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Rob's Blog: July to October 2000
28 October 2000
I'm going to be pretty scarce for the next month, so I thought I
should post a little update.
On Monday, Carolyn and I head out to Japan for sixteen days. One
of Carolyn's brothers is house sitting for us, which is nice --
at least our plants won't die while we're gone ...
Last weekend I was keynote speaker at the annual general meeting
of the Writers Guild of Alberta, held in Red Deer, Alberta. I
had a terrific time, and the president of the Guild, Geo Takach,
sent me a lovely testimonial letter afterwards, saying:
"Eloquent, inspiring and hilarious! Rob Sawyer is quite simply
the best speaker on writing I have ever heard."
On Monday, I was the guest speaker at the University of Calgary,
talking to students in Randy Schroeder's science-fiction class at
the ungodly hour of 9:00 a.m. I gave a version of my speech
"The Future Is Already Here: Is There a Place for Science
Fiction in the 21st Century?," originally presented at the
Library of Congress last year. The full text of the speech will
be in the next issue of Foundation: The International Review of
Most of the rest of the week was taken up with packing for our
move to Mississauga; it's now only three weeks away. Carolyn and
I can't wait to get into our new home.
Thursday night, we did take time off to go to a book-launch
party. Our good friend Michael Rowe was launching an anthology
he'd edited called Queer Fear, an anthology of gay horror
stories. It was a great party.
I'll post a full report on our trip to Japan. Until then ---
23 October 2000
Australian SF writer Stephen Dedman stayed with us from
Wednesday, October 11, until Tuesday, October 17. Carolyn and I
had a great time showing him the sites. For Friday, October 15,
through, Sunday, October 16, we all went to Montreal (about a
six-hour drive) to hook up with my editor David G. Hartwell, his
wife Kathryn Cramer, and their son Peter, plus fellow SF writers
Terence M. Green and his wife Merle, and Donald Kingsbury. We
had a great weekend together, and in the evenings David hosted a
suite on behalf of Tor Books for Boreal, the Canadian
French-language SF convention being held in the same hotel we
were staying at. Lots of fun.
On Monday, October 16, Carolyn and I held our quarterly ROB --
Rob's Occasional Bash -- for SF professionals in Toronto. We had
not one but two special guests: Stephen Dedman, of course, from
Australia, but also Emmy Award-winning astronomical artist Jon
Lomberg. Jon used to live in Toronto and was the lead artist
both on Carl Sagan's PBS series Cosmos and on the movie Contact.
It was great to see him again after about ten years.
Although the ROB was very well attended, it was a bittersweet
experience, for this was the last party Carolyn and I will host
at our home in Thornhill, Ontario; we've had dozens of parties
there over the years, and many people have fond memories of them.
Next month, we move to our new home in Mississauga and, although
we'll continue to host parties there, this really was the end of
an era. Immediately after the party, we started packing in
earnest for our move.
I spent this past weekend in Alberta, being keynote speaker at
the Writers Guild of Alberta's 20th Annual General Meeting. I
had a great time. On Sunday night, 15 members of the local SF
writers group, IFWA, joined me for a fabulous steak dinner. This
morning (Monday), I gave a guest lecture at the University of
Calgary, and this afternoon, I fly back to Toronto, for a final
busy week of packing up for our move; we want to have almost
everything packed before we leave for our trip to Japan, one week
29 September 2000
On Tuesday, Carolyn and I bought a new home. We've been looking
for about a year and a half; we were in no rush to move, but we
did need more room. And, since we both work out of our home, it
didn't matter too much to us where exactly we ended up, as long
as it was still convenient to get into Toronto proper.
We've bought a 2,200-square-foot three-bedroom penthouse (22nd
floor) condominium apartment (our current condo is 1,200 square
feet, so this is a huge improvement). The condo is located in
Mississauga, a city of 600,000 that abuts Toronto to the west
("Toronto's" big airport is actually in Mississauga).
The views are fabulous, mostly to the north, but also to the east
from the master bedroom and to the west from the kitchen. We
have a huge terrace which will be great fun in summer (although
probably piled high with snow in winter). Because it's a
penthouse -- top floor -- we have something rare in apartments:
a wood-burning fireplace in the living room. We take possession
November 20 -- six days after we return from our trip to Japan.
Carolyn and I both fell in love with the place the moment we saw
it, and we're sure we'll be very happy there. Although the move
takes us farther away from some of our close friends (notably
Carolyn's brother David, who right now lives 2 kilometers from
us), it puts us much closer to other friends, especially Sally
Tomasevic and Marcel Gagne (the publishers of TransVersions),
major Canadian fans Peter Halasz and Michael Glicksohn, and
fellow writer Edo van Belkom.
For those who know Mississauga, we're pretty much in the heart of
downtown, a kilometer or two north of Mississauga City Hall, and
just north of (i.e., walking distance from ) Square One (huge
shopping mall), near Hurontario Street and Highway 403. We like
this location because we can still get into downtown Toronto
quite quickly (as long as we don't try to do it in rush hour),
but it cuts about 30 to 45 minutes off the previously four-hour
trip down to my family's vacation home on Canandaigua Lake in
Upstate New York.
