Category Archives: Sean Golden

Pulp Fiction

This month’s theme is “It was a dark and pulpy night” and is intended to be an homage to the pulp stories that filled cheap periodicals at the turn of the last century. (I have to say, it’s still a bit of a shock to me to call 1900 “the turn of the last century,” but I digress.)

The problem is, I never read much pulp sci-fi. Not that I recall, anyway. When I was a kid, in those halcyon days of the sixties and seventies (of the last century) I was reading novels almost exclusively. I did read some anthologies of short stories, but they were mostly by authors I already knew, or the “Year’s Best Anthology of Science Fiction.” Mostly I read those authors that are now recognized as the giants of the genre, such as Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Pohl, Kornbluth, etc. I suppose the closest I came to “pulp” fiction was probably the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs or perhaps Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, even though that was the pulp fiction of a yet earlier century.

Anyway, the upshot is that I don’t have much to offer except some genuine curiosity. Were those pulp stories awful? Or were they so awful they were good? Or were there gems buried in the literary rubble? I suppose I’ll have to go find out. In many ways, I suppose I am the modern equivalent of the pulp fiction writer of a century ago. I self-publish my stories in electronic format, which is similar, I think, to the cultural environment those pulp authors inhabited then. And I think my stories are pretty good. So theirs probably were too. Anyway, I have to give props to anyone who has the courage to put themselves out there and deal with the reality of putting any work of art out into public view.

From what I’ve seen in the other articles on this subject and some lazy googling, it appears that the hallmark of those stories was probably a wild and vivid imagination, exercised without restraint in a world that was just coming over the threshold of a scientific and industrial revolution. There seems also to be a thread of horror or even something like paranormal influence in many of the stories.

If anyone wants to give me some recommendations of authors to start with, feel free to comment on this post and promote your favorite pulp fiction authors. I’ll check them out, and then report back here what I think of them.

The Dory Method

This month’s theme is about damage control. When I saw that in the schedule, I laughed to myself, a sort of bitter, resentful laugh. Let’s just say that my last year has been a target-rich environment for damage control. Rejection, lack of sales, family issues, job struggles, potential financial ruin, cancer, death… It’s been a heck of a year, for sure.

Back in January I think I hit the lowest point of motivation and hope I’ve ever reached as a writer. I covered part of that in this previous Fictorians post. I won’t cover all that again. Thank goodness. But the gist is still relevant to this subject, which is all about dealing with struggles, setbacks and lack of motivation.

Right now I am doing my final proofread of the third and final book in my War Chronicles series. You want struggles? I was supposed to finish this back in February. You want setbacks? I pretty much rewrote the final third of the book three times. One of the lowest points of that entire year was when I finally came to terms with how much help and support I had gotten from my brother, who passed away from cancer last year. It turns out that it is no mere platitude to say that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Really gone. Forever.

So there I was, a month late with my personal deadline for my third book, with my previously planned ending in ruins as I realized it wasn’t the right ending, my main support for working through issues gone, living in a tiny rent house while trying to build my dream home, struggling with a new job as it became painfully obvious that writing wasn’t (yet) going to pay the bills, and dealing with a ream of personal issues better left unsaid here.

I could have packed it in. I could have just said “It’s too much right now, I’ll deal with this after everything settles down.”

But here’s the thing that I’ve learned in my life. Nothing ever settles down. Things rarely, if ever, get easier. And the longer you put things off, the harder it is to pick them up again.

So my means of coping is something I call “The Dory Method.” You know what that is. Everyone knows. But here’s the thing… It works. I just kept at it, a little at a time, worrying at the story issues like a dog with a bone. Until finally, one day, weeks later, I figured out what the story was lacking, and then everything started coming together.

Working full time in a new job, while trying to build a house, and living in a tiny rent house with no privacy is no way to write a book.

But you can do it. If you just… keep writing. Just keep writing. Just keep writing.

Edison was right. Success really can be 95% perspiration. Or in the case of writing, 95% perseverance.

