Monday, November 30, 2009

FlashForward Revealed

After the documentary FlashForward Revealed aired in the UK tonight, interviewing me, the FlashForward novel is back in the top 100 storewide of (for a total of 49 days so far in the top 100 there). W00t!

[Update: I've now seen the show; the interview with me was recorded at the Canadian Light Source, Canada's National Synchrotron, in July 2009.]

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


British edition of Wake now available!

My UK publisher, Gollancz (an imprint of Orion), has just released the British edition of Wake, the first volume of my WWW trilogy. It's in paperback over there (the North American paperbacks come out at the end of March 2010). Woohoo!
"Sawyer's take on theories about the origin of consciousness, generated within the framework of an engaging story, is fascinating, and his approach to machine consciousness and the Internet is surprisingly fresh." —Booklist

"Sawyer continues to push the boundaries with his stories of the future made credible. His erudition, eclecticism, and masterly storytelling make this trilogy opener a choice selection." —Library Journal

"Unforgettable. Impossible to put down." —Nebula Award-winner Jack McDevitt

"Wake is about as good as it gets when it comes to science fiction. In Caitlin, Sawyer has created a likable and sympathetic hero. She's smart, sure, but also full of sass, which lends itself to some wildly entertaining reading. Sawyer's combination of writing skill and computing background come together marvelously in this book. The characters are rich and realistic, while the ideas are fresh and fascinating." —The Maine Edge, Bangor, Maine

"Sawyer is one of the most successful Canadian writers ever. He has won himself an international readership by reinvigorating the traditions of hard science fiction, following the path of such writers as Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein in his bold speculations from pure science. Clashes between personalities and ideologies fuel [Wake's] plot, but they're not what the book is about. It's about how cool science is. Sawyer has marshalled a daunting quantity of fact and theory from across scientific disciplines and applied them to a contemporary landscape — with due regard to cultural and political differences, pop culture, history, economics, adolescent yearnings, personal ambition and human frailty. —National Post

"Sawyer paints a complete portrait of a blind teenage girl, and imagines in detail — from scratch — the inside of a new being. Almost alone among Canadian writers, he tackles the most fundamental questions of who we are and where we might be going — while illuminating where we are now." —The Ottawa Citizen

"The wildly thought-provoking first installment of Sawyer's WWW trilogy explores the origins and emergence of consciousness. The thematic diversity — and profundity — makes this one of Sawyer's strongest works to date." —Publishers Weekly (starred review, denoting a book of exceptional merit)

"Emotionally satisfying and intellectually stimulating. Along with William Gibson's Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, Robert J. Sawyer's Wake presents a unique perspective on information technology. I eagerly await its sequels." —SFFaudio

"A superb work of day-after-tomorrow science fiction; I enjoyed every page." —Hugo Award-winner Allen Steele

"Once again, Robert J. Sawyer explores the intersection between big ideas and real people. Here the subject is consciousness and perception — who we are and how we see one another, both literally and figuratively. Thoughtful and engaging, and a great beginning to a fascinating trilogy." —Hugo Award-winner Robert Charles Wilson

"It's refreshing to read a book so deliberately Canadian in a genre dominated by Americans, and it's easy to see why Sawyer now routinely wins not only Canadian science fiction prizes but also international accolades. His fans won't be disappointed, and readers picking up his work for the first time will get a good introduction to a writer with a remarkable backlist." —Winnipeg Free Press
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


CityTV interviews RJS about Terminator Salvation

Check it out! (8-minute video).

Terminator Salvation comes out on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: ,

Pithy tweets

My friend Virginia O'Dine put me on to a great Twitter feed called "Shit My Dad Says," from Justin, who says, "I'm 29. I live with my 73-year-old dad. He is awesome. I just write down shit that he says." And, I gotta say, his dad is very funny and very wise. No wonder he has 870,000 followers. Check it out.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Basics of book design

Okay, I gotta say it. You folks who are designing your own books: there are some simple rules you should follow.

1) the first page of a chapter does not have a page header

2) blank pages have no page headers

3) don't put extra space between paragraphs

4) the first paragraph of a chapter is not indented, and usually has special typographic treatment (a large initial capital, the first few words in small caps, etc.)

5) the first paragraph of a new scene is not indented

6) don't put some horrendous graphical ornament at every scene change; in most cases a simple skipped line suffices (except when the blank line would be the first or last on a page)

7) books do not end with the words "The End"

8) for God's sake, use smart quotes and em dashes, not typewriter quotes and double hyphens

I'm stunned at how many people sit down and lay out their books without ever once pulling a professionally published one off the shelf to look at how it's normally done.

