Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thank you for a great H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival

A big thanks to everyone who came out during the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Los Angeles, and I am especially thankful to everyone who enjoyed my poetry reading on Saturday. Your comments mean a lot to me.

For those of you are curious the four poems I read this year were:

"The Deep Ones," "New Myths of the Northern Land," and "What Kills A Man," from my first book, On The Other Side Of The Eye, from Sam's Dot Publishing in 2007. "The Deep Ones" can also be found in the anthology "Future Lovecraft."

An archived, early draft of On The Other Side Of The Eye can be found online at:

I closed the set with "Lunacy," from my second book BARROW, from Sam's Dot Publishing in 2009.

These four poems covered what I feel were some of H.P. Lovecraft's more interesting themes in his horror writing during the early 20th century which have endured and captured the imagination of generations since.

I also express my thanks to the Innsmouth Free Press for getting me in touch with the organizers. I'll definitely be back next year.

I'll have pictures from the event posted soon!

Friday, September 28, 2012

H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival!

I'll see you all at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Los Angeles this weekend! We have some amazing guests and films lined up. It's a small convention, but if you love the work of H.P. Lovecraft, this is the place to be this weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Last Pictures, Photos Intended for Aliens After Humans Are Gone

Salon recently covered the work of photographer Trevor Paglen, who has attempted to narrow all the images in the world to just 100 to send to space in the form of an MIT-designed gold-encased silicon disc. Intriguing as it is, I wonder what pictures I or other Lao photographers such as Seny Norasingh, Vongduane Manivong, or Khampha Bouaphanh might approach the idea. But check them out. Well worth a look.

Interview with Land of Gazillion Adoptees on October 4th

Land of Gazillion Adoptees will be, for the first time, broadcasting one of its infamous interviews live via Google Hangout. On Thursday, October 4th, 6:30 pm Pacific Standard Time I'll be talking with them about my books, I’ll read some of my poetry, and perhaps talk about some adoption stuff. We have room for 8 others (perhaps other writers?) to join the hangout and participate. It’ll be "raw, uncut, and oh-so-fabulous!" Additional details forthcoming…

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

[Poem] Here, the River Haunt

Bodies of students young despair:
An artist, the whispered, teeth and hair.
Some spectral digits clasp at flags and tear.
Yon wave and pavement witness near
Your campus of dreams, the shade and clear
To see such windy seas our clashing forms are from,
Fathom foam and phantom, our eerie erring ear.

What unwise winding butcher Time will cease and pare, without peer.

From BARROW, 2009

Mali Kouanchao's S-21

S-21 is a mixed media painting, measuring 48" x 30" and is one of Lao Minnesotan visual artist Mali Kouanchao's earliest pieces examining the journey of Cambodian Americans from the Killing Fields to the United States. In addition to her work with Legacies of War, Kouanchao has maintained an active concern for Cambodian refugees, particularly deportees, whose journeys she is frequently documenting in her Displacement series.

S-21 refers to the former high school that is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Khmer: សារមន្ទីរឧក្រិដ្ឋកម្មប្រល័យពូជសាសន៍ទួលស្លែង) in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The former high school was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979. Tuol Sleng (Khmer [tuəl slaeŋ]) means "Hill of the Poisonous Trees" or "Strychnine Hill".

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Poet to Poet: Terry A. Garey

This week at the Twin Cities Daily Planet I've interviewed speculative poet Terry A. Garey for the Poet to Poet Series.

Terry A. Garey is a writer, editor, and a member of the performance group Lady Poetesses From Hell. Her poems have been published in many journals and anthologies. She has edited poetry for Tales of the Unanticipated, and the speculative poetry anthology Time Frames, among others. Her non fiction book, The Joy of Home Winemaking, has little to do with poetry, but is fun and instructive if you want to make wine. She lives with a librarian, two cats and many books in Minneapolis.

Incidentally, Bag Person Press is pleased to announce the publication of Lady Poetesses From Hell, a poetry anthology featuring award winning poets Jane Yolen, Eleanor Arnason, John C. Rezmerski, Ruth Berman, Ellen Klages, Laurel Winter, Rebecca Marjesdatter, Terry A. Garey and others. The Lady Poetesses From Hell have been reading as a performance group at Science Fiction conventions for over fifteen years, and this is their first anthology, sans tea cozy, but with fish hat. Copies are available from Terry A. Garey, 3149 Park Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55407 for $10 plus $3.50 shipping and handling.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Halloween Haunts coming in October!

