Artist Profile: Robert J. Sawyer

by Jonathon Resney

The world’s science fiction fans know Robert Sawyer as an award-winning novelist. Immigrants living in Mississauga may know Sawyer as the man who swore them in as Canadian citizens.  Since being inducted into the Order of Canada in June 2016, Robert Sawyer has been serving as a Volunteer Presiding Official at monthly swearing-in ceremonies.

Sawyer is amazed by how few Order of Canada recipients accept Canadian Immigration’s invitation  to preside over these ceremonies.   “At a typical ceremony, I’ll be swearing in large groups of people – from children to people in their nineties.  I get a spring in my step for days afterward!  To see so many people embrace Canadian values is very moving.”

Sawyer and his wife, poet Carolyn Clink, moved to Mississauga from Thornhill seventeen years ago.  They instantly fell in love with the city, especially the cultural scene.  “It’s not every city that has something like the Living Arts Centre!” he praised.

As a major writer of science fiction, Sawyer is the only Canadian writer, and one of only eight writers worldwide, to win all of the top three awards in the genre: the Hugo (International), Nebula (USA), and John W. Campbell Award (USA).  This year, Sawyer won Mississauga’s 2017 MARTY Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Robert Sawyer accepting his 2017 MARTY for Lifetime Achievement.

Although his novels are set in Canada, they are popular overseas and have garnered literary awards in France, Spain, China, and Japan.

“I just visited a book club in Shanghai,” said Sawyer.  “They were doing one of my stories: ‘The Stanley Cup Caper’, about Quebecois separatists trying to steal the hockey trophy.  They loved it! 

“We tend to think that nobody else in the world understands Canada.  But everyone understands the struggles of uniting disparate people.” Sawyer believes Canadian values of optimism and multiculturalism attract international readers.

In previous interviews, Sawyer has suggested that his twenty-third novel, Quantum Night, may be his last.  He will continue to write for television and film.  This year, he contributed to the History Channel’s documentary series, The World Without Canada.

That said, during my interview with Sawyer, he hinted at writing another novel over the summer.  “We’ll see if it comes to light,” he said slyly.

For more information about Robert Sawyer, visit his website at www.sfwriter.com.

Featured image by Christina Frost.

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