Wasn’t cabin fever supposed to be a winter malady? With pandemic protections and unpleasant weather combining forces to keep people from venturing outdoors, we know many in our Sirens community may be weary of pinging against familiar walls. We hope that we can give your mind a respite and a bit of escape through this month’s interviews, essays, and book recommendations!
We hope you’ve seen our email or website announcement about the postponement of Sirens to October 2021. While we will miss the Sirens community so very much, given the continued presence of COVID-19, we prioritized the health and well-being of our attendees, presenters, guests, staff, and everyone whom their lives touch.
If you had already registered for Sirens and/or been accepted for programming, please check your email for information about how to proceed.
We hope that everyone will stay safe and well, wear your masks, and be ready to reconvene next year!
Fortunately, modern technology does afford us ways to keep in touch, even when we can’t congregate in Denver as planned. Our next Sirens Zoom chat will be on Tuesday, August 4, 8 p.m. EDT. We’d love to see your face! These chats have been a wonderful way to keep in touch, take a few minutes to relax, and discuss what we’re loving in fantasy fiction right now. If you haven’t joined us before and you’d like to, please email help at sirensconference.org, and we’ll add you to the list to receive reminders and the Zoom link.
We also have a text-only chat option! On Thursday, August 6, 9 p.m. EDT, we’ll have August’s Twitter chat on the topic of weather and climate in speculative fiction. Simply follow #SirensChat and answer questions with the hashtag to join in!
We released three more genius essays interrogating some weighty issues this month. The summer round of Sirens Essays will wrap up in August, so be on the lookout for the final installment.
Bestselling author V. S. Holmes unpacks the harmful implications that attend the assignation of disability and disfigurement to villainous characters in “Moral Disability: How Villainy Looks When You’re the Monster”. Holmes asks readers and creators alike to consider the message sent when a character becomes evil because of illness or injury and the further implications of redemption arcs and magical or technological “cures” for their conditions.
In “A Room of Her Own: The Post-Modern Haunted Houses of Nova Ren Suma,” editor and freelance writer Meg Belviso explores “the haunted house as a transitional space” in modern speculative fiction. She focuses on Nova Ren Suma’s YA novels The Walls Around Us and A Room Away from the Wolves, which center the two-pronged liminality of teenaged heroines experiencing hauntings while living in temporary housing.
S. M. Mack, scholar and author of short fiction, examines the necessity of sitting with painful realities in “On Bearing Witness in Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls”, connecting a book that re-centers the Iliad on Briseis, enslaved and abused by Achilles and Agamemnon, to present-day injustices and crises.
In July, we continued featuring the amazing people who will be running workshops during Sirens Studio. We’re delighted that they’ll all be joining us in 2021! We hope these interviews will serve as good introductions and help you look forward to meeting them in safer times.
- Author, former anthropologist and folklorist, and former Sirens Guest of Honor Marie Brennan discusses crafting character voices, fuzzy boundaries between academic and non-academic writing, and her Sirens workshop, “Faith in Fantasy: Building Believable Religions.”
- In her interview, Ren Iwamoto, a scholar focusing on twentieth-century East Asian literature, Japanese colonialism, and post-colonial discourse, expresses her view that “speculative fiction should destabilize” and prepares us for her Studio workshop, “Seasoned with Soy Sauce: Asianization in Western Speculative Media and What It Means to Be ‘Asian-Inspired’.”
This month, we also began featuring members of our Sirens community! In the coming months, you’ll hear from a variety of attendees representing the wide spectrum of professions and backgrounds which makes Sirens so vibrant.
- Nicole Brinkley, manager of Oblong Books & Music, tells us what she loves about hand-selling books, how she fits a book to a reader, and her hopes for the future of speculative fiction.
- Teacher Traci-Anne Canada tells us about building a classroom library and helping students find books they enjoy and that will speak to them.
- Voracious reader Danielle Cicchetti shares the books she’s been loving recently, her secrets to finishing 150+ books a year, and how Sirens has contributed to her reading habit.
Whether you’re reading in the bright sunshine or huddling beneath the sweet shelter of the air conditioner, we hope we can introduce you to your new best book friend! This month’s book recommendations feature a dazzling array of new releases and old favorites, guaranteed to invite you into other worlds and to prompt you to think critically about the one we live in.
Book Recommendations and Reviews:
- Faye Bi recommends Bethany C. Morrow’s A Song Below Water as a crucial component of a reader’s journey to anti-racism. “[Morrow] seamlessly and ambitiously unpacks intersectionality, racism, sexism, police brutality, protesting, affirmative action, gentrification, education, beauty standards, and more.”
- Casey Blair provides a list of books featuring “Women in SFF Who Dream Big Dreams and Don’t Let Anyone Stop Them”.
- Chelsea Cleveland reviews The Power by Naomi Alderman: “While this isn’t the first title I’ve come across where supernatural abilities were attributed to one gender, I have never seen it done with such gut-punching impact or specificity.”
- Whether high summer has you yearning for the adventure of a road trip, the solitude of camping in the woods, or the sweet scent of the ocean breeze, Amanda Hudson’s Summer Nights rec list has something sure to delight.
- If those recommendations aren’t enough to get you through the dog days of summer, be sure to look at our compilation of July 2020 new releases!
And here are a few staff picks for this month:
Erynn’s Pick: Wonderland by Zoje Stage
At the age of 41, Orla Bennet is reluctantly retiring from the dance stages of New York City and relocating with her family to a farmhouse in the Adirondack mountains. Quiet and privacy are the charms of their new expansive home with the closest neighbor a mile away. The space is intended to afford her partner, Shaw, inspiration for his new-found calling as an artist, their anxious preteen daughter her own bedroom, and their exuberant son freedom for his curiosity.
But, of course, strange things start to happen once they settle in. An enigmatic presence calls to the family through the trees and earth, seeping into their minds, and securing their isolation. Part suspense, part horror, Stage’s story is one of maternal strength told with exquisite prose.
Cass’s Pick: Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott
If “genderflipped Alexander the Great in space” doesn’t grab you, then perhaps “genetically engineered human-aliens, cutthroat galaxy-spanning politics, queernorm worldbuilding, and imaginative future tech” will. Unconquerable Sun is an ambitious and exciting opening to a new series, inspired by but not directly imitative of its historical sources. There are plenty of Easter eggs for the classical studies geeks, but nothing in the book relies on that knowledge. Elliott builds a whole new galaxy with deep roots and evocative details.
Sun is an astonishing hero: charismatic, decisive, brilliant, sharp. The cast that surrounds her is equally grand, from the wily Persephone to the handsome Alika and all the rest of Sun’s Companions. The writing is as bold as Sun herself. Elliott has taken some risks in the way she handles the various point-of-view characters, changing person and tense in a way that helps the reader feel, deeply, the soul-deep shifts between each character, rather than merely placing the camera behind another person’s head. It pays off: the book is an enthralling adventure from start to finish.
Keep cool, keep safe, and keep reading!
This newsletter is brought to you by:
Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).