Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Remembering Robyn Herrington 15 years on

by Rob - May 3rd, 2019

[Robyn Herrington]

Robyn Meta Herrington, active member of both SFWA and SF Canada, passed away fifteen years ago today, on Monday morning, May 3, 2004, in Calgary, Alberta, after a courageous multi-year battle with cancer.

Robyn’s short fiction appeared in such places as On Spec, Talebones, Adventures of Sword and Sorcery, Parsec, and in Mike Resnick‘s DAW Anthologies Return of the Dinosaurs (her first sale), Women Writing Science Fiction as Men, and New Voices in Science Fiction; one of her stories was produced by CBC Radio as part of its Alberta Anthology series. Her genre poetry appeared in Tesseracts 6 and Chiaroscuro, and she was working on a novel.

Robyn was an acquisitions editor for EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy, and was instrumental in bringing Australian writer K.A. Bedford‘s first novel, Orbital Burn, to market.

Robyn was a beloved mainstay of Calgary’s SF&F workshop, the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association, where she was known for insightful, compassionately presented critiques. She was also a frequent member of the committee for Con-Version, Calgary’s annual SF convention (including in 2002, when Con-Version was the CanVention–the Canadian National Science Fiction Convention), and was often involved with the con’s writers’ workshop and annual short-story contest.

Robyn was born in Melbourne in 1961, and grew up in Elizabeth Fields, South Australia; she moved to Calgary 40 years ago. She was employed as a graphics designer by the University of Calgary (and edited the publication New Currents In Teaching Technology there). She was also an accomplished glass blower and an inveterate traveler.

The Calgary writers conference When Words Collide holds the annual In Places Between: The Robyn Herrington Memorial Short Story Competition in her honour.

Robyn is survived by her husband Bruce Herrington, universally known in Calgary as “the wonder spouse,” her parents, and sister Sandy Van Damme.

Robyn had time to draft her own eulogy before passing, to be read at her funeral, at her request, by her friend and mentor, Robert J. Sawyer. Here it is:

Wow. A Eulogy. A moment when we pause and reflect — and a moment when those gathered aren’t allowed to get up and leave — it’s an awesome responsibility. What do I say? What is it that I really want you all to know? The long printed version has the really important stuff (pick one up @ the door) — but what about now?

I need to tell you that my parents, brother and sister and their families are amazing people. John and Gisela Brown will give you the shirts off their backs if you asked them to — but don’t try it now because it’s probably more than a little inappropriate. They have always been there to give me whatever I needed and would still do. IFWA — if you need a place for the annual barbeque maybe that could be my legacy, hey mum and dad?

Michael & Sandy are more than a brother and sister. They’ve been my friends. We actually LIKE each other. Not too many kids make it to adulthood and can say that. OK sure, maybe we didn’t have to run Sandra into the wall *quite* so many times when she was learning to crawl, but it doesn’t seem to have left any permanent damage. And Michael? YOU dropped the orange juice all over the lounge in South Australia.

Speaking of which, this is the standard eulogy info: Robyn was born in Melbourne, Australia, on March 28th, 1961 — a good day by any standards. She moved to South Australia in Elizabeth Fields, when she was four. At 17, her family made the move to Calgary. While she never regretted the move — how could she, it’s where she met Bruce — she did regret the -40 weather.

She never went to University, other than to work there. She believed in and advocated life-long learning. Don’t be so foolish as to think the only way you can learn though is through someone telling you what to think. Think for yourself. Get out there. Just do it.

Robyn met Bruce pretty much right away upon arriving here in Canada. She met him at lunch one day after church. When no-one was available to drive her home, Bruce did. Robyn ran upstairs to her bedroom and scrawled Bruce’s number across her bedroom door.

Epic phone calls ensued. Two hours was average; six was the record. Six hours very nearly lead her father to remove the phone from Robyn’s room. In retrospect, six hours is kind of insane, but it *did* get her married off and out of the house — so you be the judge.

Robyn sincerely hopes that by this time she has NOT been pre-deceased by her older brother Noel. If so-that really sucks. If not — Ha Ha I win. I got sick first so it wouldn’t have been fair if you’d beaten me. (In fact he won — by a mere six weeks.)

Back to Bruce. I have said it on many occasions he is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and deep thinking people I know. His family has had their own hard moments in 2003-2004 and they have proved that they are stronger than their grief.

Robyn loves Bruce deeply — and notice how I — Robyn — said that in third person so it doesn’t sound like I — Rob — is deeply in love with Bruce. Not the he isn’t worthy, but he’s mine.

What else do I want you to know?

Try surf-fishing, or fishing off a pier. It’s peaceful, exciting, a time to sit quietly or to talk — but either catch and release or make sure you have someone else to gut the fish.

Stop and smell the flowers. Honestly. DO IT! Take the time to look around you because it can all go too fast.

Learn two songs by heart & really well. You never know when you might be stuck in a karaoke situation.

Never, ever, ever eat Durian. Ever. Yuck.

Always try food that you have never have. What’s the worst that can happen? You might find something you like. But it won’t EVER be Durian, or thousand-year-old eggs. Yuck Phooey.

I want you to learn to not hold grudges. They are a waste of time, and no good can come of it for either party. Be the bigger person. Be nice. And in if all your attempts fail — then, unfortunately, you’re spending your time on someone who doesn’t deserve you. Move on, guilt-free, knowing you’ve done all you can.

Which brings me to friends. You’ve made me dance — at the Boogie Emporium. You’ve made me laugh too many times and *every* time we were together. Sing? Of course. How do Lottie, Chick and Babe pass those long trips to the cabin? My writing group — IFWA — too valuable to put a price on all of it; the good, the bad and the ugly — it was, and is all good. My smaller group, 7 of 40 — what a stunningly remarkable group. Astute, each of a different mind, each complimenting the strengths of the other.

My husband, my family, my friends — my golden trinity, and the reasons I loved life so much.

Finally, find your faith or hold on to your faith.

Why did this happen? I don’t know — I could say it was for the sole purpose of getting to meet me — but I’m kind of hoping it’s for more than that. For whatever reason, it has happened. It’s sad, horrible, devastating … or maybe I’m just overstating my importance … You know I love you all. You know that I’ll be watching you all.

I once heard, on some TV movie, an old man say that his friends would remember he was alive as long as they could feel the wind on their faces. I kind of like that idea. So when you feel the wind in your face that’ll be me —

right there —

In your face.

See ya ’round.

[Robyn Herrington]
Robert J. Sawyer online:

Astronomy and Science Fiction

by Rob - January 29th, 2019

On Saturday, January 26, 2019, I had the privilege of giving this year’s Paul Sykes Memorial Lecture to the Vancouver Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

My topic was “Astronomy and Science Fiction” and during the talk I mentioned the following SF novels (listed in italics) and short stories (listed in quotation marks):

  • H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds
  • Arthur C. Clarke, “The Nine Billion Names of God”
  • Arthur C. Clarke, “The Star”
  • Hal Clement, Mission of Gravity
  • Larry Niven, “Neutron Star”
  • Robert L. Forward, Dragon’s Egg
  • James Gunn, The Listeners
  • Robert J. Sawyer, Starplex
  • Robert J. Sawyer, Rollback
Robert J. Sawyer online:

John A. Sawyer, R.I.P.

by Rob - December 31st, 2018

My father, John A. Sawyer, Ph.D., passed away at the age of 94 on Monday, December 17, 2018, at his retirement residence in North York, Ontario, Canada. The following death notice / obituary appeared in The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star:

Sawyer, John A. (Jack)

Died December 17, 2018

Professor Emeritus (Economics), University of Toronto.

Born in Toronto (August 24, 1924), the son of Arthur J. and Bessie (Livingstone) Sawyer.

Married to Virginia (Peterson) Sawyer and father of Peter D. Sawyer (Jacquie), Robert J. Sawyer (Carolyn), and Alan B. Sawyer (Kim).

Graduate of Oakwood Collegiate Institute, the University of Toronto (Victoria College, Commerce & Finance, 4T7), and the University of Chicago.

John was an Economist at the Dominion Bureau of Statistics (1953-60). He taught Economics at the University of Alberta (1949-50), the Royal Military College of Canada (1951-53), and the University of Toronto (1960-90). He was Director of the Institute for Policy Analysis (1975-80) and Acting Dean of the Faculty of Management (1985-86) at the University of Toronto.

At the Dominion Bureau of Statistics he directed the construction of the first inter-industry input-output table of the Canadian economy. At the University of Toronto he led the team that built the TRACE econometric model of the Canadian economy. He wrote two textbooks on macroeconomic theory and a number of articles, including a history of business education at the University of Toronto.

In lieu of flowers, a donation to your favourite health science charity would be appreciated.

Always a teacher, at his request his body has been donated to the U of T medical school; also at his request, there will be no funeral.
Robert J. Sawyer online:

I have a Patreon page!

by Rob - February 4th, 2018

The times they are a-changin’ in publishing, and so I’ve set up a Patreon page at, where my readers can support my work directly. Please check it out! Many thanks!

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Did the U.S. have to drop atomic bombs on Japan?

by Rob - October 3rd, 2017

A friend wrote to me today urging me to read Killing the Rising Sun as, by he said, Bill O’Reilly, since it made the case that the U.S. had to drop atomic bombs on Japan.

My reply:

You underestimate me, my friend; I’ve already read to Killing the Rising Sun.

The key issue out of the Potsdam conference, which O’Reilly (and Martin Dugard, who actually wrote the book for him) gloss over, is that Japan was willing to surrender well before the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; they simply weren’t willing to surrender unconditionally. They considered their emperor (Hirohito) to be divine, and they needed him to at least putatively remain as post-war head of the Japanese state (under whatever international oversight might be imposed).

