Spider Robinson

Spider Robinson (born November 24, 1948) is an American-born Canadian science fiction author.

Spider Robinson
Spider Robinson with wife Jeanne Robinson at the 2004 Necronomicon.
Spider Robinson with wife Jeanne Robinson at the 2004 Necronomicon.
BornNovember 24, 1948 (age 70)
The Bronx, New York City, New York, US
GenreScience fiction

Early life and education

Robinson was born in the Bronx, New York City, New York.[1] He attended a Catholic high school, spending his junior year in a seminary, followed by two years in a Catholic college, and five years[2] at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in the 1960s,[3] earning a Bachelor of Arts in English. While at Stony Brook, Spider earned a reputation as a great entertainer at campus coffeehouses and gatherings, strumming his guitar and singing in harmony with his female partner.[1]

In his 20s, he "spent several years in the woods, deliberately trying to live without technology."[4] In 1971, just out of college, he got a night job guarding sewers in New York City.[5] He wrote his first published science fiction story, "The Guy with The Eyes", to get out of that job.[5] In 1975 he married Jeanne Robinson, a choreographer, dancer, and Sōtō Zen monk,[6] who co-wrote his Stardance Trilogy. They had a daughter, Terri Luanna da Silva, who once worked for Martha Stewart.[7]

According to Robinson, he had always been known as "Robbie", a contraction of his last name, until he became sick of it, feeling "it was kind of a juvenile name for a college man."[8] He asked his friends for a new first name, and they came up with "Spider", though each for a different reason.[8]


Robinson made his first short-story sale in 1972 to Analog Science Fiction magazine. The story, "The Guy with the Eyes" (Analog February 1973), was set in a bar called Callahan's Place; Robinson would, off-and-on, continue to write stories about the denizens of Callahan's into the 21st century. The stories have been collected into a number of published books.[9] Robinson made several short-story sales to Analog, Galaxy Science Fiction magazine and others, and worked as a book reviewer for Galaxy magazine during the mid-to-late 1970s. In 1978–79 he contributed book reviews to the original anthology series Destinies.

Robinson's first published novel, Telempath (1976), was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella "By Any Other Name". Over the following three decades, Robinson on average released a book a year, including short story anthologies. In 1996–2005, he served as a columnist in the Op-Ed section (and briefly in the technology section) of The Globe and Mail.

In 2004, he pronounced himself "overjoyed" to begin working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Robert A. Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The book, titled Variable Star, was released on September 19, 2006. Robinson has always made his admiration for Heinlein very clear;[10] in an afterword to Variable Star he recounts the story of how on his first visit to a public library a librarian named Ruth Siegel "changed my life completely" by sizing up the child in front of her and handing him a copy of the Heinlein juvenile novel Rocket Ship Galileo, after which "the first ten books I ever read in my life were by Robert Heinlein, and they were all great." Early in Robinson's career, Heinlein even helped to support Robinson financially during an especially difficult period; Robinson was especially grateful because he knew that Heinlein, who at the time was supportive of the war in Vietnam, knew of Robinson's fervent opposition to the war.[11]

Robinson is also an admirer of mystery writer John D. MacDonald. Lady Sally McGee, from the Callahan's series, is apparently named in honor of Travis McGee, the central character in MacDonald's mystery novels. The lead character in Lady Slings The Booze frequently refers to Travis McGee as a role model. In Callahan's Key the patrons make a visit to the marina near Fort Lauderdale where the Busted Flush was usually moored in the McGee series. On Robinson's website there is a photo of him "at the address (now demolished) of 'The Busted Flush,' home of John D. MacDonald’s immortal character Travis McGee: Slip F-18, Bahia Mar Marina, Fort Lauderdale FL."[12] Similarly important to Robinson is writer Donald E. Westlake[13] and Westlake's most famous character, John Archibald Dortmunder.

Personal life

Robinson has resided in Canada for nearly 40 years, primarily in the provinces of Nova Scotia and British Columbia. He formerly lived in "an upscale district of Vancouver for a decade,"[14] and has lived on Bowen Island since approximately 1999.[1] He became a Canadian citizen in 2002, retaining his American citizenship.[15] Spider and Jeanne's only grandchild, Marisa, was born in 2009, as Jeanne was undergoing treatment for "a rare and virulent form of biliary cancer". Jeanne Robinson died May 30, 2010.[16] Their daughter Terri died on December 5, 2014, of breast cancer.[17]

Robinson suffered a heart attack on August 31, 2013, but recovered. Due to the health issues faced by his family he has not published a novel since 2008. In 2013, Robinson reported on his website that work on his next book Orphan Stars was progressing, albeit slowly.[18] Concurrently, he has begun work on his autobiography.[19]

He has been named a Guest of Honor at the 76th World Science Fiction Convention in 2018.[9]

