Saturday, July 29, 2006

Monstro Posted

To start things right for Diversicon next month, I've posted an all-new, updated edition of my e-chapbook, Monstro, for free in .pdf format over at my website.

Monstro is a compilation of my speculative poetry from 1991-2006 that has appeared in various forms throughout the years in several different journals and publications.

It's a short introduction to the larger body of work I've written, and organized as a poetic meditation on fear:

The things we fear, the things we shouldn’t, the things that fear us, and those grey zones where all bets are off. It’s a global romp through a world with boundaries that are blurring to the point of non-existence.

You'll meet both familiar faces and new ones along the way.

Additional news: I'll be reading from Monstro on August 10th at Dreamhaven Books in Minnesota at 912 W Lake Street, Minneapolis MN 55408. I'll later be discussing several of the pieces in depth during Diversicon.

If you can make it, it'll be great to see you there!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Mental Floss: It's good for you

If you get a chance to, check out this month's Mental Floss on the bookstands.

It features fun articles like "I Am Woman, Hear Me Arrr," about Cheng I Sao, the famous pirate queen of China and the Red Flag Fleet. (Although Tripmaster Monkey has a pretty nifty article on her as well.)

This month's Mental Floss also features a series of articles on North Korea, including the story of popular film-maker Shin Sang Ok, who was kidnapped by North Korea in a crazy scheme to make movies for Kim Jong Il.

Check it out!

The Atom becomes Asian American


DC comic hero The Atom has a new face under the mask: Ryan Choi!

He's described from various sources as a naturalized citizen of the United States (originally from mainland China). He was a star pupil of physics professor Ray Palmer, who was the Atom before an event known as "The Infinite Crisis."

Choi is apparently the 4th man to become the Atom (as far as DC's current version of the official continuity is concerned.)

One part of me says: That's great. An Asian American as an iconic superhero. It's not as iconic as, say, Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman. Or the Green Lantern or the Flash. But he's still reasonably recognizable.

As a guy who shrinks.

I'm going to try and avoid saying it looks like a subtle effort to suggest Asians are always good at math, science, and have body parts subject to shrinkage...

I seriously wonder how soon it'll be before he goes up against the Great 10.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Police Shooting of Hmong Youth In Minneapolis

Chao Xiong at the Star Tribune reported on a recent shooting in Minneapolis: Police chase, a shooting and death The basics are: two officers saw what looked like a gun changing hands and chased a suspect onto the grounds, killing a Hmong youth named Fong Lee, 19.

Helping Hmong Homeless in Minnesota

Are you interested in helping the homeless Hmong in Minneapolis? Following a recent meeting on Friday, July 15th among concerned community organizations, including the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans and Mary's Place, the good news is that there are only 26 families that are still living in the shelters.

In the short-term, what is needed most at this point are affordable apartments, preferably in Minneapolis or St. Paul near public transit that these Hmong families can move to sustainably and still afford to feed and clothe their children.

If you know someone who is a landlord with an affordable apartment available within the next two months, please contact the Council on Asian Pacfic Minnesotans at 651.296.0538 or as soon as possible and mention that you would like to help with the Hmong homeless situation.

Potential landlords do not have to be Hmong, but experience and familiarity with Hmong tenants with limited English and an understanding of refugee needs and fluency in Hmong will be extremely helpful.

The City Pages has an article from January, 2006 that provides a relatively good briefing of what happened when this issue first emerged:

One of the homeless Hmong families in Minnesota in early 2006, currently residing at Mary's Place, a Minneapolis shelter. From the City Pages article.

R.I.P. Mako (1933-2006)

Makoto Iwamatsu, more famously known as "Mako," died Friday, July 21st of esophageal cancer at 72.

Not many outside of Asian America know his name, but many recognize his face. The veteran actor earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1966 film The Sand Pebbles, and he was one of the founding members of East West Players, the nation's first Asian American theater company.

