Monday, April 26, 2010

The Robert J. Sawyer blog has moved

Effectively immediately, this blog is now maintained at a new address:

Please join me over there!

(I didn't want to change the address, but Google forced me to do so because they eliminated Blogger's support for FTP blogs; I've now switched to WordPress.)

Robert J. Sawyer online:


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guest at SETIcon

W00t! I'm honoured and thrilled to be a Guest at SETIcon, sponsored by the SETI Institute, in Santa Clara, California, August 13-15, 2010. Other guests include Seth Shostak, Frank Drake, Jill Tarter, Phil Plait, and Andre Bormanis.

My bio from the SETIcon website:
Robert J. Sawyer is one of only seven writers in history to win all three of the science fiction field’s top awards for best novel of the year: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

He frequently writes about SETI, including in the Hugo Award finalists Rollback and Factoring Humanity. The ABC TV series FlashForward is based on his novel of the same name.

He has published in Science (guest editorial), Nature (fiction), and Sky & Telescope, was a participant in the workshop “The Future of Intelligence in the Cosmos” sponsored jointly by the NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute, and was Guest of Honor at the first-contact conference CONTACT 4 Japan.

His website is

Robert J. Sawyer online:


Monday, April 19, 2010

Upcoming Canadian events for Watch

All events are free and open to the public. I'll be reading from Watch, doing a Q&A, and signing books at each one:

# Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver Public Library Central Branch
Alma VanDusen Room on the lower level
350 West Georgia Street
In conjunction with (but not at) White Dwarf Books
Wednesday, May 5, 2010, at 7:30 p.m.

# Calgary, Alberta
Pages on Kensington
1135 Kensington Road NW
Friday, May 7, 2010, at 7:30 p.m.

# Edmonton, Alberta
Audreys Books
10702 Jasper Avenue
Saturday, May 8, 2010, 2:00 p.m.
(not 3:00 p.m. as previously announced)

# Ottawa, Ontario
Clock Tower Brew Pub
575 Bank Street
In conjunction with (but not at) Perfect Books
Monday, May 10, 2010, 7:30 p.m.

# Halifax, Nova Scotia
Spring Garden Road Memorial Public Library
5381 Spring Garden Road
Sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts
Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 7:00 p.m.

# Waterloo, Ontario
Words Worth Books
100 King Street South
Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 7:00 p.m.

# Winnipeg, Manitoba
McNally Robinson
1120 Grant Avenue
Saturday, May 22, 2010, at 2:00 p.m.
(and at Keycon the rest of that weekend)

# Prince George, British Columbia
Books and Company
1685 3rd Avenue
Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 7:00 p.m.
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Watch subway ads

As they did for Wake (see here), Penguin Canada is advertising Watch in Toronto subway cars -- and I happened to be on the subway today, and managed to get these shots. (Thanks also to my friend Lance Sibley, who also sent me a photo that he took.) This is made out of awesome!

Robert J. Sawyer online:


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

WWW: Watch now out!

Today is the official publication date for WWW: Watch, second volume in my WWW trilogy. The US edition is out in hardcover from Ace Science Fiction, and the Canadian edition is out in hardcover from Viking Canada (Penguin).
Sawyer shows his genius in combining cutting-edge scientific theories and technological developments with real human characters. --The Globe and Mail
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Canadians Sawyer and Wilson face off for Hugo Award for Best Novel

Toronto area-authors Robert J. Sawyer and Robert Charles Wilson are facing off once again for science-fiction's top international honour, the Hugo Award for Best Novel of the Year.

Sawyer's Wake (published by Viking Canada / Ace USA / Gollancz UK) and Wilson's Julian Comstock: A Novel of 22nd Century America (Tor Books) are two of the six finalists for the Hugo, which will be awarded Sunday, September 5, 2010, at a gala ceremony as the highlight of the 68th annual World Science Fiction Convention, which is being held this year in Melbourne, Australia.

Wake tells the story of Caitlin Decter, a blind 15-year-old math genius in Waterloo, Ontario, who discovers a nascent intelligence lurking on the World Wide Web. Julian Comstock is a satiric Victorian-style novel set in a post-apocalyptic Christian-fundamentalist United States.

The full list
of Best Novel nominees, announced April 4, 2010, in Melbourne, Australia:
  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • The City & The City by China Mieville
  • Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
  • Wake by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Julian Comstock: A Novel of 22nd Century America by Robert Charles Wilson
(Bacigalupi, Priest, and Valente are Americans; Mieville is British.)

Sawyer shares an additional Hugo nomination this year in the category of Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) for "No More Good Days," the pilot episode of the ABC TV series FlashForward, scripted by Brannon Braga and David S. Goyer and based on Sawyer's novel of the same name.

The Hugos also honour short fiction, and in the novelette category "The Island" by Toronto's Peter Watts is a finalist. In addition, the Hugos honour work in fan categories, and three Canadians are competing there: Lloyd Penney of Toronto and James Nicoll of Kitchener for Best Fan Writer, and Taral Wayne of Toronto for Best Fan Artist. All nominees in all categories are listed here.

Sawyer's Wake is also currently one of five finalists for the Aurora Award, Canada's top honour in science-fiction, for Best English Novel of the Year. Wilson's Julian Comstock is expanded from his earlier novella "Julian: A Christmas Story," which was a previous Hugo finalist.

Both Sawyer and Wilson are previous winners of the Best Novel Hugo: Sawyer took the prize in 2003 for Hominids, and Wilson won in 2006 for Spin. Sawyer and Wilson — known as "Rob and Bob" in science-fiction circles — have faced each other on the best-novel Hugo ballot twice before: both were nominees for the award in 1999 and in 2004. This is Wilson's 6th Hugo nomination, and Sawyer now has 13.

Previous Hugo Award-winning novels include Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, Dune by Frank Herbert, The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller, and Neuromancer by William Gibson.

Watch, the sequel to Sawyer's current-finalist Wake, is being launched this Tuesday, April 6, at 7:00 p.m., at Dominion on Queen pub, 500 Queen Street West, in Toronto; the event, which kicks off Sawyer's 14-city cross-Canada book tour for Watch, is free and open to the public.

Robert J. Sawyer, 49, was born in Ottawa and lives in Mississauga, Ontario. Robert Charles Wilson, 56, was born in Whittier, California, and lives in Concord, Ontario; he became a Canadian citizen last year.


Publication-quality photo: Sawyer (left) and Wilson (right) with their previous Hugo trophies (photo by Carolyn Clink)

The Robert J. Sawyer website

The Robert Charles Wilson website

Sawyer award statistics via Locus, the science-fiction trade journal

Wilson award statistics

The Hugo Awards official site

This year's World Science Fiction Convention

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Toronto book-launch party for Watch

Join me for the Toronto book-launch party for Watch, the second book in the WWW trilogy, this Tuesday, Apirl 6, 2010, at 7:00 p.m. at The Dominion on Queen pub, 500 Queen Street East (East, not West), Toronto, with book sales by Bakka-Phoenix Books, and the unveiling of the new Watch book trailer!

Admission is free and everyone is welcome!
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

FlashForward by the numbers

Okay, I won't kid anyone by saying the ratings for the return of FlashForward, the ABC TV series based on my novel of the same name, were what we'd hoped for. But let's bring some clarity to the discussion. Here's a good analysis of how we did from RBR.COM (Radio Business Report / Television Business Report -- "the Voice of the Broadcasting Industry"):
“FlashForward” (8:00-10:01 p.m.)

