Friday, July 29, 2016

Mithila Review explores the futuristic and the fantastic

A new Asian-based journal of speculative literature has emerged, the Mithila Review, which debuted in March, 2016 and is currently on its fourth issue. Each issue has contained a variety of short fiction, poetry, interviews and artworks with a very high standard of quality for such a young publication. 

Among the poets in the premiere issue were two of my favorites, Shweta Narayan and Shveta Thakrar. I was also introduced to the poetic work of Rohan Chhetri, Shikha Malaviya, and Ajapa Sharma. 

I have the highest confidence in them as they go forward that they'll be able to maintain this level of excellence. I applaud their ambition in bringing speculative literature forward in their communities. In the present age, we need a greater number of publications that can more effectively meet the needs of our communities, providing a space for diverse voices and visions.

Poet Jane Wong receives Kunitz Memorial Prize

American Poetry Review recently announced that the Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize has been awarded to Jane Wong for her poem "I Put On My Fur Coat." The poem will appear in the September/October 2016 issue.

Jane Wong‘s poems can be found in anthologies and journals such as Best American Poetry 2015, Best New Poets 2012, Pleiades, Third Coast, and others. A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of scholarships and fellowships from the U.S. Fulbright Program, the Fine Arts Work Center, Squaw Valley, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Currently, she is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pacific Lutheran University. Along with three chapbooks, she is the author of the forthcoming book Overpour (Action Books, 2016).

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Poet Jade Cho's "In the Tongue of Ghosts"

Poet Jade Cho was recently featured on NBC News discussing her first poetry collection, "In the Tongue of Ghosts." Naturally, this catches my attention. In addition to her poetry, she's also an Oakland-based educator.

Jade Cho is descended from Toisanese immigrants, and uses her poetry to explore diaspora, race, gender, power, privilege, and of course, ghosts. She maintains a blog at and is a member of the Ghostlines Collective.

This looks like one to check out!

Ice Fantasy: Lord of the Rings meets Chinese drama?

Recently, Dramafever has been making an effort to draw attention to a new Chinese drama they're streaming entitled Ice Fantasy. They've been positioning it as a question of what would have happened if Lord of the Rings had been written from an Asian perspective.

Dramafever is also making note of the fact that the source material was written by a 19-year old back in 2002. The article spares no enthusiasm for the author, Guo Jingming, praising his early accomplishment as a poet as well as his significant wealth and work in film and TV.

Here's the trailer where you can get a sense of what he's trying to do with this work. The trailer sees to cover many of the classic fantasy tropes, but we'll see if Guo Jingming is able to successfully bring some new dimensions to the fantasy field with a C-Drama adaptation. I suspect it won't go toe-to-toe with Game of Thrones, but it may well be a series that deserves to find an audience, given the epic traditions of Romance of the Three Kingdoms and so many others in China's past.

The Great Wall, Kaiju and... Matt Damon?

So, in the vein of The Last Samuri, 47 Ronin, and Beverly Hills Ninja, just to name a few, Hollywood has decided to greenlight a new Asian epic, The Great Wall with acclaimed director Zhang Yimou .It is shaping up to be the most expensive Chinese movie yet. The premise is that rather than having been built just to repel barbarians, there are giant monsters that have to be fought. And the great hero to do that is Matt Damon.


Initial footage suggests that Matt Damon will not be stepping aside to an incidental role like Raymond Burr in the original 1954 Godzilla. In Godzilla, it's possible to edit Burr's sections out and have a wonderfully coherent movie. Nor does it seem he will be getting a surprise demise like Steven Seagal in Executive Decision. So, to many of us, this already strikes us as problematic and tone-deaf in light of recent conversations on films like Dr. Strange, and Scarlet Johanssen in Ghost In The Shell, or the digital yellowface of Cloud Atlas.  

Mind you, I enjoy a good many of Matt Damon's films, but I'm going to reserve judgement on this one. 

Artistically, I find myself thinking that the bolder move would be for the film to look at all of this as an indictment of Damon/The West trying to kill a celestial being that historically embodies wisdom, knowledge, and the eternal, among other virtues. If such a creature is attacking, perhaps everyone might do well to consider it has a good reason to do so.

But then again, we also saw the American Godzilla remake where apparently the best solution to stop a monster created by the fury and horror of an atomic bomb is to try to kill it with an even bigger atomic weapon. And no one saw the flawed logic in that. 

Expect this film to arrive around February, 2017. It ought to make a great Valentine's Day film.

Chinese Super-Man, the Great Ten and the concept of the superhero team

Recently, DC Comics brought acclaimed Asian American writer Gene Luen Yang on board to write Superman, and one of the reasons why is that in the wake of a recent development in the DC universe, Superman's powers have been dispersed, and one of the new people to receive those powers is Kenan Kong, a young Chinese man.

I met Gene a few years back at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, and have always been very impressed by his work on books such as American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints, and The Shadow Hero, which updates and revives an appreciation for The Green Turtle, who may well be the first Asian American superhero.

One thing that interests me about the timing is that this is also the tenth anniversary since DC introduced the Great Ten, a group of Chinese superheroes for the DC universe during the beginning of the New 52 era.  

