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

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[Book Lover's Ball] 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

Science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer has just received the Toronto Public Library Celebrates Reading Award. Established in 2001, this is one of Canada's top book-related honours.

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.

[Rob and TPL Trophy] 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, TVOntario.

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 to Sawyer.

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 Hominids); the Nebula (the field's "academy award," for The Terminal Experiment); and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (SF's major juried award, for Mindscan).

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, Rollback, comes out in April 2007.

Rob Sawyer's Acceptance Speech

On Receiving the Toronto Public Library Celebrates Reading Award

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 now.

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 FlashForward, through chiding Mike Harris for closing the McLaughlin Planetarium in Calculating God, to bringing The Friendly Giant and King of Kensington into my latest novel, Rollback, 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 happen here.

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 G.T.A.

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 do.

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?


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[Rob and TPL Trophy]

[Rob and TPL Trophy]

More photos 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 blog.

More Good Reading

This press release as an attractive PDF

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