Monday, July 24, 2017

Terror of the Batsquatch

In my line of work, you run into many odd and unusual things, and that often comes to a head at science fiction conventions. Among the places where I've consistently encountered this is Diversicon which just recently marked its 25th convening in Saint Paul.

The poet Barbara Jane Reyes has been asking at various points throughout the recent months why do we keep blogs in this day and age. In this instance, I admit it's because I have a feeling I will want to return to the story of the Batsquatch, which is not to be confused with Batman, thanks to a random conversation with Steve Fox and the writer SN Arly as we tried to identify possible SFF mascots for the various states who might be good candidates for the various SFPA chapters. Because that's the sort of conversation that comes up.

I'll add a picture to this post later, but for now some of the salient details to know about the Batsquatch are claims reportedly made in 1994, 2009, 2011, and 2014 in the Pacific Northwest of a large, flying hominid that resembles both a bat and presumably a sasquatch. Comparisons have been made to the Orang Bati and the Ahool of the Southeast Asian regions.

Having just passed through the region, I do feel like I missed out. Hopefully it won't be too long before I get a second chance...

Diversicon 26 Guests of Honor Announced: Charlie Jane Anders and Bryan Thao Worra

There were many highlights of this year's Diversicon 25 at the Best Western Hotel-Bandana Square this July, including the reading of the 2017 Rhysling Award Winners and speculative poetry round-robin, but one of the exciting things to announce is that I will be one of the Guests of Honor in July, 2018 along with acclaimed science fiction author and commentator Charlie Jane Anders

As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association and the 5th anniversary of my award-winning collection DEMONSTRA from Innsmouth Free Press, I'm very excited to be joining her to create a fun and amazing weekend for everyone! #StayTuned #Diversicon26

Charlie Jane Anders
is the author of All the Birds in the Sky, out now. She’s the organizer of the Writers With Drinks reading series, and she was a founding editor of io9, a website about science fiction, science and futurism. Her stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction,, Lightspeed, Tin House, ZYZZYVA, and several anthologies. Her novelette “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo award.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Thanks, G-Fest!

A kaiju-sized thanks goes out to everyone who came to join me during G-Fest 26, the international Godzilla convention in Illinois this month, where I had the opportunity to present on kaiju in speculative poetry as the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. It was definitely worth the adventure to get there. I even met Godzilla himself, although he's much shorter in person than we're led to believe!

Everyone had a chance to compose some kaiju haikus to add to the fun of the weekend, and I think we made a great case for the future of poetry inspired by Godzilla, King Kong, and many other entities particular to the genre. I appreciate everyone who took the time to be a part of the conversation, and I look forward to upcoming years ahead where we can share new updates on this aspect of the field.

A special thanks goes to J.D. Lees for bringing us together year after year.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

2017 Laodyssey Playlist

So, recently it became necessary to make the transition from California back to the Midwest following a 6-year venture in community building and the arts, among other things. Because it's a bit of a pain searching around for radio stations that play my favorite music, and finding ones who don't repeat the same songs every other hour in horrible rotation, I wound up loading a Samsung tablet with a few to hold me over during the journey, because Manikab's DVD player is currently not working. 

So I have a record, the ones that wound up in the heaviest rotation were the following. Postmodern Jukebox and Puddles Pity Party occupied most of the list during this journey, as did Edith Piaf's "Non Je Ne Regrette Rien," and Tom Waits "I'll Be Gone" and "Hang On St. Cristopher." Jennifer Lawrence singing "The Hanging Tree," and Lana Del Rey's "In the Land of Gods and Monsters" also saw extensive play, along with War's "Gypsy Man," ZZ Top's "La Grange," and the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis. I should have brought along some more Sade.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Asian American issue of Poetry available now

The new issue of Poetry is out, featuring my work as well as the work of many amazing Asian American poets and I'm honored to be among such fine company. Be sure to check it out and get a copy if you spot it out there.

