Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Table of Contents: Distant Early Warnings

Canada's Best Science Fiction
edited by Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer Books [Red Deer Press],
trade paperback, August 2009

[Award wins cited are for the stories listed; all the short-story authors have won or been nominated for the Hugo or Nebula, or have won the long-form Aurora]

Table of Contents
  • "Copyright Notice, 2525" by David Clink [poem]
Introduction by Robert J. Sawyer
  • "In Spirit" by Paddy Forde [AnLab winner; Hugo finalist]
  • "The Ray-Gun: A Love Story" by James Alan Gardner [Sturgeon Award winner; Hugo and Nebula finalist]
  • "Bubbles and Boxes" by Julie E. Czerneda
  • "Shed Skin" by Robert J. Sawyer [AnLab winner; Hugo finalist]
  • "Halo" by Karl Schroeder
  • "The Eyes of God" by Peter Watts
  • "You Don't Know my Heart" by Spider Robinson
  • "A Raggy Dog, a Shaggy Dog" by Nalo Hopkinson
  • "The Cartesian Theatre" by Robert Charles Wilson [Sturgeon winner]
Lightning Round [short-short stories]
  • "Ars Longa, Vita Brevis" by James Alan Gardner
  • "Men Sell Not Such In Any Town" by Nalo Hopkinson
  • "The Abdication of Pope Mary III" by Robert J. Sawyer
  • "Repeating the Past" by Peter Watts
  • "The Great Goodbye" by Robert Charles Wilson

  • "Stars" by Carolyn Clink [poem]

  • Award-Winning Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy [annotated list]
  • Online Resources

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Distant Early Warnings

Cover art by James Beveridge
Cover design by Karen Thomas

Click picture for a larger version

Behold the cover for Distant Early Warnings: Canada's Best Science Fiction, edited by Robert J. Sawyer, and published by the Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint of Red Deer Press. Copies arrived in our warehouse from the printer today.

We'll be launching the book at Readercon in Boston in July; McNally Robinson in Saskatoon on Tuesday, July 28, at 7:30 p.m.; and at Antcipation, the World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal.

Distant Early Warnings contains stories by Hugo Award winners Spider Robinson, Robert J. Sawyer, and Robert Charles Wilson, Hugo nominees Paddy Forde, James Alan Gardner, Nalo Hopkinson, and Peter Watts, and Aurora Award winners Julie E. Czerneda and Karl Schroeder, plus poetry by Carolyn Clink and David Livingstone Clink.
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Freedom Scientific podcast features RJS and Wake

Freedom Scientific makes JAWS, the screen-reading software that Caitlin Decter uses in my novel Wake. JAWS is the world's most popular screen-reading program for the blind.

A quite lengthy and detailed interview between Robert J. Sawyer and Jonathan Mosen, Freedom Scientific's Vice-President of Blindness Hardware Product Management, begins a couple of minutes into the podcast (but the preamble is fascinating, full of interesting stuff about products for the blind).

The interview deals with how I researched blindness, my own experience with blindness, the reaction to Wake from the blind community, plus my residency at the Canadian Light Source, machine consciousness, the role of science fiction, and a bunch of other cool topics.

The MP3 of the podcast is here, and the Podcast XML link is here.

I've done a lot of audio interviews related to Wake, but this one is a particularly in-depth and interesting one, I must say. Incidentally, the interview was recorded via Skype with me in Saskatoon, and Jonathan in New Zealand.

From Jonathan's introductory comments:
Robert J. Sawyer's books are for me among a select group. When there's a new Robert J. Sawyer book available, all other leisure activities go on hold until it's read. Robert J. Sawyer writes science fiction that makes you think. His books often tackle the philosophical questions of our time, and the philosophical questions we may need to confront at a future time.

The main human character in [Wake] is Caitlin Decter. She's 15, a mathematics wizard, a frequent blogger on her LiveJournal — and a blind user of JAWS. It's rare to find novels where the main character is blind, let alone when where the research has clearly been so meticulous.

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Aurora Awards endcap display

So, I wandered into the local McNally Robinson here in Saskatoon, and what should I find in the science-fiction section but this wonderful endcap display honouring this year's Aurora Award nominees. W00t!

Titles pictured:

Identity Theft and Other Stories by Robert J. Sawyer

Marseguro by Edward Willett

After the Fires by Ursula Pflug

The Year's Best Science Fiction, 26th annual collection

Nice! Canadians may vote for the Auroras here -- and voting closes in a week.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

James Alan Gardner wins the Sturgeon

James Alan Gardner's "The Ray-Gun: A Love Story" is this year's winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for Best Short Story of the Year.

I'm thrilled because Jim is my friend; because Jim is in my little writers' group, and we workshopped the story; and because I'm reprinting the story next month in Distant Early Warnings: Canada's Best Science Fiction, an anthology being published under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint.

Jim's story is also a current Hugo Award finalist -- don't forget to vote!

Way to go, Jim!
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Dragon Page reviews Wake

Saying, among other nice things:
"I shouldn’t be shocked that Sawyer has done has homework and is able to predict things that could happen in the near future. He’s had a long, distinguished career of doing just that and his new novels are always those I look forward to reading next. WWW: Wake is no exception.

"While the book is full of big ideas, those ideas are grounded in identifiable characters. The main focus of the story is Catlin and her journey from lack of sight to her new ability to see. Sawyer ably puts the reader inside the mind and experience of Catlin, making us see how she works within the world while being blind and how she must learn to adapt to a world where she can see. Catlin’s story will have you feeling her joy, her frustration and her curious nature in how she relates to the world."

The full review, by Michael Hickerson, is here.
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Writers make their characters up

Yesterday, as part of my outreach duties as writer-in-residence at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, I attended a book club meeting; the clubs members -- six very nice women -- had all just read my John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winning 2005 science-fiction novel Mindscan.

At one point, I got asked the inevitable question: who are the characters based on? And to answer that I opened one of their copies of my book and read this little scene, because not only is the answer true, it's also important. Here, Jake Sullivan is oohing and aahing over meeting Karen Bessarian, author of some beloved young-adult novels:

"I can't believe I'm sitting here talking to the creator of Prince Scales."

She smiled that lopsided smile again. "Everybody has to be somewhere."

"So, Prince Scales — he's such a vivid character! Who's he based on?"

"No one," said Karen. "I made him up."

I shook my head. "No, no — I mean, who was the inspiration?"

"Nobody. He's a product of my imagination."

I nodded knowingly. "Ah, okay. You don't want to say. Afraid he'll sue, eh?"

The old woman frowned. "No, it's nothing like that. Prince Scales doesn't exist, isn't real, isn't based on anyone real, isn't a portrait or a parody. I just made him up."

I looked at her, but said nothing.

"You don't believe me, do you?" Karen asked.

"I wouldn't say that, but —"

She shook her head. "People are desperate to believe writers base our characters on real people, that the events in our novels really happened in some disguised way."

"Ah," I said. "Sorry. I — I guess it's an ego thing. I can't imagine making up a publishable story, so I don't want to believe that others have that capability. Talents like that make the rest of us feel inadequate."

"No," said Karen. "No, if you don't mind me saying so, it goes deeper than that, I think. Don't you see? The idea that false people can just be manufactured goes to the heart of our religious beliefs. When I say that Prince Scales doesn't really exist, and you've only been fooled into thinking that he does, then I open up the possibility that Moses didn't exist — that some writer just made him up. Or that Mohammed didn't really say and do the things ascribed to him. Or that Jesus is a fictional character, too. The whole of our spiritual existence is based on this unspoken assumption that writers record, but they don't fabricate — and that, even if they did, we could tell the difference."

