Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

United Nations Secretary-General Stephen Lewis

by Rob - January 24th, 2010.
Filed under: FlashForward.

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

My response:

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

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

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

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

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

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

3 Responses to United Nations Secretary-General Stephen Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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