Archive for April 2012

Sirens Site Visit Update

Happy spring! Our Sirens team, on a visit to Skamania last week, had a beautiful mix of sunshine and temperamental rain, much like you might expect from the Pacific Northwest in April. Which means that our pictures from our rooms at Skamania range from this:

To this:

But don’t let me get ahead of myself with the amazing pictures of the Columbia River and the Cascade Mountains! We were there to do things other than gawk, and I promise we did.

As many of you know, moving a conference takes a lot of time, consideration, and care. Things that we’ve long since figured out about Vail – the conference schedule, the marketplace, Jake the Bus Driver – have to be reconsidered and reconfigured. So off we went to Skamania to meet with our hotel team.

You’ll be pleased to know that Skamania remains simply wonderful: cozy public spaces, thoughtful staff, glorious views. Our team has voted, and we think it’s actually prettier than Vail. (Seriously, take a look at the pictures above.) And it’s only 207 feet above sea level!

The lobby has all-day coffee, tea, and cocoa; a Forest Service office with advice about surrounding trails and wildlife; and a fabulous sitting area that offers a three-story real-wood fireplace:

And, oh, the view from the lobby looks like this:

The hotel has two restaurants, though, alas, no marketplace, so item number one was to discuss how to offer attendees quick-shop meal options throughout the day. I’m happy to report that we’re well on our way to not only doing so, but doing so with locally sourced food. The new chef – who stopped by our breakfast – is charming, fun, and best of all, interested in continuing Skamania’s commitment to local food sourcing. Here are some of his creations:

Green eggs and ham:

And winter desserts:

We’re also well on our way to rolling out custom catering menus for our Sirens meals. We’ve emphasized our desire for local, creative options, so we’re waiting to see if that means Columbia River Gorge fish, pasta with local vegetables, the most fabulous tofu curry, or something entirely different! (Can you tell I’m pulling for the tofu?)

By the way, if you’re taking the Sirens Shuttle, more information is coming soon! But the views along the shuttle route to Skamania look like this:

The view from Vista House:

To the view of Multnomah Falls, the second-highest, year-round waterfall in the United States at 620 feet:

If I were you, I might think about taking the shuttle just so I could gawk without becoming a hazard!

If you feel like relaxing, Skamania – of course! – has a spa and some amazing pools and hot tubs! (We did not take pictures, since there were people, but the outside hot tub is especially fun.) And if you’re feeling more adventurous, there are hiking trails…with evidence of a sasquatch:

Now that we’ve met with the Skamania team, we’ll have more information about our schedule, our menus, our shuttle, and other programs coming in the next couple months. In the meantime, though, remember that our programming submissions deadline is May 6, 2012. And if you have any questions or concerns, just ask!

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 4, Issue 6 (April 2012)

Our programming submission deadline approaches! Our programming schedule, from topics to presentation types, is drawn from the submissions we receive from attendees. In other words, if you’d like to see it, you should propose it—or convince someone else to. We certainly hope you’ll consider taking part!

And we’re here to help! Our annual series on programming and how to be involved continues on LiveJournal under the programming tag:

There are currently posts on general preparation, papers, panels, and brainstorming (the last one is here:

Also, if you’re looking for co-presenters, why not place an ad in one–or all–of these places?
The Sirens Chat LiveJournal
Sirens message boards

The deadline for proposing papers, panels, workshops, roundtable discussions, and afternoon classes is May 6, 2012. Those five weeks will fly by! If you have questions, please feel free to ask them here or to write to (programming at


The Sirens team will host a chat on Sunday, April 22. We’ll make it a combined chat: lots of book talk, lots of reconnecting, and lots of programming brainstorming. Questions welcome!
Date: April 22
Time: 11:00 a.m. Eastern (8 a.m. Pacific)
You don’t need any special software or programs to participate; the page at will turn into a chat room at the appropriate time. (You may need to refresh the page.)


You’re Excited About…
Black Heart, the third book in the Curse Workers series by Holly Black, is due out April 3rd! — Sabs

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is up for Teen Choice Book of the Year at the 2012 Children’s Choice Book Awards. More information about the award, the other finalists and the Children’s Book Council can be found here: Voting ends May 3. — Faye

April showers will bring Banner of the Damned!! Woot woot. — Kristen

The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson comes out on April 17! — Hallie


What Are You Excited About?
Do you have a book coming out, or are you excited about something new on the shelves? Have you just discovered everyone else’s old favorite fantasy series? Found an interesting fantasy-related link? 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!


Within a Day’s Drive…
If you’re planning to come in early to Sirens or stay late, you’ll be just a few hours from some amazing scenery and some great cities. Here are just a few of the attractions within a day’s drive from Stevenson, Washington. Some could be day trips; others will need two or three for drive time and sightseeing.

  • Mt. Rainier
  • Mt. Hood
  • Mt. St. Helens
  • Seattle (take at least one ferry ride!)
  • Portland (check out: Powell’s Bookstore, Voodoo Doughnut, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry)
  • The Oregon coast, including Seaside, Lincoln City, and Cannon Beach
  • Maryhill Winery and Maryhill Museum of Art–as well as other wine-friendly stretches of Oregon and Washington
  • Multnomah Falls, Vista House, and other sights in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Ka-Nee-Ta Resort on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation
  • The temperate rainforest and cold Pacific beaches of the Olympic Peninsula

And, of course, you can always extend your stay at Skamania Lodge to read, write, hike, spa, swim, or soak in one of several hot tubs. Our discounted room rates are good from October 7 to October 16, 2012, based on availability.


Sirens Review Squad

In Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber (2000), young Tan-Tan is swept along when her father, an ethically challenged mayor named Antonio Habib, is exiled from their home on Toussaint to a bushland place called New Half-Way Tree, “the mirror planet of Toussaint” (2). This invocation of a mirror bears significance, for Midnight Robber interlaces two narratives: Tan-Tan’s obstacle-ridden coming of age, directed transparently to the reader, and its mirror-tale iteration of Tan-Tan the Robber Queen’s exploits, which a computer addresses to a fetus about to be born. The two strands become tangled to excellent effect, and they strengthen Tan-Tan–in the reader’s mind and possibly in Tan-Tan’s–for the final confrontation of an assault-driven trauma.

Like many SF novels, though unlike them in its awareness of the practice, Hopkinson’s novel extrapolates its futuristic setting from the cultures with which its author grew up. Thus, the shorthand signifiers that enable science fiction novels to avoid being mired in successive infodumps have a Caribbean-inflected basis here: a personal AI helper is an eshu, for example, and the distributed nanocomputer network that watches over the Toussaint colony is known as Granny Nanny or Granny ‘Nansi. Logical. Yet the latter choice is not a simple substitution for “web”: Anansi is the ubiquitous spider-trickster of Caribbean and West African tales, traditionally male, and the character’s refiguration here as a protective, vaguely maternal social guardian with which everyone on Toussaint is infected moves right through folkloric allusion to ethical declaration. The didactic adventure-tales of the narrative’s mirror strand help the reader to comprehend the values and ideals of the cultures Tan-Tan passes through–though, of course, their narration by Granny Nanny, an exceptionally unreliable narrator (and trickster?), also makes them suspect, as the reader sees regarding the douen, a species indigenous to New Half-Way Tree.

With Midnight Robber Hopkinson has not only told a solidly engaging story but knotted into it implicit and explicit critiques of how we envision futures–future individuals, cultures, countercultures–when we write and read.

(If you have trouble with the novel’s use of patois, read it aloud to yourself till you find the cadences.) —


Questions? You can comment here or write to us at (help at

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.


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