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Black Butterflies

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  345 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
This collection of gritty and intense short stories compares the horrors of the real world to those of the supernatural. Winner of the Bram Stoker Award, the International Horror Guild Award, and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year.
Paperback, 350 pages
Published March 10th 2001 by Leisure Books (first published 1998)
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mark monday
May 09, 2010 rated it did not like it
finally finished this one; ugh what a chore. it was just sitting on my Unfinished shelf, staring me down, and finally i couldn't take it anymore.

Shirley knows how to construct a story, that can't be denied. he has interesting themes, can set a tone immediately, and his characters are diverse and often surprisingly well-developed. he's no hack; he knows how to write. which makes this overrated collection of short stories all the more frustrating. whether writing about junkies, the middle class, t
Evans Light
If you see this review pop up in my status update over and over, it's because I'll be adding reviews for each story as I work my way through the book. Reviews are possibly, but not necessarily, in order.

I've never read anything by John Shirley before (at least that I can remember), but have heard many good things. Fingers crossed.

Now on with the individual story reviews:

***** Barbara

What a great short story! A woman gets kidnapped by amateur thugs hoping to force her to withdraw cash from an ATM
Garrett Cook
Apr 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Writing one good piece of short fiction is hard. Writing one good piece of short fiction that defines a personal aesthetic is really hard. Writing several good pieces of short fiction that do that borders on the impossible. Splatpunk and Cyberpunk meet. Genre disappears and nothing's left behind but John Shirley. This, to me, is what great short fiction collections are about and that's why I consider this to be one of them. There's a lot in here to haunt you.
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Despite all the fawning endorsements and the fact that a couple of these stories were nominated for awards, I found BLACK BUTTERFLIES to be a very sub-par collection of highly-polished turds. By "highly-polished," I mean that John Shirley's prose is excellent, especially when it comes to giving each story a unique narrative voice. But by "turds," I mean that, not only do these stories SUCK in all-caps, they are generally off-putting almost to the point of being offensive. Shirley is considered o ...more
Randolph Carter
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Okay, first off this won the Stoker award. No way is it that good. Second, a lot of people seem to bum out over it's explicit sick (as in unhealthy) sexuality and lack of ANY healthy relationships. That's just what Shirley is doing here, part of his morbid theme. I think you have to go there to get his point across in some of these stories. Third, people seem to turn off at Shirley's almost unrelieved grim world-view. I don't get this. He is just a little less pessimistic than Ligotti about the ...more
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Shirley must be one of the most reckless writers of short fiction in the horror genre. He takes chances which would make other writers blanch, and much of his fiction is precariously poised between the outrageously brilliant and the outrageously ridiculous. Fortunately, the former usually prevails, as in this collection. It contains many stunningly effective tales, such as "Barbara", "Cram", and "Delia and the Dinner Party", and only a few where Shirley's distinctly unusual internal censor ...more
Adam Wilson
Apr 20, 2010 rated it did not like it
Black Butterflies by John Shirley is BY FAR the worst short story collection i've ever read. Compaired to Peaceable Kingdom by Jack Ketchum, Night Shift by Stephen King, Blue World by Robert R. McCammon, and Strange Highways by Dean Koontz, this is a tree who's life should not have been wasted to form this book. Each story seems to me as if were written by a thirteen year old who only cares about sex and violence. Each story is incredibly thoughtless and pointless. This short story collection wo ...more
Smiley McGrouchpants
This Shirley collection brings together (yet another) collection of Stories That Go Places Most Don't Dare: somehow singular, and feeling so right at the same time.

The requisite knowledge of drives and desires and sub-cultural modes (that being: any cultural strata's unspoken rules of conduct & behavior) that Shirley masterfully flaunts his command of like a composer or violin virtuoso "just warming up" with a trill over-and-back-again is something few would know how to fake, or covet, so ra
Lynda Lacasse
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Creepy and dark...Loved it!

Sometimes there's just nothing like a scary bedtime story, and this had more than one. These were all hair raising, and I couldn't stop reading. Recommended to anyone who wants to stay up late reading.
Feb 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-best-horror
Did I love it? Yes. Did I hate it? Yup. Did it take me 5 months to finish? Yeah, yeah. That, too.

