Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Year in Review

So, it's the end of the Common Era year. Lao New Year ends April 15th, so we've got a quarter to go still. But now is as good a time as any to take a look at what's happened in the last twelve months.

Six poems, including a few reprints, found homes in this time frame, which make this a relatively slow period for me, but on the other hand, my 2013 book DEMONSTRA and many of the poems in it received nice nods of recognition throughout the year, including an Elgin Award. I'm looking forward to 2015 with several new projects in motion that will be announced in a few weeks as various details are finalized.

"No Such Phi," Lakeside Circus, January, 2014.

"Discussing Principles Of Art With Laotians," Cha Magazine, March, 2014.

"The Last War Poem," Southeast Asia Globe, March, 2014.

An untitled haiku for the Haikus for Gambia project.

Several photos were included in the Smithsonian Asian Pacific Center digital photo essay "A Day In The Life of Asian America," taken during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. May, 2014.

"Five Flavors" reprinted at Little Laos on the Prairie, October, 2014.

"The Dachshunds of Tindalos" a drabble for Spooky Halloween Drabbles 2014

Awards this year:
Strange Horizons Reader's Choice Award for Poetry: "Full Metal Hanuman."

Bronze Medal for representing Laos during the Missing Slate Magazine Poetry World Cup.

Science Fiction Poetry Association Elgin Award for Book of the Year for DEMONSTRA (Innsmouth Free Press, 2013)

2 Rhysling Award nominations: "Five Flavors" and "The Robo Sutra."

2 Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow's The Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 6: "Digging for Corpse Oil" and "Snakehead"

I also became the first Lao American poet to be profiled at the Poetry Foundation.

As a personal reflection, I will say that it's been a wonderful validation to see much of my work recognized at a professional level and by many in my community. It is still a strange feeling, however, to think that for all of the time committed to writing, often a year boils down to less than a dozen or even a half-dozen poems that really find homes. Maybe that's something that brings me back to poetry consistently, is that it constantly humbles you and teaches you to appreciate those years when you're able to be particularly prolific. But as many of my peers point out, you don't want to be just cranking them out. It's better to get out a half-dozen good poems than 52 average or worse, forgettable poems out into the world. I think you need to strive to find a balance.

I do feel this year was one of significant transitions. I deeply felt the loss of Lao master artist Pom Outama Khampradith, as well as my good friends and mentors Professor Raymond Rodgers and Allan Kornblum. There was a lot of moving involved this year, going back and forth between Southern California and Northern California and the Bay Area, but also a chance to connect more with my long-lost family and to spend more time with my nieces and sisters. So I'm grateful for that. There's more that could have been said, more that could have been done, but that's always the case, for any family, any community.

On January 1st, I'll turn 42, and 2015 will be a significant year for me for many reasons already. But as many of my readers can imagine, the work of Douglas Adams and the questions he posed will also be lingering with me as we bring an end to the Year of the Horse and all of the journeys connected to it. What does it all mean, Life, the Universe, Everything? I've asked that for a long time, and I suspect I will keep asking them, thinking of Hokusai's famous note where he writes:
'From the age of 6 I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was 50 I had published a universe of designs. But all I have done before the the age of 70 is not worth bothering with. At 75 I'll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am 80 you will see real progress. At 90 I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At 100, I shall be a marvelous artist. At 110, everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself 'The Old Man Mad About Drawing."

A big thanks to all of you who have been a part of my life, and I look forward to sharing many more ideas and dreams with you in the years ahead!

2014 Science Fiction Poetry Books

So, here we are at the end of the year!

At first glance it appears to have been a slow year for science fiction poetry books with just five books currently listed at the Science Fiction Poetry Association's website for chapbook-length and full-length books published.  I'm certain this figure will be amended once the Elgin Award nominations conclude in May. But in the meantime, here are some of the early books we'll likely be considering:

Overall, this is already a fairly diverse selection of books that we will be considering for the Elgin Awards next year.Thanks to Wade German, we'll be looking at at least one volume influenced by Weird literature such as the work of H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. Horror poetry and the macabre look like they'll be prominent elements for readers to consider thanks to Stephanie M. Wytovich and G.O. Clark. SETI Hits Paydirt is the one most firmly grounded in science fiction, but David C. Kopaska Merkel's work is always wide-ranging and engaging in his topics. Undoing Winter is exploring the fantastic and the historic issues of isolation in motherhood.

If you think you'll be interested in voting in next year's Elgin Awards, now is a great time to consider joining the Science Fiction Poetry Association. In the US, dues are $15 for pdf versions of the organization's publications, or $30 for print copies of the magazine Star*Line, the Dwarf Stars Anthology, and the Rhysling Anthology.

What are some of the poetry books you think should be nominated for consideration next year?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hmong poetry: To Live Here, by Soul Vang

It's recently been brought to my attention that Soul Vang's long-awaited full-length book of poetry, "To Live Here" has finally been released, thanks to Imaginary Friend Press.

Soul Vang is easily one of the best Hmong poets of our generation. He's a significant voice and I find his work stunning and profound. I first became acquainted with his verse in the late 1990s through my work with the Paj Ntaub Voice Hmong literary journal and the Bamboo Among the Oaks anthology.

I haven't had a chance to read To Live Here, but knowing Soul's previous poetry, this is certain to become an essential classic for the community alongside texts such as Pos Moua's Where the Torches Are Burning and Burlee Vang's The Dead I Know: Incantation for Rebirth.

It's somewhat tragic that his work wasn't picked up by Asian American publisher, particularly a Hmong press. As Hmong and Lao approach 40 years in the US, I think this still speaks volumes about our place within the various worlds of arts and letters. But that aside, I'm delighted to see this book has come out at last through Imaginary Friend Press, and I'm glad to see they can appreciate the importance of this collection not only for today's readers but for the generations yet to come.

To Live Here is selling for just $15, shipping and handling included. That's a great deal to read an amazing voice. Don't miss this one.

Hmongstory 40 coming in 2015

I recently submitted a number of my older poems for inclusion to the Hmongstory 40 project.

The year 2015 will mark 40 years of the Hmong migration from Laos and Thailand to the United States of America. To commemorate this special anniversary, an exhibition comprising of photographs, stories, fine art, and artifacts will be organized to showcase the Hmong experience.

Hmongstory 40 is a joint effort from many people from throughout the state of California. It represents a collaborative that shares a common vision. This exhibition seeks to provide a rare and intimate opportunity to connect with the Hmong people.

From the past to the present, Hmongstory 40 aims to construct a different narrative that is still absent within the Hmong community and the general public at large. If you get a chance to, be sure to check the exhibit out and the various presentations connected to it next year.

SFPA Discount for Rhysling Award Nominees

As a reminder: Rhysling award nominees can get a 50% discounted rate on a 2015 membership in the Science Fiction Poetry Association. You can use it for yourself or to give a gift membership to a friend. This offer expires on December 31st! Be sure to take advantage soon so you don't miss an issue of Star*Line or other great benefits!

A print version membership is $15, while a pdf-only membership is $7.50.

If you have any questions e-mail the treasurer at sfpatreasurer@gmail.com and they'll get it arranged for you!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Phi Kasu: Supernatural entities of Laos

art by cultcat

Phi Kasu ຜີກະສື

One of the most terrifying spirits of Laos and Southeast Asia, Phi Kasu, is known as Phi Krasue, in Thailand, and Arb or Ap in Cambodia. It has a similarity with a ghost from Malaysia called the Penanggalan or the Puntianak. According to some accounts in China, there was a group known as the Falling-Head People or Luotou Min in the South, whose heads could fly.

The general legend is that at night, the woman's head detaches with the entrails intact and floats off in search of a victim. Sometimes she wears a shawl or talks to humans from behind a wall so they won't notice her condition. Some villagers in Laos decorate their windows with thorny vines because the Phi Kasu becomes annoyed at getting her organs entangled on the thorns.

A common tell-tale sign is that she needs large jars of brine nearby to shrink her swollen organs to re-enter her body before dawn, or she returns to the underworld for a few eons. There are unconfirmed reports that it is impossible to permanently kill a Phi Kasu. While someone could in theory inflict significant grievous damage on the body of such an entity, their energy would ultimately transmigrate to another body if necessary.

The Phi Kasu are often said to have long flickering tongues to lick the blood from its victims, and sharp teeth to tear their victims open. There are some reports that this is a revenge-driven phi, created by a burning desire to have some wrong set right so that it can be reincarnated into its next life. This should be considered a dubious proposition at best, and one is instead advised to steer clear of them. 

Also, one is advised not to leave laundry out at night or a Phi Kasu may come by and wipe its dirty mouth on your clothes and sheets.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Two honorable mentions in The Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 6

In good news, I just learned that two of my poems from DEMONSTA received honorable mentions from Ellen Datlow's annual anthology series,Best Horror of the Year (Volume #6, covering the year 2013).

While my pieces aren't in the print or e-book editions, it's nice to know that they were considered and that we're getting some traction on getting Lao American horror into the world.

Multiple award-winning editor Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for almost thirty years. She was fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and SCIFICTION and has edited more than fifty anthologies, including the horror half of the long-running The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She currently acquires short stories for Tor.com.

The poems she noted are "Making Corpse Oil" and "Snakehead."

Both poems were inspired by my 2002-2003 visit to Thailand and Cambodia, which was my first return to Southeast Asia in 30 years since leaving for the US. A big thanks to Ms. Datlow for taking the time to read my collection, and to everyone who has helped DEMONSTRA take such an extraordinary journey.

DEMONSTRA was the first poetry collection published by Innsmouth Free Press and received an Elgin Award in 2014 for Book of the Year from the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 Rhysling Award Winners announced

"Don't Panic"

The Science Fiction Poetry Association recently announced the 2014 winners of the Rhysling Awards for the speculative poems of the year in the two traditional categories of Short Poems and Long Poems. The ceremony was convened at Goddess and the Moon in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday, December 12th. This year's chair was Elizabeth R. McClellan.

Poems were nominated from over 49 publications this year. The Science Fiction Poetry Association was founded in 1978 to bring together poets and readers interested in science-fiction poetry. It has over 300 members internationally. The active membership in good standing nominates and votes on the Rhysling winners each year.

The Rhysling winners are regularly reprinted in the Nebula Awards Anthology from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., and are considered in the SF/F/H/Spec. field to be the equivalent in poetry of the awards given for "prose" work— achievement awards given to poets by the writing peers of their own field of literature.

The cover for this year's anthology comes courtesy of Francis Reddy, courtesy of the StarChild project, a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center. The artist’s rendering is a conceptual image of the dwarf planet Eris and its only known moon, Dysnomia.

"Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!"

Short Poem Category

First Place
“Turning the Leaves” by Amal El-Mohtar
Apex Magazine, December 2013

Second Place
“Rivers” by Geoffrey A. Landis
Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 2013

Third Place
“Music of the Stars” by Bruce Boston
2013 Balticon Program Book

Long Poem Category

First Place
“Interregnum” by Mary Soon Lee
 Star*Line 36.4

Second Place
“Hungry Constellations” by Mike Allen
Goblin Fruit, Fall 2013

Third Place
“I will show you a single treasure from the treasures of Shah Niyaz” by Rose Lemberg
Goblin Fruit, Summer 2013

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lao Diaspora Project: Refuge of the InvisibLao Exhibition, January 10- 24, 2015

Little Laos on the Prairie, Laos in the House and the Lao American artist Chantala Kommanivanh have spent the better part of 2014 gathering the oral and visual stories of the Lao community as we prepare to mark 40 years since the beginning of the Lao diaspora.

Those efforts are now culminating in one of the first events in the country in 2015 as a storytelling art and photography exhibit at the Vine Gallery entitled: “Refuge of the InvisibLao: A Visual Essay.”

The exhibit will feature the work of acclaimed neo-expressionist Chicago-based artist Chanthala Kommanivanh and past and present portraits of Lao American journeys that were collected by LLOTP Founding Editor, Chanida Phaengdara Potter, and other special guests.

The event welcomes community members, public officials, advocates, scholars, and those interested in immigrant stories from Laos and Southeast Asia.

They're asking many profound questions during this exhibit:
What is your dream after a tumultuous past? After the Laotian Civil War during the Vietnam War era, thousands of Southeast Asians emigrated to the United States, Australia, France and other countries. Thousands more followed as students, merchants, and to simply start new lives. How have the years changed our sense of who we are, who we have been, and who we can be?

During this time, Little Laos on the Prairie will launch its 2015 #BeLaod campaign to promote historically invisible stories of Lao American journeys in the United States.

Stories of displacement, isolation, identity crisis, reflection, hope and happiness are some of the themes that encompass the depth of the path to an American Dream for the Lao Diaspora.

The opening storytelling reception is Saturday, January 10, 2015 from 5:00pm-8:00pm. Appetizers and drinks will be served. Originals and prints of artwork will be available for sale. All proceeds goes to The Lao Diaspora Project and their collaborators to continue their work.