This October, I'll have a guest post up at the Horror Writer Association Blog about the spooks and spirits of Laos to give new and older readers alike a chance to catch up on the horror traditions of the Realm of a Million Elephants. More information will follow!

Starting from an idea in 1984, the Horror Writer Association has grown into an international organization to bring writers and others with a professional interest in horror together and to foster a greater appreciation of dark fiction in general. You can learn more about them at:

Call for Asian American Speculative Poems: Eye to the Telescope

I will be guest editing the January 2013 issue of Eye to the Telescope, a magazine of speculative poetry.  The theme will be Asian American Speculative Poetry.

We're looking for poems drawn from fantasy, science fiction, mythology, and slipstream. Contributors and/or poem elements should have some connection to Asian America. This can have many interesting interpretations.

We are particularly interested in multicultural, multilingual work that brings forward emerging voices, especially from perspectives often underrepresented in existing literature. Work that considers race, gender, sexuality, identity and disability issues is welcome. There are no style limitations but I am requesting previously unpublished works.

Send them to me at by December 1st for consideration!

Horror on the Orient Express Kickstarter

This is going to be one of my favorite Kickstarters for a long time, and they're down to the last 7 days.

Chaosium, the makers of the classic Call of Cthulhu are holding kickstarter to print an updated and expanded edition of Horror on the Orient Express, which centers on a murder mystery in the 1920s and leads to the discovery of far more sinister forces at work in the world.

The project has already been funded, but now they're raising additional funds to add even more awesome goodies into the box.

I backed this effort and am happily going to be a playable character when it comes out. This sets precedent as one of the first Lao American characters to appear in a role-playing game, I believe, so I'm quite excited about that.

 Although that particular level of support is now sold out, there are many other levels with very interesting rewards and items available. As of this posting, they're just $200 away from meeting their next and most likely last, stretch goal. So it's going to be a great journey for everyone involved!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

[Poem] Destroy All Monsters!

When the orders came, we were not
(could not)
(dared not be)

     Humanity must be preserved
    At all costs,
    Despite a decidedly
    Checkered record
    Since the biased jottings of Herodotus.

That is the old line,
Safe to stand by.
A leaf of litmus on which to write
Our strategies, like old Sun Tzu.

Monstrosity and terror have no place
In our crumbling streets filled with
Graffiti and youth
Who are the heirs to our creations.

Whether you are a lizard with a
Skyscraper between your toes

Or some smaller fiend
In whom we fear to find
Too close a mirror,

There just isn’t enough space in this vast world
For both our dreams.

If only we could truly believe you’d be content
In some distant menagerie,

Instead of plotting where to bury you
                                                          beyond our sight

From On the Other Side of the Eye, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Flash Fiction or Fragment: The Elephant's Dream

It was dish that made perfect sense when you thought about it. Simple, easy to prepare but unmistakably Lao and never any leftovers. He joked it was made from s ingredients each representing the Laos he knew. In one house he was forbidden to serve it because of the one thousand memories it recalled among his hosts.Memories they'd buried for so long, as if the past was another country.

Warhol Was Never Warholian

In their pic of the day, Daily Beast/Newsweek posted a shot recently of Warhol's "Nine Jackies" but also took the time to point out a problem with the "Regarding Warhol" show at the Met is that his followers were Warholian, but he himself was never working under another artist's mode. "A contemporary artist engaging in true Warholism, and truly worthy of the Met show, would have to have almost nothing in common with Warhol," Blake Gopnik suggests.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lao American artist Sayon Syprasoeuth updated his website

Lao American visual artist Sayon Syprasoeuth just recently updated his website with a new design showcasing his work. It's a significant change that also introduces several of his more recent pieces he's been working on. Be sure to check it out at:

Based in Southern California, Syprasoeuth is one of my favorite visual artists in the region to watch because of his regular forays into 3-dimensional art. It's refreshing to see.

He and his family were survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. They escaped one night to Thailand and lived in many refugee camps before resettling in the United States. In his biographical statement he says his artwork "is influenced by stories and folklores told by village elders, and stage theatre--making art was his way of escaping the harsh reality of his surroundings."

He attended Long Beach State and graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts in 2003. He went to Claremon Graduate University for his Master in Fine Arts and graduated in 2007. Sayon Syprasoueth's work has been displayed across the United States and internationally. Exhibitions have included China, Korea, Germany, and Cambodia.