The membership of the Great Ten included heroes named in a traditional manner such as Accomplished Perfect Physician, August General in Iron, Celestial Archer, Ghost Fox Killer, Immortal Man-in-Darkness, Mother of Champions, Seven Deadly Brothers, Shaolin Robot, Socialist Red Guardsman, and Thundermind. They received their own one-shots in late 2009-2010, but have since largely fallen off the map in most of the DC titles.

I've always found them to be a bit of a problematic group, and I'm not certain I'd want to see them brought back in any prominent way because there was an awful lot that relied on perceived stereotypes and tropes of what Chinese characters are supposed to be like, and what the Chinese mindset is likely to be regarding superheroes native to their country.

As I watch the developments, I'm brought to mind recent discussions that have been found online that suggest Chinese folk traditions may have given us the first superhero team as we know it. While one might think that belongs to the ancient Geek myths, it's hard to argue that there were enough heroes and demigods in any one given story to call it a super team. In Jason and the Argonauts, for example, Hercules basically jumps ship before he's useful for much of anything. 

But the argument for China goes back to the tale of the Ten Brothers (Shí Xiōngdì), also known as the Five Brothers, the Eight Brothers, the Nine Brothers, or the Seven Brothers, depending on who you talk to. 

The most common versions of the story give each brother a distinctive skill or talent that's handy in at least one of the predicaments they face. One's capable of hearing from far away, another can fly, another is immensely wise and has a head as hard as iron. One is strong, another can tunnel beneath the ground, while another can stretch, and so on. But they can only succeed against their biggest antagonist by all of them working together. That definitely sounds familiar.

I think it definitely bears looking into, but our question must also be: Where can all of this go next, really? What new innovations to these stories are possible, and what will resonate most with the next generation?

beLONGING: APAture Responds to Between Worlds, July 29th

In collaboration with the Between Worlds exhibition at Arc Gallery and Studios, Kearny Street Workshop has invited past and current APAture artists and GPC members to respond to the exhibition. Participating Artist include: Kimberley Arteche, Thi Bui, Oliver Mok, Joseph Nontanovan, and Lehua Taitano. They'll be performing at 8pm on Friday, July 29th until 10pm at 1246 Folsom Street, San Francisco.

The exhibit itself goes on until August 13th.

"Between Worlds" started with a desire to curate an exhibition that responded to the Syrian refugee crisis. The exhibition has evolved and broadened to encompass an examination of the process of uprooting and transplantation in a human context. All of the artists selected have been affected directly or indirectly by displacement.

From the Arc Gallery:
"Here in the San Francisco Bay Area our community, and particularly our artist community, has been enriched by cultural diversity. But those who arrive seeking a home, come to an uncomfortable realization that they are, in fact, not home, but between worlds. They look back and long for their homeland, but it is a place that no longer exists or would not welcome them back. Their adopted home, a place to start anew, makes them feel like outsiders, their knowledge, skills and education devalued. They find themselves longing for a place that may not exist. Safe haven is not the same as home. And, in today's world, a place of refuge is often neither safe nor welcoming."

Curated by Michael Yochum of Arc Gallery and Jack Fischer of Jack Fischer Gallery, this exhibition shares the collective experience of artists with San Francisco Bay Area ties, who reside in this space "Between Worlds" ….

Featured visual artists: Carlo Abruzzese, Nanci Amaka, Jason Bayani, Natalya Burd, Carlos Cartagena, Rodney Ewing, Michal Gavish, Taraneh Hemami, Golbanou Moghaddas, Maja Ruznic, Michal Wisniowski, and Wanxin Zhang

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Where The Stars Rise: Angela Yuriko Smith 'Vanilla Rice'

In 2015, Angela Yuriko Smith was my mentee through the Horror Writers Association. I was delighted to learn this week that her short story 'Vanilla Rice' will be included in the new anthology Where The Stars Rise, part of the Laksa Anthology Series.  

This speculative fiction anthology will contain "original stories to celebrate Asian diversity, featuring an Asian main character, Asian setting and/or some amount of Asian elements, by authors with an Asian ancestry." Based in Canada, the anthology is being edited by Lucas K. Law & Derwin Mak. A portion of Laksa Media’s net revenue from this anthology will go directly to support the nonprofit Kids Help Phone, Canada’s only free and anonymous 24/7 counselling and information service for young people between the ages of 5 and 20 in both English and French.

Since 1989, Kids Help Phone's trained, professional counsellors have been "listening to kids, often when no one else can or will. Their service supports young people as they build the skills and abilities they’ll need to improve their emotional health and well-being. In addition to an array of counselling options, they offer young people a wide range of online resources and they work tirelessly to share young people’s perspectives on a societal level – locally, nationally, and globally."

I look forward to seeing the final result!

Eye to the Telescope 21 now online

The newest issue of Eye to the Telescope is up, edited by SFPA Grandmaster Marge Simon on the "Male Perspective" through the lens of speculative poetry.

Poems and poets in this issue are:

Ambassador to the Amazons • Herb Kauderer
The Red Spacesuit • Brian Garrison
Emancipation • John C. Mannone
Marco Polo 3879 • Wendy Rathbone
Untitled • G. Sutton Breiding
Exotic Heads Trimmed Neatly • John Reinhart
Stepmother • Mary Soon Lee
I am not my father’s son • Jane Williams
Age-Old Game • G. O. Clark
Wire Transfer • W. C. Roberts
New Planet Landscape 28 • Ken Poyner
The Distant Future • Josh Pearce
Holo Debate • Mark Danowsky
Now and Then • Lauren McBride
Iron Maiden Myth • Justin Holliday
The Spacecraft Landed Gently and Soundlessly on Their Lawn • J.J. Steinfeld
The Call • Francis W. Alexander
Jack • Sara Backer
The Aluminium Apples of the Moon • Jenny Blackford

The call for the next issue, "Ghosts" is also now available.

Guest Editor Shannon Connor Winward notes: For this issue of Eye to the Telescope, I am looking for more than thumps in the attic and pretty dead girls on a moonlit road. I want the unexpected, the unmeasured—I want poems that belie the limits of life and afterlife and what we think a ghost story should be. Give me phantoms and poltergeists, yes, bean-sidhe and È Guǐ, pathos or parody, space ship specters or transmigrating alien souls—I want any and all of it, as long the poem has meat on its bones. No restrictions on genre or form, though graphic violence or gore will be a hard sell. More than anything, I want to be moved.

Shannon Connor Winward is an American editor and author of literary and speculative writing. Her stories have been published or are forthcoming in Psuedopod: Artemis Rising, Gargoyle, Stupefying Stories, Spinetingler Magazine, Scigentasy, Flash Fiction Online, Plasma Frequency Magazine, PANK, and The Vestal Review, as well as in genre anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic.

Her poetry was nominated for a Rhysling award, and appears widely in such venues as Analog, The Pedestal Magazine, Strange Horizons, Fairy Tale Magazine, Literary Mama, Hip Mama, Star*Line, Illumen, Ideomancer, and Dreamstreets. A Semi-Finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest, Shannon was also runner-up for an emerging artist fellowship in literature by the Delaware Division of the Arts in 2014 and 2015. Her debut collection, UNDOING WINTER, was nominated for a 2015 Elgin award for best speculative poetry chapbook by the Science Fiction Poetry Association. It is available from the author,, or Finishing Line Press. In between fiction, poetry, parenthood, and other madness, Shannon is also Madame Secretary for the Science Fiction Poetry Association, a staff writer for Pop Culture Madness, and a poetry editor for Devilfish Review.

Lao Buddhist monks trained to help UXO mental health issues

In March, 2016, BasicNeeds facilitated the first ever counselling training for Buddhist monks in Pek district, Xiengkhouang province, a severely bombed province in Lao PDR. The training aimed to build the capacity of monks to provide psycho-social support to UXO victims and was conducted in partnership with Danish Church Aid (DCA), supported by the European Commission.

You can read more about this intriguing and vital project here. Given the shortage of trained psychologists in Laos, and also the traditional relationship of Lao monks to the community, I think it's an important and meaningful intersection of faith, activism, and health. I'm glad to see mental health being addressed in Laos, even as I also feel Buddhist monks being trained in the US would also be of benefit for many Lao communities.

Founded in 2000, BasicNeeds is a mental health focused international NGO with a global reach spanning 12 countries and growing. Their mission is to enable people with mental illness or epilepsy and their families to live and work successfully in their communities by combining health, socio-economic and community orientated solutions with changes in policy, practice and resource allocation.

Big Trouble in Little China Escape from New York crossover coming

Well if you loved the characters of Jack Burton and Snake Plissken, both played by Kurt Russell in the classic John Carpenter films Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York, you're going to see what might happen if they both appeared in the same off-kilter dystopia.

In theory, this could be awesome or horrible, with the initial preview art already suggesting a return or involvement of Lo Pan and the Duke of New York, among other bad guys. There's a way to make it work, I think, but let's see what they really try. It's planned as a six-issue mini-series.

Imagining Laomerica: Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown in Laos? as imagined by L. Worrall

Last year marked the 65th anniversary since the very first Charlie Brown cartoon debuted, sparking a legacy that could scarcely have been imagined by his creator, Charles M. Schulz, as he started. By the time he passed away in 2000 in Santa Rosa, California, he created almost 18,000 strips and saw his characters appear in countless movies, books, greeting cards, games, toys, and artwork around the world. At least one scholar suggests he currently holds the distinction of the longest story told by one human being.

Charles M. Schulz broke ground by treating the children of Peanuts as emerging, complex people, grappling with issues of morality, interpersonal relationships, history and the often confusing world around them. This paved the way for later American comic strips and cartoon characters like Garfield, Calvin & Hobbes, South Park, Bloom County and Boondocks, among others. By the end of the 20th century, almost all of the newspaper comics were inspired by, or responding to Peanuts.

As I look back on my life, I often feel like Charlie Brown followed me around for most of it. One of the very first books I chose for myself as a young boy was a church book sale’s used copy of the Peanuts Treasury from 1969. Over 40 years later, I still have my copy, albeit a little worn from years of re-reading. That so much of his material still holds up is a testament to Charles Schulz’s writing.

When I moved to Minnesota in the late 90s, the Twin Cities were just starting to celebrate the legacy of Charles M. Schulz in earnest. I found myself often stopping in O’Gara’s on Snelling Avenue where he used to live as a child. For a time, the Mall of America had an entire theme park in the center dedicated to the Peanuts gang, complete with a ride on the Kite-eating Tree.

