Sunday, May 22, 2016

Anime North 2016: my schedule

Anime North, Toronto's largest fun-run anime convention, is almost upon us. Once again, I'll be speaking at the following panels:

Friday at 2000 (8:00 pm) in Hamilton (International Plaza Hotel): Getting Published: Self or Traditional?

Friday at 2100 (9:00 pm) in Hamilton Room (International Plaza Hotel):
Writers' Autograph Session A

Sunday at 1100 (11:00 am) in Hamilton Room (International Plaza Hotel):
World and Characters Building

Sunday at 1300 (1:00 pm) in Hamilton (International Plaza Hotel):
Writers' autograph Session B

Sunday at 1500 (3:00 pm) in Hamilton (International Plaza Hotel):
How to Impress or Annoy Editors

AlliterAsian: Twenty Years of Ricepaper Magazine book signing in Toronto, Tuesday, May 24, 2016

AlliterAsian: Twenty Years of Ricepaper Magazine will have a Toronto book signing at the Richard Charles Lee Hong Kong-Canada Library, in the Robarts Library, 8 th floor, University of Toronto, 130 St. George Street, on Tuesday, May 24, 2016, at 6:00 p.m. Joy Kogawa, Sky Lee, Terry Watada, and I will be there.

AlliterAsian is an anthology of articles, interviews, and fiction from Ricepaper, the major magazine of Asian Canadian art and culture. It republishes my story "It Came to Eat Our Chicken Wings", about a Chinese American Hooters Girl who meets an alien at a car show, originally published in Ricepaper in 2002.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Ad Astra 2016 Schedule

My schedule of events at Ad Astra Science Fiction Convention, at the Sheraton Parkway North Toronto Hotel in Richmond Hill, Ontario:

Friday, April 29, 2016, 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm:
Diversity and Equality in Cosplaying - Markham B
What are some important considerations to take into account when cosplaying to recognize diversity and equality? In recent years, cross-race or gender costuming has become more common, but it can have many pitfalls. Learn how to avoid the most common mistakes that lead to problematic cosplaying and be respectful, but also how to think outside the box in ways that challenge notions of traditional cosplay. With: Lady Di, Todd Clark.

Saturday, April 30, 2016, 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Star Trek: The First Fandom - Markham A
These days it's easy to forget that there's one science fiction and fantasy property that you can trace the entirety of fandom - convention culture, fanfiction, message boards and online discussion, and celebrity worship, among other things - back to. It's Star Trek, which is this year celebrating it's 50th anniversary. What was it about Star Trek that drew fans into it's orbit in a way that no other science fiction or fantasy universe had before? Why has Star Trek seemed to have lost it's centrality to fan communities even as fandom itself has begun to dominate mainstream media and lifestyles? Let's talk about and celebrate Star Trek and it's place in fandom history. - See more at:
These days it's easy to forget that there's one science fiction and fantasy property that you can trace the entirety of fandom - convention culture, fanfiction, message boards and online discussion, and celebrity worship, among other things - back to. It's Star Trek, which is this year celebrating it's 50th anniversary. What was it about Star Trek that drew fans into it's orbit in a way that no other science fiction or fantasy universe had before? Why has Star Trek seemed to have lost it's centrality to fan communities even as fandom itself has begun to dominate mainstream media and lifestyles? Let's talk about and celebrate Star Trek and it's place in fandom history. With: Anatoly Belilovski, Cathy Hird, Derwin Mak

Saturday, April 30, 2016, 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Diverse SFF Islamophobia and the War of the Worlds - Newmarket
World governments are lining up to intervene in Syria; the refugee crisis in the Middle East and North Africa has provoked a surge in Islamophobia in the West; and veterans and victims of the 'war on terror' are contending with life-changing injuries. This panel discusses the role SFF can play in disrupting the media myth of a 'clash of civilizations'. Can SFF help challenge the way race and religion are used to demonize others and perpetuate geopolitical conflicts? When human rights concerns over disability, gender and sexual orientation are marshaled as arguments to go to war, can - or should - SFF reflect and re-frame these debates? With: Cathy Hird,  Jane Ann McLachlan, Naomi Foyle

Saturday, April 30, 2016, 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Saturday Evening Science Fiction Reading - Oakridge
Hear me read an excerpt from my new story "Songbun". I share this time slot with Alyx Dellamonica, Kelly Robson, and Madeline Ashby.

