Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Author profile--John Shirley





This is a continuation on a series of posts that highlight authors that not only do I think you should be reading, but ones I should be reading more of.
John Shirley is a punk.  I do not mean that as an insult, rather as a mere statement of fact.  He is an accomplished punk musician...so no wonder his prose makes you feel like you've been kicked in the teeth.
My introduction to Shirley's writing came in 1994.  I was living with my friend George and we were both anticipating the film adaption of The Crow that year.  Though eager to see it, I had thus far been disappointed in comic book movies and I expressed concern over how such a unique and stylized work as O'Barr's could ever transfer to the screen.  George told me not to worry.  One of the writers doing the adaptation was by the name of John Shirley, a horror author who was a favorite of his and that the matter should be well in hand.
I was not disappointed.  Oh sure, The Crow had your usual concessions to Hollywood crowd pleasing, but that's the in the source code of the business.  Still, it managed to keep the spirit of the graphic novel, even giving it a bit more of a linear narrative and more weight to the ending.  Later, much later I'm ashamed to admit, I sought out more work by Shirley.  Since I'm not big on horror, I turned to his cyberpunk works.  "Freezone" came first.  It might be literary PR cliche to call it "a chilling look at an all-too possible future," but that's the best way to put it.  So this is where unrestricted free trade gets you?  Then I turned to City Come A-Walkin'.  What's not to like about a novel where the consciousness of entire city is represented in the form of one man?  Mindbending.  Once you start, you'll keep going if for no other reason than to see how the hell he ties everything together.

I've got more to go in this cyberpunk godfather's bibliography.  In the meantime, I'll just enjoy his postings on Facebook and you should too.  He's got the kind of approach that I like: post an article that you've found interesting, say your piece on it, then let the wolves have at it, sometimes biting and tearing at one another to acquire the scraps and make them their own.  
John Shirley's writing is not for everybody.  That's because he doesn't compromise and I get the distinct feeling that he is almost always writing for himself before anyone else.  That to me is the sign of an artist (not sure how many of those we have left in fiction.)  So if it is "your kind of thing," then Shirley will give you a textual mountain to climb, one fraught with harrowing turns, steep and jagged cliffs, and really, really fucked up shit that you never saw coming.  All of it worth the ride, even if you have to read it twice to get it.

Next up in my John Shirley cue: Silicon Embrace.


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1 comment:

  1. And since we're friends on Facebook, perhaps he'll even cross the digital divide and grace me with a comment or two.
    Hey. Could happen.

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