Monday, September 29, 2008

Sending agent part of an unfinished manuscript

An email I received just now, seeking advice:
I have contacted an agenency in New York that likes to see the first five pages of a manuscript first before anything. Would it be acceptable, or fair to them rather, to send the first five pages even though the whole thing is not finished. If they liked it, it would give me a little more encouragment to keep going with it.
My response:
Yes, it would be unfair -- and it would be a waste. If they like it RIGHT NOW, and are enthusiastic about seeing it RIGHT NOW, then your best career move is to send the rest as soon as they ask for it. Six weeks, six months, or six years from now that agent may no longer be taking on new clients, whatever market trend the agent might have perceived your work as fitting into may have passed, and so on. You can't grouse later on, "But you SAID you wanted to see it!" If you don't have a finished manuscript ready to go to market, you and an agent have no business to do together, and it isn't fair for you to take time out of his or her day.

Also, your encouragement must be internal to you: you need to want this so badly that you can't STOP writing; if you think you will be coddled every step of the way by people patting you on the head every time you write a few pages, you are sorely mistaken.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, September 26, 2008

A year since Berton House

It was one year ago today that Carolyn and I began the long journey home from the Berton House Writers' Retreat in Dawson City, Yukon. We'd spent three fabulous months there, at the childhood home of famed Canadian nonfiction writer Pierre Berton. We both miss it.

A note for posterity: any writer seriously thinking about applying for the Berton House retreat, feel free to drop me an email at, and I'll arrange for us to chat on the phone about the experience.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

For those who like the hominid skulls in my home

Visitors to my home frequently remark on the life-size reproductions of fossil hominid skulls I have in my living room and office. For those who are curious, most of them are from Bone Clones. The ones in my living room are:

Australopithecus aethiopicus (aka Paranthropus aethiopicus) ("the Black Skull") skull only KNM-WT (pictured above)

Australopithecus boisei (aka Paranthropus boisei) skull only OH 5 (Zinjanthropus -- Nutcracker Man)

Homo erectus skull and jaws BH-005 -- Peking Man

Homo neanderthalensis skull and jaws BH-015 - La Chapelle-aux-Saints -- Neanderthal Man

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Word on the Street

This Sunday, September 28, 2008, I'll be at Toronto's open-air book festival, Word on the Street, all day long (11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) at Queens Park, at the Science Fiction Writers booth. Terence M. Green will be there all day, too, as will the lovely Halli Villegas from Tightrope Editions. From 1:30 to 2:30, we'll be joined by Phllis Gotlieb, and from 4:00 to 6:00, Toronto's SF convention Ad Astra will be on hand.

Note: we've got a new booth location this year, way over by Charles Street (and near the Royal Ontario Museum). Our booth number is 131.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, September 19, 2008

TV rights to Sawyer's novel Flashforward sold to ABC

Left to right: David S. Goyer, Robert J. Sawyer, Brannon Braga (click on photo for larger version; photo credit: Carolyn Clink)

The Hollywood Reporter published an article at 10:00 p.m. Pacific time on Thursday, September 18, 2008, saying we were close to selling my novel Flashforward and a pilot script based on it written by Brannon Braga and David S. Goyer to ABC. Reuters picked up the story, and now it's everywhere, including SciFi Wire. [See end of the comments section of this blog entry for the original Hollywoode Reporter article that broke the story.]

Actually, the deal has closed, and it had even before the Hollywood Reporter piece went online. It closed at 5:55 p.m. Pacific time that day, after many days of marathon negotiations between ABC and David's agents at CAA, Brannon's agents at Endeavor, and my agents at Created By. We're going ahead. I've read David and Brannon's pilot script, and it is magnificent. Details:

TV rights to Robert J. Sawyer's science-fiction novel Flashforward have sold to ABC in a handsome deal negotiated by Vince Gerardis of Created By.

David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) and Brannon Braga (Star Trek Voyager, 24) have scripted the pilot episode, which is now in pre-production. David Goyer will direct the pilot, and Jessika Borsiczky Goyer and Brannon Braga are among the Executive Producers.

Sawyer will serve as consultant on the pilot, and on each episode of any subsequent series; he will also write a first-season episode.

Flashforward tells the story of a mysterious event that causes everyone on Earth to get a brief glimpse of their future lives.

