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February 10, 1953 |
Houston, Texas, USA
|Occupation||Novelist, short story writer, screen writer|
John Shirley (born 10 February 1953) is an American writer, primarily of fantasy and science fiction and songs. He has also written one historical novel, a western, about Wyatt Earp, Wyatt in Wichita, and one non-fiction book, Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas. Shirley has written novels, short stories, TV scripts and screenplays, and has published over 40 books and 8 short-story collections. As a musician, Shirley has fronted his own bands and written lyrics for Blue Öyster Cult and others.
John Shirley was born in Houston, Texas and grew up largely in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon. His earliest novels were Transmaniacon and Dracula In Love for Zebra Books, and City Come A-Walkin, a proto-cyberpunk novel, for Delacorte. He also wrote the A Song Called Youth cyberpunk trilogy for Warner Books, re-released as an omnibus in 2012 by Prime Books. 2012 saw his noir-flavored novel of apocalypse, Everything Is Broken released by Prime Books. In 2013 PM Press released Shirley's New Taboos. In October 2013 HarperCollins/Witness released his novel about Conan Doyle in the afterlife, Doyle After Death; Skyhorse Publications brought out his historical novel about Wyatt Earp, Wyatt in Wichita, in August 2014.
Besides having written numerous books John Shirley was lead singer of the punk band Sado-Nation, in 1978, and the post-punk funk-rock band Obsession, on Celluloid Records, while living in New York City and Paris, France, in the 1980s, and was later in the band the Panther Moderns. Shirley has also written 18 song lyrics recorded by Blue Öyster Cult. His one nonfiction book is Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas (Penguin/Tarcher). He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife, Micky Shirley. John Shirley has three adult sons, twins Byron and Perry and their younger brother Julian. Byron is a yacht captain and yacht broker; Perry is a journalist, teacher and artist. Julian is a Bay Area-based underground rapper, computer technician, internet marketer, sometimes called Juji.
John Shirley is known for his cyberpunk science fiction novels, such as the A Song Called Youth trilogy, City Come A-Walkin' and Black Glass, as well as his suspense (as in his novels Spider Moon and The Brigade), horror novels and stories (e.g., Demons and Crawlers and the story collection Black Butterflies) and horror film work. His best known script work is the film The Crow, for which he was the initial writer, before David Schow reworked the script. He also wrote scripts for Deep Space Nine and Poltergeist: The Legacy. Authors David Agranoff and Nancy Collins and editor/critic Paula Guran cite his intense, expressionistic early horror novels, such as Dracula In Love and Cellars as an influence on the splatterpunk movement in horror, and the subsequent "bizarro" movement. Appreciation of John Shirley as an author of dark fiction was amplified by a January 2008 The New York Times review, by critic Terrence Rafferty, of Shirley's story-collection Living Shadows which said in part:
It’s a greatest-hits album spanning a few decades of astonishingly consistent and rigorously horrifying work. . . Shirley’s great subject is the terrible ease with which we modern Americans have learned to look away from pain and suffering. The opening line of his novel “Demons” states the theme succinctly: “It’s amazing what you can get used to.” . . .Maybe the best story in this superb collection is a rapt little piece called “Skeeter Junkie,” in which a young heroin addict first begins to enjoy the feeling of the mosquito feeding on his arm, then starts to identify with it and then, as the drugs ooze through his veins, somehow becomes it and finally uses the “exquisite” flying bloodsucker to transport him to the apartment of his comely but standoffish downstairs neighbor. It’s a horror story, I guess, but it’s also funny, weirdly erotic and, in a way that horror almost never is, tragic.
Shirley's cyberpunk novels are City Come A-Walkin and the A Song Called Youth trilogy. Avant-slipstream critic Larry McCaffery called him "a postmodern Edgar Allan Poe." Bruce Sterling has cited Shirley's early story collection Heatseeker as being a seminal cyberpunk work in itself. Several stories in Heatseeker were particularly seminal, including Sleepwalkers, which, in just one example, probably provided the inspiration for William Gibson's "meat puppets" in Neuromancer. Gibson acknowledged Shirley's influence in an introduction to Shirley's City Come A-Walkin. Shirley's story collection, made up of increasingly bizarre stories, the whimsically titled Really, Really, Really, Really Weird Stories has developed a cult status.
William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer, collaborated with Shirley on short stories—as did fellow cyberpunks Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker. Shirley's lyricism, wealth of ideas and imagination, crossover pioneering, and street-level honesty have been praised by other writers including Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Roger Zelazny, Marc Laidlaw, and A. A. Attanasio. His more surreal work, as in A Splendid Chaos showed how it was possible to describe the indescribable with a paradoxical believability and impeccable internal logic no matter how bizarre the subject matter. Shirley's personal experiences as a recovering drug addict and punk rocker brought real verisimilitude to his darker, urban-tinctured writing.
