Inhuman Swill : Missionaries : Page 5
            

accidental-cover-front-small.jpg
I've finished designing the books that will go to the three winners of my Magick 4 Terri auction and placed my order with Lulu.com. With a little luck, the lucky recipients will have their copies of this special private edition of The Accidental Terrorist before New Year's Day. (By the way, I decided to upgrade them to hardcover with full dust jacket. Yeah.)

Here's a sneak peek of what the cover looks like. Eventual publishers of the commercial edition, please feel free to steal my design.

Full entry

Dedux

| No Comments
            

I was complaining about The Walking Dead a couple of weeks ago. I finally saw the mid-season finale (an oxymoron, for sure), after having somehow managed to avoid any spoilers. I have to say, it was great, it was visceral, it was shocking, it recast the entire season so far. What it did not do, though, was atone for how boring the season was up to that point. Here's hoping the remainder of the season can maintain that level of intensity, even if the characters are still more types than people.

In other follow-up news, I've been waiting for the Mormon missionaries to call me after their visit back in October, but they still haven't. I feel rejected. I feel jilted. I feel not worth saving. I feel upset that I haven't been able to invite them in and then tell them that praying out loud is not permitted under my roof.

Dammit. Maybe they found out more about me and are afraid. Maybe they just didn't like me. Oh, well, life is short.

Full entry

On the other side of the doorbell

| No Comments
            

They finally caught up with me. It was bound to happen eventually.

It was Sunday evening. Laura and I had only been back home for a couple of hours after a long weekend in New York City. The doorbell rang. We had placed an order for Indian food only about twenty minutes earlier, so I grabbed a fistful of the cash I'd left on the sideboard and went down to answer the door.

It wasn't our food delivery. It was a pair of well-scrubbed young men wearing dark suits and black name tags. Yep, it was the Mormon missionaries.

"Hi, I'm Elder McAlister, and this is my companion Elder Nielsen," said the first. "We're looking for Donald Shunn?"

Full entry

Of spiders and flies

| No Comments
            

Laura and I were talking over some of the difficulties I've been having this week with my revisions of The Accidental Terrorist when she gave me the absolute perfect image for the central conflict in the book. The main character, in her view, is a fly trapped in a spiderweb, struggling to free itself with only the vaguest notion of the nature of its predicament.

(See, I'm the fly, and the LDS Church is... Yeah.)

This image is so spot-on, so apt to something I was struggling to articulate to myself, that I wish I could somehow work it into the book. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, since I don't want to be too heavy-handed about it), I'm pretty much constrained by the reality of my experiences during the six months of my life that the book covers, and those six months did not include any spiders.

No, the spider didn't become a factor in my mission until five or six months after the events of the book. I was serving in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, by then. My companion and I lived rent-free in a small house in the middle of a wheatfield owned by some local Mormons. We were a little bored in that town, and one thing my companion did to pass the time was adopt a little spider that lived in a web in the window frame of one of the empty back rooms. He would go around the house catching flies and dropping them into the web, then watch the spider kill them. This was the best-fed spider in northern Idaho. It grew so quickly that after about a month its web (which it unstrung and re-spun every day) was so strong that you could strum it like a guitar and it wouldn't break. The spider itself was as big as the first joint of my thumb.

Full entry

75

| No Comments
            

Donald William Shunn
Today my father would have been 75 years old, had he not succumbed to complications from prostate cancer nearly three years ago. I want to post something about the old man, but the closest thing I have to a remembrance at hand is the second chapter from the latest in-progress revision of my memoir. It's not exactly complimentary on the whole, but it does attempt to trace the trials my father went through trying to secure a better future for his family, which I believe he succeeded at—even if he died doubting it.

By the way, I was in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago and I hunted down the house in Highland Park where we lived until I was six. My mother had warned me that I really didn't want to visit that neighborhood, but since when have I ever listened to my parents' advice? Anyway, the neighborhood was just fine—quiet, even. The house, perched on hill on Aldama Street between Avenues 53 and 54, was much, much smaller than I remembered. And there were parrots squawking in a tall tree overhead.



In 1984 my father and I were driving back roads somewhere east of Victorville in the California desert when he sprang a terrifying question on me. "Son," he asked, "do you want to serve a mission?"

I didn't know what to say. This was something I'd never been asked before, at least not in a way that betrayed any genuine interest in how I felt. I must have fielded that stock question hundred of times growing up, from relatives, family friends, and people at church, and the expected yes was always my reflexive answer. But the look on my father's face told me this time was different.