Returning to ABC’s schedule for the first time in 3-1/2 months, opposite stiff competition from CBS’ NCAA Basketball Tournament and NBC’s original 2-hour comedy block, freshman “FlashForward” drew an average audience of 6.5 million viewers during its broadcast.

The No. 1 non-sports program in its regular 8:00-9:00 p.m. time period with Total Viewers, “FlashForward” (6.5 million) topped its original competition in the hour, besting NBC’s comedies (“Community”/”Parks and Recreation”) by 35% (4.8 million). The ABC rookie also defeated its regular competition in the opening hour of prime in Adults 25-54 (2.4/7) and key Women (W18-49/W25-54).

In its usual 8:00-9:00 p.m. time slot, “FlashForward” attracted ABC’s biggest overall audience (6.5 million) since January and its highest Adult 18-49 non-sports number (1.9/6) since December – since 1/21/10 and 12/3/09, respectively.

Despite facing the College Basketball Tournament, “FlashForward” held steady among Adults 18-49 from its first to second hour, building 5% in its final half-hour at 9:30 p.m. (1.9/6 to 2.0/6). The drama also gained audience from its first to second hour among Adults 25-54 (+4%) and across all key Men: M18-34 (+7%), M18-49 (+7%) and M25-54 (+5%).

TV’s top freshman gainer this season with young adult viewers via DVR playback, “FlashForward” surges from its first-reported overnight numbers by 1.8 million viewers and by 9-tenths of an Adult 18-49 rating point (+31%), from the Live + Same Day ratings to the Live + 7 Day DVR finals.

Robert J. Sawyer online:


Monday, March 22, 2010

New edition of Starplex is gorgeous

Received my author's copies today of the new Red Deer Press edition of Starplex, my 1996 novel that was nominated for the Hugo and the Nebula and won the Aurora Award. I gotta say this is one gorgeous-looking trade paperback! W00t! It'll be in stores across Canada shortly, and out in the US in October 2010 (having the US release later is the norm for Red Deer Press's parent company, Toronto-based Fitzhenry & Whiteside -- sorry about that!).
"An epic hard-science adventure tempered by human concerns. Highly recommended." -- Library Journal

Robert J. Sawyer online:


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Canadian academic conference on science fiction

Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, has issued a call for papers for an academic conference entitled "Social Science on the Final Frontier." Guest authors at the event: Robert J. Sawyer, Karl Schroeder, and Julie E. Czerneda. Dates: Monday, August 23, to Wednesday, August 25, 2010.

Sudbury, of course, is where my novels Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids are set, and in 2007, Laurentian University gave me an honorary doctorate. I can't wait to go back!
Robert J. Sawyer online:


Friday, March 19, 2010

Quantum computing in the Neanderthal books and real life

Great blog post from Canadian computing trade journal ComputerWorld Canada about quantum computing in the novels of Robert J. Sawyer -- and now in reality. W00t!
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jim C. Hines's publishing survey

Jim C. Hines's survey results on how writers broke into print is well worth looking at. Among Jim's conclusions: "To those proclaiming queries and the slush pile are for suckers, and self-publishing is the way to land a major novel deal, I have bad news: only 1 author out of 246 self-published their book and went on to sell that book to a professional publisher."
Robert J. Sawyer online:


Monday, March 15, 2010

Another Kuroda

I revealed in this blog post that the character of Kuroda, the information theorist from my WWW trilogy consisting of Wake, Watch, and Wonder, is named for the PROBE Control telemetry specialist Kuroda from the 1972 TV series Search, which had a big influence on me.

But I should note that there's another Kuroda in science fiction: the man known as "The Last Kamikaze" from the episode of that title from The Six Million Dollar Man. The Kuroda on Search was played by Byron Chung; the Kuroda on SMDM was played, absolutely brilliantly, by John Fujioka. For those who thought SMDM nothing but mindless action adventure, I commend "The Last Kamikaze" to your attention: I can't watch it without getting tears in my eyes. You can read all about the SMDM character in the Bionic Wiki here.

Judy Burns wrote "The Last Kamikaze" (and its sequel, "The Wolf Boy"), and co-wrote the original Star Trek episode "The Tholian Web."
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Flashforwards, Flashbacks, and Me

After a three-month hiatus, FlashForward, the ABC TV series based on my novel of the same name, returns to television this week. On Tuesday, March 16, 2010, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific (9:00 p.m. Central), a one-hour clip show entitled "What Did You See?" (a catch-phrase straight out of my novel) airs (immediately following Lost).

And on Thursday, March 18, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific (7:00 p.m. Central), a new two-hour episode, "Revelation Zero," airs -- and we'll be on without repeats or pre-emptions every week after that for ten more weeks.

What follows are some of my thoughts about the show and being involved with it.
It's a sweltering day in August 2009, and I'm in Los Angeles, at a location shoot for FlashForward, as we're filming the sixth episode of the TV series based on my novel of the same name.

John Cho (pictured with me above), one of our stars, comes up to me to say hello. We haven't seen each other since filming the pilot, back in February 2009, and he's been wanting to ask me a question since then: "What happens to my character?"

He's right to wonder. In our first episode, everyone on Earth blacked out for two minutes and seventeen seconds. Millions died during that time, as people tumbled down staircases, cars smashed into each other, planes crashed as they tried to land, and so on. Those who survived had interlocking visions of what their futures might hold six months down the road.

Except, apparently, for John Cho's character, impetuous FBI agent Demetri Noh. He told the others in the first episode that he'd seen nothing at all -- and, he said, he's terrified that means he'll be dead in just half a year.

The storyline of a guy who has no vision when almost everyone else does is straight out of my novel, so my first thought is to tell John that he should do what fellow series stars Joseph Fiennes (who plays John's partner at the FBI), Sonya Walger, Dominic Monaghan, and Zachary Knighton did: read my book. But instead I decide to immediately put him out of his misery.

I look left and right, to make sure we aren't being overheard, then say, "Well, John, your character is actually lying when he says he didn't see anything. The truth is, six months down the road, Demetri sees himself in a gay bar, and doesn't want to admit that to his macho FBI partner."

John looks skeptical, so I smile and say, "Hey, look, you're the guy playing Sulu now in Star Trek, right? What was the big reveal about the original Sulu, George Takei? Seemed like a good notion to copy."

Of course, that's not the real answer. The truth is hidden in the FlashForward writers' room, which is located on the ABC Studios lot just across a small alley from the writers' room for Lost (from which I hereby deny that we constantly hear anguished screams).

Our room has a giant wall chart divided into twenty-two columns and thirteen rows: one column for each of our first-season episodes, and one row for each character. The actors are forbidden to enter the room, but John's true fate is written there in the appropriate box.

I wish there'd been such a board for my own life. My novel FlashForward was first published in 1999, and I had real doubts back then about whether my writing career was going to flourish. I'd have loved a glimpse in 1999 of what my own future would hold; it would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights to know that the crazy gamble of trying to be a novelist was going to pay off.