Thank you. :)

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Discover blog on Robert J. Sawyer and FlashForward

Phil Plait's blog entry today at Discover magazine (the "Bad Astronomy" blog, but, of course, he's not accusing me of that) is about me and FlashForward. Way, way cool!

Thanks to my friend H. Don Wilkat for the heads-up about this!
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Fan letter of the day

Carolyn, who handles my little eBay book business (through which I sell autographed copies of my books), received this email today:
By the way, I'm reading Wake at the moment and absolutely loving it. It's rare to find a book that works at so many levels: compelling narrative, philosophically and intellectually interesting, fantastic characterisation. I'm new to Robert's work and have come via the television version of FlashForward. It's good to find some really good Sci Fi.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Star Trek opening-credits mashups

I'm a huge fan of the dying art of TV opening credits; my hero growing up was Jack Cole (who did The Six Million Dollar Man, The Night Stalker, The Incredible Hulk, The Bionic Woman, Planet of the Apes, Ironside, The Rockford Files, Ellery Queen, and others).

Here are some cool mashups for various Star Trek series, creating new title sequences set to the theme music of other shows:

First Set

Second Set

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Friday, November 27, 2009

The reading of Earthfall

I very much enjoyed the WILDsound staged reading at the National Film Board theatre of my TV pilot script for a proposed series called Earthfall tonight.

The cast and the narrator (who read the stage directions) did a great job, but the script had been redacted (to my surprise) with the vast majority of the stage directions omitted -- which might have been fine if the actors had actually been fully acting out the scenes, rather than just by and large reading into microphones on stands. Maybe as author, I'm too sensitive, but I think a lot of what was going on emotionally in the scenes that was there on the page was lost in this process. For instance, here's the beginning of Act III as written, but only the parts in boldface were actually read to the audience:


There's a mostly full moon, providing light. Hannah and Bryce walk through the forested margin at the edge of the road and emerge in an open field; a stand of additional trees is twenty metres ahead of them.

Things are still tense between them. They're not holding hands; there's physical distance between them; they're looking in opposite directions.

Bryce looks up at the sky and traces an imaginary line with his index finger.


The Big Dipper is clearly visible, as is the North Star.

There. Polaris.

Hannah turns around, getting her bearings. She nods.

So I was right.

They're in the middle of nowhere, but at least they now can head in the correct direction. They're relieved, and the mood starts to turn. Hannah moves over to Bryce, and slips her arms around his neck.

Right as rain.

(smiling playfully back)
Just so we're agreed...

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Phyllis Gotlieb honoured today in Canada's Federal Parliament

My great friend and inspiration Phyllis Gotlieb passed away earlier this year, and today Mauril Bélanger, a Member of Canada's Federal Parliament, rose in the House of Commons to speak to that loss:
Hon. Mauril Bélanger (Ottawa—Vanier, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this past summer, Canada lost one of its pioneers in science fiction writing, Phyllis Gotlieb, born Phyllis Bloom, in Toronto, in 1926.

The Sunburst Award, an award given annually to Canadian writers of speculative fiction, is named after her first novel, Sunburst, published in 1964.

Thanks to our parliamentary library, I have now had the pleasure to read that novel. I am truly happy to have discovered an author who gives us great characters and an intelligent storyline. I look forward to reading more of her novels.

Some have called her the mother of Canadian science fiction; others, it is grandmother. Robert J. Sawyer, Canada's most successful author of the genre, settled it by calling her “the grand dame of Canadian science fiction”, and I concur.

I wish to extend to her husband, Calvin Gotlieb, her son, Leo, and her daughters, Margaret and Jane, our condolences, but also our gratitude for her legacy.

Pictured: Phyllis and Kelly Gotlieb at my home.

Many thanks to Barb Collishaw for this news item.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: ,

The eyePod in reality

Article from UK's Daily Mail: "Blind man fitted with 'bionic' eye sees for first time in 30 years"

Very similar to the technology used in my novel Wake. Many thanks to Jeremy Faulkner for drawing this to my attention.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


No more rehearsing and nursing our parts

Come see my pilot script Earthfall live on stage tonight in Toronto. Details.

Earthfall stars Pauline Wong, above, as Hannah, and Ian Matthews, below, as the alien Jurteg.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


It only took a decade, but ...

Back in June 1998, I met with the then-manager of author relations for at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle. It was an opportunity to tell her what was wrong with's online book-review system (in my humble opinion), which had been thrust into the marketplace without any consultation with writers' groups.

I outlined numerous difficulties with the way the system was then set up, including most egregiously that although the author has the guts to put his or her name one what he or she wrote, reviewers could hide behind pseudonyms, and there wasn't any way to verify that they even owned the book in question.

