John Shirley on horror, the melding of genres, and storytelling (it’s in the genes)

Resident Evil: RetributionJohn Shirley isn’t new to the writing biz: He’s a master of cyberpunk, science fiction, and horror. But those genres aren’t exclusive from one another — they share common traits, and writers often stir elements from them together, like paints from different pots. It’s not much different from the blending of science fiction and fantasy, for example.

But what do those genres — and novel, short story, and screenplay writing, in this case — have to do with video games? Well, a lot. Video game narratives are a form of fiction, but they draw from any genre you can name, including the ones Shirley does best. He’s no stranger to the medium, either. He’s adapted into print the first-person shooter series Borderlands in The Fallen and Unconquered and BioShock in Rapture, and now he’s turned to Resident Evil. Only this time, it’s a book based on a film based on a game franchise: Resident Evil: Retribution(from Titan Books).

John ShirleyFortunately, Shirley has all the right experience and know-how to make it work — from penning screenplays (such as the first one for The Crow) to writing his own novels (like City Come A-Walkin’ and Dracula In Love), short stories (like the Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award-winning collection Black Butterflies), movie novelizations (Constantine and Doom, etc.), and more. So how does he juggle it all?

Misprinted Pages: This isn’t your first foray into sci-fi and horror — you’re something of an expert by now. How is the writing process and creative investment of penning a novelization based on an existing property (like Resident Evil) different from inventing your own original story?

John Shirley: Well, of course, in my own “just John Shirley” fiction — like A Song Called Youth, or Demons, or Everything Is Broken — I have to make up the plot entirely on my own. There might occasionally be some plot point suggestions from an editor, but it’s rare. And I don’t have to take the suggestion. With a novelization, I have to incorporate the entire script into the novel, and that means someone else’s plot. I can add additional plot points — like “B story,” as they say in television writing — [or] subplots, but nothing can contradict the script, the backstory of the script, or the “world” of the franchise. So it’s a sort of dance one does.

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Self-publishing is what you make of it: an interview with the author of The Artemis Effect

A couple Fridays ago, I featured a book cover from a new author, Kasia James. She’s also a blogger, and I’ve been following her writing pretty much ever since I started this site. That gave me the perfect opportunity to reach out to her and ask about her experience, her creative process, the pains of self-publishing, and what aspiring writers can learn from it.

Kasia James (author)Misprinted Pages: Is The Artemis Effect your first book? What is it about, in a nutshell?

Kasia James: Yes, it is, although I have a couple more — which are quite different — in the pipeline. The Artemis Effect follows the stories of three groups of people based in America, Australia, and Britain as they struggle to deal with the breakdown of society sparked by mysterious changes to the moon. It’s fast-paced, character-based science fiction.

You’ve been working on this for about 9 years. During that time, you wrote the book, sent it off to publishers, and then finally chose self-publishing. To get started, let’s talk about your experience writing the book. What inspired you to write this particular story?

Well, to be totally honest, much of the science fiction I’d read up to that point dealt with ideas and technology very well, but rather shallowly with people. I thought that I’d like to have a go at doing something different. I read very widely and eclectically, so it seemed to be a possibility within the genre that could have been more fully explored.

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Interview with Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One

Ernest Cline interview

Mini update time!

So you’ve probably caught on by now: I’m a busy gal.

My boyfriend and I are settled into our new apartment, but it’s a lifestyle change, and that means a lot more responsibility around the house. Plus, a MILLION little things have been going wrong all over the place! I’m super exhausted and sleepy from all the stress as I type this.

My job prospects are looking up, even though I took a small hit this week. So that’s good news. I’m still working hard. :)

Book reviews will return soon! I’ve been swamped with stuff for Kirkus, so A Clash of Kings has been mostly put on hold.

Anyway, I wanted to share my latest editorial for GamesBeat. This time I talked to Ready Player One author Ernest Cline (you remember my review) about his book, his contest — he’s giving away an actual 1981 DeLorean, whoa! — and what comes next.

Check it out, share, and let me know what you think!

Women in games: Buffy Summers vs. Juliet Starling

I wrote another piece for GamesBeat — this time questioning who the real Slayer is, Buffy Summers or Juliet Starling. I interviewed Lollipop Chainsaw story writer James Gunn, voice actress Tara Strong, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer enthusiast Lily Rothman (she contributed to Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion, which I reviewed awhile ago). The article deals with misogyny and the quality of lead female characters in video games.

Let me know what you think. I hope everyone had a fantastic 4th of July!

Sex and vamps: Andy Gavin talks The Darkening Dream

So The Darkening Dream is on sale this week (June 25-29) for 99 cents, and to help with the promotion I interviewed author Andy Gavin. If you read my review a few months back then you already know how I feel about the book, but I wanted to give Andy a chance to speak for himself.

Misprinted Pages: Hi, Andy! Thanks for chatting with me. Before we talk about The Darkening Dream, which is on sale for 99 cent this week, I wanted to say that I’m a HUGE fan of your video game work. The first game my parents ever let me pick out myself was Crash Bandicoot 2 (love, love, LOVE jet pack Crash!). So thank you for being awesome!

Okay, down to business! This interview for my blog might surprise some readers, as I wasn’t too crazy about your book. But when I was contacted about the opportunity, I knew I wanted to give you a chance to defend yourself. As someone who loves games but is also interested in book writing, myself, I know what hugely different mediums they are. What made you want to write a book, and what was it like transitioning from one major industry to another?

Andy Gavin: As a serial creator (having made over a dozen major video games), it was interesting how similar the process was to any other complex creative project. Video games and novel writing are both very iterative and detail-oriented. They use a lot of the same mental muscles.

I’ve always been a huge vampire fan, and I’ve read and watched a large percentage of the oeuvre. But also as a history buff, I wanted to write a supernatural story that was more grounded in real history and legend. I’m always thinking, “That could have been so much better if they didn’t make up the historical backstory,” so I started with the villains. What kind of ancient evil creatures might still be around? What do they want? And what legitimate human reason would they have to destroy the world (Buffy-style)? I don’t exactly answer the question in TDD, because the motives of 5,000 year old baddies should be mysterious. But trust me, they have a plan, and the sheer audacity of it will literally shake the foundations of the heavens.

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