Archive for February 2011

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 3, Issue 4 (February 2011)

Programming: It’s Proposal Time!
We’re ready to receive proposals for papers and presentations, pre-empaneled sets of papers, panels, workshops, roundtable discussions, and afternoon classes. The proposal deadline is May 7, 2011, but it’s not too early to start brainstorming, to post want ads for co-presenters (maybe here in the comments or on the message boards, or to start outlining your proposal. The majority of the programming for Sirens comes from the proposals submitted by attendees; your ideas are very important to Sirens’s success.

February and March will bring a series of how-to posts for new and experienced presenters. In the meantime, here are a few quick facts about programming.

  • Anyone eligible to attend Sirens is eligible to submit a programming proposal. We welcome proposals from a range of perspectives, fields, and experiences.
  • The 2011 theme is “monsters,” and we encourage you to engage with the theme, but we also encourage presentations on topics related to fantasy, with a focus on women as consumers and producers of fantasy.
  • You don’t have to be registered at the time you make your proposal, but accepted presenters must be registered by June 3, 2011, to confirm attendance.
  • The programming section of the Sirens website has all sorts of information on presentation formats and lengths, things to consider, and the support the conference may be able to provide (projection services, easels, etc.).
  • If you have a question that’s not answered by the website, the programming team can be reached at (programming at, and generally via comments and the forums.


The next chat will be on February 12, 2011. We’ll make it a combined chat: lots of book talk, and lots of programming brainstorming talk. Questions welcome!
Date: February 12
Time: 3:00 p.m. Eastern/noon Pacific
You don’t need any special software or programs to participate; the page will turn into a chat room at the appropriate time. (You may need to refresh the page.)


We’re Excited About…

Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales by Tamora Pierce comes out from Random House on February 22. –Amy

Send your preferred name, a sentence or two about the exciting news, and any important dates or links to (hallie at or leave us a comment, and we’ll feature you in next month’s newsletter. We love good news!


Summer Book Discussions on LiveJournal
This summer, we’ll be highlighting books by our guests of honor–Justine Larbalestier, Nnedi Okorafor, and Laini Taylor–in reviews and with discussion questions. Check out their books and this year’s version of the reading list here.


Travel Tip: Sirens Shuttles and Greyhound Buses
We’re happy to report that we’ll still be running shuttles to Vail on both Wednesday, October 5, and Thursday, October 6, leaving Denver International at 3:30 p.m., and all shuttle riders will be returning to Denver International by 2:00 p.m. on Sunday (for flights leaving at 3:30 p.m. or later). You can book your shuttle ticket when you register.

For those looking for an alternative to flights, Greyhound stops in Vail several times a day. You’ll need to transfer from the Vail stop to the hotel shuttle, so be sure to carry the hotel’s number to find out the wait time. (Usually, the shuttle runs on a loop, but it’s still good to know if the shuttle has been delayed or rerouted due to construction, as it was in 2010, and calling when you arrive lets the hotel know you’re waiting.)


Sirens Review Squad: A Curse Dark as Gold and Incarceron
A Curse Dark as Gold
Elizabeth C. Bunce
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008

Elizabeth C. Bunce’s A Curse Dark as Gold is enchanting before the first word is even read. On the cover, a girl’s hands are clasped in prayer and wrapped in gold thread–an ominous piece of beauty for those familiar with the tale of Rumpelstiltskin. Upon opening the cover, brilliant blue end papers greet the reader, and within the second chapter it is told that blue is a color of protection to ward off the Folk. And so this tale held in readers’ hands is wrapped in good magic, and shouldn’t fear the words be stolen by demons.

Bunce introduces her audience to Charlotte Miller, the eldest daughter of the now deceased Mr. Miller, who must take over the mill her father left behind. The differences between Bunce’s telling and older versions of Rumpelstiltskin are striking. A deceased father means no one to boast falsely about his daughter’s ability to spin straw into gold, and no king to put her under duress if she does not produce the goods. So the theme of one lie affecting the heroine is put aside, but in its place remain secrets, tragedies, and false identities. Indeed, this is a text rich in personal and worldly history.