He has at least 138 roles credited to him on the Internet Movie Database, starting with a role on the Lloyd Bridges Show in the episode "Yankee Stay Here."

He was in the TV series McHale's Navy, I Dream of Jeannie, Gidget, I Spy, The Green Hornet, Wonder Woman, Hawaii Five-O, and the list goes on.

I recommend taking a look at his IMDB entry. Chances are very high that unless you lived under a rock, you've seen his work or heard his distinctive voice, which has been featured in cartoons such as Rugrats In Paris, Samurai Jack, Duck Dodgers, Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! and even the recent series, Avatar: The Last Airbender. (But apparently never Sagwa: The Chinese Siamese Cat! Yay! Even in Hollywood, you can still have standards.)

A reasonably good tribute site can be found at here with some great interviews and pictures of him throughout his exceptional career.

He gave some interesting insights into the experience of Asian American actors in the recent documentary Slanted Screen. If you get a chance to, check it out. The LA Times also has an extensive obituary on him this week.

I'll be the first to admit that many of the roles he had to take were rarely what we would call 'great', but it's always been clear that he took his craft seriously and tried to be a professional even as Hollywood rarely saw him as anything more than a bit character actor whenever they needed an Asian or Asian American character (and all too often, a villain.)

So long, Mako, and thanks for paving the way.

Iron Man Villain Announced: Yellow Peril Stereotype- Oops, I mean, the Mandarin.

ComingSoon.Net has just posted an article revealing that the main villain of the Iron Man movie will be none other than the classic embodiment of the yellow peril: The Mandarin.

You're going against a guy in power armor dressed like that?

Above are two versions of his appearances over the years, sporting the power rings that make him a menace to superheroes around the world. Marvel Directory has a pretty extensive file on the guy, as does the Wikipedia.

The long and the short is that the Mandarin is part of a long tradition of 'yellow peril' characters in popular culture, including Fu Manchu, Shiwan Khan, Ming the Merciless and numerous other Asian/Eurasian despots of the pulp fiction era.

The Mandarin's 1st appearance in Tales of Suspense #50

The Mandarin is the supposed son of a wealthy Chinese noble from pre-revolutionary China and an English noblewoman. There are any number of post-colonial interpretations of this that could be made.

Such as: Wow, even our 'best' Asian villains still have to be part-white in order to beat (well, almost) American/Western heroes. Or we could take issue with equating Eurasians with evil or low morals, a la Miss Saigon's notorious 'Engineer' character:

The Engineer from a production of Miss Saigon. Amusingly, he's sporting almost as much jewelry as the Mandarin.

The Mandarin has no superhuman powers, but relies on stolen alien technology. Which isn't a metaphor for how American industry viewed the rise of Asia as a major industrial center for technology and consumer electronics at all. :)

To be fair, however, it is pretty impressive that an ordinary human being can go toe-to-toe with a guy running around in high-tech power armor, and any other number of superheroes. No matter how occasionally ridiculous his costume:

In the end, who knows: Maybe they'll update the character and make him more than a xenophobic writer's cardboard character for Iron Man to knock around. But I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Appearing at Diversicon, August 11-13

I will be a special guest at this year’s Diversicon convention on August 11-13 at the Holiday Inn Select International Airport—Mall of America at 3 Appleton Square, Bloomington, MN! The guest of honor is award-winning author and publisher Kelly Link.

Minnesota hosts many science fiction conventions each year, but Diversicon stands out for focusing on multicultural science fiction, horror and fantasy.

Celebrating their 14th year with the theme of "No Boundaries," Diversicon is expected to draw participants from across the country, including writers, artists and fans of all ages.

Other Asian American writers who will be attending include acclaimed Vietnamese American spoken word artist Bao Phi.