My personal favorites of his include "Birth of the Dragon Lady," "Seducing the God" and "Fighting Nane." His works blend the vibrant with the ethereal, often appearing nearly translucent and weightless, but as one considers the best of his pieces, the strokes and lines that give his pieces definition have a significant power to them. I'm looking forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Artists and consistency?

Jason Horejs, the owner of the Xanadu Art Gallery, recently has been posting some helpful blogs about what it takes to really make it in the professional art world. This is not to say that we can't see some amazing art by non-professionals, especially in the Lao community, but I think he provides some excellent places to start from for those of us who are keeping productive enough that a career solely as an artist is possible and viable. One of the articles I've recently been reading by Horejs asks "Artists: Are you Consistent? A Gallery Owner’s Perspective."

One of the key takeaways from his post was: "This is not to say that I am not willing to stretch and take risks with unproven artists, but I am far less likely to make such an investment if I see inconsistency in the work. My concern is that I will make the investment and begin to build a following for the artist’s work, only to have the artist make a sudden and drastic change in their style, forcing me to start over again. It can sometimes take years to build a following for an artist, and during that time a steady stream of consistent work is key."

I can see his point, although he's approaching it from the view of a gallery owner. How would this work for Lao American gallery owners, especially those who really wanted to showcase the work of Lao artists or artists inspired by Laos.

He also suggests that we need to edit, give ourselves parameters, but also evolve and choose, among other things. I actually also find this an apt approach to poetry.

In another project of his, he was discussing a number of skills an artist needs to know to get their work out for the galleries. He would talk of:

How to create a consistent body of gallery-ready work

What you should do to present your work in a manner that will appeal to galleries

How to price your work

How to organize your work and track your inventory

How to best allocate your marketing efforts and dollars with an eye toward getting into galleries

How to build your resume

How to pick the best markets for your work and how to find the galleries in those markets that would best suit your work

How to confidently approach galleries and what to say when you meet the director or owner.

I agree, these are critical skills, but not necessarily ones I've seen among even the best of Lao American visual artists. Perhaps we need to have some renewed conversations on this and step forward with greater ambition. But what are essential skills you think professional artists need?

2012 Beyond the Pure Fellowships for Minnesota Writers

The guidelines have been released for Intermedia Arts' 2012 Beyond the Pure Fellowships for Writers formerly the SASE Jerome Grants for Emerging Writers)

 The deadline is 6PM Friday, October 19, 2012

Applications are now available for Intermedia Arts' Beyond the Pure Fellowships for Minnesota writers. This is a fellowship program that awards grants of up to $4,000 to four to six emerging Minnesota writers each year. In addition to their grant award, recipients also participate in a 12-month fellowship program that provides community, guidance, workshops, and resources throughout the program year.

Intermedia Arts' Beyond the Pure Fellowships for Writers places a particular emphasis on increasing the visibility of and providing a platform for emerging writers whose voices have historically been underrepresented in the literary arts, including (but not limited to): writers of color, GLBT writers, women, new immigrants, native and Indigenous writers, low-income writers, and writers exploring non-traditional pathways to success. For more information you can go here:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival Los Angeles lineup

Some of the films that will be shown during the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival have been unleashed. Among the things oozing onto the silver screen this year includes showings of:

"Doctor Glamour" by Andrew W. Jones
"Seizures" by Nicolas Simonin
"The Music of Jo Hyeja" by Jihyun Park
"Bedtime for Timmy" by Thomas Nicol
"Cultist Co. Starter Pack" by Thomas Nicol
"GAMMA" by Jonathan Gales
"Stay at Home Dad" by Andrew Kasch, John Skipp, and Cody Goodfellow
"George Jones & the Giant Squid" by Vincenzo Perrella, Dan Osborn
"Odokuro" by Aurelio Voltaire
"The Captured Bird" by Jovanka Vuckovic
"Feed A" by Clarke Mayer
"The Artifact" by Jason Voss
"Chompers 3D" (Preview screening) by Jesse Blanchard
"Shine 3D" by Jesse Blanchard
"Space Bugs" by Jesse Blanchard
"In()Between" by José Luis Martínez Díaz
"The Shunned House" by Eric Morgret

 Also screening is the full length feature film "The Thing on the Doorstep" by Tom Gliserman

Other films and shorts are also likely to be shown.

