Archive for August 2015

Eight Fantasy Works That Don’t Over-Explain

By Erynn Moss (@erynnlk)

The beauty of Conservation of Shadows to me comes from what Lee doesn’t say. His use of negative space makes the stories elegant and invites the reader to softly feel their way through. I’m hard pressed to come up with a whole list in that style but here are some books that successfully kept me spellbound by not over-explaining.


ConservationofShadows 1. Conservation of Shadows, Yoon Ha Lee
TheMapmakersWar 2. The Mapmaker’s War, Ronlyn Domingue
NightCircus 3. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
AncillaryJustice 4. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
TheFolkKeeper 5. The Folk Keeper, Franny Billingsley
TheShiningGirls 6. The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes
Deathless 7. Deathless, Catherynne Valente
WestoftheMoon 8. West of the Moon, Margi Preus


Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Roundtable Discussions

By Hallie Tibbetts (@hallietibbetts)

Are you ready to talk? Then you’ll want to take a look at the roundtable discussions that will be offered at Sirens in October.

Roundtables are interactive discussions of a topic led by a moderator, and attendees are encouraged to take an active part in the discussion. Sometimes they are a meeting of the minds; sometimes they’re contentious; sometimes they’re boisterous; sometimes they’re contemplative. They’re always interesting.

Please note that seating in roundtable rooms is very limited to allow everyone in the room the opportunity to participate—once there are 24 attendees and one moderator, the discussion is closed.

Follow this link to find out about the presenters and what they’ll be talking about in these presentations:

The Boobs Tube: The Rebellious Women of The Legend of Korra and Steven Universe

Female Game-Changers

How about Real-Life Rebels, Revolutionaries, and Spies?

Just Your Average Rebel: When Rebellion Means Not Changing Who You Are

Quiet Revolution

Rebelling against the Binary: Gender in Speculative Fiction

Rebellious Reading: Who—Or What—Do You Challenge by Choosing Diverse Books?

Rogue Resources

If you would like to support both Sirens and our presenters, we invite you to sponsor these (and other) presentations. The cost is $35 per presentation. Unfortunately, at this time, we can no longer include sponsors in our conference program book, but we will include your name next to your chosen topic on the accepted programming page and at the conference.


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

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of interesting links and July book releases of fantasy by and about women. Look for this ever-expanding collection of good news to come to you at the end of the month in the future.

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, and see the Sirens Review Squad section below for how to become a reviewer.



Sirens Newsletter – Volume 7, Issue 9 (July 2015)

Testimonials: Write about a good friend that you’ve met at Sirens.

Six Fantasy Books with Non-US Settings

Sirens Guest of Honor Interview: Kate Elliott

Five Fabulous Epic Fantasy Works by Women

Friday Books and Breakfast

Saturday Books and Breakfast

Sirens: A Love Letter

Seven Fantasy Books Featuring Non-Western Mythology and Folklore

Sirens Guest of Honor Interview: Yoon Ha Lee

Six Fantasy Works for Sirens

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

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Papers

Influential Fantasy for Heroines



Interesting Links:


Book Releases:


Click the image for a closer look at the covers.

July 1:
Beneath the Cape: The Superhero Anthology, Angela McPherson, Cheryl McIntyre, Christine Zolendz, D. Nichole King, Laura Thalassa, Lynn Vroman, Magan Vernon, and Sunniva Dee
The Blood Curse, Emily Gee
Bone Swans: Stories, C. S. E. Cooney
Darkness Brutal, Rachel A. Marks
Letters to Zell, Camille Griep
No Time Like the Past, Jodi Taylor

July 2:
Fearless, Marianne Curley

July 6:
An Immortal Descent, Kari Edgren
The Hunter’s Kind, Rebecca Levene

July 7:
The Small Backs of Children, Lidia Yuknavitch
Chicks and Balances, ed. by Esther Friesner
The Child Eater, Rachel Pollack
Cities and Thrones, Carrie Patel
Elisha Rex, E. C. Ambrose
Flight from Death, Yasmine Galenorn
Hallowed, Tonya Hurley
The Heart of Betrayal, Mary E. Pearson
The House of the Stone, Amy Ewing
The House of War and Witness, Linda Carey, Louise Carey, and Mike Carey
Ink and Bone, Rachel Caine
Renegade, Kerry Wilkinson
The Shores of Spain, J. Kathleen Cheney
Silver in the Blood, Jessica Day George
Spellcasting in Silk, Juliet Blackwell
Survive the Night, Danielle Vega
Wicked Embers, Keri Arthur
Witchlock, Dianna Love

