Thom Dunn is a Boston-based writer, musician, homebrewer, and new media artist. He enjoys Oxford commas, metaphysics, and romantic clichés (especially when they involve whiskey), and he firmly believes that Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" is the single greatest atrocity committed against mankind. He is a graduate of Clarion Writer's Workshop at UCSD ('13) & Emerson College ('08).

Let’s Think About This From Comey’s Point-of-View For A Second

The storyteller in me is always interested in what goes on in other people’s heads. There are various cliches about how every villain is a hero in their own story, and I generally think that’s true — both in fiction, and in real life.

And as more and more information comes out about the whole Russia-Trump-Comey-Hillary-Email-Clusterfuck, I think it’s important for us all to remember that these are actual human beings, who, like all of us, are often forced to make decisions with limited time and with even more limited information, and that sometimes, they get it wrong.

(Except for Trump, obviously; he’s little more than a spoiled chaos demonbaby in the middle of his greatest tantrum yet.)

So instead of arguing about conspiracies and fake news and hypocritical firings or whatever petty satisfaction the Internet is feeding on right now, put yourself in Comey’s shoes, circa June 2016.

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Podcast Party: Talkin' Art & Tragedy with the New England Unsettler

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking with Elias Kozniak on New England Unsettler radio show, a self-described audio journal of minor sabotage.

The two of us chatted at length about the commodification of the Boston Marathon bombing; the role of art in reaction to tragedy; and the terrifying normalization of militarized policing. So ya, know, all fun topics!. (No really, it's a blast, I swear!)

Semi-related, Elias is also a dopeass songwriter and I'm kind of obsessed with the awesome sigil magic he invokes on the show's logo, but that's a topic for another time.

You can listen to the podcast below, or subscribe to the Unsettler on iTunes for weekly Communiques about fringe theory, deep ecology, radical politics, the unusual, and the underground.

Communique 006: Marky Mark & the Dunkies Bunch

Elias goes deep with writer, storyteller, and musician Thom Dunn on Hollywood commercialization of tragedy and the militarization of local police forces in the years since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Is there room for reflection in the culture industry, or is it all toxic schlock? How can the stories we tell make the world a better place? Can Mark Wahlberg just fuck off already?

Talking points: Brother West on militarized policing, a different kind of reading, Sean Boo-urns, stories are about people–they’re people!, reading our Miranda July Rights, reflection in the mainstream, obscuring the lesson, whom does optimism benefit?, Darth Vader police chic, cooks with AR-15s, state vs capital: a lover’s spat, a very American Hustle, talking tragedy profiteers and merchandising, Thom and Elias are friendly dummies, what kind of lefty are you?, toxic schlock, Heavyweights with SWAT LARPing, we believe the children are our dystopian future, fun in a bleak way.

On “Hamilton,” Brexit, and Irish Independence

In June 2016, my wife and I headed to Ireland for a week-long vacation. It was my first time on Emerald soil, despite my unabashed affection for my cultural heritage. While I certainly wish I’d had the chance to visit earlier, there was also something poetic about making the trip during the centennial celebration of the Easter Rising, the first major conflict in the struggle for Irish Independence.

We certainly didn’t expect to hop on a plane to Ireland the day after the Brexit vote. Nor did I think anything at the time about the fact that I listened to "Hamilton" for the first times ever as we drove through Ireland that week, and in that specific political context.

So naturally, this got me thinkin'...

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Happy 20th Birthday, Buffy! Here's a new birthday song:

Here's a little tune I wrote about that really unhealthy relationship you had with that vampire guy:

Don't Break A Window

Whatever you do, just make sure that you don’t break a window
‘Cause when your outrage smashes the glass, it lets them know how the wind blows
Not the black kids who died for the march,
Or the women and trans folk who want control of their own parts
It’s the shattered shards of pane they look through,
that’s where the real problem starts.