For more information you can visit

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New book coming out in 2013: DEMONSTRA

Innsmouth Free Press has announced that my new book DEMONSTRA, "a collection of Weird poetry," will be joining the slate of releases scheduled for next year. 

DEMONSTRA, containing poems spanning 20 years, looks at the Lao diaspora through a speculative lens. 

As I told them, the framing concept is a meditation on the notion of what an incomplete demonstration – hence the title Demonstra – shows us in a world so often unknowable. Some of you may also see what else I'm doing here.

My Lovecraftian stories and poems have previously appeared on the Innsmouth Free Press website and anthologies, including most recently in Future Lovecraft.  Look for DEMONSTRA in the spring of 2013, in fact, specifically around April, to close out the Year of the Nak.

As you know, On The Other Side Of The Eye came out in the year of the Fire Pig/Elephant, in the month of the Metal Monkey. It celebrates its 5th anniversary on Year of the Water Dragon/Nak and 10 on the Year of the Monkey.

DEMONSTRA, now, will come out in the Year of the Water Snake in the month of the Earth Dragon/Nak and celebrate its 5th anniversary during Earth Dog and 10th during the Water Rabbit. This will all come into play later.

Other Innsmouth Free Press titles slated for a 2013 release include Sword and Mythos, Confraternitas and Jazz Age Cthulhu.

2012 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival Trailer

The beings at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Los Angeles have released a short teaser trailer of the films (slightly NSFW)  that will be featured during the weekend of September 28th-29th. The special guest is acclaimed writer Michael Reaves. Authors Cody Goodfellow, Denise Dumars, T. E. Grau, and Michael Tice and I will also be on hand throughout the weekend! has more details!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Kanshi, Southeast Asian American poetics and performance

This week I've been considering an interesting literary moment during the Edo period of Japan between 1600-1867, which may be of interest to some of us as we consider our work within the United States.

During the Edo period, literary writing was flourishing not only in native Japanese but in classical Chinese, in a form of poetry known as the kanshi. I'll let you all research the history on your own, but what I found striking was the way it was performed. It's a very liberating concept for those of us debating how to present works in English or other languages.

During most of the Edo period, the kanshi and Japanese verse forms engaged each other, enriching both forms, to the extent that some scholars consider it impossible to consider either tradition without considering the other. How interesting it would be if one day Southeast Asian American poetry reached such a point in mainstream poetics.

What I find of particular interest is when a Japanese poet wished to read their poem aloud, they faced an interesting issue: Few Japanese of the time spoke Chinese or understood the conventions of the classical language.

 What the poet did in practice instead was to take it from the Chinese it had been composed in and arrange it in Japanese, replacing many of the words with Japanese equivalents that worked for the moment. They usually did this on the fly and improvised as necessary.

 What emerged over time was an understanding that what a poet accomplished in Chinese could never be accomplished in the oral version of the poem. So they learned to also be comfortable in the lack of a definitive version of that poem's recitation.

 The poet, and others who read the poem aloud, all had considerable freedom in choosing how many words, which words were replaced and changed. The spirit of the poem took precdent over the exact letter.

A poem was never read aloud in the same way by different people, and on some occasions, even by the original author themselves. It depended on the situation and circumstance. The essence was retained, but it was very dynamic living form, similar to a true live jazz performance vs. a recording. You never knew what might happen.

I think it's something to consider.

[Poem] Preguntas

If Neruda asks
This cloudy question
He is a poet, undisputed

A noble master of letters

When these words pass through
A Zen abbot’s lips
We hear a cryptic koan, impossible

A riddle to defy attachment

If lustrous Hồ Xuân Hương idly toys
With this conundrum upon
Her pliant ink-stained lap, inscrutable

She becomes an oral tradition
For romantic schoolboys in old Saigon

Should I dare repeat
Any of this aloud while still alive,
I am a fool to be buried in the cold grooves
Of Saint Cloud.

Now, how fair is that?

From BARROW, 2009

Mali Kouanchao's "KK," 2007

KK is a 2007 mixed media piece by Lao Minnesotan artist Mali Kouanchao measuring 45" x 45". It is part of her current series, Displacement II: Never Free, examining the implications of US deportation of Khmer and other Southeast Asians in the late 20th and early 21st century.

It employs the techniques of pop culture and collage juxtoposing photography, paint, and reproductions of classic Chinese propaganda posters in the social realist tradition to examine the inner voice and energy of Khmer deportees.

