Interview: John E. Stith

Jen: Today I’m turning over our blog to our reviewer Lori as she interviews today’s guest John E. Stith.

Lori: Please tell our readers a little but about yourself.
John: Science 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.​

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Lori: Tell us about your Memory Blank and where the idea came from.
John: I’ve long been a fan of amnesia stories. To that basic notion, I added a setting, in this case an L5 orbital colony proposed by Gerard O’Neil in THE HIGH FRONTIER. The emotional issue at the core of the story was the idea of barriers that separate people. Those barriers can be religions, cultures, languages, or they can as small as habits we must force ourselves to break. Those three legs of the tripod formed the starting point for the story.

Lori: What made you want to write futuristic stories?
John: I loved thinking about the future, and about how technology changes will shape our lives. All along our history we’ve had to adapt to change, but the pace is steadily increasing. Instead of handing the family business to the fifth generation, in many cases the lives of our children will be far different than the lives of our parents.

Lori: Did you grow up watching sci-fi? Did it influence your writing?
John: I enjoyed SF TV and movies while growing up, but that was a time where the SF in books far outstripped the quality of most TV and movies. That gap has shrunk dramatically since then. Early on, books by Heinlein, Simak, Clark, Asimov, Sohl, Laumer, and many others entertained me, make me think, made me feel.

Lori: I love the different “Races” within the story, how did you come up with them?
John: I’m going to assume this comment is about DEEP QUARRY rather than the forthcoming MEMORY BLANK re-release. For DEEP QUARRY, I decided that we would meet aliens who resemble archetypes we’re already familiar with, influenced by the notion that Jung’s idea of a collective unconscious might contain archetypes that were not limited to ones on Earth. One race, the Wompers, resemble sumo wrestlers. But another, the Ventons, look vaguely like vampires. And the Derjons resemble our notion of the devil.

DEEP QUARRY‘s emotional core came from being repulsed by bigotry. The protagonist sees all the characters he deals with just as people first, with their physical attributes of much less importance.

Lori: What’s your favorite comment or review of your books?
John: A parent told me SCAPESCOPE was the first novel his son had ever read all the way through. What a terrific feeling. Reading is a doorway to such wonderful explorations of foreign landscapes and situations, a gateway to amazing knowledge, a powerful tool to promote empathy by seeing how other people feel when they are hurt or elated. Reading can be, I think, one of the many ways in which we steadily evolve into our best selves.

Lori: What’s next for you?
John: I’ve got a mystery suspense novel that needs one more major draft. I’m in the planning stages for a graphic novel based on a new SF novella. I’m pushing for more audio adaptations of my work. A TV series pilot script is underway for an interested producer. When those are ready, I plan another novel.