We're both just thrilled, and can't wait to move in!
19 September 2000
On Monday night, screenwriter Michael Lennick dropped off the
latest draft of the script for the Illegal Alien movie, and
yesterday we had a meeting to discuss it. I think this new draft
is excellent. It really captures the spirit of my novel, while
at the same time successfully translating the story into the
medium of film.
Michael has made a few changes, of course, but not so many that
fans of the book won't recognize it. The aircraft carrier is
gone from the beginning (in order to save money); the principal
action has been moved from Los Angeles to Florida (with most of
the non-courtroom scenes taking place at the Kennedy Space
Center), and Frank Nobilio, a man, is now Fran Nobilio, a woman.
But other than that, it's definitely my book, expertly
translated. I'm very pleased.
David Coatsworth, the producer who, along with Lennick, has
optioned the Illegal Alien novel, has just finished being
executive producer of Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest picture, and
is currently working on a Tom Hanks film. He wants to move
Illegal Alien to the front burner in the spring of 2001.
Of course, most books that are optioned are never made into
movies, even if screenplays are written. I'm realistic about the
chances of Illegal Alien actually going in front of the cameras,
but it really does look at this point like it might actually
happen, and I'm just delighted.
14 September 2000
Got back from Ottawa last night. The conference I co-chaired
with Dr. Michael Greenspan (Michael really did almost all of the
organizational work) went fabulously. The conference title was
S/SF: The 1st Canadian Conference on Science and Science
Fiction, and it was held at the National Research Council of
Canada. The NRC provided funding for it, as did our corporate
sponsor, SGI (Silicon Graphics).
On Monday, Carolyn and I drove to Ottawa with author Robert
Charles Wilson and Mark Askwith, a producer from Space: The
Imagination Station, as passengers. The five-hour trip just flew
by, the conversation was so interesting.
Monday night, we hooked up with two other authors participating
in the conference, James Alan Gardner and Julie Czerneda, plus a
big contingent from Ottawa SF fandom. We all went out for a very
pleasant dinner at the Swiss Chalet.
Tuesday, the conference began at 9:00 a.m. and went through until
5:00 p.m. It started with my keynote address, "The Future is
Already Here: Is There a Place for Science Fiction in the 21st
Century?" The speech was very well received. Next, Dr. Paul
Fayter from York University gave a great talk with slides about
scientific prediction in science fiction. There was a panel
discussion after that, then lunch outside on the grounds of the
NRC, followed by the afternoon sessions, including a great talk
by Bob McDonald the host of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks science
program, and a fascinating lecture on SETI by Bob Garrison from
the University of Toronto, plus another panel discussion. The
audience -- mostly scientists and engineers from the NRC, but
some members of the general public and SF fandom -- seemed to
really enjoy the event.
In the evening, the four participating SF writers gave a joint
reading at the Ottawa International Writers Festival, which also
was very well received.
Wednesday morning, we all got a terrific behind-the-scenes tour
at the NRC; we then had lunch at a local Greek restaurant, where,
on November 16 last year, NRC engineer Michael Greenspan and I
had originally hatched the idea for this conference. Wednesday
afternoon we drove home with more great in-car conversation. All
in all, it was a truly fabulous event, and I was just delighted
to be a part of it.
7 September 2000
Today was an unexpectedly fabulous day. I had a meeting
scheduled with Heidi Winter, senior publicist at H. B. Fenn and
Company, the Canadian distributor for Tor Books. The meeting was
supposed to be a wrap-up discussion about my recent book tour for
Carolyn and I drove up to Bolton, Ontario, where Fenn is
headquartered. Heidi took us upstairs to the board room for our
... except it turned out it wasn't a meeting. To my absolute
shock and delight, it was a surprise party for me! They were
celebrating my making the bestsellers lists in The Globe and
Mail: Canada's National Newspaper and Maclean's: Canada's
Forty Fenn staff members were on hand to congratulate me. They
had a big cake and lots of beverages, and the art department had
made up a wonderful "Congratulations, Rob!" poster, signed by all
sorts of Fenn staff members, showing the two bestsellers lists.
Harold Fenn (the president) gave a terrific and very moving
speech about our ten-year-long association (Fenn is also the
Canadian distributor for Warner Books, so they had distributed my
first novel, Golden Fleece, back in 1990). I was absolutely
floored; I knew making the national mainstream bestsellers lists
was a thrill for me, but I hadn't realized it had been a thrill
for the Fenn folk as well. But they seemed at least as delighted
as I was.
After the party, the publicity department -- Heidi Winter, Marla
Krisko, and Melissa Cameron -- took Carolyn and me out for a
I was totally surprised, very touched, and completely thrilled.
It was just wonderful.
7 September 2000
Well, I hate that little British wizard ... <grin>.
The Hugo Award voting statistics were released immediately after
the Hugo ceremony held last Saturday night at the World Science
Fiction Convention in Chicago. Many an eyebrow had been raised
when Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban made it to the
final Hugo ballot this year. As you may know, the five books with
the most nominations become the finalists for the Hugo Award.
