Archive for February 2019

What will it take for women and nonbinary people to be seen as heroic?

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 11, Issue 2: February 2019

This month:


Put Your Capes on and Get Your Caps Ready

Thinking caps, that is. Earlier this month we posted “Why Our Sirens 2019 Theme is Heroes.” We ask the question: What will it take for women and nonbinary people to be seen as heroic?

Which means that programming is right around the corner! That’s right, it is February, which means there are less than three months to submit proposals for papers, lectures, panels, roundtables, workshops, afternoon classes, and more!

Sirens probably handles its programming differently than most other conferences or conventions that you know. We don’t invite certain people to sit on panels or give lectures. Instead, we invite everyone to submit presentation proposals—and if selected by our independent vetting board, to present those proposals at Sirens. At Sirens, everyone’s perspectives, identities, thoughts, and voices are critical to our conversations and our conversations value diverse perspectives, identities, and vocations. And that means you!

For more information on how to turn your idea into Sirens-worthy presentations, we’ll be kicking off our annual programming series in March, but to get a head start, visit our Present page. You’ll also want to visit our #SirensBrainstorm hashtag on Twitter for topic ideas that you can take for your proposal, bend or break, reimagine, or use for inspiration.

Present Programming


Apply for Sirens Scholarships!

Our amazing community has funded thirteen scholarships for 2019 attendees! For six of those scholarships, the deadline is already fast approaching. Applications for financial hardship and literary professionals are due March 31st. Click below for more information.

Apply for Scholarships


Price Jump

On March 1, the cost of a Sirens registration will increase from $225 to $250.

Along with general registration for Sirens, tickets are available now for the Sirens Studio and the Sirens Supper. The prices for these additional tickets will not change, but there are a limited number available, so get yours today!

Buy Tickets


February’s 52 Fabulous Fantasy Books

This month, we spotted an impressive number of new books by women and nonbinary people to add to your shelves, and rounded them up in a photo collage.

Erynn’s Pick:

Courting Darkness

Courting Darkness by former Sirens Guest of Honor and Studio Faculty Robin LaFevers is the newest installment in her world of the His Fair Assassin series.


Faye’s Pick:

The Night Tiger

In The Night Tiger by Yangzee Choo, an apprentice dressmaker moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her mother’s Mahjong debts. Magic in 1930s colonial Malaysia? I’m in.


This newsletter was put together by:

Erynn Moss + Faye Bi

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


Why Our Sirens 2019 Theme Is Heroes

Sirens logos 2019 Hero

Who do you picture when you think of a hero?

A boy pulling out a sword from a stone? An orphan receiving a letter telling him he’s a wizard? A king with the fate of the realm in his hands? A scientist with a secret to save humanity? A playboy billionaire who wears a flying robot suit?

If you’re a cisgendered man, becoming a hero is a pretty straightforward thing.

The steps are simple: Become stronger, smarter, or more powerful than everyone else. Meet an avuncular older mentor with a beard. Learn to wield a deadly weapon. Go through some kind of physical, spiritual, or monomythical bullshit. Perform some hypermasculinity. Vanquish evil. Save the cheerleader, save the world.

And if you’re a cisgendered man, society is all-too-happy to point you down the path to heroism. From birth, and likely with little effort on your part, you are told that you’re special. Important. The illustrious warrior. We look to you for leadership. We like your muscles, your cocksure attitude, your damsel-saving, and your evil-vanquishing.

But if you’re a woman? Or nonbinary? Things are a lot more complicated.

Our concept of heroism is impossibly, hopelessly entangled with societal expectations about gender.

We like guys who are heroes. We don’t like sword-wielding, damsel-saving, evil-vanquishing, green-and-angry women. We don’t like muscle-bound, confident, dragon-slaying nonbinary people, even if they built their own flying robot suits with their billions.

What will it take for women and nonbinary people to be seen as heroic?

