John E. Stith's FAQs

Q. How can I know when a new book is out?

A. Probably the best way is to check back with this site occasionally, or check other sites that carry my work. I don't want to run the risk of alienating readers by collecting emails and sending out updates that might be perceived as spam.

Q. Can I order out-of-print books from the author?

and, How can I order in-print books from bookstores?

A. For out-of-print titles, the author has made arrangements with an on-line bookseller, www.greatsciencefiction.com, who carries signed, bound-galley copies of his first five novels (Scapescope, Memory Blank, Death Tolls, Deep Quarry, and Redshift Rendezvous).  The same merchant sells signed hardcovers of the two books now available only in paperback (Manhattan Transfer and Reunion on Neverend). They accept credit card orders.

For in-print titles, prices and ISBNs for are listed in Stith's bibliography for people wanting to order them from their local bookstore. 

One of the nation's biggest bookstores, The Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado, is on-line. The Tattered Cover can furnish any book in print, accepts orders from around the world, and can also be reached by phone: (800) 833-9327 and (303) 322-7727.

 A number of science-fiction bookstores are also on-line, for instance Future Fantasy. If you'd like to order any of Stith's books in print, this link to Future Fantasy will take you to the right place. Other alternatives for new (and used) books on the web include Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Powell's Books and bibliofind.

Specific Stith-book-finding links:

Q. Where can I buy magazine back issues?

Answer:

  • Aboriginal SF, P.O. Box 2449, Woburn, MA 01888-0849, USA.
  • Amazing and Dragon, TSR, Inc., P.O. Box 111, Lake Geneva, WI 53147, USA.
  • Analog, P.O. Box 40, Vernon, NJ 07462, USA.
  • Space and Time, 138 West 70th Street (4B), New York, NY 10023-4432, USA.

Q. Where can I find out-of-print novels from other writers?

A. Basement Full of Books lists books available directly from dozens of SF writers.

Q. I'm considering establishing a web site focused on you or some other writer. What may I do and what may I not do?

A. Here are some things that are perfectly legal to do:

  • You may discuss, review, comment on the author's works individually or collectively.
  • You may provide links to the author's page and other related pages.
  • You may compile information from the public domain. This could include things like convention schedules, upcoming publications, a bibliography you compiled, etc.
  • Here are some things that violate the law and, ironically, make it tougher for the author to keep writing:

    • You may not write material that uses the author's characters and invented worlds. Copyright law essentially says that copyright infringement that is discovered and not discouraged can lead to loss of copyright protection. That's one reason why giants like Disney are forced to object when day care centers decorate their surroundings with Disney characters, and it's also why the little guys can't ignore infringement without the exclusive right to market our work, writers lose the only asset we have. You may well have seen unauthorized versions of Star Trek or The X-Files on the web. That doesn't mean it's legal to do; it just means it's difficult for the creators of highly popular works to keep up with all the infringement. BTW, if you're writing parodies, that right has been upheld in court; if you're a writer wanting to get started in fiction, just use your own characters and situations. Without the crutch of using someone else's established milieu and characters, you'll grow much faster as a writer.
    • You may not reproduce copyrighted material without permission. Short quotes, say in the context of a review, are permitted. Keyboarding in a chapter or a short story is not permitted. A few web denizens seem to have the feeling that if they can find it on the web and they can copy it into their clipboard and paste it into their own file, by definition it was somehow in the public domain, and they can use it freely. This isn't true, any more than buying a book gives a person the right to photocopy/OCR it and distribute the copies. 
    • Q. I'm a new writer and I'm considering using a pen name. Should I?

      A. Sure, if you have a demanding reason, like being in the witness protection program, having a given name just like the name of an already published writer, having a career in which your peers simply wouldn't understand your wanting to write fiction, or having to accept a contract with an abusive publisher who wants to own the pen name. In general, though, adopting a pseudonym dilutes what should eventually become your strongest selling point: your name (which is exactly why some abusive publishers want to own the name). Isaac Asimov is just one example of a writer who has used his real name in a variety of fields without harm. Using a pen name may seem "cool," but the novelty fades after the five hundredth time you have to spend time answering the question, "Do I call you Bill or Lance?"

