Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

On November 10 (the same day The Accidental Terrorist was released), I mailed my resignation letter to the LDS Church via USPS Priority Express with delivery confirmation.

You see, unlike in many Christian churches, having your name and records removed from the rolls of Mormonism is not as simple as refraining from church attendance. Mormons are sticklers for records, and unless you do something drastic, they continue to count you as a member whether you want to be counted or not. If you move, your church records will often follow you, whether you want them to or not, and the leaders in your new city will send people out to your house to make sure you get involved in the local congregation. I've heard from former members whose repeated requests to be left alone were completely ignored, to the point where it could be called harassment.

I had not attended a Mormon church in nearly twenty years, and my address had changed eight times, but on May 29, 2014, I nonetheless received an email out of the blue from the local Mormon ward in Astoria, Queens, asking for volunteers to help out with a weekend service project. I still don't know how they knew where I lived, never mind what my email address was.

The point is, the LDS Church (both as an institution and as individual members) is terrible at respecting the boundaries of people who would prefer to be left alone. Because of this, it took at least one lawsuit to establish that people in the United States have the right to easily resign from the church and thereafter be left alone. That's how it should work in theory, anyway. In practice things are often messier.

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Ella un-a-cyst-ed

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Ella in her Surgi Snuggli after cyst surgery
I've been so focused on my book for the past year or more that I can't even remember the last time I posted an Ella update here to the blog. I find that unconscionable, so I'm here to remedy that.

First off, Ella is doing just fine, despite the fact that she had surgery last month, the second time this year. Like many wheaten terriers, Ella is prone to developing big sebaceous cysts, which for the most part we have left alone. They're mostly only a problem if they start to grow. In that case they can cause intense discomfort, or they can even burst and get infected.

Normally we've handled Ella's cysts by having them drained with a needle when they get too big, but in February we finally had to send her under the knife for the first time to have four of them removed. One had burst, another was getting bigger, and we figured we would just take as many off as possible as long as she was under anesthesia anyway.

This is considered minor surgery, but it's still nerve-wracking, especially because of the anesthesia. But Ella came through the first surgery fine, which made us a little less wary about doing it again last month.

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On his new comedy tour, Lewis Black has been reading rants submitted by fans at the end of each show. On November 8 in Oklahoma City, he read a rant from 18-year-old Trevor Sepulvida of San Diego, who had just sent in his resignation letter to the Mormon church.

The rant is brilliant, profane, delightful, and irreverent in the extreme. If you're Mormon, it may well singe the ears right off your head. We desire all to receive it. Bow your heads and say "Yes."

People: Video of Political Comedian Lewis Black Reading Teen's Mormon Church Resignation Letter Goes Viral on Social Media

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Wired.com's Geek's Guide to the Galaxy Podcast
Though it doesn't officially come out until tomorrow, my interview with the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast is now live and available through iTunes and elsewhere.

I really enjoyed doing this interview. Host David Barr Kirtley asked great questions, and we chatted not just about the writing of The Accidental Terrorist, but also how charismatic religious leaders manage to get away with so much and why there are so many Mormon science fiction writers.

Dave does a heroic job with this podcast in general, and if you're not listening to it regularly, you should. In fact, you should listen to a few of the many great past episodes and then help support the show.

Listen below now!

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After years of work, The Accidental Terrorist, my memoir of Mormon missionary life, is out today! And what better way to celebrate than to mail a letter that, honestly, is years if not decades overdue...

10 November 2015

Member Records Division, LDS Church
50 E North Temple Rm 1372
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-5310

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I lived it almost thirty years ago. I started writing it almost seventeen years ago. Today, at long last, The Accidental Terrorist is here. (Quick, lock your doors!)

What more can I say to you about it? I hope you'll order a copy, if you haven't already. Here are some review excerpts. Here is a reading I did last week. And while you're waiting for the book to arrive, you can listen to this Spotify soundtrack in less than a mere two a half hours.

Oh, yes, and don't forget to stop back in about an hour for a very important announcement...

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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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