Inhuman Swill : Page 177
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

My profile on the moon

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So I was hanging out in the newsgroups at when my friend the gifted writer Mark Bourne made some kind of self-effacing throwaway comment about the relative modesty of his own accomplishments in comparison to my fiction sale to Salon.

Well, I couldn't let this pass unremarked, and pointed out that he had been anointed a priest in the Eternal Annals of Canonized Literature with a Capital L when his science-fiction story "What Dreams Are Made On" was reprinted in one of those giant English literature compendiums used as textbooks in high schools and universities, Literature and Ourselves: A Thematic Introduction for Readers and Writers (published by AB/Longman). I mean, for chrissakes, his story is sitting there in the same section of the book with Louise Erdrich, Ray Bradbury, Woody Allen, and Mark Twain. And those are just the writers in the immediate neighborhood.

Mark's response was typically droll and to-the-point:

Uh-huh. My audience of bedraggled, bitter, befuddled, beer-breath college freshmen assigned to read my story for class after last night's Zeta Tau Delta annual Breasts&Booze Bacchanalia. Oh, yes, this Canonized Dead White Eurocentric Male will be reeeeaallll popular compared to your larger, more awake Salon readership. Hell, Salon is my browser's home page.
I had agreed with Mark earlier that writing is far more about getting ego-strokes than either art or commerce. He turned that back on me, challenging me to be a man and own up to the immense boost my ego must have received.
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Rattle them bones

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More on Clarion. It's pleasant to hear the the MSU administration is "rattled," though what that means to the survival of the workshop is unclear.

This from the SFWA Online Update that arrives from time to time:

Near the first of the month, Michigan State University revealed that it intended to discontinue its funding for Clarion, the long-running workshop for prospective science fiction and fantasy writers. A letter from MSU's administration blamed budget reductions from the state for forcing them to cut support for some programs "in order to protect quality in core areas."

This is not the first time Clarion's funding has been threatened, but it is the most serious instance yet. A surge of messages supporting Clarion, from authors and readers, has reached the heads of the university. Doctor Lister Matheson, director of the Clarion workshop, reports that the university is "rattled" by the volume of e-mail supporting Clarion.

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Laura woke me up a few minutes ago. About the first thing I said was: "Promise me we'll never have to live in a giant underground city populated by hostile warring factions."

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Checking in briefly from Readercon outside of Boston. After an evening of drunken debauchery, I returned to my room and my wife. I faxed the Salon contract back this afternoon before leaving the office, and I learn now from email that the story will run on Wednesday. Wednesday!

Man, Internet time is cool.

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Bear with me a minute or two. This takes some explaining.

Back in 1994, I wrote a story I called "L.A. by Night," about a software developer who has volunteered to be a guinea pig in an experiment about tracking parolees via implanted devices that let the monitoring AI see and hear what he sees and hears. The story was about the havoc this wreaks on his marriage, and on the unlikely (and unwelcome) protectiveness the AI comes to feel toward him.

The story wasn't all that great, and I had no luck with the first couple of submissions. A year later, having moved briefly to Seattle, I hit on an image that seemed to embody for me the central metaphor of the narrative and which I thought might jumpstart the story. I rewrote the story as "The Sweet Scent of Night-Blooming Jasmine" and sent it off to Scott Edelman at Science Fiction Age.

Scott liked it a lot, but ultimately rejected it because he thought Age readers might not be able to look past the prurience of the story to what it was really about. "I'll probably live to regret this," I remember him writing in his rejection.

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Clarion response

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From: "Wilkins, Wendy"
To: 'Bill Shunn'
Cc: "Matheson, Lister"
Subject: RE: A plea for Clarion
Date: Sat, 5 Jul 2003 12:51:13 -0400

Thank you for being in touch about the Clarion Workshop and for letting us know of your enthusiasm for what it can provide.

Significant budget reductions from the state of Michigan required us to look at every program receiving state support. Difficult decisions about several very good programs had to be made in order to protect quality in core areas. Because we share your sense that the Clarion Workshop has served its participants well in the many years MSU has provided support, we hope you will now assist Professor Matheson in finding ways for Clarion to flourish without a significant MSU subsidy.

We are confident that with so many satisfied participants, and so much good will, that Clarion can continue on with community support. If a plan were developed by the Clarion leadership that is fiscally prudent, Provost Simon and I would be pleased to review it with an eye toward a continued association between the Workshop and MSU.

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A plea for Clarion

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In response to the news that funding for the Clarion Workshop at Michigan State University has been discontinued.

Date: Wed, 02 Jul 2003 17:01:11 -0400 To: Dr. Lou Anna K. Simon (Interim President and Provost) and Dr. Wendy K. Wilkins (Dean of the College of Arts and Letters), Michigan State University From: William Shunn Subject: A plea for Clarion

Dear Drs. Simon and Wilkins:

As a graduate of MSU's Clarion Workshop, I'm writing to urge you not to withdraw support from this important writing program.

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I stole this card

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The cell next door

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I was just in the men's room. Some guy was talking on his cell phone again in the next stall. So I made loud fart noises.

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Gallo's humour

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Have you been following the Page Six brouhaha between Vincent Gallo and Roger Ebert over the reception of The Brown Bunny at Cannes? I have, I cheerfully admit, and I loved this essay from Ebert presenting his comments on the events:

Gallo goes on the offensive after 'Bunny' flop Gallo all but wept in a Cannes interview as he described the pain of "growing up ugly," but empathy has its limits, and he had no tears for a fat pig and slave-trader such as myself. It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of "The Brown Bunny." [read all]
Yeah, baby.
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