Robert J. Sawyer has won just about every award there is in the genre of science fiction. He is the author of the novel Flashforward, which the TV series was based on, and has just completed his WWW trilogy with Wonder. Robert was first interviewed on BookBanter on July 11, 2009 shortly after the release of Wake.
Alex C. Telander: It’s been almost two years since our last interview. What would you say has changed most with you as a person?
Robert J. Sawyer: Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m more relaxed. Publishing is in an awful state, but I made a lot of money off of the FlashForward TV series, and that’s given me quite a cushion. So I’m a little more zen than I was about the future.
Alex: Would you say anything has changed in your writing?
Robert: Through my work on the FlashForward TV series, I’ve become much more interested in the thriller genre. People had called my books thrillers before, and, indeed, WWW: Wake hit number 1 on the Amazon.com thriller bestsellers list, but I’ve been much more attentive to how you structure such things and the conventions of that genre while I’ve been writing my current novel, Triggers.
Alex: With the last book of your WWW trilogy, Wonder, just out, what have you learned most in this long project?
Robert: That taking six years to do a series is really hard when writing about a technological area. When I started writing this series, no one had heard of the iPhone let alone the iPad, neither the Kindle nor the Wii existed, Facebook had just begun and Twitter didn’t yet exist; the world is changing awfully fast.
Alex: What do you now hope readers get from reading the entire trilogy?
Robert: A positive, upbeat view of the future of humanity in relationship to superintelligent machines. The emergence of such superintelligence is inevitable, but science fiction has given us nothing but negative visions; I wanted to offer a corrective for that.
Alex: You created such an interesting character in Caitlin Decter. Do you think readers will ever see her again?
Robert: Nope; I’ve now told Caitlin’s story — Wonder is the conclusion. I firmly believe that certain characters are right for certain books, but that it’s a mistake for writers to try to shoehorn them into future projects just to cash in on the character’s popularity.
Alex: Any movie deals in the works for the WWW trilogy?
Robert: We are listening to interesting offers and pitches from various parties, but haven’t consummated a deal yet.
Alex:What did you learn from working on the Flash Forward TV series?
Robert: That I loved working on TV!
Alex: Do you plan to do more screenwriting in the future?
Robert: Absolutely. Not only is it great fun, it’s very lucrative; six cents a word is a good rate for short fiction; six dollars a word is what the union minimum works out to for scripwriting.
Alex: Can you talk about what fans can look forward to with your next book?
Robert: It’s a novel about the scientific nature of memory, something that I’ve rarely seen dealt with well in fiction; it’s also, as I said above, a thriller.
Alex: How do story ideas tend to germinate for you?
Robert: From reading science nonfiction: the breakthroughs that are happening daily in science provide endless fodder.
Alex: You’ve been outspoken about your enjoyment of ebooks and audiobooks. Do you believe in the future the printed word will cease to exist, and how soon do you think?
Robert: Nothing ceases to exist: movies didn’t replace live theatre; television didn’t replace radio; of course print will always exist.
Alex: What do you predict to be the most impressive inventions in the next fifty years?
Robert: Radical human life prolongation. I might not live to be 150, but my young nieces probably will.
Alex: What is your favorite food to eat?
Robert: Pizza — which is probably the very reason I’m not going to live to be 150.