Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Visiting Steinbeck Country

Of course, growing up, I was part of a generation exposed in school to many of the works of John Steinbeck, including "Of Mice and Men," and "The Grapes of Wrath." I first had a chance to visit Salinas in 2003 although it was not a very long trip. Still, the tour of the Steinbeck museum and his house left an impression me, as has much of his life's work. 

In high school, I remember being particularly struck by the anecdote of his fellow townsmen burning Steinbeck's books in the public square because of the way he aired the town's dirty laundry through very thinly veiled characters. 

I also remember developing an appreciation for his habit of using journalistic asides within his narratives similar to Melville's in Moby Dick regarding whaling. Habits that tend to be discouraged in today's MFA programs, for better or worse. As a poet, of course, some might ask how relevant such a technique is to my work, but remember Ezra Pound's note that poetry is news that stays news. So, the technique is very relevant, to me, even as I work heavily within speculative poetry, drawing upon and adding to the techniques of expressing the fantastic, the horrific and the futuristic. 

As I post up the various pictures of my travels through Salinas on social media, I'm a bit saddened to see how little John Steinbeck pops up in the various hashtags and other markers connected to the city. Selfies and beach shots abound, but there's hardly a shadow of his words among the modern images of the town and its surrounding domain. But how surprised can we be at this, really?

Perhaps that's just the proper way of the world. That one day, he'll be lost and just a series of plaques and old flyers and maps, waiting to be unearthed by a new generation. Among a few of that generation's children, he might be able to speak to them of their past, of what might be, and impart the ambition of his work, and inspire them to add their stories to the great American tapestry with the same sympathy and daring of opinion as he had in his age.

The Steinbeck House, which is also a restaurant is now celebrating its 40th year in 2014. I remember being particularly heartened as a writer to see that while Steinbeck had been writing from an early age, it wasn't until he was in his mid-thirties that his first book had been published.

One of Steinbeck's last great trips abroad was to Southeast Asia, and there is a Lao connection. I can't find many photos of the occasion, but it seems that he met the retired farmer Ed Buell, aka "Mr. Pop" from USAID who was so instrumental in assisting the Hmong and Lao refugees being displaced by the Lao civil war that ended almost 40 years ago.

In 1967, he'd said of Buell "I think Pop is an example of how the ancient gods were born... Whether you believe it or not, there are still giants on the earth."

I do hope I'll be able to find some more about his travels to Laos on this visit, but in the meantime, I remain inspired by his classic "Travels with Charley" across America even as I do my own "Laodyssey" in this Year of the Horse with my dachshunds.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Two poems to be included in the Rhysling Anthology: Update

I announced previously that two of my poems, "The Robo Sutra" and "5 Flavors", which both appeared previously in Expanded Horizons magazine, were nominated for a 2014 Rhysling Award. I just sent the approval for inclusion in the official Rhysling Anthology due out later this season.

My poems are two of thirty-one long-form poems being considered this year. I anticipate the voting will get quite exciting before it's all done and over.

As some readers know already: Nominees for each year's Rhysling Awards are selected by the membership of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Each member is allowed to nominate one work from the previous year in each of two categories: “Best Long Poem” (50+ lines; for prose poems, 500+ words) and “Best Short Poem” (0–49 lines; for prose poems, 0–499 words).

The Rhysling Awards are put to a final vote by the membership of the SFPA selection from all nominated works, presented in the Rhysling Anthology.

The Rhysling Anthology is available to anyone with an interest in this unique compilation of verse from some of the finest poets working in the field of SF/F/Horror poetry. For more information, you can visit the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

I also encourage you to consider becoming a member!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Full-Length Candidates for the 2014 Elgin Awards in Science Fiction Poetry

The Elgin Awards are named for Science Fiction Poetry Association founder Suzette Haden Elgin. They are presented annually by the SFPA for books published in the preceding year.

As a reminder to active SFPA members: Votes are due by August 15th. It is ranked choice voting, so please remember to include your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice for book of the year.

