Inhuman Swill : Page 176
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

Cover boy

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That's what Laura's calling me this morning. Late last night I got home from a dismal movie with friends (Northfork—pretentious, silly, and overrated, despite a good setup and some great moments) and brought the mail in. There were vicious thunderstorms in the city yesterday, and the mail was soaked. That included my subscription copy of the October 2003 issue of Realms of Fantasy.

I woke up Laura before carefully peeling back the wet "protective wrapper." And there was my name on the cover. My first cover.

My name wasn't as big as Harlan Ellison's, but (almost embarrassingly) it was above and bigger than Michaels Bishop and Swanwick. We stared at it for a couple of minutes before even opening the magazine.

The illustration inside was gorgeous.

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I'll be making a return appearance as Jim Freund's guest on "Hour of the Wolf" this Saturday, August 9th, on WBAI 99.5 FM, from 5:00 am to 7:00 am, Eastern Daylight Time.

We'll certainly talk about my science fiction, including my recent story in Salon, but it's likely we'll discuss my memoir Missionary Man as well. I may even trot out an excerpt from the book to read on the air. Tune in an see what happens. (It's early, yes, but just think -- I have to be up earlier to get to the station than you do to listen! )

WBAI serves the NYC metro area. If you can't pick up the station, you can still access the live stream on the Internet at:

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Physics problem

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Any mathematicians or physicists out there? I'm working on a story that takes place on a torus-shaped space station. Assuming the torus is one mile in radius (1584 meters) and revolving around its center, I'm trying to calculate what the rotational period of the station would have to be in order for a person standing inside the rim to feel centripetal acceleration equivalent to 1 gee—9.8 m/s2, that is.

It's been a long time since college physics for me, but my calculations using the formula

ac = ω2r
where ac is centripetal acceleration, r is the radius and the angular velocity ω is
ω = Δθ
and solving for time Δt when the arc Δθ is 2π radians, seems to show that the rotational period would have to be about 79.88 seconds, or one rotation every one minute and twenty seconds. (Basically, I plugged the lower formula into the upper one and solved for Δt.)
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Kevin goes to Russia

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Kevin17 in Russian translation
My short story "Kevin17," from the February 1995 issue of F&SF, was just reprinted in that magazine's Russian edition:

That's my original byline in the upper left corner, D. William Shunn, transliterated.
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A great weekend

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Well, Laura and I had a splendid weekend. We started out with cheap, yummy Thai food at Sea, Second Avenue and 4th Street. I had a lychee mimosa, and ate the lychee. Then we walked down to the Bowery Ballroom to see what maybe possibly this time really will have been the final Dismemberment Plan show in New York City. It was a mostly all-requests set, so if it wasn't entirely cohesive, at least it was nostalgic and fun. I had psyched myself up to climb onstage during "The Ice of Boston" and dance with the kids, but when the song started the big guy in front of me rushed halfway to the stage and then stopped dead, and I couldn't get around him. Oh, well. The band was under orders from the house to let only thirty people onstage, so I probably wouldn't have made it anyway. We still had a great time.

The next morning, Laura's birthday, she and I set out on an epic bike ride. We made our way from Astoria to the Queensborough Bridge, across 57th Street to 5th Avenue, past the Plaza Hotel, through part of Central Park, out at 72nd Street, over to Riverside Park, then up the west side all the way to 181st. I'd never been to Washington Heights—nice neighborhood, but hills like San Francisco. We ended up walking our bikes up a couple of them. From there we hit the George Washington Bridge and crossed to New Jersey. Then we retraced our route back home. Using MapQuest, I figured out this morning how far we went. At least 26 miles. I was pretty impressed with myself.

That evening, Laura and I and our friend Liz went to Yama on Carmine Street for sushi—big heaping mounds of it. Much sake was consumed, and I capped things off with plum wine. Then we caught a cab to the World Financial Center and saw Seabiscuit and the new movie theater there in Battery Park City. It was an engrossing movie, but manipulative, simplistic, and jingoistic. It was the sort of movie that evaporates after you watch it. Pleasant but not great. Oh, well. We still had fun.

After the movie, we walked through the mostly empty WFC to Southwest NY, a restaurant with a bar that serves about twenty different flavors of margaritas. We sat out back on the plaza outside, staring out across the Hudson at New Jersey and the New York Harbor. Then we caught cabs home.

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A marvelous little treatise on the difference between science and religion.

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This morning on the W train, a slender blonde woman in a low-cut black slip of a dress and oversize black wraparound sunglasses sat diagonally across from me making slow, wet love to a cherry-red Charms Blow-Pop. (It's a gray, humid day in the city, but surely that doesn't account for all the sweat.) Then, on the 6 train, we were all seranaded by a Mexican folk-guitar duo in chambray shirts and cowboy hats.

If only they'd been on a double bill in the same car.

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"Love in the Age of Spyware"

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My short story "Love in the Age of Spyware" (originally titled "Observations from the City of Angels") has just debuted at

If you're not familiar with Salon (unlikely in this crowd), I've built a page to help you through the process of getting a day pass so you can access the story for free:

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On the efficacy of belief

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Looking back over the past few years, I'm astonished at some of the things I've accomplished. I don't need to enumerate them here (although it would be fun), but I will point out that I now ride my bicycle to work once or twice a week, over the Queensborough Bridge and through Manhattan traffic. For anyone who knows me well, this intelligence should astound. And that's only one small astonishment among many.

As I attempt to apprehend the responsible party, one culprit stands out by far: belief. I'm not talking talking about belief in myself. I've always had that, even at the darkest times when it was squashed out of shape and jammed deep into a locked box hidden out of sight in a secret chamber of my heart. No, what I'm talking about here is the belief of one person in another when the two share space and lives.

Like ether, that fabled invisible McGuffin of 19th century science, facilitated the transmission of electromagnetic radiation through what otherwise appeared to be vacuum, so does belief facititate the transmission of ability toward accomplishment. Never mind that the Michelson-Morley experiment drove the first nail into ether's coffin over a hundred years ago. I have demonstrated to my own satisfaction the efficacy of belief.

Its effects stand out most clearly when viewed side-by-side with the results of a control culture from which it is absent. For me, this was the period from mid-1995 to early 1998 when I lived with another writer, Genevieve. Our apartment was an environment singularly and utterly devoid of belief. Once, I ventured the opinion that perhaps someday she might support us with a job while I stayed home and pursued my writing career. After some thought, Genevieve allowed as how that might possibly work—so long as she retained the power of approval and oversight of the projects I undertook. It shouldn't surprise you that I didn't manage to sell a single piece of writing during that period.

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I hate it when that happens

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Don't you hate it when you work on a post for half an hour, submit it, and the web broswer can't connect to the server? And then you hit the BACK button and the form reloads and your post is gone? Yeah, I hate it when that happens.

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William Shunn