[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

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Robert J. Sawyer Novels
in the Classroom

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"I took a survey at the end of my Religion in Science Fiction course for 'favorite novel' and your Calculating God won out over titles like Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, A Canticle for Leibowitz and Out of the Silent Planet. I've just picked up a copy of Flashforward and plan to use that next time I teach — very good stuff."

— Kate S. Kelley, Visiting Instructor
Department of Religious Studies
University of Missouri
Columbia, Missouri

"I've used Robert J. Sawyer novels in teaching undergraduate courses on science fiction and the history of science and religion since 1994 and they've proved to be among the most popular and effective texts in my reading lists. Books such as Factoring Humanity, The Terminal Experiment, Starplex, and Far-Seer offer students well-realized worlds, provocative ideas, compelling plots, and interesting characters.

"My students not only have learned to appreciate modern sf-as-literature from Sawyer's books; they have also stimulated some really exceptional classroom discussions, as the students grapple with the important social, scientific, moral, and religious issues that his stories raise.

"My students come from a wide variety of ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious backgrounds, and they come from across the arts and science spectrum: astronomy, biology, psychology, computer science, history, environmental, film, and women's studies. All respond positively to Sawyer's books.

"I've discussed Sawyer's work at academic conferences, and been pleasantly surprised at the interest his novels attract. Rob Sawyer's novels are a permanent feature of my courses, and I've now added Mindscan into the mix."

— Paul Fayter, Ph.D.
Historian of Science and Religion
York University
Toronto, Ontario

"I taught Robert J. Sawyer's Frameshift and found it stimulated lively discussion around contemporary sf and hard science: chemistry, biology, and genetic research. My students were stimulated by the ethical and social issues raised by Sawyer's questions of genetic testing, determination, and discrimination.

"Sawyer's website at sfwriter.com, which provides essays, links and reading questions, also focuses attention on the science issues in this sf thriller."

— Nancy Johnston, Ph.D.
Department of English
Ryerson University
Toronto, Ontario

"I use Calculating God when teaching evolution to university-bound grade-12 students. It is the first time in their high-school career they have read science fiction. I happen to teach at a Catholic school so it gives the added dimension of relating religion and science.

"My students — most of whom are not avid readers — really enjoy the book. In the last three years I can only think of a handful of students who did not enjoy it. Some have asked for the names of other books by you as they are so intrigued by your writing, and science fiction as a genre.

"I thank you for writing a book that I can use to challenge my students on the science, religion and philosophy front all at the same time."

— Siobhan Watters
Ascension of Our Lord Secondary School
Mississauga, Ontario

"My students love your books, and they are such an effective tool for teaching philosophy. I have taught Mindscan, The Terminal Experiment, and Calculating God in my philosophical inquiry course. Your background in philosophy and technology is a perfect match!"

— Stephanie L. Barnhizer
Department of Philsophy
Mercyhurst University
Erie, Pennsylvania

"I am really surprised by the author Sawyer because he is showing all his knowledge in different aspects. It's amazing that he knows so much about biology, geography, physics, medicine, and even computer science. I've learnt a lot of different things from the novel, but of course for me the most significant part is English. I've learnt a lot new words from his novel, which is so nice for me."

— an ESL student
Calculating God
Seneca College at York University
Toronto, Ontario

"Fast-paced, well-researched and imaginatively conceived, Calculating God is the most captivating work of science fiction I've read since I last picked up a book by Carl Sagan. Although SF is often marginalized in academic circles, I plan to add it to my literature students' reading list as soon as it appears in paperback."

— Nina Johnson
Department of English
Thompson River University
Kamloops, British Columbia

  • Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale
  • Robertson Davies's Fifth Business
  • Margaret Laurence's The Fire-Dwellers
  • Hugh MacLennan's The Watch That Ends the Night
  • Robert J. Sawyer's Starplex
  • Sheila Watson's The Double Hook

— Required Reading
Modern Canadian Literature (ENG 4357R)
Patricia Monk, Ph.D.
Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia

"Factoring Humanity was the best novel we read all year."

— Jennifer Infuso, student,
science-fiction course
York University

"Informal advice by sf teachers in my English Department to instructors offering our sf-fantasy course for the first time points to Robert J. Sawyer's work as new, interesting, and most teachable. By merging science and literature, his hard sf appeals to both English students and those from other disciplines who take sf as a breadth course and for enjoyment."

— Ian Lancashire, Ph.D.
Department of English
University of Toronto

"Sawyer's books captured the attention of my philosophy students. The Terminal Experiment displays a wonderful philosophical finesse in portraying the different ways in which mind might be instantiated. It was a wonderful illustration of many of the distinctions made by Locke and provided me as a professor with a great model for classic philosophical theories about mind.

"Meanwhile, Starplex provided a nifty approach for discussing problems arising in the Philosophy of Language which deal with communication beyond the limits of a given language group. The care Sawyer spent in speculating about the way his aliens and humans came to communicate motivated my students to take much more seriously the philosophers who write about such issues.

