Category Archives: conventions

Diversity Is For The Next Generation

Lately I’ve been asked a lot about why I do what I do by other writers and random people I deliver talks to.

Recently I participated in a panel about The Ghost In The Shell Controversy at Anime North and had originally written initial thoughts here – comparing the movie to a sub-par hamburger. Before the panel started, a fellow panelist whispered, “I’m glad that we have a token Asian on this panel!” Yup, I was the only non-white person on a panel which was about diversity.

Originally I wasn’t sure if we had enough material to fill an hour criticizing this Japanese manga based movie, but the audience filled the air with questions. The audience was very respectful and really wanted to understand why there was a controversy. A few panelists believed that nothing should change and things were fine. It was a bit disappointing, but I thought it was good that they had a forum to voice their opinions.

I was impressed that another panelist said that their issue was that the movie was about an Asian girl who grew up to become a white female robot and they found this horrifying as well as sad. That being Asian was not perfect and the worst! After they said this, black girls in the audience started snapping their fingers in the air!

We were asked again and again why there was a diversity problem in this movie. Finally I blurted out, “The issue is that the Asians in Asia don’t care about the Asians in North America!” An Asian girl approached me at the end and thanked me for that.

The Asian culture has been well established in Asia. But Asians in North America that don’t consider themselves Asians from Asia. This is a new phenomenon. Well, not that new, given the railroads were built in the 1800s and all. The new generations of Asians or “bananas/coconuts” (white on inside, yellow/brown on outside) grew up in a different culture and are outsiders in North America and in Asia. We are discriminated by our ancestors’ culture and in the culture we live in. We aren’t good enough for either sides.

The diversity issue is important to us because we know we don’t want to go back to Asia and want to contribute to the society we live in currently, outside of Asia. We want to share our insights and add to the arts. However, when you are told over and over again that you are not good enough to contribute anything; while being told that yes, you are an equal in society (since you pay taxes), you become angry at the hypocrisy.

“You’ll never be seen as a Canadian,” my father told me once. “People think you are from China.” He was telling me to stop believing that I fit into Canadian society and to accept that there was no equality here. He always thought that I was a naive optimist who dreamed too much. If there is no change, he is correct, we will never be able to fit into society we live in.

The other day I met with some famous Asian Canadian writers to invite them as guests to speak at a future Asian literature conference in Toronto. I had to bring my toddler with me because my husband couldn’t babysit last minute. Anyhow, these two men (both had no kids) were asking me why I was planning a conference when I had a child to take care of. What was my motive? 

I do what I do for the next generation, was my answer, as I held my wiggly toddler who was kicking me in the shin the whole time. He’s half Asian and half Caucasian – he’s not going to fit in anywhere as a halfie (or hybrid as some people tell me). Sometimes I feel guilty because I think life would have been easier for him if he was fully Caucasian. That somehow my Asian blood contaminated his future. I know this stems from an inferiority complex, of being told everyday that you aren’t good enough…Fighting for equality is draining and there are days when I just want to give up.

But, I can’t give up, I don’t have a choice. By bringing more Asian literature and diversity debates into the world, the next generation will not have to fight as much to have their voices heard and perhaps live in a better world we envisioned for ourselves when we were younger.

Heck, to be honest, I don’t want to waste my time debating about being Asian or what not either. Until everyone is on equal footing, these conversations will continue. As I mentioned in one of my talks at Anime North, there are more robots and aliens on book covers than Asian people! Somehow, that doesn’t sit well with me, which is why I speak up as much as I can.

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Ghost In The Shell Movie is like a Sub-Par Hamburger

This is an excerpt from a talk I’m preparing for Anime North about the Ghost in the Shell Controversy on May 28/17.

Last week I had a debate about the Ghost In The Shell Movie with a friend who was born in Asia. I’m born in North America, so I knew from the start that our views would be very different. She said that she didn’t see any problems with casting in the movie because once an American company buys the rights to a Japanese product, it becomes American. Since the majority of the population is Caucasian, why wouldn’t they cast a Caucasian person? I told her that it really bothered the fans who expected the studio to make better choices with casting Asian actors and keeping the story close to the source material. The debate went no where so we agreed to disagree.

It got me thinking as well, how do I explain this controversy to people?

The best way I decided, was to talk about food. An American restaurant owner goes to Japan and tries the best teppenyaki dish in a restaurant. He falls in love and decides to buy the recipe to bring back to America. Teppenyaki fans in America are super excited that this dish is coming! Chefs who specialized in teppenyaki in school want to cook this dish, but never have because the restaurant owner never had it on the menu. There is a lot of hype and the marketing people go nuts.