 St. Paul also began unveiling giant statues of many of the most beloved Peanuts characters including Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy. Even now, as I pass through the Lindbergh Terminal of the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, I always smile to see Snoopy and Woodstock decked out in their classic aviator gear.

This last year has seen many months spent out in the Bay Area and Northern California, especially Santa Rosa, which is home to the Charles M. Schulz museum. Passing by so often, I’ve been reflecting on what lessons Lao artists might take from Peanuts. How do we create art that resonates in our culture, yet also are works the remainder of the world can relate to?

Could Charles M. Schulz have emerged from Laos? What would have been the barriers, how might he have expressed himself differently? Where might his stories have found a home next to the jataka tales, or next to beloved characters such as Sinxay or Xieng Mieng? How might we read Charlie Brown’s classic expression of exasperation, “Good Grief!"

Because of the widespread commercial nature of Peanuts in the present, some overlook the skill and the intriguing ideas Schulz consistently presented to readers in his daily strip. Charles M. Schulz had very moral positions, values that were clear throughout his strip, but he was never preachy about it.

Charlie Brown has been a figure who faces betrayals, let-downs, bouts of depression and an almost crippling lack of self-confidence, and he never quite fully overcomes them in his childhood, but you see that he gets by. Perhaps, as we make our own way through the world today, that’s the important message. That it’s possible to still be part of such a community and find moments to celebrate.

In one documentary, Charles M. Schulz discussed why Charlie Brown has to suffer so much: “Charlie Brown is, I think, a little bit like everyone. We all need reassurance that some people really do like us. But I guess Charlie Brown is mostly me… When I feel low, this is when I come home and really pour it on poor old Charlie Brown. This is when he really suffers the most: when I suffer the most.”

This intrigues me as I contemplate how a Lao Buddhist cartoonist might explore their world.

If Charles Schulz had been Lao, how might the Peanuts gang more fully have discussed the Vietnam War, and especially the challenge of UXO in Laos today? At the time, newspapers were often very conservative and averse to angering too many readers, especially with a discussion of politics and controversial issues. Schulz worked within that. We can get a bit of a hint from this 1954 strip:

There will always be the “safe” Charlie Brown the world thinks is out there, but I would hope that many of us also remember there’s an aspect to Charlie Brown that was very engaged with modern concerns on conflict, struggle, and memory.

The African-American Peanuts character Franklin, for example, had a father serving in Vietnam. When he was originally introduced, Schulz had intended for Franklin to be just an everyday character, but some readers felt it was a political statement, and newspapers threatened to drop the strip over his inclusion. But over time, Franklin has been one of Charlie Brown’s best friends.

I’ve often said to my students: The purpose of the arts is to confront the chaos and uncertainty of the world with an unflinching eye, and yet not be paralyzed by it. You can see this clearly in Schulz’s work. I hope in the future we appraise Schulz’s artistic vision for its full complexity and thoughtfulness. As we create our own works, I feel we too should seek out the best lessons from the challenges Charlie Brown and many of the other great artists of the world embody.

SFPA Dwarf Stars voting is here

Every year, the Science Fiction Poetry Association oversees the Dwarf Stars, an award recognizing very short poetry. The organization has recently announced that voting is now open.

Only those votes made by current members in good standing at the time of voting will be counted. If you are unsure of your status please don’t hesitate to contact the SPFA membership chair, Diane Severson at

The announcement email has also been sent to recently lapsed members (with issue 39.2 of Star*Line and the end of the 2nd quarter - 30 June 2016). If you wish to participate, please re-join soon!

The 2016 Dwarf Stars Anthology has been sent to all members in PDF format and the print edition will be following shortly. This is a slim volume of the best short-short genre poetry, as curated by Jeannine Hall Gailey and Leslie Wheeler. It will take you under 30 minutes to read. It will take you longer to decide which are the best, so pace yourselves!

Let’s have a record turn-out for participation among the members! Read and vote!

Facing It, by Yusef Komunyakaa

In the mid-2000s, I heard Yusef Komunyakaa read his poem "Facing It" for the very first time at the University of Minnesota. Drawing on his experience as a Vietnam veteran and the time he came face to face with the Vietnam War, this poem has touched me for well over a decade, and I'm often brought to tears revisiting it. "Facing It" comes from his 1988 collection Dien Cai Dau from Wesleyan University Press. It's a wonderful book.

Discussing this poem with him, in addition to his other work significantly changed my sense of poetry and its applicability to the Southeast Asian conflicts of the 20th century, and how we heal from those traumas.

 This is one of many poems that reminds me constantly of the unheard voices among our Lao, Khmu, Tai Dam, Lu, Iu Mien, Hmong, Montagnards and other veterans after 40 years in the US, and how much more we have to go to bring those stories forward. As we see the journey of our veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, I wonder where they, too, will find themselves among our future memorials and monuments, our words and our policies.

Here you can see his live reading of his poem:

But among the most moving readings I've ever seen of "Facing It" next to Komunyakaa's was that of fellow Vietnam veteran Michael Lythgoe for the Favorite Poem Project as he read it aloud in front of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial.

As his own memories, his own grieving intermingles with Yusef's poetry, I'm reminded of why we MUST write, for the sake of those for whom there would be no words, otherwise.


