Archive for September 2015

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.


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

In this issue:


Sirens is next month—and we can’t wait to see you! If you haven’t purchased your registration yet, please make sure to do so by September 12. When the clock strikes 11:59 p.m. on September 12, we’ll close our online registration system. After that, you must register at the door at an increased price.

If you have any questions, please contact us at (registration at


The registration deadline is also the deadline to purchase tickets for the Sirens Shuttle, Sirens Supper, and Sirens Studio. The Sirens Shuttle provides attendees and their guests affordable transportation to and from the Denver International Airport. The Sirens Supper is a wonderful way to connect with staff and attendees the night before the conference officially launches. And, new this year, the Sirens Studio offers two days of workshops, networking opportunities, discussions, and flexible time for writers, readers, and professionals. We’ll stop selling these tickets on September 12, and they’re very unlikely to be available at the door, so add them to your registration before the deadline.


No matter how you’re traveling to Sirens, we have information available for you on the transportation page of our website. Denver is a large and sprawling city, but the Inverness Hotel offers some fabulous amenities and dining options right at home. If you haven’t made your hotel reservations yet, please do so by calling the hotel directly at (303) 799-5800; rooms are filling up quickly. (Please do not call the toll-free number, since they don’t seem aware of our room block.) If you have any issues making a reservation and getting the Sirens discount rate, please do let us know at (help at


If you’ve registered for Sirens, please keep an eye on your inbox during the beginning of October. We’ll be sending you emails regarding, as appropriate, meeting the Sirens Shuttle, checking in for the Sirens Studio, finding the Sirens Supper, and claiming your Sirens registration.


If you’ve got all of your travel details set, it might be time to review the accepted programming and schedule for Sirens and daydream about owning a Time-Turner, or to volunteer (see below). It might also be time to review the Books and Breakfast list and pick out something to chat about before the day’s programming starts, or time to squeeze in a few more books from this year’s themed reading list. Remember, if you’ve finished this year’s Reading Challenge, please email us by September 12 to let us know of your victory; we’ll have a button suitable for gloating waiting for you at Sirens!


We’d love your help at Sirens! Volunteer shifts vary in length and responsibilities, but most volunteer shifts are during programming and allow you to attend presentations. You might help people find seats, turn microphones on or off, give presenters their five-minute warnings that time is up, and gather lost and found items. See the volunteers page page on our website for more details. If you’re a returning volunteer, you don’t need to fill out the form—just follow the directions in the email sent through the Google Group. Thank you!


Each year, Sirens raises thousands of dollars in order to hold the conference and to keep registration costs as low as possible for everyone—even as the cost of hosting events skyrockets. If you can support Sirens through a donation of money, auction items, or used books, we’d be very appreciative.



Rae Carson

Read our in-depth interview with Guest of Honor Rae Carson, where she discusses inspirations, gold panning, Princess Leia, writing and more.




Come read with us! Sirens co-founder Amy leads the Sirens Book Club each month. September’s book is An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Join the discussion on Goodreads.



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

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Roundtable Discussions

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Workshops

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Afternoon Classes

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Panels

Rae Carson: Five Young Adult Fantasy Works with Adult Crossover Appeal

Andrea Horbinski: Five Fantasies of the Roaring Twenties from the New Gilded Age

Erynn Moss: Eight Fantasy Works That Don’t Over-Explain

s.e. smith: Five Dark and Twisty Young Adult Works

Casey Blair: Six Secondary World Urban Fantasies

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

Sirens Support


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


Five Fantasies of the Roaring Twenties from the New Gilded Age

By Andrea Horbinski (@horbinski)

As a historian, I’m a huge (if somewhat picky) fan of historical fantasy, and I’ve become increasingly fascinated with the 1920s and with books set in that era. It was a time of headlong social changes and precipitously widening social inequality, of glittering wealth at the top and grinding poverty at the bottom—sound familiar? It’s no accident that this new Gilded Age has produced a fine crop of novels set in the Jazz Age. Here are some of them, both young adult and otherwise:


Moonshine 1. Moonshine, Alaya Dawn Johnson
Set in an alternate 1920s New York City populated by vampires and djinn as well as bootleggers and immigrants, Moonshine is the story of Zephyr Hollis, the so-called “vampire suffragette,” a thoroughly modern woman with a zeal for social reform. Vampire novels are a dime a dozen these days, but this one is appropriately red of tooth, and it’s well worth tracking down.
TheGirlsattheKingfisherClub 2. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Genevieve Valentine
A retelling of the fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses—from the princesses’ perspective—set in Jazz Age New York before the crash, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is fleet on its feet and manages to make each girl believably individual, and desperate, even as it stays within the perspective of Jo, the eldest, the self-appointed general, the one who not only helps her sisters survive their tyrannical father, but escape him.
TheDiviners 3. The Diviners, Libba Bray
The Diviners is a big, ambitious book that’s trying to do a lot of things at once, and though I can’t yet say whether the series (this is the first of four) will be the great American historical epic of magic and race and freedom that I’ve wanted for years, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Evie, who gets sent to New York City as punishment for her inveterate drinking and smoking and truth-telling in her small town, and of Memphis, a young poet and numbers-runner in Harlem, and of the magic, murder, and mystery that brings them and a lot of other people together.
CuckooSong 4. Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge
Frances Hardinge is one of my favorite writers, hands-down, and this book, her first non-secondary world fantasy, is all the crunchier for being set in 1920s England. It’s the story of Tris, who slowly comes to a horrible realization about her own existence that propels her out of her family’s suffocating bosom into a desperate race against time, but what really makes the book is the presence of the hard-bitten, motorcycle-riding flapper Violet, and the bond of grief and magic that ties the two of them together.
Razorhurst 5. Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier
Set in 1920s Sydney, Razorhurst is the story of two very different young women—Dymphna Campbell, the so-called “best girl” of mob boss Glory Johnson, and Kelpie, the street waif who shares just one of Dymphna’s talents: the ability to see ghosts. The hardscrabble neighborhood of Surry Hills, called “Sorrow Hills” and “Razorhurst” by the people who live there, is the setting for a tense and richly detailed story of two people who couldn’t be more different but who also find themselves thrown together against the odds, and against the gangsters who are hunting for them.
Bonus: The Legend of Korra
This isn’t a book, but it is one of the finest animated shows I’ve seen in a while. The sequel show to the wonderful Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra stars the next Avatar, the female water bender Korra, and takes place 70 years later in an around Republic City, which was clearly inspired by 1920s Shanghai. Though the pacing was sometimes rough, particularly in the first season, Korra became an ambitious, complex, and above all engrossing show about one young woman’s development as a person and as the Avatar against the backdrop of a world that is rapidly outgrowing old paradigms. And the animation is frequently pretty darnn awesome, too.


Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.


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