Thursday, June 30, 2016

2016 Science Fiction Poetry Association Elgin Candidates

The Elgin Awards, named for SFPA founder Suzette Haden Elgin, are presented annually by the Science Fiction Poetry Association. The awards are presented for books of speculative poetry published in the preceding two years in two categories, Chapbook and Book. This year there are six candidates for Chapbook and 26 candidates in the Book category.

For active members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, votes are due SEPTEMBER 15th and instructions on voting will appear in Star*Line 39.3 which will be arriving soon. 
This year's official candidates are:

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)

The Science Fiction Poetry Association was established in 1978 to bring together poets and readers interested in science-fiction poetry. In addition to the Elgin Awards, it oversees the Rhysling Awards, and the Dwarf Star Awards, as well as the Science Fiction Poetry Contest. It publishes two journals, Star*Line and Eye to the Telescope.

Characters that almost were: Streetfighting Literary Master

Over at Polygon, they're discussing a recently translated article about rejected character for Street Fighter V, where "Some of the earliest character concepts for Street Fighter 5 were some of the game’s most bizarre, including a fighting politician, a fighting "literary master" and a character who constantly shed clothing due to their "clumsiness."

According to the article: "Nakayama describes the scrapped "Fighting Literary Master" as a pensive but grumpy old man. It’s not clear how he would have fought, though perhaps he threw manuscripts or harsh editorial suggestions at his opponents."

As the website elaborated: "You need wits, not only power, in a fight! He's an old man that constantly grumbles to himself. The pen is not mightier than the sword in this game, however. Next!"

Well, I guess I'll just have to stick with my regular favorites for now. But what might have been...

Laotian American National Alliance Conference: August 5-6th, 2016

If you're in Vegas in August, the Laotian American National Alliance (LANA) 501(c)(3) is convening their 7th national conference.

This year the theme is "It's Showtime, Take the Stage" with discussions on law, small business, careers in the military, the Lao American music scene, pursuing a life in politics, and more.

General admission is free, although the Saturday evening Celebrate Community Night is $30. The main conference takes place from August 5-6th, 2016 at the Westin Las Vegas Hotel, Casino and Spa.


Next Door Neighbors: Sisavanh Phoutavong Houghton

A great profile on Lao American visual artist Sisavanh Phoutavong Houghton, whose work I've discussed in the past. 

I'm particularly partial to her sculpture work, but I think she works well in almost every medium, demonstrating tremendous ambition and technical skill. Throughout her career she's created some very interesting pieces that raise some interesting questions about what we might explore in our own art.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Lao textiles and 2010 Enduring Vision Award recipient - Bounxou Daoheuang Chanthraphone

There are some Lao who now think machine-made is superior and cheaper, but I hope a few in the next generation will still appreciate and collect the hand-made work.

For a good discussion on how much work goes into a traditional piece of Lao textiles and clothing, here's a great 2010 interview with NEA Heritage Fellow Bounxou Chanthraphone of Minnesota. At the time, she had just received the inaugural Enduring Vision Award from the Bush Foundation. She took the time to explain her art and the meticulous process it requires. In that same year, she received an Asian Pacific American Leadership Award from the state Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans that I nominated her for.

 Sometimes a piece can take up to 8 months to finish.


Dr Tom Dooley at Thanksgiving 1956 in Vang Vieng, Laos

60 years ago, Dr. Tom Dooley and his team began a philanthropic effort to set up their first hospital in Laos, which was completed in 1956. He and his assistants shot a video of their work in Vang Vieng to show Americans the positive work they were doing to encourage donations and additional foreign aid to help Lao development.

He chronicled much of his experience in Southeast Asia in his books "Deliver Us from Evil," "The Edge of Tomorrow," and "The Night They Burned the Mountain."

For historical context, this is two years after the battle of Dien Bien Phu and Laos gaining independence and recognition from the United Nations.


Cover revealed for Uncanny Magazine #11

My poem, "Phaya Nak Goes to the West" appears in the July 2016 issue of Uncanny Magazine. The cover is “Those Who Came First” by Antonio Caparo. My fellow poets in this issue are “Good Neighbors” by Jessica P. Wick and “The Persecution of Witches” by Ali Trotta.

A big thanks to everyone who's been so supportive of Uncanny Magazine as they create a professional space for diverse writers in science fiction and fantasy, especially for poets. Be sure to check out their podcasts, too, for some really exciting and interesting ideas!

Doxiepunk: Dachshund Adventure of the Week

"We're getting ready for Furry Road and the Doxiepocalypse!"
Ukiah, CA

Thursday, June 23, 2016

RIP Photographer Fan Ho (1931-2016)

Chinese photographer Fan Ho died of pneumonia on Sunday, June 19th, 2016 in San Jose, California. he leaves a wonderful and amazing portfolio of work that any photographer would envy, with an exceptional vision well worth remembering.

Be sure to visit to get a sense of his range, which pushed the limits of what we might ask of photography.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

2016 Rhysling Award Winners Announced

The Rhysling Anthology Editor and Award Chair, Charles Christian, and the officers of the Science Fiction Poetry Association have announced the winners of the 2016 Rhysling Awards. The Science Fiction Poetry Association was founded in 1978 to bring together poets and readers interested in science-fiction poetry.

The Science Fiction Poetry Association offers annual awards for speculative poetry:
The Rhysling Awards recognize individual poems.
The Dwarf Star Awards are given for short-short poems.
The Elgin Awards are presented for genre poetry books and chapbooks.

Each year, the SFPA publishes the Rhysling Anthology, comprised of works nominated by its international membership for the Best Poems of the Year.

