Poppy Z. Brite
Poppy Z. Brite
|Born||May 25, 1967|
Bowling Green, Kentucky
|Notable works||Lost Souls (1992)|
Drawing Blood (1993)
Exquisite Corpse (1996)
The Value of X (2002)
Soul Kitchen (2006)
Billy Martin (born May 25, 1967), known professionally as Poppy Z. Brite, is an American author. He initially achieved notoriety in the gothic horror genre of literature in the early 1990s by publishing a string of successful novels and short story collections. His later work moved into the genre of dark comedy, with many stories set in the New Orleans restaurant world. Martin's novels are typically standalone books but may feature recurring characters from previous novels and short stories. Much of his work features openly bisexual and gay characters.
Martin is best known for writing gothic and horror novels and short stories. His trademarks include featuring 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 the controversial serial killer novel 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). His "Calcutta: Lord of Nerves" was selected to represent the year 1992 in the story anthology The Century's Best Horror Fiction.
In a 1998 interview, 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 (1997), a biography of singer Courtney Love that was officially "unauthorized", but he acknowledged that the work was done at Love's suggestion and with her cooperation, including access to Love's personal journal and letters.
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 novels—Liquor (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, he 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. He 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.
Assigned female at birth, Martin was born in Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky, at Western University Hospital. He has written and talked extensively about his gender dysphoria and transgender issues. He is a gay man, and has said, "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." In 2003, Martin wrote that, while gender theorists like Kate Bornstein would call him a "nonoperative transsexual", Martin would not insist on a label, writing "I'm just me". In August 2010, he began hormone therapy, and in 2011 expressed that he would prefer to be referred to by male pronouns.
Martin was the longtime partner of Chris DeBarr, a chef, but the couple split in 2011. His current partner is Grey Cross, a New Orleans visual artist and photographer.
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. 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."
Retirement and return to writing
On June 9, 2010, Martin officially stated that he was retired from writing, in a post entitled "I'm Basically Retired (For Now)" on his Livejournal. He stated that he had "completely lost the ability to interact with [his] body of work" and then went on to state that business issues were a partial cause. He also 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. Martin has since created a series of artworks themed on New Orleans and voodoo.
In 2018, Martin announced he had returned to writing with a non-fiction project entitled Water If God Wills It: Religion and Spirituality In The Work of Stephen King. Martin opened a Patreon page to finance the book.
Novels and novellas
- Lost Souls (1992)
- Drawing Blood (1993)
- Exquisite Corpse (1996)
- The Crow: The Lazarus Heart (1998)
- "Plastic Jesus" (novella; 2000)
- The Liquor series:
- The Value of X (2002)
- Liquor (2004)
- Prime (2005)
- Soul Kitchen (2006)
- D*U*C*K (novella; 2007)
- Triads (with Christa Faust; 2004)
- Second Line (2009)
Short story collections
- Wormwood (also published in limited edition and in the UK under author's original title as Swamp Foetus; 1993)
- His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood and Other Stories ("Four stories of contemporary horror", selected from Wormwood; Penguin 60s, 1995)
- Are You Loathsome Tonight? (also published in the UK as Self-Made Man; 1998)
- Wrong Things (with Caitlin R. Kiernan; 2001)
- The Devil You Know (2003)
- Antediluvian Tales (2007)
Anthologies (as editor)
- "Are You Loathsome Tonight?" (short biographical story of Elvis Presley, published in Are You Loathsome Tonight?, 1998 (also titled Self-Made Man) and reprinted in The Children of Cthulhu, 2002)
- "R.I.P." (1998)
- "The Seed of Lost Souls" (1999)
- "Stay Awake" (2000)
- "Lantern Marsh" (2000) (first published in October Dreams)
- "Would You?" (2000)
- "Pansu" (2001)
- "Con Party at Hotel California" (2002)
- "The Feast of St. Rosalie" (2003)
- "Used Stories" (2004)
- "Crown of Thorns" (2005)
- "Liquor for Christmas" (2007)
- "The H.O.G. Syndrome" (Martin's first "novel", about 9000 words, written at age 12; 2007)
Uncollected short fiction
- "Vine of the Soul" (appeared in Disco 2000, 1998)
- "The Freaks (juvenilia)" (The Spook #12, 2002; also appears on Martin's website along with other early/unpublished fiction)
- "Fuck It, We're Going To Jamaica!" (webzine Necromantic; also appears on Martin's website)
- "The Curious Case of Miss Violet Stone (1894)" (co-written with David Ferguson; Shadows Over Baker Street, 2003; Ballantine Books)
- "Wandering the Borderlands" (Masques V, 2006; Gauntlet Press)
- "System Freeze" (Matrix webcomic, illustrated by Dave Dorman and published in The Matrix Comics volume 2)
- "The Gulf" (Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy, 2008; Subterranean Press)
- John Pelan, The Century's Best Horror Fiction, Cemetery Dance Publications, 2010, two volumes, ISBN 1-58767-080-1.
- Guran, Paula (January 1998). "Poppy Z. Brite: Just Not That Weird". Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
- PzB (auto)Biography discusses the writing of the Love book.
- 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
- Constance Brite
- 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.
- See Martin's LiveJournal, especially the August 22, 2003 entry
- 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 September 8, 2013.
- Bruce Nolan and Susan Finch (January 6, 2009). "New Orleans police remove parishioners occupying closed Uptown churches". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved January 7, 2009.
- Best of New Orleans, Gambit Weekly, August 24, 2009.
- Martin, Billy (June 9, 2010). "I'm Basically Retired (For Now)". Dispatches from Tanganyika. Archived from the original on September 9, 2013. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- "Poppy Z. Brite (Billy Martin) is creating a book in progress and a few other things".
- Brite, Poppy Z. (2009). Second Line. Small Beer Press. ISBN 978-1931520607.
- Brite, Poppy Z. (1995). His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood and Other Stories. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-146-00050-8.