Well, it turns out that my FlashForward was the sixth
most-nominated book this year -- meaning if Harry hadn't emerged
from out of left field, I'd have likely been on the Best Novel
Hugo Award ballot for a fifth consecutive year (following the
back-to-back nominations of The Terminal Experiment, Starplex,
Frameshift, and Factoring Humanity). In descending order of
nominations received, here are the top ten novels of 1999, as
determined by the Hugo nominators (the McMullen and the Egan tied
for tenth place):
As if that wasn't enough for Harry to do to me, Tor tells me that
Calculating God is going into a second printing (which is
certainly good news), but that the second printing will be
delayed three weeks because all the commercial book printers in
the states are still catching up on work pushed aside to
accommodate Harry Potter mania. Anyway, if you were thinking of
buying Calculating God in hardcover, and want to get the
much-more-collectible first edition, you should probably buy it
Other than being twice Pottered, the Worldcon in Chicago was
fabulous. We had great meals with Tor editors Jim Minz and Moshe
Feder, with Analog editor Stan Schmidt, with writing buddies
Roger MacBride Allen, Glenn R. Sixbury, and Mandy Slater, with
Smithsonian paleontologist Mike Brett-Surman and his wife Kim, who
works in exhibits at the Smithsonian, and with "the KC gang" -- a
group of us who have been dining together since the Kansas City
Nebula Awards weekend: Jeff Kooistra, Paul Levinson, Jack
McDevitt, Bud Sparhawk, and Dave Truesdale.
Indeed, Carolyn pointed out to me that, because I skipped
breakfast on Monday, I had three consecutive steak meals in
Chicago: Sunday lunch with Jim and Moshe, Sunday dinner with
Stan, then Monday lunch with Roger. (We also had two meals of
Chicago's wonderful pizza, of course!)
My panels went very well; my joint reading with Jim Killus was
fabulous (I read "The Shoulders of Giants," and Jim read four
terrific short-shorts; we had a packed audience); my two
autographings (one on my own, one at the Analog/Asimov's) both
went very well; and my kaffeeklatch was wonderful.
All in all, it was a truly great convention. A special moment
for me was when Therese Littleton, the SF editor for Amazon.com,
told me that Amazon had now removed Kirkus reviews from its SF
listings, specifically because of concerns I'd raised with
Therese and Leah Ball (author relations manager at Amazon) while
I was SFWA president. They agreed that the Kirkus reviews were
notorious for giving away the endings of books (since they are
designed as a heads-up for librarians, not as recommendations for
consumers), and were also quite snotty on most occasions; Therese
says Amazon.com has committed to only contracting in future with
"appropriate content providers." Nice to hear.
But the true highlight was Monday night. Mike and Kim
Brett-Surman took Carolyn and me over to the home of John J.
Lazendorf, a Chicago resident who owns the world's largest
collection of dinosaur art. A small sampling from John's
collection was on display at the Field Museum of Natural
History (where we went to see Sue the Tyrannosaurus), but
the vast bulk of his amazing collection is on display in his home.
It was absolutely breathtaking. John, who is a really nice man,
took us all out for Chinese food afterwards. A really, really
Mike Resnick once described his version of heaven as a Worldcon
that never ends. I certainly didn't want this one to end, and
can't wait for Philadelphia in 2001 (or Toronto, which won its
bid handily, in 2003). Still, after eight days away from home,
it's nice to be back in Toronto.
17 August 2000
I'm back from my week-long trip to British Columbia. It was
fabulous -- soothing, relaxing, and very productive.
I flew to B.C. from Toronto on Thursday, August 10, using a
couple of upgrade coupons to get myself boosted to first class
(it's a five-hour flight, so I wanted to be comfortable).
I was met at the Vancouver airport by a volunteer from the
Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts and she and I, and
another author -- literary biographer Rosemary Sullivan who had
also come in from Toronto -- set out on the car-and-ferry trip to
Sechelt, where the Festival is held.
The Festival put me up right on site, in one of twelve bedrooms
they have at their hillside lodge; other authors traveling alone
were in the other bedrooms. It was great to be right there,
instead of off in a hotel somewhere, and the room was quite
pleasant; I slept like a baby (the clean sea-coast air no doubt
Thursday evening, Rosemary and I went out for dinner together,
dining alfresco. But before our meals came, smoke started
wafting over us. At first we thought it was a backyard bonfire,
but it turned out to be a house in Sechelt going up in flames. I
felt very sorry for the family that was losing its home, but it
was quite dramatic to watch.
After dinner, there was a private reception for the authors and
the Festival's various sponsors. Then the Festival began with a
bang: Michael Ondaatje, the author of The English Patient, read
from his new novel Anil's Ghost. The evening was introduced by
Shelagh Rogers, whom I always enjoy seeing; Shelagh is the host
of CBC Radio's flagship This Morning program; we had a nice chat
at the cocktail party.