One by one, Amazon has slowly but surely come around to agreeing with me on each of the points I raised. They added a "Real Name" flag to reviews the authorship of which could be verified, and now they've finally added a flag that proves, within the limits of their abilities to verify the information, that the reviewer actually owns the book (or product) in question, something they're calling Verified Purchase Reviews, described thus:
When a product review is marked "Amazon Verified Purchase," it means that the customer who wrote the review purchased the item at Customers can add this label to their review only if we can verify the item being reviewed was purchased at Customers reading an Amazon Verified Purchase review can use this information to help them decide which reviews are most helpful in their purchasing decisions.

If a review is not marked Amazon Verified Purchase, it doesn't mean that the reviewer has no experience with the product – it just means we couldn't verify that it had been purchased at Amazon. They may have purchased the item elsewhere or had some other interaction with it. If we could somehow validate their experience with the product, we certainly would. The Amazon Verified Review label offers one more way to help gauge the quality and relevance of a product review.
Only took eleven years, but, hey, we SF writers are always ahead of the curve ;)
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: , exclusive all-metal Enterprise

As anyone who has been to my home knows, I'm a reasonably serious collector of Star Trek replicas (I have a Master Replica's 33-inch Enterprise, for instance). I'm very impressed by the all-metal Enterprise included with the limited-edition (not .ca) exclusive three-disk Blu-ray set of the 2009 Star Trek movie.

The ship itself has a brushed-metal finish, and the stand (which is not removable) has a shiny finish; it makes for an attractive pairing. The model is not hyper-detailed, which is a plus, I think, at this size: no windows on the hull, for instance. The model measures 8.5" or 21.6 cm.

This is smaller than the Franklin Mint pewter starships of years gone by, but is a very impressive piece.

I was one of those who hated the new Enterprise design when I first saw stills of if, but it's growing on me, and this clean reproduction (not too much detailing but all the detailing that is there is correct) does a very nice job of showing off the design. I'm glad I bought it

(Oh, and it goes without saying, but the movie itself rocks, and the Blu-ray transfer is flawless.)

-- Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning SF author; co-editor with David Gerrold of Boarding the Enterprise
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Toward a Science of Consciousness

When I'm asked what scientific topic fascinates me the most, I usually cite consciousness studies. Certainly, the nature of consciousness -- and the question of why we have internal lives, of why it is like something to be alive -- is at the heart of much of my fiction, perhaps most notably these days in my Aurora Award-winning FlashForward (basis for the ABC TV series), but also including my Nebula Award-winning The Terminal Experiment, my Hugo Award-winning Hominids and its sequels, my John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winning Mindscan, my Hugo Award-nominated Factoring Humanity, and, of course, my current WWW trilogy, beginning with Wake, about the World Wide Web gaining consciousness.

As regular readers of this blog know, I give lots of keynote addresses ... but, given the above, I am truly thrilled beyond measure to announce that I will be a keynote speaker at the ninth biennial conference Toward a Science of Consciousness, which will take place April 13-17, 2010, at the Tucson Convention Center in Tucson, Arizona.

My novels have often alluded to the work of Sir Roger Penrose and Dr. Stuart Hameroff in relation to the quantum-mechanical nature of consciousness. And although I did meet a bunch of super-cool TV stars when I was out in Los Angeles for two weeks earlier this month working on FlashForward, truly the highlight of the trip was the five-hour group dinner out with Stuart Hameroff (outdoors, at the wonderful Cat & Fiddle pub), arranged by my dear friends film director James Kerwin and actress/producer Chase Masterson.

Stuart and I had never met before, but we hit it off fabulously, and he and the rest of the programming committee have now invited me to give a keynote at the Tucson conference.

Independently, I've now got Stuart consulting on the FlashForward TV series. :)

Anyway, if you're looking for a fascinating way to spend some time in April, come to the conference!

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Women of the Apocalypse

I've been teaching writing professionally for 19 years now, at such venues as the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, the Surrey International Writers Conference, and the Banff Centre for the Arts, as well as as writer-in-residence at the Richmond Hill (Ontario) Public Library; the Kitchener (Ontario) Public Library; the Toronto Public Library's Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy; the Canadian Light Source, Canada's national synchrotron facility; and through the Writers in Electronic Residence program.

Nothing gives me more joy than when my students do well, and so it's with great pride and pleasure that I draw your attention to the fabulous new anthology Women of the Apocalypse, an anthology of stories ("Four women, Four Shooters, Four destinies to save the world") by Eileen Bell, Roxanne Felix, Ryan T. McFadden, and Billie Millholland. The book -- a handsome trade paperback with an eye-catching stark black-and-white cover -- is published by Absolute XPress, a division of Calgary's Hades Publications.

