Spider Robinson

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Spider Robinson
Robinson at the 2004 Necronomicon
Robinson at the 2004 Necronomicon
Born (1948-11-24) November 24, 1948 (age 75)
New York City, U.S.
GenreScience fiction

Spider Robinson (born November 24, 1948) is an American-born Canadian science fiction author. He has won a number of awards for his hard science fiction and humorous stories, including the Hugo Award 1977 and 1983, and another Hugo with his co-author and wife Jeanne Robinson in 1978.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Robinson was born in the Bronx, New York City; his father was a salesman.[3][4] He was an avid reader of science fiction, and it was his early childhood exposure to the juvenile novels of Robert A. Heinlein that later influenced him to become a writer.[5] He attended a Catholic high school, spending his junior year in a seminary; this was followed by two years in a Catholic college, and five years[6] at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in the 1960s,[7] where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English.[3] While at Stony Brook, Spider entertained at campus coffeehouses and gatherings, strumming his guitar and singing in harmony with his female partner.[8] It was at this time that his friends, at his request, stopped calling him his childhood nickname of "Robbie" (a simple contraction of his last name, Robinson) and gave him the nickname "Spider", which he eventually adopted as his official first name.[9][failed verification][10] Robinson adopted the name partially out of admiration for blues musician "Spider" John Koerner.[11]


In 1971, just out of college, Robinson took a night job guarding sewers in New York City, and wanting a career change, began writing science fiction. He made his first short-story sale in 1972 to Analog Science Fiction magazine.[12] 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.[13][14]

In 1973, Robinson moved to Nova Scotia and began writing full-time.[4] He made several short-story sales to Analog, Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, and others, earning the John Campbell Award for best new writer in 1974.[4]

In 1975, he married Jeanne Robinson, a choreographer, dancer, and Sōtō Zen monk, with whom he later co-wrote the Stardance Trilogy.[15][3]

He worked as a book reviewer for Galaxy magazine during the mid-to-late 1970s. In 1978–79, he contributed book reviews to Jim Baen's original anthology series Destinies. For several years after he reviewed books for Analog, including reviews of Heinlein's later work.

Robinson's first published novel, Telempath (1976), was an expansion of his Hugo Award–winning novella By Any Other Name.[4] Over the following three decades, Robinson on average released a book a year, including short story anthologies.

In 1977, Robinson released Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, a collection of short stories in his long-running Callahan's series. These stories, and later novels, make frequent reference to the works of mystery writer John D. MacDonald; his character Lady Sally McGee reflects 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. Similarly important to Robinson is writer Donald E. Westlake[16] and Westlake's most famous character, John Dortmunder.

In 1992, Robinson was master-of-ceremonies for the Hugo Awards at MagiCon, the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in Orlando, Florida.[17] From 1996 to 2005, he served as a columnist in the op-ed section (and briefly in the technology section) of The Globe and Mail.[18]

In 2004, Robinson began 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.[19][20] Robinson had previously written of his admiration for Heinlein in his 1980 essay "Rah, Rah, R.A.H.!", in the 1998 "Mentors", and in his book The Free Lunch.[21] In an afterword to Variable Star, he recounts the story of how reading Rocket Ship Galileo, and soon after, Heinlein's other Heinlein juvenile novels, helped set the direction for his life, and how he came to write the novel.[22] The novel reflects the very different writing styles of both Heinlein and Robinson; reviews of the books were mixed, praising Robinson's handling of a difficult task and the lively story, but criticizing the unlikely plot twists and trite romantic scenes.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Robinson has resided in Canada for nearly 40 years, primarily in the provinces of Nova Scotia and British Columbia. He and his wife Jeanne had a daughter, Terri Luanna da Silva, who once worked for Martha Stewart,[9] and one granddaughter.

After living in Vancouver for a decade,[24] he moved to Bowen Island in about 1999.[25] He became a Canadian citizen in 2002, retaining his American citizenship.[26] Jeanne underwent treatment for biliary cancer, and died May 30, 2010.[27] Their daughter Terri died of breast cancer on December 5, 2014.[28]

Robinson suffered a heart attack on August 31, 2013, but recovered. Due to the health issues faced by both himself and 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.[29] Concurrently, he has begun work on his autobiography.[30]

He was named a Guest of Honor at the 76th World Science Fiction Convention in 2018.[31]

Awards and honors[edit]

Published works[edit]

Novels and collections of linked stories[edit]

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[37]
1986 Callahan's Secret Callahan's/Jake Stonebender Collection of linked stories
1987 Time Pressure[38][39] 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • Antinomy (1980)
  • Melancholy Elephants Penguin (1984 – Canada; 1985 – United States)[40]
  • 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[edit]

  • The Best of All Possible Worlds (1980) – collection of works by other authors edited and introduced by Robinson
  • "Compostela" Tesseracts 20 – with James Alan Gardner[41]


  • Belabouring the Obvious (2000)

Collected essays[edit]

