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Archive for May 2018

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 10, Issue 6 (May 2018)

In this issue:

 

THANK YOU FOR YOUR PROPOSALS

Thank you to everyone who submitted programming proposals! We received a record-breaking number of proposals this year, and the vetting board is hard at work reviewing your work. Decisions will be emailed by June 11, as will programming scholarship awards. All presenters must be registered for Sirens and paid in full by July 10, and we will announce this year’s programming shortly thereafter.

 

REGISTRATION AND TICKETS UPDATE

We are already half sold out for Sirens this year and the Studio and Supper tickets are almost gone! We currently have only 13 tickets remaining for our Sirens Studio and five tickets remaining for our Sirens Supper. If you’d like to register or purchase a ticket, you may do so in our registration system.

Register or Purchase Tickets

 

SCHOLARSHIPS

We’re thrilled to report that not only did we raise more funds for scholarships than ever before, we received more applications for those scholarships than ever before! Scholarships for publishing professionals and those with financial hardships have already been awarded, as have most of the scholarships for people of color awarded through Con or Bust—but one scholarship for a person of color is still available. Please visit Con or Bust to apply.

 

WHERE ARE THEY NOW: GUESTS OF HONOR

This fall will mark our tenth year of Sirens. With our conference theme of reunion, it’s the perfect chance to reflect on past conferences and revisit some old friends. In this series, we check in with our past Guests of Honor to see what they’ve been up to these days. In 2009, our theme was warriors, and our inaugural Guests of Honor were Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, and Sherwood Smith.

Read the Full Post

 

SECOND STUDIO CAREER INTENSIVE ANNOUNCED

We’re excited to announce the topic and summary of our second Sirens Studio career intensive, Rhoda Belleza’s “Hard Stops”! You can check out the full list of workshop topics, summaries, faculty biographies, and all the information over on our Sirens Studio page. Again, we have only 13 tickets remaining for this year’s Studio, so please get yours soon!

 

PRIVACY POLICY UPDATED

Like seemingly every other company on the planet, Narrate Conferences, the 501(c)(3) organization that presents Sirens, has updated its privacy policy, which applies to Sirens. Notably, while the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union applies to only certain individuals, Narrate’s new privacy policy extends the rights and protocols required by the GDPR to everyone. As this new policy applies to you by virtue of your continuing to use our website, register for Sirens, and so forth, you do not need to do anything to receive the benefit of this new policy. In contrast, MailChimp, the company that we use for our newsletters, requires that you update your settings in order to continue to receive our monthly Sirens newsletters in your inbox. To do so, please see the email we sent you earlier this week. If you have any questions or concerns, please email (legal at narrateconferences.org).

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB

Miranda and Caliban

This month for her book club, Sirens co-founder Amy Tenbrink reads Jacqueline Carey’s Miranda and Caliban as it interrogates Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “I wanted more pointed criticism, more explicit condemnation of Prospero’s abuse and control of both Miranda and Caliban… That said, I’ve been considering lately that simple truth-telling might be its own form of feminism.” Read her thoughts on the blog and on Goodreads.

 

READ ALONG WITH FAYE

Food of the Gods

For the 2018 Reading Challenge, this month Communications Director Faye Bi picked up Cassandra Khaw’s Food of the Gods, which she found “truly absurd… But if you love wordplay, clever mythology, copious descriptions of food, a plethora of witticisms and a bumbling, yet somehow endearing hero, you’ll overlook the out-of-left-field plot and enjoy the onslaught of detail.” Read her full review on the blog and on Goodreads.

 

SIRENS REVIEW SQUAD

Children of Blood and Bone

Bookstore Coordinator Amanda Hudson read Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, which she loved for its “wondrous worldbuilding,” save for an “unexpected use of a popular trope… children forced to fight other children in a tournament or arena setting until only one is left alive, explicitly for the entertainment of adults.” Read her full review here.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT …


Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Where Are They Now: 2009 Guests of Honor

This fall will mark our tenth year of Sirens. With our conference theme of reunion, it’s the perfect chance to reflect on past conferences and revisit some old friends. In this series, we check in with our past Guests of Honor to see what they’ve been up to these days. If you attended Sirens that year, please share with us your memories of 2009 in the comments or on social media, and take a stroll with us down memory lane!