There are two categories, Chapbook and Book. Books must contain 40 or more pages of poetry. E-books are eligible, but self-published books are not. Single-author and collaborative books are eligible; anthologies are not. Books containing fiction as well as poetry are not eligible. Books must be in English, but translations are eligible. Here are this year's candidates for book-sized collections.

You can see the covers for this years' books here.


Dangerous Dreams • Marge Simon and Sandy DeLuca (Elektrik Milk Bath Press, 2013)

Dark family secrets... Demon lovers.... Treacherous beauties... These are just some of the Dangerous Dreams you will find in the latest offering from Marge Simon and Sandy DeLuca. With illustrations by Marge Simon, each poem in this collection is penned by both Simon and DeLuca, making Dangerous Dreams a truly collaborative effort.

Dark Roads • Bruce Boston (Dark Renaissance Books, 2013)
Considered one of the leading genre/speculative poets for more than a quarter century, Bruce Boston has received the Bram Stoker Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Asimov’s Readers Award, the Rhysling Award, and the first Grandmaster Award of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Dark Roads collects the best of his long dark poems from more than forty years of publishing. Strikingly illustrated by acclaimed artist M. Wayne Miller, these poems range from direct narratives to surreal explorations of time, memory, obsession and transformation. Includes two Rhysling Winners and three Rhysling Finalists.

DEMONSTRA • Bryan Thao Worra (Innsmouth Free Press, 2013)
In the depths, half-hidden under still waters, await strange and vicious creatures …. Cthulhu, Godzilla and nagas mingle in Demonstra, a speculative poem collection which assembles 20 years of work by Bryan Thao Worra. DEMONSTRA is a book of things glimpsed out of the corner of the eye. It is about a reality that can never fully be demonstrated, authenticated, dissected, for certain visions always remain in shadows.

The First Bite of the Apple • Jennifer Crow (Elektrik Milk Bath Press, 2013)
You know the old tales... Queens and lovers... Thorns and magic... Promises made but never fulfilled... Jennifer Crow's poetry ventures into that enchanted realm, exploring the fairy tales and myths you think you've always known. These poems will tempt you with their shiny-bright surface, but their taste has become delightfully unfamiliar... There is a new sharpness here-of secrets hidden below the surface-and like The First Bite of the Apple, their sweetness soon gives way to the darkness beneath.

The Gorelets Omnibus: Collected Poems 2001-2011 • Michael Arnzen (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2012)
The Gorelets Omnibus collects all the bloody little bits of Michael Arnzen’s poetry written in the past 10 years into one big volume. From the contents of the original Gorelets chapbook and his classic “refrigerator of the damned” online fridge poem experiment, to Arnzen’s latest flash fiction and brand new Zombie Haikruel series, this collection chronicles his revolutionary vision for the horror short form. He even received a Bram Stoker Award for Alternative Forms for some of the work included in this book. As one of the first writers to recognize the creative capacity of handheld devices, Arnzen’s pioneering work to deliver gory entertainment in as few characters as possible is still eminently relevant today. Thus, a “casebook of criticism”—a collection of scholarly analyses of Arnzen’s unique approach to the genre—is included alongside the poetry.

Grim Series • Kristine Ong Muslim (Popcorn Press, 2012)
A collection of distinctly dark poems by a distinct master of the genre. Cover design by Katheryn Smith

Hysteria: A Collection of Madness • Stephanie Wytovich • (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2013)
Asylums once used to confine those deemed mentally unfit linger, forgotten behind trees or urban development, beautiful yet desolate in their decay. Within them festers something far more unnerving than unlit corners or unexplained noises: the case files left to moulder out of sight, out of conscience. Stephanie M. Wytovich forces your hands upon these crumbling, warped binders and exposes your mind to every taboo misfortune experienced by the outcast, exiled, misbegotten monsters and victims who have walked among us. The poetry contained in Hysteria performs internal body modification on its readers in an unrelenting fashion, employing broad-spectrum brutality treatment that spans the physical to the societal, as noted in Stoker Award winner Michael A. Arnzen’s incisive introduction.

