Monday, December 27, 2010

Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I went to see Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader when it opened here. It was not bad as a movie, and I guess I liked it better than the others in the series so far. But... I sure didn't like the changes that were made to the original story. The book is so good, and I really hated seeing the departure from that story line.

I can't imagine what they're going to do to The Last Battle.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)

I finally got to see the first half of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows film, and thought i was pretty good. Not only did it follow the book pretty closely, but it did a great job of adapting the tale to the medium of film. Not all of the movies in the series have been as nicely adapted as this one. But, generally speaking, I thought the later films have been better than the earlier ones.

I'm really looking forward to the last installment of the films. I would've preferred that this one not be split into two sections, but then, it seems the only way to fit everything in. They did a pretty nice job of splitting it up, and if the final piece turns out as good as this one, then I think it will be a big success.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

At the Back of the North Wind

I finished reading George MacDonald's classic tale At the Back of the North Wind earlier this week, and reviewed it at the Christian Fiction website.  For those less interested in the Christian perspective in the novel, I thought a note here might be warranted.

George MacDonald is a great story-teller.  He can be really funny, and he draws up a past age through his writing.  In his day, children's literature was really just coming into its own, and MacDonald was a big part of that process.

At the Back of the North Wind is addressed to the child reader, but I think it certainly has a much broader appeal than that.  It is a well-constructed piece, fully of whimsy and imagination.  The places the novel takes us are well put together, with images that draw you in to want to read more.

There are many people who might like to lay claim to the title of father of the modern fantasy genre, but I think it is arguable that MacDonald forms at least a good bit of the root system of that whole branch of literature.  At the Back of the North Wind is one of the classic pieces that establishes him in the genre, written back in the days when no one really thought of such a genre existing at all.  He was admired by many writers who came after him, and his fiction left an indelible mark on this whole field of writing that has grown to be so huge in today's book market.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I just finished reading Greg Donegan's Atlantis today, something I finished pretty much in two evenings this week.  It is a fast-paced, fun action tale with lots of sci-fi, adventure, and spy novel elements all mixed in.

Browsing through Amazon, I found the book is the first of a series.  The whole Atlantis Collection - Set of 6 titles - Atlantis, Assault on Atlantis, Atlantis Gate, Atlantis Bermuda Triangle, Atlantis Devil's Sea, Battle for Atlantis is available at Amazon. I think reading them all could be pretty fun, and this first one made me at least willing to keep an eye out for the others.

The story moves along quickly, following the unfolding of an intriguing plot in the company of some memorable characters.  If you're looking for  a way to while away a lazy weekend, you could do a lot worse than Atlantis.  I'm not sure about the rest of the series, but I think I'll find out before long.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

Over the summer, I picked up a copy of How to Train Your Dragon off of a Bookcrossing shelf in Singapore.  It was a quick, easy, and enjoyable read that I finished in one evening. One of those sorts — fun and relaxing.

My friends who are moving in a few days recently gave me a copy of the DVD of How to Train Your Dragon.  I thought it would be fun to watch, since I enjoyed the book so much.  I was surprised to see how different the movie was from the book, but really had fun with it too.  I am glad my friends gave it to me, as I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own.  But with the difference between the two stories, it's fun to have experienced both versions.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Book of Eli

After we watched Inception together this summer, my oldest nephew recommended that I watch Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli.  Since he mentioned it, I was looking around for it, but having some trouble finding it.  After mentioning that to some friends, they kindly watched out for the DVD until they found it and bought it for me.  It took a while still after that, but tonight I finally got to sit down and watch the show.

My nephew's recommendation was a good one.  I liked the movie, thought the acting was pretty good, and very much enjoyed the premise of the show.  The whole notion of the relationship between language and power has long been one of my main interests.  This movie nicely captures that idea and puts it into a story that makes good sense.  The way that we use words, the power they have over us, and the way we too often try to use them to obtain power over others are matters all nicely explored in the film.

The movie reminds me some of Fahrenheit 451.  Maybe that's partly because it's a book that I recommended to my nephew this summer as well, and so was kind of mindful of the connections we'd shared this summer through the things we watched, read, and talked about.  I love those moments of connection, and especially enjoyed that part of watching The Book of Eli tonight — connecting with my nephew even when we are on opposite sides of the world at the moment.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Testament of Andros

I am haunted.

