Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

BBC World Book Day coverage and more

by Rob - May 15th, 2011.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

The Winnipeg Free Press ran a short version of this interview in Kenton Smith’s “Paper Chase” books column in its Saturday, May 14, 2011, edition; here’s the full interview:

1) What compelled you to sign the letter to the BBC re: its coverage of World Book Day? What would you personally have to add to what the letter already says?

The BBC’s dismissal of science fiction is ridiculous; as a field, SF has an enormously strong history of stylistic innovation as well as being a vehicle for trenchant social commentary, going right back to Mary Shelley (the field’s grandmother with Frankenstein) and H.G. Wells (its father with The Time Machine), both of whom, of course, were British. The BBC should have been ashamed of itself for ignoring the terrific work being done today in a field that Britain invented.

If there’d been room for a personal comment with the letter, I’d have added that the CBC in Canada has always been wonderfully supportive of science fiction; the BBC needs to up its game.

2) For people who might dismiss science fiction, what would you point to in your latest novel Wonder that you would say might be more relevant to them and the world they live in than they might think? Why read science fiction? Why read your science fiction?

Wonder deals with, among many other things, the rise of the religious right as a political force in the United States, the oppressive regime in China and whether it can survive the openness afforded by online communication, and whether surveillance technologies here in the West may finally put an end to bullying, rape, and assault.

Good science fiction is always about the here-and-now, although some science fiction uses metaphor to achieve that effect: aliens standing in for humans, another world standing in for ours. But my science fiction is set mostly in Canada, and in the present day or very near future; you don’t need a secret decoder ring to figure out what it’s actually talking about. President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and even The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart all appear in Wonder. It’s a philosophical novel about things that plausibly might happen; as Alvin Toffler, the fame futurist said, “Reading science fiction is the only preventive medicine for future shock.”

3) What is it about the Internet as a subject that attracted (or perhaps compelled) you to write the WWW trilogy?

The World Wide Web has changed the whole planet; as I argue in Wonder, Tim Berners-Lee, who invented it, deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, because his creation has done more to bring disparate people together for peaceful collaboration than anything else in the history. To not be thinking about the Web’s future — about where all of this interconnectivity, and, yes, loss of privacy, is going to lead — is to have cultural blinders on. The WWW trilogy is my attempt to engage with those issues.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

1 Response to BBC World Book Day coverage and more

  1. Just finished your www trilogy and it was as gripping, imaginative and informative my worldly interests. Thank you

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