July 14:
About a Girl, Sarah McCarry
The Blind Wish, Amber Lough
The Golden Specific, S. E. Grove
Cold Iron, Stina Leicht
Lagoon (US edition), Nnedi Okorafor
Rebel Mechanics: All is Fair in Love and Revolution, Shanna Swendson
The Seer’s Spread, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Natasha Pulley

July 20:
Ether & Elephants, Cindy Spencer Pape
Hollywood Witch Hunter, Valerie Tejeda

July 21:
Backyard Witch, Christine Heppermann, ill. Ron Koertge, Deborah Marcero
Bound in Black, Juliette Cross
The Dark Arts of Blood, Freda Warrington
The Obsidian Temple: A Desert Rising Novel, Kelley Grant
Pale Kings and Princes, Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman
Resonance, Erica O’Rourke
Stormbringer, Alis Franklin

July 28:
The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden, Emma Trevayne
The Conquering Dark, Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
Every Last Breath, Jennifer L. Armentrout
The Forgotten, Heather Graham
Oblivion, Kelly Creagh
Old Dog, New Tricks, Hailey Edwards
Siren’s Call, Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle
Spider’s Trap, Jennifer Estep
Thor Volume 2: Who Holds The Hammer?, Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman



We’d love to have more volunteers contribute short reviews of works they have read and loved. If you think you could contribute a book (or short story, or a work related to fantasy literature) review of at least 250 words sometime during the next year, we would be pleased—nay, thrilled—to have your recommendation for the Sirens newsletter.

Review squad volunteering is flexible; we simply ask that you share information about work you’ve enjoyed. (We are, of course, focused on fantasy books by and about women, and we hope you’ll consider interesting, diverse selections; if you’re not sure about a particular work, email help at and we’ll advise!) You can contribute once or on an ongoing basis, and on a schedule that works for you. Please visit the volunteer system and, when we ask you what position you’re interested in, type in “Book Reviewer.”

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

Meg Belviso (@sistermagpie)
The first time I went to Sirens it was even better than I’d hoped for. As I waited at the airport for my plane home I was already looking forward to the next year, so I’d really already made my decision to return. Often when you go to a conference there are at least some parts that just get to be too much for two days straight. I found Sirens to be just the right mixture of intense and laid back. The conversations made me intensely focused and enthusiastic about the subject, but the social aspect was really laid-back and friendly. It was easy to talk to just about anybody.

Shveta Thakrar (@ShvetaThakrar)
In 2010, I saw Sherwood Smith talking about Sirens on LiveJournal, and my interest was piqued. A conference about women and fantasy—and the theme that year was “faeries,” a topic that always fascinated me. So I proposed a panel and went, not knowing what to expect.

Well, I got so much more than I could have dreamed. Not only was my panel a success, but I also listened to luminaries like Terri Windling, Holly Black, Ellen Kushner, and Delia Sherman share their insights, I talked and talked about books with really smart, thoughtful women, I met wonderful people who later became my good friends, and I experienced firsthand how vital it is to have a safe space where diverse voices are not only welcomed but genuinely sought out. Above all, the conference was just plain fun. My heart full, I left knowing I would be returning the next year and the next and the next.

I had found my home away from home, my conference, where my voice mattered. Where I could talk about things that make me happy and kindle the spark of passion in my heart. Where every year, I learned more and spoke more and found more kindred spirits and books to add to my never-ending to-read pile. Where I belonged.

And that’s why I’ll be returning yet again this year. I hope to see you there.