It's Alive! at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, August 5th-October 31st

One of my favorite spaces in Minnesota is the Open Book Center which has been the home to the Loft Literary Center, Graywolf Press, and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. It's where we convened the very first National Lao American Writers Summit in 2010, as well as the opening reception for my very first full-length book collection, On The Other Side Of The Eye back in 2007.

Opening in August is a new exhibit at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, It's Alive! which explores the many approaches that book, paper, and print artists use to express horror. They're taking their inspiration from B-movies to more contemporary mechanisms to address fear, and it's being convened in recognition of the Bicentennial of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus. The Bakken Museum has also assisted with this effort. It's going on until October 31st! Be sure to see it!

Here's a rebound edition of Frankenstein by Jana Pullman, to give you a taste of what you'll see:

DIVERSICON 24: “Martians, Vulcans, and Women of Valor” July 29-31

This weekend in Minnesota is Diversicon 24 - “Martians, Vulcans, and Women of Valor” at the Best Western Plus—Bandana Square.

Sahtu Press founder Nor Sanavongsay provides this year's convention art. He is a children's book writer and illustrator and the author of "A STICKY MESS" based on a classic Lao folktale. His illustrations appear in Strange Horizons, Little Laos on the Prairie, the Twin Cities Daily Planet, SatJaDham and other publications. He founded Sahtu Press because he believes every community deserves a chance to read stories that reflect their own experiences. You can see more of his art at He also provided the art for Diversicon 22 and 23.

This year they honor the science fiction contributions of writers Jessica Amanda Salmonson and Naomi Kritzer. They're also recognizing the late Orson Welles, Leonard Nimoy and Shirley Jackson. Officers and editors of the Science Fiction Poetry Association will also be recognizing the recent winners of the Rhysling Awards for poem of the year.

Jessica Amanda Salmonson is a recipient of the Lambda Award, World Fantasy Award, and ReaderCon Certificate. She is a novelist: Anthony Shriek, The Golden Naginata, The Swordswoman, etc; short story writer: The Deep Museum, A Silver Thread of Madness, The Complete Weird Epistles of Penelope Pettiweather, Ghost Hunter; and poet: The Death Sonnets, The Ghost Garden. She has edited a number of horror and/or fantasy anthologies (Heroic Visions, Tales by Moonlight) and single-author weird fiction collections such as of Marjorie Bowen, Julian Hawthorne, Sarah Orne Jewett, Vincent O’Sullivan, Mary Heaton Vorse, Fitz-James O’Brien, Harriet Prescott Spofford, and others. She lives with artist and potter Rhonda Boothe and their dogs, on a hillside in a Pacific Northwest military town overlooking Puget Sound from her crumbling spooky looking Edwardian manse.

Naomi Kritzer’s short stories have appeared in Asimov’s SF, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons and Tales of the Unanticipated. Her novels Fires of the Faithful, Turning the Storm, Freedom’s Gate, Freedom’s Apprentice and Freedom’s Sisters are available from Bantam. Since her last novel came out, she has written an urban fantasy novel about a Minneapolis woman who unexpectedly inherits the Ark of the Covenant; a children’s science fictional shipwreck novel; a children’s portal fantasy; and a YA novel set on a dystopic seastead. She has two e-book short story collections out: Gift of the Winter King and Other Stories, and Comrade Grandmother and Other Stories. Naomi lives in St. Paul with her husband and two daughters.

Orson Welles (1915-1985) directed the Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast of The War of the Worlds and the films Citizen Kane, The Stranger, Touch of Evil, and The Chimes at Midnight.

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) was the author of The Lottery and Other Stories, The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Just An Ordinary Day, and Let me Tell You.

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015) acted in the TV series Mission: Impossible and Star Trek, and directed the films Star Trek III, Star Trek IV, The Good Mother, and Three Men and a Baby. He wrote the memoirs I am not Spock and I am Spock. 

Others attending include Cezarija Abartis, Janice M. Bogstad, Cynthia Booth, Roy C. Booth, Terry A. Garey, Martha A. Hood, Greg L Johnson, Phyllis Ann Karr, Philip E. Kaveny, Russell Letson, Catherine Lundoff, Lyda Morehouse.

Voting for SFPA Elgin Awards for Book of the Year Now Open

For members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association: Elgin Award voting is now open. As a reminder, only members in good standing at the time of voting may vote on the awards.

Here is the list of candidates:

Chapbooks Published in 2014 and 2015

  • Be Closer for My Burn • Robin Wyatt Dunn (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2015)
  • The Book of Answers • Herb Kauderer (Written Image, 2014)
  • A Guide for the Practical Abductee • E. Kristin Anderson (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014)
  • Southern Cryptozoology • Allie Marini (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015)
  • Stairs Appear in a Hole Outside of Town • John Philip Johnson (Graphic Poetry, 2014)
  • Undoing Winter • Shannon Connor Winward (Finishing Line Press, 2014)

