Inhuman Swill | Blog | William Shunn
Inhuman Swill : Page 202
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

Today's hate mail

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Reasonable-sounding shit (that's the only word for it) like this gives me genuine hope for the timeliness of my book, if not for the state of the human race. The fact that this man believes he is being rational turns my stomach. If this is not the most offensive thing anyone has ever said to me, then surely it ranks in the top three:

Elder Shunn—

I came across your website by accident a few weeks ago and was surprised to find such a detailed account of your mission and experiences. (I had initially heard about the episode while I was on my mission in England, but never learned anything more about it and assumed that the story was just another Mormon myth). After finding your website, I went ahead and printed the entire account and took it with me on a recent business trip—from which I have just recently returned.

I have to admit that I really enjoyed reading about your experiences and was very impressed with your writing style and ability to articulate feelings that only a 19 year old missionary could fully appreciate. Saying that, I was also very disturbed by how it all ended—and what you seemed to learn from the whole experience.

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The earth moved

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Laura and I were both jolted awake very early Saturday morning by what sounded like something slamming into the house. The west wall of our bedroom shook and there was a deep rumbling sound. Laura's first words were that a truck had backfired, but after a window rattled a few moments later we were both up and out of bed. I was afraid someone might be trying to get into the house. Laura thought the boiler in the basement had exploded. (Strange noises had already kept us awake long into the night—we were running the boiler for the first time this year.)

We checked out both possibilities, but found nothing amiss, so we went back to sleep. It wasn't until Saturday evening that we discovered we had been awakened by an earthquake. It was a 2.6 that struck at 1:42 am. The epicenter was on the Upper East Side, near the Queensboro Bridge, but it was apparently felt most strongly here at the Queens end of the bridge, in Long Island City and Astoria. According to the Times:

Given the hour that yesterday's earthquake rattled the streets, many people were asleep and never noticed it. Some of them refused to believe it had even happened.

Yet in Long Island City, a number of people very much felt the movement and dashed out of their apartment buildings and businesses. They looked fretfully toward the sky, fearing missiles were being fired upon the city....

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I thought I'd throw together a poll, just because I can. I know the results won't be scientific, and they will be skewed toward geeky types, but I'm asking all the same:

Poll #8532 Missionary Man Poll #1

Open to: All, results viewable to: All

Would you buy a big fat book about a conflicted Mormon missionary who eventually gets himself arrested and charged with hijacking, even given the recent horrible hijackings in the United States?

class='LJ_PollAnswerLink' lj_pollid='8532' lj_qid='1' lj_posterid='17832'
View Answers

You bet!
6 (75.0%)

Yes, but only because I know the author
1 (12.5%)

I'd have to see the cover art
1 (12.5%)

Not a chance
0 (0.0%)

Do you think the general public would be interested in buying it?

If such a book were offered for downloading as a 700-page PDF file, what is the most you would be willing to pay for it?

class='LJ_PollAnswerLink' lj_pollid='8532' lj_qid='3' lj_posterid='17832'
View Answers

Mean: 11.43 Median: 10 Std. Dev 4.20

0 0 (0.0%)
1 0 (0.0%)
2 0 (0.0%)
3 0 (0.0%)
4 0 (0.0%)
5 1 (14.3%)
6 0 (0.0%)
7 0 (0.0%)
8 0 (0.0%)
9 0 (0.0%)
10 3 (42.9%)
11 0 (0.0%)
12 1 (14.3%)
13 1 (14.3%)
14 0 (0.0%)
15 0 (0.0%)
16 0 (0.0%)
17 0 (0.0%)
18 0 (0.0%)
19 0 (0.0%)
20 1 (14.3%)

What is the most you'd think the general public would be willing to pay for it?

View Answers Mean: 10.17 Median: 10 Std. Dev 5.70
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Second, editor mail

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Today, after only minimal prodding, I received a long-promised sheaf of the rejection letters my agent has thus far received on Missionary Man. What a maddening collection! I'll share a few. I'm not naming any names, but these are all from major publishing houses, ones you will have heard from if you pay attention to stuff like that.