The issues of Dark Wisdom featuring my article on the cryptic Plain of Jars in Laos have arrived, as well as the issue of G-Fan magazine that includes an 8-poem feature of mine will be available then. The new Tales of the Unanticipated, should also be on sale, which includes some of my poetry and a new short horror story of mine as well.
The Totu Cow

You can find out more about the convention at Diversicon. It's a great, thoughtful and fun convention with plenty to see and do.

Kelly's a great writer. She's the author of the story collections Stranger Things Happen (2001) and Magic for Beginners (2005). She has also been featured in The Best American Short Stories, Nebula Awards Showcase 2003, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

She edited the fantasy anthology Trampoline (2003), and is a co-founder of Small Beer Press. She is co-editor of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and has received the Nebula, Tiptree, and World Fantasy Awards. Not too shabby. Time magazine named Magic for Beginners #3 among their Best 5 Fiction Books of 2005. You can visit her site at

I'll be leading discussions and screenings of the horror films Shutter, Ju-On and The Eye, as well as sessions on Southeast Asian creatures of folklore and myth and cryptogeography, examining 3 mysterious locations in Laos.

So, hopefully if you're in the Minnesota area, you'll come out and join us for a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Toledo DJ Apologizes

The Toledo Blade reported that DJ Lucas in Toledo has apologized on-air for his harrassment of Asian American businesses, and that the station's program manager, Brent Carey, had been let go.

We can only hope this sends a clear message to other radio stations that racism, intolerance and the harassment of Americans on the basis of their ethnicity is inexcusable and has no place in civil discourse.

I hope it also sends a message to other Asian American communities across the country that change IS possible, and that we must be committed to speaking out against injustice and prejudice.

Monday, July 17, 2006

OpenDemocracy.Net and North Korean Art

Over at OpenDemocracy.Net, Jane Portal has an article that explores the role of art in North Korea: What does a totalitarian regime expect from its artists?

Among the more interesting points was that since the 1960s, North Korean art was/is informed by a philosophy called Juche:

"Juche is usually translated as "self-reliance", although the academic Dae-sook Suh describes it in practise as "nothing more than xenophobic nationalism".

This school divides art into 2 types:
"Peoples' art" reflecting the needs of the masses.
"Reactionary art" reflecting the ideology of the exploiting class.

The whole article has several interesting elements worth checking out. Portal's final sentiments are:

"...there is no uncertainty at all expressed in North Korean contemporary art, no individual hopes or expressions, no mystery. As Kim Jong-il said: "A picture must be painted in such a way that the viewer can understand its meaning. If the people who see a picture cannot grasp its meaning, no matter what a talented artist may have painted it, they cannot say it is a good picture.""

It's an interesting reminder to me, as a writer and artist, of what kind of narrow world we can live in. We'd be the poorer for it.

Sheboygan Installs Lao/Hmong Veterans Memorial

The city of Sheboygan, Wisconsin has recently unveiled a new veterans memorial to honor Lao, Hmong and American veterans who were among the thousands of Special Guerrilla Unit soldiers who died fighting the communists in Laos during the Vietnam War.

During the 1960s and 70s, Laos was a neutral country and the US State Department and the CIA coordinated a secret 30,000 man army in the highlands of Laos to secretly assist the monarchy and to protect US and allied forces in South Vietnam from communist forces using the illegal Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

Set in Deland Park, the new $140,000 circular memorial is 44 feet in diameter. The granite panels of the memorial are engraved with the names of hundreds who died, although no official records exist. It was funded through private donations.

Other Secret War memorials are located at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Hurlburt Field, Fla. and Fresno, Calif. There are about 4,000 Hmong in Sheboygan.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Memories of Ray Guns

Wired Magazine has a fun post about Christopher Howarth's extensive ray gun collection that he's sharing with the world via his blog at

It's a fun little trip down memory lane, with a few modern entries as well.

Howarth makes an interesting argument for why we should appreciate the design and aesthetics of these toys as they've changed through the years.