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Wake "a counterargument to Neuromancer"

Over at The Grumpy Owl, Ryan Oakley has a detailed review of my novel Wake. It's a flattering review, yes, but more than that, Oakley gets the book:

Wake often feels like a counterargument, both in style and content, to Neuromancer. One hopes that the next two volumes will step out of Gibson's long, dark shadow and build on the solid foundation laid in the first book. If Sawyer succeeds in this, the final nail will be hammered into Cyberpunk's coffin and the world will have a new way to write about the Internet. ... Wake is a major work by one of SF's heavyweights.

And he gets me (which I particularly like, because, frankly, I get pissed off about this, too):

If I have a pet peeve with literature (believe me, having spent too many evenings at garbage readings by garbage writers for people whose wealth and education exceeds their intelligence, I have more than one) it's that the literati could very well be, to a person, too bloody stupid to see any of this. They seem to think that a tight plot construction and a clear prose style are inartistic. Meanwhile, very few of these people can write a straight sentence let alone a straight novel.

Sawyer gets a lot of well-deserved respect as a storyteller and as a science pundit but not enough as a prose stylist. It should not be overlooked that he is a science fiction writer.

In Wake Sawyer attacks the novel from different points of view, using different styles and narrative tools; creates suspense while never employing an antagonist, tells history through a symbolic representation of consciousness and creates a character out of nothing. He does all of this so well and layers in so much page-turning, forward thrust, that the extent of his style is invisible.

As my character Caitlin would say, "Go me!"

You can read the whole review here.

(Oh, and after that, go have a look at Oakley's review of Sailing Time's Ocean, by Terence M. Green, which was published under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint.)

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Trekkie word of the day: Supererogation

In the 2009 Star Trek film, young Spock is being quizzed by computers, and we hear him answer a question but do not hear the question he was answering.

His answer was, "When an act is morally praiseworthy but not morally obligatory."

And, in fact, there is a term in ethics for such acts: Supererogation (super-er-o-gay-shun), from the Latin meaning to pay out over and above. So the question must have been, "What is supererogation?" or words to that effect.

Now you know. :)
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What I'm reading

Was asked over on Facebook what I'm reading. I dip in and out of several things at a time. Yesterday, I read, and enjoyed, parts of all of these:
  • Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson

  • The Evolution of God by Robert Wright

  • Big Brain: The Origins and Future of Human Intelligence by Gary Lynch and Richard Granger

  • The March-April 2009 issue of Philosophy Now (special issue on "Moral Machines")

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Regina Leader-Post profiles RJS

Photo of Robert J. Sawyer
by Troy Fleece, Regina Leader Post.

Click photo for larger version.

Today's (Saturday, June 27, 2009) Regina Leader-Post -- the major daily newspaper in the capital city of the province of Saskatchewan -- has a wonderful profile of me by Samantha Maciag.

The article covers my writer-in-residence position at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron in Saskatoon, and my current novel, Wake.

You can read the full text online here, and below is how it looks in the printed edition of the paper:

Many thanks to Carolyn who worked hard to land this interview for me!

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The case of the missing Amazon reviews

The case of the missing Amazon reviews ...

Well, okay, it's not much of a mystery. :) But if you've only seen the (very nice) reviews of my Wake on Amazon.com, you're missing the ones that have been posted on Amazon.ca (the Canadian counterpart).

Often, Amazon consolidates reviews across its divisions -- but in this case the Canadian and American editions have different ISBNs. (And slightly different covers: note the lack of the "WWW:" prefix before the title in the Penguin Canada cover above.)

Over on Amazon.ca, there are now three reviews, from readers in Winnipeg, Toronto, and Calgary, and all of them give the book five stars (and, no, I actually don't know everyone in Canada -- none of these fine folks are friends of mine).

Winnipeg: ***** "Robert J. Sawyer is always a fantastic read and this book is definitely going to continue the trend."

Toronto: ***** "I consumed this book. Like with his Neanderthal Parallax novels, I completely empathize with these characters. They lift off the page and pull you along with them, particularly Caitlin. Her ability to see through people and her edgy humour are brilliantly achieved and you can't help but admire her strength of character and resolve.

"The use of biological terms and technology are meshed throughout the story in a way that it isn't dumped on you. (It should be noted that I have a biology and information technology background, so I felt like this book was written for me. But with that said, the way he reveals the information would easily engage anyone without this knowledge.)

"Whether you are a science fiction aficionado or not, add this book to your Must Read list. It will not disappoint."

Calgary: ***** "Like most of Sawyer's works this book is filled with extra nods to Canadians. And like most of his works contains elements which should never be left out of science fiction: thinly veiled political commentary, using technology that is not completely understood to create a believable and unique scenario, and finally the exploration of some aspect of humanity.

"A must read in my humble opinion."

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Friday, June 26, 2009

National Federation of the Blind launches lawsuit to prevent Kindles from being used

Because, as I've said all along, the text-to-speech feature on the Kindle series of ebook-reading device was not conceived as, never was intended to be, and can't be used as an assistive technology for the blind.

Read about the lawsuit here.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hayden Trenholm for the Aurora

Yesterday, I put up a post pimpin' my Identity Theft and Other Stories, from Red Deer Press, which is one of five finalist for the Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English this year. And, indeed, I owe it to the publisher, who invested a lot of money in publishing my book, to do what I can to help the book do well, including at awards time. :)

But let me tell you about another book that's also on the ballot, and why it, too, deserves your very serious consideration: Defining Diana by my writing student (from back in 1996!) Hayden Trenholm, brought to us by the good folks at Bundoran Press Publishing House in Prince George, British Columbia.

Their gorgeous trade paperback sports this blurb from me:
Hayden Trenholm is a true original; an exciting new voice, tinged with sly wit. Defining Diana will grab you on the first page and won't let you go.
Hayden's proven he's an award-calibre writer: he won last year's Best Short Form Work in English Aurora Award (and in 1992, he won the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest).

There's an excellent interview with Hayden by Edward Willett -- himself a very deserving Aurora finalist this year in the same category -- here, and Ed reivews Hayden's book here: you know there's something special about a book when the authors of its competitors for an award are singing its praises. :)

I'm the proud owner of the very first signed copy of Defining Diana -- a gift from Hayden (I was MC at the book-launch party for the novel held at Toronto's Ad Astra). And -- lucky me! -- I got to read the wonderful sequel, Steel Whispers (which will be launched at the Montreal Worldcon in August), in manuscript, and offered this blurb:
Hayden Trenholm's Steel Whispers is an edge-of-your seat amalgam of police procedural and razor-sharp science fiction. The streets of Calgary never seemed so mean! Fans of Dashiell Hammett and William Gibson will both love this; a great novel by Canada's fastest-rising SF star.
The quality of Hayden's book is, of course, first and foremost, the reason you should consider voting for it -- but there's another reason, too.

See that pretty lady with Hayden below? That's Virginia O'Dine, the publisher of Bundoran Press, and she and her business partner Dominic Maguire fund that little operation out of their own pockets, and, despite having done some fabulous books so far, with more in the pipeline, they still don't have a distributor (which means their books aren't yet widely available in bookstores).

Having an Aurora Award proclaiming that the best English-Canadian science-fiction book of the year was one of theirs just might help them get the attention of a distributor. And, after all, getting attention for deserving works and their publishers is what the pro Aurora Awards are all about.

So, when you go to fill out your Aurora ballot, please do consider all the wonderful works that are nominated, including the excellent Defining Diana from the amazing Bundoran Press.

