» Bibliography
» Biography
» Blog
» Books
» Courses
» Email
» Films


Columbia University Press

February 2015
128 pages
4.25 x 6.75 inche
ISBN 978-0-231-17211-0
$15.00 paperback
$9.99 kindle

CUP Publicity
Erin Larson

Cultographies Editors
Ernest Mathijs
Jaimie Sexton

Book Design
Elsa Mathern


John Carpenter
Roddy Piper
Ronald Reagan
Big 80s
Cold War Museum
Cripple Fight
8 O'Clock in the Morning


Born from the cultural flamboyance and anxiety of the 1980s, They Live is a hallmark of John Carpenter’s singular canon, combining the aesthetics of multiple genres and leveling an attack against the politics of Reaganism and the Cold War. The decision to cast professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as his protagonist gave Carpenter the additional means to comment on the hypermasculine attitudes and codes indicative of the era. This monograph traces the development of They Live from its comic book roots to its legacy as a cult masterpiece while evaluating the film in light of the paranoid/postmodern theory that came to fruition in the decidedly “Big 80s.” Directed by a reluctant auteur, the film is examined as a complex work of metafiction that calls attention to the nature of cinematic production and reception as well as the dynamics of the cult landscape.

They Live is a cultography published by Columbia University Press's imprint Wallflower Press, which specializes in books on cinema and the moving image. Cultographies provide a comprehensive introduction to films that have attained the coveted status of cult classic, focusing on their particular appeal, the ways in which they have been conceived, constructed and received, and their place in the broader popular cultural landscape. Find out more at www.cultographies.com.

© 2015 Columbia University Press

"Wilson cagily weaves philosophy and sociology into his analysis of the film, couching possible interpretations of the film in genuine science and educational paradigms, while still appreciating the film for what it is, be it cult lunacy or eye-opening wake-up call." San Francisco Book Review

"This cultography works as an academic-ish text with much to offer students and scholars who have at least an introductory knowledge of cult and/or literary criticism. They Live carves out a niche in cult studies, standing as an example of enthusiastic, informed scholarship. Cult film scholars, especially those working in SF, horror, or Carpenter’s oeuvre, must seek this book out." SFRA Review

"Wilson gets what makes They Live live. With all the virtuosity of 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper performing an inverted atomic drop, he grapples with the many dimensions of Carpenter's movie. From the critical, political and schizoanalytical to the simulacral and tonsorial, his short book chews bubble gum and kicks ass." —Mark Bould, Reader in Film & Literature at University of the West of England, author of Science Fiction: A Routledge Guidebook, editor of Neo-Noir, and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Science Fiction Film & Television

"D. Harlan Wilson's They Live is an ideal contribution to the cultographies project. Written by a critic fully aware of relevant discourses such as wrestling, fan culture, and historical reception past and present, this is a very stimulating and still timely analysis of one of John Carpenter's key films. Highly recommendable on all levels, especially those of enjoyable and informative reading." —Tony Williams, Professor/Area Head of Film Studies in the Department of English at University of Illinois-Carbondale and author of Hearths of Darkness: The Family in American Horror Film and The Cinema of George A. Romero: Knight of the Living Dead

"A great study of a great film—it not only provides an array of historical contexts for understanding the film, but succeeds as an introduction to essential film theory as it relates to cult cinema and kitsch. Very different than Wilson's bizarro fiction, yet reading this book can help to understand the author's thinking about text and reveals his deep affinity for—and critical facility with—the power of counter cultural narratives. Recommended to anyone familiar with the film." —Michael A. Arnzen, Professor of English and Chair of the Humanities at Seton Hill University and author of Play Dead and Grave Markings

"The book They Live reframes the film They Live through creative, compelling critique. It makes an elegant case, time after time, for taking this film seriously as well as science fiction cult cinema more broadly." Extrapolation

"Wilson is a force to be reckoned with. They Live is sharp and academic but not alienating in any way." Shock Totem

D. Harlan Wilson is a novelist, short story writer, editor, literary critic, playwright, biographer and Professor of English at Wright State University-Lake Campus. In addition to over twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, hundreds of his stories and essays have appeared in magazines, journals and anthologies throughout the world in multiple languages. Wilson serves as reviews editor for Extrapolation, editor-in-chief of Anti-Oedipus Press, and managing editor of Guide Dog Books.

cv website blog twitter facebook