Inhuman Swill : Page 84
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

Oh, what fun it is to play around with the slideshow-making capacities of QuickTime Pro and the music-compressing capacities of Adobe Audition! Not to mention what fun it is to play with the dog.

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Since John Klima will want me touting my chapbook at every opportunity—

Okay, no, I can't shuffle my toe in the dirt and put this off on John. I have in hand an introduction from Cory Doctorow that will appear in my chapbook An Alternate History of the 21st Century, to be published by Spilt Milk Press this summer.

The intro made me beam. It made my wife get misty-eyed. We are stoked. Thanks, Cory!

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I love the '90s

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A few weeks back, for no reason but avoiding work, I assembled a list of the 100 best albums of the '90s. Okay, maybe not the best, but my favorites anyway, the ones that I seem to have listened to most obsessively over the years. In an effort to avoid more work, I will now share the list with you.

I limited myself to one album per artist (although Medeski Martin + Wood kind of slipped in there twice through a loophole), and I allowed myself only studio albums, nothing live and no compilations (the exception there being The Beta Band's Three E.P.'s). For each year, I have bolded my top choice, though in many cases it was a very close call.


  • Question and Answer, Pat Metheny w/Dave Holland & Roy Haynes
  • Missing ... Presumed Having a Good Time, The Notting Hillbillies
  • Fear of a Black Planet, Public Enemy
  • The Rhythm of the Saints, Paul Simon
  • Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, The Sundays

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Now that I am in the second week of a sometimes debilitating cold, and wondering if it's really something worse, I am reminded of the occasion a few years back when Laura was sick with something similar and visited a doctor in our neighborhood whom we had never gone to before.

He was, it turned out, a fat, hairy Greek doctor with his shirt unbuttoned to reveal a gold medallion, and who reeked of cigarettes. He sniffed near Laura's face.

"Eureka!" the doctor exclaimed.

"Eureka?" said Laura, nonplussed. What had he found?

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Anna Nicole Smith, née Vickie Lynn Hogan, a/k/a Vickie Smith, a/k/a Miss May 1992, a/k/a 1993 Playmate of the Year ... we barely knew ye.

Unless, you know, we were Playboy subscribers back in the early '90s.

Rest in the peace you never found in this straitlaced, size-two world.

Update:  Laura points out that, only two hours after the death, Anna Nicole's Wikipedia entry is already updated. Man, those motherfuckers are inhuman.
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ShunnCast #36

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Epidode #36 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which Bill, rather than beating a hasty and prudent retreat, takes more bad advice from the same wrong people and runs afoul of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Will the Mounties get their man? Snarkily recorded in stunning Rhinoviraphonic sound!

See also [info]shunncast.

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Is it something in the water?

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What is going on in Mexico? First Pan's Labyrinth from Guillermo del Toro, and now Children of Men from Alfonso Cuarón, both directors whose work I've admired in the past but who have far exceeded themselves this movie season.

I finally saw Children of Men last night, and I wish I'd done so sooner since then my Hugo nominating ballot would have looked a bit different. I can't say enough good about this film. Adapted very loosely from the bloodless P.D. James novel, it's dystopian science fiction of a high order, and movie-making of an even higher order.

I won't belabor the wealth of throwaway details tucked away throughout the movie that makes its near-future landscape seem so real and plausible, like the little laser-painted warning symbol that appears on a shattered car windshield in a corner of the screen. I won't touch on the subtleties of character and symbolism worked almost subliminally into the fabric of the film, such as the way the inherent trustworthiness of Clive Owens' character is illustrated in the way all the animals in the movie are quietly drawn to him.

But I will rhapsodize about the way Cuarón directs his spectacular, thrilling, and harrowing action set pieces. From a terrifying ambush shot mostly from inside the crowded target car to a tense escape scene where both the pursuers and their quarry are trying to compression-start their vehicles on a long-but-not-long-enough downslope to Owens' epic scamper through a battle between various insurgent groups and Homeland Security troops in a refugee camp for illegal aliens that looks more like Beirut than Brixham, Cuarón manages to put the viewer right in the center of the brilliantly choreographed action while still conveying a perfect sense of what's going on everywhere at every moment. His mastery is such that you don't lose your place in the action or have any trouble following what's happening. His vision is cohesive and coherent.

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Casting a not-so-cold eye

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I don't often post about my writing progress here, because usually it inches along with such dismal slowness. I have been unusually disciplined working on projects over the past few months, though, and am feeling good about it all this morning.

My normal writing routine, even most weekends, is to get up at 5:00 a.m., fire up the laptop, pour the coffee that is automatically brewing for me, and try to write for as long as I possibly can before the needs of the day force me to stop. I have for years paid lip service to this schedule. The times I've managed to stick to it have been the overall (though not overwhelming) exceptions.

Part of it is that, though I usually do my best work if I can get started first thing in the day, it's always hard for me to get up at that hour. I have a lifetime's practice at ignoring my alarm clock, and Laura gets justifiably annoyed at the expectation that she will kick my ass out of bed at five. Thank goodness for the BlackBerry my in-laws gave me for my birthday in August. For some reason, its alarm gets me up almost without fail.

For the past three weeks or so, I've been working on a fresh draft of this ghost story Derryl Murphy and I have been tossing back and forth like a cold potato for probably three years now, "Cast a Cold Eye." He may be terrified to learn that it has just this morning edged into novella territory. I regret that a bit myself, but I am thrilled to report that since five this morning I've done about 2,400 new words. This, for me, means I'm well into the stretch and racing toward the tape. I should wrap up this draft tomorrow or thereabouts and toss it back to Derryl.

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29 of 365

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I sneaked out of the office for a while this afternoon and met photographer+ Bill Wadman at Grand Central Station. The goal was to shoot portrait #29 for his excellent 365 Portraits project, where he shoots and posts a portrait a day for a year.

We—I say we but it was really he—tried various high-concept shots in and around Grand Central, but the one he ended up using he took while I was leaning against a mailbox at Madison & 41st, signing the photo release. Bill's a nice guy, and it was a lot of fun. I hope I get to see some of the shots that didn't make the cut.

The photo is on the 365 Portraits home page for the next day or so. The permanent link is here.

I heard about the project from [info]steelbrassnwood, who was 6 of 365. If you're in NYC and you want to participate, you can hunt around Bill's sites for his email address and get in touch, or write to me and I'll send it to you. He's got plenty of white people on the roster, he tells me, and is hoping to have more people of color sign on.

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Why she couldn't come

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I had forgotten until now, but Netherview Station (setting of "Inclination") has been illustrated before, by Dominic Harman.

The station is also the setting of my 1998 Science Fiction Age story "The Practical Ramifications of Interstellar Packet Loss," which is about a boy 70 light-years from home trying to figure out why his girlfriend isn't there to meet him when he arrives as they had arranged. I was thrilled with the illustration when I first saw it. This was the first far-future, space-based SF story I had ever sold, and seeing someone else's interpretation of my world was pretty mind-blowing.

Check it out.

In one of those stranges coincidences, I really was, purely by chance, listening to a track called "Why She Couldn't Come" when I started this post.
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