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Rob's Blog: January to May 2001
Monday, May 28, 2001 A couple of news notes: * My "Fallen Angel" didn't win the Bram Stoker Award; ah, well ... * Two of my science-fiction short stories are being used in exams to test English-language proficiency and comprehension in high schools throughout two Canadian provinces. The British Columbia Ministry of Education is using my "Ours to Discover," first published in Leisure Ways in 1982, and the Quebec Ministry of Education is using my "The Blue Planet," first published in The Globe and Mail: Canada's National Newspaper in 1999, and reprinted in David Hartwell's Year's Best SF 5. * Spanish rights to Calculating God have gone to Miquel Barcelo at Ediciones B via agent Ralph Vicinanza. * I will be attending Readercon in Boston, MA, July 13-15, 2001, and Confluence in Pittsburgh, PA, July 20-22, 2001. ================================================================= Monday, May 21, 2001 As many of you know, I've been working on a trilogy for Tor entitled Neanderthal Parallax. Today, I finished the fifth draft of the first book, Infinite Faculties. This is the draft that I'm submitting to David G. Hartwell, my editor at Tor. (Today was a holiday in Canada celebrating the Queen's birthday so the courier offices were all closed; it'll go to New York by overnight courier tomorrow.) Other recent news: Bakka Books in Toronto has just published the third volume in their handsome trade-paperback series of classic Canadian reprint science fiction and fantasy. This one is the novel Consider Her Ways by Frederick Philip Grove. The introduction is by yours truly. I've also got a piece (one of three essays that appear in the book) in the just-released Ground Zero: The Art of Fred Gambino. Fred did the covers for the British editions of The Terminal Experiment and Illegal Alien. I'm delighted to report the sales of two stories to upcoming anthologies. My sequel to H. G. Wells's The Time Machine, entitled "On the Surface," will appear in Future Wars, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Larry Helfers (coming from DAW), and "The Right's Tough" (a title that is one of my more horrendous puns, if I do say so myself) will be in Visions of Liberty, edited by Mark Tier and Marty Greenberg (coming from Baen). Meanwhile, my Japanese publisher has just reissued my Far-Seer in a new edition with a brand new cover, quite different from the cover on their previous edition. I'll get a scan of the new cover up shortly. I've decided not to go to the World Horror Convention in Seattle this coming weekend, even though I'm a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Short Story of the Year (for "Fallen Angel," from Ed Kramer's Strange Attraction). I've just been traveling too much; I've decided to stay in Toronto and go to a friend's birthday party instead. ================================================================= Monday, April 30, 2001 Here's a LONG report covering my trip to Japan from Tuesday, April 24, to Monday, April 30, 2001, to be part of the Canadian Embassy's "Think Canada" program. If you want, you can SKIP IT and jump to the next entry in this diary. On Tuesday, April 24, I flew by Air Canada from Toronto's Pearson International Airport to Tokyo's Narita Airport. I was lucky enough to get to fly Executive First Class, and I was greeted very politely as I checked in, because my Air Canada tickets were marked "VIP" and "Canadian Embassy." First Class was a wonderful way to travel for such a long journey; the seats were well spaced (and I had no one sitting next to me), and they reclined back and had footrests that came up, just like my favourite La-Z-Boy at home! The only disappointment was that this was one of the Air Canada planes that hadn't yet been converted to having Empower laptop power plugs in First Class. So, although I had brought the appropriate power adapter for my computer for this trip, I was only able to do about three hours' work on my laptop before its battery died. (I was working on revising the opening scene of my latest novel, Infinite Faculties, which is due at Tor Books at the end of May.) For the much of the rest of the trip, I listened to the book God's Equation, which is a mixture of biography of Albert Einstein and discussion of his Cosmological Constant, which during his life Einstein had rejected as his "greatest blunder," but has now come back into vogue. I was listening on my new Digisette Duo-Aria MP3/Audible digital player, which is a terrific little device. So, although the flight was long (twelve hours), I was very comfortable and well entertained, and arrived quite relaxed. We crossed the International Date Line en route, so I actually arrived on Wednesday, April 25, at 3:30 p.m. A very nice driver from the Canadian Embassy picked me up at Narita, and drove me to my hotel. Narita is a 90-minute drive from downtown Tokyo, so this was a much more comfortable way to travel than on my last trip to Japan, during which Carolyn and I had gotten off the long (economy-class!) plane trip only to spend another hour and a half aboard a train, and then having to walk from the train station to our hotel. I had been booked into the Hotel Okura, which is one of the very nicest in Tokyo; indeed, it is Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien's personal favourite. Normally, the embassy wouldn't have been able to afford to put me up there, but the Okura chain was a sponsor of the Team Canada trade delegation to Japan, and so they were getting a very favourable rate. The room was large, with an excellent shower and bath, and western-style toilet and beds, and I spent five very comfortable nights sleeping there. This was quite a step up from the Sun Lite Shinjuki hotel we'd stayed in last time I'd been in Japan; indeed, my editor informed me that shortly after our last visit, two gangsters had