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    Posted: Mar-10-2015 at 7:29am
An interview with Bruce Golden
by Daniel E. Blackston

It's always as exciting for us (the staff at SFReader.com) to see who the Grand Prize Winner of the Annual Fiction Contest will be as it is for our readers and the writers who submit their stories. This year, the First Place story may surprise you in more ways than one; it's a deceptively simple tale, and a very poignant "tribute" to a brand of SF enthusiast we all know and love, and perhaps in some ways even envy the SF "shut-in" whose alienation from normal society is rewarded by a never-to-be-forgotten glimpse of the Other Side…

Bruce Golden was born, raised, and first yearned to be a writer in San Diego.  Sandwiched around being drafted into the Army, he earned a degree in English/Creative Writing from San Diego State University, where he was encouraged to write by the same professor who mentored Greg Bear.  For more than 20 years he earned a living as a journalist, first creating magazines as an editor and art director, then moving on to become a radio reporter and television producer.  All the while, he worked as a freelance writer, publishing some 200 articles and columns.  Along the way, he collected a pair of Elan awards, two Golden Mikes, and a number of honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, including recognition for his documentary "Sex in the '90s."  

His debut novel, Mortals All (http://shamanpress.tripod.com), is a futuristic love story with a backdrop concerning the civil rights of artificially created humans.  He's also published a number science fiction and fantasy short stories. His second novel, Better Than Chocolate, a futuristic mystery involving a Marilyn Monroe celebudroid and a conspiracy to conquer Earth, is destined for print some time later this year (the gods of publishing willing).

The first thing you know I have to ask is: how much of "I Found Love On Channel 3" is autobiographical?  Are you a closet 'channel surfer'?
I'm not a "channel surfer," but I did accidentally come across an animated show with a female hero that inspired this tale.  The story is only autobiographical in the sense that it's a pretty typical male fantasy.  At the time I wrote it, I did have on display in my house a stuffed Alf doll, an autographed Tony Gwynn baseball, and a black & white photo of Leonard Nimoy.

Is there an implication in your story that SF culture appeals to the disenfranchised, the "fringes" of society? Does it?
No, I wasn't thinking that broadly.  I think it does tend to appeal to the "disenfranchised" a little more, because they're more apt to be drawn to other worlds, worlds where they may not be disenfranchised--though I don't know if I'd describe them as the "fringes of society."

On a related note, what is it like being such a prolifically published and accomplished freelance writer?
"Prolific" and "accomplished" are a matter of perspective.  I did have a long career in journalism, publishing non-fiction and satire, working in radio and TV, but now that I've walked away from that life to devote myself to my first love - fiction -- I have a long way to go to consider myself "accomplished."

How would you describe your daily creative life?  Glamorous?  Intellectual?  Or closer to the life portrayed in "I Found Love"?
It's certainly not glamorous--especially when it comes to financial rewards.  These days I refer to myself as a starving artist--and it's only partly in jest.  It's a very solitary kind of life that requires a great amount of self-discipline.  And even though I currently average about 20 writing hours a week, I'm constantly chastising myself for not doing more.

Your novel, Mortals All" deals with overtly political topics such as the "civil rights" of artificially created life.  I wonder if you feel science fiction of this nature presents more of a metaphor for present political circumstances or functions as a literal pre-vision or portent of future conditions.  In other words, is socially aware sf "merely" descriptive? Or in some sense visionary?
Without a doubt, it's both.  I often try to play on current sociological and political situations, and maybe hint at how those things may develop decades down the road.  However, I don't think I've written anything that could be called truly "visionary" yet.  I'd like to.  Many of the great SF authors have been extremely visionary.

How important is fiction in the modern age? Does it still pack a political/social punch?  How about short SF?
I was just thinking about this the other day--a little depressed at how few people seem to spend much time reading anymore.  I worry about the younger generation, and how much time they'll devote to fiction.  Despite this, I believe fiction is extremely important--the most important art form along with cinema.  I don't know how much of a political/social punch it packs, simply because of the aforementioned lack of readership.  I do believe short SF can be very powerful in this way.  It deserves a bigger audience.  From the reading I've done, I believe much of the best modern literature is being written by SF authors.

