Inhuman Swill : Writing : Page 12

Doris Lessing just won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Well, how about that? Apparently the rumors that her SF output had killed her chances were either exaggerated or dated.

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On the literary map

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Laura and I were walking Ella the other evening when we ran across a sign indicating a historical landmark. I suppose we hadn't noticed it before because we usually walk Ella down the grassy greenway on the other side of the boulevard's frontage road, not down the sidewalk.

In any event, what we learned is that L. Frank Baum is our neighbor. He lived three blocks from us in 1899 when he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

One hopes there's still something in the air.

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Congrats to Tim Pratt!

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I'm thrilled that Tim Pratt won a Hugo last night. Paul Melko accepted it, and it was my supreme honor to sit next to Tim's Hugo. Okay, who am I kidding? We passed it down the row and all took turns holding it. Cory Doctorow might have licked it, I'm not sure.

I was disappointed not to win, of course, but we've had a great time this week, with more great times to come today. Congrats to Robert Reed also, and all the winners!

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Last of the packing

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We leave for Japan in a little less than ten hours. I'd better get some sleep!

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Introducing my chapbook!

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My chapbook An Alternate History of the 21st Century (introduction by Cory Doctorow, illustrations by Mattias Adolfsson, edited and published by John Klima) is now out and available! But since you might be sick of hearing me talk about it by now, I'll let John Klima and Cory Doctorow tell you more in their respective blogs.

In fact, Cory's introduction to the chapbook is Creative Commons–licensed, so I'll reproduce it here:

Bill Shunn is a legend in certain circles. Long before I met him, I'd had many people regale me with the story of how he once threatened to blow up an airplane in Canada on behalf of the Church of Latter-day Saints. The story—incredible, hilarious, sad and instructive—is too long to recount here. Suffice it to say that it ends with Bill getting a rectal probe from a Mountie, trying to convert a drunk in the tank to Mormonism, and then being deported from Canada as a terrorist (the whole thing is recounted in engrossing detail on Bill's website and podcast). In my mental shorthand, I thought of Bill as "that Mormon terrorist skiffy writer."

But once I met Bill, that changed. He was developing geo-hacker software for handheld computers—this was before Big Bird hired him to program the computers at the Children's Television Network—and he was nothing like my mental image. I'd expected someone with the fresh-faced earnestness of the door-to-door Mormons who'd roused me on Saturday mornings (albeit I also expected a mad, terrorist glint in his eye). What I found instead was a hip, ironic, funny guy that I took an immediate liking to. I introduced him immediately to my pal Karl Schroeder, a skiffy writer who comes from Mennonite stock, on the grounds that they'd probably have a lot to talk about. They did.

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Worldcon schedule

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Here, if you're interested, is my Worldcon program schedule:

Sat 1400 Religion In SF Participants: Jessica LANGER, Kari MAUND, Robert Charles WILSON, William SHUNN Though their pursuits are not mutually exclusive, religion and speculative fiction are almost anathema to one another. In SF, religion is ridiculed as superstition, derided as a pursuit of less advanced minds. Why is this kind of discrimination acceptable? Why are there not more proudly religious characters in SF? Sun 1400 The Integration of Science and Religion in SF&F Participants: Lisa C FREITAG, Robert Charles WILSON, William SHUNN, Edward JAMES Science Fiction is the literature of the humanist, the rationalist and the skeptic. As theoretical physicists look at the underpinnings of the physical universe, they see the presence of the hand of God. How do authors integrate religion and science? Can it only be done in fantasy?
If you'll be there, I hope you'll catch the Saturday panel or its Sunday rerun!

(Full schedule.)

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Moonflowers and Guernica

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An Alternate History of the 21st Century: Stories by William Shunn
We had visitors from Iowa on Saturday. John, Shai, and Aubrey Klima dropped in for the day from Davenport, a mere three hours away. We walked to a nearby bar & grill for lunch, along with John's college pal Pat who turns out to live only a few blocks from us. Aubrey was very concerned that her new pal Ella was not accompanying us on the trek.

After lunch the Klimas took us on an extended shopping expedition to Lincoln Park, where I was introduced to the marvels of Lush, where John was like a kid in a candy shop, and to Sam's Wine and Spirits, where both of us were like kids in a candy shop. Laura narrowly missed buying a great pair of shoes at mumblety-mumble shoestore (what's in a name, anyway?), but she and Shai both walked out with spiffy new hats. Back at the homestead, while Aubrey chased a mostly tolerant Ella around the room and offered people the raspberries impaled on her fingers, we ate fine cheese and fruit while sampling a bit of the Old Monk Rum that John had recommended highly. (I also purchased a young calvados and a 40th birthday Tomintoul 27yo.)

