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...
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 11 Feb 00 13:02
From the Internet: From firstname.lastname@example.org Fri Feb 11 13:00:24 2000 Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 14:12:25 -0500 From: John M Alacce <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org 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. ] John, You mentioned writing SF for the Movies. On that subject I have multiple questions. 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 shooting movies using digital equipment. (I think William Gibson wrote a pretty good article on that subject for Wired a couple of months back.)
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 11 Feb 00 13:02
Another question from the Internet: From PRLG@aol.com Fri Feb 11 13:00:50 2000 Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 15:51:37 EST From: PRLG@aol.com To: email@example.com 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 PSYCHUS...you are sorta thinking about re-issuing that one? >From Paula
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?
edited ufo story (satyr) Sat 12 Feb 00 16:14
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!
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.
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 different?
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.
John Payne (satyr) Sun 13 Feb 00 12:39
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.
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!
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.
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.
John Shirley (johnp-shirley) Mon 14 Feb 00 12:26
PPS I mean, it just now came out in some tiny, limited way.
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.
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.
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...
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 material. 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, 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 are 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!
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".
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 <Storytellers@worldnet.att.net> X-Accept-Language: en To: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 comparison... -- Matt Ruff
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