SFWRITER.COM > Novels > Starplex > Writing Starplex
by Robert J. Sawyer
Copyright © 1997 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.
Each year, the Spring issue of the SFWA Bulletin features
essays from the current Nebula Award finalists about their
nominated works. Here's my essay from the Spring 1997 Bulletin
about my novel Starplex:
Starplex is my seventh novel, and, in many ways, it's also
my most complex. I had four goals in mind when writing it.
First, I wanted to create a novel that Stan Schmidt at
Analog would wish to serialize (this was before he'd
picked up The Terminal Experiment
for serialization). To my delight, Stan loved the book, and gave
it not one but two covers in Analog.
Second, with my Quintaglio Ascension trilogy
and Foreigner), I'd had considerable
success writing books with only alien characters in them. And I'd
had great fun doing The Terminal Experiment, which has
all-too-human characters. But I wanted to see if real aliens
could mix with real humans without the whole thing getting
confused, and with both sides still coming off effectively. When
Larry Niven wrote Ringworld (which has always been one of my
favorite books), he side-stepped this issue:
the humans in that book the two-hundred-year-old Louis Wu, and
the psi-powered ultra-lucky Teela Brown were larger-than-life;
I wanted to see if ordinary humans, going through such quotidian
problems as midlife crises, could exist side-by-side with truly
alien aliens. The feedback I've gotten says I managed to
pull this off, which pleases me enormously.
Third, I wanted to return to the diamond-hard SF that had
appeared in my first novel,
Golden Fleece but do it on
an even grander scale. For Starplex, I set a goal of tackling
just about every major conundrum in modern cosmology, and seeing
if I could tie it all together into one neat package. It took a plot that
covers eleven billion years and six billion light-years to do it,
but I think I managed.
Finally, like most SF writers of my generation people who grew
up watching Star Trek I had a desire to do at least one
"Star Trek done right" book: the story of a vast
exploration starship on first contact missions. I didn't want to
use a military background I always found that the
dullest and least-believable part of Star Trek. Rather, I
wanted to create an essentially pacifist novel that nonetheless
included epic, believable, exciting space battles and credible
Agent Richard Curtis originally sold Starplex to Ace based
on a brief 2,900-word outline. At that time, my editor Susan
Allison also commissioned a sequel to the book. But as I was
writing Starplex, I came to realize there wasn't going to be any
room left for a sequel. Susan graciously agreed to let fulfill
the contract with another completely unrelated book instead:
will be out later this year.
Finally, two points of historical interest: First, my own
title for Starplex was The Grand Old Man of Physics,
but no one else seemed to like it. Second, this novel is
actually the second appearance of the starship Starplex and its
human/dolphin/alien crew. They were introduced in my
first-ever sale: a short story
called "Motive" that was adapted into a
dramatic starshow presented 192 times at the Strasenburgh
Planetarium in Rochester, New York, during the summer of 1980.
Robert J. Sawyer's The Terminal Experiment won the Nebula
Award for Best Novel of 1995; the book was also a finalist for
the Hugo Award; Starplex was also a Hugo Award finalist.
Rob has won five Canadian Science Fiction and
Fantasy Awards ("Auroras"), five Best Novel Homer Awards from the
CompuServe SF&F Literature Forum, an Arthur Ellis Award from the
Crime Writers of Canada, and Le Grand Prix de
l'Imaginaire, France's top SF award. His eighth novel,
Frameshift, will be a June 1997 Tor title; his ninth,
Illegal Alien, will be out in December 1997 from Ace. Rob
was the founding director of SFWA's Canadian Region. He lives
just north of Toronto with Carolyn Clink, his wife of twelve
More Good Reading
More About Starplex
Writing The Quintaglio Ascension trilogy
Writing The Terminal Experiment
Writing Illegal Alien
Writing Calculating God
Writing "Lost in the Mail"
Writing "You See But You Do Not Observe"
Writing "The Shoulders of Giants"