The magazine has since been in continuous publication for more than 100 years, making it the oldest monthly magazine devoted to verse in the English language. Perhaps most famous for having been the first to publish T.S. Eliot’s "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (and, later, John Ashbery's "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror"), Poetry also championed the early works of H.D., Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Marianne Moore.

It was first to recognize many poems that are now widely anthologized: "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks, Briggflatts by Basil Bunting, "anyone lived in a pretty how town" by E.E. Cummings, "Chez Jane" by Frank O'Hara, "Fever 103°" by Sylvia Plath, "Chicago" by Carl Sandburg, "Sunday Morning" by Wallace Stevens, and many others. Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Tennessee Williams, to name just a few, have also appeared in Poetry’s pages.

This is my first poem to appear in Poetry over the course of 26 years of writing, and that it coincides with the 10th anniversary of my first collection of Lao American poetry, On The Other Side Of The Eye, I'm left with a particular feeling of happiness over the matter.

Friday, July 07, 2017

2017 Southeast Asian American Studies conference approaching July 27-29, 2017, Lowell, MA

A quick shoutout to Phitsamay Sychitkokhong Uy and Sue J. Kim and their team for doing so much work to get the 2017 Southeast Asian American Studies Conference pulled together with so many fine talents from academia, the arts, and the community. Be sure to register soon and remember the housing deadline is this Friday, 7/7/17. Don't get stuck camping on someone's lawn.

The Southeast Asian American Studies conference is a national summit of researchers, community organizers, artists, students, service providers, policymakers, community members, and others. The purpose is to reflect on the histories and current states of Southeast Asian American communities and to discuss solutions to the most pressing issues facing Southeast Asians in the U.S. The 2017 conference seeks to highlight Southeast Asian American communities in New England and seek to strengthen bridges between researchers, practitioners/service providers, policymakers, and community members.

 Lowell, Massachusetts, is home to the second largest Cambodian American population in the United States, as well as Vietnamese, Lao, Burmese, and Bhutanese Americans. Nearby Dorchester, MA, and Providence, RI, are home to significant Vietnamese and Lao American populations, respectively. How are the histories and experiences of Southeast Asian Americans in New England and the East Coast similar to and different from other diasporic SEAAs? What new intellectual, political, and cultural formations emerge from considering this region?

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Beyond the Lao American Writers Summit

What do you dare?

We’re now a a little past a week since the 4th National Lao American Writers Summit convened in Seattle thanks to the tireless organizing efforts of the Kinnaly Lao Traditional Music and Dance Troupe, the Pom Foundation, Highline College, ANNAPISI, and the Lao Community Service Center of WA, among many other wonderful elders, youth, and community organizations. I’m delighted to see many reflections from our panelists, participants and community organizers starting to come online, and I look forward to many more from everyone.

As one of the co-founding chairs of the original National Lao American Writers Summit held in 2010, it’s been wonderful to see the process grow and challenge all of us in the seven years since. It’s not a gathering we take for granted.

It took five years before we all felt ready to convene a second summit in 2015 in Minneapolis, followed by the 2016 summit in San Diego, and the 4th summit in Seattle this year. It will now be several years before we formally convene again, but you can rest assured our artists, writers, and community builders will continue to build upon the personal and collective commitments we made to one another in previous years and this year in Seattle.

Personally, I am taking on an additional seven mentees from Seattle throughout the years ahead whose work and journeys I found exceptionally promising. They are each at various points in their journey as artists exploring their paths as Lao Americans in the world. Additionally, I reaffirm my commitment to several other students of mine from previous years: Some who could attend, and some who could not but were there in spirit.

One area that has repeatedly come up time and again throughout my conversations with many of you is a question of what lessons might our organizing process hold for our fellow Southeast Asian Americans in diaspora. Many have found little place for their journey in the literary arts among either mainstream institutions or even programs ostensibly for Asian Americans and writers of color.

Might there one day be a joint literary summit, or at least affinity rooms made available for Hmong, Khmer, Tai Dam, Iu Mien, Akha, Tai Lue, Khmu, Vietnamese, Burmese, Karen, and other communities who don’t yet have the full community capacity to convene a literary gathering?