The exhibition runs January 10-24, 2015. The Vine Arts Center is located at 2637 27th Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It's on the secnd level of Ivy Arts Building in the Seward neighborhood.

[Poem] Flowers from Saturn

Flowers from Saturn

They fell on the outskirts of Savannakhet.
Some men secretly took the stones without heed,
Melting and grinding what they could,

Plying their alchemy of powders and serums,
So certain sons the stuff of heroes would emerge.

Decades later, the true ‘flowers’ came,
Who could not be stopped by blade or flame.

In our desperate flight of blood,
We became bamboo. Others, ash.

Rockets meant for space
Littered our abandoned, perfumed cities.

Starship Sofa covers the Elgin Awards for Science Fiction Poetry Book of the Year

This week Starship Sofa coverage includes the 2014 SFPA Elgin Awards for Book of the Year, including my first place book, DEMONSTRA and Jeannine Hall Gailey's Unexplained Fevers and Bruce Boston's Dark Roads: Selected Long Poems.

A big thanks to Diane Severson Mori who spoke about our books during the Poetry Planet section of the podcast and read selected examples of our work for their readers. She'll soon be covering the winners of the 2014 SFPA Elgin Awards for Chapbook of the Year, including Helen Marshall's The Sex Lives of of Monsters.

I'm grateful to everyone who's been so wonderful in covering the news and helping us all to create a space for speculative poetry for today and future generations. And perhaps previous generations, if we ever perfect time travel.

On a personal level, a big thanks once again to Innsmouth Free Press for their wonderful support over the years and for taking a chance on a book of poetry, and to my colleague Vongduane Manivong for her amazing art that really helped to take DEMONSTRA to the next level.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Laos in the House seeks "Family Stories" this December!

For December make use of all that family time spent together by contributing to the theme of this month’s Laos In The House feature,“Family Stories.

We know in between the sticky rice sharing and shots of whatever Uncle is making everyone take, there's bound to be some reminiscing going on with more than one account of what happened. They’re looking for stories from mom, dad, grandparents, siblings, stepparents, cousins, "camp cousins" - you name it! As usual all stories welcomed. Submit your story here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Jazz Age Cthulhu arrives!

Jazz Age Cthulhu is here from Innsmouth Free Press!

This collections features three new novelettes inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, set against the background of the Roaring Twenties. Jennifer Brozek, A.D. Cahill and Orrin Grey are featured. Jazz Age Cthulhu is Innsmouth Free Press' first novella collection. If you're looking for some holiday reading this is one to pick up, if you dare.

The art deco cover alone is worth it. You can get a copy for $10 or $4 for the e-book edition.

The novellas take place in Kansas City, Assam, and the island resort of Pomptinia. You can see a preview chapter here. As you can imagine, the authors come with some impressive credentials to scare the fhtagn out of you:

Jennifer Brozek is an award-winning editor and author. Winner of the Australian Shadows Award for best edited publication, Jennifer has edited fourteen anthologies with more on the way. Author of In a Gilded Light, The Lady of Seeking in the City of Waiting, Industry Talk, and the Karen Wilson Chronicles, she has more than sixty published short stories, and is the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions. Jennifer also is a freelance author for numerous RPG companies. Winner of both the Origins and the ENnie award, her contributions to RPG sourcebooks include Dragonlance, Colonial Gothic, Shadowrun, Serenity, Savage Worlds, and White Wolf SAS. Jennifer is the author of the YA Battletech novel, The Nellus Academy Incident. She has also written for the AAA MMO Aion and the award winning videogame, Shadowrun Returns.

Avery Cahill has worn many hats in his life from working at a cheese factory to Lecturer of Classics. He lived in Japan, where he taught Beatles songs to a Yakuza, and Norway, where he learned that ketchup and pizza don’t mix. He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writers’ Workshop, and his fiction has appeared in Dog Oil Press.

Orrin Grey is a writer, editor, amateur film scholar, and monster expert who was born on the night before Halloween. He’s the author of Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings and the co-editor (with Silvia Moreno-Garcia) of Fungi, an anthology of weird fungus-themed stories for Innsmouth Free Press, where he also writes a regular column on vintage horror cinema. Several of his stories have received honorable mentions from Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, and John Langan once referred to him as “the monster guy.”