The Festival readings are held in the nicest venue I've ever read
in. It's a 500-seat pavilion built into a hillside covered with
trees. The pavilion has three walls and a roof; the fourth wall
is open to nature. The whole thing is made out of gorgeous B.C.
lumber, and has comfortable chairs and a great sound system.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were filled with readings by the
other authors -- twenty-five of us in all. Each author had a
one-hour slot: perfect for a forty-minute reading and twenty
minutes of Q&A. I read the opening chapter of Calculating God
and a selection from FlashForward; both were very well received,
and the on-site bookseller (Tailwind Books) sold a ton of my
books after the reading.
I attended a lot of the other readings. Denise Chong, author of
Kim Phuc: The Girl in the Picture, gave a very moving reading.
Mystery writers Gail Bowen (whom I taught with at Banff earlier
this year) and Karen Irving did a wonderful joint event, with a
discussion moderated by Shelagh Rogers.
John Ralston Saul gave the keynote address, about the need for
improved public education in Canada. Now, Saul is a major writer
in his own right, but the real thrill for a lot of people was
that he brought his wife along. Saul's wife is Adrienne
Clarkson, Canada's Governor General (the Queen's representative
in Canada, and the putative head of the Canadian government). I
had a little chat with her at another cocktail party.
Saturday night I went out to dinner at a nice sea-side pub with
Paul Quarrington and a few other people; Paul used to be
president of The Writers' Union of Canada, and we talked and
joked about writers' group politics a bit, one past-president to
Sunday night, there was a wonderful salmon barbecue, followed by
a great folk-music performance. Then local writer Andreas
Schroeder invited me to his fabulous beach-front home for a
late-night bonfire, with a full moon hanging over the ocean. It
was just terrific.
Monday morning, I flew -- the sole passenger in a Cessna 172 --
from Sechelt to Victoria. I had lunch with my old high-school
physics teacher, who now lives on Saltspring Island; it was great
seeing him and his wife again. In the evening, I gave a reading
at Bolen Books, one of Canada's largest and greatest independent
bookstores. The stock of my books arrived in the nick of time --
Bolen had sold out of Calculating God, in part because they
discount the Maclean's bestsellers by 20%, and in part because
the Victoria paper had given the book a rave review. But Leo
Macdonald from H. B. Fenn (Tor's Canadian distributor) came up
from Vancouver on the ferry, bringing stock, and saved the day.
The reading went quite well, and again we sold a lot of books.
Rachel Wyatt, the director of the "Writing with Style" workshop
at the Banff Centre for the Arts came to my reading (as did one
of my students from when I taught there in April). Rachel had
retired from running that workshop, but was asked to come back
and head it up for another year, and, to my delight she invited
me to teach there again in 2001. I had a fabulous, fabulous time
doing it before and agreed on the spot to come back. The dates
for the workshop will be March 31 to April 6; drop me an E-mail
if you're interested in getting more details.
Monday night, Leo Macdonald, who in September starts as H. B.
Fenn's National Accounts Manager, took me out for a terrific
Tuesday morning, I took the HeliJet helicopter-shuttle to
Vancouver; it's a four-hour drive, including 90 minutes on a
ferry, but the HeliJet got me there in less than 30 minutes, and
I got some spectacular aerial views to boot. I checked into my
hotel, then was met by one of my best friends from junior high
school, who now lives in B.C. We had a terrific day sightseeing
and catching up with each other.
Tuesday night, I read and signed at White Dwarf, Vancouver's SF
specialty store. The store was packed, and we sold lots of books
yet again. I was absolutely delighted; Jill and Walter, who run
White Dwarf, did a fabulous job. At the signing, I met the
charming Inge Siemens, who is taking over as Fenn's West Coast
Wednesday I checked out of my hotel, then met up with Bonnie Jean
Mah, another one of my writing students from Banff earlier this
year. I took her out to launch at Cloud 9, the revolving
restaurant on the 44th floor of a hotel tower in downtown
Vancouver. The view was astonishing; Vancouver is a very
beautiful city, right on the ocean. After, Bonnie and I went
walking around, and she showed me some of the sights. Then she
dropped me at the airport. I got there two hours early for my
flight, so I asked the Air Canada rep if they had anything going
sooner -- and they did, putting me on a flight that was just
about to leave, and bumping me up to First Class for free to
All in all, it was a truly wonderful week. But I'm glad to be
home; I missed Carolyn a lot, and it's great to be back at work
on my writing.
9 August 2000
Lots of interesting things happening.
First, I'm delighted to report that Calculating God is currently
number 10 on the Amazon.com SF/F bestsellers list. That's
actually better than it sounds, because numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 6,
and 7 on that list haven't yet been published -- they're just
racking up pre-orders. So, of books actually shipping, the list
- A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
- A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold
- Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
- Harry Potter and ... by J. K. Rowling
- Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear
- FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer
- Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
- There and Back Again by Pat Murphy
- The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett
- Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullen
- Teranesia by Greg Egan
Also nice is that Calculating God is currently number 11 on
Amazon.com's Colorado regional bestsellers list; that is, it is
the eleventh most-ordered title by customers in Colorado --
presumably at least in part attributable to the rave review the
book received in the Denver Rocky Mountain News.
