Inhuman Swill : Page 41
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

New short story online

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The Visitors at Wriggly Field, by William Shunn
Batter up! My pulpy new short story, "The Visitors at Wriggly Field," is now online as part of the Pulps series at ChicagoIn2012.org. It's probably my first sports story, and may well be my last, so I hope you enjoy it. (The illustration is by Frank Wu!)

The Pulps series supports Chicago's bid for the 2012 Worldcon. Earlier stories in the series, both in print and online, have been contributed by Frederik Pohl, Gene Wolfe, Mike Resnick, Phyllis Eisenstein, Roland Green, Richard Garfinkle, Lois Tilton, and others. I'm glad I hadn't read any of the earlier stories before I wrote mine, or I might have been too intimidated to produce.

The stories are an homage to Chicago's past as a home to many classic publishers of pulp science fiction. The guidelines we all were given were that:

  • the hero must be square-jawed and dim-witted, with B.S. for his initials;
  • the heroine must be smart, capable and beautiful, with the name Elaine Ecdysiast;
  • the evil-genius villain must be dastardly and scenery-chewing, with the name D. Vice;
  • and the story must be set at least in part in Chicago.
Even by those standards, I clearly went for the lowest common denominator. No, seriously. Frank chose wisely by not illustrating the story's climax.

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#83

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I have a confirmed report that book #83 has been spotted in the wild. That's #83 out of only 100 signed, numbered and jacketed copies of Cast a Cold Eye. If you want one, act fast.

(Plenty of copies of the regular edition available, of course.)

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Cast a Cold Eye, by Derryl Murphy & William Shunn
Writing-related announcements have been piling up here in the blog queue, so if you'll indulge me here, I'm just going to get all of them out at once.

CAST A COLD EYE

First and foremost, my book Cast a Cold Eye, a collaboration with three-time Aurora Award nominee Derryl Murphy, is out and available from PS Publishing!

The slim volume looks beautiful, with front and back cover art by Steve Leary, and features an introduction by Charles de Lint. It comes in two editions: a signed, numbered and jacketed hardcover limited to 100 copies, and an unjacketed hardcover.

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Having watched Valkyrie recently, I've been thinking about the intersection of art, commerce and religion. I know, that's probably not the kind of discussion the filmmakers intended to provoke, but here we are. Germany started it.

Every so often a big kerfluffle flares up in the media or the blogosphere about what famous entertainer is or isn't a Scientologist, and why. Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Isaac Hayes, Beck, Chick Corea, Edgar Winter, Chaka Khan, Mark Isham, Greta Van Susteren—we're supposed to avoid giving them money so we don't inadvertently support their reprehensible "church." Leonard Cohen, Paul Haggis, Jerry Seinfeld, Courtney Love, Gloria Gaynor—once were Scientologists, but now they're on the okay list. Neil Gaiman—wait, what's the controversy with him? I'm not supposed to read him because his relatives are Scientologists?

Frankly, keeping score like this is ridiculous.

As much as I dislike Scientology, discriminating against artists because of their private beliefs is a losing game. I hate the fact that there were Crusades, and a Spanish Inquisition, and institutional coverups of child sexual abuse, but that doesn't mean I'm going to deny myself the work of Catholic writers like Graham Greene or Tim Powers, or Catholic filmmakers like Kevin Smith. Will some of the money I pay for their stuff end up in Vatican coffers? Possibly, but I'm not naive enough to think that any of the money I give or receive is pure. We live in a pluralist society. We can't help the fact that our money is going to circulate through parts of the body politic that we don't like. The only judgment we can really make is how we respond to the art, how pure and universal and human it is, how ennobling or demeaning or thrilling or dull, how free from or full of agenda or polemic.

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Give me a long enough lever...

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We're used to thinking of the movement of an object as homogeneous and instantaneous. In other words, for example, when I give a push to the fat end of my pool cue, the felted end moves at the same time to strike the cue ball.

But I have a question—and I'm asking this because I'm curious about the answer, not because I know the answer. Let's say I had a pool cue that was 186,282 miles long. In other words, light would take a full second to travel from one end of it to the other. So, if I were to give my end of this pool cue a push, would the far end move simultaneously? Or would the motion take something more than a second to propagate along the length of the cue (causing it to ripple, as it were)? Physicists, I'm talkin' to you.

