inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #51 of 85: John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Fri 11 Feb 00 12:05
Yeah I read John Payne's ufo report--it is subject to various
interpretations though you can bet if I'd seen it I'd have gotten all
excited and reported it in ten places. Richard a UFO is any
unidentified flying object that is probably not conventional aircraft
and probably not atmospheric or zoological phenomena. 

And Richard you asked about the  "Brittany?" story? It originated from
a short article I saw in the newspaper about a child who drowned when
her parents were in a basement getting loaded on pcp and participating
in S&M role playing and sex with another couple. Everything else I made
up. It just seemed to me to be some kind of extreme, almost ludicrous
case of rampant irresponsibility--and I tried to visualize how it
couldcome about and consequences on every level. Plus it's based on my
somewhat-long-past experience of 'swingers' and their weirdass little
scene...which apparently was given new life by the internet...
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #52 of 85: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 11 Feb 00 13:02

From the Internet:

From Fri Feb 11 13:00:24 2000
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 14:12:25 -0500
From: John M Alacce <>
Subject: Please post to J Shirley Conference

    [ The following text is in the "iso-8859-1" character set. ]
    [ Your display is set for the "US-ASCII" character set.  ]
    [ Some characters may be displayed incorrectly. ]


 You mentioned writing SF for the Movies. On that subject I have multiple

1.) I've always thought the Eclipse trilogy would make an excellent movie or
movies. (I think you might have mentioned something to that effect yourself,
a few times, here and elsewhere. I thought it when I started reading Eclipse
Penumbra, which was the first book of yours that I purchased, not because of
the cool cover, but actually because of a recommendation from a little-know
Role-Playing Game manual that
was seized by an overly paranoid government.) Have you actually done any
work on a screenplay?
Who would you like to see play pivotal characters? (Who do you think would
make a good Hard Eyes, etc.) Who would you like to see direct the movies?
Also, what do you think of the movement of independent film directors
movies using digital equipment. (I think William Gibson wrote a pretty good
article on that subject for Wired a couple of months back.)
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #53 of 85: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 11 Feb 00 13:02

Another question from the Internet:

From Fri Feb 11 13:00:50 2000
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 15:51:37 EST
Subject: Questions for John Shirley

1) I'm glad Richard S. brought up "Brittany..." -- how about discussing some 
more of your recent projects, too -- some, as yet, unpublished? Especially 
DEMONS, which does have some SF overtones.

2) And what about THREE RING are sorta thinking about 
re-issuing that one?

>From Paula
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #54 of 85: Richard Evans (rje) Fri 11 Feb 00 19:10

To continue the works-in-the-pipeline theme John, I also believe that you
were commisioned by the FX Channel on US Cable to create a drama series
called REDSTONE which was also going to feature new bands and directors and
the like- did anything become of this project production wise?
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #55 of 85: edited ufo story (satyr) Sat 12 Feb 00 16:14
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #56 of 85: John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Sat 12 Feb 00 16:54
Jalacce asked about the Eclipse trilogy as a movie--yes I think so,
it's got a pretty sharply defined concept--non-nuclear world war three
leads to chaos breeding return of fascism, and reaction against fascism
by our heroes, the New Resistance, but this time around the struggle
is on many levels, taking into account deep digital media manipulation,
space colonies, sophisticated mind control etc. The book is
chockablock with action. I dunno who'd play these guys--Kurt russell as
Hard eyes? I dream of Terry Gilliam doing something of mine but it
might be more something for Cameron or David Fincher...I haven't done a
screenplay, no. Wouldn't do it on spec probably...Big budget thing,
hard to sell...but I think it would work well with the right
director...Maybe get Howard Rodman to write it...As for digital
independent films, ANYTHING that takes the film making out of the hands
of hacks and puts it into the hands of ARTISTS is a GOOD THING. It
will not always produce art but it will get more real film making on
the screen...

Yes well, DEMONS would make a cool movie--about a worldwide mysterious
invasion of demons. Cronenburg? It's set in the future. It's a heavy
handed metaphor, I suppose, but it's also pretty friggin' entertaining,
I think, often funny (on purpose, I hope), satirical, possibly
irritatingly outrageous. We'll see. It's a new short novel from
Cemetary Dance publications due out in the spring.

