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


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Rob's Blog: July to October 2000


28 October 2000

I'm going to be pretty scarce for the next month, so I thought I 
should post a little update.

On Monday, Carolyn and I head out to Japan for sixteen days.  One 
of Carolyn's brothers is house sitting for us, which is nice -- 
at least our plants won't die while we're gone ...

Last weekend I was keynote speaker at the annual general meeting 
of the Writers Guild of Alberta, held in Red Deer, Alberta.  I 
had a terrific time, and the president of the Guild, Geo Takach, 
sent me a lovely testimonial letter afterwards, saying:  
"Eloquent, inspiring and hilarious! Rob Sawyer is quite simply 
the best speaker on writing I have ever heard."

On Monday, I was the guest speaker at the University of Calgary, 
talking to students in Randy Schroeder's science-fiction class at 
the ungodly hour of 9:00 a.m.  I gave a version of my speech 
"The Future Is Already Here: Is There a Place for Science 
Fiction in the 21st Century?," originally presented at the 
Library of Congress last year.  The full text of the speech will 
be in the next issue of Foundation: The International Review of 
Science Fiction.  

Most of the rest of the week was taken up with packing for our 
move to Mississauga; it's now only three weeks away.  Carolyn and 
I can't wait to get into our new home.

Thursday night, we did take time off to go to a book-launch 
party.  Our good friend Michael Rowe was launching an anthology 
he'd edited called Queer Fear, an anthology of gay horror 
stories.  It was a great party.

I'll post a full report on our trip to Japan.  Until then --- 
sayonara!

=================================================================

23 October 2000

Busy times!

Australian SF writer Stephen Dedman stayed with us from 
Wednesday, October 11, until Tuesday, October 17.  Carolyn and I 
had a great time showing him the sites.  For Friday, October 15, 
through, Sunday, October 16, we all went to Montreal (about a 
six-hour drive) to hook up with my editor David G. Hartwell, his 
wife Kathryn Cramer, and their son Peter, plus fellow SF writers 
Terence M. Green and his wife Merle, and Donald Kingsbury.  We 
had a great weekend together, and in the evenings David hosted a 
suite on behalf of Tor Books for Boreal, the Canadian 
French-language SF convention being held in the same hotel we 
were staying at.  Lots of fun.

On Monday, October 16, Carolyn and I held our quarterly ROB -- 
Rob's Occasional Bash -- for SF professionals in Toronto.  We had 
not one but two special guests:  Stephen Dedman, of course, from 
Australia, but also Emmy Award-winning astronomical artist Jon 
Lomberg.  Jon used to live in Toronto and was the lead artist 
both on Carl Sagan's PBS series Cosmos and on the movie Contact.  
It was great to see him again after about ten years.

Although the ROB was very well attended, it was a bittersweet 
experience, for this was the last party Carolyn and I will host 
at our home in Thornhill, Ontario; we've had dozens of parties 
there over the years, and many people have fond memories of them.  
Next month, we move to our new home in Mississauga and, although 
we'll continue to host parties there, this really was the end of 
an era.  Immediately after the party, we started packing in 
earnest for our move.

I spent this past weekend in Alberta, being keynote speaker at 
the Writers Guild of Alberta's 20th Annual General Meeting.  I 
had a great time.  On Sunday night, 15 members of the local SF 
writers group, IFWA, joined me for a fabulous steak dinner.  This 
morning (Monday), I gave a guest lecture at the University of 
Calgary, and this afternoon, I fly back to Toronto, for a final 
busy week of packing up for our move; we want to have almost 
everything packed before we leave for our trip to Japan, one week 
from today.

=================================================================

29 September 2000

On Tuesday, Carolyn and I bought a new home.  We've been looking 
for about a year and a half; we were in no rush to move, but we 
did need more room.  And, since we both work out of our home, it 
didn't matter too much to us where exactly we ended up, as long 
as it was still convenient to get into Toronto proper.

We've bought a 2,200-square-foot three-bedroom penthouse (22nd 
floor) condominium apartment (our current condo is 1,200 square 
feet, so this is a huge improvement).  The condo is located in 
Mississauga, a city of 600,000 that abuts Toronto to the west 
("Toronto's" big airport is actually in Mississauga).  

The views are fabulous, mostly to the north, but also to the east 
from the master bedroom and to the west from the kitchen.  We 
have a huge terrace which will be great fun in summer (although 
probably piled high with snow in winter).  Because it's a 
penthouse -- top floor -- we have something rare in apartments:  
a wood-burning fireplace in the living room.  We take possession 
November 20 -- six days after we return from our trip to Japan.

Carolyn and I both fell in love with the place the moment we saw 
it, and we're sure we'll be very happy there.  Although the move 
takes us farther away from some of our close friends (notably 
Carolyn's brother David, who right now lives 2 kilometers from 
us), it puts us much closer to other friends, especially Sally 
Tomasevic and Marcel Gagne (the publishers of TransVersions), 
major Canadian fans Peter Halasz and Michael Glicksohn, and 
fellow writer Edo van Belkom.