Published works

Novels and collections of linked stories

The following table can be sorted by any column.
Year Title Co-Author Series Notes
1976 Telempath
1977 Callahan's Crosstime Saloon Callahan's/Jake Stonebender Collection of linked stories
1979 Stardance Jeanne Robinson Stardance Trilogy
1981 Time Travelers Strictly Cash Callahan's/Jake Stonebender Collection of linked stories; also contains several non-Callahan's stories
1982 Mindkiller Deathkiller Trilogy
1985 Night of Power
1986 Callahan's Secret Callahan's/Jake Stonebender Collection of linked stories
1987 Time Pressure Deathkiller Trilogy
1989 Callahan's Lady Lady Sally's
1991 Starseed Jeanne Robinson Stardance Trilogy
1992 Lady Slings the Booze Lady Sally's An excerpt from Lady Slings the Booze was published in a special edition novella called Kill the Editor in 1991.
1993 The Callahan Touch Callahan's/Jake Stonebender
1995 Starmind Jeanne Robinson Stardance Trilogy
1996 Callahan's Legacy Callahan's/Jake Stonebender
1997 Lifehouse Deathkiller Trilogy
2000 Callahan's Key Callahan's/Jake Stonebender
2001 The Free Lunch
2003 Callahan's Con Callahan's/Jake Stonebender
2004 Very Bad Deaths Russell Walker
2006 Variable Star Robert A. Heinlein Based on an outline Heinlein prepared in 1955.
2008 Very Hard Choices Russell Walker

Omnibus volumes

  • Callahan and Company (1988) - (omnibus edition of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, Time Travelers Strictly Cash, and Callahan's Secret)
  • Off the Wall at Callahan's (1994) - (a collection of quotes from books in the Callahan's/Lady Sally series)
  • The Callahan Chronicals (1997) - (retitled republication of Callahan and Company)
  • The Star Dancers (1997) (with Jeanne Robinson) (omnibus edition of Stardance and Starseed)

Short story collections

  • Antinomy (1980)
  • Melancholy Elephants (1984 - Canada; 1985 - United States)
  • True Minds (1990)
  • User Friendly (1998)
  • By Any Other Name (2001)
  • God Is an Iron and Other Stories (2002)
  • My Favorite Shorts (2016; e-book only)

As editor

  • The Best of All Possible Worlds (1980) - collection of works by other authors edited and introduced by Robinson


  • Belabouring the Obvious (2000)

Collected essays

  • The Crazy Years: Reflections of a Science Fiction Original (2004), a collection of his articles for The Globe and Mail

Awards and honors


  1. ^ a b c Robinson, Spider. "Spider Robinson's Bio". SpiderRobinson.com. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  2. ^ Robinson, Spider. The Crazy Years, "School Will Be Ending, Next Month" p. 107.
  3. ^ Robinson, Spider. The Crazy Years, "Buzzed High Zonked Stoned Wasted" p. 44.
  4. ^ Robinson, Spider. The Crazy Years, "Loathe Yourself, Fine—But Leave Me Out of It" p. 133.
  5. ^ a b Robinson, Spider (1977). Callahan's Place. Tor. p. 9. ISBN 0-8125-7227-0.
  6. ^ Robinson, Spider. The Crazy Years, "You Just Can't Kill for Jesus/Allah/Jahweh/Rama/Elvis…" p.123, "Starsong on My Desktop" p. 219.
  7. ^ Robinson, Spider. The Crazy Years, "Lay Off the Lady" p. 105.
  8. ^ a b "Spider Robinson talks about...callahan's, usenet & becoming spider". January Magazine.
  9. ^ a b Brown, Alan (September 28, 2017). "Joy and Pun-ishment: Callahan's Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson". Tor.com. Tor.com. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  10. ^ For example, his 1980 essay "Rah, Rah, R.A.H.!" or the 1998 "Mentors".
  11. ^ Robinson's essay, "Rah, Rah, R.A.H.!"
  12. ^ Robinson, Spider. "Panels and conventions from years-gone-by". SpiderRobinson.com. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  13. ^ "Spider Robinson". SFFaudio.com. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  14. ^ Robinson, Spider. The Crazy Years, "I Want a Really Interactive Newspaper" p. 78.
  15. ^ Robinson, Spider. The Crazy Years, "Citizen Keen" p. 53–55.
  16. ^ "Spider Robinson's official website". Retrieved 2009-09-02.
  17. ^ "Graceful Woman Warrior". Retrieved 2014-12-27.
  18. ^ Robinson, Spider (14 September 2013). "Spider's Online Diary". Spider Robinson. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  19. ^ Beairsto, Bronwyn (16 August 2018). "Spider Robinson's star shines in Worldcon's sci-fi universe". Bowen Island Undercurrent (Online Newspaper). Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  20. ^ "Forry Award Winners". lasfsinc.info. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  21. ^ JoPhan (August 20, 2016). "San José to Host 2018 Worldcon". Worldcon.org. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  • Robinson, Spider (1976). Telempath. New York: Berkley. ISBN 0-399-11796-2.

