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

SFWRITER.COM > About Rob > The Transformed Man

The Transformed Man

by Robert J. Sawyer

Copyright © 2010 by Robert J. Sawyer

First published in the anthology
Tesseracts Fourteen: Strange Canadian Stories
edited by John Robert Colombo and Brett Alexander Savory

Finalist for the 2011 Aurora Award in the category
Best Poem or Song Lyric

[Science Fiction Writer Robert J. Sawyer]

Space, The Final Frontier ...

I used to be called Robin. But when I was ten I discovered my legal name was Robert, so I switched. I was tired of getting invitations to join girls' skating teams.

Back then, Mississauga was farmland. Now I live in a high-rise there. But you can still see one farm out my window; the guy refuses to sell.

We science-fiction writers talk a lot about the singularity, a coming moment during which the rate of technological progress will asymptotically approach infinity, and — whoosh! — plain old human beings will be left far behind. Charles Stross, a writer I know, calls this “the Rapture of the nerds.” Charlie has recently started shaving his head.

On an early episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, guest star Stanley Kamel was supposed to say the word “asymptotically,” but he'd never heard of it, so he said “asymptomatically” instead. He died recently of a heart attack; he'd had no previous signs of heart disease.

My favourite movie is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Arthur C. Clarke died recently, too. He lived long enough to see the actual 2001 come and go with none of the miracles he portrayed becoming reality.

My editor claims science-fiction writers should never put dates in their books. “The future has a way of catching up with you,” he says. He has a Ph.D. in comparative medieval literature — so he should know.

Battlestar Galactica used to be camp; now it's serious. Ditto, Batman.

The Presidency of the United States used to be serious. Now it's camp.

They remade Planet of the Apes. They shouldn't have.


Computers, The Ultimate Tools ...

I did a talk recently in Second Life. My name in that virtual world is S.F. Writer. I have hair there.

SFWRITER is also my license plate, but I don't drive. When I talk about the plate, I say, “Oh, the car vanity!” People younger than me don't get the pun.

My Canada includes Quebec — but its license plates no longer call it La belle province. I can't remember what they say now.

I went to the Yukon in the summer of 2007, on a writing retreat at Pierre Berton's old house. It had been renovated the previous winter by the Designer Guys. They put diaphanous curtains on the windows. Dawson City gets 21 hours of daylight in the summer, but the Designer Guys hadn't thought about that.

I got to see the Northern Lights. The aurora changes moment by moment.


Biotech, The Last Challenge ...

My father sold his vacation home last year. He'd had it since 1974. It was time, he said.

I'd lost my virginity there.

When I turned 40, I had a vasectomy. The Ontario Health Insurance Plan will pay for your vasectomy, and pay to have it reversed, and pay to give you another vasectomy. But they won't pay to have that one reversed, because, you know, that'd be frivolous.

I've had all my amalgam fillings replaced. What were they thinking, putting mercury in people's mouths?

I got my degree in Radio and Television Arts in 1982. I can edit audiotape with a razor blade.

When I went to Ryerson, it was called Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. Then it became Ryerson Polytechnic University. Now it's Ryerson University. But people still call it Rye High.

After I graduated, Ryerson hired me to help teach TV production. My salary was $14,400 a year. Even then, it wasn't much.

Six million dollars used to be a lot of money, though. You could buy a cyborg with it. But the bionic woman didn't cost quite six million. After all, said her boss, her parts were smaller. He always called her “babe.”

I cringe when women today refer to themselves as “girls.” In the summer of 1980, I lived in Waterloo. The people I hung out with there always called Fischer-Hallman Road “Fischer-Hallperson.” No one does stuff like that anymore.

Still, interstellar space used to be where no man has gone before. Now it's where no one has gone before.

William Shatner's 1968 debut album — on which he mangles “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” — is called The Transformed Man. He won Emmy Awards for best supporting actor in 2004 and 2005, and was nominated again last year.


Nanotech, The Next Big Thing ...

Ingrid Bergman calls Dooley Wilson “boy” in Casablanca, and no one cringes.

The year I was born, Robert was the fifth-most-popular boy's name; now it's number 47. Robin has never cracked the top 100.

My first freelance writing job was editing the CRTC license application for what became Vision TV, Canada's multifaith television channel. Back then, we called it the Canadian Interfaith Network, or “CIN” with a soft C; that pissed some people off.

Used to be my books were shelved in stores next to those by Hilbert Schenck. Hilbert has disappeared; I have no idea what happened to him.

NASA has a sister organization called NOAA: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The acronym is pronounced “Noah.” A government agency couldn't get away with a Biblical pun like that today, but everybody wants to know about the faith lives of presidential candidates. Joe Biden is the first-ever Roman Catholic to become veep. Tempus fugit.

Here in Canada, we used to have Pierre Trudeaus. Now we have Stephen Harpers.

I collect plastic dinosaurs. My one criterion: they must have been accurate portrayals at the time they were made. Brontosaurus used to drag its tail; it doesn't now. And it's no longer Brontosaurus.

Oh, and Pluto used to be a planet. It isn't anymore.

Someday, the same thing will be said of Earth.


Robert J. Sawyer — dubbed the “dean of Canadian science fiction” by The Ottawa Citizen — is one of only eight writers in history (and the only Canadian) to win the SF field's top three awards for best novel of the year: the Hugo (which he won for Hominids), the Nebula (which he won for The Terminal Experiment), and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (which he won for Mindscan). His website is sfwriter.com.

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