Sunday, May 1, 2016, 10:00 am - 11:00 am

What Can Your DNA Tell You? - Newmarket
So companies like 23andMe now offer average Canadians the ability to better understand their own genetic information, to learn something about themselves from their DNA. But how is this useful? Healthcare professionals have expressed concerns about decisions people could make based on risks of diseases or illnesses that lie in their genetic information. Others are fascinated by what it can tell us about family lineages and history. This panel is a place to discuss the implications of what our DNA can teach us and the value in knowing, and the things that this technology might offer us in the future. With: JF Garrard.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

SFContario 2015: My Schedule

I'll be at SFContario, a science fiction convention at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, at 300 Jarvis Street in downtown Toronto, this weekend (November 20-23, 2015). Here is my schedule of events:

Mass Autograph Signing - Friday, 8 PM, Ballroom C / the Hallway

Science Fiction in China- Saturday 12 PM, Courtyard

Science fiction is booming in China as the country experiences unprecedented economic growth, an increasingly liberal society, and a new space program. Derwin Mak shows an illustrated presentation of the history of science fiction in China, its new writers, what’s being published there, and the growth of the largest SF fandom community in the world. Derwin Mak.

Fantasy in the Rest of the World - Saturday 2 PM, Room 209

Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and South America are fertile foundations for medieval fantasy, but most of what’s out there is based on European traditions and myths. Who is doing the best at exploring other areas? What other cultures and histories offer opportunities for the aspiring writer?
Saladin Ahmed, Cathy Hird, Derwin Mak(M), Rati Mehrotra, Bob R. Milne;

Properly Praising Your Panelist - Saturday 6 PM, Room 209

We've all seen and/or dealt with rude/obnoxious/abusive panelists and audience members at cons, but are there any guidelines for how to deal with such issues appropriately? The moderator who really doesn't want a particular panelist to speak; the audience member who interrupts a panelist, and the panelists who condone it; the programming co-ordinator who insists that pro panelists jump through ridiculous hoops to do what they came to do. What can we do?
Beverly Bambury, Derwin Mak, Matt Moore;

Reading - Saturday 8 - 8:30 PM, Room 207

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Vote for "Mecha-Jesus" in the Aurora Awards

My story "Mecha-Jesus" is on the ballot for Best Short Fiction - English in the Aurora Awards. "Mecha-Jesus" is a story about a Japanese town that uses an android of Jesus as a tourist attraction. It was published in Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen, edited by Liana Kerzner and Jerome Stueart.
You can vote in the Aurora Awards if you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
If you are already a member of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA), "Mecha-Jesus" is in your voter's package. You can also read or download it free here online during the voting period:

Members of the CSFFA may vote in the Aurora Awards. It costs only $10 to join the CSFFA. To join the CSFFA and vote, or if you are already a member and wish to vote, go to:
The voting deadline is  Saturday, October 17th 2015 at midnight EDT. Read "Mecha-Jesus", and if you like it, please vote for it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The 10 People You Will Always See At Fan Expo (or Any Large Comic Con)

Fan Expo, Canada's largest exhibition for fans of media and gaming-based science fiction and fantasy, has come and gone for another year. If you've gone to Fan Expo or other major "comic cons" of its type for a few years, you will notice the same types of people over and over. Here, in no particular order, are ten people you will always see at Fan Expo.

1. The B-Actor

He will never walk the red carpet at Cannes or TIFF or Sundance, but at Fan Expo, he's treated like a superstar because geeks remember him from a TV show that was cancelled years ago. It's great that he has fans who remember him. He has given them some of their best geek memories; now they can repay him by honouring him (and by buying autographs and photo ops).