Saturday night, Carolyn and I threw an open "Thank You, Fandom!"
party at our home, in honour of my double Aurora Award win. The
turnout was amazing, despite the fact that it was a holiday
long weekend in Ontario; I didn't think we could have fit that many
people in our place. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and
much pizza, wine, beer, and pop was devoured.
On the TV front, I've been having a nice run on CBC Newsworld --
Canada's national cable all-news network -- as a science
commentator. Four times in the last three months, they've called
me to come on down to the Broadcasting Centre and talk about
science-news stories. On Monday, I went down to talk about the
discovery of nine new extrasolar planets, being announced at the
International Astronomical Union meeting. Lots of fun, good
promotion, and a nice way to pick up some pocket change.
Tonight, we're off to dinner with horror writer Edo van Belkom,
his wife Roberta, and their son Luke. Edo's schedule and mine
have both been very hectic of late, and it's been a while since
we've had a chance to get together; I'm looking forward to it.
Tomorrow, I fly out to Sechelt, British Columbia, where I'm a
reader at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts; I'm
spending four days at the Festival, then going to Victoria for a
signing at big independent bookstore Bolen's and then to
Vancouver for a signing at SF specialty store White Dwarf. I'll
also be having lunch with my high-school physics teacher, who
now lives out there, and an old friend from junior high.
The winners of the Japanese Seiun Award have now been publicly
announced. My Starplex lost to Mike Resnick's Kirinyaga. As I
said to Mike, "I'm not often happy to lose an award ... but in
this case, I can't argue with the voters' choice." And I was
delighted that my translator, Masayuki Uchida, was also Mike's
translator, since he shares in the honour.
6 August 2000
The media blitz for Calculating God continues. On Wednesday, I
did 30 minutes on Michael Coren Live, a national talk show in
Canada carried by CTS -- Crossroads Television Service, an
evangelical-Christian cable channel. Coren has a reputation for
being a very tough interviewer, so I was actually somewhat
nervous, but it turned out that he loved the book, and he also
was very knowledgeable about science fiction as literature
(having published biographical books on H.G. Wells and C.S.
Thursday, I recorded 19 minutes for Bynon, another national
talk show in Canada; this one airs on the cable network Prime and
the broadcast Global Television Network, it was first broadcast
on Friday. That interview went very well indeed, too.
Meanwhile, in today's edition of The Toronto Star, Tom Harpur's
"Spirituality" column is devoted to me and my book. Under the
headline "Science fiction and the search for God," Harpur spends
a third of a page praising Calculating God; he displays a very
sophisticated knowledge of the SF genre in his discussion.
Harpur is one of Canada's most popular columnists, a bestselling
author in his own right, and a former TV host, so this is
terrific "off-the-book-page" coverage. The piece came about
because my clever wife, Carolyn, happened to run into Tom Harpur
at the Canadian Booksellers Association trade show and handed
him a copy of my book, saying he might enjoy it. An excerpt from
Sawyer won the 1995 Nebula Award; his current
contender, Calculating God, is bound for similar
kudos. It's an action-packed yet highly
philosophical, theological and ethical story.
Well-melded into the fast-paced plot, a wonderful
dialogue goes on over the God question and over
right, wrong and the purpose of life. There is
nothing preachy-teachy at all, just a good yarn
with some solid food for the brain. It's
guaranteed to expand the minds of believers and
In edition, today's Edmonton Journal has a rave review of
Calculating God by Doulas Barbour:
Robert J. Sawyer is first and foremost a writer of
ideas, some concept that can drive a narrative
through to a grand conclusion, one that remains
true to science but often achieves that sense of
transcendence. This is Sawyer's great strength,
and it's fully present in Calculating God. As
usual, the premise is astounding. Sawyer has
created a very intriguing figure in Jericho, whose
scientific mind is the battleground of ideas in the
novel. It's a tribute to Sawyer's own enthusiasm
for science that he makes the various arguments
Jericho has with his new alien friend and others so
exciting. Calculating God is a fine read, an
intellectual thriller with real bite.
Tomorrow (Monday), I'll be interviewed by for 20 minutes on WLAD
radio in Danbury, Connecticut, starting at 8:35 a.m. EST, and
I'll be interviewed for 55 minutes on KEYL-AM in Long Prairie,
Minnesota, starting at 10:00 a.m. EST (9:00 a.m. Minnesota time).
And Tor has a very nice full-page ad for Calculating God and
two other titles on page 3 of both the October issues of Analog
and Asimov's. Great to see!
31 July 2000 (a 2,200-word entry, covering my book tour)
We're back home from our road-trip book-tour for Calculating
God. It was a huge success.
The tour began in high style, when I won not one but two Aurora
Awards on Sunday, July 16, at this year's Canadian National SF
Convention, TT2000. I took home the trophies for Best
English-language Novel (FlashForward) and Best
English-language Short Story ("Stream of Consciousness"). Space:
The Imagination Station (the Canadian counterpart of the Sci-Fi
Channel) was there to cover the event, and lots of Canadian media
picked up on the story in the following week. A piece about my
double win on the CBC website with a link to my own website at
www.sfwriter.com led to an old friend getting in touch with me:
the Hon. David MacDonald, formerly Canada's Secretary of State
(during Joe Clark's 1979 government); back in 1983-84, I'd worked
extensively with a small media-consulting group David was
heading, but we hadn't had any contact for years.