The war could have ended in July 1945, or earlier, if the U.S. had been willing to drop that requirement. From the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes, which I, in turn, my friend, recommend you read:

On the other hand, Stimson had argued, because of the mountainous Japanese terrain and because “the Japanese are highly patriotic and certainly susceptible to calls for fanatical resistance to repel an invasion,” America would probably “have to go through with an even more bitter finish fight than in Germany” if it attempted to invade. Was there, then, any alternative? {U.S. Secretary of War Henry} Stimson thought there might be:

I believe Japan is susceptible to reason in such a crisis to a much greater extent than is indicated by our current press and other current comment. Japan is not a nation composed wholly of mad fanatics of an entirely different mentality from ours. On the contrary, she has within the past century shown herself to possess extremely intelligent people, capable in an unprecedentedly short time of adopting not only the complicated technique of Occidental civilization but to a substantial extent their culture and their political and social ideas. Her advance in these respects … has been one of the most astounding feats of national progress in history ….

It is therefore my conclusion that a carefully timed warning be given to Japan ….

I personally think that if in [giving such a warning] we should add that we do not exclude a constitutional monarchy under her present dynasty, it would substantially add to the chances of acceptance.

Within the text of his proposal the Secretary of War several times characterized it as “the equivalent of an unconditional surrender,” but others did not see it so. Before Byrnes left for Potsdam he had carried the document to ailing Cordell Hull, a fellow Southerner and Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of State from 1933 to 1944, and Hull had immediately plucked out the concession to the “present dynasty” — the Emperor Hirohito, in whose mild myopic figure many Americans had personified Japanese militarism — and told Byrnes that “the statement seemed too much like appeasement of Japan.”

It may have been, but by the time they arrived in Potsdam, Stimson, Truman and Byrnes had learned that it was also the minimum condition of surrender the Japanese were prepared to countenance, whatever their desperate situation. U.S. intelligence had intercepted and decoded messages passing between Tokyo and Moscow instructing Japanese ambassador Naotake Sato to attempt to interest the Soviets in mediating a Japanese surrender. “The foreign and domestic situation for the Empire is very serious,” Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo had cabled Sato on July 11, “and even the termination of the war is now being considered privately …. We are also sounding out the extent to which we might employ the USSR in connection with the termination of the war …. [This is] a matter with which the Imperial Court is … greatly concerned.” And pointedly on July 12:

It is His Majesty’s heart’s desire to see the swift termination of the war …. However, as long as America and England insist on unconditional surrender our country has no alternative but to see it through in an all-out effort for the sake of survival and the honor of the homeland.

And this whole insistence on unconditional surrender dated back to an off-the-cuff ad lib by FDR from 1943. Also from Rhodes:

The month Wolfe’s call to aerial battle appeared in Harper’s — January 1943 — Franklin Roosevelt met with Winston Churchill at Casablanca. In the course of the meeting the two leaders discussed what terms of surrender they would eventually insist upon; the word “unconditional” was discussed but not included in the official joint statement to be read at the final press conference. Then, on January 24, to Churchill’s surprise, Roosevelt inserted the word ad lib: “Peace can come to the world,” the President read out to the assembled journalists and newsreel cameras, “only by the total elimination of German and Japanese war power …. The elimination of German, Japanese and Italian war power means the unconditional surrender of Germany, Italy, and Japan.” Roosevelt later told Harry Hopkins that the surprising and fateful insertion was a consequence of the confusion attending his effort to convince French General Henri Girard to sit down with Free French leader Charles de Gaulle:

We had so much trouble getting those two French generals together that I thought to myself that this was as difficult as arranging the meeting of Grant and Lee — and then suddenly the Press Conference was on, and Winston and I had had no time to prepare for it, and the thought popped into my mind that they had called Grant “Old Unconditional Surrender,” and the next thing I knew I had said it.

Churchill immediately concurred — “Any divergence between us, even by omission, would on such an occasion and at such a time have been damaging or even dangerous to our war effort” — and unconditional surrender became official Allied policy.

As for the Emperor being allowed to retain his throne being the sticking point, it was — right to the very end, even after Nagasaki. From Rhodes’s final chapter:

The military leaders of Japan had still not agreed to surrender. The Emperor Hirohito therefore took the extraordinary step of forcing the issue. The resulting surrender offer, delivered through Switzerland, reached Washington on Friday morning, August 10 [, 1945]. It acknowledged acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration except in one crucial regard: that it “does not comprise any demand which prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler.”

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Double Aurora Award win!

by Rob - September 23rd, 2017


First, I’m thrilled that my Quantum Night just won the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Award (“the Aurora“) for Best Novel of the Year this evening; the award (pictured above) was presented at Hal-Con in Halifax. The nominees were:

  • Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking Canada
  • Company Town by Madeline Ashby, Tor
  • The Courier by Gerald Brandt, DAW
  • The Nature of a Pirate by A.M. Dellamonica, Tor
  • Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer, Penguin Canada
  • Stars Like Cold Fire by Brent Nichols, Bundoran Press

Hayden Trenholm graciously accepted the gorgeous trophy above on my behalf and read these remarks from me:

I’m sorry I can’t be with you in Halifax today; I’m a presenter at the Word on the Street festival in Toronto this weekend. But I’m thrilled to have won, and I thank my editors, Adrienne Kerr and Helen Smith in Toronto and Ginjer Buchanan and Jessica Wade in New York.

I’d also like to thank the voters for the Aurora Awards for this honour — while at the same time decrying those voters south of the border who turned what was supposed to be a cautionary science-fiction tale into a dystopian reality. I had good luck today; let us hope we all have better luck in the next U.S. presidential election.

And, for the first time ever, the Auroras had a “Best of the Decade” category this year, honouring works published from 2001-2010. To my absolute delight, my Neanderthal Parallax trilogy won; the trilogy consists of Hugo Award-winner Hominids, Hugo Award-finalist Humans, and Spectrum Award-finalist Hybrids.

The Best-of-the-Decade nominees were:

  • Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson, Tor
  • The Blue Ant Trilogy by William Gibson, Berkley
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, Tor
  • The Neanderthal Parallax by Robert J. Sawyer, Tor
  • The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint, Tor
  • Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking Canada

(Bill Gibson’s Blue Ant trilogy consists of Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History.)

Hayden Trenholm — who won the Aurora for best short story himself tonight — accepted the beautiful trophy shown below on my behalf in Halifax, and read these remarks from me:

A best-of-the-decade award is about looking back, and although I’m thrilled with this honour, the sad truth is that both the agent who sold this trilogy for me, Ralph Vicinanza, and the editor responsible for it, David G. Hartwell, have passed away in the interim. Also no longer with us is one of my most insightful and helpful beta readers, my younger brother Alan Sawyer.

When I wrote this trilogy, the Neanderthal genome hadn’t yet been sequenced, but we know now that most of us carry a little Neanderthal within ourselves — and so, on behalf of myself and the Neanderthals, I thank you all and wish you, as Ponter Boddit would say, “Healthy day.”

What a night!

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Where Star Wars beats Star Trek

by Rob - July 31st, 2017

One thing I like about the Star Wars franchise: it is coherent; it doesn’t keep trying to reimagine or reinvent or reinterpret itself. The latest film, Rogue One, goes to great lengths to look like and fit in with the very first film, the original Star Wars, from 40 years ago.

Star Trek made a mistake, starting with Star Trek: The Motion Picture (as much as I love it), in constantly changing things — the uniforms, the ships (we’ve seen seven Enterprises now), the details, and even the characterization. Do Andorians have thick antennae from the back of their heads (TOS) thin ones sprouting from their foreheads (TMP), or mobile finger-like ones that come from in between (ENT)? Do Klingons have smooth foreheads (TOS), spinal cords that move up over their skulls (TMP), or cow-patties on their foreheads (ST III and beyond)? Do Gorns have no tails (TOS) or tails (ENT)? Do the TOS Enterprise‘s impulse engines show as dark rectangles when running or as brightly glowing red ones (TOS original vs. TOS remastered)? Do shields go up by slowly encircling the ship (ST II), or growing outward in waves from the ship (ST V)? And on and on and on.

Alien races come and go in Star Trek (remember all the new aliens from TMP, never seen again?), but in Star Wars we constantly see old races we know well depicted as they’ve always been depicted.

Star Wars knows that its fans remember tiny little details from decades gone by; Star Trek has Kirk make remarks such as, in Star Trek V, “I lost a brother once” — and have it not refer to his late brother Sam, cuz, y’know, who the heck would remember that Sam had been horribly killed? Or they can have the deck numbers run in the wrong direction (and there be way too many of them) in Star Trek V, because no one would know, right?

Don’t get me wrong: I love Star Trek, but the Star Wars people know way more about how to manage a franchise and build fannish loyalty. When you’re entrusted with a classic, it’s your job to continue the tradition, not try to make it your own.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Triggers, FlashForward, and Me

by Rob - April 15th, 2017

A piece I finished five years ago today, on April 15, 2012, for the blog of Gollancz, my UK publisher:

Triggers, FlashForward, and Me

by Robert J. Sawyer

Thanks to the good people at Gollancz, I was recently interviewed in SFX, the world’s top-selling English-language magazine devoted to science fiction. I spoke in that interview about how my new novel Triggers was the first new writing project I’d started since
FlashForward — the TV series based on my novel of the same name — went off the air, and so I’d set out to create a novel that would appeal to fans of that TV series.

Working on the FlashForward TV adaptation — I consulted on every episode and wrote the nineteenth episode, “Course Correction” — was one of the best experiences of my life. But whenever I think about it, the memory is bittersweet, because instead of still being on the air — we’d be finishing our third year right about now — we were cancelled by the originating American broadcaster after twenty-two episodes.

That a science-fiction show got the plug pulled on it too soon is hardly a new story: there was an implicit promise in the opening credits of the original Star Trek that the series would run at least five years but it only survived for three. More often than not, it seems, ambitious science-fiction TV shows get cancelled prematurely.

