The Spur Questionnaire: Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer photographed by Christina Frost
Robert J. Sawyer Christina Frost

Robert J. Sawyer is one of the three people, and the only Canadian, to win all three of science fiction’s largest prizes, the Hugo, the Nebula and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He’ll be participating in our panel Are We Alone, Together in the Universe.

Tell us about your participation in the 2015 Spur Festival.
I’m thrilled to be speaking about the value of basic scientific research—why it’s so important to do work that asks fundamental questions.

What do you hope Spur Festival attendees will take away from your session?

That it’s shortsighted to only due applied research that has an obvious immediate application; the greatest advances in our standard of living ultimately come from scientific work that’s done with no specific application in mind.

What are you most looking forward to about the Spur Festival?

See ideas spark of each other in a multidisciplinary way.

What is the one item you never leave home without?
My iPhone; it’s become my lifeline—I love having access to the sum total of all human knowledge in the palm of my hand from wherever I happen to b

Which book is currently on your nightstand?
Kim Newman’s British Film Institute analysis of Quatermass and the Pit, one of the best science-fiction films ever made.

In the last year, what is the longest you have gone unplugged? No internet, no cell phone, etc.
Ten hours flying from Toronto to Zurich, so I could debate the President of the American Civil Liberties Union about the notion of privacy; the host university flew me Executive Class, which took some of the pain away from not being able to go online.

Who was the last person you texted?
My dear friend Chase Masterson, an actress who appeared frequently on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and recently guest-starred on The Flash, setting up a breakfast date for tomorrow in Los Angeles, where I currently am.

The animated show The Jetsons was set in 2062. Is there anything from their futuristic world that wish were a current reality?
I want a robot maid like Rosie!

How do you prefer to communicate with colleagues: by phone, email, text or in person? How do you prefer to communicate with friends?
Colleagues via email, because it keeps a record and is easy to search.  Friends:  long, leisurely face-to-face talks in restaurants.

What are you most looking forward to about Calgary?
My favourite pizza place, Greco, is in Calgary.  Kirstin Morrell, who is moderating the event I’m part of is picking me up at YYC and we’re going straight to Greco without even stopping by my hotel.


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