Saturday, February 6, 2010

Short stories: five years after giving them up

It was five years ago today that I finished writing my last short story. That story, "Biding Time," was written for the DAW Books anthology Slipstreams, edited by Martin Harry Greenberg and John Helfers.

I guess I went out with a bang. The story was reprinted in the prestigious Penguin Book of Crime Stories and (after some on-stage drama!) won the Aurora Award. And the film option on it (and its prequel, "Identity Theft") was just renewed for a fourth year.

I had a nice little career as a short-fiction writer: 44 stories published (all now collected in two handsome volumes available from Red Deer Press), two Hugo nominations, one Nebula nomination, a Bram Stoker Award nomination, four short-story Aurora Award wins, plus winning France's top SF award for best foreign SF story, as well as winning Analog magazine's Analytical Laboratory Award, Science Fiction Chronicle's Reader Award, and the Crime Writers of Canada's Arthur Ellis Award, all for best short story of the year.

I gave up writing short fiction because I just didn't really enjoy writing it, and life's too short to spend on things that aren't fun.

I also gave up writing it, to be honest, because short fiction pays abysmally poorly. Six cents a word is a super rate for short science-fiction stories from the traditional SF markets (and those rates haven't gone up in the 30 years since I sold my first short story), which works out to about $250 for a typical 4,000-or-so-word short story; a while ago, I did a treatment for a miniseries, which was also 4,000 words long, and was paid $25,000 -- or six dollars (one hundred times as much) per word, and I had a blast doing the treatment.

And I gave it up because, frankly, after 19 years of publishing novels, I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who have ever said they first discovered me through my short fiction instead of my books.

All of which leads to a rather ironic announcement: I've just made my first sale ever to Canada's venerable Tesseracts anthology series. I'll be in Tesseracts 14, edited by John Robert Colombo and Brett Alexander Savory. Did I relent, you ask? Nope, not really. The work that's appearing in that book, coming this fall, is not a story but a prose-poem (one I performed for a very appreciative audience last year the the World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal).

In the intervening five years since I finished writing "Biding Time," I've turned down numerous commissions to write more short stories, including several dollar-a-word ones from glossy publications. I'm quite content about the decision; what I really enjoy doing is writing novels and scripts ... and I should get back to that right now. Toodles!

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Free Sherlock Holmes short story

In honour of the new Sherlock Holmes movie, I'll just point out that my science-fiction Holmes story "You See But You Do Not Observe" has long been available for free right here.

It's also available in several anthologies, starting with Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, edited by Mike Resnick and Martin Harry Greenberg (DAW), for which it was commissioned, and most recently as the concluding story in The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, edited by John Joseph Adams (Night Shade Books). And it's in my own short story collection Iterations and Other Stories.

This story, which I think is one of my very best, won France's top SF award, Le Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Friday, October 16, 2009

"Come All Ye Faithful" now a free podcast

Thanks to the fine people at Escape Pod, there's a wonderful free podcast of my short story "Come All Ye Faithful," first published in the anthology Space Inc., edited by Julie E. Czerneda, and available in my collection Identity Theft and Other Stories, published by Red Deer Press. The reading by Mike Boris is absolutely terrific.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Federations review: "strongest story in the book"

There's a lovely review of the anthology Federations edited by John Joseph Adams right here, which says in part:
The strongest story in this anthology is Robert J. Sawyer's "The Shoulders of the Giants." It's a beautiful story. It's worth the price of admission.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Yeah, I wrote a vampire story -- wanna make something of it?

John Joseph Adams has just published the anthology By Blood We Live, which is full of vampire stories -- including one by yours truly.

My story actually was previously published (so please don't accuse me of jumping on the current bandwagon!):
"Peking Man" copyright 1996 by Robert J. Sawyer. First published as the lead story in Dark Destiny III: Children of Dracula, edited by Edward E. Kramer, White Wolf, Atlanta, October 1996.
And, when it was reprinted in my own collection Iterations and Other Stories, I had this to say about it:
Ed Kramer wanted to do an anthology in honor of the hundredth anniversary of a particular literary character. That character wasn't one I was fascinated with, but I did have a lifelong interest in paleoanthropology, although at this point, I'd never written any fiction on that theme (later, I went on to write a trilogy about Neanderthals). But having recently looked at a picture of a Chinese Homo erectus skull, and having thought, gee, those perfect, square teeth must be fake, an idea occurred to me that I thought might be right for Ed's book.

