Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Yay for theme anthologies!

by Rob - May 16th, 2013.
Filed under: Red Planet Blues.

Back in 2006, when my novella “Identity Theft” — which makes up the first ten chapters of my new novel Red Planet Blues — was a Nebula Award finalist, I was asked to comment about the story’s origin for the SFWA Bulletin. Here’s what I had to say (“Identity Theft” first appeared in Mike Resnick‘s Science Fiction Book Club anthology Down These Dark Spaceways):

There’s a tendency in our industry to pooh-pooh theme anthologies. Somehow, the notion of writing a story to order strikes people as inherently wrong, and the idea that a story might be commissioned, as opposed to written on spec, seems outrageous to some. I disagree. For me, many of the greatest challenges I’ve faced as a writer came from anthology commissions, and they’ve resulted in me successfully going in directions I simply never would have otherwise.

When I sit down to do a new novel contract, my publisher is, quite rightly, looking for me to propose something that plays to my strengths and builds on my existing audience (and all those who complain about commissioned stories never seem to discuss novel commissions, the engine that drives our industry — but I digress). But when a short-fiction editor approaches me for a theme anthology, very often it’s in an area that is new to me, and those commissions have inspired me to produce some of the work I’m most proud of.

A few years ago an anthologist asked me to do libertarian SF — me, the bleeding-heart big-government Canadian liberal — and the result was the Hugo Award finalist “The Hand You’re Dealt.”

The same editor came to me later looking for horror — me, the hard-SF quantum-computers-and-aliens guy — and the result was the Bram Stoker Award finalist “Fallen Angel.”

My Hugo finalist last year, “Shed Skin,” likewise was commissioned for an anthology, one that also contained work by such other hacks as Nalo Hopkinson and Cory Doctorow, produced in honor of Bakka, the SF bookstore we all used to work at.

And this year, “Identity Theft” isn’t just a Nebula finalist, it’s also a Hugo finalist and has already won the world’s largest cash prize for SF writing, the 6,000-euro Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficción — in blind judging, I might add. And yet, I never would have written it — or even once thought about creating an SF hard-boiled-detective story — if Mike Resnick hadn’t come knocking.

If it weren’t for theme anthologies, and commissioned works, if it weren’t for creative and versatile editors like Mike Resnick and Marty Greenberg and Julie E. Czerneda and John Helfers, and for publishers like DAW and now the Science Fiction Book Club that have vigorously supported the original-anthology market, quality stories like these by myself and dozens of other authors simply wouldn’t exist. My hat is off to those editors and publishers, and I am honored and thrilled to be the first-ever Nebula nominee for an original Science Fiction Book Club publication.

2006 Bio:

Robert J. Sawyer is the author of 17 science-fiction novels including the Nebula Award winner The Terminal Experiment (serialized in Analog as Hobson’s Choice), the Hugo Award winner Hominids, the Nebula and Hugo Award finalist Starplex, and the Seiun Award winners End of an Era, Frameshift, and Illegal Alien.

Three of his ten Hugo nominations and four of his nine Aurora Award wins have been for short fiction, and he’s won the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award, Analog magazine’s Analytical Laboratory Award, and Science Fiction Chronicle‘s Readers’ Award, all for best short story of the year, as well as France’s Le Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire for Best Foreign Short Story of the Year.

Rob’s latest novel is Mindscan from Tor, and his next, Rollback, will be serialized in Analog starting in the October 2006 issue, with the hardcover to follow from Tor in April 2007. His novels have earned starred reviews in Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Kliatt, and Quill & Quire, have hit the top-ten national mainstream bestsellers’ lists in Canada, and have reached number one on the Locus bestsellers’ list. He runs an intensive week-long SF writing workshop in Banff, Alberta, each year, will be writer-in-residence at Odyssey this summer, and edits the Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint for Fitzhenry & Whiteside, one of Canada’s leading publishers. His million-plus-word website is at

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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