Yes, by the time FlashForward was published I'd already won the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Nebula Award for Best Novel of the Year, but I'd yet to hit any major bestsellers list (that came the following year, with a book called Calculating God). And the biggest prize in science fiction, the Hugo, had eluded my grasp, despite several nominations by that point (I did finally win it in 2003, for my novel Hominids).

But I'm not sure that I'd have believed this future had I seen it. FlashForward isn't just any TV show; rather, it's the hottest new dramatic program of the year in the US, and it's already sold to a staggering 100 territories worldwide. The juggernaut that FlashForward has become is, frankly, overwhelming.

Working on a big-time TV series (I'm writing episode 19, and serving as consultant on all of them) is new for me. Likewise, it was the challenge of doing something different, I'm sure, that attracted big-name actors to this project. John Cho is known for comedic roles in movies (he's Harold in the Harold & Kumar films), but in FlashForward he's getting to show the world what an incredibly fine dramatic actor he is.

Indeed, all our actors are playing very tough material. I have a tiny cameo in the pilot as "Man on Cell Phone" behind Sonya Walger while she's talking about the worldwide disaster with Joseph Fiennes's character on her own mobile; Sonya was so intense during our little scene together that director David S. Goyer had to keep reminding her to blink.

Joseph Fiennes is known for his Shakespearian work, including playing the bard himself in Shakespeare in Love. During the filming of the pilot, I loved watching Joe bop between doing a tough-guy American voice for his FlashForward character of Mark Benford, and then, as soon as director Goyer called "Cut!," immediately switching to a foppish British voice and reciting lines from Cyrano de Bergerac, as he rehearsed for his role in Trevor Nunn's production of that play this past summer. Joe put Sally Field's back-and-forth transformations in Sybil to shame.

As I look back on it, I'm still stunned that this particular future for me has come to pass. It's been a long road getting to where the show is now. In Hollywood, everything is about who you know -- and my agent there, Vince Gerardis, has long known producer Jessika Borsiczky. As soon as the FlashForward novel was published, Vince gave Jessika a copy, and she got her friend (and later husband) David S. Goyer to read it. They immediately agreed that they wanted to adapt my novel for film.

Later, when David teamed up with Brannon Braga of Star Trek fame to work on a 2005 TV series called Threshold, Brannon -- who was independently a fan of my books -- said that FlashForward would be even better as a TV show, and together David and Brannon wrote the pilot script.

My mother taught statistics at the University of Toronto; all my life, I've been calculating odds, and never figured I'd beat them. Maybe one novel in a hundred has its film or TV rights optioned (most of mine have at one point or another), but then only one in a thousand of those ever actually gets made. I never expected any of mine to be filmed, and I certainly never expected anything on this scale.

When we got the go-ahead to make the pilot -- and at ABC, no less! -- I was gob-smacked; I felt like I'd won the lottery. (And, to my delight, David Goyer told my hometown paper, The Toronto Star, that "I felt like I'd won the lottery of television writers" when he read my novel.)

When the series was picked up by ABC for its initial 13-episode order (now extended to 22), David said, "This will change your life." And it has -- and not just because the darn phone won't stop ringing. Still, it's strange knowing, at 49, that when my obituary does eventually run, the fact that FlashForward was adapted into a TV series will be the thing I'm most noted for.

Looking back on it, it's amazing from how small a seed a global phenomenon can spring. FlashForward grew out of my high-school reunion at which everyone -- and I mean everyone -- said the same thing: if I'd only known back then what I know now, my life would be better. They were sure they'd have avoided marrying that jerk, taking that dead-end job, or making that bad investment.

Well, as a science-fiction writer, I couldn't hear that without wanting to explore it with a thought experiment: what if people really did know their futures? Would attempts to alter that future actually work?

(You don't need a $100-million TV series to test that proposition, though; just ask yourself, whether, with all your good intentions and conscious will, you've managed to keep your New Year's resolutions.)

In my novel, I make the analogy that time is like a movie: the frame that's illuminated is "now," and the stuff before it is what you've already seen. But what's to come later is already established, as well; it just hasn't been revealed yet.

Well, for FlashForward, I have seen the future; I know what tomorrow holds. But I'm not telling. You're going to have to watch -- and, I hope, read! -- to see how it all unfolds.

Robert J. Sawyer online:


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Is Wake a YA novel?

I received this note from a Canadian academic today:
Interestingly enough, WWW: Wake is filed at my local library as a young-adult book, presumably because the protagonist is 15. I'm just curious: do you consider Wake to be a YA novel? And if so (or not) why?
Here's my response:

Am I a young-adult author -- and is this a new thing?

Yes to the former, and no to the latter.

I made the New York Public Library's prestigious "Best Books for the Teen Age" YA list (yes, that awkward wording is the actual title, for historical reasons) for 1992 for my novel Far-Seer. The whole "Quintaglio Ascension" trilogy, of which Far-Seer is the first volume, is often viewed as YA (and the protagonist of the first book is clearly an adolescent). The books were very favourably reviewed in the standard book-recommendation sources used by YA librarians, VOYA ("Voice of Youth Advocates") and KLIATT: Young Adult Paperback Book Guide (including starred reviews, denoting works of exceptional merit, for both Far-Seer and, the second volume, Fossil Hunter).

And in creating Wake, the first volume of my current WWW trilogy, I consulted on what was appropriate for YA novels with my great friend Elisabeth Hegerat, a YA librarian in Alberta; it was absolutely my intention to appeal to both the adult and YA markets with the WWW trilogy.

That said, what I do is simply write books; it is for others to categorize them. For instance, Wake had a nice run on the Technothrillers bestsellers list, including hitting #1; I didn't consciously craft it as a technothriller, nor did my publisher market it as such, but others did categorize it that way.

On the other hand, I do think of myself as a writer of utopian fiction, both with my Neanderthal Parallax trilogy of Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids, and the WWW trilogy of Wake, Watch, and Wonder, but so far few others have classified my work that way (with Richard Parent in The New York Review of Science Fiction being a notable exception).

I'm sure many writers fancy the same thing, but I rather like to think my books are mostly sui generis: they are in their own category, rather than being attempts to squeeze into, piggyback on, or emulate the work of others. For that reason, one of my all-time favourite reviews of my own work was Mark Graham's assessment in The Rocky Mountain News (Denver) that he likes my books because "[Sawyer] doesn't imitate others or himself."

Certainly in Canada where I've had considerable success as a mainstream author, and as part of the non-genre Canadian literature scene, it's true that large numbers of my readers don't consider themselves science fiction readers -- or young-adult readers, for that matter. They're Robert J. Sawyer readers -- and that, rather than where the books might fall in some abstract taxonomy, is all that ultimately matters to me.
Robert J. Sawyer online:


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"I've got a blowout, damper three!"

"Get your pitch to zero!"

"Pitch is out. I can't hold altitude."

"Correction, alpha hold is off. Trim selectors -- emergency!"

"Flight Com! I can’t hold it! She’s breaking up, she’s break --"
One of the reasons I'm thrilled to have my novel FlashForward adapted for television on ABC is that one of my favorite shows when I was a teenager -- The Six Million Dollar Man -- was on ABC, and it, too, was adapted from a novel: Cyborg by Martin Caidin.

But I realized that in all my collection of science-fiction toys and memorabilia, I didn't have anything to commemorate my fondess for the adventures of astronaut Steve Austin.

