Sunday, August 30, 2009

New editions of FlashForward

My Aurora Award-winning novel FlashForward has been continuously in print from Tor Books, New York, since it was first published in 1999. However, this week two new editions of the book come out to tie-in with the ABC TV series of the same name, which debuts on Thursday, September 24, 2009. The new cover, incorporating the official series logo courtesy of ABC Entertainment, is above. The book is available in both mass-market (regular-sized) paperback and trade (large format) trade paperbback. Woohoo!
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FlashForward promo in Times Square

Check out the promo for the TV series based on my novel FlashForward running in New York's Times Square in this YouTube video courtesty of my friend Lorne Kates.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Federations review: "strongest story in the book"

There's a lovely review of the anthology Federations edited by John Joseph Adams right here, which says in part:
The strongest story in this anthology is Robert J. Sawyer's "The Shoulders of the Giants." It's a beautiful story. It's worth the price of admission.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Mississauga News profiles Carolyn and Rob

The Mississauga News has a nice profile of writing couple Robert J. Sawyer and Carolyn Clink in the current edition; the online version is here.
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Calgary Herald profile

Very nice, thoughtful profile of me on page 1 of the Entertainment section of today's (20 August 2009) Calgary Herald, the largest-circulation newspaper in the Canadian province of Alberta. The online version is here; the print version includes the above photo and the cover of Wake.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An interview with ... Caitlin Decter!

Check it out!
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Monday, August 17, 2009

Wake on the Locus bestsellers list for a second month!

W00t! Woohoo! My Wake, first of my WWW trilogy, is on the Locus hardcover bestsellers list for a second consecutive month. It was #2 last month (and the highest-ranked SF, rather than fantasy book); this month it holds on at #5 (and is the second-highest-ranked SF book).

This is my 28th appearance on the Locus bestsellers list.

Also of note is that the beautiful new trade paperback of Calculating God is the new "runner-up" (that is, 6th place) title on the trade-paperback bestsellers list (it hit #1 on the Locus list when it first came out in mass-market paperback in 2000). Go me! :) [Yes, I've been writing too much Caitlin of late ... ;) ]

The full list is here (data period May 2009, reported in the August 2009 issue).
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The voice of Caitlin

Carolyn and I just finished listening to's unabridged production of my novel Wake. We were blown away!

Audible used four narrators: Jessica Almasy (as Caitlin Decter), Jennifer Van Dyck (as Shoshana Glick), A.C. Fellner (as Sinanthropus), and Marc Vietor (as Phantom) (plus myself, reading the entries attributed to The Online Encyclopedia of Computing; I also read an exclusive introduction I wrote for the audiobook).

It's a magnificent production, and all of the narrators are fabulous -- and I now hear Jessica Almasy's voice in my head when writing Caitlin in Wonder, the third book in the series, which I'm working on now (that's Jessica pictured above).

A truly amazing production -- and I'd say that even if it wasn't of my work; I'm a big consumer of audibooks (and have been an subscriber since March 2001), and I can honestly say this is one of the best productions I've ever heard; I actually had tears in my eyes listening to the final scene, they did it so well.

You can get the production of WWW:WAKE, and other audio books by me (including FlashForward and Audible's production of Calculating God, which won this year's Audie Award for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Audio Book of the Year), right here.

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Fair Warning!

After a Herculean effort, I am done. I critiqued 29 manuscripts when I was writer-in-residence at the Canadian Light Source, and I've just finished going through a dozen more (most of them 8,000 words long) for the writers' workshop I'm running staring on Wednesday in Calgary.

I've written the last book introduction I was committed to write (for Campus Chills, edited by Mark Leslie); I've blurbed the last book I had to blurb (indeed, I haven't been blurbing at all this year, but made an exception for a special case). I've written all the letters of reference I had to write, and all the convention biographies I needed to do.

I've written the catalogue copy and cover copy for the next title I'm involved with coming from Red Deer Press.

