Archive for 2015

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 8, Issue 1 (November 2015)

In this issue:


Thank you, thank you, thank you for making Sirens in 2015 utterly amazing.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, for wrestling with tough questions, for celebrating successes, for commiserating on struggles, and most of all, for recognizing the depth and breadth of work related to women in fantasy literature. Thank you for welcoming newcomers and connecting with old friends. Thank you for contributing to (and buying from!) our auction and our store; every penny is appreciated.

And a hearty thank you to our 2015 guests of honor—Rae Carson, Kate Elliott, and Yoon Ha Lee—who regaled us with engaging, informative, heartfelt, and funny keynotes.

Guest of Honor Kate Elliott - Thursday, October 8, 2015.Guest of Honor Yoon Ha Lee - Friday, October 9, 2015.Bedtime Stories at Sirens in 2015. From top to bottom: Rae Carson, Yoon Ha Lee, and Kate Elliott.Guest of Honor Rae Carson - Saturday, October 10, 2015.


Our website for 2016 is up! You can find it, as always, at We hope you’ll visit to find out more about next year’s theme, lovers: In fantasy literature, as in the real world, whom we choose to love changes us—and helps us change the world. Renée Ahdieh, Laurie J. Marks, and Kiini Ibura Salaam will attend as our guests of honor.

We will remain at the Inverness for another year, and Sirens will be held October 20–23, 2016, with the pre-conference Sirens Studio on Tuesday, October 18, and Wednesday, October 19, and the Sirens Supper on Wednesday, October 19. The Sirens Shuttle will run on Monday, October 18; Wednesday, October 19; Thursday, October 20; and on Sunday, October 23, for the return trip to Denver International Airport. Registration for the conference is currently $190, and will remain at that price until the end of the year. Studio, Supper, and Shuttle tickets can be purchased separately.

For now, our programming and volunteering systems remain closed for some maintenance, but we’ll be sure to shout the news when they’re available again. You can still get all the news on our website, and we’ll be featuring more on our guests, travel, programming, and theme throughout the year. In the meantime, feel free to grab a graphic to show your support. We hope you can join us next October!


If you have questions, please email us at (help at, and we’ll make sure your question goes to someone who can answer it. We know that questions come up when you’re on social media, but our social media team doesn’t have the answers for most questions, and most social media channels don’t allow us to answer accurately, fully, securely, or quickly, at least not while we remain a volunteer-run conference. Thanks for your understanding! Our operators are standing by….


Between now and the end of the year, we’ll be a little quieter than normal; with the hectic preparation for Sirens over, and the new website up and ready for registrations, we think of these few weeks as “summer vacation” for Sirens. We do always love to hear about interesting links and fantasy releases, though, and if you run into any problems or questions, you can always email us at (help at


We know that many story ideas, personal projects, and career moves have started at Sirens. Sometimes, those ideas and changes have been successful immediately; at other times, those sparks took years to grow into a flame. If you’ve got a story to share about how attending Sirens is connected to a success you’ve had, we’d love to hear about it, and we’d love to have you share it. Please email (help at by December 1. Many thanks!


If you’re looking for a bit of structure for your Sirens reading, or you simply love a challenge, you’re in the right place. Each year, our staff reads a wide selection of fantasy works written by women, some within our theme and some more broadly. This year, we invite you to take our challenge!

To take the challenge, read 25 books according to the rules on our Reading Challenge page. And keep track: we’ll be waiting for you with a button next October.


If you’re not up for a challenge, but want some new fantasy selections to read, we have gathered a wide-ranging collection of books for our 2016 suggested reading list—not just the works by this year’s guests of honor, but fantasy by and about women that connect to this year’s lovers theme.

Also, Amy will be running her book club on our Goodreads group again this year. Each year, she selects a book a month from the suggested reading list that she hasn’t already read. She reads and reviews, and you’re welcome to join in the conversation. The books for 2016 are already up over at Goodreads.



Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens–Edith Hope Bishop

Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens–Artemis Grey

Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens–Yoon Ha Lee

Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens–Nivair Gabriel

Suzi Rogers Gruber: Fantasy Works Featuring Women Who Fight Back

Missing the book releases and interesting links? Keep an eye out—we’ll be catching up on autumn news soon!


Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at and questions about programming to (programming at


Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens – Edith Hope Bishop

During Sirens, we invited all attendees to write: a testimonial, a love letter, a tale inspired by Sirens. As we work on our new website, arriving November 1, 2015, we will feature the stories shared by the Sirens community.

Edith Hope Bishop (@ehbishop)
Sirens are fabled to be seductive, often dangerous creatures who lure unsuspecting sailors to their deaths beneath the sea. While I admit to some personal delight in this characterization, the truth is that my experience with Sirens has been entirely different. Sirens has been life-giving, healing, honest, and authentic. When at Sirens I feel both safe and buoyant, lifted up by the supportive, loving, and highly intelligent people who attend. The truest connection I see between the conference and the mythological creatures is through song. Sirens are known for the power of their voices and for the undeniable allure of their being. That, I believe, is true. I hope it isn’t too sappy to say, that yes, Sirens, your voices are strong and have absolutely won my heart.

Love Song for Sirens
Seaweed girls-
Water demons-
Rebel swans.
All of the sea-
That deep body
New and old.
Fluid words, story song.
The long slow tide
Of time
Into what we dream

With all my heart,


September Recap: Sirens News, Book Releases, and Interesting Links

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of interesting links and September book releases of fantasy by and about women.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve sold a fantasy work, read a great recently-released story, discovered a fantastic link that we missed, or if you’ve got a book or story review to share, please get in touch. Send news to (help at



Five Fantasies of the Roaring Twenties from the New Gilded Age

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 7, Issue 11 (September 2015)

Testimonials: Write about something that happened at Sirens

Fantasy Works Featuring Women Who Fight Back

Six Fantasy Manga



Interesting Links:


Book Releases


Click the image for a closer look at the covers.

September 1:
Archangel’s Enigma, Nalini Singh
Catacomb, Madeleine Roux
Chapelwood, Cherie Priest
The Copper Gauntlet, Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Crucible Zero, Devon Monk
Dark Ghost, Christine Feehan
The Death House, Sarah Pinborough
The Drafter, Kim Harrison
Dragon Heart, Cecelia Holland
Firewalker, Josephine Angelini
Ghost Summer: Stories, Tananarive Due
The Glowing Knight, Jodi Meadows
Hunter, Mercedes Lackey
Jillian Cade: (Fake) Paranormal Investigator, Jen Klein
Lady of Magick, Sylvia Izzo Hunter
Midnight Dolls, Kiki Sullivan
Midnight Hunter, Kait Ballenger
Queen of Shadows, Sarah J. Maas
A Red-Rose Chain, Seanan McGuire
The Secrets of Blood and Bone, Rebecca Alexander
Shades of Doon, Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon
The Shadow Behind the Stars, Rebecca Hahn
Smoked, Mari Mancusi
Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho
Star Wars: Lost Stars , Claudia Gray
The Sparrow Sisters, Ellen Herrick
Updraft, Fran Wilde
The Wanderers, Kate Ormand

September 3:
Lament for the Afterlife, Lisa L. Hannett

September 8:
The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated), Ainslie Hogarth
Dark Shimmer, Donna Jo Napoli
Darken the Stars, Amy A. Bartol
Drift & Dagger, Kendall Kulper
Serpentine, Cindy Pon
The Sleeping King, Cindy Dees and Bill Flippin
The Suffering, Rin Chupeco
Sweet Temptation, Wendy Higgins

September 15:
The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen, Katherine Howe
Ash & Bramble, Sarah Prineas
Awakening the Mare, Jacqueline Druga
The Battle for Oz, Jeyna Grace
The Dead House, Dawn Kurtagich
Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code, Heidi Schultz ill. John Hendrix
Maid of Wonder, Jennifer McGowan
Mirrored, Alex Flinn
Untamed City: Carnival of Secrets, Melissa Marr
Shattered Blue, Lauren Bird Horowitz
The Weight of Feathers, Anna-Marie McLemore

