The Official Unofficial John Steakley Site

The interview took place on November in the randomly selected chat room located at Please note, I was not the only person chatting w/ John, but for simplicity and ease of reading, I've edited this document into the form of a one on one interview. Please also note that the internet was very slow, which is why the conversation seems a little out of sync at times.

Steakley HERE.  I THINK I'm here. Dave?

Alpern John? Welcome! You finally made it!

Steakley This is Steakley.

Alpern Any problems "finding the place?"

Steakley Only took me 40 minutes. Finally remembered that your address was blue. So I tried just clicking it. Voila.

Alpern I was gonna give up at 10:15, but for some reason I held on. I'm certainly glad. Anyhow, I would like to thank you for taking the time to chat here. If the situations were reversed, I'd probably be at the Stones show.

Steakley Very kind of you. Nothing wrong with Mick et al. But I saw the Beatles live and that is something they have never, in my 6 or so viewings, even equalled.

Alpern Wow, the Beatles live... I feel so young. So, how are you enjoying the internet? Not too confusing, I hope.

Steakley Oh, no. It's wonderful. Like going to Hell in a Waring blender.

Alpern Ha ha! Hang in there, you'll get the hang of it. Anyhow, I certainly hope you won't mind me asking you some questions about your books?

Steakley Shoot!

Alpern Great! Well, first and foremost, everyone I've talked to wants to know WHEN YOU WILL PUBLISH ANOTHER BOOK!

Steakley Let's start with the soft questions first. You never know, podner, this very conversation might determine something.

Alpern Okay, we'll start with the soft questions then. How about a little biographical information for your fans... where you were born, were you went to school, etc.

Steakley 7/26/51 Cleburne , Texas. Then Dallas in 62. Private school. College. My only ambition was to be a Chevy dealer like my father.

Alpern Wait a second... Steakley Chevrolet, right? I did a search on your name before starting my page, and there's a Steakley Chevrolet in Texas... is that your father's?

Steakley Yup.

Alpern Wow! Small world! So is that what you did before you started writing? Sold cars? What was your major in college, by the way?

Steakley Why is this so slow? Is it me?

Alpern No, this is about normal. The internet tends to get choked on weekends.

Steakley My major was supposed to be business. But my Daddy thought I would learn busines DOING business. He suggested English Literature. I said: "Okay." Whoops...

Alpern Hmm. So how did you become interested in Writing? And why Science Fiction?

Steakley "Red Planet" was the first actual novel I ever read. I thought writers ...authors...were faggoty guys with quill pens. But I read and finished and LIKED "Red Planet". Didn't know it was written for kids. Thought it was a grown-up book. Read all of him.

Alpern (My face is red...) I'm not familiar with that one...

Steakley Heinlein

Alpern Ah, Heinlein. Then I guess you must have read Starship Troopers? Was Starship Troopers at all an influence when you wrote Armor? A lot of people make the obvious comparison, although I think Armor is better.

Steakley READ IT? Are you kidding? I stole it outright. Except for plot, characters, style of writing and dialogue - Hell, it's the same book

Alpern Ha ha! Interesting. I'd say same plot maybe, and a similar world, but the stories are quite different. Almost a homage to Starsip Troopers.

Steakley Almost? Very kind. If Bob could write action - the only thing he could NOT do with words - then I wouldn't have had to write ARMOR. Joey Haldeman told me the same thing. He would never have written "The Forever War" if Bob (Heinlein) wrote action. I wouldn't have written "Armor" if Joe hadn't written HIS theft

Alpern But I have to ask, in Starship Troopers, the main character's mother was killed when the bugs attacked Buenos Aires. In Armor, someone asks Felix if his family was in South America, and if he was there for revenge. Was that a nod to Starship Troopers at all, or am I imagining things?

Steakley Dave- Yes! Of course! Exactly. I'm pleased you spotted the South America bit. Most do not.

Alpern Ah, the Forever War, another of my favorites. So you've met all of these guys?

Steakley Yes. Met them all. Mr. Heinlein was kind enough to send me word that ..."I really liked ARMOR the second time more"

Alpern That's got to be great, getting comments from the Big Guy like that.

