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Robert J. Sawyer
From Issue 5 (1998) of Challenging Destiny, a new Canadian SF magazine. I was interviewed at length in person by the editors, but theys sent me these two follow-up questions in June 1998:
Challenging Destiny: Could you tell us about some of the responses you've received to the ethical points you've made in your books?
Robert J. Sawyer: A. By and large the reaction has been extremely positive. I expected to take some flak from people on both sides of the abortion issue for what I said in The Terminal Experiment, and a lot of flak from Americans over the pro-socialized-medicine position taken in _Frameshift_. But very little of that has emerged. Indeed, most people have been pleased that I took a reasonable middle-ground approach to abortion; it seems lots of people really are ambivalent about this issue, but aren't comfortable articulating that ambivalence, because it's so important to be seen to be on the "right" side of the question (which side is right, of course, depending enormously on where you live). And I guess I made the case for socialized medicine in a pretty iron-clad way (I really do think it's a no-brainer); many Americans have thanked me for making the case in a way that finally makes sense to them. I did have one rabble-rousing extremist try to get The Terminal Experiment banned because it did not, in her view, support organ donation; of course that's utter nonsense, but there's very little you can do when confronted by someone who is clearly out of touch with reality. I suppose the comment I get most often about the ethical issues I raise in my novels is, "I don't necessarily agree with you, but you did make me think." I can't ask for anything more than that.
Challenging Destiny: In Far-Seer, you talk about how the Quintaglios need to undergo a rite of passage as a race, and in Starplex, Keith comes to realize the same thing about humans. What rite of passage do you think our civilization will go through next? Should go through next?
Sawyer: Well, first of all, I thought we'd actually gone through one of the major rights of passage: I thought we'd passed through the era of nuclear combat. I'm enormously distressed to see India and Pakistan pursuing that particular road to hell again. So, I guess that banning nuclear weapons is the right of passage our civilization has to pass through next. After that, it's facing the crisis that will occur when the first thinking machines are created. It is, quite literally, suicide to create your own successors; some people are hell-bent on doing that; hopefully, we'll be smart enough to stop them before they succeed. This is a theme I explore at some length in Factoring Humanity.
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