Letting out the Demons • Terrie Leigh Relf • (Elektrik Milk Bath Press, 2013)
Slipping between the realms of our pasts and our futures, Terrie Leigh Relf 's collection Letting Out the Demons offers more than 40 musings, crossing all boundaries of time and space. Here Relf uses her poetic skills to take on the familiar demons of love and death, fairy tale and myth, zombies and synths, and everything in between.

Luminous Worlds • David C. Kopaska-Merkel (Dark Regions Press, 2013)
We can only write what we know, whether that comes from communicating in broken French and broken English with a Parisian nurse, or staring in horror at the human effects of a geological calamity. Here are twenty years worth of dark poetry, representing a dark world, the very one we live in. These poems were written at home, at work, in the air, shipboard in the middle of the Indian Ocean, confined to a hospital bed in a foreign land, in other words, all the usual places. Influenced by Lovecraft, Zelazny, and Algernon Blackwood, among others, Kopaska-Merkel enlists his imagination and scientific background in service to poetic expressions of the wonder, horror, and magic that permeate our world.

The Monstrance • Bryan D. Dietrich (Needfire Poetry, 2012)
The Monstrance, Bryan D. Dietrich’s sixth book of poems, is a love story. Set in the world of James Whale’s 1931 film version of Frankenstein, these poems document the lives and loves of a monster and a gypsy, a huffy hunchback, a lame priest, and the not-so-mad scientist himself. What begins with test tubes and Tesla coils ends in grace and graveyard picnics. Heartwarming and horrifying, love itself is resurrected here and set striding, a lost creature, livid and longing, but never alone

The Offspring of the Moon • John W. Sexton (Salmon Poetry, 2013)
In the poems of The Offspring of the Moon, John W. Sexton speaks to a tradition deeply rooted in the Irish literary imagination: from the oral tales and myths of pre-Christian times, through the gothic horrors of Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker, to the early science-fictional romances of Fitz-James O'Brien and M. P. Shiel. These are poems of the altered mind, the cosmic journey, the daemons and totems of the spirit world, the subversion of logic and science.

Our Rarer Monsters • Noel Sloboda (Sunnyoutside, 2013)
Featuring art by Marc Snyder.

Paranormal Romance • Denise Dumars (Sam's Dot [now Alban Lake Publishing], 2012)
Interacting with the paranormal used to involve mediums, seances, the Ouija board, tarot cards, and other familiar metaphysical devices. Today, we live in a world saturated with technology, yet simultaneously fixated on the paranormal. Ghost hunting is the new fad that seems to be ever-expanding, and so we now see the explosion of technological interaction with the dead.
Alas, times change, but the desire to make contact with the beyond, to span the gulf between our loved ones on the other side and us, has not. This book is a meditation of sorts on our myriad ways of contacting the dead, meeting them on their own terms as well as on ours. It is inspired by many individuals, both those on this side of the veil and those on the other. It is about a special kind of love that we have for those who are no longer with us in our plane of existence…unless you believe, of course, that they are with us still in non-corporeal form.

Phantom Navigation • Robert Frazier (Dark Regions Press, 2012)
23 chromosomes from one parent, 23 from the other. 46 inescapable parts to a recipe. In Robert Frazier's case, his father was a cryptographer at Bletchley Park during WWII, and his mother was a landscape painter who studied with Emile Albert Gruppé. Thus the mystical science of deciphering gibberish into plain text meshes with a penchant for impressionistic imagery in Phantom Navigation. Within his first poetry collection in ten years, Frazier maps half-a-hundred works collected from a long career in publishing. Join the 3-time Rhysling-award-winner as he explores the intersection of science and art with a vengeance.