(Pictured: Author Hayden Trenholm and editor Virginia O'Dine, the Publisher of Bundoran Press, at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg in May 2008.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site



Geek Monthly, that is. And the June 2009 edition of this glossy American newsstand magazine features a wonderful two-page spread on Robert J. Sawyer and his new novel Wake.

The text isn't available online (hence the greeked Geek you're seeing here), so get thee to a newsstandary! But it sure is a cool-looking layout:

The article, by Jeff Renaud, is entitled The World Wide Web Wakes Up in 2009 ... And Robert Sawyer Set the Alarm, and it begins:
Wake, the first book in Robert Sawyer's highly anticipated WWW trilogy, boasts a leading man that will be tough to cast if Hollywood ever wants to make it into a movie. How the heck do you screen test for a series of tubes?
So, go grab a copy!
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Congratulations, Alistair Reynolds!

British SF writer Alistair Reynolds just did a 10-book one-million-pounds deal with Gollancz, as reported in The Guardian.

I think I've only ever met Alistair once -- we were on a panel together about hard SF at the 2006 Los Angeles Worldcon -- but GOOD FOR HIM!

Still, I'm irritated by the reportage, because the really interesting details are left out. Yes, one million pounds is a lot of money (it's about 1.64 million US dollars, which might be notionally apportioned as US$164,000 per book).

But what exactly does it cover?

Just UK and open-market territorial rights in the English language? Yowza, that's a ton of money for just that.

World English rights (meaning Reynolds will not have a separate US or Canadian or Australian publisher)? That's still really great money for a genre-fiction author (previously, his US rights had been going to Ace -- possibly because Reynolds himself controlled them, and licensed them to Ace, and possibly because Gollancz, his British publisher, sub-licensed them to Ace).

For most SF authors, UK rights might be worth roughly the same as their American rights, or maybe a little less; for a UK-based author, the UK rights might well have been worth more than the US rights, but the US rights still have real value.

World rights, including all languages/translations? It's still good money, but, well, I don't know how it is for most other writers, but for me, in aggregate, my foreign rights earnings match or exceed my English-language ones.

Ebook rights? Audiobook rights?

The former aren't worth much -- yet (but who knows about a decade from now -- and who knows what percentage royalties for ebooks will be considered fair a decade from now; Reynolds is presumably locking in a rate today).

The latter are easily worth four figures (in dollars) per book, and might eventually be worth five; the audio market seems to be taking off as it shifts to downloads from the cumbersome cassette/CD days.

Almost everyone has to give their print publishers the ebook rights these days; I always retain my audiobook rights.

World rights, including all languages/translations, audiobooks, and ebooks -- plus film/TV rights? The million pounds is still good money, but not super-spectacular.

Of course, a deal like that doesn't mean the publisher gets to keep all the film/TV money, but it does mean they get part of it, and the default boilerplate split in most contracts is that they get half (although that percentage can be whittled down).

I never give my publishers any of my film/TV rights; if I had, well, Tor would have had a very large bonanza on the sale of FlashForward to ABC; instead, I got all the money myself.

And is it ten separate US$164,000 advances -- meaning that each book starts generating royalties when it's earned out its individual advance? Or is it one big US$1.64 million advance, joint accounted (or "basket accounted," as it's sometimes called), meaning he cumulatively has to have earned US$1.64 million back before he sees dime one (or his first ten pence!) in royalties?

That could quite realistically mean he'll never see royalties at all (since one under-performing book can keep you from ever earning out a bulk advance), or, if he does, it won't be until, oh, maybe 2021 or so at the earliest.

That is, the first book under this contract will be published in October 2010 (says the article) -- and so the last book of ten on this contract should be published late in 2020, and advances are usually geared to cover at least the projected first-year earnings of the book, meaning the following year might be the first in which he sees royalties.

Okay, the article that I linked to above is in a mainstream newspaper, but the reportage in the SF press is just parroting it, instead of getting the answers to the above questions, or at least pointing the questions out.

Yes, for sure, for sure, it's an amazing deal, and a huge vote of confidence in Alistair by his publisher (and, for that matter, a huge vote of confidence by Alistair in his publisher). But the Guardian article says:
There hadn't been such a sizable deal for a science fiction writer in the last decade.
That's a paraphrase by the reporter of something Maxim Jakubowski apparently said, and I'm sure Maxim was much more precise in his language, because it's clearly not true as an all-encompassing statement (although might well be true about a deal for UK-rights only).

Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert I believe got US$5,000,000 for their latest Dune trilogy, meaning they got as much per book as Reynolds will get in total for all ten.

And my buddy S.M. Stirling did a deal last year that's for fewer books but might well be for more money per book than Reynolds got (again, we just don't know because the actual parameters of the Stirling and Reynolds deals aren't publicly knowledge [nor should they be]).

The Stirling deal is six books for "seven figures" (in American dollars), meaning a minimum of US$1,000,000 -- which is at least US$167,000 per book, if they're apportioned equally, or at a minimum $3,000 more per book than Reynolds got. But, still, there's no real way to compare without knowing what rights have been acquired.

Now, what about that million pounds? Does it come all at once? And do authors have to repay advances if the books don't earn out?

The answers are no and no. :)

The author gets to keep the advance whether it earns out or not. The only times an author might have to repay an advance would be (1) failure to deliver an acceptable version of the contracted-for book in a reasonable time, or (2) a major material breach of the warranties the author provided in the contract is uncovered (for instance, that the work was plagiarized or extensively libelous).

That said, there will almost certainly be a complex delayed payout schedule in Reynolds's contract: some amount on signing the contract, and then portions on (I'd assume) delivery or acceptance of each manuscript, portions on hardcover publication, and portions on paperback publication -- in other words, at least 31 payout events (overall on signing, plus three installments minimum per book). Of course, even sliced in the smallest possible way, into 31 equal parts, the minimum payout per event for a one-million-pound advance is US$53,000 -- of which an author's agent will typically take 15% as fees, leaving about US$45,000 per event, before taxes.

So, if, hypothetically, an author with a ten-book contract stopped writing after the third book (not that he would!), the publisher wouldn't be out much, because the on-signing portion of books four through ten would be all he would have received for the unwritten books (and those monies would be legally recoverable via the failure-to-deliver clause, anyway).

For a big contract, on-signing tends to be small (maybe even just 10% of the total contract value); for mid-sized contracts, a fifty-fifty split is common (half on signing, half on acceptance of the manuscript). Only for very small contracts can on-signing (or for really small publishers, on-publication) sometimes be the full advance -- that's what we do at RJS Books, the line I edit, for instance, since in most cases it's more trouble than it's worth to fiddle around with a series of small payouts.

Anyway, hearty and sincere congratulations to Alistair Reynolds! Having a decade of job security is something almost no freelancer ever gets. Way to go!
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Full text of "Identity Theft" novella online

My short-story collection Identity Theft and Other Stories from Red Deer Press is currently one of five finalists for the Aurora Award for Best Long Form Work in English.

In honour of that, I'm pleased to offer the Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated title novella, "Identity Theft," for free during the remainder of the voting period. You can read it right here.

All of the other nominees in this category are excellent, too -- and three of them are by my writing students:
  • Impossibilia, Douglas Smith (PS Publishing)
  • Defining Diana, Hayden Trenholm (Bundoran Press)
  • Marseguro, Edward Willett (DAW Books)
So, one way or another, the odds are great that I'm going to be a happy man on Friday, August 7, 2009, when the Aurora Awards are presented at a banquet at this year's World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal.

