by John Skipp

Original Art by Laura Long




A IS FOR ALPHA

Above, somethings slither with ponderous weight.

Below, they are tearing off pounds at a time.

In the stands that surround the blood pit, the Audience leans forward as if their heads were every bit as heavy, watching as the man with the ancient Oscar takes a swing at the kid lining up for nomination, the statue’s skull a jagged thing that severs as it thuds.

The kid is good – his last three pictures made money, and his blade cuts swift and deep – but the chunk of skull that crunches free at this moment lets just a little too much air in, directly on the brain.

He crumples, spraying, and already praying that the next project won’t be this fucking hard. Maybe a sequel wouldn’t be so bad, after all. Got to be better than this.

The elder survives, maimed and poked full of holes, but gets to fight one more heavyweight A-list round.

Approval gurgles, unearthly, from the rafters, where the real decisions are made.

Barely heard, above the Audience’s hypnotized cheers.


B IS FOR BIG OPENING WEEKEND

When the 100 million dollar remake of It Conquered the World didn’t, it was a disaster to end all disaster movies. Not since the epic fail of the American Godzilla had a monster so huge fallen so short of expectations.

They’d made billboards of skyscrapers, plastered every bus in L.A. with the creature’s odious eyes, put John Hamm and Harrison Ford on every talk show in existence. It wasn’t enough. It finished eighth, with a weekend gross of $3.6 mil. The talking hamster film took sixth.
So when the flying saucers appeared over Hollywood Way in Burbank on Sunday, many suspected it was a last-ditch effort by Warner Bros. to pump some life into the thing.

But when the beams of searing power rained down from above to liquefy the water tower, raze the sound stages, and carbonize Keanu Reeves, it was time to guess again.

Turns out that the aliens were just as sick of big-budget miss-the-point bullshit as everyone else.

On the other hand, the Discovery Channel has gotten reeeeeal popular, all of a sudden.



C IS FOR CREDIT

It’s worth its weightlessness in gold.
(Or, at least, so I’ve been told.)
That’s why they’ll slice and gut you clean
To see their names up on the screen.



D IS FOR DIRECTORIAL DECISION-MAKING

Derek’s got the shot all figured out. He’s worked with his DP and production designer for months, in pre-production, visualizing every speck of the scene. Choreographing every camera move. Rehearsing on computer, in pre-vis, so that the hundreds of extras mill about in just the right ways as the helicopter zooms in over the villa, stops to hover overhead, then gently lowers our POV down toward their upturned faces (a Steadi-rig lowered to a waiting cameraman on a rooftop, who snuggles into the harness as a stuntman pretends to grapple with the villainous Dieter Meyer: our suggested point of view).

The camera then head-butts the stuntman and runs down the stairs, past apartments whose doors fly open, extras cowering as it passes, one after another, whipping from floor to floor to floor until the front door looms at the end of the corridor that we whip toward, then kick our way through, out into the street.

The crowd parts, and Dieter (the camera) plows forward, up the plaza and around the bend, past dozens of persuasively terrified extras and our leading lady before closing in on Daniel Day-Lewis – a hero, this time – surging forward to collide with the camera
All in one unbroken shot.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well…

The cable snaps, as the camera’s lowered. It falls fast, straight on the head of the cameraman, whose skull caves in as he buckles to his knees, the footage still rolling…

…and the stuntman wrenches the camera free, proceeds to do what he’s watched the cameraman do a hundred times in rehearsal, running through the door and down the stairs and into the street, then through the crowd, turning right where he’s supposed to…

…just as the helicopter crashes into the street before him, extras ducking and diving and crunching beneath it, blades hacking through the last resistant limbs before the engine ignites, and the fireball plumes…

…and the camera catches it all, in the seconds before the stuntman is blown back, upside down, and out.

Just long enough to see what happens to our star.

It’s stupendous.

Only then does Derek yell, “CUT!”