killed each other in a gunfight in the lobby of that hotel! The first evening, I did little more than unpack and walk around the shopping concourse attached to the hotel, then went to bed. On Thursday, April 26, I was picked up at 10:30 a.m. by an Embassy car, which drove me from my hotel to the Canadian Embassy. I had visited the Embassy before, on my last trip to Japan which was good, because I really didn't have time for a tour today. I was being looked after at the embassy by Ms. Taeko Nakayama, the cultural industries officer. Three editors from Hayakawa, my Japanese publisher, were waiting there for me: Mr. Toshifumi Kamiike ("Toshi"), who is the editor of my books in Japan; Mr. Hiromi Komiyama, his boss; and Ms. Kaori Daikoku, an editor who was fluent in English, and was serving as an interpreter. Also present for much of the day was another interpreter, Mr. Joe Matsumura. Three press interviews had been arranged for today. I first spoke from 11:00 to 12:00 to a Mr. Kanta Ishida from the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. At noon, the three editors and I went out for lunch. I must confess I was being very careful with my food intake while in Japan, having suffered from food poisoning (campylobacterosis) during my last trip. So, with my companions' agreement, we went to a western-style restaurant near the Embassy, and I had a delicious steak. At 2:00 p.m. we returned to the Embassy, for my next interview, with Mr. Marc Schultz, from the Ashai Evening News. Marc, an expatriate American, spoke English perfectly, so we were able to conduct the interview without need of a translator. Ms. Deanna Horton, the economic consul with the Canadian Embassy who had arranged most of the details of my trip to Japan, had put together a very thoughtful itinerary for me. She knew I might be suffering from jet lag, and so had scheduled the Embassy car to take me back to the Hotel Okura at 3:00 p.m. for an hour-long nap, which I did indeed need. At 4:30 p.m., the Embassy car returned and took me to the head office of Nortel Networks. Mr. Norio Murakami, the president of Nortel Japan, is a big fan of my work, and in fact it was he who suggested to the Canadian Embassy that they include me on the "Distinguished Canadians" speakers program at the Embassy, as part of the Embassy's "Think Canada" festival (and Nortel was a Gold Sponsor of Think Canada, covering much of the cost of my visit). I had met Murakami-san the last time I was in Tokyo, and knew him to be a wonderful guy. He, and his vice-president and chief operating officer, Mr. Gary Ito, had arranged for me to speak to about 20 Nortel employees from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Nortel, a Canada's largest company, has had a bad year in terms of stock performance, but I was very upbeat about the company's future, and, indeed, about the future of optical networking in general, which is Nortel's specialty. The conversation was far-ranging, with Murakami-san raising an objection to human teleportation (the kind of long-term technology a high-tech company such as Nortel might one day be involved in), wondering if the copy produced at the destination was really the same individual, with the same soul, as the original who was scanned at the source. It was a very stimulating session. Afterwards, I was presented with a pair of lovely glasses as a gift from Nortel. Usually, such corporate gifts are clearly emblazoned with the company logo, but these were very dignified, with the Nortel logo etched at the very bottom of the glass, so that you would not see it until you were taking the last sip of your drink. Deanna Horton from the Embassy was waiting for me at the end of my presentation, and she and I went by Embassy car to Restaurant Tableaux, a large, beautiful restaurant that seemed to be a favourite of westerners living in Japan. There, a small dinner party was being hosted for me by Mr. Lance Gatling, the Vice-President, Asia, of Boeing Space Systems International. Also present were his lovely wife Atsuko, as well as Mr. Kaname Ikeda, Executive Director of the National Space Development Agency of Japan, and Gilbert "Gib" Kirkham, the NASA representative in Japan. Our dinner conversation ranged from third-world countries trying to assert their sovereignty over the portions of the geosynchronous orbit on their lines of longitude to eventual tourism in space. It was an extremely pleasant evening. The food was amazing, and the host, a flamboyant former actor from Los Angeles, was wonderful and very chatty. On Friday, April 27, we used the Executive Service Salon in the Hotel Okura for more interviews. Joining us was Naoki Shimizu, editor of Hayakawa's SF Magazine. At 11:00 a.m., I had a photo session for the Mainichi newspaper, followed by an interview by Mr. Masatoshi Kiriyama, Staff Writer, Cultural Affairs Department, for that newspaper. At noon, we broke again for lunch, with my editor Toshi and I finding a terrific Italian restaurant. We walked back from it, through a beautiful, very upscale neighbourhood whose geography was quite hilly, reminiscent of San Francisco. We discovered that the American Embassy was right across the street from the Hotel Okura; indeed, I later learned that there is a tunnel directly connecting the hotel to the embassy, so that American diplomats don't have to go outside. The Canadian Embassy is a very open, very public place, with galleries and a library that everyone is free to use. The American Embassy, by contrast, is a fortress, constantly surrounded by armed guards. I think I'm glad I'm a Canadian ... At 2:00, Mr. Yamashita Junji, the staff photographer for the Kyodo News took photos of me. He was so pleased with how they turned out, that he returned later in the day with an 8x10" colour print of one, which I will have framed when I get home it really is one of the nicest photos ever taken of me. At 2:15 p.m., I was