Friday, January 30, 2009

Turkeys can't fly, but I can fly to Turkey

Go figure.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The conference I'm speaking at in Istanbul

For those who are curious, there's now an English-language version of the brochure for the conference I'm attending next week in Istanbul, Turkey. You can download the PDF here.

(The brochure also gives some background on previous conferences in this series.)

My keynote address at this conference for business leaders is entitled "The Science-Fiction Mindset in Business," and will include discussions of understanding the accelerating rate of change and how to reasonably extrapolate what to expect in the next few decades.

The conference website is here, and more information about me as a keynote speaker is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Supernatural Investigator publicity photo

T-minus 2 hours and 26 minutes ...

Vision TV has released the above publicity photo (click for a larger version). Photo: "Robert J. Sawyer hosts Supernatural Investigator."

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


It begins

We just lost one of the big-four US science fiction and fantasy magazines: Realms of Fantasy, edited by Shawna McCarthy, is closing down. SF Scope (which more and more these days is first with breaking news) has the scoop.

Meanwhile, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction recently switched from 11 issues a year to bimonthly -- but at least it has survived (and because the issues are fatter, only lost 10% of its total annual content). Analog and Asimov's resized, too, and that resulted in 10% reduction of content in each of their issues, as well.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Have I taught you nothing?

The opening of an email I just received:
Dear Editor:

I am seeking the publication of my young adult novel, TITLE, complete at 168,000 words.
My reply:
You'll never get anywhere like this. My guidelines say no YA, and nothing over 100,000 words -- I didn't read anything beyond that in your letter. I wish you luck, but, believe me, all editors just chuck emails that begin "Dear Editor" (our names aren't that hard to find), especially when they show a complete disregard for the guidelines of or an unfamiliarity with the publisher being approached.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Tuesday is RJS Night on Vision TV!

This Tuesday, January 26 -- tomorrow, as I write this -- I'll be featured not once but twice on Canada's Vision TV.

At 10:00 p.m. Eastern time / 7:00 p.m. Pacific, the half-hour documentary Dude, Where's My Flying Car?, heavily featuring Rob, airs as the debut episode of the series I Prophesy.

And, immediately following, at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time / 7:30 p.m. Pacific, the first episode of Supernatural Investigator, the series I'm hosting, airs.

There are repeats twice on Wednesday: see the schedule here.

The trailer for Supernatural Investigator is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Amazon and ebooks

My friend Virginia O'Dine just drew this to my attenion: has notified its publisher and author clients that it plans to cease offering e-books in the Microsoft Reader and Adobe e-book formats.
They're only going to be selling Kindle ebooks (for the hardware device they make) and Mobipocket -- and owns Mobipocket.

Man, I'd love to see that lawsuit: Microsoft suing Amazon over monopolistic business practices!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Quill & Quire notes Supernatural Investigator

Supernatural Investigator, the TV series I'm hosting for Canada's Vision TV, debuts tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 27, 2009, at 10:30 p.m Eastern time / 7:30 p.m. Pacific time.

Quill & Quire, Canada's publishing trade journal, notes that fact today -- and the final paragraph of their coverage is a hoot.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bibliographies in novels

An academic on a listserver I read just asked about bibliographies in SF&F novels. My reply:
I sometimes include a bibliography. The one from my novel Hominids (Hugo winner, 2003; Tor Books) is online here.

And the one from my novel Mindscan (John W. Campbell Memorial Award winner, 2006; Tor Books) is online here.

But it's hardly a new practice. For instance, the horror novel The Night Stalker by Jeff Rice, basis for the Kolchak movies and TV series, first published in 1973, has an extensive bibliography (mostly about vampirism) including, cutely, a couple of made-up citations attributed to one of the characters.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Charter of the United Nations



  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and

  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and

  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and

  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,


  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and

  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and

  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and

  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,


Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

Charter of the United Nations

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Hail, Caesar!

Hey, didja know that Gordon Jump -- Arthur "Big Guy" Carlson himself from WKRP in Cincinnati -- was in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes? He plays the auctioneer who sells Roddy McDowall's Caesar to Governor Breck, saying:
Lot eight: one male chimpanzee in early prime and perfect physical condition. Under observation, appeared so familiar, obedient, docile and intelligent with humans that conditioning was not considered necessary, but can be provided on request. What am I bid for this superb specimen?
Well, Governor Breck's got nothing on me! I just won an auction on eBay for this 12-inch fan-made resin statue of Caesar:

A statue, you say? That's right -- because the very last shot of the very last film in the series, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, of a statue of Caesar.

That original life-size statue lived for many years in Roddy McDowall's garden, but he donated it to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, where it now stands serenely in the Roddy McDowall Memorial Rose Garden:

Unlike with Governor Breck, I don't think my winning Caesar in an auction is ultimately going to cause my downfall ... well, at least not until Carolyn finds out! ;)

(click plaque for larger image)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Skeptic Henry Gordon dies

Eric McMillan, the Chair of Skeptics Canada, reports:
With great sorrow, we report that Henry Gordon has passed away.