I've answered every by-email interview question, caught up on my mail, etc. etc. etc.

My plate is clean, except for:

1) Finishing my novel Wonder, which is due at my publishers at the end of April 2010, and

2) Writing my script for FlashForward (which has its season finale the day before my novel deadline).

Neither of those are small tasks; in fact, they're gigantic. And I'm not taking on anything else until they're done. The next eight months are mine, for my writing.
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You can't copyright ideas but ...

So a nice fellow wrote me, very politely, to say he had been working on a book and only recently was it pointed out to him that one of the core concepts was very similiar to something I'd written about, and would I sign off on him being able to continue with his project? My response:
You're asking for blanket permission to do something similar to something that I created; you don't require my permission to do your own thing, but I'm really not in a position to say no matter how close you come to what I did I'm not going to object. Now that you're conscious of the antecedent for your idea, it's incumbent on you to make it as freshly and distinctly your own as possible -- just as I've done with things in my own work that are inspired by other people's writings. :)
And I wished him luck.
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My Worldcon highlight: John Robert Colombo

Anticipation, the Montreal World Science Fiction Convention, had John Robert Colombo as keynote speaker for its academic track. I introduced him, and he gave an amazing speech. My introductory remarks:
It is my staggering privilege and honour to introduced to you John Robert Colombo, the keynote speaker here at the Montreal World Science Fiction Convention's academic track.

John is a towering presence in Canadian letters, a member of the Order of Canada -- Canada's equivalent of knighthood -- and is Canada's premiere folklorist and collector and compiler of Canadiana, as well as a significant poet, broadcaster, editor, and publisher.

Although he has 200 books to his credit, it is his six pioneering works in the field of Canadian speculative fiction that we celebrate this weekend, most significantly his massive historical retrospective Other Canadas, published in 1979 -- thirty years ago -- the first-ever anthology of Canadian science fiction and fantasy, a beautiful hardcover gathering 21 fiction pieces and 28 poems drawn from 400 years of Canadian history.

Prior to that book, no one had made the case that there was such a thing as Canadian science fiction and fantasy: it was John who proved to Canada's publishers, editors, academics, writers, and readers that the field actually existed. When my wife and I edited Tesseracts 6, we dedicated the book thus:

"To John Robert Colombo, whose pioneering Other Canadas blazed the trail for the all the Canadian science fiction and fantasy anthologists who followed."

Colombo's other significant genre books include:
  • Mostly Monsters (1977), a collection of "found poetry" -- prose text that Colombo has rearranged as verse, gathered mostly from SF sources;

  • Friendly Aliens (1981), a collection of thirteen SF stories by foreign authors set in Canada;

  • Years of Light: A Celebration of Leslie A. Croutch (1982), a biography of Canadian fanzine publisher Croutch (1915-1969), as well as a general look at SF fandom in Canada; and

  • Worlds in Small (1992), an anthology of stories of fifty words or less, most of which are SF.
He has also published two significant genre bibliographies.

And on a personal note, he was the first member of the Canadian literary establishment to take my own contributions to science fiction seriously; in 1982, he published new stories by myself and two other emerging writers: Andrew Weiner and Terence M. Green in Leisure Ways, the magazine of the Canadian Automobile Association.

John is my friend, my mentor, and my hero, and it is with great joy that I present him today to you, Canada's master gatherer -- and Canada's master catalyst for the fields of fantastic literature.

Photo: Robert J. Sawyer and John Robert Colombo at Anticipation; photo by C. Mak.
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Thank you, Liana K!

I sent this note directly to the wonderful Liana Kerzner, who organized and hosted the Aurora Awards ceremony at the Montreal Worldcon earlier this month, but I'd like to share it publicly here as well:
Dear Liana,

You did a magnificent job. You were right, and I was wrong: the whole thing came off beautifully, despite the time constraints. Please accept my apology. I had a fabulous time, and was very, very impressed.


