Trust me, no one was more shocked than I was that I’m typing this.
Robert J. Sawyer is my favorite modern science fiction writer. One of the biggest reasons is that I feel that Rob is a throwback to the older grand masters that came before him. He writes science fiction that not only explores great concepts (especially his stuff on consciousness, more on that later) but Rob maintains a very human touch in his work, not just in the situations and settings he uses, but the very human conditions he invokes with his ideas. Science fiction in my view is at its best when the human element is considered, and no one today does it better than him.
I first read Rob back in my late teens with the Terminal Experiment. That is an amazing book that explores consciousness in many forms. Throughout this, he managed to talk about some very real life issues, like adultery, and the consequences of it, in terms of feeling, and how one might act given their limitations. He never failed on the human connection and his clarity as a writer was top notch, and in my opinion is still one of his best books.
I got to meet Rob last year at When Words Collide. He was a little intimidating, and when you listen to the podcast, I think you hear it with me in the first ten minutes of our conversation, but it’s still was a very fun back and forth, and I can say with all honesty he treated me well, and gave me an opportunity when he didn’t have to, and I thank him for it here.
Rob was kind enough to answer some questions for the blog below, and I’ll just put on for you to read right now.
Joshua Pantalleresco: What are you working on this minute?
Robert J. Sawyer: The twelfth draft of the TV series proposal that I’ve been working on developing for Copperheart Entertainment in Toronto. It’s for a very ambitious science-fiction series; I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written.
JP: Quantum Night seemed to take a little longer than your previous works to produce. Were there unique challenges to Quantum Night that weren’t in other books you’ve done in the past?
RJS: Sadly, yes. I wrote the first paragraph for this novel in September 11, 2012. My younger brother Alan got in touch the next day to tell me he was dying of lung cancer; he was gone nine months later. I simply wasn’t up to writing it my usual pace during his decline and after his passing. But they did give me the luxury of spending an entire year – twelve full months – doing nothing but research for this novel. There’s a bibliography of over fifty books appended to the end of the novel for those who are interested in seeing what works of nonfiction informed the writing of Quantum Night.
JP: Consciousness is always the well of your best stuff, in my opinion. I still think The Terminal Experiment and Calculating God are incredible works. What does Quantum Night convey to readers about consciousness that your previous works haven’t?
RJS: That not all consciousness is created equal; the novel posits that there are three distinctly different quantum configurations in the brain giving rise to three distinctly different types of human being: those devoid of an inner life altogether, those who have been in her life but think only about themselves, and a precious few who have both consciousness and conscience.
JP: Why did the newspaper want to photograph your couch? (note: I saw this update on Rob’s facebook page, and was curious)
RJS: They’re doing a feature on writers’ favourite places to read. The article will be out next in March, and it includes contributions from Yann Martel and several other big-name Canadian writers.
JP: Anything you’d like to add?
RJS: I think you’re right that my best work is related to the science of consciousness. I’ve often said that Science Fiction is the literature of intriguing juxtapositions, and there is no more multidisciplinary field than consciousness studies. It combines philosophy, AI research, psychology, child development, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience. As much as it pains me to say it, Captain Kirk was wrong. Space isn’t the final frontier; consciousness is.
This is Rob’s newest book. I’ve said time and time again that I believe that consciousness is Rob’s best stuff, and I am looking forward to seeing this one. Quantum Night is available now. Check it out – I promise it’ll be an amazing read.
Rob’s website can be found at http://www.sfwriter.com
. I can personally attest this this site is one of the most comprehensive writing sites I’ve ever been to. In addition to Rob’s work, he also has essays, tips and in general great writing advice for aspiring writers and professionals alike. If you are serious about writing anything, you owe it to yourself to read a few of his essays. Heinlein’s rules is one of my favorites. You can also find Rob on twitter at @RobertJSawyer. I want to thank him for the opportunity. It’s not everyday you interview a best seller and a Nebula Award winning author.