And so I bought the wooden model pictured above. It's a NASA/Northrop HL-10 lifting body. In the episode "The Deadly Replay," the craft that Austin crashed in, costing him an arm, both legs, and an eye, was identified as the HL-10, and the real HL-10 was used in the pilot and that episode (although the actual tumbling crash shown in the opening credits is a different lifting body, the M2-F2; the HL-10 is only seen in the opening credits in the shot of it from above as it drops from a B-52's wing accompanied by the words "We have separation").

I bought this from Builderscience on eBay; his asking price was US$68.
Robert J. Sawyer online:


Saturday, March 6, 2010

FlashForward pub night in Toronto

Sponsored by Ad Astra, Toronto's SF convention:

FlashForward Pub Night

Celebrating the Success of our Guest of Honour Robert J. Sawyer

Type: Party - Movie/TV Night
Date: Thursday, March 18, 2010
Time: 7:00pm - 11:00pm
Location: Scruffy Murphy’s
Street: 225 The East Mall
Etobicoke (Toronto), Ontario, Canada

So you *think* you know what the future holds?

FlashForward, based on Rob’s book of the same name, returns for the Part 2 of Season 1

On March 18th, at 8pm

Join us for a special pub night around the big screen.

Admission – No charge

Scruffy Murphy’s
225 The East Mall
Etobicoke, On
M9B 6J1


Pre-Reg Convention Memberships will also be available.
Robert J. Sawyer online:


Friday, March 5, 2010

On FlashForward set watching the episode I wrote being filmed

I'm in Los Angeles, on the sound stage for FlashForward, the ABC TV series based on my novel of the same name, and they're filming the episode I wrote. Woohoo!

My episode, entitled "Course Correction," airs Thursday, May 6, 2010. Above, that's me with Christine Woods, who plays FBI agent Janis Hawk.

Pictured: Christine Woods and Robert J. Sawyer
Robert J. Sawyer online:


Monday, March 1, 2010

Fingering your nook

A suggestion for Barnes and Noble re the nook ebook-reading device:

The very first Palm Pilot going back all the way to 1996 and the original Rocket eBook from 1998 allowed you to do handwriting recognition (on Palms, using the Graffiti or Graffiti 2 system, the former of which used simplified characters, the latter of which recognized fully formed characters; on the Rocket, using the similar Allegro system).

I know in these post-iPhone days it's supposed to be old-fashioned to use a stylus, but for inputting short notes or words to look up, it's much faster to use a stylus than a tiny pop-up keyboard.

The handwriting recognition on these devices turned the characters you drew into text, just as if you'd typed them. Since the nook (unlike the Kindle) does NOT have a physical keyboard, why not take full advantage of the touch-screen interface and allow Graffiti-style handwriting input (as well as the on-screen keyboard)?

The idea that ONLY allowing fingertip input instead of optionally also allowing the fine control of a stylus is like only allowing finger painting instead of using a brush. It's fine for kids the first time they're doing it, but for adults who actually do need to frequently enter text (for annotations, searches, and so forth), it's a clumsy method -- and one to which the nook could easily offer an alternative.
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Full list of 2010 Aurora nominees

The nominees for Canada’s 2010 Aurora Awards are as follows. Winners will be announced at KeyCon 27/Canvention 30 during the May 21-24 weekend.


The Amulet of Amon-Ra, by Leslie Carmichael, CBAY Books

Druids, by Barbara Galler-Smith and Josh Langston, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy

Wake, Robert J. Sawyer, Penguin Canada

Steel Whispers, Hayden Trenholm, Bundoran Press

Terra Insegura, Edward Willett, DAW Books


Le protocole Reston. Mathieu Fortin, (Coups de tête)

L’axe de Koudriss. Michèle Laframboise, Médiaspaul

Suprématie. Laurent McAllister, (Bragelonne)

Un tour en Arkadie. Francine Pelletier, Alire

Filles de lune 3. Le talisman de Maxandre. Élisabeth Tremblay, (De Mortagne)


“Pawns Dreaming of Roses”, Eileen Bell, Women of the Apocalypse. Absolute Xpress

“Here There Be Monsters” Brad Carson, Ages of Wonder, (DAW)

“Little Deaths” Ivan Dorin, Tesseracts Thirteen

“Radio Nowhere” Douglas Smith, Campus Chills

“The World More Full of Weeping” Robert J. Wiersema, ChiZine Publications


«Ors blancs» Alain Bergeron, (Solaris 171)

«De l’amour dans l’air» Claude Bolduc, (Solaris 172)

«La vie des douze Jésus» Luc Dagenais, (Solaris 172)

«Billet de faveur» Michèle Laframboise, (Galaxies 41)

«Grains de silice» Mario Tessier, (Solaris 170)

«La mort aux dés» Élisabeth Vonarburg, (Solaris 171)


Women of the Apocalypse (the Apocalyptic Four) Editor, Absolute Xpress

Ages of Wonder Julie E. Czerneda, & Robert St. Martin, Editors, DAW Books

Neo-Opsis Magazine, Karl Johanson, Editor

On Spec Magazine, Diane Walton, Managing Editor, The Copper Pig Writers’ Society

Distant Early Warnings: Canada’s Best Science Fiction Robert J. Sawyer, Editor, Robert J. Sawyer books


Critiques. Jérôme-Olivier Allard, (Solaris 169-172)

Revue. Joel Champetier, éditeur, Solaris

Le jardin du general, Manga. Michele Laframboise, ,Fichtre, Montréal

Rien à voir avec la fantasy. Thibaud Sallé, (Solaris 169)

Chronique «Les Carnets du Futurible». Mario Tessier, (Solaris 169-171)


Kari-Ann Anderson, for cover of “Nina Kimberly the Merciless”,Dragon Moon Press

Jim Beveridge, “Xenobiology 101: Field Trip’” Neo-opsis #16

Lar de Souza, “Looking for Group” online Comic

Tarol Hunt, “Goblins”. Webcomic

Dan O’Driscoll, Cover of Steel Whispers , Bundoran Press


Jeff Boman, The Original Universe

Richard Graeme Cameron,WCFSAZine

Dale Speirs, Opuntia

Guillaume Voisine, éd. Brins d’Éternité

Felicity Walker, BCSFAzine


Renée Benett, for “In Spaces Between” at Con-Version 25

Robbie Bourget, and René Walling, Chairs of “Anticipation”, the 67th WorldCon

David Hayman, organization Filk Hall of Fame

Roy Miles, work on USS Hudson Bay Executive

Kirstin Morrell, Programming for Con-Version 25


Roy Badgerow, Astronomy Lecture at USS Hudson Bay

Ivan Dorin, “Gods Anonymous” (Con-Version 25 radio play)

Judith Hayman and Peggi Warner-Lalonde organization, Filk track @Anticipation

Tom Jeffers and Sue Posteraro, Filk Concert, Anticipation

Lloyd Penney, Fanwriting

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vanity request: FlashForward screen grab

Now that the first 10 episodes of FlashForward are out on DVD, I have a favour to ask. Could somebody please send me high-resolution screen captures of my two credits from the ending credits (from any of the 10 episodes)?

My first credit is the first one in the ending credits, and says "Based on the Novel by Robert J. Sawyer." My second one is about half-way through the end credits and is a shared card with three other people; my part of the card says, "Consultant: Robert J. Sawyer."