September 22:
Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
Blood and Salt, Kim Liggett
Dance with the Devil, Angela Dennis
Followed by Frost, Charlie N. Holmberg
This Monstrous Thing, Mackenzi Lee
Never Never, Brianna Shrum
The Scorpion Rules, Erin Bow
Silver Eve, Sandra Waugh
The Summer Marked, Rebekah L. Purdy
Ungodly, Kendare Blake
The Visitant: A Venetian Ghost Story, Megan Chance
Walk on Earth a Stranger, Rae Carson

September 24:
Shadows at Midnight, Amanda Bonilla

September 29:
Autumn Moon, Jan DeLima
The Bloodforged, Erin Lindsey
Brazen, Christina Farley
Daughters unto Devils, Amy Lukavics
Down the Rabbit Hole, J. D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Mary Kay McComas, and R. C. Ryan
Fated, Sarah Fine
The Heart Goes Last, Margaret Atwood
Last Song Before Night, Ilana C. Myer
A Mad Zombie Party, Gena Showalter
Madly, Amy Alward
Menagerie, Rachel Vincent
Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo
The Unquiet Past, Kelley Armstrong
Until Beth, Lisa Amowitz


Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens – Artemis Grey

During Sirens, we invited all attendees to write: a testimonial, a love letter, a tale inspired by Sirens. As we work on our new website, arriving November 1, 2015, we will feature the stories shared by the Sirens community.

Artemis Grey (@greyartemis)
She was going to fail. That wasn’t in question. Her mother knew it, and her father, too. They had told her as much. Even her grandmother, wild in her youth, agreed with the others. They warned her away with the kindest intentions, speaking with love and protective ministrations. Writing is something almost no one succeeds in. You don’t want to waste yourself. Think of the heartache.

They were right, she knew.

For a while, she resisted. But the song of lost words, of tales long untold, began to writhe and roil beneath her skin, crawling along muscle and nesting against bone. To ignore them brought only more discomfort, an artificial tumor that she could excise if only she lanced the growth with a pen and allowed it to bleed out onto paper.

In the daylight, it was easier, amid the raucous churning of others’ lives, oblivious to the worlds rising and crumbling inside her soul. But the dark hours were long, filled with the whispers of unheard voices and the leftover pieces of unlived lives. And the twilight of dawn was the hardest of all, when she had to turn and face the rising of the sun, and put her back to all that she loved. It was the sickle moon that finally broke her chains, lancing loops of shackle with horns upturned, piercing tips all jagged truth.

And in the smallest hours of deepest night, she drew her pen, and chose to write.


Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens – Yoon Ha Lee

During Sirens, we invited all attendees to write: a testimonial, a love letter, a tale inspired by Sirens. As we work on our new website, arriving November 1, 2015, we will feature the stories shared by the Sirens community.

Yoon Ha Lee (@motomaratai)
Sirens Story Wot Needs a Title

In a tower by the sea, there lived a woman who sang to the gulls every morning. Hers was not a beautiful voice, but she knew the storm-words and the rain-words and the tide-words, and with it she enticed the boys and girls and alts of the village. They would listen to her weather-prophecies before going to sea, and their nets brought back not only fish and kelp and shrimp but shattered chains, bent coins, silks rotted partway through: the treasures of ancient pirates and tribute ships.

One evening, as the woman gazed out the window, she sang again, and this time not to the village children but to the sea’s denizens. From the depths of the moon-blurred sea came sirens, their eyes dark as pearls, their skin like deepest night, their hair tangled with the broken-off bits of coral and driftwood. They sang back to the woman, saying: Why do you stay in the tower where you cannot swim? And she said, Why do you sing when you do not fish? They conceded the point, but from then on they sang to each other every morning and evening. As for the villagers, they kept this their secret, and so it went for generations.


Testimonials: Inspired by Sirens – Nivair Gabriel

During Sirens, we invited all attendees to write: a testimonial, a love letter, a tale inspired by Sirens. As we work on our new website, arriving November 1, 2015, we will feature the stories shared by the Sirens community.