Sunday night, we had to high-tail it down to Rochester, New York.
For some reason, both of the review copies of Calculating
God that Tor had sent to media there had gone astray; we had
to hand deliver copies late that evening (which added about an
hour to our already long trip). We then headed out to
Canandaigua Lake, one of New York's Finger Lakes, and settled in
to my father's vacation home there.
Monday, July 17, I was the guest speaker at Gell House, a
fantastic writers' retreat in the countryside of upstate New York
(near Naples). My friends Nick DiChario and Mary Stanton were
running a workshop there, under the auspices of Writers and
Books, a Rochester non-profit literacy operation.
Tuesday, July 18, we got up at 4:15 a.m., and drove into
Rochester, New York, so that I could be interviewed for four
minutes on the morning show on WROC-TV, the local CBS affiliate.
The interview went fine. At noon, I was interviewed for 50
minutes on WXXI, the local PBS radio station, and that went very
In the evening, I signed at a Borders Bookstore in Rochester --
but they hadn't bothered to order extra stock of Calculating
God; they only had three hardcovers on hand. Fortunately,
Carolyn and I had some stock in the trunk of our car, and we sold
nine more copies on top of the three Borders had, for a total of
12 (plus several mass-market paperbacks, too).
I was really touched by the great show of support from the
Rochester-area members of SFWA: as far as I could tell, just
about all of them showed up for the signing, except for Steve
Carper, who had planned to be there, but had to bow out because
of a last-minute problem at work. After, a large group of us
went to the local Pizzeria Uno for dinner. It was a truly
On Wednesday, July 19, we left the Finger Lakes for Milford, New
Hampshire, arriving for my 7:00 p.m. signing at The Toadstool
Bookshop with all of ninety seconds to spare. I've signed at
this store once before, and was very pleased to be back. There's
a great SF-reading group that meets at the store, and they came
out in force for my reading (and afterwards, a bunch of us went
Thursday, July 20, we headed to Manchester, New Hampshire, and
did an hour-long in-studio radio interview, heard on three New
Hampshire stations. We then drove to Burlington, Massachusetts,
and checked into the Boston Marriott Burlington. That night I
did a signing at the local Barnes and Noble. It was a beautiful
night, and so the store was mostly empty, but I did sell six
hardcovers, so I can't complain, and the staff at the store were
Friday, July 21, Carolyn and I went to Cambridge, Massachusetts,
for a tour of the ground station for the Chandra X-Ray Telescope,
an orbiting astronomical observatory. One of the things I
absolutely love about being a science-fiction writer is the way
scientists open their doors for you. It was a real treat.
That evening, Carolyn and I had a terrific dinner with Jim Minz
from Tor -- and the SF buyer for the Barnes and Noble chain! It
was great fun. Readercon began that evening, as well; at the
"Meet the Pros" party, each writer was supposed to give out
copies of a sentence from their work as an ice-breaker. Mine
was: "Susan normally couldn't stand spiders, but the big guy was
clearly charming the pants off her" (from Calculating
Saturday morning, I did a by-phone radio interview with a station
in Fort Lauderdale. And, although I didn't know it at the time,
the Kingston, Ontario, Whig-Standard ran the Canadian
Press article about me in that day's edition, devoting a
half-page to it (with a beautiful color photo), and plugging my
reading scheduled for eight days hence at Indigo Kingston.
On Sunday morning, I did my autographing at Readercon, and
brought the two Aurora Award trophies in from my car (we hadn't
been home since I won them). They were a big hit: most of the
American fans at the convention had heard of the Auroras, but few
had ever seen the actual trophies (which are stunningly beautiful
-- Franklyn Johnston is the sculptor).
Readercon was terrific, as usual -- but it seems to have
plateaued in attendance. Very few pros or fans who hadn't been
there in previous years showed up. Still, I had lots of terrific
conversations, including great chats with writers Michael
Burstein, Jeffrey Carver, Warren Lapine, Paul Levinson, Barry
Malzberg, and James Morrow, among others. And Saturday evening,
in the hotel restaurant, I spotted actor Michael Constantine
(principal Seymour Kauffman from Room 222). I went over
and said hello to him; I told him how much I admire his work (and
I think I impressed him by mentioning Sirota's Court, a
short-lived 1976 sitcom he had starred in after Room 222).
On Sunday, July 23, we hit the road at just after 1:00 p.m. for
the long trip back to Canandaigua, New York -- but we ended up
being held up on the New York Thruway for four hours, because of
a serious traffic accident: a pick-up truck full of teenagers
had crossed the grassy meridian and plowed into a camper pulling
a boat; one person was killed, and another was in serious
condition. The police found lots of drugs in the teenager's
truck, and so the whole area was closed off as a crime scene.
People stopped their cars, and simply got out and milled about on
the Thruway, chatting. Despite the gruesome circumstances, it
was actually rather pleasant. It was a moonless, clear night,
with lots of stars, and my SFWRITER license plate proved to be a
great ice breaker.
