Inhuman Swill : December 2009

The problem isn't that Luke sees dead people. The problem is that dead people see Luke.

w/William Shunn
Friday, January 8, 2010
7:00 to 9:00 pm

Time and Again
1239 W. Cortland St.
Chicago, IL 60614
site | map

Come out to Time and Again in Chicago to celebrate the hardcover release of Derryl Murphy & William Shunn's new novella Cast a Cold Eye! Mingle with fellow book lovers, browse unique treasures from the era of the story in an elegant setting, and sit back with a glass of wine while William Shunn reads chilling selections from the book. (Readings begin at 7:30 pm.)

Cast a Cold Eye is the story of Luke Bryant, a troubled Nebraska orphan who lost his parents in the Spanish flu, and his apprenticeship to itinerant spirit photographer Annabelle Tupper. says it's "well written, solidly characterized and imaginative ... works largely because of its richness and unpredictability." And World Fantasy Award winner Charles de Lint urges in the book's introduction, "It's past time for you to discover its treasures for yourself."

This event is free. Copies of Cast a Cold Eye will be available for purchase for $20, along with a few $40 limited editions signed by Derryl Murphy, William Shunn, and Charles de Lint. Please bring a friend, please forward this email, and please RSVP to feedback AT shunn DOT net.

Time and Again is a new, unique shop featuring something for everyone. Selections include fine Victorian antiques, vintage jewelry, clothing and collectibles, watercolor art and more, all housed in a funky, reclaimed space in the Clybourn Corridor.

The shop is located on Cortland Street, just west of Clybourn. Take the Brown Line to Armitage, or the Armitage bus (#73) to Cortland & Kingsbury.

Come hear me read tonight, Chicago! I'll be one of several writers reading in the new Essay Fiesta series at The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square.

Essay Fiesta features writers reading humorous personal essays, and is hosted by Keith Ecker and Alyson Lyon. The event itself is free, but proceeds from a raffle afterward go to benefit the Howard Brown Health Center. Besides me, tonight's readers include Cameron Esposito, Mike O'Connell, John Loos, and John Newton. Should be a lot of fun.

The reading starts at 7:00 pm, but since seating is limited I'd suggest arriving before 6:30. Besides its great selection of books (including a small but smart SF section), The Book Cellar offers coffee, wine, beer, cheese, sandwiches, and other goodies. They're also great about special-ordering anything you can't find in the store. The Book Cellar is near the Western stop on the Brown Line, at:

The Book Cellar
4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
Hope to see you there!

The phantom reviewer

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

There's a good chance that you've seen this already, but if you haven't and you care about good, clear storytelling and you have 70 minutes to kill, you must watch this epic deconstruction of The Phantom Menace.

Aside from the pointless serial-killer subplot (seriously—the narrator of the review is supposed to be a delusional serial killer), this is a brilliant and funny dissection of why the Star Wars prequels suck so hard. It crystallized for me many of my own unfocused thoughts about the films, and gave me ten times as many new reasons to hate the them. The sequence where the reviewer asks friends to describe specific Star Wars characters is alone worth the price of admission.

Because of the 10-minute limit on YouTube content, the review is broken up into seven parts. (Part 7 doesn't always seem to play in its original configuration. If you have that problem, try this version of Part 7 instead.) Here's Part 1 to whet your appetite:

I'm reminded of a couple of my own objections to The Phantom Menace (which I have not seen since its opening week in 1999). First, I was disappointed that Anakin as a child showed no sign of any of the dark character traits—cruelty, rage, craftiness, whatever—that would later turn him into Darth Vader. That, for me, meant I felt no tension in his interactions with the other characters, and it made his eventual seduction by the Dark Side seem kind of arbitrary.

Second, even if that had been in the script, I doubt the child actor who played Anakin could have conveyed it. That kid had no charisma or acting ability whatsoever. I think I remember Orson Scott Card saying somewhere around that time that they were trying to get the same actor to play Ender. Why? Because Card wanted the Ender's Game movie to suck too?

