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

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[Robert J. Sawyer]

Press Release
From the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association
For Release Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lifetime Achievement Award for Sawyer

For the first time in 30 years — and only the fourth time ever — the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA) is bestowing a Lifetime Achievement award on an author.

The award will be presented in Ottawa on Sunday, October 6, 2013, to Ottawa-born author Robert J. Sawyer. Sawyer is one of only eight writers in history — and the only Canadian — to win all three of the world's top awards for best science-fiction novel of the year:

He's also won more Prix Aurora Awards, given by CSFFA, than anyone else in history, with thirteen wins to date (seven for best novel, five for best short story, and one for best related book).

Sawyer's other honours include winning Japan's top SF award three times, Spain's top SF award three times, France's top SF award, the Toronto Public Library Celebrates Reading Award, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, an honorary doctorate from Laurentian University, the Alumni Award of Distinction from Ryerson University, Humanist Canada's inaugural Humanism in the Arts Award, and an Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada.

Sawyer is being honoured not just for his writing but also his decades of support for other writers. David G. Hartwell, senior editor at Tor Books in New York, was quoted in Publishers Weekly as saying, "Sawyer is very generous to young writers."

And in naming Sawyer one of the "thirty most influential, innovative, and just plain powerful people in Canadian publishing" (one of only three authors to make the list), the publishing trade journal Quill & Quire called him "a generous mentor to other writers."

In 2009, The Ottawa Citizen observed, "It seems like everywhere I go, people are talking about what an incredible friend Sawyer is to young SF writers, how much he gives back to the community." And Manitoba author Craig Russell has said, "Robert J. Sawyer is one truly amazing gentleman — a mentor to the entire Canadian SF/F world."

But Sawyer's contributions were perhaps best summed up by TV personality Liana K, when she hosted the 2010 Prix Aurora Award ceremony, where many of Sawyer's writing students and mentorees were on the ballot: "At the Oscars, the winners thank God. At the Auroras, they thank Robert J. Sawyer."

Rob Sawyer was born in Ottawa in 1960. He has taught science-fiction writing at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, Humber College, and the Banff Centre. And he has been writer in residence at Berton House in Dawson City; the Toronto Public Library's Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy; the Richmond Hill Public Library; the Kitchener Public Library; and the Canadian Light Source, Canada's national synchrotron facility, a position created especially for him.

His latest novel — his 22nd — is Red Planet Blues, published by Penguin Canada; the book reached #3 on the Maclean's bestsellers' list, and the mass-market edition of his previous title, Triggers, which is a current nominee for the best-novel Aurora, recently hit #1 on the bestsellers' list of the US trade journal Locus. The 2009 ABC TV series FlashForward was based on his novel of the same name.

The Prix Aurora Awards were founded in 1980. Authors previously awarded lifetime achievement Auroras, now all deceased, are A.E. van Vogt in 1980; Phyllis Gotlieb in 1982; and Judith Merril in 1983. At 53, Sawyer is the youngest author ever to receive a lifetime-achievement Aurora.

The award will be bestowed as part of the 2013 Prix Aurora Awards breakfast banquet Sunday, October 6, at the Minto Suites, Ottawa, during Can-Con 2013, this year's Canadian National Science Fiction Convention. Ottawa author Hayden Trenholm, one of Sawyer's former writing students and himself a multiple Aurora Award winner, will make the presentation.

Full text of Rob's acceptance speech:

Thank you all very much.

Since it was announced that I was getting this award, some people have said to me, "Well, I guess you can stop now" — although they usually leave it unsaid as to precisely what I should stop.

Do they mean I should stop writing? Well, perhaps. I've published twenty-two novels and forty-four short stories — over two million words of fiction, all of which is currently in print.

Earlier this year, I shipped my manuscript archives off to McMaster University, and, looking back over that body of work, I'm content. If the vicissitudes either of life or of publishing mean that the novel I'm writing now turns out to be my last, so be it.

But perhaps when people suggested I should stop, they meant I should stop winning Aurora Awards.

Well, I gave up writing short fiction eight years ago, and I have no new novel coming in 2014, so for the Auroras being given out in 2015, at least, there's no way I'll be on the ballot; as in every year, may the finest novel win, and I wish all the writers here the best of luck. Believe me, I know what it's like to lose Auroras — I've lost them twenty-seven times to date.

But you know what? I was happy to lose all those Auroras. That these awards have been won by such a diverse and talented range of people — including my great friends James Alan Gardner, Edo van Belkom, and Robert Charles Wilson — makes the ones I did win have value.

