The people have spoken -- the title remains the same

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There seems to be some confusion out there about the title of my memoir. Hey, don't feel bad about it! I brought it on myself.

In a blog post a few weeks ago, I let casually drop that I was considering changing the title from The Accidental Terrorist to Missionary Man.

You'd think I suggested that Sesame Street should change Big Bird's name to Lysander Lemonbeak. (Though it does have a certain ring.)

Let me back up a bit and give you some history. When I started work on the book, Missionary Man was my working title. The Eurythmics single of the same name had dropped in the summer of 1986, just two months before I entered the Missionary Training Center to start my two years of service. Rumors abounded (in Utah, anyway) that Annie Lennox had written the song after two Mormon missionaries knocked at her door. For a lot of us leaving on missions around that time, "Missionary Man" was our anthem.

The Accidental Terrorist (red cover concept)
As a title, Missionary Man evoked for me not just the time period of the book but the idea that this would be my coming-of-age story, a recounting of how I became both a missionary and a man. I registered the domain name (now sadly lapsed). My friend Geoff Fowler even created a logo for me to use on the website.

But then a funny thing happened. A flashier title popped into my head. The Accidental Terrorist was a grabber. It became the new working title. It never sat entirely right with me, though. It was no accident that I picked up a telephone in Calgary and made a false bomb threat. I did it with deliberately, to achieve a premeditated effect. (Sure, I premeditated for only a minute or two, but still.) Calling my act accidental has always seemed slightly wrong to me, made me feel guilty and uneasy.

Fortunately, though, The Accidental Terrorist is what I called the book when I started serializing it in my podcast back in 2006. That's how everyone who listened knows it, and that's the book they want to see.

I'm not sure why, aside from that pesky conscience of mine, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to my first working title. Yes, a few people whose opinions I respect have told me over the years that they didn't find the title appropriate, but I think I gave those opinions too much weight. When I brought up the possibility of changing the title with my wife, she told me I was being crazy and wrongheaded. When I traveled last week to Chicago for a reading and then to D.C. for the World Fantasy Convention, I ran into a large number of friends who told me I was being crazy and wrongheaded.

They were right.

This, folks, is why I'm a writer and not a marketer.

So don't worry. I got the message. Thanks for setting me straight. I have re-embraced my memoir's one, only, and proper title, and I've re-remembered all the many reasons that title is an excellent one. I've even started playing around with some illustration ideas I can eventually give to whatever artist I hire to do the book cover (one of which you can see above).

Now let's take a moment to pour a libation to the memory of Missionary Man. You were a good title for the times, but like John the Baptist you came merely to prepare the way. Long live The Accidental Terrorist.

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William Shunn

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on November 12, 2014 10:56 AM.

I have readings coming up in Chicago and Queens was the previous entry in this blog.

I'll be reading tonight at Boundless Tales in Queens is the next entry in this blog.

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