Sunday, August 31, 2008

Everyone is hard at work

We had a long lunch at The Mad Hatter, a pub near Carolyn and my home; it was a wonderful walk to the pub and, once again, the Toronto weather is perfect. David Clink is rejoining us this evening after his day of golf.

Paddy Forde is in the sun room; Carolyn and Liz Trenholm are in Carolyn's office; Hayden Trenholm and Al Katerinsky are writing at the kitchen table; Herb Kauderer is on the balcony; and I'm in my office.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sawyer starships at Brickfest 2008

Ben Wall, a fan of my stories, just sent me the above photo from BrickFest in Washington D.C., a convention for adult fans of Lego. The placard says:
Brickfest 2008
Starships Merelcas and Starplex
by Phillip Thorne, 33

Exploratory starships from the Robert J. Sawyer novels "Calculating God" (2001) and "Starplex" (1996)
How cool is that! :) :) :)

More of Phillip's amazing work is online -- including a Lego model of Hollus having dinner at the Jericho househould from Calculating God. Check it out here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Pat Forde got us all to watch this online video, entitled "Where the Hell is Matt?"

Next time we send something like the Voyager record out into space, we should include this. It's us -- the joy of being human.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

David Clink bows out ...

Carolyn just drove her brother, the poet David Livingstone Clink, home; he's off to play golf tomorrow. But he was a great writing-retreat participant, and we were glad to have him.

Still going strong: Robert J. Sawyer, Carolyn Clink, Hayden and Liz Trenholm, Al Katerinsky, Herb Kauderer, and Pat Forde. Tomorrow's our final day.

A line I wrote today:
He'd know what to do with her junk; she should know what to do with his ... shouldn't she?

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lessons from the Write-Off

1) Don't eat so much for lunch.

2) There is no number two.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Clearly working too hard!

Herb Kauderer has gone downstairs (we've booked the guest suite in our condo for the weekend to house Herb and Al Katerinsky at night) and is napping there; Al is napping in a Muskoka chair on the balcony; and Liz Westbrook-Trenholm is having a nap on the couch in Carolyn's office.

Clearly, everyone has been working too hard at writing, and is exhausted ... or else, the giant lunch we all had at Boston Pizza is taking its toll!

The weather today is absolutely perfect here in Mississauga: it's 4:20 in the afternoon, the temperature is 25 degrees Celsius, and there's a wonderful breeze. Me, I'm writing out on the balcony ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, August 29, 2008

Paddy Forde is in the house ...

... and so is Al Katerinsky; both arrived just in time for dinner out at Montana's (a roadhouse chain restaurant).

Pat Forde was nominated for a Hugo for his remarkable novella "In Spirit," first published in Analog. He and Al -- one of my writing students -- will be with us until Monday. David Livingstone Clink is expected in about an hour ...

The first day of the Mississauga Write-Off? A roaring success!

Pictured: Pat Forde and Carolyn Clink in May 2007

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

The Savage Humanists in my hands!

And, OMG, it looks gorgeous! This is the latest book under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint for Red Deer Press; my copies were just delivered to my home. It looks fabulous.

The anthology, edited by Fiona Kelleghan, will be hitting the stories shortly. That's Fiona, below, in a photo I took at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando in March 2008. More about the book is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


The Mississauga Write-Off Begins

Herb Kauderer, Hayden Trenholm, and Elizabeth Trenholm all arrived around 9:00 p.m. last night. No writing was done, but we did talk a lot about writing and literary matters (and I made chocolate-chip cookies!). We watched the opening ten minutes of both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report -- which Liz and Hayden had never seen -- then called it a night around midnight.

And now we're all hard at work writing (except for Carolyn, who's off at the farmers' market, buying us some fruit). Liz is in Carolyn's office, Hayden is in the kitchen, and Herb and I are in the living room. At the moment I'm reading the material I've written to date on Watch, the second WWW novel, just to remind myself of where I was going with it ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Interview with JJA about Identity Theft

Two months ago, the SciFi Channel's SciFi Wire ran a nice little piece by John Joseph Adams entitled "Identity Theft is Sawyer's Last Collection."

To prepare that article, John did a much longer by E-mail interview with me, and I thought I'd share the whole thing here:
(1) Please describe the book -- just enough to give readers a taste of the collection. (Another way of asking this would be to say: What kind of stories do you write?)

This is my second, and final, collection of short fiction. I've published 40 or so short stories over the last couple of decades. I find short fiction very hard work, although I guess I'm good at it: Identity Theft and Other Stories contains two Hugo finalists; a Nebula finalist; a story that won Analog's Analytical Laboratory award; a piece that won Europe's top SF award, the 6,000-euro Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficción; two winners of Canada's top SF award, the Aurora; and three stories that are currently have their film rights under option.

But I really prefer writing novels, and so am going to concentrate on them from now on. Between Identity Theft and my previous collection, Iterations, which Red Deer Press has just reissued with a handsome new cover complementing the one on Identity Theft, we now have the Collected Stories of Robert J. Sawyer in two very attractive volumes.

The stories I'm proudest of in Identity Theft are the ones that get at a real human truth without sacrificing the sense of wonder, such as "Come All Ye Faithful" about the only priest on Mars, "Relativity," about a female astronaut returning to face a family that's aged a lot more than she has, and "Shed Skin," which was the seed for my novel Mindscan, about a fellow who has transferred his consciousness into an artificial body and realizes he's made the worst mistake of his life.

(2) Tell me a bit about the title story: a bit of synopsis and/or a bit of background on how you came to write the story.

"Identity Theft" is a novella -- 22,000 words -- and it takes up about a quarter of the book. It was commissioned by Mike Resnick for an original Science Fiction Book Club anthology called Down These Dark Spaceways. A lot of my novels -- including Golden Fleece, Fossil Hunter, The Terminal Experiment, Illegal Alien, and Hominids -- have been SF/mystery crossovers, so Mike felt I'd be a good fit for this anthology of SF hard-boiled detective stories. I took all my favorite things -- fossil hunting (on Mars!), musings about the nature of consciousness, and what I hope is snappy, sarcastic dialogue -- and put them together.

(3) Please illustrate the range of the collection by briefly comparing/contrasting a story on one end of the spectrum with one on the other end.