The Rhyslings were first established in 1978, named for the blind poet Rhysling in Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “The Green Hills of Earth.” Rhysling’s skills were said to rival Rudyard Kipling’s. In real life, Apollo 15 astronauts named a crater near their landing site “Rhysling,” which has since become its official name.

Winning works are regularly reprinted in the Nebula Awards Anthology from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Rhysling Awards are considered in the speculative literature field to be the poetry equivalent of the awards given for prose— achievement awards given to poets by the writing peers of their own field of literature.

This year, there were ties for first place and third place in the Long Poem category.

Short Poem Winners:1st Place
"Time Travel Vocabulary Problems" (Dreams and Nightmares)
by Ruth Berman

2nd place

“Tech Support for the Apocalypse” (Dreams and Nightmares)
by F. J. Bergmann

3rd Place 
“An Introduction to Alternate Universes: Theory and Practice” (Gyroscope Review)
by Sandra J. Lindow

Long Poem Winners:

1st Place (tie)
"It Begins with a Haunting" (Dance Among Elephants - Sahtu Press)
by Krysada Panusith Phounsiri

"Keziah" (Dark Energies - P'rea Press)
by Ann K. Schwader 

2nd Place
"Chronopatetic" (Dreams and Nightmares 100)
by F.J. Bergmann

3rd place (tie)
From "Sunspots" (Poetry, December 2015),
by Simon Barraclough

"The White Planet" (Boulevard 31:1),
by Albert Goldbarth

The Rhysling Award will be presented at DiversiCon, in St. Paul (Bandana Square Best Western) by SFPA Vice President, Sandra J. Lindow. All members are welcome to attend the ceremony. This year's theme is “Martians, Vulcans, and Women of Valor” with Guest of Honor Jessica Amanda Salmonson, and Special Guest Naomi Kritzer. Their Posthumous Guests are Orson Welles, Leonard Nimoy and Shirley Jackson.

My American Kundiman to mark 10 years in November

Filipino American author Patrick Rosal's book of poetry, My American Kundiman will be celebrating 10 years this November.

Back when it was first released, his publishers at Persea Books remarked "Modeling poems on the kundiman, a song of unrequited love sung by Filipinos for their country in times of oppression, he professes his conflicted feelings for America, while celebrating and lamenting his various heritages."

The anniversary will be just in time for the election. I strongly suggest revisiting it for many reasons.

His current, fourth book is Brooklyn Antediluvian, which turns to poetry again to look at the possibilities of untapped multi-racial histories, but also the often heart-breaking limitations, and what it means to relate to one another.

Here, you can check out his poem, "An Instance of an Island"

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Writing Lao American Memoirs: Getting Started

Throughout the 3rd National Lao American Writers Summit in San Diego, one of the recurring conversations I addressed with many of you one-on-one was the nature of completing your memoirs and the stories of your family. Many of you felt that you weren’t writers naturally, and lacked a particular confidence in English, or a confidence in your understanding of particular aspects of Lao culture, Lao history, or how to tell your own stories sensitively outside of the way we tell our family stories among family.

There are indeed many great challenges to this. I would also say there are a number of traditional barriers for those who grew up in Lao culture that may have held many of you back. Beyond issues of education and literacy, for example, there’s a way to read the Buddhist traditions in a way that we are supposed to be concerned with the Truth, but not attached to the various moments that anger us, sadden us, or even those that delight us, because the world is a temporary thing. An improper reverence for history can often seem to conflict with those or similar spiritual values.

Paradoxically, we are encouraged to remember the sacrifices that our parents, our ancestors and elders made for us, presumably in an abstract sense, rather than specific details. This often happens because a full study of history often brings us to uncomfortable conversations. It often presents lessons we need to learn that often make seemingly easy or convenient choices difficult.

Just the same, I spent a good deal of time this year advocating for families to take up at least a personal record of their family’s journey from Laos to the US and beyond. My reason is because if a family does not have at least one person trying to record their story, in a matter of less than 20 years, the children in their families will have no place to find the story of their families except in the accounts of other people’s families. That is not inherently a “bad” thing, but I think most of those I spoke to could see it would feel odd for their children to understand who they are through the eyes of someone else, when they had a chance to hear it from their own elders and relatives.

I often feel bad for many families who took their elders for granted, who thought they had all of the time in the world to talk with their grandmothers and grandfathers, their aunts and uncles, or even cousins and siblings. Many suddenly lost those relatives to any number of tragedies. So many of those stories, those lovely conversations are now forever lost, and can only be guessed at from now on.

This is not to say that my own efforts at recording my family’s history have been perfect or are by any means complete. It is not necessarily something that can be done in the space of a day, a month, or even a year. But through the years, I’ve found some techniques that may be helpful for you to figure out where to begin, and how to structure your stories so that you might one day turn to them and polish them in a way that will be helpful for the next generation in your family, and the other families who have been close to you over the decades.

Personally, I think part of a good process is to build practice telling the story of other families, first, before trying to tell your own story. Human nature being what it is, you’ll understandably want to tell your own story the best. But because you’re not an expert yet, it’s better to get practice by speaking with other families, hearing how they tell their story, and finding ways to share that in an interesting and useful manner.

A memoir, and biographies in general, are NOT encyclopedias. It should not, and can not be an exact day to day or even month to month account. One way I found helpful to explain this is: It’s a life with all of the boring bits chopped out. No one wants to hear about what you had for breakfast every day for a month, especially if it’s the same thing, day in, day out.

They might appreciate knowing how you liked your tom mak hoong, but they’ll quickly set your book down if every chapter includes a page or two dedicated to how you made your tom mak hoong.