For some reason, my own attempt at capturing the credits has failed (watching the DVD on my PC, and hitting Ctrl-PrintScreen, which normally copies the screen contents to the Windows Clipboard, just gets me an all-black rectangle).

I'm frankly delighted to see the DVDs, because ABC squeezed-and-teased the end credits into oblivion during broadcast (grrrr!).

("Squeezed and teased" means they pushed the credits down to the bottom -- or sometimes on other shows to one side -- and ran a promo for something else (in our case, our next episode) on most of the screen; the credits appear full-screen on the DVDs.)

Many thanks to anyone who can help!
Robert J. Sawyer online:


Aurora Award finalists 2010!

I'm delighted and thrilled to be on the 2010 Aurora Award ballot twice: in the "Best Long Form English" category for Wake, published by Viking (Penguin) Canada, and in the "Best English Other" category for Distant Early Warnings: Canada's Best Science Fiction, which I edited for Red Deer Press.

The full list of nominees is here.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

FlashForward is coming back in style

ABC remains totally committed to FlashForward, the TV series based on my novel of the same name, and we'll be having a massive relaunch in March:

On Tuesday, March 16, 2010, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, right after Lost, ABC will be airing a one-hour clip show summarizing our first ten episodes.

Two days later, on Thursday, March 18, 2010, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, two new episodes are airing back-to-back in a two-hour block.

Two days later, on Saturday, March 20, 2010, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern ABC repeats those episodes

That's five prime-time hours devoted to FlashForward in one week. It's a a major relaunch, folks. :)

Why the clip show? Easy.
  • Because it's been three months since we were last on the air and we want to remind our loyal viewers of what's happened to date in the storyline;

  • Because we're hoping to entice some of Lost's audience, who might not have yet given us a try, to see what we're all about;

  • Because we're hoping that those who haven't watched us before because we're an 8:00 p.m. show and they're 10:00 p.m. viewers will discover us;

  • Because we want to herald the arrival of new episodes, starting just two days later, as effectively as possible;

  • Because this, and the fact that ABC is also repeating our first two new episode justs two days after they first air, signals to the industry that ABC is still 100% behind, promoting, and supporting FlashForward, and that we all intend to be back for a second year.
Still can't wait until March? Read FlashForward, the Aurora Award-winning novel that started it all.
Robert J. Sawyer online:


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Toward a Science of Consciousness

I'm giving a keynote at this upcoming conference, my great friends James Kerwin and Chase Masterson will be on hand to talk about their quantum-physics noir movie Yesterday was a Lie, and Chase will be singing songs from Star Trek on Wednesday night. Join us!

Toward a Science of Consciousness 2010

April 12-17, 2010

Tucson Convention Center and Hotel Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

Sponsored by the Center for Consciousness Studies, The University of Arizona

The program for the ninth biennial interdisciplinary conference ‘Toward a Science of Consciousness 2010’ is complete. Held in even-numbered years since 1994, the Tucson conferences are the major world gatherings on a broad spectrum of approaches to the fundamental question of how the brain produces conscious experience, a question which addresses who we are, the nature of reality and our place in the universe. An estimated 700 scientists, philosophers, psychologists, experientialists, artists and others from 43 countries on 6 continents will participate in 400 presentations included in 17 Pre-Conference Workshops, 12 Plenary or Keynote sessions, 21 Concurrent Talk sessions, 2 Poster Sessions, 3 Art-Tech interactive sessions and special evening performances. Abstracts for all presentations will be posted at

Plenary Program Overview

Highlights of the 2010 Plenary Program will include Keynote speaker Antonio Damasio, the esteemed neurologist and best-selling author on how the Self arises from layers of processes from brainstem to cortex. Other Keynotes include psychiatrist/neuroscientist Karl Deisseroth on new technologies revealing brain circuits of the conscious mind, and Robert J. Sawyer, award-winning science fiction writer whose works (FlashForward, Mindscan, Hominids, etc.) feature various science-based aspects of consciousness.

Twin Keynotes by two prominent neuroscientists will present opposing views of an essential question arising from functional brain imaging: how does brain activity measured in the absence of sensory inputs relate to consciousness? Marcus Raichle describes this brain Dark Energy (see his cover piece in the March 2010 Scientific American) as default networks mediating thinking and daydreaming, toggling back-and-forth with stimulus-related processing and tasks. Robert G. Shulman contends that the underlying activity is a foundational substrate for all conscious processes which require critical levels of brain energy. A related Plenary Session is Mindwandering, conscious activity independent of sensory stimuli (Jonathan Schooler, Malia Mason, Jonathan Smallwood).

In Bodily Consciousness, Henrik Ehrsson will discuss and extend his well-known work on inducing out-of-body experiences in normal subjects, while Frederique de Vignemont

will distinguish different forms of conscious body awareness. Multi-Modal Experience will include synesthate and author Patricia Lynne Duffy describing her personal experience with fused and cross-wired senses, as well as how synesthesia affects and enables artists, writers, performers and scientists. Other speakers (Barry Stein, Casey O’Callaghan, Michael Proulx) will address the neuroscience and philosophical analysis of synesthesia, and how clinically-induced cross-modal perception can help blindness and other sensory defects.

Consciousness and Transformation will review long-term changes induced by meditation (Cassie Vieten), and analyze claims of enlightenment, mystical and transcendental experience (Jeffrey Martin). The session concludes with Za Rinpoche, a Tibetan Lama recognized in 1984 by the Dalai Lama as the sixth reincarnation of Zachoeje Lama. Author of Backdoor to Enlightenment, Za Rinpoche will discuss Buddhist perspectives on consciousness, enlightenment and reincarnation.

Machine Consciousness will feature IBM researcher Dharmendra Modha on efforts to simulate the brain through neuron-by-neuron reconstruction, and philosopher David Chalmers discussing prospects for a technological Singularity, the idea that human-level artificial intelligence (AI) will rapidly spiral to superintelligence. AI researcher Ben Goertzel will describe mobile bubbles of executive function moving through computer architectures.

Theories of Consciousness features Sid Kouider summarizing and critiquing prevalent neurocognitive theories, and Marc Ebner with simulations of consciousness as a mobile zone of synchrony moving through the brain. Philosopher Galen Strawson will address philosophical theories of consciousness, focusing especially on panpsychism.

New Directions in Neural Correlates of Consciousness (NCC) Research is a panel of fresh ideas from young researchers. In the context of default networks, Michal Gruberger will discuss the use of deep trans-cranial magnetic stimulation inhibiting prefrontal cortex in human subjects, with alterations in measures related to the sense of self. Philosophers Adrienne Prettyman and Stephen Biggs will analyze the claim that default networks represent the baseline state of the brain. Moran Cerf will report on recordings from single neurons in conscious human subjects, showing how activity in medial temporal lobe can regulate sensory entry into conscious awareness. Finally, Anirban Bhandyophadyay will discuss molecular ‘nanobrains’, and new experimental results suggesting microtubules are the missing fourth circuit element.

The William James Centennial session will open the Plenary Program as a tribute to the father of American psychology and philosophy who died in 1910. Eugene Taylor will discuss James in the context of modern approaches, Bernard Baars will describe how James’ disillusionment led to behaviorism which banished consciousness from science for seven decades. Bruce Mangan concludes with what James termed the fringe, cognitive information just outside consciousness which, Mangan argues, illuminates insight and mystical experience.

