Tonight, Thursday, November 13, I'll be appearing here in Queens at Boundless Tales, a series that features poetry, prose, and more. I'll be reading a personal essay that encapsulates the whole of my forthcoming memoir, The Accidental Terrorist. The lineup for the evening also includes Jennifer Baker, Susana H. Case, and Aaron Poochigian. This event takes place at 7:00 pm at The Astoria Bookshop, near the Broadway stop on the N/Q line. I hope to see you there!
There seems to be some confusion out there about the title of my memoir. Hey, don't feel bad about it! I brought it on myself.
In a blog post a few weeks ago, I let casually drop that I was considering changing the title from The Accidental Terrorist to Missionary Man.
You'd think I suggested that Sesame Street should change Big Bird's name to Lysander Lemonbeak. (Though it does have a certain ring.)
Let me back up a bit and give you some history. When I started work on the book, Missionary Man was my working title. The Eurythmics single of the same name had dropped in the summer of 1986, just two months before I entered the Missionary Training Center to start my two years of service. Rumors abounded (in Utah, anyway) that Annie Lennox had written the song after two Mormon missionaries knocked at her door. For a lot of us leaving on missions around that time, "Missionary Man" was our anthem.Geoff Fowler even created a logo for me to use on the website.
But then a funny thing happened. A flashier title popped into my head. The Accidental Terrorist was a grabber. It became the new working title. It never sat entirely right with me, though. It was no accident that I picked up a telephone in Calgary and made a false bomb threat. I did it with deliberately, to achieve a premeditated effect. (Sure, I premeditated for only a minute or two, but still.) Calling my act accidental has always seemed slightly wrong to me, made me feel guilty and uneasy.
Fortunately, though, The Accidental Terrorist is what I called the book when I started serializing it in my podcast back in 2006. That's how everyone who listened knows it, and that's the book they want to see.
I'm not sure why, aside from that pesky conscience of mine, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to my first working title. Yes, a few people whose opinions I respect have told me over the years that they didn't find the title appropriate, but I think I gave those opinions too much weight. When I brought up the possibility of changing the title with my wife, she told me I was being crazy and wrongheaded. When I traveled last week to Chicago for a reading and then to D.C. for the World Fantasy Convention, I ran into a large number of friends who told me I was being crazy and wrongheaded.
They were right.
This, folks, is why I'm a writer and not a marketer.
So don't worry. I got the message. Thanks for setting me straight. I have re-embraced my memoir's one, only, and proper title, and I've re-remembered all the many reasons that title is an excellent one. I've even started playing around with some illustration ideas I can eventually give to whatever artist I hire to do the book cover (one of which you can see above).
Now let's take a moment to pour a libation to the memory of Missionary Man. You were a good title for the times, but like John the Baptist you came merely to prepare the way. Long live The Accidental Terrorist.
And I remember
standing on the wall.
As they kissed,
we shot over their heads.
Just for one day,
can't we be heroes?
Hey, Shunn-watchers, I have appearances upcoming this month at reading series in both Chicago and Queens.
I'll be in Chicago tomorrow night, Tuesday, November 4, to read at Tuesday Funk, the series I used to host and produce. I'll be reading from a new science fiction story, "Our Dependence on Foreign Keys." The lineup for the evening also includes Keesha Beckford, Tom Haley, Maggie Jenkins, and Melinda McIntire. This event takes place at 7:30 pm, upstairs at Hopleaf, near the Berwyn stop on the Red line.
Then on Thursday, November 13, I'll be back home in Queens for Boundless Tales, a series that features poetry, prose, and more. I'll be reading a personal essay that encapsulates the whole of my forthcoming memoir, The Accidental Terrorist. The lineup for the evening also includes Jennifer Baker, Susana H. Case, and Aaron Poochigian. This event takes place at 7:00 pm at The Astoria Bookshop, near the Broadway stop on the N/Q line.
Please mark your calendars! I'd love to see you at either event, or both.
I suppose I must have encountered the concept at some point reading spy fiction, but my true introduction to numbers stations came earlier this year from my friend Anthony Atamaniuk. When he played a few examples at a party, I was instantly transported to the nightmarish world of my earliest childhood memories, where the universe beyond my bedcovers seemed to vanish with the fall of night, and every half-heard or half-imagined sound was like a transmission from a cinder planet light-years dead. To me the recordings sounded like outer space, like eternal night, like death.
If you don't know, numbers stations are the shortwave frequencies on which spies regularly transmit coded messages. In 1997, Irdial-Discs released The Conet Project, a 4-CD collection of numbers-station recordings. The whole thing is available as a free download, but you can also purchase a re-release that adds a fifth disc of more recent recordings.