      One additional market-driven reason for a pen name has developed in the 1980s and 1990s, and the publishers say it's because some of the major chain bookstores no longer employ book buyers who make informed and educated decisions about what books to stock. Instead, the story goes, they rely heavily on computerized sales figures of past books, often ordering fewer copies of book n+1 than they ordered for book n, thereby making it even more difficult to grow a readership book by book. This reported result of the desire for instant-gratification can mean that a new author with no bookstore sales record can have an easier time of getting books into a bookstore than a writer who's published several novels that have done only moderately well. Authors like Dean Koontz and Dick Francis, who didn't start with a big splash, would find one more hurdle in their path if they were to start publishing in the 1990s.

      Q. What colleges or universities do you recommend for someone pursuing a writing career?

      A. I don't have enough knowledge about current reputations to offer a suggestion. I'm also not convinced a degree in literature or creative writing is necessarily the best way to prepare for being a writer, but my uncertainty is partly a result of the fact that I didn't realize I wanted to be a writer until I was nearly finished with college. I worry sometimes, too, that college courses in writing forget that one of the prime goals of writing is to entertain the reader. It's possible someone might turn into a great writer by reading everything possible (with a critical eye to what works and what doesn't), writing every day on a regular schedule, reading books on writing, observing people (by listening more than talking), and learning a modest amount about everything else in the world so that background will provide things to write about.

      Q. The movie TITAN AE has a character named Stith. Any relation?

      A. I don't know any of the creators of TITAN AE, but I would assume people who put that much effort into a science-fiction film are aware of the rest of the science-fiction field, so I'm guessing it's not a coincidence, but I don't know.

      Q. What do you think about the argument that mass mailings of unsolicited email (commonly called spam) is a protected example of free speech? (Actually, this isn't a frequent question.)

      A. Free speech doesn't involve forcing the listener to pay to listen. And falsifying the speaker's email identify so the listener can't talk back makes it even less like free speech. I personally will never deal with a company that has ever sent me mass unsolicited email. I hope that once people understand that for every positive response, the company is generating thousands of people who will never deal with them, they'll realize that the long-term damage is far greater than the short-term gain. Side issue: people sending email with a falsified return address or stealing services by sending mass mailings through an unprotected SMTP server on the web, must not care that their first impression on a contact is that of a liar and a thief.

      Q. Who are some other writers of hard science fiction (meaning the more thoroughly researched end of the spectrum of SF)?

      A. Catherine Asaro, Roger Macbride Allen, Kevin J. Anderson, John Barnes, William Barton, Stephen Baxter, Greg Bear, Doug Beason, Gregory Benford, David Brin, Michael Capobianco, Jeffrey A. Carver, Hal Clement, Greg Egan, Robert L. Forward, Paul J. McCauley, Wil McCarthy, Linda Nagata, Larry Niven, Paul Preuss, Robert J. Sawyer, Charles Sheffield, Vernor Vinge.

      Q. Is all your work hard science fiction?

      A. No. The dividing line also depends on who you talk to. My novel farthest toward the hard SF end of the spectrum is Redshift Rendezvous, in which extensive use is made of relativity.

      Q. Who are some of your favorite writers?

      A. In the mystery field: David Baldacci, Dan Brown, George C. Chesbro, Lee Child, Nelson DeMille, Dick Francis, Joseph Hayes, Dick Lochte, Helen MacInnes, Alistair MacLean, Robert B. Parker, Thomas Perry, Mary Stewart, Charles Williams.

      Q. How do I approach a novel agent?  (And what should a novel synopsis look like?)

      A. See this article on the subject, previously published in the January 1995 SPECULATIONS and now on the SFWA web site.

      Q. How do I format my manuscript to submit to a publisher?

      A. See this set of guidelines.