Sunday, January 24, 2010

United Nations Secretary-General Stephen Lewis

I received an email today from a person in South Korea who had just read FlashForward, my novel which is the basis for the ABC TV series of the same name, pointing out that I use the names of many real people in the novel, but for some reason changed the name of the UN Secretary-General from the real 2009 incumbent, Ban ki-moon ("a hero in Korea"), to Stephen Lewis, a name she took to be fictitious; she expressed fear that this would offend Korean readers.

My response:
Many thanks for your kind words. Please note that I wrote the novel FlashForward in 1998 (and it was published in 1999); at that time Kofi Annan was Secretary-General of the United Nations, having assumed office in 1997.

Since no Secretary-General has ever served more than two five-year terms, it was clear Annan would no longer be holding that role in 2009, when the novel was set, and, lacking a flashforward of my own, I had no way of knowing that Ban Ki-moon would become Secretary General in January 2007 -- and so I proposed a likely candidate.

Stephen Lewis, the person I named as Secretary-General in FlashForward, is a real person, and just as Ban is a hero to many South Koreans, Lewis is a hero to many of my fellow Canadians.

Lewis was a distinguished Canadian politician (leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party from 1970-1978), was Canada's ambassador to the United Nations (1984-1988), and was deputy director of UNICEF (1995-1999). From 2001 to 2006 he was United Nations Special Envoy for AIDS/HIV in Africa. His name has been suggested repeatedly for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I invite you to read more about him and his work.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site



At January 24, 2010 12:09 PM , Blogger Chuk said...

How come you used the real 2009 Pope's name, then? I'm not falling for this.

At January 24, 2010 7:40 PM , Blogger Dwight Williams said...

After his stint as UN Envoy on AIDS, would Lewis be interested if offered the post after Mr. Ban is done?

At any rate, I should drop a donation on his foundation sooner than later.

At January 25, 2010 4:38 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Go look at a 1999 copy of FlashForward, Chuk; you'll see the Pope is named Benedict XVI there. For that matter, go look at a copy of my 1995 novel The Terminal Experiment; I also name the current Pope correctly there.

How? I did it by looking at all previous Pope names, finding one for which the last usage was honorable and which seemed overdue for reuse, and incremented the number by one. :)


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