Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can rearrange it to make William Shunn.

Tomorrow morning I expect to be disappointed.

Like many of you, I've been following the Serial podcast for the past few months. My reactions to the previous eleven episodes have ranged from bored to enthralled to confused, but I'm pretty sure that tomorrow's final episode will leave me feeling disappointment.

I'd love to be wrong. I'd love for Episode 12 to pull everything together, to fill me with a transcendent sense of the ephemeral nature of truth, or to turn up the final damning piece of evidence that either implicates or exonerates Adnan Syed. I don't have have confidence in either outcome.

Maybe part of this comes from my own unreasonable expectations. When I first started listening to this true-crime story, I assumed that Sarah Koenig was well ahead of the game and had unraveled the mystery already. I assumed from the very title, Serial, not just that twists and turns and cliffhangers and reversals lay ahead, but that a sure hand on the tiller was guiding the ship to a known destination.

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Newtown Literary Issue 5
Newtown Literary is our homegrown literary journal here in the borough of Queens. Its fifth issue, devoted to speculative poetry and prose, just appeared, and features my new short story "Sparkler." The issue can be purchased now at The Astoria Bookshop in Queens, and will soon be available for ordering online.

In celebration of the new issue, Newtown Literary will be hosting a launch party on December 17. The event takes place at Terraza 7 Train Café in Elmhurst, Queens. The lineup for the evening also includes Laura Grow-Nyberg, Jennifer Morell, Crystal Rivera, Joan Willette and more.

Wednesday, December 17, 7:00 pm
Newtown Literary #5 Launch
Terraza 7 Train Café
40-19 Gleane St
Elmhurst, NY 11373

Terraza 7 can be reached via the 7 train to 82nd Street in Queens, or (a bit less conveniently) via the M train to Elmhurst Avenue. I hope to see you there!

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Ella-Phantile 2014 13-Month Calendar
Hi, gang! Laura and I are happy to announce that the new Ella calendar for 2015 is available now from Lulu.com. It features thirteen months of all your favorite Ella photos from from the past year—all right, all right, our favorites—and for a limited time you can get it for the discounted price of only $11.99 plus shipping and handling. What a fetching bargain!

Click below to buy now, and you can keep Ella-porting around NYC with your favorite soft-coated wheaten terrier all year long.

Ella-Portation 2015 13-Month Calendar

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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!

Thursday, November 13, 7:00 pm
Boundless Tales
The Astoria Bookshop
31-29 31st St.
Astoria, NY 11106
www.astoriabookshop.com

The Accidental Terrorist (red cover concept)
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.

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Lament

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And I remember
standing on the wall.

As they kissed,
we shot over their heads.

Just for one day,
can't we be heroes?


Tuesday Funk for Nov. 4, 2014
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.

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The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations I find something deeply unsettling about numbers stations.

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:

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The Accidental Terrorist (charity auction edition)
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.

It's hard for me to pin down exactly when I started work on this book. The events it chronicles took place mostly between September 1986 and March 1987, when I was a Mormon missionary serving in Alberta. But before that time span had even ended, I was already learning to tell bits and pieces of the story to an audience. In 1988, I told the full story to a few fellow missionaries—with a tape recorder running. Here's an excerpt, in which you can hear me at age 20 with my Utah accent still fully intact:

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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.

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