From Mormonism to punk, a visit to the devil, and back to Mormonism

(Here is Cal Grondahl’s cartoon that goes with this post) Christopher K. Bigelow is well known as a Mormon blogger, writer, publisher and author of several books. He started the Mormon literary journal, Irreantum, and the satirical Sugar Beet. He’s written “Kindred Spirits,” (here) one of my favorite Mormon-themed novels, as well as several non-fiction LDS books. His publishing house, Zarahemla, has published 19 works, including novels, plays, memoirs and collections of essays and short stories. Zarahemla’s offerings are interesting, edgy and deal with real life, which means they’re classified as not-ready-for-Deseret-Book. To see his Amazon author profile, go here.

His latest work in progress is a memoir. As he describes it, it’s “A memoir about how I fell away from Mormonism, got into the psychedelic-punk scene, met the devil, and did a 180 back into Mormonism.” The book is titled “Mormon Punk: From LSD to LDS.” To help fund the book, Bigelow is using, a website designed to raise money for projects in need of funding. Bigelow’s kickstarter page is here. I’m very intrigued by Bigelow’s memoir (a couple of chapters are on the kickstarter page) so I interviewed him about the project and using kickstarter. Here’s the interview:

What years does “Mormon Punk: From LSD to LDS” cover? I note it seems to start when you are 17.

Bigelow: Correct. It covers 1984-1986.

What drew you to the SLC punk scene? How many of your friends in that scene were also blandly attending church during their teenage years?

Bigelow: “I was drawn to the underground punk scene because I loved the rebellion, the creativity, the individuality, the danger. I don’t think anyone I knew in the punk scene was still attending church, and many of them had not grown up as active Mormons. Most of us in the punk scene had left home and were living in squalid apartments around Salt Lake City.”

What appeal did that lifestyle have to you as teenager that the church could not match?

Bigelow: “Growing up, I found Mormonism to be utterly boring white noise and busywork, on a cultural level. On a spiritual level, I was just totally asleep — I didn’t perceive the spiritual dimension at all. Mormonism just seemed like something to fill everyone’s time and keep their imagination in line so they didn’t go down forbidden paths, but I found some of those paths alluring. While drugs like cocaine and heroin and anything involving a needle scared me, I was intrigued by the idea of psychedelic drugs and wanted to try those. To a degree, I was also open to sexual experiences, although it turned out I didn’t have the stomach for much of that. I was also open to the occult, partly due to my earlier Dungeons & Dragons mindset, but fortunately I didn’t go far down that path. The church is no match for sex, drugs, rock and roll, and magic.”

Do you think the conflicts and appeals of your youth are still prevalent to many teens, even if it’s no longer punk?

Bigelow: “Sure, of course. And I do think there are still some punk scenes around in some form, not unlike the ones we had in the early to mid 1980s. Salt Lake’s punk scene was mainly an extension of Los Angeles’s hardcore punk scene, lagging a few years behind it. On the other hand, I don’t know of any youth rebellion quite as raw and total and over the edge and, well, hard core as punk was in its heyday. No youth style or counter-culture or movement since then or before then has matched it in sheer rebellious audacity, that I’m aware of, at least not any movement that got as big as punk was (which was still relatively small, not as big as hippies or grunge or other movements).”

What do you hope people gain an understanding of from reading your memoir? Who do you think the target audience is?

Bigelow: “I see the story as being about a guy who became fascinated by a spider’s web, got himself pretty deeply involved in the web, but then began to pull away from the web before he was completely entrapped, and this enraged the lurking spider, and the spider emerged from its hiding place and came after him, so the guy realized what an evil, hateful creature had created the web, and he was able to flee before the spider got him. I see the book as being about the reality of an evil force that wants to ensnare and destroy humans. It’s from a Mormon perspective, but I hope it’s more universal than that. But another reason I want to tell the story is that I think some of today’s Mormons don’t believe in the reality of Satan as much as I think they should.

Is this a book that has a chance to get in Deseret Book or is it too edgy? How many LDS readers have read about drug experiences, I wonder?

Bigelow: “No, too edgy for Deseret. I hope it’s not gratuitous or needlessly explicit, but it does go into some detail about sex and drugs.”