You can take to the streets just as long as you don’t punch a nazi
Exercising rights is like the gays: it’s fine as long as no one has to see
a way of life that doesn’t fit
into the narrow view controlling it
reality’s a one-way road you can’t just quit

It won’t go away
when the man upstairs says that “everything is great”
change won’t wait
for an open space in your Outlook calendar
Lives mean more than people’s property

Do I have your attention now that I’m condoning violence?
Well it’s funny how that works, and you should know, ‘cause you’re the one who came up with it
Make a profit while you’re promising rights
Keeping order never works when they’re fighting to survive
Justice only comes when we rage against the dying light

Now don’t get me wrong, I still believe that non-violence should work
But when the rules of the game have changed, things are bound to get worse.
Now that our truths are free of fact
Well, how else are the people supposed to react?
You can’t expect them all to keep the peace when you broke your part of the pact

We’ve heard say
that justice and truth are the American way
Things don’t change
at a convenient time for your Outlook calendar
Time is right to do what we’re gonna do
okay well technically the time that was right is now way overdue
But it all has to start with those same self-evident truths.

The inauguration of Donald Trump felt like a nightmare. The Women's March across the country was amazing. Here's a much more hopeful look at that inspiring day:

"Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History" is now available, and totally worth it. I swear.

My first professional-rate short story is now available in print from Crossed Genres! "An Baile na mBan" is just one of 22 tales of fantastical diversity in the pre-1930s world, all featured in Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History(Perhaps not-so-surprisingly, mine's about pucas, Travellers, and abortion during the Irish Civil War.)

Publisher's Weekly said, "The offerings are solid, entertaining, and generally fascinating, conjuring up voices and experiences not often heard. This collection is well worth checking out for all fans of speculative fiction."

From the publisher...

The sequel to the World Fantasy and Locus Award-nominated anthology Long Hidden, Hidden Youth focuses on children: underage protagonists marginalized in their time. 22 excellent stories ranging across nearly 2,400 years and spanning the globe, Hidden Youth reveals the stories of young people whose lives have been pushed to the margins of history.

A Tale of Two Idioms: "The Ends Justify The Means" & "Let Those Who Have Not Sinned Cast The First Stones."

To live in — and, by extension, participate in — a democratic-republic system automatically means that you are comfortable with the ends justifying the means. I've heard that phrase used to pejoratively refer to fellow Hillary supporters, but I actually think it applies to *everyone* involved.

If you don't vote? Your means are a hearty shrug that justifies that whatever happens, happens, 'cause whatevs.

If you vote Republican in this election, you are saying that the means of bigotry, bullying, oppression, and the subjugation of fair working conditions for everyone justify either the maybe-possible potential of slight economic improvement for some people which hopefully includes yourself although you can't guarantee, or that you've eradicated the "establishment elite" (whatever that means) from the system to usher in some form of change (whatever that means, although it includes the means that you already justified).

Alternately, if you vote Republican strictly because you want to crush women's rights to choose, you are justifying those same means of bigotry, bullying, oppression, and subjugation of worker's rights justify that maybe-possibly-hopefully-for-you, there will be no more abortions. More on Jesus in a bit.

If you vote Third Party, you are saying that the means of either federally funding a Third Party in the future, or absolving yourself from the process of a two-party system, justifies whatever the end result may be.

(I suppose that, more specifically and less defeatist, Libertarian voters are okay with losing some administrative protections for people in the hopes that our social and economic rules both eventually level out in the favor of some Utopian ideal of freedom. Green voters are okay with electing a self-serving pseudo-fascist whackjob in the hopes of justifying the passing of literally any part of a far-left progressive that I, personally, agree with, which is why I'm being so unnecessarily harsh to Stein.)

If you vote Democrat in this election, like I plan to do, you are saying that some obvious cases of collusion within the DNC at large, and some unfortunate foreign policy issues, are okay if it means that the vast majority of our fellow US citizens still get to enjoy their civil rights, and that there will be more opportunities for advancement in this country for people from all walks of life.

(I guess it also means that you're okay with the means of a qualified leader who married a guy who can't keep it in his pants, finally having the power to make some damn decisions)

And here's where we get to the Jesus proverb, since the evangelical vote is so significant, and because Christian mythology so informs our social makeup, for better or for worse:

All of these situations involve throwing some stones — which, for the sake of this intellectual idiomatic exercise, are the "means" of the other overly-simplistic philosophy. None of our votes or beliefs come without baggage or compromise. And unfortunately, we are complicit in the means that justify our desired ends (specifically for the sake of rhetorical Facebook argumentative bullshit logic).

We all want to present an image of ideological purity, but unfortunately, that's just not a realistic possibility, given the way our country (and world) functions. So the question is: which stones are you most comfortable throwing?

#ImWithHer (even though she wouldn't let me wear my wookie onesie to the poll) #🇺🇸

A photo posted by Thom Dunn (@thomdunn) on

If you care about #DiversityInSF — or diversity in general — you should help make this awesome anthology happen.

