (the 1968 version), Forbidden Planet, and either The Matrix or the Disney 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

She's wrong about the talking squids in space, too

Chris Streib puts to rest Margaret Atwood's assertion that ebooks are inferior to printed books because, she says, you can't read an ebook in the bathtub.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Canadian Press interviews RJS about oil prices

The Canadian Press wire service sent out this story entitled "Oil at $250 a barrel would transform Canada as we know it" just now, including quotes from an interview done with me.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Readercon 2008 Bio-Bib

Next month, I will be attending Readercon 19, near Boston. It's a conference devoted entirely to the printed literature of science fiction. In their program book, they publish elaborate "bio-bibs" (biography/bibliography combos) for each program participant, with all kinds of detailed info. Since it's a good overview of my career, I thought I'd share mine here:
Robert J. Sawyer ("Rob") was one of only three authors included on Canadian publishing trade journal Quill & Quire's recent list of the "30 most influential, innovative, and just plain powerful people in Canadian publishing" (the other included authors: Margaret Atwood and Douglas Coupland).

He has sold twenty science-fiction novels, including:

Golden Fleece (Warner/Questar, 1990; revised edition from Tor, November 1999; winner of the Aurora for Best English-Language Novel; named best SF novel of 1990 in Orson Scott Card's year-end summation in F&SF; finalist for the Seiun Award);

Far-Seer (Ace, 1992--"Quintaglio Ascension'' trilogy volume 1; winner of the CompuServe Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum's Homer Award for Best Novel of 1992; finalist for the Seiun Award; New York Public Library "Best Book for the Teen Age'' list);

Fossil Hunter (Ace, May 1993--Quintaglio 2; Homer Award winner);

Foreigner (Ace, March 1994--Quintaglio 3);

End of an Era (Ace, November 1994; revised edition from Tor, September 2001; Seiun Award winner; Homer Award winner; Aurora Award finalist);

The Terminal Experiment (HarperPrism, May 1995 [transferred to the Avon Eos imprint with its seventh printing in 2002]; serialized in Analog as Hobson's Choice, Mid-December 1994--March 1995; Nebula Award winner, Aurora Award winner, Hugo Award finalist);

Starplex (Ace, October 1996; serialized in Analog, July--October 1996; Aurora Award winner, Hugo and Nebula Award finalist);

Frameshift (Tor, May 1997; Hugo and Aurora finalist, Seiun Award winner);

Illegal Alien (Ace, December 1997; Seiun Award winner; Aurora Award and Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award finalist);

Factoring Humanity (Tor, June 1998; Hugo and Aurora Award finalist; Spain's Premio UPC Ciencia Ficción winner);

Flashforward (Tor, July 1999; Spain's Premio UPC Ciencia Ficción winner, Aurora Award winner);

Calculating God (Tor, June 2000; Hugo, Aurora, Homer, and John W. Campbell Memorial Award finalist);

Hominids (Tor, May 2002--"Neanderthal Parallax'' trilogy volume 1; serialized in Analog, January--April 2002; Hugo winner; Aurora, John W. Campbell Memorial Award, Seiun, and Spectrum finalist);

Humans (Tor, February 2003--"Neanderthal Parallax'' trilogy volume 2; Hugo finalist; Aurora finalist);

Hybrids (Tor, September 2003--"Neanderthal Parallax'' trilogy volume 3; Spectrum finalist);

Mindscan (Tor, April 2005; John W. Campbell Memorial Award winner);

Rollback (Tor, April 2007; serialized in Analog, October 2006-January/February 2007; Hugo, Aurora, and John W. Campbell Memorial Award finalist; included on the American Library Association's list of the top 10 SF novels of the year);

and Wake (Ace, April 2009-- "WWW" trilogy volume 1; serialized in Analog, November 2008-March 2009).

