Author: Isaac Yuen

Perseid Meteor Showers

Transience, Juxtaprose Magazine

Happy to have a new personal essay up in the summer issue of Juxtaprose, a literary magazine that juxtaposes both emerging and established writers as well as local and global ones. It seemed a good fit as Transience itself contrasts the terrestrial with the celestial, the profound with the quotidian, the intimate with the vastly distant: “…Hundreds of us had gathered for the Perseid meteor showers, drawn to a source phenomenon that may have sparked our species’ penchant for fireworks, rock concerts, and other grand spectacles. Throughout the ages cultures gave names to these star sacrifices, imbued them with intention, granted them power. Shooting stars were transmuted into the slings of slighted gods, dragons of fortune and calamity, the tears of martyred saints. Even in modern times, when we know that they comprise mere rock and debris, many of us continue to attach meaning to these mineral rains. Some of us still seek miracles by appealing to forces we do not understand and cannot master. I still, on occasion, have the need to wish upon …

Omega Institute Rhinebeck

2018 Orion Environmental Writers’ Workshop

Looking forward to attending the Orion Environmental Writers’ Workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, this June 10-15: “The Orion Environmental Writers’ Workshop is an annual week-long writing workshop for writers who want to improve their writing about nature and the environment. This workshop gives writers the unique opportunity to connect with Orion writers and editors in order to understand more deeply Orion‘s approach to the relationship between literature and the natural world. This program is for writers who want to learn how to write an Orion essay, short story, or poem; for writers who seek to become better advocates for the environment through their writing; for poets who are drawn to writing about nature and culture; for teachers and scholars who wish to write for a more general readership; and for environmental professionals who want to bring better writing skills to bear on their work.” As I’m trying my hand at fiction this time around, I’m excited to workshop pieces with Megan Mayhew Bergman, essayist for The Paris Review and author of the excellent short story collection Birds of …

Clouds and Cornfield

All My Best Words Were Hers

My thanks to Entropy Magazine for publishing All My Best Words Were Hers, my essay exploring the legacy of Ursula K. Le Guin. Over the past several months, I’ve mourned her passing by reading every tribute I can find. Most touch upon her seminal works, on Earthsea and Omelas, on The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness. Yet few seem to speak to the wider breadth of her oeuvre, which ranged from critical essays and genre-defying short stories to translations of ancient texts and funny food recipes. Le Guin would be rankled at that, I think. This piece is intended to shine a light on her lesser known works, reorient her more famous pieces through my own lens, and showcase the woman behind and beyond the words. She would appreciate the gesture, I hope: “In the evening, my mom sends me a text: Are you ok? I saw one of her quotes @Twitter: ‘Go on and do your work. Do it well. It is all you can do.’ Gensher, of Way. A biological parent, delivering advice from a literary …

Dear Ursula…

When I first began writing seriously a few years back, I enrolled in a local creative writing intensive program. During one of the workshop sessions, we were asked to read something we loved in order to figure out how great writing sounds. Naturally I settled on your writing and found a passage in my battered Ace trade paperback edition of The Left Hand of Darkness. Chapter 18 begins: “Sometimes, as I’m falling asleep in a dark and quiet room, I have for a moment a great and treasurable illusion of the past. The wall of the tent leans up against my face, not visible but audible, a slanting plane of faint sound. The susurrus of blown snow, nothing can be seen. The light emission of the Chabe stove is cut off, and it exists only as a sphere of heat, a heart of warmth. The faint dampness and confining cling of my sleeping bag, the sound of the snow. Barely audible, Estraven’s breathing as he sleeps. Darkness. Nothing else. We are inside, the two of …

Sunflower Briar Patch

The Briar Patch, The Sunlight Press

Happy to have a short piece published in The Sunlight Press, a literary journal for new and established voices: “…With the site prepared, you and your friends begin to forge something new. There are no master plans, no plans at all. A wire fence, they say, to keep out the rats. Some wood chips to lay, to mark down the paths. You throw yourself into tasks that fill body and mind, and over the course of an easy spring, hard work gives rise to small beginnings. Radish seeds and sweet peas spool forth soft threads, greedy for light. Butterflies wink in and out to drink sugar syrup from trumpet flowers. A new commonwealth sprawls forth above ground and underfoot. Yet part of you still yearns for the manic patch of old, wild and invasive, all-consuming…” Exploring the healing power of a garden over the seasons, “The Briar Patch” is a piece that fits with the publication’s desire to explore the many ways “people turn toward light and hope”, and also of epiphanies “born from the …

Emperor Penguins

On Pools and Penguins: Zoomorphic’s Brave Bird

Just in time to wrap up the year, I’m pleased to announce that my short meditation on emperor penguins is out in Zoomorphic: In Celebration and Defence of Wild Animals: “While doing laps at the pool one day, I came to the conclusion that the penguin is the most courageous and admirable of birds, because swimming is a meditative act, and a cleansed mind occasionally entertains notions of avian mettle. Not the eagle, I decided, which coasts by on piercing looks but is secretly not above scavenging, nor the owl, whose fame for foresight is wholly unearned, bested in wit by any parrot or common crow. No, I concluded as I flipped and pushed off into another length, it is the penguin I revere in all its awkward, earthbound glory…” The germ of the essay originated during a routine pool session back when I was still disciplined enough to go regularly; somehow movement, especially repetitive acts like walking or swimming, seems to help facilitate the flow of ideas. The piece also ends with a personal resolution …

2047: Short Stories from Our Common Future

I‘m honoured to have a piece included in 2047: Short Stories From Our Common Future, an international climate fiction anthology released last week. My interest was initially piqued when author Tanja Bisgaard approached me with the collection’s premise: 30 years have passed since the release of the Brundtland report, a landmark document from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development that introduced the idea of sustainable development as that “which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.” What will the world be like 30 years from now? With the perception that climate fiction (or cli-fi as it’s now called) tending to be weighty and depressing, I decided to inject some levity into my contribution. “NuVenture™ TEMPO-L QuickStart Guide” is satire through and through; the story takes the form of an instruction manual for the world’s best selling budget-model time machine, poking fun at capitalism’s worst impulses taken to their logical extremes. “So I gathered a group of authors and asked them to write their vision of …