Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy Birthday to me!

Sunday, April 29, 2007, was my 47th birthday, and I happened to be in Calgary, Alberta, a good waystation on the Rollback book tour (I was en route from Winnipeg to Vancouver; my actual event in Calgary is this coming Wednesday, May 2, 2007).

I spent most of my birthday at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, as part of the crew manning the booth for Con-Version, the Calgary SF convention that occurs each summer.

Since Kirstin Morrell is chair of Con-Version this year and also managing editor of Red Deer Press, the company for which I edit the Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint, the Con-Version booth was also selling the titles from my line (with Con-Version getting a cut).

We took a break for a late brunch at Nick's, a Calgary steak house, which is where the pictures below were taken (I'd forgotten to bring my regular camera, so these were taken with the little camera on my Sony Clie TH55 PDA):

Bruce Herrington; my novel Rollback is dedicated to his late wife Robyn Herrington, who was one of the most gifted writing students I've ever had

Kirstin Morrell, chair of the SF convention Con-Version 23 and Managing Editor of Red Deer Press

Val King, one of my writing students from a workshop in Calgary in 1996, and Randy McCharles, chair of next year's World Fantasy Convention in Calgary

Danita Maslan, author of the novel Rogue Harvest, published by Robert J. Sawyer Books

Special guest Abe Simpson, who was along to remind Rob that he wasn't really old yet!

Randy McCharles and science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer

First thing Monday morning, it was off to the Calgary Airport for my trip to Vancouver -- but I made a quick stop at the Coles bookstore there (which was open before 8:00 a.m.!), and signed their nice supply of copies of Rollback

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Check out the "The Page 69 Test" for my novel Rollback.

And there's more of interest here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Saturday, April 28, 2007

"I love Robert J. Sawyer's brain. Really, I do."

So begins the full-page article "Reeling in the years: Sci-fi hero Robert J. Sawyer's Rollback finds taint in the fountain of youth" in the Thursday, April 26, 2007, edition of FFWD (Fastforward), Calgary's free arts and entertainment weekly. It's a great piece -- part review of Rollback, part interview with me -- by Hugh Graham. Those in Calgary: pick up a copy! And don't forget to come to my reading at McNally Robinson there on Wednesday, May 2, at 7:00 p.m.

Winnipeg tour

The second phase of the Rollback book tour started yesterday (Thursday, April 26, 2007). This is the by-plane part, and I'll be hitting these Canadian cities over the next eight days: Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Saskatoon. Details are here.

The trip got off to a propitious start: the little bookstore at Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto had a nice face-out display of Rollback.

I was picked up at the Winnipeg airport by Bev Geddes, who was one of my writing students at the Banff Centre last September. After a quick lunch, Bev took me to the Shaw TV studios in Winnipeg, were I did an interview. We then had dinner with Chadwick Ginter, the SF buyer for McNally Robinson in Winnipeg; his girlfriend Wendy, who also works at McNally Robinson; and Judy, H.B. Fenn's Calgary sales rep, at a great place called Cafe Carlo.

Then at 7:00 p.m., I did my reading and signing at McNally Robinson. After that, it was off for a radio interview on CJOB at 10:00 p.m. -- and then the next morning (Friday, April 27, 2007) I appeared on Winnipeg CITY-TV's Breakfast Television, then high-tailed it for the Winnipeg airport, and flew from there to Calgary, Alberta, where I'm spending the weekend before heading off to Vancouver first thing Monday morning.

Some pictures:

Rollback face out at the airport bookstore in Toronto

Joanne Kelly of Shaw TV in Winnipeg records an interview with Rob; the interview will air every hour for 24 hours starting at noon Winnipeg time on Monday, April 30

Wendy and Chadwick from McNally Robinson; Robert J. Sawyer; Judy Parker from H.B. Fenn, Tor's Canadian distributor

Krista from McNally Robinson, who introduced Rob to the packed audience before his reading

Rob reading at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg

A wonderful banner in the window of McNally Robinson -- these guys know how to promote an event!

Winnipeg writer Bev Geddes who escorted Rob on his touring in that city -- despite being on crutches! -- at the end of the day

Jon Ljungberg, the host of Winnipeg's Breakfast Television, interviews Robert J. Sawyer bright and early on Friday, April 28

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy

Tee Morris's Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy podcasts Robert J. Sawyer from Ravencon -- for almost an hour! -- right here.

(This was in fact the Guest of Honor interview with me, conducted by Tee, at Ravencon in Richmond, Virginia, last weekend.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

No rest for the wicked!

My one day in Toronto was spent doing media -- three interviews, to be precise: Sounds Like Canada on CBC Radio One, which went fabulously; a half-hour phone for KAOS-AM in Olympia, Washington, which was also great; and a really pleasant face-to-face interview with The Mississauga News, the local newspaper here.

