Tuesday, October 04, 2016

1,356,976,800 Seconds Old (Approximately)

I turned 43 years old this past Saturday. We celebrated without much fanfare, and that was by choice: I guess I'm now on the even-numbered-birthdays-blowout plan, after the big Trek puzzle hunt for my 40th and the karaoke extravagana for my 42nd.

But despite being low-key, we did manage to pack in quite a few things:

One week before my actual birthday, I livetweeted my binge-rewatch of the first season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the best damn show on television. See my Storify for #CXB43.

The night before my birthday, I gathered some friends for drinks and dinner at the Multnomah Whiskey Library, followed by dessert at Petunia's Pies & Pastries.

On my actual birthday, D and I had breakfast (featuring waffles!) at Gigi's Cafe. Then I met some friends to do "Kidnapped!" at Portland Escape Rooms, which we did escape, taking just six minutes longer than the current record time. We rounded out the evening with Bridget Quigg's one-woman comedy show Techlandia at Funhouse Lounge, and filled the intervening hours with stops at two different McMenamins.

On Sunday, we dragged our friend Darla to the Portland Art Museum, where among other things, we saw this camel. Then we stopped at Lapellah for happy hour.

Finally, on Monday, we met another friend for dim sum and chatted about escape rooms and general puzzling.

Is that an accurate snapshot of my life right now? More or less. It doesn't encompass any work activities (writing, freelancing, etc.), but otherwise these are pretty much the things we love doing: hanging out with friends, watching shows, eating and drinking, and playing games. Not necessarily in that order.


Friday, September 09, 2016

Saturday Night's Alright for #WritersWithDrinks

September's Writers With Drinks includes multi-award-winning author Anuradha Roy. Plus survival poetry, kickass comedy, and tons of science fiction and fantasy!

When: Saturday, September 10 from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, doors open 6:30 PM
Who: Anuradha Roy, Margaret Wappler, Hollie Hardy, Naamen Tilahun, Dominique Gelin and Curtis Chen!
How much: $5 to $20, all proceeds benefit the CSC
Where: The Make Out Room, 3225 22nd. St., San Francisco, CA

About the readers/performers:

Anuradha Roy's latest book, Sleeping on Jupiter, won the DSC Prize for Fiction 2016 and was nominated for the Man Booker prize 2016. It has been nominated for various other literary prizes, including the FT/ Oppenheimer Prize, Hindu Prize for Best Fiction 2015, the Tata Book of the Year Award 2015, and the Atta Galatta Bangalore Literature Festival Fiction Prize 2015. She won the Economist Crossword Prize for her second novel, The Folded Earth. Her first novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing, has been widely translated and was picked as one of the Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post and the Seattle Times. It has been named by World Literature Today as one of the 60 most essential books on modern India and was shortlisted for the Crossword Prize. Anuradha Roy won the Picador-Outlook Non-Fiction Prize in 2004 for her essay, "Cooking Women". She works as a designer at Permanent Black, an independent press which she runs with her husband, Rukun Advani. She lives in Ranikhet, India.

Margaret Wappler is the author of Neon Green, which has been praised by Edan Lepucki and Joe Meno. She has written about the arts and pop culture for the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Elle, Cosmo, New York Times, and several other publications. Neon Green is her first novel. She lives in Los Angeles and can be heard weekly on the pop culture podcast, Pop Rocket.

Hollie Hardy is the author of How to Take a Bullet, And Other Survival Poems (Punk Hostage Press, 2014), winner the 2016 Annual Poetry Center Book Award. She teaches writing classes at the SF Creative Writing Institute, SFSU, and Berkeley City College. She co-hosts Saturday Night Special, An East Bay Open Mic, curates Litquake’s Flight of Poets, and is a founder and core producer of Oakland’s Beast Crawl Literary Festival.

Na'amen Gobert Tilahun has spent most of his life shuttling between San Francisco and Los Angeles. He writes many different things that have appeared in/on io9.com, Fantasy Magazine, Queers Dig Time Lords, Stone Telling, Full of Crows, The Big Click, faggot dinosaur, Spelling the Hours, Eleven Eleven and others. He was recently named one of 13 Bay Area Writers to Watch/Read in 2016 by 7X7 magazine and his debut novel, a second-world epic/urban fantasy, The Root was published by Night Shade Books in June.

Dominique Gelin is a comedian in San Francisco who offers strong opinions on stupid things, -isms, and assholes. It’s all very fascinating. Before moving to the Bay Area, she was a finalist for the Ultimate Miami Comedian and was a part of the Boca Raton Comedy Festival. Dom has also touched the stage of a really famous comedy club that one time. She co-hosts two comedy shows, Millennials Ruin Everything and The Lazy Brunch Hour.

Curtis Chen is the author of Waypoint Kangaroo. His short fiction has appeared in "Daily Science Fiction" and SNAFU and will be featured in Baen's MISSION: TOMORROW. On top of all that, he's a former software engineer and once built a cat feeding robot. He lives in Vancouver, Washington.

About Writers With Drinks:

Writers With Drinks has won numerous "Best ofs" from local newspapers, and has been mentioned in 7x7, Spin Magazine and one of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City novels. The spoken word "variety show" mixes genres to raise money for local causes. The award-winning show includes poetry, stand-up comedy, science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, literary fiction, erotica, memoir, zines and blogs in a freewheeling format.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Schrödinger Sessions II Debrief

One month ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the Schrödinger Sessions II (SS2), a "science for science fiction writers" workshop at the University of Maryland (UMD), organized by the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) and focusing on quantum physics. The workshop was free, including lodging in a UMD dormitory and breakfast and lunch every day, and it was totally worth paying for my travel there and back.

I first got interested in quantum mechanics (QM) back in high school, when I'd had enough math and science education to grasp how subatomic physics actually worked. Well, that's what I thought. Quantum phenomena are super weird, you guys. But they are incontrovertibly real, even if they seem non-intuitive; as several of our SS2 lecturers mentioned, QM is possibly the most well-tested experimental science, and the results are reproducible and undeniable. We don't know why the universe works this way, but we know that it does.


A video posted by Curtis Chen (@sparckl) on

If you want to try deciphering my notes, here they are in one massive Google Doc.

And here are some excerpts from others' blog posts:

"JQI is what they call low energy quantum mechanics. This involves quantum computation, low temperatures, superconductivity-- all of those sorts of things we can do in a relatively small lab. High energy quantum mechanics and physics, those things done at the Large Hadron Collider and supernovas, aren't done at JQI. That didn't prevent us from asking about it."
Steven Popkes (day 2, day 3)

"And lest any of the participants leave the U Md (College Park) campus without their brain having exploded, we also covered -- bonus material -- some cosmological speculations and the recent first detection of gravitational waves."
Ed Lerner

"FYI: Next year, 2017, JQI plans to offer a similar seminar for a different professoinal group, Physics for Journalists, and then, pending funding, re-offer this same session as I attended, Physics for Sci-Fi Writers, in the summer of 2018."
Sally Ember (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

BTW, the gravitational waves Ed mentions above were detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which is pretty freakin' awesome. That evening lecture by Peter Shawhan was also where I learned about "squeezed light," and like most things during SS2—laser cooling, ultra-cold Bose-Einstein condensates, and quantum computing algorithms, to name just a few—it legitimately blew my mind.

I am definitely, as one person put it, "confused at a higher level" now. And I'm glad to know that even trained physicists continue to argue about the philosophical interpretations of QM. Nothing out of SS2 directly informs anything I'm currently working on, but I look forward to seeing what my subconscious does with it after a few months or years.

Some of the other awesome writers who attended SS2:
Apologies to anyone I've forgotten to mention. You're all fantastic and I'm glad I got to hang out with you for a few days!


On the way home from the workshop, Southwest cancelled my Saturday night flight (unclear whether due to weather or computer meltdown) and the earliest rebooking was Tuesday morning. Fortunately, my high school pal Tony lives in the area, so I was able to stay with him, catch up on the last eight years of our lives, check out the Udvar-Hazy Center, and also meet up with some DC area Sea Monkeys for lunch.

Life finds a way.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Is This a Clue?!

I received a mysterious postcard this week:

No obvious hidden messages jumped out at me from the text, but DeeAnn wisely pointed out that several different video games are mentioned or described. That's pretty interesting.

Without knowing where this might lead, I'm not very motivated to spend time trying to solve it... but I'm sharing it here in case somebody else out there wants to take a crack at it.

If you do figure something out, please leave a comment below! (I also don't care about spoilers.)


Sunday, August 07, 2016

My MidAmeriCon II Schedule

If you're going to Worldcon later this month, here's where you can find me:

SFWA Autographing: Curtis Chen
Friday 16:00 - 16:50, SFWA Table (Kansas City Convention Center)
I'm volunteering to staff the SFWA Table, and I'll be there starting at 3:00pm along with Ed Lerner. Stop by and say hello!

Reboot! Changing Up Comic Characters
Friday 18:00 - 19:00, 2204 (Kansas City Convention Center)
"Spider Gwen, Amadeus Cho, Thor, Captain America. We've seen a lot of rebooted characters in the the last couple of years with dramatically altered social and cultural backgrounds. The panel discuss how these 'new' old characters have changed the Marvel Universe, for better and worse."
Mr. Robin Wayne Bailey (M), Nina Niskanen, David VonAllmen, Mr. Curtis Chen

...and I'll otherwise be wandering around, probably in search of barbecue and/or booze.

If you run into me at the con, ask for a "TEAM KANGAROO" ribbon to decorate your badge and show your support for the hapless hero of my debut novel Waypoint Kangaroo!

Last but not least, my friend, Clarion West classmate, and all-around awesome person Marlee Jane Ward is organizing a Karaoke Extravaganza on Thursday night. This is a private(ish) event, so if you're interested, message me on Facebook and I'll invite you!


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Kanga-Roundup

Yesterday was the "book birthday" for my debut novel WAYPOINT KANGAROO, and I did a bunch of guest blog posts and interviews to coincide with its release! But first things first...

Tor.com is running a sweepstakes to give away five copies of the book! Enter before 12noon Eastern Time this Friday, June 24th (US/Canada only).

And now on to the blog posts! Some of these may be more interesting to writers and other publishing professionals, but I hope they give every interested party some more insight into what went into creating Kangaroo:

John Scalzi, one of my instructors at Viable Paradise XII, was kind enough to offer me a spot on The Big Idea.

Mary Robinette Kowal, erstwhile Portlandian and all-around outstanding human being, generously let me ramble on about My Favorite Bit.

Alex Shvartsman, editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology series, hosted my breakdown of WK's opening chapter on The Hook.

Sally 'Qwill' Janin—who, coincidentally, founded The Qwillery on my birthday in 2008—interviewed me about a variety of writing-related topics for the Qwillery's 2016 Debut Author Challenge.

Stephen Geigen-Miller, a fellow writer in Toronto and friend of the fabulous Claire Humphrey, interviewed me about Breaking In as a writer.

BONUS: related to "My Favorite Bit" above, you can hear an excerpt from the forthcoming audio book!

Thanks to everyone for supporting WAYPOINT KANGAROO. Launch day was fantastic. Now let's see if we can push this rocket all the way to Mars... and beyond!


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

My Preliminary Westercon 69 Schedule

Two blog posts in one week? Madness! (But it is technically a different month, so.)

I've received my draft schedule from the Westercon 69 programming department, and it's pretty light (as I requested):

Curtis Chen Reading
Fri Jul 1 3:00pm - 3:30pm
Curtis Chen reads from a selected work.
Curtis Chen

Choosing a Writing Workshop
Fri Jul 1 4:00pm - 5:00pm
From one-day workshops and moderated critiques to residential programs and even MFAs — what are the possibilities? How do you figure out what you need, and when? Panelists with experience as students, instructors, and program administrators review the pros and cons and answer questions.
Curtis Chen, David D. Levine, Karen Anderson (moderator), Manny Frishberg

Saturday 10am Kaffeeklatsch
Sat Jul 2 10:00am - 11:00am
Small group discussions with authors, artists, and other interesting personalities (referred to as "hosts") Sessions are limited to the host and a small group of attendees.
Anthony Pryor, Carol Berg, Curtis Chen, David D. Levine, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Sonia Lyris, Tod McCoy

Sun Jul 3 10:00am - 11:00am
Get your goodies signed!
Anthony Pryor, Curtis Chen, Emily Jiang

Of course, I'll be around all weekend. I'm always around.

Any updates to the above will be published in the official online schedule. If you're into Facebooking, feel free to add yourself to my rogue event listing for possible additional updates. And, of course, follow me on Twitter for my most up-to-the-minute blathering.