And the result? Warlord, coming soon to an online book retailer near you. 🙂

Fish Magic

Double Nickels

This is my first article as a Fictorian, and it’s a stretch for me. People who know me are aware that I tend to be, shall we say, overly appreciative of sesquipedalian verbage. To be concise, it’s hard for me to be concise.

Writing a short story in itself is a challenge for me. Shrinking one down to 55 words is more like an inquisition.

But it was fun. Here are two attempts to pull this challenge off. Hope you like them. Or one of them at least:

The Fish

A gentle tug, then a yank.

Startled from a daydream, reflex takes over, and I knock over my beer as I jerk back on the pole.

“You got one?” Bob asks, jealousy in his tone.

I crank the reel. Nothing. It got away.

“No,” I reply. “But I had one.”

“Sure you did.” Bob smirks.



 The alchemist toils behind his table.

Glass against glass, the gurgle of tinctures and potions. The power comes as much from the delicate twist and shake of the decanter, as from the elixir contained within.

I wait, licking my lips in anticipation as the concoction bubbles.

The alchemist presents it.

Ah… bourbon and coke.


Genre Misconceptions

A Guest Post by Sean Golden

Warrior“Hey! I hear you wrote a book. What kind is it?”

“It’s an action-filled story with interesting characters and devious plot twists.”

“No, man, I mean what genre is it?”

“Oh… well, it doesn’t really…”

“Is it fantasy?”

“Yeah, epic fantasy… I guess.”

“Oh, I love books with spells and elves and swordfights!”

“Oh, actually, it doesn’t have any of that.”

“But you said it was epic fantasy, man!”

I can’t tell you how many times I have had that, or some variation of that, conversation since publishing the first two books of my epic fantasy series, “The War Chronicles.” In fact, the two publishing houses I submitted it to both identified its lack of a clear genre designation as the reason, or a major reason, they decided not to publish it. In effect they said “If it doesn’t fit genre expectations, it won’t sell.”

I would call that the biggest genre misconception. I believe a great story, written well and properly edited, will find readers. In fact, it is frequently the genre-bending books I’ve read that have the most lasting impact on me. Many books that are now considered hallmarks of their genre, were genre-benders in their own day. Tolkien’s elves, deep world building and epic scope essentially created the genre people think of as “epic fantasy” today.

Recently one of my writer friends asked if their story had strayed too far from the genre expectations of the general fantasy reader. I said “You’re asking the wrong guy. My epic fantasy novel is set in a stone age culture where the main character is a flint-knapper and there isn’t a spell in the entire series.” And that story, self-published and practically un-promoted, sold enough to qualify for an SFWA membership.

The second biggest genre misconception that I see is the idea that genre distinctions are accurate. If you go into any library, you will find “Star Wars” in the science fiction section. But the Star Wars story is at least as much, if not more, fantasy than sci-fi. In fact, it has virtually every major classic fantasy element. Mysterious magic wielders in robes? Check. Magical swords of awesome power? Bingo. Conflict between “light” and “dark” sides of some universal, guiding, supernatural “Force?” No kidding. A young protagonist unaware of their uniquely awesome powers? In spades.

Which brings me to my last genre misconception. And that is the idea that a writer should write to a genre, instead of just writing the story they have inside them. That approach, in my opinion, is a major reason that people lose steam and end up not finishing manuscripts. Instead of listening to their inner muse and following the story where it goes, they worry about genre expectations and try to “check off the boxes” to ensure that they cover the genre they want. That approach can make writing feel restrictive and take the joy out of the endeavor.

My advice is to write the story inside you, and not worry about genre definitions, expectations or guidelines. That will help you stay excited and focused on the story, and no story will ever get published, if it doesn’t get finished.

Sean Golden:

Sean Golden is many different things. Father, husband, writer, programmer, project manager, gamer, crafter,fisherman, amateur astronomer and too many other things to bore you with. He took a year off from the grind of corporate cubicle farms to write “Warrior” and “Warlock,” both available on The third book in the series, “Warlord” is in the final stages of writing now. Sean has a BS in physics from Louisiana State University and had the second highest rated rogue on his World of Warcraft server after taking down the Lich King, and then retiring from raiding.
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