But here are ten starting points to consider. If you can answer each of these over the space of a two pages or more, you can be on your way. Over the rest of the year, I’ll try to look at each of these points in greater detail to help everyone.

1) Your journey begins
Who are your parents? Do you know who your grandparents were? What part of Laos did they come from? What were they doing during the war and before? As you were growing up, what stands out about the stories you heard your parents repeat the most? Do they talk about what was it like in the camps for your parents before coming to the US?

2) Settling in
Consider your family’s early years in America. What city did you start out in. What was the hardest for your parents to adapt to? What was easiest? What did they miss from the old country? What are they glad to have gotten away from? You might ask yourselves, what's the silliest ways they tried to 'recreate' Laos in the home, and what are the parts of lao custom and heritage they took really seriously? What was it like growing up with your siblings, the things you remember most. What frustrated you, what did you look forward to. Did you ever feel like your state wasn't really your home, or has it always felt more like home than Laos did?

3) Relatives. Weddings, birthdays and funerals
Who are some of the aunts and uncles who stood out for you growing up. There are always so many it can be hard to keep track of them all. Many families also had honorary aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, to add to the complexity. But how did those friendships start? Who were some of the cousins you hung around with the most? Who didn't you see too often? Who always seemed to be around?

Family life is often marked by weddings, birthdays and even occasionally funerals. What stood out for you as particularly memorable examples? What bored you?

4) Our children, our future
Here's where you might talk about the role of Lao children in the community. What was it like for you growing up in school. What did you like to study, what were the lessons that really stood out for you that weren't necessarily in the schoolbooks?

Who were some of your best friends? What was the hardest thing for you to wrap your head around, and what were the things that were easy for you to pick up? Who was a teacher who meant a lot to you? Was there ever an incident where a teacher made you feel like you had amazing potential?

Was there a teacher you disliked, and if so, why? What can we do to make things better for our kids in the schools these days that parents might not realize. What can kids do to better speak up for themselves?

5) Faith and moving forward
Lao culture is often connected with buddhism and animism, the idea that everything has a spirit. But there are also Lao christians in the community. What was the church or wat experience like for all of you, or the routine your family tried to follow? Some families, for example, prayed together nightly and went to church or wat on Sundays. What were the religious stories you remembered the most?

What were some of the stories that confused you the most? What was a memorable holiday for you? How would you describe the Lao religious community in your state in general? When was a time it really seemed to come together? What might be a great way for them to really make a difference in building the community in the future?

6) New Years: Resolutions, promises, taking chances
Lao culture is filled with many festivals and occasions for everyone to get together. And many families in the US celebrate 2 new years now, one in April, one on January. In both cases, the big question is: What are you going to remember from the previous year, what are you going to let go of, and what are the types of promises you find yourself making to yourself and to others. What are some of the big chances you took in life? What gave you the courage to try to reach for bigger and better things? What would you recommend for younger people to encourage them to take chances or to deal with people who try to hold you back?

7) Community service: Giving back and not giving up.
At the heart of many Lao customs is the idea of giving back to the community. Of helping others. You'll have talked about this a little in some of the other chapters, but as you've gotten older, what are some of the things you'd like to see more people get involved in to help other Lao and other people around the world. Here, you can talk a little about some of the causes you've enjoyed supporting.

8) Going back
Here's where you'll talk about your first impressions of going back to Laos. Or if you haven’t gone back yet, why or why not. But if you have gone back, what stood out, what are some of the things you think you'll remember most? What are ways of life you found different, what was it like for your other family members.

9) Inspiration and Imagination
Here, you can talk about some of the things you've seen some of the inspirational folks in your life do, and what it would mean for you and others if we had a community that was committed to innovation and imagination, whether it's starting a business, making new discoveries, etc.

10) What next?
This would be a wrap-up, catch-all chapter where you can touch on some of the things that you've thought about over the last two or three years, and what you'd like to do.

As you start to take down more and more notes, a particular story might seem like it should take up more space in your writing. Go ahead, and let it. The idea, from my end, at least, is not to have all of our stories sounding alike.

You’ll find that there are times you’ll need much different chapters. Perhaps you want to dedicate a chapter entirely to the lives of your grandparents, or someone famous in the family. If your aunt has a special way of making Lao beef jerky, or brewing rice whisky, you might want to discuss that so the family doesn’t lose the recipe.

Perhaps you want to take time to share the lessons you learned on the job, or to discuss a time you had to face a serious problem that other Lao might go through, too.

Perhaps you just want to have a collection of your favorite family jokes or your garage band’s top ten New Wave play list. All families are different. But I think in seeing this list, and seeing if you can start to answer at least some of these questions, you’ll get a lot closer to finishing that book for everyone.

Good luck!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

40 years as a US citizen

Today marks my 40th year as a US citizen, when I was naturalized in Missoula, Montana on Flag Day during the American Bicentennial. America had turned 200 years old while I turned 3, having come from a nation just beginning the recovery from a 21-year civil war.

For the most part, I'm going to say things worked out, and we all have a lot left to do. Here's to the best moments that have been and are yet ahead, and the amazing stories we share as a nation. Remember where we've come from, and where it's yet possible to go.

In the words of the late Senator Paul Wellstone, "We all do better when we all do better." Don't let the great work we've done together stop here. Keep going.

We have moments that challenge us to the very firmaments of our soul, our convictions, our faith in our fellow humans, but that does not mean we give up on the very best of our ideals. Let's challenge ourselves, and keep growing.

Shipwreck Smiles Book Release Party: 6/17, Oakland

Lauren Andrei's new book of poetry, Shipwreck Smiles is being released this week at Temescal Studios at 4201 Telegraph Avenue, in Oakland, CA starting at 7PM. 