Henry was a professional magician, journalist, book author, and leading Canadian skeptic. He was a founder and chair of the Ontario Skeptics, a precursor to Skeptics Canada, for which he remained chair emeritus and a respected member. He was also a fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), now CSI. He was well-known internationally for his exposures of Uri Geller, Shirley Maclaine and other paranormal practitioners in his books, articles and television appearances.
I was quite an admirer of Henry, and even named an institute after him in my first novel, 1990's Golden Fleece. In a scene written March 14, 1989, I wrote [from the point of view of a scheming artificial intelligence]:
I made a mini-backup of myself so that I could undertake the interactive dialogue necessary for testing. I let the backup play inquisitor, while I, on the lowest and most simplistic level, tried to access the Aaron Rossman memories I had recorded. It was a tricky process, involving as much learning about Aaron's particular style of recording information as it did fine-tuning my ability to access specific facts.

The discovery by Barnhard and his group at the Henry Gordon Institute in 2011 that each human seemed to use a unique encoding algorithm put an end to the claims of psychics, mind readers, and other charlatans. Oh, it could be demonstrated that humans did indeed give off electromagnetic signals that corresponded to their thoughts. And, indeed, if one had sufficiently acute sensing devices and the ability to screen the weak signal from the background EM noise, then, yes, one could detect that energy. But the fact that every individual used a different encoding algorithm and key, and, indeed, that many individuals used multiple algorithms depending on the kinds of thoughts they were thinking -- the alpha and beta waves of the EEG being the crudest indication of that -- meant that even if you could pick up the thought signals, which seemed impossible without direct physical contact with the person's head, you couldn't decipher the thoughts without massive number crunching.

Number crunching, of course, is something I have a knack for.
Given who Henry was, it would be wrong to say he's passed on or to wish that he might rest in peace. Henry is gone, pure and simple -- and the world is poorer for it.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

K.A. Bedford wins Aurealis

I mentioned K.A. Bedford's Time Machines Reapired While-U-Wait in this post.

The book has just won Australia's Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year -- congratulations, Adrian! And congratulations to Brian Hades of Calgary's EDGE, which published the book. Woot! This is truly a case of nice guys finishing first!

The full list of Aurealis winners is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Oldest Author Website

Hey, New York Times!

My friend Stephen Kotowych points out that this article in the Sunday, January 25, 2009, New York Times [but online since yesterday] says, "Back in 1996, [Brad] Meltzer built what was arguably the first author Web site for his first novel ..."

Poppycock, says I! My website has been online since Wednesday, June 28, 1995. I've never claimed it was the first author website, but it's often referred to as the first science-fiction author website (and Reuters called it that many years ago in an article).

So, how hard would it have been for the crack journalists at the New York Times to find out if any author websites predated 1996? Well, how 'bout a quick Google search on "author website 1995" (without the quotation marks). Oh, look, lo and behold, right there on the first page of results is my website, and this snippet of text: "Author of 17 SF novels. Sample chapters from each book, full-text short stories, ... This web site online since 28 June 1995 — it's older than!"

"Arguably" should not be used as a substitute for "I'm too lazy to check." Perhaps the New York Times style guide should be updated to include that fine distinction. :)

The original URL of the main page of my multi-page website on June 28, 1995, was:

Its current home, of course, is at

(I'll make it even easier for the next person researching this topic by including all the keywords that might be useful so this message can be easily found via search engines: first author website; first author web site; first author homepage; first author home page; oldest author website; oldest author website; oldest author homepage; oldest author home page; author website 1995; author web site 1995; author homepage 1995; author home page 1995.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


eBay feedback: 400, 100% positive

I'm pleased to see that my eBay feedback score just passed 400, with 100% positive ratings, and that my detailed ratings (Item as described; Communication; Shipping time; and Shipping and handling charges) are all five stars. Carolyn deserves most of the credit, as she runs our eBay store, selling signed copies of my books.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Our best look yet at the Enterprise from the upcoming movie

... is in the above image of Playmates' toy version coming in May (click the picture for a larger version). More info at, including close-ups of the toy phaser, communicator, and tricorder, also coming in May.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Rob interviewed -- in the travel section!

Papers, please! Today's National Post -- a Canadian daily newspaper -- has a brief interview with me (formatted horribly in the online edition, I must say) in the travel section. You can read it online (at least for a while) here.

In theory, the hardcopy edition also has a passport-style photo of me -- but at -18 degrees Celsius right now, I'm not going out to the National Post box on my street corner to find out!

(At least online, the freelancer who did the interview didn't get credit, so let me tip my hat to the writer here: the piece is by Jesse Kinos-Goodin.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Friday, January 23, 2009

Yeah, I like Feist. Wanna make something out of it?

As I said here, I like that iPod commercial with Feist's song "1 2 3 4." And if you like that commercial, too, you'll love this spoof of it from Mad TV. (The original ad is here.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

RJS tally: 25 books

I've now finished 18 novels, and, as of yesterday, have finished editing my fourth anthology, and I have three collections (including one, Relativity, that's mostly nonfiction). That's a total of 25 books.

Here are the 20 that are all my own fiction, totaling about 1.8 million words:

It's a start. :)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Star Trek: The Original Series coming to Blu-Ray in May

Well, I've been saying for a while that I wouldn't buy a Blu-ray disc player until the remastered original Star Trek was available in that format.