The Receptionist • Lesley Wheeler (Aqueduct Press, 2012)
Gwyneth Jones, author of Spirit and The Universe of Things writes: Lesley "Wheeler's The Receptionist is a delight: a stirring narrative of fantasy and derring-do, set in the ivy-clad towers and poky offices of modern academia, in which the warrior princess of an ancient line returns to the fray at last and summons ancient powers to defend the right, all told in technically assured terza rima cantos, full of ingenious rhythms. The forces of evil are all too recognizable, the bad guys satisfyingly bad and the good guys not too goody-goody. The infusion of classic children’s fantasy, and other bedtime folklore sources, is wonderful too. In the bonus package of shorter poems, “Zombie Thanksgiving” (T.S. Eliot's “The Waste Land” retold) is stunning, an absolute tour de force."

Scenes Along the Zombie Highway • G. O. Clark (Dark Regions Press, 2013)
From the Bram Stoker Award nominated poet of Shroud of Night, Strange Vegetables, Bone Sprockets, 25 Cent Rocket Ship To The Stars and The Other Side of the Lens comes a new collection of 42 poems in the realm of the undead. Full of humor, charm and chilling imagery, Scenes Along the Zombie Highway by G.O. Clark strikes the perfect balance of levity, commentary and horror in the realm of the living dead.

Special Powers and Abilities • Raymond McDaniel (Coffee House Press, 2013)
Special Powers and Abilities is a futuristic, stunningly imaginative poetic exploration of superheroes, religion, and myth.Inspired by The Legion of Super-Heroes, a comic series about a group of teenage superheroes in the future, McDaniel’s poems morph superheroes into religious and mythological narratives. Using a range traditional forms—versets, kennings, and sonnets, his poems consider the history of how we look at the future and takes on an almost Talmudic complexity.

SuiPsalms • John Edward Lawson (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2012)
SuiPsalms is the follow up to Lawson's first, acclaimed poetry collection, THE TROUBLESOME AMPUTEE. Exploring the subject of suicide from all angles, this collection challenges pre-conceived notions and both poetry and suicide. Drawing on influences from Sylvia Plath to Ian Curtis this book is never quite what you expect.

Unexplained Fevers • Jeannine Hall Gailey (New Binary Press, 2013)
Jeannine Hall Gailey’s third book, Unexplained Fevers, frees fairy tale heroines from their glass coffins and towers while simultaneously looking at the traps that contemporary women encounter – body image, drug abuse, illness – and how to find power and freedom beyond these limitations. Gailey’s trademark wit, charm and energy fill these pages with stories of forests and seascapes, mythical creatures, and the allure of the forbidden.

What If What’s Imagined Were All True • Roz Kaveny (A Midsummer Night's Press, 2012)
Magic, aliens, nightmares, and dreams are among the many muses that have inspired Roz Kaveney’s poetry.What If What’s Imagined Were All True brings together a sampling of her poems with mythical, fantastical or science fictional concerns, and also features two sonnet sequences: one retelling the Orpheus legend and one exploring the worlds of Steampunk.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Day in the Life of Asian Pacific America: An exhibit by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

On July 4th, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center revealed its online photographic exhibition A Day in the Life of Asian Pacific America. It is "the first crowdsourced gallery of the Asian Pacific American experience around the world as lived on one day."

The day was May 10, 2014, the 145th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railway. As the organizers explained "The Transcontinental Railway was an unprecedented national project that relied heavily on Chinese labor, but whose Asian history was excluded from its visual documentation in the iconic picture of the Golden Spike ceremony at Promontory, Utah taken on May 10, 1869. This crowdsourced experiment is motivated by this exclusion."

That exclusion is what makes me particularly happy to see that several Laotian Americans photos were included, selected from over 2,000 photos submitted for consideration, including the work of Dennis Dr.Wtpho, Soudary Kittivong Greenbaum, Catzie Vilayphonh, Krysada Binly Phounsiri, Renee Ya, and myself.