The novel, first published in 1999 by Tor Books, New York, and continuously in print since, won Canada's Aurora Award for Best Novel of the Year as well as Spain's Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficción, the world's largest cash prize for SF writing.

An unabridged audio version is available through, and translated editions are available in German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

CNN called the novel "thoroughly entertaining," and in its starred review, denoting a book of exceptional merit, Publishers Weekly said the book is "a creative, soul-searching exploration of fate, free will, and the nature of the universe," adding that, "This first-rate, philosophical journey, a terrific example of idea-driven SF, should have wide appeal."

ABC is the most-watched television network in the United States. Of the potential series, The Hollywood Reporter says, "ABC might finally have launched a strong companion to Lost with Flashforward."

(Note: because Tor's art department split the title into two words on the book's cover, below, the book is sometimes referred to as Flash Forward instead of Flashforward.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

UFOs and SF

I got asked today whether a UFO novel might do well with a science-fiction publisher, or if flying saucers were a taboo subject. My response:
It's not that UFOs are taboo per se, it's just that (perhaps paradoxically) they're not considered part of science fiction. Rightly or wrongly, most SF readers and editors have decided that whatever UFOs have been reported have nothing to do with extraterrestrial life.

Science fiction has its own peculiar subset of things it allows and doesn't allow: it allows such magic as faster-than-light travel and time travel, for instance, but rarely has any truck with UFOs. Because of this, you'd probably have better luck with a mainstream publisher than an SF one.
My correspondent replied that this was odd, and said he was going to try his book at a particular SF publisher. My response, which I think articulates a good general principle about finding a home for one's book, was:
I honestly think your chances are very poor there. There's a whole subgenre of aliens-are-here novels, but they are not published by science-fiction houses. Find a publisher who is doing that sort of thing; don't try to convince one that isn't that they should be. :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I love eReader, but ...

... they're driving me nuts on my Palm by insisting that the text for introductions/forewords/prefaces be displayed in small type, despite the user having selected a large typeface.

As I observe below, this might perhaps be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I first raised this issue on July 10, 2008, in the Fictionwise Yahoo! Groups forum (because Fictionwise owns eReader):
Just downloaded the 100% Micropay rebate eReader-format edition of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.

In general, I'd say that this is an example of what an ebook should be: it's the Simon & Schuster "Enhanced Classics" edition with endnotes -- and all of the endnote calls are hyperlinks, making it easy to jump to them then back to the text.

But -- and it's a big but -- the entire introduction is hard-coded to be in small type; that whole section does not obey the font selection the user makes (at least, not on Palm OS devices, although I note it doesn't have this problem on the Windows version of eReader). On a 320x480 Palm screen, that amounts to (give or take) fifty or so pages in this book that the user is forced to look at in tiny type. (And I'm talking *tiny* -- smaller than the type used for dictionary definition displays.)

This has become a common layout convention in lots of eReader-formatted books of late: putting the entire introduction / preface / foreword in tiny type, hardcoded so the user can't change it. (Another example, from among many: the book Moral Minds by Marc D. Hauser, from HarperCollins; it's not publisher-specific, but it is format-specific.)

This is almost as bad as lots of Mobipocket books forcing justification on, regardless of what setting the user chooses.

Can you please raise this issue with your suppliers? And, if it is in fact that you guys are providing the templates they use (since you own the eReader format), can you change your template, please? This is driving me nuts!

All best wishes!
No one from Fictionwise/eReader replied. I raised the issue again on July 15, 2008:
Another example of an eReader formatted book that has the entire introduction/preface -- in this case, 39 screens' worth on my Palm -- hard coded to display in tiny type on Palm OS devices:

The Emotion Machine by Marvin Minsky (Simon & Schuster).

Ugh! Can we please get this fixed? Thanks!
Again, no reply. I raised it a third time on July 30, 2008:
And yet another book with the entire introduction / preface hardcoded in eReader format (on Palm OS devices, at least) to be in tiny type:

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes


And, to make matters worse, this book uses a giant embedded graphic at section breaks (a giant picture of what should be a little typographic ornament, a picture of a leaf). This one takes a long time to render, brings up the large-picture warning message, and is present at every section change (but you must look at the graphic, 'cause the book also contains cartoons that are indistinguishable from these until they're rendered).

