Q&A with John Edward Uth

Influenced by current events, John Edward Uth views fiction-writing as an opportunity to foster hope. In our current issue [on sale now], his first story with Analag, “Moon Santa Mongo,”  gives readers a look into his thoughts on a future catastrophically affected by climate change. Read on to learn more about John’s process and sources of inspiration.


Analog Editor: How did this story germinate?

JEU: The world of “Moon Santa Mongo” evolved from a silly question: What happens to Santa’s workshop if the North Pole melts? He clearly needs to relocate. Why not set up a new base on the Moon? I imagined a “Moon Santa” children’s story with associated interactive games, corporate tie-ins, and a line of merchandise. Then I took it a step further to envision a proposed Lunar theme park, which failed due to poor planning by greedy developers. Finally, I populated my setting with a handful of down-and-out characters from an unrelated story in progress.

AE: How did the title of this piece come to you?

JEU: For a brief period, I amused myself by giving wild and quirky names to my short stories. I deliberately named a character of the story Mongo because the title “Moon Santa Mongo” had a bizarre and vaguely alliterative sound.

AE: What is your history with Analog?

JEU: Decades ago, when I was in high school, my family had a subscription to Analog and Asimov’s. Although I failed to remain a regular reader over the intervening years, it is a thrill to have my first published story appear in this award-winning magazine.

 


“The excitement of creating new worlds and pushing characters to overcome obstacles and personal flaws is uniquely fulfilling. Writing fiction gives me an opportunity to right wrongs, bring evildoers to justice, and maybe foster a bit of compassion and hope.”


 

AE: How much or how little do current events impact your writing?

JEU: I can’t help but be influenced by current events or general trends in the state of the planet. I am haunted by thoughts of a future with catastrophic flooding and mass extinction, and this concern permeates some of my narratives. On the other hand, a recent scientific discovery, media event, or political controversy might send a story I’m working on in a whole new direction.

AE: What is your process?

JEU: I always jot down ideas on pieces of paper when they come to me. Often, I spin out variations and associated thoughts before putting them aside. For some reason, every fresh idea seems to be a staggeringly brilliant gem of genius. When I revisit it later, the glow has faded to mediocrity. In any case, when I am struggling to create my next epic masterpiece, I grab two or three entirely incompatible ideas and jam them together to see what happens. For example: first human contact with aliens inside an adorable children’s virtual reality game. Or the plight of a homeless military veteran living on the fringe of a family theme park on the Moon.

AE: What inspired you to start writing?

JEU: I have been composing music and writing for as long as I can remember. I can’t think of a specific event or moment that nudged me to be an artist. However, the excitement of creating new worlds and pushing characters to overcome obstacles and personal flaws is uniquely fulfilling. Writing fiction gives me an opportunity to right wrongs, bring evildoers to justice, and maybe foster a bit of compassion and hope.

AE: What is the weirdest research rabbit-hole that working on a story has led you down?

JEU: I wrote a musical comedy in 2012 called “Mommy, Will the World End Tonight?” It explored (through song) multiple failed apocalyptic scenarios including Cold War nuclear annihilation, race wars, Y2K, accidental cybernetic superpowers and future destruction by mutant chickens and ninja robots. Research for this project led me to investigate the effectiveness of nuclear weapons while simultaneously studying religious cults and survivalists. I imagine this stretch of web surfing made me a person of interest to Homeland Security.

AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?

JEU: I have a soft spot for the original Star Trek series and the early spin-offs like Next Generation. In an ocean of dark apocalyptic sci-fi literature and movies, I have always enjoyed the optimistic future of that early TV series. It is a future where humanity not only survived self-destruction but also embarked on a mission to spread goodwill and freedom throughout the universe.

AE: What are you reading right now?

JEU: I just read The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester. It was published in 1956 even before I was born! It is fast-paced, highly imaginative, and anticipates some current sci-fi themes such as an anti-hero protagonist, cybernetic enhancements, and the emergence of global megacorporations. It’s a fun read that still feels remarkably current.

AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?

JEU: After spending years obsessing over rewrites, I stumbled on an online article by Kim Liao called “Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year.” This turned my perspective upside down. I stopped trying to craft my one perfect masterpiece and began to churn out short stories in rapid succession. I don’t mean to downplay the value of rewrites, feedback, and workshops but ultimately a writer just has to write. And write a lot. A similar idea was expressed by Isaac Asimov: “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

AE: How can readers follow you and your writing?

JEU: As this is my first published story, I have not yet set up a website. However, my name, John Uth, is fairly uncommon and you may find me on Facebook. Hint: I’m the John Uth that lives in Illinois and studied at The Second City.

 


John Edward Uth (pronounced “youth”) is a composer and writer who lives in the suburbs of Chicago with his lovely wife and two eternally feuding cats. Since he works evenings, he is a creator-of-worlds by day and mid-level college administrator by night. This is his first published science fiction story.

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