Some of these come from as long as a year ago, when various incarnations of a partial manuscript were circulating under the old title.

First, the positive rejections, which are possibly the most maddening of all.

November 13, 2000:

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Marvin Gaye covered

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I can't believe I forgot to mention the "What's Goin' On?" cover that U2 did. Marvelous.

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First, reader mail

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So, in the wake of my agent's email, I got very depressed. Laura had been telling me for a month and a half, and continued to tell me, that she thought world events only made the public's need for my book more acute. So I decided to poll my readers, the kind folks who had been reading my book chapter by chapter, some of them for two years, for their thoughts on the issues raised by my agent. Here is what I said:

Well, of course my feeling is that the book just cannot exist without the bomb threat, and that they're both wrong about the market right now. I know some of you have expressed opinions that now is exactly the right time for a book like this. I'm just curious to know what you all think—whether you as book buyers would be turned off or turned on by a book about a Mormon bomb threat right now, and why? What can I tell my agent that will convince her—and maybe a skittish editor too—that the problem is not a problem? Or am I wrong? Is it?
And here are some of the replies I got back:

Brian in Virginia:

Unbuyable? Hrm. I don't know about that. I know I'd buy it—but I can see how some may consider it bad taste. (Five minutes has passed—I've been thinking about it.)
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More on U2

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Some of you wanted to hear more about the U2 show we saw last week.

First off, I already described the some of the tightened security at the Garden. The thing I didn't mention is that, in the whole contretemps with my cell phone being sniffed by a bomb-detecting dog, Security somehow forgot to subject me to the same handheld metal-detector sweep that everyone else in my party was subjected to. I, as the most suspicious member of the party, really got the least thorough inspection. I'm picturing the scene in Airplane! where the little old lady gets beat up by Security while terrorists with sub-machine guns waltz right through. It's a little scary to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

If you're going to a show at the Garden any time soon, remember that the heightened security also means that shows actual start right on time. A couple of weeks earlier, Laura and I had gone to see Jane's Addiction with our friends Geoff and Naomi and their friend Matt. We got there at 8:45, which was just in time to see the second act on the bill, Live. We had already missed the first opener. At 11:00, Perry Farrell begged the union guys who dismantle the set for five more minutes so they could do one more song. Shows start and end on time now.

We got to our seats last week at just about three minutes past eight, the posted starting time, and Garbage was already playing when we got there. They were fabulous, by the way. Shirley Manson has cropped her hair quite short, and we all agreed that she was really something. Laura said, "Wow, she may be more fabulous now than Gwen Stefani" (her previous hero). (Ironic that we later discovered No Doubt opened for U2's next New York show.)

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Deeply unbuyable

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Here's what I've been avoiding posting about all week—the email from my agent that was awaiting me a week ago when Laura and I returned from a weekend in Utah:

Just talked to L—— and I'm afraid I've got bad news—he says he still loves the book, but that he considers it "deeply unbuyable" right now, because of the threat against the airplane. To be honest, I'd never thought of it like that, and I'm sure neither had you, but he pointed out that any kind of terroristic threat against an airplane, whether done out of Mormon or Muslim religious fervor, is not going to sell in today's market. I suddenly have a deeply sinking feeling that he might be right, but if we cut out the bomb threat part, we eviscerate the book entirely. That's the hook upon which the book, and any subsquent publicity, would hang. What's your feeling?
My feeling is anger and denial. I refuse to believe that my book is an impossible sell. I believe it's all in the spin we put on it.

Am I deluding myself? I don't think so. I've been fighting this perception tooth and nail all week, and I still think I'm right. More thoughts on this subject soon.

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I am 44% geek

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I probably work in computers, or a history department at a college. I never really fit in with the "normal" crowd. But I have friends, and this is a good thing.

Take the GEEK Test at!

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We carved pumpkins today

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pumpkins in the light
Sure we used patterns, sort of the paint-by-numbers version of jack-o'-lanterning, but we're still pleased with the results, and we wanted to share....

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