Eileen Bell and Ryan T. McFadden were my students at the Banff Centre (in the ski-resort town of Banff, Alberta) in 2006.

Ryan very kindly sent me a copy of this book, and I was deeply touched to see that both he and Eileen thank me in the acknowledgments.

Ryan: "Also a 'thanks' to Rob Sawyer for kicking my ass when I needed it."

Eileen: "Thank you, Rob Sawyer, for Banff, and everything since."

This is, without doubt, one of the major theme anthologies of 2009, and deserves a place on the Aurora Award ballot -- as do the individual stories. The anthology recently made the bestsellers' list published in the Calgary Herald.

For more information, see the book's website.

Congratulations, guys! I am so proud of you!
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 says you should watch FlashForward ("News, Reviews & Commentary on Gay and Bisexual Men in Entertainment and the Media") gives five reasons you should be watching FlashForward, the ABC TV series based on my novel of the same name. Number three is: " It's based on the book by the very gay-friendly Robert Sawyer." Woot!

The whole list is here.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


FlashForward #2 bestseller in Spain

The Spanish edition of FlashForward, my novel that is the basis for the ABC TV series, is the #2 bestseller store-wide at Casa del Libro, Spain's leading online bookseller:

1. El Simbolo Perdido
by Dan Brown

2. FlashForward
by Robert J. Sawyer

3. El Viaje Intimo de la Locura
by Roberto Iniesta

4. Como Detectar Mentiras: Una Guia Para Utilizar en el Trabajo
by Paul Ekman

5. La Noche de los Tiempos
by Antonio Muñoz Molina

This is the store-wide list, including all titles (fiction, nonfiction) in all formats. Woot! The bestsellers list is here (scroll down to "Los más vendidos").

My Spanish publisher is the wonderful La Factoria de Ideas.

More about the Spanish edition (including the opening chapters in Spanish) is here.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: ,

Monday, November 23, 2009

New SF convention coming to Toronto in 2010

SFContario -- a new science-fiction convention -- will have its first annual edition just about one year from now: Friday, November 19, through Sunday, November 21. And unlike most Toronto-area cons, this one will be downtown! (At the Ramada Plaza Hotel, overlooking Allan Gardens.)

My friend Diane Lacey is part of the concom, and she reports: "While an announcement for Author Guest of Honour is yet to come we're thrilled to be able to announce that Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden have agreed to be our Editor Guests of Honour, Geri Sullivan has agreed to be Fan Guest of Honour, and Karen Linsley has agreed to be our Filk Guest of Honour. We are, of course, pleased, honoured and excited to have every one of them."

I'll be there for sure. :)
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Friday, November 20, 2009


My two weeks in the Writers' Room for FlashForward, the ABC TV series based on my novel of the same name, came to an end this afternoon -- and the writers and their staff very, very kindly made a cake in honor of my visit. The cake says, "He who sees story breaking suffers it twice over," a play on the opening epigram from my novel (quoted by D. Gibbons in our second episode), "He who foresees calamities suffers them twice over."

("Story breaking" is what happens in the writers' room: all the writers sit around and suggest, moment by moment, how the current script might progress.)

I've had an absolutely amazing time here. The staff writers are all incredibly talented, and the writing-office staff are all super, too.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Come see my pilot script reading next Friday

Next Friday, November 27, 2009, my prize-winning hour-long science-fiction TV pilot script Earthfall will be read at the WILDsound TV and Short Screenplay Festival at the National Film Board of Canada Theatre in Toronto (150 John Street). Tickets are $6 in advance; $8 at the door.

Pauline Wong, pictured above, will be reading the main character, Toronto cop Hannah Wong (yes, they have the same last name!).

More info is here and here.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Singapore's The Straits Times on the novel and the TV show

I love Singapore -- I was a guest at a writers' festival there in 2005. And now Singapore's The Straits Times has reviewed my novel FlashForward, comparing and contrasting it with the TV series based on it:
In Sawyer's book, there are great swathes of physics, paragraphs on mathematics and philosophy and also musings about guilt and personal choice -- all of which give the reader something more meaty to think on.

Sawyer's version of FlashForward is more philosophical, it's more complex and detailed. If you enjoy juicy technical science fiction rather than TV-land pap, go for Sawyer's version. You won't be disappointed and you'll learn things about physics that you would never have imagined.
The Straits Times's review is based on the British edition of the book, published by Gollancz (pictured above). You can read the whole review right here.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jeffrey Combs as Edgar Allan Poe

If you live in Los Angeles, go see the one-man play Nevermore starring Jeffrey Combs as Edgar Allan Poe; it's at the Steve Allen Theatre.