Anyway, it would be nice if someone from Fictionwise acknowledged the complaint about eReader formatted books on Palms having the introductions/prefaces/forewords hardcoded to be in small type. This is irritating, unnecessary, and contrary to the general principles of good ebook design. How 'bout it, guys? Anybody looking into this?

Here's what I posted today (September 17, 2008):
I first raised this issue over two months ago:

Fictionwise Yahoo! Groups posting

Fictionwise hasn't acknowledged this issue, so I'm going to raise it again. Here's yet another book in which the eReader-format version when used with the Palm version of eReader software specifically prevents the user from increasing the font size for significant parts of the book (namely, the introduction, which runs 70 screens on my 480x320-pixel Clie):

101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived: How Characters of Fiction, Myth, Legends, Television, and Movies Have Shaped Our Society, Changed Our Behavior, and Set the Course of History by Dan Karlan and Allan Lazar, and published by HarperCollins.

This is happening with books from various publishers, so I presume it's an issue related to template and/or standards imposed by Fictionwise, the owner of the eReader format.

I begin to wonder if this is in fact a contravention of the Americans with Disabilities Act, in as much as deliberate steps are being taken at the programming/formatting level to interfere with the abilities of vision-impaired people to use a native function of their technology (font-sizing with ebook-reading software) to ameliorate their disabilities.

Certainly, it's at least somewhat reminiscent of the issues in the recent case National Federation of the Blind v. Target, brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (and settled in the National Federation of the Blind's favor):

NFB v. Target

It would be courteous if someone at Fictionwise at least acknowledged this issue, and offered an explanation for why it is necessary to force small text in introductions, or an assurance that it will stop doing so in future.

I really, really, really prefer eReader software to Mobipocket (and much prefer eReader's DRM scheme to Mobipocket's), but this really is bugging me.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I say no

I'm saying no more and more to things these days. It doesn't mean I don't like you -- I probably do! -- but way too often these days I get asked to do events that pay very little (or nothing) and yet require me to commit to being in Toronto (or somewhere else) on a specific date many months in the future.

For instance, back in January 2008, because it was a friend asking, I agreed to an event at one of Toronto's universities for October 2008. Said friend's email had noted, "There'll be an honorarium of $250, which I know isn't much -- but it'll just be one evening."

But now the event has been canceled (a fact that I only learned because I followed up yesterday).

The dang thing is, for most of this past year, while planning other trips I've had to work around that date in Toronto. For instance, since agreeing to the above, it turns out that in early October, I have to be in Vancouver just before this agreed-to event, and in Edmonton just after it.

Now, Toronto / Vancouver / Edmonton / Toronto is 9,000 km (and three flights). But Toronto / Vancouver / Toronto / Edmonton / Toronto is 16,000 km and four flights -- and I ended up doing the latter itinerary to accommodate this event; the $250 fee I lost when the event evaporated was inconsequential, but I racked up much greater airline bills trying to work around the date in Toronto I'd committed to (and thereby hugely increased my carbon footprint for October).

So, forgive me if I say no to your low-money or free event, no matter how far in advance you ask me. Even if your event is not going to be canceled, for sure, for sure, you're still asking me to lock in a date, which will certainly be awkward for me, given my extensive travel schedule, and may also mean I have to turn down a lucrative keynote or other opportunity for the same date should one come my way -- and that's a major part of my business.

So, many thanks for thinking of me, best of luck with your event, but -- sorry!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Italian interview re: Neanderthals

A little while ago, I was interviewed by an Italian journalist named Davide Ludovisi about recent findings related to Neanderthal tools. The interview is published today in the Italian national newspaper L'Unità, and is also online (in Italian) here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thunderbirds are Go!

Today, Carolyn and I had a few friends over: high-school buddies Ted Bleaney and Gillian Clinton, and our dear friends Marcel Gagné and Sally Tomasevic for a day of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.

We put in episodes of Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, and UFO, and watched them on our big-screen TV. It was loads of nostalgic fun, and quite interesting to watch the Andersons' Supermarionation technique develop from the primitive Supercar to the incredibly lifelike Captain Scarlet.