Praise for Identity Theft and Other Stories:
"At every opportunity, Sawyer forces his readers to think while holding their attention with ingenious premises and superlative craftsmanship." —Booklist

"A collection of great stories; highly entertaining and thought-provoking. This book has something for almost any science-fiction fan." —Quill & Quire

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

RJS on WordStar cited in paper about accessibility for the blind

Stumbled on this quite by accident, and found it an interesting coincidence, given that my current novel, Wake, deals with a blind teenager trying to deal with computers: a January 2006 technical paper entitled "A Personal Information Management Approach for People With Low Vision or Blindness" by Silas S. Brown and Peter Robinson of University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory -- which quotes at length my 1990 essay entitled "WordStar: A Writer's Wordprocessor."

The paper appeared in the newsletter of the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Accessible Computing -- and, in another coincidence, the last page of the current Communications of the ACM is a piece by me about the science behind Wake.
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wake is Halfax's top beach-reading pick

No, not Don Halifax -- the main character in my novel Rollback -- but the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, the major daily newspaper in the capital city of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, which starts its list entitled "Beach Reading: Fiction Picks for Summer," compiled by David Pitt, with my Wake, published in Canada under Penguin's Viking imprint.

The write-up on Wake concludes:
Sawyer has a knack for taking realistic characters and plunking them down in stories that might seem far-fetched, if they weren’t so vividly imagined and elegantly told. He’s an excellent storyteller, and you catch him here at his very best.
You can read the whole review -- and the rest of the Chronicle Herald's summer picks -- here.
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Touring for Wake comes to an end

And that's a wrap!

Today I did my final scheduled touring event to promote my new novel Wake.

The touring started on Monday, April 13, 2009, at Borderlands Books in San Francisco.

That was followed April 17-19, 2009, at Xanadu Las Vegas, the wonderful science-fiction convention I was author guest of honor at.

Then there were stops in Vancouver, British Columbia; Calgary, Alberta; Edmonton, Alberta; Moncton, New Brunswick; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Montreal, Quebec; Ottawa, Ontario; Toronto, Ontario; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Waterloo, Ontario; Sudbury, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and finally, this afternoon, in Regina, Saskatchewan. It's been exhilarating, exhausting, and, I believe, effective.

Many thanks to the people who made this tour possible. All the wonderful booksellers; Penguin Canada (and my publicist there, Debbie Gaudet); plus Carolyn Clink, who worked very hard booking media for me; and the friends who lent a hand as I traveled across the continent: Kaye Mason, Bonnie Jean Mah, Kirstin Morrell, Randy McCharles, Vanessa G. Gaudio, Hayden Trenholm, Liz Trenholm, and Edward Willett -- I couldn't have done it without you!

Of course, my travels are by no means over: I've still got numerous trips still coming up this year.

Photograph copyright 2009 by Charles Mohapel.

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Tanya Huff on the Globe and Mail bestsellers' list

W00t! My great friend Tanya Huff is now officially a Canadian national bestselling author! Her Valor's Trial, just out in mass-market paperback after a successful run in hardcover, is on The Globe and Mail's Canadian Fiction Bestsellers's List, published in today's (Saturday 20 June 2009) edition of the paper, and also available online.

The Canadian Fiction Bestsellers' List is compiled for The Globe and Mail by BookNet Canada, which records actual point-of-sale data from hundreds of bookstores across Canada.

Tanya and I first met 30 years ago this September, when we both started our bachelor's degrees studies in Radio and Television Arts at what was then called Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto. We were in the same Canadian-Literature course in first year, were in the same creative-writing class (under Marianne Brandis), and collaborated on our final-year TV project (we co-wrote the script, I directed, and Tanya produced), a nifty little science-fiction drama.

We both went on to be prolific novelists for major US publishers, me exclusively in science fiction, and Tanya in both SF and fantasy; we both nonetheless went out of our way to publish short-story collections with Canadian small presses and otherwise support Canada's growing SF industry; and we've both had novels adapted into television series (Tanya's Blood books were made into the TV series Blood Ties, and my Flashforward will be a series this fall).

It's said often enough that Robert Charles Wilson is my brother; well, if that's true, then Tanya Huff is my sister -- and I'm very, very proud of my sister today! Congratulations, Tanya! You rock!
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Authors@Google: Robert J. Sawyer

Now available on YouTube: my full 1 hour and 12 minute talk given at Google Waterloo on Wednesday, May 27, 2009. Wake up, Watch it, and Wonder about it ... ;)

(If you prefer an audio podcast, you can get that here.)
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Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking ...

It's been a busy seven days of public appearances and interviews -- in three different cities:

Saturday evening, June 13, 2009, I appeared in Calgary, Alberta, reading from Wake at the EDGE Publishing book-launch event.

Monday, June 15, 2009, I gave an hour-long creative-writing lecture on "Great Beginnings" to the staff of the Canadian Light Source.

That evening, I gave a talk on science fiction and astronomy for the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Wednesday evening, June 17, 2009, I gave a public lecture entitled "Science Fiction as a Mirror for Reality" at the Frances Morrison Theatre of the Saskatoon Public Library, and, after the talk, I gave a reading from Wake.

Thursday, June 18, 2009, I did a half-hour radio interview on John Gormley Live, Saskatchewan's most-popular morning show.

Thursday evening, June 18, 2009, I gave the banquet speech at the Canadian Light Source's annual users meeting.

Today, I record another radio interview down in Regina.

And this Saturday afternoon, June 20, 2009, at 2:00 p.m., I'm reading from Wake at Book and Brier Patch in Regina.


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Rob on John Gormley Live

John Gormley Live is Saskatchewan's most-popular radio morning show, and I was guest for almost half an hour this morning. Missed it? No problem! You can hear the whole interview right here (I start at the 16 minute 9 second mark, and, in this version, with the commercials trimmed out, it lasts about 18 minutes).

Most of the interview is about my writer-in-residence gig at the Canadian Light Source.

John Gormley Live is heard daily on News Talk 650 in Saskatoon and News Talk 980 in Regina.
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The things people say to writers!

Tonight I gave a very-well-received talk and reading at the Saskatoon Public Library, as part of my residency at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, with 108 people in the audience. And at the end, there was a reception with refreshments, and people came up to say hi, and get autographs, and ask questions, and all was lovely and sweet until one fellow posed his question:
Do you ever get jealous when you read a really good writer like Orson Scott Card?
And I know we writers are supposed to bend over and take it whenever anyone wants to take a whack at us in a review, or on Amazon, or whatever, but you know what? We actually do have feelings -- and I think my response of:
What the fuck kind of thing is that to say?
showed commendable restraint. (Although I did go on to say that, "In point of fact, I admire Scott's writing a great deal and he admires mine." [see last page of PDF])

Ah, well. Otherwise, a really nice evening. :)
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It's a book and a movie!

Someone wrote me this morning saying (of the novel this person was writing): "I think my story has great potential to be a film; my goal is to find an agent that will promote this project as both a film and a book." My response:

The reality is that agents can sell finished manuscripts to book publishers, but that Hollywood is rarely interested in an unpublished book. So, if your story exists solely as a book manuscript, rather than a screenplay, the first step is probably to get it published (while making sure to retain control of your film/TV rights).

Hollywood has a hard enough time sorting through the vast number of published books looking for things to adapt without also agreeing to sift through unpublished books, too; in other words, the fact that the book has sold to a publisher is Hollywood's first indication -- other than the earnest but hardly objective assertion of the author or his/her representative -- that it is a good story. :)

My own agent simply is not looking to take on new clients; his plate is quite full as it is. But you'll find my advice on landing an agent here.