E IS FOR EGO

I am who I say that I am. And whatever I believe myself to be is precisely what I’ll be.
There is nothing I can’t accomplish, no goal I can set that can’t be met. No sight is too high. No prize out of reach.

If I can picture it, it is already mine.

I am broken inside, and I came to this town to prove that I was someone. Someone special. Someone with something to say. The place that I came from had no use for me. They didn’t get me. They didn’t want me. I couldn’t get laid to save my life.

But I’ve shown them. I accomplished, baby. I did the thing I said I’d do. They can’t turn on the TV without running the risk of seeing me there. Bigger than life. Bigger than them. Being seen. Being heard.

Being remembered.

While they are forgotten.

And I say to myself, “Who the fuck are you? I know famous people. I am famous people! Doesn’t it make you sick, knowing that nobody knows who you are, or gives a shit about you, past your handful of stupid friends? Doesn’t it make you sick, knowing that millions of people love me? Or at least know who I am? Doesn’t that make you hate yourself?”

I hate myself. But I am learning to love. Learning to love the people who say they love me. I love them back. I am grateful. Oh so grateful. Because I am special, and they know it. Not like you.

Not like you.

I am who I say I am.

Please love me.

You wouldn’t believe how incredible I am.


F IS FOR FAME

It’s the best. Flat-out. Everything they said it was. All it’s ever been cracked up to be. All that and more.

The greatest drug in the world.

Once you taste it – once it tastes you – no other experience will do. Without it, reality shrinks and constricts like psychic Saran Wrap, gets smaller and grayer and less alive, under tight nerveless skin.

The unseen gods – those that slither through the rafters – secrete it from their vast oily pores. It spoots, pools, and spreads through the Tinseltown vastness overhead, lolls down long organic unearthly Lovecraftian flumes: a black syrup that eventually droozles humanward, one thick invaluable drop at a time.

One spritz of it will turn you for life. To bathe in it is incomparable bliss. And the line to the blood pit is incredibly long.

When they talk about being in the right place at the right time, they are measuring it in droplets of fame.


G IS FOR GOFER


Gary’s a gofer (also known as “P.A.”):
A production assistant, kept running all day.
If he’s not getting this, then he’s going for that,
Fulfilling their whims at the drop of a hat.
When he finally drops dead, out of stress and fatigue,
They’ll call in for Gus, Mary, Teri, and Teague.
If his sister can’t do it, they’ll go for his cousin,
Cuz fucking P.A.’s are a dime a dozen.


H IS FOR HEAD SHOT


Hailey works the front desk at Hollywood Head Shot. Her eyes are the questionnaire. She observes the hopefuls as they fill out the form, slaps her x in the appropriate box, and passes it on.

Dr. Harvester scans the form in the moment before the next client comes in. Notes the x, but reserves the right to decide for himself. He shoots celebrities, after all.

Hayden Horowitz enters, takes his seat before the red screen, and assumes the facial position. You always want to open with your winningest smile. But the nose is not right. Sorry, pal. Good call, Hailey.

BOOM. Shot lined up, and wetly taken. Hank comes in to drag him out and put him on the pile out back.

The next girl is gorgeous, and her pictures turn out fine.


I IS FOR INDIE


Every year, thousands of bold renegades and hapless dreamers storm the citadel, hoping to make it past the clamping jaws that are the gates of the Machine.

From idiosyncratic individualists to idiot savants to amateur idealists to I-obsessed cannon-fodder, they feed themselves into the dragon’s mouth, hoping to make it down the gullet with their bodies and souls intact.

The blood pits await, for the chosen few.

But most just lube the gates.


J IS FOR JADED


Jason used to love movies. That’s why he came.

But every film that succeeded, while all his projects failed, just killed whatever voyeuristic joy he had left.

He still has his standbys – his Kubricks, his Coppolas, his Casablancas and Citizen Kanes – that he will fight to the death to defend. But they’re just bulwarks and bludgeons against the vast unworthiness that constitutes modern cinema today.