Erynn Moss (@erynnlk)
I am an overly enthusiastic reader and Sirens is full of fandom fairydust. Finishing a good book, I want to delve into a deeper level of appreciation of motives and characters and worlds. At Sirens, I get to do that. I’ve sat down to dinner with an author and talked about archaic language (can I drop names? Marie Brennan). I’ve discussed diversity in comic books with a writer of non-graphic novels (Nalo Hopkinson). And even though I didn’t realize it was my fantasy until it was happening, I’ve stayed up until the wee hours of the morning with amazing authors (Guadelupe Garcia McCall and Alaya Dawn Johnson!) and a couple cheeky literary agents, sipping wine, and discussing the fascinating and mysterious publishing industry.

Also, Laini Taylor was really cool and wore the horns I made for her to the Monster Ball even after I awkwardly confessed my love to her. I’m pretty sure she got that I meant it in a bookish way.


Five Young Adult Fantasy Works with Adult Crossover Appeal

By Rae Carson (@raecarson)

All the books I’ve chosen are young adult fantasy that have crossover appeal to adults. I have a lot more book recommendations where these came from, so find me at Sirens and ask!


TheWrathandtheDawn 1. The Wrath and the Dawn, Renée Ahdieh
I expected to be underwhelmed by this. The fable of Scheherazade—about a woman charming her way out of horrific abuse—is not one I have ever loved. But Ahdieh’s interpretation surprised me at every turn.
TheWinnersCurse 2. The Winner’s Curse, Marie Rutkoski
The swoony female on this cover does not appeal to me in the slightest. Is she about to use that dagger on herself? Or cry out for smelling salts? Ugh. I shouldn’t have judged this book by its cover, though, because it’s smart, subtle, and detail-rich.
GraveMercy 3. Grave Mercy, Robin LaFevers
This book would definitely have been shelved in the adult category a decade ago. It’s about assassin nuns. Assassin. Nuns.
Serpentine 4. Serpentine, Cindy Pon
A critically acclaimed fantasy inspired by Chinese folklore.
Seraphina 5. Seraphina, Rachel Hartman
After reading this complex and mature tale, you’ll never think of dragons in the way same again.


Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Workshops

By Hallie Tibbetts (@hallietibbetts)

If you’re ready to dig in to craft, you should take a look at the workshops that will be presented at this year’s Sirens.

Workshops are hands-on explorations of a topic. This category can include writing workshops, practice in strategies for teaching and learning, craft-based presentations, and other hands-on and highly interactive topics. Please note that the seating in workshop rooms is very limited to allow the presenters the maximum hands-on teaching time for each attendee, as well as to control costs that the presenters incur if they provide materials. Likewise, this means that if you’re attending a workshop, you get to ask questions and get instruction in a small group. Attending a workshop is a great way to get your creative gears turning!

Follow this link to find out about the presenters and what they’ll be talking about in these presentations:

Five Ways to Build and Break a World

Infiltrate the Query Pile

Unpacking Character: Creating Dimensional Characters with Distinctive Voices That Live beyond the Page

Writing Women with Agency (workshop and roundtable discussion)

If you would like to support both Sirens and our presenters, we invite you to sponsor these (and other) presentations. The cost is $35 per presentation, and we will include your name next to your chosen topic on the accepted programming page. We’ll also list your sponsorship in our program book for this year’s event if we receive your sponsorship by August 21, 2015.


Sirens Guest of Honor Interview: Rae Carson

We’re pleased to bring you the last in a series of candid, in-depth interviews with this year’s Sirens Guests of Honor. We’ll cover a variety of topics relevant to Sirens with each author, from their inspirations, influences, and craft, to the role of women in fantasy literature and forms of resistance in both the craft and industry, as befits our 2015 focus on rebels and revolutionaries. We hope these conversations will be a prelude to the ones our attendees will be having in Denver this October. Today, Hallie Tibbetts interviews Rae Carson.


HALLIE: I’ve heard that The Girl of Fire and Thorns was originally sent to editors for publication as an adult fantasy novel, back when young adult books were truly just starting to become the business (and art) that we know today. If you’d kept it as an adult fantasy, how would Elisa’s story have changed—or wouldn’t it have? Is it possible to tell all of Elisa’s story arc in an “adult” vein? Does the trilogy bridge category gaps? And do you think that some stories demand to be told for the adult or young adult market, and not the other way around? Or is this all just an artificial divide?

