Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

15th anniversary of winning the Nebula Award

by Rob - April 27th, 2011.
Filed under: Awards, Milestones, Terminal.

Many articles about me have suggested that having ABC make a TV series out of my 1999 novel FlashForward was the biggest thing that ever happened to me. Yes, that was cool, but it wasn’t the thing that changed my life the most. No, that was winning the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Nebula Award — the “Academy Award” of the SF&F fields — for Best Novel of the Year, and that happened 15 years ago today.

I won for The Terminal Experiment. Back then, the Nebula process consisted of two ballots. To get on the preliminary ballot, a work had to receive ten “recommendations” from other SFWA members. Prior to 1996, the largest number of recommendations ever recorded in SFWA’s history was 27; The Terminal Experiment broke SFWA’s database when it reached 40 (and many more came in after that).

These were the 22 books that made the preliminary ballot, which was issued on January 9, 1996 (with SFWA’s now abandoned “rolling eligibility” system, some of the books were published in 1994 instead of 1995):

  • Allen, Roger MacBride: The Shattered Sphere
  • Asaro, Catherine: Primary Inversion
  • Barnes, John: Mother of Storms
  • Barton, William: When Heaven Fell
  • de Lint, Charles: Memory and Dream
  • Garland, Mark &, McGraw, Charles: Demon Blade
  • Goonan, Kathleen Ann: Queen City Jazz
  • Hambly, Barbara: Bride of the Rat God
  • Knaak, Richard: Frostwing
  • Kress, Nancy: Beggars and Choosers
  • McAllister, P.K.: Siduri’s Net
  • McCarthy, Wil: Aggressor Six
  • McDevitt, Jack: The Engines of God
  • Nagata, Linda: The Bohr Maker
  • Robinson, Spider & Jeanne: Starmind
  • Sawyer, Robert J.: The Terminal Experiment
  • Stackpole, Mike: Once a Hero
  • Steele, Allen: The Jericho Iteration
  • Stewart, Sean: Resurrection Man
  • Williams, Walter Jon: Metropolitan
  • Willis, Connie: Remake
  • Wolfe, Gene: Calde of the Long Sun

The active members of SFWA voted on the above ballot, to produce this final ballot, which was released on February 21, 1996; these five works were the best-novel nominees:

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

The entire active SFWA membership voted again, and the winner was announced at a gala banquet aboard the Queen Mary anchored off Long Beach, California. I was there, and absolutely thrilled to win, as my smile attests:

Carolyn and I had been sitting at the Analog table at the banquet, because my novel was first published in that magazine as a serial, under the title Hobson’s Choice. Right after I won, John Douglas, who had been one of the editors of my novel at HarperPrism, came up to me to say, “You’ve gone overnight from being a promising newcomer to an established, bankable name.”

And John was right; my days as a struggling writer ended then and there. Foreign rights to The Terminal Experiment immediately sold all over the world, and I’ve been making a very comfortable living from my science fiction ever since (indeed, just 13 months later, Carolyn quit her job in the commercial-printing industry to come work full-time for me as my salaried assistant).

The Terminal Experiment also went on to win the Aurora and Homer Awards, and was my first Hugo Award finalist, and has been repeatedly optioned for movies (including currently by Divani Films, which is now in the fifth year of its option).

The Terminal Experiment is currently in print from Penguin Canada, and Ace Science Fiction is bringing out a new edition in September of this year. Below is the original 1995 HarperPrism cover followed by the current Canadian cover:

You can read more about the book here (including the opening chapters).

It’s been an amazing 15 years, and I can’t wait to see what the next 15 will hold!

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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