On opening night, critics come to the restaurant to discover that they are being served a hamburger with teppenyaki sauce. The owner didn’t employ the chefs that knew how to cook teppenyaki to help because he didn’t think the dish would be suitable for Americans. Instead, he called in the hamburger chefs who decided to just take the teppenyaki sauce and cover a hamburger with it. After all, hamburgers always sell, right?! Teppenyaki fans refuse to go to this restaurant because they know that they are only going to be served the sauce and not the actual dish. The critics shake their head at this missed opportunity at being served a real teppenyaki dish in America and that regular hamburgers tasted better without the sauce. Teppenyaki chefs are disappointed that their skills are being wasted. The owner defends himself by saying that teppenyaki can be cooked by anyone and they made a good choice by selling the sauce on a hamburger which always sells.

There are many sides to this story and at the end of the day, the owner missed a chance to distinguish his restaurant from other restaurants by serving a dish people were craving for. Of course, the teppenyaki in America was not going to be the same as the one served in Japan. It was going taste different and new. People in Japan would never see the teppenyaki in America as being “real” teppenyaki…ever…so why should they care that it be done properly or not?

Ghost in the Shell is a product just like teppenyaki which Americans tried to import from Japan. As Asian people continue to grow up outside Asia, this debate will happen again and again. The new generations of Asians want to contribute to the society they are living in currently, not the one in Asia which their ancestors left behind. They want to see themselves represented in the media they consume and believe in the fair, just society that they supposedly live in.

Avatar, Dr. Strange and Death Note all had opportunities for studios to touch base with audiences, but they blew their chances. The only thing for certain is that dollars matter. If more money can be made with changing casting choices and hiring writers that understand the original material, I’m sure things will happen. Until then, the internet will just keep exploding with disbelief!

 

Hitting No. 1 in Asian Fantasy & Asian Fiction on Amazon Kindle

Today is the first day I’m doing a quick promo to give away a few e-books for free in exchange for reviews. Also, I’m at a Japanese Animation convention, Anime North, doing a few panels on publishing and Asian vampires.

After a long day of chatting with friendly people dressed as Sailormoon, Naruto and other fabulous creatures; I came home to do a quick check to see how the downloads were going. Surprisingly I hit number one in Fiction/Asian American and Fantasy/Asian!

Admittedly these are very niche categories,  but hey, No. 1 is better than No. 100 at the moment! Here’s hoping that I’ll find a great audience who likes to read things from a different perspective!

Meanwhile, greetings from me and a plant lady at Anime North (pic below)!

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Anime North Schedule & Free Ebook May 24-28

I’ll be at Anime North this weekend and have been looking forward to this for a long time! It’s a big con for me and my book, so I’m super excited! My Viking is very nervous as it is his first con and it’s a big one! The attendance is about 25K and although I’ve been involved for many years, the Viking stayed away…

During May 24-28, 2014 I am giving The Undead Sorceress e-book for free as part of my promotional strategy at the con. Click Amazon Kindle link here for free e-book during these few promo days.

Anyhow, below is my schedule – Sat I’m at the table and Sun I’m in panels. All purchases of the print book will get all sorts of goodies: the whole set of limited art cards along with pandas & bags.

Dates: Saturday, May 24 – Sunday, May 25, 2014

Table is in Dealer’s room, Industry/Guest I1-14

Panels only on Sunday, all at International Plaza Hotel

12pm Peel Room, How To Get Published
2pm Toronto Room, Japanese Kyonshî + Party
3pm Peel Room, Self-publishing & Marketing

Anime North prep

I am a panel guest at Anime North, so I didn’t expect any big announcements. But wow, there was a big Anime North blast on Twitter and on the website announcing me as a writer guest, so I feel super honoured.

Anime North is Canada’s largest Japanese animation convention and it is a not-for-profit with funds going to Sick Kids Hospital. I’ll be there with my Viking husband on May 24-25, Sat & Sun to do lots of panels on Japan, Asian vampires, writing and publishing. As well, in the dealers room I’ll have a table so I’ll be giving out limited edition art cards and selling my book. I had hoped to have more books finished, but alas, marketing activities has been taking up much of my time.

Here is the announcement pic and the art cards I’ll be giving out. See you soon!

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Ad Astra Schedule

Ad Astra (a fantasy, science fiction literary convention) will be held in Richmond Hill April 4-6, 2014.

As a guest panelist, I will be appearing on the following panels. Here are the dates, times, room numbers and panel topic:

Saturday, April 5
Oakridges 11:30am-12:00pm – Author reading
Whitchurch 12:00-12:30pm – Author signing
Markham B 1:00-2:00pm – The LEGO Movie: Everything is Awesome
Markham A 3:00-4:00 pm Advantages and Disadvantages in the Self-Publishing Game

Sunday, April 6, 2014
Markham A 1:00-2:00 pm Creating Authentic Settings in Urban Fantasy

Sheepishly, I admit my print book isn’t ready but my e-book should be done in time by the time Ad Astra hits. I’ll have postcards from my Kickstarter campaign to sign and give away to remind people to pick up the e-book or print book at a later date.

As one of the new authors on a list of 50 authors, I’m not even sure if anyone will show up for my book reading or signing! But I have cookies for those who do! We’ll pig out and chat!

Looking forward to geeking out about the LEGO movie, talking about self-publishing and creating new worlds in fantasy!

Apocalypse 4 Book Launch

A few weeks ago, I was invited to the Apocalypse 4 book launch at the Best Western Primrose hotel in downtown Toronto. Hugh Rookwood, a classically trained Illustrator/Animator is the main artist of this 12 book series and Corrado Rizza is the author.

We were gathering to celebrate the launch of Apocalypse4: Chapter 1 “Exile” which is available as an ebook on Amazon and print version available only at conventions. Eventually, after the 12 books are released, a special edition graphic novel will be released with sketches and behind the scene secrets.

The story of Apocalypse 4 as featured on their Facebook page:

“In our present time of technological advancements the world is in aweof the potential future mankind will be able to achieve. Thanks to such discoveries as the Higgs boson particle and advancements in stem cell research, humans will be living longer, less diseased, and have limitless excess energy; but what if not all is as it seems and these achievements will only cause our demise when ancient forces decide that we have gone to far.

Apolcalypse4 is a fantastic tale that takes place in all 3 known realms, heaven, earth, and hell; and will tell an alternate story of human origins, our deities, and the purpose of our lives and what they mean to the universe as a whole.”

Usually my preference for comic books is DC’s Vertigo comic lines, especially the stories which deal with mythology and supernatural stuff. This story line reminds me of Mike Carey’s Lucifer about fallen angels and stuff.

At the book launch there was a beautiful trailer for the book (I quite remember the logo spinning around in flames!) and a Q & A with Hugh and Corrado. It was a great party with good food, interesting Indie people and I look forward to reading my autographed copy of the comic!

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Everything I've done Wrong This Past Weekend

I’m proud of my friend Chris, as he has proven to be superb deliverer of guest services. We met again this past weekend at Fan Expo as it turned out we were both doing liaison guest work. He put me to shame as after a long conversation with him last night I realized all the things I had been doing wrong all weekend.

In general, I have a lot to learn from Chris in regards to how to service delivery while having fun at the same time!  So in summary, I’d like to hypothesize what he would do in the same situations I encountered or “What Would Chris Do?”

1) Slow down…Relax…Keep Things Simple

My guest Shawn is an adult, but I felt like I had to be very attentive and almost maternal as once he turns “on” for the fans, I have to be “on” too; in order to make sure he meets his schedule, eats, go to the bathroom, sign all the autographs people line up for, take all the pictures people line up for, etc. My maternal instinct was on overdrive and I was like a rabid chipmunk mother. So I felt really stressed all the time as I was worried about meeting timing of events and keeping things moving along. I would over think how to efficiently do things by running multiple scenarios through my head, then things would change and I would freak out underneath (although I can’t show my stress on my face to my guest).

What Would Chris Do (WWCD) – Although he was doing transportation of all the guests, he kept a calm head and just did things without overcthinking. In the past at Anime North we would bump heads as I would worry about how inefficient he was being but in the end, the result is the same. So just think about the route from A to B and then just dive into it. Often, reality does not reflect the scenarios you think about as there are too many changing factors, such as people blocking the path or an elevator not working etc…Keeping calm at all times instead of freaking out is the best as you don’t waste energy on unnecessary emotional turmoil! Chris took the time to have fun under stressful situations and even calmed down other people!

2) Talk to Strangers and Smile!

This is a hard one for me to do, as I have been raised all my life as a female to not talk to strangers or smile as you worry you are inviting a disaster of some sort. There were many awkward situations of me standing there with strangers as Shawn would run off to talk to one guest and their assistants would be there, often unsmiling. There was one man who kept looking at me and I was worried he wanted something I couldn’t give. It turns out he was an agent and could have been scoping me out. Argh! Missed my chance for stardom!! In general there was lots of odd silences which could have been avoided if I reached out, but was worried about reactions of people and if they had the time to even talk back since everyone is on a busy schedule. Also, I don’t speak very loudly so sometimes when I tried, people didn’t hear me.