Ink Thorns and the Thin Veil

Every so often, we see a new essay come out about the perils of dating a writer. This month, Chloe Schama talks from her experience in New York Magazine with the creatively titled "Never Date a Writer. You’ll End Up As Material."

All joking aside, a writer should always be prudent about their liability under existing and potential slander/libel laws and the LIMITED protection caricature, satire, parody and fair comment provides, especially if the subject isn't really a public figure. There's also the question of the court of public opinion. Writing about others may be cathartic but it can also get expensive. Keep that in mind.

As someone who's been featured in a variety of poems, plays, short stories and other works, I've been pretty good-natured about it, and I hope other Lao American writers and community figures will be too. As artists, in general we should be sensitive to what it can mean for our subjects who aren't artists and create accordingly.

To me, if you absolutely MUST include someone who's jilted you in your artistic work, the resulting piece should be suitably epic or you should make it infamously mediocre. Creating vindictive, banal art should be so beneath you, if you're an artist of any credibility.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Intermedia Arts offers grants for Minnesota-based spoken word poets

If you're a spoken word poet in Minnesota, you'll want to check out the Verve Grant from Intermedia Arts. The deadline is Friday the 13th, February, 2015 this year. In a nutshell:
The first grant for spoken word poets nationwide, Intermedia Arts’ VERVE grant program provides funding for emerging Minnesota spoken word poets who are interested in artistic advancement and leadership in their communities. Through financial assistance, professional development, and recognition within a culturally and socio-economically diverse group of literary artists, this program strengthens and supports Minnesota's literary community.
It's a great opportunity for personal development as an artist, but given the robust nature of Minnesota's spoken word scene, be advised that this is a very competitive grant. You can find the application directly here: http://intermediaarts.org/verve-grants-application

If you're in Minnesota and you qualify, don't let this opportunity pass you by!

[Poem] The Deep Ones

One of my poems that's been regularly anthologized since its first appearance in Illumen magazine in 2007 has been "The Deep Ones." It's also appeared in On the Other Side of the Eye, Future Lovecraft, DEMONSTRA and the forthcoming How to Live On Other Planets from Upper Rubber Boot books. It takes its cue from the Weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and other writers since "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" but I don't think you necessarily need to have read the source story to get it. Recently received some fun concept art for the concept, so I'm sharing it with you here this weekend.

There still aren't many pieces of visual art exploring the idea to its fullest, but this is a fun and fanciful start. Maybe this next year we'll see a change to that.

The Deep Ones

From the sea we come,
From the sea we come,
Our mouths, the inns of the world,

The salt of the earth unwelcome
At the tables and charts of
Explorers who expect:

               Commodity and pliant territory
               Kingdoms, not wisdom.

               Blood, not heaven’s children.

We grow with uncertain immortality
At the edge not made for man

Bending, curving, humming cosmic—
Awake and alien

Our mass a dark and foaming mask,
A bed of enigma to certain eyes

One with the moon,
One with the stars,
One with the ash that whispers history

In the same breath as myth and gods
Whose great backs yawn before us

As we change with a growing tongue
Growling amid the dreamlands

              We built one blade, one leaf, one golden wall at a time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Presenting: The Sticky Rice Burger

Making the rounds this week is the sticky rice burger spotted in Southeast Asia recently by SheSimmers.com. It's actually a very tasty idea, although somewhat problematic because once again we're moving towards a monoculture where everyone's cuisine is encouraged to cater to Euromerican tourist tastes.

You never hear people asking: "Well, how can I make this Wisconsin beer cheese soup or my 5-alarm chili more pho-like." No one says, "This steak tartare is rocking, but it really needs to get more of a Lao-style flavor profile."

I do think hot dogs are better once you bring them closer to a banh mi sandwich, or with some jaew bong instead of pickled relish. But we're a long way from someone saying tater tot casseroles would be better if they were more like dim sum. Still, experimentation like this is the sort of thing that leads to things like the California roll or the California burrito. I often wonder what the next groundbreaking innovation in food presentation will be for the 21st century. What will rival the invention of hamburger or the sandwich, or go beyond the ubiquitous dumpling?

But back to sticky rice, which has been getting a lot of press lately. The article in the Huffington Post a few weeks back is a particularly striking example. One thing I would keep on our radar is the possibility of gentrification and food security. We have to ask how Lao can find a balanced solution to creating and fulfilling a demand without creating excess hardship. Often, we take the cultivation of sticky rice for granted and many of us have a very poor understanding of what it actually costs to bring it to market and to supply the needs of Lao and others around the world.

