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The Literary Career of Robert J. Sawyer
Copyright © 1988 by Robert J. Sawyer
All Rights Reserved
My first big break in the SF field came on August 7, 1987. Patrick Price,
the editor of Amazing Stories, the world's oldest SF magazine,
bought a novelette from me entitled "Golden Fleece" (after I'd made
some revisions that Patrick himself had suggested). I later expanded that
novelette into my first novel. The appearance of the shorter version
in Amazing was what landed me my agent, and enabled my agent
to quickly sell the book.
Patrick so liked the revised version that he decided to use it as the
cover story (commissioning a wonderful painting to go with it from a
then little-known artist named Bob Eggleton, now one of the top names
in SF illustration). That was a big thing back then: Amazing
was paying a flat fee of US$1,650 for their cover stories regardless
of length meaning I got more than three times what the story would
have earned had it been place elsewhere in the magazine (or had it sold
to one of the other SF digests). And, in addition, Amazing
commissioned an autobiographical essay from the author whose story
was being featured on the cover. Here's my essay, as it appeared in
the September 1988 issue of Amazing Stories, a snapshot of
my career near its beginning . . .
Current Directions . . .
At the time "Golden Fleece" takes place, JASON and the
Argonauts have been on their way to the planet Colchis for five
years. For them, that seems an impossibly long time. I know how
they feel. It took me five years of off-and-on poking and
prodding to finish their story.
In December 1982, Locus: The Newspaper of the Science
Fiction Field announced a call for submissions for a DAW
Books anthology called Habitats, a collection of stories
dealing with the experience of living in places such as
arcologies, terraformed worlds, and domed cities. Such ideas
appealed to me I'd already written about a domed Toronto in my
story "Ours to Discover" so I
decided to try to come up with something for that book.
I've always liked playing with words, and the term
starcology came to me almost at once. I guess I play with
them too much, though. The April 30, 1983, deadline came and
went with my story still unfinished. It didn't much matter. I
was well over the 7500-word limit DAW had imposed.
April 30, 1983, was an important deadline for me in another
way, though. It was the day I stopped working at a regular job
and became a full-time freelance writer. I write
magazine articles about high technology and business. I also wordsmith
for corporations and governments. Neither is as satisfying as
creating other worlds, but the money is an order of magnitude
better. Besides, I'd always thought I'd have plenty of time for
fiction. But my business has been booming lo this past
semi-decade and somehow the years have slipped by with me only
completing a handful of SF stories, with "Golden Fleece" by far
Writing science fiction seems a lot like making stew: you
throw things into the pot and then let them simmer. For
"Golden Fleece," the ingredients included an editorial by geneticist
David Suzuki on why he believes
Reagan's Star Wars won't work; an
exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum about the Titanic,
from which I learned the sad story of Arthur Peuchen; a course I
took in classical humanities; watching a re-run of The Ten
Commandments on the tube; and a job I once did preparing a
chapter on special relativity for a high-school physics text.
I'm trying to clear more of my schedule for SF writing. My
current project is a time-travel novella with the working title
"End of an Era." It concerns dinosaurs if
I hadn't ended up a writer, I would have become a paleontologist.
Of course, I've been poking at it since the summer of 1980 . . .
If it's received well, I'll expand it into a novel.
My wife and best friend, Carolyn Clink, has been my chief
critic and inspiration. Others have read my works-in-progress,
too. For "Golden Fleece," I'd particularly like to thank
physicist Ariel Reich for reviewing the science and SF writers
Algis Budrys and Terence M. Green for
their comments on the fiction.
In five more years, Starcology Argo will arrive at the
promised land. I wonder where I will be?
. . . and Past Achievements
- Motive, one-third of the Futurescapes trilogy,
a dramatic starshow produced by the Strasenburgh Planetarium,
Rochester, NY, performed 192 times in the summer of 1980.
- "If I'm Here, Imagine Where They Sent My Luggage,"
in The Village Voice, January 14, 1981. Reprinted as a "Bon Voyage"
card by Story Cards, Washington D.C., 1987.
- "Ours to Discover," in Leisure Ways,
- "The Contest" in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short
Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov, Terry Carr, and Martin Harry
Greenberg, Doubleday hardcover 1984, Avon paperback, 1985.
- "Uphill Climb" in Amazing Stories, March 1987.
- "The Good Doctor" in Amazing Stories,
Selected Critical Works
- "Donald M. Kingsbury: An Interview,"
in Science Fiction Review, Spring 1982.
- Writer and narrator,
Other Worlds, Other Minds: A Science
Fiction Odyssey, three one-hour programs for the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation's Ideas radio documentary series,
first broadcast in January, 1986.
- Entry on Science Fiction, The New Canadian
Encyclopedia, Hurtig, 1988.
More Good Reading
Other profiles of Rob
Rob's 1995 Year-in-Review
Rob's 1996 Year-in-Review
Rob's 1997 Year-in-Review
Rob's 1998 Year-in-Review
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