Tomorrow, I set out on Phase Two of the Rollback book tour: the by-plane part across Canada. Please come on out and see me at these events:

# Reading from and signing Rollback
McNally Robinson at Grant Park
1120 Grant Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Thursday, April 26, 2007, 7:00 p.m.

# Reading from and signing Rollback
White Dwarf Books
3715 West Tenth Avenue
Vancouver, British Columbia
Monday, April 30, 2007, 7:00 p.m.

# Reading from and signing Rollback
Audreys Books
10702 Jasper Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta
Tuesday, May 1, 2007, 7:30 p.m.

# Reading from and signing Rollback
McNally Robinson
120 8th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta
Wednesday, May 2, 2007, 7:00 p.m.

# Free Public Lecture
Mary Donaldson Memorial Lecture
Frances Morrison Library
(the main branch of the Saskatoon Public Library)
311-23rd Street East
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
(Book sales on site courtesy of McNally Robinson)
Thursday, May 3, 2007, 7:30 p.m.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sailing Time's Ocean review

A nice review of Terence M. Green's Sailing Time's Ocean, published under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint is here at Andy's Anachronisms.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Minister Faust interviews Robert J. Sawyer

Minister Faust is one of Canada's best SF authors (his latest is From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, published by Del Rey). He's just posted a lengthy interview with Robert J. Sawyer on his blog, The Original BRO-Log; the article also appears in the April 26 edition of Edmonton's VUE, the weekly arts newspaper there.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Indigo email promotion

Indigo -- the big Canadian bookstore chain -- sent out this email to its iRewards loyalty-program members who are interested in science-fiction titles. Nice to be featured up front!

(Many thanks to my high-school buddy Ted Bleaney who pointed this out to me.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Is speculative literature an endangered species?

I'm quoted in this article on that topic. Author Mike Collins quotes part of what I said in response to his email question; here's my full response:
I don't think there is a decline in reading per se; more people are reading more books than ever before -- all the stats show that. However, they're reading fewer different titles; everyone is looking for a sense of community in our fragmented world, and so wants to read the things that others are reading. There simply weren't runaway bestsellers like HARRY POTTER and THE DA VINCI CODE in an earlier era; those books shattered all previous sales records.

It's pointless to talk about the decline in reading "speculative" fiction, because there's no section in the bookstore labeled that -- and, after all, HARRY POTTER and THE DA VINCI CODE, along with Michael Crichton, Audrey Niffenegger, Neil Gaiman, and Christopher Paolini are all broadly "speculative," and they're all doing just fine, thank you very much.

What we're talking about is the decline of the commercial publishing category known as science fiction, and the fault for that, by and large, lies with the publishers and the authors. SF has become increasingly self-referential, smug, and inaccessible to newcomers. Without bringing new readers in, and keeping them, the field is being whittled away by natural attrition of its established readership base -- the trend is a straight line, down into the toilet, and it's going to be very, very hard to turn it around at this point.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sounds Like Canada

I'm going to be on CBC Radio One's Sounds Like Canada with Shelagh Rogers tomorrow morning (Wednesday, April 25, 2007) -- one of Canada's most-popular radio programs, heard coast-to-coast in Canada. Of course, we'll be talking about my just-released 17th novel Rollback.

I'm arriving at the Toronto CBC studio at 9:45 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday -- so that's the earliest the interview can be aired; I think the show is time-delayed in some parts of Canada, and I suspect I'm not going on until after the 10:00 a.m. Eastern time newscast. But, wherever you are, you can listen online to CBC Radio One's live audio feed; in fact, you can probably hear the interview multiple times, by picking an appropriate local CBC feed. Try the Toronto feed between 9:45 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., and you'll hear me.

I've been on Sounds Like Canada before, but this time the interview is particularly apt. Sarah Halifax, the SETI researcher in Rollback, is interviewed on Sound Like Canada, in chapter 14:
"We'd been so wrong," Sarah told Shelagh Rogers the next morning. Don wasn't the Toronto sound engineer for Sounds Like Canada -- Joe Mahoney was doing that these days -- but Don stood behind Joe as he operated the board, looking over Joe's shoulder at Sarah.

And, while doing so, he reflected on the irony. Sarah was in Toronto, but Shelagh was in Vancouver, where Radio One's signature program originated -- two people who couldn't see each other, communicating over vast distances by radio. It was perfect.

"Wrong in what way?" Shelagh's voice was rich and velvety, yet full of enthusiasm, an intoxicating combination.