Rae CarsonRAE: It’s true. The Girl of Fire and Thorns was initially sent to editors of adult fantasy. I had a small offer from one of them, but it was roundly rejected by everyone else for being too difficult to market.

The editor whose offer I fielded wanted more sex, and she wanted it sooner in the text. I would have happily complied. It would have been a slightly different story, but it would have been an interesting one, I think.

“Young adult books” as a reading category is wholly artificial, but it’s useful as a marketing tool. As a reading category, it erroneously assumes a few things: 1) There are specific books only teens want to read. 2) There are specific books only adults want to read. And implicit in those two assumptions is 3) Some kinds of books are better/more valuable than others.

Teens are perfectly capable and desirous of reading books for adults. And vice versa. From a marketing standpoint, though, it makes sense to identify books that are generally about coming-of-age issues. So when readers want that specific subject matter, they can browse in a ready-made section of the bookstore.

Some have argued that all books are actually marketed to adults, because adults are the ones with buying power. So, teen novels are books that grown-ups feel comfortable putting their moral imperative behind and pushing on children. If true, this further justifies the existence of a marketing category, but it’s a shitty lifestyle choice, if you ask me. It takes away agency from teens who are highly qualified to determine their own reading choices.

I must add that I wholly support having a young adult marketing category. It’s an excuse for publishers to produce tightly plotted books with wonderful covers and epic stakes—without apology. It’s a way for teens to find books that treat them like valid human beings. And because young adult novels are officially “children’s books,” it means that society has deemed it acceptable for women authors to be successful writing them.

I can’t emphasize this last point enough. Just like with The Girl of Fire and Thorns so many years ago, adult publishers of epic fantasy are simply not as welcoming to manuscripts written by women. When they offer for books, those offer amounts are often a fraction of what a woman can get from a young adult publisher. When those books get published, they too easily disappear, drowned in the deluge of marketing support, store placement, and review coverage of their male-authored counterparts. Invisibility is the most difficult issue facing female authors of epic fantasy today.

Obviously, I would prefer to live in a world with gender parity. Failing that, I’ll take “young adult” as a marketing category, thank you very much. In the meantime, Kate Elliot and I have promised ourselves a commiserating drink over this exact issue. You’re all invited.

HALLIE: When I first heard about The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I had an “Oh, ha ha, magical bellybutton girl” reaction—that, in retrospect, makes me feel appropriately ashamed and regretful, since when I read it, I was hooked from the first sentence. Also, an advance copy of The Crown of Embers showed up at my house the same day I acquired a stationary bike, and I thought I’d just pedal while I read a chapter or two, but I ended up biking for almost three hours because that’s how long it took to finish the book. Have you had any reading experiences that completely absorbed you? What makes you as a reader happy and satisfied with a story?

RAE: I’m glad The Crown of Embers gave you such a good workout!

Recently, I was completely absorbed by Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. Which is odd. Usually, there must be a character I empathize with, someone who feels so real and compelling that I can’t stop turning pages. Seveneves, on the other hand, is only fifty pages of character and plot shoehorned into a 900-page dissertation on orbital mechanics and sustainable space habitats. I couldn’t get enough.

So I suspect my actual answer is that I don’t always know what’s going to click. Books are so subjective and unpredictable. But it’s one of life’s greatest pleasures when a book surprises and delights me the way Seveneves did.

HALLIE: One of my favorite things to read (and watch and explore) is the concept of a “found family.” Walk on Earth a Stranger is exemplary of that. What drew you to writing about it, and were there times in your life when you went through a similar experience (though hopefully not as a result of a dastardly uncle)?

RAE: I did go through a similar experience, and alas, it was a result of a dastardly uncle. Forgive me if I don’t go into detail about it. Suffice it to say that my family betrayed my trust in the worst possible way, and I have found power, healing, and acceptance with friends who are precious to me beyond words—my new family. So the theme of “found family” is very close to my heart, and I will probably continue to write about it for the rest of my life.

HALLIE: Would you please describe some of the research you did for Walk on Earth a Stranger. The details were so realistic that I was in that caravan with Lee: the rocky route west, with its dwindling food supplies and lack of medical care; the social attitudes of the time towards Native Americans, African Americans, and gay men; the German migrant families; and issues of wealth, labor, and religion. What were some of your sources?