By the time FlashForward‘s sixth episode first aired, I was predicting we wouldn’t be renewed for a second series. The ratings were dropping steadily week by week, not, I hasten to add, because of any deficiency in the program, but rather because, in the United States, we were stupidly scheduled at 8:00 p.m. on the east and west coasts and 7:00 p.m. in the interior; the show was simply too adult, too violent, and too raunchy, for what was perceived of as family-viewing time.

From that point on, I was urging that we film two different endings to the last episode of the first series: one that would have opened the show up for a second series, and one that would have provided real closure — the sort of resounding conclusion my original novel had.

FlashForward had numerous behind-the-scenes staff changes, and by the time we were nearing the end of our first series, the powers-that-be had other ideas. They were convinced we were coming back, and wouldn’t countenance the notion of a wrap-up at this point. It’s too bad: I think FlashForward could have become a cult hit like The Prisoner on DVD or via download if there’d been some sense of closure at the end.

Ironically, I’ve just returned from three days of meetings in Hollywood, discussing the possibility of adapting my new novel Triggers into a TV series. The novel Triggers has a definitive — and I like to think, mind-blowing — ending. The creative exercise in adapting a tightly structured standalone book into what could be an on-going series that might postpone its ending for five years has been fascinating. But, from the outset, this time I am planning for a real ending for the TV version, and hope I’ll have sufficient say to get it actually done that way.

I often think of the TV shows I loved that never got the run they deserve. Planet of the Apes. Kolchak: The Night Stalker. UFO. And, of course, more recent shows, such as Firefly and Charlie Jade, a show seen on Syfy in the US that I wrote the series bible for, had much shorter runs than their creators had hoped for. All left with a whimper, not a bang.

Still, even when SF TV shows do get to film an ending, it’s often a disappointment. I loved the new Battlestar Galactica but the final hour was a disaster. And Lost — whose writing office was next door to ours for FlashForward on the Disney Studio lot in Los Angeles — ended in an underwhelming way. Even The Prisoner, which I mentioned above, left many people scratching their heads with its conclusion.

Which, I think, is ultimately why I like writing books. The author is in full control; no one ever publishes just the first six chapters of a planned twenty-two chapter novel: you get to tell the whole story you intended to tell, and in a standalone novel, the audience can trust that between the two covers they’ll find a beginning, a middle, and a satisfying end — which is precisely what I’ve set out to provide in Triggers.

And if the TV version ever does come to pass, hopefully we’ll get to provide the same thing there, too.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Kindle editions!

by Rob - February 28th, 2017

Eight of my backlist titles are now available worldwide for Kindle: Aurora Award-winner Golden Fleece, Seiun Award-winner End of an Era, Hugo Award-finalists Starplex, Frameshift, and Factoring Humanity, plus my full “Quintaglio Ascension” trilogy of Far-Seer, Fossil Hunter, and Foreigner.

Just put “SFWRITER.COM” into the Amazon to find them all, or use these links:

Amazon USA

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Donald Trump is president. How the hell did that happen?

by Rob - February 27th, 2017

Press Release: For Immediate Release

A year ago, science-fiction writer and futurist Robert J. Sawyer accurately predicted the rise of a far-right psychopath coming from out of nowhere to become the American president, propelled into office by large numbers of people manipulated to vote against their own best interests.

Sawyer’s predictions have often come true in the past, but none so quickly or with such far-reaching consequences. Now, with the paperback release of his bestselling Quantum Night, after its successful run in hardcover, readers can follow along with Sawyer’s characters — an experimental psychologist and an expert on the physics of consciousness — as they come to understand how authoritarians manipulate the masses to follow them … right to the brink of oblivion.

Building on the cutting-edge research — including Prof. Robert D. Hare’s world-famous studies of psychopathy done at the University of British Columbia and Prof. Bob Altemeyer’s research into authoritarian leaders conducted at the University of Manitoba (and quoted extensively by Nixon White House counsel John Dean in his nonfiction book Conservatives without Conscience), Sawyer has drawn together the latest in real-world scientific thought to explain exactly how we got to the political situation we find ourselves in today.

Sawyer was right in his prediction of a Trump-like president. Will Sawyer also turn out to be right in his prediction of the that president’s next move: an invasion of Canada?

In its starred review of Quantum Night — denoting a book of exceptional merit — Publishers Weekly says Sawyer’s “story is uncomfortably close to present day fears.”

And Oxford University’s Kevin Dutton, one of the world’s leading expert on psychopathy, says “Quantum Night is a fast-paced thinking-person’s thriller richly informed by modern science. Sawyer has certainly done his homework about psychopaths and he understands well that, far from being just the occasional headline-grabbing serial killer, they’re everywhere.”

Sawyer, a member of the Order of Canada, and bestselling author of FlashForward, which was adapted as an ABC TV series, is one of only eight people in history — and the only Canadian — to win all three of the world’s top awards for best science fiction novel of the year: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. As a futurist, he’s consulted with NASA, spoken at Google’s headquarters, and advised Canada’s federal Department of Justice. Quantum Night, his 23rd novel, is his most prescient, and timely, work of prediction to date.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Fat Man and Little Boy

by Rob - January 4th, 2017

Watched the 1989 movie FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY on DVD this evening. Rarely is a film so poorly cast; ironically, the first opening credit after the star names is that of the casting director, Nancy Foy.

Paul Newman can be a fabulous actor — by coincidence, the night before, I was watching brilliant clips of him in THE VERDICT as part of a PBS documentary about Sidney Lumet — but he was terrible as Manhattan Project head General Leslie R. Groves, giving a flat one-note performance.

And, holy crap, Dwight Schultz is awful as J. Robert Oppenheimer. Neither actor is aided by a crappy script (by Bruce Robinson and Roland Joffé) and stiff direction (by Joffé), but Schultz is simply out of his depth; it’s no surprise that this film ended his career as a movie leading man.

And the cinematography! Vilmos Zsigmond has lensed some visually great films (including CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND), but his work here was pedestrian at best, and the fill lighting in the outdoor scenes (actually Mexico, standing in for Los Alamos) is so bright as to make everything outdoors look like a TV sitcom. Much of the film is also hampered by crappy ADR.

Groves and Oppenheimer are very difficult characters to play; for me, the gold standard is Brian Dennehy as the former and David Strathairn as the latter from the TV movie DAY ONE, which came out the same year as FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY. Newman isn’t the worst Groves I’ve seen — that would be Manning Redwood from the BBC OPPENHEIMER miniseries — but Schultz IS the worst Oppenheimer.

The film adds a subplot that sadly doesn’t fit. In real life, AFTER the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Canadian physicist Louis Slotin was killed when criticality was accidentally triggered during a demonstration he was making at Los Alamos.

His quite horrible decline and death would have been a sobering thing for Groves, Oppenheimer, and others at Los Alamos to witness while the decision about whether to actually drop the bombs on civilian targets in Japan vs. conducting a demonstration with Japanese observers was still being debated.

To move this tragedy up to BEFORE the bombs were dropped required contriving that Groves COVERED UP the accident and HID IT from Oppenheimer — which simply isn’t true.

Anyway, it’s not an awful film. Roger Ebert gave it 1.5 stars; I think it’s more of a 2-star effort. But it does underscore just how difficult it is to capture the drama of the Manhattan Project on film or TV.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

The inner life of a man who had none

by Rob - December 31st, 2016

My on-and-off bathroom reading for some time has been David A. Goodman‘s The Autobiography of James T. Kirk. I just finished it, and I quite enjoyed it.

Goodman took on two very difficult tasks. The first, obvious one, is making a coherent whole out of the contradictory mess that was TOS; the creators, after all, were literally making it up as they went along, and inconsistencies such as whether Kirk has three nephews or only one abound.

On this score, Goodman succeeds in finding entertaining solutions that hold together and make sense.

The second difficult task is a more subtle one. The brilliance of Star Trek was that the main character’s inner life was externalized: Spock was Kirk’s rationalism; McCoy was Kirk’s humanism. The triumvirate comprised three bodies but only one complete mind.

To write an autobiography — a first-person narrative — Goodman had to give Kirk an internalized inner life, a monologue of his own thoughts. As “ghostwriter,” Goodman had to make a choice, and he did: he decided Kirk was not just a lonely man (a recurrent theme in TOS, best embodied in “Requiem for Methuselah”), but also a man plagued by regrets: for the lives he’d ruined, over the people who’d died because of him, for the careers of others that had stalled or ended because of his actions.

It’s an interesting choice: a much more fraught, hand-wringy Kirk than we’ve ever seen before. As a reader, you can only decide for yourself whether Goodman’s depiction of Kirk’s inner life rings true. For me, it didn’t quite seem the Jim we’d come to know and love, but it was artistically an interesting choice, and I admired the integrity with which Goodman pursued it.


Robert J. Sawyer online:

Today’s history lesson

by Rob - December 22nd, 2016

Today’s history lesson, from November 15, 1945. Are you listening, Mr. Trump?
The President of the United States, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the Prime Minister of Canada have issued the following statement:

1. We recognize that the application of recent scientific discoveries to the methods and practice of war has placed at the disposal of mankind means of destruction hitherto unknown, against which there can be no adequate military defense, and in the employment of which no single nation can in fact have a monopoly.

2. We desire to emphasize that the responsibility for devising means to ensure that the new discoveries shall be used for the benefit of mankind, instead of as a means of destruction, rests not on our nations alone, but upon the whole civilized world. Nevertheless, the progress that we have made in the development and use of atomic energy demands that we take an initiative in the matter, and we have accordingly met together to consider the possibility of international action:

(a) To prevent the use of atomic energy for destructive purposes.

(b) To promote the use of recent and future advances in scientific knowledge, particularly in the utilization of atomic energy, for peaceful and humanitarian ends.