Rob's short fiction, collected in two volumes as Iterations (Quarry Press, 2002; reissued by Red Deer Press, 2004) and Identity Theft and Other Stories (Red Deer Press, April 2008), includes:

"Fallen Angel'' from Strange Attraction, edited by Edward E. Kramer (ShadowLands, 2000; Bram Stoker Award finalist);

"Just Like Old Times'' from Dinosaur Fantastic, edited by Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg (DAW, 1993; Aurora and Arthur Ellis Award winner);

"You See but You Do Not Observe'' from Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, edited by Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg (DAW, 1995; winner of Le Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire, France's top SF award, for best foreign short story of the year);

"Above It All'' from Dante's Disciples, edited by Peter Crowther and Edward E. Kramer (White Wolf, 1996; winner of the Homer Award for Best Short Story of 1995);

"Peking Man'' from Dark Destiny III: Children of Dracula, edited by Edward E. Kramer (White Wolf, October 1996, Aurora Award winner);

"The Hand You're Dealt'' from Free Space, edited by Brad Linaweaver and Edward E. Kramer (Tor, July 1997, Hugo Award finalist, Science Fiction Chronicle Reader Award winner);

"Ineluctable'' from Analog, November 2002 (Aurora Award winner);

"Shed Skin'' from Analog (Analog Analytical Laboratory winner, Hugo finalist);

and "Identity Theft'' from Down These Dark Spaceways, edited by Mike Resnick (Science Fiction Book Club, May 2005, Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficción winner, Hugo finalist).

Other short fiction by Rob has appeared in Amazing Stories (March 1987, September 1988, and January 1989); TransVersions 3 and 12, and The Village Voice (14 January 1981).

Rob used to work at Bakka, Toronto's SF specialty store, is a regular commentator on the Canadian version of Discovery Channel, and has appeared on Rivera Live with Geraldo Rivera. Rob's "On Writing'' column ran for three years in On Spec: The Canadian Magazine of Speculative Writing; those columns and other nonfiction about SF are collected in Relativity (ISFiC Press, 2004, Aurora Award winner).

He edits Robert J. Sawyer Books, the science-fiction imprint of Canadian publisher Fitzhenry & Whiteside; is a contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction; has taught SF writing at Toronto's Ryerson University, the University of Toronto, the Banff Centre, and the Humber School for Writers; has been Writer-in-Residence at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy (the only person to hold that post besides Judith Merril herself) and the Odyssey workshop; and is a judge for the Writers of the Future contest.

Rob and his wife Carolyn Clink edited the Canadian SF anthology Tesseracts 6 (Tessearct Books, December 1997), and Rob co-edited the anthologies Crossing the Line: Canadian Mysteries with a Fantastic Twist (with David Skene-Melvin, Pottersfield Press, October 1998), Over the Edge: The Crime Writers of Canada Anthology (with Peter Sellers, Pottersfield Press, April 2000), and Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek (with David Gerrold, BenBella, August 2006).

He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto's Ryerson University (which gave him its Alumni Award of Distinction in 2002) and an Honorary Doctorate (Doctor Litterarum, honoris causa) from Laurentian University, the largest university in Northern Ontario.

Rob lives in Mississauga, Ontario. Visit his web page at

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Calculating God at U of T

It delights me that my books are widely taught -- and it's always a special thrill when I get to visit a class that's studying one of them.

Yesterday, I went to the University of Toronto at Mississauga and spoke to Chet Scoville's class for two hours about my 2000 novel Calculating God. Lots of great questions from the students, and lots of fun for me.

Mine is the final and most recent book on Chet's course list. Other titles include Wells's The Time Machine, Clarke's Childhood's End, Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, and Gibson's Neuromancer.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Hominids sixth printing

Woohoo! Just received copies of the 6th printing of the mass-market paperback of Hominids from Tor. Book got legs!

And, in at least some acknowledgment of the fact that the US and Canadian dollars are now worth about the same, Tor has changed the cover price from US$7.99/Cdn$10.99 to US$7.99/Cdn$9.99.

I'm glad to see Hominids still going strong. Besides winning the Best Novel Hugo Award, the book's other honors include:

  • John W. Campbell Memorial Award Finalist
  • Aurora Award Finalist
  • Seiun Award Finalis
  • Gaylactic Spectrum Award Finalist
  • Three Months on the Locus Hardcover Bestsellers List (prior to winning the Hugo)
  • Year's Best List: San Francisco Chronicle
  • Year's Best List: Borders Books

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Earth to Alphasmart: Isn't it time for something new?

I ran into my friend Nalo Hopkinson at BookExpo Canada, and she was carrying a backpack with the Alphasmart Dana logo. I've always been intrigued by these dedicated writing machines, and asked her what she thought of hers. Her answer: she'd sold it, and bought a real laptop (but kept the backback!). Me, I've got my eyes on an Asus Eee PC right now, but Alphasmart is continuing to sell the Dana -- and at the same price they've sold it at for years. The window of opportunity for such a device at a $400 price point seems to be closing.

