Robert J. Sawyer by Christina Frost

For the first time ever, the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards (the “Auroras”) this year had a Best of the Decade category, honouring works from the first decade of this century.

The winner was the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy by Robert J. Sawyer of Mississauga, consisting of HominidsHumans, and Hybrids, published by Tor in 2002, 2003, and 2003.

The Best of the Decade Aurora Award nominees were:

  • Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson, Tor
  • The Blue Ant Trilogy by William Gibson, Berkley
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, Tor
  • The Neanderthal Parallax by Robert J. Sawyer, Tor
  • The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint, Tor
  • Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking Canada

(William Gibson’s Blue Ant trilogy consists of Pattern RecognitionSpook Country, and Zero History.)

The Auroras were presented Saturday, September 23, 2017, at Hal-Con, this year’s Canadian National Science Fiction Convention in Halifax. Sawyer’s acceptance speech referred to his Neanderthal protagonist, Ponter Boddit:

“A best-of-the-decade award is about looking back, and although I’m thrilled with this honour, the sad truth is that both the agent who sold this trilogy for me, Ralph Vicinanza, and the editor responsible for it, David G. Hartwell, have passed away in the interim. Also no longer with us is one of my most insightful and helpful beta readers, my younger brother Alan Sawyer.

“When I wrote this trilogy, the Neanderthal genome hadn’t yet been sequenced, but we know now that most of us carry a little Neanderthal within ourselves — and so, on behalf of myself and the Neanderthals, I thank you all and wish you, as Ponter Boddit would say, ‘Healthy day.’”

Hominids had previously won the Hugo Award, the world’s top science-fiction prize; Humans had been nominated for the Hugo the following year; Hybrids and Hominids were both finalists for the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, given for speculative fiction that features “significant positive explorations of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered characters, themes, or issues.”

The trilogy tells of an alternate Earth where Neanderthals survived to the present day and we did not — and a portal between the two realities that opens in Sudbury, Ontario.

Best of the Year

In addition to winning the Best of the Decade Aurora Award, Robert J. Sawyer also won this year’s Best Novel Aurora Award, for his Quantum Night (Viking Canada).

The Best Novel Aurora Award nominees were:

  • Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking Canada
  • Company Town by Madeline Ashby, Tor
  • The Courier by Gerald Brandt, DAW
  • The Nature of a Pirate by A.M. Dellamonica, Tor
  • Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer, Viking Canada
  • Stars Like Cold Fire by Brent Nichols, Bundoran Press

Quantum Night, which spent four weeks on the Maclean’s bestseller’s list and hit #1 on the hardcover bestseller’s list in Locus, the U.S. trade journal of the science-fiction and fantasy fields, was longlisted for Canada Reads and received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

Sawyer’s novel tells the story of University of Manitoba experimental psychologist Jim Marchuk, who becomes convinced the new United States president is a psychopath.

Sawyer’s acceptance speech:

“I’m sorry I can’t be with you in Halifax today; I’m a presenter at the Word on the Street festival in Toronto this weekend. But I’m thrilled to have won, and I thank my editors, Adrienne Kerr and Helen Smith in Toronto and Ginjer Buchanan and Jessica Wade in New York.

“I’d also like to thank the voters for the Aurora Awards for this honour — while at the same time decrying those voters south of the border who turned what was supposed to be a cautionary science-fiction tale into a dystopian reality. I had good luck today; let us hope we all have better luck in the next U.S. presidential election.”

The Aurora Awards, established in 1980, are Canada’s leading speculative fiction awards, nominated for and voted on by readers coast to coast, and administered by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.

Robert J. Sawyer, 57, a Member of the Order of Canada, was born in Ottawa in 1960 and has lived in Mississauga since 2000. You can read our interview with him, from April 2017, here.