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Today's guest is well known to some of you - not so much to others...the ever entertaining John Skipp...I stole the following bio from the site John and I both contribute to: Storytellers Unplugged as an introduction. Now, without further ado...

"John Skipp is a New York Times bestselling novelist turned filmmaker, satirist, cultural crusader, musical pornographer, splatterpunk poster child, purveyor of cuddly metaphysics, interpretive dancer, and all-around bon vivant.


He lives just outside of L.A., and is enjoying his comeback very, very much"

DBJ: John, I have known you, or known of you and been loosely associated with you, for a very long time now. When you and Craig exploded onto the scene as – basically – dark fiction rock stars, I was there. I saw the magic at NECON, and again at World Horror Convention (the first one, I think…) At that time, I got a very different “vibe” from you than I do now.

In between we crossed paths several times, as your books evolved through DEADLINES, and then ANIMALS – and beyond. I watched you guys play CURE songs live, and discussed DEADLINES with you and how it came to become a novel, despite the fact it really wasn’t.

JS: This is true. (DBJ:Succint...very minimalist in approach. I like this answer)

DBJ: There is a certain maturity in your writing now, and in your nonfiction posts, where in the early days it was all electricity. It’s still electric, but there is more control to it – more purpose. Can you chart that course without writing a novel? What brought that cocky young author to the status of cocky mature author? What were the strongest influences over time?

JS: Do you even fucking realize how many questions you just asked? (laughs) I mean, SHIT! Coming off of that, I’m way more interested in what YOU observed than in what I observed!

I mean, you never know how you actually come off until somebody honestly tells you. In the meantime, you just do what you’re doing. You just be who you are. Until somebody holds up a mirror, and catches you in it, how do you even KNOW?

So let’s see. How to answer?


Like most young writers, I struggled hard as a kid. Got enough rejection slips to paper the walls of my room. But once I started selling, I started selling hard. It wasn’t a long leap from “The Long Ride” (my first sale to TWILIGHT ZONE) to THE LIGHT AT THE END. Which promptly sold a million copies.

So I was an angry, intense, incredibly lucky and determined young man who got validated big-time by the horror audience, and the Powers That Be. I was an “overnight sensation”, who’d only worked for years to get there; but once I was there, I was like, “FUCK, YEAH! I’M HERE!”

And I went to town, pushing it as hard as I could.

I remember a big, manly guy from Harrisburg, PA, once telling me that he had never SEEN a guy so short swagger so fucking hard. Which made me laugh at the time. I guess he’d never met Napoleon.

But now I look back, and wonder: how arrogant was I? I never meant to be a prick – I always felt I was a sweetheart, at heart – but I gotta wonder how I really came off.

So – to answer your big question – as a young man, I had enormous confidence in my talent. But I didn’t like myself very much. I felt like my mission was to use my work to turn myself into someone worth being. And in the process, try to make the world a better place.

Because helping people make sense of all this was what I wished someone would fucking DO FOR ME.

And – in the process – I guess that kind of worked out.

I’ve spent years trying to turn myself into the person I always hoped I really was.

And if I’m not quite that person, yet, IT AIN’T LIKE I’M NOT WORKIN’ ON IT!

To wrap this thread: you remember the old MAD MAGAZINE strip, “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions”? There was one in particular, which always struck me.

In it, there’s this incredibly wrinkled old man, splayed out on a hospital bed, with all kinds of tubes stuck into him.

And this young reporter sticks a mic in his face, and asks, “So…to what do you attribute your long life?”

And the old man says, “TO THE FACT THAT I HAVEN’T DIED YET.” (laughs)

You know? Maturity comes from not having died yet. You fucking live long enough, you gotta hope you learn SOMETHING!

I have learned to be largely at peace with myself.

That’s probably the difference you noticed.

DBJ: You’ve been very vocal lately about these “Horror Times” we live in, and you have made a call to other writers of dark fiction to come together and write things with more purpose, and meaning. Things that will influence the world around them in a positive way – things that don’t crumble to the cliché graveyard the second the ink dries…and so, I flip the coin.

What are you working on – and what do you have planned – to fit this mold? How do you take up that challenge and make good on the promise that horror fiction makes to the world, in other words…that we can warp the hell out of anything, and then show them the dark side of it before offering a ray of (at least very dim) hope that it will/can be better?

JS: The obvious problem with this question is that it asks me to talk about what I’m working on. Which I ain’t gonna do. Cuz that’s just not how it’s done.

All I can say is: my work has always been socially conscious. That’s what I like. That’s what I do. That’s something I’m always looking for, in others.

If you read my work – from “The Long Ride” up through CONSCIENCE, and THE LONG LAST CALL – that’s an element that has never wavered. I always make a point of telling stories about things that I care about, deeply. Otherwise, what’s the fucking point?

So rest assured that my new book, and the other books a-coming, and the films I’m trying to make, all share that goal in common.

And the new anthology I’m pulling together – inspired by my essay, BECAUSE THESE ARE HORROR TIMES – provides a chance for a bunch of my favorite authors to kick precisely that same kind of ass.

It’s just a good thing to aim for, is all.

If you’re going to spend all the time it takes to tell a good story, it should at least MEAN fucking something.

If you know what I mean.

(Note from DBJ: - I *tried* to get him to talk about what he’s working on … it’s all one can do. It’s like dried up old David Letterman poking and prodding Lindsay Lohan to find out if she’s dating while he tries to stare down her dress…going nowhere, but worth a glimpse…)

DBJ: Besides the prose, you have always had one leg over the side of the ship, so to speak, dangling it in the waters of the silver screen and music. Creativity can wear many faces, and there are a lot of obsessions one can choose from.