In 2009, our theme was warriors, and our inaugural Guests of Honor were Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, and Sherwood Smith.

Tamora Pierce

Tamora PierceTempests and Slaughter

Tamora’s most recent publication is Tempests and Slaughter, the first book in the long-anticipated Numair Chronicles, which came out in February 2018. The series follows the early life of the Tortall Universe’s most powerful mage, Arram Draper, in his early days as a student, before he grows into Numair Salmalin and partner of wildmage Veralidaine Sarrarsri. Tempests and Slaughter hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and Tamora completed a multi-city book tour a few months ago—you can read her recap post here.

For longtime fans of the Tortall Universe, Tortall: A Spy’s Guide, a full-color, behind-the-scenes collectible guide, came out in October 2017.

Where She Is Now: Hard at work on the second book of the Numair series, for which three books are planned. “She has some ideas for her next series—and there will be a next series!—but for the time being, there are no other projects planned and scheduled after the Numair Chronicles.

Upcoming Public Appearances: Guest at Denver Comic-Con 2018

 

Kristin Cashore

Kristin CashoreJane, Unlimited

Kristin’s latest book, Jane, Unlimited, came out in September 2017 to awe, acclaim, and brain-twisting. Described as “a kaleidoscopic novel about grief, adventure, storytelling, and finding yourself in a world of seemingly infinite choices,” Jane, Unlimited made the list of the Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA) 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults, was an Indie Next Top Ten Pick, and hit both the New York Times Bestseller List and the Indiebound Bestseller List.

Jane, Unlimited’s newly re-jacketed paperback will come out on July 10, 2018.

Where She Is Now: Releasing a tenth anniversary edition of Graceling this September. In October, she’s going to be sailing on a tall ship in the Arctic Circle with other artists: “It’s a two-week artist residency organized by an organization called The Arctic Circle which sends artists into that vulnerable environment in the hopes that it will influence their art, which will then influence consumers to are about saving the environment.”

 

Sherwood Smith

Sherwood SmithA Sword Named Truth

After a few postponements, Sherwood’s first book in a new series, A Sword Named Truth, has a tentative release date of December 8, 2018. For longtime fans of Sartorias-deles, the world in which the Inda and Crown Duel books are set (as well as Banner of the Damned), this series marks a major new arc, in which “young rulers must cooperate to protect their world from the magical threat of the mysterious kingdom of Norsunder.

Also, Traitor, the fourth and last of The Change series co-written with Rachel Manija Brown, will come out this year.

For fans of Sherwood’s Wren series, you’ll be pleased to discover that an omnibus edition (including the long-awaited Wren Journeymage) is available as an ebook.

Where She Is Now: Planning to independently publish The Time of Daughters, set 100 years after Inda, this summer. It deals with “the long shadow cast by Inda & Co. And power. And gender.

Upcoming Public Appearances: Instructor at Viable Paradise 2018

 

Read Along with Faye: Food of the Gods by Cassandra Khaw

Each year, Communications Director Faye Bi attempts to read the requisite 25 books to complete the Sirens Reading Challenge. In 2018, a Reunion year, she’ll be reading books from the past four years’ themes: hauntings, revolutionaries, lovers, and women who work magic. Light spoilers ahead. If you’d like some structure—or company—on your own reading goals, we invite you to read along!

Going into Food of the Gods, I knew absolutely nothing except that Amy Tenbrink said this was her favorite book of 2017. Amy and I are book friends most of the time, so I knew I would pick this up eventually… and I now know so much about her in why she loves this book.

Rupert Wong is a cannibal chef for the gods by day, and a pencil pusher for the Diyu (the Ten Chinese Hells) by night. He does this to work off his karmic debt, having done some very bad things in his life so far, in the hopes that by the time he actually dies, his soul might not be condemned to eternal damnation slash Even Worse Things. And Rupert, bless him, is supremely talented as a chef, and also supremely witty as an employee, so much so that he’s (dare I say) kept around for both his skills and entertainment for the benefit of his divine employers.