I particularly found his collection of Chinese and Japanese ray guns intriguing when juxtaposed against U.S. and European designs.

In the coming years ahead, this and other collections could prove to be an interesting way to examine various cultural histories, especially given the tumultuous wax and wane of Asian and Western relations.

Granted, I may be partial to this whole business based on my old poem "Aliens":

We turn our dishes to Heaven,
But what manner of dog will come running
To lick them,

Drawn to the censored moaning groins
And the pyrotechnics of false death
And chemical love?

Fetch me a big stick to shake
At these stellar voyeurs!

I want nothing to do with them
As I run down my strange streets,

An accidental alien without
A ray gun.

So take this post as you will. :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Asian American Adoptee Comedy

The Star Tribune has an article about Korean adoptee comedian Amy Anderson. She'll be appearing at the Illusion Theater this weekend.

Upcoming Asian / Asian American Conferences on My Radar

Well, mark your calendars, folks:

From October 20-21, 2006, Minnesota State University-Mankato will be hosting the 2nd Asian Pacific American Conference, "Sharing Our Stories. Uniting our Communities."

The primary goal of the Asian Pacific American Conference is "to build student leadership and to provide an opportunity for academic scholars, students, professionals and community members to discuss the issues that affect the Asian Pacific American community on a local, national and international level."

The website is still a little bare bones, but it should expand soon.

The Center for Lao Studies and the Center For Asian Research at Arizona State University have just posted their call for papers for the 2nd International Conference on Lao Studies, to be held in Arizona from May 3rd to May 6th. You can learn more at

Plans are also underway for the 12th Hmong National Conference, scheduled to be held at the Detroit Marriott at Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan from April 12 - 15, 2007. No official information is up yet at Hmong National Development but a call for papers will undoubtedly be issued soon.

The Midwest Asian American Student Union will be holding the annual Spring Conference 2007 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since everyone is off on break at the moment, there aren't many more details than that. But you can always visit MAASU at

The Hmong College Students of Minnesota are also announcing their first HCSM President's Retreat – August 5-6, 2006 at William O'Brien State Park in St. Croix, MN.

The purpose of the President's Retreat is to initiate a strong network among incoming 2006-2007 school presidents/chairs/representatives of surrounding colleges and universities in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.

The deadline to apply is Friday, July 21st at 4:00 pm. You can find out more at although it looks like it is best just to e-mail for a current application sheet.

Speculative Literature Foundation Travel Grant

The Speculative Literature Foundation is once again offering its Travel Research Grant this year. The deadline is September 30th. The winner will be announced October 15th.

SLF travel grants are awarded to assist writers (speculative fiction, poetry, drama, creative nonfiction) in their research. They are not currently available for academic research, though they hope to offer such funds in the future. They are currently offering one $600 travel grant annually, to be used to cover airfare, lodging, and/or other travel expenses.

It's a good opportunity and fairly easy to apply for. If you write speculative fiction and want to travel somewhere to do research for your writing, this one is a good opportunity.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Science Fiction Tap Opera

ABC 7 in Chicago is reporting on a new tap opera being produced:

"Chicago Tap Theatre's science fiction tap opera, Changes, is on stage featured at the Athenaeum Theatre Studio 3 for a month-long run. The show features the music of rock legend David Bowie and combines the rhythm of tap dance, the innovation of jazz dance and the story-telling capacity of ballet. Changes tells a tangled tale of space travel, alien overlords and social upheaval, based on Bowie's seminal work, "Ground Control to Major Tom."

Changes is the fourth story show created by Chicago Tap Theatre, following last year's sold-out run of The Tell-Tale Tap: Stories of Edgar Allan Poe."

As a writer, this has the little gerbil wheels in my head spinning, wondering how a similar production might be executed from an Asian American perspective.

What if we saw the work of, say, Thai science fiction/horror writer S.P. Somtow adapted into a tap production? Or a version of the stories from the Kwaidan collection, or even an adaptation of Ted Chiang's work? And perhaps, not tap, but traditional Asian dance / theater? What are the possibilities?

