Foreword: A Record in Mine Own Hand

            

And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.
—1 Nephi 1:3
Every word of this is true.

I have to make that clear up front, because some of you are going to recall that I'm a professional science fiction writer and assume that I created the memoir that follows from whole cloth.

Not so. It really did happen to me, and I can trot out the newspaper clippings and conviction records if you want proof. I've changed the names of most of the participants, but the events themselves happened the way I describe them.

Back in the late eighties, I told this story frequently—often to folks from Utah who said, "Oh, yeah, I remember hearing something about that on the news." A good oral telling took at least two hours, and even then it didn't do the story justice.

 my missionary name tag
A facsimile of the very name tag I wore on my various missionary adventures. (Pass mouse over picture to see back of name tag.)

I taped myself relating the story on one occasion, back when I was still a missionary and was getting tired of repeating it time and again. For over five years, that was the only permanent record I had of the complete events that led to my expulsion from Canada in early 1987.

But then, late in 1993, I struck up an email correspondence with an upcoming SF writer named Genevieve. Genevieve was understandably curious about my allusion to having spent time in jail, and I responded to her requests for more information by writing the memoir that follows.

I didn't intend for the story to drag on for so long. I wrote the first chunk and sent it off to Genevieve thinking that I could squeeze the rest of the narrative into a handful of successive installments and be through before the week was out. How wrong I was.

I managed to get an installment off to Genevieve every day or two for the next few weeks, and I still didn't seem to be any closer to the end than I was when I started. Perhaps it was the necessity of explaining all sorts of odd details to a non-Mormon that made the tale inflate so—I don't know. But I do know that I lost steam somewhere there in December or January, and the installments petered out at Chapter 18 or 19.

My email contact with Genevieve became somewhat spotty thereafter, owing to the fact that I had quit my job as a programmer at WordPerfect Corporation to write my novel The Revivalist. By the summer of '94, however, my novel was done, I was working again, and I finally responded to Genevieve's repeated pleas for a continuation of my story.

About the same time, I began posting the earlier chapters of my memoir, suitably censored, to my topic on GEnie's Science Fiction Roundtable. Genevieve's only request was that I send her the new chapters well in advance of their public postings, so that she could be the first one to see how things turned out. To this I happily acceded.

I must humbly admit that my chapter-a-day postings caused quite a stir on the boards—and eventually led to the harshest flames I've ever been involved in online. But for a month or two there, during July and August, my topic was definitely The Place To Be.

Eventually the story wound down and ended. In total, it weighed in at 50,000 words and 37 installments—quite a shock to me, given the modest aims I'd had way back when I sent Genevieve the first chapter. Folks on GEnie kept telling me that I should rewrite, polish up, and publish it as a memoir . . . a thought that had occurred to me before, but which I hadn't been willing to take seriously.

Well, I finally started taking it seriously.

What you see here is an early phase of what is now a much bigger project. I've stuck more or less to the text of my original installments, though I've added a chapter here and deleted one there, futzed around with some of the wording, and dropped in a few hypertextual links to a glossary for the Mormonism-challenged among you.

I've recently finished incorporating this basic material into a book about my mission experiences and Mormon history and culture at large. That's called The Accidental Terrorist, and I hope you'll keep an eye out for it. But for now I simply hope you'll find a bit of amusement and amazement as you follow the adventures of a clueless nineteen-year-old missionary who just didn't know how far was too far.

“Terror on Flight 789” is a very early, much shorter preliminary draft of what would eventually become my full-length memoir The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary. If you enjoy this story, you'll like that thoroughly revised and expanded version even more. Available now!

About This Story

“Terror on Flight 789” is a very early, much shorter preliminary draft of what would eventually become my full-length memoir The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary. If you enjoy this story, you'll like that thoroughly revised and expanded version even more. Available now!

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