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 the website Spelling Bee Solver 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.