3. We are aware that the only complete protection for the civilized world from the destructive use of scientific knowledge lies in the prevention of war. No system of safeguards that can be devised will of itself provide an effective guarantee against production of atomic weapons by a nation bent on aggression. Nor can we ignore the possibility of the development of other weapons, or of new methods of warfare, which may constitute as great a threat to civilization as the military use of atomic energy.

4. Representing, as we do, the three countries which possess the knowledge essential to the use of atomic energy, we declare at the outset our willingness, as a first contribution, to proceed with the exchange of fundamental scientific information and the interchange of scientists and scientific literature for peaceful ends with any nation that will fully reciprocate.

5. We believe that the fruits of scientific research should be made available to all nations, and that freedom of investigation and free interchange of ideas are essential to the progress of knowledge. In pursuance of this policy, the basic scientific information essential to the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes has already been made available to the world. It is our intention that all further information of this character that may become available from time to time shall be similarly treated. We trust that other nations will adopt the same policy, thereby creating an atmosphere of reciprocal confidence in which political agreement and cooperation will flourish.

6. We have considered the question of the disclosure of detailed information concerning the practical industrial application of atomic energy. The military exploitation of atomic energy depends, in large part, upon the same methods and processes as would be required for industrial uses.

We are not convinced that the spreading of the specialized information regarding the practical application of atomic energy, before it is possible to devise effective, reciprocal, and enforceable safeguards acceptable to all nations, would contribute to a constructive solution of the problem of the atomic bomb. On the contrary, we think it might have the opposite effect. We are, however, prepared to share, on a reciprocal basis with others of the United Nations, detailed information concerning the practical industrial application of atomic energy just as soon as effective enforceable safeguards against its use for destructive purposes can be devised.

7. In order to attain the most effective means of entirely eliminating the use of atomic energy for destructive purposes and promoting its widest use for industrial and humanitarian purposes, we are of the opinion that at the earliest practicable date a Commission should be set up under the United Nations Organization to prepare recommendations for submission to the Organization.

The Commission should be instructed to proceed with the utmost dispatch and should be authorized to submit recommendations from time to time dealing with separate phases of its work.

In particular the Commission should make specific proposals:

(a) For extending between all nations the exchange of basic scientific information for peaceful ends;

(b) For control of atomic energy to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes;

(c) For the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction;

(d) For effective safeguards by way of inspection and other means to protect complying states against the hazards of violations and evasions.

8. The work of the Commission should proceed by separate stages, the successful completion of each one of which will develop the necessary confidence of the world before the next stage is undertaken. Specifically, it is considered that the Commission might well devote its attention first to the wide exchange of scientists and scientific information, and as a second stage to the development of full knowledge concerning natural resources of raw materials.

9. Faced with the terrible realities of the application of science to destruction, every nation will realize more urgently than before the overwhelming need to maintain the rule of law among nations and to banish the scourge of war from the earth. This can only be brought about by giving wholehearted support to the United Nations Organization, and by consolidating and extending its authority, thus creating conditions of mutual trust in which all peoples will be free to devote themselves to the arts of peace. It is our firm resolve to work, without reservation to achieve these ends.

The City of Washington
November 15, 1945

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States

C. R. Attlee
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

W. L. Mackenzie King
Prime Minister of Canada

Text taken from the book 1945: Year of Decision (Memoirs: Volume 1) by Harry S. Truman.

Photo left to right: Truman, Attlee, King.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

A repeat from one year ago today; more apropos than ever

by Rob - December 18th, 2016

Foresight consultancy Idea Couture publishes a wonderful magazine called MISC. For their Fall 2015 issue, they asked me to contribute a piece on a “looming potential crisis nobody is talking about.” This is what I had to say in MISC; I explore this theme in much greater depth in my upcoming 23rd novel Quantum Night, to be released March 1, 2016:

In all cultures there are a few manipulative authoritarians who wish to lead — and many who are predisposed to follow them blindly. Bob Altemeyer, a professor at the University of Manitoba, demonstrated that whenever authoritarians gain power disaster ensues, as we saw with the invasion of Iraq based on fabricated intelligence. But that fiasco was small potatoes: Altemeyer’s simulations suggest a nuclear holocaust will eventually occur as authoritarian leaders in different parts of the world come into conflict.

His research is still largely ignored even though former Nixon White House counsel John Dean highlighted it in his 2006 book Conservatives Without Conscience. Oh, we panic when Al-Qaeda radicalizes millions, but we’ve paid no attention as the practice has become blatant among political and religious leaders in the West. Indeed, whenever someone tries to draw a parallel to the most obvious historical example — Germany falling under Hitler’s thrall — Godwin’s Law is invoked to falsely insist that no such comparisons are ever apt.

George Orwell said that mind-controlling messages would soon be pumped into our homes — but he would have been astounded that millions voluntarily tune into them in the form of FOX News and conservative talk radio. As Altemeyer has shown, huge numbers have already been radicalized in this way, and they ignore overwhelming evidence that they’ve been lied to. (The failure of blind followers to accept evolution is merely galling; the failure to accept anthropogenic climate change is an existential threat to our species.)

Is there hope? Perhaps. But until we begin to guard against the ways in which whole societies are easily manipulated by charismatic authoritarians, we’re still in enormous danger.

Although a PDF of Bob Altemeyer’s book is available for free here, I recommend the Audible version, which has an updated introduction by John Dean.

Robert J. Sawyer online;

Arrival review

by Rob - December 14th, 2016

Okay, look, I know I’m supposed to say I loved the movie Arrival, but, um, well, I admired it, but, my God, new rule: no one who liked Arrival is ever allowed to complain that Star Trek: The Motion Picture was slow-paced again. A different director could have executed Arrival‘s entire screenplay without dropping a single scene or line of dialog in half the running time.

And although Amy Adams is fine and appealing in her lead role, Jeremy Renner is just irritating in a lacklustre part, and the awesome Forest Whitaker’s talents are utterly wasted in a one-dimensional role anyone could have played.

Plus, come on, where’s the logic in this? [SPOILERS]

We need to decode an alien language, so we’ll try our very best linguists one at a time, and bring in, oh, let’s say, um, how about precisely one physicist, too, just for shits and giggles?

Seriously, Whitaker’s character says Amy was better than the last guy, and had threatened to go on to the next guy if she didn’t want the job when trying to recruit her. They would have gotten all the top linguists and all the top physicists at once to try to crack this.

And given that this is absolutely effing crucial to the (somewhat contrived geopolitical) plot, we are never shown the decision-making leading up to or the moment when someone actually does try to teach the aliens the word for “weapon.” I mean really. To quote the Classics Illustrated version of H.G. Wells’s The First Men in the Moon, “I was mad to let the Grand Lunar know [about war].”

Also, come on, the giant alien ships arrive right over the city of Shanghai (and other cities), but we never see any of the chaos that would cause — and instead, inexplicably, the alien ship we do follow is the one in the wilds of Montana, where access can be contained, and public reaction completely ignored. Sure, that’s the American team, so we’re supposed to be rooting for them, but only the American team could have put up a military cordon around their ship — vastly simplifying the storytelling (in the way having only one expert on each topic did) but hardly telling the most-interesting version of the story.

So, yeah: intelligent, sure. Thoughtful, even. But languorous and visually dull in terms of cinematography and special effects (it’ll play fine on DVD).

I’m going to re-read Ted Chiang’s original novella soon, as well as the screenplay (which has been provided to WGA members for awards consideration). Maybe because so many people said the loved, loved, loved this movie, my expectations were unreasonably high, but I’ll take Interstellar over Arrival any day.

Still, I love Ted Chiang’s fiction. Arrival is adapted from Ted’s novella “The Story of Your Life,” and in December 2002, in The Globe and Mail newspaper, I named Ted’s collection Stories of Your Life my “favourite book of the year,” writing:

It’s often been said that science fiction works best at shorter lengths. Proving that maxim better than anyone in recent history is Ted Chiang. He’s never published a novel, and only has eight short stories to his credit — but what short stories! His first — 1990’s “Tower of Babel” — won him the Nebula Award, the SF equivalent of an Oscar. His most recent — 2001’s “Hell is the Absence of God” — got him a Hugo, SF’s people’s choice award. Chiang’s entire oeuvre is collected in Stories of Your Life (Tor Books, Cdn$34.95). Chiang is a consummate stylist, and these lyrical tales aren’t just great SF; they’re great literature.
Robert J. Sawyer online:

RJS December 2016 newsletter

by Rob - December 13th, 2016

Myy latest newsletter is below; you can subscribe here.

Hello, Robert J. Sawyer reader! A few exciting news items for you — including a free ebook!


First up, probably the biggest thing that will ever happen to me: On Canada Day, July 1, 2016, I was named a Member of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour bestowed by the Canadian government; I was honoured for “accomplishments as a science-fiction writer and mentor and for contributions as a futurist.” This makes me the first person ever to be admitted into the Order for work in the science-fiction field.

I will be presented with a medal by the Governor General of Canada early in the new year, and now am entitled to append the post-nominal initials C.M. to my name.

As a bonus, I’m now also empowered to officiate at Canadian citizenship ceremonies. I’ve been having the time of my life swearing in new citizens at the Mississauga office of the Canadian Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; I’ve sworn in about 500 new Canadians so far, from over 40 countries.


Sorry to make Kindle users wait, but Kobo users can get eight of my backlist titles right now, all cheap — and one for FREE!