If you have any interest in the history of espionage, or just in very creepy recordings that probably influenced many a horror movie soundtrack, you have to take a listen:
(You may have heard some of this material before. In fact, if you want to hear where the ethereal voice intoning "Yankee ... Hotel ... Foxtrot ..." on that Wilco album came from, just click forward to track 4.)
What I find most remarkable about numbers stations is that they're not some Cold War relic. They persist to this day, even in this Internet age. I know that composer Olivia Block has been scanning the shortwave bands for numbers stations lately, searching for the ingredients of a new recording project. Somewhere out there, hunted women and men are still pulling out their radios late at night, casting their lonely reports out into the ether like messages in bottles.
And the thought of it terrifies me.
I never expected it would take so long to make this announcement, but my Mormon missionary memoir The Accidental Terrorist will be published by Sinister Regard in 2015.
Although it might end up with a different title. And the cover definitely won't look like the one below. And Sinister Regard is actually me.
I'm very excited, nevertheless.
In 1993 I started relating the story in email to a non-Mormon acquaintance, but the telling required so much backstory that it eventually grew to three dozen installments. I soon began posting these chapters to a science fiction roundtable on GEnie, where they generated plenty of discussion and interest. In 1995, when I had my first personal web site, I started posting the chapters again, and they've remained a perennial draw.
But it wasn't until early in 1999 that I began trying to spin these slapdash reminiscences into an actual, substantive book. My agent at the time immediately set about trying to sell the partial manuscript, and my first blog post about the submission process dates from October 2000. There followed a long series of outright rejections and heart-breaking near-misses, not to mention a terrorist attack in 2001 that rendered a light-hearted book about a bomb threat virtually unpublishable, and then a major scandal in 2006 that nearly killed the market for non-celebrity memoirs altogether.
That year, frustrated, I began serializing the book as a regular segment of my personal podcast. Again, it went over very well, attracting a lot of attention. In 2009 I cut-and-pasted those segments into their own standalone podcast, again attracting plenty of notice.
All through this, I was frequently asked when the podcast would become available in book form. But despite the heroic efforts of one agent after another, traditional publishers continued to pass on the manuscriptsometimes in the most effusive terms possible.
Laura and I had been thinking about that ourselves for quite sometime. The precise timetable is not yet set, but you can probably look for both print and ebook publication in the spring of 2015, maybe summer. Never fear. It is happening.
We're taking time to get everything right because I don't want to put out a substandard product. We've hired a very respected book editor as our, um, book editor. I'll get my first round of edits from her right at Christmasmy own gift to myself! After another round of edits, we'll run it through a professional gauntlet of copyediting, book design, and art. Who knows? We'll probably even change the title back to one of my early favoritesMissionary Man.
I know some of you have been waiting for this book for a very long time. You've probably given up hope that you would ever see it. It's been through plenty of different permutations over the years, and I plan to give you the best version I'm capable of producing. I hope you look forward to getting it half as much as I look forward to giving it to you.
Thank you so much for hanging in there with me.
To make sure you stay in the loop about all news of my upcoming memoir, please sign up for my email newsletter.
It's been several months since I posted an Ella video, so I figure we're overdue. Here's one I took this past Saturday at Astoria Park during off-leash hours.
Ella spies a squirrel foraging far out on the meadow. For a while she just watches, until I nudge her into action (about 0:27). The thing to note is how Ella bends her trajectory not directly toward the squirrel but to where she predicts the squirrel is heading. She trying to cut it off before it reaches its tree.
Spoiler alert: She doesn't catch the squirrel, but I still hope she will someday.
It's been a long time since I posted a mix of the month, but the CD Mix of the Month Club hasn't been mixing it up very often lately. A few of us convened for karaoke earlier this month, though, so I figured that was enough of an excuse to whip up a new mix.
My contribution for October, most emphatically not a Halloween mix, is called The Writing's on the Wall. Eleven of the fourteen tracks are available on Spotify, so you can check out a good 78.6% of the mix below:
[Amazon customer support chat session in progress]
Me: Thanks for the help.
Amazon: awesome and tell me, is there anything else i can do to make you smile today?
Me: You could tell me a joke. Otherwise, that's all.
Amazon: Well i can :-)
three old folks are sitting on a bench in the park
the first one says: its windy huh?
the second one says: no!! its Thursday
and the last one says: me too!! lets get a beer
Me: Good one.
Amazon: It has been a pleasure helping you out, thank you very much for being part of Amazon family, and i hope you have a great day