Alas, he's still petitioning his show's creators to revive the show thirty years later. He doesn't realize that if a reboot occurs, it'll have a new cast who is 30 years younger than him.

2. The Purist

The Purist is usually male, though rare exceptions exist. This is the guy who hates Johnny Storm being black in the 2015 Fantastic Four movie, is horrified that the Hulk will be Korean American, and condemns the Kamala Khan Miss Marvel as "political correctness" imposed by SJW's (Social Justice Warriors). He argues that all these changes are heresies against "canon". To him, fictional universes should remain unchanged forever, never to be re-interpreted, as immutable as Holy Scriptures.

Yet he'll be first in line to get an autograph from Katie Sakhoff, whom he thinks was great as Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica.

3. The White Guy with the Asian Fetish

He's here because many anime cosplayers are East Asian women, thanks to Toronto's multicultural society. He constantly talks about how much he loves "Asian" culture and "Asian" women as if China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines are all one homogenous society. He fantasizes about showing the Chinese girl how much he loves her culture by taking her out for kimchi and watching anime with her.

But despite how much he loves Asian women, he will NEVER vote for Olivia Chow.

4. The Jealous Cosplayer

This is usually a woman. The Jealous Cosplayer rants that Heroes of Cosplay doesn't portray "the community" accurately and that not everyone is a celebrity like Yaya Han and that the show's producers have ignored and insulted the majority of cosplayers. She sounds like she's criticizing a reality show for not being a documentary.

In reality, she's just jealous that she's not on it.

5. The Fake Geek Boy

This is the photographer who has no interest in science fiction, fantasy, horror, comics, or games, yet he always comes to Fan Expo to take photographs of attractive female cosplayers. He thinks Fan Expo is better than the CHIN Bikini Contest because Fan Expo runs for four days, not just one afternoon. He's not interested in the costumes at all; he's just interested in what's inside the costume.

But although some men question a woman's "geek cred" at science fiction conventions, no one will challenge a Fake Geek Boy's geek cred because he is a man with a long telephoto lens.

6. The Male Photographer of Females Cosplayers Only

This person is NOT to be confused with the Fake Geek Boy (see #5). This photographer has extensive geek cred, for example, by knowing every version of the costumes of Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Psylocke, and other female characters. That's because he photographs only female cosplayers. If there's a cosplay pair that belongs together, for example, Little Mac and Zero Suit Samus, he'll ask the male to step aside and photograph only the female.

Guys, it's okay to take photographs of male cosplayers. Nobody is going to think you don't like girls.

7. The Browncoat

This is often a woman, though not always. She thinks Joss Whedon is the greatest writer and TV show producer ever. She gets angry if you say that Buffy is a poor role model for women because the vampire slayer always wants abusive relationships with handsome bad boys. She rationalizes the lack of Asian characters on Firefly as some sort of post-racial utopia. She doesn't realize that Firefly is a sci-fi version of the Lost Cause myth of the Confederate States of America. She seriously thinks Joss Whedon is a feminist.

Browncoats talks about Joss Whedon in the same way that evangelical Christians talk about Jesus. Both teams are smug in their superiority but preach for different gods.

8. The Bored Boyfriend

This is the guy who's always saying, "How long do we have to stay in line?", "What are we lining up for?", "Who cares about a photo op?", and "This stuff is all so stupid" to his girlfriend when they're in line. As he waits in line with her, he's thinking of how he can convert his girl away from this geeky stuff and make her normal, the perfect girlfriend who will serve beer and wings to him as he watches baseball.

He's upset because his girlfriend hasn't learned the first rule of relationships: girls are supposed accompany their guys and do things that interest the guys, but guys have no obligation to accompany their girls and do things that interest girls.