In recent years Shirley has written "tie-in novels" and novelizations, such as Constantine, based on the Keanu Reaves movie, and the best-seller Bioshock: Rapture,(Tor, 2011), a novel providing a prequel to the Bioshock videogame story and Halo: Broken Circle. He also wrote the apocalyptic, politically charged novel, The Other End which, according to the author's website, takes the apocalypse away from the Christian Right and gives Judgment Day to Liberals to do with as they please. This reflects Shirley's tendency to create fantasy entertainment which is also political satire, or spiritual allegory. E.g., Demons, in which it is discovered that industry has deliberately caused deaths by cancer as part of a vast secret program of human sacrifice. 2007 saw the release of a new story collection, Living Shadows, from Prime Books. His novel of dark urban fantasy set in a slightly futuristic New York, Bleak History, was published by Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books in 2009. In August 2011 Underland Press published In Extremis: The Most Extreme Stories of John Shirley and in January 2012 Prime Books published his near future apocalyptic political allegory, the novel Everything Is Broken. His novel about Arthur Conan Doyle in the afterlife, Doyle After Death, was released by HarperCollins/Witness in October 2013. Shirley's apocalyptic and surreal novel High, based on his early novel Three-Ring Psychus, has been released by Start Books as an ebook.
Shirley's work ranges in tone from the surreal to the grittily naturalistic to the nightmarish. He is also a songwriter and singer, having fronted numerous punk bands, including the New York band Obsession, who were recorded by Celluloid Records. He has written lyrics for Blue Öyster Cult, such as several songs on the album Heaven Forbid.
In 2013 Black October Records released a two-CD compilation of Shirley's own recordings, Broken Mirror Glass: The John Shirley Anthology - 1978-2012 ...
Also in 2013, Shirley teamed with Ubisoft to release a companion novel to release alongside the game Watch Dogs, entitled Watch Dogs: Dark Clouds. One version of the ebook will be a standard digital book, but the other will be a totally upgraded interactive story with videos and images.
2014 saw the release of John Shirley's first historical novel, Wyatt in Wichita, a novel of the young Wyatt Earp.
John Shirley continues to write short stories. In late 2014, Shirley's short story Meerga appeared in the cyberpunk anthology Altered States published by Indie Authors Press, edited by Roy C. Booth and Jorge Salgado-Reyes.
Shirley's Lovecraftian story written from the point of view of one of the Great Old Ones of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness appeared in The Madness of Cthulhu, an anthology of Lovecraft inspired stories from Titan Books.
John Shirley received several nominations and won the following awards.
- 1999: What Would You Do For Love? (Black Butterflies: A Flock on the Dark Side) — long fiction — nomination
- 1999: Black Butterflies: A Flock on the Dark Side (Mark V. Ziesing) — collection — winner
Locus Awards — for SF/F/H works, polled by readers of Locus Magazine (5 nominations)
- 2000: Really, Really, Really, Really, Weird Stories (Night Shade Books) — collection — 17th place
- 1999: Black Butterflies: A Flock on the Dark Side (Mark V. Ziesing) — collection — 22nd place
- 1990: Heatseeker (Scream/Press) — collection — 10th place
- 1989: In Darkness Waiting (NAL Onyx) — horror novel — 13th place
- 1981: City Come A-Walkin' (Dell) — sf novel — 24th place
International Horror Guild Awards — for horror works, juried (6 nominations; 2 wins)
- 2004: Crawlers (Del Rey) — novel — nomination
- 2002: Her Hunger (Night Visions 10) — long fiction — nomination
- 2001: Demons (Cemetery Dance) — long story — nomination
- 1999: What Would You Do For Love? (Black Butterflies: A Flock on the Dark Side) — long fiction — nomination
- 1999: Black Butterflies: A Flock on the Dark Side (Mark V. Ziesing) — collection —winner
- 1998: Cram (Wetbones #2) — short story — winner
Interzone Readers Poll — for stories published in Interzone magazine, polled by readers (1 nomination)
- 2014: The Kindest Man in Stormland (Interzone #249) — story — 8th place
- Transmaniacon (1979)
- Dracula in Love (1979)
- City Come A-Walkin' (1980)
- Three-Ring Psychus (1980)
- The Brigade (1981)
- Cellars (1982)
- Several books in the Traveler series of post-apocalyptic men's adventure novels (as D. B. Drumm)
- Several books in the Specialist series of mercenary/adventure men's adventure novels (as John Cutter)
- A Song Called Youth Series (also known as Eclipse Trilogy):
- Eclipse (1985)
- Eclipse Penumbra (1988)
- Eclipse Corona (1990)
- In Darkness Waiting (1988)
- Kamus of Kadizar: The Black Hole of Carcosa (1988)
- A Splendid Chaos (1988)
- Wetbones (1991). A supernatural serial killer novel featuring creatures called the Akishra who take over human minds and bodies.