All best wishes.

And, of course, let me add my congratulations to all the winners!

Pictured: Liana K and Robert J. Sawyer at San Diego Comic-Con 2008.
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Speaking to the Hansard Association of Canada

My keynote address today for the Hansard Association of Canada, given on the floor of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly in Regina (pictured above), was very well received.

Indeed, I freely confess to being mightily inspired by getting to speak in the same place that giants like Tommy Douglas had spoken in (for my non-Canadian readers, and apropos of the current debate in the US, Douglas was the man named "the Greatest Canadian" of all time by a cross-country poll conducted by the CBC; he was the architect of our health-care system).

I was introduced in the coolest possible way: by the Executive Director of the Hansard Association of Canada reading to the assembly from Canada's Hansard record of the House of Commons in Ottawa, on the occasion of me winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel of the Year in 2003; Ottawa Member of Parliament Mauril Bélanger had risen in the House back then to make note of that fact.

My talk was wide-ranging, and everyone seemed to love it; I'm feeling very pumped as I wait here at the Regina airport for my flight home.

I had a lot of fun when some tourists were brought into the observation gallery, looking down on the chamber floor; of course, they had no idea who I was but I could conceivably have been an important government official, and so I interrupted my speech to say, "... and so I announce that Canada has gone to war with the United States." Brought the House down (so to speak). ;)

On a more serious note, I observed:
"The respective legislatures that you each work in are engines of change, the places where Canada has always embarked on new directions. You've been witnesses to that -- the official witnesses, in fact. It's what makes the House of Commons or the Senate or a provincial chamber such as this one so fascinating a place: the heady combination of history and tradition with incisive debate, bold policy-making, and the taking of giant leaps forward." -- Robert J. Sawyer, 13 August 2009

Information on me as a speaker is here.

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Anatomy of RJS

I visited Toronto's Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy on Tuesday, and had a look at the expensive but comprehensive standard reference work Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction, edited by Neil Barron. I own an old edition from the 1980s, but the Merril had the most recent one, the Fifth, from 2004.

The book contains hundreds of capsule reviews, and a list of the field's "Best Books." Four of my titles were reviewed (which is a lot; most authors are represented by only one or two works, if at all), and two of the reviews were starred (meaning, in the reviewer's opinion, they belonged on the list of the Best Books); the reviews of my work were all by academic Michael Levy, past president of the Science Fiction Research Association.

A blue-ribbon panel of the top critics in the science-fiction field were invited to concur or disagree with the principal reviews. That panel included John Clute (Hugo-winning co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction), Don D'Ammassa (long-time book reviewer for Science Fiction Chronicle), James Gunn (director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas), and David G. Hartwell (co-editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction).

Here are excerpts from the reviews by Michael Levy of my novels (the entries in the actual book are longer, and contain plot synopses):
Calculating God
Sawyer does a fine job of developing both his human and alien protagonists. This is an unusually thoughtful novel, which finished second for the Hugo Award and features serious discussion of issues not often considered in science fiction. Compare Blish's A Case of Conscience. [And Calculating God was named to the "Best Books" list by David G. Hartwell.]

Factoring Humanity
Sawyer's novel differs from most tales of first contact in that it centers on important, but small-scale effects such an event might have on individual human beings. Compare Sagan's Contact.

Hominids * [starred review]
Sawyer does a brilliant job of highlighting the differences between human and Neanderthal society. Later, equally well-done volumes in the series are Humans and Hybrids. [Hominids was also named a "Best Book" by both David G. Hartwell and John Clute, and Clute added "and sequels," meaning that in his view Humans and Hybrids qualify as "Best Books," too.]

The Terminal Experiment * [starred review]
[A] well-done thriller. More-action oriented than most of his later work, this novel nonetheless features Sawyer's trademark interest in the thoughtful extrapolation of important ideas. Compare Cadigan's Synners. [Also named a "Best Book" by John Clute, Don D'Ammassa, and James Gunn.]