Jason drinks a lot, screaming at his TV.

And nary a droplet falls near.


K IS FOR KISSASS

In Hollywood, there are at least a thousand for every successful asshole.

This may help explain why many so many successful Hollywood assholes grow an extra ring of teeth.


L IS FOR THE LUCKIEST MOTHERFUCKERS IN THE WORLD


Their careers have spanned decades, and defined those decades, with signature works that illuminated their times, becoming personally and indelibly iconic in the process. Throughout it all, they have maintained a clear commitment to their artistic visions, and their truest selves.

They have found personal peace through following their path, trusting their instincts, and always giving back one thousand percent to their audience. They’re so sure of their craft that they’re not afraid to help others, guide them through with passion and devotion and honest love for the joy and privilege of the process itself.

They’re amazing, they’re legends, and we never forget them, long after they have drowned in glorious fame.

You wouldn’t believe how many people hate those lucky motherfuckers.


M IS FOR THE MONEY, HONEY

The only thing almost as good as fame.


N IS FOR NO

The most popular word in Hollywood, and the last thing you hear before you die screaming.


O IS FOR OPPORTUNITY KNOCKIN’


“So I’m on the bus, with the rest of the extras, heading out into the Mohave. And everybody else is just bullshitting, talking up how famous they’re about to become, or complaining about how hot it’s getting, and how cool it would be to duck into your trailer as the star of this stupid movie, instead of burning up like everybody else.

“But I don’t even have to listen to know that’s what they’re saying. The standard yammering blah blah blah. Meanwhile, I’m absorbing the script, which I plucked off of Otto’s bootleg site. Figuring out the movie we’re being paid $65 a day to stand around in. Getting to know it by heart.

“So we land at the location, and everybody gets wardrobed up. I make sure I’m at the front of the line, so I nab a nice dress, and get to the makeup artists before they’re all worn out, and still have time to get my bearings. Make some friends in the crew. Suss out the lay of the land.

“It’s the first day of shooting, but the leading lady is already a notorious pain in the ass. Won’t come out of her trailer even to check out the location. Making the director come to her. Clearly not learning her lines.

“So the first shot of the day is a crowd scene. And I am right up front, big-boobed and ebullient. The DP likes me, features me in much subsequent coverage. Loves my enthusiasm, my red hair, my tits. He confers with the director, who nods as he smiles and stares.

“Half an hour of this later, it’s time for the leading lady to come out. She doesn’t. They wait, pick up a couple more B-roll shots. She still doesn’t come. A P.A. is sent. Minutes drag by. The tension mounts.

“The P.A. returns, white as cocaine. The leading lady’s in a coma. Quite probably drug o.d. Panic hurricanes through the production.

“That’s when I walk up to the Director of Photography, tell him that I’ve memorized the script. He says, “WHAT?” I tell him how. He tells the director. Rinse and repeat.

“Bottom line. I’m the new star of the film. The dumb bitch dies. The publicity is stunning.
Plucked out of nowhere, I rise to the challenge, and the top of the field. Rags to riches, overnight.

“So is that luck? No. That’s preparation. And that is my advice to you.

“When opportunity knocks, you open the door.

“Open it quietly.

“And don’t leave fingerprints.”


P IS FOR PRIMA DONNA


There are some people – some extremely popular people – who are not worth going through the motions with.

They’re just horrible, horrible human beings. Egos reduced to reflexive scar tissue and a truly deranged sense of boundless entitlement, psychopathic in their ability to project empathy onscreen, while personally having not a speck of their own.

Sometimes, you will have to work with them. Sometimes, it’s not so bad. If they fear you enough to respect you, but not so much that they have to destroy you, you can have a really good time with them. If they didn’t have talent and charisma and drive, these Donnas would be utterly prima-free.