To coincide with the release of the new J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movie, Season One of The Original Series is coming to Blu-ray in May 2009. Reports are that the set will contain both the original versions of the episodes and the new remastered versions (with CGI special effects).

Since the five original Planet of the Apes films are already on Blu-ray, I'm going to have to make the plunge come the spring.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Frameshift trade paperback 2nd printing

Woot! Just received from Tor a copy of the 2nd trade-paperback edition of my novel Frameshift.

Frameshift was originally published in hardcover in 1997. It was (a) my first-ever bookstore hardcover, and (b) my first title for Tor Books. It is also one of my personal favourites of my books. It had a good life in hardcover, a good life in mass-market paperback, and is now doing well in trade paperback, as this second printing attests.

Among other cool things, Frameshift was a Hugo Award finalist, won Japan's Seiun Award for best foreign novel of the year, is the book that got me on Rivera Live with Geraldo Rivera (to talk about the Human Genome Project), and was recently a "summer reading" pick in the journal Science.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Distant Early Warnings

This evening I delivered the manuscript for the anthology Distant Early Warnings: Canada's Best Science Fiction, edited by me, to be published by Red Deer Press under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint this summer.

Included are stories by Hugo Award winners Spider Robinson, Robert J. Sawyer, and Robert Charles Wilson, Hugo nominees Paddy Forde, James Alan Gardner, Nalo Hopkinson, and Peter Watts, and Aurora Award winners Julie E. Czerneda and Karl Schroeder.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Rob's email newsletter

Sent to people on my email update list this evening; if you'd like to be added to the list, send me a note:

News from Science Fiction Writer Robert J. Sawyer

* ABC filming pilot based on FLASH FORWARD
* Rob hosts Canadian TV series: debuts TUESDAY
* New novel WAKE coming in April
* WAKE Canadian book tour cities announced

ABC, the most-watched television network in the United States, begins filming a one-hour TV series pilot based on Rob's novel FLASH FORWARD in Los Angeles on February 21, 2009.

The pilot script was written by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) and Brannon Braga (Star Trek, 24), and David is directing. Rob is serving as consultant, and will be writing one of the first-season episodes.

"ABC might finally have launched a strong companion to LOST with FLASH FORWARD." -- THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

Flash Forward TV Series


This Tuesday evening, January 27, 2009, the TV series SUPERNATURAL INVESTIGATOR hosted by Rob premieres coast-to-coast in Canada on Vision TV. This seventeen-part half-hour series airs at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time / 7:30 p.m Pacific time.

Supernatural Investigator

[Promo video starts playing automatically]

But, actually, you should tune in to Vision half an hour earlier this Tuesday.

Why? Because leading into the first episode of SUPERNATURAL INVESTIGATOR that same Tuesday evening, January 27, is the debut of the new half-hour documentary series I PROPHESY.

The first episode, "Dude, Where's My Flying Car?" has Rob exploring science fiction's attempts to predict the future. I PROPHESY airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern / 7:00 p.m. Pacific.

I Prophesy

[Promo video starts playing automatically]


Rob's 18th novel WAKE comes out in April 2009. The US release date is April 7 from Ace Science Fiction. The Canadian release is April 14 from Penguin Canada.


Rob will be touring coast-to-coast in Canada to promote the release of WAKE. There will be a launch party in Toronto, of course, and Rob will be doing readings and signings in these other Canadian cities:

* Monday, April 20: Vancouver
* Tuesday, April 21: Calgary
* Thursday, April 23: Edmonton
* Saturday, April 25: Moncton
* Tuesday, April 28: Montreal
* Wednesday, April 29: Ottawa
* May (date to be set): Waterloo
* Saturday, May 16: Winnipeg
* Monday, May 25: Sudbury
* Thursday, June 4: Saskatoon
* June (date to be set): Regina

Once we have the venues in place, the tour schedule will be added to Rob's appearance calendar:



Finally, for those nominating for this year's Hugo and Aurora Awards, I have some suggestions here:

Awards Suggestions






The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now!

Okay, I confess I bought a copy of The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! for three resaons. First, I was curious about what a new Canadian small press might be up to. Second, my friend Virginia O'Dine designed the cover. And third the author is Nina Munteanu, whom I've always enjoyed running into at conventions. So, what the heck, a few clicks of the mouse, a little money gone from my PayPal account.

The book arrived on Monday (more about why that's important in a moment), and I've got to say I'm really impressed. It's beautifully printed and bound, and it's a substantial work: 264 pages.

Nina has one novel to her credit -- the excellent Darwin's Paradox -- but I'm always leery of how-to-write books by people early in their careers. In this case, though, I'm very impressed. Yes, indeed, Nina shares the hard-won knowledge she's accumulated in having her first novel brought to market. But she also quotes, summarizes, and comments on the writing advice of lots of seasoned pros, myself included. She provides references at the end of each chapter, and lots of fascinating tidbits. I'm thoroughly enjoying the book, and even learning a thing or two!