And there's some background on film contracts and options here.
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Remembering William A.S. Sarjeant

Carolyn and I are having lunch today with my friend Peggy Sarjeant. Peggy is the widow of William Antony Swithin Sarjeant, who had managed to do both of the things I wanted to do with my life: he was a professional paleontologist and a published science-fiction writer.

Read more about him here, and read my tribute to him here. Bill passed away in 2002.
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Events in Saskatoon and Regina this week

I'm doing two free public events in Saskatchewan this week:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 (tomorrow), at 7:00 p.m.: Free public lecture at the Frances Morrison Library Theatre in Saskatoon: "A Galaxy Far, Far Away My Ass: Science Fiction as a Mirror for Reality."

Saturday, June 20, 2009, at 2:00 p.m.: Reading from Wake and signing at Book & Brier Patch, 4065 Albert Street in Regina.
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Anticipation's Aurora Awards banquet -- a significant break from tradition

A few interesting facts about this year's Aurora Awards and the ceremony at which they will be presented, courtesy of the website for Anticipation, the World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal, which is hosting the Auroras this year:

"Since the Awards will be held in Montreal, we are placing emphasis on access to French works, through translations and other efforts to make the output of French Canada available to international attendees."

One wonders if the Aurora Awards subcommittee of the 2003 Worldcon -- the previous Canadian one -- had issued a statement like the above about the Auroras, but with "Toronto" and "English" substituted for "Montreal" and "French," what the response would have been. Surely all of Canada's Aurora-Award-nominated works deserve to be highlighted for those coming to the Worldcon from outside Canada.


"The Awards will take place Friday, August 7th. Doors open at 17:30, Dinner and Awards start at 18:00. A cash bar will be available during the Awards."

Well, that's nice that they're having a banquet; those Aurora Award ceremonies that have included a banquet (starting, I believe, in 1997) have been the best.

"Due to time constraints, the Awards ceremony will take place during dinner."

Time constraints? But Anticipation bid to become the Canadian National Science Fiction Convention: it fought for the right to be the venue at which the Auroras are presented, and fought for the right to be designated not just the World Science Fiction Convention but also the CanVention, this year's Canadian National SF Convention. Surely they are setting an appropriate block of time aside for the Aurora Award ceremony, no?

"Therefore, open seating after the banquet is not available this year. If you want to attend the ceremonies, you must purchase a ticket. You must be a member of Anticipation to attend the banquet."

Who in the what now? This is a huge break in tradition. No one has ever had to pay to see the Auroras presented before. When there has been a banquet, it has always been followed by open seating, allowing people to see the awards be presented without having to pay. Indeed, the open seating normally hasn't even required people to have a convention membership to come in and watch. (I always go to the banquet when there is one, but that's not the point.)

Also, having often been master of ceremonies for, given keynote speeches at, and participated in many dozens of awards ceremonies and banquets over the years, both in and out of the SF field, I'll point out that you never give the awards while people are trying to eat. The noise level is too high and there are too many people distracted from paying attention to the presentation of the awards; it ruins both the meal and the awards ceremony.

"Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 on site. This is on top of the registration fees required for voting ... If you want to attend the ceremonies, you must purchase a ticket."

So, if you're nominated for an Aurora, and you actually want to attend the ceremony at which the winners will be announced, the fee is Cdn$240 for your membership in Anticipation plus Cdn$40 for your banquet ticket, if you buy in advance, for at total of Cdn$290 -- or more at the door.

In the past, nominees and others who are interested (even the general public) have been able to attend the actual ceremony for free, since the ceremony has always been held either as a standalone affair or after the banquet was over.

We've often had cases in the past where there have been surprise Aurora victories (meaning no one can confidently predict who is going to win in any given category), and many nominees -- both pro and fan -- will find $40 (for their own ticket) or $80 (the combined cost of their own and one for their significant other) too steep to bear.

It seems to me, therefore, that Anticipation is manufacturing a situation in which there will likely be winners who are attending the Worldcon but will not be able to come into the room to receive their trophies (or their applause) during the ceremony, because they've chosen not to (or been unable to) spend $40 on a banquet ticket on the off-chance that they might win.

Given that Anticipation seems unwilling to clear an appropriate block of time in its schedule for the Aurora Awards (and therefore is currently planning on trying to cram all of a cash bar, a sit-down meal, and the actual presentation of the awards into a small window of time), I personally think they'd do better to dispense with the banquet, and have a proper ceremony -- one that all of the nominees can attend -- instead.

But the real solution is for this year's Canadian National Science Fiction Convention -- that selfsame Anticipation -- to find the appropriate amount of time in the schedule for both the banquet and the awards ceremony. The current plan -- a rushed affair with a mandatory entrance fee -- is unfair to the nominees, to those on a budget, and to the dignity of the awards.
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CLS: Tempus fugit

Carolyn and I have been in Saskatoon for two full weeks now. Incredibly, my writer-in-residence gig at the Canadian Light Source, Canada's national synchrotron, is already one-quarter over.

But what a two weeks it's been. During it, I:
  • Did safety training at CLS
  • Was interviewed by CBC Radio One in Saskatoon
  • Was interviewed by CBC Televison (the story carried
  • Was interviewed by CTV News Saskatoon
  • Was interviewed by Shaw Cable Saskatoon
  • Did a pre-interview for a documentary about the CLS
  • Did a podcast (about which more later) related to Wake
  • Attended Edward Willett's book launch at McNally Robinson
  • Had my own book launch for Wake at cNally Robinson (and hit #2 on the Saskatoon StarPhoenix bestsellers' list
  • Attended a dinner party at Yann Martel and Alice Kuipers' place
  • Attended a barbecue at Matthew Dalzell's place (Matt's my supervisor at CLS)
  • Gave two one-hour how-to-write seminars at CLS, one on generating story ideas and the other on how to start a story
  • Gave a talk at a local high school (Centennial Collegiage)
  • Gave talk to the Saskatoon Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
  • Gave a talk to the computer-science department at the University of Saskatchewan
  • Flew to Calgary for this past weekend
  • Attended VulCON 16: Spock Days / Galaxyfest in Vulcan, Alberta
  • Attended (and gave a reading at) the big season launch party for EDGE Publishing in Calgary
  • Did 13 one-on-one hour-long consultations with local writers in Saskatoon (having read and prepared critiques of their manuscripts in advance)
  • And, oh, yes, wrote the first 2,100 words of Wonder, the hird WWW novel
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Monday, June 15, 2009

First look at Watch cover

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Here's the first look at the cover for Watch, second volume of my WWW trilogy. This is the American version for Ace Science Fiction; the Canadian version for Penguin Canada will be similar, but will lack the "WWW:" in front of the title.

The cover design is by Rita Frangie, and the cover art is by Tony Mauro. Watch will be published in hardcover in April 2010.

I think this is a gorgeous follow-on to the lovely cover for Wake, below:

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Friday, June 12, 2009

#2 Bestseller in Saskatoon

McNally Robinson's Saskatoon superstore provides the data to the major Saskatoon newspaper, The Saskatoon StarPhoenix, for its bestsellers' list. My Wake is #2 this week on the hardcover list, having been beaten by ... Dr. Seuss!

The list, which will be in tomorrow's (Saturday, June 13, 2009's) StarPhoenix, is below:

  1. Oh, The Places You'll Go!
    By Dr. Seuss - $22.00

  2. Wake
    By Robert J. Sawyer - $30.00

  3. Skin Trade
    By Laurel K. Hamilton - $23.45

  4. Excuses Begone
    By Wayne W. Dyer - $30.95

  5. Medusa
    By Clive Cussler - $24.50

  6. The Scarecrow
    By Michael Connelly - $21.69

  7. Gone Tomorrow
    By Lee Child - $22.40

  8. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
    By Alexander Mccall Smith - $20.97

  9. The Hormone Diet: Lose Fat Gain Strenth Live Younger Longer
    By Natasha Turner - $32.95

  10. Seasick: The Global Ocean in Crisis
    By Alanna Mitchell - $32.99

(And, by the way, my Flashforward is #7 on the StarPhoenix mass-market paperback list this week, and Previously, Wake hit #1 on the Winnipeg Free Press bestsellers' list.)


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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Listen Up science-fiction episode online

Although the broadcast debut isn't until Sunday, June 14, 2009, the special science-fiction episode of the Canadian religious TV show Listen Up is already online on YouTube.

The feature interviews are with Robert J. Sawyer, Gabriel McKee, John C. Wright, and Peter Kazmaier, and there are clips from Hugo Award-winner Robert Charles Wilson, and Space: The Imagination Station's Mark Askwith.

Here's the whole show, in four parts:

Part 1: Robert J. Sawyer, the author of Wake and Calculating God, plus comments from Penguin Canada publicist Debbie Gaudet, Robert Charles Wilson, and Mark Askwith

Part 2: The Sunburst Award's Peter Halasz (the fellow who makes the opening comment); Gabriel McKee, author of the excellent nonfiction survey The Gospel According to Science Fiction

Part 3: Tor author John C. Wright discussing his conversion to Christianity; self-published author Peter Kazmaier

Part 4: The host's wrap-up.

I was asked on camera about my own beliefs -- I'm an atheist -- but that didn't make it to the final cut, it seems. :)

Here's Listen Up's own page about the episode.

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SF writers featured on Listen Up this Sunday

I was about to write a blog post about my upcoming appearance on the Canadian TV show Listen Up, which airs Sundays at 11:00 a.m. on Canada's Global TV -- but I see Gabriel McKee, author of the excellent The Gospel According to Science Fiction, who is appearing on the same episode (as are Robert Charles Wilson and John C. Wright), has beaten me to it.

The interview with me was recorded at the Toronto book-launch party for Wake at the Dominion on Queen Pub, and was conducted by Patricia L. Paddey, who, as it happens was in my year in Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson (Class of 1982).
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Sci-fi writer ready to draw inspiration from Saskatoon synchrotron

That's the headline for a story at CBC.ca today -- and here's the very nice article about my residency at the Canadian Light Source that accompanies it.

(There was also a lovely piece on the Saskatchewan CBC Evening News last night, from which the quotes for this article were excerpted.)
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"I love the fact that Robert J. Sawyer is smarter than me"

Now, that's a review! The June 11, 2009, edition of FFWD (aka Fast Forward Weekly: Calgary's News and Entertainment Alternative) has a wonderful, lengthy review of my Wake by Hugh Graham. Here's the opening, a little piece from the middle, and the close:
I love the fact that Robert J. Sawyer is smarter than me. There is a breadth to his concepts and ideas in his latest novel, Wake, that is exhilarating, if not exhausting. In the hands of a less skilled and less focused author, it would be like tab-surfing Wikipedia. Wake, however, is an engrossing, fascinating and, yes, challenging novel to read.

Wake has more great and intriguing ideas, philosophies and concepts interwoven throughout the plot than should be allowed in a single novel.

Wake is founded on theories that communication, in any form, is not just a way of sharing information, but is the central construct for all education, for true emancipation as well as the vehicle of all empathy and understanding. This is why Sawyer's Wake succeeds; his unabashed optimism and hope for a shared future that is no longer bound and tethered by tyranny, petty opportunism and fear. "Communication," says Sawyer, "is about breaking down barriers." "(Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and former prime minister) Lester Pearson was my hero and we Canadians have a great history of mediating, of reaching across to grant greater understanding."

The whole review is online here (and its publication at this somewhat late date is tied into the fact that I'm appearing in Calgary this Saturday night at at the EDGE Publishing launch party, also covered by FFWD).
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Amy J. Ransom doesn't play fair in the May NYRSF

David G. Hartwell, the reviews and features editor for The New York Review of Science Fiction, tells me my rebuttal to American academic Amy J. Ransom can't appear in print until three months from now, long after the end of the Worldcon in Montreal, and so I'm posting it here:

Amy J. Ransom's frame for her article in the May 2009 NYRSF is just plain silly (as is the article's title, which is, in part: "SFQ: More than Just a Hobby"). She leads with a reference to my blog posting that enumerated significant Canadian-SF anniversaries occurring in 2009 (and then mangled the URL of the entry so no one could consult it easily), then posits a supposed "companion" list for French-Canadian SF: the 13th anniversary of this, the 21st anniversary of that, the 16th of something else, another 13th, and the 11th of yet one more thing.

But every year is the anniversary of each preceding year. I had shown — within hours of its selection as a venue — why a Worldcon in Canada (not just in Montreal), in 2009, on the 30th, 25th, and 20th anniversaries of signal events in the history of Canadian SF, was appropriate. If I could have cherry-picked, as she did, from all of history (the 6th anniversary of this, the 17th of that), I could have produced a much longer list.

Ransom wrongly characterizes my list as being solely about English Canadian SF. Three of my eight anniversaries have significant French Canadian components: the first and all subsequent volumes (including the one I co-edited) of the Tesseracts anthology series; the founding of the bilingual national writers association SF Canada; and the gathering together of French and English writers that was ConText.

Still, Ransom is deliberately unfair in failing to mention that in a comment to my own blog posting I also listed three significant French-Canadian anniversaries, including the only two significant ones — that is, those ending in a zero or five — that Ransom herself mentions, plus one she missed.

And her conclusion (and the basis for part of the title), quoting six words selectively from what I said seven years ago, to wit, "French-Canadian sf is a hobby," and then asking but failing to answer the question of whether on a per capita basis there really are more Anglo-Canadian SF writers doing this for a living, is specious.

First, what I actually said, in response to interviewer Steven H. Silver's question, was much fuller: "English-Canadian SF can be a profession: people like me, Spider Robinson, William Gibson, Karl Schroeder, and Julie Czerneda do it for a living. French-Canadian SF is a hobby; there's just no way you can do it as your principal undertaking in life. It's got more in common with poetry — a labor of love, often, to be sure, producing exceptionally fine work, but confined to small presses, and read, to be honest, by only a few hundred people."

To my list above, one could add, among others, Nalo Hopkinson, Karin Lowachee, Kenneth Oppel, Jo Walton, Peter Watts, and Robert Charles Wilson — and that's before starting to include the fantasists who sometimes work in SF (Tanya Huff, Dave Duncan, etc.). Leaving hanging a question the answer to which is obvious and pretending instead that it's a profound poser is not argumentation, it's deception — and Ransom does no one a service by it.

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French edition of Wake

Le w00t! I'm delighted to report that French rights to Wake have sold to Éditions Robert Laffont in Paris, via my agents Ralph M. Vicinanza Ltd.

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Nick DiChario novel from RJS Books nominated for Campbell Memorial!

Nick DiChario is now two for two! His Valley of Day-Glo, published under Fitzhenry & Whiteside's Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint, is a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award -- the principal juried award in the science-fiction field, voted on by a blue-ribbon panel of American and British academics, critics, and authors.

The Campbell Memorial is considered the third of the big-three SF awards, after the Hugo and the Nebula (and is the only major award for which only science fiction, and not fantasy, is eligible).

Nick's A Small and Remarkable Life, also published under my imprint, was previously nominated for the same award.

The winner will be announced in Kansas City at the Campbell Conference, July 9-12, 2009.

The full list of nominees is here, and you can read Nancy Kress's introduction to the book here.

