Poppy Z. Brite

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Poppy Z. Brite
PoppyZBrite Potter2.jpg
Photo by J.K. Potter
Born Melissa Ann Brite
(1967-05-25) May 25, 1967 (age 47)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Occupation Novelist, Writer
Period 1985–Current
Notable work(s) Lost Souls (1992)
Drawing Blood (1993)
Exquisite Corpse (1996)
The Value of X (2002)
Liquor (2004)
Prime (2005)
Soul Kitchen (2006)
Spouse(s) Grey Cross

www.poppyzbrite.com

Billy Martin (born Melissa Ann Brite; May 25, 1967), known professionally as Poppy Z. Brite, is an American author. Martin initially achieved notoriety in the gothic horror genre of literature in the early 1990s after publishing a string of successful novels and short story collections. Martin's later work moved into the related genre of dark comedy, with many stories set in the New Orleans restaurant world. His novels are typically standalone books but may feature recurring characters from previous novels and short stories. Much of Martin's work features openly bisexual and gay characters. Martin is a trans man and prefers that male pronouns and terms be used when referring to him.[1]

Work[edit]

Martin is best known for writing gothic and horror novels and short stories. Martin's trademarks include using gay men as main characters, graphic sexual descriptions, and an often wry treatment of gruesome events. Some of Martin's better known novels include Lost Souls (1992), Drawing Blood (1993), and Exquisite Corpse (1996); he has also released the short fiction collections Wormwood (originally published as Swamp Foetus; 1993), Are You Loathsome Tonight? (also published as Self-Made Man; 1998), Wrong Things (with Caitlin R. Kiernan; 2001), and The Devil You Know (2003). Martin's "Calcutta: Lord of Nerves" was selected to represent the year 1992 in the story collection The Century's Best Horror Fiction.[2]

In a 1998 interview,[3] in response to a comment that "Growing up in the American South [shaped him] as a writer", Martin mentioned that Southern writers Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O'Connor, Harper Lee, Thomas Wolfe and William Faulkner also influenced his writing. Answering a follow-up question about his literary influences, he also included "Bradbury, Nabokov, W.S. Burroughs, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Shirley Jackson, Thomas Ligotti, Kathe Koja, Dennis Cooper, Dorothy Parker, Dylan Thomas, Harlan Ellison, Peter Straub, Paul Theroux, Baudelaire, Poe, Lovecraft, John Lennon... I could rattle off ten or twenty more easily; they're all in there somewhere."

Martin wrote Courtney Love: The Real Story (1999), a biography of singer Courtney Love that was officially "unauthorized", but Martin acknowledged that the work was done at Love's suggestion and with her cooperation, including access to Love's personal journal and letters.[4]

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Martin moved away from horror fiction and gothic themes while still writing about gay characters. The critically acclaimed Liquor novelsLiquor (2004), Prime (2005), and Soul Kitchen (2006)—are dark comedies set in the New Orleans restaurant world. The Value of X (2002) depicts the beginning of the careers of the protagonists of the Liquor series—Gary "G-Man" Stubbs and John "Rickey" Rickey; other stories, including several in his most recent collection The Devil You Know (2003) and the novella D*U*C*K, chronicle events in the lives of the extended Stubbs family, a Catholic clan whose roots are sunk deep in the traditional culture of New Orleans. Martin hopes to eventually write three more novels in the Liquor series, tentatively titled Dead Shrimp Blues, Hurricane Stew, and Double Shot. However, in late 2006 Martin ceased publishing with Three Rivers Press, the trade paperback division of Random House that published the first three Liquor novels, and is currently taking a hiatus from fiction writing. Martin has described Antediluvian Tales, a short story collection published by Subterranean Press in November 2007, as "if not my last book ever, then my last one for some time." He still writes short non-fiction pieces, including guest editorials for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and a food article for Chile Pepper Magazine.

Martin has often stated that, while he will allow some of his work to be optioned for film under the right circumstances, he has little interest in movies and is not overly eager to see his work filmed. In 1999, his short story The Sixth Sentinel (filmed as The Dream Sentinel) comprised one segment of episode 209 of The Hunger, a short-lived horror anthology series on Showtime. Of all his books, only Lost Souls is currently under option, by producer Paul Natale.

Critical essays on Martin's fiction appear in Supernatural Fiction Writers: Contemporary Fantasy and Horror (2003) by Brian Stableford[5] and The Evolution of the Weird Tale (2004) by S. T. Joshi.