The free one is Far-Seer, first volume of my Quintaglio Ascension trilogy. The trilogy is a parable about the dawning of modern science featuring alien counterparts of Galileo, Darwin, and Freud. The Quintaglio books are simultaneously my worst-selling books of all time and have also generated the most fan mail over the years. So, if you’ve got a Kobo E Ink device, or the free Kobo app for iOS or Android, please give Far-Seer a try; it’s FREE until the end of 2016 worldwide:


Other backlist titles now available directly from me as Kobo ebooks: Fossil Hunter, Foreigner, Golden Fleece, End of an Era, and Hugo Award finalists Starplex, Frameshift, and Factoring Humanity:


(Why Kobo editions first? Three reasons. First, they’re the home team; the Kobo head office is here in Toronto. Second, they’re giving me some free promotion in exchange for this brief exclusive period. And, third, I think it’s important for the long-term health of the ebook industry to foster a competitive marketplace rather than a monopoly.)

Kindle editions of the same books will be available in February 2017, to coincide with the paperback release of my novel Quantum Night, after its successful run in hardcover.

Speaking of which:


You know, I was happier that I correctly predicted the name of future pope Benedict XVI in 1995’s The Terminal Experiment than I am about this …

… but in my latest novel, Quantum Night, I predicted the rise from out-of-the-blue of a far-right-wing U.S. president with disastrous consequences for undocumented immigrants … and for Canada. The book also posits a scientific explanation for why the election went the way it did!

I honestly think Quantum Night is my best book yet, and many reviewers have agreed. It’s a mainstream bestseller in Canada and hit #1 on the bestsellers list published by LOCUS, the U.S. trade journal of the science fiction and fantasy fields.

“Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Sawyer’s latest work is a fast-moving, mind-stretching exploration of the nature of personality and consciousness; it balances esoteric speculation with action and character.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review, denoting a book of exceptional merit)
If you’re a Hugo Award, Nebula Award, or Aurora Award nominator, please keep Quantum Night in mind; nominations for the Nebulas are open now, and Aurora and Hugo nominations open January 1 or thereabouts.

Oh, and if you live outside North America, you can get the Quantum Night ebook — Kindle or Kobo — for just $2.99 or the equivalent in local currency (because outside of Canada and the U.S., I can set my own price instead of the publisher doing so):


Reviews of Quantum Night are here.


I’ve given over 100 futurism keynote addresses for corporations, associations, and government agencies including the Federation of State Medical Boards, the International Association of Privacy Professionals, Health Canada, the Institute for Quantum Computing, Lockheed Martin, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Mensa, and Sanofi. I have spoken at the Library of Congress, the Googleplex, Cambridge University, the China Science and Technology Museum in Beijing, and multiple TEDx events, among many other venues.

For information on booking me as a speaker, please see here.


Personally, it’s been a rough year for me. After having lost my younger brother to cancer in 2013, in the last twelve months I’ve also lost my mother (at 90), my only uncle, and my only aunt. That, plus pursuing some TV projects (about which I hope to be able to say more next time), means not a lot of fiction writing got done this year, and so I apologize that there will be no new RJS novel in 2017.

But if you’re looking for a new writer to fill the void, these debut novels greatly impressed me in 2016: The Courier by Winnipeg’s Gerald Brandt (published by DAW), Sleeping Giants by Montreal’s Sylvain Neuvel (published by Del Rey), and Archangel by Kansas writer Marguerite Reed (published by Arche Press).

If you like short stories, the new collection Soulmates (Arc Manor) gathers together the wonderful collaborations between Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn.

And my great friend Robert Charles Wilson‘s new novel Last Year just came out in hardcover from Tor; that’ll be my own vacation reading.

I hope you have fabulous holidays!

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Eight backlist titles now available from Kobo

by Rob - October 24th, 2016

KOBO USERS! Eight of my older titles are now available worldwide in new Kobo editions, each with a Kobo-exclusive bonus short story: all three volumes of the Quintaglio Ascension trilogy (starting with Far-Seer), plus Aurora Award winner Golden Fleece, Seiun Award winner End of an Era, and Hugo Award finalists Starplex, Frameshift, and Factoring Humanity.

I’m giving Kobo an exclusive 90-day window on these ebook titles; Kindle, iBooks, and other formats will follow later (on February 1, 2017, to coincide with the release of Quantum Night in paperback). You can get them all HERE.

Why the exclusive? First, Kobo has always been a big booster of mine; second, they’re headquartered here in Toronto and I’m rooting for the home team; third, they’ve offered me some forthcoming promotion in exchange for this; and fourth, I think it’s important that the ebook landscape have multiple healthy players, and I want to do what I can to promote competition, rather than monopoly, in the industry.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

The Elopus and the Queen

by Rob - October 18th, 2016

In 2014, GISHWHES, the “Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen,” had as an item: “Get a previously published Sci-Fi author to write an original story (140 words max) about Misha, the Queen of England and an Elopus [half elephant, half octopus].”

My friend Shoshana Glick (after whom the character in my novel Wake is named) was the first of a great many people to ask me, and so I wrote this for her on my iPhone (and turned the others down):

Choosing Doctor Moreau as her Minister of Science had seemed like a good idea at the time. But Queen Misha was regretting it now. Not only was the chimera elopus he’d grafted together a frightening sight, but the beast’s nine appendages — being a woman of breeding, she refused to count the tenth — were, thanks to the infusion into each of a Cavorite extract, gravitationally bound to capital cities of Her Majesty’s various territorial possessions. And as each of those colonies declared independence, the corresponding extremity stretched and snapped off, sailing across the sky to the appropriate far-off land. The beast’s cries were horrifying, but Queen Misha’s own piteous wails were worse, she knew. Only Moreau, the monster who created monsters, found joy in this figurative and literal dismemberment.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

vDosPlus: 21st Century DOS!

by Rob - September 24th, 2016

Two years ago today — September 24, 2014 — I started experimenting with vDos, a DOS emulator for serious business applications under Windows developed by Jos Schaars in the Netherlands.

There’s been a wonderful side project for some time, now called vDosPlus, developed by Wengier Wu of the University of Toronto that adds lots of additional support for word-processing users; Wengier has worked closely with power users of WordStar (me!), WordPerfect (Edward Mendelson), and the whole XyWrite mailing-list community to give us a wonderful, stable platform for running our old workhorse software under Windows XP through 10, both 32-bit and 64-bit.

Up to today, I’ve run WordStar mostly under TameDOS, not vDos (or vDosPlus), and exclusively on 32-bit machines; my interest in vDos and vDosPlus was in future-proofing my key writing tool, WordStar.

But today, on the second anniversary of me becoming involved in the vDos community, I now actually have a production system that uses vDosPlus exclusively: my first Windows 10 computer, and my first 64-bit computer: a Dell Inspiron 11 3162 ultrabook. I just finished my first writing assignment on the new computer, and everything went flawlessly.

Many thanks to Jos and Wengier!

Why I love WordStar!

Info on running WordStar under vDosPlus

Robert J. Sawyer online:

40 years since my first submission

by Rob - August 14th, 2016

Forty years ago, on August 16, 1976, I made my first submission to a science-fiction magazine. I was sixteen years old.

I submitted a story called “Loophole” to a small-press magazine called Unearth: The Magazine of Science Fiction Discoveries, edited by John M. Landsberg and Jonathan Ostrowsky-Lantz.

I had almost no recollection of “Loophole” until I reread it last month. It features the Quintaglio race of intelligent dinosaurs that went on to feature sixteen years later in my novel Far-Seer. The story — doubtless quite rightly — was rejected eleven days after I submitted it with a personal note from Mr. Ostrowsky-Lantz.

(The original manuscript for “Loophole” and the personal note from Unearth‘s editor are now in the Robert J. Sawyer Archives at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.)

Unearth had as its mission publishing new authors (plus, in each issue, one reprint of the first sale of an established author). According to the editorial in the first issue, the magazine was “a market solely for writers who had not yet made a sale, where their work would not have to compete with that of established authors … the only prozine to work exclusively with unpublished writers.”

I stumbled upon the magazine at Toronto’s Bakka Books (where I myself went on to work six years later) and bought the first issue there (pictured). It featured the first story by Paul Di Filippo, now a major name, ironically with an author’s note saying, “Paul Di Filippo has announced that he is leaving science fiction for greener pastures. He has vowed that `Falling Expectations’ is the last SF story he will ever write.”

The magazine launched several other notable careers in its three-year run, including William Gibson, James Blaylock, Craig Shaw Gardner, Rudy Rucker, and Somtow Sucharitkul.

My actual first publication came four years later, in 1980, when I was nineteen: the story “The Contest” in my university’s literary annual White Wall Review; that story went on to be reprinted in the anthology 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov, Terry Carr, and Martin Harry Greenberg.

Today, in 2016, I’ve essentially given up writing short fiction. I’ve done precisely one story in the last ten years, “Looking for Gordo,” which was a nominee for Canada’s Aurora Award, because the commission for that story, paying way more than I got as an advance for my first novel, was too good to turn down. But nonetheless, I had a nice little career as a short-fiction writer, which began (even if unsuccessfully) with that first submission to Unearth four decades ago:

  • I’ve had 45 stories published in total, with all but “Waiting for Gordo” collected in two volumes: Iterations and Other Stories and Identity Theft and Other Stories. The stories first appeared in a mix of classic genre venues such as Analog, Amazing Stories, and On Spec, original anthologies, and places that don’t normally publish fiction, such as The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Leisure Ways (the magazine of the Canadian Automobile Association), and The Village Voice.

  • My stories were nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker Awards; won Science Fiction Chronicle‘s Reader Award for best short story of the year; won Analog‘s Analytical Library Award for best short story of the year in that magazine; won five Aurora Awards; won France’s and Spain’s top SF awards (the latter a record-setting three times); and won an Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada.

  • I had a story in the journal Nature; had a story read on CBC Radio; had a story produced as a planetarium starshow; had stories optioned for film; and had work reprinted in Hartwell’s Year’s Best SF and in The Penguin Book of Crime Stories.