THREE RING PSYCHUS is a weirdass book I wrote when young about a time
when gravity is partly cancelled out over the world--and the strange
metaphysical conditions underlying that...I want to see it re-issued,
you bet, maybe with a new title. Where would it be reissued? I dunno.
It may still be possible to get it from Zebra. They reprinted it a few
years ago. 

FX wanted to do one hour dramas, had me developing one, liked my
REDSTONE aka SEVEN SECRETS script--then their beancounters decided they
should do only game shows and talk shows and cheezy half hour
comedies. Cheap stuff to do. So now Seven Secrets, formerly Redstone,
will be pitched in the spring to Fox and other people. 

And meanwhile i'm going to HBO with a series called Street Eyes...

Somebody STOP me! Oh wait, they already did. Only I start again, and
again. Never say die! I've got my jaws locked onto their ankles! 
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #57 of 85: John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Sat 12 Feb 00 16:56
When I say get Rodman to write it I mean I'd dream of getting a studio
to hire him to write it for zillions of bucks out front.
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #58 of 85: Richard Evans (rje) Sat 12 Feb 00 20:27

Sounds like a nice dream John! And stranger things have happened- but not
very often. Speaking of Hollywood how did you make the leap from fiction to
film? And how did you become involved with THE CROW? I understand that you
played an instrumental role in getting the film to the production stage-
have you considered acting as a producer on other people's projects or is it
enough of a job pursuing you own?

On a superficial level your biography could be constructed as a variant of
the American Dream- from streetkid to screenwriter- but in interviews and
biographical blurbs and the like you constantly stress the punk and the
outsider. How do you currently view and relate to so-called mainstream
culture on a personal level- do you still think of yourself an outsider or
as some kind of subversive inside influence or something altogether
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #59 of 85: John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Sun 13 Feb 00 12:14
William Gibson got me into movie writing--he asked that I collaborate
wtih him in adaptingone of his stories from Burning Chrome for Ed
pressman. We didn't know which story--I suggested the New Rose Hotel as
being most adaptable and they agreed with me. Punk rock impresario and
former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm Maclaren was for some reason part
of the development team--he briefly had a deal with Pressman. He made
some eccentric suggestions. He owns a couple of S&M paraphernalia shops
and one of his suggestions was we do a story about women's fashions
that come alive and murder the models...Gibson and I, instead, did a
good script of New Rose, which had various directors attached, at
various times, each wanting to do their own auteur take on it.
Eventually it was lost to Abel Ferrara, I think, who never read our
script and said he wanted to start over with the story and then made a
movie which had nothing to do with the story, and which has not been
released; Ive heard it was too awful to release. I haven't seen it. .
.But because of my contact with Pressman, after some effort I got him
to seriously consider the comic book THE CROW which I had taken to Jeff
Most, the producer of The Specialist (which originated with some books
I wrote under a pseudonym and then lost its way too). Basically a
certain fax I sent persuaded Pressman to try to sell the film. I wrote
all the originating treatments (outlines) and then the first three
drafts of the script; Dave Schow came on and sharpened it up a lot and
worked closely with the director for the rest of it, doing the
remaining drafts. 

I do have some producer projects planned for television and would like
to produce for movies, if I found the right project. I was planning to
produce and write the Salvador Dali biopic but someone got there ahead
of me. 

I have mixed feelings about mainstream versus anomie, outsider. I
think some people are most useful to the "mainstream" by being
outsiders. Some of us are designed by nature to be pioneers, or to be
the outsiders who bitch and moan and raise the alarms, who are the
*necessary* alarmists, who are society's critics. This is a social
function. Maybe even a sociobiological one. Part of me years to
belong--and i do, in many ways, I pay taxes etc--but I also know that I
have a role to play as an outsider...and, sometimes, as an artist.
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #60 of 85: John Payne (satyr) Sun 13 Feb 00 12:39
"early adopters"
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #61 of 85: Richard Evans (rje) Mon 14 Feb 00 02:45

I think that's only part of it <satyr> One thing that has struck me of late
is the degree to which someone can function inside a specific cultural
framework- white middle suburbia- but can be simultaneously an outsider
from the perspective of the those in ostensive control- corporate executives
and the like. Conformity is not, alas, always a guarantee of power.