Polly is a perfect example. She’s America’s Sweetheart. Her eyes are so blue, her skin is so perfect, her smile so incandescent that boners sproing, and wives mournfully dream of somehow impossibly topping that act.

You don’t know how many eyeballs she ate to get just that shade of blue. How many skins she peeled. How many boners she beguiled. How many charms and wiles she gobbled, worked for years to refine and perfect.

Dr. Harvester supplements his income by feeding her the freshest parts. She is entitled to them. Cuz God knows they didn’t deserve them.

“I try to take a little something from everyone I meet,” she says in interviews, with a flash of her pearly whites. She’s more than smart enough to know how important that is. She also eats hearts, just to remember how they work.

She is hell on wheels. And we love her to death.

The love is all hers.

And the death is all ours.


Q IS FOR QUITTERS

The line is long, but they’re still standing in it, though their knees ache all the way from their hips down through their shins. Belinda leans lightly on Colin’s frail shoulder, but a good breeze might easily topple them both.

“You got a light?” says some straggly hipster kid with no right to be here, sidling up beside him.

“Go fuck yourself, Junior,” Colin snaps, already turning his back.

“Wow,” the kid says. “Really?”

“Wow. Really. Yeah.” Colin fires one up, just for spite, starts spontaneously hacking as the smoke hits his one remaining lung.

The kid starts laughing, and Belinda hobbles forward, saying, “You are a very rude young man.”

“What?”

“Show a little respect.”

“All I wanted was…”

By then, the coughing is under control, and Colin turns back. “Let me ask you something, buddy. How long have you been in line?”

“Almost six months…”

“Whoa. Aren’t you the little trooper.” Colin hacks and cackles. “You won’t last a year.”

Colin started young, at his mother’s behest. It’s been sixty-three years since his first audition. He’s seen ‘em come and go so many times over you’d think he’d lived lifetimes, just standing still.

Belinda Quinn is younger, but more stooped at the shoulders. Those boobs hadn’t gotten any lighter over the last forty years. Less enticing, perhaps.

But that didn’t mean you quit.

Up ahead, someone lets out a groan, and a couple of women scream. You can’t see through the throngs, but Security moves in; and a couple minutes later, the meat wagon is there.

Johnny…” goes the whisper up and down the endless line. “Omigod…it’s Johnny Wade…”

“Such a shame,” says Belinda. “He was very talented.”

“Quitter,” Colin hisses, as they wheel the corpse away.


R IS FOR REWRITES

Robert hands in his draft. It’s the fifteenth so far. Only three of them were his: numbers one, three, and this.

They come back to him when they realize they have totally lost their way. That takes a lot of balls, after all they’ve been through; but one look at Draft Fourteen shows precisely why they need him.

“It’s not my monster any more,” he says simply. “Everything that was scary about it is gone. All I did was bring it back to what it is.”

They agree, tell him they respect his vision, and reject it anyway.

The movie gets made, eventually. It sucks. Everybody knows they blew it, but nobody seems to care.

Down in the basement, Bob and the monster eat the dog food, then the dog, then the hapless dog-walker. Sated, they go home, and he returns to the word processor, whips up another saga, simply changes its name.

The monster, God knows, is still scary as fuck. And marketable, too. If they only knew how.
You really oughtta see it sometime.


S IS FOR SHARED TOP BILLING


When the aliens finally met with the things in the rafters, there was a lot of initial tension. Turf wars are never pretty. Much blood and fame were spilt.

But as it turns out, they had a lot in common. Ancient creatures with ancient bloodlines are bound to meet and commingle, every couple of eons or so.

A compromise was worked out. A sort of co-production deal. The fame-droozling worm-things kept the entertainment rights. The chitinous space-things claimed the minerals, slaves, and such.

All the other Elder Gods of Earth promptly folded, under vastly superior firepower. Governments, nations, religions crumbled.

“WHO’S YOUR DADDY NOW?” the aliens asked.

And the human race said, “GAHHHH!”

