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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).

STREETS LIKE THIS: A New World Premiere Play!

For the last couple of months, I've been working with AC Sidle on the Civic Ensemble's Re-Entry Theatre Program to create a new play about prison and addiction, inspired by the real-life stories of people who've lived the struggle. The play started with scenes, written by the program participants—most of whom are or were transitioning out of prison and/or rehab—which I then took and transformed into a full-length, fictional dramatic work.

It started out with their stories, but I gotta say: I'm pretty happy with the final product, and I hope we can continue giving it life across the country, because these conversations aren't going away.

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Ithacans, Civic Ensemble invites you to sit with Deon and Dennis, two local men getting up there in age. Deon is black, Dennis is white; both are worn out from past convictions, dysfunctional institutions, and the preventable deaths of loved ones. From their stoop, watch Crystal, Abby, and Brian struggle with their diverse obstacles and mistakes while stuck in the United States’ broken criminal justice system. Deon and Dennis narrate the stories of these three and other characters navigating the perils of real life and their own demons while dealing with the consequences of probation, incarceration, parole, and court-ordered rehabilitation. Streets Like This, based on true stories, travels from the Meadow Street Mobil to Social Services offices and the curb outside Day Reporting to their own workplaces and homes. The play offers no single solution but rather brings you into their worlds. As Deon says, “But maybe next time, you’ll do more than turn your heads away as you toss some spare change in their cups.”

Saturday May 5 at 7:30pm, followed by opening night party
Sunday May 6 at 4:00 pm & 7:30pm
at Kitchen Theatre Company, 417 MLK Jr St, Ithaca

Monday May 7 at 7:30pm
at GIAC Gymnasium, 301 W Court St, Ithaca

My first full guide for Wirecutter!

That's right: not only did we revamp the entire Wirecutter website with a cool new look and fancy mobile friendliness, but I've also published my first official guide for them! Check it out:

Ironically, I also shaved my beard off this morning, so my author photo is no longer accurate.

Ironically, I also shaved my beard off this morning, so my author photo is no longer accurate.

So uhhhhh I just signed with a literary agent? So that's cool?

That's right: I just signed with a literary agent! The Kepner Agency was so impressed with my Irish Boston supernatural punk rock noir tentatively titled Pints of 'Gansett Make You Strong  that they want to make something happen with it!

Excuse me while I go dance over here in the corner.

In the meantime, you can listen to the official unofficial Pints of 'Gansett Make You Strong soundtrack to tide you over, 'cause publishing takes a while.

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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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:

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

Buy My Poetry In This Month's Issue of ASIMOV'S Science Fiction Magazine!

My time travel love poem "I Loved You More Last Time" is now available in the February 2015 issue of ASIMOV'S Science Fiction Magazine (along with a poem by my Clarion classmate and recent winner of Apex Magazine's Story Of The Year, Marie Vibbert). 

As far as I can tell, Asimov's is erm, not very good at making online purchases easy for anyone. But you can pick up the current issue or subscribe on Kindle, Nook, and iTunes Newsstand (unfortunately, I don't know the exact cut-off date for when the current issue ceases to be "current," and I can't figure out how buy specific back issues either). I'll also have a small stash of hard copies available for direct purchase (more info to come).

My ARISIA Convention Schedule

I'll be at the Arisia sci-fi / fantasy convention in Boston this coming weekend, speaking on a few panels and generally hanging around. I've never been to Arisia before, nor have I ever been on any convention panels, so I'm doubly excited (and very much hoping that I don't say anything too stupid).

Anyway, here's where you can find me. Come say hi!

  • Neurodiversity in SF/F
    Saturday, 11:30am-12:45pm in Marina 2 (2E)
    How are autistic and other neurodiverse characters presented in SF/F? What works handle this subject well, and which do not? Who are some neurodiverse authors whom we should all be reading? And how, as a genre, do we move beyond stories only focused on a “cure”?
    with Don Sakers, David G. Shaw, and JoSelle Vanderhooft
     
  • DC Comics on the Small Screen: 2015 Edition
    Saturday, 5:30-6:45pm in Marina 2 (2E)
    For all of DC’s much-disdained recent lack of creative success on the big screen, they’ve put together a string of received cartoons going back over twenty years ranging from episodic (Batman) to serialized (Young Justice) to goofy (Teen Titans Go). They’ve also launched multiple TV series, including Arrow, The Flash, and Constantine, even as their actual comics have become a pit of creative despair. We’ll discuss DC’s success (and occasional flop) over the years on television.
    —with Nomi S. Burstein, George Claxton, Jaime Garmendia, Dan Toland
     

  • Behind the Bristol Board: Comics as a Profession
    Saturday, 7-8:15pm in Marina 4 (2E)
    If you’re a comics fan, odds are you’ve thought about what it’s like to actually work in the comics industry. This panel will feature working professionals explaining the ins-and-outs of everything from writing and drawing, to editing and publishing. It’s everything you ever wanted to know about being a comics pro, but were afraid to ask.
    —with Ken Gale, Bettina Kurkoski, Alisa Kwitney Sheckley, Mercy E Van Vlack
     

  • Superman and Religion
    Sunday, 11:30am-12:45pm in Burroughs (3E)
    Superman remains an enigmatic figure in American mythology. Created by two Jewish kids from Cleveland, perhaps as a metaphor for Jewish assimilation, Superman also represents a Christlike figure in many stories, and the screenwriter of Man of Steel consulted, among other sources, the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh. Does the wide cast of Superman’s religious influences render him a defender-of-all-faiths? Can any religion claim him as one of their own? Come explore this thorny issue with Arisia 2015.
    —with Michael A. Burstein, Ken Gale, Alex Jarvis, Daniel Miller
     

  • Story Autopsy
    Sunday, 2:30-3:45pm in Alcott (3W)
    Our group of panelists takes a few well-known works of genre fiction and picks them apart to show you how they work, why they work, and in some cases point out the parts that don’t work at all. If you don’t like spoilers this is probably not the panel for you.
    —with M. L. Brennan, James L. Cambias, John P. Murphy, Ian Randal Strock
     

  • The Medium and the Message
    Sunday, 5:30-6:45pm in Hale (3W)
    A story can be told in a multitude of formats. Anything from short stories and epic poems to graphic novels and screenplays can be used to convey a narrative. How do the various formats compare? Do certain genres work well in one but not another? What about translations from one medium to another? How can you tell which works best for your story?
    —with Heather Albano, Alexander Feinman, John G. McDaid
     

  • Writing and Racial Identity 
    Monday, 1-2:15pm in Hale (3W)
    What does your race have to do with what you write? Depending on your race, are certain topics forbidden to you? Obligatory? None of the above? If your race matters, how do you know what it is? By what people see when they look at you, or by what you know of your genetic background? By your cultural upbringing? By what you write?
    —with John Chu, Mark Oshiro, Victor Raymond