Steakley Dave, there is nothing better than hearing kudos from the Man. Dave.. tell me about yourself.

Alpern Sure, John! What would you like to know?

Steakley Age, job, wierdnesses. Ever seen "Misery"?

Alpern I'm 25, I was born in Morristown, New Jersey but now live in Charlottesville, Virginia. I have a degree in Computer Science from Syracuse University, I'm happily married, I currently work for the Depart of Motor Vehicles doing administrative work. My favorite hobby (besides computers) is brewing my own beer. I saw Misery, but liked the book a lot better. But I do have a pig named Felix... (just kidding).

Steakley Dave- that's an amazing coincidence. I was 25 once. Well..twice. God held me back a year. Something about a bad attitude

Alpern John, you kind of dodged the question before. Armor was such a great book, is there a sequel possibilty

Steakley Okay, folks. Do you think Felix survived? If so...How? This is no test. I'm truly interested in how anyone would envision Felix's survival

Alpern His armor allowed him to survive the blast off-then he was able to gain access to the ship? Time and again throughout the book, Felix survives what would seem like an impossible situation. Even the people from Golden refuse to believe he's dead until they produce a corpse. He could survive this.

Steakley I'm with you, Dave.

Alpern I understand that Vampires will be a movie- are you involved at all?

Steakley It's John Carpenter's film. His deal all togetther. Even dropped the $ at the end of the title. Used all my dialogue but almost none of the plot.

Alpern So John, Armor came out in '84, and Vampire$ around '90... What else have you written, if anything?

Steakley Dave- I make low-budget motion pictures. Write them. Produce them.. Even acted in the first one. It was dreadful .

Alpern But what about an Armor prequel? Or books from the Armor universe, not necessarily with Felix? You could flesh out this great big universe, and tell some of the stories that are hinted at throughout.

Steakley Dave- no prequel. Nada. Never. No way. But it MIGHT be a trilogy.

Alpern WHOAH! A trilogy! That would mean you have another book in the works, and are considering a third, wouldn't it? What about Vampire$, John? Starship troopers led to Armor, what was the inspiration for Vampire$?

Steakley Vampire$ was inspired by a late-nigh conversation with an incredibly beautiful woman. Named Davette.

Alpern Davette, like the book... That reminds me, I read that the names of your characters come from people you know...Who's Felix?

Steakley Only two characters ever are from people I know. David Cherry - Cherry CAT> A sf illustrator. His sister is CJ Cherryh. And Davette Shands. Here's the fun part. Knew and loved them both. They didn't know each other. After the book they met, fell in love, got married and now have a daughter. And they say God has no sense of humor...

Alpern Really? Mark Bright's John Carpenter web site has an interview with a guy who claims to have met you at a party. He said Crow came from a friend, too, and that most of your other characters did, too.

Steakley Carpenter web site? Okay. Met him at a party. Possible. The rest is ... well...

Alpern Out of curiosity, you HAVE seen my web site, haven't you?

Steakley Seen it? I was astonished by it. Terribly flattered. Of course, every time I get a fan letter I'm surprised. This may or may not be a good sign.

Alpern Some people have suggested you're doing something akin to Michael Moorcock's "Eternal Champion" works.

Steakley Got a great Moorcock story. Wanna hear it?

Alpern Yes!!!

Steakley Very nice. Okay. The Moorcock story. Sitting at dinner with my agent - He buys a serious meal for all of his authors once a year At the world fantasy convention. So I'm eating and boozing w/ everyone at the table. Guy next to me is funny and sweet-natured and a smart ass. In other words ...perfect. Got an english accent. Being a Texan, I overlook that. No body heard anyone's name when we all sat down. Turns out this guy, Michael - which has now become Mickey after seas of scotch, is, in fact, Moorcock. I'm stunned. I am stunned and impressed and it pisses him off that I am stunned and depressed and he wants to step outside to prove< force>by force of arms that I am a better writer than he.

Alpern Wow, getting loaded with Michael Moorcock. So did you take him out back and beat the crap out of him?

