Martyrdom For Dummies
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Martyrdom for Dummies is an as yet unpublished edition of the popular "For Dummies" series of intimidating instructional/reference guides for various topics, written in 2001 by Victoria Whymark and Jeremy Beaumont and to be published by John Wiley & Sons. The book polarised critics, yet was withdrawn from sale the week it was due to be released. The book is consistent with the popular media franchise, spanning hundreds of topics. It sported the same distinctive yellow and black striped cover, the "A reference for the rest of us!" moniker, and the iconic triangular headed "Dummies Man" featured in comics illustrated by Rich Tennant that precede each chapter.
In early 2001, John Wiley & Sons acquired the publishing rights to the For Dummies series from IDG Books, then undergoing major restructuring. The series had previously enjoyed successes in guides focussing on software and technology topics, but was suffering poor sales from a new outreach into general interest releases such as "Bovine Dental for Dummies" and "Amateur Pornography for Dummies". Derek Penfold, the then Editor for the franchise, felt that the recent failings were down to a lack of focus in demographic targeting. Penfold was keen to initiate a new series of general topic guides, and applied for a new flagship title.
While still unclear as to which demographic Penfold was targeting, and the reasons why, Penfold scouted potential authors for a new title aimed at fledgeling Jihadists. Over a consultation period of two months, authors Victoria Whymark and Jeremy Beaumont were on board for the project. The two of them underwent extensive preliminary research, and within a few weeks Penfold and the creative directors board were presented with the cover, and a few draft chapters of "Martyrdom for Dummies", and gave the book unanimous approval. Whymark and Beaumont were quoted to be "apprehensive" of the subject matter, but were keen to take up the job as first time authors for the franchise.
The authors were allocated two weeks of field research for the title, including travel abroad for targeted and scheduled interviews. The project was however set back after the authors were detained on returning from Pakistan on suspicion of wearing a Casio watch. Upon being released, the focus was placed on secondary research from public and private libraries. The authors encountered many occasions where they were denied the right to publish material, including receiving a Cease and Desist order from former principal Ayman Al-Zawahiri after interviewing dropout students from the now defunct Tora Bora College of Engineering.
The contents of "Martyrdom for Dummies" are generally unknown. An early draft of the table of contents includes
- Foreword by Derek Penfold
- Part I: The Jihadism Primer
- Chapter 1: Why Jihad is for you
- Chapter 2: A history of Jihad
- Chapter 3: Why, in fact, Jihadism isn't for you
- Chapter 4: Nobody cares
- Part II: Following The Footsteps
- Chapter 5: Notable examples from history
- Chapter 6: The method behind the madness
- Chapter 7: ??
- Chapter 8: [Jeremy, write a better title please]
- Part III: Untitled
- Chapter 9:
edit Complications from Sep 11th Attacks
edit Immediate reactions
On September the 11th of that year, Jihadists successfully hijacked and flew two passenger jets into the World Trade Center, and one into the Pentagon. Author Victoria Whymark commented on her blog that
- "There's been a serious change in [Derek]. He walks around the office like he's an incredibly small chicken trying to lay an impossibly large square egg."
Penfold, and indeed the entire staff, was shaken by the prospects of the new title in the new "War on Terror" climate. The following week, illustrator Rich Tennant on being briefed about the nearly completed title, responded "Fuck that. No seriously, fuck you.". Without fresh material, Jeremy Beaumont was in charge of recycling strips from previous titles, and replacing the captions, resulting in improbable illustrations for how to build fertiliser bombs from parts of an Acorn Archimedes.
At an emergency meeting of the creative directors board, the decision was made to move away from the targeted demographic, and move into martyrdom in other belief systems, such as Buddhists, Christians and Creationists. The deadline for review copies was extended another two months to allow for the new research, during which time Derek Penfold resigned after receiving a spinal injury from unsuccessfully attempting to fondle Victoria while at her desk. The front cover "Dummies Man", this time in a vest sporting racks of frankfurter sausages and holding a TV remote, was removed entirely and replaced with a segmented image of various scenes, including Christ's crucifixion and a Buddhist monk being torn apart by dogs.
edit Critical Reception
On December 21st, review copies were sent to major newspapers across America, including popular magazines such as Which? and Forbes. In the light of the 9/11 tragedy, the book was universally panned by most critics for its inherent and apparent insensitivity towards the victims, but was well received in accessibility to newcomers to the practise, and in presentation and factual accuracy. Chairman of publisher John Wiley & Sons, Bradford Wiley II, ordered that all copies of "Martyrdom for Dummies" be recalled despite chain stores expecting the book the following morning. The book has since garnered a cult following on the internet after quaedawire.com uploaded a scan of various pages of the book reassembled from shredded copies, giving the book a 9 out of a possible 11.