Identity Theft contains a wide range of stories. The most mainstream is "Driving a Bargain," which I wrote for a young-adult horror anthology edited by Edo van Belkom; it's about a teenage boy struggling to find a used car that he can afford, and not looking too carefully about why one offered to him is cheaper than it should be.

At the other end, I take us to the very end of Earth's existence in "On the Surface," which I think is one of my very best stories. Do you know the ending of The Time Machine -- the part that's left out of all the movie adaptations? Before returning home to the 19th century, H.G. Wells's Time Traveler takes a jaunt to the far, far future, when the sun is dim and red. Well, I thought to myself, if it's that dim, the Morlocks finally could back onto the surface and reclaim our planet ...

(4) Was there anything about any of the stories that was unusual or noteworthy? For instance, was there one that was personal to you on any level, or for which you had to do a lot of research, anything like that? If so, please discuss.

The whole world was shocked on February 1, 2003, when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry, but my shock was worse than some, I imagine. I do commentary on space missions from time to time for CBC radio and TV, but I happened to be fast asleep that morning when my phone rang, and a producer woke me basically saying, "They've lost contact with Columbia, and you're on the air in five ... four ... three ..."

I take no pleasure in the fact that I predicted in my 1998 novel Factoring Humanity that there would be another shuttle disaster after Challenger. But I am endlessly fascinated by the fact that we gave up in 1972 going any more than a few hundred kilometers from Earth. In direct response to the loss of Columbia, I wrote "The Eagle Has Landed." Another story in my book, "Mikeys," also deals with my deep fondness for the manned space program.

(5) Do you have any favorites in the book? If so, what about those stories make them stand out for you?

One of my favorites is a story called "Flashes," about what might really happen if SETI ever resulted in us actually receiving the Encyclopedia Galactica from aliens -- the accumulated knowledge of advanced races. I actually thought about calling that story "Infodumps," which is the pejorative term some of those who don't like for any sort of expository passage. When I was writing the story, I thought it might be cool years down the road to have it as the title story in a book: a hard-SF collection called Infodumps might tweak the critics in a way that would have amused me. But my wife talked me out of that. Still, I think it's a very nifty story, with some of the best imagery I've ever come up with, and I had a blast writing snippets of Encyclopedia Galactica entries on topics such as "Life After Death" and the fictitious science of "Chronics."

(6) Anything else you'd like to add?

For me, one of the coolest things about bringing all these pieces together into a single a book was the chance to write story notes. Each story has an introduction by me, telling a bit of the history of how I came to write the piece. I always find such notes fascinating in other writers' collections -- and find collections that don't have them rather unsatisfying. I tried to be as candid as I could be, and I hope other people enjoy not just the stories but these peeks into their creation, as well.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, August 28, 2008

F.A.B., Virgil!

Remember back in July, in reference to my stint as Special Guest at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, I asked, "So how does a free trip end up costing $2,700?"

The answer -- in part -- has arrived! I'm torn between announcing "Thunderbirds are Go!" and "The Eagle has Landded!" :)

When Americans interview me, I usually say I got into science fiction through Star Trek and 2001: A Space Odyssey -- but that's only part of answer. My real first exposure to science fiction was through the Supermarionation programs of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the best known of which is Thunderbirds.

And a company named Iconic Replicas in the UK has a license currently to produce large-scale limited-edition replicas of Thunderbird 1, Thunderbird 2 (my favourite!), and Thunderbird 3 (Carolyn's favourite).

Thunderbirds 1 and 3 come with partial replicas of their hangars, and with Plexiglas display cases -- but Carolyn and I have decided to display them without those. They're living in the room we used to call the sun room but is now known as Tracy Island!

Each of the Thunderbirds is limited to 800 pieces, and comes with a hand-signed Gerry Anderson certificate of authenticity.

I was admiring all three Thunderbirds at Comic-Con -- pricey though they were! -- when the U.S. distributor offered me a great deal if I took all three.

But I wanted more, and asked him what he'd charge me if I also took one of their Eagle Transporters from the Andersons' live-action series Space: 1999 -- a replica limited to 1,500 pieces.

He conferred with the UK representative and came back with a sweet price for them all, and the deal was done.

The Eagle also comes with a signed Gerry Anderson certificate, and Plexiglas case, but at the moment it's living free on a coffee table in our living room.

(No, I didn't spend all of that $2,700 I racked up at Comic-Con on these; there were several other goodies, too -- including one more yet to come from Iconic Replicas ...)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sorry, miss. I was giving myself an oil-job.

One of the more memorable lines from the 1956 classic SF film Forbidden Planet. And the most memorable character from that film was the one who said it: Robby the Robot.

Carolyn got me this fabulous seven-inch-tall diecast Robby figure, manafacutred in Japan by X-Plus, at the Denver Worldcon. It sits next to my living-room workstation, looking over my shoulder as I type.

Note quite as nice as bringing home a Hugo from Denver -- but close! :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cleared my plate!

Man, have I been swamped!

In the last month, I've had lots of writing projects that had to be done -- two major ones that I can't say anything about just now, but I got them done ahead of deadline (go, me!); another that I turned in yesterday on deadline; and today I finished writing my keynote address for next week's conference of the Canadian chapter of Meeting Professionals International (how meta is that -- a meeting about planning meetings!).

In fact, I have nothing left to do besides working on Watch, my next novel, except for writing and recording some audio introductions to Arthur C. Clarke novels for -- and those aren't due for a month.

Man, it feels good to have some breathing room!

But there's no rest for the wicked! Tomorrow night begins the second-ever Mississauga Write-Off at Carolyn and my place: a bunch of writers converging on our penthouse for the long Labour Day weekend for an intensive writing retreat. The first three out-of-towners arrive tomorrow -- Thursday -- night, so we can get a good start first thing Friday morning, and we'll go through late Monday afternoon.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Caitlin revealed!

On top is the cover for my next novel, Wake, coming in April 2009 from Ace Science Fiction and Penguin Canada. The girl depicted is Caitlin Decter, the novel's protagonist.

On the bottom is a picture of my wife, Carolyn Clink, when she was in Grade 6.

I think the resemblance is uncanny. :) And, no, cover designer Rita Frangie had never seen this, or any, photo of Carolyn when she created the book's cover image.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Neanderthals in the news

Yesterday, a study was announced that showed that although our ancestors made different stone tools than did Neanderthals living at the same time, our designs weren't in fact better. Among the news stories picking up on the study was this.