"In every way," Sarah said. "In everything we'd assumed about SETI. What a ridiculous notion, that beings would send messages across the light-years to talk about math!" She shook her head, her brown hair bouncing as she did so. "Math and physics are the same everywhere in the universe. There's no need to contact an alien race to find out if they agree that one plus three equals four, that seven is a prime number, that the value of pi is 3.14159, et cetera. None of those things are matters of local circumstance, or of opinion. No, the things worth discussing are moral issues -- things that are debatable, things that an alien race might have a radically different perspective on ..."

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

The Very Small Array

After our visit to the Smithsonian, Carolyn and I knocked 500 km off the 1,000 km of our trip home to Toronto, arriving north of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, at 8:30 p.m. at the country home of Paul Shuch and Muriel Hykes. Paul is Executive Director Emeritus of The SETI League.

Paul is mentioned in Rollback, and is a huge SF fan. He and Muriel very nicely put us up for the night, and then we hit the road for the final leg of the trip back to Canada. But last night, Paul sang several of his filk songs to us, and this morning he showed off the Very Small Array, his collection of eight 1.8-metre radio telescopes in his backyard.

Paul Shuch in his basement lab

Robert J. Sawyer in front of the Very Small Array

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Don D'Ammassa reviews Rollback

Don D'Ammassa has weighed in with his review of my Rollback. Don is the long-time reviewer for Science Fiction Chronicle. Says Don, "Thoughtful, low key, and convincing. One of Robert Sawyer's strongest points as a writer is that his characters are always real people. Sawyer has repeatedly shown that he can portray very dramatic situations in an effective but unmelodramatic fashion."

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Monday, April 23, 2007


Why my life rocks:

We stayed overnight Sunday, April 22, 2007, at the country home of Smithsonian paleontologist Mike Brett-Surman and Smithsonian exhibit designer Kim Moeller. On Monday morning, April 23, 2007, we got up at 5:45 a.m., and were out the door by 6:20 a.m., in hopes of beating the bulk of the traffic on the 60-mile drive into Washington, D.C.

We succeeded, getting there by about 7:40 p.m -- almost two and a half hours before the museum opened to the public. Mike had arranged for parking for us right at the Natural History Museum, and he gave Carolyn and me a private tour of the paleontology galleries -- we were the only ones in them! We also got a chance to see the Hope Diamond before anyone else came into its gallery.

After that, we got the behind-the-scenes tour of vertebrate paleontology, which was spectacular. And then Russell Feather, the head of the Smithsonian's gem collection, took us into the fabled (and closed to the public) Blue Room there, where we got to see the best of the gems that aren't on public display -- and from there, Russell took us into the vault, where truly valuable specimens are kept, and Carolyn got to try on over a million dollars worth of jewelry.

Then Carolyn and I headed off to the National Air and Space Museum, where we ogled the Apollo 11 command module, and headed to the lower level of the gift shop, which is where the 11-foot original filming miniature of the U.S.S Enterprise from classic Star Trek is on display. Of course, we'd seen the old girl before (15 years ago, at the 25th anniversary Star Trek exhibition at the Smithsonian), but I was particularly interested in seeing it again now that we have our own one-quarter scale Master Replica's duplicate of the filming miniature; I must say, I appreciate the detailing on the one we have even more after seeing the original again.

We then headed back to the Natural History Museum for lunch with Mike and Kim (in the staff restaurant -- much cheaper than the public one!). Then we said goodbye to our friends, and walked (in 85-degree heat!) to the World War II Memorial, the one memorial on the Mall that wasn't there the last time we were in Washington; it's magnificent. I only wish we'd had more time -- I would have liked to have made my way down to the Vietnam Memorial again, which figures so prominently in my novel Humans, but we had to hit the road, for the first leg of our two-day trip back home to Toronto.

Private tour of the dinosaur gallery; Robert J. Sawyer on left, Mike Brett-Surman on right

Mike loses a hand to a hungry theropod

Behind-the-scenes treasures in the paleontology department; they keep the Ark of the Covenant one aisle over

Carolyn Clink strikes gold in the Blue Room at the Smithsonian

Gemologist Russell Feather, Robert J. Sawyer, Mike Brett-Surman, and Kim Moeller at the Smithsonian

Carolyn Clink trying on priceless jewelry

The real thing: United Federation of Planets Starship U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701, no bloody A, B, C, or D

The World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Ravencon / Barnes and Noble

Carolyn and I had a great time at Ravencon in Richmond, Virginia. The convention is only in its second year, but it is clearly on its way to being one of the great regionals. I heard various attendance figures quoted; something approaching 700 people seems to be the right number (although, as is often the case at cons these days, a good hunk of those were gamers).

On Sunday, I was on two panels: one on AI, and the other on whether hard SF is still central to the science-fiction field. Then Carolyn and I had lunch with the artist Guest of Honor Steve Stiles and his wife, and then made a final circuit through the dealers room (chatting with Bud Webster; one of the highlights of the con for me was getting to spend some time with him). At 2:00 p.m., we hit the road -- with a passenger. Alexandria fan Keith Lynch, who often attends my kaffeeklatsches at Worldcons, needed a lift, and that's where we were headed, so we were happy to oblige.