But the fact was, the aliens just weren’t funny. And the worm-things were masters of the human heart. They knew us better than we knew ourselves.

We have worms in our hearts.

And so it was decided.

We are governed by others, much larger than us. And we will never beat them. We are pets at best, possessions at worst. They will tell us what to do, and we will do something like it.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not worth entertaining.

You get better enslavement that way.


T IS FOR ME AND MY TV

My home is now in Sensurround.
I will not trade what I have found.
And I control all that I see
Forever.
Me and my TV.

There is no crowd.
I’m really loud.
You hate this flick?
Well, suck my dick.
I masturbate in privacy
Forever.
Me and my TV.

So now, in every living room,
We build our altar and our tomb.
United in our separation.
A different tool on every station.
Bamboozled by technology,
Still gaping at Three’s Company

As all alone as I can be
Forever.
Me and my TV.


U IS FOR UNRELEASABLE


There is no longer any such thing. Just because nobody sees it doesn’t mean that it’s not there.

Smaller worms – fame-free, oozing failure – are also a vital part of the ecosystem. They see to it that the unwatchable still shows up: on the internet, if not on DVD.

Rare indeed is the seeker, these days, who makes his or her mistakes in private. Why should they?

In this system of waste, everything still gets eaten.

Weirdly, sometimes shit tastes even better than Shinola.


V IS FOR VIAGRA

When Clive Barker made Hellraiser, back in 1987, the governing body of taste known as the MPAA forced him to cut one of his sex scenes for “too many consecutive buttock thrusts”. The number was three.

But since the advent of Viagra, the MPAA has massively slackened that restriction. Leading many to believe that members of the MPAA are now capable of more than three consecutive buttock thrusts.

It’s a brave new world out there.

And believe me, we’re not complaining.


W IS FOR WASHED-UP

You peaked at age 3, in a cereal commercial. They said you’d eat anything. The Audience smiled.

But the older you got, the more they never wanted to ever see your face again, as adorable morphed somehow right past normal to genuinely unpleasant.

It didn’t matter how many eyeballs you ate, how much stolen skin you slapped over your own, how many times you tried to cut back in line. You were done. Living pathos, from that moment on.

Too bad you can barely remember your heyday.

Kids. They grow up so fast.


X IS FOR XXX


When you can’t get paid to fuck in Hollywood, you know these are desperate times. Hippy-dippy ’67 “Summer of Love” my ass. This is the free love.

Everyone’s giving it away.

Used to be that pay-per-view softcore porn in hotel rooms made more money than the rest of Hollywood combined. Average viewing time was roughly four minutes.

Thank God they’re now offering snuff.

The average viewing time’s roughly the same.


Y IS FOR YAWNING

They’ve been at it for seventeen hours, seven days in a row. Grueling, yes. But Yolanda learned early that there is one thing that you never ever do, especially in overtime. No matter who you are.

So when Wyatt starts to squinch his eyes, and his mouth rolls open, she swats him hard in the balls, hoping his yelp happens fast enough to cover.

But no, the yellow beam has already pegged his forehead; and the 1st A.D. – the director’s right hand – has already turned, rage and panic in his eyes.

“Don’t blow it,” he hisses. “Don’t you fucking dare. We need you.”

Yolanda, the script supervisor, pats Nolan Wyatt on the back and leans into his ear, saying, “You’re the director. You’re the leader. If you show how tired you are, you let them think it’s okay to be as tired as they are.”

“I know…” Wyatt moans. “I’m just…”

“Look,” Yolanda says.

An extra has already followed his example. The yawning comes naturally. She couldn’t fight it any more.

The yellow beam moves from Wyatt to the extra, turns red as it focuses on her head. The red helps conceal the spritz from the hole that blows open, kicks her back off her feet.

And nobody yawns for the rest of the shoot.

At $12,000 a minute, you just don’t have time for that shit.