Mali Kouanchao has noted that "KK examines the construction of images connected to Asian and Asian American boys, especially those who have been strongly influenced hip hop and the b-boy movement but who are largely invisible in the art of the 20th and 21st century Southeast Asian American visual artists."

She added "This piece examines how we participate in the cultures around us and how images shaped us. But these images also displace us. What are the images, the things boys like KK still cling to, to remind them of home, even when that 'home' has sent him to the land of his family's origins, a place that he is a stranger too."

Kouanchao observed that "In Cambodia, many of the deportees are bringing American culture to the youth, including hip hop, skateboarding and more to make a living and to rebuild their lives."

Additional pieces that she is developing will eventually examine the core hip hop pillars of DJing, MCing, Graffiti, Breaking and Beatbox as they are being expressed by both the deportees and the locals. There are hopes she will be able to exhibit these in 2013 in time for the National Lao American Artists Heritage Month celebrations being organized.

Little Laos on the Prairie: Celebrating Lao American Students

It's September and Little Laos on the Prairie is back up and running after a brief hiatus to make way for new babies, new studies and the other assorted things that come up in the lives of Lao Minnesotan bloggers. Danny Khotsombath is kicking the month off with a post "Celebrating Lao American Students" regarding the journey of Lao American college students particularly the Lao Student Association of the University of Minnesota, one of the longest-running networks of Lao students in the country.

Additionally, Dr. Ketmani Kouanchao will soon be joining the Little Laos on the Prairie team in addition to her regular blogging on Kouanchao Corner at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. She'll be examining questions of education and community building for the Lao across the country.

In the meantime, good luck to all of the Lao students heading back to school. Study hard!

Lovecraft & Laos: Call of Cthulhlao?

As I prepare for the 2012 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Los Angeles this year the new guest list has been announced on the website. More may get announced soon but as it is there are still some exciting names appearing. Poets and screenwriters, novelists and other literary fiends will cavort about examining the legacy of early 20th century writer H.P. Lovecraft.

This also seems like as good a time for me to set a precedent with the term Cthulhlao, since it doesn't seem to have cropped up anywhere else yet to date.

So, as a quick recap, the story of Cthulhu is an ancient cosmic being, one of the Great Old Ones, came to earth in its ancient history before the rise of humanity. He, and others like him, came into conflict with other similar beings such as the alien Elder Things. Long story short, as an immortal creature, he lives in a sunken city known as R'lyeh with his followers, waiting for the stars to align properly so he can escape his aquatic prison once and for all and destroy all life on earth. In the meantime, there are secret cults around the world that still worship him, and in the Cthulhu mythos, hapless investigators are constantly stumbling upon him.

Classically, he is described as resembling  "an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature" with a "pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque scaly body with rudimentary wings". "A mountain walked or stumbled..." gave a sense of his size.

In all seriousness, he wouldn't be referred to in the Lao language as Cthulhlao, but it is interesting to consider what words might apply to him. He would not be considered an iteration of a nak, and most Lao would object to any depictions of Cthulhu or his star spawn as such. In the Hmong language, the proper pronunciation for a black river dragon, "zaj dub" does sound interestingly close to the term for Cthulhu, but others may disagree. Tibetan language for naga or mystic serpents is "Klu" which would make an interesting cross-linguistic connection to Kutulu, and other spelling variations.

Something to ponder in the future.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Loft Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship 2013

An new opportunity has emerged for Minnesotan artists of color:

The Loft Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship is for artists of color and Indigenous artists provides writers up to $8,000 in financial support and professional assistance to develop and implement self-selecting community learning and enrichment plans. The deadline is Thursday, November 1, 5 p.m.

You can find out more details at:

Founded in 1974 (incorporated in 1975), the Loft Literary Center is one of the nation's leading literary arts centers. The Loft advances the artistic development of writers, fosters a thriving literary community, and inspires a passion for literature.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

[Poem] Swallowing the Moon

Some see an anonymous man or a thief of sheep.
Some a goddess like Hina-i-ka-malama or Chang’e.
Perhaps a princess of rabbits or a magician’s jealous head,
Her face painted with bells.
A criminal from the Book of Numbers.
A cook. A witch. A home for the dead among those stones.

A zoo hungers
With bellies for cosmic lights:
Nak, lung, serpentine Bakunawa.
Wolves, frogs and old gods seeking a bite!