Nivair Gabriel
At my first Sirens, I experienced a keynote address the likes of which I had never before seen. Alaya Dawn Johnson blended her genius with that of Janelle Monáe in a musical journey that made me see her work in a new and richer light. Johnson shared adventures from her travels, surprises from her research, and gems of her ideas with us. The depth with which she spoke and the thoughtfulness of the audience chatter afterward felt unique and exceptional. I decided: I have to come back to this conference every year that I can, come hell or high water.

Two years later, my bookshelves have grown fuller, my circle of friends has expanded, and my writing aspirations have found new encouragement. My hope in the transformative power of literature and the specific power of women is renewed every time this community meets. “I have a book for you” is still the most exciting sentence I hear, and I hear it every year from someone I admire as soon as I meet them. I thank the Goddess that this thrilling, inspiring gathering exists!


August Recap: Sirens News, Book Releases, and Interesting Links

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of interesting links and August book releases of fantasy by and about women.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve sold a fantasy work, read a great recently-released story, discovered a fantastic link that we missed, or if you’ve got a book or story review to share, please get in touch. Send news to (help at



Sirens Newsletter—Volume 7, Issue 10 (August 2015)

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Panels

Casey Blair’s book list of Six Secondary World Urban Fantasies

Find out ways you can Support Sirens

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Afternoon Classes

s. e. smith’s book list of Five Dark and Twisty Young Adult Works

Sirens Guest of Honor Interview: Rae Carson

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Workshops

Rae Carson’s book list of Five Young Adult Fantasy Works with Adult Crossover Appeal

Testimonials: If you’ve attended Sirens more than once, why did you decide to come back to Sirens?

July Recap: Sirens News, Book Releases, and Interesting Links

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Roundtable Discussions

Erynn Moss’s book list of Eight Fantasy Works That Don’t Over-Explain



Interesting Links:


Book Releases


Click the image for a closer look at the covers.

August 1:
One Good Dragon Deserves Another, Rachel Aaron
Perdita, Faith Gardner

August 4:
Alice, Christina Henry
Astra, Naomi Foyle
Blood Call, Lilith Saintcrow
The Bone Artists, Madeleine Roux
The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl, Ishbelle Bee
Daughter of Dusk, Livia Blackburne
Dragonbane, Sherrilyn Kenyon
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
Lamp Black, Wolf Grey, Paula Brackston
Kitty Saves the World, Carrie Vaughn
Magic Shifts, Ilona Andrews
The Nightmare Charade, Mindee Arnett
Of Dreams and Rust, Sarah Fine
Public Enemies, Ann Aguirre
Smoke on the Water, Lori Handeland
Torn Sky, Tracy Banghart
Waterborne Exile, Susan Murray
While You Were Gone, Amy K. Nichols

August 6:
Darkmere, Helen Maslin

August 11:
Ethics and Form in Fantasy Literature: Tolkien, Rowling, and Meyer, Lykke Guanio-Uluru
Falling in Love with Hominids, Nalo Hopkinson
Fool’s Quest, Robin Hobb
The Healer, Virginia Boecker
Jubilee Manor, Bethany Hagen
Lumière, Jacqueline E. Garlick
Reawakened, Colleen Houck
Storm Moon, Teri Harman

August 18:
Across the Long Sea, Sarah Remy
Bitter of Tongue, Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan
The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Seven, ed. by Ellen Datlow
Court of Fives, Kate Elliott
The Creeping, Alexandra Sirowy
Forbidden, Cathy Clamp
A History of Glitter and Blood, Hannah Moskowitz
The House of Shattered Wings, Aliette de Bodard
Legacy of Kings, Eleanor Herman

August 25:
Breakout, Ann Aguirre
The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall, Katie Alender
Dead Upon a Time, Elizabeth Paulson
Insidious, Dawn Metcalf
Keepers of the Labyrinth, Erin E. Moulton
Kushiel’s Chosen, Jacqueline Carey
Lair of Dreams, Libba Bray
Mechanica, Betsy Cornwell
Sasquatch, Andrea Schicke Hirsch
The Veil, Megan Chance

August 26:
That Seriously Obnoxious Time I Was Stuck at Witch Rimelda’s One Hundredth Birthday Party, Tina Connolly

August 31:
Speak Easy, Catherynne M. Valente


Six Fantasy Manga

By Rosamund Hodge (@rosamundhodge)

Over the past twenty years, manga has changed from an obscure fringe of geekdom to something nearly mainstream. But there are still plenty of people who have never tried it. So if you’ve never crossed your mental wires trying to read right-to-left, here’s a list of seven great manga—all written by women!—that I have helpfully divided into categories.