In total, that puts all of these on the "Best Books" list: Calculating God, Hominids, Humans, Hybrids, and The Terminal Experiment. Needless to say, I'm delighted.

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The view from Sunset Boulevard

Courtesy of my Hollywood agent Vince Gerardis of Created By, a view today down Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. How cool is that?

Pictured: Giant billboard for FlashForward covering the side of a ten-story building.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ottawa Citizen blogs Worldcon

Check it out: The Ottawa Citizen -- the largest circulation newspaper in Canada's capital city -- sent a reporter named Kate Heartfield to the Montreal Worldcon, and she blogs about it here in an entry entitled "Gaiman, Krugman, Sawyer and Ottawa writers at the Auroras."

Included in the blog post: Photo of Ottawa writers Hayden Trenholm and Peter Atwood, plug for the new books by Hayden and Matthew Johnson from Bundoran Press, and, I must say, a super nice concluding paragraph:
Then we trooped over to a launch party for Trenholm's book Steel Whispers, and for a book called Fall from Earth by another very nice Ottawa writer (they're everywhere!) named Matthew Johnson. Both were published by Bundoran Press. Robert Sawyer was at the party (and was a presenter and nominee at the Auroras). It seems like everywhere I go, people are talking about what an incredible friend Sawyer is to young SF writers, how much he gives back to the community. And from what I saw from the fringes of the party, he's a friendly, humble guy who seemed to always have his attention on someone else's needs, whether it was lugging a box of books for a younger writer or giving a big hug to a former student.
Blush. The full blog post is here.
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Canadian booktour for Watch starting to shape up

Had a fabulous meeting with Adrienne Kerr, my new editor at Penguin Canada, yesterday, followed by an amazing meeting with the whole marketing team there.

We're definitely going to have a cross-Canada book tour for Watch next spring. Anchor points will include Ad Astra in Toronto (at which I'm guest of honour); Keycon in Winnipeg (which will be the Canadian National Science Fiction Convention next year, and at which, fandom willing, perhaps Wake will be an Aurora finalist), plus Halifax (which I missed -- except for a radio interview at the CBC studios there -- last time).

Other cities will almost certainly include Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, plus more of Southwestern Ontario, which got short-shrift last time.

(That's the US cover above; the Canadian one will lack the "WWW:" prefix and have a different quote.)
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Let Me Help

"'Let me help.' A hundred years or so from now, I believe, a famous novelist will write a classic using that theme. He'll recommend those three words even over 'I love you.'" -- James T. Kirk, "The City on the Edge of Forever"
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Monday, August 10, 2009

National Post calls FlashForward a "tectonic shift"

Canada's National Post -- a major daily newspaper -- today reported on the pilot for FlashForward, saying this:
Every so often, a new TV show comes along that's so eye-filling, so visually startling and so emotionally gripping that it feels like a tectonic shift may be about to occur in the popular culture.

ABC saved the best for last, unveiling its pilot episode of the secretive, big-budget futuristic thriller FlashForward, based on the novel by Canadian Robert J. Sawyer.

In an age when broadcast TV faces across-the-board cost-cutting and scaled-down ambitions, FlashForward represents a throwback to an earlier age. Not since the pilot episode of Lost has a single hour of network TV looked -- or felt -- more like a feature film.

FlashForward, about a two-minute, 17-second blackout that affects every person on Earth, is full of suspense and unanswered questions. Based on its initial screening, though, it's also full of genuine, human emotion.

FlashForward is more than just a futuristic What If' tale. In a notably buzz-free fall season, it's a reminder of just how powerful the medium of TV can be, how it can move a mass audience to tears, laughter and excitement by turns.

FlashForward is, quite simply, the most eye-filling, heart-wrenching pilot episode of a new network drama series since Lost -- and it gives us all hope that this may not be such a bad fall TV season after all.

Who are we to argue? You can read the full article here.

