|MARSDUST: You’re up for the Hugo for best novel with Humans on the heels of last year’s win with Hominids. What are your thoughts about the Hugo, especially now that you’ve won one, and how do you feel about Hominids‘ sequel and its shot this year?
ROBERT J. SAWYER: Yes, last year’s win for Hominids was my first Hugo — and, I do recognize, it might well be my only Hugo ever. Most authors never even win one, let alone multiple Hugos. If I never win another, I’m still content. Many commentators have said that last year’s Hugo trophy was the best-looking one ever, so if I am going to only have one, it might as well be that one!
|thought the same thing. We were both wrong; Stan came in dead last. So what do I know about handicapping these things? Of course, Years of Rice and Salt is alternate history, and Kiln People is a mystery. My Hominids is both alternate history and a mystery — so maybe that’s why it won: a little something for everyone!
If my Neanderthal Parallax trilogy scores a second Hugo, well, that would be fabulous, of course. I do think the trilogy gets even deeper and better as it goes along; having a second Hugo for it would certainly help convey that to the public.MD: What’s new and/or next in the works on the fiction front?
RJS: I’ve just turned in my sixteenth novel to Tor. It’s called Mindscan, and is a re-imaging of a short story I had in the January 2004 Analog called “Shed Skin,” having to do with what happens to the biological originals after you copy your mind and consciousness into an immortal android body. The subject matter is radically different from Hominids, of course, but the mix of courtroom drama and love story is similar, and the book contains one of the best characters I’ve ever created: Karen Bessarian, an 85-year-old woman rediscovering all the joys of life after being freed from her decaying natural body.
MD: Why is Factoring Humanity your personal favorite, as noted on your website?
RJS: My mission statement as a writer is to combine the intimately human with the grandly cosmic, and I don’t think I’ve ever succeeded better at that than in Factoring Humanity. The human story is about a family torn apart by discovered memories of childhood abuse; the cosmic story is about an alien technology that allows one to surf the human collective unconscious the way a cyberpunk cowboy surfs the net — and, obviously, the two stories intertwine.
I usually don’t like my novels very much when I finish them — it takes a long time for me to come to accept that they’re pretty good — but when I finished Factoring Humanity, I said to myself, “That’s a slam-dunk.”
Tor recently reissued the book in a handsome trade-paperback edition, and I’m very pleased.
MD: How are things progressing with Robert J. Sawyer Books?
RJS: Wonderfully! I’m editing three books a year for Red Deer Press under the Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint. Our first title, Marcos Donnelly’s Letters from the Flesh is out in hardcover, and the reviews have been stellar. Also, it’s a gorgeous physical product; Red Deer does excellent work. The second book, Andrew Weiner’s Getting Near the End, will be out this fall. And our third book, a collection of stories by Karl Schroeder, with an introduction by Stephen Baxter, will be out in Sprint 2005. I’m thoroughly enjoying working on the other side of the fence!
MD: You’re quite popular in Japan, winning three Seiun awards for best foreign novel of the year. What do you think is the key to your cross-cultural appeal? Is it something tied to your subject matter or something related to science fiction in general?
RJS: Well, I’m a Canadian writer, and so my books do feel a bit different from American-authored books. So far, that perspective — writing from a technologically advanced country that is not a superpower — hasn’t hurt me in the U.S., and it does seem to be helping my in other markets. Also, my books are always a combination of rigorously researched hard science and philosophy, and the Japanese really seem to appreciate the juxtaposition of those two things. I’ve been to Japan twice, had a ball each time, and can’t wait to return for the World Science Fiction Convention in 2007!