People say I read my own fiction well, but I've never heard anyone do a better reading of a short story than Combs's rendition of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," which he does as part of this play.

I've been to lots of poetry readins with Carolyn over the years, and I've never heard any poet do a better reading than the performance of "The Raven" Combs gives as part of this play.

It's a tour de force; Combs is, by turns, funny, moving, frenetic, and melancholy; his Poe is as good as Hal Holbrook's Twain.

The venue is the Steve Allen Theatre in Los Angeles, which is an intimate setting -- just 100 seats (and tickets are just $20). We were front-row center -- about four feet from Combs for most of the performance.

Jeffrey Combs has appeared in about 50 episodes of various Star Trek series, in recurring roles such as the Andorian Shran, the Vorta Wayoun, and the Ferengi Brunt, and he also starred in the cult film classic Reanimator.

Our friend Chase Masterson got us backstage to meet Jeffrey after the show (thanks, Chase!), and afterwards, we went for drinks with Chase Masterson (Deep Space Nine's Leeta), director James Kerwin (Yesterday was a Lie), writer Andre Bormanis (Star Trek: Enterprise), and actress and chef Gen Anderson (host of Gen's Guitless Gourmet). All in all, a fabulous evening!

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, November 14, 2009

LASFS meeting

My friend Matthew Tepper, who took the picture above, reminded me that the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (which has its own way-cool clubhouse!) meets on Thursday nights, so this past Thursday, Carolyn and I attended their meeting, since we're in L.A. so I can work on FlashForward, the ABC TV series based on my novel of the same name.

Our writing friends Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin, authors of The Unincorporated Man, were also there, as were old friends John DeChancie and Larry Niven. We all went out to dinner afterwards at the Coral Café. Larry said, "I envy you FlashForward" -- which was an amazing thing to here from one of my writng heroes. :)

Pictured: 1970 Nebula Award winner Larry Niven and 1995 Nebula Award winner Robert J. Sawyer on 12 November 2009 in Los Angeles

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

In Los Angeles with the FlashForward staff writers

Having a blast in Los Angeles (have been here since Sunday November 8).

Spent five days last week with the staff writers for FlashForward, the ABC TV series based on my novel of the same name. The show's current staff writers are (alphabetically): Scott Gimple, David S. Goyer, Ian Goldberg, Seth Hoffman, Barbara Nance, Quinton Peeples, Dawn Prestwich, Nicole Yorkin, and Lisa Zwerling, and they're all terrific. It's been enormous fun watching them bounce ideas off each other, and getting to kick in some of my own.

Also watched some of the filming of episodes 11 and 12 this past week (watching on location with regulars Peyton List and Zachary Knighton and guest star Lindsay Crouse, and on our soundstage with regulars Jack Davenport and Dominic Monaghan, and guest star Ricky Jay), plus got to chat with John Cho when he dropped by the writers' offices, and also ran into Brannon Braga, who co-authored the pilot episode with David Goyer.

I'll be here until Saturday, November 21, 2009. Next week, we begin breaking (outlining) episode 17, the one I'm writing; that episode is scheduled to air Thursday, March 18, 2010.

I'll never get around to retro-blogging everything that happened this past week, but you can get a sense of it from these updates from my Facebook wall (where I'm "Robert J. Sawyer" -- and, yes, I do accept readers and fans as friends).

  • Wonderful five-hour dinner with consciousness researcher Stuart Hameroff (whose work is often mentioned in my novels), Deep Space Nine actress Chase Masterson, and director James Kerwin.
  • Cool having Dominic Monaghan tell me what his favorite part of the FLASHFORWARD novel was, and talking particle physics with Jack Davenport.
  • John Cho just dropped by the writers' offices at FLASHFORWARD; now, heading off to the set to watch Dominic Monaghan and Jack Davenport shoot a scene.
  • Watched episode 10 of FLASHFORWARD (the one that will air in two weeks' time) today with the staff writers -- it's one of our very best. Also, great meeting with my agent. And attended Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS) meeting. :)

  • Fascinating time in the FLASHFORWARD writers' room today, plus got to meet Peyton List (Nicole) for the first time, and watched her and Zachary Knighton shoot a terrific scene. Also, met with one of the producers interested in one of my other books, and it went wonderfully. Plus: dinner with high-school buddy Asbed Bedrossian and his family. Whew!

  • People's Choice Awards nominees for Best New TV drama: "Eastwick," "FlashForward," "Melrose Place," "Mercy," "The Forgotten," "The Good Wife," "The Vampire Diaries," "Three Rivers," "NCIS: Los Angeles," "V"
  • After the FLASHFORWARD writers' room adjourned for the day, went for coffee with Tommy Yune, who directed ROBOTECH: THE SHADOW CHRONICLES, then dinner with Eric Greene, author of PLANET OF THE APES AS AMERICAN MYTH.