Full-length Books Published in 2014 and 2015

  • The Acolyte • Nancy Hightower (Port Yonder Press, 2015)
  • Chemical Letters • Octavia Cade (Popcorn Press, 2015)
  • The Crimson Tome • K. A. Opperman (Hippocampus Press, 2015)
  • Crowned: The Sign Of The Dragon Book 1 • Mary Soon Lee (Dark Renaissance Books, 2015)
  • Dark Energies • Ann K. Schwader (P’rea Press, 2015)
  • Dawn of the Algorithm • Yann Rousselot (Inkshares, 2015)
  • The Dishonesty of Dreams • A.J. Odasso (Flipped Eye Publishing, 2014)
  • Dreams from a Black Nebula • Wade German (Hippocampus Press, 2014)
  • An Exorcism of Angels • Stephanie Wytovich (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2015)
  • Gravedigger’s Dance • G.O. Clark (Dark Renaissance Books, 2014)
  • Eden Underground • Alessandro Manzetti (Crystal Lake Publishing, 2015)
  • The Endless Machine • Max Ingram (Bone Forge Books, 2015)
  • If the Tabloids Are True What Are You? • Matthea Harvey (Graywolf Press, 2014)
  • An Inheritance of Stone • Leslie J. Anderson (Alliteration Ink, 2014)
  • Lilith’s Demons • Julie r. Enszer (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2015)
  • The Madness of Empty Spaces • David E. Cowen (Weasel Press, 2014)
  • The Manufacturer of Sorrow • Michelle Scalise (Eldritch Press, 2014)
  • Naughty Ladies • Marge Simon (Eldritch Press, 2015)
  • Resonance Dark and Light • Bruce Boston (Eldritch Press, 2015)
  • The Robot Scientist’s Daughter • Jeannine Hall Gailey (Mayapple Press, 2015)
  • Solar Maximum • Sueyeun Juliette Lee (Futurepoem Books, 2015)
  • Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience • Laura Madeline Wiseman (Lavender Ink, 2014)
  • Space Traveler • Benjamin S. Grossberg (University of Tampa Press, 2014)
  • To Love As Aswang • Barbara Jane Reyes (PAWA, 2015)
  • Turn Left at November: Poems • Wendy Rathbone (Eye Scry Publications, 2015)
  • Visitations into Sídhe and Tír na nÓg • Alex Ness (Uffda Press, 2015)

Please email if you have not already received (or have misplaced/lost track of) the invitation to the Dropbox containing the nominated works for you to download for your perusal. Voting is open until 15 Sept, 2016. You may revise your vote until voting closes.

Haiku Movie Reviews: Ghostbusters and Star Trek: Beyond

The strange, seen again.
Who shall we call? Memories:
New faces meet souls.

Midlife Space Crisis.
Gone bold, where IS home?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Uncanny Magazine's Year 3 Kickstarter!

This month, Uncanny Magazine is doing its annual kickstarter and are close to their minimal funding goal! As always, they have some ambitious and laudable hopes with some great content additions if they can get to the $18,700 mark, but they have stretch goals up to $33,000 they'd like to achieve for 2017.

Since their debut year they've consistently demonstrated their amazing capability to present diverse prose, poetry and visual art to our readers reflecting a full range of voices and experiences as the best of spculative literature does, including my poetry. As I've said in the past, I consider them a positive, supportive and necessary space if we're to take speculative literature to the outer limits of possibility. 

Among the poets whose work is anticipated for the next year are Lisa M. Bradley, Roshani Chokshi, Theodora Goss, Nin Harris, Shveta Thakrar, and Jo Walton, who all have my support. Among literary magazines, they're exceptionally open to speculative work from Southeast Asian American writers in diaspora, which is still a rare thing and needs to be appreciated. 

In fiction, writers already confirmed for the next year are Paul Cornell, John Chu, Maria Dahvana Headley, Nalo Hopkinson, N. K. Jemisin, Mary Robinette Kowal, Seanan McGuire, Sam J. Miller, Sarah Pinsker, Delia Sherman, Ursula Vernon, Catherynne M. Valente ,Alyssa Wong (with art by Grace P. Fong) and Isabel Yap. Those are some pretty heavy hitters. 

The campaign concludes this year on August 16th, but as with any kickstarter campaign, contributing sooner rather than later is always helpful!


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Peuo Tuy and the Art of Healing: Long Beach, July 28th

Coming to the Manazar Gamboa Community Theater on July 28th:

Peuo Tuy is a Cambodian spoken word poet and artist educator originally from Lowell, Massachusetts. Her self-published storytelling poetry book, "Khmer Girl," depicts personal atrocities about the Cambodian genocide, living in refugee camps, and navigating life as a dark-skinned southeast asian woman in America while experiencing self-hate, and searching for self-love and acceptance in our ever-evolving world. She has been featured at various venues on the east coast and was part of Urbintel's Inc., "HerStory" spoken word tour.

She is also part of a video project curated by The New School called "Futurographies" which travelled to Cambodia and France in spring 2016. She is currently working on a children's storybook.

She holds a Bachelors of Arts in Africana/Puerto Rican/Latino Studies. Peuo lives in New York City and is currently on a book tour in the east coast, midwest, and west coast. See more at:

Hosted by Jumakae, featured artists include: Sayon Syprasoeuth, Somlit Inthalangsy, Sambo Sak, Tony Siv, Tina Lim, Timothy BigBrother Cheung, Youth from Educated Men with Meaningful Messages (EM3), Khmer Girls in Action, and more. The event is free to the public.