Almost as fun as the visit itself was the opportunity to see page proofs of my chapbook, complete with the Mattias Adolfsson illustrations that will grace the cover and interior. Laura and I were both blown away by the art. My two favorite illustrations are the ones accompanying "Observations from the City of Angels" (a robot hand plucking a petal from a flower) and "Objective Impermeability in a Closed System" (an at-first puzzling piece that I only belatedly realized references Picasso's Guernica). Can't wait for you to see them! I have to get the proofs proofed early this week so there will be copies to take with us to Worldcon in Yokohama.

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Cut and pasted without hands

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LDSF-2: Latter-Day Science Fiction
I'm not sure what Parables Publishing is up to, putting the entire text of their "classic" LDSF anthologies online. I guess they're trying to drum up some publicity for their long-overdue fourth volume of science fiction for Mormons. Good luck to them.

Why do I care? Well, the first story I ever published, "Cut Without Hands," appeared in LDSF-2 back in 1985. I was sixteen when I made the sale (payment in copies), and I was beside myself with joy. Unfortunately, editor Benjamin Urrutia lost my address and couldn't send me my author's copies. I assumed the project had died on the vine—until the spring of 1987, when I was a missionary in Washington and received a letter from Mr. Urrutia. He had read about my brush with the law in the paper and was writing to ask if I was the same D. William Shunn who had given him a story for his anthology.

Much as I wish my little piece of Mormon apologia would quietly vanish, copies of LDSF-2 still show up in used bookstores every once in a while, so I can't be too upset that my story is now up on the Web for all the world to see—in total copyright violation. I'm not inclined to press the matter, though Philip José Farmer and the estate of Avram Davidson (both authors had Mormon-related stories reprinted in LDSF-2) might feel differently. So go read this odd historical curiosity before someone more litigious than I gets wind of it and the whole thing vanishes. (You'll have to scroll way down, or search on "cut without hands," since the Parables folks seems to have only rudimentary HTML skillz.)

Another story you might want to read while it's still available is "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" by hyperpopular LDS author Jack Weyland, which immediately precedes mine in the table of contents. This story is significant to me only because I hated it so much, even as a young Mormon missionary. Its central conceit was so smug and insular and made for such bad science fiction that for two decades I carried around a desire to write a story that proceeded from the same premise but took it in an entirely different direction.

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Cast in cold type

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I've sold a book! Well, half a book, anyway. A dark fantasy novella, to be precise.

According to my records, it was over four years ago that Derryl Murphy dropped me a note that said:

I've had this idea rattling around in the back of my head for few months now, but the starts have been all false, and a little voice has been telling me for a while now that I should contact you. You interested in doing a short story together? It involves photography and spirituality, sorta, which might make for a nice blend between us.
I had never collaborated, except for one quite short story almost a decade before, so I had some reservations but decided to give it a try anyway.

We hammered out a basic plot, based on Derryl's initial idea and some moody photographs of graveyard statuary, and then started tossing the manuscript back and forth—veeeerrrrry slowly, since we both had a lot of other big projects going. But earlier this year we finally had a final final draft, novella length, and it was time to send the damn thing out.

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I finally made it back home yesterday to my lovely wife and fuzzy dog after eight days away at the Blue Heaven workshop. I'm delighted to be home but nostalgic for the workshop. It was an extraordinarily helpful, intense, and fun week, maybe even moreso than last year. I don't want to be a namedropper, so I'm not going list all the terrific skiffy writers who attended. Suffice it to say that the week was professionally and personally rewarding, filled with learning, insight, humor, collegiality, friendship, food, beer, free Stormclouds, animal heads, turkey vultures, TNT explosions, Totally Outrageous Behavior, quips that can never be repeated without someone choking almost to death, and Old Gregg. My novel Silvertide was critiqued by two sharp readers who restored my confidence in it, and I hope I served as useful a function to the three embarrassingly talented scribes whose novels I critiqued in full (or nearly so).

Too many good times to recount them all, or even to pick a handful. I leave you with my entry in the Blue Heaven 2007 Raunchy Limerick Challenge, posed by a fellow workshopper who shall remain nameless, for reasons that will remain unstated. The challenge was to compose a limerick employing the words pump, rump, and Cockney.

Down at the Village Pump

A barmaid of bonny sweet rump
Set empty beers down with a thump.
    "Don' just sit and watch me,"
    Said this comely Cockney.
"You want some, get back 'ere and pump."

It's good to be home.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn