Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Curse of the Colonel: Fried Chicken, Baseball, and Christmas in Japan

This was originally a "briefing" that I gave to the Encampment of the Kentucky Colonels Toronto Command on April 26, 2013.

Japan Airlines serves Kentucky for Christmas

The most famous Kentucky Colonel, Harland Sanders, the inventor of Kentucky Fried Chicken, is usually seen as a benevolent figure.

Who can think that Colonel Sanders can do any harm, with his grandfatherly appearance, his two large charitable foundations, and a life free of scandal, unlike that of most of today's celebrities?

But, like King Tutankhamun, there is a curse associated with him. It involves two of Japan's great traditions: baseball and fried chicken at Christmas.

The Japanese are quite adept at taking foreign traditions and turning them into their own. Baseball is one of these. They saw Americans playing it in the nineteenth century and adopted it as their own national sport. Japan, like the United States, has two professional baseball leagues, the Central League and the Pacific League, who play each other for the Japan Series, their version of the World Series. Baseball is so popular that there are even soap operas and comic books about baseball teams.

The Japanese first noticed fried chicken when they saw American soldiers eating it during the Occupation after World War II. KFC soon followed the U.S. military into Japan. Thus they associated fried chicken with the United States.

In the 1970's, foreigners looking for turkey for Christmas dinner could not find any turkey in Japan. Instead, they ordered fried chicken from KFC. KFC saw an advertising gimmick here and launched an campaign called "Kentucky for Christmas", which promoted the false idea that fried chicken is a traditional American Christmas dinner.

"Kentucky for Christmas" became wildly popular, and today, you need reservations to go to KFC on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. If you don't make a reservation, you might wait 2 hours in line. You can even get a Christmas dinner of fried chicken, cake, and champagne on Christmas at KFC.

Kentucky for Christmas advertisement

You might wonder how Christmas became a big holiday in a country where less than 1 per cent of the population is Christian. That's because the Japanese adopted Christmas and turned it into a second Valentine's Day. If you hear a Japanese song about a lonely girl who has nobody to spend Christmas with, it's not that she doesn't have a family to visit. It's that she has no boyfriend who will take her out to KFC, the most romantic restaurant in Japan.

Kentucky for Christmas advertisement

So how did the Curse of the Colonel arise?

In 1985, the baseball team the Hanshin Tigers won the Japan Series. An American first baseman on their team, Randy Bass, was a major reason for their victory.

Wild celebrations broke out in Osaka. Tigers fans gathered on a bridge across a river. A fan who resembled a Tigers player jumped into the river.

Nobody in the crowd resembled Randy Bass, who was an American with a beard. However, a fan stole a life-size plastic statue of Colonel Sanders from a nearby KFC and threw it into the river.

Kansai Tigers fans throw Colonel Sanders into the river.

Unfortunately, the Kansai Tigers never won the Japan Series again. Hence, a legend developed that Colonel Sanders had cursed the team and that they would not win again until the statue was recovered.

Tigers fans apologized to the KFC store owner, but still, the Kansai Tigers kept failing to win the Central League Championship, much less the Japan Series.

Numerous TV shows broadcast attempts to find the Colonel, but all such attempts failed, to the dismay of Tigers fans.

The years passed. Colonel Sanders died in 1980, leaving behind two charitable foundations and a Christmas tradition in Japan. Randy Bass became a baseball legend in Japan, left the sport in 1988, and was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate in 2004. The Hanshin Tigers continued to lose the championship.

State Senator Randy Bass

The curse seemed to lift in 2003. After 18 years, the Tigers finally won the Central League Championship again. This time, 5,300 Tigers fans jumped off the bridge and into the river. Everyone thought the curse was over. But it was not: the Tigers lost the Japan Series.

Tigers fans intensified their efforts to find the Colonel. Finally, in March 2009, divers thought they saw a dead body at the bottom of the river. But Tigers fans knew better: that was the missing Colonel. The divers recovered the statue, which had lost both hands and the glasses over the previous 24 years.

The divers found the right hand a day later, but the left hand and glasses are still missing.

The Colonel Restored (but missing his left hand.)

Still, the Tigers' losing streak continued. They have yet to win either the Central League Championship or the Japan Series again. Japanese baseball fans say that the curse will never end until the left hand and glasses are found.

The moral of this story: never throw a Kentucky Colonel into a river. Never underestimate a Colonel's supernatural power to control the fate of your baseball team.

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.