For those who know Mississauga, we're pretty much in the heart of 
downtown, a kilometer or two north of Mississauga City Hall, and 
just north of (i.e., walking distance from ) Square One (huge 
shopping mall), near Hurontario Street and Highway 403.  We like 
this location because we can still get into downtown Toronto 
quite quickly (as long as we don't try to do it in rush hour), 
but it cuts about 30 to 45 minutes off the previously four-hour 
trip down to my family's vacation home on Canandaigua Lake in 
Upstate New York.

We're both just thrilled, and can't wait to move in!

=================================================================

19 September 2000

On Monday night, screenwriter Michael Lennick dropped off the 
latest draft of the script for the Illegal Alien movie, and 
yesterday we had a meeting to discuss it.  I think this new draft 
is excellent.  It really captures the spirit of my novel, while 
at the same time successfully translating the story into the 
medium of film.

Michael has made a few changes, of course, but not so many that 
fans of the book won't recognize it.  The aircraft carrier is 
gone from the beginning (in order to save money); the principal 
action has been moved from Los Angeles to Florida (with most of 
the non-courtroom scenes taking place at the Kennedy Space 
Center), and Frank Nobilio, a man, is now Fran Nobilio, a woman.  
But other than that, it's definitely my book, expertly 
translated.  I'm very pleased.

David Coatsworth, the producer who, along with Lennick, has 
optioned the Illegal Alien novel, has just finished being 
executive producer of Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest picture, and 
is currently working on a Tom Hanks film.  He wants to move 
Illegal Alien to the front burner in the spring of 2001.

Of course, most books that are optioned are never made into 
movies, even if screenplays are written.  I'm realistic about the 
chances of Illegal Alien actually going in front of the cameras, 
but it really does look at this point like it might actually 
happen, and I'm just delighted.

=================================================================

14 September 2000

Got back from Ottawa last night.  The conference I co-chaired 
with Dr. Michael Greenspan (Michael really did almost all of the
organizational work) went fabulously.  The conference title was 
S/SF: The 1st Canadian Conference on Science and Science 
Fiction, and it was held at the National Research Council of
Canada.  The NRC provided funding for it, as did our corporate 
sponsor, SGI (Silicon Graphics).  

On Monday, Carolyn and I drove to Ottawa with author Robert 
Charles Wilson and Mark Askwith, a producer from Space: The 
Imagination Station, as passengers.  The five-hour trip just flew 
by, the conversation was so interesting.

Monday night, we hooked up with two other authors participating 
in the conference, James Alan Gardner and Julie Czerneda, plus a 
big contingent from Ottawa SF fandom.  We all went out for a very 
pleasant dinner at the Swiss Chalet.

Tuesday, the conference began at 9:00 a.m. and went through until 
5:00 p.m.  It started with my keynote address, "The Future is 
Already Here: Is There a Place for Science Fiction in the 21st 
Century?"  The speech was very well received.  Next, Dr. Paul 
Fayter from York University gave a great talk with slides about 
scientific prediction in science fiction.  There was a panel 
discussion after that, then lunch outside on the grounds of the 
NRC, followed by the afternoon sessions, including a great talk 
by Bob McDonald the host of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks science 
program, and a fascinating lecture on SETI by Bob Garrison from 
the University of Toronto, plus another panel discussion.  The 
audience -- mostly scientists and engineers from the NRC, but 
some members of the general public and SF fandom -- seemed to 
really enjoy the event.

In the evening, the four participating SF writers gave a joint 
reading at the Ottawa International Writers Festival, which also 
was very well received.

Wednesday morning, we all got a terrific behind-the-scenes tour 
at the NRC; we then had lunch at a local Greek restaurant, where, 
on November 16 last year, NRC engineer Michael Greenspan and I 
had originally hatched the idea for this conference.  Wednesday 
afternoon we drove home with more great in-car conversation.  All 
in all, it was a truly fabulous event, and I was just delighted 
to be a part of it.

=================================================================

7 September 2000

Today was an unexpectedly fabulous day.  I had a meeting 
scheduled with Heidi Winter, senior publicist at H. B. Fenn and 
Company, the Canadian distributor for Tor Books.  The meeting was 
supposed to be a wrap-up discussion about my recent book tour for 
Calculating God.

Carolyn and I drove up to Bolton, Ontario, where Fenn is 
headquartered.  Heidi took us upstairs to the board room for our 
meeting ...

... except it turned out it wasn't a meeting.  To my absolute 
shock and delight, it was a surprise party for me!  They were 
celebrating my making the bestsellers lists in The Globe and 
Mail: Canada's National Newspaper and Maclean's: Canada's 
National Newsmagazine.  

Forty Fenn staff members were on hand to congratulate me.  They 
had a big cake and lots of beverages, and the art department had 
made up a wonderful "Congratulations, Rob!" poster, signed by all 
sorts of Fenn staff members, showing the two bestsellers lists.  

Harold Fenn (the president) gave a terrific and very moving 
speech about our ten-year-long association (Fenn is also the 
Canadian distributor for Warner Books, so they had distributed my 
first novel, Golden Fleece, back in 1990).  I was absolutely 
floored; I knew making the national mainstream bestsellers lists 
was a thrill for me, but I hadn't realized it had been a thrill 
for the Fenn folk as well.  But they seemed at least as delighted 
as I was.