Are you still actively pursuing other areas – such as screenplays or musical recording? How difficult was the choice to focus mainly on prose when you have obvious talents in many directions?

I ask this knowing you still live in LA, so you aren’t far from epicenters of the music and film industries…any truth to the rumor you intend to show up on “America’s Got Talent?”

JS: Is that a REAL reality show, or just a horrifying idea for a reality show?

The fact is: I love movies more than anything. And I spent most of the years I was away studying film. Putting myself through film school. Building a small-scale digital studio. Learning everything I possibly could about every aspect of the mechanics of film. Shooting. Editing. Finance. Marketing. You name it, I’ve been stuffing it into my head.

I’ve got one movie that people are actually putting money into. REAL money. Hiring key pre-production staff. Meticulously storyboarding the film, shot by shot. Doing the music. Heading toward casting the cast and crew. And budgeting/scheduling every bit of it out.

It’s amazing, all the work that goes into this shit.

So…umm…I guess the answer is “yes”.

DBJ: You have been called (by yourself on your website) a “PURVEYOR OF CUDDLY METAPHYSICS”. I don’t even know where to begin to ask you the basis / philosophy, creed or credo of such a thing, and so…I’m asking. Please…Cuddly Metaphysics 101? For me?

JS: Oh, jeez…

In a nutshell? God is a perpetual-motion machine, running forever in every direction. All light. All dark. All possibility, incarnate.

Infinitely capable. Infinitely intelligent. Infinitely responsive, and infinitely loving.

Every thing that ever lived exists smack-dab in the center of the universe. Which is to say: GOD EXISTS AT THE CORE OF US ALL.

The trick is in knowing that. And never forgetting.

Feeling isolated, and alone, is the heart of darkness.

When we think we’re alone – cast adrift in an alien and hostile universe – that’s where the terror kicks in. And that’s terrifying shit.

But once you realize that you ARE connected – that you’re the center of the universe, and SO IS EVERYBODY ELSE – you can relax behind difference. You can relax behind the struggle.

Life is still terrifying, yes. But that’s the meat talking. That’s the temporal form.

The REAL YOU lives forever, insofar as I can tell.

So there’s this chunk of meat and memory that calls itself John Skipp, or whoever. And it’s fun, while it happens.

But that’s just scratchin’ the surface of what’s REALLY going on.

In other words – in the immortal words of Bill Hicks – IT’S JUST A RIDE, BABY! It’s just a fucking ride.

We are here to do what we can. To learn what we can. To experience what we must, in order to take it to the next order of magnitude.

So death is not the end.

There IS no end.

And I gotta tell ya: it’s hard to write scary horror fiction when the whole notion of death is no longer all that scary.

So you know what scares me?


Pissing away opportunities to connect with others. To understand others. To help others, and to let them help you. Pissing away the chance to make this life as amazing as it can be.

My cuddly metaphysics are built around the notion that life is astoundingly full of riches. Infinite riches.

And I write horror because we consistently fall SO SHORT OF THAT. And it fucking horrifies me. Because I know how good it can be.

And I know how bad it so often is.

And rest assured: THERE IS NO BOTTOM. No end to how bad it can get.

But if that’s true, then THERE IS NO TOP. No end to how high you can rise.

So if that’s my fucking NUTSHELL, just imagine what I’d say if I had a whole lifetime to express it!

Which – in my experience – is what we get whole lives for.

To express what really matters to us.

In ways that others might find useful, and understand.

DBJ: Standard Deep Blue Interview question number 5: You have until tomorrow to come up with an idea for a new story. You can either have transportation to anyplace in the world you want to go – a library with all the world’s books at your fingertips – or a similar library of the world’s music. Which do you choose for inspiration – and why?

JS: Oh, man. That one’s EASY!

Since we’re talkin’ about stories, I’d head straight for the books. Pack my brain with information that I didn’t already know, so that my thoughts started jangling in unprecedented ways.

I love learning. It’s one of the great joys of being alive. I love being around interesting, inquisitive, engaged human beings who resonate with the deep soul-substance of life. I love being part of this adventure, this experiment, this crazy-ass thing that we’re all in together. I fucking love it.

It makes me happy.

As such, I’ve realized that even happiness is possible.

So, back to the question: I’d pack my head with fascinating facts. Go “THAT would make a cool story!”

And then buckle down to actually write the sonofabitch.

You can find out more about John and his work at his website, JohnSkipp.com




( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 11th, 2006 05:48 pm (UTC)
Quotable stuff...
"Chunk of meat and memory"...best definition of a human I've ever read. Thanks for that Skipp. Rounds out my education. I was mentored by a conman who defined God for me: "Somewhere there's a man mightier than me..."

-- Sully (Thomas Sullivan)
Jul. 11th, 2006 05:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Quotable stuff...
He does have a way with words, huh? Good to see you stop by, Sully...

Aug. 21st, 2006 03:44 pm (UTC)
Having met Skipp in '76 and pal'd around with with him for maybe a year or two.... I'd have to say, "John (Skipp), it's time to get out of the box. Besides you there ain't nothing solid in there but a damn dog's head, stuffed and exquisitely mounted on a wooden pedistal. You been peddlin' that dang thing now since you was a teen and its starting to stink! Even Jack had the sense once to get out of the box and look what happened to him"!
Should i remind him about those wooden nickles he used to barter when he was a "carpetbagger"? HEEEEEEEEYEEEAAH!

Go for it, hombre. There's 'gold' in them thar heels.

Just in A (per) son
Aug. 21st, 2006 04:04 pm (UTC)
Just so John can find this, I'm replying to unscreen it...

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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