Shipwreck Smiles is 43 pages long with 21 poems including "The Sea Witch," "Peanut Butte Jelly Demons," and "I Swallowed a Bronze Sun Whole," with a great sense of imagination, spirit, humor, and soul. Brought to you by Blurb, where it regularly goes for $20.

The evening will feature music by DJ Drow Flow, and the suggested donation is: $10-$20 in addition to picking up a copy of her book, of course. You can find out more details at:

Guest Artists in the evening's line-up include: Granny Cart Gangstas • Robin David • Lynnie Abadillia • Taylor Garcia • Kassandra Prindle • Sunshine Rocs • Aureen Almario • TJ Basa • Christine Trowbridge • Sammay Dizon • Morgan Beem • Rizal Adanza • Jessica Rozul • Jed Pasario • Jonah Pavon • Juan G. Beruman • Cesar Sangalang.

As for the author herself?

Lauren Andrei was born to a viraginous, Filipina woman and a green-thumbed Mexican man. She is fire breathing dragon herself. As a young girl, she jumped into the deep end of the pool and starting drowning but the water did not win. She started combating dream demons nightly and developed quite the hero complex. In the waking world, she is a part-time Oncology Nurse, artist and burrito huntress! Incidentally, she believes they are serendipitously connected. She also performs on stage, on film, and is a voiceover talent. She was last seen onstage in Stories High XIV in San Francisco, where she played the lead role of Despina and performs often as part of the all-female sketch comedy troupe Granny Cart Gangstas. You can find her in the ocean, if you can find her at all.

I'm looking forward to many more books from her in the years ahead!

Considering Lao American Manuscripts: How big should they be?

How big does my book need to be?

That was one of the questions that I got asked by several different people throughout the 3rd National Lao American Writers Summit in San Diego. How long do your books and stories needed to be to get published. So, here are a few of my thoughts to start with.

There’s no hard and fast official rule about what constitutes the “correct” length of a story or a book of poetry. A good story should be written long enough to say what it needs to say, not one word more, not one word less. Though, obviously, many of us violate this principle regularly.

There's a particular question for us that emerges as Lao American readers and Lao American writers that should recognize that this is uncharted territory, with some challenges ahead. The standards we establish for ourselves for our preferred style of books and poems may well not be the ones that become popular for our communities in France, Australia, Canada, London, Bangkok, etc. I don't think that will make us less Lao for it, but we'll see who history agrees with in the end.

Thus far, I would say that short fiction, verging on micro-fiction, is the more popular form among Lao writers judging from the work of the late Outhine Bounyavong and his classic Phaeng Mae, Mother's Beloved. Phone-book sized memoirs or folktale collections, not so much. Which I do find interesting, given the Lao literary tradition for a love of epics such as Sinxay or Manola & Sithong, Keo Na Ma or Phra Lak Phra Lam. But then again, look at many of the popular songs in Lao culture, and one would think we've come to a point where we can say a lot in three to five minutes.

In the rest of the literary world, however, here are some possibilities to consider:

Novels: 40,000-50,000 words is usually considered the minimum qualifying threshold. (160 pages). Of course a lot of people get intimidated by the trend of authors to crank out miniature phone-books.

Novellas: 17,500 to 40,000 words, or about 70 to 160 pages.

Novelettes: 7,500 to 17,500 words, or 30 to 70 pages.

Short Stories:
Under 7,500 words. Special categories include drabbles at 100 words, and flash fiction is usually considered under 300 words. A dribble is considered 50 words or less.

A comic book, on the other hand, is typically 32 pages, with about 28 pages of art and story and the rest featuring ads, letters to the editor, and other things the publisher needs to include. Sometimes it includes alternate art, and so on. But that's a conversation that deserves a separate blog post in the future.

When it comes to poetry, I prefer to go by the standards in the US roughly set by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Science Fiction Poetry Association because there are several awards and fellowships that are available to texts that meet these guidelines:

Full-length Poetry Book: 48 pages minimum by the US NEA standard.

Chapbook of Poetry:
10-39 pages.

Long Poem: 50+ lines and/or 500+ words.

Short Poem: Under 50 lines and/or 500+ words.

Children’s book lengths can vary considerably depending on the age group you’re looking at, but roughly speaking, most of the ones our readers are familiar with are well under 32 pages and usually under 400 words. This will change depending on the subject and the author.

Werner Herzog recently reminded me why I dread people who tell me they've written thousands and thousands of pages for their novels and memoirs. Roughly paraphrasing him: "We're not garbage collectors."

Our task is to capture the most stirring and essential imagery and feelings of our imagination and experience and commit them to paper, to film, whatever medium we are working in. We should all loathe the overwritten. A big rookie mistake is thinking you have to kitchen sink your experience, distill it into one book as of it will be your last. If you write like that, it often will be.

But let’s get this conversation going. What are some of your other questions you have about the books you’re thinking of writing, and the types of books you’d like to see?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis arrives

My eagerly-anticipated contributor's copy of Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis arrived this week from my Canadian colleagues, and I've enjoyed what I've read so far from my fellow writers included in the anthology. This includes all-new work from Gord Sellar, Jayaparaksh Satyamurthy and Stefanie Elrick.

Cthulhusattva marks the debut of my poem "The Pearl in the Shadows," which I'm honored to have featured on page one to kick the whole thing off. It's a very nicely done anthology, and I'm finding many interesting ideas and approaches to the Cthulhu Mythos here.

Be sure to get your copy!