Now, why is the date I got my copy important? I pre-ordered the book, and I believe that I got one of the very first copies -- and, as I say, I received it on Monday, January 19, 2009. But the copyright date says 2008. Pixl Press says there was a delay in printing. This book is really a 2009 book, and I'm urging the Aurora and Hugo Award administrators to recognize it as such: it's got a real shot at the Aurora to be given next year for "Best Work in English (Other)," and deserves consideration for the Hugo Award for Best Related Book, too.

Congratulations, Nina!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Yeah, but is it eligible?

A friend of mine was wondering aloud recently if his anthology -- edited by Canadians, but with stories by Canadians, Americans, and Brits -- was eligible for the Aurora Award, or whether the administrators might disqualify it for being "insufficiently Canadian." My response:
Go ahead and nominate your book. The Aurora administrators don't routinely overrule the will of the masses; that is, they'd have to make a case to disqualify something if it was nominated by enough people to make the final ballot -- and why would they do that?

Yes, they'll reject things that were published in the wrong year, because that clearly violates the rules, but beyond that the rules are deliberately vague so that the will of the people can be heard.

If enough people nominate something so that it makes the final ballot, I'd be surprised if the Aurora administrators felt any need (or, indeed felt they had any mandate) to disqualify it -- unless, as I say, it was clearly from the wrong year.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Rob on CBC Radio's The Point

I was interviewed today on CBC Radio One's afternoon show The Point with Aamer Haleen about my upcoming gig as Writer-in-Residence at the Canadian Light Source.

The interview is now online. Go here, select "Part 2," and I come on at the 00:16:13 mark (move the little slider to skip ahead).

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Supernatural Investigator promo online

The 17-part TV series Supernatural Investigator, which I'm hosting for Canada's Vision TV, premieres THIS COMING TUESDAY, January 27, 2009. You can watch the promo for the show online right here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

BookExpo Canada

I have very fond memories of BookExpo Canada, the annual publishing tradeshow in Toronto.

In the summer of 1982, I worked at Bakka, Toronto's SF specialty store. It was a summer job -- I'd just graduated from Ryerson with my degree in Radio and Television Arts, and I had a job back at Ryerson starting in September, helping to teach television studio production. And my boss, John Rose, did something extremely kind: he took me with him to BookExpo Canada (known back then as the Canadian Booksellers Association convention). He paid me my day's wages, paid my admission, and showed me around. He knew I wanted to be a writer, and he wanted me to get a feel for how book publishing and distribution worked.

And once I became a writer, I often did signings at BookExpo Canada -- first for BeJo (then the Canadian distributor for Ace Science Fiction), then for HarperCollins (who did The Terminal Experiment), and for the last decade for H.B. Fenn and Company, Tor's Canadian distributor (and, in 2002, when I was signing Hominids, I had the longest line-up -- 320 people -- of anyone at the show that year, including the New York Times bestsellers publishers had brought in from the States). BookExpo Canada was always one of the highlights of my year.

But, as has been widely publicized, BookExpo Canada has been in upheaval; publishers just aren't convinced of its value of late, and although I'd been hoping to have an event for Wake there this year, it's just not going to happen. Penguin Canada just announced that its not attending BookExpo Canada. H.B. Fenn, Random House, and Scholastic Canada have pulled out, too. It's the end of an era, and I'm sad.

My last signing at Book Expo Canada, for Rollback in 2007. The line goes right around the bend and off into the distance.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

The God of Audio hates me

So, I often go days without getting phone calls -- I mean, voice is so last millennium. But yesterday and today, I've been recording audio: portions of Wake that I'm reading for, plus me reading the entire first chapter myself to put on my website at And the damn phone has just not stopped ringing.

And now, as if that was not enough, the fire alarm has just gone off in my condo tower, and, of course, it'll keep going until the fire department arrives (with their sirens blaring) and investigates the cause. Ugh!

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How a day can evaporate

Lessse, got up nice and early ... but what the heck did I accomplish?

Well, I wrote 1,700 words of answers for a by-email interview for a Turkish national news agency (as a lead up to my keynote address in Istanbul on February 2).

I wrote 900 words of answers for a by-email interview by John Joesph Adams to support the release of his anthology Federations, which contains a story by me.

I wrote 1,000 words of answers for a by-email interview for the Italian SF site (in support of the recent release of my Humans in Italy).

I wrote the 1,000-word introduction to Distant Early Warnings: Canada's Best Science Fiction, an anthology I'm editing that will come out this summer (and about which more later).

I wrote up a brief comment about my virtual book-tour appearance in Second Life for an article to appear in Baen's Universe.

I recorded my parts for the production of Wake (I'm voicing a small role).

I finalized arrangements for my accommodations in Saskatoon this summer for my stint as writer-in-residence at the Canadian Light Source.

And, oh, yeah, I did some work on Watch, the novel I'm currently writing.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

And speaking of Audible ...

I just recorded a small portion of the multiple-cast unabridged reading of my next novel, Wake.

I am the voice in the novel of the "Online Encylopedia of Computing," and I recorded my parts with my brand-spanking new Audio-Technica AT2020 USB Cardioid Condenser Microphone, which Wired recently recommended, and I picked up new on eBay for the bargain price of US$130 (list is US$249).