  • My short fiction has been praised as everything from “quietly intelligent” (Booklist) to “gobsmacking” (Publishers Weekly) and “highly entertaining” (Quill & Quire). Of Identity Theft and Other Stories, Booklist said: “Sawyer’s collection showcases not only an irresistibly engaging narrative voice but also a gift for confronting thorny philosophical conundrums. At every opportunity, Sawyer forces his readers to think while holding their attention with ingenious premises and superlative craftsmanship.”

So: many thanks to Unearth and its open-door policy for inspiring a teenage kid forty years ago to take a stab at this crazy game of publishing science fiction. Even without accepting my story, you gave me my start.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Toronto Star Trek ’76 — 40th anniversary

by Rob - July 23rd, 2016

Forty years ago today, the fabulous fan-run convention TORONTO STAR TREK ’76 began at the Royal York Hotel. Here’s one of the flyers for the con (Nichelle Nichols and Mark Lenard, listed as only “invited” on this flyer, actually did come — as did the entire cast, except for Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley).

One of the most amazing weekends of my life (I was 16), and, even now, hundreds of conventions in, it’s still one of the best cons I’ve ever attended. Had so much fun spending the weekend there with friends Carolyn Clink, Gillian Clinton, Ted Bleaney, Lynn Conway, Steve Scott, and my late bestie Gary Mackenzie.

Incredible to think, 40 years later, it’s the debut weekend for the 13th Star Trek feature film, and the sixth Star Trek live-action TV series is now in production … here in Toronto.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

20 Years an Ifwit

by Rob - July 20th, 2016

Twenty years ago this week, my life changed in a big way. I did my first-ever stint teaching science-fiction writing. Hayden Trenholm, who lived in Calgary then, had been charged with finding a leader for the first-ever workshop run by a professional writer for Calgary’s Imaginative Fiction Writers’ Association (IFWA), and since I’d won the best-novel Nebula Award earlier in that distant year of 1996, Hayden reached out to me.

Out of that workshop came an annual tradition of facilitated Calgary SF&F writing workshops that continues to this day (with my former Penguin Canada editor Adrienne Kerr running this year’s workshop).

Out of it also came my close association — two decades now — with Calgary, a city I visit several times each year, and all the great many friends I have there now.

And out of it came my teaching career, which has seen me teach writing at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, Humber College, and the Odyssey workshop, among other places (as well as IFWA having me back twice more to lead workshops for them).

But, most important to me, I met for the first time some great people, including some who have gone on to be amongst my very best friends.

The ten participants in that 1996 workshop were:

    Renee Bennett
    Katie Harse
    Tony King
    Valerie King
    Danita Maslankowski
    Randy McCharles
    Glenn McIntyre
    Al Onia
    Hayden Trenholm
    Liz Westbrook (later, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm)

Many of the writers in that workshop have gone on to significant publication success. Carolyn and I bought work from two of them [Katie and Hayden] for the anthology Tesseracts 6 we were editing at that time; I published a novel under my RJS Books line by one of them [Danita, who publishes as Danita Maslan]; three others have also published multiple novels each [Randy, Al, and Hayden], and two each have won multiple Aurora Awards [Randy and Hayden].

I haven’t seen Glenn for some time, but the others I do see often, and I was a houseguest in Randy’s place last week, and Hayden and Liz were houseguests at my place the week before. And, of course, I’m a proud Ifwit (as members of IFWA are called) to this day.

Teaching that workshop was one of the major turning points in my life — I can’t imagine what my life would be like today without the wonderful friendships and other good things that came out of that fabulous trip to Alberta all those years ago.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

The Order of Canada

by Rob - July 7th, 2016

On July 1, 2016 — Canada Day — I was named a Member of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour bestowed by the Canadian government. The citation reads:

Robert J. Sawyer, C.M., for his accomplishments as a science-fiction writer and mentor and for his contributions as a futurist.
(C.M. is the postnominal used by members of the Order of Canada.)

Although I won’t get my Order of Canada medal until the formal investiture ceremony at the Governor General’s residence sometime in the coming year, I was very pleased to find my Order of Canada lapel pins waiting for me upon my return to Toronto yesterday after a vacation in Spain.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter on Quantum Night

by Rob - June 18th, 2016

The top books-discussion radio program in Canada is CBC Radio One’s The Next Chapter hosted by Shelagh Rogers. Here’s Shelagh’s 15-minute interview with me, first aired Saturday, June 18, 2016.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Alan Sawyer plaque in Banff

by Rob - June 8th, 2016

Three years ago, on June 8, 2012, I lost my brother Alan Sawyer, an Emmy Award-winning multimedia producer and broadcasting policy analyst, to lung cancer.

On this past Saturday, June 4, 2016, I was in Banff, Alberta, for the first time since Alan passed. Alan was a regular at the Banff World Media Festival, and in the St. James Gate pub there, there’s a plaque put up by his friends in honour of him. I made the pilgrimage to see it; the hostess at the bar bought the drinks for my table after she found out why I was there.

The plaque says:

In loving memory of our friend

Alan Sawyer

Husband, producer, policy wonk.

In this hallowed spot, with a few pints under his belt, there was no problem in Canadian media that was too big to tackle.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

A new interview with me

by Rob - May 28th, 2016

The great Italian science fiction and fantasy magazine La Bottega del Fantastico interviews me in its just published fifth issue, which you can get for free here. In the magazine, the interview, conducted by editor Franco Giambalvo, appears in Italian (and is accompanied by this fabulous portrait of me by the artist Giuseppe Festino), but you can read my original English responses below.

1) Robert, often in your novels and stories you talk about new technologies, for example in your WWW trilogy. What is your attitude against this true epochal mutation? Is, in your opinion, a good, positive instrument, useful for the Humanity, or vice versa you may think it will lead to a sort of global dehumanization?

If one is a policy-maker, one has to pick a version of reality and advocate for it. That’s not the job of the sciene-fiction writer. Our job is to outline as many possible futures as we can, and let the public see which ones they prefer to choose. So, I’ve written about the Singularity — the dawn of artificial intelligence that exceeds human capabilities — as both a wonderful thing, as in my Factoring Humanity. Which it will be, I don’t know — but I do know that if we don’t have at least one positive roadmap, such as the one I outlined in my trilogy, if all the scenarios being considered are negative ones (elimination per The Terminator; subjugation per The Matrix; or assimilation per Star Trek‘s borg), then we are doomed to end up in one of those disastrous futures. Of course, I hope for the best — I’m generally an optimist about most things — and would like to see us find a way to survive the advent of intellectually superior AI with our essential human liberty, dignity, and individuality intact.

2) Your SF is “Hard Science Fiction” with solid scientific basis, and many people think of you as a new Arthur C. Clarke. In your case, however, the characterization is more thorough, rich of introspection and intimacy. Emblematic in this regard, I feel is your novel Rollback. Moreover, you have declared to appreciate the “sense of wonder”: how you amalgamate these different and apparently contrasting aspects?

Thank you for noticing! Clarke is my favourite science-fiction writer, but he had only a glancing interest, if any, in characterization. My own mission statement for my work is to combine the intimately human with the grandly cosmic. Put another way, I think science fiction should be fractal: no matter what level of magnification you look at it — a single person, a couple, a family, a community, a city, a nation, a world, a solar system, a galaxy, a universe, the multiverse — it should be interesting. No other type of literature has that zoom-in / zoom-out potential, and I like to take full advantage of it. As to how I do it, well, it simply comes from remembering that “science fiction” as a term consists of two equal parts — in English, both words have seven letters — and one shouldn’t be weighted more heavily than the other. Even a hard-SF writer, if he or she takes the position that characterization is simply the dramatization of principles from the science of psychology, can achieve this, telling stories of believable people facing extraordinary events.

3) If science fiction really is a literature of ideas, you are a valid representative. But I would really understand why you write science fiction? What is that’s attracting you in this literary movement, unlike “mainstream” production?

Science fiction is about all of space, all of time, and all forms of life; it’s the least-limiting, not the most-limiting, form of storytelling. I’ve gotten to write science-fiction adventure (Far-Seer), science-fiction romance (Rollback), science-fiction mystery (Red Planet Blues), science-fiction philosophy (Quantum Night), and science-fiction thriller (Triggers); no mainstream author gets that amount of freedom. Indeed, a romance writer has to tell the same basic story over and over again; a mystery writer often spends his or her entire career writing about one single detective character.

3) If you had a non-SF idea, would you start writing a book using it?

No. I have tons of ideas I will never get around to writing, but the reality is that no one would pay me nearly so much if I wrote in another genre; I’d get beginner’s money — the kind of money I got for my first SF novel a quarter of a century ago — if I tried to sell a mystery novel or a mainstream thriller. Given that I have to do triage on my ideas — choosing which will live as books and which will die unwritten — I might as well do the ones that will make the most money, or best serve my loyal, already established audience.

4) How do you consider the current situation in science fiction? Do you agree with the so told Law of Sturgeon, when he says that “the standards categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap”?

I’m not a fan of the proliferation of military science fiction; I’m not a fan of space opera. I think SF should tell stories of social comment, of philosophical rumination, not just escapism or action/adventure — or crazed power fantasies of blowing up aliens. So, yeah, it’s still 90% crap — but the good modern stuff, the stuff by Marguerite Reed and Julie E. Czerneda and Paolo Bacigalupi and David Brin and Robert Charles Wilson, is the best science fiction ever written.

5) If you were abandoned on a distant planet, and could hold a book of SF, what would it be and why?

Gateway by Frederik Pohl, my all-time favourite science-fiction novel. I learned so much reading that book as a 17-year-old; everything I said SF should be above — fractal; intimately human as well as grandly cosmic — Pohl did in spades in that book; he also taught me something far too few writers ever learn: that your main character doesn’t have to be likable, only believable.

6) What do you think about the proposal to write detective stories? You have some experience in SF-detective stories: I’m thinking about The Terminal Experiment or Golden Fleece or Illegal Alien perhaps.

