[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

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Recurring Themes

In April 1999, as I was finishing my twelfth novel, I began to contemplate the recurring themes in my fiction. I've identified over thirty themes, topics, and motifs that occur over and over again in my novels and short stories. I'm providing the following list of them [updated in May 2006] for two reasons:

1) to help students doing essays and theses about my fiction in finding related works by me to contrast and compare; and

2) to help readers who enjoyed my treatment of a particular theme to easily find the other works by me that deal with the same theme.

Some scholars look for recurrent themes to try to divine something about the author's own life; in my view, this is folly. As Isaac Asimov said in an interview I did with him for CBC Radio, even pacifists such as himself write about war and violence simply because it's more dramatic than the alternative.

In the list below, besides such SF-related topics as "artificial intelligence" and "first contact," you'll also find such themes as murder, suicide, terminal illness, infidelity, parenting, abortion, and Judaism — but no one I've ever been close to has killed or been killed; none of my friends or family members have ever committed suicide; no pal or relative of mine has ever died of a terminal illness (other than the usual vagaries of old age); my wife and I have a happy marriage; we don't have any kids; we've never had an abortion; and I'm not Jewish.

If you're looking for insights into me as a person, you might do better to turn to the numerous interviews and published profiles of me available on this web site or at any large library, or read this long autobiograpy.

(Also please note, as I pointed out to one angered correspondent a few years ago, that as an author I no more am obligated to truly believe in all the things I write about than George Lucas is obligated to really believe in the Force.)

Within each theme, the works that touch on the topic are grouped chronologically. Novel titles are shown in italics; links to them take you to the index page for that novel. Short-story titles are shown in quotation marks.

SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence)

First Contact

Artificial Intelligence

AI or Robot Companions or Confidants

The Nature of Consciousness

Scanning Brains / Uploading Consciousness

Biology Determining Psychology



Prehistoric Humans

Time Travel



Nostalgia for the Apollo Program

  • Hybrids (2003)
  • "Mikeys" (2004)
  • "The Eagle Has Landed" (2005)
  • Wake (2009)

The Moon

  • "Kata Bindu" (2004)
  • "The Eagle Has Landed" (2005)
  • Mindscan (2005)


  • End of an Era (1994)
  • "The Blue Planet" (1999)
  • "Come All Ye Faithful" (2003)
  • "Mikeys" (2004)
  • "Identity Theft" (2005)
  • "Biding Time" (2006)
  • Red Planet Blues (2013)



Courtroom Drama

Love and Marriage

Infidelity or Contemplated Infidelity

Parent-Child Relationships

Psychotherapy / Counseling / Psychological Testing

Suicide or Contemplated Suicide

False Accusation

Whether There Can be Scientific Proof for Matters of Faith

The Conflict Between Religion and Science

Mundane Beings Becoming Gods

The Devil as a Character / Hell as a Place

God as a Character

Immortality (Figurative and Literal)

Terminal Illness

Abortion / Birth Control / New Reproductive Technologies



Modern Physics and the Nature of Reality

Parallel Worlds

The Anthropic Principle

Frank Tipler's Omega Point Theory

More Good Reading

Frameshift structural analysis
Themes in Factoring Humanity
Science and God
The novels of Robert J. Sawyer

My Very Occasional Newsletter

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