For further information, see
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Hungarian cover for FlashForward

That's the cover for the Hungarian edition of FlashForward, my novel that's the basis for the TV series of the same name, published by Galaktika. I think it's terrific.

For more about the Hungarian edition, see the publisher's website.
Robert J. Sawyer online:


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

FlashForward DVD on sale today

The first ten episodes of FlashForward, the ABC TV series based on my novel of the same name, are now available on DVD.

Robert J. Sawyer online:


Come join me for a weekend of book chat in Banff

The weekend of May 28-30, 2010, at the Banff Centre, it's the 49th annual Banff Book Discussion Weekend, this year featuring Robert J. Sawyer and his Aurora Award-nominated novel Wake, with Rob in attendance, plus discussions of three other books. Banff is a gorgeous ski-resort town in Alberta (although skiing season will be long over -- but it's lovely in the spring!).

See the website here and the PDF brochure here.
Robert J. Sawyer online:

B&N nook: There's no justification for this!

It's bad enough that the Barnes & Noble nook forces text to be fully justified left and right, whether the user wants that or not, but it does an atrocious job of producing that justification -- among the worst I've ever seen on any e-reading device (and I've been using such devices for nine years now).

To justify properly, you first have to break the line properly. And when deciding where to break a line of text (wrapping what follows to the next line), the rules are simple. Lines should wrap at these characters:
  1. after a space (with the space itself disappearing beyond the right margin);

  2. either before or after an em-dash (the long dash—like this—often used in typesetting);

  3. after an internal hyphen in a word.
The nook obeys only the first of these rules (the bare minimum for wrapping text at all), producing aesthetically awful pages (Figure 1):

Look two-thirds of the way down the above page. See that line that says "antecedents of particular" with gigantic spaces between each word? That's a result of the nook failing to apply rule 2: the break should have been either before or after the em-dash in the following line (so that "behaviors—" stayed on the previous line). Instead, the nook treated all of "behaviors—especially" as a single word.

(If only "behavior," but not the em-dash, would have fit on the line above, then just "behavior" should have been retained on that line, and the em-dash should have wrapped around to start the next line.)

Note, too, by the way, that the last line of the page is short: it isn't quite fully justified, but instead stops about a half-character-width shy of the right margin. We'll see that error on every page we look at; it's yet another flaw in the nook's rendering of justified pages.

Let's look at another example (Figure 2):

See the second last line, the one that says "about it. Shortly after the," with massive spaces between each word? That's the result of the nook failing to apply rule 3, breaking words at embedded hyphens.

Now, as it happens, in this example, the phrase "big-mammal-scavenging" is really three words strung together to form a compound adjective, but the nook makes the same mistake with single words that have an embedded hyphen (such as the way some people spell "micro-organism" or "co-operation"). The text should wrap after the last hyphen that will fit on the line: if all of "big-mammal-" would have fit, that should have stayed on the line above; if only "big-" would have fit, it should have stayed on the line above.

Oh, and above we see the em-dash wrapping problem again: just below the middle of page, the text should have wrapped after the em-dash in "wise—emerged," which would have eliminated the huge spaces in the preceding line.

As before, the final line on the screen (which is not the final line of a paragraph; yes, it's true that you don't right-justify the last line of a paragraph, but that's not what's going on here) comes up a short of the right margin.

And we discover yet another bit of nook-fail here: see the "the" at the end of the line "sapiens sapiens—wisest of the"? Note that the "e" is slightly clipped; its right-hand edge is trimmed off. We'll see that error repeatedly, too: the cause is that the nook's justification algorithms don't take into account the slanting of italic text, and the italics earlier in the line ("sapiens sapiens") have pushed the final "e" off the active part of the screen.

The "e" is only slightly clipped above, but we'll see that same flaw more egregiously in the next example (Figure 3):

Look at the fifth line up from the bottom of the screen (starting with "Homo"). That line, and the next two, all contain italics, and all three show the clipping of the final character in the line because of it: the "l" in the first line; the "g" in the second, the "e" -- which is missing half of it width -- in the third.

We also on this page see the failure to wrap at an embedded hyphen, resulting in huge gaps between words: the line "Homo), omnivore plus preferential" should have also included "meat-" from the following line.

Now, just fixing the errors pointed out here (the failure to wrap properly before or after em-dashes; the failure to wrap properly at embedded hyphens; the failure to properly justify the final line on the screen) still wouldn't be enough to give the nook decent full justification, because to do that properly, avoiding huge swathes of white space between words, requires the intelligent insertion of hyphens into words.

Look at any printed, typeset book from a commercial publishing house. It will almost certainly have hyphens inserted at syllable breaks in some words at the ends of lines on each page, so that the words can be broken and wrapped over two lines. That is, words of more than one syllable that fall at the end of a line should frequently break after one of the syllables, with a hyphen added just before the break. This is done so that the spacing between words ends up being approximately the same even with full justification.

Hyphenation is a tricky thing to do right. Mobipocket's original attempt to stake out territory in the ebook marketplace was in part based on their claim to successfully hyphenate words -- but they simply used an algorithm that often got the breaks wrong (putting them within syllables, or between pairs of letters in consonant blends); a quick glance at the first Mobipocket book I opened just now showed these incorrect hyphenations within the first few pages: "sta-gnant," "remai-ned," "silen-ce," and "wal-ked" and "deadli-nes."

The only really good way to do it is by having the algorithm hand-coded with the correct syllabification points of many common words, and having it consult a dictionary interactively for uncommon ones. As it happens the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the most commonly used reference for the niceties of preparing text for the printed page, recommends Merriam-Webster's Collegiate for this purpose, which is the dictionary already built into the nook.

Finally, please note that one of the big sales points for ebook devices is that they can be used by those who need large print. But the larger the print gets, the worse full justification looks. By forcing it on at all times you take one of the great strengths of ebooks (user-selectable type sizes) and turn it into one of the great weaknesses (aesthetically ugly pages).

Fixes I'd suggest:

Dear Barnes & Noble, first and foremost, make full justification a user-selectable option; let us turn it off if we don't like it. This already is an option in many versions of the eReader software that underlies the nook, including the Palm version, the Windows versions (both eReader for Windows and BN Reader), the iPhone version, and more. Don't force those of us who dislike full-justification to have to look at it.

Second, if you are going to do justification, do it properly.

What we have here is a classic example of what's wrong with many ebook platforms: a failure to actually look at how it's done in printed books. If you're doing it a different way than it's done in print, ask yourself why. There are millions of guides -- millions of printed books -- you can consult as samples of how it should be done. Please do consult them; please do get it right.
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Monday, February 22, 2010

YouTube video of my ebook reader collection

My first-ever YouTube video, recorded Saturday, February 20, 2010: a survey of nine different devices I've used over the years to read ebooks.
"You're looking at in aggregate at about $3,000 worth of ebook-reading hardware here, and my own personal use almost nine years now of using devices to read ebooks. I'm an absolute convert to the concept of electronic-book readers. I just hope that we actually get the ideal hardware device, a decent price point, and the ability to share the content [between devices]." -- Robert J. Sawyer
Devices shown and discussed (with the dates I acquired them and the price I paid):
  • October 19, 2001: Handspring Visor Neo (Cdn$299)

  • October 20, 2001: Franklin eBookman 911 (US$229)

  • December 20, 2001: RCA REB 1100 (US$249?)