I chose episodes that were highly regarded at online review sites:
  • Supercar: "What Goes Up" (Episode 4)
  • Fireball XL5: "Robert to the Rescue" (Episode 21)
  • Stingray: "Stand by For Action" (Episode 17)
  • Thunderbirds: "The Uninvited" (Episode 5)
  • Captain Scarlet: "The Mysterons" (Episode 1)
  • UFO: "The Man Who Came Back" (Episode 16)
Had we had time, we would also have watched an episode each of Joe 90 and The Secret Service, but our dinner break at Swiss Chalet took precedence. These were the episodes I had queued up, though:
  • Joe 90: "Breakout" (Episode 23)
  • The Secret Service: "School for Spies" (Episode 11)
All in all, a great day!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Dr. Strangelove and the Hideous Epoch

You know what many of my favourite films have in common? A fervent desire to see the world avoid a nuclear war. WarGames (which I've commented on repeatedly this year), the original Planet of the Apes ("You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you -- God damn you all to hell!"), and Dr. Strangelove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Well, the book I'm reading right now deals in great depth with the last of those three films. The book is called Dr. Strangelove and the Hideous Epoch: Deterrence in the Nuclear Age by John Renake, published by a little outfit called Regina Books in California. You can order it here (although a better page about the book is here).

This book -- a large trade paperback, 440 pages, copiously footnoted, extensively indexed -- is a fascinating discussion of the film, the source book (Peter George's Red Alert), and, as the title says, the notion of deterence. Not only am I enjoying every page, it's making me think.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, September 13, 2008


The season premiere of Saturday Night Live just started here in the Eastern time zone, and, yay, Tina Fey is on as Sarah Palin (totally nailing her manerisms and speech patterns), and William Shatner appears during the opening monologue.


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

WarGames 25th-anniversary DVD

The 25th-anniversary DVD of WarGames is well worth picking up. It's only about $12, and it's a beautiful new transfer of the film -- much, much nicer than the previous DVD edition. Also, the new making-of documentary is really quite good, and, to my delight, spends a lot of time interviewing the writers (often given short shrift in such things).

As I've mentioned before, it's one of my favourite films, and it holds up to repeated viewings.

It's fascinating to think about John Lennon in the Stephen Falken role, as the writers originally hoped, but the actor who actually did play Falken, Tony Award-winner John Wood, totally owns the part, and the rest of the cast is spectacular, too. And, now that I've been to NORAD, the film is even more special for me (although the complete lack of Canadians or Canadian flags in the WarGames NORAD scenes is unrealistic, of course -- it is a joint Canada-US venture).

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Last Theorem

The late Sir Arthur C. Clarke has always been my favourite science-fiction writer, and Frederik Pohl's Gateway has been, for decades, my pick for the finest science-fiction novel ever written. So when their collaborative novel The Last Theorem was published a few weeks ago, I immediately grabbed it.

And now I've finished it. What I liked most about it is how pleasant it is, how civil (almost!) everyone in the book is, and how it manages to hold the reader's interest without a lot of conflict.

In that sense, it's a very mature novel: I've always held that the standard creative-writing class advice that fiction is about conflict was a childish approach; arbitrarily pitting two entities with opposing interests against each other is the simplest, most formulaic way to manufacture a story.

(As those who've read my work know, a lot of my novels really don't have villains, or, if a villain does exist, he or she is a minor character; there's no villain in Rollback, for instance, or in my upcoming Wake.)

Clarke and Pohl have taken this to a very advanced degree in The Last Theorem -- oh, there's a little conflict, yes, but it's mostly good-natured -- and the result is uplifting and charming; this is a feel-good SF novel. Enjoy!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


As of today, I'm wearing bifocals. :)

I tried once before (in February 2007), getting a pair of progressive (no-line) bifocals, but I couldn't stand them.

My normal workstation is two 19" LCD monitors side-by-side; with my regular glasses, the entire sweep of workspace left-to-right is in focus through my lenses, but with those progressive bifocals I had to move my head (not just swivel my eyes) from side to side to read text on both monitors.

I hated that, and took the bifocals back for a refund (I usually buy my glasses from LensCrafters, and they do indeed cheerfully honour their no-questions-asked money-back guarantee).

I should have checked Wikipedia beforehand, because I was not a good candidate for progressives. In its entry on Progressive lens, Wikipedia says:
Because of the relatively narrow vertical band of prescriptively accurate optics characteristic of progressive lenses, wearers may have some difficulty becoming used to the co-ordination of horizontal head movement necessary to retain focus when reading across a computer screen or a paper page. This is particularly true when the reading add power is strong (+2.00 or above). The experience has been described as "moving your head back and forth as if you are watching a tennis match".
And that's exactly what it felt like!