We chase with fireworks, bold arrows, bullets, hoots,
Our clamor of mortals who wish to journey to heaven and return
Mischievous ravens and spiders, master marksmen and demigods.
Defenders, uncontested, unsung.

Become more than lucky monkeys with fire and pens.
From BARROW, 2009

Lovecraftian Kickstarter: Horror on the Orient Express

Back in 1991, Chaosium printed a classic supplement to their role-playing game Call of Cthulhu, Horror on the Orient Express. The game was based on the cosmic horror writing of H.P. Lovecraft and his friends in the 20th Century and was an interesting contrast to the sword-and-sorcery testosterone heroics of Dungeons & Dragons, among other games. 

Now, they're holding a kickstarter to print an updated and expanded edition of Horror on the Orient Express, which centers on a murder mystery in the 1920s and leads to the discovery of far more sinister forces at work in the world. The project has already been funded, but now they're raising additional funds to add even more awesome goodies into the box. Now, as a matter of full disclosure, I should say that I backed this effort and am going to be a playable character when it comes out. This sets precedent as one of the first Lao American characters to appear in a role-playing game, I believe, so I'm quite excited about that.

Although that particular level of support is now sold out, there are many other levels with very interesting rewards available to you. Check it out! 

Poet to Poet: LouAnn Shepard Muhm

This week at the Twin Cities Daily Planet we presented a Poet to Poet interview with LouAnn Shepard Muhm. A poet and teach from northern Minnesota, she is the author of the book Breaking the Glass. You can visit her online at

LouAnn works in very compact forms and has been very committed to her craft over the years. 

Other poets I've recently interviewed for this series include Rebecca Marjesdatter, John Calvin Rezmerski, Kathryn Kysar, Fres Thao, Kris Bigalk, Sharon Chmielarz and Wendy Brown-Baez. The structure of the interviews is based on the idea that poets never seem to interview each other using poetry in most journals. So what happens when they do? 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Room To Read seeks Country Director

Room to Read, a global nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of millions of children in developing countries through literacy. They currently have an opening for a Country Director position at their office in Vientiane, Laos. They are seeking individuals who might be interested in returning to Laos to do some work with them. More information on the position can be found at

Room to Read envisions "a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world." To achieve their goal, they focus on two areas where they believe they can have the greatest impact: literacy and gender equality in education.

They "work in collaboration with communities and local governments across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the life skills they’ll need to succeed in school and beyond."

Their approach is that literacy is the cornerstone of all learning and fundamental for participation in today’s global society, yet 793 million people across the globe lack the ability to read and write. That includes every medicine bottle, employment ad and ballot form they encounter. Of all the illiterate people in the world today, two-thirds are female and over 90 percent live in developing countries.

To that end, Room to Read sees educating girls and women as the most powerful and effective way to address global poverty. Women who finish secondary school earn more money, have smaller, healthier families, and are more likely to educate their own children—breaking the cycle of illiteracy in one generation.

Room to Read partners with communities across the developing world to promote literacy and gender equality in education by establishing libraries, constructing classrooms, publishing local-language children’s books, training educators and supporting girls’ education. They believe all children deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential, and that investing in education now will pay dividends for generations to come.

If you're interested, drop them a note.

H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Asian American Press

A big thanks to Asian American Press for covering the upcoming H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival this month.

The special guest for 2012 is Michael Reaves, a writer known for scripting series such as Batman: The Animated Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Twilight Zone. An anthology he co-edited with John Pelan, Shadows Over Baker Street, features Sherlock Holmes stories set in the world of Lovecraft. Mr. Reaves will receive the Howie Award for his contributions to Lovecraft cinema, penning the classic 1987 episode of The Real Ghostbusters entitled “The Collect Call of Cathulhu”, the first time Cthulhu appeared on television.

Other authors confirmed to appear include myself, Cody Goodfellow, Denise Dumars, T. E. Grau, and Michael Tice. A preliminary schedule has included:

Noon-12:30 = People file or slither in
12:30 - 1pm = Prayers to Cthulhu
1pm - 1:45pm - Filking
1:45 to 2:30 = Author readings
2:30 - 3:15 = Panel on cosmic horror then and now
3:15 - 3:40 = Oral storytelling
3:40 - 4pm = Wind down, head out, and slop time if we're shambling late.

Visit the official site at for more details!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

3 New Poems at Buddhist Poetry Review

Three of my newest poems just went up for the September issue of the Buddhist Poetry Review.