[Update: it also appeared on Tuesday, August 11, 2009, in The Montreal Gazette: you can read that version here.]

Photo: Robert J. Sawyer, author of the novel FlashForward, flanked by the writers of the pilot script based on his book: David S. Goyer on the left, and Brannon Braga on the right.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Distant Early Warnings #1 Saskatoon bestseller

... on the McNally Robinson Saskatoon trade-paperback bestsellers list and Calculating God is #10 on the trade list.

Meanwhile, Wake is #10 on the hardcover list, and Flash Forward is #5 on the mass-market list. Great way to end my residency at the Canadian Light Source!

Current McNally Robinson Saskatoon trade-paperback bestsellers' list:

1. Distant Early Warnings
By Robert J. Ed Sawyer

2. My Stroke Of Insight
By Jill Bolte Taylor

3. The Book of Negroes
By Laurence Hill

4. Waiter Rant
By Dublanica Steve

5. The Gargoyle
By Andrew Davidson

6. Water for Elephants
By Sara Gruen

7. Secret Lives Of Sargeant John Wilson
By Lois Simmie

8. 1434
By Gavin Menzies

9. Our Towns: Saskatchewan Communities from Abbey to Zenon Park
By David Mclennan

10. Calculating God
By Robert J. Sawyer

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Philip Marchand quotes me in today's National Post

Phil Marchand -- long-time books columnist for The Toronto Star now writes for Canada's National Post, and has a very thoughtful article on "How Fantasy Overtook Science Fiction" in today's edition.
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Heading off to Worldcon in Montreal

My reading is one of the last events at the con: 2:00 p.m. Monday afternoon in Room P-512AE. It was to have been a joint reading with Joe Haldeman, but Joe will be gone by then, so Anticipation is giving me the full hour.

Among the things I'm going read, the first-ever public performance of "The Transformed Man," a 1,000-word prose poem I was commissioned to write by Toronto's Harbourfront Centre to accompany an art exhibition there.

Also, don't forget that Robert J. Sawyer Books is co-sponsoring the SF Canada party Friday night in the Delta, Room 2815, at 9:00 p.m.

And please stop by the Robert J. Sawyer Books table in the dealers' room, and pick up a copy of Distant Early Warnings: Canada's Best Science Fiction, which I edited.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Yeah, I wrote a vampire story -- wanna make something of it?

John Joseph Adams has just published the anthology By Blood We Live, which is full of vampire stories -- including one by yours truly.

My story actually was previously published (so please don't accuse me of jumping on the current bandwagon!):
"Peking Man" copyright 1996 by Robert J. Sawyer. First published as the lead story in Dark Destiny III: Children of Dracula, edited by Edward E. Kramer, White Wolf, Atlanta, October 1996.
And, when it was reprinted in my own collection Iterations and Other Stories, I had this to say about it:
Ed Kramer wanted to do an anthology in honor of the hundredth anniversary of a particular literary character. That character wasn't one I was fascinated with, but I did have a lifelong interest in paleoanthropology, although at this point, I'd never written any fiction on that theme (later, I went on to write a trilogy about Neanderthals). But having recently looked at a picture of a Chinese Homo erectus skull, and having thought, gee, those perfect, square teeth must be fake, an idea occurred to me that I thought might be right for Ed's book.

To my delight, Ed used this story as the lead piece in his anthology (editors usually put what they consider to be the best stories in the first and last slots). I occasionally think about expanding the premise of this story into a novel; perhaps someday I will.
"Peking Man" went on to win Canada's Aurora Award for Best English Short Story of the Year. You can read it, and 32 others, in John's new anthology, on sale now.