Notions of inside and outside are relative rather than absolute which, as
you note John, can be difficult to cohere into some neat notion of identity.
Ont he other hand it is all too tempting for the self-proclaimed outsider to
simply do the opposite of the expected norms, which, if pushed to extremes
can be just as mindless as unquestioned conformity, as exemplified by
Marilyn Manson.

Music is a constant thread through your life and fiction and I was wondering
if you could tell us a bit about your recent musical projects, including
your role as a lyricist for other bands such as the Blue Oyster Cult.

In a musical context what do you think of the co-option of the punk pose, of
the attitude and tattoos and other markers of the outsider adopted by bands
such as The Backstreet Boys. Do you think this dilutes the cultural impact
of previous waves of youth orientated movements or is it just another
marketing quirk? I mean rock has always been driven by marketing as much as
anything else, but there seems to be something deliberately calculated about
the manicured toughness of many current pop stars.
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #62 of 85: Richard Smoley (smoley) Mon 14 Feb 00 08:11
Reminds me of the time my girlfriend and I were on Hollywood?
Boulevard (whatever street Musso & Frank's Grill is on). A flatbed
truck lumbered by, on the back of which was none other than the Back
Street Boys themselves, performing presumably for a video. And what
better a setting for those erstwhile tough guys...

It's always seemed to me that the outsider pose hasn't changed much
since the beginning of the Romantic movement, with Young Werther, etc.
To my mind there is nothing in the rock pose that was not envisaged in 
the poetry of Baudelaire. Alienation, weird sex, drugs, irritation
with the Almighty. I sometimes think that the entire last 150 years,
and all of us in it, are just one mighty hashish-induced fantasy in the
prodigious mind of Baudelaire.

Paris change, mais rien dans ma mélancolie n'a bougé!
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #63 of 85: John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Mon 14 Feb 00 12:25
Richard Smoley is right--the punk 'thing' is perennial, and to my mind
is necessary and is more than just an adolescent reaction, or a
fantastic elaboration of adolescent impulses. It can be that--but it
can also be the vehicle for new ideas, for -- more importantly -- a new
honesty, a tearing off of masks...even if it's *your* mask and not
theirs that's being torn off. . .

The trappings of the 'underground' will be absorbed, co opted, by Back
street Boys and by chuckleheads like Limp Bizkit--but it's just the
trappings. The essence, the  challenge to powerlessness, to the status
quo, that basic energy, can always be renewed in many musical contexts,
but probably will always have that edge--RAGE AGINST THE MACHINE seems
to me to be authentic...

But Limp Bizkit, or however that's spelled--those guys pissed me off
at Woodstock 99 (not that I was there in person) by screaming 'fuck
shit up' and other inflammatory things--things that were incitements to
do things NOW - in a particular way at a very volatile time in the
event, resulting in, among other things, women being gang raped. The
organizers of that stupid event were utterly the inversion of the
spirit that prevailed at the original Woodstock, with their huge ticket
prices, their security designed to protect the band and their profits
but not the crowd, the gouging prices of everything--they were as much
to blame as anyone. 

Some 'punk' is more mindless than other punk--and sometimes it needs
to be mindless. But to me, ironically, punk is ultimately about
caring--it assumes that the human condition matters enough to protest
against. It's about celebrating our *core* humanity. . .

I do think though that Marilyn Manson is more than just mindless
stuff--I think he's a valid artist, a good performer, and I find his
music stimulating, interesting. I am no diabolist--quite the
contrary--but I think he's a real artist...My favorite band is Monster
Magnet and I take them for some kind of diabolistic, Monster Magnet
uber alles sort of mindset, but to me, in terms of making great, deep,
fearless powerful statements in rock, with a grand synthesis of the
truly  psychedelic with the darkly lyrical...

