Chicagoans, please come out to the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square this Monday, April 19, for the monthly Essay Fiesta reading series!

I'll be reading a humorous personal essay in company with Cameron Esposito, Jim Pickett, Bryan Bowden, and Rebecca Rine-Stone. It's all to benefit the Howard Brown Health Center, so come on down, have a laugh, and join the raffle or make a small donation.

It all takes place:

Monday, April 19th, 7:00-8:30 pm @ The Book Cellar 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago, IL 60625
For more info, click here. Hope to see you there!
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The devil at the end of my bed

            

I watched Paranormal Activity yesterday evening on DVD while waiting for Laura to get home from work. I found the movie deeply, thrillingly, and realistically frightening—not because I believe in ghosts or demons, but because it returned me to a time in my life when I did.

Between the ages of ten and sixteen or so, I experienced a few episodes of what I realize now must have been sleep paralysis. This occurs when the brain rouses from REM sleep but the body essentially remains asleep. You're fully awake and aware, but you can't move a muscle.

That's exactly what happened to me maybe half a dozen times that I remember. I would wake up in the darkness of my bedroom unable to move, terrified by the certain convinction that the Devil himself was holding me immobile, and that he was going to kill me. I would struggle to move for what seemed like an hour, to no avail. I would struggle to form words, to shout for help, also to no avail. I would struggle not to fall back to sleep, because I knew if I fell asleep I would die. I would silently pray to God for deliverance from my assailant, deliverance that only came when I did fall back into unwilling unconsciousness.

On one very memorable occasion, when I was an older teenager, this happened on a visit to my uncle's house in Los Angeles, while I was cocooned in sleeping bag on his living room floor. My father was in a sleeping bag not six feet away, but I couldn't make the tiniest peep to wake him up so he could save me.

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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
773-293-2665
Hope to see you there!
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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.

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Tuesday Funk Reading, November 3, 2009
Hey, Chicagoans! I have a reading coming up just a week from today, Tuesday, November 3, 2009, as part of Chicago's Tuesday Funk Reading Series.

I'll be appearing alongside Robert Duffer, Lynn Suh and Chris Sweet. It's my third time at Tuesday Funk, where I'll be reading another sequential installment from my memoir The Accidental Terrorist. The reading begins at 7:00 pm sharp upstairs at:

Hopleaf Bar 5148 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60660
That's just south of Foster, in the beating heart of beautiful Andersonville.

Hopleaf is one of my very favorite bars in the world, specializing in Belgian ales but with a menu of over 600 craft beers from around the world. All that and excellent Belgian food too!

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Missing the mark

            

I end up with some very interesting Google Ads showing up on the page for my Accidental Terrorist podcast. Just now there was a big splashy banner ad for the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute ("Gunfights don't give second chances"). Apparently the Googlemind doesn't want you potential terrorists going out into the world without firearms training!

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Reading tonight!

            

Just a reminder of the reading tonight at Flourish Bakery Cafe, 1138 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago, IL 60660. I'll be appearing with five other authors and poets. What a bargain! For more information, please see:

http://tuesdayfunk.blogspot.com/2009/08/tuesday-funk-16.html

Here's a personal invitation:

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Tuesday Funk Reading, September 1, 2009
Hey, Chicagoans! I have a reading coming up just under a week from now, Tuesday, September 1, 2009, as part of Chicago's Tuesday Funk Reading Series.

The reading starts at 7:00 pm sharp at:

Flourish Bakery Cafe 1138 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Chicago, IL 60660
That's just east of Broadway, just west of the Bryn Mawr stop on the Red Line.

I'll be appearing with Robyn Detterline, Billy Lombardo, and Dancing Girl Press poets Stephanie Anderson, Kristen Orser, and Susan Slaviero. I'll be reading from my memoir The Accidental Terrorist. Copies of my chapbook An Alternate History of the 21st Century will be available for purchase for a paltry $4.

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The mighty Dave Slusher has posted the new episode of his fine Reality Break podcast, an interview series focusing on science fiction and other genre literature. In this eighth episode, he talks to yours truly about writing and podcasting The Accidental Terrorist.

This interview was recorded in 2007 but has not been heard until now. Besides my own book, we talk about memoirs in general, writing after 9/11, my experiences growing up Mormon, and how those all have informed my fiction.

Dave is a terrific interviewer, and while I usually wince when listening to myself, I'm very, very happy with the way this session turned out. I hope you'll have a listen. If you enjoy it, thank Dave!

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Radio audio

            

I had a great time yesterday afternoon doing "Doing Time with Ron Kuby" on Air America. He had very kind things to say about The Accidental Terrorist, and he held me over for an unplanned extra segment. I think it went pretty well, though I was vibrating in the X-ray band. Here's audio:

Segment 1  (10:35)

Segment 2  (07:49)

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
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missionary
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About the Book

What happens when an ambivalent young Mormon missionary is pushed to the limit in a challenge to prove his faith? Hint: the outcome is explosive. The Accidental Terrorist is the long-awaited memoir from Hugo and Nebula Award–nominated author William Shunn, based on his popular podcast. Available now from Sinister Regard!