Because of my Hugo-Award winning novel Hominids and its sequels ("The Neanderthal Parallax" trilogy), I was asked for a comment by a journalist. Here's what I had to say:
What's particularly interesting is how long the prejudice against Neanderthals has endured -- of course, there are none of them left around to form their own lobby group. But they were physically more robust than we are, and they had brains as big as or bigger than our own. And yet we persist in portraying them as lesser beings.

I rather suspect an argument could be made that they were more intelligent than we are. For instance, we started showing evidence of a belief in an afterlife some 40,000 years ago: we began burying our dead with grave goods -- tools, haunches of meat, and so on, things that were too valuable to throw into a hole in the ground unless we were convinced that the dead person was going to need them in some other realm.

Well, Neanderthals were our neighbors in many places: they saw us doing that, and didn't emulate that behavior; one might argue that they never fell into the trap of superstition.

They also seemed much less interested in make-up and jewelry than we were; we were covering ourselves with red ocher and making necklaces and so on when they were not. Now, we tend to take those things -- superstition, vanity -- as signs of our intelligence being greater than theirs, but they could just as easily be signs of us having less rational, more superficial minds than the Neanderthals did.

Remember, Neanderthals were obviously bright: they made tools, they had complex social arrangements. But it's us, not them, who were exhibiting what today many of us consider to be the most fatuous of human behaviors.

As Metin Eren, the lead author of the study, says of the new but not better tools we used, "A new shared and flashy-looking technology might [have served] as one form of social glue" for us. In other words, we have always been riding waves of fashion and looking to identify in-groups and out-groups.

And the Neanderthals were the ultimate out-group. Our track record of getting along well with people who look only slightly different from us is abysmal; imagine how shabbily we'd have treated beings with bigger noses, sloping brows, no chins, and so on. I suspect the demise of the Neanderthals may have been the first of the many genocides we've been responsible for.

Consider: a standard hunting technique used by our ancestors was to drive a whole herd of animals off a cliff, even if only a fraction of the corpses could be eaten before the meat went bad; there's no evidence of Neanderthals over-hunting, but we've always done that. Again, who was the brighter?

Sadly, Darwin's "survival of the fittest" really often means "survival of the nastiest" -- we cheat and we kill indiscriminately, and we like to claim that it's okay because a god or gods is on our side. Yes, we won in the end, but that doesn't make us better.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

World Fantasy Convention, here we come!

After gnashing teeth for months over the outrageous airfares (all air travel is expensive these days; domestic travel in Canada is outrageous, because of lack of competition), I bit the bullet and booked flights today for the World Fantasy Convention in Calgary.

Carolyn and I arrive early Thursday afternoon, October 30, and are staying to late afternoon, Sunday, November 2.

(We would have come in Wednesday evening, but I'm giving a keynote address for the Grey Bruce Health Network in Ontario Wednesday evening.)

See y'all in Cow Town. Yee-haw!

(Pictured: Carolyn Clink wearing an official Calgary Tourism VIP white cowboy hat.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Funniest line I've heard this week

If I had a quarter for every time I said, "If I had a nickel ...," I'd have five times as much theoretical money. -- Stephen Colbert

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

That'll teach 'em!

I'm delighted to report that an excerpt from my Aurora Award-winning short story "Stream of Consciousness" will be used in the new middle-school Canadian textbook Literacy in Action 8: Time Will Tell, edited by Chris Atkinson, and coming out in September 2008 from Pearson Education Canada.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Catching up with friends

These days, so much of my communication with people is via email. That's certainly efficient. But, still ...

So, in the last couple of days I picked up the phone, and called two of my closest friends -- people I hadn't talked to in far too long. And it was great to just hear their voices, catch up on what they're doing (all of us are very busy). What was the old slogan for long-distance calling? "Reach out and touch someone ..." Well, here it was, many months since I'd even called these guys, and they're local calls.

Anyway, world, the update: Bram Stoker Award-winner Edo van Belkom (top) and World Fantasy Award-finalist Terence M. Green (bottom) are doing fine. :)

(I got Edo on my first try; I left a message yesterday for Terry, and he just called me back.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wake part 1 in Analog out now

The November 2008 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact is now on newsstands. It contains the first of four installments of a full-text serialization (not an abridgment) of my 18th novel, Wake -- so here's your chance to be among the first (30,000 or so!) people to read it. :)

The rest of the novel will appear in the next three issues (we just received the page proofs for Part 3 of 4 today). Enjoy!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Today's additions to my to-be-read pile

I got asked in my Yahoo! Groups newsgroup today what was in my to-be-read pile.

Well, as it happens, my favorite ebook retailer,, is having a big sale right now, so I picked up the 27 books below. Some -- Isaac Asimov's I, Robot; William Gibson's Neuromancer; and James Alan Gardner's brilliant collection Gravity Wells -- I already had in dead-tree editions; the rest are things that I think I'll enjoy reading:
  • 13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time by Michael Brooks

  • Adapting Your Novel for Film by Pauline Baird Jones

  • The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics by Leonard Susskind

  • City at the End of Time by Greg Bear

  • Declare by Tim Powers

  • Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis

  • Going for Infinity by Poul Anderson

  • Gravity Wells by James Alan Gardner

  • Guerrilla P.R. 2.0: Wage an Effective Publicity Campaign Without Going Broke by Michael Levine

  • A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

  • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

  • Ilium by Dan Simmons

  • Olympos by Dan Simmons

  • Lilith's Brood [Xenogenesis Series Omnibus] by Octavia E. Butler

  • Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the 20th Century by Orson Scott Card

  • Neuromancer by William Gibson

  • The Odyssey: Deluxe Edition by Homer & Robert Fagles

  • Old Twentieth by Joe Haldeman

  • The Oxford Dictionary of Idioms by Oxford University Press

  • Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

  • Saturn's Children: A Space Opera by Charles Stross

  • Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks by Michael Shermer

  • Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex, and How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple by Jeffrey Kluger

  • Speaking of the Fantastic: Interviews with Classic Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors by Darrell Schweitzer

  • The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments by George Johnson

  • Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter

  • The Way We'll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream by John Zogby
First up, I think, will be Charlie Stross's new one ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, August 25, 2008

Just call me Mr. Clean Copy

I just received this note from the editor I'm working with on an essay I was commissioned to write:
I must say, I feel defunct! This is fabulous. I loved it. Thank you. I have one minuscule suggestion ... [an excellent point about adding a comma]. But that's my only comment. My work on this one is done.