But first, an aside: wow, I wasn’t sure how to feel while reading Food of the Gods. It’s obvious that Cassandra Khaw loves food as much as I do, but Rupert is literally preparing flesh—a deceased adult film actress features in a memorable scene—as he slices, dices, spices, reduces, seasons, smokes, and otherwise prepares feasts for his deific masters. I didn’t know whether to feel revolted or hungry, because Khaw does not hold back on the exceedingly gruesome detail, but all that flesh simmering in a curry, hmm… “Human is very similar to pork, after all.”

What Khaw also does fabulously is her modern, occasionally fourth-wall breaking mythology. It’s the cooler, hipper version of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods with a similar idea of the gods of different faiths being at war with one another, but with way more panache and way less pretentiousness. (The modern gods include a YouTube cat.) I didn’t know that Food of the Gods was a combination of two novellas, but after the fact, it makes sense that I’ve read two separate Rupert adventures that have two different, episodic plots.

Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef takes place mostly in Kuala Lumpur in the first half, where Rupert has to solve the mystery of who murdered the ocean god Ao Qin’s daughter—with a cast of ghouls, gods, spirits and divine beings you don’t normally see in fantasy (Rupert convincing a legion of kwee kwia spirits not to unionize is the funniest). This is followed by the most hilarious plane ride—those with annoying flight companions will relish Rupert’s revenge on a snotty teenager—and then Rupert Wong and the Ends of the Earth, which is set in London where the Greek pantheon has set up shop. There, Rupert is on loan for his cooking skills, but finds himself in the middle of a Sisyphean gambling ring and the family drama the Greek gods are well-known for.

As a reader who prefers less commonly-explored settings in urban fantasy, I preferred the first installment, but I appreciated Khaw’s lens of showing us London through Rupert’s eyes—he absolutely doesn’t understand how these Greek gods can be so callous and uncivilized. Some of the plot was lost on me, as I found myself distracted by witty zingers and descriptions of food and cooking. But the writing is so delightful, and Rupert, despite being a genuinely selfish asshole, still tries to do the right thing and often does, even for the “wrong” reasons (wanting to be a better person for your lady friend is not that bad, Rupert!). And even though Rupert’s the main character, most of his good deeds involve helping women do what they need to do on their own terms. It nearly kills him to take a compliment from Demeter, who tells him that he is a good person.

Will you like Food of the Gods? I don’t know, but I did. It’s truly absurd. It’s most definitely unique. (It’s not an easy read, especially if you’re reading a print copy and the page margins are smaller than average?) But if you love wordplay, clever mythology, copious descriptions of food, a plethora of witticisms and a bumbling, yet somehow endearing hero, you’ll overlook the out-of-left-field plot and enjoy the onslaught of detail. And most definitely, if you’re a lawyer, this is totally your jam. By the end of the novel, Rupert essentially gets his freedom through lawyering! And contracts! Two opposing gods with claims on his employment can’t decide which contract supersedes the other. Lulz.

Next month’s book: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado


Faye Bi is a book-publishing professional based in New York City, and leads the Sirens communications team. She’s yet to read an immigrant story she hasn’t cried over, and is happiest planning nerdy parties, capping off a long run with brunch, and cycling along the East River.

 

Sirens Review Squad: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

The Sirens Review Squad is made up of Sirens volunteers, who submit short reviews of books (often fantasy literature by women authors) they’ve read and enjoyed. If you’re interested in sending us a review to run on the blog, please email us! Today, we welcome a review from Amanda Hudson on Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone.

Children of Blood and Bone

In her debut novel Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi blends African heritage into a vivid new fantasy world called Orïsha, where a merciless king has driven away magic. By his decree, divîners—those capable of controlling Orïsha’s magic—are systematically killed, leaving their families discriminated against and forced into hiding. Adeyemi expertly weaves the themes of prejudice and oppression into Zelie, her brother Tzain, and the princess Amari’s quest to restore magic to the divîners before it is erased from the Orïsha for good.