  • January 22, 2003: Sony Clié PEG-SJ20 (Cdn$269 -- not shown in the video))

  • September 7, 2004: Sony Clié PEG-TH55 (US$259)

  • September 26, 2006: eBookwise 1150 (US$115 with 64MB SmartMedia card)

  • May 3, 2008: iRex iLiad (a gift, list US$699)

  • December 18, 2009: ECTACO jetBook - Lite (U$149)

  • December 19, 2009: Foxit eSlick (US$259)

  • February 13, 2010: Barnes & Noble nook (US$259)
You can watch the video here.
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Steady growth: the name of the game

I've had seven different new mass-market paperback releases in the last decade. Here they are, in Canadian besteller order (from most copies sold to least):
  1. FlashForward (published in mass-market 2000)

  2. Rollback (2008)

  3. Mindscan (2006)

  4. Hominids (2003)

  5. Calculating God (2001)

  6. Hybrids (2005)

  7. Humans (published 2004)
Of course, FlashForward -- the oldest book on the list -- is an outlier, because it's had a huge boost in sales in the last six months thanks to the TV series based on it.

Setting it aside, this is pretty much exactly what one would hope for: my sales have risen steadily with each new standalone book over the past decade: Rollback (my most-recent mass-market paperback) did better than Mindscan, which did better than Hominids, which did better than Calculating God.

Humans and Hybrids suffered a bit from being the second and third volumes of a trilogy -- not everyone who read the first book (a Hugo winner) came back for the other two. I suspect Humans, the second volume, showing lower sales than the third is an artifact of Tor foolishly letting it go out of stock for an extended period (but it's back in print in mass-market now).

And now on to the mass-market paperback for Wake, which comes out at the end of next month.

Robert J. Sawyer online:


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Foxit eSlick: poor line justification

I'm getting tired of high-priced ebook readers that are brought to market without anyone who knows anything about book layout and design having vetted the software they use.

Have a look at this photo, which shows a Foxit eSlick ebook-reading device displaying a .PDB eReader book from Barnes and Noble's under the new 2.0.1 build 0205 firmware. The eSlick retails for US$259, the same as the Kindle and the nook.

Every line shows the same error: instead of justification putting an equal amount of space between each word on a line, there is always more space just before the last word on each line.

It's not a LOT of extra space -- but it's enough to be visually irritating. You can clearly see it on this line: "purpose of this book, then, is to educate. It is a."

There is way more space between "is a" than there is between "It is."

Or look at the last line: again, there's way more space between "reality the" than there is between "in reality."

This happens with every eReader DRM format (.PDB) commercial ebook I've tried.

I've already complained to Foxit that there should be an option to turn justification off altogether, but when the device does fully justify lines, it needs to do it properly.

On why users should have the option to turn justification off: One of the big sales points for ebook devices is that they can be used by those who need large print, but the larger the print gets, the worse right justification looks. By forcing it on at all times you take one of the great strengths of ebooks (user-selectable type sizes) and turn it into one of the great weaknesses (aesthetically ugly pages).

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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Not even close, guys

Often, Amazon's recommendations are reasonably useful, but this one isn't even close. Come on, guys! If the recommendation feature decays into nothing but noise, it's self-defeating. I'm sure someone said, "Hey, if we make the recommendations more general, we'll sell more books." Nope; if I get a few more like this, I'll just turn on an email filter that deletes Amazon recommendations unread:
Dear Customer,

As someone who has purchased or rated "Deke!: An Autobiography" by Donald K Slayton or other books in the Engineering > Aeronautical Engineering category, you might like to know that "Multi-Sensor Data Fusion with MATLAB: Theory and Practice" is now available. You can order yours at a savings of 20% by following the link below.

Multi-Sensor Data Fusion with MATLAB: Theory and Practice by Jitendra R. Raol

List Price: CDN$ 160.95
Price: CDN$ 128.76
You Save: CDN$ 32.19
For those who don't know, Deke Slayton was a key figure in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs.
Robert J. Sawyer online:


Friday, February 19, 2010

Public Lending Right 2010

I've been telling other writers about Canada's Public Lending Right system for 18 years now, and it always amazes me that some Canadian authors still haven't bothered to register.

The Public Lending Right compensates (to some degree) Canadian authors for the loss of royalty income they have because their books are in public libraries. Most Western countries have a variant of this system, but, as in so many things, conspicuously not the United States.

Here's my report for 2010, which arrived in today's mail along with a cheque for Cdn$3,486.00, the maximum amount an author was entitled to this year. (If there had been no maximum imposed, my share would have been Cdn$5,840.54.)

(The 1992 article linked to above says that they survey 10 libraries; that's an old figure -- the current figure is 7 libraries.)

For all my posts about the PLR, see here, and the PLR website is here.

Robert J. Sawyer online:


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Julian Jaynes news

Since I'm a keynote speaker at both these conferences, and since Julian Jaynes's The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind figures prominently in my novel Wake, I pass on this message from Marcel Kuijsten, Executive Director, of the Julian Jaynes Society:

Dear Friends and Members of the Julian Jaynes Society,

Here is an update on related upcoming conferences in 2010:

Toward A Science of Consciousness
April 12-17, 2010, Tucson, AZ

We are pleased to announce that we have arranged for a four-hour pre-conference workshop at the 2010 "Toward a Science of Consciousness" conference. There will also be several talks related to Jaynes’s theory during the conference.

Four Hour Pre-Conference Workshop

Prof. Brian J. McVeigh & Marcel Kuijsten - "Voices, Visions, and Dreams: Explaining Anomalous Neurological Phenomena through the Work of Julian Jaynes"

This interactive 4-hour pre-conference workshop will take place Monday, April 12th from 2pm–6pm. The workshop will be like an intensive Jaynes "mini-conference," so be sure to attend. The workshop can be attended separately from the main conference.

Topics covered will include the transition to consciousness in geographical areas not covered by Julian Jaynes, visual hallucinations, the most recent neurological evidence on psychosis and the bicameral mind, and an in-depth discussion of bicameral vs. conscious dreams.

Jaynes-Related Conference Talks

In addition to the pre-conference workshop, there will be several talks given by Julian Jaynes Society members during the conference:

Robert J. Sawyer - "Consciousness in Science Fiction"
Science fiction writer Robert Sawyer will be one of the keynote speakers. Mr. Sawyer incorporates Jaynes's ideas into two of his novels: WWW: Wake and Mindscan.
Sat., April 17, 11:00am

Brian J. McVeigh - "The Unconscious in History: Why Did It Appear When It Did?"
Dept. of East Asian Studies, University of Arizona
Evolution of Consciousness Session, Fri., April 16, 4:30-6:30pm

Carole Brooks Platt - "Voices from the Other Side: Neuroscience, Attachment Theory and the Creative Self"
Evolution of Consciousness Session, Fri., April 16, 4:30-6:30pm

Gary Williams - "What is It Like to Be Unconscious?"
Dept. of Philosophy, Louisiana State University
Poster Session

For information on registration and accommodations see:

Julian Jaynes Conference on Consciousness
July 29–31, 2010, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Call for Papers: Please send abstracts (500–750 words) to the conference coordinator Prof. Scott Greer at by April 15, 2010.