I'm very proud of this particular piece, and will say more about when it becomes publicly available.
The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

What authors make

There's a discussion over in about what authors make. Jeffrey A. Carver already chimed in there, and I just added this:

To expand a bit on what my friend Jeff Carver said above, many major US publishers pay the following royalty rates, or similar amounts:

Hardcovers: 10% on the first 5,000 copies; 12.5% on the next 5,000 copies; 15% thereafter

Trade (large-format paperbacks): 7.5%

Mass-Market paperbacks (beginning authors): 6% on the first 100,000 copies; 8% thereafter

Mass-Market paperbacks (established authors): 8% on the first 100,000 copies; 10% thereafter

Note that these royalties are on the list (cover) price, not on what the bookseller actually charges. If Amazon sells a $25 hardcover at $16, the author still normally gets $2.50 (although there are conditions when the discount to the bookseller has been so deep that special lower royalty rates kick in).

Most ebook retailers, on the other hand, pay royalties as a percentage of the actual price paid by the consumer, not the suggested list price (so although the percentages are higher, the actual royalty amount isn't as good as it appears at first blush).

First novels from major publisher normally have advances against royalties of $2,500 to $7,500, although there are exceptions; advances go up for later novels, if sales warrant.

A great many genre-fiction writers stall for their whole careers at a per-book advance level of around $20,000, though; few authors are getting $50,000 or more per book in genre fiction.

Note that the advances above for the principal licensed territory (in many cases, just the US and Canada). Authors may get separate advances for the UK (often bundled with Australia), and for foreign (translation rights). Some authors, however, sell World English Rights to the same publisher (Tor, the largest SF publisher in English, tries to buy those rights, for instance).

SF author Mike Resnick did a rough-and-ready back-of-an-enveloped calculation some years ago that suggested that of the 1,2000 or so active members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, maybe 100 make $100,000 or more per year. Change that figure to $500,000 or more, and it's probably 25 members.

(But even $100,000 isn't as good as it sounds -- you have to buy your own office equipment, pay your own health and other insurances, get no pension, etc. etc.; a standard yardstick is that you need to make twice as much if you're self-employed as you do as an employee to enjoy the same standard of living and level of security.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Five years of The Fledglings

Five years ago today -- on Monday, August 25, 2003 -- I sent out the following email notice to 21 very talented new writers. The workshop that grew out of this notice, The Fledglings, is still going strong, and the members are producing some very fine work. (As an example, last year Fledgling member Stephen Kotowych won the Writers of the Future Grand Prize.) I'm very proud of this group. Here's the note from 2003 that started it all:

Hello talented writer! Robert J. Sawyer here.

I'm contacting a select group of those who came to see me while I was writer-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library's Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy.

Not everybody who visited me is on this list; in fact, it contains just 21 names out of the 70 people who had appointments with me. If you are on this list, I thought you were both (a) at an advanced level in your writing, and (b) might benefit from workshopping your manuscripts.

So: I'm inviting you to come to the inaugural meeting of a new writers workshop. I will attend the first meeting only, and I'll simply come to explain workshopping etiquette and procedures. (I won't be critiquing any manuscripts myself.) After the first meeting, it's up to those who are participating to organize the workshop and run it themselves.

Arlyss Ponchuk has very kindly volunteered the Penthouse room at the co-op she lives in for the first meeting. It's a perfect location -- a couple of blocks from where the famed SF editor Judith Merril used to live.

And, of course, it's very much in Judy's footsteps that I'm following here: she founded a similar workshop, which took the name the Cecil Street Irregulars, after her tenure in 1987 as writer-in-residence at the library that now bears her name. Many of the hottest writers in Canadian science fiction and fantasy came out of that workshop, including Bram Stoker Award-winning horror writers Edo van Belkom and David Nickle, John W. Campbell Award winner Cory Doctorow, current Sunburst Award finalist Karl Schroeder, and Asimov's contributor Michael Skeet.

If you're interested in coming out to the first meeting of a new workshop, let me know -- and also let me know of any Saturday or Sunday dates you cannot attend in September and October. We'll try to find a date for the inaugural meeting that accommodates the largest number of people. (I can't do it on Saturday, September 6; Saturday, October 11; or Sunday, October 12, so those dates are off the list already.)

An important note: belonging to a workshop is not a prerequisite for making progress as a writer. Many -- nay, most -- published SF/F writers broke in without ever belonging to a workshop (I have never belonged to a workshop myself). If workshopping doesn't sound like something you'd find fun or useful, don't worry about it. But if it seems like something you might enjoy and be helped by, then let me know.

Frankly, 21 people is way too many for a workshop -- eight or ten is ideal -- so if everybody wants in, we might divide into two groups (a "commercial" workshop and a "literary" one, or a science-fiction workshop and a fantasy one -- whatever works given who shows up).

For the first meeting, you'll be expected to bring copies of a manuscript to distribute to the other attendees (don't make copies yet, of course: wait until we know the exact number who will actually be attending). We should probably limit the wordcount to 5,000 words for the first round -- a short story, or a chapter of a novel. Everyone who comes to the first meeting, and wants to attend the next one, will take copies of all the other manuscripts for critiquing: you critique others, others critique you.

Are you interested? Please let me know either way!

All best wishes!


P.S.: Below is the article I wrote about my time as writer-in-residence at the Merril; it'll be in the next issue of SOL Rising, the newsletter of the Friends of The Merril Collection.


by Robert J. Sawyer

In April, May, and June of 2003, I was writer-in-residence at the Merril Collection. Many people have thanked me for my generosity in doing this -- so let's start by setting the record straight. It was a paying job, funded by the Toronto Public Library and the Friends of the Library's South Region. They're the heroes of this, and I am extremely grateful for their support.

My residency began with a reception for library board members and staff at the Toronto Reference Library, with refreshments provided by the Friends of the Merril Collection (thank you!). At that event, I said that being writer-in-residence at the Merril is "an honour without parallel" for an author of science fiction. And it is: to be asked to take on a role that had only ever before been held by Judith Merril herself was hugely flattering, and I was deeply moved by the opportunity. Indeed, I felt Judy's spirit hovering over me throughout my time in residence, and I tried my best to make her proud.