Z IS FOR ZZZZZZZZZZ

“So what did you think?” I ask, as we leave the theater. My date’s eyes are glazed, but her mouth is open as we lockstep down the stairs.

“I don’t know,” she says. “It was kind of fun.”

“Me, too,” I say. And then she starts to slump and snore.

I wake up just in time to catch her, already falling in concert with her. We are in love. At least I think we are. And this movie argued persuasively that we are on the right track.

I feel the worms in my heart start to wriggle through ventricles, clearing out fat as they keep me alive. “I liked the car chase scene,” I say, helping her up.

“The love scene was good,” she says. “I believed it.”

“Me, too.”

“Good chemistry.”

“So cute.”

She teeters, snores some more.

I catch her even before she collapses, try to remember why I love her. A woman staggers past in a short black dress, and I try to remember why I want a piece of that.

Hypnosis is its own reward, and letting go is the heart of happiness. Given the choice between knowing and not knowing, the answer is so simple I don’t even have to think.

We sleepwalk our way home, and through the rest of our lives.

The commercials are the loudest.

In our dreams, we are buying it all.





ALPHABETIZE THIS!

THE HORROR DRIVE-IN INTERVIEW:
JOHN SKIPP


Horror Drive-In: You’ve always been a troublemaker, from the earliest 80s splatterpunk days. But “Alphabet Soup” is something else. How did this unusual piece come about?

John Skipp: Well, you asked for a cinema-intensive horror story. And I found that I had shitloads of them, but they were all really short, and straight to the point. Much†like screenwriting itself.

And I’ve been on a big short-short story kick lately – there’s something really gratifying about something you can write in a night, and read in under five minutes – but I wanted to give you something more substantial, to contextualize matters. More of a kaleidoscopic, multifaceted fly’s-eye view.

So I adopted the A-Z form often used by children's books -- and skillfully mutated-for-grownups by guys like Edward Gorey, Harlan Ellison, and Adam-Troy Castro -- to pull together 26 self-contained-yet-interweaving little Bizarro chomps at the leash that binds us.

Interspersing hideous truth with fanciful madness and whimsy is pretty much what storytelling is all about. At least horror storytelling. And at least for me.

As for why I titled it as I did: HEY! It's what's for breakfast!

HD-I: John, “Alphabet Soup” seems just a tad---cynical. I know you've had some dealings in Hollywood. Are you bitter?

JS: I don’t think bitter is the word, because Hollywood doesn’t owe me anything I didn’t actually earn, or successfully talk it into. But I can’t say that I’m not often disappointed by its behavior, or appalled by its grim applied psychologies.

I don’t think it’s cynical to recognize a deeply fucked-up situation when you see one. It’s more like disillusion, which means “dispelling the illusion”, which is probably healthier than just buying the bullshit.

When I run into genuine cynicism, I’m put in mind of Oscar Wilde’s definition: a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing. To which I would add: a man who thinks he knows the value of everything, but nobody else does, cuz they’re all too goddam stupid, so why even bother? Now THAT’S fucking cynical.

By that standard, there are an awful lot of cynical people in Hollywood, plying their godawfully cynical strategies every day.

But there are also tons of incredibly gifted and positive people – people I dearly love and admire – fighting hard for every speck of quality and integrity they can land; and they account for every single good-to-great film ever made.

And, yes, great films still get made, which is the proof in the pudding.

But again: you asked for a horror story, so that’s what I gave ya. I could just as easily write “Skipp’s Hollywood A-Z of Awesomeness”, and it would be just as funny, and just as revealing.

In fact, I better get on that quick, before everyone thinks I’m just a sour old fuck. (laughs) Fact is, I love this town, and I really love movies, and have not given up at all. It’s just taken longer than I thought it would. But then again… so has everything else. And a lot of that is on me.

HD-I: Publishing is rapidly changing. The biggest thing is the rise of the e-book. What do you think of the technology? Do you prefer reading actual books or doing it with a device?