Anyway, this evening, I happened to come across a letter I'd sent to Alphasmart about the Dana in February 2004 -- over four years ago. There's been no change to their product since then; the 2004 (and earlier) Dana is still what's on the market -- same hardware, same price ... and that's too bad.

Here's what I had to say in that letter to Alphasmart back in 2004:

As a professional writer, I had been contemplating buying an Alphasmart Dana, and now, after trying one that belongs to a friend, I have decided not to. But because I am intrigued by your product, I thought I would tell you why, in hopes that you might consider these suggestions for future versions.

Ultimately, three things disappointed me. First, was the display. Now, yes, indeed, you do offer a lot more screen real estate in terms of square inches than does a typical Palm. But for a couple of years now, almost no new low-resolution Palm OS PDAs have been sold; modern units use four times the pixel density. Your 560x160 display has 89,600 pixels, and you splay them over 3.5 times as much space as a standard 320x320 palm, which displays 102,400 pixels.

If you were to offer a model that used modern, high-resolution screens, that would be fabulous. But after having used WordSmith on a high-resolution Clie, I couldn't see myself going to the low-resolution display, with the jagged fonts, available on the Dana.

The second issue, for me, was the backlight, which, again, is reminiscent of the backlights on Palms from a few years ago: fine if you need to write in darkness, but adding no boost to readability in normal lighting conditions. Again, on a modern Palm (say, the Zire 71) or Clie, the backlight is so much more robust. It was clear that I would encounter ambient lighting conditions during my normal workday in which the Dana would be hard to read; I never have trouble reading my Clie under any conditions.

The final issue for me was the lack of handwriting recognition when not in the dedicated opening screen Graffiti area. I applaud you decision to use Graffiti 2 with a Palm OS 4 device, but when trying editing in AlphaWord, I was frustrated at not being able to highlight with the stylus, and then delete the marked passage with a Graffiti backspace gesture, as I would, say, in WordSmith on my Clie. Ironically, despite the Dana's [wonderful] keyboard, I was finding it slower going doing some kinds of editing on a Dana than performing similar tasks on a keyboardless Clie.

I do think your choice of a monochrome screen is fine (my own favorite of the various PDAs and palmtops that I own is a Sony Clie SJ-20, which was the last monochrome model made by Sony). Color isn't crucial for word processing. And I think your keyboard is excellent. I'll be watching your website as time goes by to see what Dana Next has to offer.

All best wishes!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

BookExpo Canada

... was small. Smallest I've seen. Don't get me wrong: I had a great time, and saw lots of old friends and colleagues.

But still.

One major player said to my wife he thought this might be the last year for BookExpo Canada (just his opinion, not inside scoop or anything).

Of course, the point of BookExpo Canada (formerly known as the Canadian Booksellers Association trade show) is for publishers to show their wares to buyers from chains and independents. But Canada's lost a lot of its great independent bookstores, and is down to one national chain.

Still, my signing (along with Nick DiChario and Kristyn Dunnion) at the Fitzhenry & Whiteside booth went well, and the Penguin Canada champagne reception was wonderful.

I was surprised to see how many self-published authors had taken booths (not a cheap thing to do). Most of them were ignored by passers-by.

I was also surprised to not see a single ebook vendor there. Yes, the Amazon Kindle is not available in Canada, but Sony has launched its reader here -- but no electronic book manufacturer (or ebook content retailer) was present.

Don't get me wrong: Canadian bookselling and publishing are doing not badly, and, in some cases, spectacularly well (Penguin Canada had a record-setitng $100,000,000 year last year). But this particular tradeshow may have outlived its usefulness.

(My colleague Brian Hades, who runs Canada's largest SF publisher, Edge, was at BookExpo America this year ... but gave BookExpo Canada a miss.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, June 13, 2008

Eulogy for Bill Dial

Baby, if you've ever wondered,
Wondered whatever became of me,
I'm living on the air in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati, WKRP.

Got kind of tired of packing and unpacking,
Town to town, up and down the dial.
Baby, you and me were never meant to be,
But maybe think of me once in a while.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


BookExpo Canada

The tradeshow part of BookExpo Canada 2008 runs Sunday, June 15, and Monday, June 16, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

On Sunday at 1:00 p.m., look for Hugo winner Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo nominee Nick DiChario, and Kristyn Dunnion signing at the Fitzhenry & Whiteside booth; I'll be signing Identity Theft and Other Stories.