During my residency, patrons were allowed to each submit up to 20 manuscript pages, and I read these in depth. I then had an hour-long one-on-one session with each patron, going over his or her manuscript and answering questions.

I was delighted by the wide range of people who came to see me: absolute beginners, previously published writers, students, retired people, and more -- even the grown son of one of my high-school girlfriends! At the end of the session, each patron was asked to fill out an anonymous evaluation form. To my delight -- and relief! -- 100% of the feedback was positive.

I'd learned a lesson from my previous stint as a writer-in-residence (in 2000, at the Richmond Hill Public Library). Back then, I went into the library for just one or two appointments several times a week, which I found discombobulated my writing schedule. At the Merril, I decided to do most of my appointments on Saturdays (assuming that most patrons would find that more convenient than coming in on weekdays), and sometimes did as many as seven appointments in a row. Rather than flagging as the day wore on, I found myself energized -- every session was a pleasure.

This scheduling let me handle my residency duties while still getting a lot of my own writing done -- which is actually part of the point: a writer-in-residence is supposed to devote 70 percent of his or her time to personal writing projects.

My contract called for me to critique sixty manuscripts, but demand was so high I agreed to do an extra ten for free -- and we still had to turn people away. That just goes to show how much need there is for this sort of service, and I hope that it won't be long before the Merril Collection gets to have another writer-in-residence. Working with Collection Head Lorna Toolis and her staff was a treat. Their constant professionalism and good humour were a joy.

When Judy Merril was writer-in-residence, sixteen years ago, she invited the most promising of the people who came to see her to form a writers' workshop. Judy came to the first meeting of that group, which dubbed itself the Cecil Street Irregulars, and is still going strong. I'll be doing the same thing in September, facilitating the inaugural meeting of a new workshop, which I hope will help produce the next generation of Canadian science fiction and fantasy writers.

It's just one more way of continuing Judy's fabulous legacy.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Identity Theft option renewed

I'm delighted to report that Snoot Entertainment in Los Angeles has renewed its option on my Nebula Award-nominated novella "Identity Theft" and its sequel short story, the Aurora Award-winning "Biding Time," for a third year.

When Carolyn and I were in Los Angeles earlier this month, we had a wonderful meeting at Snoot's offices with producers Keith Calder and Jessica Wu, and a potential director for the project.

Both "Identity Theft" and "Biding Time" are reprinted in my new short-story collection, Identity Theft and Other Stories from Red Deer Press.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bacheloring it

Carolyn is away for the weekend. She's helping our niece Melissa move into residence at McGill.

I'm bacheloring it. Lunch was chicken wings from Swiss Chalet. Dinner was a frozen pizza onto which I added a lot of garlic. For desert, I had a chocolate bar sweetened with sugar alcohols.

Memo to self: don't mix lots of garlic with sugar alcohols.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, August 22, 2008

Howard Gluss show archives online

You can hear my appearance from Tuesday, August 19, 2008, on psychologist Howard Gluss's radio show online right here. Dr. Howard Gluss is a psychologist in Los Angeles.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

In a feisty mood ...

I'm speaking and reading at a Canadian literary festival next month, and I confess to have been in a rather feisty mood when it came time for me to answer a by-email interview sent to me by the publicity manager for the festival. Here's what I had to say:

1. How is the role and importance of science fiction writing shifting in the world as we wake up to environmental and technological issues?

The role isn't shifting -- but the general public is waking up to the role the genre has always historically filled: a place for wondering what will happen "if this goes on." Science fiction has long dealt with environmental disasters, and has illuminated not just the promise but the peril of new technologies -- and the real world is taking note.

The recent TV special How William Shatner Changed the World was a wonderful tongue-in-cheek look at how science fiction had set much of the modern agenda, from computers to cell phones, from telecommuting to genetic engineering. Science fiction beta-tests the future; it's our distant-early-warning system for whatever threats are just over the horizon.

2. What are your own hopes and visions for the genre and its relationship to the literary world? What are the main issues in that sphere?

Despite what I just said, in some circles, science fiction still fails to get enough respect. As it happens, today's mail brought the new issue of Quill & Quire, with an ad for the University of Guelph's new Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing -- and there's not one single genre-fiction writer on the faculty, let alone a science-fiction writer.

The assumption that SF can't be high art, that it doesn't take skill and subtlety to write, is a pernicious canard perpetuated by those who have never read the stuff.

As far as literary merit is concerned, I'll pit my books, or the ambitious books by my colleagues, along with our awards (41 national and international ones to date for my own work) and reviews (including starred reviews, denoting work of exceptional merit, for my latest, Rollback, in both Library Journal and Publishers Weekly) against anything that's out there in other fields.

Science fiction writers do everything that other writers do, plus more -- they add a layer of social consciousness and forward thinking onto all the other literary virtues that any fiction must contain.

3. In your success and popularity you seem to have taken on a seriously custodian/cultural kind of role that has real pragmatic use. What does that tell us -- what cultural need is being met? What kind/level of responsibility do you feel in that?

The Ottawa Citizen and the CBC have both dubbed me "the dean of Canadian science fiction," and, earlier this year, when naming me one of the 30 most influential people in Canadian literature, Quill & Quire said I'm "the public face of Canadian sci-fi."

I take those roles seriously; I'm an evangelist for the genre I've devoted my life to: I want it to be well and widely read. Science fiction is important: it talks in meaningful ways about the future, it proffers solutions, and it engenders hope.

As the pace of change accelerates, more than ever we need literary advance scouts, helping us steer the way toward a better tomorrow, either by portraying desirable futures -- which tends to be my own style -- or by shining a spotlight on dystopias, in hopes that we can avoid them.

4. Feel free too, to comment on your thoughts around appearing at the Festival itself and the importance of a representative from the science-fiction quarter.

Well, if you'll forgive me, it's about bloody time! :)

Among the literary festivals I've done previously are: Blue Metropolis Literary Festival, 2008 and 2000; Harbourfront International Festival of Authors, 2007 and 1996; Banff-Calgary WordFest, 2007; Stratford Book Festival, 2005; Singapore Writers Festival, 2005; Shuswap Lake International Writers' Festival, 2004; Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, 2004 and 2002; Moose Jaw Festival of Words, 2003; Winnipeg Writers Festival, 2002 and 1997; and the Ottawa International Writers Festival, 2000; plus events at the National Library of Canada, 1999 and 1996, and the Library of Congress in Washington in 2007 and 1999.