RAE: My elementary school history textbook was titled My Country ’Tis of Thee, and the cover was an inelegant mishmash of the American flag, George Washington, and the Christian cross. Because of my cloistered upbringing, it wasn’t until the college years that I realized how whitewashed and Christian-washed our history is.

So my goal in writing this book was to find lost voices, those people whose stories have not been represented by mainstream history. I relied heavily on pioneer journals, particularly those written by women. I visited museums all throughout gold country; my favorite of these was the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco. My best discovery of all was John Russell Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms, published in 1848. Never has a dictionary been so full of bigotry and condescension. It was delightful to read, and it gave me a wonderful—and disturbing—view into many of the social attitudes of the day.

From a hands-on, practical standpoint, my uncle (the not-dastardly one!) took me into the Sierra foothills and taught me essential gold panning skills. I ended up with a sunburn, a backache, mud stains, and memories—but only a few tiny flecks of gold.

HALLIE: What I admire about your heroines, Elisa and now Lee, is that even though they have amazing powers (magic bellybutton, ability to sense gold) they’re so practical. Even though Elisa’s a princess and Lee could be as rich as she wants, they have such real struggles—eating, managing their reputations, escaping caretakers, and walking for a really, really long time. What draws you to writing such practical heroines? What were some of the inspirations for their struggles? Why is it important to write female characters in these roles? You could have simply written a king with a Godstone or made Lee an actual boy instead of a girl dressing as a boy for most of her journey.

RAE: My most embarrassing moment happened during my senior year of high school, when I was called to the blackboard to write out a French conjugation. The chalk was in my hand, and I was stretching up on my tip-toes, when I heard whispering and giggling behind me.

I turned. The girls in my class were signaling frantically in the direction of my plastic chair, which was smeared with blood.

I had gotten my period in front of French class. Brightly and indisputably.

Casually, as if nothing were the matter, I took off my jacket and wrapped it around my waist. I finished my conjugation, sat back down, wiggled back and forth in my seat to wipe up the blood with my jacket, then excused myself to go to the bathroom.

This incident should have been socially disastrous. One of the girls who signaled frantically was my personal nemesis, someone who had tortured me since the sixth grade. I expected her to crow about it for days. But she didn’t. In that moment, as crimson was soaking the crotch of my jeans, my nemesis had my back.

That story might make some readers uncomfortable. Smearing menstrual blood on your chair? Crotch!? For heaven’s sake, Rae.

We have a lot of hesitation about some of life’s most practical details, especially those details considered feminine. Not all of us want to be reminded that a girl can be hyper-aware of her fat body, or that she might run out of menstrual rags, or even that walking a really, really long time is really, really arduous.

But we all experience those things. Moments when life’s practicalities threaten to ruin our day, or even our lives. Moments that surprise us. Moments that become tragic when they shouldn’t, or add up to nothing when they should be tragic.

I’m not a literary writer. I don’t think stories are wholly found in those details. Give me dragons, explosions, rebellions, and world-altering stakes any day. But I do think that a rebellion is much more interesting if all the girls in camp get their periods regularly and if their thighs ache from walking so much.

HALLIE: Lastly, tell us about a remarkable woman of fantasy literature—an author, reader, agent, editor, scholar, or someone else—who has changed your life.

RAE: I’m going to depart from the question a little, simply because I didn’t encounter a lot of women involved in fantasy literature for a very long time. Appalling, I know. See above about the invisibility of female authors.

I will give a hat tip to my editor, Martha Mihalick of Greenwillow Books, and my agent, Holly Root of Waxman-Leavell. Together, these two fabulous women changed my life by taking a chance on me and tirelessly championing my work.

But the fantasy female who was most formative was fictional: Princess Leia.

I mentioned before that I grew up in a cloistered, religious household. From an early age, I was taught that women had a supernaturally ordained role—raising children, keeping house, supporting the big, strong, money-earning men. It never set right with me. And while I think women ought to be able to choose whatever lifestyle they want—even a supportive, house-keeping, child-rearing one—I always knew that it would be an awkward fit on me, like walking around in scuba flippers instead of sneakers.