The Classics

These are the best-of-the-best, the series that I would absolutely recommend to everyone.

FullmetalAlchemist 1. Fullmetal Alchemist, Hiromu Arakawa

It’s a cliché to start describing stories with “in a world where,” but sometimes it’s absolutely appropriate. In a world where people use alchemy, which works on the principle of Equivalent Exchange—“to obtain something, something of equal value must be lost”—two young brothers, Edward and Alphronse, attempt to break the ultimate taboo and bring their mother back from the dead. When they fail, they pay a terrible price: Ed loses his right arm and left leg, while Al remains alive only as a soul attached to a suit of armor. (That sounds hilarious. It’s not.) They set out to regain their original bodies by finding the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, which can supposedly allow alchemists to circumvent the law of Equivalent Exchange; but it soon becomes apparent that the Philosopher’s Stone doesn’t come without a price either.

I don’t have enough words to praise this series. The art is gorgeous, the characters are fascinating and lovable, and the 27-volume storyline is tightly plotted. It’s an epic story that deals with ancient plots and conflicts between countries, but is propelled forward by intimate, human connections. It’s one of best stories that I’ve seen at redeeming characters who have done really terrible things, without minimizing what they’ve done or having them be easily forgiven by their victims. It’s got a “revenge is bad” plotline that doesn’t reduce it to matter of ritual purity, but makes it clear that your choices still matter even if you’ve already got blood on your hands. And while the two brothers are the main characters, there’s a huge ensemble cast that includes a lot of women, who are not only all strong in very different ways, but are also all feminine in very different ways.

If you read one manga, read this one. (Or Fruits Basket.)

FruitsBasket 2. Fruits Basket, Natsuki Takaya

Here’s the premise of Fruits Basket: an impossibly good-hearted teenaged orphan girl meets a rich, reclusive family, some of whom are cursed to turn into the animals of the Chinese zodiac when hugged by somebody of the opposite sex. Several of them are attractive boys who go to her high school. Hijinks ensue.

You would think that this would be the fluffiest, most saccharine story imaginable. You would be wrong. There is a lot of fluff in Fruits Basket, and a lot of sweetness. But the wacky premise of the zodiac curse quickly becomes a poignant exploration of isolation and familial dysfunction; while the heroine, Tohru, is not a simple icon of sweetness and light, but a complex and poignant character trying to cope with her own traumas. (And yet her kindness is still depicted as a form of strength, not naiveté.) It’s a story about how loving and being loved are learned behaviors, very precious and very difficult, desperately needed and never guaranteed. And it’s a story about hope, and how nobody can save you, but people can help you.

(Tragically, this series is out-of-print due to the publisher going out of business. However, since it was massively popular, it’s pretty easy to find at the library.)


If You Like Young Adult

Manga does not exactly map onto USA category classifications, but a lot of it is about and/or aimed at teenagers. Here are a couple series that will feel a bit familiar (as well as a bit strange) to any fans of YA.

Rasetsu 3. Rasetsu, Chika Shiomi
If you enjoy YA paranormal, then you absolutely want to read this series. Rasetsu is a psychic who was marked by a demon when she was fifteen years old. He’ll take her away on her twentieth birthday–unless she can find true love first. By the time she’s eighteen, Rasetsu has given up on love, and is instead using her powers to work with an agency that exorcises ghosts. She has two partners: Kuryu, the cheerful one hiding a dark past (that won’t be explained for several volumes), and Yako, the cranky one hiding a tragic past (that involves unrequited love for a ghost who coincidentally looked exactly like Rasetsu).