Anyway, I hope this same reviewer tackles the other two prequels someday. After the clusterfuck that was Attack of the Clones, I didn't even bother seeing the third movie. Still haven't.

New short story online

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

The Visitors at Wriggly Field, by William Shunn Batter up! My pulpy new short story, "The Visitors at Wriggly Field," is now online as part of the Pulps series at It's probably my first sports story, and may well be my last, so I hope you enjoy it. (The illustration is by Frank Wu!)

The Pulps series supports Chicago's bid for the 2012 Worldcon. Earlier stories in the series, both in print and online, have been contributed by Frederik Pohl, Gene Wolfe, Mike Resnick, Phyllis Eisenstein, Roland Green, Richard Garfinkle, Lois Tilton, and others. I'm glad I hadn't read any of the earlier stories before I wrote mine, or I might have been too intimidated to produce.

The stories are an homage to Chicago's past as a home to many classic publishers of pulp science fiction. The guidelines we all were given were that:

  • the hero must be square-jawed and dim-witted, with B.S. for his initials;
  • the heroine must be smart, capable and beautiful, with the name Elaine Ecdysiast;
  • the evil-genius villain must be dastardly and scenery-chewing, with the name D. Vice;
  • and the story must be set at least in part in Chicago.
Even by those standards, I clearly went for the lowest common denominator. No, seriously. Frank chose wisely by not illustrating the story's climax.


| No Comments | No TrackBacks

I have a confirmed report that book #83 has been spotted in the wild. That's #83 out of only 100 signed, numbered and jacketed copies of Cast a Cold Eye. If you want one, act fast.

(Plenty of copies of the regular edition available, of course.)

Writing-related announcements have been piling up here in the blog queue, so if you'll indulge me here, I'm just going to get all of them out at once.

Cast a Cold Eye, by Derryl Murphy & William Shunn CAST A COLD EYE

First and foremost, my book Cast a Cold Eye, a collaboration with three-time Aurora Award nominee Derryl Murphy, is out and available from PS Publishing!

The slim volume looks beautiful, with front and back cover art by Steve Leary, and features an introduction by Charles de Lint. It comes in two editions: a signed, numbered and jacketed hardcover limited to 100 copies, and an unjacketed hardcover.

If you want the signed edition, I've heard rumors of folks receiving copies numbered in the mid-60's already. Better get yours soon!


To celebrate the release of Cast a Cold Eye, we'll be holding a book release party on Friday, January 8th, at Time and Again, 1239 W. Cortland St. in Chicago. I'll read from the book, and there will be plenty of copies for sale. More details as that date gets closer.


But wait! That's not all! PS Publishing is running a special right now that gets you one free book from their catalogue for every two you buy at regular price!

The special runs through the end of January, and there are dozens of great books to choose from. Along with Cast a Cold Eye, might I suggest, for example, fine works like Beth Bernobich's novella Ars Memoriae, Patrick O'Leary's collection The Black Heart, or Paul Witcover's Everland and Other Stories?


And as if that weren't cool enough, there are two different ways you might win a free copy of Cast a Cold Eye.

First, if you sign up for the PS Publishing monthly newsletter before Friday, December 18th, you'll be entered in a drawing to win a free copy not just of Cast a Cold Eye but also Eric Brown's Gilbert and Edgar on Mars.

Second, BSC Review is conducting an email drawing on Thursday, December 10th, the winner of which will receive four books from PS Publishing—Grazing the Long Acre by Gwyneth Jones, Just Behind You by Ramsey Campbell, Val/Orson by Marly Youmans, and Cast a Cold Eye. Head over there for details and enter now!


On Monday, December 21st, I'll be one of several writers reading in the new Essay Fiesta series at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago's Lincoln Square. Essay Fiesta features writers reading humorous personal essays, and proceeds go to benefit the Howard Brown Health Center. The reading starts at 7:00 pm.