interviewed by Mr. Kamiya Jun, Staff Reporter, Cultural News, for the Kyodo News. At 3:20, another photographer showed up to take a picture of me for On-line Books, the Japanese equivalent of Amazon.com, and at 3:35, I was interviewed by Mr. Kazumichi Moriyama, who is the editor for science fiction as well as science and technology for On-line Books. Mr. Kamiya congratulated me on Calculating God making it to the Hugo Award ballot. This was news to my editor Toshi (the ballot had just been made public the day before), and I quipped that he should buy Japanese rights to that book soon, because it will be much more expensive if it wins the Hugo ... At 4:20, I was finally finished with the interviews. What impressed me most was that everyone who interviewed me was very well prepared, having read at least one, in not many, of my books. In North America, interviewers often wing it, just going through the interview with a standard set of questions. But these Japanese journalists knew what they were talking about, and asked very good questions. I headed to my room for another much-needed nap, and at just before 6:00 p.m., the Embassy car returned, with Deanna Horton in it, and she and I were taken by the driver to the Four Seasons Hotel; Four Seasons is a Canadian hotel chain, so this was appropriate but it was also a stunningly beautiful hotel. The hotel had huge, gorgeous gardens on its grounds, and Deanna and I spent quite some time walking through them. It was early evening, with bats were gyrating in the air above us, feasting on insects. We went into the Japanese restaurant in the hotel, which was a beautiful place, to have dinner with my friends from Nortel, President Norio Murakami and Vice-President Gary Ito. At the outset, Murakami-san said everyone should order what they wished. Deanna explained that in a traditional Japanese dinner party, the man hosting the party would have ordered for everyone; we wouldn't even see menus. I ordered a Kobe steak dish, which came as slices of raw meat brought to the table, along with my own hibachi with charcoal stones and a basalt slab for a cooking surface, and so I cooked my own steak at the table. It was delicious! Afterwards, Deanna and I shared a cab back to my hotel, and I read for a bit before going to bed (I'm reading the excellent The Time Ships by my friend Stephen Baxter on this trip; by coincidence, my editor Toshi was also Stephen's editor for the Japanese edition of this book). Deanna Horton had thoughtfully given me a day free for sightseeing on Saturday, April 28. My editor Toshi and his lovely wife met me at my hotel at 11:00 a.m., and they very indulgently took me shopping for science-fiction toys; many SF toys even those based on western films and TV are available only in Japan, because of restrictive licensing agreements. I bought an 18"-tall display model of the robot from Fritz Lang's classic 1927 film Metropolis, a couple of little Kubrick (a Japanese toy line) Planet of the Apes figures, a Thunderbird 4 display model, and 40 tiny, beautiful recreations of prehistoric animals. I'd been looking for more Medicom Ultra-Detail Planet of the Apes figures (I had found some during my last trip to Japan), but was told that they had proven extremely popular with collectors (something I'd noticed on eBay), and were very hard to find; I didn't get a single one. Still, I had a terrific time, and was very pleased with the items I did get. We decided to take a lunch break but had not much luck finding a convenient restaurant that wasn't too crowded or too smoky. Finally, we found a little Japanese cafe, and we went there to eat. But many of the things on the menu were unavailable that day, and Toshi and I ended up having hot dogs, of all things, while his wife enjoyed an omelette. After, we went to see the large Shinto shrine at Meiji Jingu, which was beautiful. Today was a good day, according to the Japanese calendar, for weddings, and we saw several wedding parties at the hotel and elsewhere. After visiting the shrine, we went to the Treasure Museum adjacent to it, and enjoyed a visit there. Saturday night, Canada's ambassador to Japan, Len Edwards, was hosting a barbecue at his residence mansion on the embassy grounds, and I was invited. In the "it's a small world" department, one of the other guests was Shoko Sakai, an astronomer from UCLA who had gone to high school four blocks from the house I grew up in! (We hadn't actually gone to the same high school; hers (Earl Haig) and mine (Northview) were rivals, but I've been invited to give a talk at Earl Haig in June, so that cold war is apparently over ...). She was in Japan visiting her father, who was an executive with Toyota, and had previously been head of Toyota Canada. I enjoyed talking with her, and her husband, astronomer Matt Malkan; they were both specialists in extragalactic astronomy, and we found we had much in common. Dinner was Alberta beef! I enjoyed a fabulous steak, and ate my dinner with the Russian ambassador and his wife. The ambassador was surprised to hear that Carolyn and I had bought our home from two immigrants to Canada from Moscow. I must say, the Russian ambassador bore quite a resemblance to the American actor Vincent Gardenia. After dinner, I sat with the Irish ambassador. It was quite a heady experience for a simple writer from Toronto to be hobnobbing with all these diplomats and it was made even more amazing when several Embassy staff members had me sign copies of my books for them. The grounds of the Canadian Embassy are absolutely beautiful, with a stream (complete with carp and a water wheel) running through the yard. Truly a fabulous evening. I went home and slept very well indeed. Sunday, April 29, was the main reason I'd come to Japan: I was one of seven people appearing in the Embassy's "Distinguished Canadians" program this spring. The program, was, according to the program book, "designed