Of course there’s a love triangle. If you’re dubious about love triangles, rest assured that it’s a well-executed one. But that’s not the main point of the story—the real attraction is in the lovable, oddball family that’s formed among all the psychics at the agency, and in Rasetsu herself, who’s a brash, vulnerable, courageous heroine. (Who loves eating cake.)

FushigiYugiGenbuKaiden 4. Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden, Yuu Watase
If you enjoy high fantasy adventures, particularly of the “teenaged girl must save a kingdom” flavor, then you will probably love Genbu Kaiden (the prequel to Watase’s more famous Fushigi Yugi series.) Takiko has watched her mother die of tuberculosis while her scholarly father ignored them to keep translating a mysterious book. Enraged, she tries to destroy the book . . . only for it to transport her into a magical world where she is hailed as the priestess who can save the kingdom. All she has to do is gather the “seven celestial warriors” who were born to serve her. For a lonely, neglected girl, it’s like a dream come true—except that the second of the warriors is working for the enemy, and the quest only gets more difficult and dangerous from there. This series has adventure, magic, humor, and star-crossed romance in compulsively readable proportions.


The Id Vortex

One of the things I really love about manga is how very often it seems to be written straight out of the creator’s id. This can sometimes create really uneven results, but it can also give the stories a kind of freshness and gleeful imagination that I haven’t often found in Western novels. Here are a couple series that really exemplify that.

PandoraHeartsVol1 5. Pandora Hearts, Jun Mochizuki

I’m not going to try describing the plot for this one. I could start burbling about the pseudo-Victorian setting, and the cheerful young nobleman named Oz Vessalius who is suddenly seized by cloaked strangers, informed that “Your sin is your very being!” and cast into a terrifying dimension known as the Abyss, whence he escapes by making a magical contract with a cranky, mysterious girl-but-also-giant-black-rabbit-wielding-a-scythe called Alice, who is a terrifying supernatural being called a “chain,” which gets them picked up by an organization called Pandora that hunts down rogue chains and those who make illegal contracts with them, plus there’s also the ongoing mystery of the ominous Baskerville family and the “tragedy of Sablier” that happened a hundred years ago . . .

I could tell you all those things, but that would be a terrible way to sell you on this manga. The convoluted plot is actually not that hard to follow when you’re actually reading it, but it’s also not the point. Here’s what this manga really excels at:

(1) A deliciously dark, brooding, Gothic/Victorian atmosphere with lots of random Lewis Carroll references thrown in.

(2) Intense friendship. If you live for Platonic love stories, then this is the manga for you, because every character is driven by obsessive loyalty to somebody, and for most of them it’s not romantic.

SakuraHime 6. Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura, Arina Tanemura

Sakura is a carefree fourteen-year-old girl in Heian Era Japan, whose only problem is that she’s betrothed to Prince Aoba and she doesn’t want to get married yet. Well, and she’s always been forbidden to look at the full moon, which she finds out in the first chapter is because she’s the granddaughter of Princess Kaguya, the legendary moon-princess. When Sakura inevitably looks up at the full moon, she becomes visible to youko—monsters from the moon, basically—whom she must slay with her mother’s sword.

The phrase “id vortex” is especially appropriate for this story, because it sometimes whirls through plot points and even genres so quickly that it can feel like being caught in a vortex. Historical! Fluffy romance! Historical fantasy! Magical girl! Star-crossed romance! High melodrama! And somebody’s in love, and somebody’s attempting murder, and somebody’s been turned into a frog, and somebody’s made a vow of loyalty, and SURPRISE somebody isn’t actually dead!

You are probably going to love or hate this series. I love it, and I can admit that it’s kind of a mess sometimes. But what I find its saving grace—besides the shameless, full-throttle melodrama—is how much of the story revolves around female friendship. Sakura spends a lot of time blushing at Aoba and angsting over their romance, but she also has multiple really intense friendships (some of them inter-generational) with other girls and women, and those relationships shape the story. If you want a sparkly romantic melodrama set in a world where women are important to each other, this might be the manga for you.


