Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Reflects On Past And The AI Future Of Writing

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Dr. Robert J. Sawyer, author of twenty-five novels, including Hominids and the WWW trilogy, won the L. Ron Hubbard Lifetime Achievement Award at the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers and Illustrators of the Future Gala this past Friday. This was the day before his 63rd birthday.

“Clearly, you’re done achieving when you hit that magic number,” said Sawyer at the start of his speech.

You can watch the part of the award ceremony with his speech here:

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Sawyer is one of only eight writers to have won the Nebula, the Hugo, and the John W. Campbell Award for best science fiction novel of the year. He has also won sixteen Auroras from the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.

Among other awards and honors Sawyer has received include induction into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame and being the youngest person to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Association.

He has been a judge for Writers and Illustrators of the Future for 18 years.

“Although I entered this contest when I was starting out,” said Sawyer, “I’ve only ever been on the stage here. . . as a presenter, never an award recipient. I am thrilled to have finally made it.”

In his speech, Sawyer commented on the emerging trend of creative content generated by AI. His recommendation was never creating one kind of story for too long, and to always challenge oneself, so that AI cannot easily replicate one’s style.

“John Scalzi once said this about me: ‘Cracking open a Robert J. Sawyer book is like getting a gift from a friend who visits all the strange and undiscovered places in the world. You can’t wait to see what he’s going to amaze you with this time.’ That was John’s kind way of saying who the heck knows what Sawyer is trying to pull now and that’s precisely what I want people to wonder.

“What John Scalzi said about the kind of books I write is like what Forrest Gump’s mother told him: ‘life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.’ Perhaps you should consider being a box of chocolates too.”
Even if writers don’t get rich off of this approach, Sawyer suggested that it might be the best way to “survive this AI Revolution and maybe a few decades down the road you’ll be back on this stage again taking home a trophy just like this wonderful one. . .”

In his speech, Sawyer thanked “John, Emily, Joni, Goodhild, and everyone else at author services.” He also thanked his wife, Carolyn Clink, whom he described as having been “as much a part of the Writers of the Future Family these past two decades as I have.”

Sawyer described his career as being unconventional, saying that he “did just about everything wrong,” never creating a specific brand for himself, nor writing for already established franchises.

“I just couldn’t bring myself to play in somebody else’s sandbox,” he said.

When describing the variety of novels he has written, Sawyer said that he enjoys leaving readers guessing at what he was going to write next.

“I like to leave readers scratching their heads, wondering how the guy who wrote high adventure with talking dinosaurs in Far-Seer and recondite cosmology in Starplex and courtroom drama in Illegal Alien and a melancholy romance like Rollback could possibly be the same person.

“In a world obsessed with author branding, I deliberately don’t have one.”

Sawyer was also careful to remind writers that they did not have to replicate his eclectic career.

“Of course, I don’t say your goal shouldn’t be to make millions or sell the maximum number of copies or have a brand that precisely defines what you’re going to deliver every time. You can make an excellent living doing precisely that, but it was never what I wanted.”

A fan letter from author Wulf Moon regarding Sawyer’s speech expressed his congratulations, as printed on Sawyer’s Facebook page. “There are many pathways to success, and it really is what makes you happy and fulfills you, and having the guts to do it *your* way.”

Other winners of the awards show include David Henrickson, the 2023 Grand Prize Writer winner, and Dao Vi, the 2023 Illustrator Grand Prize Winner.

Winners of writing prizes include Samuel Parr, Spencer Sekulin, L.H. Davis, Devon Bohm, Arthur H. Manners, David Hankins, David Henrickson, J.R. Johnson, Elaine Midoch, Marianne Xenos, Jason Palmatier, T.J. Knight, and Britany Rainsdon.

Illustrators who won Awards include Alexandra Albu (AKA Cyberaeon), Clarence Bateman, Dao Vi, Sarah Morrison, Ximing Luo, Alaya Knowlton, Kristin Hadaway, José Sánchez, Helen Yi, Chris Binns,  April Solomon, and Chris Arias.


Edited by Melody Friedenthal

Terrence J. Smith is MetaStellar's assistant fiction editor. He has contributed his writing to nonprofits and both print and digital publications. He enjoys all things technology, but remembers to meditate and appreciate the outside world.