The sequel to Locus and World Fantasy Award-nominated book Long Hidden edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, Hidden Youth is a new anthology featuring fantastical short stories from the margins of history — young adult sci-fi and fantasy stories about oppressed and marginalized groups throughout the generations.

Also, it includes a story by me. "An Baile na mBan" is about Irish Travellers, Irish Nationalism, abortion, and, uhhh, sketchy púca faeries using women to enact their revenge on the Provisional IRA. Obviously.

Did I mention that this will be my first professionally-published (as in, paying SFWA rates) piece of original fiction?

So as you might figure, it means a lot to me. But it won't actually happen unless the anthology reaches its Kickstarter goal of $23,000 by Wednesday, July 6, 2016.

tl;dr — help a brother out, and tell your friends to do the same. KTHXBYE.

"My Life As A Weapon" is your new favorite song about my favorite Avenger.

As anyone who's met me would probably expect, I'm super pumped about CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. So to celebrate, here's a song I recently wrote about Clint Barton, the powerless, purple-wearing, bow-and-arrow-loving badass known as Hawkeye. (Specifically, it's about the comic book version of Hawkeye, with allusions to his relationship with Kate Bishop and his life growing up in the carnival and his death and resurrection at the hands of Wanda Maximoff but...let's not get so bogged down in continuity, yeah?)


This looks bad
You can blame that on my dear ol' deadbeat dad
But I'm not mad
Until the arrow that I've notched becomes my last

One more shot to break
this carny from his cage
where a low-life can escape
to save the day

So I'll stay on target
Because that's all I know how to do
Just as long as I'm next to you

And I know that this looks bad
But the quivering is all I've ever had
Like some Nomad
Or a Ronin dressed in black to hide the past

Draw the bow back, breathe
One moment of control
Because once it flies
You never know

So I'll stay on target
Because that's all I know how to do
Stay on target
While I'm fighting my way through
Stay on target
Just as long as I'm next to you

"Not like this."
When the silence stings
My sight's my only bliss
But I won't miss
Because I'm going out in style
with my greatest hits

I'm no Giant Man
But I won't give up the fight
Until my violet violence
Takes its flight

Tennessee's shameful new "therapist bill" isn't just anti-LGBTQ. It's pro-suicide.

Hey Tennessee. It's me, Thom. And I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the honesty of your embarrassing new "therapist bill."

I understand that passing thinly-veiled anti-LGBTQ legislation couched as "religious liberty" protection is all the rage these days — lookin' at you, North Carolina and Mississippi and South Dakota and Georgia and Indiana and so on ad nauseum infinitum.

I also understand that it's hard to find a cool new way to spin your discriminatory language and actions, after so many others did the same before you — and, oh yeah, reaped some pretty awful economic consequences in the process.

But you, Tennessee. "The Volunteer State." You just willingly volunteered the awful, heartless truth at the core of this entire struggle:

See, that Senate Bill 1556 that you just passed? It's not just anti-LGBTQ. It's shamelessly pro-suicide.

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A musical memorial to Mama Cooter

This is the last text that I ever sent to Layne.

We had that creepy Campari clown hanging in our apartment junior year of college. Not because any of us drank Campari then (I do now), but because we found it in the trash on Beacon Hill and it had a frame, so we figured, why not? 

But Layne hated it. That clown creeped her the hell out. Still, she let it stay, and it became a running joke with us.

I don't know if she ever saw that text of her hated clown painting, or if she had already died from complications with diabetes by the time I sent it.

Here's a song I wrote when we were living together in 2007, and she was hospitalized for the same thing.

It's called "Electric Lights."


The selfish unawareness of
a window painted blue
electric lights that won't reflect,
but sound so clearly overdue

It permeates the smell of
sanitation and
of jaundice under skin that

has been peeled away
by saline soldiers,
crawling on their knees
across a bridge of gather lives;
maybe this time

she'll sound so much better
in this sweater than this dress
that leaves her back exposed
so all the coldest air can make a nest

All the stabbing
All the dripping
All the fevers and the cries
And poorly picked out tiles on the wall
have watched a million maidens die
underneath electric lights

She's so mixed up
like metaphors
it's better for her.
So when all
the shallow echoes fall
and settle in her cheeks
she's still demanding
all that I can V.