After the party, the publicity department -- Heidi Winter, Marla 
Krisko, and Melissa Cameron -- took Carolyn and me out for a 
lovely lunch.

I was totally surprised, very touched, and completely thrilled.  
It was just wonderful.

=================================================================

7 September 2000

Well, I hate that little British wizard ... <grin>.

The Hugo Award voting statistics were released immediately after 
the Hugo ceremony held last Saturday night at the World Science 
Fiction Convention in Chicago.  Many an eyebrow had been raised 
when Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban made it to the 
final Hugo ballot this year.  As you may know, the five books with 
the most nominations become the finalists for the Hugo Award.

Well, it turns out that my FlashForward was the sixth 
most-nominated book this year -- meaning if Harry hadn't emerged 
from out of left field, I'd have likely been on the Best Novel 
Hugo Award ballot for a fifth consecutive year (following the 
back-to-back nominations of The Terminal Experiment, Starplex, 
Frameshift, and Factoring Humanity).  In descending order of 
nominations received, here are the top ten novels of 1999, as 
determined by the Hugo nominators (the McMullen and the Egan tied 
for tenth place):

  • A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge
  • A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
  • Harry Potter and ... by J. K. Rowling
  • Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear
  • FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
  • There and Back Again by Pat Murphy
  • The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett
  • Souls in the Great Machine by Sean McMullen
  • Teranesia by Greg Egan
As if that wasn't enough for Harry to do to me, Tor tells me that Calculating God is going into a second printing (which is certainly good news), but that the second printing will be delayed three weeks because all the commercial book printers in the states are still catching up on work pushed aside to accommodate Harry Potter mania. Anyway, if you were thinking of buying Calculating God in hardcover, and want to get the much-more-collectible first edition, you should probably buy it soon. Other than being twice Pottered, the Worldcon in Chicago was fabulous. We had great meals with Tor editors Jim Minz and Moshe Feder, with Analog editor Stan Schmidt, with writing buddies Roger MacBride Allen, Glenn R. Sixbury, and Mandy Slater, with Smithsonian paleontologist Mike Brett-Surman and his wife Kim, who works in exhibits at the Smithsonian, and with "the KC gang" -- a group of us who have been dining together since the Kansas City Nebula Awards weekend: Jeff Kooistra, Paul Levinson, Jack McDevitt, Bud Sparhawk, and Dave Truesdale. Indeed, Carolyn pointed out to me that, because I skipped breakfast on Monday, I had three consecutive steak meals in Chicago: Sunday lunch with Jim and Moshe, Sunday dinner with Stan, then Monday lunch with Roger. (We also had two meals of Chicago's wonderful pizza, of course!) My panels went very well; my joint reading with Jim Killus was fabulous (I read "The Shoulders of Giants," and Jim read four terrific short-shorts; we had a packed audience); my two autographings (one on my own, one at the Analog/Asimov's) both went very well; and my kaffeeklatch was wonderful. All in all, it was a truly great convention. A special moment for me was when Therese Littleton, the SF editor for Amazon.com, told me that Amazon had now removed Kirkus reviews from its SF listings, specifically because of concerns I'd raised with Therese and Leah Ball (author relations manager at Amazon) while I was SFWA president. They agreed that the Kirkus reviews were notorious for giving away the endings of books (since they are designed as a heads-up for librarians, not as recommendations for consumers), and were also quite snotty on most occasions; Therese says Amazon.com has committed to only contracting in future with "appropriate content providers." Nice to hear. But the true highlight was Monday night. Mike and Kim Brett-Surman took Carolyn and me over to the home of John J. Lazendorf, a Chicago resident who owns the world's largest collection of dinosaur art. A small sampling from John's collection was on display at the Field Museum of Natural History (where we went to see Sue the Tyrannosaurus), but the vast bulk of his amazing collection is on display in his home. It was absolutely breathtaking. John, who is a really nice man, took us all out for Chinese food afterwards. A really, really fabulous evening. Mike Resnick once described his version of heaven as a Worldcon that never ends. I certainly didn't want this one to end, and can't wait for Philadelphia in 2001 (or Toronto, which won its bid handily, in 2003). Still, after eight days away from home, it's nice to be back in Toronto. ================================================================= 17 August 2000 I'm back from my week-long trip to British Columbia. It was fabulous -- soothing, relaxing, and very productive. I flew to B.C. from Toronto on Thursday, August 10, using a couple of upgrade coupons to get myself boosted to first class (it's a five-hour flight, so I wanted to be comfortable). I was met at the Vancouver airport by a volunteer from the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts and she and I, and another author -- literary biographer Rosemary Sullivan who had also come in from Toronto -- set out on the car-and-ferry trip to Sechelt, where the Festival is held. The Festival put me up right on site, in one of twelve bedrooms they have at their hillside lodge; other authors traveling alone were in the other bedrooms. It was great to be right there, instead of off in a hotel somewhere, and the room was quite pleasant; I slept like a baby (the clean sea-coast air no doubt helping). Thursday evening, Rosemary and I went out for dinner together, dining alfresco. But before our meals came, smoke started wafting over us. At first we thought it was a backyard bonfire, but it turned out to be a house in Sechelt going up in flames. I felt very sorry for the family that was losing its home, but it was quite dramatic to watch. After dinner, there was a private reception for the authors and the Festival's various sponsors. Then the Festival began with a bang: Michael Ondaatje, the author of The English Patient, read from his new novel Anil's Ghost. The evening was introduced by Shelagh Rogers, whom I always enjoy seeing; Shelagh is the host of CBC Radio's flagship This Morning program; we had a nice chat at the cocktail party. The Festival readings are held in the nicest venue I've ever read in. It's a 500-seat pavilion built into a hillside covered with trees. The pavilion has three walls and a roof; the fourth wall is open to nature. The whole thing is made out of gorgeous B.C. lumber, and has comfortable chairs and a great sound system. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were filled with readings by the other authors -- twenty-five of us in all. Each author had a one-hour slot: perfect for a forty-minute reading and twenty minutes of Q&A. I read the opening chapter of Calculating God and a selection from FlashForward; both were very well received, and the on-site bookseller (Tailwind Books) sold a ton of my books after the reading. I attended a lot of the other readings. Denise Chong, author of Kim Phuc: The Girl in the Picture, gave a very moving reading. Mystery writers Gail Bowen (whom I taught with at Banff earlier this year) and Karen Irving did a wonderful joint event, with a discussion moderated by Shelagh Rogers. John Ralston Saul gave the keynote address, about the need for improved public education in Canada. Now, Saul is a major writer in his own right, but the real thrill for a lot of people was that he brought his wife along. Saul's wife is Adrienne Clarkson, Canada's Governor General (the Queen's representative in Canada, and the putative head of the Canadian government). I had a little chat with her at another cocktail party. Saturday night I went out to dinner at a nice sea-side pub with Paul Quarrington and a few other people; Paul used to be president of The Writers' Union of Canada, and we talked and joked about writers' group politics a bit, one past-president to another. Sunday night, there was a wonderful salmon barbecue, followed by a great folk-music performance. Then local writer Andreas Schroeder invited me to his fabulous beach-front home for a late-night bonfire, with a full moon hanging over the ocean. It was just terrific. Monday morning, I flew -- the sole passenger in a Cessna 172 -- from Sechelt to Victoria. I had lunch with my old high-school physics teacher, who now lives on Saltspring Island; it was great seeing him and his wife again. In the evening, I gave a reading at Bolen Books, one of Canada's largest and greatest independent bookstores. The stock of my books arrived in the nick of time -- Bolen had sold out of Calculating God, in part because they discount the Maclean's bestsellers by 20%, and in part because the Victoria paper had given the book a rave review. But Leo Macdonald from H. B. Fenn (Tor's Canadian distributor) came up from Vancouver on the ferry, bringing stock, and saved the day. The reading went quite well, and again we sold a lot of books. Rachel Wyatt, the director of the "Writing with Style" workshop at the Banff Centre for the Arts came to my reading (as did one of my students from when I taught there in April). Rachel had retired from running that workshop, but was asked to come back and head it up for another year, and, to my delight she invited me to teach there again in 2001. I had a fabulous, fabulous time doing it before and agreed on the spot to come back. The dates for the workshop will be March 31 to April 6; drop me an E-mail if you're interested in getting more details. Monday night, Leo Macdonald, who in September starts as H. B. Fenn's National Accounts Manager, took me out for a terrific steak dinner. Tuesday morning, I took the HeliJet helicopter-shuttle to Vancouver; it's a four-hour drive, including 90 minutes on a ferry, but the HeliJet got me there in less than 30 minutes, and I got some spectacular aerial views to boot. I checked into my hotel, then was met by one of my best friends from junior high school, who now lives in B.C. We had a terrific day sightseeing and catching up with each other. Tuesday night, I read and signed at White Dwarf, Vancouver's SF specialty store. The store was packed, and we sold lots of books yet again. I was absolutely delighted; Jill and Walter, who run White Dwarf, did a fabulous job. At the signing, I met the charming Inge Siemens, who is taking over as Fenn's West Coast Representative. Wednesday I checked out of my hotel, then met up with Bonnie Jean Mah, another one of my writing students from Banff earlier this year. I took her out to launch at Cloud 9, the revolving restaurant on the 44th floor of a hotel tower in downtown Vancouver. The view was astonishing; Vancouver is a very beautiful city, right on the ocean. After, Bonnie and I went walking around, and she showed me some of the sights. Then she dropped me at the airport. I got there two hours early for my flight, so I asked the Air Canada rep if they had anything going sooner -- and they did, putting me on a flight that was just about to leave, and bumping me up to First Class for free to boot! All in all, it was a truly wonderful week. But I'm glad to be home; I missed Carolyn a lot, and it's great to be back at work on my writing. ================================================================= 9 August 2000 Lots of interesting things happening. First, I'm delighted to report that Calculating God is currently number 10 on the Amazon.com SF/F bestsellers list. That's actually better than it sounds, because numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 on that list haven't yet been published -- they're just racking up pre-orders. So, of books actually shipping, the list reads:
  • The Great War: Breakthroughs, Harry Turtledove (#2 on the list)
  • Acorna's World, Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (#8)
  • Soldiers Live, by Glen Cook (#9)
  • Calculating God, Robert J. Sawyer (#10)
Also nice is that Calculating God is currently number 11 on Amazon.com's Colorado regional bestsellers list; that is, it is the eleventh most-ordered title by customers in Colorado -- presumably at least in part attributable to the rave review the book received in the Denver Rocky Mountain News. Saturday night, Carolyn and I threw an open "Thank You, Fandom!" party at our home, in honour of my double Aurora Award win. The turnout was amazing, despite the fact that it was a holiday long weekend in Ontario; I didn't think we could have fit that many people in our place. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and much pizza, wine, beer, and pop was devoured. On the TV front, I've been having a nice run on CBC Newsworld -- Canada's national cable all-news network -- as a science commentator. Four times in the last three months, they've called me to come on down to the Broadcasting Centre and talk about science-news stories. On Monday, I went down to talk about the discovery of nine new extrasolar planets, being announced at the International Astronomical Union meeting. Lots of fun, good promotion, and a nice way to pick up some pocket change. Tonight, we're off to dinner with horror writer Edo van Belkom, his wife Roberta, and their son Luke. Edo's schedule and mine have both been very hectic of late, and it's been a while since we've had a chance to get together; I'm looking forward to it. Tomorrow, I fly out to Sechelt, British Columbia, where I'm a reader at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts; I'm spending four days at the Festival, then going to Victoria for a signing at big independent bookstore Bolen's and then to Vancouver for a signing at SF specialty store White Dwarf. I'll also be having lunch with my high-school physics teacher, who now lives out there, and an old friend from junior high. The winners of the Japanese Seiun Award have now been publicly announced. My Starplex lost to Mike Resnick's Kirinyaga. As I said to Mike, "I'm not often happy to lose an award ... but in this case, I can't argue with the voters' choice." And I was delighted that my translator, Masayuki Uchida, was also Mike's translator, since he shares in the honour. ================================================================= 6 August 2000 The media blitz for Calculating God continues. On Wednesday, I did 30 minutes on Michael Coren Live, a national talk show in Canada carried by CTS -- Crossroads Television Service, an evangelical-Christian cable channel. Coren has a reputation for being a very tough interviewer, so I was actually somewhat nervous, but it turned out that he loved the book, and he also was very knowledgeable about science fiction as literature (having published biographical books on H.G. Wells and C.S. Lewis). Thursday, I recorded 19 minutes for Bynon, another national talk show in Canada; this one airs on the cable network Prime and the broadcast Global Television Network, it was first broadcast on Friday. That interview went very well indeed, too. Meanwhile, in today's edition of The Toronto Star, Tom Harpur's "Spirituality" column is devoted to me and my book. Under the headline "Science fiction and the search for God," Harpur spends a third of a page praising Calculating God; he displays a very sophisticated knowledge of the SF genre in his discussion. Harpur is one of Canada's most popular columnists, a bestselling author in his own right, and a former TV host, so this is terrific "off-the-book-page" coverage. The piece came about because my clever wife, Carolyn, happened to run into Tom Harpur at the Canadian Booksellers Association trade show and handed him a copy of my book, saying he might enjoy it. An excerpt from Harpur's column: Sawyer won the 1995 Nebula Award; his current contender, Calculating God, is bound for similar kudos. It's an action-packed yet highly philosophical, theological and ethical story. Well-melded into the fast-paced plot, a wonderful dialogue goes on over the God question and over right, wrong and the purpose of life. There is nothing preachy-teachy at all, just a good yarn with some solid food for the brain. It's guaranteed to expand the minds of believers and non-believers alike. In edition, today's Edmonton Journal has a rave review of Calculating God by Doulas Barbour: Robert J. Sawyer is first and foremost a writer of ideas, some concept that can drive a narrative through to a grand conclusion, one that remains true to science but often achieves that sense of transcendence. This is Sawyer's great strength, and it's fully present in Calculating God. As usual, the premise is astounding. Sawyer has created a very intriguing figure in Jericho, whose scientific mind is the battleground of ideas in the novel. It's a tribute to Sawyer's own enthusiasm for science that he makes the various arguments Jericho has with his new alien friend and others so exciting. Calculating God is a fine read, an intellectual thriller with real bite. Tomorrow (Monday), I'll be interviewed by for 20 minutes on WLAD radio in Danbury, Connecticut, starting at 8:35 a.m. EST, and I'll be interviewed for 55 minutes on KEYL-AM in Long Prairie, Minnesota, starting at 10:00 a.m. EST (9:00 a.m. Minnesota time). And Tor has a very nice full-page ad for Calculating God and two other titles on page 3 of both the October issues of Analog and Asimov's. Great to see! ================================================================= 31 July 2000 (a 2,200-word entry, covering my book tour) We're back home from our road-trip book-tour for Calculating God. It was a huge success. The tour began in high style, when I won not one but two Aurora Awards on Sunday, July 16, at this year's Canadian National SF Convention, TT2000. I took home the trophies for Best English-language Novel (FlashForward) and Best English-language Short Story ("Stream of Consciousness"). Space: The Imagination Station (the Canadian counterpart of the Sci-Fi Channel) was there to cover the event, and lots of Canadian media picked up on the story in the following week. A piece about my double win on the CBC website with a link to my own website at www.sfwriter.com led to an old friend getting in touch with me: the Hon. David MacDonald, formerly Canada's Secretary of State (during Joe Clark's 1979 government); back in 1983-84, I'd worked extensively with a small media-consulting group David was heading, but we hadn't had any contact for years. Sunday night, we had to high-tail it down to Rochester, New York. For some reason, both of the review copies of Calculating God that Tor had sent to media there had gone astray; we had to hand deliver copies late that evening (which added about an hour to our already long trip). We then headed out to Canandaigua Lake, one of New York's Finger Lakes, and settled in to my father's vacation home there. Monday, July 17, I was the guest speaker at Gell House, a fantastic writers' retreat in the countryside of upstate New York (near Naples). My friends Nick DiChario and Mary Stanton were running a workshop there, under the auspices of Writers and Books, a Rochester non-profit literacy operation. Tuesday, July 18, we got up at 4:15 a.m., and drove into Rochester, New York, so that I could be interviewed for four minutes on the morning show on WROC-TV, the local CBS affiliate. The interview went fine. At noon, I was interviewed for 50 minutes on WXXI, the local PBS radio station, and that went very well, too. In the evening, I signed at a Borders Bookstore in Rochester -- but they hadn't bothered to order extra stock of Calculating God; they only had three hardcovers on hand. Fortunately, Carolyn and I had some stock in the trunk of our car, and we sold nine more copies on top of the three Borders had, for a total of 12 (plus several mass-market paperbacks, too). I was really touched by the great show of support from the Rochester-area members of SFWA: as far as I could tell, just about all of them showed up for the signing, except for Steve Carper, who had planned to be there, but had to bow out because of a last-minute problem at work. After, a large group of us went to the local Pizzeria Uno for dinner. It was a truly fabulous day. On Wednesday, July 19, we left the Finger Lakes for Milford, New Hampshire, arriving for my 7:00 p.m. signing at The Toadstool Bookshop with all of ninety seconds to spare. I've signed at this store once before, and was very pleased to be back. There's a great SF-reading group that meets at the store, and they came out in force for my reading (and afterwards, a bunch of us went for dinner). Thursday, July 20, we headed to Manchester, New Hampshire, and did an hour-long in-studio radio interview, heard on three New Hampshire stations. We then drove to Burlington, Massachusetts, and checked into the Boston Marriott Burlington. That night I did a signing at the local Barnes and Noble. It was a beautiful night, and so the store was mostly empty, but I did sell six hardcovers, so I can't complain, and the staff at the store were just terrific. Friday, July 21, Carolyn and I went to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a tour of the ground station for the Chandra X-Ray Telescope, an orbiting astronomical observatory. One of the things I absolutely love about being a science-fiction writer is the way scientists open their doors for you. It was a real treat. That evening, Carolyn and I had a terrific dinner with Jim Minz from Tor -- and the SF buyer for the Barnes and Noble chain! It was great fun. Readercon began that evening, as well; at the "Meet the Pros" party, each writer was supposed to give out copies of a sentence from their work as an ice-breaker. Mine was: "Susan normally couldn't stand spiders, but the big guy was clearly charming the pants off her" (from Calculating God). Saturday morning, I did a by-phone radio interview with a station in Fort Lauderdale. And, although I didn't know it at the time, the Kingston, Ontario, Whig-Standard ran the Canadian Press article about me in that day's edition, devoting a half-page to it (with a beautiful color photo), and plugging my reading scheduled for eight days hence at Indigo Kingston. On Sunday morning, I did my autographing at Readercon, and brought the two Aurora Award trophies in from my car (we hadn't been home since I won them). They were a big hit: most of the American fans at the convention had heard of the Auroras, but few had ever seen the actual trophies (which are stunningly beautiful -- Franklyn Johnston is the sculptor). Readercon was terrific, as usual -- but it seems to have plateaued in attendance. Very few pros or fans who hadn't been there in previous years showed up. Still, I had lots of terrific conversations, including great chats with writers Michael Burstein, Jeffrey Carver, Warren Lapine, Paul Levinson, Barry Malzberg, and James Morrow, among others. And Saturday evening, in the hotel restaurant, I spotted actor Michael Constantine (principal Seymour Kauffman from Room 222). I went over and said hello to him; I told him how much I admire his work (and I think I impressed him by mentioning Sirota's Court, a short-lived 1976 sitcom he had starred in after Room 222). On Sunday, July 23, we hit the road at just after 1:00 p.m. for the long trip back to Canandaigua, New York -- but we ended up being held up on the New York Thruway for four hours, because of a serious traffic accident: a pick-up truck full of teenagers had crossed the grassy meridian and plowed into a camper pulling a boat; one person was killed, and another was in serious condition. The police found lots of drugs in the teenager's truck, and so the whole area was closed off as a crime scene. People stopped their cars, and simply got out and milled about on the Thruway, chatting. Despite the gruesome circumstances, it was actually rather pleasant. It was a moonless, clear night, with lots of stars, and my SFWRITER license plate proved to be a great ice breaker. Monday, July 24, brought the news that Calculating God was number 7 on the fiction bestsellers list published by Maclean's: Canada's National Newsmagazine. Needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled. We took a mid-book-tour day of holiday, spending the day with great friends Nick DiChario and Mary Stanton in Palmyra, New York, visiting their fabulous new house for the first time. We all rented the Garry Shandling film What Planet Are You From? in the evening; it was okay. We had planned to drive to Syracuse that night, but Nick and Mary invited us to stay over at their place, so we did. Tuesday, July 25, we got up at 5:00 a.m. and drove from Palmyra to Syracuse. I did a terrific 40-minute interview on "Upstate Morning" on WCNY-TV, the Syracuse PBS station. The two hosts were very respectful of science fiction, and asked lots of good questions. We spent the rest of the day with friends Mark and Jenny Garland; Mark writes for Baen Books as well as Pocket's Star Trek line, and is one of my best buddies in the industry. We took the Garlands out to lunch at The Olive Garden; Carolyn and I used to have an Olive Garden across the street from our home, but the chain withdrew from Canada, and we like to go to them whenever we're in the states. That evening, I did a great reading/signing at Barnes and Noble in DeWitt. The turn out was quite large, but three creationists/fundamentalists -- including one minister -- showed up. Obviously, they had issues with what I'd been writing about, but I must say they were polite, and actually added to the charm of the evening. Also present was Baen author Charles McGraw, an old friend. Wednesday, July 26, we were in Albany, New York. The day started with an in-studio interview on Northeast Public Radio, a network of ten stations serving upstate New York. We then bummed around Albany for the day, stumbling across fun celebrations for the tenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the Capitol building, and touring the New York Appeals Court, which is said to have the most beautiful courtroom in the United States. In the late afternoon, we arrived at Flights of Fantasy, Albany's SF specialty store. Members of the local SF club (including SF writer Chuck Rothman, book dealer Joe Berlant, and famed fan jan howard finder) showed up, and they took Carolyn and me out for a wonderful Italian dinner. After dinner, I did a very successful signing/reading at the store. Thursday, July 27, we drove to Ottawa, Canada's capital -- and the city I was born in. We had a terrific tour of two of the forensics departments at RCMP headquarters -- counterfeiting and DNA -- thanks to a fan of my work who works there. We then did a half-hour interview on "Literary Landscapes," a show on the Carleton University station. We hooked up with one of Carolyn and my best friends from high school, Helen van Vliet, and stayed the night at her place. Friday, July 28, we did a drop-in signing at a Chapters in Ottawa (apparently just missing running into Charles de Lint, who a clerk told us had just left the store), then drove to Montreal, for a signing at the Indigo there. A professor from McGill University showed up; he's considering adding Calculating God to his course on popular-culture perceptions of God. Saturday, July 29, we were back in Ottawa. We had lunch with Larry Stewart, who won this year's Aurora Award for Artistic Achievement, and then did a two-and-a-half-hour signing at Basilisk Dreams, the Ottawa SF-specialty store. Sadly, H.B. Fenn hadn't shipped copies of Calculating God in time, so the store only had nine on hand; the Fenn rep showed up with two more, and Carolyn and I had two left in our car, which we sold to the store. All 13 copies sold, but we could have easily sold more had they been available. I did two readings during the signing: one from Calculating God and another from FlashForward, and I brought my Aurora trophies in for the signing where, once again, they were a big hit. Jim Botte, who had previously chaired what amounted to the Canadian version of Readercon -- a lovely Ottawa convention called CanCon -- came by and asked me if I'd like to be Guest of Honor at CanCon in 2001, the first CanCon to be held for several years. I enthusiastically agreed. Saturday evening we picked up The Globe and Mail: Canada's National Newspaper. To my delight, Calculating God was number 8 on its fiction bestseller list, making two national lists that it's now appeared on (the other being Maclean's). Sunday, July 30, we did a drop-in signing at Chapters Kingston, then I did a formal signing and reading at Indigo Kingston (Indigo and Chapters are Canada's two big bookstore chains). Bob Hilderley, the publisher of Quarry Press, which will be doing my short-story collection Iterations next year, showed up, as did a crowd of about 25 people. As soon as the signing was over, Carolyn and I drove the hundred kilometres to Belleville, Ontario, where we met an old friend, DAW fantasy writer Tanya Huff, for dinner. Tanya and I did a joint event at Chapters Quinte Mall in Belleville, which lasted for three hours, and a reporter from the Belleville Intelligencer showed up to do an interview with me. Friends and supporters Cindy Madden and Ian Wasserman came all the way from Toronto to attend both the Kingston and Belleville events. Carolyn and I finally headed back to Toronto, getting home just before midnight after fifteen days and fourteen nights on the road promoting Calculating God. We're both exhausted, but we also both had a great time. Very few things went wrong. I was on an antibiotic for an ear infection, and