The culmination of the “Art of Healing” Long Beach tour will showcase youth participants’ stories from the “Digging Deep: On Writing Traumas and Brighter Futures” as well as other local Long Beach artists. The showcase will close out with a performance and Q and A with special guest artist, Peuo Tuy.

The purpose of this event is to create an opportunity for emerging and accomplished artists of Southeast Asian (Cambodian, Thai, Lao, Hmong, Vietnamese, etc) descent to share their work in a safe and supportive environment, and to expand people’s perception of “Asian America” that goes beyond East Asian narratives.

They aim to inspire audience members to own their story and share it through creative outlets as a way to educate others of our unique and intersecting identities.

The Manazar Gamboa Community Theater is located at: 1323 Gundry Ave, Long Beach, California

Literary Creation and Buddhist Practice

Raymond Lam did a fine interview with poet Ramya Jirasinghe recently, entitled "Tensions Between Literary Creation and Buddhist Practice" which I read with interest because it's centered on the questions of Buddhist poetry in the Theravada tradition and why it can seem so slow to see any significant output from our community.

Ramya Jirasinghe works as deputy director at the United States – Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission. She’s completing a PhD, and her first book of poetry was There's an Island in the Bone (2012). You can read some examples of her poetry at Poem Pigeon.

While I'm still processing all of her remarks, I think she raises worthwhile questions that have application in our own efforts to encourage Lao American poetry. She remarks "At the deepest level of Theravada Buddhist practice, where you are working at letting go of attachment to death and rebirth, I find that the modern process of artistic creation that is usually so inextricably linked to the self and the identity of the creator does not complement the practice."

I'm not certain how many of our Lao American writers, particularly our emerging writers give that matter much consideration, but it would be interesting if that is something that's subconsciously holding back many in our community.

For her: "A writer who is embedded in the real Theravada practice would be driven less by the artistic ego and more by the forces of equanimity, kindness, and generosity and will be able to create a space to nurture and encourage others’ writing and growth.” 

This is something that I might find resonance with in my own work and the work of my fellow writers in the Lao American Writers Summit, and seems to fall in line with a growing tendency to advise one another to work with others in the process of telling our various stories, to see writing a community process.

Modernity often convinces us to emulate the stereotype of Hemmingway or other rugged individualists who we're taught hammered it all out on their own in solitude. But in real life, most plays, movies, TV shows, comic books, and so many other things are created in a community or small group process, and I think Lao writers can't be shy about pursuing this route, even in our poetry.

There are many interesting ideas that she puts forward, but near the end her remarks on Sri Lankan history make me think of parallels in the Lao experience, as well:  “In Sri Lanka, we have been fighting wars for centuries over what conditions us: national, ethnic, religious, and social identities. It would be interesting if writers could in some way incorporate the concepts of anicca [impermanence] and anatta [no-self] into their work. The challenge, however, is to not sound didactic! I think many of our filmmakers have been maestros at incorporating a very Buddhist ethos in their work. I think it is harder to achieve that ethos verbally, without sounding ‘Buddhist.’ ”

I consider her remarks also through the lens of a speculative poet, wondering wherein a Buddhist approach to science fiction, fantasy and horror ties into everything, but that may well be a conversation for a different point. In the meantime, be sure to give the whole interview a read and see what you think.

Thai opera: Dasjati

The Bangkok Post has an interesting article on the new Thai opera Dasjati by S.P. Somtow. An epic 10-opera cycle, Dasjati or Tossachat - Ten Lives Of The Buddha is nothing if not ambitious. There are some interesting things to note about how the production is working, but what struck me most were the following remarks:
Dasjati in a sense goes beyond Wagner's synthesis of theatre, music and poetry because it adds a fourth element to the mix, that of dance. Choreographer Puwarade Wongatichat adds colours of Thai dance, contemporary dance and ballet.
This of course makes me quite curious to pose the question to our Lao choreographers and artists what might we do to respond to the integration of dance with theatre, music, and poetry, and what other art forms might well be essential to such works. Among the Lao American artists i would think particularly poised to take on the question are Saymoukda Douangphouxay Vongsay, the Kinnaly Dance Troupe, the Royal Lao Classical Dancers of Tennessee, the Natassin Dance Troop of Iowa, and Phayvanh Leukhamhan given their prior work. But we'll see in the years ahead where it all takes us!

Laomagination: Building a speculative vocabulary in the Lao community

The Lao language, like any language is constantly growing and adapting. As we come into new ideas, we need new terms, either by repurposing existing language or inventing something that reasonably follows the established precedents.

Lao American speculative literature is just starting to take off so our question becomes, what terms will we use as our preferred terms in fantasy, science fiction, horror, and works of a similar nature?

Here are a few initial words for science fiction that may come in handy. Alternate spellings and romanization are possible:

Alien: ມະນຸດຕາງດາວ Ma noud tang dao
Astronaut: ນັກອາວະກາດ Nak ava kad
Planet: ດາວເຄາະ Dao khoc
Robot: ຫຸ່ນຍົນ Houn yon
Rocket: ຈະຫຼວດ Ja luad

What other words would you like to see or suggest?

