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June 27, 2007

Ficlets Author Interview: Robert J. Sawyer

Look! Another Author Interview! I'm on fire over there at Ficlets. This time around I'm interviewing none other than Robert J. Sawyer, who is talking about his new book Rollback and opining on a number of subjects relating to science fiction, Canada, the position of fiction in society, and the various intersections of each. And he also explains how Margaret Atwood can get away with suggesting that she doesn't write science fiction (hint: it has something to do with being Canadian. No, really).

It's a hella interesting interview, and if you don't read it, it will eventually rank as one of the great missed opportunities of your life, and the regret will eat at you like a ravenous polar bear. Yes, just like that. And you know how ravenous polar bears can be.

Yes, I'm all about the Canadians today. Rock on, frosty northern neighbors!

Posted by john at June 27, 2007 09:43 AM

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Sean | June 27, 2007 09:52 AM

I find your love of Canada sickening. They are obviously on the brink of invading the US. Two-thirds of their population lives near the US border ( http://tinyurl.com/2gz4ke ). Wake up and smell the Canadian Bacon before it's too late.

PS - It's possible the invasion will be carried out by hard-rock trios such as Rush and Triumph, but that remains to be seen.

Sean | June 27, 2007 10:06 AM

By the way, that's an excellent interview and I will definitely be checking out "Rollback." Mr. Sawyer's description of SF books as "books" first and "SF" second is refreshing.

John Scalzi | June 27, 2007 10:07 AM

Look out, Sean! The Canadians are getting to you!

Amanda | June 27, 2007 10:17 AM

... Poor Sean. You must be eliminated, now.

Craig | June 27, 2007 10:21 AM

I enjoy Sawyers work. I found rollback to have several laugh out loud moments, with lots of great interplay between the two main characters. The only downside is I tend to get drawn into his work and finish the book too fast.

The Neanderthal Trilogy is particularly good.

PixelFish | June 27, 2007 10:46 AM

Go, Canada! This blog is about perfect, in its mixture of entrees, but a little Canadianess would exalt it to the highest ranks of taste.

Just don't forget that the birth of a very important nation is coming up. A proud nation with freedoms and independence and poutine and Bachman Turner Overdrive. That's right....four days til Canada Day, hosers!

Jeff | June 27, 2007 12:06 PM

I'm lovin' your Canadian love Mr. S.

C'mon up here for Canada Day on July 1st and I'll buy you a beer.

Miscellaneous Steve | June 27, 2007 12:20 PM

Sean: The invasion has already begun. Rush is now touring the US, infiltrating American arenas with their subersive Canadian version of rock 'n' roll. Great stuff, too.

Loved the interview with RJS. I'm about half-way through Rollback and really enjoying it (though my favorite of Sawyer's books remains Hominids).

Mary | June 27, 2007 12:48 PM

Frosty? FROSTY? It's hitting 32 degrees Celsius in Toronto today (more like 42 degrees with the humidity) and the cats are melting like Dali watches all over my bed. I'd shave them out of kindness, but that just might freak out P-Zed Myers.

John Scalzi | June 27, 2007 12:53 PM

32 degrees? That's freezing in real degrees!

Corby Kennard | June 27, 2007 01:01 PM

Good interview. My only issue is the characterization of American audiences as not being able to handle melancholy endings. I maintain that it is not American audiences that have this issue, but the mass marketing corporations that have no understanding of Human nature. They give us little choice and tack on happy endings, then when we see it/read it/consume it they say "See? They only like happy endings."

A specific example from recent horror films is the very scary flick "The Descent." The original British ending was a satisfying completion of the story, but the American ending just caused a lot of confused stares and shaken heads, and the film did horrible in this country.

I understand that the editors are supposed to be "more knowledgeable" in what the "consumer" wants, but it just seems, according to this interview, they they are there to promote the views of the corporation, and by extension, the guy in charge of the corporation, who seem to have no imagination or sense of melancholia, and just think "Bigger! Brighter! Happier!" is the mantra for the new Millennium.

Mary | June 27, 2007 01:07 PM

32 degrees? That's freezing in real degrees!

I just told the cats what you said. They didn't look at all relieved or impressed.

Dr. Phil | June 27, 2007 02:11 PM

Apparently, I'm a Canadian, based on my love of writing melancholy endings to SF stories. Who knew? (grin)

Dr. Phil

Tania | June 27, 2007 02:41 PM

Hockey is one of the few sports I follow. It's a half-assed follow, but more than I follow other sports. Between that, geography, writers, and the country in general, I'm a big fan of Canada.

However, I've observed elsewhere that I have too many guns and too much pornography to live in Canada. I'd be breaking the law in a country I'm rather fond of. I can even sing their national anthem.

Dr. Phil | June 27, 2007 03:42 PM

Hey, I used to be able to sing the Expo 67 song, both in English and French.

Invoke Deep Core memory function:

Hey there, say there, Come on over, Looking for happiness, This is the place...

Hmm, looks like it says "friend", not "there", maybe it's another verse. Come on, it was ONLY forty years ago. (grin)

Dr. Phil

Dave Rudddell | June 27, 2007 04:33 PM

Oh yeah, the invasion is under way. We've already managed to contaminate you with Celine Dion, although y'all did manage to build quite the impressive containment facility for her in the southern Nevada desert.

Janiece | June 27, 2007 06:56 PM

I just love, love, love Robert Sawyer's books, and Rollback is several books into my "to read" pile. Unfortunately (or fortunately), my "to read" pile is growing faster than an unwanted mulberry tree. Unlike an unwanted Mulberry tree, it will not be terminated with extreme prejudice.

I like his comments on American vs. Canadian SF writers. I like a spicy mix of both.

Jacob | June 27, 2007 09:16 PM

Margaret Atwood has a very sneering view of science fiction despite having written, say, two and a half sf books. Or maybe because of, the "half" I mentioned is part of her book The Blind Assassin (which is actually quite good, if at some points the symbolism is shoveled in too thick). It illuminates that Atwood's view of science fiction is stuck in the 1920's (not only pre-New Wave but pre-Campbellean). She sees sf as ray guns and monsters and bad writing (she's alluded to this in inteviews but I think the book shows it best). It would be interesting to see her confronted with New Comprehensionist authors like Sawyer/Scalzi and see what she makes of them.

hugh57 | June 27, 2007 10:15 PM

Re Margaret Atwood, I think Peter Watts has said it well:

"Here is a woman so terrified of sf-cooties that she'll happily redefine the entire genre for no other reason than to exclude herself from it."

You can read the full essay, Margaret Atwood and the Hierarchy of Contempt, (pdf) at:


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