Fantasy Works Featuring Women Who Fight Back

By Suzi Rogers Gruber (@srgruber)

The characters I like best are often women who do the work that needs doing in spite of the heartbreak and horror that inevitably await them. Whether they are pursuing justice, seeking revenge, or securing their power, these women rise against terrifying forces again and again, even though their chances of survival are just as bad as their chances of success. They scheme and fight and resist until their last breath. They do what they have to do to survive.

Many of the characters on this list are kind of terrifying. Nyx will do anything to stay alive, and not many are left standing with her. Lila is made of weaponized machinery she can’t control. Irene gets and keeps her throne by assassinating the men who threaten her. Onyesonwu’s power is as tremendous as her rage and sorrow. All of them have been underestimated by their foes, assumed to be too weak or too broken to fight back. They fight anyway. They are often unpredictable, violent, ruthless. They have moments of doubt, vulnerability, and heartbreaking loss. They keep fighting.

Sometimes they even win, in the end.


WhoFearsDeath 1. Onyesonwu, Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor
GodsWar 2. Nyx, The bel Dame Apocrypha (God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture), Kameron Hurley
KeepingItReal 3. Lila Black, Quantum Gravity series (Keeping It Real, Selling Out, Going Under, Chasing the Dragon, and Down to the Bone), Justina Robson
MidnightRobber 4. Tan-Tan, Midnight Robber, Nalo Hopkinson
TheQueenofAttolia 5. Attolia, Queen of Attolia, Megan Whalen Turner
QuintanaofCharyn 6. Quintana, Quintana of Charyn, Melina Marchetta


Testimonials: Write about something that happened at Sirens.

Meg Belviso (@sistermagpie)
I forgot to bring a bathing suit, and really regretted it when a couple of attending authors announced an impromptu dip in the hot tub. Turns out underwear is just fine for a hot tub, though. A bunch of us sat there in the chilly night air, soaking in the warm water, and getting into a passionate discussion about the lack of good zombie romances. Sarah Rees Brennan is making a passionate demand for love stories about zombies. Why are zombies, amongst all Dark Creatures, left out of the Dark Romance trend? To make her final point, she faceplanted in the water like Ophelia. It was an inspiring moment.

Kate Larking (@astres)
What happens at Sirens stays at Sirens.

Casey Blair (@CaseyLBlair)
My first year at Sirens, I arrived at the welcome reception early, so early there was basically no one there. I kind of milled around slowly, trying to mimic normal human behavior and not draw attention to the fact that I had no idea what to do with myself. Eventually I set my purse down and then went to take my sweet time choosing desserts and snacks so I wouldn’t just be sitting alone at a table.

Eventually I could dither no longer, but to my happy surprise the table had become occupied in my absence. In short order I found myself in an animated conversation with another woman who also loved one of my favorite obscure anime. At some point I glanced at her name tag and realized I had been chatting with Sherwood Smith, one of the guests of honor that year.

That sort of set the tone for my experience with Sirens: arriving feeling awkward and then having awesome people totally blow my concerns out of the water. Pro or fan, we all go to Sirens because we’re passionate about women in fantasy.

A couple of years later, I was struggling with a novel that I just could not make work. I knew I needed help, and I found myself looking again at science fiction and fantasy workshop applications. I recognized enough of the names of instructors on the list for Viable Paradise that year to be daunted, but then I discovered Sherwood Smith among them. I figured, well, if Sherwood hadn’t devoured me whole as a wee convention-goer, I would probably survive a workshop she’d joined. Knowing at least one person on that board would consider my broken work seriously and respectfully was the impetus I needed to apply, and I was only confident in that assumption because of my experiences at Sirens.

Erynn Moss (@erynnlk)
I always volunteer to lead a hike. Last year I didn’t even look at what volunteer slots were covered and just said dibs on the hike. And then I got the reply that I wasn’t needed because our keynote speaker, Rosemary Clement-Moore, would be leading it. I recovered enough by con time to be mostly joking when I told her that she stole my thunder. She was so nice and charming about it and in the end we didn’t even go. Our group voted to skip the rain and gathered around the fireplace instead to chat and giggle with the author of Texas Gothic, who, by the way, is susceptible to chocolate.


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