Of course, I've been particularly delighted when Auroras have gone to my own writing students. No one was happier than me when Eileen Bell, Derwin Mak, Randy McCharles, Ryan McFadden, Douglas Smith, Isaac Szpindel, Hayden Trenholm, and Edward Willett took home their trophies; teaching and mentoring have always been as important to me as my writing.

Still, far more common than people saying to me "I guess you can stop now" has been people suggesting "you're too young to win a lifetime achievement award." No one meant this insensitively, of course, but in June I lost my younger brother Alan Sawyer to lung cancer; he was 51 when he passed away, two years younger than I am now.

Alan was a multimedia producer, and the year before he died he won an Emmy award — an honest-to-God Emmy from the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Fortunately, no one said he was too young when he got it, and that honour, which turned out to be the culmination of his career, awarded just months before his terminal prognosis, has ensured his place in the history of his field.

As it happens, I'm part of the committee that chooses another lifetime achievement honour, the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master trophy given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America — that organization's highest distinction, presented at the Nebula Award banquet.

Choosing the recipient is a process another SFWA past president has referred to as "actuarial." Or, as I explained it to my brother-in-law David Clink — himself an Aurora nominee this year — the sad reality is that when the Grand Master trophy shows up in your home, it means somebody thinks you're about to die. To which Dave replied, "Ah, I get it — it's the Horsehead Nebula Award."

In 1996, SFWA's Grand Master Award went to A.E. van Vogt. By coincidence, that same night, I won the best novel Nebula for The Terminal Experiment. At the end of the banquet aboard the Queen Mary, I sought out van Vogt. We'd never met, I explained to him, but he had been an inspiration to me: this guy from Manitoba who'd published 600,000 words of science fiction with major US publishers while still living in Canada had been proof that the goal I intended to devote my life to — being a Canadian science fiction writer — was possible.

A.E. van Vogt looked warmly at me, then his face grew sad. "You know," he said, "I remember having been a science-fiction writer — but I can't remember a single thing that I wrote." By this point, van Vogt, whose 84th birthday had been the day before, was in the grips of the Alzheimer's disease that would kill him.

But fortunately for all of us, the founders of the Aurora Awards weren't actuaries; they didn't wait until it was almost too late to honour van Vogt. Rather, he received his lifetime achievement Aurora Award — the very first Aurora ever given — in 1980, when he was 67 years old, with another two decades of life ahead of him.

So when is the right time to give a lifetime award? Hugo-award winning fan writer Susan Wood got the second Lifetime Achievement Aurora ever given, in 1981. She was just 32 when the award was presented — or she would have been had she lived to see it; her trophy was bestowed posthumously.

And so, at this point in my career, however close to its end it might be, and at this date in my life, however far off the final chapter still is, I am pleased, proud, and deeply touched to be receiving this trophy.

This award is for a lot of people. It's for my own mentors, John Robert Colombo, Terence M. Green, and Andrew Weiner. It's for the editors who have worked so closely with me over the years, including Peter Heck, Susan Allison, Stanley Schmidt, David G. Hartwell, Ginjer Buchanan, and Adrienne Kerr. It's for my wife, Aurora Award-winning poet Carolyn Clink, who has been along for this whole crazy ride. But most of all, as I look back over a lifetime, it's for my brother Alan. It ain't no Emmy, broski, but it truly does mean the world to me.

Thank you all very, very much.

For more information, see Rob's website at sfwriter.com and the official Prix Aurora Awards site.

To book an interview, contact Rob at sawyer@sfwriter.com.

Robert J. Sawyer notes:

In addition to presenting the Lifetime Achievement Aurora Awards to four different authors now (A.E. van Vogt, Phyllis Gotlieb, Judith Merril, and myself), Lifetime Achievement Aurora Awards have twice also gone to fans.

Hugo Award-winning fanzine writer and editor Susan Wood received one posthumously in 1981; she had passed away the previous year at age 32.

And, upon his retirement from administering the Aurora Awards, fan Dennis Mullin was given a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. At the 2007 annual general meeting of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, I myself made the motion that Dennis be given this award, and I had the privilege of presenting the award to Dennis at Keycon 25 in Winnipeg, the 2008 Canadian National Science Fiction Convention.

Also, Judith Merril twice received Lifetime Achievement Aurora Awards. The first time, in 1982, was for her "lifetime contributions to the field" (including her work as an author); the second, in 1986, was presented to her not as an author but as an editor ("lifetime achievement in editing"); Judy was a very influential anthologist.

(Stairwell photo by Christina Frost)

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