This trio is "The Buddha of Bombies," "Idle Fears," and "A Koan of 32 Kwan."

Be sure to check out the other authors this month as well! I particularly enjoyed the work of Uma Gowrishankar and Kate Fadick. A big thanks to the editors who make this journal possible.

If you're interested in learning more about the UXO issues mentioned in "The Buddha of Bombies," visit Legacies of War, who do some great work on educating the community about the persisting legacy of UXO in Laos after 40 years.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Lovecraftian Laos: Aspects of Nyarlathotep

As we move closer to the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Los Angeles on September 28-29th, I'm examining some of the interesting possibilities a writer has available to them setting a story in Laos incorporating the Cthulhu Mythos of early 20th century writer H.P. Lovecraft.

Today we're considering Nyarlathotep and the Nak, and to a lesser extent, the Nyak. 

In the glossary of On The Other Side Of The Eye in 2007, I explained that a nak is "Sometimes synonymous with Naga. Typically depicted as a many-headed giant serpent, as a river creature, and sometimes as a subterranean being. Nak are believed to help the Lao during wars, floods and are associated with fertility. Some say the Lao are descendants of a giant Nak living in the Mekong. To some, Nak are snake deities who converted to Buddhism and now protect the Buddhist Dharma. In art, they appear on the balustrades of temple causeways and platforms ("naga bridges"), personifying the rainbow, bridging the earthly and celestial worlds." The Tibetan parallel is Klu, but that's a discussion for another time.

Meanwhile, within the Cthulhu Mythos, there is the cosmic entity known as Nyarlathotep: 

Nyarlathotep is an "Outer God" known by many names and forms, including the Crawling Chaos. First appearing in Lovecraft's 1920 prose poem of the same name, he was later mentioned in other works by Lovecraft and by other writers of the 20th and 21st century. The form above is often referred to as the Howler In The Dark.

Lovecraft initially wrote of Nyarlathotep as:

"...Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt. Who he was, none could tell, but he was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh. The fellahin knelt when they saw him, yet could not say why. He said he had risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven centuries, and that he had heard messages from places not on this planet. Into the lands of civilisation came Nyarlathotep, swarthy, slender, and sinister, always buying strange instruments of glass and metal and combining them into instruments yet stranger. He spoke much of the sciences - of electricity and psychology - and gave exhibitions of power which sent his spectators away speechless, yet which swelled his fame to exceeding magnitude. Men advised one another to see Nyarlathotep, and shuddered. And where Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished; for the small hours were rent with the screams of a nightmare."

Within the Cthulhu Mythos, the Outer Gods and Great Olds Ones are mindless entities of terror, not so much malevolent but indifferent to humanity. Nyarlathotep is distinguished from these because it is often considered cruel, deceptive and manipulative. Its role within this cosmology is to enact the will of the Outer Gods, serving as their messenger. It is more interested in causing madness over destruction, and is written of as an apocalyptic entity who will  most likely be responsible for destroying the human race and the Earth.

In the mythos literature to date, Nyarlathotep has appeared in Asia in numerous forms. In China, it can arrive as "The Bloated Woman." This form initially appears as a slender maiden behind a fan, but this fan is casting an illusion masking the true form of a large bloated tentacled humanoid that devours brains. In Malaysia, it has appeared as Shugoran, a black humanoid creature playing a horn who is summoned to punish others. It has also been known as "The Dweller in Darkness," "The Faceless God," "The Floating Horror," and "The Thing in the Yellow Mask." So what is one of its likely aspects in Laos?

As a shapeshifting entity, it would most likely appear as an iteration of a giant Nyak, similar to the Rakshasas of India and the Ramakien, magical, man-eating 'ogres'. The Nyak are feared for disturbing sacrifices, desecration of graves, harassing holy men and women, possession of human beings, and most other things we might expect of evil beings. I should note the Nyak are not always evil, and many took vows to protect the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha in the White Lotus Sutra. The fingernails of a Nyak are often poisonous and their favorite food is human flesh and rotten food. In addition to being shapechangers and warriors, they are often illusionists and magicians.So this would be very consistent with an avatar of Nyarlathotep. In the Lao language might we see him referred to as Nyak Dam, The Black Nyak?