From the publisher's description:
"Is there wisdom in insanity? Enlightenment in blackest despair? Higher consciousness in the depths of chaos? These are the stories of the men and women who choose to cast off from the shores of our placid island of ignorance and sail the black seas of infinity beyond. Those who would dive into primeval consciousness in search of dark treasures. Those who would risk the Deadly Light for one reason: it is still light.  
Martian Migraine Press presents fifteen diverse tales of enlightenment and horror from some of the best new voices working in Weird Fiction today. Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis features poetry from Bryan Thao Worra, stories by Gord Sellar, Kristi DeMeester, Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, and the groundbreaking Mythos novella from Ruthanna Emrys, The Litany of Earth. With cover art by Alix Branwyn, interior illustrations by Michael Lee Macdonald, and an introduction by editor Scott R Jones (author of When The Stars Are Right: Towards An Authentic R’lyehian Spirituality), Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis will plunge readers into a seriously entertaining contemplation of the mysticism and magic inherent to Lovecraft’s fantastical world of cosmic horror and dread. Take the Cthulhusattva Vow! Enter the Black Gnosis..."

Kung Fu Zombies vs. Shaman Warrior script reading

8pm (doors open 7:30pm)

This will be a script-reading of a work-in-progress by Lao American playwright Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay. Discussion and reception to follow presentation. Directed by Randy Reyes, featuring Meghan Kreidler, Stephanie Bertumen, Jeannie Bo Beannie Lander, Song Kim, and Eric 'Pogi' Sumangil at Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S. Mpls.

This is a  FREE event but DONATIONS welcome. Concept artwork by Alex Kuno.

[AAPISFF] Heroine Complex coming this July

Coming this summer, I'm looking forward to Sarah Kuhn's Heroine Complex, which looks to be a fun work of Asian American speculative fiction.
Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.  
Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. She’s great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss’s epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants. 
Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea. 
But everything changes when Evie’s forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest secret comes out: she has powers, too. Now it’s up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda’s increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right...or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.

Per her author's bio:

Sarah Kuhn is the author of Heroine Complex—the first in a series starring Asian American superheroines—for DAW Books. She also wrote The Ruby Equation for the comics anthology Fresh Romance and the romantic comedy novella One Con Glory, which earned praise from io9 and USA Today and is in development as a feature film. Her articles and essays on such topics as geek girl culture, comic book continuity, and Sailor Moon cosplay have appeared in Uncanny Magazine, Apex Magazine,,, Back Stage, The Hollywood Reporter,, Creative Screenwriting, and the Hugo-nominated anthology Chicks Dig Comics. In 2011, she was selected as a finalist for the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) New Writers Award. You can visit her at or on Twitter: @sarahkuhn.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Laos in the House recap of the 3rd National Lao American Writers Summit

Catzie Vilayphonh and the folks at Laos in the House did a great video that recaps many of the highlights of the 3rd National Lao American Writers Summit in San Diego this year.

A big thanks to everyone for all of the wonderful memories and the doors we've opened up for each other in the coming years ahead! Can't wait to see what comes together for Seattle!

It meant a lot to us that so many of you came out to see the emerging and established writers and artists in our community, and that we were able to share our experiences and opportunities with one another. One of the highlights of the weekend was seeing March 28th declared Lao American Writers Day by the California Legislature, which also coincided with the birthday of Little Laos on the Prairie founder Chanida Phaengdara Potter.

There were some wonderful conversations on the traditional arts, the new arts, and what is coming up next for everyone, and how we can help. This year we had artists and community builders from California, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Minnesota, Washington, Illinois, Ohio, Hawaii, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Paris, and Washington D.C.

California cities represented included Stockton, Fresno, Merced, Modesto, Dublin, San Francisco, Ukiah, San Diego, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Fullerton, Sacramento, and many others.

I want to give a big personal thanks to everyone who was so supportive of my work, and purchased copies of my book, Tanon Sai Jai from the Sahtu Press table. It was also great to see so much support for so many of my fellow Sahtu Press authors, including Nor Sanavongsay and his children's book A Sticky Mess, and Krysada Panusith Phounsiri's Dance Among Elephants It was wonderful catching up with so many returning friends and new ones.

Overall, over 400 people came by throughout the weekend. Our Summit chair, Krysada Panusith Phounsiri shared his refelctions on the event recently over at Sahtu Press. Little Laos on the Prairie writer Leslie Chanthaphasouk also did a nice write up on the gathering. Hopefully we'll see some more reflections in the weeks ahead. There was a lot to process. Next year, the gathering will convene in Seattle, Washington.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Doxiepunk: Dachshund Adventure of the Week

"You're not going to turn us into Doxenstein!"
Ukiah, CA

June 11th is the bicentennial of the day Mary Shelly wrote the first draft of Frankenstein in 1816, giving birth to the rise of modern science fiction.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Interviewed by the Laotian American National Alliance

I was recently interviewed by the Laotian American National Alliance for their facebook page. I appreciate them taking the time to ask about my work.

When it comes to giving a community a voice, Bryan Thao Worra is quite vocal. He has put Laotian Americans on the map with his prose and poetry and shown the public that good writing can come from our community. Over the years he has worked tirelessly in bringing writing opportunities for anyone interested in becoming a writer. He has not only given them opportunities but advice and encouragement to express themselves through the power of words. 

We would like to introduce you to Mr. Bryan Thao Worra, in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Bryan Thao Worra is an award-winning Lao-American writer. He holds over 20 awards for his poetry and community leadership, including an NEA Fellowship in Literature and is the author of 6 books with writing appearing in over 100 international publications including Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, Germany, France, Singapore, China, Korea, Chile, Pakistan, and across the United States.