Adeyemi tells the story of this journey with three point-of-view characters, and in doing so, creates a page-turner that is hard to put down when a chapter ends. I either wanted to know what happened next, or I wanted to get back to a particular character’s perspective. The book begins with Zélie, who was forced to watch the monarchy kill her divîner mother, yet still teams up with a fleeing princess who possesses an artifact required to restore magic to their lands. That princess, Amari, is determined to do what she believes is right, even if it goes against her father’s wishes. Inan, Amari’s brother and the prince, is desperate to show his father that he is capable and worthy of one day becoming king. Alternating between Zélie, Amari, and Inan’s perspectives reveals the complexity of the world Adeyemi has created, and delves deeper into the ethical and political issues of the king’s tyrannical regime.

Adeyemi creates a beautifully rich world, with deeply-drawn characters and social structures to match. There are gentle reminders every so often that this world is not my own, such as the animal Zélie and her family rides. This is what I look for in great fantasy—a place I can relate to, but also new and different in intriguing ways. Adeyemi’s Orïsha feels spellbinding and alive.

I cannot think of a book that does not contain at least one trope, but occasionally, the unexpected use of a popular trope completely removes me from the page. Children of Blood and Bone, for all its wondrous worldbuilding, contains a trope I’ve come to abhor in YA fantasy: children forced to fight other children in a tournament or arena setting until only one is left alive, explicitly for the entertainment of adults. Perhaps the inclusion of this trope would have been less irksome if it had not been entirely unnecessary to the plot.

It wasn’t surprising to me, given the overall predictable quest structure of Children of Blood and Bone, that Amari, Zélie and Tzain would find their way to a town of laborers living in miserable conditions, and that the laborers would be forced into stockades and treated like animals. From the setup, I knew that Zélie would likely learn that the princess (and maybe the prince) are not like their ruthless father. I also suspected that Amari would realize the extent of the king’s horrific regime. I was there, I was engrossed. But, at the mention of an arena, I disconnected from the story for several chapters. I wish I could have removed these chapters altogether; this one aspect jolted me out of a powerful, enticing world, and forced me into a generic, worn-out trope. Suddenly, I was comparing this book to the last one I’d read featuring the same trope.

The plot progresses fairly quickly from there, but then I was nervous about what other contrived trope would be thrown my way. By the end, my only other complaint was that I foolishly had not realized that Children of Blood and Bone is the first of a series. At 525 pages, I was so sure it would be a standalone. I wish it were! I picked it up when it was recently released, with the second book far off in the future. Now I’m completely invested in the world, the characters and Adeyemi’s language; and I crave closure. The wait for book two begins.


Amanda Hudson works full time as a game developer in Malmö, Sweden. She holds a JD from Baylor University and previously practiced law in Texas. When not reading or writing fantasy, Amanda enjoys eating delicious Scandinavian foods and playing video games and board games.

 

Book Club: Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Each year, Sirens chair Amy Tenbrink posts monthly reviews of new-to-her books from the annual Sirens reading list. You can find all of her Sirens Book Club reviews at the Sirens Goodreads Group. We invite you to read along and discuss!

Miranda and Caliban

Are you familiar with The Tempest, Shakespeare’s storm-swept comedy full of revenge and magic?

I wasn’t.

While I will happily deconstruct prophecies and the self-fulfillment thereof in Macbeth for hours and I can still quote entire passages of Julius Caesar that I learned almost 30 years ago and I once dated a Hamlet for five long years of indecision, I have yet to meet a Shakespeare comedy that I like. This dates back to, of course, my first Shakespeare encounter in ninth-grade English: Romeo and Juliet, which you’re about to tell me is not a comedy, to which I will respond, “Only the parts that I loathe.” Bring on the death, please, and leave the purportedly funny coincidences out of it.

I still have not read The Tempest, incidentally, but the Internet was kind enough to tell me all about it: The white magician Prospero, inhabiting a deserted isle with his white daughter Miranda and a “savage” black boy named Caliban, who is the son of the dead witch Sycorax. Prospero contrives to bring those who exiled him to the isle, to be shipwrecked by a magical storm. Stuff happens, Miranda marries a prince of Naples, and all is well with the world.

Or something.

Jacqueline Carey’s Miranda and Caliban interrogates The Tempest, which one might presume, even from the brief summary above, is in need of a good interrogation. Miranda and Caliban opens several years after Prospero and Miranda’s exile to the isle: Miranda is a child of six or so, while orphaned Caliban is, at best guess, several years older. Very early in the book, Prospero works magic and compels Caliban to appear, only to lock him in a room in the hopes that confinement will impart refinement: language, posture, chamber pot usage, religion, and such. As you consider this, please remember that Prospero and Miranda are white, and Caliban is black.