Along came Star Wars. I loved everything about that movie, but I loved Princess Leia most of all. Like, her I wanted to be a princess. Like her, I wanted to shoot a laser blaster. And these two were not mutually exclusive. Unlike Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, Princess Leia was a leader. She wasn’t always kind. She didn’t exist to make the men around her feel good about themselves. Yet she was loved and respected. Did I mention the laser blaster?

I’ve been playing with this juxtaposition of ideals in my own fiction ever since.


Five Dark and Twisty Young Adult Works

By s.e. smith (@sesmithwrites)

Young adult fiction is often dismissed by older readers as being incapable of nuance, literary complexity, or gripping storytelling. Those eager to write it off as an entire genre fail to delve into the huge range of literary genres encompassed within young adult literature—smart, aching contemporaries like The Truth Commission (Susan Juby), thoughtfully studied speculative fiction like Starglass (Phoebe North), and so much more, from graphic novels (Boxers & Saints) to stunning anthologies (Slasher Girls & Monster Boys).

Young adult fantasy in particular is treated with disdain, slapped with the dread dual labels of “fantasy” and “young adult,” something “real readers” wouldn’t be caught dead with. Perhaps the only worse fate is to be labeled “young adult romance,” summing up two of the most derided categories of literature in one fell swoop.

As a genre, young adult fantasy doesn’t need to be defended, because it stands on its own, but for those who believe the genre isn’t capable of literary depth, spooky complexity, and deeply probing, perturbing storytelling, this list is a good starting point to challenge that notion. For all those who don’t think that YA can be literary fiction—or all those who want a starting point to dark and twisty YA fantasy—here you go.

Be warned—all of these books come with strong content warnings for violence and extremely disturbing situations.


TheKingdomofLittleWounds 1. Kingdom of Little Wounds, Susanne Cokal
In her afterward, Cokal refers to her book as “a love story about syphilis,” discussing the fact that the tale is firmly rooted in the very real history of medieval Northern Europe, and that it’s impossible to divorce that history from the scourge of syphilis. Particularly among royalty, the sexually transmitted infection spread like wildfire, and the bizarre cures inflicted upon patients often made them worse, instead of better—and, of course, some of the preventative tactics were equally bizarre, as evidenced by the character with precious stones under the flesh of his penis who believes they protect him from infection.

That should give you a hint as to where the story is going. This bloody, dirty, sensual, and horrific book is wrapped in luscious, baroque prose, in a monstrous creation of terrible beauty—akin, in some ways, to the regrettably canceled Hannibal. Complicated subjects of gender and race come into play within Kingdom of Little Wounds, most prominently in the case of Midi Sorte, an African slave originally brought to court as an exotic gift, while new horrors lie in store with every turn of the page, from murder to rape to unabashed greed. Even for adults, this is a deeply unsettling and disturbing book.

Bitterblue 2. Bitterblue, Kristin Cashore
While all of Cashore’s Graceling books are excellent, and can be read independently, Bitterblue is the most chilling, and it plays upon some of the most horrible implications of the Graces that underlie the worldbuilding in the series. In this world, some people are born with Graces—enhanced natural abilities—and in Bitterblue, we meet Leck, a sadistic king with the ability to control and twist minds. Everyone in his kingdom, including his daughter Princess Bitterblue, believes that they’re living happy, fulfilled lives, and the Kingdom of Monsea is largely regarded as a prosperous and peaceful place, but the reality is anything but.

When Bitterblue ascends the throne after his death, she’s confronted by advisors who have stepped in to run the kingdom until she comes of age. Her understanding of Monsea begins to shift, and so do her attitudes on how to handle Leck’s legacy. What could be a fairly straightforward tale of destruction, death, and the aftermath of a deeply terrible person’s stranglehold on an entire kingdom becomes something else when the entire story is written in lilting, beautiful prose—even the awful scenery and depictions of violent abuse.

SliceofCherry 3. Slice of Cherry, Dia Reeves
Reeves’ Bleeding Violet may be better known than Slice of Cherry, but this book is probably even more disturbing and Dadaesque than Violet. Both take place in the utterly surreal environs of Portero, Texas, but this story revolves around sisters Kit and Fancy Cordelle, and they’re not just sisters. They’re violent, bloodthirsty girls with a penchant for serial killing, torture, and abuse, flipping the common fantasy narrative of abused girls who need rescuing—they’re perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, please, thank you, and pass the hacksaw.