Born in 1973 in Vientiane, Laos during the Lao civil war. He came to the US at six months old, adopted by a civilian pilot flying in Laos. He was naturalized in 1976 during the US Bicentennial. In 2003, he reunited with his biological family for the first time in 30 years, who had escaped from Laos to Modesto.

He is the first Lao American professional member of the Horror Writer Association and is an officer of the international Science Fiction Poetry Association. He is the Creative Works Editor of the Journal on Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement. His work is on display at the Smithsonian's national traveling exhibit "I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story." In 2012, he was selected to be a Cultural Olympian during the London Summer Games representing Laos. His 2013 book DEMONSTRA was selected as Book of the Year by the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

Recently, we had an opportunity to ask Bryan a few questions on what he is passionate about, what makes a good leader and so much more. Please take a moment and and read his insightful responses.

1. Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
My adoptive grandmother Ellen Coffee had the most significant impact on my life as a leader. She instilled in me a sense of community service, of independent thinking and exploration, and a pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s own sake. She encouraged me to look things up on my own, to appreciate the arts and culture, and to help others. Without making it too long a story, at the heart of her own experience was respecting the opinions of others but ultimately making her own choices, for what she felt was good for her family and her community. People could be right, and they could also be wrong. And so could we. We weren’t infallible. But we were to work as hard as we could to make the right choices that helped everyone enjoy the best our freedoms had to offer in the United States.

2. What has been your most challenging role? Author? Grant Writer? Community leader? Why?
My most challenging role has been my work in the Lao American publishing community because we are trying to create a culture shift, one that balances a deep love of books with bringing them more actively into our lives. A good book isn’t meant to be purchased and then set on a shelf like a paperweight. But for decades we haven’t had many works in our own words on our own terms, that I often run into many youth and families who don’t know what to do with Lao books when they have them. But this is not an insurmountable position, and I think, over time, we’ll see some truly amazing stories emerge from the next generation.

3. Finish this statement: Successful people…
Embrace both their mistakes and their successes and learn from both. Successful people see issues on a continuum, not as binary propositions.

4. How do you encourage others in your community to follow their passion?
I remind them every expert started out as a beginner. For my students, I particularly emphasize that our roots are not a liability but an opportunity.

5. How can literature be used as a vehicle to transform a community?
Good literature lets us see possibilities within ourselves, it lets us reflect on our histories and gives us something concrete to pass on to the next generation. Laws change, borders change, science changes, people come and go in a thousand ways. But through literature and the arts we have a way of connecting with the dreams, the voices of those who’ve gone before us, what they valued, and what they hoped for us. Literature lets us consider roads not taken, it lets us think of routes ahead, and it connects us to other humans around the world who’ve been on similar journeys of wonder. It is very difficult for a people to grow and change, if they cannot express what they would transform into.

6. What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

An ability to evolve with conviction. A leader has to be open to outcomes, not attached to outcomes, and so they have to develop a set of convictions that allows them to evolve their positions, to compromise, to keep their communities focused on bigger pictures to get everyone ahead of the curve, not just “caught up.”

7. If you could meet any author or poet, who would it be and what question would you ask?
I would be delighted to meet the Lao poets of tomorrow, and ask them to keep reading, and keep writing to the very limits of their imagination.

8. What is the source of inspiration for you when you are writing poetry?
I tend to look at the world around me and I ask myself what hasn’t been written about. And even if something has been written about, I look for the angles we might not have considered. It’s important to challenge narratives, to create options and opportunities for consideration. There are many ways to see the world and to express not only what has been, but what might be.

9. What inspired you to organize the Lao American Writer’s Summit?
Someone told me it was impossible, and no one would ever come.

10. What book made you love reading or inspired you to become a writer yourself?
Growing up in Montana, when I was 3, The New Book of Knowledge encyclopedia set that my family owned was really the start of it all. It occupied me for hours upon hours each day, from the articles on dinosaurs to mythology, history, technology, nature and so much more than that. Some of the images still linger with me four decades later. That’s the power a book can have.

Happy Birthday to On The Other Side Of The Eye

This weekend, on June 10th, we celebrate 10 years of my blog, On The Other Side Of The Eye, which was, of course, ultimately a prelude to my first full-length collection of poetry by the same name.

After a decade, I've written over 2,628 posts here, some more memorable than others. It's been interesting to see which posts stand the test of time, and others where I must have been having an off day, or something. But that's the writing process.

This came out well before I joined facebook. I think I might still have had a Geocities account, an AOL account, and a Myspace site or two. While Blogger has long since been overtaken by other blogging platforms such as Wordpress, etc. I found it to be easy enough to post to, although I haven't done a redesign in a while.

This has been the "Little Blog That Could" with about 505,555 page views when we hit the 10 year milestone. It's not a lot, in the grand scheme of blogs in the world, but I still appreciate that it has built an audience for a blog that connects such unusual topics as Laos, poetry, art, science fiction, horror, dachshunds, non-profits, refugees, and other odd subjects.

At the moment, five of the most popular posts on my blog of all time are:

  1. Superstitions of the Lao Tradition
  2. William Blake, Orc and Blade Runner
  3. The Mongolian Death Worm
  4. Creature Feature Short Take: The Aswang
  5. Wild Men of Asia and Poets
Go figure.

In my first year I posted 142 times, and in 2013, I posted 399 times. So I'm getting about 262 posts a year on this bog, which isn't bad, when you're juggling all of the different things in a poet's life. The first year was filled with posts about all sorts of things from issues of Anti-Asian violence to the odd campaign of Sharkey the Impaler for President. The anthology Outsiders Within had been released, sharing the voices of transracial adoptees. Bakka Magazine launched for what would be a short run, but it was a learning experience. 

During my first year blogging, I included a shout out to Mr. Hoy Wong, New York's longest working bartender, who turned 90 at the time and eventually retired in 2009. It was the year that veteran Japanese American actor Mako passed away, while at the same time we saw the introduction of Kung Fu Panda, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior and DC Comic's the Great 10, a band of Asian superheroes who don't make many appearances anymore. 2006 also marked the year we found the Laotian Rock Rat, which I thought was pretty cool.

In the aftermath of the 3rd National Lao American Writers Summit in San Diego in addition to my recent class I taught at Kearny Street Workshop, I guess the question that comes to mind is: Does blogging help your creative writing process? Is it necessary, professionally? 

For me, the answer is yes. This isn't to say that it hasn't been painful looking at many of my older posts, but I think it's important to commit to a blog well to keep in practice, while also having a reasonable secure space to keep your writing available, as well as a marker of the progress you're making.

From a professional point of view, I've used it as a way to share poems that would have a difficult time finding an audience with a mainstream or even an AAPI journal. It allowed me to repost some of my older poems with new images, illustrations, annotations, or whatever, just to experiment with new ways it might be presented. I've been able to keep much better track of my publications as well as my presentations, which was an incredible pain back when I was trying things the hard way with websites on AOL and Geocities.

One bit of advice I would absolutely recommend: Don't be afraid to give a shoutout to others who are writing or to shine a light on the good work they're doing. It's healthy and energizing. And it's important for us to keep bringing a great positivity into the world, even as we also challenge whatever issues have emerged at any given point in time.

Looking back on this blog 10 years later, I also appreciate being able to see a lot of my reactions with the perspective of time. Sometimes I still agree with that young man, other times, I would certainly say, "lighten up."

For a time, I tried keeping things on the blogs of Myspace and Facebook, but Myspace lost at least three of my blogs after several months, and that got incredibly frustrating. So, I began using this somewhat redundant approach, posting things on this blog, in addition to backup reposts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Wordspace, or whatever seemed appropriate.

You never know how long you're going to have your data, right now. Maybe Yahoo will buy it out. Maybe someone else. Maybe Yahoo will get bought out. Maybe someone else. 

I backed up many of my old interviews and reviews I had posted up at Asian American Press and other newspapers because I'd like to think they'll be around for ever, but I lost a few good articles in the past because of server switches, calamitous fires, rampaging kaiju, visiting nieces, etc.

There are days I've felt like scrapping the whole blog, and other days where I realize it's ok to have a space where we share the various scraps and snippets of our lives. To create a point where maybe, just maybe, someone is searching for their roots, or an opinion on this or that. A blog like this shouldn't be taken as the end-all, last word on any particular matter, but I hope, at its best, it can add to the conversation.

It's more than possible to be a successful writer without a blog, without sharing works in progress, etc. But if you only show things when they're "fully-formed" and "perfect" I suspect you, and your readers will miss out on some very interesting moments. 

In any case, thank you all for reading this blog whenever you do, and I hope it's been entertaining. I look forward to sharing many more posts with you in the next decade ahead!

Thursday, June 09, 2016

1984 and National Best Friends Day

The irony that National Best Friends Day is on the anniversary of the day George Orwell published 1984 is hilarious.

 Best Friend Is Watching You.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

2016 National Lao American Writers Summit Keynote highlights and notes

There’s always a lot of information we try to convey in a short amount of time during a National Lao American Writers Summit, since our very first one in 2010. As one of this year’s keynote speakers, what follows is NOT the verbatim transcript, but my primary notes to my conversation with everyone, in addition to relevant parts of additional one-on-one discussions I had with many of you throughout the weekend.

It can often feel as if there’s a significant culture of non-expectation for our creators and artists. I feel it is important for our younger emerging writers and artists to see that there is indeed a space for a Lao American voice in MANY spaces of creative endeavors. I am but one voice among many Lao writers and artists in today’s world. But I hope my path thus far has demonstrated there is opportunity for the Lao American imagination to contribute meaningfully to the global world of arts and letters, not only in the U.S.

 This is not to say the road is easy, or without challenge. We can not take any progress for granted. But for any of my young students, past or present, who’ve ever felt diminished or discouraged, who’ve felt a sense of impossibility or marginalization at the prospect of sharing their voices with the world, I hope you’ll all see: It’s possible.

Persevere. Dare. Reach for the best within yourself, and all living beings.

I hope throughout this Summit that you’ll see, in a very real application, the wonders that are possible when we allow ourselves to encourage and treasure the many different possibilities of being Lao in the world. That a Lao identity is NOT a binary “yes/no”, “pure/impure” proposition, but a continuum of approaches: Some days we’ll do things in a very “traditional” style, but another time, our traditions are a starting compass by which we might determine our next path in otherwise uncharted territory.

 If we do not find ways to celebrate an inclusive model that allows for many different possibilities and ideas to be discussed, we shall not thrive for long as a culture in the centuries ahead.

My own story is a complicated one, but it has been a journey made stronger by an unrelenting commitment to the arts. One that stems from an enduring belief that the arts can change worlds, especially for the Lao. That idea drives me. That the Lao have a story worth telling.

Ours is NOT the only story, but it is still one with meaning, with lessons for this generation and the next. It is my belief that there are many ways to be Lao and that we will all grow stronger by finding a space in our lives for many of each other’s stories, our ideas, our hopes and dreams.

For me, growing up in the 1970s and 80s, there were nearly no books about the Lao experience. Even forty years later, there have been fewer than 40 books in our own words, on our own terms. For a community of nearly 260,000+, I rejected the idea it had to stay this way.