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Audiobook of Hominids for $4.95

Until Tuesday, January 27, 2009, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time has the unabridged audiobook of my Hugo Award-winning Hominids (as well as 70-odd other first volumes in series) on sale for only US$4.95. To get Hominids go here.

This version features an exclusive audio introduciton by yours truly.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Smart quotations marks, em dashes, and e-books

Over at the fascinating blog, David Rothman asks:
Many and perhaps most e-books use straight, typewriter-style quotes rather than smart quotes—the directional kind. At least one major e-book company wants publishers to avoid smart quotes, at least when offering certain formats, to reduce the technical challenges.

But would you be more likely to recommend a book to a friend if it came with smart quotes, real dashes and other trimmings?
My reply:

They're important -- and publishers are being short-sighted in ignoring them. When I try to get people to share my enthusiasm for ebook reading, many reject the experience at a glance. They can't articulate WHY they like printed books better; they just know that they DO. But surely one of the reasons they DO is the care with which material is presented on the printed page.

The irony is that small-screen ebook readers often default to (or indeed have no choice but) full justification, which looks awful on narrow line lengths, as if THAT was the heart and soul of good typography, and then give us typewriter quotes and hyphens for em dashes -- two if we're lucky, one if we're not.

The utter sloppiness with which most books are converted to ebooks is shameful. Yes, yes, yes, stuff like making each footnote into a hyperlink might be labor intensive, but getting the quotation marks right shouldn't be; they were presumably right in the original typesetting files. The slapdash efforts put forth by even some of the biggest commercial publishers in producing ebooks are shameful.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Bob May: The Man Inside the Robot

I attend a lot of science-fiction conventions, of course. At some, you find actors from past SF TV shows selling autographed photos of themselves. In my whole life, I have bought precisely one such: on Sunday, November 25, 2007, at LosCon 34 in Los Angeles I met Bob May, the actor who was inside the Robot costume on Lost in Space, and had him sign the above photo of him and the robot suit for me. (Click the photo for a larger version.)

Bob May died yesterday. He was 69.

I have huge fondness for the Robot, as this excerpt from my novel Rollback attests:
"All right," said the robot. "Have you chosen a name for me yet?"

Sarah lifted her shoulders and looked at Don. "Gunter," he said.

"Is that G-U-N-T-H-E-R?" asked the robot.

"No H," said Don. And then, unable to help himself, "Get the H out."

"My little boy," Sarah said, smiling at Don. She'd said that often enough over the years, but, just now, it seemed to hit a little too close to home. She must have noticed his quickly suppressed wince, because she immediately said, "Sorry."

Still, he thought, she was right. He was a kid at heart, at least when it came to robots. And his absolute favorite when he was growing up, as Sarah well knew, was the robot from Lost in Space. He got miffed whenever people called that robot Robby, although Robby, the robot from the movie Forbidden Planet, did bear a passing resemblance to the one from Lost in Space -- not surprising, given that they were both designed by the same person, Robert Kinoshita. The Jupiter 2's robot was mostly just referred to as "the Robot" (or the "bubble-headed booby" and a hundred other alliterative insults by Dr. Smith). Still, many hardcore Lost in Space fans called it B-9, which was the model number it gave for itself in one episode. But Don had always contended that the barrel-chested automaton with vacuum-cleaner hoses for arms was actually named GUNTER, because another episode contained a flashback, showing the robot in its original packing crate, which was labeled "General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Robot." Despite pointing this out to people for -- God, for over seventy years now -- Don hadn't won many converts. But at least now there was a robot in the world who indisputably had that name.

Of course, thought Don, Sarah understood all this. She'd grown up watching Lost in Space, too, although what she'd loved most about it were the photos of real nebulas and galaxies used in space scenes ("Astronomical Photographs Copyrighted 1959 by the California Institute of Technology," the card on the ending credits said). But, he realized sadly, none of this would mean anything to Lenore or anyone else who was as young as he felt.

Here's my collection of Lost in Space robots:

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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The Promised Land

Today -- Monday, January 19 -- is this year's celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Tomorrow -- Tuesday, January 20 -- a black man will become President of the United States.

We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will.

And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I have seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 3, 1968,
Memphis, Tennessee

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wake opening chapters now online

There are now pages devoted to my next novel, Wake, on my website at, including:Wake will be published in hardcover in April 2009.

And you can read all my blog posts about Wake here (including this post).

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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More on pros and cons: choosing panels

A few days ago, I was asked about how a pro might get the most out of attending a science-fiction convention. I gave my advice here, but another point just occurred to me.

I was just directed to the lengthy list of panel topics from which to choose those I wanted to be part of at Norwescon, a con I'll be attending in April 2009 in Seattle. In making my choices, I realized I was picking ones that made it possible for me to cite work of my own in relation to the discussion (not that that's all I'm going to do, but I do want audience members who feel I've had something witty and intelligent to contribute to be able to find a specifically related novel by me to enjoy). Here are some of my picks, and the novel of mine that is obviously connected to the topic to be discussed:

SCI15 Robots' Rights
The real reason we want AI is that we want perfect slaves. Whether they be butlers, bodyguards, intelligent sex toys or whatever, we want Jeeves-like competence with hard-wired loyalty and obedience and without the moral issues involved in enslaving people. But is there a paradox in that? Is it possible for machines (i.e., any combination of hardware and software) to be smart enough to do what we really want them to do without also being self-aware enough to have "human" rights?

