It's not so much that you can't pin a label on John Shirley -- it's that so many are appropriate. He writes fiction that is uniquely his own -- but it has been labeled as science fiction, noir, horror, post modern literature, erotica, magic realism, dark fiction, suspense, fantasy, etc. He's a television and film writer; lyricist, frontman, musician; essayist...all the labels are appropriate, but no single one is enough.
Shirley's also the original cyberpunk: His novel City Come-Walkin' provided William Gibson with the precursors "both of sentient cyberspace and of the AIs in Neuromancer" not to mention mirrorshades and a "post-punk milieu...cp to the max, neatly pre-dating Bladerunner."
Shirley's day job back then was writing science fiction, at night he was fronting punk bands in clubs. Rock music wasn't just a juvenile foray, either. He's still at it. He recorded Red Star with the Panther Moderns in the late nineties and has provided lyrics for both of Blue Öyster Cult's recent albums, Heaven Forbid and Curse Of The Hidden Mirror. (More in the Music section.
Along with SF novels like Transmaniacon, City Come-Walkin', Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona he was writing books like the suspense thriller The Brigade, the surrealistic A Splendid Chaos, and Three-Ring Psychus ; he was also authoring "action-thrillers" under a pen name or two; and he was writing horror like Dracula in Love, Cellars, In Darkness Waiting, and Wetbones. He returned to SF with his 1996 novel Silicon Embrace.
He became a screenwriter, bringing James O'Barr's comic book hero the Crow to first life, doing television episodes for shows like Profit, Poltergeist, VR5, and Deep Space Nine. He's also scripted animated episodes for the likes of "Batman Beyond" and "The Real Ghostbusters.".
Along with the screen work and the novels he continued to produce uncompromisingly unique short stories. A variety of stories from a twenty-four year span were collected in 1996 in The Exploded Heart along with autobiographical bridges. His earlier collections -- Heatseeker and New Noir -- had already respectively gathered some of his edgy SF and literate noir.
But the stories that most readers ran across in numerous anthologies in the 90s were dark -- sometimes bleak, but often wickedly humorous -- a new kind of horror. Stories based in the very real world with indelible characters facing moral dilemma or dealing with their obsessions. Other stories were surreal or dealt with a supernatural that came from some strange nightmare reality that we can only hope is safely beyond our own. A collection of his unique indelible dark/noir fiction, Black Butterflies, was published by Mark V. Ziesing in 1998 and, as Publisher's Weekly put it -- "Shirley has a reputation for being one of the edgiest, boldest writers around -- a reputation that will only be enhanced by this first-rate and fierce collection..." Publisher's Weekly later named it one of the "Best Books of 1998." Black Butterflies was also honored by the Horror Writers Association with their Bram Stoker Award for Superior Acheivement in Horror (Collection) and the International Horror Guild Award, as well. Black Butterflies was also published in a mass market paperback edition.
One of the stories reprinted in Black Butterflies, "Cram," won the International Horror Guild Award as Best Short Story for 1997. Two Shirley titles: Really Really Really Really Weird Stories from Night Shade Books and a U. S. paperback edition of Wetbones were published in 1999. New tradepaper editions of the trilogy A Song Called Youth -- Eclipse, Eclipse Corona, Eclipse Penumbra -- were released in 2000 from Babbage Books. Demons, a limited edition short novel from Cemetery Dance Publications was published in August 2000, dubbed a "mini-masterpiece" by critics, and immediately sold out. Demons -- in an expanded version including new material -- was published in 2002 by Ballantine DelRey. A trade paperback version followed in 2003.
Shirley's novella, The View from Hell inaugurated 2001, followed by another novella, Her Hunger, that was featured in Night Visions 10, edited by Richard Chizmar, from Subterranean Press. Her Hunger is currently under option for a film. Collection, Darkness Divided was published by Stealth Press in March 2001. Novel ...And the Angel With Television Eyes (Night Shade) came out in December 2001 and Spider Moon (Cemetery Dance) was published in 2002. Ballantine DelRey published his novel Crawlers in November 2003.
Shirley's nonfiction work, Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas (Tarcher) -- an accessible re-telling of G.I. Gurdjieff's life and methods -- was published in 2004.
In 2005, a new edition of Shirley's cult classic novel In Darkness Waiting appeared followed, in 2006, by a new edition of Cellars. He also wrote more than half-a-dozen novelizations and media tie-in novels during those years.
June 2007 saw the publication of another stellar short story collection: Living Shadows: Stories: New and Preowned. The Other End, a novel of an alternative apocalypse, was published in May of the same year. Shirley returned to scie nce fiction in 2008 with novel Black Glass. Bleak History, a dark urban fantasy was published in August 2009. A novel based on the hit game Bioshock will be published in 2010.
After living at various times in Oregon, San Francisco, New York City, France, and Los Angeles, the author has settled down again in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Michelina. A former street actor for the Renaissance Faire, Micky now works for a non-profit organization in San Franscisco. Shirley has three sons: Perry and Byron (twins) and Julian.
Special link: The Mysterious Rosie Shirley