  • Nothing is cooler than being in the offices of the TV series based on one of your novels and taking calls about potential film and TV adaptations of two of your other books. :D

  • In L.A., at the FLASHFORWARD offices, hanging out in the writers' room. Having a blast!
  • Britain's THE TIMES reviews the FLASHFORWARD novel: "[T]he novel is an intellectual puzzle, drawing on theoretical physics to raise questions about time and space and the existence of free will, and proves once again that good science fiction does not need visual special effects to thrill."
  • Safe and sound in L.A. Watched TERMINATOR SALVATION on the seat-back TV during the five-hour flight from Toronto.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


SciFi Wire / SciFi Weekly cancels all columns

Ten years ago, I pitched an idea for a monthly column to the SciFi Channel's SciFi Weekly. They didn't buy it, and I never got around to pitching it to anyone else. But even if they had bought it, I would have been out of work today; they just dismissed all their columnists because, apparently, online columns are "passé." See this story from Locus Online.

Here's the pitch I made (by paper mail!) back on September 28, 1999; it would have been a hell of a column. :)
Dear Craig:

Back when he was editing Amazing Stories, George Scithers noted a fascinating fact. To his chagrin, far more people ordered his magazine's writers' guidelines than bought subscriptions. That's right: more people wanted to write for Amazing than wanted to read it.

It's always been that way: huge numbers of those who read SF -- and, indeed, many of those who only watch it on TV and in the movies -- long to write the stuff. Indeed, whenever I give a talk on any aspect of SF, at least half the questions I get asked are about the process of writing. And so I'm proposing a new column for your wonderful Science Fiction Weekly. "Making It" would be a monthly feature aimed at those who want to write SF, with practical, real-world advice about writing -- and, just as important, selling -- science fiction short stories and novels.

Jim Baen has observed that the market for SF is in the worst shape he's ever seen it; Del Rey has just let three editors go; HarperPrism was effectively shut down this month; Tor has drastically cut back the number of titles it's doing. Beginning writers wanting to make it today are going to need an edge, and this column -- and your site -- can provide just that.

"Making It" would cover both the artistic aspects (including characterization, plotting, and dialogue) and the business aspects (such as contract basics, preparing a novel synopsis, and promoting one's work). It would attract the legions who read rec.arts.sf.composition, as well as those who buy magazines about writing, take creative-writing courses, or just dream about seeing their names in print.

My credentials? I'm a full-time SF writer (and the sole source of income for my family; my wife works for me as my salaried assistant). I've sold fourteen novels to Warner, Harper, Ace, and Tor; my fiction has appeared in Analog, Amazing, and many anthologies; I've won 21 writing awards, including a Best Novel Nebula Award, and the top SF awards in Japan (Seiun), France (Le Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire), Spain (Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficción), and Canada (the Aurora); and I've been on the Best Novel Hugo ballot each of the last four years.

In addition, I've taught SF writing at the University of Toronto and Ryerson Polytechnic University, and for three years I wrote the "On Writing" column for On Spec, Canada's leading SF magazine.

I've also seen the SF industry from perspectives denied to most other writers: I've worked as an editor (three anthologies, including the acclaimed Tesseracts 6) and in an SF specialty store, and I've even attended a publisher's sales conference.

I'm enclosing some additional background about me and my work, and, of course, there's tons more on my web site at (called "the most complete science-fiction author site on the web" by Talk City). I'm also providing three samples of the columns I did for On Spec.

I hope this proposal intrigues you, Craig. It's something I'd really like to do -- and I'm offering it to you first.
My condolences to the columnists who were just let go by SciFi Weekly.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Times reviews the FlashForward novel

The Times -- a major British newspaper -- reviewed my novel FlashForward (basis for the TV series of the same name) yesterday; the review is by acclaimed SF writer Lisa Tuttle, and concludes:
[T]he novel is an intellectual puzzle, drawing on theoretical physics to raise questions about time and space and the existence of free will, and proves once again that good science fiction does not need visual special effects to thrill.
You can read the whole review right here.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Starplex now available from's unabridged reading of my 1996 novel Starplex is now available. The narrator is Mark Boyett, and the audiobook also includes an exclusive introduction read by me.

The catalog page for Starplex is pretty bare-bones, so I'll mention a few things they fail to: Starplex was the only novel of its year to be nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards, and it won Canada's Aurora Award and the CompuServe Homer Award, both for best SF novel of the year.

In addition it was a selection of the Science Fiction Book Club, was serialized in Analog, and was a Locus bestseller.

