Thursday, May 19, 2011

Out-of-Town-Authors: Robert J. Sawyer

What a WONDER-ful world
Sci-fi writer posits future where creativity is prized

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
by: Ariel Gordon

The best gift for a writer launching his 20th book isn't a china place-setting or platinum cufflinks.

It's attending his reading and paying attention to what he or she is thinking and feeling, 20 books in...

Buying the book doesn't hurt either.

Missisauga-based science-fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer will be reading from Wonder, his 20th novel and the conclusion to the WWW trilogy, May 19 at McNally Robinson.

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1) As a writer (i.e. someone whose artistic practice is predicated on time spent alone) how do you approach performance? What do you get out of it?

I love reading my work in public because the audience reaction is immediate. I wrote the chapter I will be reading at McNally Robinson almost eighteen months ago; to finally hear the audience respond to it, in real time as I present it, is wonderful. I approach public readings as performance; you'll never see me do one sitting down with my head buried in a copy of my book - I act the scene out, doing different voices for each character, and engaging with the audience; it's as much theatre as it is a reading.

2) What do you want people to know about Wonder?

It's the concluding volume of my WWW trilogy about Webmind, a consciousness that spontaneously emerged in the background of the World Wide Web; the three novels (the other two are Wake and Watch) explore whether humans can survive with our essential liberty, dignity, and individuality intact once we cease to be the most intelligent things on the planet.

3) Will this your first time in Winnipeg? What have you heard?

I come to Winnipeg a few times each year; this is my third trip so far in 2011. The first was to speak at TEDxManitoba, and the second was just to hang out with some of the local science-fiction and fantasy writers, including Sherry Peters, Bev Geddes, and Chadwick Ginther. Winnipeg is a wonderful city and I'm always happy to return (and not just because McNally Robinson has a nice big photo of me on the wall).

4) What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

I'm reading Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Herman, as research for the novel I'm currently writing - my 21st - which is called Triggers, and deals with the nature of memory.

5) How long would science-fiction writers survive in a world where Webmind existed?

A very long time. The thing Webmind values the most is creativity: the spontaneous generation of the new and unpredictable; he prizes this because he's incapable of it himself. And so human artists of all types are cherished by him, and those who take the longest imaginative leaps - including science-fiction writers - are valued most of all.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.

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This article was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Sunday, May 1.

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