Full entry

The tissue at hand

| No Comments
            

Having finished the first draft of a novel a few months back, I am now slowly but surely whittling my memoir, The Accidental Terrorist, down to its fighting weight. This means chopping out certain scenes I'm very fond of, but which don't fit the focus and tone of the revised manuscript.

Here's one of those scenes I'm sorry to see go, surgically excised and preserved under glass for your inspection.


October 1986

"You want to see my what?" said Elder Vickers, assuming that expression of shock and disgust he feigned so well.

Full entry

Reading on video

| No Comments
            

The great folks at Essay Fiesta have posted video of the memoir excerpt I read for them at the Book Cellar on April 19th. This is a segment from The Accidental Terrorist called "Gluttons for Punishment":

(Damn, that was over my time limit. Thank God I didn't exceed the YouTube limit of ten minutes.)

Essay Fiesta is a monthly reading series that benefits the Howard Brown Health Center, hosted by Keith Ecker and Alyson Lyon. Please come out to the Book Cellar in Chicago on the third Monday of every month to support the series.

Full entry

Radio audio

| No Comments
            

I had a great time yesterday afternoon doing "Doing Time with Ron Kuby" on Air America. He had very kind things to say about The Accidental Terrorist, and he held me over for an unplanned extra segment. I think it went pretty well, though I was vibrating in the X-ray band. Here's audio:

Segment 1  (10:35)

Segment 2  (07:49)

Full entry

Memoir-go-round

| No Comments
            

The Accidental Terrorist
In 2006 and 2007, over the course of about 30 episodes of my "ShunnCast," I read my unpublished memoir The Accidental Terrorist, the story of how I, as a young naive Mormon missionary, came to be arrested for terrorism and permanently banned from Canada. The response was enthusiastic and overwhelming. Each chapter was downloaded thousands of times, and the memoir continues to be a great draw at my website. If you've listened before, I thank you for your support.

Now I'm serializing the book again, from the beginning. Why? As popular as those episodes were, the sometimes lengthy bracketing chatter about other aspects of my life and work made it impossible for listeners after the fact to sit back with every chapter and listen to the book straight through from start to finish.

This new podcast will change that. Starting April 7th and continuing throughout 2009, I'll post a new chapter from The Accidental Terrorist every Tuesday morning. Most of these will be excerpted from the original "ShunnCast" episodes, but a handful in which I've made significant revisions since the first podcasts will be newly rerecorded.

Most Friday mornings, I'll post a short "Setting the Record Straight" installment, also excerpted from the original episodes, in which I'll talk about what elements of Tuesday's chapter may have been slightly exaggerated in the writing of the book, and which others hew close to reality.

Full entry
            

It has to have been 1988 when I first read Watchmen. I was a Mormon missionary stationed in Wenatchee, Washington—a zone leader, no less. We weren't allowed even to read newspapers or magazines, let alone comic books, but some sainted individual at church (I now forget who) had found out I was an aspiring science fiction writer and decided I needed to know about the most exciting thing to happen in the field in the time I'd been away. He (because he was definitely male) made me a gift of Issues 2 through 12.

I still remember the marathon reading session that went on that night. Two other elders were hanging out at our apartment that night, and as I finished each issue I would hand it off to my companion, who handed it off to the next elder, and so on. I think all our minds were blown that night, to one extent or another. I don't know what stood out for the other elders, but I was as fired up by the formal brilliance of the books, the panel-to-panel transitions and juxtapositions and visual motifs, as I was by the surface level of the story. Even at 20, I could tell that I had just watched a depth charge exploding against the hull of superhero mythology. I could also tell the blow had been delivered in a way no other medium could have accomplished.

My reading experience wasn't crippled, I think, by not having Issue 1 at hand, though the next day I dragged my companion to the first comics store I could find and plunked down something like ten dollars for a copy. That hurt a little, but it was still less than I would have paid for all twelves issues had I bought them as they came out. I still have those books, bagged in plastic and locked in the safe. I'd be hard-pressed to part with them, even though my Issue 1 is not from the first printing.

But now I digress. I've reread Watchmen many times over the years, and even turned my wife into a fan, so like any other fan I approached the news of a movie adaptation actually going into production with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I didn't go to a midnight screening last Thursday night, but I did see the earliest showing I could get to on Friday. And I sat rapt, thrilled, and hypnotized for nearly three hours. Seeing those familiar scenes translated so beautifully and faithfully to the screen, I was transported.

Full entry
The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

Archives