to show the human face of Canada by introducing well-known Canadians from various fields of endeavour to the people of Japan." The other distinguished Canadians were novelist Margaret Atwood; politician Lloyd Axworthy; Maurice Strong, the former head of Petro-Canada and Ontario Hydro; oceanographer Timothy Parsons; architect Raymond Moriyama; and Thomas d'Aquino, CEO of Canada's Business Council on National Issues. Quite august company to be part of! The local SF club had arranged a wonderful SF Seminar to be held that day at the Canadian Embassy; it attracted about 150 people (which was a capacity crowd for the reception to follow). The SF club organizers were Mr. Satoshi Ide, Ms. Reiko Noda, Mr. Suzuki Chikara, and Mr. Noriko Oyama. (The seminar program booklet featured a terrific caricature of me by Mami Kazno; with her kind permission, I will add it to my website when I get back to Toronto.) The venue for the seminar was the wonderful theatre at the embassy. The stage had been set up with chairs for the panelists, and hanging behind them were giant, colour blow-ups of the covers of my seven books to be published to date in Japan. At the end of the day, these blow-ups were presented to me as a gift; I'm looking forward to putting them on display in my home. The program began at 2:00 p.m. with an hour-long panel discussion about "Science Fiction in Canada Today." The four panelists, all Japanese, did a very thorough survey of Canadian SF, from A. E. van Vogt, through the newest writers, including Jan Lars Jensen and Karl Schroeder. I was really impressed by how knowledgeable the panelists were. Next came a 45-minute appreciation of my friend, the late Judith Merril, an American SF editor who had lived in Japan for three months in the early 1970s, before settling in Toronto. Judy was one of the most influential editors in SF's history, and the tribute to her was very interesting. It focussed as much on her contributions to the genre as on her forceful and sometimes difficult personality, but it was heartfelt and very informative. We took a brief intermission, and then the program continued with a live, on-stage interview with me conducted by Ms. Noda Reiko, a Japanese geneticist. I'd known Noda from my previous trip to Japan. She look absolutely radiant, dressed entirely in white, and her hair, which had been streaked when I last so her, was now a stunning collection of three shades of blond. As I'd observed when she interviewed me at the Kyoto SF Festival in November, she was the most in-depth and probing interviewer I'd ever had at a convention; her questions this time were equally good, and we chatted for an hour, with my answers being translated for the audience by the Embassy's staff over earpieces. Meanwhile, everything said in Japanese was translated for me. The translator devices were linked by radio to the translation booth at the back of the theatre, and every time someone took a picture, the translator whined in response to the electronic flash. Ambassador Edwards himself was in the audience, and I took a moment to introduce him and Deanna Horton to the Japanese attendees, and to say how grateful I was for them making my trip possible. At the end, I fielded questions from the audience for about half an hour. They were far ranging about electronic bookstores, the apparent conflict between science and religion, and more. A special treat was that one question was asked by a fan who I had met many times previously at World Science Fiction Conventions in various cities. We had always tried to communicate, with his few words of English and my even fewer words of Japanese, but this time we had a professional translator translating my words for him, and his words for me, so we were able to communicate really well for the first time in all the years we'd known each other. I'd mentioned during my talk that I thought a world government was an inevitability. One man had prepared a very long question, which he read out, about given the recent violence at the trade summit in Quebec, whether a world government could ever be achieved, and whether such a thing was really in the interest of people. I gave a long, detailed answer, and Ambassador Edwards later complimented me on my diplomacy! (I find I'm writing this with lots of exclamation marks! This is clearly an effect of reading Stephen Baxter's The Time Ships, which he wrote in H. G. Wells's style, in which declarations of often end with an exclamation mark! I will try to get it under control, though!) After the question-and-answer session, we went out to the meeting hall, where, to my utter astonishment, a surprise birthday party was held for me! Streamers popped into the air, and everyone sang "Happy Birthday" in English (I'd later been told that the seminar organizers had been rehearsing this earlier in the day). That day was my 41st birthday, a fact that the organizers had gleaned from my web site, apparently. I had had no clue that anything like this was going to happen, and I was very, very moved. The local SF club had had a cake specially made, measuring one metre by 45 centimetres, and shaped like a Tyrannosaurus; it was a chocolate cake with green frosting, and was quite delicious. Present, among many others, were four members (including the chair) of the Tokyo in 2007 WorldCon bid committee; well-known Japanese fan Mrs. Shimbano; Yoshihiro Shiozawa, the editor-in-chief of Hayakawa's SF Magazine, and my translator, Masayuki Uchida, to whom I owe much of my success in Japan. I was asked to say a few words at the end. Earlier, during the Q&A session, when discussing science and religion, I had said that I wasn't arrogant enough to think that I could answer the question of whether or not God exists, but, in response to this wonderful trip to Japan, and particularly to this party, I quipped, "I've changed my mind: God DOES exists." It really was overwhelming, and I was