What has brought these questions to mind is the current situation with quinoa once it became popularized beyond its historic borders. The 2012 Time article "Quinoa: The Dark Side of the Andean Superfood" The article suggested that with the boom and demand for quinoa increased, so did disputes over land usage and food sovereignty, and a concern that many of the poor who relied on it as a staple could no longer afford it. To be fair, Alter Eco presented counterpoints to the article worth considering.  Ultimately there are many lessons and concepts from the quinoa experience that Lao should consider if we suddenly saw a global spike in demand for sticky rice or any other staple crop particular to Laos.

But for now, if you spot a sticky rice burger, give it a try! Or if you're in Minnesota, try taking it to the next level and make it a Sticky Jucy Lucy!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


Promotional artwork for by Shing Yin Khor was recently shared with the community by editor Jaymee Goh, who's working closely with Joyce Ching!

They're still finalizing details, but confirmed contributors to this groundbreaking anthology include Paolo Chikiamco, Pear Nuallak, and Zora M Quynh. A big thanks to Rosarium Publishing for helping bring this anthology into the world!

Little Laos on the Prairie: Voice and Verse

Photo courtesy of Roxrite

Laotian American poet and interdisciplinary artist Krysada Panusith Phounsiri was featured at Little Laos on the Prairie this week with his poem, "Brother." He will be debuting his very first collection of poetry this month through Sahtu Press, entitled Dance Among Elephants. Sahtu Press hopes to have a pre-sale very soon.

Krysada Panusith Phounsiri lives in San Diego and also has a degree in Physics and Astrophysics and a minor in Creative Writing. He may very well be as close to the Lao Buckaroo Banzai as we're going to get with his generation. I've found his poetry engaging and intriguing and approaches the world with a boundless optimism that's refreshing.

Be sure to keep an eye out for more of his work in the future!

Friday, December 05, 2014

Brandy Lien Worrall's "What Doesn't Kill Us"

Just doing a quick shoutout today for Brandy Lien Worrall's new book, What Doesn't Kill Us. Clocking in at a weighty 277 pages from Rabbit Fool Press, she covers some pretty heavy topics. Per the publisher, What Doesn't Kill Us:
...chronicles Brandy’s journey with an aggressive, rare breast cancer at the age of 31. The book reflects on the parallels between her experiences with cancer and the subsequent demise of her marriage, and her American father’s and Vietnamese mother’s trauma and survival during and after the Vietnam War. The book crosses borders, from rural, Amish-country Pennsylvania, where Brandy had grown up, to Vancouver, where she lived with her parents, husband, and two young children while enduring aggressive chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy. The book also explores the enduring legacy of chemical warfare on three generations. That both of her parents had been heavily exposed to Agent Orange does not escape Brandy, who searches for reasons why she would have cancer despite not having a family history, as well as having had epilepsy as a child. She also wonders how this exposure has touched her own children. Brandy tells her story with razor-sharp humour and wit, leaving readers a lasting impression of the meaning of survival.
Personally, I think they probably could have said "spoiler alert," but really, her book covers so much more than that. Brandy is telling a spell-binding story from a unique perspective. What Doesn't Kill Us, like many Southeast Asian American stories, almost didn't make it to us, because the publishing suits think the market's somehow flooded with cancer memoirs from our community and they can't make a dime on it. Well, boo hoo hoo. Fortunately for all of us, Brandy decided to bypass the system and bring it to us anyway, and I highly recommend it.

As one might expect, I love Brandy Lien Worrall's poetry. You can find many examples of it at her website and elsewhere. It was interesting to see how her poetic voice carries through into her memoir, and how she opted to address many of the classic issues we face as writers navigating multiple cultures, multiple identities.

Thankfully, she's also hilarious and unlike certain memoirs and poetry collections of recent years I'll decline to name, her work is never a melodramatic drudge to slog through. She covers a lot of territory with a lot of urgency and a lot of attitude. This is a wonderful contribution to Southeast Asian American arts and letters from Rabbit Fool Press, and I'm looking forward to many many more works from them in the years ahead. I'm super-proud of her. A 2014 must-read.