(My novel Wake, which is being released just days before Norwescon begins.)

SCI04 The Science of Immortality
Some scientists think that the human lifespan is set at a point around 120 years. Others are coming up with creative ways to extend that point out to centuries, or even millennia. Which theories on extending life are the most popular, and which are the most provocative? What individuals and companies are pursuing the dream of eternal life? And when will you be able to get your own "longevity pill" or stroll on down to the clinic for an "immortality treatment"?

(My Hugo Award-nominated Rollback)

SCI18 Order in the (Alien?) Court!
What happens when you're accused of a crime on another planet? How have writers handled this in the past--from Heinlein's Have Spacesuit, will Travel to the Klingon court in The Undiscovered Country? Is it possible to write about methods of dispensing justice without depending on Terran history? Is the idea of justice itself an Earth concept?

(My Seiun Award-winning Illegal Alien)

SCI43 Backups: Eternal Life or Eternal Death?
Let's say we could record a person's mind and play it back into a new body, so that the new person couldn't be told from the old. Would that lead to immortality? Or would it lead to an endless series of deaths followed by the creation of a new person who just thinks he's the old one? Essentially, what does it mean to be oneself?

(My John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winning Mindscan)

WRI70 Alternate Prehistory
Do new discoveries in paleontology offer ideas for alternate history? Is this prehistory an untapped resource for alternate history?

(My Hugo Award-winning Hominids)

So, yes, as a pro, by all means pick topics that excite you, but if you are hoping that panel participation might actually sell a book or two, do choose panels that are relevant to your work.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rob's suggested nominees for the Hugo and Aurora Awards

I've posted thirteen messages with suggestions for this year's Hugo Awards (the top international honours in science fiction) and Aurora Awards (the Canadian national SF awards). You can see them all here.

Attending and supporting members of last year's World Science Fiction Convention in Denver and this year's one in Montreal may nominate for the Hugos.

Any Canadian may nominate (for free!) for the Aurora Awards -- the ballot is here and more information about the awards is here.

The Canadian SF Works Database provides info about additional works by Canadians that are eligible for both awards. It's a Wiki, so if you know of any omissions, feel free to add them in.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


My writing students for the Hugo and the Aurora

This is the thirteenth and final post in a series of blog posts in which I've discussed people and things that I think merit consideration for this year's Hugo and Aurora Awards; both sets of awards will be given at the Montreal Worldcon this year.
Last year, 2008, was a good one for my writing students.

I mentioned back in November 2008 that Tony Pi [who was my student at the University of Toronto in 2001] has stories all over the place (and I also mentioned that he's eligible for the John W. Campbell Award), and that Douglas Smith [Ryerson University 1997] had his first collection, Impossibilia, out from PS Publishing.

And I've already crowed about Hayden Trenholm's novel Defining Diana from Bundoran Press [Ifwa workshop in Calgary 1996]; he also had a story entitled "Love In its Season" in the Summer 2008 On Spec.

Also in 2008, my student Edward Willett [Banff Centre 2003 and 2005] had his first mass-market SF novel, Marseguro, published by DAW (and picked up by the Science Fiction Book Club).

Susan Forest [Ifwa workshop 2003] had a terrific short story called "Back" in the June 2008 Analog.

Matthew Johnson [University of Toronto 2005] had short story "Another Country" in the April-May 2008 Asimov's, and the short story "Lagos" in the August 2008 Asimov's.

And Randy McCharles, whom I've recommended for a fan Aurora for his work on the World Fantasy Convention, and who has taken more workshops with me than anyone else [Ifwa 1996, Ifwa 2003, and Banff Centre 2006], had his first major pro publication this year: the novelette "Ringing the Changes in Okotoks, Alberta" in Tesseracts Twelve, edited by Claude Lalumière.

I draw all of them to your attention for the Hugo and Aurora Awards.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


How to tell science fiction from fantasy

It's easy.

This is science fiction:

And this is fantasy:

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Wondrous Strange

Yes, yes, yes, we all know that my Wake has the most beautiful cover of any book coming out in 2009. But the second most beautiful cover is doubtless that for Wondrous Strange, the debut novel by my dear friend Lesley Livingston. It's a YA urban fantasy published by HarperCollins.

She launched it at a Toronto pub on Thursday evening, and the event was fabulous. Bakka-Phoenix was on hand selling books, Lesley did an amazing reading, and the whole place was hopping. Here's Lesley on YouTube talking about the book, and that's me and Lesley below at the launch.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

An unintentional comment on the state of the publishing industry

The lead story at Locus Online right now, in its entirety, is this:
Del Rey editor Liz Scheier was laid off yesterday and will be joining the growing ranks of newly unemployed editors -- her position at the company officially ends January 23, 2009. Get more news like this in each monthly issue of Locus Magazine -- Subscribe!
Sadly, that's probably exactly right. We'll see many more news stories very much in the same vein in the months to come.