(In the other half of the interview, we talked about kickstarter. It’s a term I’ve heard before. I believe former Mormon filmmaker Richard Dutcher uses the website to raise funds.) Here it is:

Explain to me how kickstarter works? It doesn’t seem to be a place for investment, rather a place to support an artistic endeavor. I’ve noticed that it also is used to promote film projects.

Bigelow: “Kickstarter is a social site for getting creative projects off the ground. It’s all or nothing, meaning that unless you get enough pledges to meet your goal amount, you don’t receive any funding. Backers are supporters, not investors, but most Kickstarter campaigns provide rewards for certain pledge amounts.”

How do you advertise your effort in kickstarter? Is it mainly through social media. What incentives do you add? (I did see your FB ad)

Bigelow: “To promote a Kickstarter campaign, you spread the word through your network in any way possible, and you invite others to help spread the word. Much of this happens on social media, but you can also reach out to people in person.

“As far as incentives on my Kickstarter campaign, I’m mainly providing copies of the future book for certain pledge amounts ($15 for the ebook, $25 for the paperback, which includes shipping). I’ve also set some rewards for higher pledges. For a $100 pledge, the backer gets listed in the book on a special donor page. For $1,000, the backer receives 20 hours of my professional writing/editing services on the backer’s own business or personal project.”

Is this the first time you have used it?

Bigelow: “Yes.”

How much support from kickstarter do you need for it to be successful? It seems that reaching the “goal” is a long shot.

“I set a pretty ambitious goal for a book, $9,999, which I can reach if I pre-sell 400 paperbacks at $25 (basically, making a pledge for that amount is like pre-ordering the book). Part of the money pays me to write the book; I’m a full-time freelancer right now, so I need to spend my time on paying work. A substantial portion of the funds will also pay for getting the book professionally edited and designed, as well as printing and shipping however many paperbacks are needed to fulfill the Kickstarter rewards.

“My intention is to use Kickstarter to motivate and obligate myself to publish this book by June 2014. I could have set a smaller campaign amount, but I didn’t want to obligate myself unless I could raise $9,999, because otherwise I would not have enough funds to cover my own time and also pay for producing the book.

I’m hoping the campaign goes a little bit viral, at least enough to get me to 400 paperbacks pre-sold, which doesn’t seem like an impossible amount. I’m hoping both Mormons and non-Mormons will be interested in the story.”

I appreciate Bigelow providing the interview. The memoir does sound extremely interesting and what’s offered is a great read. The opening lines quickly set the story up:

“I don’t want the priesthood,” I said to my dad.

His hand stopped, holding an onion ring in midair. A complicated look passed over his face—surprise, disappointment, perhaps fear.

“For real?” he asked, squinting at me.

It will be interesting to see if enough money is raised to have the memoir published.


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6 Responses to From Mormonism to punk, a visit to the devil, and back to Mormonism

  1. Michael Trujillo says:

    Well, Bigelow, that’s still no excuse for not opening doors for women and old folks. (Haha.)

  2. Pingback: 4 March 2013 | MormonVoices

  3. Bob Becker says:

    Re: raising money via “rewards” for donations. One writer of a very popular mystery series gives “naming right” to a charity to auction off. Winning bidder gets his or her name used for a character in the next book in the series. Kind of clever idea I thought.

  4. Zen Wordsmith says:

    As pertaining to the “plural-wife’s”, I have encountered in [Ogden]
    Punk, the [devil engrossed] lyric, comes to mind while not even
    being on the {Blue Blotter LSD}, that I have long ago graduated
    {rehab} from:
    …”Peter, Peter Punkin’ eater, had a wife and couldn’t keep her..Put
    her in a Punkin’ shell, and there he kept her very well”…
    May God richly bless.

  5. Pingback: From Mormonism to Punk, a visit with the Devil and then back to Mormonism | PleaseKillMe®

  6. Shaun Mather says:

    I was looking for old pictures of my Salt Lake punk friends and I on the net when I found this. I was there in the “scene” between ’84 and ’86. I was called “Motorcycle Shaun” due to the fact I had an old Honda, and hung out with 2 skin-head friends named Jeff and Dahli, and a goth chick Maeve. My squalid apartment was in a basement between U of U and the Cosmic Aeroplane. They had their picture taken and was in the SLC paper from a rooftop…Anyway, interesting article.

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