Who's doing the best work in speculative fiction right now by your reckoning?  Any favorite magazines? Websites? Books?
I'm certainly not well read enough to make a complete list, but, in my mind, a couple of the current masters are David Brin and Greg Bear.  Both have a number of great novels.  I recently read "Kiln People" and discovered, much to my delight, that it was very similar in tone to my next book.  I read a variety of genre magazines and they leave me very conflicted.  Sometimes I'll read a story and be blown away, thinking "why didn't I come up with that idea?"  Other times I read stories that I can't believe the editor even chose to publish.  To me, what editors like is still a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

As a very well-tenured creative artist, seems you've worked successfully in every imaginable media! -- how hard is it to write short fiction?  Is the short story form especially demanding in your opinion?
Fiction, without a doubt, is the most difficult form to master.  Despite all the professional writing I've done, when it comes to fiction I consider myself barely out of the apprentice stage, hoping soon to become a journeyman.  And, yes, for me, the short story form is absolutely the hardest.

Have you any good advice for aspiring short story writers wrangling with the form?
Pretty much the usual--read a lot, especially read in the genre you'd like to write; write a lot; then write some more; develop a regular writing schedule whether it's two hours a week or two hours a day; join some kind of workshop to get feedback on your fiction; and don't let rejection stop you.  At age 18, when I first decided to become a writer, I took my rejections slips and made a collage of them.  The rejections hung on my wall and spurred me on.

Tell us a bit about Better Than Chocolate your forthcoming novel.
Paraphrasing from my query letter (for all you publishers and agents out there)--It's a sociological science fiction mystery defined more by its characters than its milieu.  It's a quirky adventure, which precariously skirts the periphery of satire, with a theme that revolves around that ever-popular subject--sex.  More specifically, it's about a talk show host known as "America's Favorite Virgin" and mid-21st Century San Francisco police inspector, who, while hunting his partner's killer and investigating a pair of seemingly unrelated murders, stumbles onto a conspiracy that threatens all humanity.  Much to his chagrin, his new crime-fighting partner is a celebudroid created to look and act like Marilyn Monroe.

Tell the truth, you feel like you won this contest without breaking a sweat, don't you?
Definitely not.  I've entered many fictions contests and this is my first win. 

copyright © 2004,  Dan Blackston

My brain is continually sneaking out of me, usually right after I fall asleep at night, so that by the time I wake up in the morning it’s got a big head start.  Not that it matters.  While I search tirelessly for my brain, for days sometimes, in every bar, whorehouse and alleyway I come across, I can never find it since I’m literally air-headed and unable to unzip my fly and urinate, let alone track, trap and return my brain to its rightful place.  It always returns on its own anyway, stumbling across my body in a dumpster or face down in the gutter, and then worming its way back into one of my facial orifices, always drunk, always lipstick-stained (sometimes my cerebral cortex is more red than gray), always reeking of stale smoke.  If I was smart I’d fill in my ears, nostrils and mouth with cement so that my brain couldn’t escape in the first place.  But when my brain is gone I don’t know any better.  And when it’s here, it’s roadkill—and I don’t know any better.
A canary grinned at me.  The bird has lived in my apartment for over two years and it’s never grinned at me before.  Its teeth looked like Jack Nicholson’s.  Straight and white as the keys of a piano.

Unnerved, I stumbled out into the street and tripped over a fire hydrant somebody had capped with a derby hat to pass off as a short person.  I fell face first on a manhole and was run over by a deer.  “Well,” I said.  “That happened.”

“There’s a deer in the city!” hollered a flâneur, pointing . . . Everybody pulled out their handguns and started to chase it.  The deer glanced over its shoulder, shrieked in terror and accelerated.  It leapt over cars, newspaper stands and snoring bums with the grace of an Olympic gymnast.

After the deer was gunned down and stripped of its hide and meat, which was divided evenly amongst its pursuants, I hurried back inside to see if the canary was still grinning.  It was.  “So it’s true,” I said.  The canary nodded.

I stumbled back out into the street.  This time somebody had capped the fire hydrant with a pair of antlers.  I tripped over it, fell face first onto a manhole and was run over by the fire hyrdant.

“There’s a deer in the city!” hollered the flâneur, pointing . . .
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