Personal life[edit]

Martin was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has written and talked extensively about his gender dysphoria and gender identity issues.[6] He self-identifies as a gay man; "Ever since I was old enough to know what gay men were, I've considered myself a gay man that happens to have been born in a female body, and that's the perspective I'm coming from",[6] and as of August 2010, has begun the process of gender reassignment. In 2003, Martin wrote that, while gender theorists like Kate Bornstein would call him a "nonoperative transsexual", Martin would not insist on a pedantic label, writing "I'm just me".[7] However, as of May 9, 2011, Martin prefers to be referred to by male pronouns.[1]

He lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Athens, Georgia prior to returning to New Orleans in 1993. He is a fan of UNC basketball, but says his greatest support is for his hometown football team, the New Orleans Saints.

Martin was the longtime partner of Chris DeBarr, a chef, but they broke up in 2011. They have a de facto cat rescue that houses between 15 and 20 cats, and sometimes also dogs.

Martin's current partner is Grey Cross, a New Orleans visual artist and photographer.

During Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federal levee system in 2005, Martin at first opted to stay at home, but he eventually relocated 80 miles (130 km) away to his mother's home in Mississippi. He used his blog to update his fans regarding the situation, including the unknown status of his house and many of his pets,[8] and in October 2005 became one of the first 70,000 New Orleanians to begin repopulating the city.

Since 2005, Martin has been an outspoken and sometimes harsh critic of those who are leaving New Orleans for good. He was quoted in the New York Times and elsewhere as saying, in reference to those considering leaving, "If you’re ever lucky enough to belong somewhere, if a place takes you in and you take it into yourself, you don't desert it just because it can kill you. There are things more valuable than life."[9]

On August 30, 2008, as Hurricane Gustav approached the city, Martin and DeBarr elected to remain in New Orleans. They survived the ordeal unharmed and with minimal damage to their home and property.

On January 6, 2009, Martin was arrested at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in New Orleans as part of a peaceable demonstration in which churches in the Uptown area of the city were occupied to protest their closings.[10] In August 2009, New Orleans's Gambit Weekly publication published reader-poll results naming Martin in second place as an ever-popular "Best Local Author."[11]

Retirement[edit]

On June 9, 2010, Martin officially stated that he was retired, in a post entitled "I'm Basically Retired (For Now)" on his Livejournal.[12] He stated that he had 'completely lost the ability to interact with my body of work,' then went on to state that business issues were in part a cause of this issue. Along with this, he specifically mentioned being unable to disconnect from aspects of his life relating to Hurricane Katrina. He ended his statement by saying that he missed having relationships with his characters and that he did not feel the need to write for publication.

Bibliography[edit]

Novels and novellas[edit]

Short story collections[edit]

Anthologies (as editor)[edit]

Short stories[edit]

N.B.: These were originally published as chapbooks.

Non-fiction[edit]

Uncollected short fiction[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Martin, Billy (May 8, 2011). "Remember I said I'd let people know when I became uncomfortable with female pronouns? I'm there. I'd prefer the standard male ones, please.". Twitter. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  2. ^ John Pelan, The Century's Best Horror Fiction, Cemetery Dance Publications, 2010, two volumes, ISBN 1-58767-080-1.
  3. ^ Guran, Paula (January 1998). "Poppy Z. Brite: Just Not That Weird". Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  4. ^ PzB (auto)Biography discusses the writing of the Love book.
  5. ^ Brian Stableford, "Poppy Z. Brite" in Richard Bleiler, ed. Supernatural Fiction Writers: Contemporary Fantasy and Horror. New York: Thomson/Gale, 2003. (p. 147-152). ISBN 9780684312507
  6. ^ a b Brite, Poppy Z. (1998). "Enough Rope". In Tuttle, Lisa, ed.. Crossing the Border: Tales of Erotic Ambiguity. Trafalgar Square. ISBN 978-0-575-40117-4. 
  7. ^ See Martin's LiveJournal, especially the August 22, 2003 entry
  8. ^ Ivry, Bob. "As storm raged, stalwart bloggers stayed at keyboards". The Standard Times, August 31, 2005.
  9. ^ For text of entire speech, originally given at 2006's Banned Books Night, see Martin's journal entry for September 25, 2006.
  10. ^ Bruce Nolan and Susan Finch (January 6, 2009). "New Orleans police remove parishioners occupying closed Uptown churches". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved January 7, 2009. 
  11. ^ Best of New Orleans, Gambit Weekly, August 24, 2009.
  12. ^ Martin, Billy (June 9, 2010). "I'm Basically Retired (For Now)". Dispatches from Tanganyika. Retrieved 2013-09-09. 
  13. ^ Brite, Poppy Z. (1995). His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood and Other Stories. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-146-00050-8. 

External links[edit]

Interviews[edit]