[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

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A Few Words About
Illegal Alien

Early in November 1997, Amy Corley, my publicist at Ace Science Fiction, asked me to put together a few comments about Illegal Alien in my own words. Here's what I had to say:

[Illegal Alien]

Illegal Alien is a courtroom drama with an extraterrestrial defendant.

It's set in the present day. An alien starship from Alpha Centauri — the nearest star system to our own — arrives at Earth with seven beings on board. They are welcomed with open arms, and tour the world accompanied by an international entourage of scientists, including Cletus Calhoun, whose down-home charm has made his PBS astronomy series Great Balls of Fire! an international hit. But when Calhoun is brutally murdered, suspicion falls on one of the aliens.

Who has jurisdiction over an alien being? Can an alien get a fair trial from a human jury? Is an alien mentally competant, by human standards, to stand trial? If the alien is found guilty, should the death penalty be invoked? And what will the consequences for Earth be if the alien is convicted?

A prominent African-American civil rights attorney is retained to defend the alien. The "trial of the Centauri" is even bigger than O. J. Simpson's "trial of the century," and the courtroom pyrotechnics are hopefully every bit as riveting. Along the way, my book gently explores racism in the courts and the nature of justice.

Illegal Alien should appeal not just to science-fiction fans, but also to fans of mystery fiction — I've won both the top American award in SF (the Nebula), and the top Canadian award in mystery fiction (the Arthur Ellis Award), so I've got a pretty good idea how to keep both audiences happy.

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