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


  • Robinson, Spider (1976). Telempath. New York: Berkley. ISBN 0-399-11796-2.
  1. ^ Boyd, Colin; Grandy, Karen (December 15, 2013). "Spider Robinson". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  2. ^ "1978 Hugo Awards". The Hugo Awards. July 26, 2007. Retrieved March 19, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d "Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives, Dec 20, 1980, p. 67". NewspaperArchive.com. December 20, 1980. Retrieved January 27, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d Ketterer, David (1992). Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Indiana University Press. pp. 79–80. ISBN 0-253-33122-6.
  5. ^ Wells, Paul. "Spider and his long dead co-author | Maclean's | October 16, 2006". Maclean's | The Complete Archive. Retrieved January 27, 2022.
  6. ^ Robinson, Spider. The Crazy Years, "School Will Be Ending, Next Month" p. 107.
  7. ^ Robinson, Spider. The Crazy Years, "Buzzed High Zonked Stoned Wasted" p. 44.
  8. ^ Robinson, Spider. "Spider Robinson's Bio". SpiderRobinson.com. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  9. ^ a b Richards, Linda. "Spider Robinson talks about...callahan's, usenet & becoming spider". January Magazine.
  10. ^ Heaphy, Maura (2010). 100 Most Popular Science Fiction Authors: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies. Libraries Unlimited. pp. 353–354. ISBN 978-1-59158-746-0.
  11. ^ Robinson, Spider (July 13, 2006). "Spider's Diary: The Best Music Festival I Know". Spider Robinson: Online Diary.
  12. ^ "Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives, Mar 12, 1983, p. 21". NewspaperArchive.com. March 12, 1983. Retrieved January 27, 2022.
  13. ^ "The SF Site Featured Review: Callahan's Con". www.sfsite.com. Retrieved January 27, 2022.
  14. ^ "Callahan's Con". Quill and Quire. February 20, 2004. Retrieved January 27, 2022.
  15. ^ Rupp, Shannon (June 7, 2010). "Jeanne Robinson brought modern dance to Halifax". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 27, 2022.
  16. ^ "Spider Robinson". SFFaudio.com. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  17. ^ Bacon-Smith, Camille (2000). Science Fiction Culture. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 61. ISBN 0-8122-1530-3.
  18. ^ "The Crazy Years: Reflections of a Science Fiction Original". SF Site, 2005, review by Kit O'Connell
  19. ^ "Sci-fi collaboration made in heaven". Winnipeg Free Press, via Newspaper Archives. February 3, 2008 – Page 36
  20. ^ "Variable Star". Publishers Weekly, review
  21. ^ "The Free Lunch". Publishers Weekly review.
  22. ^ "VARIABLE STAR ". review in Audiophile magazine, February–March 2008.
  23. ^ "VARIABLE STAR". SF Reviews, 2006 by Thomas M. Wagner.
  24. ^ Robinson, Spider. The Crazy Years, "I Want a Really Interactive Newspaper" p. 78.
  25. ^ "Words from the Heart of Spider's Web". Vancouver Sun, September 23, 2010, by GraemeMcRanor.
  26. ^ Robinson, Spider. The Crazy Years, "Citizen Keen" p. 53–55.
  27. ^ "Spider Robinson's official website". Retrieved September 2, 2009.
  28. ^ "Graceful Woman Warrior". Retrieved December 27, 2014.
  29. ^ Robinson, Spider (September 14, 2013). "Spider's Online Diary". Spider Robinson. Archived from the original on April 5, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  30. ^ Beairsto, Bronwyn (August 16, 2018). "Spider Robinson's star shines in Worldcon's sci-fi universe". Bowen Island Undercurrent (Online Newspaper). Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  31. ^ "Joy and Pun-ishment: Callahan's Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson". Bowen Island Undercurrent, Alan Brown, September 28, 2017
  32. ^ Reginald, R.; Douglas Menville; Mary A. Burgess (September 1, 2010). Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. Wildside Press LLC. pp. 767–. ISBN 978-0-941028-76-9.
  33. ^ "Tempo". Winnipeg Free Press, via Newspaper Archives. September 6, 1983 – Page 26
  34. ^ "Forry Award Winners". lasfsinc.info. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  35. ^ JoPhan (August 20, 2016). "San José to Host 2018 Worldcon". Worldcon.org. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  36. ^ Inkpot Award
  37. ^ "Sci-Fi Goes Hi-Fi: 10 Artists' Foray into Hip-Hop Futurism". Pop Matters, Imran Khan, October 23, 2018
  38. ^ Collins, Robert A.; Robert Latham (1988). Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review Annual. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-88736-249-1.
  39. ^ Hedblad, Alan (January 1, 2001). Something About the Author: Facts and Pictures About Authors and Illustrators of Books for Young People. Gale / Cengage Learning. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-7876-4036-1.
  40. ^ The Malahat Review. University of Victoria. 1984. p. 121.
  41. ^ "2018 Aurora Awards Winners". Locus Mag, October 8, 2018

External links[edit]