Concept art for "The Doom That Came To New Sarnath"

Something fun for Friday, a storyboard from my poem, "The Doom That Came To New Sarnath," which first appeared in my collection DEMONSTRA. 

"The Doom That Came To New Sarnath" was of course inspired in part by H.P. Lovecraft's short story, "The Doom That Came To Sarnath" but in this case I wanted the poem to examine what might happen to a future city grounded in classical Lao traditions that had given way to corruption and vice. One of those notions being Lao folk law, which felt there were at least 14 classes of people and resources a successful city and kingdom needed to have. I wanted to examine what happened if all of them fell apart in one way or another all at once.

As a poem it works, but it would have to be radically reworked to make a good narrative short film or full-length feature. Perhaps someday, though.

How to Live on Other Planets: A Handbook for Aspiring Aliens

One of the upcoming anthologies I'll have work appearing in is Upper Rubber Boot's "How to Live on Other Planets: A Handbook for Aspiring Aliens edited by Joanne Merriam. It will explore the immigrant experience in a science fiction setting, with exciting fiction and poetry from some of the genre’s best writers. Keep an eye out for it when it arrives!
"You’ll find Sturgeon winner Sarah Pinsker’s robot grandmother, James Tiptree, Jr., Award winner Nisi Shawl’s prison planet and Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Award winner Ken Liu’s space- and time-spanning story of different kinds of ghosts. You’ll find Bryan Thao Worra’s Cthulhic poetry, and Pinckney Benedict’s whimsical tale of genocide. You’ll travel to Frankfurt, to the moon, to Mars, to the underworld, to unnamed alien planets, under the ocean, through clusters of asteroids. You’ll land on the fourth planet from the star Deneb, and an alternate universe version of Earth, and a world of Jesuses. This is not a textbook. You will not find here polemics on immigration policy or colonialism. The most compelling fiction articulates the unsaid, the unbearable, and the incomprehensible; these stories say things about the immigration experience that a lecture never could. The purpose of this book is, first and foremost, to entertain the casual and the sophisticated reader, but its genesis is a response to the question: Who do we become when we live with the unfamiliar?"
They also just launched their kickstarter for the final bridge funds to bring it to market. You can give them a hand over here. Their ultimate stretch goal is $4,500 which would allow them to print 500 copies in hardcover format through a local printer in Tennessee.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Rhysling Award Winners to be announced December 12th in Nashville, TN

The 2014 Rhysling Awards, hosted by Elizabeth R. McClellan and the Science Fiction Poetry Association, honoring the best speculative poetry of 2013, will be held in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday, December 12, 2014 at 7:00 P.M. at the Goddess and the Moon, 603 8th Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee, as well as being livestreamed online.

A speculative poetry-themed open mic will follow, open to any interested poets. The Rhysling Awards honor short and long form works in science fiction, fantasy, horror and slipstream poetry. The 2014 Rhysling Anthology, the annual collection of nominated works, will be publicly released at the event. Copies will be available for sale, as well as memberships to the SFPA.

Event details, updates and information are available at http://tinyurl.com/2014RA : RSVPs are appreciated, but not required.

 The Rhysling Award nominations and selections are made by the members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, founded in 1978 to bring together poets and readers interested in science fiction and speculative poetry. The Rhysling Award honors poetry in two categories: short poems of 1 to 49 lines and long poems of 50 lines or longer.

The annual award is given to one (1) work in each category, and the second and third place works are also honored. The list of the 2014 nominees is available at www.sfpoetry.com/ra/rhyscand.html. The Rhyslings are considered in the speculative fiction field to be the equivalent in poetry of the Nebula and other awards given by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America for “prose” work: achievement awards given to poets by the writing peers of their own field of literature.

The winning submissions are regularly reprinted in SFFW’s Nebula Awards Anthology. Past winners include such science fiction and fantasy notables as Ursula K. le Guin, Catherynne M. Valente, and Jane Yolen.

Elizabeth R. McClellan, the 2014 Rhysling Chair and editor of the 2014 Rhysling Anthology, will be announcing the winning works and honorees, as well as emceeing the open mic to follow. For more about the Science Fiction Poetry Association and the Rhysling Awards, visit sfpoetry.com. For more about the 2014 Chair, visit elizabethrmcclellan.com.

2014 Winter Book Party: December 13th in Minneapolis

MCBA is proud to announce the 2014 Winter Book, The War Between the Water and the Road by Minnesota author William Alexander. Join them on Saturday, December 13 for a celebratory reading and reception at Open Book.