You can get Starplex and all my other audio books from right here.

For those who prefer print, the new trade-paperback edition is coming in March 2010 from Red Deer Press.


Science Fiction Chronicle: "Excellent hard SF, with Sawyer tossing stars, people and time travel around with reckless abandon. One of the best SF novels of the year."

The Halifax Chronicle-Herald: "Starplex appears to be traditional science fiction — it takes place aboard a spaceship, and several characters are extraterrestrial — but it's actually a rumination on several very deep questions, including: Where did we come from? Where are we going? And the deepest of the deep, Is there a God?"

Sci-Fi Weekly: "An audacious engineering effort that makes Larry Niven's Ringworld look like a high-school science project."

About Books: "Very, very cool. This is a book not to be missed."

Andrew Weiner, author of Getting Near the End: "Mind-blowing! Who says there are no more big ideas?"

Asimov's Science Fiction: "Starplex should gladden the hearts of readers who complain that nobody's writing real science fiction anymore, the kind of story that has faster-than-light spaceships and far-off planets and interstellar combat and all the neat things they gobbled up so greedily when 'Doc' Smith was dealing them out. Here's a story with plenty of slam-bang action but no shortage of material to attract thinking readers, either. Sawyer deftly juggles half a dozen sweeping questions of cosmology (not to mention everyday ethics and morality) while keeping the story moving ahead full speed. His scientific ideas are nicely integrated into the plot, yet they also hint at larger metaphorical levels. Enjoy."

Gregory Benford, author of Timescape: "Complex but swift, inventive but real-feeling, with ideas coming thick and fast. For big-time interstellar adventure, look no farther."

Astronomer Andrew Fraknoi, co-author of Voyages Through the Universe: "Complex hard-science novel by a Canadian amateur astronomer with intriguing ideas about the nature of dark matter and even dark matter life forms. Includes more cosmological concepts than any novel we have seen."

Library Journal: "An epic hard-science adventure tempered by human concerns. Highly recommended."

Jack McDevitt, author of Time Travelers Never Die: "Starplex takes us on the ultimate grand tour: an elegant intergalactic ride with Sawyer's signature mix of cosmic concepts and solid characterization. This one is a treat for the mind; I enjoyed it thoroughly."

The New York Review of Science Fiction: "An enormous grab bag of ideas — and a whole lot of fun."

Analog Science Fiction and Fact: "Mind-boggling. A complaint often heard these days is that there's not enough 'sense of wonder' in today's science fiction. Robert J. Sawyer's Starplex ought to lay that complaint to rest for quite a while."

Quill & Quire: "A swift, inventive, enjoyable book. Unexpected twists keep the plot moving briskly, but Sawyer is able to do this while raising intriguing philosophical issues."

James Schellenberg on the Crystalline Sphere web page: "Starplex is an astonishing novel, hard science fiction with heart, with a grand overarching vision. This book contains many of Sawyer's trademarks — addictive readability, a frank engagement with ethical questions, and a fondness for Canadiana. The grand sweep of the story and Sawyer's graceful manipulation of the reader's sympathies combine to make this a fine book; Starplex outdoes any book in Sawyer's oeuvre, and the majority in the field of science fiction. Sawyer uses a heady mix of big ideas and crafty storytelling, and he challenges the reader intellectually while grabbing their emotional sympathy. Quite the accomplishment."

The Toronto Star: "Here, at last, is an ambitious attempt to exploit the possibilities that the genre is capable of."

More about Starplex is here.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Props to Gough

For fans of FlashForward, the ABC TV series based on my novel of the same name, a historical note on Agent Al Gough (played wonderfully by Lee Thompson Young), who had the big story line this past week (in "The Gift").

In the actual TV series, he should be credited as the character who, in the story, coined the term "flashforward" for the event. There was a scene filmed for the pilot ("No More Good Days") in which Agent Janis Hawk (the amazing Christine Woods) appeared to coin the term (and that part of the scene was used in some of the promos), but her line was cut from the pilot as aired, so the credit for coining the term in-universe goes to Gough, who first uses it when discussing Fiona Banks with Demetri and Mark.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Thursday, November 5, 2009

On Rochester, NY, NPR station on Friday

I'll be interviewed about my novels Wake and FlashForward on 1370 Connection with Bob Smith, the noon (Eastern time) show on AM 1370, the NPR station in Rochester, New York, this Friday, November 6, 2009. You'll be able to listen live here, and I'll be on for most of the hour between noon and 1:00 p.m. (then it's off to Astronomicon, Rochester's SF convention, where I'm one of the guests).
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: , ,

Five years of working on the WWW books

Holy cow! It was five years ago today -- Friday, November 5, 2004 -- that I wrote the first words of what went on to become my WWW trilogy. Back then, it was only going to be a single book (to be called Webmind). I began writing that first book at a Write-Off writing retreat sponsored by Calgary's Imaginative Fiction Writers Association (IFWA). The first words I wrote were:
Cogito, ergo sum.