My heart goes out to Liz and all the others being let go.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Kotowych, Pi, and Sellar for the Campbell

This is the twelfth in a series of blog posts in which I'm going to discuss people and things that I think merit consideration for this year's Hugo and Aurora Awards; both sets of awards will be given at the Montreal Worldcon this year.
On the Hugo ballot, you also get to nominate for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. According to the Canadian SF Works Database wiki, three Canadians are eligible for nomination this year, and I commend their work to your attention:Click on their names above to visit their websites and learn more about their work.

I note with beaming pride that both Stephen Kotowych and Tony Pi have been my writing students. Additional information about Stephen is here, and more about Tony is here.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Friday, January 16, 2009

Taral for the Hugo

This is the eleventh in a series of blog posts in which I'm going to discuss people and things that I think merit consideration for this year's Hugo and Aurora Awards; both sets of awards will be given at the Montreal Worldcon this year.
It astonishes me that Taral Wayne and I have known each other for over thirty years. Taral will be the Fan Guest of Honour at the Worldcon in Montreal this year. He's been nominated seven times previously for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist, and he's won the Rotsler Award, just this past year.

It would certainly be odd if he weren't on the Hugo ballot for Montreal. If you haven't encountered his work before, see here and here, and have a look at his Wikipedia entry here. Also, fellow Toronto-based Hugo winners Mike Glicksohn and Robert Charles Wilson offer appreciations of Taral here.

For the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist:
  • Taral

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Got me a netbook

Pretty much bought on a whim, but will prove very handy on my loooong flight to Turkey in 14 days' time, not to mention on the book tour for Wake: my first netbook, an Acer Aspire One, model AOA150-1049.

Specs: Intel Atom Processor N270 1.60GHz, 802.11b/g WLAN, 1GB DDR2, 160GB hard drive, 8.9" WSVGA (1024x600 pixels), Integrated Webcam, Windows XP Home. I got it in black, and this model comes with a six-cell (5 hour battery); I also bought a third party nine-cell (7.5 hour battery), and non-glare screen protector because, like so many computers these days, it came with a glossy screen that you could use as a shaving mirror.

Otherwise, though, it's an absolutely terrific computer, with a very crisp display, and it runs WordStar just fine. :) And, unlike some of its competitors (such as the Asus Eee PC models through the end of 2008), it has an absolutely standard keyboard layout.

(Netbooks are very small notebook computers; this one's about the size of a hardcover book, and weighs 2.5 pounds.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Escape from the Planet of the ... Humans?

Yes, indeed! The Italian edition of my novel Humans just came out from Urania, and they've given it the Italian title Fuga dal pianeta degli umani, which is indeed Escape from the Planet of the Humans, a lovely homage to one of my favorite films, Escape from the Planet of the Apes.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Access Copyright on the Google Settlement

Access Copyright is the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency.
Attention Canadian Copyright Holders:

An Important Message to all Canadian Publishers, Authors and Heirs of Authors about the Google Settlement

This settlement has the potential to affect every copyright owner in Canada. It is important to read the following message and forward it onto other copyright owners that you know.

There is a proposed landmark settlement to lawsuits brought against Google separately by book authors and the Authors Guild, and publisher representatives of the Association of American Publishers alleging that the scanning/digitization of books for its Google Book Search program infringed copyright in the United States.

Access Copyright is involved in the proposed settlement by working closely with a U.S. firm that is implementing the class action notice program.

We encourage you to read the full Notice about the settlement, which has detailed information about the settlement, important terms, the claims process, and key dates. Want to know more first? Read this article prepared by Access Copyright to understand why you should care about the Google settlement.

Access Copyright's Google Settlement Seminars:

To help Canadian copyright owners understand the implications of this settlement, Access Copyright is offering seminars on the settlement.

Web-based seminars will be offered on the following dates (all times in Eastern Standard Time):

Thursday, January 22, 2009 9:30 a.m. -- noon

Monday, January 26, 2009 9:30 a.m. -- noon

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 1 p.m. -- 3:30 p.m.

Based on demand, we may add additional web-based seminars in February. Please stay tuned for more details.

A seminar on the Google settlement will also be held at Access Copyright's offices at One Yonge Street in Toronto on Thursday, February 12, 2009 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

If you're interested in participating in any of these seminars, please email us [] with your contact details and which session you want to attend. Please note that space for all seminars is limited so it is important to reserve your spot as soon as possible. We will follow-up up via return email to confirm your attendance and provide any additional information you may need, including access information to the Web-based seminar.

If you have any general questions, please contact us at 416-868-1620 (toll-free 1-800-893-5777) or email us at

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Lloyd Penney for the Hugo and Aurora

This is the tenth in a series of blog posts in which I'm going to discuss people and things that I think merit consideration for this year's Hugo and Aurora Awards; both sets of awards will be given at the Montreal Worldcon this year.
You know why Locus -- the trade journal of the science-fiction field -- is called that? It's a pun. See, it started off as a fanzine -- an amateur publication -- and the heart and soul of many fanzines is the part where letters of comment (responses to earlier issues) are printed; in fact, one of the standard ways to get a fanzine is by having sent in a letter of comment.