In my case, I covered the Inland Empire region of California, including several locales in Hemet, San Jacinto, Moreno Valley, Romoland and Temecula. My particular focus was on the Southeast Asian American community, notably the Lao and Khmer rebuilding their lives in the US almost 40 years since the beginning of our various diasporas.

In my case, I wanted to do shots of the community in ways that weren't commonly seen, but it also became clear that in this region, there weren't many typical types photographs of the AAPI community to begin with, despite the many years we'd been living here. How do we bring visibility to such a space where we ARE there, but often taken for granted?

An introduction to the exhibit was written by acclaimed Asian American activist Helen Zia. As she notes, "Reflected through our lenses is the irrepressible dynamism and spirit that AAPIs bring to the heart of this land — as ordinary yet extraordinary Americans. Of thee I sing."

Interviewed by the Asian Pacific American Librarian Association

I was interviewed recently by the Asian Pacific American Librarian Association about my thoughts regarding writing and literature, especially during the rise of e-books, and where libraries will fit into it all in the coming years ahead. We'll see what happens in the next decade.

In some areas I hope I'm right, in others, I may well be proven wrong. But I think it's important to try and bring our readers, writers and communities together constructively despite the many forces that often seem to preclude this.

A big thanks to Jaena Rae Cabrera for her thought-provoking questions, and I'd love to hear how some of you feel on these issues.

Minnesota recognized by Legacies of War on UXO support and advocacy

Congratulations to the Minnesota Friends of Legacies, who will be honored this month in Washington DC by Legacies of War.

The Minnesota Friends of Legacies are being recognized for their courage, compassion, advocacy, creativity and community support in addressing the issues of UXO still remaining in Laos!

Over the years, Minnesotans have been actively engaged in organizing events and exhibitions in their state to create awareness of the continued impact of cluster bombs in Laos. 

One of the high-profile examples of this was the 2010 Legacies of War: Refugee Nation Twin Cities interdisciplinary exhibit at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis. 

Exhibits and benefits have also been held at the Loft Literary Center, the Hennepin County Library during the Slice & Spice of Asia exhibit, and their work to bring the Voices from Laos Speakers Tour to the state in 2013. In addition, Lao Minnesotans have written numerous op-eds and given interviews to local media to support the clearance of UXO in Laos.

Little Laos on the Prairie founding editor Chanida Phaengdara will be among those in attendance from Minnesota during the recognition ceremony in Washington D.C. on July 15th.  Additionally, my poem "Legacies Between Us" will also be a part of the program to recognize the 10th anniversary of Legacies of War's work around the world.

Congratulations to everyone!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Laos wins the Bronze Medal in the Poetry World Cup

Laos has taken the bronze medal in the Poetry World Cup! Thank you all for your support! It was a great and magnificent journey as we went against 32 poets from around the world! In the end we went up against the Pakistani poet Mehsvah Amin. During our match, the two of us had the honor of securing the most votes out of any of the poets competing with 657 total votes cast. It's suitably epic. She goes on to face Singapore in the final showdown. A big thanks goes to the staff of The Missing Slate magazine who were the organizers of the Poetry World Cup, without whom none of this would have been possible. Will we see the cup return in 2018? One can only hope, given the enthusiasm of the readers and poets alike!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

2014 Speculative Literature Markets for Lao American Writers

It's a fresh new fiscal year for various for-profit and non-profit magazines. Here's a beginning round-up of markets emerging and experienced writers of Lao science fiction, fantasy, and horror can consider submitting work to.

In comparison to previous years, 2014 appears to be a year of serious contraction in the field, with many publications closing down or at least, not taking new submissions for the time being. Others have been excluded in the current round-up because they don't really meet even the minimum standards for acceptable presentation of an author's work. This

As we point out every year: Some pay, some do not. Naturally, of those who do pay, some pay well, and others barely provide enough for a cup of cyber-coffee and bus ride home.

But the markets listed below are still currently or will be accepting writing in the future.  Some may be more receptive to stories that have overtly Lao or Southeast Asian American elements to them, but this is the sort of thing one finds out only by applying.