External links

Two Facebook Groups dedicated to Spider Robinson : "Friends of Mike Callahan" and "Callhan's Crosstime Saloon" .

50th World Science Fiction Convention

The 50th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), also known as MagiCon, was held September 3–7, 1992, at the Clarion Hotel, The Peabody Orlando, and the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, United States.

The chairman was Joe Siclari; Becky Thomson was vice-chairman. The Guests of Honor were Jack Vance (pro), Vincent Di Fate (artist), and Walter A. Willis (fan). The toastmaster was Spider Robinson; Mike Resnick acted as Toastmaster for the Meet-the-Pros party. Total attendance was 5,319, of 6,368 paid memberships.

76th World Science Fiction Convention

The 76th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), also known as Worldcon 76 in San Jose, was held in San Jose, California from August 16 to 20, 2018. The guests of honor included authors Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Spider Robinson; artist John Picacio; musician Frank Hayes; and fans Pierre and Sandy Pettinger.

Callahan's Crosstime Saloon

Callahan's Place is a fictional bar with strongly community-minded and empathic clientele, part of the fictional universe of American writer Spider Robinson. It appears in the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon stories (compiled in the first novel of the same name) along with its sequels Time Travelers Strictly Cash and Callahan's Secret; most of the beloved barflies appear in the further sequels The Callahan Touch, Callahan's Legacy, Callahan's Key, and Callahan's Con, and the computer game.

Callahan's Crosstime Saloon (video game)

Callahan's Crosstime Saloon is a 1997 graphic adventure game developed by Legend Entertainment and published by Take-Two Interactive. Based on the Callahan's Place book series by author Spider Robinson, the game follows Jake Stonebender, narrator of the books, through six discrete comic science fiction adventures. Taking the role of Jake, the player solves puzzles, converses with characters from the Callahan's Place series and visits locations such as the Amazon rainforest, Transylvania and outer space.

Callahan's Crosstime Saloon began development at Legend in 1995, under the direction of Josh Mandel, co-designer of Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist. Mandel had considered adapting the Callahan's Place books since the 1980s, and saw the project as an answer to the dark and violent content of games in the mid-1990s. Robinson was initially uninterested in the game's development, but increasingly collaborated with Mandel as it progressed. First planned as a self-published title, Callahan's Crosstime Saloon switched to publisher Take-Two late in development, and was subsequently mismarketed as a work of Western fiction.

The game was a commercial failure, although Mandel was pleased with its reception by fans of Robinson's books. It received positive reviews from critics. Callahan's Crosstime Saloon became Mandel's last project at Legend Entertainment, and was the company's penultimate adventure game, followed by John Saul's Blackstone Chronicles (1998).

Callahan's Lady

Callahan’s Lady (1989) is a science fiction novel by American writer Spider Robinson, the fourth in his Callahan's Crosstime Saloon series. It is made up of 11 vignettes, all revolving around a bar and brothel owned by Lady Sally McGee, wife of Mike Callahan. The stories are written in the same fast-paced, pun-laced prose Robinson is noted for.

Canadian science fiction

A strong element in contemporary Canadian culture is rich, diverse, thoughtful and witty science fiction.

Edward E. Smith Memorial Award

The Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, or "Skylark", annually recognizes someone for lifetime contributions to science fiction, "both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late "Doc" Smith well-loved by those who knew him." It is presented by the New England Science Fiction Association at its annual convention, Boskone, to someone chosen by a vote of NESFA members. The trophy is a large lens mounted on a simple plinth.The award was inaugurated in 1966, the year after Smith's death. Fifty-one people have been honored in 49 years to 2015 (Hal Clement received the award twice, in 1969 and 1997).

Skylark recipients

Elizabeth Bear

Sarah Bear Elizabeth Wishnevsky (born September 22, 1971) is an American author who works primarily in speculative fiction genres, writing under the name Elizabeth Bear. She won the 2005 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the 2008 Hugo Award for Best Short Story for "Tideline", and the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Novelette for "Shoggoths in Bloom". She is one of only five writers who have gone on to win multiple Hugo Awards for fiction after winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (the others being C. J. Cherryh, Orson Scott Card, Spider Robinson, and Ted Chiang).

Enemy Mine (novella)

"Enemy Mine" is a science fiction novella by American writer Barry B. Longyear. It was originally published in the September 1979 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Later, it was collected by Longyear in the 1980 book Manifest Destiny. A longer, novel form was published, based on the film. It also appears in Longyear's anthology The Enemy Papers (1998): this version was labeled as "The Author's cut" and was significantly revised.

