SFWRITER.COM > About Rob > Press Releases > TPL Celebrates Reading
For Release Thursday, February 15, 2007
North America's Largest Library Honours Sawyer
Canadian Author Receives Award for Lifetime of Achievement
This press release as an attractive PDF
Robert J. Sawyer has just
received the Toronto Public Library Celebrates Reading
Award. Established in 2001, this is one of Canada's top
The award, which includes a cash prize of $2,500 and a crystal
sculpture, was presented in front of a sold-out audience of 640
at the second annual
Book Lover's Ball,
a gala, $350-a-plate black-tie event held at Toronto's Liberty
Grand on Thursday, February 15, 2007. Among those on-hand were
Toronto Mayor David Miller and legendary Canadian authors
Peter C. Newman and Allan Fotheringham. The
master of ceremonies was Seamus O'Regan,
co-host of Canada AM.
Margaret Atwood joined the proceedings from the Canadian Embassy
in Tokyo via LongPen the remote-controlled
autographing and video-conferencing device she helped invent. Atwood was last
year's winner of the TPL Celebrates Reading Award and, by way of passing the
torch, she used the LongPen to autograph a copy of her latest novel to Sawyer.
Other previous winners include authors Dennis Lee and
Kenneth Oppel, and the provincial educational television network,
The Toronto Public Library
is the largest and busiest library system
in North America, and the second largest in the world.
"The Award is one of the key means by which we strive to
re-emphasize the importance of literacy and reading, and the
continuing relevance of the Library," says
Josephine Bryant, the Chief Librarian, who presented the award
Says Sawyer: "Science fiction still struggles in some places for
respectability, but that's never been the case in Toronto. The
Toronto Public Library is known world-wide for its support of the
genre." The Merril Collection of
Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy, one of TPL's
special collections, has the largest SF holdings of any public
library in the world. "If someone who writes about the future
might be termed a prophet," adds Sawyer, "then the old adage
about a prophet not being honored in his own country is false,
at least here." [See Sawyer's acceptance speech below.]
According to Maclean's, Canada's weekly
newsmagazine, "By any reckoning, Sawyer is among the most
successful Canadian authors ever." The Ottawa
Citizen calls him "the dean of Canadian science fiction,"
and The Montreal Gazette has dubbed him "Canada's
answer to Michael Crichton."
The Book Lover's Ball program book had this to say about Sawyer:
From haunting the stacks of the North York Central Library in
the 1960s, through working at a Toronto independent bookstore in
the 1980s, to being writer-in-residence at various Ontario
libraries (including TPL's own Merril Collection) in the 21st
century, Rob has devoted his life to reading and writing. He has
served on literary advisory boards for the International Festival
of Authors at Harbourfront and the Toronto Olympics bid
committee. Rob frequently mentors emerging authors, and has
taught writing at the Banff Centre, Humber College, Ryerson, and
the University of Toronto.
Sawyer is one of only seven 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: the Hugo
(SF's "people's choice" award, which he won for
Nebula (the field's "academy award," for
The Terminal Experiment);
and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award
(SF's major juried award, for
A full table of representatives from Tor Books, Sawyer's New York
publisher, and H.B. Fenn and Company, Tor's Canadian distributor,
were on hand at the Book Lover's Ball to cheer Sawyer's award, as
was his wife, poet Carolyn Clink. Sawyer's seventeenth novel,
comes out in April 2007.
Rob Sawyer's Acceptance Speech
On Receiving the Toronto Public Library Celebrates Reading Award
Click Pictures for Full-Size, Print-Quality Versions
Wow just ... wow!
I mean, I was thrilled last year just to be invited to the
Book Lover's Ball, but to be winning this award
tonight ... well, thank you so much!
I was floored when I learned that a science-fiction writer was
getting the Toronto Public Library Celebrates Reading Award
but perhaps I shouldn't have been. The Toronto Public
Library is famous for its support of the genre: TPL's Merril
Collection is the largest public-library collection of
science fiction and fantasy in the world.
Now, yes, I know there are still those who pooh-pooh
science-fiction, dismissing it all as formulaic stuff: you know,
boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy builds new girl.
But from the origins of the genre with H.G. Wells
whose War of the Worlds has nothing at all to do with
Martians but is in fact a harsh criticism of British colonialism
to modern novels like Margaret Atwood's The
Handmaid's Tale, which sounds a vital warning bell about
the drift towards theocracy south of the border, science fiction
has always been a vehicle for social comment about the here and
And I do mean right here, in Toronto which is where
most of my books are set. And yet, every time I put in a
reference to Canada from making Stephen Lewis the
Secretary-General of the United Nations in my novel
through chiding Mike Harris
for closing the McLaughlin Planetarium in
to bringing The Friendly Giant and King
of Kensington into my latest novel,
Canadians keep telling me I shouldn't do
that. They think Americans and the rest of the world
can't possibly understand, or care, about things that
But how can I not write about Toronto in my science fiction? It
is, as we all know, the centre of the universe! And, more than
that, with its wonderful multiculturalism, it is the very model
of the city of the future. I'm in the business of having a wild
imagination and I can't imagine living anywhere but the
I want to say a special word of thanks to my publisher, Tor
Books in New York. No large Canadian publisher has a
science-fiction imprint, and Tor has ended up being home to most
of the Canadian SF writers, vigorously supporting us in what we
And Tor's distributor here in Canada, H.B. Fenn and
Company, has managed to take my books and make them into
national mainstream bestsellers, exceeding everyone's
expectations even my mother's, which I promise you were
very, very high for how well my books should do.
Harold and Sylvia Fenn and many of his staff are here
tonight, as are people from Tor, and I'm grateful beyond words
for their support.
And, of course, my profound thanks to Janet McKelvey
and the Toronto Public Library Foundation, Bill Booth
and the rest of the Toronto Public Library Board, and to
Josephine Bryant, the City Librarian, for thinking of
me for this award. It's often said that a prophet isn't
honoured in his own country. Well, if someone who writes about
the future can be termed a prophet, I can say with confidence
that that certainly isn't true. Toronto, and Canada, have been
astonishingly good to me, and I'm enormously grateful for all
your support and for this fabulous award.
Thank you very much and live long and prosper, eh?
(Your browser might reduce the apparent size to fit your screen;
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from the Book Lover's Ball featuring
Margaret Atwood, Carolyn Clink, Allan Fotheringham, Harold Fenn,
David Leonard, Mary Ito, and Geoffrey Taylor are in Robert J. Sawyer's
More Good Reading
This press release as an attractive PDF
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