Perhaps the pretty, passive, silent girls of folktales come to mind. Girls—nearly always girls—who chatted with birds and just wanted to stop doing housework for two seconds so they could go to the ball. Girls in red cloaks who sought armed, burly men’s help when a wolf preyed on their innocence. Well-behaved, bookish girls who martyred themselves for their fathers’ freedom, only to save a beast with their improbable love. Girls who made the slightest of ripples, all while reinforcing the worst of our societally imposed gender limitations: Be good. Be chaste. Be silent. Be kind. These girls—in stories collected and passed down by men—weren’t heroes so much as cautionary tales.

Eventually the girls and women who wield swords, just like the men, became our next generation of heroes. They have enemy armies to battle and evil mages to defeat, just like the men. But of course, this often-pale imitation of heroism is permitted only for cisgendered, heterosexual white women who pretend they’re boys and don’t kill anyone along the way. Fantasy literature has a legion of these girls, grudgingly allowed a place somewhere in the vicinity of the male hero pantheon, who behave like boys, wield swords like boys, work a thousand times harder to prove themselves as heroic as boys, and ultimately, when asked, step aside for boys. After all, there are rules for the girls allowed in the hero club.

Be good. Be chaste. Be silent. Be kind. Put down the sword, Brienne. Step aside, Natasha. Stop bossing, Hermione. No, you cannot have pants, Wonder Woman.

Our heroism is far greater than that.

So, for Sirens in 2019, we present these questions:

  • Who is seen as a hero, and what attributes make them heroic?

  • How do we, as a society, define heroic behavior and action?

We demand heroes who don’t fulfill the hypermasculine stereotypes of our societal construct of heroism. We demand heroes who don’t choose the same paths as cisgendered, heterosexual male heroes, or the same provocations, or the same weapons, or the same outcomes.

We demand heroes of all genders, all sexualities, all races, all faiths, all sizes, all abilities.

We demand heroes like Mishell Baker’s Millie (Borderline), whose dysphoria and rebuilt body help make her heroism possible. We demand heroes like Ausma Zehanat Khan’s Arian (The Bloodprint), whose faith is her strength and her courage. We demand heroes like Rebecca Roanhorse’s Maggie (Trail of Lightning), who fights monsters while thinking that she is, herself, monstrous. We demand heroes like Roshani Chokshi’s Aru and Mini (Aru Shah and the End of Time), whom everyone doubts, but no one should. We demand heroes like Dr. Suzanne Scott, whose passion and research and scholarship (Fake Geek Girls) focus on inclusive heroism across popular culture and fandoms.

The 2019 Sirens theme is heroes because we demand a revolution—and evolution—of what it means to be a woman or nonbinary person and a hero.


Thirteen Sirens Scholarships Funded for 2019

Sirens has a mission: to provide a welcoming space for our attendees to discuss the remarkable, diverse women of fantasy literature. As part of that mission, we specifically craft Sirens to include and amplify all of the brilliant voices creating those discussions. Our greatest hope is that those voices will represent both a wide array of perspectives and experiences—reader, scholar, librarian, educator, publishing professional, author—and individuals of different genders, sexualities, races, religions, and abilities. As we begin our second decade of Sirens, we find that topics related to gender and fantasy literature are as limitless as ever, and that our opportunity to learn from our community’s discussion, analysis, and debate of those topics is equally limitless.

This year, because of the generosity of the Sirens community, we raised the funds necessary to provide thirteen scholarships! To everyone who donated, thank you. Thank you for your financial commitment to our community and for helping make Sirens possible for certain individuals who are both critical to our conversations and who sometimes find it difficult to attend without additional support.

Each scholarship includes both a Sirens registration and a Sirens Shuttle ticket. The thirteen scholarships will be allocated as follows: three to fans of color/non-white fans, three to those submitting exemplary programming proposals, four to those with financial hardships, and three to librarians, educators, and publishing professionals (which may be anyone from an editor to an agent to a publicist to a cover designer to a bookseller).

If you need assistance, we hope you’ll consider applying for a scholarship. We designed this program specifically to help additional voices join our conference and our community—and your voice counts. Please visit our Scholarships page for more information on how to apply.


New Fantasy Books: February 2019

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of February 2019 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!

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.


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