To my delight, Ed used this story as the lead piece in his anthology (editors usually put what they consider to be the best stories in the first and last slots). I occasionally think about expanding the premise of this story into a novel; perhaps someday I will.
"Peking Man" went on to win Canada's Aurora Award for Best English Short Story of the Year. You can read it, and 32 others, in John's new anthology, on sale now.

Pictured: Robert J. Sawyer receives the Aurora Award for "Peking Man" from Babylon 5 star Richard Biggs, 1 November 1997.
Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Monday, July 20, 2009

Free story in honor of Apollo 11: "The Eagle Has Landed"

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, I'm uploading for free my short story "The Eagle Has Landed," first published in the 2005 DAW anthology I, Alien, edited by Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg. You can read the full text for free right here.

"The Eagle Has Landed" by Robert J. Sawyer.

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Full text of "Identity Theft" novella online

My short-story collection Identity Theft and Other Stories from Red Deer Press is currently one of five finalists for the Aurora Award for Best Long Form Work in English.

In honour of that, I'm pleased to offer the Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated title novella, "Identity Theft," for free during the remainder of the voting period. You can read it right here.

All of the other nominees in this category are excellent, too -- and three of them are by my writing students:
  • Impossibilia, Douglas Smith (PS Publishing)
  • Defining Diana, Hayden Trenholm (Bundoran Press)
  • Marseguro, Edward Willett (DAW Books)
So, one way or another, the odds are great that I'm going to be a happy man on Friday, August 7, 2009, when the Aurora Awards are presented at a banquet at this year's World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal.

Praise for Identity Theft and Other Stories:
"At every opportunity, Sawyer forces his readers to think while holding their attention with ingenious premises and superlative craftsmanship." —Booklist

"A collection of great stories; highly entertaining and thought-provoking. This book has something for almost any science-fiction fan." —Quill & Quire

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Federations interview

John Joseph Adams recently interviewed me about my story "The Shoulders of Giants," which appears in his just-released anthology Federations. Among the things I say:
Those who’ve read my recent novels have seen that I don’t have much interest in antagonists; I think the idea that all fiction is fundamentally about conflict, and you need a good guy and a bad guy is simply not true; my latest novel Rollback has no antagonist, for instance, and I don’t really think there’s one in my upcoming Wake, either. Well, I wrote “The Shoulders of Giants” in 1999, when I was experimenting with making exciting fiction that only had good guys in it; that was a challenge, but I like to think I pulled it off.
You can read the whole interview right here.

Federations is available in print everywhere, and Fictionwise just released it as a multi-format ebook -- woohoo!

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Peking Man lives

I'm delighted to report that John Joseph Adams has just bought reprint rights to my 1996 short story "Peking Man" for his new anthology By Blood We Live for Night Shade Books.

"Peking Man" was originally published as the lead story in Dark Destiny III: Children of Dracula edited by my friend Edward E. Kramer, and it won Canada's Aurora Award for Best English short story of the year.

Above: Peking Man as he appears at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing -- setting, incidentally, for part of my new novel Wake.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Federations table of contents

Holy cow! How often do you get to be betwen the covers with Lois McMaster Bujold, Orson Scott Card, Anne McCaffrey, and Robert Silverberg? Woot!

John Joseph Adams has announced the line-up for his upcoming anthology Federations, and it's terrific (see below). I'm particularly pleased to note that the lead story is Orson Scott Card's "Mazer in Prison," which I'm a big fan of, and that my great friend James Alan Gardner is in the book, too, with a new story.