Black Butterflies is an anthology that polarizes many readers, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that I, myself, was polarized. Hell, even the book itself is divided into two sections "This World" and "That World," referring to complete reality-based vs. stories with supernatural or science fiction elements.

Several of the stories were top notch, including "Barbara," "The Rubber Smile," "How Dee
I can't remember whether I first heard of John Shirley in the context of cyberpunk, the Church of the SubGenius, or the Gurdjieff Work. Regardless, when I found this anthology at the BOGO sale at the local public library, I was impressed enough by his provenance and diverse preoccupations to check it out, in spite of the horrible cover. (Half off of $1 makes me overlook bad covers, fyi.) As other Goodreaders have noted, Shirley is an excellent writer in terms of concepts, plotting, dramatic tens ...more
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Black Butterflies, by John Shirley, is a collection of horror short stories. It’s broken into two pieces: This World, and That World. “This World” is comprised of stories in the ‘real,’ non-supernatural world. “That World” includes some less-explainable phenomena.

Sex, drugs, street life, sexual assault, and death are strewn all over the pages. This World is lurid and dark. Drug dealers, addicts, and hustlers abound. We find ourselves in the midst of cannibals, affairs, domestic abuse, and drunk
Sep 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
Despite my rating, I would not call John Shirley a bad writer. Not in the slightest. There are some very creative story set-ups here, and some brilliant writing.

But...while I don't consider myself prudish by any means, I really have a problem with writing that is this sexually explicit for seemingly no purpose beyond being explicit. By the end of this 250 page short story collection, I really felt like I needed a shower. The best reference point I can come up with is the later Anita Blake books
May 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: to-be-continued
Two and a half stars.

For gruesome horror that you can't look away from because of how beautifully-written, funny, kinky, weird, and amazing it is, see Clive Barker.

For gruesome horror that's just disgusting, degrading, and more than occasionally stigmatic toward homosexuals and transvestites, read this.

But on the other hand, to be perfectly fair, "Barbara," "Rubber Smile," and a couple of others were kind of nifty. For those, I'll not dismiss Mr. Shirley entirely - but I'm done with this book.
Spencer Distraction
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
"Cram". A short story about an earthquake in the Bay Area that focuses on the people that are on the BART, UNDER the gawdsdamned sea, going vertical as the earth opens a hole to swallow the train, & the mofo water starts to seep in. AW HELL NAW! After reading this (years ago) I have not been able to ride the BART without thinking of this and needing xanax. Shivers...
Sep 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
Shelves: gave-up-on
i read the first story in this collection and that was it for me. just awful. terrible, horrible, choose your own adjective. not well-written AT ALL, and i felt dirty reading it. if only there were an option for zero stars.
Jul 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
This is by far my favorite John Shirley book. I don't care for short stories but this book is fantastic. The stories are strange and strangely horrific in an interesting way.
Joseph Duffy
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Twisted, entertaining, dark, never dull.
I believe I picked this book up at a bookstand in an airport. It has got to be one of the best short story anthologies I have ever read. Very dark, very psychologically twisted.
code name brindelle
Jan 19, 2016 marked it as to-read
Jan 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
Spooky and engrossing. I read this a few years ago, yet a few short stories still stick relentlessly in my brain.
Count Jared
Apr 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing collection, but how do you get over a 5 out of 5?
Jan 11, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: horror-books
If you like weird stuff that's nasty for the sake of being shocking, then you'll probably still hate this book.
Allan Dyen-Shapiro
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Short horror fiction by a master; half the book realistic horror, half supernatural. Highly recommended--horror doesn't come any better.
Anna Hutson
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Jan 12, 2010
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Nov 16, 2011
Jack Tripper
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Mar 06, 2015
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Jan 21, 2009
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Jun 02, 2011
Jason Lester
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Apr 03, 2012
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Goodreads Librari...: Page Count for 0843948442 3 13 Jul 31, 2013 06:12AM  
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John Shirley is the author of more than a dozen books, including Demons; Crawlers; City Come A-Walkin’; Really, Really, Really, Really, Weird Stories; and the classic cyberpunk trilogy A Song Called Youth: Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona. He is the recipient of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award and won the International Horror Guild Award for his collection Black But ...more
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