Inhuman Swill : October 2000

No room at the pigeon hole

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The long silence has ended. This is what the Interested Editor at the Major House had to say in response to my agent's gentle inquiry:

Sorry to be slow--I've been fighting in my corner here, and in the end I failed. The draft of the letter I was writing you follows--I'm very upset I couldn't do it, but there were just too many questions in people's minds. Anyhow, here's the letter, and I'll send the materials back today. Best for now, **:

Dear ******:

Sorry to report that I won't be making an offer for THE ACCIDENTAL TERRORIST by William Shunn. As I told you, I've never come across a manuscript that caused as much consternation—consternation in a good way, mind—than this one. Most of the editorial group read most of it, and all agreed that it's very well written, very compelling, and not a little disturbing; Lord knows what's coming in part two. Mr. Shunn can really handle a tale, and his writing line-to-line is never less than impressive. Unfortunately, though, in the end we just couldn't work out how best to publish this book—the sting in the tale is perhaps too sharp, especially as it does shine such a light back on the rest of the book. A Mormon coming of age story with a terroristic ending—I just couldn't convince my colleagues how best to read a substantial readership with that as my hook. It may be that other editors see the opportunities more clearly, and I hope that's the case as the book is certainly not one I'll easily forget. If Mr. Shunn's work should come free in the future, I'd be very happy to reconsider it—he's a real writer, that much is for certain.

The material you submitted is enclosed, and thanks, as always, for thinking of me.

Yours,
**** *******
I feel sort of like Evel Knievel, having missed the far rim of the Grand Canyon by mere feet. I'll make it next time, dammit, but I need some time to mend.
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Fuck my mood

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I installed the latest version of Eudora a couple of weeks ago, and I immediately became curious as to why two or three chile-pepper icons were appearing next to some of the messages in my inbox.

Investigation revealed this to be a mood indicator, although I had no idea until a few days ago what that meant.

It seems that this new Eudora scans incoming and outgoing messages for offensive words and then rates the text according to how incendiary it is. If you try sending a message with a bad word in it, you get a warning like this:

Your message to "laura" regarding "Nice ass" is the sort of thing that might get your keyboard washed out with soap, if you get my drift. You might consider toning it down.

Send anyway? Cancel?
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Once in a while in my Usenet newsgroup, I post the current state of the table of contents from my book, just so I can demonstrate to myself that I'm making progress. If you don't care for statistics or for recitations of accomplishments that don't affect you, you might want to steer clear now.

I finished Part I of my memoir late in August (including an interlude that forms the connective tissue between the two halves), then shipped it off to my agent. That was 25 chapters plus a prelude and an interlude, and it amounted to a horrifying total of 523 manuscript pages.

Over the next few weeks, I whittled about 70 pages (and two full chapters) out of the manuscript, completely replaced the prelude, wrote a synopsis of the second half, and let my agent start submitting the thing. I also carved two excerpts out of what I had already done for her to try selling to magazines.

This was all a lot of work, and it took me a while after that to get my notes for the second half organized, get my head around the shape of the rest of the book, and get all the necessary loafing out of my system. It seemed like I'd been away from the book itself for quite a while when I finally sat down a week and a half ago, at last, to start producing new material. This morning before work I finished what is now Chapter 24, the first chapter of Part II of the book.

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American fire drill

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I'd been smelling the smoke for a while and wondered vaguely what was burning. So had everyone else. We even talked about it, but no one knew what it was.

This was yesterday afternoon at the office. I'd been trying to catch up on some overdue LiveJournal comments, and I was exchanging a flurry of email with Eleanor as we tried to work out a place to meet for drinks that evening. Then my coworker Monjay poked her head around my cubicle wall and said, in her soft, unflappable voice, "There's a small fire on the first floor, and the other half of the floor is all evacuated."

I wasn't sure what to do with this information, and I'm not sure many of us were. We heard no fire alarm. Surely there was no danger.

Then my friend Geoff, our lead Muppet illustrator and creator of the wonderful caricature on the front page of Inhuman Swill, strolled by and drily said, "Hey, there's a fire in the building. I'm thinking we should all get outside."

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Here comes the firestorm

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I knew this was going to happen, but that doesn't make it any less aggravating now that it has.

See, as part of this Mormon missionary memoir of mine, I've divulged secrets of the Mormon temple ceremony that I'm not supposed to talk about. In fact, I took gruesome oaths on my life in the Mormon temple never to reveal the contents of that ceremony.

Now that the book is picking its paraplegic way toward publication, I figured I should give my parents a heads-up about the coming betrayal. (Not only will the book contain, early on, this temple material, but I've also culled those pages out as an excerpt for my agent to try to sell to some major magazine.) I emailed my parents, told them about the contents and purpose of my book, and offered to let them see what I had written so far so they could be prepared for the consequences. My mother asked to see the book so I sent it to her a couple of weeks ago.

Well, this morning I received the following loving email from one of my siblings (I have seven):

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The waiting game

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Have you ever experienced Chinese water torture? I haven't either, but it's probably much like waiting to hear from an editor who has expressed a hope of making an offer on your book.

I'm writing this book called The Accidental Terrorist. It's a memoir, really—the first-person story of a loveable young Mormon dissident-to-be who unwillingly serves a mission for his church, only to have it lead him to a terrorist act when he starts taking the whole thing a little too seriously. It's a light-hearted book, really.

My agent submitted the (partial) manuscript to seven publishers last month. About two and a half weeks ago, she wrote to tell me that one of these esteemed editors had called her, and that he loved the book and hoped to be able to make an offer soon. I was stunned.

Then, about a week and a half ago, he called my agent again to tell her that he had a lot of support for the book at his house and was presenting to his editorial and publications boards the next week. He expected things to go well, though he was a little worried about the "dual" nature of the book (i.e., Mormon coming-of-age story melded with terrorism drama).

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By his bootlegs

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The entire purpose of this entry is to announce that I'm currently listening to a friend's bootleg of a recent Beck show at Radio City Music Hall. On CD. With headphones.

It doesn't get much better than this.

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Well, I just received disappointing news. I was scheduled to do a reading—my first really significant public reading—in November, but now, due to circumstances beyond much of anyone's control, the gig has been cancelled.

There were five of us, "up-and-coming" "young" science fiction writers, who were going to participate together. I had compiled an email list of about seventy friends and acquaintances I was going to invite. It was going to be cool.

Originally we were all supposed to read in October. But then Ursula K. Leguin became available for a reading in the same series the same week, and most of the other participants decided they didn't want to compete. So our reading was delayed until November.

It didn't matter that much to me. I would have gone head-to-head with Leguin. Most of the friends I was inviting wouldn't have gone to the Leguin reading anyway. And now it's not going to happen at all.

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Schrödinger's apartment

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So last week Laura thought I had died again.

Here's what happened: As we were saying goodnight on the phone, she offered to call me at seven in the morning to make sure I was awake, since she knows I often sleep through my alarm clock. This is not an unusual offer. I accepted.

Then I did a strange thing. I woke up at five in the morning and decided I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep, so I got ready and went to the office, figuring I could get some work done on my book before anyone else got there. I was out of the apartment by 6:30.

Well, around 9:30 I got a call at my little cubicle. "This is Bill," I said.

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Kid A

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So I bought the new Radiohead album at Tower Records for $13.99 on the way to work this morning. I've listened to it several times now, and I still haven't figured out how I feel about it.

It certainly hasn't grabbed me and shook me up and set me down again to collect all the contents of my pockets like OK Computer did three years ago. This album is very different. I want to say it's not as good. I want to say it's so different that such a comparison doesn't matter.

Whatever I end up saying, I'm going to try to make up my own mind and not let the reviews I will inevitably read put words into my mouth. That happens sometimes, and I'm not proud of it.

(You know, it just occurred to me that Kid A reminds me in some ways of Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized. OK Computer reminded me of nothing so much as Dark Side of the Moon. At least every Radiohead album is reminscent for me of some astronomical touchstone. That kind of consistency is worth something.)

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2000 listed from newest to oldest.

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