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Week In Review

The 168 Turnaround: Sci-Fi Writer For The Win

THIS WEEK: November 20 – 26, 2011

The Week At Large
The movie industry is a serious business where real men and women make real sacrifices of time, money, and even life.  And no one knows that more than the filmmakers behind G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation.  A crewmember died this past Tuesday while taking down an old set for the sequel to the 2009 blockbuster movie.  My thoughts go out to his family and friends.  Of course, filmmakers aren’t the only people taking things seriously these days.  Wouldn’t you know it—the Tea Party took up arms against the Occupy Black Friday movement (which sought to discourage shopping) by supporting a movement of their own:  BUYcot Friday, which hoped to encourage people to shop as a means of protesting the Occupy folks.  And speaking of Occupy Wall Street related projects, you will soon be able to purchase Occupy This Album, a compilation of songs by various artists who support the movement.  And if that doesn’t just tickle your pickle, then you can always start a movement all your own.

The Close Up
Those who know me well will know that I read a lot.  And though I’m almost always reading a work of fiction, I don’t prefer one genre over any other.  Give me mainstream, horror, science fiction, contemporary literature, whatever—I love it all.  In fact, I’m so enamoured with fiction that I spent five years of my life getting one of the most impractical university degrees of all time: an Honours Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.  What can I say?  I’m a book lover.

But it wasn’t always that way.  Before high school, you’d have had a pretty tough time getting me to pick up a novel of my own free will.  Like many things, though, life changed after I started grade nine.  It was as a minor niner that I first stumbled upon the novels of Canadian science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer.  It was his novel Illegal Alien that first captured my imagination, and … well, the rest, as they say, is history.

For those not in the know, Sawyer is Canada’s most popular and most successful science fiction writer, and his twenty published novels have been gaining much attention around the globe.  More recently, ABC’s big budget television series FlashForward was based on Sawyer’s 1999 novel of the same name.  And if you haven’t already checked out his latest trilogy (Wake, Watch, and Wonder), which is about the internet gaining consciousness, then you really should—it’s quite a compelling bit of business.

Robert J. Sawyer

And so it was with considerable delight that I heard the news (via Sawyer’s FaceBook page) that McMaster University (my alma mater) will become the official depository of the Robert J. Sawyer archives.  These archives will include all of Sawyer’s notes, manuscripts, working papers, domestic and foreign editions, ephemera, and journals.  Even better is that McMaster wants Sawyer’s writings to be included as part of their extensive Canadian literature holdings, as opposed to archives reserved exclusively for science fiction.  This means that Sawyer’s work will be sitting alongside the writings of such CanLit luminaries as Farley Mowat and Margaret Laurence, among several others.

For far too long, literary scholars have ignored the work of popular fiction writers.  While many readers love and enjoy stories of all stripes and colours, the academic world has forever been hesitant to embrace so-called “pulp fiction.”  But as the old Bob Dylan song suggests, “the times, they are a changing.”

Truth be told, I couldn’t be happier.  For my first favourite author to be featured by the school I once attended is pretty spectacular, especially considering that some of the English profs there are none too fond of pop. fiction.

But this is change, this is progress.  And I know that suggesting as much pretty much colours me in shades of nerd.  And so in the spirit of all things nerdy, and in celebration of Robert J. Sawyer’s new home at McMaster University, I have only one thing to say:


The 168 Turnaround is a week-in-review column, a place for me to reflect on the week’s most interesting pop culture news items.  If it mattered to me or I think it might matter to you, then it will be here.  If I’ve overlooked an important news item, or if you have a comment or question, please leave a response below.  Thank you for reading.


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