Word on the Lake

Robert J. Sawyer, one of Canada’s most accomplished and celebrated science fiction writers,will be giving the keynote address

  • May. 4, 2016 1:00 p.m.
'It’s so much easier to know what you want to say before you figure out who you want to say it for you.' – Robert J. Sawyer

'It’s so much easier to know what you want to say before you figure out who you want to say it for you.' – Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer, one of Canada’s most accomplished and celebrated science fiction writers,will be giving the keynote address at the Salmon Arm Word on the Lake Festival, which runs from May 20-22.

Sawyer will offer lessons from his 25 years of experience as a professional novelist in his keynote speech. He will also be presenting two sessions at Word on the Lake: “Adaptation: Turning your Novel into a Script – and Vice-Versa” and “A Thematic Approach to Science Fiction.”

“It seems to be every novelist’s dream for some reason, to have their absolutely perfect book, written in a way where their characters behave precisely as they want them to and with the dialogue exactly as they want it to be, converted to another medium,” Sawyer said when asked about the session on screenplay adaptation. He explained most authors who agree to the adaptation of their work do so for financial reasons and are not aware of the amount of creative control they have to relinquish.

Sawyer said that novelists rarely get the opportunity to adapt their own work, but when they do, many struggle because they try to replicate their novel exactly on the screen. He stressed the importance of considering things such as the inherently different structure of films and novels and budget concerns when adapting a novel.

Adaptation of his work to the screen is a familiar task for Sawyer. His novel, Flash Forward was adapted into a TV show for ABC and, more recently, Triggers was adapted for Copperheart Entertainment.

Sawyer recognized the limits of film adaptation, saying his 2000 novel, Calculating God, about an alien and a human being arguing over theology, is essentially not adaptable for the screen.

Sawyer’s other session will deal with science fiction’s status as “the literature of ideas,” and discuss how to develop a high concept capable of driving a novel’s plot forward.

Sawyer said that narrative driven by character rather than a central idea is completely counterproductive, especially in science fiction.

“It’s so much easier to know what you want to say before you figure out who you want to say it for you,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer’s most recent novel, Quantum Night, started with an idea as simple as an exploration of evil.

Sawyer called Salmon Arm his favourite literary venue in Canada, and Word on the Lake “an absolute treat.”