Thursday, December 21, 2017

Six books that influenced sci-fi author Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer is one of only eight writers in history — and the only Canadian — to win all three of the world's top Science Fiction awards for best novel of the year: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

One of six books that have influenced him over the course of his career, as shared with the CBC:
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

My own science fiction explores inner space far more often than outer space; I'm interested in the science of consciousness more than I am in astrophysics. That shouldn't be surprising: we writers invented the concept of stream-of-consciousness narrative, after all, and the reason prose fiction endures in a world of $100-million films, binge-watched television, and, soon, immersive virtual reality is that it's the only art form that puts you inside another person's head, letting you hear the viewpoint character's thoughts — the inner monologue or dialogue that's held private from everyone else in real life.

Still, in my latest novel, Quantum Night, I toy with the notion that some people might not have any inner life — that they might be what cognitive scientists call 'philosopher's zombies.' And my novel prior to that, Red Planet Blues, was a hard-boiled detective novel set on Mars. One of the great classics of crime fiction deeply influenced both those books: Dashiell Hammett's masterful The Maltese Falcon. Not only is it the best noir novel ever written, but Hammett pulls off a tour de force: none of his characters have inner lives; we never once are made privy to the thoughts of Sam Spade or Brigid O'Shaughnessy. Instead, Hammett describes every facial tic and hand gesture with cinematic precision; you've probably never read another book story told in this way, and you certainly will never forget this one after you do.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Maltese Falcon appears on Mark Billingham's six best books list, Kathryn Williams's reading list on greed, Sara Brady's top five list of books with plots propelled by the search for an object, J. Kingston Pierce's top ten list of introductions to crime fiction and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best fat men in literature and ten of the best femmes fatales in literature, and among Armistead Maupin's five best San Francisco novels and Janet Rudolph's ten favorite San Francisco-backdropped crime novels.

Visit Robert J. Sawyer's website.

The Page 69 Test: WWW: Wake.

The Page 69 Test: WWW: Watch.

The Page 69 Test:: WWW: Wonder.

The Page 69 Test: Triggers.

The Page 69 Test: Red Planet Blues.

The Page 69 Test: Quantum Night.

--Marshal Zeringue