S.P. Somtow in Thailand has already experimented with this by transforming the ghost story of Nang Nak into an opera in 2003 in Bangkok.

One of the more intriguing shows I'd seen was Masanari Kawahara's Gojira 1954, A table-top puppet show that addressed the anti-nuclear concerns of the original Japanese version of Godzilla. This was performed in July 2005 at the Center for Independent Artists in Minneapolis.
There was a production of Night of the Living Dead as theater here in Minnesota that was presented at Mounds Theater, and an upcoming production of John Carter of Mars as theater, so I feel there's sufficient and ample precedent.

I understand there are naysayers who think that it's far too much of a niche market: Asian American Science Fiction Theater.

But really, given how many of the stories that are produced anyway already incorporate elements of magic realism, such as Mu Performing Arts' play "The Walleye Kid," or "From Shadows To Light," how great of a stretch is this really?

Kawahara's Gojira 1954 particularly lingers with me as a reminder of what interesting things could occur when we cross-genres and experiment with taking stories into different realms of expression.

Does the visual miniaturization of Godzilla in a live performance environment diminish the greater ecological and socio-political message that was intended in the original film? Or does it in fact hone our focus even more effectively? It's an interesting question for artists and the audience to consider.

What I find myself lamenting is that contemporary Asian American theater in many regions can rarely afford to be so experimental- to take a risk on a Science Fiction Tap Opera, for example. But I think in fact such risks (not necessarily Science Fiction Tap Opera, but in the experimental spirit of), may be key to revitalizing Asian American theater and how we perceive it.

Monday, July 10, 2006


A special thank you goes out to everyone we met while attending Convergence this year in Minnesota.

Once again, the local Asian American writers came together to give a series of panels and presentations to over 1,000 science fiction and fantasy fans of all ages in one of Minnesota's largest conventions.

Hmong, Lao, Vietnamese, and Taiwanese writers were represented by Bao Phi, myself, Shoua Lee, May Lee, Peter Yang and Juliana Pegues.

On Friday, July 7th, at 9:30 PM, we presented our annual Giant Lizard Theater poetry reading, providing a fun and engaging opportunity for families to become familiar with Asian American poetry, and even destroyed a miniature city in the process.

Interestingly, the panels highlighting Hmong American writing as well as tales of the supernatural (both traditional and modern) were very well attended, showing that there is indeed an audience for their writing, despite what some publishers have said.

Other workshops included "Out There: Sulu, Sex and Space," addressing the implications of George Takei's recent revelations that he was GLBT, as well as current issues in the depiction and treatment of GLBT and Asian Americans by speculative media, and why it matters.

We had a packed room for "Heroines and Heroes of the Old Country," where we discussed several figures from Hmong, Lao, Vietnamese and Chinese traditions, including a reading of the original Fa Mulan poem (I should note that it was an edition translated into English, however.)

We also conducted "Yellowspace" a panel discussing the history of Asians and Asian Americans in the popular science fiction of the 21st century. We tackled everything from Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to the X-men, Serenity/Firefly, Star Wars, Star Trek, The Grudge, and almost every other major film or tv show that had come out during that time.

We even held the first Golden Horde Awards, which gave recognition to the worst actors, actresses and films that set back perceptions of Asians and Asian Americans in the last 6 years. Sadly, there were far too many viable candidates. This year's winners were Tom Cruise, Lucy Liu, and The Last Samurai.

Will we attend next year? Definitely! Once again, thank you all for supporting us!
I'll try to post photos soon!

WTF: Kung Fu Panda

The Deadbolt and others are reporting that Angelina Jolie will be voicing The Tigress for Dreamworks latest attempt to cash in on modern orientalism, "Kung Fu Panda".

Jack Black will also be featured.

