Archive for 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

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 3, Issue 3 (January 2011)

A Whole New Year
Can you believe that it’s already 2011? We can’t! That’s only four months (and a little bit) to have your programming proposal submitted and only nine months (and a little bit) until Sirens. Our new year’s resolution? Get through the Sirens reading list before the conference!

We’ll get to books below, but let’s talk about programming first. If you’ve attended Sirens in the past, you know that the conference programming–all those wonderful presentations and panel debates and discussions–depends on attendee participation. While we create the schedule, events, and the conference as a whole, the presentations–the papers, panels, workshops, roundtable discussions, and afternoon classes–are presented by you. If there’s a topic you’d like to see on the schedule, design it–and then propose it, or nudge someone else to do so or to join you as a co-presenter. (You can even use the Tell a Friend feature to send a note via e-mail or use our message boards to brainstorm or find a collaborator.)

Start with a few big ideas: Sirens focuses on women in fantasy–as authors, as readers, as artists, as professionals, as characters of interest in fantasy works–so connect your presentation to this overarching idea. The 2011 theme is “monsters,” and we encourage you to dig into, analyze, and deconstruct the idea of women as monsters, so presentations related to the theme are of special interest, but in no way does your presentation have to be about monsters. You can get a sense of timelines and information you need to prepare on the call for proposals page. Proposals will be accepted until May 7, 2011.

Keep an eye out here for insider tips for preparing a proposal. We’ll start programming-focused posts on LiveJournal in February.


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.)


Fun Stuff
The Narrate CafePress store has new Sirens merchandise for sale–and haven’t you always wanted a monster water bottle? (Our team is presently debating whether this is a water bottle for monsters or a bottle with monster water.) Also, you can buy reading list books through our links to independent bookseller The Tattered Cover, which recently added Google eBooks to their offerings. Some proceeds from using these links are returned to Narrate Conferences, which we put back into funding Sirens. Check out our page here.


We’re Excited About…
We’re adding a new feature to our newsletter highlighting new and cool things related to Sirens. Do you have a fantasy book release in February? Will you have a short story out next month? Did you just sell your first novel? Does it have to do with women in fantasy in some way? Send your preferred name, a sentence or two about your 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.

In the meantime, this month, we’re super-excited about:

  • Slice of Cherry, Dia Reeves’s new book about Portero. If you haven’t read her first book, Bleeding Violet, what are you waiting for? Hanna, our heroine, shows up in Portero, Texas, talking to her dead father, about to meet her mother for the first time. Hanna, mentally ill, is strong, stubborn, clever and amazing–and she’ll need all of her wit and resourcefulness, since Portero is the new and improved Hellmouth. Bleeding Violet is a wild ride, and I can’t wait to get my hands on Slice of Cherry, also set in Portero. (Warning: Definite triggers in Bleeding Violet for self-harm.) –Amy
  • Sapphique, the sequel to Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, came out in the U.S. on December 28. Now I can strongarm more people into reading this fascinating dystopian YA duo that is both fantasy and science fiction. –Hallie
  • 2011 Guest of Honor Justine Larbalestier received the 2009 Carl Brandon Kindred Award, given to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity by the Carl Brandon Society. Read more about the award, other awards, and winners here. –Hallie
  • Colorado author Hilari Bell’s new series, Trickster, is out this month. The Enchanted Inkpot LiveJournal community has an interview with the author here. –Sabrina


Sirens Review Squad
Please welcome thistleingrey and Jazz Sexton as guest reviewers for 2011. Keep an eye out here for their features on the Sirens reading list and other books.


Conference Planning Corner
We also wanted to add a monthly feature where we answer your questions about conference planning. Why is Sirens set in Vail? Why did we move to buffet meals in 2010? How many books do we read a year, anyway? If you have questions, whatever they may be, about Sirens and our planning process, please send them to (help at And in the meantime, let’s talk about Colorado, Vail, retreats, and altitude.

Why Vail?
When we were designing Sirens, we were looking to create a retreat: a place where people could relax, certainly, but particularly a place where women could escape the expectations placed on them by the world at large. We wanted a safe space where people could engage in lively discussions, but also leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to take on the world.

For us, that meant that we needed to find an escape. We considered locations in large and even mid-sized cities, of course. (Our two conferences prior to Sirens were set in New Orleans and Chicago!) But setting a conference in a city comes with a wealth of (yes, fun!) distractions: great places to eat; lots of museums, arts and sporting events; alternate hotels; and so forth. To us, that looked like a blast, but not necessarily relaxing and, in a lot of ways, even detrimental to forming a community at Sirens. If our attendees are all out sightseeing, what happens to the lively discussions that are so much a part of Sirens?

So we looked elsewhere, smaller places, sometimes off the beaten path. We considered lots of locations, from upstate New York to the dunes of South Carolina, the north woods of Minnesota to the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the deserts outside Tempe to the wilds of the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle. It was a lovely exploration of some of the best of America, actually, and you might still see some of these places for future Sirens.

But Vail won, at least for our first three years, for lots of reasons. Denver is a major airline hub, and its central location means that people from the east coast, the west coast and everywhere from Minnesota to Texas can get here in a couple hours. It’s small enough to have a centralized airport system, as opposed to, say, New York or even Los Angeles, which makes it possible for us to offer the Sirens Shuttle. The scenery is gorgeous, so the trip from the airport can be awe-inspiring, and we know that many people find a weekend high in the Rockies to be relaxing in just the way that we wanted.

And, of course, Sirens is presented by Narrate, a Colorado company. Sirens is a local conference for us, and something we can offer people who live in the middle of the country. We are exempt from sales tax in Colorado, which brings our costs down significantly (not only is catering taxed, the catering service charge is taxed!), and several members of our team live in Colorado, which also brings our costs down significantly (no shipping!). The Rocky Mountains also come with an off-season, which a lot of resorts in sunnier climates don’t have, which helps us reduce our costs even further. For a start-up conference, cost management is essential to success–and being able to continue offering Sirens in future years. To be honest, moving Sirens out of Colorado will probably increase our costs 20%, and finding a way to make that up, either through reduced expenses or additional registration or donation revenue, is a challenge.

But the altitude, you say! Oh, we know. We live here! The altitude can be tough, but it’s also manageable for most people. Did you know that most airplane cabins are pressurized at about Vail’s elevation? Did you also know that many of the issues that people attribute to altitude–headaches, tiredness, insomnia–usually result from dehydration? When our families and friends visit, we greet them at the airport with Gatorade and aspirin. And then we tell them to slow down, take a nap, sit on the porch and watch the scenery for a while, read a book–and relax already!

And that’s why we started Sirens in Vail. Sirens won’t necessarily stay in Vail, but we’ll be there at least for 2011. And we have lots of tips and tricks for managing both travel and the altitude, so if you have concerns, please e-mail us at (help at and we’ll pass them along!


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

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.


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