9. The Anti-Intellectual

This person is often male, though females exist but are not as outspoken. The Anti-Intellectual brags that he would rather watch science fiction than read it. If he reads anything, it's comics. There's nothing wrong with preferring movies, TV, and comics over novels and short stories. But the Anti-Intellectual brags about his disdain for books (except graphic novels) as if it makes him cool. He thinks he's a geek version of a hipster. Don’t bother talking to this guy about intersectionality in Nalo Hopkinson's stories. The most profound literary theme he can understand is that Bruce Wayne has psychological problems because Joker killed his parents.

Alas, the Anti-Intellectual is a symptom of how science fiction fandom has become like the general public. Remember, Toronto is the city that elected Rob Ford as Mayor.

10. The Blue Jays Fan

This person can be either male or female. He or she is not actually attending Fan Expo but passing by the convention centre on his/her way to the baseball game (There's ALWAYS a Blue Jays game on during Fan Expo).

The Blue Jays Fan often thinks that people who wear costumes are silly. He or she will make this judgement while wearing a baseball jersey with the name and number of a favourite player on its back.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

I Gave Vox Day What He Wanted, But It Backfired On Him

I don't usually tell why I didn't vote for a particular story on the Hugo Awards ballot, but this time, I will. The reason: the novelette "Opera Vita Aeterna" became the catalyst for the Rabid and Sad Puppies controversy at the Hugo Awards of 2015.

There are already many articles online about the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, so I won't repeat the news of the 2015 Hugo Awards controversy. Many of these articles give the impression that the Puppies only recently succeeded in getting their nominees on the ballot, but they had already scored a smaller victory a year earlier. "Opera Vita Aeterna", written by Vox Day, leader of the Rabid Puppies, got onto the 2014 ballot. It was the first time that most science fiction fans had heard of Vox Day. They soon discovered his racist, misogynist and homophobic rants against liberals, minorities, immigrants, women, feminists, Moslems, Jews, and LGBT persons.

The victory was short-lived, though. "Opera Vita Aeterna" did not win the Hugo. This loss seems to have whipped Vox Day, his Rabid Puppies, and the allied Sad Puppies into action. The Puppies had existed before 2014, but it wasn't until "Opera Vita Aeterna" lost after coming so close to winning a Hugo that Puppy outrage coalesced into the successful bloc nominations of 2015.

The leaders of both Puppy campaigns complain (ostensibly, at first) that science fiction fans and writers vote for stories based on the political ideas of their authors, not on the merits of the stories themselves. The Puppies view the science fiction community as dominated by the Left: liberals, leftists, feminists, atheists, ethnic minorities, immigrants, non-white people, and LGBT people. They also think the Left is preventing stories by conservative, white men from winning science fiction awards.

Readers should vote for the stories themselves, not their authors' political opinions, argued the Puppies. This is a noble sentiment; who can disagree when the purpose of literary awards is to recognize the quality of work, not the personal opinions of the authors?

However, the Puppies' grievances were flawed. George R.R. Martin, in his blog post, "Where's the Beef?", shows that stories by conservative, white men actually do get nominated or win the Hugo Awards much more frequently than the Puppies allege, including in recent years. White males, including conservative ones, are certainly not endangered in the science fiction community.

Certainly, stories by more diverse writers have won awards in recent years, but white males still continue to dominate the genre. Nonetheless, the Puppies feel threatened, which happens easily to them. It's my experience with Puppy types that they view just two Alien Others as a massive, hostile invasion (The optimum level of Alien Others is one, who serves as a token that the Puppies can use to claim that they are not really racist or sexist or homophobic.).

It also became apparent later that the Puppies' noble philosophy of literary quality was but a smokescreen for their true intentions. After the 2015 ballot was announced, they soon abandoned their pleas to judge stories on their own merits. Now they said that they were fighting for "ideological diversity" (in Brad Torgersen's words in his blog post "Flaming Rage Nozzles of Tolerance"). In other words, they finally admitted that they thought that the author's ideology mattered more than the story.