I think science fiction and mystery compliment each other very well: both require the reader to pay attention to the text, picking up subtle clues — about the crime in mystery; about the world in SF; both prize rational thought. In addition to the books of mine you mentioned, Factoring Humanity, Frameshift, FlashForward, Hominids, Triggers, and Red Planet Blues are also all in part mystery novels; it’s a combination that’s worked well for me, and it’s one I’ll doubtless use again.

7) Do you follow the SF production outside America?

Given that I don’t live in America, the answer is clearly yes. Canadian SF is a distinct beast, far more prone to downbeat or ambiguous endings than the American brand. And, of course, I’m aware of the vigorous hard-SF tradition in the United Kingdom. As for the rest of the world, we get so little in translation, sadly, although of course I’ve read Stanislaw Lem and Pierre Boulle, and was thrilled to see the Chinese novel The Three-Body Problem take the Hugo last year.

8) Do you remember the first book you read? Not only SF: the first full book you read!

Ah, but they are one in the same! I was an SF reader from very early on; the first book I recall reading, beyond Dr. Seuss, was The Enormous Egg, by Oliver Butterworth, about a chicken laying an egg out of which a Triceratops hatches; the novelist knew dinosaurs and birds were closely related, and once you get past the outlandish premise, the interaction of his paleontologist characters and all their dialog was spot on; it’s a wonderful book, gently satirizing big business, government, small-town life, and institutionalized science.

9) May you say to me something about the place where you live, and what do you like in your place?

I live in Mississauga, a city of 850,000 that abuts Toronto’s western border; Toronto is the largest city in Canada. I live in a penthouse apartment — top floor of a condominium tower — in the heart of downtown Mississauga. I love it: fantastic views, a wood-burning fireplace, and lots of room. I also love that it’s close to the Toronto International Airport (which is actually in Mississauga not Toronto), since I fly at least twice a month, heading off to science-fiction conventions, science conferences, literary events, or on research trips; the airport is 15 minutes from my home.

10) There is something in your production that you could have done differently, or better? And what is it?

Differently? Sure; there are many approaches I could have taken. Better? That’s for others to say; I’ve done my very best on every book, but I made a deal with myself when the first one, Golden Fleece, came out in 1990: I wouldn’t re-read each one until 40 years after its publication, when I could look at it with fresh eyes; I’ll re-read Golden Fleece in 2030; you can ask me then if, in hindsight, I would have done anything differently.

11) Have you never lived the literary stress so often proposed in the stories about Authors, of being behind in the writing, and your editor asking for an immediate result?

Oh, sure. This is a deadline-driven profession. But I wrote for newspapers and magazines before becoming a novelist; you quickly learned that you need to be disciplined and to meet your deadlines. That said, my most-recent book, Quantum Night, was finished way past its orginal deadline; it should have been completed in 2013, and published in 2014, but, sadly, the day after I wrote the first paragraph of it, my younger brother Alan got in touch to say he was dying of lung cancer. When I told my editors — Ginjer Buchanan in New York and Adrienne Kerr in Toronto — that I was going to be late with the book, they were 100% supportive; as they both said, I’ve been so good about meeting deadlines for decades, when a real reason for being late came along they were happy to grant me whatever time I needed.

12) Thank you, Robert: this is the last question: in Italy the illustration of science fiction has a rich tradition of valid artists like Kurt Caesar, Karel Thole, Giuseppe Festino, Franco Brambilla. Do you know them? What do you think of them? Which is the illustrator you like best, and why?

I know Franco; he and I are friends; we met when I was one of the guests of honour at DelosDays: The 2011 Italian National Science Fiction Convention in Milan. I love his work, and his covers for the Italian editions of my WWW novels are spectactular. I also know Fred Gambino, who is of Italian heritage; he did the magnificent cover for the British edition of my novel The Terminal Experiment; I liked it so much, I bought the original art from him.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

How do you spell “FlashForward”?

by Rob - May 10th, 2016

A question I received today:

There’s seem to be some dissent on the topic of how to capitalize/space FlashForward. Is it FlashForward or Flashforward? Or Flash Forward?

My reply:

It’s an interesting question. The official TV series spelling was FlashForward, but since the wordmark was always rendered in all-caps on screen, that wasn’t obvious to most people (although that’s what you saw in the press coverage).

My novel’s title was Flashforward, per the manuscript and title page; also, it was one word with a capital initial F per the usage of the term to describe the phenomenon in question in the text of the novel.

But someone in the art department at Tor blithely put it BOTH as two words (front cover and spine of dustjacket) and one word (title page, page headers, and back cover of dustjacket) on the first edition, without ever once checking with me.

Not only did that screw up turn-of-the-century search engines and Amazon (searches for one did not turn up the other; Amazon had “Flashforward” linked to the hardcover but “Flash Forward” linked to the paperback, and reviews of the former weren’t carried over to the latter), but it also caused the book to be left off the preliminary Nebula Award ballot (you needed a minimum of ten recommendations from SFWA members, which I had, but they were split between the two spellings and the person in charge couldn’t see that they were obviously for the same book until it was too late).

The copyright page of the first edition says FLASHFORWARD, all capitals.

Since the advent of the TV series in 2009 seven years ago, I’ve used unified branding, and consistently referred to the book in camel case: FlashForward. Call that the author’s preferred spelling. The latest paperback edition from Tor uses the TV series wordmark: FLASHFORWARD.

Flashforword is an acceptable alternate. The two-word version, “Flash Forward,” is wrong (despite its use, along with the one-word version, on the Tor dustjacket), and that mistake should not be perpetuated.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

20th anniversary of winning the Nebula Award

by Rob - April 27th, 2016

Twenty years ago tonight, on April 27, 1996, my life changed forever. Aboard the Queen Mary at Long Beach, California, Sheila Finch presented me with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Nebula Award for best novel of the year, for The Terminal Experiment.

As my editor John Douglas said at the afterparty, “You’ve gone overnight from being a promising newcomer to an established, bankable name.”

The gorgeous trophy was designed and built by William Rotsler. The large sphere is actually the Jupiter-like Face of God from my novel Far-Seer; the Quintaglio home world is orbiting close to it off at right.

William Rotsler was doing Nebula trophy designs based on the author’s work back then. He also did a great one for Greg Bear‘s Moving Mars (red sandstone sphere for Mars), which won the year before I did, and Nicola Griffith‘s Slow River, which won the year after (lapidary stones having sunk to the bottom).

Nebula Awards always have the spiral galaxy at the top.

The full list of nominees for Best Novel of 1995:

  • Mother of Storms by John Barnes
  • Beggars and Choosers by Nancy Kress
  • Celestis by Paul Park
  • The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Metropolitan by Walter Jon Williams
  • Calde of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe

And here’s the press release about my win from all those years ago.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Reviews of Quantum Night

by Rob - April 14th, 2016

“Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Sawyer’s latest work is a fast-moving, mind-stretching exploration of the nature of personality and consciousness; it balances esoteric speculation with action and character. Sawyer is very good at grounding the technical speculation in personal conflict, as Marchuk’s utilitarian principles struggle with his emotional impulses and the political/media references keep the story uncomfortably close to present-day fears.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review, denoting a book of exceptional merit

“A really good book. Just the sort of science fiction I’d like to be writing myself if I had the time.”

John Gribbin, author of In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat

“This is one `hard SF’ book that manages to throw in large information dumps without boring the reader! The information — and one thing Rob Sawyer is well known for — is necessary to the plot, and extremely well researched, but somehow (and this is a very rare thing) manages to keep the reader alert and involved with the story.

“Rather than a dry discussion on philosophical points, Quantum Night takes you on an exciting ride through a scientific extrapolation in the near-future time of 2020 — only four years away from now — when the US has a new President who seems not to share the conciliatory nature of Barack Obama; when Justin Trudeau’s government is only surviving through a coalition with the NDP (Canadians will understand what that means), and where the entire world seems to be falling into a crevasse of mindless violence where the highest mentality is mob mentality.

“This book makes you want to follow up on all those things mentioned by Sawyer: what are `microsaccades,’ is quantum superposition a real force in neurology, what does it mean to be `neurotypical’? After reading this I spent a couple of days with Google, tracing down paper after paper to find out what’s real and what’s extrapolation.

“This is some exciting writing! This book will be a strong contender for the Aurora Award next year.”

Steve Fahnestalk, in Amazing Stories

Quantum Night is simultaneously a breath of fresh air and a return to classic Sawyer: big ideas, relatable people and a Canadian perspective. This is trademark Sawyer.

“Though returning to a favourite topic — the nature of consciousness — he doesn’t retread any old ground here, taking an entirely new angle and approach.

“The publisher is marketing this release as a techno-thriller as much as a science-fiction novel. But Sawyer does it a lot smarter and deeper than is typical of such fare. Thriller fans, science-fiction nuts, armchair philosophers, and psychology teachers alike should enjoy it.”

Winnipeg Free Press

“Absolutely fascinating, thought provoking, and a ripping good read to boot. I’ve never been disappointed by one of Sawyer’s novels, and the streak continues. A great blend of the scientific with the fantastic, with a philosophically and scientifically compelling hook … Between the great characters, fascinating plot, solid pacing, and just really really interesting concept underpinning the book, it should be a must-read for 2016 for anybody who loves sci-fi, philosophy, psychology or physics.”

Dan Ruffolo at Strange Currencies

[One of the] “best science fiction and fantasy [books] this month; a fast-paced sci-fi thriller.”

The Washington Post

Quantum Night is a classic example of a Sawyer novel: a near future with some cool tech, a complex plot that has the reader thinking and questioning from cover to cover, and plenty of Sawyer-patented wry humor. Fans will be delighted and new readers will be sucked in with this compelling story.”

Alex C. Telander at Book Banter

“Stunning. Like all of Sawyer’s work, Quantum Night is a compelling read, intensely thought-provoking, filled with real human characters learning new things about their world.”