that bothered my digestion for the beginning of the trip; we did get stalled for four hours that time on the New York Thruway; and we got a parking ticket in Ottawa. But, all in all, it was a fabulous trip: after all, I saw lots of old friends, won two awards, hit two national bestsellers lists, made three TV appearances and four radio appearances, got asked to be Guest of Honor at an SF convention, and sold a lot of books. What more can one ask? ================================================================= 16 July 2000 Well, my book tour is off to a fabulous start! Sunday evening, at TT2000, this year's Canadian National Science Fiction Convention, I won both the Aurora Award for Best English Novel of the Year AND the Aurora Award for Best English Short Story of the Year. The novel award is for FLASHFORWARD (Tor) and the short story award is for "Stream of Consciousness," about a team of scientists trying to save the dying pilot of an alien spaceship that has crashed in Northern Ontario. "Stream of Consciousness" was first published in PACKING FRACTION, edited by Julie E. Czerneda (Trifolium Books). The competition in the Best Novel category was fabulous: * Beholder's Eye by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books * Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson, Warner Books * FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer, Tor Books * Starfish by Peter Watts, Tor Books * Bios by Robert Charles Wilson, Tor Books * Death Drives a Semi by Edo van Belkom, Quarry Press Carolyn and I had long planned to leave directly from this convention to head out on the rest of our book tour, so the two trophies are coming along for the ride. Needless to say, I'm absolutely thrilled! Read the Press Release. ================================================================= 12 July 2000 A very pleasant day today. It began with lunch with my friend and fellow SF writer Andrew Weiner at Shopsy's, a famous Canadian deli; we ate al fresco, since it was an absolutely gorgeous day. Next it was off to the Canadian Broadcasting Centre -- headquarters of CBC TV and Radio -- where I recorded an excellent interview for THIS MORNING, CBC radio's flagship morning show. The interview was conducted by Bill Cameron, quite a famous face on Canadian television (who is filling in as summer radio host), and it will air coast-to-coast this Sunday, July 16, just after 10:00 a.m. EST. It was a great interview, because Bill Cameron had read the book cover to cover -- something very few interviewers do, and because he actually knows and likes science fiction. After that, it was off to the Canadian Press building -- Canada's premier wire service -- so my photo could be taken to accompany an article about me and Calculating God by Andrew Flynn, which will be filed tomorrow. One of the coolest things about this SF writer gig is that I've had some amazingly nice photographs taken of me, by fantastically good professional photographers. Today's photographer, Tanis Toohey, was certainly very creative, and I think the shots are going to turn out very well indeed. =================================================================
[SFWRITER license plate]
11 July 2000 For my 40th birthday, on April 29, my wife got me personalized license plates that say SFWRITER. Ontario only just this year began allowing eight characters on a personalized plate. The plate appears on my new business card. ================================================================= 10 July 2000 Irene McCool, the area marketing manager for Chapters, Canada's largest bookstore chain, called today with the news that Calculating God was number 14 on the national, chain-wide Chapters hardcover fiction bestsellers list for the week of June 29 to July 5. Since Chapters accounts for 50% of all books sold in Canada, this is a good thing indeed. ================================================================= 02 July 2000 Well, I wasn't looking for another teaching gig -- but I've been offered one that seems too much fun to turn down. This fall I'll be teaching a ten-week continuing-education course in the literature of science fiction at the University of Toronto. It's a non-credit, just-for-interest's-sake course, meeting one evening a week for two hours a night. We'll do ten novels over the ten weeks, the last of which will be my own FACTORING HUMANITY (an irresistible choice, since it's set right at the University of Toronto). I've already also decided I'm going to put Robert Charles Wilson's DARWINIA on the list, (a) because he's my friend and (b) because it's a damn fine book. If you'd like to be notified when the course is open for enrollment, send me an E-mail: sflitcourse@sfwriter.com ================================================================= 02 July 2000 I finished my stint as writer in residence at the Richmond Hill Public Library at 9:00 p.m. Thursday evening, June 29, and thirteen hours later, at 10:00 a.m. on Friday morning, June 30, I started teaching a four-day intensive SF writing workshop as part of the University of Toronto's Taddle Creek Summer Writers' Workshop. I'm having a blast! I've got nine students this year, making the SF section the biggest of all the ones being offered (the others are novel, short story, poetry, and dramatic writing). It's a terrific group, and the overall quality of their writing is very high. Out of the nine, I've got three repeaters: students who have been to other courses or teaching opportunities with me (one was at Taddle Creek last year; one came to a half-day seminar I taught maybe three years ago U of T; one had been in to see me when I was writer in residence at the Richmond Hill Public Library. It's really been a lot of fun; I'll be sorry when it's over tomorrow. I'll probably be teaching at Taddle Creek again next July; if you'd like to be notified when enrollment opens, send me an E-mail to: taddle@sfwriter.com


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