Jeanne Robinson

Jeanne Robinson (March 30, 1948 – May 30, 2010) was an American-born Canadian choreographer who co-wrote three science-fiction novels, The Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson.

Melancholy Elephants

"Melancholy Elephants" is a science fiction short story by American writer Spider Robinson, published in 1982. It won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1983.

The story examines the interaction of copyright and longevity, and the possible effects of the extension of copyright to perpetuity.

Its title is a reference to claims that elephants "never forget".

Phantasia Press

Phantasia Press Inc. was an American small publisher formed by Sidney Altus and Alex Berman publishing short-run, hardcover limited editions of science fiction and fantasy books. It was active from 1978 to 1989. The company was based in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The publisher specialized in limited quality first hardcover editions of authors prominent in the field, particularly Philip José Farmer, C. J. Cherryh, L. Sprague de Camp and Alan Dean Foster. Some of its offerings were true first editions; others, the first hardcover editions of works previously published in paperback. In a few instances there had been previous hardcover editions.

The press started publication with a reprint of Wall of Serpents (L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt) and then The Reign of Wizardry (Jack Williamson).

Authors published by Phantasia were Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov (2 books), Steven Barnes, David Brin (2 books), Fredric Brown, Orson Scott Card, C. J. Cherryh (7 books), Arthur C. Clarke, Catherine Crook de Camp (2 books), L. Sprague de Camp (5 books), Harlan Ellison (2 books), Philip José Farmer (9 books), Alan Dean Foster (5 books), William Gibson, Stephen King, Larry Niven (3 books), Jerry Pournelle, Fletcher Pratt, Mike Resnick (2 books), Spider Robinson, William Shatner, Robert Silverberg, Jack Williamson (2 books), and Roger Zelazny.

Artists contributing cover art to Phantasia editions included Randall Asplund, Wayne D. Barlowe, George Barr (3 covers), Doug Beekman, David A. Cherry (7 covers), Alex Ebel (3 covers), Stephen Fabian, Frank Kelly Freas (2 covers), Kevin Eugene Johnson (6 covers), Eric Ladd, Paul Lehr (4 covers), Carl Lundgren, Jane Mackenzie, Chris Miller, Rowena Morrill (2 covers), Phil Parks, John Pound, Victoria Poyser (3 covers), Kirk Reinert, Romas, Alex Schomburg, Barclay Shaw (2 covers), Darrell K. Sweet, Vaclav Vaca, Ed Valigursky, and Michael Whelan.

Requiem (book)

This book also contains the short story "Requiem" by Heinlein. There are other uses of "requiem".Requiem: New Collected Works by Robert A. Heinlein and Tributes to the Grand Master (1992, ISBN 0-312-85168-5, TOR Books) is a retrospective on Robert A. Heinlein (1907–1988), after his death, edited by Yoji Kondo.


Stardance is a science fiction novel by Spider Robinson and Jeanne Robinson, published by Dial Press in 1979 as part of its Quantum science fiction line. The novel's opening segment originally appeared in Analog in 1977 as the novella "Stardance", followed by the serialized conclusion, "Stardance II", in Analog in 1978.After the Dial hardcover appeared in 1979, Stardance was reprinted in paperback by Dell Books in 1980, followed by reissues from Tor Books and Baen Books over the next decade. Baen compiled the novel, together with its sequel, Starseed, in a mass market paperback omnibus, The Star Dancers, in 1997; in 2006, Baen published a hardcover omnibus, The Stardance Trilogy, adding a third novel, Starmind.

Starseed (novel)

Starseed is a science fiction novel by Spider Robinson and Jeanne Robinson. It first appeared in seven parts in Pulphouse Weekly in 1991. It is a sequel to Stardance and was published as a standalone novel later that year. It was republished in 1997 as an omnibus edition with Stardance.

The Persistence of Vision (short story)

"The Persistence of Vision" is a science fiction novella by American writer John Varley. It won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella in 1979. It was included in the anthology of the same name and in The John Varley Reader.

The Saturn Game

"The Saturn Game" is a science fiction novella by American writer Poul Anderson.

Variable Star

For the astronomical object, see Variable star.Variable Star is a 2006 science fiction novel by American author Spider Robinson, based on the surviving seven pages of an eight-page 1955 novel outline by the late Robert A. Heinlein. The book is set in a divergent offshoot of Heinlein's Future History and contains many references to works by Heinlein and other authors. It describes the coming of age of a young musician who signs on to the crew of a starship as a way of escaping from a failed romance. Robinson posted a note on his website in 2009 noting that his agent had sold a trilogy of sequels based on the novel and its characters.

Very Hard Choices

Very Hard Choices is a science-fiction/suspense-mystery novel from Canadian science fiction author Spider Robinson, released in June 2008. The novel, set in British Columbia, is a sequel to Very Bad Deaths and continues the story of the reclusive telepath known as Smelly.

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