So, it's impossible to say that your festival is being cutting-edge here in letting one token SF writer in. That said, I'm thrilled at the opportunity to reach a new audience. What I've found every single time -- every single time -- I've done a mainstream literary festival is that the audience responds enormously positively; it's the self-appointed gate-keepers, whether on the festival circuit, at the Canada Council, or in academia, who are holding on to old prejudices, not -- thank God! -- the reading public.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, August 18, 2008

RJS on Howard Gluss show Tuesday night

I'll be the guest for an hour tomorrow night (Tuesday, August 19, 2008) on The Howard Gluss Radio Show, starting at 11:00 p.m. Eastern time (8:00 p.m. Pacific).

The topic: The psychology of science fiction.

More info is here

A podcast will be available. :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Home at last!

Carolyn and I are home after 12 days on the road. Our trip took us to Denver for the World Science Fiction Convention, to NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Complex, to Los Angeles for four days, and finally to Malibu for the Writers of the Future conference/ceremony. All in all, a wonderful trip, and I think I'm finally (well, 95%) over my cold. Yay!

Also, I'm very pleased with how much writing I got done during this trip. Thank God for laptops!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

First look at Wake cover

Above is the cover for Wake, the first volume of my WWW trilogy, coming from Ace Science Fiction and Penguin Canada on April 7, 2009.

Here's a larger version.

I think it's magnificent.

The art and design are by Rita Frangie.

The cover copy for the book will read:
Caitlin Decter is young, pretty, feisty, a genius at math — and blind. Still, she can surf the net with the best of them, following its complex paths clearly in her mind.

When a Japanese researcher develops a new signal-processing implant that might give her sight, she jumps at the chance, flying to Tokyo for the operation.

But Caitlin's brain long ago co-opted her primary visual cortex to help her navigate online. Once the implant is activated, instead of seeing reality, the landscape of the World Wide Web explodes into her consciousness, spreading out all around her in a riot of colors and shapes. While exploring this amazing realm, she discovers something — some other — lurking in the background. And it's getting smarter ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: ,

L.A. stories ...

A fine day in Los Angeles -- gorgeous weather.

Carolyn and I had lunch with Marc Scott Zicree and his wife Elaine; very pleasant. (Marc and I both just lost Hugos -- me for novel; him for dramatic presentation short form for his New Voyages Trek episode "World Enough and Time." Among his other writing credits: the wonderful Deep Space Nine episode "Far Beyond the Stars.")

We then went to the Getty Museum, and, oh my God, was it beautiful -- something like a cross between what Heaven would look like if it existed and the cloud city of Stratos from "The Cloud Minders" on Classic Star Trek -- absolutely gorgeous architecture, and breathtaking exhibitions (including a wonderful temporary one on Bernini).

Then we stopped in at Barnes and Noble, then it was off to dinner: with Andre Bormanis and his girlfriend Miche; Andre was on the writing staff of Enterprise and Threshold and it on the staff of the new series Eleventh Hour, based on the UK series of the same name. Terrific time.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Worldcon memories

My best intentions of blogging my time at Worldcon fell by the wayside because of the severe cold I was suffering through during the convention. It's mostly abated now (yay!), and Carolyn and I are safely in Los Angeles, doing a little business ... (and had a pleasant relaxing dinner at Tony P's, our favorite restaurant in Marina del Rey). So, a few random pleasant memories of Denvention 3 will have to suffice:

Running into Toronto friends Hope Liebowitz and Murray Moore on the flight down to Denver.

Catching up for the first time in far too many years (eight, we think) with old friends Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith.

Seeing Barb Galler-Smith glowing all weekend long after Brian Hades bought her first novel from her at the con.

A nice chat with Steve Miller and Sharon Lee.

A wonderful dinner with my Tor editor David G. Hartwell, a wonderful dinner with Analog editor Stanley Schmidt and his wife Joyce, a wonderful lunch with my Ace editor Ginjer Buchanan, and a terrific breakfast with Steve Feldberg, the director of original content for

Seeing old friends (and world-class costumers) Pierre and Sandy Pettinger -- and getting invited by them to be Guest of Honor at a con in Omaha next summer.

Chatting with Paolo Bacigalupi and his father, Todd; kidding around with Lou Anders; meeting Rome Quezada of the Science Fiction Book Club; hanging at the Dead Dog party with Marah Searle-Kovacevic and Diane Lacey.

A wonderful lunch with old friend John E. Stith, Mark Graham (the reviewer from the Denver Rocky Mountain News), fans Jim and Marlys Schneider, and Robert Charles Wilson and his wife, at a terrific brew pub.

Getting to see the cover for Wake for the first time (Ginjer brought a printout to lunch), and, OMG, it's stunning. (I'll post a version here as soon as I can.)

A terrific Robert J. Sawyer newsgroup luncheon at Bubba Gump's -- thanks to all who came!

A terrific panel on the evolution of science fiction, moderated by L.E. Modesitt, with Shoshana Glick (who suggested the panel), John E. Stith, Ben Bova, and me.

A final meal with Australian writer K.A. Bedford and his wife Michelle, plus new Aussie writer Lesley, Barb Galler-Smith, Shoshana Glick, and IFWA (Calgary writers' group) members Randy McCharles, Val King, and Susan Forest.

And, of course, the wonderful NORAD tour, and dinner at Kevin and Rebecca Anderson's afterwards ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, August 11, 2008

SETI@home and Rollback

How cool is this? A fine fellow called ionreflex has started a SETI@home team named ROLLBACK in honor of my novel of the same name. Woohoo!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, August 10, 2008

NORAD trip

The NORAD trip I was on on Thursday is blogged here by Annalee Newitz of io9.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

As predicted ...

... Michael Chabon won the Hugo for The Yiddish Policeman's Union, beating my Rollback. Congratulations, Michael!

Sorry that I haven't been posting more. I'm fighting a nasty cold here at the con -- spent 13 hours in bed last night; missed a panel today. I might be feeling a little bit better ... but I'm going to bed right now, just to be on the safe side.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, August 8, 2008

"They're clear! They're clear!"

Today, a bunch of us SF writers played hooky from the Denver Worldcon and went on a VIP tour of the NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex, followed by a tremendous dinner at Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta Anderson's palatial home.

