Interview with Robert J. Sawyer

10 Jan

A great bundle of science fiction books is currently being offered at, consisting of six titles from Bundoran Press and six by some great writers who have befriended the press over the years. As an added bonus, we will be running a series of interviews with the authors about their contribution to the Bundle.

First up is Robert J. Sawyer.

What inspired you to write Frameshift? How does this book fit into the rest of your writing career?

I’m very much a top-down writer. I pick a topic, research the heck out of it until I’ve found something worth saying on the topic — that is, until I’ve found my theme — and then devise the characters who will be most uncomfortable and at jeopardy as I explore that theme. I wrote Frameshift over 20 years ago, mostly in 1996, and back then the ongoing project of trying to map the human genome was a huge news story, so I chose genetics as my overall topic. And in digging into, it seemed clear to me, Canadian that I am, that the only thing that would make sense in the coming era of predictive genetic testing would be socialized medicine. That this issue is still front-and-center today in political and ethical discourse hopefully means that Frameshift is still relevant.

Who is your favorite secondary character in this book and why?

Avi Meyer, who is hunting for former Nazis who might be lurking in modern genetic research. In high school, I dated a Jewish girl, and her parents, including her father, who was a concentration-camp survivor, worked hard to break us up. I struggled then over why they would do that, and found some peace by walking many figurative miles in Avi’s shoes.

What themes appear most strongly in your writing? What makes you particularly care about those ideas?

Over and over again, two themes: rationalism and empathy. Rationalism because it’s the only way we’ll get out of the messes we find ourselves in, whether its the depredations of religious extremists or the existential threat of climate-change denial. And empathy because it’s the core value of fiction. As I said above, Frameshift let me walk in Avi Meyer’s shoes; modern fiction, with its structure based on one point-of-view character per scene, is the only narrative tool we have that places you firmly inside someone else’s head, and the whole point of that exercise is to realize that other people have value, too. It’s certainly a large part of Frameshift; it’s the main message of the book I wrote right after it, the Hugo Award-nominated Factoring Humanity, and it’s the core message of my latest novel, Quantum Night, too.


To learn more about this great bundle of books, visit

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