Monday, July 24, brought the news that Calculating God was
number 7 on the fiction bestsellers list published by
Maclean's: Canada's National Newsmagazine. Needless to
say, I was absolutely thrilled. We took a mid-book-tour day of
holiday, spending the day with great friends Nick DiChario and
Mary Stanton in Palmyra, New York, visiting their fabulous new
house for the first time. We all rented the Garry Shandling film
What Planet Are You From? in the evening; it was okay. We
had planned to drive to Syracuse that night, but Nick and Mary
invited us to stay over at their place, so we did.
Tuesday, July 25, we got up at 5:00 a.m. and drove from Palmyra
to Syracuse. I did a terrific 40-minute interview on "Upstate
Morning" on WCNY-TV, the Syracuse PBS station. The two hosts
were very respectful of science fiction, and asked lots of good
We spent the rest of the day with friends Mark and Jenny Garland;
Mark writes for Baen Books as well as Pocket's Star Trek
line, and is one of my best buddies in the industry. We took the
Garlands out to lunch at The Olive Garden; Carolyn and I used to
have an Olive Garden across the street from our home, but the
chain withdrew from Canada, and we like to go to them whenever
we're in the states. That evening, I did a great reading/signing
at Barnes and Noble in DeWitt. The turn out was quite large, but
three creationists/fundamentalists -- including one minister --
showed up. Obviously, they had issues with what I'd been writing
about, but I must say they were polite, and actually added to the
charm of the evening. Also present was Baen author Charles
McGraw, an old friend.
Wednesday, July 26, we were in Albany, New York. The day started
with an in-studio interview on Northeast Public Radio, a network
of ten stations serving upstate New York. We then bummed around
Albany for the day, stumbling across fun celebrations for the
tenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the
Capitol building, and touring the New York Appeals Court, which
is said to have the most beautiful courtroom in the United
In the late afternoon, we arrived at Flights of Fantasy, Albany's
SF specialty store. Members of the local SF club (including SF
writer Chuck Rothman, book dealer Joe Berlant, and famed fan jan
howard finder) showed up, and they took Carolyn and me out for a
wonderful Italian dinner. After dinner, I did a very successful
signing/reading at the store.
Thursday, July 27, we drove to Ottawa, Canada's capital -- and
the city I was born in. We had a terrific tour of two of the
forensics departments at RCMP headquarters -- counterfeiting and
DNA -- thanks to a fan of my work who works there. We then did a
half-hour interview on "Literary Landscapes," a show on the
Carleton University station. We hooked up with one of Carolyn
and my best friends from high school, Helen van Vliet, and stayed
the night at her place.
Friday, July 28, we did a drop-in signing at a Chapters in
Ottawa (apparently just missing running into Charles de Lint, who
a clerk told us had just left the store), then drove to Montreal,
for a signing at the Indigo there. A professor from McGill
University showed up; he's considering adding Calculating
God to his course on popular-culture perceptions of God.
Saturday, July 29, we were back in Ottawa. We had lunch with
Larry Stewart, who won this year's Aurora Award for Artistic
Achievement, and then did a two-and-a-half-hour signing at
Basilisk Dreams, the Ottawa SF-specialty store. Sadly, H.B. Fenn
hadn't shipped copies of Calculating God in time, so the
store only had nine on hand; the Fenn rep showed up with two
more, and Carolyn and I had two left in our car, which we sold to
the store. All 13 copies sold, but we could have easily sold
more had they been available. I did two readings during the
signing: one from Calculating God and another from
FlashForward, and I brought my Aurora trophies in for the
signing where, once again, they were a big hit.
Jim Botte, who had previously chaired what amounted to the
Canadian version of Readercon -- a lovely Ottawa convention
called CanCon -- came by and asked me if I'd like to be Guest of
Honor at CanCon in 2001, the first CanCon to be held for several
years. I enthusiastically agreed.
Saturday evening we picked up The Globe and Mail: Canada's
National Newspaper. To my delight, Calculating God
was number 8 on its fiction bestseller list, making two national
lists that it's now appeared on (the other being
Sunday, July 30, we did a drop-in signing at Chapters Kingston,
then I did a formal signing and reading at Indigo Kingston
(Indigo and Chapters are Canada's two big bookstore chains). Bob
Hilderley, the publisher of Quarry Press, which will be doing my
short-story collection Iterations next year, showed up, as
did a crowd of about 25 people.
As soon as the signing was over, Carolyn and I drove the hundred
kilometres to Belleville, Ontario, where we met an old friend,
DAW fantasy writer Tanya Huff, for dinner. Tanya and I did a
joint event at Chapters Quinte Mall in Belleville, which lasted
for three hours, and a reporter from the Belleville
Intelligencer showed up to do an interview with me.
Friends and supporters Cindy Madden and Ian Wasserman came all
the way from Toronto to attend both the Kingston and Belleville
Carolyn and I finally headed back to Toronto, getting home just
before midnight after fifteen days and fourteen nights on the
road promoting Calculating God.