very, very happy. I was given some presents, including a generous and unexpected gift from the SF club, a wonderful set of evolution-themed Japanese playing cards from Satoshi Ide, Reiko Noda, Suzuki Chikara, and Noriko Oyama; and a terrific origami figure of Afsan from my novel Far-Seer. Near the end, Ambassador Edwards gave a very nice speech about me, and then asked me to sign his own copies of my books. Looking for a hard surface to write on, I knelt down by a table behind us, and the ambassador knelt beside me. The cameras came out, as everyone was amused to see the ambassador kneeling hardly the normal posture for a diplomat! Ambassador Edwards is a very, very nice man. He's being reassigned to another posting, and will be in Ottawa for the summer. I intend to look him up when I'm there for Can-Con in August. On Monday morning, April 30, I wrote up most of this journal in my hotel room, then had lunch at the coffee shop in the hotel. Japan isn't as expensive as it used to be for Westerners, thanks to the falling yen, but this was a very fancy hotel and a ham-and-cheese sandwich and a Coke set me back US$18.00 / Cdn$27.00. I took the limousine bus to Narita airport, and uploaded this report from the First Class lounge there to my web site, while waiting for my flight to Vancouver. I will rendezvous with my wife Carolyn there. She's flying out from Toronto, and we're spending five days together at a cottage on Retreat Island, British Columbia, before heading to the Canadian National Science Fiction Convention in Vancouver next weekend. All in all, a truly wonderful trip! ================================================================= Monday, April 16, 2001 The big recent news is that my "Fallen Angel" is one of four finalists for the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Award for best short story of the year; "Fallen Angel" first appeared in the ShadowLands Press anthology Strange Attraction, edited by Ed Kramer. The Stokers will be presented Saturday, May 26, in Seattle. I'm just finishing my 13th novel, Infinite Faculties, which has a few scenes in Toronto, but much of it takes place in and around Sudbury, Ontario (the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory figures prominently in the plot). Infinite Faculties is making the rounds of my usual test readers, and so far feedback has been very positive and very constructive. Infinite Faculties will be the first of my "Neanderthal Parallax" trilogy for Tor. I have to turn in the manuscript to my editor there, David G. Hartwell, next month. While others are reading my manuscript, I'm working on short fiction. I just finished a short story for the anthology Visions of Liberty edited by Mark Tier and Martin Greenberg, to be published by Baen. And I'm hard at work on a short story for Future War, edited by Marty Greenberg and Larry Segriff, to be published by DAW. This coming weekend, I'm Guest of Honor at a science-fiction convention (Eeriecon 3) in Niagara Falls, New York; I'm very much looking forward to that. The day after I get back from there, I'm off to Tokyo for a week, to give talks at the Japanese offices of Boeing and Nortel, and at the Canadian embassy. I return by way of Vancouver, where my wife Carolyn is rendezvousing with me. We're spending five days in a cottage on a small island in the Gulf Islands, where I will work hard at revising Infinite Faculties. Then it's off to V-Con, this year's Canadian National Science Fiction Convention, where the Aurora Awards will be presented (I'm nominated for best English novel and best English short story). So busy times! But I wouldn't have it any other way. ================================================================= Friday, March 30, 2001 On Monday, I flew to Kansas City for the annual meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society; this was my second year attending that conference. By coincidence, EnRoute, the Air Canada in-flight magazine had a lengthy article about the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, where several scenes in my new novel Infinite Faculties, take place. (By an even greater coincidence, the photographers for the article were part of the small group touring SNO with me and Carolyn when we visited there on December 5, 2000). Dave Truesdale, the terrific editor of the SFWA Bulletin, Tangent, and Dark Gate, was kind enough to pick me up at the airport, and we went out for a terrific steak dinner together that night. Tuesday morning the conference started. I sat in on presentations of dozens of papers, including a bunch of new ones on Neanderthals. (The issue of whether Neanderthals were part of our species, or a separate species, is the single most contentious one in paleoanthropology right now.) I enjoyed renewing acquaintances with such anthropological luminaries as Ian Tattersall and Milford Wolpoff, and meeting a bunch of new people. Tuesday night, Milford invited me to join him, his wife, several of his ex-students (now all established anthropologists), and Jakov Radovcic, curator of the Krapina Neanderthal collection in Croatia (the largest Neanderthal fossil collection), plus Jakov's wife and daughter for dinner. We went out to a terrific jazz bar for steaks and conversation, and, needless to say, I took the chance to pick everyone's brains. Also at the conference was old friend W. Michael Gear, researching his own anthropologically themed novels; we had two lunches together, and some great conversations. I bought four fossil hominid skull reproductions in the dealers' room (two different Australopithecus boisei specimens ["Zinj" and the Black Skull], the La Chapelle Neanderthal, and a nice Homo erectus [Peking man]). I also picked up a number of interesting books. Dave Truesdale had kindly agreed to take me out to the airport at the end of the conference, and he showed up a very happy man: during the 48 hours since I'd seen him