The description thus far released is "Black plays Po the Panda, who slings noodles in a restaurant and loves kung fu but doesn't have the body for it. Jolie will provide the voice of a martial-arts master named Tigress. When Po is revealed as the Chosen One to save the animals, Tigress must get the slacker panda into fighting form."

Just couldn't give these roles to Asian American actors and actresses, eh?

To be fair, Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan are also on board. Yeah, that's just great.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Upcoming in the Movies

A new report suggests that The Mummy 3 will now be set in China in some contrived plot revolving around the desiccated remains of China's first uber-Emperor Qin Shihuang, who wants revenge on those who turned his team into stone all those years ago. Just great.

On the other hand, ComingSoon.Net has a story posted about the upcoming Dark Matter.

It's supposed to be a film about "the humor, frustration and heartbreak that results when different cultures collide and communication falters. The film follows the story of Liu Xing, a brilliant Chinese science student, who strives to impress his mentor Jacob Reiser (Aiden Quinn) with his theories on the origins of the universe. Helping Liu Xing adapt but unable to protect him from academic politics are Joanna (Meryl Streep), a patron of the university with a passion for all things Chinese, and Hildy (Blair Brown), Reiser's secretary."

May be something to see.

Virginia Quarterly Review Announces Staige D. Blackford Prize Winner

Congratulations to Pauline Chen of Los Angeles, who won the Staige D. Blackford Prize for creative nonfiction that appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review in 2005. Chen won for "Dead Enough? The Paradox of Brain Death," which appeared in the Fall 2005 issue. The annual awards are given for the best poems, short stories, and creative nonfiction essays published in VQR during the previous year

Asian American poet wins Discovery/The Nation poetry prize

On 6-29-06, Poets and Writers Magazine just named Sand Tseng (of Pittsburgh) as one of four poets were recently named winners of the 32nd annual "Discovery"/the Nation Poetry Prizes. James Richardson, Laurie Sheck, and Elizabeth Spires judged.

The prizes, sponsored by the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center and the Nation, are given to poets who have not yet published a book of poems.

Congratulations to Sand, not only for the quality of the work, but also for managing to successfully jump through some somewhat demanding guideline hoops to qualify:

The 2007 guidelines/deadlines are already up:The Discovery/The Nation Poetry prize seems like an interesting opportunity for emerging poets.

You cannot have had a chapbook or book previously published, either self-published or by another small or large press. The deadline is Friday, January 19th, 2007 and requires 4 copies of a 10 page manuscript, and at least 2 of those poems must be previously unpublished. You actually get to use staples this time to hold your manuscript together. $8 entry fee, which is around the industry average, it seems.

No word yet on any other details of Tseng's winning text or precisely when it will see print, but we'll keep an eye out for it.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Jim Baen Passes Away. R.I.P.

Jim Baen passed away recently. You can find all sorts of notes on this around the Internet of course. The particular article I'm linking to has a nice assessment of Baen's distinctive vision and approach, especially as regards the Internet and electronic editions of books. So long, Jim, and thanks!

Asian American poet receives 2006 Barnard Women Poets Prize

Cathy Park Hong was recently selected by Adrienne Rich to receive the 2006 Barnard Women Poets Prize for her text 'Dance Dance Revolution' which means that it will be published in April 2007 and include a free public reading at Barnard College in New York.

The subject of the text is intriguing enough, and it will be interesting to see how well it's carried out, as it would clearly fall between both speculative literature and identity poetics from the way they describe it presently.

*Ok, I confess, I have to admire a poet with the nerve to name her collection after 'Dance Dance Revolution' :)

Interesting Article: Perpetuating The Yellow Peril

In These Times has an article discussing the new documentary Slanted Screen.

Sounds worth checking out. Of course, many of us have already long noticed the issues it's confronting, but it's nice to see an updated take on it to remind us how far we haven't come.

You can of course, also go to Slanted Screen itself.