Curse is set at the dawn of the industrial revolution in a small town where steam power is not yet in favor–a setting that allows Bunce to develop issues of class, child labor, and a rustic way of life that may not be as cozy as readers would like to picture. Historical purists may want to read the Author’s Note, in which Bunce admits the historical liberties she takes, before delving into the text.

Once in the text, Charlotte’s voice is one authors and readers crave. Charlotte is practical with little patience for belief in the curse the town says is on her family. Charlotte’s narration is much like readers will come to picture her fabrics–tightly woven, each layer made with great care (and bits of funny town gossip offered in tidy parentheses). She is a heroine who uses her mind to protect her town, her business, her family. Charlotte’s unwavering nerve will have readers feeling relief and dismay along with the young woman who must right wrongs of those who came before her without losing everything dear to her in the process.

In the course of A Curse Dark as Gold, many stories are told by many voices that have long held their silence through consent or force. Characters the reader thinks vile may turn sympathetic, but Bunce does not use her authorial hand to guide what conclusions the reader should come to. In the end, Bunce’s revision of the tale still explores power in its corrupt and liberating forms that leads to an end both chilling and rewarding. Then the blue end papers return, wrapping the words in friendly protection once more until readers return for another go at the spinning of a dark legend.–Jazz

Catherine Fisher
Dial, January 2010 (U.S. edition)

Finn lives in Incarceron, a prison conceived as a great utopian experiment, designed so that criminals and scholars could reboot society and create a paradise together. Instead, knowledge and humanity are lost, ailing, self-destructing. Within the prison, which is vast enough to contain isolated settlements and small enough to gather in close around its inhabitants, the question of self-determination–and what it means to be human–looms large as the prison both takes over and shuts down. When Finn finds a strange key with a symbol matching the tattoo on his wrist, and he can hear and see someone inside the key, he starts to believe that he came from Outside, and that maybe an Outside of Incarceron exists. Only one person is ever thought to have escaped from Incarceron, and if Finn is to escape, he’ll need help–the prison wants him. Maybe wants him dead.

Claudia is the daughter of the warden of Incarceron prison, and she finds a matching crystal key that can be used to talk to Finn. She’s about to marry the prince, Outside, and one day she is to be queen. It’s all arranged: Claudia’s world is one where it was decided that rules and protocols were the marker of a fine society, and so everyone must play assigned roles in a sort of Faire-esque dystopia. Only the upper classes can find comfort, because they’re the only ones who can hide plumbing behind the holographic doors to the chamberpots and the only ones who can sneak a few modern conveniences (like medicines) in around the edges of the law. Even as Claudia discovers more about the world Outside, her thoughts keep returning to Finn, whom she suspects is someone more than the average prisoner–but the mystery of where the prison is, its nature, and who inhabits it could be her own destruction.

There’s a lot going on in Incarceron, in a good way, and it’s been a long time since I felt a book had just the right number of characters, all of them well-drawn and vivid. Incarceron‘s story is split fairly evenly between book 1 and its sequel, Sapphique. There’s a lot to chew on, from the various plot lines to subtle references to legends that appear as broad stripes. I find it especially interesting that Incarceron draws its heart from science fiction, but makes its points through fantasy. I struggle with comparisons, but I think Incarceron has the beguiling and familiar charm of Harry Potter, where you want to climb in and look around even though you know that’s not a good idea; the intensity of The Hunger Games, because these books are pretty relentless; the intricacy of The Golden Compass, with a plot bigger than any single hero/ine; the surreal imagination of Alice in Wonderland; and a sweep as wide The Lord of the Rings, if at the same time claustrophobic in its setting.

For me, the real appeal of Incarceron is the ensemble cast; the sense of danger and adventure; the blend of fantasy and dystopia, and even fantasy as dystopia; the gripping plot; and the twists. If you and I are book friends, then you’ll be pleased to know that the sequel to Incarceron, Sapphique, came out in the U.S. last December. Both books are available in the U.K. A film adaptation is in the works. —Hallie


Have questions? You can leave them here in the comments section or e-mail them to (help at

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