Today, I interview RL Martin, author of Refreshing Jutta, published recently by Full Quiver Publishing.
EG: Where did you get the idea for Refreshing Jutta?
RLM: I was listening to Al Cresta one day on Catholic Radio talking about the possibility of medicine reaching a point where people will not have to die. I wondered what would prevent the really wealthy from keeping the treatments to themselves. What life would be like living under these transhuman people who are 150 years old or so. How far would they go to live indefinitely? Would they kill others to keep themselves alive? This kind of thing is happening in China right now. Organ harvesting is a big business. So, I created a world where the common people like you and I are given a near perfect environment. We don’t have to work much or suffer. We can spend all our time playing and doing pleasurable activities. Nothing sexual is taboo. The only catch is that when we start to wonder if there’s more to life, we get in trouble. Our transhuman leaders don’t need us asking pesky religious or philosophical questions. Those questions just make us unmanageable. Better we spend our time playing games and otherwise being distracted from anything at all that matters. Kind of like the world we’re in today. We have these smartphones that are with us now 24 hours a day. So, I imagined the evolution of the smartphones as being PASbots that monitor our moods and make sure we’re not thinking anything too deep or questioning why we’re here. I think our technology has pretty much done that. It’s distracted us from our true purpose, which is to be in relationship with our Creator.
EG: Have you always been interested in science fiction?
RLM: I’ve never been a huge science fiction buff. I’m not into science fiction just for the sake of science fiction. I prefer stories that are kind of thought experiments about what might happen if humans do eventually get certain technologies. In other words, the best science fiction, in my mind, provides cautionary tales about what might happen if we keep going down whatever path we’re on. That’s what Bradbury was doing with “There will come soft rains,” you know, thinking about what will happen as a result of our nuclear weapons obsession in the 50s. Or Huxley’s Brave New World and of course Orwell’s 1984. Very prescient, I might add, looking at what’s going on these days with censorship and our media. It’s Newspeak and Big Brother, for sure. I wouldn’t consider myself a real science fiction buff. I never really got into Asimov or the like. But I do like it if it’s a good cautionary tale. I believe the original Star Wars was really good. George Lucas used the “Hero’s Journey” that Joseph Campbell came up with. And I tried to follow that pattern with Refreshing Jutta as well.
EG: What do you hope the reader will take away from Refreshing Jutta?
RLM: The literary criticism class I took in college would say that we shouldn’t be concerned with what the author intended but with what meaning we make of the text. I do believe that the reader works with the text to create their own meaning. And great writers, like Faulkner if I remember correctly (or was it Hemmingway?), refused to say what they meant by their writings. They were interested in hearing what others made of their work. Well, I won’t pretend to be a Faulkner or a Hemmingway, so I’ll just tell you what I want readers to get out of the book. What I meant to say with Jutta is that I believe the world is a sort of saint factory. It’s not meant to be comfortable and we were not meant to live here forever in this current body. We’re meant to be on this Earth to learn to love God. It reminds me of the poem “The little black boy” by William Blake.
And we are put on earth a little space / That we may learn to bear the beams of love, / For when our souls have learn’d the heat to bear / The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice. / Saying: come out from the grove my love & care, / And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.
Any attempt to change the true purpose of creation, which is to make saints who will commune with God eternally, always ends up being destructive, no matter how good our intentions are.
EG: Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
RLM: Flannery O’Connor. I don’t know why. I always loved her stuff. She was weird and quirky. I read her Violent Bear it Away in college and thought she was cooky, but in a good way. At that time, I had no idea what Catholicism was all about. It wasn’t until I became a Catholic almost 20 years later and was teaching Literature at the community college that her work had a full impact on me. When I taught her short stories, like “Revelation” I just couldn’t help but get excited and even laugh at the ending. The students thought I was weird. They were probably right.
Others: TS Elliot, JRR Tolkien (see why I use my initials?) Ursula K Le Guin, John Steinbeck, Dostoevsky…I guess the writers I like most are the ones who give me something to think about. Le Guin’s story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” inspired the opening scene of Jutta.
EG: Are you working on any other writing projects? If so, what are they?
RLM: I started a new book before Covid hit, but I never could get back to it. It was going to be a love story between a white woman and a Chinese man in 1883 Tacoma, leading up to the expulsion of the Chinese from Tacoma. But when Covid hit, it just didn’t seem like such an important topic, and I’ve been more concerned with blogging about current events. Oh, and I teach full-time now at a middle school, so there’s not a lot of time to write creatively. I did finish a book after Jutta about a kid who gets thrown overboard in the Pacific ocean and ends up surviving on all the trash out there. I think it turned out pretty good but probably needs edits.
To purchase Refreshing Jutta, click here. It is available as an ebook and paperback.