"Savor this book. Savor this writer." - from the introduction by Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box
From Hollywood film studios to high-security psychiatric facilities, there is an art to being a horrible person. Splatterpunk legend John Skipp turns the mirror back on ourselves, showing us all the ways that make us the worst monsters of all.
A decade in the making, The Art of Horrible People collects John Skipp's most horrific, hilarious, and starkly honest short stories, raising horror fiction to gleefully deranged new heights.
"The Art of Horrible People may very well be one the best collections published this year, and we certainly hope to read more by John very soon. By using the genres that made him a household name in Horror fiction, John Skipp's stories transcend those genres, proving art is alive and well and exists in the first place you need to look."– Bob Pastorella, This Is Horror
"The Art of Horrible People is a welcome collection from one of horror's great treasures. John Skipp is a unique and important voice in fiction, and we should count ourselves lucky that he shares his nightmares with us."– Blu Gilliand, Cemetery Dance Online
" [...] ably demonstrates why I love John Skipp's writing. He can shock and revolt you one moment, make you laugh and think the next and then just as quickly make you sit there and shed a tear. It makes me wonder what I have been missing in the intervening years and it is something I am going to change right quick. The Art of Horrible People reminds me of the beauty that can be had from the ugly side of life. A highly recommended read."– George Anderson, Ginger Nuts of Horror
From "Zygote Notes on the Imminent Birth of a Feature Film As Yet Unformed"
I am dreaming a movie. What it is, I don't know. It will tell me when it's ready. Is already whispering to me now, unfurling itself like a softly windswept curtain.
The curtain is a place called Manitou Springs: a lovely little tourist town and art enclave at the foot of Colorado's grand Pike's Peak.
I am struck at once by the establishing shot through my windshield, eyes functioning as an imaginary camera lens. Capturing the colorful storefronts and sturdy Wild West architecture of its main drag, the scattered two-story homes winding up the green hills, the majestic mountain beyond.
The streets bustle with brisk tourist trade: roving packs of jocks and off-duty soldiers, clean-cut American vacationing families, delighted women on boutique shopping sprees, an impressive array of strolling lovers.
But the locals stand out, roughly 50/50 in the semi-dense sidewalk sweepstakes. They are shaggier, more relaxed and at home on these streets. Saying hi to one other, and walking their dogs. Most of them seem pretty happy to be here.
Beneath the surface, however, there is something deeper churning. I can feel it in my bones. Something special about here. Something exciting and strange, galvanizing every speck of sensation I have.
This town feels frankly full of ghosts, and older spirits from nature's weirdest depths, history repurposing itself for a 21st century America that, like me, knows far more than it understands.
I cruise leisurely through its heart in a cheap rental car, my shrunken stroke-addled dad riding shotgun at my side, curious pastel-blue eyes blindly unseeing, head cocked like a cocker spaniel's, a floating half-smile on his face.
"Oh, Dad," I say, over the car's cranked A/C, pushing the limits of his hearing aid. "Manitou Springs is knocking me out. Do you remember what it looks like?"
"Manitou Springs?" he says thoughtfully, every memory a struggle through fog. And as I proceed to describe it, building by building and mountain by mountain, he seems to go farther away. As if rekindling sight-based memory is transporting him elsewhere.
Not just through time, or space, but some other dimension altogether.
That is the wind that stirs the curtain.
After dinner, I bring Dad back to his managed care home, where the slow death of hundreds of elderly bodies smells like Fabreze on old bones. The air inside is heavy with waiting and forgetfulness, but also with a kindness I can't help but respond to. It's so nice to know that honest human concern is at work here, at the end of the road.
We play a round of Yahtzee, and he kicks my ass. He can't see the dice, but he rolls them just fine. I don't have to cheat to declare him the victor. He is happy. That counts for a lot.
I help him make his way to the bathroom for his nightly prep, stand back for his private moments, spend those ten minutes looking at pictures of myself, my mom and sisters, his other late wife, all surrounding him, unseen yet comforting.
He comes out of the bathroom, strips naked and frail as I hand him his pajamas, help him put them on, lead him back to his favorite chair. The nurse comes in, gives him his meds. I say goodnight.
And drive directly to Manitou Springs.