Miranda’s gentle tutelage succeeds — for some value of “succeeds” — where Prospero’s aggression fails: Caliban learns their language and what is expected of him in this strange, new world ruled by an ill-tempered magician. Caliban eventually earns some measure of freedom — remember, though, that Prospero summoned him in the first instance, so “freedom” here is misleading notion — by supplying the name of the “evil” god that his mother worshipped. Prospero uses that name to free the wind spirit Ariel from a tree, only to bind him, too, to servitude.

As they age, Miranda and Caliban become friends, though it’s never clear if their friendship is born solely of their lack of options. Even after Ariel is freed from the tree, he’s mercurial, temperamental, and manipulative, not suitable for friendship for either Miranda or Caliban, and as you might expect from a volatile spirit in a Shakespeare play, in the end, Ariel’s impact on Miranda and Caliban’s friendship exceeds even their own. But Caliban remains Prospero’s servant, Miranda remains Prospero’s deliberately ignorant daughter, and Prospero’s plotting continues apace.

When Miranda blossoms, if you will, into a woman, Miranda and Caliban’s relationship changes. She menstruates for the first time, and thinks she’s dying. Her father gives her the world’s worst feminine hygiene contraption and collects her menstrual blood for his own magical purposes. (EW.) Caliban catches a glimpse of Miranda naked, and begins to understand the changes in his own body, only to be caught masturbating by Ariel, who calls him rude and savage, a monster. Miranda and Caliban attempt to consummate their relationship, only to be interrupted by an enraged Prospero, informed by a tattling Ariel.

Eventually, Prospero’s opportunity arises and Miranda and Caliban catches up with The Tempest: a magical storm, a shipwrecked boat, a betrothal, and Miranda sails away from the isle, leaving Caliban behind, but not without perhaps hollow promises to send for him when she’s a princess of Naples.

As I mentioned above, The Tempest is in need of a good interrogation. In the end, however, I found that Carey’s attempt was perhaps too gentle for me. I wanted more pointed criticism, more explicit condemnation of Prospero’s abuse and control of both Miranda and Caliban. I wanted some discussion of Sycorax other than, essentially, “the evil witch that used to live here, but she’s dead, and good riddance.” I don’t require a different, more thoughtful, more progressive ending, but I wanted a lot more deconstruction and complexity in getting there.

That said, I’ve been considering lately that simple truth-telling might be its own form of feminism. Sarah Pinborough’s Poison, for example, is a retelling of Snow White that (arguably) ends more poorly for Snow White than the fairytale itself. One might argue that that’s not feminist, simply because things go so badly for Snow White, but I find that that sort of truth-telling — here’s how things would actually go and they’re worse than you thought — is ultimately feminist.

While I might find the feminism in Miranda and Caliban less pointed than I would like, there is, at least, a form of truth-telling in it: Prospero’s use of his daughter for his own ends, Prospero and Ariel’s endless, on-page racism, Caliban’s enslavement. Explicitly marking these issues, if not addressing them fully, is perhaps its own form of feminism, even if it isn’t mine.


Amy Tenbrink spends her days handling strategic and intellectual property transactions as an executive vice president for a major media company. Her nights and weekends over the last twenty-five years have involved managing a wide variety of events, including theatrical productions, marching band shows, sporting events, and interdisciplinary conferences. Most recently, she has organized three Harry Potter conferences (The Witching Hour, in Salem, Massachusetts; Phoenix Rising, in the French Quarter of New Orleans; and Terminus, in downtown Chicago) and eight years of Sirens. Her experience includes all aspects of event planning, from logistics and marketing to legal consulting and budget management, and she holds degrees with honors from both the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and the Georgetown University Law Center. She likes nothing so much as monster girls, Weasleys, and a well-planned revolution.

 

New Fantasy Books: May 2018

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of May 2018 fantasy book releases by and about women and nonbinary folk. Let us know what you’re looking forward to, or any titles that we’ve missed, in the comments!

 

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, feel free to leave a comment below!
 

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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