Faith and Imagination, Deities and Expression

Kotaku recently featured an article, "Hindu Leader Wants Blizzard To Drop Symmetra's Devi Skin From Overwatch."  The article outlined some concerns over an optional costume for one of the characters in the Overwatch superhero video game.

Players who select the Indian character of Symmetra can appear as a re-imagined and arguably sexualized aspect of the Hindu goddess, Devi. Traditionally, Devi has many forms, including Kali, a goddess of death and demon-slaying, and the costume features elements that visually reference that form.

Universal Society of Hinduism's Rajan Zed has called upon Activision to remove the skin saying "that reimagining Hindu scriptures, symbols, concepts and deities for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it created confusion. Controlling and manipulating Devi with a joystick/ button/ keyboard/ mouse was denigration. Devi was meant to be worshipped in temples and home shrines and not to be reduced to just a "character" in a video game to be used in combat in the virtual battleground."

He argues that it “trivialized Hinduism’s highly revered goddesses.”

In a different article, Gadgets 360 noted that previously "Zed had taken offence to Atlus' depiction of Krishna in Japanese role-playing game Shin Megami Tensei IV Final. In 2012 he wanted three characters removed from multiplayer online battle arena (moba) game Smite - Agni, Kali, and Vamana. The game now features seven playable characters from Hinduism. And in 2009 he called on Sony to remove Hanuman: Boy Warrior for the PS2, from the shelves as well."

Much of the matter is not surprisingly being dismissed by other Hindus and the mainstream gaming community. But I'm willing to say that it presents a question of cultural privilege in gaming development. Would we respond as casually if it had been Jesus or one of the apostles, or an Old Testament heroine treated in this way? Or perhaps a figure from American history presented like "Sexy Betsy Ross."

Joseph Campbell once famously noted that "One man's mythology is another man's religion." I don't think it harms the world much to try to be reasonably sensitive to the faiths and beliefs of others, in the chance that perhaps they have indeed found "the Truth" as the Cosmos deems fit to reveal it to them. I don't think constantly walking on eggshells is required, however.

Life in the modern world affords us the liberty to explore ideas. We have a responsibility to push those ideas to the furthest limits of our imagination. Sometimes we'll find boundaries of good taste, and sometimes we'll have artists who persist in crossing over into the realms of bad taste, Preferably, the market and public opinion take over, in that situation.

For a working policy, I would encourage developers, artists, and others to focus on being open-minded and try our best not be a jerk about how we present characters from cultures not immediately our own.

To move into the future, there has to be a space for modern myth-making, be it in poetry, novels, video games, cinema, photography, etc. Opportunities are need for artists in every culture, every generation to explore for themselves what the power and meaning of such figures can be. Sometimes they'll find something that breaks it wide open, and sometimes not.

This case with Overwatch attracts my attention, however, because South Asian mythology informs many elements of Lao mythology, with common characters such as the Nyak (Rakshasas), Nak (Naga), Kinnaly, and the Vanon (Vanara) such as Hanuman, the white monkey warrior.

But over the centuries, our understanding of Hanuman and these other figures evolved, adapted to reflect Lao values and more Southeast Asian outlooks. For example, in Indian tradition, Hanuman is regarded for his fierce warrior skills and loyalty. In Laos he's somewhat more comical, almost a cross between Pepe Le Pew and Rambo as he finds time for romance in the middle of a massive war between demonic giants, serpent deities and humans. 

In India, he's considered a god and is worshipped. In Laos, he's revered and respected, but treated closer to a demi-god like Hercules. I've never encountered a shrine in the Lao community where people actively make offerings to him. Perhaps in centuries to come that will change, or perhaps not. 

But the question we now face is an interesting one: Whose cultural view of Hanuman ought to take precedent in matters such as the one Overwatch raises. Hanuman in a video game like Street Fighter would not likely be considered offensive to a Lao person. But in India, there are some who would consider it deeply taboo. 

Constructively speaking, how might we proceed where our own culture can explore Hanuman as we see fit, while also respecting the opinions of other cultures? I don't think there will be one particular answer that applies in all circumstances, but it's interesting to consider.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Doxiepunk: Dachshund Adventure of the Week

"Whoa. It's the elusive Ranchita SoCalsquatch!
Ranchita, CA

Jewish Mexican Literary Review now live!

To start off the week, my new set of speculative poems, "Robohaikus" were just published in the debut issue of the Jewish Mexican Literary Review. Be sure to give the entire issue a read, there's some really fun work included there!

Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar did a great job with the first issue, with poetry by Ng Yi-Sheng, prose by Naomi Alderman, Kuzhali Manickavel, Nelly Geraldine Garcia Rosas, David Bowles, Shimon Adaf, a review by Orinn Grey, and more.

It's a quirky and fun production, and Im looking forward to seeing more from the editors in the coming quarters ahead! Literature, art, poetry, and culture. Who could ask for more? Check them out at:

Big Trouble in Little China Game coming in 2017

Not much in terms of details yet, but the Big Trouble in Little China tabletop game is said to be coming in 2017. There will also be an Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China and The Art of Big Trouble in Little China to keep an eye out for, and finally, an illustrated novel, Big Trouble in Mother Russia. 

There's also the card game based on the Legendary deck-building system that's currently available. In short, if you loved the adventures of Jack Burton you'll have a lot to keep you occupied soon over the next year or so.