I read James Blish's short cycle The Testament of Andros yesterday, and I can think of nothing else.   The way the cycle spirals around and around the three characters, the world's end, the sun.... it seems to be spiraling around and around in my brain in just the same way.

It's been some time since I last read anything by Blish, but as soon as I read this, I downloaded several more stories for my Kindle.  And I am planning on reading more of his longer works when I get back to Singapore, since they are on my shelf there.  I had almost forgotten just how good a writer he is.

If you've not read Testament of Andros, it is well worth picking up. It can be read in a very brief time, but will linger in the mind long after the reading, swirling round and round in an eery sort of way.  Just like the story itself does in the telling.  It makes for a wonderful reading effect, and reading after effect.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Vampire Haiku

Ryan Mecum's Vampire Haiku (2009) sounds like just the sort of thing I should love, doesn't it? Being a speculative poet myself — one who loves haiku for both reading and writing — and having a... er, special interest in vampires, you'd think the book would be just my thing. And, well, I did enjoy reading it. But I also can't help noting some shortcomings.

Firstly, the work is not really much about haiku. It's more sentences with line breaks based on a 5-7-5 syllable count. Some of the sentences are clever, but very few of them are what I would call haiku. My favorite piece in the book is this one:

I have felt no joy
since the night she murdered me —
nor have I missed it.

That's nice, even poignant, but it isn't really a haiku. The syntax is, well, just a sentence. And there's an absence of seasonal reference. I do think there is one real haiku-like feature that some haiku tend to miss out on, and that is the twist. Unfortunately, though, this collection focuses on the syllable count aspect of haiku, which is probably the least important aspect. Many good haiku don't follow a 5-7-5 syllable count at all, and strict adherence to it often spoils what could be a nice poem otherwise.

That said, I did enjoy the story of Mecum's book. It was a fun read, and I'm glad I picked it up recently and was able to read it.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Matrix revisited

My nephew and his best friend are here from the US visiting me right now. Last week we watched the Matrix movies together — the first time my nephew had seen any of them, and the first time his friend had seen the whole series to the end. We had a really great time.

We were inspired to view the films again when we saw Inception the week before. I think we all 3 liked it too, but feel the Matrix is more profound and complex.

Either way, it's been loads of fun watching these movies with the guys, and discussing the ideas raised by them. I'm looking forward to sharing lots more with them in the years to come too.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010


On the day of its release, I got to see Inception with my nephew and his friend who are here visiting me. We all really enjoyed the movie, and had a long discussion afterward about issues the show had raised — the nature of reality, human's ability to perceive, programming, and so forth. It was loads of fun talking to these 17-year-olds about some heavy ideas and seeing the way they think about it.

Fun stuff!

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Friday, July 16, 2010

What do you think?

Using on a recent post here, I pasted the text in at I Write Like, a site that analyzes your writing and tells you which famous author it is most like.  Here's the result....

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Fahrenheit 451

I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading Fahrenheit 451. It's the sort of book I always love, with some favorite themes (an imagined future, censorship, the value of the written word, etc.). But somehow or another, it kept getting pushed further and further down my to-be-read list. Until recently, at least.

I finished the short novel last week and really, really enjoyed it. It is a compelling read, well-written, and very thought-provoking. It is about more than just censorship — it is about thought-control, though with a little more optimistic point of view than, say, 1984.

I put Fahrenheit 451 on my Fill in the Gaps list when I started it last year, and I'm really glad I did. It "forced" me to get around to reading something that is very much a book I wanted to read and intended to read for a long time. I'm glad that I put the list up and have been plugging away at some fun titles so far. Fahrenheit 451 is one of the best I've read from my list yet.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Can You Imagine?

Can you imagine what the seas must have been like way back when?
And I don't just mean in the days before the whaling industry depleted the seas of some of its giants. I mean in the days when the Leviathan melvillei and the Carcharodon megalodon were swimming about. Can you just imagine the fear that such beasts would have inspired? And that's not even talking about Predator X yet, the most fearsome of them all.

It is hard to guess what such animals would have even looked like —- the sort of thing that seems to fit right into a sci-fi underwater scene. But one way or another, I'm glad to see the newest find named for Melville. That's pretty cool stuff there, seeing your legacy carried on in the name of a creature like one of your own creations. Wow! Congratulations, Herman.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Classic Upgrade?

Do the old classics really need an upgrade?

Take a look at Android Karenina to see what I'm talking about. By the same publishers who brought us Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Quirk Classics, Android Karenina takes brings cyberpunk to Tolstoy.

But some are bothered by this sort of attempt to "upgrade" the classics. Why would they need the upgrade? And who are we to think we can improve on them anyway?

I take something of a different view of it. I don't know that the idea behind Quirk Classics is to upgrade or improve on the older works. Their stated aim is to create "mash ups" of literary classics crossed with genre fiction. Not because it's better, but because it is different, and it allows us to explore the areas where the literature of today and yesterday might overlap.

Recontextualizing older tales has always been a part of the literary scene. How many of Shakespeare's plays have original story lines, after all? And how "faithful to the original material" were his retellings? We might think that this is something different. Shakespeare, after all, was Shakespeare, so of course he might think he could improve on the older stuff. But that's getting it backwards. He didn't get to do that because he was already the "institution" of Shakespeare, but he became this grand pillar of our literary world because of how amazingly he brought a new view to old works.

That's not to suggest that the Quirk Classics are destined to be in the canon of tomorrow what Hamlet is today. Rather, it's to say that explorations of familiar tales are always OK, and some can even be fairly well-done. And, while these that Quirk Classics have produced are getting a fair bit of attention, they aren't really the first to do such things. Adaptations to comic book, film (even cartoon), TV, and so forth have been going on for a long time. And in more the more "highbrow" world of literature, works like Heiner Müller's Hamletmachine consider the classics in a new light that seems more reflective of our new era.

I haven't read Android Karenina, and I don't know when (or even if) I will. But I can say that the idea behind it doesn't bother me at all. The way I see it, there's always room for another quirky take on an old favorite.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Gawgon and the Boy

I recently finished reading Lloyd Alexander's The Gawgon and the Boy, and really enjoyed making my way through the short novel. It is a pleasant, funny read, poking sometimes into serious issues, but mostly just taking the reader along for a heart-warming ride.

The book is not really a fantasy tale, at least... no more so than that which exists in the mind of any pre-teen boy. Which is to say that everything in it is fantastic, but it is completely of this primary world that we live in.

Anyway... the relationship that develops between the Gawgon and The Boy is great. I loved both characters, and loved watching them work on one another. And The Boy's fantasy world was a delight to travel through. It was sort of like Bill & Ted, only younger and even sillier, in many ways. Oh, and with a lot of mythology thrown in with the history — more of a general classics education than a mere history project.

It's a fun book, one that I've loaned to a couple of friends for them to read. I think they'll all enjoy it as much as I did. It seems to me a difficult book not to enjoy.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Sword or the Ring?

I just read Michael Moorcock's verdict, in which he states that Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword is a better novel than Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. I am afraid it is an opinion I can't quite share, though. Granted, Anderson's book is much bloodier and more violent, and it is closer to the myths of the Norsemen, but I don't think that makes it a better work than Tolkien's. For me, the chase scene when the Hobbits try to escape across the river with the Black Riders right on their tail.... that's one of my favorite reading memories for the way it sucked me into the fear and agony of the fleeing band.

I have to admit, though, that I am not the most impartial judge. I read The Fellowship of the Ring when I was young, but only got around to reading The Broken Sword this past week. There's no fair way to compare the reading experience of my younger self with that of my older self. So, I have to try to look at the books as texts, rather than simply evaluating my reading experiences with each story. And that is something that is really hard to do (and which I have not yet had sufficient time to do anyway, considering that I've only recently read The Broken Sword). Because the thing that is so great about both books is the way that they suck you right in and make you feel a part of the secondary worlds they create.

The Broken Sword (Fantasy Masterworks)Lord of the Rings, The: The Fellowship of the Ring

For me, and for now, Tolkien's Ring still wins out over Anderson's Sword. But reading Moorcock's opinion made me wonder what the general thought is — which do you prefer? The sword or the ring?

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Small Press Magazines, speculative poetry

I've had a good time this past week catching up on some of the recent issues of several small press speculative poetry magazines that I've let pile up recently. Besides the most recent issue of Illumen that I enjoyed reading tonight, I've also caught up on some recent issues of Scifaikuest, Aoife's Kiss, Star*Line, and have Not One of Us stowed away in my bag to read next.

It's been a good week, and over the next week, I hope to make a little more progress on the pile of magazines I've let build over the past few months.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Lighting Your Home

Home lighting is one of the most important decisions when renovating the house. A few years ago, when I did my place, I thought long and hard about the lighting I wanted. I settled on ceiling fans throughout the house, and have been very happy with the choice. We never have to turn on the air-conditioning, which results in huge savings on the electricity bill each month.

At Lighting the Web, you can find great deals on Hunter ceiling fans, as well as lots of other home lighting products. Now is the perfect time to have a look at Lighting the Web to address all of your home lighting needs.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Funny Video

I came across a funny Star Wars Rap on YouTube.


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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Iron Man 2 in China

I haven't gotten to see the film yet, but found this post interesting...

Censorship of Iron Man 2 in China

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Favorite Science Fiction Films

I just came across a hub by bloggerdollar in which he gives his 10 favorite sci-fi films. I don't have mine listed quite so neatly, but really enjoyed reading his list. I thought readers here might also enjoy having a look at 10 Science Fiction Movies Every Sci-Fi Fan Should Watch.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mystery Science Theater

I've lived in Asia so long that I don't miss much from my younger days in the States anymore. But sometimes I stumble across something like this that reminds me that there are things that I do miss....

Lyrics | - Mystery Science Theater 3000 lyrics

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Modern Retelling

A few weeks ago, a friend loaned me a copy of Beauty, Robin McKinley's modern retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast. It took me a while to get to it (I was in the middle of Le Morte D'Arthur at the time), but I started earlier this week, and finished it today.

The story of Beauty and the Beast isn't a particular favorite with me, but I really enjoyed McKinley's version. I liked the twist on Beauty's character. She was likable, and that made her story move along nicely. The Beast was sympathetic from the beginning, and that made the story kind of fun too.

I enjoyed several things about the book, but probably what I liked best was that it was more about Beauty's transformation as much as it was about the Beast's, and I thought that added an important dimension to the tale.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Princess of Mars, the movie

I borrowed Princess of Mars, along with a pile of other DVDs, from a friend over the weekend. I hadn't heard anything about the movie, but like the Burroughs book, so thought it would be fun to watch.

Man, was I ever wrong.

This is not a fun movie. The adaptation is bad, and the acting is pretty atrocious. The sets are not good, and everything about it just pretty much screams "bad."

I am usually a big fan of seeing how a text from an earlier period can be adapted to suit our modern sensibilities. This is especially true for sci-fi flicks, as the science can be dated pretty quickly. That was, of course, the case with this story. That was the one thing that was perhaps done reasonably well, in that the explanation for why we find life on Mars like that depicted in the film was reasonable enough (well, relatively speaking). But the handling of it took the mythopoeic vision completely out of the story, and left us with... well, nothing, really.

It's sad, because I have a pretty high tolerance level for attempts at re-imagining a text into a context more suitable for modern audiences. But this one just doesn't cut it, and was not an enjoyable film on any level, for me.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Star Trek

I finally watched the newest Star Trek movie over the weekend. I know, I know... it isn't very new, is it? I heard from a number of friends that it was really good, but somehow wasn't very motivated to watch it a the time. I am glad, though, that someone loaned me the DVD this past weekend and I finally caught this one.

The movie was actually much better than I expected. I liked the games the film played with time, with our cultural memories of the whole Star Trek tradition — the whole works. I don't think this one is as good as some of the earliest Star Trek movies, but it was still lots of fun. Really, I shouldn't have waited this long to see it.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Door

I recently stumbled across an old short story by E. B. White, entitled "The Door," in an anthology I was reading. I was impressed by the piece for its clever use of language, and the complexity of the ideas addressed in a very short space.

The story is basically a set of musings on a lab rat, entertained by an individual who finds himself frightfully similar to said rat. It is really masterfully handled, and touches on a myriad of interconnected ideas in a very short space. What an amazing piece of writing.

You can read the full text here. It will only take a few minutes, and I think you'll find it very worth your time.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Marco Polo Sings a Solo

I recently finished reading John Guare's 1973 play Marco Polo Sings a Solo, and really loved it! It is set in 1999, a future imagined from the 1973 context. It is a very funny, heavily ironic piece.

Guare sets up a nice set of expectations in the play, and really delivers on them. I like the premise that he explores — the idea that there is such an overwhelming desire to explore the self that we forget to let the world "out there" shape us, as we fail to engage with it. I was amazed by the way the play worked with this problem, bringing up such outlandish, crazy scenarios to explore it all.

The future imagined in the text is now, of course, a decade in the past. And the real world 1999 wasn't anything like the 1999 of the play.... at least, not on the surface of it.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Music for the Cyborg

Remember how scared we were of robots back in the 1980s?

Lyrics | Dennis DeYoung - Mr. Roboto lyrics

At least things have changed... we aren't as scared of the Japanese as we used to be.

(even though robotophobia is still around)

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Movies so Bad They're Good

I was just listening to a podcast (look up about camp movies — things so outlandishly bad that they somehow work. The standard example is, of course, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The ridiculous nature of these films makes them able to be so removed from our experience of life (via the fictional world of good film?) that they garner a following, somehow managing to speak to wide segment of the population.

A lot of these campy shows fall in the sci-fi genre. I think that there is something to the genre that makes unbelievability acceptable. The nature of sci-fi is that it is not true to our contemporary living. Instead, it explores the idea of "it's not this way, but what if it was?"

The removal from our daily experience of life distances us from the situation of the story. When this setting is used to explore issues that are, perhaps, too close for comfort, we somehow manage to accept the exploration, whereas we might resist the same exploration in a more "realistic" setting.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Robotics in Shanghai

I recently stumbled across the Robotics Society of Shanghai. Meetings of the group are pretty irregular, apparently, but it looks like it could be lots of fun!

My oldest godson signed up for robotics as his extracurricular activity at school. It looks like fun! I have several friends in the field, and it is so interesting to hear about the things they are working on. One of my favorites was the study of robots performing dramatic texts onstage. Can you imagine....?

(Actually, I guess if you've, say, seen Abraham Lincoln deliver speeches at Disneyland, you don't have to imagine.)

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

a funny thing happened

My friend sent me this link to a showing of King Lear in Shanghai. I know, I know... this site is where I talk about science fiction, not Shakespeare, and this isn't exactly Hamletmachine (Heiner Müller, in case you're wondering). But still... scroll down a little. Did you see it?

"Han Lei Solo"

I have been learning Chinese for nearly 20 years, but my childhood baptized in Star Wars still has me reading that "Han & Leia Solo." I have to look twice to remember that Han Lei is a Chinese name.

Read more about Hamlet-Machine and Other Texts for the Stage

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Christina Sng

It was great to get to meet speculative poet Christina Sng a week or so ago. I've not met another speculative poet in person before, and really enjoyed getting to know Christina.

Sng also gave me a copy of her book, The Darkside of Eden. I read it and was very impressed. This is the second of Sng's book I've read, the other being Angelflesh, which was also a great read.

The field of speculative poetry is an exciting, growing one, and I am thrilled to meet Singapore's pioneer poet in the field last weekend.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Launch of Cyborg Chimera in Singapore

My book Cyborg Chimera will soon be available in bookstores in Singapore. To launch the sell of my poetry collection here, we'll be hosting a book launch here over the last weekend in February. I'll post some pictures when it's done. For now, I'm looking forward to the event, especially because my family from the US will be here to celebrate with me!

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Tron Legacy coming soon...

I can hardly wait for the release of Tron Legacy. Just look at these billboards. It's going to be so fun!

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Good News

I got some exciting news yesterday about my poem "Manipulation," which was first published in the May 2009 online edition of Scifaikuest. The poem, a haibun, was nominated for a 2010 Rhysling Award in the long poem category.

The Rhysling is awarded by the Science Fiction Poetry Association each year for best poem published in the previous year, as voted by members of the association. There are two categories for the poetry award, short (under 50 lines) and long (over 50 lines). It is the biggest award for speculative poetry.

You can read the full text of "Manipulation" at the readers' page set up by Malcolm Deeley, where he is kindly showcasing some of the poems eligible for nomination for this year's award. (You'll have to scroll down to find it.)

This is my first Rhysling nomination, and I'm very excited about it.

Check out the The 2009 Rhysling Anthology at Amazon

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