I had no idea what those words meant the first time I encountered them. I didn't even know that they were words. I knew nothing of language, or even of communication, for communication requires an other -- another -- and I knew of no one -- of nothing -- but me.

But I did exist, and that simple formulation -- I think, therefore I am -- was proof of it. By being aware of myself, of my thoughts, I knew irrefutably that I existed; to think requires a thinker.

And thinking is what I do; it's all I do. I awoke to consciousness in a vast sea, an enveloping all constituted at the limits of my perception by two opposing states, and it was these states -- the endless, seemingly random juxtaposition of opposites -- that I first, however dimly, had became aware of.
Not one word of that draft survived to the final, published version of Wake, which begins like this:
Not darkness, for that implies an understanding of light.

Not silence, for that suggests a familiarity with sound.

Not loneliness, for that requires knowledge of others.

But still, faintly, so tenuous that if it were any less it wouldn't exist at all: awareness.

Nothing more than that. Just awareness -- a vague, ethereal sense of being.

Being ... but not becoming. No marking of time, no past or future -- only an endless, featureless now, and, just barely there in that boundless moment, inchoate and raw, the dawning of perception ...
Still, that passage I wrote five years ago today was the start of the trilogy.

Of course, I haven't spent five years solid on this trilogy; I took time off to write Rollback, for instance, among many other interesting things. :)

Anyway, enough reminiscing! Time to get back to work on Volume 3, Wonder, which today passed the 50,000-word mark.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Come see prize-winning Sawyer script performed

On Friday, November 27, 2009, Robert J. Sawyer's television pilot script for Earthfall will have a staged reading by professional actors at the National Film Board of Canada's Theatre at 150 John Street, in the Entertainment District in downtown Toronto.

I wrote Earthfall as a pilot for an hour-long episodic science-fiction TV series; it's not currently sold to anyone, but I'm proud of it. The pilot episode is called "Vanguard," and here's a little synopsis:
Toronto cop Hannah Wong arrives on the scene of a hit-and-run, unaware that the victim’s body houses an alien being that has been on Earth for 3,000 years. As the victim dies, the alien transfers into Hannah’s body, beginning a battle for whether Hannah or the alien will control her destiny.
(Actually, there's a lot more to it than that!)

The script will be read using some of the top actors working in Toronto, and after the performance a moderated discussion about the script will be held, with audience participation welcomed.

The Earthfall pilot script beat over 150 TV pilot-script submissions in the WILDsound Screenplay Festival.

I'm delighted to have won this competion, but I'd also like to tip my hat to the other finalists. The six pilot-script finalists were:

by Rich Hynes
Ronkonkoma, NY

by Robert J. Sawyer
Mississauga, ON

by Shawand McKenzie and Steven Van Patten
Hackensack, NJ

by Will Phillips
San Francisco, CA

by John Betz, Jr. and Randy Reese
Rochester, NY

by Clark McMillian
Bowie, MD

Tickets for the evening -- which will also include readings of two other short scripts -- are just $6 in advance, or $8 at the door. More info is here.

This is a good month for me for scriptwriting (thirty years after I started my degree in Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson!). On Sunday, I head down to L.A. to spend a week at the FlashForward offices, gearing up to write my own episode of the TV series based on my novel of the same name
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Guest Editorial in On Spec

I've long been associated with On Spec, English-Canada's leading SF magazine. My short story "Just Like Old Times" first appeared there in 1993 (and went on to win both the Aurora Award and the Crime Writers of Canada's juried Arthur Ellis Award for best short story of the year, as well as being reprinted in the best-of anthology On Spec: The First Five Years), and for three years (1995-1997), my "On Writing" column ran in the magazine.

This is On Spec's 20th anniversary year, and I am very proud to have been called upon to write a Guest Editorial for the Fall 2009 issue. For the time being, you can read that editorial right here.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Rollback gets a FlashForward boost

It's always nice when a novel goes into a new printing. My most-recent mass-market paperback is the Hugo Award-nominated Rollback (which had a very successful run in hardcover prior to that). Tor Books has gone back to press for another printing -- which gave them the chance to mention that I'm also the author of FlashForward, the novel behind the ABC TV series of the same name.

More about Rollback.
"Above all, the author's characters bear their human strengths and weaknesses with dignity and poise. An elegantly told story for all libraries; highly recommended." --Library Journal (starred review, denoting a work of exceptional merit)

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Labels: , ,