WWCD – Chris is a very cheerful guy and when you first meet him, he loudly says hi, then shakes your hand. He is very genuine and sincere with people.  He didn’t worry about potential walls of unsmiling people or what people might be doing next. This is a hard thing for me to do as a germaphobe since I worry about hand germs a lot. Sigh. But I know I have to learn to speak loudly and shake hands as it is a “North American/European” gesture of friendliness. I found myself bowing a lot all weekend perhaps due to my Asian background. So I think I have to do both, bow to the fans when they meet my guest as a hospitality gesture and shake hands more with strangers. It’s so hard to break out of your shell when most of your spare time is spent hiding and typing…

3) Don’t Over Focus on Your Guest

This is an anti-Japanese/American idea, as the usual ideal for customer service is to only focus on the guest. There were a few times where I could get pictures with other guests, so I would leave Shawn on his own and run over for a snapshot. Thinking back, I don’t remember if I thanked them for taking the time to do that with me as I was so worried about getting back to Shawn. It was like he was my baby and I couldn’t just leave him on the street on his own. But he is an adult and he will survive a few more minutes without me as I take the time to talk to other guests properly. He complained that I would leave him for “other men” but he was laughing, so I knew that I didn’t offend him.

WWCD – Chris handled multiple guests, but he told me stories about taking the time to drink with one, then have a cigarette with another. He had a great time and divided his attention equally. I know I was assigned to only one guest, but when I meet the others, I need to learn to focus my attention on them right away, even if it’s for a few minutes. Again, I have a hard time talking to strangers and my default position is one of shyness/introvert. But Chris had such a great time and got to know all of them, so I think he did a much better job than me at creating an impression. Memory wise, the guests would remember a cool guy they hung out with and then there was that crazy Asian girl that ran around like crazy, not thanking or talking to people properly.

Really messed up with Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy, Star Trek) on this one as I didn’t get a chance to read his bio, so I asked if he was British which made me seem silly as he is from New Zealand.  Need to read more bios next time!

4) Have fun!

As you can imagine from the scenarios above, I was not exactly a great person to hang out with as I was like a mother worried about her child most of the time. My guest had a great time, Chris had a great time and I think I could have had a better time if I learn how to do things more like him.

It was a privilege to have done some guest work at this convention and hopefully next year I’ll have more fun if I get to work with Chris!

“Do your time, to pay the price
For every thing you’ve done wrong, baby
In your life, you get so high
There’s nowhere left to go but down
Don’t believe that no one cares
‘Cause we’re here waiting for you, baby
Do your time
and then come home for good”
-Sloan, Everything You’ve Done Wrong – an awesome song, popped into my head when I was thinking about writing all this!

 

Some neat stuff at Fan Expo!

There were a lot of big name guests at Fan Expo in Toronto this year, ranging from George Takei to Zachary Quinto. I wanted to see if I was taller than George Takei, but apparently he is still taller than me. He told me he was 5’7″ and thought it was amusing I was on my tip toes to even talk to him as I couldn’t reach the table! Meeting him and Shaun Yuen (in Walking Dead with super flawless skin) really made the Expo for me as I was excited to meet Asian celebrities! Shaun commented that I should think positive and not negative in general; I wonder if being cynical is a Toronto/NY thing as the people from LA are all super cheery!  Must be the sun…

Overall, the convention took up two buildings at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North and South. The distance between them involved a short walk and about 5 escalators! I ended up only going to the dealer’s room twice, both on business, but I had a chance to visit a friend who had a booth at artist alley. Things in artist alley all looked great and professional. The dealer’s room had a huge lego display of hobbit houses, which was super neat! There was also a giant Yoda, Superman and Ninja Turtles Mural. In the North building someone brought in the Bat Mobile from the Tim Burton movie (apparently I’m the only person who can’t tell the difference). There were some cute costumes of course and lots of Dr. Who cosplay!

It sounds odd, but I usually like doing volunteer work at conventions instead of being a regular attendee. I like contributing and doing some work as I am a person who can’t relax! And it’s also a chance to see some behind the scenes stuff too! Every year I forget where I put my pictures, so I will post some here instead of losing them!

People wise, I got the chance to interact with a few and I have to say I am now a huge fan of the Ashmore brothers (Shawn & Aaron). They are super nice and will no doubt do very well in the future. Shawn is in the Following and will be Ice Man in the new X-men movie coming out July 2014. Aaron is in Warehouse 13, a show I have to start watching. Nichelle Nichols (Uhura, Star Trek) is a super classy lady; Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy, Star Trek) is super tall and sexy; Dean Cain (Superman, Smallville) likes to hug people and unfortunately I only got a blurry snap of Zachary Quinto, but I heard that he is a super nice guy.

Pics below for your enjoyment!

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