Archive for May 2011

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 3, Issue 7 (May 2011)

Programming Proposal Deadline
It’s important to Sirens that attendees take a part in devising the conference program through making proposals and presentations. The perspectives of readers, of writers, of scholars, of professionals, of artists, of fans–these help everyone understand the community of fantasy, and its past, present, and future.

The deadline for proposals is May 7, 2011. To get involved, check out our how-to series on LiveJournal.

General programming information:
What type of presentation should I propose?:
Putting together a paper, lecture, talk, or presentation:
Putting together a panel:
Putting together a roundtable discussion:
Putting together a workshop:
Putting together an afternoon class:
Free summaries!:
All the posts tagged “programming”:

Also, in 2011, we’ll award two scholarships for exemplary programming proposals.

Sirens will award the first scholarship, the Sonnet, for one presentation that focuses on thoughtful analysis of women in fantasy. The winning presentation must focus on fantasy works by women, on the analysis of women in fantasy works, or on topics closely related to women in fantasy. Papers (and lectures, talks, and other informative presentations), focused and analytical panels, and roundtable discussions are eligible for the Sonnet scholarship.

Sirens will award the second scholarship, the Song, for one presentation that best addresses the creation of fantasy works, particularly as it connects to women in fantasy. Workshops, afternoon classes, panels that focus on professional or artistic education, and roundtable discussions that focus on professional or artistic topics are eligible for the Song scholarship.

Get more information here on the Sirens LiveJournal.


We’re Excited About…
We didn’t receive any submissions this month–but we hope you’ll send some along next month!

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! (P.S. It’s okay to send us neat stuff as it happens in May, or that we missed in April, too.)


Travel Tip
You can share a room at the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa to reduce your travel costs. The rate is $129 per night for single/double occupancy, and $154 a night for triple/quad occupancy, plus tax and fees. This rate is good starting the night of October 3, 2011, and lasts until the night of October 11, 2011. You can find reservation information here. If you have trouble making your reservation, please let us know–we can help with rate glitches and online reservation problems. Write to us at (help at


Will you be at Book Expo America in May or the June American Library Association conference? We’d like to snap pictures or get news on community members in action. Please e-mail Hallie at (hallie at


Sirens Review Squad
Kit Whitfield, In Great Waters (New York: Del Rey, 2009)

Shorter review: this is a fantasy about third-culture kids and/or an alt-historical with water monsters.

In Henry’s conception of the world, to understand a word or concept is to have to submit to it, to stand uncomfortably beneath it. Henry is of mixed landsman and deepsman heritage—half Homo sapiens, half nicor or nix or grindylow: the water monsters of English, German, and Scandinavian folklore. Till his fifth year, he swam with his mother and knew only the sea. Then he was deposited upon land to be taught by a minor nobleman how to walk, to speak English, and to covet a kingship. As Henry learns (more or less), a deepswoman named Angelica changed the course of a ninth-century battle for control of Venice, with French and Byzantine participants. Her mixed-blood progeny sit on Europe’s thrones and hold the loyalty of both land and sea, but like the Habsburgs in our timeline, some of those monarchs have been weakened by inbreeding. Young Henry, hidden for reasons unknown to him, bides time till he can present himself as a strong alternative to the decrepit English throne.

Then! Right when I’d resigned myself to reading yet another tale of the fair (inevitably male) unknown who wins a crown, the narrative changed: Henry’s tight-third perspective gives way to Anne’s. Anne is the granddaughter of Edward, king of England, but her life is not the stuff of which “happily ever after” is made. Her Hungarian mother, Erzebet, acts coldly in ways often incomprehensible to Anne (yet pellucid to this adult reader); her older sister, Mary, is Anne’s pawn-peer and rival; her uncle Philip is a physically powerful imbecile with a landsman handler. Slowly, but not too slowly, Anne finds her way around and through courtiers’ secrets and family deaths. It emerges as inevitable that Anne and Henry will vie for what seem the same goals, though Anne’s land and sea are not Henry’s land and sea…. This convergence of goals is great, by the way, because it means it is not inevitable that Henry will sweep Anne off her feet; this is not that kind of story.

The Sirens conference themes for both this year and last—monsters and fairies—befit In Great Waters, for those who find such things of interest. (I do.) The monstrous aspect is clearer, with the narrative’s continual attention to otherness: Anne, blue-faced and faintly phosphorescent, finds it convenient to pretend dimwittedness at court, whereas her intellectually slower sister Mary, who looks more like the landsmen who attend her, has no impetus to develop Anne’s uncomfortable suspicions; the reader sees young Henry’s lag behind the deepsman children with whom he competes for food, then his instinctive reactions to being held within a stone tower, where the warm hearth desired by landsmen and a room’s corners induce acute, unreasoning fear. For each character in the story, multiple individuals with whom she or he must interact are other and partially incomprehensible as a result, yet—at the same time—meaningful participants in the world, not dismissed for their difference. Class privilege plays a large part therein, due to Angelica’s legacy, but it is important nonetheless that Whitfield has created a world in which landsmen and deepsmen are not in binary opposition. A spectrum of variation exists whereby everyone is “monstrous” in some way.

Fairylore entwines the narrative realizations of monstrosity as well. The “fair unknown” story-trope I mention above is ordinarily a forest-set fairy story; more subtly, the landsman/deepsman regnal blending that the story describes recalls the old story that Richard Lionheart (king of England 1157–99) claimed descent from Mélusine. That said, too much attention to fairylore, and to the medieval history and cultures that gave it rise, will not be your friend in reading this story. Suffice it to explain by analogy how the narrative slights deepsman culture in favor of landsman culture, in both characters’ tight-third narration. The backstory of the conflicts that entangle Henry, Anne, and others is probably the weakest aspect of this work, but if you can avoid scratching at the scenery, what’s on center stage is well worth the time.

Neatly focused and complete in one volume (though the final resolution cheats somewhat, I think), In Great Waters offers political uncertainty, oft-sympathetic characters, and no easy answers about identity. I recommend it! —thistleingrey


Have questions? Please ask them here or write to (help at

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