With Blue Oyster Cult and the punk band from Alabama, DC Moon, I
simply give them lyrics that I've written either for them or that I
think are apt for them and if they have some musical idea (or if the
lyric sparks a musical idea, as sometimes they do), that fits, they
sometimes write songs for them. If I give them twenty lyrics they might
use four or five. But I wrote most of the lyrics on the last Blue
Oyster Cult album, called Heaven Forbid,  and most and maybe all on the
lp upcoming. I sporadically record my own things, and of course I was
lead singer of various bands, for years, and it's hard for me to give
that up entirely. I'd love to write for other bands--I'd even write,
comfortably, for country-music bands. I'm eclectic.  
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #64 of 85: John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Mon 14 Feb 00 12:25
PS I've heard that the movie New Rose Hotel was in some sort of
limited release.
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #65 of 85: John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Mon 14 Feb 00 12:26
PPS I mean, it just now came out in some tiny, limited way. 
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #66 of 85: John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Mon 14 Feb 00 12:33
Sorry: I kept getting interrupted by phonecalls from my agent and
collaborators on a certain project while writing the paragraphs above
about Marilyn and Monster Magnet and lyric writing, and should have
checked them over, they're not quite coherent or even grammatical.  I'm
having to do this very rapidly today, in the intervals between minor
crises. Came out kind of murky. But I guess you get the gist. 
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #67 of 85: Ron Hogan (grifter) Mon 14 Feb 00 17:02

I've heard that "New Rose Hotel" has played festivals but was otherwise
slated for DTV release. But I'm probably wrong.
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #68 of 85: John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Mon 14 Feb 00 17:53
Yeah it was my movie agent with news of New Rose Hotel who was
interrupting me--it seems they broke some rules in releasing the
picture without arranging a screening or a video or even showing a
script to me or gibson, the original writers. There are Writer's Guild
issues. I could have arbitrated through the Guild since the production
are sure to've used some of my ideas, through the various pipelines,
producers and  available script etc, but Gibson didn't want to get into
that and I wanted to be supportive since it was based on his
story...But then...on the other hand...Well anyway you see why I was
distracted...Probably what Ron has herd is true...
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #69 of 85: Richard Evans (rje) Mon 14 Feb 00 22:06

I've heard rumours of people having seen New Rose Hotel but haven't actually
met anyone who has, but in any case the general view seems to be that it is
one of those films that shares only the title in common with it's source

I guess what I was getting at with the reference to Marilyn Manson is that
there are a lot of people who think that going to see Mr Manson is an act of
rebellion in and of itself which it can be- but it can also be a from of
enjoyment and so on.

Lemmy from Motorhead once quipped in the film "The Decline and Fall of the
American Empire Part Two: The Metal Years" that "if you're parents like it,
isn't rock'n'roll" or words to that effect. But there are parents who like
Motorhead (and there are probably even more parents who *used* to like
Motorhead) yet this does not in anyway somehow preclude Motorhead from being
a rock band or punk band or whatever label fits.

The equation between rebellion and youth can also function as  mid-life cop
out in that there are whole generations of people feel exonerated from
pursuing some kind of political activism as 40 and 50 year olds by virtue
of some perceived connection with past modes of youthful rebellion. There
many people for whom the '60's meant growing their hair a  bit longer,
attempting to get laid a bit more frequently and attending a march or three.
There are other people, of course, for whom the same period represented a
very different level of commitment and shifting awareness, but the general
point that protest is the perceived job of youth still holds.

And thanks for taking the time between calls to post a response here John-
it sounds like on hectic day!
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #70 of 85: John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Tue 15 Feb 00 12:56
Well I'm a parent and *I* like Motorhead but I know what Lemmy means. 

David Bowie said about Marilyn Manson that it was all black-and-white,
or just black, no gray areas, but that isn't true, really. And even if
it were true--we need artists who specialize in the 'dark side', who
evoke all the shades of darkness--even if the shades are in the old
sense of the word: ghosts, spirits. Devils? There are, at least, "Six
kinds of darkness"...

It's interesting what you say about the mid life and political
indifference. Often true I'm sure. There were a lot more people
interested in free love and partying and air-guitaring than in
activism, in the 60s, 70s, and there are those, like Jerry Rubin, who
were activists and then went on to become stockbrokers. And there was
Ira Einhorn who (regardless of what he says in the interview in the new
Excluded Middle magazine) murdered his girlfriend; Einhorn used it all
as a front, a device for posing, for powerplays, his real self
revealed when he beat her to death. Those people were there too. "We
won't be fooled again".
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #71 of 85: Richard Smoley (smoley) Wed 16 Feb 00 07:13
I was a tad young for all that Sixties stuff, but I have to say that
from the perspective of This Humble Citizen, it never looked, then or
now, as if the mask was being ripped off.