Here's the full list:
  • "Mazer in Prison" by Orson Scott Card (reprint)

  • "Carthago Delenda Est" by Genevieve Valentine

  • "Life-Suspension" by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

  • "Terra-Exulta" by S. L. Gilbow

  • "Aftermaths" by Lois McMaster Bujold (reprint)

  • "Someone is Stealing the Great Throne Rooms of the Galaxy" by Harry Turtledove (reprint)

  • "Prisons" by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason (reprint)

  • "Different Day" by K. Tempest Bradford

  • "Twilight of the Gods" by John C. Wright

  • "Warship" by George R. R. Martin and George Guthridge (reprint)

  • "Swanwatch" by Yoon Ha Lee

  • "Spirey and the Queen" by Alastair Reynolds (reprint)

  • "Pardon Our Conquest" by Alan Dean Foster

  • "Symbiont" by Robert Silverberg (reprint)

  • "The Ship Who Returned" by Anne McCaffrey (reprint)

  • "My She" by Mary Rosenblum

  • "The Shoulders of Giants" by Robert J. Sawyer (reprint)

  • "The Culture Archivist" by Jeremiah Tolbert

  • "The Other Side of Jordan" by Allen Steele

  • "Like They Always Been Free" by Georgina Li

  • "Eskhara" by Trent Hergenrader

  • "The One with the Interstellar Group Consciousnesses" by James Alan Gardner

  • "Golubash, or Wine-War-Blood-Elegy" by Catherynne M. Valente

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On winning the Aurora Award

To my astonishment and delight, I won my tenth Aurora Award on Sunday (the Auroras are the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards, established in 1980).

Michael Walsh and Clint Budd, who organized the ceremony, did an amazing job, with a wonderful banquet (something done too infrequently for the Auroras) followed by a witty Aurora keynote address by Matthew Hughes -- the first time the Auroras have included a keynote speaker. As it happened, I was master of ceremonies for this year's Aurora Awards -- my seventh time having the honour to fulfill that particular role.

Although many people praised my performance as MC, to be honest I thought I managed about a 7 out of 10. I was tired: the ceremony was held Sunday afternoon, and not only did I have con fatigue by that point, but I'd been on the road for 16 days leading up to the ceremony. Still, people laughed in all the right places, and I was pleased.

The biggest bit of drama came when the Best Short-Form Work in English award was announced. The wonderful artist Martin Springett came up to the podium to present the award, and after announcing the nominees, he opened the envelope and read out the supposed winner: John Mierau.

As MC, I was standing off to the side and could clearly see the card Martin had taken out of the envelope; he'd read it correctly. I was applauding John's win when Michael Walsh stepped out from behind the table that held the Aurora trophies, and said, "There's been a mistake."

VCon 32, this year's Canadian National Science Fiction Convention ("CanVention"), had allowed on-site voting for the Auroras (in addition to the traditional mail-in voting), and so voting had closed just 18 hours before the awards banquet began.

Michael had been involved in counting the ballots Saturday night, and had handed a master copy of the ballot to his wife, Susan Walsh, on which he'd checked off the winners in each category. Susan then wrote out the cards naming the winners to go in the envelopes -- a job done late at night, when everyone was tired. Near as I can figure it out, Susan looked at the sheet, saw that the winner was from the anthology Slipstreams, and so wrote down the name of one of the authors who had been in that book, the aforementioned John Mierau.

But Michael had actually marked the other story from Slipstreams, a little number called "Biding Time," by one Robert J. Sawyer. After suitable apologies for the error -- stretching the suspense in the process -- he announced that I, in fact, had won the award.

Thank God John was not in attendance (I remember being at a Worldcon when Richard and Nikki Lynch were announced as winners of the best-fanzine Hugo only to have Richard (I think) recognize that an error had been made when he looked at the name on the trophy). John's a very fine writer, and I'm sure he will be taking home an Aurora down the road.

It was an odd sensation. I hadn't expected to win (my money was on James Alan Gardner's charming "All the Cool Monsters at Once"), and I'd prepared a schtick as MC, which I delivered anyway, in case my writing student Hayden Trenholm had beaten me, doing my best James Earl Jones as Hayden and intoning, "Then I was the learner; now I am the master"). I went in the space of about a minute from "well, I didn't expect to win anyway," to "good for John!" to "oh, crap, something's gone wrong with the ceremony I'm MCing," to "say what?"