Pictured: Robert J. Sawyer receives the Aurora Award for "Peking Man" from Babylon 5 star Richard Biggs, 1 November 1997.
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Events at the RJS Books table at Worldcon

Robert J. Sawyer Books (Red Deer Press / Fitzhenry & Whiteside) will have a table in the dealers' room at the Montreal World Science Fiction Convention ("Anticipation") later this week, and we'll be feturing these one-hour signings at our table:

Thursday at 4:00 p.m.: Hugo Award-winners Robert J. Sawyer and Robert Charles Wilson and two-time Analog AnLab winner Paddy Forde signing Distant Early Warnings: Canada's Best Science Fiction.

Saturday at 11:00 a.m.: Hugo and World Fantasy Award finalist Nick DiChario signing Valley of Day-Glo and A Small and Remarkable Life, both of which were finalists for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year.
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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Chinese editions of the Neanderthal Parallax

I'm delighted to announce the sale of Chinese rights to Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids to Anhui Literature & Arts Publishing House. The sale was made by my agents Ralph M. Vicinanza, Ltd., in conjunction with Andrew Nurnberg Associates, and the editions will appear in simplified Chinese characters.
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RJS Books co-hosts Friday night Worldcon party

Robert J. Sawyer Books, the imprint I edit for Red Deer Press (a Fitzhenry & Whiteside Company), is co-hosting the SF Canada Party at the Montreal World Science Fiction Convention, starting at 9:00 p.m. in the Delta Hotel, Suite 2815.

(But come an hour earlier to the same place for the launch of new novels by two of my writing students, Hayden Trenholm and Matthew Johnson, both of who have books debuting at Worldcon from Bundoran Press.)

And Robert J. Sawyer, Paddy Forde, and Robert Charles Wilson will all be signing Distant Early Warnings: Canada's Best Science Fiction Thursday at 4:00 p.m. at the Fitzhenry & Whiteside / Robert J. Sawyer Books table at the Worldcon.

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Seton Hill upgrades its Popular Fiction program to an MFA

For many years now, Seton Hill University's Master of Arts program in Writing Popular Fiction has been one of the few places where genre-fiction writers (including those doing science fiction and fantasy, as well as romance and mystery) have been welcome in a graduate-level program in creative writing.

And now, Seton Hill has upgraded its program from a Master of Arts to a Master of Fine Arts (from an M.A. to an M.F.A.).

The significance, for those who don't follow such arcana, is that an M.F.A. is considered a "terminal degree" in Creative Writing -- and no, that doesn't mean it'll kill your writing career <grin>. Rather, it means it's the highest academic degree offered in that discipline (whereas an M.A. is considered a waystation en route to a Ph.D.; the Ph.D. is the terminal degree in most disciplines that offer M.A. degrees).

The best-known graduate from the science fiction and fantasy stream of the the old M.A. program at Seton Hill is Nalo Hopkinson. The university is located in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

More information on the program is here.
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Starplex coming in March 2010

I'm delighted to announce that Red Deer Press, a division of Canadian publisher Fitzhenry & Whiteside, will be reissuing my 1996 novel Starplex in March 2010 (next spring) in trade paperback (with an unabridged audiobook available from


by Robert J. Sawyer

The only novel of its year to be nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards

From the author of FlashForward, a far-future spaceships-and-alien hard-SF extravaganza in the tradition of Larry Niven.

The interstellar shortcuts are open. Discovery awaits.

Winner of the Aurora Award!

"Sawyer's latest should gladden the hearts of readers who complain that nobody's writing real science fiction anymore, the kind of story that has faster-than-light spaceships and far-off planets and interstellar combat. Sawyer deftly juggles half a dozen sweeping questions of cosmology (not to mention everyday ethics and morality) while keeping the story moving ahead full speed. His scientific ideas are nicely integrated into the plot, yet they also hint at larger metaphorical levels. Enjoy." -- Asimov's Science Fiction

"Mind-boggling. A complaint often heard these days is that there's not enough `sense of wonder' in today's science fiction. Starplex ought to lay that complaint to rest for quite a while." -- Analog Science Fiction and Fact

"An epic hard-science adventure tempered by human concerns. Highly recommended." -- Library Journal

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