last, he'd won US$3,800 at the casino! He was ecstatic, and I was thrilled for him. The flight home was fine, except that it was delayed an hour on the ground in Kansas City because the pilot's seat belt was broken. Yesterday, I dealt with a bunch of different things, including going over the copyedited manuscript for End of an Era, which Tor is reissuing in a revised trade-paperback edition in September 2001. In the evening, Carolyn and I went to dinner at the home of my old friend Richard Gotlib and his wife Virginia; Richard and I were cofounders of our high-school science-fiction club, and my novel FlashForward is dedicated to him. Today, I did an hour-long radio interview with a station in British Columbia about Calculating God. Tomorrow, I fly to Banff, Alberta a ski-resort town nestled in the Rocky Mountains to teach science-fiction writing for eight days at the Banff Centre for the Arts. I did the same thing last year, and had a fabulous time. ================================================================= Wednesday, March 21, 2001 This evening, I finished the first complete draft of my thirteenth novel. I've had solid drafts of most of it for a couple of months now, but there were key scenes missing. Tonight, I put those scenes to bed (adding 3,500 words today). The manuscript weights in at 99,000 actual words (about 110,000, if you count ten words per manuscript line). I'm rather pleased with how things are turning out. Tomorrow, I start a top-down edit on my computer, which I should have finished by Saturday night (when friends Marcel Gagné and Sally Tomasevic are coming over to help me celebrate). Sunday, I'll read the novel through in hardcopy (something I haven't done yet, although Carolyn has read about half of it in that form). Lots of little things always leap out at you when you're looking at a printout rather than a screen. And by Monday morning, I'll be sending manuscripts off to my beta testers, including this time out such notables at Milford Wolpoff of the University of Michigan, one of the world's leading Neanderthal experts, and Duncan Hepburn, the site manager for the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory where several key scenes for the novel take place. I think I finally have my titles, too. The overall trilogy title will be Neanderthal Parallax, and the three volumes will be: Volume 1: Infinite Faculties Volume 2: Noble Reason Volume 3: Quintessence of Dust These come from Shakespeare's Hamlet, of course: What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals and yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Of course, as always, I'll still be doing research on right up until the day the book goes into typesetting, making sure everything is current. To that end, I'm flying to Kansas City on Monday for the Annual Meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society, where several papers about Neanderthals are being presented. Other recent news: NOMINATIONS =========== I'm delighted to announce that Calculating God is one of five finalists in the Best English Novel category of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards ("the Auroras") this year, and my "The Shoulders of Giants" is one of five finalists for the Best English Short Story category. SALES ===== A couple of new foreign-rights sales this past week: * Calculating God to J'ai Lu in France * End of an Era to Fannuci in Italy MY HEALTH ========= I'm thrilled to report that my back seems to be pretty much back to normal after the car accident at the beginning of January. The chiropractor said it would take a couple of months to clear up, and he was right. ================================================================= Thursday, February 8, 2001 Busy times. I'm now working my way through my first top-down edit of my next novel, which I'm now calling Neanderthal Breakthrough (instead of Neanderthal Parallax, a title I think I'll save for the third book in this trilogy). Carolyn has read the first 20,000 words, and calls it a real page turner, which is nice (she's been known to be quite brutal about my first drafts). Yesterday, I went into the CBC Broadcasting Centre to do a live TV interview about the launch of Destiny, the US science-lab module that is now on its way to the International Space Station aboard Atlantis. CBC's "Newsworld Today" seems to be using me fairly regularly as a science commentator, and I'm really getting a kick out of doing it. Yesterday, I also finished the introduction to the new Bakka Books edition of the seminal Canadian science-fiction novel Consider Her Ways by Frederick Philip Grove, first published in 1947. Bakka Toronto's SF specialty store has teamed up with Canadian publisher Stone Fox Publishing to produce a handsome series of trade-paperback reprints of classic Canadian SF; Consider Her Ways will be the third volume in the series. Got a phone call from Gordon Morash, Books Editor at The Edmonton Journal, the main paper in Gordon Dickson's home town, asking me if I'd write an appreciation of Dickson for him (Dickson passed away a short time ago); I was honored, but Spider Robinson knew Dickson much better, so I suggested Gordon try him instead. My back is feeling a lot better, and I'm delighted about that; I've been seeing a chiropractor twice a week since the car accident at the beginning of January. He said he could get me all fixed up in a couple of months, and we seem to be right on track for that. Carolyn and I are attending three SF conventions this month: Astronomicon in Rochester, New York, this coming weekend; Boskone in Boston next weekend (i.e., February 16-18); and Ad Astra, where my editor David G. Hartwell will be editor Guest of Honour and I'll be toastmaster and Toastmaster, here in Toronto, the weekend after that (February 23-25). Huge snow storm today in Toronto; 15 cm accumulation forecast. Ugh. ================================================================= Wednesday, February 