My reading at Barnes and Noble in Alexandria wasn't as well attended as I'd have liked, but 5:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon is a lousy timeslot (although it was all I could fit into my schedule), plus it was an absolutely gorgeous day, and the entire store was deserted when I arrived -- I can't blame people for not wanting to be indoors! The SF reading group associated with the store had promised to come out in force, but only one member arrived in time for the start of my event (and only one more showed up by the end). Still, we had a nice audience of other people, and I was pleased to learn that the book club's reading choice for the previous month had been my Flashforward. Some of the people who did come out for the event came (they said) because of an events listing in The Washington Post; others, because of the in-store publicity; others still because of the notice on my website.

After the reading, Carolyn and I drove back to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to stay once more at the gorgeous river-side country home of paleontologist Mike Brett-Surman and his wife Kim Moeller, where we spent Sunday night. Mike and Kim have been great hosts -- thanks, guys!

Photos from the Barnes and Noble event:

A nice poster announcing the signing

Rob's youngest fan

Robert J. Sawyer signing books

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Jamie Rubin's Ravencon report

New writer Jamie Rubin had a great time at Ravencon, and I'm thrilled that I was part of it. Read Jamie's con report here.

"An early candidate for sci-fi book of the year"

... says The Kansas City Star of Robert J. Sawyer's Rollback in this review.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Ravencon rocks!

Ravencon, in Richmond, Virginia, is excellent -- a great science-fiction convention. I'm Author Guest of Honor here, and am being treated like royalty; it's very nice. :)

A few images:

My Kaffeeklatsch at noon today in the hotel restaurant. At left, Larry Hodges, one of my students from last year's Odyssey workshop

Guest of Honor interview, conducted by Tee Morris (on the left)

Another impassioned reading from Rollback

Revealing the "World's Best Phi-Fi Writer" T-shirt, a gift from Montreal fan Debi Ancel, in recognition of Rob's belief that the genre should really be called "philosophical fiction"

Fans lined up out the door at Rob's autographing session.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Friday, April 20, 2007

Library of Congress

My talk at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., went well yesterday (Thursday, April 19) -- Carolyn said I was on fire. There's lots of security for federal buildings in Washington, but we were on the appropriate lists, and indeed had a parking space waiting for us, once we got through the very intimidating barriers, right out from of the Library of Congress.

My talk, "Science Fiction as Mirror for Reality," went over well, and gave rise to a lively Q&A. I was introduced by Colleen Cahill, of the Library of Congress. Present in the audience were Larry Hodges, once of my students from the Odyssey Workshop last summer; Dr. Michael K. Brett-Surman, the dinosaur specialist from the Smithsonian; and Sinya Shaeffer, a retired LoC librarian who had arranged for my previous talk at the Library of Congress in 1999. A person from the LoC gift shop was present to handle book sales.

After, a dozen of us went to a local Chinese restaurant for a wonderful lunch. Then Carolyn and I drove Mike Brett-Surman out to his wonderful home right on the Rappahannock River in rural Fredericksburg, Virginia; Carolyn and I stayed overnight there with Mike and his wife Kim Moeller; Kim also works at the Smithsonian, in exhibit design.

We had a great dinner out with Mike and Kim, and I gawked at their great collections of SF memorabilia and dinosaur art.

This morning (Friday, April 20, 2007), Mike and Kim took us sight-seeing, showing us some of the Civil War sites in and around Fredericksburg, then Carolyn and I hit the road for the hour-and-a-half drive to Richmond, for Ravencon, the science-fiction convention there at which I'm guest of honor this weekend.

Washington, D.C. -- but where is Klaatu?

The Library of Congress -- shhhh!

Librarian Colleen Cahill introduces Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer giving his talk "Science Fiction as a Mirror for Reality" ...

... in which Rob makes the point that "science fiction" might be better called "philosophical fiction" -- not sci-fi, but phi-fi -- causing him to reveal the T-shirt he was wearing, which says, "World's Best Phi-Fi Author," a gift to Rob last October from Montreal fan Debi Ancel.

Rob signs a book for retired LoC librarian Sinya Schaeffer

Dr. Michael K. Brett-Surman (the dinosaur specialist at the Smithsonian) and Carolyn Clink at the Chinese lunch after Rob's talk

Kim Moeller, Mike's wife, is a big Doctor Who fan; her license place commemorates the home planet of the Cybermen

Kim Moeller, Mike Brett-Surman, and Carolyn Clink visiting a Civil War site in Fredericksburg

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site