Interview with John E. Stith

Stith Profile PicScience fiction and mystery author John E. Stith writes across many worlds. His books have been translated to French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Russian and are even available in braille for the sight-impaired. His stories have been categorized as “Hard science fiction,” a label given to those stories thoroughly researched to play fair with the rules of science; something any die-hard SciFi fan can appreciate.

It was during the summer Science-Math Institute for High School Students at Cloud State College, John served as editor for the school paper, but several more years would pass before the urge to write, strengthened by years of loving to read, was too compelling to ignore. His stories vary, but his books are packed with suspense, mystery, and humor.

Stith holds a B.A. in physics from the University of Minnesota, has served as an Air Force Officer, where he worked at NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The passion for science runs in his family, as his father George worked at the White Sands Missile Range on such projects like the rocket sled.

He has appeared on a live nationwide PBS broadcast or Science-Fiction Science-Fact (SF2) and his work has also been sold to film and television. His novel Reckoning Infinity was chosen as one of Science Fiction Chronicle’s Best Science Fiction Novels, Redshift Rendezvous was picked as a Nebula Award nominee and Manhattan Transfer received an honorable mention from the Hugo Awards and a nomination from the Seiun Award in Japan.

Stith is a member of Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), Writers Guild of America (WGA), International Thriller Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW), Colorado Author’s League and Mensa. He currently lives in Colorado Springs.

 

  1. Stith cover collageI am pretty sure I saw your name on my father’s bookshelf back in the eighties, but that was when I was a teenager and I picked up any SciFi I could get my hands on and barely paid any attention to the author, publisher, or even the title. Unfortunately, most of that library disappeared when they retired and flew south. Are these old titles still available?

All of my novels are still available in used bookstores, and they are all being re-released by ReAnimus Press at approximately 45-day intervals, starting with DEEP QUARRY on July 1, 2016. Next will be MANHATTAN TRANSFER on August 1, and then REUNION ON NEVEREND on October 1.

  1. How has the process of writing and publishing changed over the course of your career?

For one thing, the publishing world has consolidated into fewer primary markets. A number of smaller presses have sprung up. But probably the biggest change is that Amazon opened up the market for self-publishing. That can be a godsend for niche books, quality books that just don’t have a broad audience, good books that don’t appeal to the typical gatekeepers, and new works for people who have an audience but want more control. Unfortunately it also opened the gates to a minority of writers who see the audience as willing beta readers and aren’t patient enough to learn the craft before they start publishing, so they taint the market for the writers who have learned the craft, making it that much harder to be seen. There are many fine independent books; they’re just harder to find than they could be.

  1. Which of your stories required the most research?

REDSHIFT RENDEZVOUS took the very most. I had a surface familiarity with relativity, and even now I’m far from an expert, but for that book I created a hyperspace craft running in a region of hyperspace where the speed of light is ten meters per second, so relativistic tricks happen at observable speeds. Run, and the view ahead shifts to blue, and you can create sonic booms. There was so much work, I included an appendix to discuss it.

But most things I do wind up necessitating research. MEMORY BLANK needed background and information on Gerard O’Neill-style L-5 orbital colonies. MANHATTAN TRANSFER required another trip to Manhattan and research into things as varied as aqueduct and subway tunnel locations and landmarks in Manhattan.

  1. Which of your many covers is your favorite?

I can’t narrow it down to just one. Among the covers commissioned by Ace Books and Tor Books, I especially liked Richard Hescox’s cover for DEEP QUARRY, Alan M. Clark’s cover for REDSHIFT RENDEZVOUS, and Darrell Sweet’s cover for MANHATTAN TRANSFER. For the ReAnimus Press releases, I most like Takumer Homma’s cover for DEEP QUARRY, Sina Pakzad Kasra’s cover for REUNION ON NEVEREND, Julian Faylona’s cover for REDSHIFT RENDEZVOUS, and the RECKONING INFINITY cover done by a combination of Jorge Abalo Budczinski’s creation with Mandelbulb and the 3D figures done by my art director, Kavin King.

  1. If you could have lunch with Robert Heinlein, what would you talk about?

Hero worship regarding several of his novels (THE DOOR INTO SUMMER, RED PLANET, and others) and “What were you thinking?” about a few more.

  1. Can we look forward to seeing any of your stories on screen?

I hope so. I’ve written a number of feature screenplays and periodically pitch them to people in a position to proceed.  Currently a producer wants to do a low-budget pilot for MANHATTAN TRANSFER.

  1. Of all the awards you’ve won, do you have a favorite, or one you’re most proud of?

Being a finalist for the Nebula Award, an award voted on by my peers, felt wonderful. It’s tough competition every year, but that year I acutely aware of ferocious completion from Dan Simmons and Ursula K. Le Guin and Jane Yolen.

  1. John Stith Bookshelf 02What is your favorite electronic writing tool? What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?

OneNote has taken over my top spot in the electronic arena. It’s just so convenient for keeping track of research and characters and ideas. It’s like having a searchable file cabinet that you can organize however you like. I don’t think I have a favorite non-electronic writing-specific tool, unless you count my brain.

  1. What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?

One that’s relatively quiet, and near the right temperature. I love a dual-screen environment so I can keep an outline and character notes and the current manuscript page in view all the time. I face away from the view to minimize distractions. I run PhoneTray to ward off telemarketers and robocallers. If I were king the penalties for autodialer abuse would be stiff enough to make it totally stop.

  1. View of Pikes Peak from John's dining room.

    View of Pikes Peak from John’s dining room.

    What are you working on next?

Several things. I have a psychological suspense novel that needs another major draft. I’ve got a time-travel novella that I’m trying to decide whether to expand to novel length. And for the producer who wants to do a pilot for MANHATTAN TRANSFER, I’m working on the script and bible for that.

11. When you worked at NORAD, were they tracking Santa? Was there a Stargate functioning at that time? Is there a secret passage from NORAD to the giraffe enclosure at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo?

I knew about Santa thing, but kinda felt it could be a scam. The Stargate was above my pay grade. I don’t think I saw anything about the zoo tunnel even in AVIATION WEEK, the place where you could normally spot articles for the public that revealed stuff we were unable to mention because it was classified.

  1. What Colorado writers (besides me) do you think more readers should discover?

That list is so long and includes so many friends that I’m afraid of forgetting someone, but alphabetically, and limiting this to SF & fantasy, I’d include Kevin J Anderson, Doug Beason, Paolo Bacigalupi, Carol Berg, Edward Bryant Jr., David Dvorkin, Cynthia Felice, Wil McCarthy, Rebecca Moesta, Dan Simmons, Steve Tem, Carrie Vaughn, Connie Willis, David Zindell. A list three times this long would still omit some good writers here.

  1. Who shot first, Han or Greedo?

Man this discussion has grown so contentious, especially in the last decade, that I really hate to wade in. I think in general, people on the right say that even if Han had shot first, he was clearly just protecting himself from an eminent menace, while people on the left aren’t sure a guy as cocky as Han should have been allowed a lethal weapon in the first place. The libertarians pretty much don’t care. But after running the Zapruder film back and forth for twelve parsecs, I’d have to say that with light-based weapons it depends on your frame of reference.

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John Stith selfie 02

 

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About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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