In other news, I'm proud to note that next spring Bull Spec, a new market for speculative-fiction, will be producing e-book and audiobook versions of my novella "Inclination" in French, Spanish and maybe Chinese. All proceeds will go to benefit the Durham Literacy Center in North Carolina.

See here for more details.


And last but not least, my pulpy new short story "The Visitors at Wriggly Field" [sic] will appear online later this month as part of the Pulps series at, in support of Chicago's bid for the 2012 Worldcon. Earlier stories in the series, both in print and online, have been contributed by Frederik Pohl, Gene Wolfe, Mike Resnick, Phyllis Eisenstein, Richard Garfinkle, Lois Tilton, and others.

While the online stories are available free, the print stories are available to those donors who contribute at least $20.00 in pre-support of the bid. For more information, see here, and I hope you'll get the chance to come see us in Chicago in 2012!

Having watched Valkyrie recently, I've been thinking about the intersection of art, commerce and religion. I know, that's probably not the kind of discussion the filmmakers intended to provoke, but here we are. Germany started it.

Every so often a big kerfluffle flares up in the media or the blogosphere about what famous entertainer is or isn't a Scientologist, and why. Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Isaac Hayes, Beck, Chick Corea, Edgar Winter, Chaka Khan, Mark Isham, Greta Van Susteren—we're supposed to avoid giving them money so we don't inadvertently support their reprehensible "church." Leonard Cohen, Paul Haggis, Jerry Seinfeld, Courtney Love, Gloria Gaynor—once were Scientologists, but now they're on the okay list. Neil Gaiman—wait, what's the controversy with him? I'm not supposed to read him because his relatives are Scientologists?

Frankly, keeping score like this is ridiculous.

As much as I dislike Scientology, discriminating against artists because of their private beliefs is a losing game. I hate the fact that there were Crusades, and a Spanish Inquisition, and institutional coverups of child sexual abuse, but that doesn't mean I'm going to deny myself the work of Catholic writers like Graham Greene or Tim Powers, or Catholic filmmakers like Kevin Smith. Will some of the money I pay for their stuff end up in Vatican coffers? Possibly, but I'm not naive enough to think that any of the money I give or receive is pure. We live in a pluralist society. We can't help the fact that our money is going to circulate through parts of the body politic that we don't like. The only judgment we can really make is how we respond to the art, how pure and universal and human it is, how ennobling or demeaning or thrilling or dull, how free from or full of agenda or polemic.

And let's face it, Scientology is no more ridiculous on the face of it than Catholicism or Zoroastrianism or Islam or Greek mythology. The claims of these other religions are just as extraordinary. The only difference is that the origins of the rest are shrouded in antiquity—as if mere age confers some kind of stature or holiness or untouchability. In historical terms, Mormonism is nearly as recent as Scientology, and in cosmological terms makes claims every bit as grand and silly, but how many of you Wheel of Time readers are going to boycott the new volume just because Brandon Sanderson wrote it?

The value of the work is in the work itself. If the work makes your life better or more pleasant, support it. Pay for it. It's that simple. Clint Eastwood's a libertarian who supported McCain? So what. I love his movies. Beck and Chick Corea give money to L. Ron Hubbard's successors? Big deal. I get a lot more pleasure from their records than from most Cruise or Travolta movies—hell, than from most Mel Gibson movies or Orson Scott Card novels these days—so I'm happy to give them my money. I, an atheist, have given money to causes devoted to overturning the Defense of Marriage Act in the United States, but that mere fact hardly makes my fiction superior to or more worthy of support than a Catholic like Gene Wolfe's.

As for Neil Gaiman, I'd be an awful hypocrite to avoid his books just because his father was a big muckity-muck in the Church of Scientology. I myself am a direct descendant of Edward Partridge, the first Mormon bishop. No, I avoid Gaiman's books because I simply don't care for them.

Artists, like most people, are more than just the religions they profess. So get down off your high horse and give the poor Scientologists a chance. The rich ones, too, if they're your thing.

Featured Book

William Shunn

About This Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2009 is the previous archive.

January 2010 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.