For many of our communities who share nearly 45 years in diaspora in the aftermath of the Southeast Asian conflicts of the 20th century, as 2020 approaches, who will they become? What will be the literary, artistic and cultural legacy they can pass on to the next generation?

Even as we see many wonderful achievements including recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, and other institutions, just the same, will there be community spaces created for them, for all of us? Will there be opportunities that are community driven, that come into being because we genuinely want them, regardless of whether we have the approval or support of major institutions, entities and various personalities of acclaim?

What might a Hmong American Writers Conference look like? What might a Khmer American Literary Society feature? How might they support both emerging and established writers while navigating the difficulties of interstate, intercultural community building? Can communities such as the Iu Mien, Khmu, Tai Dam, and Tai Lue preserve their heritage and develop a distinctive literary tradition and approach to the arts that meets their cultural needs and gives them the means to succeed in their lives personally, professionally, and academically?

I absolutely believe it’s possible, even as I also believe there is a deep urgency as the last of their elders began to pass from the Earth, and with it their stories, their dreams, their memories and skills, and as we see a generation of youth emerging into their own who’ve never been taught their family journey or the struggles of their community, even in the US.

As a writer, I personally began my journey back to my roots and heritage over twenty years ago because I did not want to come empty-handed to my grandchildren or great-grandchildren one day who might well ask: “Who are we? You had the greatest chance to discover who our family was, but why didn’t you look for them?” Of course, along that journey, I also found the important question: “Who might we become? What might we imagine, and what might we dare to accomplish in this time we have upon the Earth?”

I believe as human beings we thrive not from a unity of stories, but a diversity of stories. There are so many narratives, so many untold tales, some that show us at our best, some that show us where we have room to grow. Each adds to a vibrant tapestry of the human experience. It is my enduring hope that many of you will challenge yourselves, push yourselves harder than ever before to add your voice and to fight your erasure so many others would find convenient. There is room in this vast cosmos for far more than one story. Let yourselves be heard.

And who knows, you might just change the world. Reach for it, and build your community.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

SFPA Speculative Poetry Contest now open! Deadline August 31

Please let folks know the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association Poetry Contest is now open! Both members and non-members can enter! Prizes will be awarded for best poem in 3 categories of speculative poetry:

 Dwarf (poems 1–10 lines [prose poems 0–100 words]);

Short (11–49 lines [prose poems 101–499 words]);

Long (50 lines and more [prose 500 words and up]).

Line count does not include title or stanza breaks. All sub-genres of speculative poetry allowed in any form. Prizes: In each category (Dwarf, Short, Long): $100 First Prize, $50 Second Prize, $25 Third Prize. Publication on Poetry Planet ( podcast magazine and on the SFPA website for first through third places.

This year's judge is the award-winning Nikia Chaney, and the contest chair is Mary McMyne! For full details:

Sunday, July 02, 2017

A Missoula Interlude: 40 Years Later

So, the last time I was in Missoula, Montana was in 1997 or 20 years ago as I had begun my search in earnest for my long-lost family. 

Last year marked the 40th anniversary of when I'd become a US citizen, so naturally when I was passing through Missoula following the 4th National Lao American Writers Summit in Seattle, I decided to take a stop by the old courthouse steps where I'd taken one of my first picture as an American. I was three years old at the time, and it was Flag Day during the American Bicentennial.

As you can see, a few things changed in the meantime. But hopefully it won't be too long before I have a chance to visit Montana again. When I'd first taken the picture, they asked what I wanted for lunch, and I'd replied hot dogs and apple pie. The shop wasn't there anymore this time, but across the street there was a nice spot where I could get a "Prairie Fire" bagel dog and a cup of coffee before hitting the road. That wasn't so bad.

There are some fascinating connections between Missoula and the original resettlement of the Hmong thanks to Jerry Daniels, a former smoke jumper who became one of the key advisors to the CIA's secret army in Laos during the wars for Southeast Asia. But that's a discussion for another time.