As in Bleeding Violet, this book depicts a meticulously constructed, bizarre, monster-filled, and oddly beautiful world through striking writing and sharp, vivid descriptions. Slice of Cherry comes with a much harder edge, though, coming as it does with a murder spree that’s among the least of the town’s problems; this is a book so twisted that underage serial killers seem almost normal and relatively benign in light of everything else that’s going on.

TenderMorsels 4. Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan
Fairytale retellings are one of my favorite things, and I’m a fan of Snow White and Rose Red, upon which Tender Morsels is loosely based. The setting places us with our feet in two worlds—one protective, warm, and safe, and the other filled with monsters. What happens next is violently disturbing as two young girls encounter the real world; but it’s accomplished too gracefully to end up becoming a clunky metaphor for growing up as the two young women learn about magic, the darker things in life, and their own power. You can’t take Tender Morsels at face value, from its dark setting to graceful, elegant language.

The book attracted considerable controversy in 2011 when it was included on and later dropped from a summer young adult fiction roundup at Bitch Magazine after complaints from readers concerned about sexual assault, explicit content, and a very troubling scene in which rape is effectively used as a form of vengeance. Yet, this is an interpretation that lacks nuance. Tender Morsels is a morally troubling, challenging, aggressive book—in some ways it reminds me of Sucker Punch, which was graphically, dramatically violent but ultimately took on some complicated social issues surrounding young women, mental illness, and agency. Tender Morsels is designed to be interrogated, not accepted.

Above 5. Above, Leah Bobet
Leah Bobet’s Above is not, strictly speaking, fantasy—it occupies a nebulous space of speculative fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, all of which overlap, of course. It’s also a very difficult book which a lot of critics didn’t like because of the writing style: It’s choppy; it’s coarse; the grammar, spelling, and punctuation are unusual; and the narrative jumps unexpectedly and sends readers skittering in all directions. These traits, however, are integral to what makes Above so successful, as it’s about a world of Freaks—those with unusual physical characteristics—who band together belowground to protect themselves from experimentation, abuse, and torture. Much like the Freaks themselves, the writing style is an amalgamation of confusing elements.

The Freaks occupy their own strange community, which begins to fracture, forcing them aboveground and into the dangerous outside world. The scenery of Above is jagged, graphic, violent—but what really appeals to me about the text is the way it challenges the reader’s preconceptions of race and gender. Telling you how would, of course, ruin the experience, but it’s worth noting that nothing is what it seems in Above and it’s worth keeping a weather eye on your surroundings whilst you read.


Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Afternoon Classes

By Hallie Tibbetts (@hallietibbetts)

Afternoon classes provide ways to explore fantasy beyond literature. If you want to try something new and exciting, an afternoon class might be just right.

Afternoon classes cover topics related to fantasy literature and the activities of its characters. These tend to be heavily demonstration-based and interactive! You may be required to sign a liability waiver to be in the room during some physical sessions.

Follow this link to find out about the presenters and what they’ll be talking about in these presentations:

Fan Girls: The Art of Fan Language

No Key, No Problem

Sirens Cipher: Building a Secret Conference Code

And one more item that will be offered in the afternoon, just for people who’d like to find out more about how to present in the future, or how to make a presentation proposal stronger:

Creating Proposals and Compendium Submissions for Sirens

If you would like to support both Sirens and our presenters, we invite you to sponsor these (and other) presentations. The cost is $35 per presentation, and we will include your name next to your chosen topic on the accepted programming page. We’ll also list your sponsorship in our program book for this year’s event if we receive your sponsorship by August 21, 2015.


Sirens Support

When we created Sirens, we created something different: something smart, something friendly, something communal. A place where people feel welcome to both speak and listen, where people respect others and their differing opinions, and that, to many people, now feels like home.