Remember, do your research and read a few issues ahead of time to get a feeling for whether or not your work would be a good fit with them. Don't send science fiction splatterpunk short stories to a journal that only accepts fantasy poetry, for example.

As always, caveat scriptor: Most have been vetted for reliability and good terms regarding their publishing rights and professionalism, but one should do their research on other writers experiences with them when you can. Most of these journals should provide interesting opportunities and good homes for many of your works.

Good luck!

  • 365 Tomorrows 

  • Allegory   

  • Analog 

  • Andromeda Spaceways 

  • AntipodeanSF   

  • Apex 

  • Aphelion   

  • Asimov's   

  • Aurealis 

  • Bewildering Stories  

  • Big Pulp   

  • Digital Dragon Magazine   

  • Expanded Horizons 

  • Fabulist 

  • Fantasy and Science Fiction   

  • Future Fire    
  • G-Fan Magazine:
  • Goblin Fruit 

  • Grantville Gazette   

  • Ideomacer   

  • Innsmouth Free Press

  • Journal of Unlikely Entomology:

  • Jupiter Science Fiction   

  • Kaleidotrope  

  • Lakeside Circus:  

  • Leading Edge Magazine  

  • Lightspeed Magazine 

  • Lontar: 

  • On Spec   

  • Quantum Muse   

  • Revolution Science Fiction   

  • Shimmer  

  • Space and Time  

  • Space Squid   

  • Strange Horizons  

  • Tales of the Unanticipated 

  • TTA 

  • Uncanny Magazine (Coming soon in Fall, 2014)    

  • Vestal Review  
  • If you have additional journals to suggest, please share them in the comments below!

    Lao Non-Profit Spotlight: Legacies of War

    It's the start of July and a new fiscal year for many non-profits who are doing great work around the world.

    This month, I'm highlighting different Lao organizations and projects serving our community who could also use a boost, such as a cash donation or volunteer services to help them get their year started off on the right foot. I strongly encourage you to help make a difference!

    Today I'm highlighting Legacies of War, who has been at the forefront of creating UXO awareness in Laos for 10 years now. Legacies of War is the leading U.S.-based educational and advocacy organization working to address the impact of conflict in Laos during the Vietnam War-era, including removal of unexploded ordnance (UXO). They raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing of Laos, provide space for healing the wounds of war, and create greater hope for a future of peace.

    Their work has led to a four-fold increase of U.S. funding for UXO clearance and victim assistance in Laos, from $3M in 2008 to $12M in 2014. In bringing greater attention and increasing resources, they’ve helped to make a real impact on the ground in Laos: more land being cleared, lives being saved and additional care and services available for the approximately 12,000 UXO victims living in Laos.

    From national speaking tours to amazing exhibits, they've been very effective bringing the community together and putting the issue in a clear context not only for Lao but for the rest of the world.

    They've used their funds responsibly and accountably and many who've interned and volunteered with them have gone on to amazing work on many other causes. Give them a look at:

    Tuesday, July 01, 2014

    A. C. Wise and the Butterflies

    It's that time of the year again when A.C. Wise tries to pick something that's not too weird and I, on the other hand, dredge up something from the files to ensure there's something quirky when you google image search for her, because for some reason she's a magnet to oddly mundane images otherwise. And that simply won't do.

    So this time, she's selected Butterflies.

    Thus chosen, to that end, we present Butterfly Man. Somewhat reminiscent of the naree pon of Southeast Asia or perhaps those fake fairies that were all of the rage in the fin de siecle, the Butterfly Man photos have been circulating around various circles with very little reliable details on its provenance.

    Is it like the Fiji Mermaid or just a Hobby Lobby project gone horribly awry? Who can say, but it's fascinating and grotesque all at once.

    But on a more interesting note, here's the charming Commander Caterpillar:

    Who, alas, becomes hideous as an adult butterfly. The tragedies of nature:

    And now back to our regular programming.