JS: I don’t have a device, so for now I’m stuck with print on paper, and do not mind it a bit. But I see lots of people happily reading off machines, so what’s the problem? They’re reading. That’s probably good.

HD-I: Times have changed since you entered the world of publishing. Do you think it's easier or tougher for a young writer to break into the market now?

JS: Depends on how you look at it. Mainstream New York is going through some painful changes, much like the Hollywood it has so woefully modeled itself upon. The economy’s kicking the shit out of everybody, and every publisher large and small is fighting to survive. Just like everybody else.

But out of that come alternatives, and DIY strategies that inspire the plucky entrepreneur. Smaller publishers will fill and are filling the gap, as we speak. You just have to be scrappy, alert, smart, and flexible.

One publisher I love, and that I’m doing cool work with, is Eraserhead Press, the Bizarro flagship run by Rose O’Keefe and Carlton Mellick III. They’re building a stunning little empire out of outsider status, legit weirdo talent, shrewd marketing, and unparalleled love and devotion.

I just spent the weekend at BizarroCon, just outside of Portland, Oregon. It was a small but very focused and profoundly enthusiastic event, in which a number of new careers were launched, and many others were nurtured. Working entirely outside the normative box.

Some of these writers are actually making a living, or supplementing their living in meaningful ways. And this is as outside the mainstream as you can possibly fucking get. Bizarro is a literature of weird that defines itself as the literary equivalent of the cult section in a really cool video store.

But cults can get huge, if they successfully reach and satisfy their surprisingly-immense audience. Amazon carries them, they’re everywhere online, and they stage public events at conventions and book stores, promoting their wares with enormous Merry Prankster-like gusto.

This shit is about to take off. I’m not kidding. I’m totally throwing down with these young geniuses. I think we’re gonna start working the college scene, too – Bizarro’s sooo dialed for that zone – and it’s never unwise to head for where the open minds are. Unless, of course, you don’t have one.

That is just one example. Others will arise, if they’re not up already. (Insert your favorite, here!)

Point is: it’s always hard to break in. But there are ways and ways. This trying time is no different.


It all depends on what you’re trying to do, and who you’re trying to do it with, or (on the other hand) to.

In any case, GOOD LUCK! You’ll need it. But so has every other writer who ever lived.

Doors close. Doors open. Pay attention.

And write from your heart. There is no substitute for genuine passion. Although serious skills are nothing to sneeze at. Even the best intentions will only get you so far.

HD-I: Recent changes at Dorchester Publishing have delayed your Cody Goodfellow collaboration, Spore, but I understand that it will be coming later next summer. What else can your fans look forward to?

JS: Actually, the word is that Leisure will make Spore available as an ebook in December, so you don’t have to wait six months before the trade paper comes out. If you have a device, that is.

And Cody and I just struck a deal with Larry Roberts at Bloodletting Press, to release it as a limited edition hardcover, at the first of the year. With astonishing art by Steven Gilberts. Another cool market still in existence, and a book I can’t wait to hold in my hands.

It should be noted that Spore is our sentient-fungus-fueled L.A. cocaine zombie novel, set on Thanksgiving and whacked as shit, with an honest-to-God 250-some-page car chase and some of the most explosive urban mayhem I’ve ever had the pleasure to parlay. Cody and I are fiercely proud of this full-tilt twenty-first century multicultural motherfucker. It’s got a love story, and everything! (laughs)

Past that, The Light at the End just came out as an ebook from Crossroads Press. Rumor has it that Animals is right on its tail. Not sure about Leisure’s other ebook assets (The Bridge, The Long Last Call, Jake’s Wake), but am hoping to be able to give you the word on that soon.

Meanwhile, my phonebook-sized anthology Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters With the Beast Within just came out, with stories by Neil Gaiman, Chuck Palahniuk, Angela Carter, Bentley Little, Francesca Lia Block, Charlaine Harris, Cody Goodfellow, Carlton Mellick III, Jeremy Robert Johnson, plus Lansdale, Schow, Lovecraft, Saki, and so many others it’s ridiculous to count. 18 of them originals. Several from first-time authors.

