If you submit to enough short fiction markets and read the guidelines, you’ll see the phrase “Standard Manuscript Format” over and over again, and almost as often you’ll see the name “Shunn.” This is because the science fiction author William Shunn has done an excellent job over at his website, Shunn.net, explaining and giving clear examples of what Standard Manuscript Format looks like, as well as some of the finer details of it. SMF may as well stand for Shunn Manuscript Format, because probably half the submission guidelines I see provide a link to his website as an example.
So when I was first getting the hang of submission, and didn’t have SMF memorized as I do now, I was constantly checking Shunn’s website. I went there so frequently, I eventually started to stray from just the formatting stuff, and I found a podcast with a strange title, The Accidental Terrorist. The title was especially strange because I didn’t know the reference. I gave it a listen, and was instantly hooked. The podcast is an autobiographical account of WIlliam Shunn’s time as a mormon missionary in Canada. It’s completely immersive, giving an inside look at mormon practices and beliefs, the typical lives of missionaries, and rural Canada. That’s what I love most about the podcast, but it also provides a cast of characters who showcase various aspects of the faith and mission work. The fact that it’s about a young sci-fi writer also hooked me—and it does develop to a pretty compelling narrative thread, eventually. The whole “Accidental Terrorist” thing isn’t just a goofy pun.
If this review sounds lacking in details, it’s because it isn’t really a review. I was going to listen to the podcast for a third time, but I decided against it when I saw that William Shunn would be putting out a hardcover, much-revised edition of the memoir this fall. Instead of relistening to it, I’m going to wait until fall to experience the story once again through a completely different medium. I’ve enjoyed the podcast for free so far, so I figure the $27.95 to pre-order and get a signed copy is well worth it. I’d recommend you do the same—though you don’t have to take my word for it. That podcast is still up, completely free. You can see how wonderfully humorous and enthralling the story is for yourself, and then support a terrific writer with a unique and fascinating story.