Analog Science Fiction and Fact

“This thought-provoking psychological thriller explores the dark recesses of the human mind, tackling concepts such as ethics, morality, consciousness, and human nature. The concepts are well-researched, yet accessible. If you’re looking for a fast-paced, thought-provoking read, look no further.”

NerdMuch? (#1 on list of best SF/F books to read in March 2016)

“I often think of Sawyer as the last of the old-fashioned SF writers, someone who’s less concerned with the minutiae of imaginary worlds than creating thought experiments that explore the consequences of science fictional ideas in the real world. The central conceit in this one is a doozy, so I won’t give it away. Needless to say, if I were trying to get a non-genre person to read it, I’d describe it as a thinking person’s Purge, with Canadians and Star Trek jokes. It’s also Sawyer’s most explicitly political novel. I’ll be thinking about it a lot this election year, and for years to come.”

Observation Deck

“Toronto’s award-winning sci-fi novelist returns with a dark gem of a story involving experimental psychology.”

Post City Toronto

“A truly remarkable work; one of Sawyer’s best. An essential read for anyone interested in the science (and philosophy) of human consciousness, and simply a great dramatic thriller to boot.”

James Kerwin, writer and director of Yesterday Was A Lie

Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer is a highly recommended science fiction novel set in the near future — with psychopaths, and philosophical zombies.

“Sawyer is an accomplished writer who knows how to give his readers the science they need while keeping the plot flowing. He uses Jim’s lectures to his class in-between chapters to help impart information about psychology and ethics that will be used in the novel. The science and research in the novel is based on fact and Sawyer includes a sizable section of further nonfiction reading that influence his plot and the research within the narrative.

“While there is plenty of thought provoking information in Quantum Night, you’ll find humor in this novel too as well as plenty of geeky quotes and Star Trek references.”

She Treads Softly

“Robert J. Sawyer’s first new novel in three years is his familiar enjoyable blend of science-based extrapolation, strong characterisation, plot twists, philosophical treatise, pop culture references, bad jokes and high stakes, which I suspect will increase the sales of many of the texts the author quotes in his afterword, since it’s an eye-opening look into our understanding of human consciousness (pun, for those who’ve read the book, fully intended). It’s a subject Sawyer has tackled before — there’s even a fun throwaway line about the FlashForward TV show — but he comes at it from a very different angle on this occasion.

“It’s Sawyer’s most blatantly Canadian book — there’s a considerable amount of detail about the locations in which it’s set. It’s not a paean of praise to his home country, however; in places it’s an almost forensic examination of the cultural and political differences between Canada and its neighbour, which become highly relevant to the book’s third act. The various philosophical discussions that underpin the first two acts are equally important to the denouement; Sawyer reinforces the differing sides of the arguments regarding utilitarianism with deftly chosen pop culture references (Star Trek II unsurprisingly turning up in this, alongside a savage dismissal of its sequel!) as well as through his characters.

“As with all Sawyer’s best novels (of which this is one), the discussions come out of the plot and character development, and there are many taut action sequences that will have you powering through the pages — but it is the concepts at its heart that will reverberate through your thoughts for some time to come.

“Verdict: Another thought-provoking and tense novel from a master science fiction writer.”

Sci-Fi Bulletin

“No one uses science fiction to ask the big questions quite like Sawyer. IQuantum Night is another exceptional addition to his already-considerable canon, combining his passion for scientific inquiry and a deep curiosity about humanity’s potential with a meticulous attitude toward research and  of course — a mastery of narrative and world building. It’s another first-rate effort from the current king of Canadian science fiction.”

The Maine Edge (Bangor, Maine)

“Sawyer’s science-fiction novels are about what happens when you introduce one high-concept sci-fi element to an otherwise ordinary world. He then spends the rest of the book examining the ramifications of that collision. His newest, Quantum Night, uses experimental psychology and quantum physics to explore human nature.”

Seattle Weekly

“What a great, provocative read! From quantum physics to the philosophy of mind, Sawyer’s latest novel will leave you pondering deep questions long after you turn the final page.”

Dan Falk, author of The Science of Shakespeare

“I just finished Robert J. Sawyer’s new book, Quantum Night. It’s already my new favourite of all of his work. I couldn’t put it down.”

Kat Curtis, anchor, Naked News

Quantum Night is a fast-paced thinking-person’s thriller richly informed by modern science. Sawyer has certainly done his homework about psychopaths and he understands well that, far from being just the occasional headline-grabbing serial killer, they’re everywhere.”

Kevin Dutton, author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths

“Mind-blowing. What Sawyer does, possibly better than anyone else, is take a new scientific theory and extrapolate its real-world effects to their logical extremes. Then he tosses some Canadian, Star-Trek-quoting academics at it to see what happens.

“The ideas that run through his story and the relentless examination of how those ideas might affect the world keep me thinking about his books long after I’ve put them down.”

Daytona News-Journal

Quantum Night is literally a psychological thriller, and Sawyer builds heavily on the real-world research of psychologists including Robert Hare (author of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist) and Philip Zimbardo (creator of the infamous Stanford prison experiments). It’s a slow-burn thriller that gently eases up the heat until it’s too late to jump out of the pot   one that will likely leave the reader thinking about it long after they’ve read the final page.”

Prince George Citizen

“Which are you? Are you a sheep, a psychopath or an intellectual? It is a thesis that superstar science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer poses in his latest novel Quantum Night. It is an academic paper given the gift of action, adventure, romance and all the other trappings of dramatic storytelling that Sawyer has become world famous for. His discussion, like the book itself, is a made up story, yes, but it is also a button Sawyer is pushing to get the reader thinking about, well, thinking.

“Clearly, this book is not merely an escapist sci-fi story. Anyone familiar with Sawyer’s past work will know that he almost never offers a book just to narcotize the reader with wit and plot. This held true even when Hollywood got their hands on his material, when his book FlashForward was turned into a network television series starring Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, Dominic Monaghan and other notable actors. Even though they took liberties with the script, the social commentary was always at the front of the product.”

Prince George Citizen (again)

“Science-fiction books to look forward to: Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer uses science as a way of exploring the fuzzy line between good and evil.”

John DeNardo in Kirkus

“Oh how I wish there were more than 5 stars to give to this book! I started reading, and knew right away that I had something wonderful in my hands. Books like this one are why I continue to buy every book that Robert J. Sawyer publishes.”


“Nebula Award winner Robert J. Sawyer addresses the intricacies of human nature in his latest novel. Sawyer’s novel addresses current cultural and political anxieties within North America in the context of a fast-paced thriller.”

Quill & Quire

“I loved this book. Loved it. It had all the things I’ve come to expect in a Robert Sawyer book — well researched high concept science fiction, interesting characters, Canadiana, philosophy jokes. If you’ve liked his previous work, you’ll like this one. If you haven’t read anything by Robert J. Sawyer, why the hell not? Reading his books is like riding a water slide; you jump in one end and whoosh through the twists and turns until you pop out the other side.”

Raven Lunatick

“Where to start in recommending Quantum Night? Robert J. Sawyer’s new novel is set in the very near future. The author has created a plausible, unpleasant future in which new discoveries in psychology and quantum physics might be the only hope for stemming a rising tide of violence and unrest. The novel is fast-paced and thoroughly engaging, questioning what we should do to save humanity given the necessary knowledge and technology.

Quantum Night examines philosophy, morals, ethics, and science in the context of a society that is slightly different, but completely recognizable to us in 2016, and takes on an added element of foreboding when one considers the current political drama taking place in the United States.”

49th Shelf

“I’m nursing my copy of Quantum Night, reading a chapter a night, to prolong the reading experience. I’m prepared to regard it, now three-quarters finished, as Rob’s best novel so far, an immense accomplishment — best in the sense of being accomplished, exciting, engrossing, good-humoured, informative, thought-provoking … and very Canadian!”

John Robert Colombo, compiler of Colombo’s Canadian Quotations

“A new mind-bender from Robert J. Sawyer. It’s been way, way too long since Robert J. Sawyer unleashed one of his thought-provoking high-concept books on us. And this time, he’s asking deep questions about the nature of consciousness.”


“A great read; Sawyer’s best novel of ideas yet in terms of science, plot, character, and sheer mind-stretching, expansive generosity of spirit. This book is a page turner — and for the purposes of those who work away at that which makes us human, it could not be better.”

James Christie, Director of The Ridd Institute for Religion and Global Policy

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Door prizes for Toronto launch party!

by Rob - February 29th, 2016

DOOR PRIZES! The weather is so crappy in Toronto, I figure we need to sweeten the pot a little to get people to come out to Tuesday night’s QUANTUM NIGHT book launch party (6:00 p.m. Tuesday, Lansdowne Brewery, 303 Lansdowne Avenue at Dundas West). So, we’re going to have a free door-prize draw for these items:

  • Hardcover limited-edition the FUTURE VISIONS anthology — the Microsoft SF anthology featuring my story “Looking for Gordo,” one of the rarest and most collectible SF books of 2015
  • DVD set of FLASHFORWARD: The Complete Series, based on my novel of the same name
  • QUANTUM NIGHT bound galley — the rare version of the text that has Thomas Mulcair instead of Justin Trudeau winning the recent Canadian Federal election
  • Hardcover first edition of my first short-story collection ITERATIONS, with an introduction by James Alan Gardner
  • A copy of the beautiful Red Deer Press trade-paperback edition of my Aurora Award-winning novel STARPLEX, the only novel of its year to be nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula
  • And — super-rare! — a copy of the first draft (my preferred draft) of “Course Correction,” the episode of FLASHFORWARD I wrote.

Each one is a separate prize. I’ll happily autograph prizes for the winners.

Hope to see many of you tomorrow! The event is free and open to the public; everyone is welcome!

Robert J. Sawyer online: