Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my post-election ennui. Now I'm doing something about it.

Today is #GivingTuesday, and regardless of how you feel about the proliferation of Thanksgiving holiday adjuncts (Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, etc.), there are many opportunities to amplify your donations today and this week due to other people and organizations matching funds.

And sure, those folks could just give their money freely instead of digging a hole in the ground, but it's their money. Anyway, the point of matching funds is to spread awareness and encourage others to give as well.

I'm taking the advice of many wiser people and setting up monthly donations to support causes I believe in. I can spare $100 a month—that's $10 to each group, in case you're counting—and here's where it's going:
  1. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) - not tax deductible, FYI.
  2. Planned Parenthood (PPFA) - tax deductible "to the fullest extent allowable," because laws matter, goddammit.
  3. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) - "fully tax deductible as allowed by law, less the fair market value of any substantial gifts received."
  4. Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) - now based in Portland, Oregon!
  5. Black Lives Matter - "IDEX provides services such as fiduciary oversight, financial management, and other administrative services to Black Lives Matter. IDEX is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization for both federal and state purposes. Our federal tax identification number is 77-0071852."
  6. Native American Rights Fund - not just because their acronym is NARF.
  7. National Immigration Law Center - because immigrants, we get the job done.
  8. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) - "a not-for-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3)."
  9. Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) - "a 501(c)(3) under federal tax guidelines. TAX ID: 77-0646756"
  10. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) - the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization in the United States.
So. Tell me. What are you doing to fuck shit up?

Curtis

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

We Can Be Heroes

Hello. This is my post-terrible-election blog. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

I've had a lot of thoughts and feelings over the past week. I haven't been very productive, writing-wise. But here, I think, is some much-needed perspective:


https://youtu.be/SHG0ezLiVGc

To wit, nobody should be surprised to learn that America—overall, historically, demonstrably—is racist as fuck. Non-white minorities have always known this. If you look like any kind of brown person, it's something you have to deal with every single day. (I could tell you stories. Oh boy, could I tell you stories. But later.)

So. Racism wins: not that surprising. Still devastating, yeah. Many of us hoped for better from our fellow citizens. But we are ready to face this.

Remember back in the year 2000, in DC Comics, when Lex Luthor was elected President of the United States? That's right, evil supervillain Lex Luthor. And that motherfucker was a straight-up murderer.

That storyline had some logic issues, as pointed out in the article linked above, but my point is: we've been imagining dystopias for, well, ever. 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Handmaid's Tale, is any of this ringing a bell?

This situation is nothing new. We've been seeing it for years, in fiction and in other nations' oppressive regimes. The difference is that now, we get a chance to fight for real. We are the Rebel Alliance. We are the Maquis. We are the Green Martians.

So fight, if you haven't already been fighting. Fight for the oppressed. Fight for those who are weaker and less privileged than yourself. Donate money if you can. Volunteer if you have time. Fight for truth, justice, and the goddamn American way. Because this is where heroes are made, in the crucible of change.

And never forget—this is important—always remember, we are stronger together.

We all have a choice: to kneel before Zod, or to rise up with Alexander Hamilton.

What will you choose?

Curtis

P.S. If you don't know where to start, HOLY FUCK THE ELECTION might help.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

My OryCon 38 Schedule

Next weekend (Nov.18-20) I'll be reading, paneling, and drinking at Oregon's premier, fan run, annual science fiction/fantasy convention held in Portland. Please stop by the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront if you're around. We can raise a glass to freedom, if nothing else...

Thursday night 11/17 (pre-con)

Karaoke with friends. Contact me for details, if we be friends.


Find me to get KANGAROO swag!

Friday 11/18

4pm - Reading from Kangaroo Too - Hawthorne (2)
You won't believe where the superpowered secret agent is going next, in the forthcoming sequel to Waypoint Kangaroo! #clickbait

5pm - Panelist: "Social Media and the Modern Writer" - Meadowlark (3)
with Lizzy Shannon, Stephanie Weippert, Elton Elliott, Katie Lane
Websites, Facebook fan pages, email lists, contests, twitter, tumblr, Pinterest, ads, blogs and that annoying thing called a "platform": what works, what doesn't, and why you need to care (spoiler: you do).

Saturday 11/19

11am - Moderator: "First Page Idol" - Douglas Fir (3)
with Annie Bellet, Doug Odell, David Levine
Submit the first page of your novel to our talented author panelists, and listen to them read aloud that first page(keeping the writer's identity anonymous) and give thoughtful reactions. ADD(14 Nov 2016): E-mail your first page submission (please omit the author name) to: ww@orycon.org

2pm - Panelist: "How to Blurb Your Novel" - Meadowlark (3)
with Dale Ivan Smith, Tori Centanni, Lizzy Shannon
We all need them, we all hate them. Summing up our books may be harder than writing them in the first place! Learn techniques to write compelling book descriptions (aka "blurbs"), and hook readers.

3pm - Co-Host: "Sci Fi Ask Me Another! (Quiz Show)" - Columbia (L)
with Jeff Soesbe
Curtis Chen and Jeff Soesbe present a variety of games involving science fiction and fantasy trivia, puzzles, and wordplay. Audience participation is required, and rewarded! Can you make it to the final Elimination Game? Come have fun while competing for prizes!

7pm - Moderator: "The Star Trek Universe: My, How You've Grown!" - Columbia (L)
with Alma Alexander, Jennifer Willis, Phyllis Irene Radford
A wide ranging panel, with the changes (or consistencies) found in TOS, TNG, DS9, and all movies being fair game. Gene Roddenberry tried to create a future without racism or hatred, and a Federation that prioritized peace and non-interference. Yet disagreement, jealousy, envy, war, and a monetary system for keeping score of one's successes are all excellent literary plot devices. With the benefit now of 20/20 hindsight, did the writers succeed? Is the Star Trek future one you'd want to live in?

Sunday 11/20

11am - Panelist: "Feedback Workshop" - Douglas Fir (3)
with Susan Matthews, David Weber, Richard A. Lovett, David Levine
Bring your questions, manuscripts, critiques, etc. A hands-on workshop on how to apply the feedback you get from readers, editors, writer's workshops, critique groups, etc.

1pm - Autograph Session - Autograph Area (LL1)
with Blythe Ayne, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Deborah Ross, David Dvorkin
Get your books (or whatever) signed by your favorite authors!

2pm - Panelist: "Hold on to Your Reader" - Douglas Fir (3)
with Caroline M. Yoachim, Maura van der Linden, Shawna Reppert
The wrong word choices can throw your reader right out of the story. Learn how to maintain suspension of disbelief.

4pm (offsite) - Powell's Sci-Fi Authorfest 10 (Cedar Hills Crossing)
"A starfleet of science fiction and fantasy authors descends for one galactic booksigning event. Meet Brent Weeks, Timothy Zahn, Daniel H. Wilson, Annie Bellet, Tina Connolly, David Levine, Curtis Chen, Lili Saintcrow, Dave Barra, Wendy Wagner, Jennifer Brozek, Mike Moscoe/Shepherd, J. A. Pitts, Devon Monk, Steve Perry, Patrick Swenson, Rhiannon Held, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Kevin James Breaux, and Deborah Ross."

For complete details, visit: orycon38.sched.org




ALSO: I will not be running the ORCs (Open Read & Critique sessions) this time around, but I've passed the torch to three new facilitators! If you're a writer looking for some fast feedback, see if any of these sessions will fit into your OryCon weekend:
  1. Friday 1pm with Jeremiah Reinmiller
  2. Friday 2pm with Stephanie Weippert
  3. Saturday 1pm with Stephanie Weippert
  4. Saturday 2pm with Mark Niemann-Ross
  5. Saturday 3pm with Jeremiah Reinmiller
  6. Sunday 1pm with Mark Niemann-Ross
Look for ORC rules and sign-up sheets outside the Willamette room (lobby level).

Curtis

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.

Curtis

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.

Curtis

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.

#jqi

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!


EPILOGUE:

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.

Curtis

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.)

Curtis