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What goes up must come down

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Dear Miz Manorz,

I find myself flush with discomfort, and I hope you'll give my predicament a swirl.

At my shared workspace, a sign over the privy clearly requests that writers of the male persuasion put the seat down when finished, yet at least one of my upstanding colleagues consistently leaves it up. I'm about to flip my lid! It not just the effrontery that peeves me so. It's also the idea that my female colleagues, in toto, might judge me the culprit!

In loo of direct accusation, please advise me how I might call this breach of manners to the men's attention without upsetting the honeypot. Your priceless advice is of the first water, and I would be greatly relieved should you bowl me over with your insight. I can handle it, and I don't want anything to hit the fan.

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Tuesday Funk Reading, November 3, 2009
Hey, Chicagoans! I have a reading coming up just a week from today, Tuesday, November 3, 2009, as part of Chicago's Tuesday Funk Reading Series.

I'll be appearing alongside Robert Duffer, Lynn Suh and Chris Sweet. It's my third time at Tuesday Funk, where I'll be reading another sequential installment from my memoir The Accidental Terrorist. The reading begins at 7:00 pm sharp upstairs at:

Hopleaf Bar 5148 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60660
That's just south of Foster, in the beating heart of beautiful Andersonville.

Hopleaf is one of my very favorite bars in the world, specializing in Belgian ales but with a menu of over 600 craft beers from around the world. All that and excellent Belgian food too!

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That was The Week that was

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To my dear former friends at The Week:

I am highly annoyed by The Week's handling of my subscription. I received your magazine just fine for several months at my new address. Suddenly I realized that I had not received an issue for a few weeks. I checked my subscription status at your web site only to find that "the post office has notified us that the address we have listed on your subscription is incorrect."

Well, that's ridiculous because mail—including, once upon a time, my subscription to The Week—gets to me at that address just fine.

Nonetheless, knowing that the post office is picky about things, I updated my address a couple of months ago, but I still have not received any further issues. I checked the site again today only to find that same ridiculous objection about the post office.

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Tiny dancer, on our wall

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A quick update about "Strong Medicine," tonight's fiction-and-dance event at Writers WorkSpace in Chicago. Due to unfortunate unavoidable circumstances, Asimina Chremos (the dance half of Microgig) will not be able to appear in person tonight. However, she will appear on video accompanied by live cello improvisation from Fred Lonberg-Holm, making the evening even more science-fictional than it was before. Don't miss it!

We look forward to seeing you tonight at 7:00 pm at Writers WorkSpace, 5443 N. Broadway in Chicago. (Doors open 6:30.)

For more information, please visit: http://www.shunn.net/medicine

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Instinct

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Let me tell you a story.

This morning I was out walking the dog,
who, honestly, can be a grouchy pain in the ass.
But today she was pretty good. It was clear and cold, being October,
and we had waited more than five minutes
to cross a busy street. Ella was alert for squirrels,
trotting with her head up like a tiny horse,
when half a block ahead we saw a woman walking a shepherd mix
of some kind. It was small for a shepherd, brown with
a little bit of red to it.
Ella sat down on her haunches, as she sometimes does,
and wouldn't budge. It's her way of telling the
other dog that they're equals, and she's not afraid.
I made her keep walking, though, but I kept her
on the side of me away from the other dog,
just to be on the safe side. Because you never know.

As we passed the woman, her dog lunged in front of me,
growling. Ella lunged back. She's a soft-coated wheaten terrier
and doesn't look like she could be that tough, but they
were both about the same size and it was an even match.
In the confusion of bodies and leashes and guttural snarls,
I could see the other dog's teeth, points of gleaming bone,
trying to find their way home in my dog's
throat. I hauled Ella into the air by her leash and
swung her clear of the scrap. She wears a body harness and not
just a collar for exactly this reason.
The woman, sounding shaken, could not have apologized more.
Her dog never acts like that. I was shaken too. She
thanked me for being so cool, but it's like I told her:
"Sometimes things like this just happen."
There's no reason for it.

It's much the same way that I don't like you.

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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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