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Author Robert J. Sawyer
Cover artist Jael
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science fiction
Publisher ISFiC Press
Publication date
November 12, 2004
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 304
ISBN 978-0-975-91560-8
OCLC 58427955

Relativity: Stories and Essays is a 2004 collection of mostly award-winning science fiction and mystery short stories, speeches, articles, and essays on writing written by Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer. It includes an introduction by Mike Resnick and a critical article by Valerie Broege. Sawyer wrote story notes to precede each story.



  • Just Like Old Times - Commissioned for the anthology Dinosaur Fantastic (ISBN 978-0-8867-7566-7). A serial killer is condemned to die via the new technology of "chronotransference" - he is sent back into the body of a Tyrannosaurus; when it dies, he will, too. However, the murderer decides that he will spend his remaining time wiping out Purgatorius, a probable ancestor of man, and thereby prevent the rise of Homo sapiens. Winner of the Arthur Ellis Award, presented annually by the Crime Writers of Canada for the best Canadian crime and mystery writing.
  • Immortality - Commissioned for the anthology Stars (ISBN 978-0-7564-0177-1), with each story influenced by the song lyrics of Janis Ian. The narrator attends her 60th high school reunion (presumably in 2023) and encounters the black man, Devon, whom she had dated in high school, until peer and parental pressure made them break up. Based on the 1965 song Society's Child.
  • The Stanley Cup Caper - Commissioned by the Toronto Star. Two Canadian detectives must recover the stolen Stanley Cup and realize it has been taken by Montrealer separatists.
  • Relativity - Commissioned for Men Writing Science Fiction As Women (ISBN 978-0756401658). A woman astronaut explores a star for seven of her own subjective years, but for her family, it has been thirty. When she returns home, she finds that her husband is aged and had re-married. Can they start again?
  • Star Light, Star Bright - Inhabitants of a Dyson sphere, a long way from Earth, are surprised when their little children claim to see bright lights beyond the outer rim of the sphere. Scientists conclude that the children can see stars outside, which the adults, for physiological reasons, no longer can. Because the narrator has spent his life interpreting ancient texts, his older son is able to derive the space-flight way back to Earth, from which he successfully communicates back to his family.
  • The Hand You're Dealt - Commissioned for Free Space (ISBN 0-312-85957-0), an anthology of Libertarian stories. A detective investigates a murder aboard a space habitat in a society in which each citizen's future is determined (socially and medically??) by his or her DNA. Winner of the Science Fiction Chronicle Reader Award.
  • The Shoulders Of Giants - Commissioned for Star Colonies (ISBN 0-451-46101-0). A story about the pioneer spirit. The title refers to Isaac Newton's humble remark about standing on the shoulders of giants. In 2096, Toby, Ling, and forty-eight other colonists entered cryosleep to cross the distance to Tau Ceti, fleeing the fear of nuclear wars on Earth. When they arrive twelve hundred years later, they are astounded to find their new world is already inhabited. However, Toby, Ling, and others still have the pioneer spirit and wish to set out again. Finalist for the Aurora Award for Best English-Language Short Story of the year.
  • Ineluctable - First published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November, 2002. Aurora Award winner. Darren Hamasaki finds the first unmistakable sign of contact from aliens from outer space. He finds himself in the middle of arguments concerning how to reply to them; he has an excellent answer. The aliens, however, misunderstand his answer, and further contacts make things worse.


  • The 2003 Hugo Awards Ceremony - Sawyer's speech upon winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Hominds.
  • The Future is Already Here: Is There A Place For Science Fiction in the 21st Century? - Sawyer asks: "Was SF a literature of the 20th century, the way gothic romances were a literature of the 19th? Or is there a place — a societal role — for science fiction in the new millennium?" Sawyer answers that there is, if one considers the central message of science fiction to be "Look with a skeptical eye at new technologies." He remarks, "Frank Herbert's Dune did as much to raise consciousness about ecology as did Rachel Carson's Silent Spring." He gives the examples of cloning, nuclear energy, and the space program as fields in which scientists directly involved are restrained from speculating about any down-sides to the science, which science fiction writers are perfectly free to discuss and dramatize.
  • AI and Sci-Fi: My, Oh, My! - Sawyer gave an overview of artificial intelligence in science fiction. He includes his own daring interpretation of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Science Fiction and Social Change - Sawyer spoke on Vernor Vinge]s notion of the Technological singularity, on to the extent that science fiction writers ready the public for social change; Sawyer spoke about the ideas of consciousness and the ndividuality, and gave examples from Star Trek to emphasize his points.


  • A Tale of Two Stories - A discussion, written for the Ottawa Science Fiction Society, about differences between Canadian science fiction and American science fiction, if any.
  • Pros and Cons - a chat about professional writing and attending fan conventions.
  • Remembering Judith Merril - kind words about a famous writer, anthologizer, and activist
  • Science and God - Sawyer suggests that science is the only way to discover if there is a Godl.
  • Committing Trilogy - A look-backward at writing The Neanderthal Parallax trilogy.
  • Privacy: Who Needs It? - In an article for Maclean's, Sawyer argues that privacy is over-valued to the extent that society and people's lives are lost because of its emphasis.
  • The Age of Miracle and Wonder - a commentary for CBC Radio about trying to predict the future.
  • Is Risk Our Business? - A reply to [Bill Joy]] on the topic of artificial intelligence
  • The Private Sector in Space - a commissioned essay for The Globe and Mail
  • Science, Salvation, and Atwood
  • Atwood's Depressing Future

On Writing - a sequence of essays to help beginning writers

Critical reception[edit]

Adam Volk, writing for SF Site, said,

"In all eight stories Sawyer's elegant writing style and solid grasp of the human condition help to propel the works beyond the tired, redundant works many SF short stories devolve into. The stories...display his trademark intelligence, creativity, and appreciation for the genre. ... Sawyer's collected essays and speeches are as entertaining and lively as his fiction... The essays themselves then proceed to cover a vast territory of intellectual and social analysis. From his "Committing Trilogy" which explores the creation and evolution of the Neanderthal Parallax, to essays exploring the private sector in space, or tackling Margaret Atwood's dystopian perspective of the future. Perhaps most interesting of all are Sawyer's firm, helpful and inspiring essays on writing, with tips on dialogue, character and the old adage of "show, don't tell." Even more illuminating is Sawyer's advice on the business aspect of publishing, something that is often neglected by up and coming authors."[1]

Doug Linger agreed: "Thoughtful, intelligent, stories that demonstrate some classic dilemmas of science, such as the old standby of going on long journeys at relativistic speeds. Sawyer is also deft with the human touch, and these tales are no exception on that score... Sawyer has a positive knack for making his readers think hard about what he's saying... Relativity also includes some great advice on writing... It's three hundred pages of Sawyery goodness."[2]


  1. ^ Volk, Adam (2005). "Relativity". SF Site. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  2. ^ Linger, Doug (2005). "Relativity". Xodiac. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

Brown, Charles N. "Robert J. Sawyer: Quantum Metaphysics." Locus, #505, February 2003.
Groen Trombi, Liza. "Robert J. Sawyer: Mapping the Future". Locus, #600, January 2011.
Kingsbury, Donald. "Interview." Science Fiction Review, Summer 1984.