Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

I won’t be at Con-Version in Calgary

by Rob - September 28th, 2010.
Filed under: cons.

I’ve been a regular at Calgary’s science-fiction convention Con-Version since 1996, including seven stints as an honoured guest there:

  • Guest of Honour at Con-Version 25 (last year)
  • Guest of Honour at Con-Version 21.5
  • Guest of Honour at Con-Version 20
  • Toastmaster at Con-Version 19
  • Special Guest at Con-Version 15
  • Guest of Honour at Con-Version 14
  • Special Guest at Con-Version 13

[Con-Version 21.5 was the reduced version of the convention held in conjunction with Westercon 58, the roving western North America convention that took place in Calgary in 2005.]

Many people expect me to be at Con-Version this year, and so I have to publicly address this: I cannot in good conscience have people making travel plans based on the assumption that I’ll be present. I won’t be attending this year.

My contributions to Con-Version in the past were always well received, and I’d been hoping to make a similar contribution this year. The following comments, from past Con-Version attendees, were all unsolicited:

People spend too much time talking about others when they do something wrong, and never enough time talking about them when they do something RIGHT. Watching you at Con-Version is a prime example, I think, of how to do something RIGHT. You are quite remarkable. You treat each and every person with respect and attention. You answer each and every question with respect and intelligence. If you had an off moment over the weekend, I didn’t see it. You say ‘thank you’ often and with sincerity. You are generous with your time and your quite considerable store of knowledge. You have a wonderful public presence, and I don’t know how often people tell you that, but really, they should.

–Robyn Herrington

Rob is a convention-goer’s delight. You’ll spot him prowling the hallways mingling with anyone and everyone. He is always smiling, jovial and — in the best Canadian sense of the word — polite.

–Tony King

I first met Mr. Sawyer at the Ask-A-Pro-Anything and signing session. I’ve navigated through ministers, corporate presidents, lesser authors, and even the odd student government official but this was the first time I deliberately sought out someone with celebrity status. I only knew of him through his Discovery Channel appearances and occasional articles in national magazines so I didn’t know what to expect when I asked him to autograph a book for someone else. Knowing I was not yet a fan he obliged anyway.

Dinner with Rob — everyone called him that — was quite interesting. I feared a holier-than-thou author, but he was just a normal science fiction guy with a very genuine sense of honesty.

We broke the ice with cordial chatter and garlic bread. “What we need is chairs on a conveyor belt,” Sawyer remarked, “so everyone could see everyone.”

As people became comfortable, the usual debates about politics and society ensued. What surprised me most was that Rob strained to hear the regular people as much as we tried to listen to him. He was another normal guy, who ate the same spaghetti we did. This casual Rob was perfectly consistent with the one who gave [the] opening remarks [at the convention — I was toastmaster that year].

— Ben Li, in The Gauntlet, the University of Calgary student newspaper

Next to Toronto’s Ad Astra, Con-Version has long been my favourite convention. Yes, the fact that previous Con-Version concoms made me Guest of Honour, Special Guest, or Toastmaster a total of seven times certainly helped, but I’ve also often attended in other years at my own expense with no featured role — and had planned to do the same this year.

Some of my past involvement with Con-Version:

  • I’ve repeatedly judged the Con-Version short-story contest (for free)
  • I’ve attended several Con-Version board meetings over the years (and took the entire attending concom out to lunch after one meeting in 2004)
  • I’ve often helped the convention contact potential guests of honour (and encouraged those people to accept the invitations)
  • I’ve printed out flyers promoting Con-Version and distributed them at other conventions
  • I’ve let flyers for the con be distributed at my Calgary book-signing events
  • I’ve promoted the con in my blog and on Facebook
  • I’ve given gift memberships to Con-Version, and
  • I’ve repeatedly led gallery tours of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology for their guests of honour.

Indeed, my commitment to the con was so strong that in 2007, I spent my birthday helping man the Con-Version table at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo (having come to Calgary at my own expense).

In the words of Phil Bacon, long-time Con-Version team member and Fan Guest of Honour at Con-Version 21.5, “I can’t think of a better friend that Con-V has had than you.”

For those who’d been hoping to see me at Con-Version this year, my apologies. But I will be at a convention in Alberta next month: I’m attending Pure Speculation in Edmonton, October 22-24, along with Author Guest of Honour Tanya Huff and Media Guest Liana K.

Among many other fun things, we’ll be doing a staged reading there of Virginia O’Dine’s play based on my Hugo Award-nominated novel Rollback on Friday night starring me, Tanya, Randy McCharles, and Val King, which should be a blast — come join us!

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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