Congratulations, Nick!
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Flashforward premieres Thursday, September 24, 2009

So says The Hollywood Reporter (and, of course, note that of all the ABC series they could choose to show a still from to illustrate this article, it's Flashforward. Yes, we rock.)
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Nice note about my CSWA keynote

Lovely feedback from the Canadian Science Writers' Association on my closing keynote address at their annual meeting last month in Sudbury:
"In a conference already packed with treats and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, Rob's talk on the craft of science writing from a science fiction writers' perspective stood out as a celebration of compelling science communication. His keynote at our meeting charged members with enthusiasm for new ways of showing-off science to the general public and his reading from his novel was perfectly tailored to our event."

— Peter McMahon
Canadian Science Writers' Association

You can listen to my talk as an MP3 here.

More about me as a speaker is here, and more quotes from groups I've spoken to are here.

Meanwhile, just booked a new keynote today: I'll be giving the opening talk at the annual meeting of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of Manitoba, to be held in October 2009 in Winnipeg.
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Monday, June 8, 2009

Land of the Lost

Carolyn and I saw the new Land of the Lost film tonight in Saskatoon. There were eight people besides ourselves in the theatre -- not a good sign for a film that's been out for all of 100 hours at this point.

It was ... bizarre. It actually might appeal to my friend Nick DiChario, the surrealist writer.

Still it is filled with all the things true Land of the Lost fans would want: the Sleestak (and the "Beware the Sleestak" grafitti), Enik the Altrusian, the Library of Skulls, the pylons and the crystals that control them, Grumpy and Alice (the T. rex and Allosaurus, respectively), Cha-ka and the Pakuni, and even the Zarn with voice by none other than Leonard Nimoy. And Will Ferrell does actually sing the classic theme song inside the movie ("Marshall, Will, and Holly / On a routine expedition / Met the greatest earthquake ever known ...").

But, man, it's a strange film! Would you believe that the Broadway musical A Chorus Line figures heavily in the plot? It wouldn't be wrong to call it an absurdist movie.

The effects are state-of-the-art, but evocative of the 1970s original. Still, in every place that there was CGI, I said to myself, "Ah, there's some CGI."

I can't say I liked it, but I can't say I disliked it, either. I'm mostly just stunned that the bizarre script got green-lit. (It's also awfully scatological, with unnecessary profanity, and a Jesus joke that offended even me and seemed totally unnecessary.)

Next time I see my buddy David Gerrold (who created the original series, but was not involved in the remake), I'll have to find out what he thinks of it. But I can't imagine he liked it.

It's definitely not anywhere as good (not even 1/10th as good) as J.J. Abrams's Star Trek, and should be pretty far down your list of films to see in the summer of 2009, but it does, as the saying goes, have its moments ...
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Eucild's Child" by Jael

Over in my Yahoo! Groups newsgroup, there was some discussion of which RJS book cover was each person's favourite. Of course, I think Wake has a fabulous cover, but as Bryan Rumble pointed out in my group, so does my Aurora Award-winning book Relativity: Stories and Essays, from ISFiC Press.

The cover painting, by Jael, is called "Euclid's Child.

Learn more about Relativity here, and about Jael here.

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SFRevu reviews SF novel Wake -- practically a palindrome!

And a very nice review it is, too:
A brilliant look at interspecies communication with some remarkable insights into the future of artificial intelligence; one of Robert Sawyer's best efforts and one that will open your eyes to new possibilities. He's likely to score a hit with everyone from Gibson and Stephenson's crowd to science oriented YA readers of both genders looking for a summer read.
What I found most interesting about the review (by Ernest Lilley, SFRevu's Senior Editor), though, is that it's the first one (that I've seen anyway) that actually picks up on my reference to William Gibson's Neuromancer, something I thought all of the SF reviewers would mention; Wake has been out for two months (precisely, as of today), and Ernest is the first one to make mention of it:
If books were movies, I'd suggest this on a double bill with Neuromancer, which Rob can't resist making a humorous reference to, "The sky above the island was the color of television turned to a dead channel ..." he mentions, and which we may remember is taken from opening line to Gibson's classic. But he continues, "... which is to say it was a bright, cheery blue" which pretty much sums up the difference between the two books. In Neuromancer, there was a presumption of decay and heartlessness, while here there's the opposite -- people (and other entities) are as often helpful as hateful, though Sawyer does not dismiss selfishness or callousness by any means.
You can read the full review here.
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Only five writer-in-residence appointments left

I've only got five writer-in-residence appointments not yet spoken for during my stint at the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon. If you want one, better book fast. I expect them all to be booked up shortly. Contact me at sawyer@sfwriter.com if you'd like to book an appointment.
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EDGE Publishing Bash in Calgary on Saturday

Come see me and a bunch of other fine authors at this event in Calgary on Saturday, June 13:
You may already have received this invitation, but I want to be sure you know about our upcoming Fine Fiction, Fine Art and Fine Wine multi-author book launch event ...

Hades Publications is celebrating nine years of publishing Science Fiction and Fantasy genre books.

We have planned an evening including special guests and local authors reading from their recent books. Meet old friends, make new ones, get some autographs and talk about books and the publishing experience.

There will be author readings by Randy McCharles, Susan Forest, Marie Bilodeau, Robert J. Sawyer and special guest poet Christian Bök.

Also in attendance, celebrating the release of their new books will be:

J. R. Campbell
Eileen Bell
Tina Hunter
Billie Milholland
Barbara Galler-Smith
Justyn Perry
Charles Prepolec

We will also introduce our new imprint, Absolute XPress, and our squad of Hades' Angels -- the fine folks who make our publishing house so special!

Come for wine & cheese, cold cuts, chips, pop and hot coffee / tea (hot chocolate for those of you in the know).

Bring as many friends as you want -- the more the better!

Brian Hades

Event Details

When: Saturday June 13th Doors open at 6:15pm, events at 7:00pm

What: Hades Publications Multi-Book Launch and soiree

Where: Venturion Art Gallery - Suite 104A, 214-11 Ave. SE Calgary (Doors at back of building)

Dress: Semi-Formal

Please R.S.V.P. if possible to Justyn Perry

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Planet S loves the Rob-man

Planet S: Saskatoon's City Magazine comes out every two weeks. The last page is a section called 14 Days which lists "City Events * Movies * Music" for the next two weesk, and at the right side of the page there's a sidebar labelled Top 6, listing the six best bets for the coming fortnight. The current issue's top pick?

He's probably the best sci-fi writer Canada has ever produced — and he's coming to hang out as the writer in residence at the U of S for June and July! Catch Sawyer reading from and signing his latest novel, Wake (June 4, McNally Robinson).

(#2: a concert by Mark Ceaser and Kirby Criddle, "Saskatoon's best singer-songwriters"; #3: Saskatchewan Children's Festival.)

I was also the cover story in Planet S back on April 9, 2009.

And the event was packed at McNally; I was trilled!

(The Canadian Light Source is on the University of Saskatchewan campus.)
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First five days in Saskatoon

Carolyn and I are safe and sound in Saskatoon (say that five times fast!). We're having a blast, but -- man! -- I haven't had a chance to catch my breath.

We flew here from Toronto on Monday, June 1, had lunch with Canadian Light Source's Matthew Dalzell, then did our safety training at CLS, got our access cards, and had a tour of the synchrotron facility.

Tuesday was spent settling in, etc., and doing a bunch of things.

Wednesday, I spoke at at high school, did an interview for Saskatoon CBC Radio One's "Blue Skies" program, had dinner with DAW SF writer Edward Willett and Kent Pollard of McNally Robinson Saskatoon, then attended Ed's reading from his new novel at McNally.

Thursday, I had an interview at the local CTV station, then was interviewed at CLS by the local Shaw (cable-service provider) community channel, then had dinner with Matt and his wife at Prairie Ink at McNally Robinson, then I did my own event at McNally, a very well attended reading and signing for Wake.

Today, Friday, June 5, I read four manuscripts in preparation for my critiquing sessions tomorrow, did a by-Skype podcast interview with a fellow in Wellington, New Zealand (about which more later), and went over to the home of Yann Martel, the Man Booker Prize-winning author of Life of Pi, and fellow author Alice Kuipers for a wonderful dinner party.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Fort Morgan Times loves Wake

The Fort Morgan Times (Fort Morgan, Colorado), has just published a nice review of my novel Wake. The review begins:
“www:Wake” by Robert J. Sawyer is another delight from the pen of an author who knows how to romp through the kind of speculation which makes science fiction most fun.
Most intriguing is the end, though, which says:
If you’re in the habit of Googling authors or wanting to know them better, please don’t be thrown off by Sawyer’s political views, which are available on the Web. Just take the stories as they are written. We don’t have to agree with the philosophies of authors to enjoy their work.
Very true. :)

The whole review is here.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Guest of Honour at Ad Astra in 2010

Toronto's Ad Astra science-fiction convention has always been very good to me, and next year, they'll be having me back as one of their Guests of Honour. (The other author GoHs are Eric Flint and Todd McCaffrey, both of whom are friends -- I'm looking forward to spening some time with them.)

This will be the fourth time Ad Astra has had me attend in a special capacity:
  • Guest of Honour
    Ad Astra
    Toronto, Ontario
    April 9-11, 2010

  • Toastmaster
    Ad Astra 2001
    Toronto, ON
    February 23-25, 2001

  • Guest of Honour
    Ad Astra 18
    Toronto, Ontario
    June 5-7, 1998

  • Special Guest
    Ad Astra 16
    Toronto, Ontario
    June 7-9, 1996

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Al Moritz wins the Griffin!

Al Moritz, the leader of my wife's poetry writing workshop -- the venerable Algonquin Square Table at the University of Toronto -- just won the Griffin Award, worth $50,000 (yes, you read that right: fifty thousand dollars)!

Al is a great guy, and a fabulous writer, and Carolyn and I are thrilled, thrilled, thrilled for him! W00t!

Here's the coverage from:

The Globe and Mail
The Canadian Press
The National Post

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Listen online to RJS on CBC's "Fresh Air"

I was a guest in studio on CBC Radio One's Fresh Air, heard Ontario-wide, on Sunday morning, May 24, 2009. The topic, of course, was my new novel Wake, and the interview is now online here (9 minutes -- Windows Media Player is required, I think).

CBC's website described the interview thus:
Fresh off our latest fear of a pandemic, sci-fi writer Robert Sawyer launches a new book that tackles that very subject...that, and the world-wide-web developing a mind of its own. The book is called Wake. It's published by Viking Canada. And Robert joins Mary to talk about it and the state of science fiction writing in general. If you want to know more about Mr. Sawyer's world, check out his website.
Oh, and here's the speech I mention in the interview: my keynote address to the Canadian Science Writers' Association.

Photo: Science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer with host Mary Ito at the swanky Book Lover's Ball in Toronto in February 2007.

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McNally Robinson interviews Robert J. Sawyer

In advance of my reading at McNally Robinson Saskatoon on Thursday, June 4, 2009, at 7:30 p.m., the bookstore chain has put this interview with me online. The interview was conducted by Nicole Berard.

In the interview, I discuss my residence at the Canadian Light Source, the Flash Forward TV series, and, of course, my new novel Wake.

(They also have a nice interview with DAW author Edward Willett here; that interview is by Chadwick Ginther.)

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Canadian Light Source writer-in-residence submission guidelines

If you want me to critique a manuscript while I'm writer-in-residence at the Canadian Light Source, you must adhere to the following guidelines. I'm happy to critique any kind of manuscript -- fiction (all genres), nonfiction, scripts, plays, poetry, school essays, etc.

1) Book an appointment in advance with me by emailing me at: sawyer@sfwriter.com

I suggest you book soon; I've been in Saskatoon for one day now, and almost half of my appointment slots have already been filled. I offer daytime and evening appointments seven days a week -- but only at specific day/time combos that fit around my other commitments in Saskatoon. Contact me, and I'll let you know what appointment slots are available.

2) Submit your manuscript at least 72 hours in advance of your appointment.


* Your manuscript must be in RTF or Word DOC format.

* The filename must be your last name, plus the appropriate extension: SMITH.DOC, SINGH.RTF, etc. If you call it "Chapter 1.rtf," or something equally generic, I probably won't be able to tell it's yours.

* Submit no more than 5,000 words.

* Your pages need to have headers on them that include your name and the page number. I'm printing out the manuscripts, and I need these for reference.

* For the love of God, submit in proper manuscript format. There's only one right way to do it, and it's easy -- but do you really want to spend a hunk of your time with me going over it? The format is here.

3. Come to the Canadian Light Source for your appointment, and ask for me in the lobby.

If your appointment is after hours or on the weekend, the lobby may be closed, and you'll have to wait for me to come down and get you. If you need to call me (because I haven't come down when you expected me to, for instance), my office number at CLS is 657-3659.

Critiques are absolutely free; CLS is funding my residency internally and there is no cost to you for this service.

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Boston Globe reviews Flash Forward -- the novel, not the TV series

It's a nice little capsule review that in fact makes no mention of the TV show; rather, it's a roundup of reviews of books that are being read by Boston-area book clubs, and says:
"Flash Forward," by Robert J. Sawyer. A science-fiction story that explores many of the questions of time travel and has well-developed characters that you care about. Great storytelling with good science knowledge and speculation.
The reviewer is Bob Charest, and the review is online here.

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Supernatural Investigator is "Unsolved Mysteries for braniacs"

Out of the blue, a lovely article about me and Supernatural Investigator, the series I host for Canada's Vision TV, which is having its season finale tonight. The article, by Alex Strachan for the Canwest News Service, begins:
Mississauga writer Robert J. Sawyer will have a flashy new sci-fi drama series on network TV this fall, adapted from his book Flashforward.

All of a sudden, he's everywhere. These past few weeks he has hosted VisionTV's self-explanatory Supernatural Investigator, and in tonight's season finale, the program turns its inquiring mind on the peculiar 1961 alien- abduction case -- an alleged alien abduction? -- of Barney and Betty Hill in New Hampshire.
And the article concludes:
No moss grows on Sawyer, by the way. As you are reading, he has taken up his new position as writer-in-residence at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) physics-research centre in Saskatoon. Imagination is at the heart of both artistic and scientific endeavours, Sawyer commented on his blog, "and the science being done in Canada is world-class."

So are TV shows about paranormal investigations.

Supernatural Investigator is Unsolved Mysteries for brainiacs, who like a little science with their fiction. (VisionTV, 10:30 ET/7:30 PT)
You can read the full article here.

Canwest, which produced the above story, publishes the following major Canadian daily newspapers, so the story will be in some of them: National Post, Victoria Times Colonist, Vancouver Province, Vancouver Sun, Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald, Regina Leader-Post, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Windsor Star, Ottawa Citizen, and Montreal Gazette.

In fact, here it is in the Edmonton Journal, and here in the Ottawa Citizen, and here in the Victoria Times Colonist, and here in the Regina Leader Post, and here in the Montreal Gazette, and here in the Windsor Star, and below is how the top of the article looked in today's Calgary Herald:

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