Meet The Winners – Sean Patrick Hazlett
As regular readers may know, I won the Writers of the Future contest in 2014 and ever since, I’ve left the welcome mat out for each year’s new class. It’s a great way to meet new friend who I’ll soon be handing with at cons.
In this case, though, my next “guest” has been a friend for a few years now, so please join me in welcoming 2017 Wotf winner, Sean Patrick Hazlett.
Stuart: Sean, dude! Tell the good folks a little something about yourself.
Sean: I’m originally from Wilmington, Delaware. Yes, I grew up in…Delaware. I currently reside in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Stuart: And what got you into writing?
Sean: I’ve been writing since I was ten years old, but only began a serious effort to publish my stories in the last few months of 2011. The one great thing about short stories is that they are useful media for generating and validating ideas. They allow writers to test concepts relatively quickly without the time and commitment required to write a novel. They also provide writers with an opportunity to learn and experiment with the craft of fiction writing.
I tend to focus on writing stories that explore the dark side of human nature. When you deprive human beings of food, sleep and security, they often behave in shocking ways in order to survive, and I enjoy speculating on these situations and themes. Many of the things I write emulate the works of weird fiction authors like Clark Ashton Smith, Algernon Blackwood, Thomas Ligotti, and, of course, the perennial favorite, H.P. Lovecraft. I’ve always particularly enjoyed many of his themes ranging from entities that view humanity with cold indifference, hereditary curses, and the concept of deep time. Some of my favorite Lovecraftian works include “The Rats in the Walls”, “The Whisperer in Darkness”, “The Thing on the Doorstep”, and “At the Mountains of Madness”. These tales resonate with me because they effectively blend the three genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, and explore the infinitesimal smallness and isolation of man in a vast cosmos in dark and intriguing ways.
Stuart: Okay. Well there’s definitely a market for that. What else?
Sean: I have an unusual knack for joining organizations just before they undergo significant turmoil. I joined the Army five months before we went to war in Serbia. Eighteen months after that, September 11th happened, and by the fall of 2002, it was pretty clear we were going to invade Iraq. In other words, during the five years I served, the Army got involved in three separate wars in the Balkans, Central Asia, and the Middle East.
Stuart: Holy cow!
Sean: Then, I began working as an investment banker in late 2006, shortly before the financial crisis began. And a few days after I accepted my offer at my current company, the CEO was ousted. Within 3 years, we’d divested a multi-billion-dollar business, made two transformational acquisitions, and completely switched out the management team while shedding several thousand employees.
Stuart: But you survived.
Sean: I did. And I learned a few things:
- How to drive an M1A1 tank, and load and fire its main gun
- How to sabotage roads and bridges using explosives
- How to takeoff and fly a Cessna (I never fully mastered landings)
I was also an expert in Soviet armored warfare and tactics. I applied that expertise to the real world when a former classmate asked me which routes his parents should take out of Georgia when the Russians invaded that country in 2008. I opened a map and told him where the Russians would concentrate their forces and which territorial objectives they would likely seize. He called me two weeks later and said, “How the f**** did you know exactly where they would go?”
I wrote my masters thesis on Plan B for Iran’s nuclear program absent diplomatic agreement. Then when one of my friends asked contacts at various U.S. governmental agencies for good open-source strategies on this topic, they all sent him my masters thesis.
Stuart: Ha ha! Very nice! Anything crazy happen in the service?
Sean: I once forgot to take down my fifty-caliber machine gun before driving a humvee into Baker, California to get my commander a strawberry milkshake at the Mad Greek. Fellow winner, Jake Marley, knows what place I’m talking about.
Stuart: Dude! You didn’t! My wife once carried light anti tank weapons cross country in the trunk of a Honda Civic, but those were only training aids.
Sean: I also tend to be in places when interesting things happen. To wit:
- I received a service academy appointment from then-Senator Joe Biden before deciding I wanted a normal college experience.
- Fred Savage and Tiger Woods were both in my college Freshman class
- Reese Witherspoon lived down the hall from my future wife
- I graduated from Stanford the same year Google was founded on campus
- In the same year I enrolled as a graduate student at Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his dorm room there.
- I was present at the Kennedy School fundraiser where General Petraeus met his mistress.
- I once had to stall for Hank Paulson, the future U.S. Treasury Secretary who presided over th
- first stage of the financial crisis, because he was late for his speech to my business school class.
- My thesis adviser at the Kennedy School was future Defense Secretary, Dr. Ashton Carter.
Stuart: Wow! So what was your winning WotF story about?
Sean: “Adramelech” is the story of a man named Logan who makes a Faustian bargain with an ancient demon in exchange for strange powers. The demon forces Logan to use these gifts to do unspeakable things until Logan discovers the true meaning of free will.
I’m not really sure what inspired me to write “Adramelech”. It may have been one of those lazy Sunday afternoons when I was trolling the Internet for ideas. In these meanderings, I discovered two books on demons. The first was called The Lesser Key of Solomon and the second, The Dictionnaire Infernal. The former was an anonymous grimoire compiled sometime in the mid-seventeenth century from sources several centuries older than that and is divided into five books. The first of these books, the Ars Goetia, includes descriptions of the evocation of seventy-two distinct demons.
The latter book, was The Dictionnaire Infernal, a book on demonology composed by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy and published in 1818. It was in one of the various editions of this book that Adramelech appeared. References to Adramelech have also appeared in the Bible (2 Kings 17:31) and John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Adramelech was a Mesopotamian sun god akin to Moloch. In its various incarnations, Adramelech has often been depicted as having a human body, a mule’s head, and a peacock’s tail. The demon is frequently associated with human sacrifice, specifically the practice of burning children as a form of worship. In crafting this story, I combined many of these elements in addition to adding some of my own, particularly Adramelech’s ability to possess others and to bestow that power onto others.
Stuart: Sounds very cool. How was the WotF workshop?
Sean: I had a blast meeting the other writers, and it was an honor to learn from David Wolverton and Tim Powers throughout the course of the week. But the real standout for me was the twenty-four hour story. Demonstrating to myself that I could write a coherent story in less than 24 hours was invaluable.
Stuart: Yeah, it’s amazing what you can do once you know you can do it! Thanks, Sean, and good luck.
In addition to several sales to Galaxy’s Edge, Sean is shopping a World War II alternative history thriller, and has a short story collection, Alien Abattoir and Other Stories, on Audible.com.
I’m also working sporadically on a number of other short stories and two novel ideas.
For more, check out his website.