Shiner began his career as a science fiction writer, but then identified with cyberpunk, and later wrote more mainstream novels, albeit often with magical realism and fantasy elements. He was formerly a resident of Texas (and a member of the Turkey City Writer's Workshop), and now lives in North Carolina. Shiner graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1973. Several of his novels have rock music as a theme or main focus, especially the musicians of the late 1960s; for example, Shiner's 1993 novel Glimpses considers the great never-recorded albums of The Doors, Brian Wilson, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. Say Goodbye: The Laurie Moss Story (1999) focuses on a fictional up and coming female musician and her subsequent fall back down. Slam (1990) is immersed in skate punk and anarchist culture. Perhaps because novels with music as a major theme are not generally considered mainstream genre material, his work has frequently been overlooked. He is a contributing author to the George R. R. Martin edited anthology Wild Cards, notably creating that universes most powerful character, the tantric sex magic wielding pimp, Fortunato. In July 2007 Shiner created the web site Fiction Liberation Front (FLF) as a venue for his short stories. The stories are released under the Creative Commons license and are available in HTML and PDF formats. He has written a small manifesto explaining why he did this. On July 22, 2007, The News & Observer began publishing a weekly column by Shiner, titled "Graphic Scenes", about comics.