So I began to write.

I began to add my voice to the great tapestry of words, images, and ideas. This was a tremendous moment because people started to listen. But more importantly, I also learned that I was not alone. There were others, such as the members of the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project, and others who heard the call of the artists path. Many of them are gathering here with you today. They also sought to share their stories. I’m one of many who’ve been asked, “who are you, to tell your story?” to which I ask you: “who are you, NOT to tell your story?”

We need our artists and culture builders to have the courage to give our children a future they can see themselves in. And not just one path, but many.

San Diego was selected as the site for the very first Lao American Writers Summit held outside of Minnesota for many reasons. It is a city with a deep history for the Lao community in its resettlement, with a growing body of emerging writers and artists in many disciplines, including a recent cohort of Lao American playwrights representing a wide range of backgrounds and artistic priorities. Some want to address education, others health, others social justice and women’s issues. And we all grow stronger for these many stories being created and shared with one another.

I think it’s important to be clear, that as we all began writing, this was not a perfect process. No one was born an expert in the arts or in community building.There were mistakes, missed lessons and opportunities but it was still something. It was a very real seed of hope. Sometimes this feels like the Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” So now, that we’ve come together, what next?

At the heart of my work has been a desire to honor the memory of those who came before, and to imagine and share our inner lives with each other. But more importantly, I have felt it necessary for us to avoid the trap of monolithic thinking, that urge to create lockstep uniformity of opinion. There was nothing I hated more than people speaking of Lao culture in abstract, absolute terms. How can our next generation connect to that? We all need to be in a deeper conversation with this premise.

We must appreciate that culture changes. Culture is dynamic. And culture is something we all contribute to. I think it’s important to appreciate that for 600 years we have had many opportunities to not “be Lao.” We faced civil war, occupation, Lao flung to the farthest corners of the world, yet time and time again, we chose to remain a people.

Our food is one thing, as is our language, or our beliefs and traditions. But ask yourselves: How will your children truly know each other? I often think long and hard on this matter. Much of my writing came in part from a concern that if I don’t write the stories of my family down, then one day my children, my nieces and nephews would have to learn the stories of who they were from strangers.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Often, however, in the US, a certain toxic mindset has taken hold among refugee families who’ve been conditioned to think their stories aren’t of interest, or their English isn’t good enough, or they don’t speak Lao well enough or understand all of the Lao traditions. We have to reject that thinking, that somehow, we do not have permission to try and tell our stories if we do not have “perfect” English or an encyclopedic knowledge of Lao culture.

We need to see the importance of trying, of daring to risk, to create something, anything. Give yourselves permission to make “mistakes” and to learn from those, to move forward from those. Contrary to what many of us are often told, if you expect only perfection from yourself with every piece of art, every moment on stage, you will not endure long in the arts, and our culture will lose far too many voices in exchange for the few “perfect” pieces that come forward from such a mindset.

In our rebuilding, we need a culture that dares to risk, to give voice to our true opinions, to dare to say our memories, our dreams, too, matter.

For our youth in attendance engaged with our classical arts, I ask you to start thinking ahead now. Ask yourselves not only which songs, which dances will you preserve and share with your own children and grandchildren, but what might your generation add to the Lao American repertoire? How will you continue this great conversation we’ve all been a part of in the decades yet to come?

I want to take a brief pause for a moment of silence, however, to recognize those who’ve been a part of our journey but who have passed along the way, including many of our strongest supporters of this gathering and our community. Pom Outama Khampradith, Joy Elliot, Allan Kornblum, Keon Enoy Munedouang, Fred Branfman, and many others we hold in our memory.

As a writer, it’s not easy to say this, but it should still be said, so that you all understand that an artist’s journey is never without challenges. Over the years, I’ve been bullied, insulted, dismissed, criticized, and ignored. But I still wrote. I persisted, even when I was told by others not to call myself Lao, when I was informed that I would end up in a literary ghetto at best, and no one would even be interested in the Lao story.

There were those who told me that our time as a people with anything to say was done. Tragically, some of the people who told me these sorts of things were Lao.

Standing here today among my fellow writers, artists and community builders, I assure you, it’s ok to reject such negativity. I assure you: There is more work yet to be done. Expect great things of yourself. Persist. Add you voice. Hold the door for those who share your journey. Hold the door, transform worlds.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

New poem accepted for Water~Stone Review

My poem, "An Exchange in Ukiah, CA 2557," has been accepted by Water~Stone Review for publication in their next issue. More details to follow, shortly.

Water~Stone Review is a literary annual published by the The Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University. The review publishes work in all genres as well as essay/reviews and writers’ interviews. Features include three contests and photography curated by students at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Saturday, June 04, 2016

New poem accepted by Jewish Mexican Literary Review

I'm happy to announce that my haiku set "Roboku 2558" will be included in the forthcoming premiere issue of the Jewish Mexican Literary Review. More details to follow soon! It sounds like it will be a very fun and quirky journal, and I wish them much success in the years ahead!

2 New poems accepted by Dark Discoveries Magazine

Received news that my poems, "A Distant Sound of War," and "Chimarine" have been accepted by Dark Discoveries Magazine for their military-themed issue later this year.

A big thanks to the editors there! More details to follow in the near future.

Dark Discoveries is an internationally distributed, quarterly formerly published by Dark Discoveries Publications, and now published by Journalstone, LLC. It focuses primarily on the horror fiction, dark fantasy, and science fiction genres. The magazine's content includes short fiction, interviews, nonfiction articles, profiles of industry notables, and is fully illustrated.