Well, in March of this year (2008), Carolyn and I had a wonderful dinner with my opthalmologist, Gerald I. Goldlist and his wife Leza; Gerry served as a consultant on Wake (which, as those who are reading the current serialization of the book in Analog know, has a lot to do with eyesight). Before dinner, he gave me a new prescription, but I've just been too darned busy (and on the road too much) to get if filled.

But I finally did, and today I picked up the glasses. And, so far, they seem excellent. It's wonderful to be able to read a book or menu (Carolyn and I went out to Canyon Creek, one of our favourite restaurants, after picking up the glasses), and to be able to look up at my monitor, then down at my keyboard (I never can find the damn ampersand without looking for it), with everything in focus.

Pictured above and below: the frames I chose, Brooks Brothers BB415T Titanium. I expect these to now become as much of a fashion trend as Sarah Palin's sexy-librarian glasses are ... ;)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Two months on the Locus Bestsellers' List!

I'm delighted to report that my short-story collection Identity Theft and Other Stories is on the bestsellers' list published by Locus, the American trade-journal of the science-fiction and fantasy fields, for a second consecutive month.

Last month, it was #3; this month, it's #5 (tied with Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union).

I'm particularly pleased because both last month and this month, my Identity Theft and Other Stories was the only single-author short-story collection on any of the Locus fiction lists (hardcover, mass-market paperback, trade paperback, media-related, and gaming-related).

Here's this month's Locus Trade Paperback Bestsellers List (numbers following listings are months on list and position last month; an asterisk (*) means a tie with the preceding book on the list):
SEPTEMBER 2008 (data period: June [List on Locus site]):

1) Spook Country, William Gibson (Berkley) 1 -

2) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks (Three Rivers Press) 7 2

3) Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (Del Rey) 1 -

4) Steampunk, Ann VanderMeer & Jeff VanderMeer, eds. (Tachyon Publications) 1 -

5) Identity Theft and Other Stories, Robert J. Sawyer (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) 2 3

*) The Yiddish Policeman's Union, Michael Chabon (HarperPerennial) 2 4
(Oh, and Mark Kelly at Locus Online has got it right, as above, in the electronic version of this list; the print version incorrectly lists the publisher of Identity Theft and Other Stories as "Robert J. Sawyer Books." That's not right; yes, Fitzhenry & Whiteside does publish my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint, but that's exclusively for books I've edited by other people; any books by me done by Fitzhenry & Whiteside are under Fitz's Red Deer Press imprint.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Robert J. Sawyer Books at World Fantasy Convention

As we did last year, Robert J. Sawyer Books and the rest of Red Deer Press will be exhibiting in the dealers' room at this year's World Fantasy Convention in Calgary, and there will be an RJS Books room party one night. We'll be selling all our books, including our latest book, The Savage Humanists edited by Fiona Kelleghan (which is now out).

Got a letter today from James Morrow, one of the authors who has a story in The Savage Humanists. Said Jim: "The anthology has arrived, and it looks beautiful. Cover, fonts, paper quality -- all splendid."

I couldn't agree more. Book designer Karen Petherick Thomas of Intuitive Design International Ltd. and our in-house production manager Amy Hingston did fabulous jobs, and Friesens, our redoubtable printer, did their usual terrific work.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Large Hadron Collider goes online

Today, I'm flashing back to my 1999 Aurora Award-winning science-fiction novel Flashforward.

Flashforward tells of the first experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Today the first beam was sent around the 27-kilometer-long tunnel of the Large Hadron Collider. There are news reports of it everywhere; here's one from the BBC, and another from the Associated Press.

Congratulations, CERN!

Flashforward is available in paperback from Tor, as an unabridged Audio book from and iTunes, and in a Kindle edition.

More information about the book, including the opening chapters and links to online retailers, is here.

Note: thanks to Tor's splitting the title into two words on the front cover (but not the back cover, spine or elsewhere), sometimes the book is listed online as Flash Forward, not Flashforward.

Besides winning the Aurora Award, Flashforward also won the Premio UPC (the world's largest cash-prize for SF writing), received a starred review (denoting a book of exceptional merit) from Publishers Weekly, and has been continuously in print for nine years now.

Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer. Tor Books, New York, ISBN 0-812-58034-6 (and numerous translated editions worldwide).

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A very good day

Oh, my, yes, indeed. :)

A very, very good day.

Details later, when I can talk about it.

But ...

Happy feet!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

"My new favorite S/F writer"

According to the Sacrmento News & Review, that'd be me.

Their full review of Hominids is here. The reviewer is Kel Munger.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, September 8, 2008

Questions from one of my translators

My very conscientious Italian translator, Dario Rivarossa, today asked me what the following phrases mean in Rollback:

"One of my favorite authors once said, `Virtual reality is nothing but air guitar writ large.'"

I'm having a bit of fun there, because the character is quoting me, from my 1995 novel The Terminal Experiment. But as to what the phrase means:

"Air guitar" is what teenage boys who are pretending to be rock musicians do: they make motions with their hands like they're playing a guitar -- but, of course, there's no real guitar. So, it's called "air guitar."

In the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Bill and Ted play air guitar (pretend to play real guitars) whenever their band is mentioned (see photo above).

So, "virtual reality is nothing but air guitar writ large" means "even the best computer simulation is as far removed from the real experience it is simulating as waving your hands in the air is removed from playing a real guitar."

It was a pleasure to be able to read for hours without getting eye fatigue, and without having to put on his cheaters.

"Cheaters" is a slang term for "reading glasses" -- nonprescription eyeglasses used to magnify printed text. But my use of this bit of slang is ironic, on two counts. First, the character in question has just committed adultery (which is "cheating" in English slang).

Second, it refers back to the earlier question the aliens asked, "Should systems be set up to thwart cheaters at all costs?," which lays out the moral question of whether in fact the character should be punished for his transgression.

If there's no comparably ironic term in Italian for "reading glasses," we'll have to just forgo this little touch in that edition. :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Fictionwise finally has part one of Wake

The first of four installments of the full-text serialization of my next novel, Wake, is in the November 2008 issue of Analog, released electronically today (weeks after it came out in hardcopy!). You can get it at Fictionwise here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Latin and French nouns are gender-specific

So, today, I was at a writers' festival, and, when it was time to do my autographing, I was sitting next to a very nice female writer. She had a copy of her book, and I asked if I could see it. I turned to the back and read the "About the Author," which said she "is an alumnus of ..."

No, I pointed out to her, she's not. She's an alumna of said program (or, if one prefers gender-neutral language, she's a graduate of or an alum of said program).

And, just yesterday, a female friend sent me a note on FaceBook saying, "My fiancée just surprised me with November's Analog - good story!"

To which I replied, "Thanks! But unless it's a gay wedding, he's your fiancé (but you are his fiancée)."

(A gender-neutral phrasing would be, "My bethrothed ..." or "My intended ...")

(I knew it wasn't a gay wedding because the lucky man's picture was on her FaceBook page.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Just finished watching (recorded earlier) the 2008 HBO film Recount, about the process of determining the winner in the US presidential election in Florida in 2000. The film stars Kevin Spacey. I thought it was terrifically well done; check it out if you have a chance.

The Wikipedia entry on it is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


So, this evening, after a wonderful dinner out with my family, Carolyn and I went on to pick up a friend. Said friend lives in an apartment building with very nice grounds, but as we opened the door of our car to let him in, I remarked that "it smells like a cloud of pesticide got blown in."

Um, nope. Turned out it was said friend's cologne!


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, September 5, 2008

If you like Scotty, Next Gen, and remember the 1970s Buck Rogers ...

... you'll love this!

(Direct YouTube Link)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

I love SeatGuru!

As those who follow my travel schedule know, I fly a lot (next month, I have eight flights booked).

I rely on SeatGuru for information about which are the good seats and which are the bad ones on planes. When you're flying across country, as, for instance, I am on the trip I just booked via WestJet, having extra legroom can make all the difference between a relaxing, productive (with my laptop) trip, and five hours of pure hell, with some clown leaning his chair all the way back into my face.

SeatGuru -- which is free to use -- shows you every seat on every plane used by every major airline, and tells you about legroom, whether the seat tends to get cold, how well you can see the in-flight movie screens, etc. I love it.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Any typos in the Analog version of Wake?