Instead it always seemed as if the bland, rubbery mask of mainstream
American society had simply been replaced by a new, obnoxious mask.

Today these two have merged somewhat, so that there is plenty of rock
that is bland and rubbery while American mass culture has learned its
share of lessons from the Counterculture about how to be obnoxious. Cf.
just about any ad campaign that you can think of.
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #72 of 85: John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Wed 16 Feb 00 12:15
I know what you're saying, Richard S, and to some extent it was just
replacing one syndrome of automatic-thinking, reactive, vain human
condition with another...though there were exceptions, especially some
of the psychedelic flavored ones. But the old programming has a way of
re-asserting itself...and it did. 

Still if you're talking about punk it's something you sort of had to
be involved in to see the value of. Sometimes it was just trading
posing for posing, as in the punk guy in SUMMER OF SAM (a pretty cool
movie); but sometimes it reached deep into people and broke up their
mechanical-personality armor. At the very least it had far-reaching
cultural repercussions--there are works in the Museum of Modern Art
that would not be there if, say, the Ramones and the Sex Pistols had
never existed. And yes I think that's *good*! Also, punk rock was a
kind of unbridled energizing thing, and still is, where it's authentic
(and authentic examples exist, especially among some of the riot
grrls). It was a shamanistic thing, when it worked, an altered state of
neo-expressionism. A step, for some people, on the way to becoming
realer people. For others just a way station to banality.
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #73 of 85: Richard Smoley (smoley) Thu 17 Feb 00 07:19
Yeah, and there were some advances. Sexual hypocrisy - long a favorite
target of European jibes against America - is certainly less in
evidence than it was.

I should see _Summer of Sam._ Spike Lee has sort of become like Woody
Allen in my mind, though; I guess I just automatically assume his films
are going to be self-indulgent and uninteresting. Though I did like
_She's Gotta Have It_ and _Do the Right Thing_ a great deal.
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #74 of 85: Richard Evans (rje) Thu 17 Feb 00 09:07

SUMMER OF SAM is a very good film and, if you like Spike Lee's early stuff,
well and truly worth checking out.

My comments were not intended as a criticism of those actively involved in
various movements but were directed at those peripherally connected who use
that connection as an excuse for not doing something in the present.

As we near the formal end of this interview John, I just wanted to ask which
fiction form do you most enjoy working in at the moment? Novels or short
stories or screenplays?  And how do you define the differences between short
and long fiction forms? And, of your short stories, do you have any
particular favourites?
inkwell.vue.65 : John Shirley
permalink #75 of 85: FROM MATT RUFF (tnf) Thu 17 Feb 00 11:37

Posting a message emailed to the inkwell-hosts by Matt Ruff:

From: Matt Ruff / Lisa Gold <>
X-Accept-Language: en
Subject: John Shirley/New Rose Hotel

I was just browsing the conference and noticed several folks wondering
about the release of the movie "New Rose Hotel." If you're talking about
the version directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Christopher Walken,
Willem Defoe, and Asia Argento, it's been out on video for a month now.
I saw it when it first showed up at my local TLA, and unfortunately it's
*deadly* dull. I haven't been so bored since I saw Abel Ferrara's last
picture, "Bad Lieutenant."

Richard Evans writes (in post #69) that "the general view seems to be
that it is one of those films that shares only the title in common with
it's source material." In fact this isn't true -- the movie follows the
short story plot almost point-for-point, but somehow manages to leach
all the vitality out of it in the process. There are no FX to speak of,
and perhaps because of this most of the action sequences -- Hiroshi's
defection, the release of the virus in the lab, Fox's death -- are
either moved off-screen or played down in a way that robs them of any
excitement. This would be OK if the characters portrayed by Walken,
Defoe, and Argento were interesting people in their own right, but they
aren't, so the end result is like watching a really long, drawn-out
stage play with lackluster dialogue. I never thought I'd say this about
any film, but it makes "Johnny Mnemonic" look almost brilliant by

-- Matt Ruff


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