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