We're both exhausted, but we also both had a great time. Very
few things went wrong. I was on an antibiotic for an ear
infection, and that bothered my digestion for the beginning of
the trip; we did get stalled for four hours that time on the New
York Thruway; and we got a parking ticket in Ottawa. But, all in
all, it was a fabulous trip: after all, I saw lots of old
friends, won two awards, hit two national bestsellers lists, made
three TV appearances and four radio appearances, got asked to be
Guest of Honor at an SF convention, and sold a lot of books.
What more can one ask?
16 July 2000
Well, my book tour is off to a fabulous start!
Sunday evening, at TT2000, this year's Canadian National Science
Fiction Convention, I won both the Aurora Award for Best English
Novel of the Year AND the Aurora Award for Best English Short
Story of the Year.
The novel award is for FLASHFORWARD (Tor) and the short story
award is for "Stream of Consciousness," about a team of
scientists trying to save the dying pilot of an alien spaceship
that has crashed in Northern Ontario. "Stream of Consciousness"
was first published in PACKING FRACTION, edited by Julie E.
Czerneda (Trifolium Books).
The competition in the Best Novel category was fabulous:
* Beholder's Eye by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books
* Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson, Warner Books
* FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer, Tor Books
* Starfish by Peter Watts, Tor Books
* Bios by Robert Charles Wilson, Tor Books
* Death Drives a Semi by Edo van Belkom, Quarry Press
Carolyn and I had long planned to leave directly from this
convention to head out on the rest of our book tour, so the two
trophies are coming along for the ride.
Needless to say, I'm absolutely thrilled!
Read the Press Release.
12 July 2000
A very pleasant day today.
It began with lunch with my friend and fellow SF writer Andrew
Weiner at Shopsy's, a famous Canadian deli; we ate al fresco,
since it was an absolutely gorgeous day.
Next it was off to the Canadian Broadcasting Centre --
headquarters of CBC TV and Radio -- where I recorded an excellent
interview for THIS MORNING, CBC radio's flagship morning show.
The interview was conducted by Bill Cameron, quite a famous face
on Canadian television (who is filling in as summer radio host),
and it will air coast-to-coast this Sunday, July 16, just after
10:00 a.m. EST. It was a great interview, because Bill Cameron
had read the book cover to cover -- something very few
interviewers do, and because he actually knows and likes science
After that, it was off to the Canadian Press building -- Canada's
premier wire service -- so my photo could be taken to accompany
an article about me and Calculating God by Andrew Flynn, which
will be filed tomorrow. One of the coolest things about this SF
writer gig is that I've had some amazingly nice photographs taken
of me, by fantastically good professional photographers. Today's
photographer, Tanis Toohey, was certainly very creative, and I
think the shots are going to turn out very well indeed.
11 July 2000
For my 40th birthday, on April 29, my wife got me personalized
license plates that say SFWRITER. Ontario only just this year began
allowing eight characters on a personalized plate. The plate appears
on my new business card.
10 July 2000
Irene McCool, the area marketing manager for Chapters, Canada's
largest bookstore chain, called today with the news that
Calculating God was number 14 on the national, chain-wide
Chapters hardcover fiction bestsellers list for the week of June
29 to July 5.
Since Chapters accounts for 50% of all books sold in Canada, this
is a good thing indeed.
02 July 2000
Well, I wasn't looking for another teaching gig -- but I've been
offered one that seems too much fun to turn down. This fall I'll
be teaching a ten-week continuing-education course in the
literature of science fiction at the University of Toronto. It's
a non-credit, just-for-interest's-sake course, meeting one
evening a week for two hours a night.
We'll do ten novels over the ten weeks, the last of which will be
my own FACTORING HUMANITY (an irresistible choice, since it's set
right at the University of Toronto).
I've already also decided I'm going to put Robert Charles
Wilson's DARWINIA on the list, (a) because he's my friend and (b)
because it's a damn fine book.
If you'd like to be notified when the course is open for
enrollment, send me an E-mail:
02 July 2000
I finished my stint as writer in residence at the Richmond Hill
Public Library at 9:00 p.m. Thursday evening, June 29, and
thirteen hours later, at 10:00 a.m. on Friday morning, June 30, I
started teaching a four-day intensive SF writing workshop as part
of the University of Toronto's Taddle Creek Summer Writers'
I'm having a blast!
I've got nine students this year, making the SF section the
biggest of all the ones being offered (the others are novel,
short story, poetry, and dramatic writing). It's a terrific
group, and the overall quality of their writing is very high.
Out of the nine, I've got three repeaters: students who have
been to other courses or teaching opportunities with me (one was
at Taddle Creek last year; one came to a half-day seminar I
taught maybe three years ago U of T; one had been in to see me
when I was writer in residence at the Richmond Hill Public
It's really been a lot of fun; I'll be sorry when it's over
I'll probably be teaching at Taddle Creek again next July; if
you'd like to be notified when enrollment opens, send me an
E-mail to: email@example.com
- The Great War: Breakthroughs, Harry Turtledove (#2 on the list)
- Acorna's World, Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (#8)
- Soldiers Live, by Glen Cook (#9)
- Calculating God, Robert J. Sawyer (#10)
More Good Reading
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