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Introduction to the Italian edition
Copyright © 2000 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved.
In 2000, my Italian editor, Sergio Fanucci of Solaria, asked me to
write an introduction to the Italian edition of my novel
FlashForward. Here's what I had to
say . . .
The German philosopher Immanuel Kant claimed that the three
fundamental problems of metaphysics are "Is there life after
death?," "Does God exist?," and "Do we have free will?"
Without it really being a conscious plan, I've ended up writing
novels on each of those themes. My 1995 book The Terminal Experiment (for which I
was fortunate enough to win the
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's
dealt with a biomedical engineer who discovered scientific proof
for the existence of the human soul. And my 2000 novel
Calculating God attempts to
use science to answer the question of whether or
not God exists.
As for Kant's third conundrum, that's the province of
There's no doubt that here in the western
world most people do believe they have free will ... and
yet many of us, myself included, are familiar with the experience
of making a commitment, for example, to lose weight, only to find
ourselves falling off our diets a few days or weeks later.
Despite our best conscious intentions, our fate turns out
differently than we intended, almost as if we really didn't have
free will after all.
I've long been interested in classical Greek drama; Sophocles's
Oedipus Rex is one of my favorite plays, and I had the
privilege in 1977 of standing on the stage at Epidaurus and
shouting Agamemnon's name toward the heavens. But Greek tragedy
takes exactly the opposite underlying assumption: it believes
that our futures are foreordained, that our destiny is
unavoidable. My experience with dieting seems, on a smaller
scale, like Oedipus's utter failure, despite his devout wish, to
avoid fulfilling the prophecy that he would murder his father and
marry his mother: regardless of either his or my best
intentions, we ended up doing exactly what we'd vowed not to do.
Which worldview is correct? That of the Greeks, who believed our
destinies were inescapable, or that of people today who insist
that we are the masters of our own futures? I certainly find the
modern idea more appealing, but mere appeal is hardly sufficient
enough reason for a rational person to believe it to be true. Is
there really any valid reason to accept our belief in free will
as more valid than the Greek belief in predetermination?
As a science-fiction writer, I began to wonder what physics and
quantum mechanics had to tell us about this age-old question.
And, to my surprise, the answer is a great deal, and most of it,
building on the work of Hermann Minkowski, points to the
unsettling notion that the future is just as fixed as the
You're about to begin reading my novel ... but the ending of that
novel is already fixed, typeset immutably on the last
page of this book. You don't yet know how it's going to end,
and, hopefully, the journey will surprise you along the way, but
the conclusion is inevitable. Are our lives like that
a book that's already been written, with a happy or tragic ending
already set in stone? Is "now" simply the page all of our minds
happen to be contemplating? If so, what would happen if suddenly
our minds jumped ahead a hundred pages or so, looking at a scene
out of sequence, a chapter yet to come?
That's the premise of FlashForward and I hope you enjoy
reading it. Just do me a favor and don't peek ahead at the
ending . . .
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On Writing FlashForward
More about FlashForward
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