Now, as it happened, prior to this win, I had nine Aurora Awards to my credit: four for best English novel, four for best English short story, and one for best English "Other." But that didn't make me the all-time Aurora champ; rather, it made me tied with Francophone writer Elisabeth Vonarburg; we each had nine a piece. But when I won for "Biding Time," I pulled ahead, becoming the undisputed record holder ...

... a title that lasted for about three minutes, because the next Aurora to be presented was "Best Long Form Work in French" -- and who should win that but mon cher amie Elisabeth. So, we're tied again. :)

As usual, the wonderful Frank Johnston made the Aurora trophies, but I have to say that this year's were particularly lovely; the maple wood bases were are just gorgeous.

To my delight and astonishment, somehow over Saturday night, all ten Aurora trophies had their plaques engraved with the winner's names (and, yes, the English short-form one does have my name on it). I'd flown to Vancouver with only carry-on luggage, but had to check my bag when I left on Monday, since the Aurora has sharp metal parts that wouldn't be allowed in the aircraft cabin.

"Biding Time" is a sequel to my Hugo- and Nebula-Award nominated novella "Identity Theft." It also is, incidentally, the last short story I plan to write, at least for the foreseeable future. Although I enjoy short fiction, I really feel a need to concentrate on my novels now.

"Biding Time" first appeared in the DAW anthology Slipstreams edited by John Helfers and Martin H. Greenberg; it's also been reprinted in The Penguin Book of Crime Fiction edited by Peter Robinson, and will be the closing story in my second short-story collection, "Identity Theft and Other Stories," coming from Red Deer Press in February 2008. I'm delighted to be going out with a winner.

Historical note: The core plot of "Biding Time," which is a hard-boiled detective story set on Mars, was originally part of my 16th novel Mindscan; the motivation used for the murder was the same one I'd originally written for Tyler Bessarian suing his mother Karen in that novel; I removed it at the request of my editor, David G. Hartwell, who found it too unsettling. But, as one reviewer said of "Biding Time," the story really does posit a genuinely new science-fictional motive for murder, and I'm delighted that I found a way to use it, and that, like Karen in Mindscan, it has now been ensured a small degree of immortality.

The full text of "Biding Time" has been up on my web site during the nominating and voting periods for the Auroras, and I'll leave it up a little while longer for those who are curious: it's here.

(Oh, and for those who might now be saying Rob Sawyer always wins the Aurora, I'll gently point out that I hold the record -- yes, beating even Elisabeth! -- for the most Aurora losses. I've been nominated 35 times for the Aurora to date, meaning I've got 10 wins and 25 losses, or a 1 in 3.5 success ratio; that's only slightly better than what random chance would dictate: there are usually five nominees in each Aurora category, so a purely random choice would have had me winning 1 in 5 times, for a total of seven, instead of ten, awards. I'm hardly a slam-dunk winner when it comes to the Auroras, and I truly am thrilled and grateful for each one.)

My Aurora Award wins:

Best Long-Form Work in English: Golden Fleece [1990], The Terminal Experiment [1995], Starplex [1996], and Flashforward [1999]).

Best Short-Form Work in English: "Just Like Old Times" [1993], "Peking Man" [1996], "Stream of Consciousness" [1999], "Ineluctable" [2002]), and "Biding Time" [2006].

Best Work in English (Other): Relativity, a collection of essays and stories, [2004]

Pictured above: Robert J. Sawyer with the one that almost got away ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

North of Infinity II table of contents

Editor Mark Leslie Lefebvre has posted the table of contents for North of Infinity II, the second in the series of Canadian SF anthologies published by Mosaic Press.

My story “Forever,” originally published in Mike Resnick’s Return of the Dinosaurs, is included, as are, to my delight, stories by my writing students Karen Danylak and Doug Smith, plus one by Andrew Weiner, whose novel Getting Near the End was published under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint:

North of Infinity II contents

The book should be out early in 2006.

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