This is from Black Dog and Leventhal, a company that does not normally deal in horror, but has created a niche for gorgeous, definitive textbook collections that suggest very long shelf life.

(Last year’s mammoth Zombies: Encounters With the Hungry Dead gave me a chance to log a “Zombie Greatest Hits” collection. I think it’s the best zombie anthology I’ve ever been involved with, featuring tons of the best Book of the Dead/Mondo Zombie–era stuff, plus King, Bloch, Bradbury, Brooks, Sturgeon, Gaiman, George Saunders, and on and on. You want the history of zombie stories, from the first Haitian voodoo to the latest post-post Romero weirdness? That’s what we’re talking about. And the new ones are just as profound.)

I also just re-released The Emerald Burrito of Oz on Eraserhead Press. This is a novel I wrote with my friend Marc Levinthal, and it’s not horror, but it’s probably my favorite one of all.

It concerns an Earth-style corporate/military attempt to turn Oz into a nice little theme park, and meanwhile seize the magickal mineral rights. To which Oz says, “Go fuck a duck.” And from there, shit goes hog wild.

It’s delirious fun, and totally Bizarro before the term was coined: a propulsive action/fantasy adventure with zombie munchkins, a scary-ass Tin Woodsman, and lots of sex, drugs, and cheerful ultraviolence. It’s also very sweet and respectful of its origins. I love it like crazy, and urge you to check it out.

I also just guest-edited the new issue of The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction, with great stories by Cody, Jeremy, Robert Devereaux, and a bunch of my very favorite new authors, including Amelia Beamer, Nicole Cushing, Cameron Pierce, Leslianne Wilder, and Violet Glaze. I’m especially proud to present the first published story by my eldest daughter, Melanie. And it’s a doozy.

Right now, Cody and I have new short stories we love in The Living Dead 2 (“The Price of a Slice”), Classics Mutilated (“The Happiest Hell on Earth”) and assorted other venues. I’ve got new solo pieces in Shock Totem #3 (“Worm Central Tonite!”), The Walri Project (“First Natural Bank”), and Hungry For Your Love (“Apocalypse as Foreplay”), the zombie romance anthology (that one under my hot chick pseudonym, Gina McQueen).

Cody and I are writing the screenplay for an original haunted insane asylum movie called Number One for director Andrew Kasch (Never Sleep Again: The Elm St. Legacy). The novel will follow.

I’m also wrapping up funding on Rose, my most dearly beloved 3D zombie feature film with puppets and musical numbers, which I hope to be directing early next year.

I’ve got six other films in development right now. And five more novels in the works, both alone and with Cody.

And finally, a book of my original screenplays called Sick Chick Flicks is due out next spring (I think) from Cemetery Dance.

I know I left some projects out – Skipp & Goodfellow’s The Day Before (on Bad Moon Books) is another one of my all-time favorites – but I guess the point is this.

I’ve been really busy, and there’s tons of stuff to read for people who want to catch up.

Thanks, Mark! Always a pleasure! And I hope people enjoy the nice story. (It’s bound to be popular in Hollywood!)

HD-I: Thank you, John.





John Skipp is a New York Times bestselling author, editor, zombie godfather, compulsive collaborator, musical pornographer, black-humored optimist and all-around Renaissance mutant. His early novels from the 1980s and 90s pioneered the graphic, subversive, high-energy form known as splatterpunk. His anthology Book of the Dead was the beginning of modern post-Romero zombie literature. His work ranges from hardcore horror to whacked-out Bizarro to scathing social satire, all brought together with his trademark cinematic pace and intimate, unflinching, unmistakable voice. From young agitator to hilarious elder statesman, Skipp remains one of genre fiction's most colorful characters.