Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Boldly going into my living room

by Rob - July 9th, 2011.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

The Globe and Mail: Canada’s National Newspaper has been running a feature called “My Books, My Place,” featuring writers in their favourite reading spots, and in the Saturday, July 9, 2011, edition, my living room is featured. Here’s the version at the Globe and Mail website, and below is a longer version of the same essay that I wrote for this blog:

Hugo Award-winning science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer’s latest novel is Wonder (Penguin Canada).

I have a lovely office in my home, but I almost never use it; I’ve migrated, both for reading and writing, into the living room of my penthouse condo in Mississauga. Part of it is to take advantage of my fireplace; part of it is the lovely views (including the sight of the jam-packed 403 full of commuters making their way into Toronto, and the pleasure I take in not being one of them). Part of it, too, was the final realization that the notion that you’re supposed to separate your work life and your home life just didn’t make sense for me: I’m a writer 24/7, and reading and writing in my living room reflects that.

I’m a member of the first generation of science-fiction writers to have come into the field through television and movies, instead of books. The limited-edition 33-inch model of Star Trek‘s Enterprise was an indulgence, but it acknowledges that debt; the first book that got me serious about wanting to be a writer was 1968’s The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry.

The Planet of the Apes statues are also an indulgence, I suppose — but it was through that series of films, before I’d read H.G. Wells, that I discovered that science fiction was a powerful medium for social comment. And the dinosaurs — that’s a Triceratops skull and a Stegosaurus reconstruction — remind me that I originally wanted to be a scientist, not a science-fiction writer. But at the time I was heading to university, the chances of being a world-class scientist in Canada seemed dim, whereas few if any had tested the proposition of whether one could be a world-class SF writer in this country.

I was an early adopter of ebooks — this is my tenth year of doing almost all my reading in that form. I have a letter rack next to my recliner that holds both my Kindle and my Kobo; each has its strengths and I like them both.

My next novel, Triggers, is about memory, and I’m reading the wonderful Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer; my editor Adrienne Kerr sent me a paper copy, so I’m reading it in that format. More than any other trait, our memories — what we recall about our own pasts — define who we are, and memory is a fallible and inaccurate faculty.

Meanwhile, my Kobo is loaded with Shelby Foote’s massive three-volume The Civil War: A Narrative, which is much less daunting in ebook form; you could kill a man with the paper editions. It might strike some as odd that a science-fiction writer reads history, but SF is about reasoned extrapolation into the future, and the only way to do that is by understanding the past. Foote’s prose style is absolutely engrossing — he presents fact with the sumptuousness of the best fiction writing.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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