That is the 2015 controversy. In 2014, "Opera Vita Aeterna" caused some angst among the science fiction fans and writers who care about the Hugo Awards. How could a story written by such an odious person come so close to winning our genre's most prestigious award (Well, I personally think that the Nebulas are our most prestigious award, but mine's is a minority opinion)? Some people declared that they would not read his novelette, assuming that it would be filled with his offensive opinions. Of course, Vox Day wore these criticisms like a badge of honour and frequently blogged that the Left was bullying him.

But I gave Vox Day what he said he wanted. I read all the stories in the novelette category before voting. I judged all the novelettes on their own merits, not by their authors.

Alas, it backfired for Vox Day. I found his story to be worst in the lot.

What "Opera Vita Aeterna" Isn't and Is

First, let's deal with the elephant in the room. Is "Opera Vita Aeterna" racist, misogynist, homophobic, or fascist? Despite its author's reputation, "Opera Vita Aeterna" is not a rant against liberals, minorities, immigrants, women, feminists, Moslems, Jews, LGBT, or any of Vox Day's targets. I know that some people say that no story is completely free of influence of its author, and I agree to an extent. But I also think that the amount of an author's personal opinions in a story can vary considerably from author to author and from story to story by the same author.

Unlike his blog, Vox Day's "Opera Vita Aeterna" is free of his controversial ideas. The story takes place in a fantasy world based on medieval Europe (How original. Yes, that was sarcasm). An elf named Bessarias of Elebrion shows up at a monastery of the human monks of the Ordo Sancti Dioscuri, a thinly-veiled Roman Catholic order. The human monks have little reason to like Bessarias, who describes himself as the most powerful sorcerer in the area. Indeed, humans and elves disdain and dislike each other over cultural and religious differences. Nonetheless, the monks give him food and lodging as they would with any other traveller in the harsh winter.

Bessarias, originally only a temporary guest waiting for the weather to get better, extends his stay repeatedly. He eventually becomes a permanent resident of the monastery. Although he does not convert to the human religion, he spends his time copying and illuminating religious manuscripts for the monastery's archives. He also befriends Father Waleran, the Abbott of the Order. Occasionally, Bessarias and Waleran discuss theology over a glass of wine.

Vox Day's interest in theology, especially the Roman Catholic type, is obvious in this story. The author's own personal ideas and interests do influence the story but not in the way that many people had thought.

But What About the Story?

I like religious-themed science fiction and fantasy stories. My own stories revolve around Roman Catholic, Christian, Shinto, and Buddhist themes. But I didn't enjoy "Opera Vita Aeterna".

First, the story lacks any tension or conflict. Bessarias, apparently a powerful sorcerer, never practices his magic and never threatens to do so, and therefore, doesn't conflict with the human monks, who abhor elvish sorcery. Why introduce two opposing forces when they simply agree to do nothing for the whole story?

The characters really don't have any conflict at all. They spend their time discussing wine and theology and manuscript illumination. Nobody strongly disagrees with anyone. Nobody threatens anyone. Nobody betrays anyone.

There is a demon named Mastema, who appears in the form of cute woodland creatures such as a fox, squirrel, or rabbit. Mastema goes to the gate of the monastery from time to time to ask Bessarias to return to the elf city. Bessarias says no, and Mastema leaves until the next time. That's all Mastema does. The demon is hardly demonic. A racoon overturning a garbage can would be more threatening.

The Greatest Sin of All

Secondly, the story's ending has no relationship to the rest of the story. After the characters have spent years of tasting wine, talking about theology, and illuminating manuscripts, the story ends in violence that isn't caused by any of the characters or by any of the plot events that preceded it. The ending is a deus ex machina that simply occurs to get rid of some characters and end the narrative. Actually, the ending doesn't really qualify as a deus ex machina because a deus ex machina is supposed to resolve a conflict, and no conflict had been brewing in this story.

(To say more about the ending would be a spoiler.).

An ending that simply happens, with no causal relationship to the preceding plot, is an error made by a beginning writer. I expected better from a Hugo-nominated story. The other stories didn't commit this sin of storytelling. So I voted for one of the other novelettes.

Left, Right, or Hybrid

If Vox Day or any Puppies are reading this blog post, they are probably searching for information about me, looking for evidence of leftist, liberal, politically-correct, social justice warrior mentality. For all their talk about judging stories by literary merit, the Puppies have never discussed the literary qualities of stories by liberal authors (or authors whom they have branded as liberals). Instead, they constantly criticize the authors for their political ideas.

I edited The Dragon and the Stars, the first anthology of science fiction and fantasy by overseas Chinese authors, and some of my stories have had Chinese characters. I have challenged white male authors who insist that they should continue labelling minorities with names such as "Negro", "Wog", "Chinaman", and "Indian" (for Native Americans) because such terms were "socially acceptable in the past," despite such terms never being socially acceptable for the people whom they described. I'm sure that the Puppies consider these acts to be politically-correct, anti-white liberalism.

I turned Jesus into a teenaged girl and sent her shopping for lingerie and clothes in my novel The Moon Under Her Feet. I'm sure that the Puppies will consider my novel to be an attack on Christianity. If they bother to read the novel, they would think otherwise, though.

Finally, I was an author guest (albeit a minor one) at Gaylacticon when it was held in Toronto. I also entered the masquerade contest as Dick Cheney on Brokeback Mountain (a story for another time). I'm sure that the Puppies will consider these antics to be social justice warmongering.

But, alas, the truth about me is much more complex. A few left-wing Canadian authors and editors have criticized me for attending the occasional Roman Catholic mass voluntarily because, in their opinion, any person of a Christian faith is an intolerant, backwards bigot. Fortunately, these haters are few, but they are vocal online.

My story "Cloned to Kill" received the Catholic Writers Guild's Seal of Approval, as did all the stories in the anthology Infinite Space, Infinite God II, thanks to our editor. The Catholic Writers Guild thinks that "Cloned to Kill" promotes Catholic ideas, and it does, on the nature of humanity and the meaning of baptism. However, left-wing authors and editors usually don't apply for the Catholic Writers Guild's Seal of Approval.

Then there's the medal of a Grand Associate of Brother Andre that I received from St. Joseph's Oratory, a large basilica in Montreal. It's not a Papal decoration, but it's not anything awarded at Wiscon either.

My interest in military history has also raised some eyebrows with some left-wing Canadian authors. I'm a vice-chair of the Library Committee of the Royal Canadian Military Institute. Interesting trivia: I was one of two persons who wore a dress uniform at the Hugo Awards night at Chicon in 2012. The other person was the future Sad Puppy Brad Torgersen, in his U.S. Army Reserve dress blue uniform. He might not remember me, but we chatted briefly about our respective uniforms in the hallway outside the SFWA Suite. I wore my St. John Ambulance mess dress uniform.

Finally, I'm a member of the Monarchist League of Canada. One science fiction writer, whose ideas tend towards Trotskyism, really dislikes my support of Queen Elizabeth II. Never mind that supporters of the monarchy come from all across the political spectrum; if you’re a Trotskyite, monarchism is fascism. Thankfully, Trotskyites are a dying breed of Communist.

To any Puppy who is preparing to declare my review of "Opera Vita Aeterna" to be a liberal rant against Vox Day and therefore invalid: muzzle it. I'm neither Left nor Right. I'm Hybrid. We exist too.

To Vox Day, if you are reading this: I really wanted to like "Opera Vita Aeterna" because of its monks and monastery and pseudo-Catholic setting. But ultimately, I thought it failed from a weak plot and an ending that isn't related to the preceding events. But I gave you what you said you wanted. It's not my fault that it backfired on you.

Your novelette's loss had nothing to do with you being a white, conservative male. The science fiction and fantasy community is a vast tent with many groups within it, and every group has made remarkable contributions to the literature. That includes conservative, white men. Conservative, white men have written some of the best science fiction and fantasy stories of all time.

Alas, "Opera Vita Aeterna" is not one of them.