Reading at 6:30pm, reception and signing to follow. This event is free and open to the public!

The twenty-fourth in MCBA’s perennial Winter Book series celebrating the handmade book, The War Between the Water and the Road is a modern parable regarding justice through the eyes of a young boy, full of cautionary tales, humor and elements of fantasy.

Author William Alexander studied theatre and folklore at Oberlin College and English at the University of Vermont. He currently lives, writes, and teaches in Minneapolis. His short stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies; his debut novel, Goblin Secrets, received the 2012 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Under the direction of MCBA Executive Director Jeff Rathermel, two editions were produced: Standard and Deluxe. Master Printer Todd Thyberg directed letterpress printing and was assisted by Monica Edwards Larson, Marvel Gregoire, Regula Russelle, Annie Walsh and Jason Yoh.

Both editions include color reductive linoleum prints based on the digital illustrations of Amanda Ritchie, carved and printed by Richard Stephens with the assistance of Andre Heuer, Hans Koch, CB Sherlock, Ioana Stoian and Amoreena Tarvas. Chan Chau and Emily Goldsmith contributed additional illustrations.

If you're in the area, I highly recommend attending!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Horror Writers Association President Rocky Wood (1959-2014)

Saddened to learn of the passing of Rocky Wood, the president of the Horror Writer Association, an author and one of the world's leading experts on Stephen King. He was a great shining spirit of the world and an excellent leader. He was on the committee that reviewed and approved my status as a professional member of the international Horror Writers Association. Thanks for everything, Rocky. You were one of a kind.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA), recently made the following official announcement of "the creation of the Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarship in honor of the organization’s late president, who passed away on December 1, 2014 as a result of complications from Motor Neurone Disease (MND) or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The new scholarship, which joins the existing Horror Writers Association and Mary Shelley Scholarships, will focus on non-fiction. Rocky Wood, a two-time recipient of the Bram Stoker Award®, was best known for his extensive work involving the writings of Stephen King. The scholarship was proposed by HWA Treasurer Leslie Klinger, who will also oversee its implementation.

In addition to the scholarship, the HWA announced that Lisa Morton will succeed Wood as the organization’s President. For the last two-and-a-half years, Morton served as Vice President. A screenwriter, author of non-fiction books, and an award-winning prose writer, Morton is a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award®. Her expertise on Halloween has led to appearances on both The History Channel and The Discovery Channel, as well as an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s daunting for me to now step into the Presidential shoes, but I also consider it an honor to continue the great work Rocky started. Because he was such a master at organization, he’s left behind manuals and instructions and a trained corps of volunteers, and together we look forward to continuing his legacy,” Morton said.

During his tenure, Wood grew the HWA membership to record levels, put in place policies and documentation, built a volunteer force of around 180 persons, added events and sponsorships, created scholarships, and launched the highly successful “Horror Selfies” campaign.

Nancy Holder, a multiple award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author, has agreed to serve as Vice President. Morton stated, “Nancy has been involved with the HWA for decades and she brings a wealth of experience and innovation to the position.”

THE HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION is a nonprofit organization of writers and publishing professionals around the world, dedicated to promoting dark literature and the interests of those who write it. The HWA formed in 1985 with the help of many of the field’s greats, including Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, and Joe Lansdale. Today, with over 1250 members around the globe, it is the oldest and most respected professional organization for the much-loved writers who have brought you the most enjoyable sleepless nights of your life.

One of HWA’s missions is to encourage public interest in and foster an appreciation of good Horror and Dark Fantasy literature. The organization offers public areas of its site, www.horror.org; sponsors or takes part in public readings and lectures; publishes a monthly newsletter for members; maintains outreach to booksellers, librarians, fans and readers; facilitates readings and signings by horror writers; offers scholarships; and maintains an official presence at the major fan-based horror and fantasy conventions, such as the World Horror Convention, and literary festivals.

The HWA sponsors the annual Bram Stoker Awards® for superior achievement in horror literature. Named in honor of the author of the seminal horror novel Dracula, the Awards are presented for superior writing in eleven categories including traditional fiction of various lengths, poetry, screenplays, and non-fiction. In addition, HWA presents an annual Lifetime Achievement Award to living persons who has made significant contributions to the writing of Horror and Dark Fantasy over the course of a lifetime."