Spider Robinson

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Spider Robinson with wife Jeanne at the 2004 Necronomicon.

Spider Robinson (born November 24, 1948) is an American-born Canadian Hugo and Nebula Award winning science fiction author.


Born in the Bronx, New York City, New York,[1] Robinson attended 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 have a daughter, Terri Luanna da Silva, who once worked for Martha Stewart.[7]

Robinson has lived 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,"[8] and has lived on Bowen Island since approximately 1999.[1] He became a Canadian citizen in 2002, retaining his American citizenship.[9] Spider and Jeanne's first 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.[10] Their daughter Terri died on December 5, 2014, of breast cancer.[11]

Robinson suffered a heart attack on August 31, 2013, but recovered. Due to the health issues faced by his family over the last few years, he has not published a novel since 2008. However, Robinson reports on his website that work on his next book Orphan Stars is progressing, albeit slowly.


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. 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;[12] 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.[13]

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.[citation needed] 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."[14] Similarly important to Robinson is writer Donald E. Westlake and Westlake's most famous character, John Archibald Dortmunder.[citation needed]

Robinson's stance may be described as humanistic and humorous. He has frequently encouraged a positive attitude towards world issues, claiming that a pessimistic world view will yield pessimistic results. Frequently in his writing, the conflicts center around a science fiction issue with a human solution, following Theodore Sturgeon's definition of a good science fiction story.

Published works[edit]

Novels and collections of linked stories[edit]

The following table can be sorted to show Robinson's novels in chronological order,
or arranged alphabetically by title, by co-author credit, by series, or by notes.
1977Callahan's Crosstime SaloonCallahan's/Jake StonebenderCollection of linked stories
1979StardanceJeanne RobinsonStardance Trilogy
1981Time Travelers Strictly CashCallahan's/Jake StonebenderCollection of linked stories; also contains several non-Callahan's stories
1982MindkillerDeathkiller Trilogy
1985Night of Power
1986Callahan's SecretCallahan's/Jake StonebenderCollection of linked stories
1987Time PressureDeathkiller Trilogy
1989Callahan's LadyLady Sally's
1991StarseedJeanne RobinsonStardance Trilogy
1992Lady Slings the BoozeLady Sally'sAn excerpt from Lady Slings the Booze was published in a special edition novella called Kill the Editor in 1991.
1993The Callahan TouchCallahan's/Jake Stonebender
1995StarmindJeanne RobinsonStardance Trilogy
1996Callahan's LegacyCallahan's/Jake Stonebender
1997LifehouseDeathkiller Trilogy
2000Callahan's KeyCallahan's/Jake Stonebender
2001The Free Lunch
2003Callahan's ConCallahan's/Jake Stonebender
2004Very Bad DeathsRussell Walker
2006Variable StarRobert A. HeinleinBased on an outline Heinlein prepared in 1955.
2008Very Hard ChoicesRussell Walker

Omnibus volumes[edit]

Short story collections[edit]

As editor[edit]


Collected essays[edit]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Spider Robinson: Bio
  2. ^ The Crazy Years, "School Will Be Ending, Next Month" p. 107
  3. ^ The Crazy Years, "Buzzed High Zonked Stoned Wasted" p. 44.
  4. ^ 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. ^ The Crazy Years, "You Just Can't Kill for Jesus/Allah/Jahweh/Rama/Elvis…" p.123, "Starsong on My Desktop" p. 219.
  7. ^ The Crazy Years, "Lay Off the Lady" p. 105.
  8. ^ The Crazy Years, "I Want a Really Interactive Newspaper" p. 78
  9. ^ The Crazy Years, "Citizen Keen" p. 53–55.
  10. ^ "Spider Robinson's official website". Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  11. ^ "Graceful Woman Warrior". Retrieved 2014-12-27. 
  12. ^ For example, his 1980 essay "Rah, Rah, R.A.H.!" or the 1998 "Mentors".
  13. ^ Robinson's essay, "Rah, Rah, R.A.H.!"
  14. ^ http://www.spiderrobinson.com/panelscons.html

External links[edit]