In order to foster that community, we include elements in Sirens, such as our Thursday afternoon tea and our keynote addresses, that bring all attendees together. Those elements raise the cost of presenting Sirens significantly, and challenge our commitment to keeping the cost of attendance as low as possible for all attendees. As a result, we run an unusual budget structure: the costs of presenting Sirens far exceed our registration revenue.

We’d like to talk for a moment about how Sirens makes up that gap, and how you can help. Each year, Sirens raises in excess of $10,000 in monetary donations, auction proceeds, and bookstore revenue. Each of those is vital to the continued success—and availability—of Sirens, and each of those depends on the support of the Sirens community. We hope that you’ll consider supporting Sirens this year in one of the following ways.


Monetary Donations

Each year, thousands of dollars of the costs of presenting Sirens are offset by monetary donations—and it’s worth noting that none of our staff receive a dime (or a free registration or hotel room) in exchange for their work on Sirens. All monetary donations go straight toward the elements of Sirens that provide immediate value for attendees: catering, t-shirts, registration bags, audiovisual equipment, dance floor rental, and so forth.

We are always thrilled to take donations in any amount. Many of our monetary donations come in from our staff, but we also receive donations from attendees, friends and family of attendees, and from strangers who believe in our mission of supporting the remarkable women of fantasy literature. For those of you particularly interested in programming, you can sponsor individual presentations, and in doing so, support particular presenters or the inclusion of particular topics. For those of you particularly interested in other elements of Sirens, we’re always happy to discuss sponsorship of other programming and events.

If you’d like to make a donation, please visit our donations page.

If you’d like to sponsor a programming presentation, please visit our accepted programming page.

If you’d like to discuss a different sponsorship or donation, please email us at (donate at



Quilt-NoSignatures AuctionPile-3

The Sirens auction has become an unexpected source of a significant amount of revenue in recent years, and one that we especially love: while raising money for Sirens, we’re also providing attendees the opportunity to obtain amazing items and services. Our auction includes both a silent component, culminating at our Insurgents’ Ball, and a live component, which provides an always-raucous element to our final breakfast.

All items in our auction are donated by individuals: Sirens staff, Sirens attendees, and other Sirens supporters. These items are frequently fun, sometimes one-of-a-kind, occasionally startling, and often a terrific deal on professional services. We’ve featured everything from unique articles such as t-shirts, pillows, journals, and jewelry; to professional services such as manuscript editorial letters to synopsis drafting; to art pieces such as custom digital artwork, character naming rights for upcoming books, and original watercolors. The sky’s the limit, and if you are interested in donating an item or two for our auction, please email us at (donate at


Narrate Bookstore

BookstoreThursNight-5 BookstoreThursNight-1

A few years ago, Narrate Conferences, Inc., the presenting 501(c)(3) charitable organization behind Sirens, began operating the Sirens bookstore as a fundraiser. This gives us the opportunity, in many ways in defiance of the commercial market, to stock our bookstore exclusively with fantasy books written by, or featuring, amazing women. But more than that, this gives us the opportunity to fill a bookstore with books that we—and the Sirens community—love.

In many ways, our bookstore operates like any other bookstore: we acquire new books for sale just like anyone else. But in two ways, our bookstore is different. First, we frequently have attendees donate new books, just to make sure that the bookstore includes them in its inventory; sometimes these attendees work for publishers, but more often, these attendees are simply Sirens supporters who want to make our bookstore as amazing as possible. Second, we have a used section of our bookstore where we offer gently used fantasy books for $5 each. That section of our bookstore is stocked entirely through donations.

If you would like to donate books to our bookstore, please send your books to this address, to arrive no later than September 19, 2015. (And remember, if you’re shipping only books, the USPS media mail option is terrifically cheap, but terrifically slow, so please leave time for your package to arrive.)

c/o Narrate Conferences
P.O. Box 149
Sedalia, CO 80135


Tax Deductions

Narrate Conferences, Inc., the presenting organization behind Sirens, is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Therefore, all donations to Sirens are eligible for tax deduction in accordance with U.S. law.

Regardless of whether you are able to support us financially or with in-kind donations or not, and if you do donate, regardless of the type or amount of your donation, we thank you for your support of Sirens. This community means the world to us, and we’re both honored and humbled to say that we’re presenting our seventh year of Sirens less than two months from now.


Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.


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