7, 2001 Mark Graham, whose "Unreal Worlds" SF/F/H review column is celebrating its 12th anniversary in The Denver Rocky Mountain News, Colorado's largest-circulation newspaper, has announced the winners of the "Rocky Awards" for speculative fiction published in 2000. His list of Rocky Award winners is as follows: * Best Book: Neal Barrett, Jr. for Interstate Dreams (Mojo Press) * Best Horror Novel: Richard Laymon for The Traveling Vampire Show (Cemetery Dance) * Best Science Fiction Novel: Robert J. Sawyer for Calculating God (Tor) * Best Fantasy Novel: Terry Brooks for The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara (DelRey) * Best Novella: Peter S. Beagle for A Dance with Emilia (Roc) * Best Novelette: Stephen King for Riding the Bullet (online) * Best Short Story: Neal Barrett, Jr. for Ginny Sweethips' Flying Circus in Perpetuity Blues and Other Stories (Golden Gryphon) * Best Paperback Original: Mike Baker and Martin Greenberg, eds. for My Favorite Horror Story (Daw) * Best First Novel: James Stevens-Arce for Soulsaver (Harcourt) * Best Single Author Collection: David Morrell for Black Evening (Cemetery Dance, hardcover/Warner,paperback) * Best Anthology: Edward E. Kramer, ed. for Strange Attraction (Shadowlands) [This anthology contains my story "Fallen Angel"] * Best Non-fiction Book and Best Illustrator: Martin Kane (author) and Joe Servello (illustrator) for Heavens Unearthed in Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales (Golden Egg Books). ================================================================= Tuesday, February 6, 2001 I received the February 2001 edition of the SF trade journal Locus today. As usual, they've left me off their annual year-in-review "recommended reading" list not surprising, since they didn't review my Calculating God (Tor, June 2000) at all, and it can't be recommended if it hasn't been read ... Still, I know some people use the Locus list as a sort of memory aid when filling out their Hugo Award ballots, so I hope you won't think it presumptuous of me to point out that Calculating God did make several other recommended-reading lists: * It's first on Borders.com's Best SF of the Year List * It's on Science Fiction Chronicle's Best SF of the Year List * It's on the BarnesandNoble.com Best SF of the Year List * It's on The Rocky Mountain News's Best SF of the Year List (and caused their reviewer to proclaim, "Sawyer is just about the best science fiction writer out there these days") * Altair, Australia's prominent SF magazine, says in its current issue that Calculating God is "One of the best books of the year. Will this be the next Hugo winner?" Calculating God was also a top-ten genre bestseller in the States (appearing on the Locus and Amazon.com bestsellers' lists) and a top-ten mainstream bestseller in Canada (appearing on the bestsellers' lists in The Globe and Mail: Canada's National Newspaper and Maclean's: Canada's Weekly Newsmagazine. Indeed, Calculating God is already in its third hardcover printing. A few review quotes: AMAZON.COM's official review: "Inventive, fast-paced, and alternately funny and touching, Calculating God sneaks in a well-researched survey of evolution science, exobiology, and philosophy amidst the banter between Hollus and Jericho. But the book also proves to be very moving and character-driven SF, as Jericho in the face of Hollus's convincing arguments grapples with his own bitter reasons for not believing in God. BARNESANDNOBLE.COM'S official review: "Engaging and thoughtful. A novel full of deeply insightful speculation on the universe at large and humanity's place in it; an electrifying mix of old-fashioned alien contact as well as pertinent, enthralling conjecture." BOOKLIST: "Exciting and emotional. Sawyer smoothly combines ethical questions and comical dialogue in a highly absorbing tale." THE EDMONTON JOURNAL: "Calculating God is a fine read, an intellectual thriller with real bite." THE GLOBE AND MAIL: "For those who like to ponder the roles of science and religion, it is a delicious summer read: intelligent, emotionally engaging, peopled with interesting characters and driven by a thoughtful narrative that does not shy away from confronting profound questions. How can you go wrong?" THE TORONTO STAR: "Sawyer won the 1995 Nebula Award; his latest novel, Calculating God, is bound for similar kudos. It's an action- packed yet highly philosophical, theological and ethical story. Guaranteed to expand the mind." Border's TRACTOR BEAM newsletter: "A profound moral and scientific inquiry into the nature and existence of God. Sawyer spares us the acrobatics of space opera and instead spins a provocative, intellectually challenging and yes! entertaining sci-fi tale in the best tradition of the genre." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: "Spectacular; this is unusually thoughtful SF." VICTORIA TIMES COLONIST: "An ambitious and extremely funny science fiction adventure; Sawyer captivates with his witty characters and intriguing plot. Fast-paced, well-researched and imaginatively conceived, Calculating God is the most captivating work of science fiction I've read since Carl Sagan's Contact." Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer. Tor Books, New York, June 2000. ISBN 0-312-86713-1. ================================================================= Monday, January 22, 2001 Well, it's probably time for an update. Lots of little bits of new to share. First, I'm delighted to announce that I'm going back to Japan. The Canadian Embassy in Tokyo has invited me to return as part of "Think Canada 2001," the embassy's initiative to spotlight Canadian culture. I'll be keynote speaker at a science-fiction festival to be held at the embassy on April 29, 2001 (which happens to be my birthday). Second, I will be Master of Ceremonies for the presentation of this year's Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards ("the Auroras"). The Auroras will be given out at the 21st annual Canadian National Science Fiction Convention, which this year is V-Con in Vancouver, British Columbia. The con runs from May 4 to 6, 2001. Third, I'm pleased to note that two of my works are on SFWA's Preliminary Nebula Award Ballot this year. FlashForward is in the novel category, and "The Shoulders of Giants" is in the short-story category. The preliminary ballot is now being voted on by SFWA members, and will be pared down to the final ballot. Fourth, had a wonderful time Saturday night attending a reunion dinner of the participants of the 2000 Taddle Creek science- fiction writing workshop, which I led at the University of Toronto last summer. Most of the members of that workshop had gotten together for another weekend-long critiquing session this past weekend. Carolyn and I went up to join them for a terrific turkey dinner. Fifth, progress proceeds well on my first Neanderthal book. I added a good 9,000 words this past week not bad, considering necessity forced me to take one day off for medical and insurance stuff (see below). Sixth, the only bit of bad news recently, is that my back was indeed slightly injured in Carolyn and my car accident a couple of weeks ago. My twelfth thoracic vertebra and my first and second lumbar vertebrae are slightly out of alignment. I've seen a chiropractor twice for treatment (and will see him again this morning). He says it's a minor problem, and he should be able to get the vertebrae realigned properly by mid-February. His treatments do seem to be helping; the pain is much less than it initially was. ================================================================= Friday, January 12, 2001 Well, it's been a good couple of days for the Rob-man and the media. Last night, I was heavily featured on Discovery Channel Canada's 2001 in 2001, a retrospective of the movie and book, also featuring Arthur C. Clarke, Keir Dullea (Bowman), Daniel Richter (Moonwatcher), Douglas Trumbull, Freeman Dyson, and NASA administrator Daniel Goldin. It was a terrific show (and was repeated again this afternoon). Also last night, CTV Canada's largest commercial television network re-ran a little 2000+ segment about voice-activated machines that contains a clip of me saying they better understand two words, "Shut" and "up." And yesterday, Don Wright from "The New VR" (CKVR Television, Barrie, Ontario) interviewed me in my home office for a three-part special-report series for their evening newscasts on wireless communication. Those segments will air in February sweeps week. Today, I was doing another piece for Discovery Channel Canada, this time for the weekly series Frontiers of Construction. This was my third appearance on that program; today's topic was the Tokyo Teleport Town. It will air in March. And I had an "are you available" call today about a proposed documentary about civilians in space. Meanwhile, this coming Wednesday, January 17, I'll be interviewed at 9:00 a.m. Eastern time on WFIR-AM Talk Radio in Roanoke, Virginia, about Calculating God. ================================================================= Monday, January 8, 2001 Life continues to be more hectic than it should. On Thursday, Carolyn and I were waiting patiently at a red traffic light when we were rear-ended by a tow truck belonging to the Canadian Automobile Association (Canadian branch of the AAA). Although it was a low-speed impact, the truck was towing another vehicle, and there was a lot of inertia behind the impact. The upshot is that our trusty black Ford Tempo, which has taken us all over eastern Canada and the United States, is a write-off. Carolyn and I both seem to be fine, although my back hurts a bit (I'm hoping it will clear up in a day or two). My first concern was over whether Carolyn or I had been hurt; my second was whether my SFWRITER vanity license plate had been damaged. Despite the severe crumpling of our car's rear end, the plate is unscathed. Today, we bought a new car: a Ford Focus wagon. It's beautiful, and has a lot more carrying room than our old vehicle, which will make by-car road trips and book tours more pleasant. I'm not thrilled about having to spend the money so soon after buying a new home, but what the heck ... Otherwise, life be good. THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS (the largest-circulation newspaper in Colorado) has my Calculating God on its year's best list; so does Borders.Com (which lists its first) as well as BN.com. Meanwhile, the review of Ed Kramer's anthology STRANGE ATTRACTION in THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS singles out my "Fallen Angel" as one of the best stories in that horror anthology, and SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE says "Robert J. Sawyer, Paul Dellinger, and Nathan Archer have the three best stories" in the just-released anthology GUARDSMEN OF TOMORROW, edited by Martin Harry Greenberg and Larry Segriff. Meanwhile, I have four new short-story commissions to fulfill. That, plus finishing up my first Neanderthal book for Tor, should keep me quite busy. On Saturday, we threw our regular quarterly party for the local SF pro community. Friends Nick DiChario, David Smith, and Marcos Donnelly came up for from Rochester, New Year. Everyone seemed to have a blast (the first people showed up at 3:00 p.m.; the last left at 2:00 a.m. making it our longest party on record). People were very complimentary about Carolyn and my new home (and Nick, Dave, and Marcos all stayed overnight). TV-wise, I did another piece as a science commentator for CBC Newsworld last week. This Thursday, January 11, at 10:00 p.m., I'm featured prominently in the hour-long documentary "2001 in 2001" on Discovery Channel Canada, along with Arthur C. Clarke, of course.
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