The Keynote speaker will be science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer.

This is a general consciousness conference dedicated to the memory of Julian Jaynes (not all talks will be related to Jaynes's theory).

The conference was created as part of the Julian Jaynes Memorial Endowment at the University of Prince Edward Island. This fund was established to create a lasting tribute to the late Princeton professor and author, and long-time PEI resident, and to fulfill his legacy to support and encourage the study of consciousness.

For more information, please visit the conference website: jaynesconference2010.html

Other items of interest:

Read the latest issue of The Jaynesian:

Read Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness (now in 28 countries)

Discuss Jaynes’s theory on the Julian Jaynes Society Discussion Forum (it’s free!):


Marcel Kuijsten
Executive Director
Julian Jaynes Society

More on self-publishing

An interesting exchange took place on my Facebook wall recently (starting on 8 February 2010). Facebook content scrolls away and is very hard to access after a few days, so I thought I'd reproduce some of it here. There were 109 messages posted in the exchange, but the first two were the first two below, and the rest of the ones quoted here were interspersed in the remainder; they are a conversation between me and a self-published author, hereafter referred to as SPA [slightly redacted, out of kindness, to obscure SPA's identity]:

RJS: You know, the mindless cheerleaders for self-publishing who say "Oh, go ahead and do it -- spend your money that way; it's a GOOD idea!" never seem to be around when the poor sap ends up heartbroken at the end with a book that no one has read.

SPA: Unless the poor sap is savvy enough to avoid vanity publishers, uses POD technologies, with excellent distribution, hires the services of an excellent editor, and markets the hell out of the book.

RJS: Not to be mean, and I know you're a big advocate of doing it this way, but what do you mean by "with excellent distribution"?

I happen to know that you're a Canadian author. Canada's largest bookstore chain is Chapters/Indigo, and Canada's largest city is Toronto. So I just popped over to, looked up your latest book and asked for a display of store stock in Toronto.

The site served up 25 locations, and every single one -- all 25 -- shows "Quantity available: 0" for your book.

There may come a day when the vast majority of books are not sold in retail outlets, but that day is a ways off yet, and until then anything that doesn't include getting physical books into bookstores can't be meaningfully called "excellent distribution."

[SPA then replied to some other people, repeatedly using the term "legacy publishers" to refer to the traditional publishing houses.]

RJS: "Legacy publishers." *snort*

You know, we started calling serial and parallel interfaces on computers "legacy ports" when people stopped using them; when they no longer represented the dominant, current paradigm; when they had fallen out of fashion.

To call -- as an example -- Penguin Canada, my own current Canadian publisher, which is a $100,000,000 (one hundred million dollar) per-year operation, with books in thousands of retail outlets coast-to-coast PLUS all the other places you've referred to, a "legacy publisher" is to reduce the debate to precisely the kind of mindless cheerleading I was decrying in the post that started this thread. You may want established publishers and the existing business models to fall out of fashion, but they have not.

The number one publicity source for books: being on bookstore shelves. All this talk about disintermediation ignores the fact that most people buy books because they can reach out and touch them, leaf through them, and carry them away.

Publicity is, in many ways, the easy part (if by publicity you mean online promotion); distribution is the hard part. So the flaw in the argument that "if you have to do your own publicity anyway, then why not do the rest" is the assumption that you CAN do the rest.

You're a case in point: despite all your hard work, and the fact that you are a good writer, you haven't been able to do the one thing that so-called legacy publishers would consider an absolute necessity for being a publisher: getting books into the big bookstore chains.

SPA: Some of you may find this blog post of interest.

[In response to which, Jim C. Hines chimed in on the truth about Amazon rankings, to which I added:]

RJS: To add to Jim's very cogent analysis, the big flaw with Amazon numbers is that they give the impression of an ordered array from best selling to worst selling. But in fact Amazon doesn't move enough physical units of most books for the rankings to be meaningful once you get down the list a bit.

You might think that the book that's ranked 200,000 sold better than the book ranked 200,001 -- but in fact they almost certainly sold identically. Indeed, rank 200,000 and rank 800,000 might all have sold equally well, which is to say hardly at all, and rank 1,000,000 to 6,000,000 might very well have never sold a single copy on Amazon (and almost certainly didn't in the last year).

I always get antsy when people touting new paradigms refuse to cough up hard numbers. They say, oh, look, my free online book had XXX,XXX downloads and now it's in its nth printing -- see?

Yeah, well, even in mass-market a printing might only be 2,500 copies these days [and the most-frequent-citer of the "printings" statistic has never had a book in mass market], and in trade it could be 1,000 copies or much fewer (and of both those, perhaps half the copies will actually sell).

And now we have a case of, look see!, these Amazon ratings prove my point.

Marcello Truzzi said (and Carl Sagan frequently quoted): "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."

The people making the claims have access to or can find out the numbers of copies sold (and printed); they know precisely how many copies their print publisher actually sold or how many they shipped of their self-published book to Amazon.

But they don't tell us; they instead have us look at numbers that could mean just about anything while crowing, "See! See!" Sorry, but those numbers don't prove a thing.

[SPA was not heard from again.]

Robert J. Sawyer online:


The scandalous state of ebooks

An email I received this morning from my colleague Jamie Todd Rubin:
I ran into the same problem with the Kindle that you reported with the Nook regarding hyphenation. They implement full justification without adherence to any hyphenation rules and that makes some lines look awkward (4 words, widely spaced).

The other thing I've noticed, and I don't know if this is Amazon or the publisher, but in numerous books that I've read on the Kindle, there are substantial typos that appear to be the result of some kind of OCR import. The word "t-u-r-n" appears as "t-u-m" from time-to-time, but it's not consistent. There are other minor errors that I don't find in the printed text and I wonder if copyeditors look at the eBook text before it goes live.
Those are the three great scandals of the ebook industry:

1) The people designing the way pages are presented on screen seem to know nothing at all about typography. This ranges from the outrageous (the eSlick until last week's firmware update thinking that it was okay to break lines at the embedded apostrophe in words, or before the closing quotation mark) to the merely incompetent: the insistence on right justification ("because that makes it look like a book, see!") without understanding or doing any of the work required to make right justification aesthetically appealing.

2) The complete lack of proofreading or even spot-checking of ebooks before they are put up for sale. For example, I recently bought the eReader-format ebook edition of The Mind and the Brain by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Sharon Begley, a book published by a major publisher (HarperCollins), and every line on every page throughout the book was centered -- no one had so much as glanced at the book after converting it.

3) The use of OCR as a way to get books into ebook format. For instance, Tor Books offers my Golden Fleece for the Kindle and the nook. For the print edition they typeset from my computer files, but for the ebook edition, they used a scan of the printed pages, and ran it through optical-character recognition. Page one proudly lists other books by "Rohert J. Sawyer."

Print publishers keep arguing that they have to charge high prices for ebooks in part because of the care and expense that goes into proofreading and laying out a printed book's text, but if that's just thrown out the window -- if not one dime of the money spent for that is actually reflected in the ebook edition -- then it's a specious argument to say that those costs need to be reflected in the ebook's price.
Robert J. Sawyer online:

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