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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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.
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
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.
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
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
* Best Science Fiction Novel: Robert J. Sawyer for Calculating God
* Best Fantasy Novel: Terry Brooks for The Voyage of the Jerle
* 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
* 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
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
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
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: "Spectacular; this is unusually
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
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
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
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
Friday, January 12, 2001
Well, it's been a good couple of days for the Rob-man and the
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
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
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,
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