Well, "letter of comment" is a mouthful, and fans just love abbreviations, so instead, they're usually called a "LoC" or "loc," and that abbreviation can be employed as both a noun and a verb, so Locus's title was an inviation for people to send in letters of comment: "LoC us!" Cute, huh?

The Hugos have a category for Best Fan Writer, and the Auroras have one for Best Fan (Other). A clever, voluminous letterhack (as those who write a lot of LoCs are affectionately known) is eligible for both those awards, and Canada has one particularly diligent letterhack: long-playin' Lloyd Penney.

In years gone by, you'd have to get an awful lot of fanzines to see Lloyd's output, but this is the online era, and Lloyd took my suggestion a while ago, and established an online repository for his clever, heartfelt, warm LoCs. You'll find them here.

For the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer:
  • Lloyd Penney
For the Aurora Award for Best Fan (Other):
  • Lloyd Penney for fanzine letters of comment
(For trivia fans, Lloyd Penney is tuckerized [another long-standing fannish tradition -- it means he appears as a character] in my novel Illegal Alien, and my novel Hybrids is dedicated to Lloyd and his wife Yvonne.)

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Ryerson at 60

I'm a proud alumnus of Ryerson University in Toronto (where I earned a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree in Radio and Television Arts, graduating in 1982).

And I guess Ryerson's pretty proud of me, too. In 2002, they gave me their Alumni Award of Distinction, one of (as of now) only 50 alumni out of over 100,000 to be so honoured.

And the mutual love affair continues: in honour of Ryerson's 60th anniversary, the Office of University Advancement commissioned me to write an essay about the University's future. It appears at the end (page 15 of 16) of Ryerson at 60: Proud Past, Unlimited Future, a beautiful full-colour insert that was included with the Winter 2009 edition of Ryerson's Alumni magazine.

Click here to download the insert and read my essay.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

Text from the Wake US dustjacket


Robert J. Sawyer was born in Ottawa and lives just outside of Toronto, Canada. He has won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel. Visit his Website at

Photo by Carolyn Clink

Jacket design by Rita Frangie

Jacket photos:
"Teenage Girl" Steven Biver/Getty
"Light Trails" John Lund/Getty

Visit our website at

An Ace Book
Published by the Berkley Publishing Group
A Division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014



Praise for WWW:WAKE

"Once again, Robert J. Sawyer explores the intersection between big ideas and real people. Here the subject is consciousness and perception — who we are and how we see one another, both literally and figuratively. Thoughtful and engaging, and a great beginning to a fascinating trilogy."

Robert Charles Wilson, Hugo Award-winning author of Spin

"Cracking open a new Robert Sawyer book is like getting a gift from a friend who visits all the strange and undiscovered places in the world. You can't wait to see what he's going to amaze you with this time."

John Scalzi, John W. Campbell Award-winning author of Old Man's War

"In Wake, Robert Sawyer gives us not only an entertaining novel but also a new way of looking at the World Wide Web. A superb work of day-after-tomorrow science fiction — I enjoyed every page."

Allen Steele, two-time Hugo Award-winning author of Coyote Horizon

"Unforgettable. Impossible to put down."

Jack McDevitt, Nebula Award-winning author of The Devil's Eye

ISBN 978-0-441-01679-2


Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Author



"Sawyer gives us not only an entertaining novel but also a new way of looking at the World Wide Web ... Superb."
Allen Steele


Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Author



During his decades-spanning career, award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer has "undoubtedly cemented his reputation as one of the foremost science fiction writers of our generation" (SF Site). Now he adds to his impressive body of work with an imaginative and mind-blowing new trilogy of the web — and its awakening ...

Caitlin Decter is young, pretty, feisty, a genius at math — and blind. Still, she can surf the net with the best of them, following its complex paths clearly in her mind.

When a Japanese researcher develops a new signal-processing implant that might give her sight, she jumps at the chance, flying to Tokyo for the operation.

But Caitlin's brain long ago co-opted her primary visual cortex to help her navigate online. Once the implant is activated, instead of seeing reality, the landscape of the world wide web explodes into her consciousness, spreading out all around her in a riot of colors and shapes. While exploring this amazing realm, she discovers something — some other — lurking in the background. And it's getting smarter ...

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Wake US dustjacket

Voilà! My US editor Ginjer Buchanan just sent me the final version of the dustjacket for my novel Wake, which will be released April 7, 2009, in hardcover by Ace Science Fiction in the States.

Shown above is the final front cover (slightly revised from what I'd posted before), and if you click on the cover or here, you'll see the full dust jacket (front cover, back cover, and flaps, including all the copy). Your browser will probably shrink it to fit your window; click on the graphic and it should zoom to full size. Note: this is a 4.5 megabyte file.

I am totally, totally thrilled. I've had lots of nice dustjackets over the years, but I think this is the most stunningly beautiful cover I've ever had. Hats off to the amazing Rita Frangie, who designed the dustjacket.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Video of Rob on TVOntario's The Agenda

Robert J. Sawyer, Don Tapscott, and others on TVOntario's The Agenda with Steve Paikin discuss "Your Brain and Technology" (38-minute video, first broadcast January 14, 2009).

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site