The Accidental Terrorist : Memoir : Page 4
            

Wired.com's Geek's Guide to the Galaxy Podcast
Happy Monday, Accidental Army! I know Mondays aren't the most thrilling days of the week, but I'm pretty amped about this one because it means that my oh-so-long-gestating memoir, The Accidental Terrorist, will be officially released tomorrow! I've been looking forward to this day for years. I hope you're nearly as excited for it as I am.

I have some interviews coming up that you might want to know about. Last night David Barr Kirtley of Wired.com's Geek's Guide the the Galaxy Podcast chatted with me for about 90 minutes about the writing of the book, why there are so many Mormon science fiction writers, and how Joseph Smith got away with telling such huge lies. That episode should become available this Saturday. (The previous episode featured David Mitchell, and I'm rather excited and daunted to be following a writer I admire so greatly in the guest seat.)

On Sunday morning, I'll be chatting live with David Pacheco of the "Atheists Talk" show on Minneapolis-St. Paul's AM 950—the Progressive Voice of Minnesota. I can't wait for that!

And finally today, to whet your appetite for tomorrow's book release, I'd like to announce the recent publication of my short story "After the Earthquake a Fire" in issue 2 of the new online literary magazine Bloodstone Review.

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Excerpted from The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary by William Shunn, available now!

My mission began around the time the prophet Ezra Taft Benson forcefully reaffirmed Joseph Smith’s declaration that the Book of Mormon was “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion.” It was the absolute center of our proselytizing efforts, the axis around which all else revolved.

Joseph published the Book of Mormon in 1830, when he was 24 years old, in the wake of a revivalist firestorm that swept through western New York. New religious movements had sprung up left and right, and utopian societies were a dime a dozen. The region was fertile ground for experiments in faith, having already given rise to such charismatic figures as Jemima Wilkinson and Mother Ann Lee. Joseph and his book would go on to eclipse them all.

Joseph Smith, Jr.—named, like I was, after his father—was born into precarious circumstances in Vermont on December 23, 1805. He already had two older brothers and an older sister—another brother had died in childbirth—and his father shuffled the growing brood from one New England town to the next, hounded by bad luck and debt. Joseph’s was a childhood steeped in magic and visions from his father, but also, from his mother, in deep love and reverence for the Bible.

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Excerpted from The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary by William Shunn, available now!

Elder Fowler tossed a golf ball lightly in the air as I trailed him up the shady walk. He bobbled the catch, and the ball clacked off the concrete.

“Aw, shit,” he said, lunging for it on the bounce. He snagged it and glanced back at me apologetically. “There I go again. You must think I’m awful.”

I waved him off as best I could while balancing a precarious stack of dark blue books. “Don’t worry about it.”

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Excerpted from The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary by William Shunn, available now!

Two years earlier, 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. I must have fielded that question hundreds of times growing up, from relatives, family friends, or congregants 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.

He wanted a truthful answer. I didn’t know how to give him one.

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Please drop by Reddit tonight, when I'll be hosting an AMA ("Ask Me Anything") in the r/mormon subreddit. I'll field questions about my new memoir, The Accidental Terrorist, and anything else you care to ask.

Note that the posted time, 7:00 to 9:00 pm, is for the Mountain time zone, to accommodate that region's strong interest in the subject matter. But you can, of course, participate from anywhere! Please join in! One random participant will receive a free copy of The Accidental Terrorist just for showing up.


My second Accidental Terrorist giveaway continues to run at Goodreads! If you're a Goodreads member with a mailing address in the U.S. or Canada, you can enter for the chance to win one of ten advance reading copies. The giveaway runs another five days.

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Excerpted from The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary by William Shunn, available now!

At the tap on my shoulder I jerked my head. “Elder Shunn, you’re up,” whispered Elder Rosenberg.

Time for my intake interview.

I stood and picked my way through the cluster of folding chairs in the darkened front room. The apes—a.p.’s, or assistants to the president—had drawn the heavy drapes and were nattering on about mission procedures, with transparency sheets and an overhead projector as aids. Elder Fearing and Elder Hardy had cheerfully announced that each of us would have 70 proselytizing hours a week to look forward to, at least eighteen of them knocking on doors. Ten solid Book of Mormon placements would be the minimum weekly goal, along with six first discussions. The monthly goal would be two convert baptisms.

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Excerpted from The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary by William Shunn, available now!

23 February 1987

The detective unlocks my tiny room and drags a plastic chair in from the hallway.

“Mister Shunn,” she says, “I’d like to ask you some questions now, if you have a few minutes.”

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Chicago, I am in you, and I'm feeling great after an unprecedented 14 hours of sleep last night.

I'm very excited for tonight's episode of the Tuesday Funk reading series, where I'll be appearing together with Elaine Hegwood Bowen, Nick Disabato, Sarah Hollenbeck, and my good friend Kyle Thiessen. The event takes place upstairs at Hopleaf at 7:30 pm, and it's free!

I used to host Tuesday Funk, so I'm always eager for a chance to come back. I'll be reading, of course, from The Accidental Terrorist, and I'll also have copies there for sale. Doors open at 7:00 pm—come early so you can get a seat.


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This essay is excerpted from The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary, available everywhere November 10, 2015.

WARNING: This essay contains graphic descriptions of primitive surgery that some readers may find disturbing.


In January 1994, when I was 26 years old, I sat down in my bare, cold room to write my first novel.

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Tuesday Funk for November 3, 2015
Greetings, Accidental Army! I haven't written a new poem in a while, but that subject line is almost a poem in its own right. But we have only 12 days left until the official release of The Accidental Terrorist and a lot to talk about before then, so let's get to it.

Review

First, I'd like to bring a terrific new review to your attention. Elena Colás reviewed The Accidental Terrorist last week for Chicago Literati, and while I hope you'll head over there and read the whole thing, I wanted to call out one paragraph in particular that I was very glad to see:

I felt his portrayal of his younger self was somehow more compassionate than I've read in other coming of age memoirs. When I finished this book, I was reminded of Joan Didion's advice that we are "well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be." Shunn resists the temptation to paint himself as either naive or savvy, opting instead for the kind of even-handed description that had me wondering pretty far into the book whether the author was still a practicing Mormon. [full review by Elena Colás]
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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
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About the Book

What happens when an ambivalent young Mormon missionary is pushed to the limit in a challenge to prove his faith? Hint: the outcome is explosive. The Accidental Terrorist is the long-awaited memoir from Hugo and Nebula Award–nominated author William Shunn, based on his popular podcast. Available now from Sinister Regard!