Just got back -- dead tired. It was a wonderful, wonderful day.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, August 7, 2008

New venue for my Worldcon reading

The Denver Worldcon has moved my reading. It is no longer in the Hyatt; rather it's in the Convention Center, room 601. Time/date remains the same: Saturday at 4:00 p.m. I'll be reading from my upcoming novel Wake.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Worldcon Day 1

Well, it's off to a nice start here in Denver, but it feels small (sparsely attended). Of course, it's just begun. Wonderful lunch with NASA scientist Paul Abell, his wife writer Amy Sisson, and friend Shoshana Glick. Dinner with my Tor editor David G. Hartwell. Some party hopping.

Exhausted, though, and a bit under the weather, so turning in early. Night!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Off to the Worldcon!

Denver, here we come!

How can you not love a Worldcon whose slogan is, "A mile closer to the stars"?

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Word puzzle

Here's one to try on friends next time you're at a party:

What common English word contains this sequence of letters:


Answer in the comments. :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, August 4, 2008

New edition of Calculating God coming

Tor is preparing a new trade-paperback edition of my 2000 Hugo Award-nominated Calculating God, which will included a book-club discussion guide at the back.

This afforded an opportunity to update the splash page at the front of the book (the one in the existing mass-market paperback doesn't take advantage of the best reviews the book received). Here's the new text:

#1 on the Locus Bestsellers List!

"The best SF novel of the year; a profound moral and scientific inquiry into the nature and existence of God." —Borders Books

"Spectacular. This is unusually thoughtful SF." —Publishers Weekly

"A delicious read: intelligent, emotionally engaging, peopled with interesting characters and driven by a thoughtful narrative that does not shy away from confronting profound questions. How can you go wrong?" —The Globe and Mail

"The alien's arguments for God's existence are the most convincing I have seen since Thomas Aquinas — maybe more so. For fiction to be called literature, the story should stay with readers and keep them thinking about it long after the book has been put away. Sawyer has accomplished this with Calculating God." —Denver Rocky Mountain News

"Exciting and emotional. Sawyer smoothly combines ethical questions and comical dialogue in a highly absorbing tale." —Booklist

"An ambitious and extremely funny science fiction adventure; Calculating God is the most captivating work of science fiction I've read since Carl Sagan's Contact." —Victoria Times Colonist

"If the words `science fiction' conjure up images of spaceships, ray guns, and bug-eyed monsters, settle down with this novel and discover that, in the right hands, science fiction can be literature." —Halifax Chronicle-Herald

Praise for the Hugo Award-winning ROBERT J. SAWYER:

"Sawyer is a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation." —The New York Times

"Sawyer has good things to say about the world, about people; he deals in a currency of goodwill, where the trust that we hand him at the start of the book is repaid, with interest, in the thoughtful and frequently emotional denouements." —Interzone

"By any reckoning, Sawyer is among the most successful Canadian authors ever." —Maclean's: Canada's Weekly Newsmagazine

"Sawyer has undoubtedly cemented his reputation as one of the foremost science fiction writers of our generation." —SF Site

"It's hard to think of a modern SF author with dreams as vast as those of the internationally acclaimed Robert J. Sawyer." —The Toronto Star

"No reader seeking well-written stories that respect, emphasize and depend on modern science should be disappointed by the works of Robert J. Sawyer." —The Washington Post
The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, August 3, 2008

On starting out writing nonfiction

Speaking (as we just were) of my early days as a writer, here's a piece I wrote in 1997. It appeared in the Ottawa Science Fiction Society Statement (for which I did a column called "Random Musings, more installments of which are here).

I started out as a nonfiction writer, and a lot of people have asked me if that was a good way to prepare for a career in writing fiction. The answer is yes, it was great for me — but that had a lot to do with the particular kind of nonfiction work I was doing.

I've had a lot of discussions with a fellow writer who, like me, started out writing nonfiction. The difference: I started out writing nonfiction for magazines; she started out reporting for newspapers. We both agree that my nonfiction career better prepared me for fiction writing than hers did. The reasons:
  • Magazine articles have a traditional "beginning, middle, and end" structure: the magazine writer has to find both a narrative hook and a conclusion, whereas the newspaper writer has to adhere to the standard inverted-pyramid structure, in which the "hook" is simply a bald statement of the most-important facts, and there is no conclusion — the article is structured so that it can be chopped off at any paragraph break by the editor, depending on available room in the newspaper. The upshot: I'm a much better plotter, and much more innovative in my choice of narrative forms, than she is.

  • Feature magazine articles are written much more slowly. A reporter might do several stories a day; a magazine writer might do only a couple of stories a month. The differences are obvious: the magazine writer learns to spend much more time on each piece, working with and revising the text. I'm now content to spend a week or more on a short story, if need be; my associate has a hard time going back to the same short story on a second day.

  • Both feature magazine articles and news stories are often assigned to a given word length (say, 2,000 words) — but the newspaper writer, who is working much more quickly, will find 2,000 words and stop. I often would have 5,000- or even 10,000-word first drafts of 2,000 word articles: there's a much greater filtration process, deciding what is really necessary to the story and what can be dispensed with. The result is that I write much tighter fiction (more plot events; more ideas per page) than does my associate.

  • Magazine features often consist in whole or in part of profiles of other people; a magazine writer learns to capture the voice and personality of distinct individuals on the printed page, whereas a reporter is usually constrained against doing that. Magazine writers try to capture who somebody is, reporters capture just what they said. I ended up learning a lot more about characterization than my associate did.

  • This one is a subtle difference, but it's based on the fact that although beginning magazine writing and beginning small-town reporting probably pay about the same (which is next to nothing), established magazine writers make a hell of a lot more money than any but a top person at a major big-city daily. I ended up writing for Canada's top magazines, often making a dollar a word for my nonfiction articles; because of this, I tend to shy away from any but the major short-fiction markets. My associate, who never made the equivalent of more than a dime a word for her reporting, still pursues things that I consider non-markets (payment in copies of the magazine, instead of cash), or fraction-of-a-penny-a-word markets.

    That's all well and good, except that because she'd "sold" dozens of stories to such markets, she thought she was a much better, more polished short-story writer than she really was . . . and when she did go after the major markets (and tried to switch to novel writing, as well as trying to acquire an agent), she found her stories being bounced, often with just form rejections. So, while a staff reporter doesn't really think too much about markets, a freelance article-writer does constantly rank the attractiveness of markets, and perhaps ends up with a better "reality-check" sense about his or her progress in fiction writing.

  • A related point: when someone is paying you a dollar a word (or even a goodly fraction of that amount), you do feel you've got to give real value to the editor for that money. I have never uttered the words "well, it's good enough, I guess" in relation to a piece of writing; my associate admits that that's the first sentiment that occurs to her upon completing a draft of a piece.
If I had to summarize it all with a gross generalization, the magazine path taught me quality over quantity; the newspaper path taught her quantity over quality.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

My God, has it been 20 years?

Those who've been to my home often remark on the lovely painting above my fireplace. It is, in fact, the original of the cover for the September 1988 Amazing Stories by Bob Eggleton, illustrating my novelette "Golden Fleece." The same painting was later used on the Science Fiction Book Club version of the novel expanded from that story, and, after that, on Tor's trade-paperback reissue (see the bottom of this post).

Although I made my first SF sale in 1979, this sale to Amazing Stories was what I consider to be my first major sale. First, it was, at that time, by far the longest piece I'd sold (at 13,000 words); second, it was deemed good enough to be the cover story; and third, at that time, Amazing had a policy of paying a flat $1,650 for cover stories, meaning I was paid about 13 cents a word -- more than double the going rate (then and now) at most other SF magazines.

It was also this piece that landed me my first literary agent, Richard Curtis.

Amazing Stories ran the following lengthy "about the author" piece back then:

(Published in the September 1988 Amazing Stories)

At the time "Golden Fleece" takes place, JASON and the Argonauts have been on their way to the planet Colchis for five years. For them, that seems an impossibly long time. I know how they feel. It took me five years of off-and-on poking and prodding to finish their story.

In December 1982, Locus: The Newspaper of the Science Fiction Field announced a call for submissions for a DAW Books anthology called Habitats, a collection of stories dealing with the experience of living in places such as arcologies, terraformed worlds, and domed cities. Such ideas appealed to me — I'd already written about a domed Toronto in my story "Ours to Discover" — so I decided to try to come up with something for that book.

I've always liked playing with words, and the term starcology came to me almost at once. I guess I play with them too much, though. The April 30, 1983, deadline came and went with my story still unfinished. It didn't much matter. I was well over the 7500-word limit DAW had imposed.

April 30, 1983, was an important deadline for me in another way, though. It was the day I stopped working at a regular job and became a full-time freelance writer. I write magazine articles about high technology and business. I also wordsmith for corporations and governments. Neither is as satisfying as creating other worlds, but the money is an order of magnitude better. Besides, I'd always thought I'd have plenty of time for fiction. But my business has been booming lo this past semi-decade and somehow the years have slipped by with me only completing a handful of SF stories, with "Golden Fleece" by far the longest.

Writing science fiction seems a lot like making stew: you throw things into the pot and then let them simmer. For "Golden Fleece," the ingredients included an editorial by geneticist David Suzuki on why he believes Reagan's Star Wars won't work; an exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum about the Titanic, from which I learned the sad story of Arthur Peuchen; a course I took in classical humanities; watching a re-run of The Ten Commandments on the tube; and a job I once did preparing a chapter on special relativity for a high-school physics text.

I'm trying to clear more of my schedule for SF writing. My current project is a time-travel novella with the working title "End of an Era." It concerns dinosaurs — if I hadn't ended up a writer, I would have become a paleontologist. Of course, I've been poking at it since the summer of 1980 . . . If it's received well, I'll expand it into a novel.

My wife and best friend, Carolyn Clink, has been my chief critic and inspiration. Others have read my works-in-progress, too. For "Golden Fleece," I'd particularly like to thank physicist Ariel Reich for reviewing the science and SF writers Algis Budrys and Terence M. Green for their comments on the fiction.

In five more years, Starcology Argo will arrive at the promised land. I wonder where I will be?


  • Motive, one-third of the Futurescapes trilogy, a dramatic starshow produced by the Strasenburgh Planetarium, Rochester, NY, performed 192 times in the summer of 1980.
  • "If I'm Here, Imagine Where They Sent My Luggage," in The Village Voice, January 14, 1981. Reprinted as a "Bon Voyage" card by Story Cards, Washington D.C., 1987.
  • "Ours to Discover," in Leisure Ways, November 1982.
  • "The Contest" in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov, Terry Carr, and Martin Harry Greenberg, Doubleday hardcover 1984, Avon paperback, 1985.
  • "Uphill Climb" in Amazing Stories, March 1987.
  • "The Good Doctor" in Amazing Stories, forthcoming.
Selected Critical Works

For my current CV, see here -- it's a wee bit longer. ;)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Next weekend, Michael Chabon is going to kick my butt ...

However, at least for the moment, I'm beating him! :)

Yes, I have no doubt that one week from today, Michael Chabon's wonderful The Yiddish Policeman's Union is going to beat my Rollback for this year's Hugo Award for Best Novel of the Year.

But, to my absolute astonishment and delight, I see that my short-story collection Identity Theft and Other Stories is currently beating his book on the bestsellers' list published by Locus, the American trade-journal of the science-fiction and fantasy fields.

Here's this month's Locus Trade Paperback Bestsellers List (numbers following listings are months on list and position last month; all the titles are debuting this month except for the Brooks):
AUGUST 2008 (data period: May [List on Locus site]):

1) The Queen's Bastard, C.E. Murphy (Ballantine Del Rey) 1 -

2) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks (Three Rivers Press) 6 3

3) Identity Theft and Other Stories, Robert J. Sawyer (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) 1 -

4) The Yiddish Policeman's Union, Michael Chabon (HarperPerennial) 1 -

5) Chronicles of the Black Company, Glenn Cook (Tor) 1 -

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

A new look for my website and blog

I've given my website and this blog makeovers. They're small changes, but they're all I've got time to implement right now. Still, I think they look better than they did before, and now they both use the same colour scheme, for a more integrated feel.

(The astronomical background images are pieces out of the Horsehead Nebula.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, August 1, 2008

How about a nice game of chess?

As I've mentioned before, one of my favorite all-time movies is 1983's WarGames (just re-issued in a 25th-anniversary DVD, pictured above).

In honor of the 25th anniversary, Wired has this terrific article about how the movie came to be and its impact on geek culture. Check it out.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site