William Shunn is a writer, poet, storyteller, editor, programmer and puzzlemaker. In 1985, at the age of 17, he attended the legendary Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University. His first professional publication came in 1993. His fiction and poetry have since appeared in Salon, Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, Science Fiction Age, Realms of Fantasy, Storyteller, Bloodstone Review, Newtown Literary, and many other publications, including year’s-best anthologies. His work has also been translated into German, Czech, Hungarian, Russian and Japanese.
In 2002, Bill’s novelette “Dance of the Yellow-Breasted Luddites” was shortlisted for the Nebula Award. His novella “Inclination” was shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards in 2007. That same year, his collection An Alternate History of the 21st Century was published by Spilt Milk Press, with an introduction by Cory Doctorow. A collaboration with Canadian writer Derryl Murphy, the horror novella Cast a Cold Eye, appeared from PS Publishing in 2009.
“Proper Manuscript Format,” his guide to manuscript preparation for fiction writers, first appeared online in 1995. Based on an earlier guide by Damon Knight, it serves as its own example of proper formatting and has since become the de facto standard in submission guidelines for countless publications. In some quarters this style is known simply as “Shunn format.”
Bill began podcasting in 2005, with the stories of his misadventures as a Mormon missionary in Canada attracting thousands of listeners. He expanded on the tale in his long-awaited memoir, The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary, which appeared from Sinister Regard Publishers in 2015. Widely acclaimed, the book was shortlisted for the Association for Mormon Letters Award the next year, despite its irreverent view of the faith.
As a storyteller, Bill has appeared on stage at Taboo Tales NYC, The First Time, Caffeinated Confessions of Mormon Comics, and elsewhere. From 2010 to 2013 he co-produced and co-hosted Chicago’s Tuesday Funk reading series, and from 2016 to 2018 he produced and hosted the Line Break reading series in Queens. His fiction has been featured in performance at Liars’ League NYC, and he performs his poetry whenever possible. He made a brief but memorable appearance in Michael Ian Black’s 2016 television comedy special, Noted Expert.
For three years, Bill served as a national judge for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, delivering the keynote address at the New York City regional awards ceremony in 2004. More recently, he published and edited The Piltdown Review, an online literary magazine, and he serves on the XPRIZE Science Fiction Advisory Council.
He has been no less busy as a computer programmer, working for organizations as varied as WordPerfect Corporation, Sesame Workshop and the National Council on Aging. At N2K Entertainment in the late ’90s, he helped to produce some of the earliest live streaming concert broadcasts on the Web, including shows by Mötley Crüe, The Cure, and the Allman Brothers Band. On September 11, 2001, he created what may have been the first online disaster check-in site, where New Yorkers without phone service could post a note saying they were okay. That work was profiled by CNET, Fast Company, BBC News, and other outlets.
A life-long puzzle fan, Bill created this site in September 2018 as a resource to help him complete the New York Times Spelling Bee. It has since become one of the most popular daily reference sites for Spelling Bee players and has been featured in the New York Times itself. In 2021, inspired by his Spelling Bee expertise, he launched Tylogram, a diabolical challenge that combines an eight-letter word finder with a sliding-tile puzzle. He releases a new Tylogram puzzle each Tuesday and Friday.
The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary
A Memoir by William Shunn
“This just may be my favorite true-life amazing-but-true tale—never has threatening an aircraft been funnier or more thought-provoking.”
“You will read few other books as smart, funny, honest, and heartbreaking as The Accidental Terrorist, and I unreservedly recommend it to you as both a home-grown cautionary tale and a highly original coming-of-age saga.”
“The book grabs you on page one and never lets go. Fantastically written, beautifully paced, The Accidental Terrorist reads like a novel instead of a memoir. Only in novel form, no one would have ever believed these events could have happened. Believe it. William Shunn lived every word of this book. That he can share it so eloquently is a tribute not just to his writing skill, but his strengths as a human being.”
A Novella by William Shunn
Nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards
“Outstanding. . . . It’s a fascinating future, and Jude’s personal story is involving.”
“An intelligent, well-crafted piece. . . . Shunn’s elaborate details about the religious rules and philosophies of this group form thought-provoking parallels with some of today’s fundamentalist religious groups. It would not surprise me if this tale eventually finds a place in someone’s year’s best science fiction anthology.”
“A well-considered examination of a basic SF concern: the clash of differing technological levels, and how this (especially now) can cause the lower-tech culture to retreat into fundamentalism. . . . Shunn gets a lot of good satirical digs in, and a contemporary dilemma is penetratingly illuminated.”
An Alternate History of the 21st Century
Stories by William Shunn
“William Shunn is one of those SF writers who, because they specialize in short fiction, are not given quite the recognition they deserve—no novels, no mass-market publication, so only the plaudits of the cognoscenti of the short form. Yet Shunn is a fine writer; ingenious, stylish, closely in touch with current global trends and expert in producing thought-provoking near-future SF, and at last he has a collection to show off that keen ability . . . including two impressive original novelettes.”
“[These stories] tellingly and concisely ironize the clichés and tropes of genre SF, but without destroying their use as toolkit.”
“[William Shunn] has the sure instincts of a twenty-first century science fiction writer. He is keenly attuned to the present (in the twenty-first century, there’s no point keeping track of the future). He recognizes those truly present-day moments that could only come now, today, in this futuristic present that we swim through without ever really seeing. This extraordinary book is a journey through our present. From the bitingly political (‘From Our Point of View We Had Moved to the Left’) to the sad and personal (‘Not of This Fold’—a gorgeous novella about faith and humanity that could only have been written by a lapsed Mormon sf writer), and everything in between, this collection is the kind of thing that you can never unread, a book that will awaken you to the present all around you.”
Cast a Cold Eye
A Novella by Derryl Murphy & William Shunn
“A genuinely spooky story that lies somewhere near the place where fantasy, horror, and science fiction meet.”
“An archetypal American myth. . . . Any fantasy of a certain ambition set in the American Midwest in the late 19th through early 20th centuries must reckon with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, book and movie both, and Shunn & Murphy do so squarely. . . . Their depiction of 1921 Nebraska is vivid . . . but the real heart of the novella lies in the relationship between Luke and Annabelle, two strong but damaged characters who share an eerie bond.”
“Cast a Cold Eye . . . creates a fantasticated interplay between the growth throes of a young man in  Nebraska and L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy.”
“The authors know how to tell a story. They have good narrative drive, they deliver strong characterization without a lot of exposition, and the supernatural elements of the story are inventive, building one upon the other. . . . Cast a Cold Eye is one of those stories that work on many levels. I’ve reread the manuscript a few times since I first received it, and every time I do, I find another layer waiting for me. It’s past time for you to discover its treasures for yourself.”