And at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, Writers of the Future Judge Robert J. Sawyer and recent winners Tony Pi and Stephen Kotowych (last year's Grand Prize winner) will be signing at the Galaxy Press / Bridge Booth.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Bill Dial, R.I.P.

In the introduction to my short story "Star Light, Star Bright," which appears in my first collection, Iterations, I wrote:
In 1997, I happened to run into WKRP in Cincinnati star Gordon Jump at a deli in Los Angeles; I introduced myself by saying I wanted to shake the hand of the man who had uttered the funniest line in sitcom history -- a line that was echoing gently in my mind as I wrote this story.
Sometimes, people send me emails asking just what the heck was the line I was referring to. It was, of course, "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly," and it comes from the WKRP episode "Turkeys Away."

The man who penned that line, Bill Dial, has just passed away, as SF Scope reports. He also wrote for the later Star Trek series, and appeared twice on WKRP (very memorably uttering the line "Speed kills, Del" in another episode) as dour radio-station engineer Bucky Dornster.

R.I.P., Bill Dial.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Suddenly, it's almost 3:00 p.m.

How'd it get so late? Well, I had a nice lengthy phone call from my buddy Jack Dann down in Australia (a terrific SF writer and editor).

And I had to go over the final typesetting corrections for The Savage Humanists edited by Fiona Kelleghan for my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint (which is a tricky book, because the introduction contains footnotes, and those present typesetting challenges).

And I did an interview with the Canadian Press new service about how high energy prices will change Canadian society.

And I had a long phone consultation with fellow writer Dean Lewis, who gave me great feedback on a project I'm working on.

Plus, plus, plus. Suddenly, half the day is gone! To the keyboard, Batman!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rollback nominated for Campbell Memorial Award

I'm delighted to report that my novel Rollback has just been nominated for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the top juried award in the science-fiction field.

The full list of nominees is here.

The Campbell jurors are:
  • Nebula-winning physicist Gregory Benford, author of the classic SF novel Timescape
  • Historian Paul A. Carter, author of The Creation of Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Magazine Science Fiction
  • Hugo-winning author and scholar James Gunn, past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and SFWA Grand Master Award recipient
  • Elizabeth Anne Hull, past president of the Science Fiction Research Association
  • Christopher McKitterick, associate director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction
  • Hugo-winning scholar Farah Mendlesohn, editor of Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction
  • Nebula-winning author and editor Pamela Sargent, editor of the Women of Wonder anthologies
  • T.A. Shippey, editor of The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories
The winner will be announced at the joint Campbell / Science Fiction Research Association conference in Kansas City, July 10-13, 2008.

Other honors to date for Rollback include its current Hugo Award nomination, a nomination for the Aurora Award, starred reviews (denoting a book of exceptional merit) in both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, being included on the American Library Association's list of the year's 10 best SF novels, and being a Main Selection of the Science Fiction Book Club.

This is my fourth Campbell Memorial Award nomination. I won the award in 2006 for Mindscan, and was previously also nominated for Calculating God and Hominids. That's my trophy for Mindscan pictured above.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Galactica Actual

Now, if that isn't a cool-sounding title! On the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, Admiral Adama refers to himself on the wireless as "Galactica Actual." After failing to find any reference to this being an actual bit of military protocol -- referring to a vessel's commander as its "Actual" -- I asked my friend Kirstin Morrell, who knows all things about the military, to see if it's a real term. And she found this reference, that says "Actual" was a radio-talk term used by Marines in Vietnam for Unit Commander. Here's the link.

Just don't be surprised if next time you phone me, I answer the phone by saying, "SFWRITER.COM Actual." :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, June 6, 2008

SciFi Wire features DiChario's latest

I'm delighted to see John Joseph Adams interviewing Nick DiChario about his Valley of Day-Glo, the latest novel under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint, over at SciFi Wire, the news service of the SciFi Channel.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Calculating God an SFFaudio Essential

Woohoo! Over at SFFaudio, Scott D. Danielson has reviewed's new unabridged recording of my Hugo Award-nominated Calculating God, and given it their highest distinction: an SFFaudio Essential! Yay!

The reviews says in part, "Sawyer presents, in a very entertaining and interesting way, arguments for and against God's existence. I can think of no better way to present these topics than this lively novel, and I'll recommend it to anyone interested in thinking about these things, no matter which side of the fence they are on."

And narrator Jonathan Davis gets praised, too: "He is one of our very best narrators and this is a fine performance. I was rapt the entire time, and even near tears at one moment in the book."

