July 30, 2009

How it all got started

I've revised Tokyo South, my missionary memoir, and uploaded the ebook to Amazon and Smashwords.

The first chapter, "Lost in the Works," is the first real story I produced in my writing career. I'd signed up for a computer programming class at BYU after my mission and discovered that I enjoyed using the Pascal compiler as a crude word processor (this was back during the Apple II era) more than the programming.

Then "Number Games" won second place in the 1984 Vera Hinckley Mayhew Awards, my first solid bit of external validation. (I seriously wonder whether such a story would be so well-received today; I like to call the first half of the 1980s BYU's "glasnost" era.)

Over the last two decades, a series of reorganizations and consolidations and force reductions finally resulted in the consolidation of the Tokyo North and South missions in 2007. This Ted Lyon interview (also mentioned at the previous link) makes it clear that what I describe in Tokyo South is by no means unique.

If anything, time and nostalgia and the detached sense of sang-froid that comes with age and experience leads me to pull my punches a bit.

Related posts

The 2017 edition
Tokyo South is alive
Tokyo South is dead
The weirdest two years

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# posted by Blogger Joe
7/30/2009 10:14 AM   
Do you have a version showing the changes? Or are they that substantive?
# posted by Blogger Eugene
7/30/2009 10:28 AM   
I haven't made any structural changes. The revisions are all at the copyediting level: correcting typos, tightening up dialogue, getting rid of extraneous Japanese not defined in context, that kind of thing. And publishing in more formats. So if you've read the previous version, you might not even notice the difference.
# posted by Blogger Kate Woodbury
8/01/2009 7:26 PM   
I think I read Tokyo South about seven times when I was a teenager and a few more times in my twenties. I still have the blue-bound copy (and I would balk at having to give it back).

What I remember most is that it captured 19 to 21-years-old male behavior to perfection although I'm not sure how much I appreciated that when I was sixteen. I also, in retrospect, think it captures why the mission can be such a transformative/pivotal experience even when it isn't "the best two years of my life": it seems to be a guy thing, yes?
# posted by Blogger Eugene
8/02/2009 9:34 AM   
I think the church had a good thing going with the "Every young man on a mission" policy. It had stumbled upon a perfect "rite of passage" that was more benign than boot camp. The problem was that too many of the young men being sent on missions thought they were supposed to be, you know, missionaries.

It ultimately made the "wide net" more trouble than it was worth, not to mention the inevitable evangelical overkill.

But it'd be a shame to lose the "Mormon mission" as widely-shared experience, a common cultural touchstone. "Missionaries" sent to Japan, for example, could spend their time teaching English classes and visiting retirement centers. The church would probably benefit a lot more in the long run.