Steakley So we have the same agent. He was the guest of honor at the World SF convention this year and wee hid out together. "John...Who are therse people?" "Michael, they have READ you. They are, given the slightest chance, your friends."

Steakley Michael is like Groucho, who once said: "I'd never join any club that would have someone like me as a member."

Steakley Dave- You do not fight 60-ish writing heroes.

Alpern I think you could have taken him, John.

Steakley You just try to out-drink them and...what was the question?

Alpern I can't remember, we got sidetracked by that Moorcock story. Which reminds me, are you trying to avoid talking about your books?

Steakley I, of course, am not. I'm a godlike creature. Just check my diary for verification. Yes.I'm stalling. But I will answer. Go ahead.

Alpern Okay, why did you use the same character names in Armor and Vampire$?

Steakley I used Felix in 6 films, 2 short stories and both novels. By the way, guys...what does Jack ARMOR...look like?

Alpern Let's see. Jack was gray atfirst, from Lynsalt dust and Puryn. And he's not too tall, because he dwellson how big Twala is. Crow is definitely caucasian (he says he's pink, after a shower). I'm cheating, of course, I have the book in front of me.

Steakley James Woods does Crow in Carpenter's Vampire$.

Alpern I get the impression that he's average height and weight - no one recognizes him until he tells them his name. But he has a sort of wiry quickness and agility, given how quickly he beats the crap out of people.

Alpern Crow in Vampire$ is completely different, though. You describe him as a big, hulking kind of guy.

Steakley Jimmy Woods and Daniel Baldwin and... remember Maximillian Schell?

Steakley Dave- Jack Crow is never described in ARMOR. Only his age is mentioned

Alpern Any particular reason? Or did you want to leave that up to the reader?

Steakley OK. There is a basic flaw in the plot of ARMOR. An important character dies offstage in a maner inconsistent with everything we know about his character. That's the hint. Who is the character? If you guess thiat, you will know why there should be a sequel AND what the sequel must be about

Alpern Important characters in Armor - Felix, who may or may not die...Crow,who I believe survives, and Kent... How did Kent die again?

Steakley I have given you all the clues.

Alpern Doh! I have to admit I haven't read Armor in several years. I'm currently rereading it, but I can't remember. I'll have to pay special attention.

Alpern But does this mean you're actively working on a sequel, John?

Steakley By the way , Carpenter's version has almost nothing to do with VAMPIRE$

Alpern I got that impression. Why did he change it so much? I mean, it's one thing to change the plot, but for God's sake, why did he have to take out Felix???

Steakley Dave- I fucked up. Unconsciously, no doubt. There is somethin wrong with the tale which demands finishing. Closure.

Alpern So how did Vampire$ become a movie? How long ago was it optioned?

Steakley January. 1990.

Alpern That's right when it was published, isn't it?

Steakley 9 days after I finally sent it to the publisher.

Alpern They liked it that much?

Steakley It wasn't even edited yet

Alpern Wow! That should have told you just how good it was. Have there been any other deals on it before Carpenter picked it up? Any other talks of filming it?

Steakley Lawrence Gordon. Independent producer. "48 hours" "Die Hard"'s He bought it in... and I am not kidding...typewriter form. I had no computer in those days. In fact, somebody told me I wrote the last bestseller in history on a typewriter

Steakley VAMPIRE$ is a failure. I cannot read the sumbitch.

Alpern Why do you hate Vampire$ so much?

Steakley V$ has no ending.

Alpern It has an open ending! It's one chapter in the struggle that started years ago and will continue for years to come! I would have been dissappointed if Felix had killed every Vampire in the world.

Steakley I was going thru a tough time while I was trying to finish V$. I couldn't turn the key when the time came. Couldn't even remember what I had been meaning to do. More clear, not longer.

Alpern It's too bad you feel that way, John! A lot of people really, really like Vampire$. I emailed you a list of a dozen links to web pages that mention you (and none of them are bookstores, there are plenty more of those). People really like your books, and with the movie coming, it could be big again.

Steakley Very nice of you to say that.But..think of it. Which book had a better ending?

Alpern Honestly, Vampire$. And you mentioned clarity, I thought Vampire$ was more clear. Armor was very, very interesting in how it wasn't told chronologically, and how the Crow story fit into the Felix story, but Vampire$ felt a lot more coherent to me.