"And rather than exhausting themselves in trying to drum up student interest in contemporary problems in morality, professors should adopt as a supplemental text a work like Sawyer's Frameshift. It raises so many interesting problems in ethics and bio-ethics and it does so with all the suspense of a first-class thriller."

— Joseph Novak, Ph.D.
Department of Philosophy
University of Waterloo

  • Isaac Asimov's "The Ugly Little Boy"
  • Jean M. Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear
  • William Golding's The Inheritors
  • Bjorn Kurten's Dance of the Tiger
  • Roy Lewis's Evolution Man
  • Robert J. Sawyer's Hominids
  • H.G. Wells's "The Grisly Folk"

— Required Reading
Out of the Cave: Prehistory in Fact and Fiction
Susan Foster McCarter, Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland

"By far, students in my Introduction to Literature course enjoyed Robert J. Sawyer's The Terminal Experiment the best — and it prompted some of the most interesting moments of the course.

"I am now incorporating The Terminal Experiment in a composition course because it is so popular among students (their course evaluations said everything from `great read' to `I recommend it for future use') and because it raises a number of ethical/moral questions about future technological advances that are ripe for discussion."

— Sean McDowell, Ph.D.
Department of English
Indiana University

"As a teacher of Gifted and Talented students (grades 6 through 12), I have found Robert J. Sawyer's novels to be invaluable to my curriculum. His well-crafted plots weave together both characters and themes to produce books which inspire very rewarding and passionate classroom discussions. But the real attraction for the students is Mr. Sawyer's ability to tell a cracking good story. My students have devoured everything he has written and anxiously await his next offering. It is without reservation that I highly recommend the use of Robert J. Sawyer's titles in your classroom."

— John Michalko
Canandaigua Middle School
Canandaigua, New York

"In the class I am taking, we are reading your brilliant novel Hominids and writing on the various social themes you have so realistically incorporated. I honestly did not read science fiction prior to this; now I am excited to read more."

— Jackie Nelson, student
Lexington Community College
Lexington, Kentucky

"Starplex is a complex hard-science novel by a Canadian amateur astronomer with intriguing ideas about the nature of dark matter and even dark-matter life forms. It includes more cosmological concepts than any novel we have seen."

— Andrew Fraknoi, Ph.D.
Department of Astronomy
Foothill College
Los Altos, California

"In physics, real-world problems are easy to come by, but what can you do for an upper-level astronomy course called `Galactic Structure and Cosmology?' Starplex does the job well: the backdrop for Sawyer's novel spans my whole course.

"A standard textbook question might be, `Calculate the luminosity function of a spiral arm, given an age of 108 years, and a Salpeter initial mass function.' But you can just as easily ask `Describe the stars seen by the crew of Starplex on page 37 when they emerge from a wormhole.' It's the same question, but now the imaginative part is up to the student. A student who can answer the first question has read the textbook. A student who can answer the second question really understands it."

— David DeGraff, Ph.D.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Alfred University
Alfred, NY

"I found Starplex incredibly thought provoking. My major and passion is Canadian history, and I'm elated to see that a book containing much Canadian content has had such world-wide acclaim."

— Kirk N. R. Graham
English/History double-major student
Dalhousie University

Who is Robert J. Sawyer?

"Robert J. Sawyer is just about the best science fiction writer out there these days." — Denver Rocky Mountain News

"Sawyer is the leader of SF's next-generation pack." — Barnes and Noble

"Sawyer is on a par with giants like Asimov and Heinlein — and, perhaps more than any other science-fiction writer working today, he understands that it's a genre about ideas." — Mystery News

"Sawyer is Canada's best speculative-fiction writer, by far." — About Books

"Sawyer is the science-fiction genre's northern star — in fact, one of the hottest SF writers anywhere. By any reckoning Sawyer is among the most successful Canadian authors ever." — Maclean's: Canada's National Newsmagazine

Rob is one of only seven writers in history to win all three of the science-fiction field's top honors for best novel of the year:

Rob is also the only writer in history to win the top SF awards in the United States, Japan, France, and Spain. In addition, he's won an Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada as well as nine Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards ("Auroras").

Rob has lectured on SF from Halifax to Los Angeles, from Tokyo to Barcelona, and at the Library of Congress, and he has taught at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, Humber College, the Banff Centre, and St. Anslem College.

For more information on Robert J. Sawyer and his books (including reading-group and classroom discussion guides), visit his web site (called "the largest genre-writer's home page in existence" by Interzone and "the most elaborate and interesting of any created by a Canadian writer" by The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature) at: www.sfwriter.com.

More Good Reading

The full "Robert J. Sawyer Novels in the Classroom" brochure in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (564K)

Robert J. Sawyer's awards and honors

What's a Rob Sawyer novel like?
More about Rob's novels

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A list of Rob's books currently in print

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