Check out the whole review right here -- and you can get Audible's version of Calculating God right here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Science Fiction anthology on Mars!

My friends John Robert Colombo, Lorna Toolis, Judith Merril, and Jon Lomberg created an anthology of Mars-themed science fiction that is now, in fact, on Mars!

Read all about it on John's website right here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


I'm very fond of butterfly conservatories -- and the Smithsonian has a new one, so on my way to the airport in Washington yesterday, after the Gartner IT Security Summit, I took a detour to visit the National Museum of Natural History, where my friend paleontologist Mike Brett-Surman (pictured with a butterly on his sleeve) showed me around the butterfly conservatory there.

(The night before, Mike and his wife, exhibit designer Kim Moeller, came out to visit me at the fabulous Gaylord National where we had a terrific Italian buffet dinner.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Rollback moves up the Locus Bestsellers' List

I'm very pleased to note that Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer is #3 this month on the paperback bestsellers' list published by Locus, the trade journal of the science-fiction field.

I'm particularly pleased because #1 and #2 are fantasy, making Rollback the top-selling SF title for the month.

And I'm even more pleased that this is Rollback's second month on the list -- it's very rare for a novel to appear on the list for more than one month. Last month (data period: February 2008), Rollback was #7; this month (data period: March 2008), as I said, it's #3.

(There are only two other repeaters this month, and both are fantasy.)

Here's the paperback list. Figures following publisher's name are: months on list / position last month. The asterisk next to the last entry means it tied with the book above it:

1) White Night, Jim Butcher (Roc) 2 1

2) Into a Dark Realm, Raymond E. Feist (Eos) 1 -

3) Rollback, Robert J. Sawyer (Tor) 2 7

4) Grimspace, Ann Aguirre (Ace) 1 -

5) No Humans Involved, Kelley Armstrong (Bantam Spectra) 1 -

6) Madhouse, Rob Thurman (Roc) 2 8

7) Goblin War, Jim C. Hines (DAW) 1 -

8) Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card (Tor) 20 -

9) Dead to Me, Anton Stout (Ace) 1 -

*) Von Neumann's War, John Ringo & Travis Taylor (Baen) 1 -

The full list is also online at Locus's site here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Air Canada screwed up

Coming home from Washington yesterday took forever.

My flight was to leave at 5:59 p.m. The plane scheduled for the incoming flight (as it happens, from Toronto) was delayed in Toronto because of mechanical difficulties -- and they spent too long (two hours) trying to fix it before abandoning that and ordering up another plane.

It was too long because by the time they got the replacement plane, the original crew was over their legal/contractual hours-served-per-day limit, so there was another delay while a new crew was found, and then once they finally found that crew, an electrical storm had begun in DC, so they wouldn't let the plane take off from Toronto (because they didn't know if a ground crew could go out on the tarmac when it arrived in DC).

Of course, Air Canada should have known about the length of time their crew could serve, and the potential bad weather brewing in DC, and so the decision to swap planes should have been made earlier; if it had been, the original crew could have been used, and they would have made it to DC long before the bad weather.

Air Canada did not handle it well at Reagan; communication from their gate clerks was spotty most of the time (and for long periods we were abandoned with no Air Canada representative at the gate). Passengers got justifiably pointed in their comments (although no one got out of line), and one of the clerks made it worse by twice calling over police officers, as if asking questions were a criminal offense.

At least we were waiting in the departure lounge. The poor guys coming to DC from Toronto spent two hours in the replacement plane on the tarmac in Toronto before they got the go-ahead to take-off.

We weren't in the air until after midnight. Total delay: over six hours.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Six-hour flight delay!

Thanks heaps, Air Canada. My flight home from Washington, DC, was delayed six hours today at Reagan. But I'm finally home ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Robert H. Justman passes on

Classic Star Trek has lost some of its most influential behind-the-scenes people this past month: director Joe Pevney, composer Alexander Courage, and now producer Robert H. Justman. All the Justman obits are talking about Trek, but I want to mention one of his other genre connections: he was a producer on Search, the high-tech detective series from 1972 starring Burgess Meredith overseeing operations from PROBE Control. R.I.P, Bobby Justman.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, June 2, 2008

IT Security Panel

Robert J. Sawyer moderated a panel with fellow science-fiction writers Greg Bear and Arlan Andrews today at the Gartner IT Security Summit just outside Washington, DC. PC World reports on the panel here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site