- Silicon Embrace (1996)
- "Demons" (2000, novella)
- "...And the Angel with Television Eyes" (2001, novella)
- "The View From Hell" (2001, novella)
- "Her Hunger" (2001, novella)
- Spider Moon (2002)
- Demons, a new version with sequel novel Undercurrents (2002)
- Crawlers (2003)
- Doom (2005, novelization of the film version of the Id Software computer game)
- Constantine (2005, novelisation of the film featuring the DC/Vertigo comicbook character)
- John Constantine, Hellblazer: War Lord (2006, based on the comic book character, not the movie version)
- Predator: Forever Midnight (2006, Predator series tie-in)
- Batman: Dead White (2006, tie-in with Batman Begins)
- John Constantine, Hellblazer: Subterranean (2006)
- The Other End (2007)
- Alien: Steel Egg (2007)
- Black Glass (2008)
- Bleak History (2009)
- BioShock Rapture (2011)
- Borderlands: The Fallen (2011)
- Everything Is Broken (2011)
- Borderlands: Unconquered (2012)
- Doyle After Death (2013)
- Wyatt in Wichita (2014)
- Grimm: The Icy Touch (2013)
- Watch Dogs //n/Dark Clouds (2013)
- Halo: Broken Circle
Short story collections
- Heatseeker (1989)
- New Noir (1993)
- The Exploded Heart (1996)
- Black Butterflies (1998)
- Really, Really, Really, Really Weird Stories (1999)
- Darkness Divided (2001)
- Living Shadows (2007)
- In Extremis: The Most Extreme Short Stories of John Shirley (2011)
- Freezone (Rock On: The Greatest Hits of Science Fiction & Fantasy, Prime Books 2012)
- Meerga (Altered States, Indie Authors Press, 2014)
- Gurdjieff - An Introduction to his Life and Ideas (2004) ISBN 1-58542-287-8
Shirley wrote most of the lyrics for Blue Öyster Cult albums Heaven Forbid and Curse of the Hidden Mirror as well as the songs "Demon's Kiss" and "The Horsemen Arrive" from their soundtrack Bad Channels. Their 1972 song "Transmaniacon MC" was the inspiration for the book Transmaniacon.
A two-cd compilation of select recordings by John Shirley and his collaborators was brought out by the European label BLACK OCTOBER RECORDS in December 2012. The album is called BROKEN MIRROR GLASS. Recordings run through several musical eras, from 1979 - through 2012.
- Tom Winstead, "Shirley, John" in David Pringle (ed), St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers. London : St. James Press, 1998, ISBN 1558622063 (p. 531-2).
- Rafferty, Terrence (27 January 2008). "Doesn’t Scare Easily". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
In the title of Shirley’s collection, there’s a faint, happy echo of the passage from “Biographia Literaria” in which Coleridge coined his famous phrase. Speaking of his contributions to the seminal 1798 volume “Lyrical Ballads,” which included “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the poet wrote: “My endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.” That’s exactly what good horror writers like Joe Hill and John Shirley do with the shadows of their imagination. And there’s an explanation here, too, of the hope that can keep even the most skeptical, fed-up reader coming back to horror fiction. Watching vampires having sex may not strike you as an adequate reward for suspending disbelief. But the poetry of fear and mortality is worth all the belief you can muster.
- Avant-Pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation. Boulder: Black Ice Books (1993) p253. (ISBN 978-0932511720)
- "A-lister John Shirley’s short story MEERGA has been accepted for Altered States.". Altered States a cyberpunk anthology. July 28, 2014. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
- Pat Hawk, Hawk's Authors' Pseudonyms III, Hawk Enterprise's, 1999, ISBN 0-9643185-2-0
- Halo Waypoint - Halo: Broken Circle Coming in November, accessed 6/23/14
- Bioshock: Rapture, by John Shirley (2011) ISBN ISBN 0-7653-2484-9
- R.F. Paul. "The Head Underneath: An Interview with John Shirley". Esoterra: The Journal of Extreme Culture No 4 (Winter/Spring 1994), 3-6.
- John Shirley's official website
- John Shirley myspace music site, 5 songs
- MP3s of his rock music
- AvPGalaxy Interview with John Shirley
- AvPGalaxy Interview #2 with John Shirley
- "Is the Internet Good for Writers?"
- "Piper at the Gates of Hell: An Interview with Cyberpunk Legend John Shirley"