Open main menu

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.
Born (1948-11-24) November 24, 1948 (age 70)
The Bronx, New York City, New York, US
GenreScience fiction


Early life and educationEdit

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.[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."[12] Similarly important to Robinson is writer Donald E. Westlake[13] and Westlake's most famous character, John Archibald Dortmunder.

Personal lifeEdit

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 worksEdit

Novels and collections of linked storiesEdit

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 volumesEdit

  • 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 collectionsEdit

  • 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 editorEdit

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


  • Belabouring the Obvious (2000)

Collected essaysEdit

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

Awards and honorsEdit


  1. ^ a b c Robinson, Spider. "Spider Robinson's Bio". 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". 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". Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  13. ^ "Spider Robinson". 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". Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  21. ^ JoPhan (August 20, 2016). "San José to Host 2018 Worldcon". Retrieved October 13, 2016.

External linksEdit

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