On the other hand, the Nak are not entities a Lao writer would present as villainous, because they are historically protectors of the Lao. (Of course, nearby mythologies take a different view of the Nak/Naga due to politics, etc. but that's not necessarily germaine to this discussion.) However, if we were to postulate how Nyarlathotep appears, it might come as Nak Dam, the Black Nak, which would be a blasphemous parody of the traditional form of the Nak.

If we were keeping consistent with prior appearances, Nak Dam would most likely appear with a tri-lobed eye, black scales, and numerous tentacles protruding from a number of obscene, terrifying heads. Based on Lovecraft's poem, we can speculate Nyarlathotep's aspect of Nak Dam would do similar things it does in Europe and America: Wandering the earth, gathering devotees by demonstrating strange, almost magical technology that eventually causes them to lose awareness of the world, of the passage of time, eventually leading to insanity and plunging the world into madness.

A protagonist in Laos or who is part of a Lao expatriate community might possibly try to fight Nak Dam by turning to the dham: the truths and lessons of the Buddha, and Lao customs to retain their sense of sanity. But would they succeed?

In such a story, would a Lao reader be terrified by the possibility that Lao culture and the lessons of the Buddha be irrelevant in the face of the powers of Nyarlathotep and these cosmic entities? How else might Nyarlathotep appear, in order to strike fear in the Lao? How might these themes be meaningfully explored?

The Lao, like many communities in Southeast Asia, are only recently becoming familiar with Western notions of psychology and sanity. This leads to an interesting discussion of how Lovecraft's recurring themes of the cosmic threats to sanity and an ordered, consistent sense of the cosmos may be an utterly alien topic of terror. One can almost imagine a Lao reader going "Ha ha ha. Oh. You lost the American version of your mind? That's it?"

So what do you tap in to that evokes an interesting sense of horror from a Lao perspective?

When you have a culture that lived through the American bombing that left 30% of the countryside covered in nearly 80 million cluster bombs, Agent Orange, and so many dead, maimed and displaced by almost half a century of conflict, what's scary anymore?

[Cryptozoology] Lao megafauna: Meganaja Laoensis

Having just watched a show featuring the Siamese Cobra, Naja Siamensis, the cryptozoologist in me is now eagerly awaiting the confirmation of the Meganaja Laoensis, or the Giant Lao Spitting Cobra. Of course, while many of us have insisted such entities abound in Laos before and after the war, no one ever seems to have evidence of it.

We might expect this creature to be between 9.8 to 32 feet in length, with 20 feet the most likely size for a large example. This would be based upon purported sizes for anacondas and the longest size for a king cobra. Meganaja Laoensis would probably have coloration ranging from grey to brown to black, with some form of spots or stripes, possibly white or yellow in coloration. If it has the ability to spit venom, it would most likely be a highly dangerous brew of postsynaptic neurotoxin and necrotizing cytotoxin inducing death within 3 to 5 minutes, aiming for your face and particularly your eyes and nasal cavity. Anticipate permanent blindness, paralysis, and asphyxiation while your cells in the envenomed area proceed to dissolve. Pain and extreme swelling are likely additional symptoms that will be evidence of an encounter. If spitting venom at a victim is not enough it will bite, holding onto you fiercely while it also savagely chews into muscle tissue, injecting additional venom.

This is primarily a nocturnal species that seeks out very large prey for sustenance but primarily found in deep forest and mountain regions. In Laos, 60 to 70% of the countryside is covered in mountains and forest, although current heavy efforts at mining and logging are likely to increase chances of discovering a Meganaja Laoensis within the next decade.

I would speculate that it is like many naja, and therefore oviparous, meaning the female will presumably lay between 5 and 25 eggs in clutch with 10 being the average, hatching between 48 to 70 days depending on environmental conditions. The hatchlings will be between 15 to 20 inches and independent as soon as they emerge from the eggs and possess fully developed venom delivery systems, so they must absolutely be treated like adult versions if encountered.

During the daytime, it may exhibit signs of timidity especially among large numbers of humans and animals but during the night, based upon the behavior of its cousins, Meganaja will be more aggressive and likely to stand its ground, warning you by flaring out its hood before spitting venom.

Superstitious local villagers are likely to attribute medicinal properties to its flesh, venom and other by-products. Such claims should deservedly bet met with extreme skepticism.

Since I'm on a roll, I'll also do a shout-out to the dreaded Megadionae homocipula, the legenday Giant Venus Mantrap of Laos. Note that I am just speculating on the possibility of these entities. But if it turns out there IS one, you saw it here first.