- Rob and his wife, poet Carolyn Clink, maintain the site themselves, which gives the site their homespun flavor;
- The site includes working examples of press releases and press kits (something every published author should have a good handle on);
- On the left sidebar, Rob maintains a “How to Write” page, brimming with excellent advice on topics ranging from openings, point of view, character construction, description, dialogue, research, cover letters and SASEs, and self promotion. He also discusses manuscript format, outlines and synopses, agents (and how to land them), and marketplace—VERY WORTHWHILE;
- Rob also includes insightful and educational non-fiction articles on science fiction as a genre; Canadian science fiction, particularly; and thoughts on futurism; and,
- Rob also maintains a forum with lively discussions and a link to his blog (which is a more day-to-day journal of what’s happening in Rob’s world.
So much so that when I asked him aboard my ship, Rob didn’t flinch or blink; in fact, he suggested we use his own vehicle to get to my orbiting giant. The world is full of surprises!
As we settle comfortably in the aft lounge of my ship and slide back a couple of Molson Canadians (he’s Canadian, after all!), Rob asks the first question: “Is this a sentient ship?” I’m dumbfounded. “Because,” he continues in that casual voice that lulls you into compacency, “I noticed you have no crew and as we walked past the starboard secondary control panel, I saw that your auxiliary photosynthetic-decouplers weren’t online. That can only mean that your ship itself runs the diagnostics,” he ends with a beatific smile. I’m dumbfounded…and speechless. Rob’s like that. He has a winning smile and a sharp wit. I hear that he even got a doctorate degree (from Laurentian University) without even having to go there! I first met Rob several years ago at a local SF convention (V-con), back when I was disguised as a beginning writer. I was struck by his generosity, warmth and down-home friendliness. Rob was extremely approachable and more than willing to provide advice and share his wisdom and experience in the challenging field of writing and publishing. I'm eternally grateful for his advice, especially for steering me away from that questionable green and orange dip in the hospitality suite. Before he gets a chance to ask me another question, I give him a zinger, looking as always to incite controversy:
SF Girl: “Is there a difference between Canadian science fiction and American science fiction…besides the Canadian version having extra “u”s added in, that is?”
Sawyer: “…My country does a lot to support the arts but the health-insurance system is the single greatest advantage Canadian artists have. And, yes, a lot of people have read Rollback as being about the inherent wrongness of unequal access to advanced health care, and there’s no doubt that theme is in there.” He pauses thoughtfully and takes a sip of his Molson’s then gives me one of those winning grins. “I’m fond of quipping that American SF has happy endings, Canadian SF has sad endings, and British SF has no endings at all. If I can be so bold, SF Girl, Old Man’s War and Rollback are, respectively, American and Canadian takes on rejuvenation – one, a jubilant, triumphant we-are-the-champions novel; the other, a novel that says that it’s all bigger than we are, and despite everyone’s best intentions, things just aren’t going to work out as planned.
“One might argue that the difference comes from our countries’ vastly different stature on the world stage. The US is a superpower – for the moment, at least, the superpower – and its presidents can and do (let me reach back for a positive example here!) say things like, 'We choose to go to the Moon.' Canada is a middle power – we know there are things we just can’t do; if a Canadian prime minister said 'We choose to go to the Moon,' we’d think he’d lost his mind.
“Those differences do percolate into the texts we write. I’ve talked to other Canadian authors about this, and we’ve all had the same experience: US editors who have asked us to find what seem to us to be unnaturally upbeat endings for our works. It rankles, and I’ve dug in my heels more than once to keep what I’ve felt was the appropriately honest – and for that, often, read “melancholy” – conclusion to one of my books.
“Years ago, I read in manuscript a book by Terence M. Green; he’s a Canadian, like me. And his final line in that book literally made me gasp; my wife called out from the next room to ask what was wrong. But nothing was wrong; it was perfect. But when his book came out, I was astonished to see another little scene tacked on the end – and learned it was there precisely because the American editor felt the story needed a more positive ending, an ending that literally had the characters climbing up into the sunshine. I don’t say that was the wrong decision for the US market – which is where Terry and I and almost all Canadian SF authors make most of our money, of course – but it vividly underscored the difference between the two nations’ approaches to the genre.”
SF Girl: "Does that mean that if a Canadian had written The Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man never would have gotten his heart and Dorothy would have resorted to a life of crime with the 'Little People' gang and never uttered the famous line: 'there's no place like home'?" There's no answer. "Rob?..." I look around and realize that he's already left to chat-up the ship...
Rob’s response here is an excerpt from an interview conducted by John Scalzi with Robert J. Sawyer on Ficlets: read the whole interview here.
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.