For those reading my new novel Wake, now being serialized in Analog: please let me know if you spot any typos or errors. I still have time to correct them in the Ace hardcover, which comes out in April 2009.

Many thanks!


Srinivas Krishna display at ROM

I mentioned back in June 2008 that Srinivas Krishna, the director who has my Nebula Award-winning novel The Terminal Experiment under option, has renewed his option for a third year.

And I note now that his large-scale public art installation When the Gods Came Down to Earth is on display outside the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto during the Toronto International Film Festival, September 4-13, 2008. Check it out!

More info is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Free Jeffrey A. Carver ebooks

Jeffrey A. Carver is a good friend of mine, and also one heck of a good hard SF writer. To set the stage for Tor's forthcoming release of his next novel, Sunborn, Jeff is giving away ebook versions of his older titles. Highly recommended.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

RJS audio talks on writing and selling SF

I had cause today to gather some links to podcasts of me talking about science-fiction writing and the history of the genre, and I thought I'd share them here:

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

This Sunday: Rob at Eden Mills

Cribbed from Torontoist:
The Eden Mills Writers' Festival—the Toronto literary community's annual out-of-town oasis—is celebrating its twentieth birthday this summer. This year's festival, a mere forty-five minutes west of Toronto, starts this Friday [September 5, 2008] and includes workshops, seminars, and the popular "festival day" on Sunday [September 7, 2008].

Some of the big appearances this year include David McGimpsey, Shari Lapeña, Michael Ondaatje, Alistair MacLeod, Robert J. Sawyer, and Jane Urquhart. Book lovers can get a break from the city and spend their Sunday in the village, enjoying readings, music, food, and of course, books to buy.


The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Pure Speculation -- Edmonton in October

Pure Speculation Festival (October 18-19, 2008) Hazeldean Community Hall, Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Two days of literary science-fiction and fantasy panels, including Con Spec (hosted by On Spec Magazine) and Comic Talks (hosted by Happy Harbor Comics); plus games, the Geeks for Geeks Charity Auction (in support of the Edmonton Small Press Association), the Speculation Bake-off, and the Costume Shindig.

Guests of Honour: author Robert J. Sawyer, author/game designer Monte Cook and artist Herman Lau. Adult Weekend Pass: $25 until 10/12/08; $30 at the door. Children 12 and under are free. Website:

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, September 1, 2008

Photos from 2008 Mississauga Write-Off

The 2008 Mississauga Write-Off, which began Thursday evening, August 29, and finished this afternoon, Monday, September 1, was a great success. The weather was gorgeous throughout, and our balcony was put to good use:

Elizabeth Westbrook-Trenholm

Hayden Trenholm

Herb Kauderer

I did some work on the balcony, but also worked with my lovely dual-monitor setup in my office:

Robert J. Sawyer

Meanwhile, David Livingstone Clink worked at my alternative dual-monitor workstation in the living room.

Paddy Forde preferred the sun room; note the cover for the British edition of The Terminal Experiment on the wall

Carolyn worked in her office, but also kept an eye on things; here she wears a souvenir shirt from the last writing retreat she and I did -- in Dawson City, Yukon!

Al Katerinsky usually worked on the kitchen table, but here is taking a break on the living-room couch.

All in all, a wonderful four days!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Have you seen Anna Roebick?

She leaves you breathless!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Enterprise feels like a house with all the children gone ...

They're drifting away: Liz and Hayden left before lunch. Herb, Al, Paddy, Dave, Carolyn, and I went to Swiss Chalet for lunch once more. After, I showed people the "Crazy Ray" episode of Pam Anderson's sitcom Stacked, one of the best treatments of writerly jealousy I've ever seen -- and very, very funny.

Herb and Al are heading out the door now ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

In a Mirror, Darkly

We ordered in pizza (which we ate out on my balcony), then we all did brief readings of the new work we'd written over the weekend. And then, to round out the evening, we watched part one of "In a Mirror, Darkly," from Star Trek: Enterprise, because Paddy Forde, Herb Kauderer, Al Katerinsky, and Hayden Trenholm had never seen it. Hayden crawled off to bed after watching the opening, but the rest of us stayed up to 1:00 a.m., rapt, watching it; we'll watch part two tomorrow.

All in all, the Second Mississauga Write-Off has been a great success!

Below: Hayden after a few beers.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site