Alpern Armor almost seems like two short stories, with the Crow parts put between to tie them together.

Steakley Y'know, my friends hated V$. "It's just like talking to you", they would say. Yeah. That was the idea. Then one of 'em said" Well..Duh! Nobody but us ever gets to talk to you so I guess it would be new out there...

Steakley ARMOR took 3 weeks to write part one. 2 years to write 2-4, 3 weeks to write the rest.

Alpern If I were you, I'd take my friends, and hit them. Very hard.  Honestly, read the comments on the websight for both books, people really love both! The action scenes are so emotional, they really capture the confusion and fear of fighting. And the despair of the man fighting in a lost cause. And I guess it started out as you trying to put action into Starship Troopers?

Steakley Very perceptive Mr. Heinlein said as much.

Alpern Can you give me more information about your movies, John? And your short stories? Were they written in college, or did you get them published?

Steakley Wrote and sold 4 short stories. Two in "Amazing". Two in Robert Adam's "Horseclans" anthologies. Two ... or maybe Three Nebula nominations.. No wins

Alpern Horseclans... My stepmother used to read those. Could you get me the publishing information so I could track them down?

Steakley Are they out of print? He was a big deal when he was alive. He was my closest writer frfiend. When he died his widow offered me ANY of his posessions. I chose the ash tray beside his computer.

Alpern Ha ha! Do you smoke? (I meant the info on the Amazing issues).

Steakley Hated his work. He hated mine. But I was hot in those days and he wanted me in his anthology and you simply do not turn down certain requests

Steakley OK. Start again. This delay is confusing my answers. RE "Amazing"?

Alpern Right, sorry. You had two stories published in "Amazing", could you tell me which issues? And which Horseclans books are you in?

Steakley "The Bluenose Limit" was the first prose of mine ever printed under my own name. Then..."Flyer". Dunno. 83' maybe? "Friends of the Horseclans" I'm in both. But I doubt they'll mean much unless you've read at least one of Bob's Horseclan books.

Alpern Under your own name? Have you been published under a penname?

Steakley I have never used a penname. You know what ghost writer means?

Alpern So you wrote under someone else's name?

Steakley I have never written under some one else's name.

Alpern If I understand it right, a ghostwriter is hired to write a book that will be published under another author's name.

Steakley Right. A ghost writer does the work for$. The celebrity or, in my case, celebreties, get the credit for the woresmithing

Steakley Sorry you never met Robert Adams. One of a kind. Big as a house. Loud. Obnoxious. A closet softie

Alpern The more you describe them, the more I think I'd like all these people. I guess I have a tendency to imagine science fiction authors as snooty intellectuals.

Steakley Snooty intelectuals? Truly? Is that how you imagine them?

Alpern I guess so. I don't know why.

Steakley You like our shit. What makes you think we are so different from yourself?

Alpern I don't know. I guess it's silly, isn't it? But I like movies, and I can't imagine most actors are terribly nice people.

Steakley Actually, I LIKED James Woods. More than a little. But I don't know him. I didn't spend 30 minutes with him. "I wish we were doing the book" is all he would say.

Alpern You've met Baldwin? Then you've been on the set of Vampire$?

Steakley I was on the set.

Alpern What did you think while you were on the set? Is the movie going to be good? Why DID Carpenter change it so much?

Steakley He was told, AFTER being on location, that his budget had been cut by almost a third. What kind of mood would you be in if you were told to do all your work by today? By 3?

Alpern I guess that would cause some serious changes, wouldn't it?

Steakley Dave, It's got almost nothing to do with my tale. When Carpenter found out he couldn't do what he wanted...couldn't go to Rome couldn't do..a lot of things...I think he was already on his next project one week into filming. Nice guy, Carpenter. Don't blame him even a little bit,

Alpern Damn. Well, I'll probably see it anyway.

The conversation broke up soon after that, as it was well past 1 AM by then. But I would like to again thank John Steakley for coming out to meet me and his other fans, and to encourage him to wrote his next book soon!

© 2004 Dave Alpern