Archive for March 2021

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 13, Issue 1: March 2021

This month:

We’re a year into a global pandemic, and you’re a year into caring for yourself, your family, and your community in ways few of us imagined would ever be necessary. You have a favorite mask—you know, the one that fits really well and the color brings out your eyes? You’ve moved past merely judging people’s Zoom backgrounds and now have a detailed 10-point scale for rating them. You’ve learned new and exciting skills in the realms of baking, sewing, gardening, and perhaps more esoteric talents like soap-carving or experimental entomology.

You’ve been resilient. Like the heroes of the stories we love so much, who stand up and keep pursuing their goals even when the world knocks them down with everything it’s got, you’ve endured. That same spirit of resilience drives Sirens, too—and after a winter’s worth of recuperation, we’re ready to harness springtime’s energy with some fabulous new programming!

Welcome Back

Early this month, we announced our intentions for the year: if possible, to hold Sirens in person in Denver, October 21-24. We’re going to be nimble as we plan for that conference, responding to safety protocols, which may change frequently over the coming months, and responding to both rising vaccination rates and new outbreaks of the disease. We don’t know yet what state the pandemic will be in come October, but we promise that we will be considering options to keep all of our attendees safe.

With that in mind, over the next few months, we’ll be gearing up and getting you ready for the conference. Our theme is, as it would have been in 2020, villains, and we recommend diving back into that topic with the essay “Unsex Me Here: Gender, Power, and Villainy.”

2021 Sirens Programming Submissions

We’ll be opening submissions for conference programming again soon! While much of our accepted programming from 2020 will be rolling over to the new year, we want to ensure a full and robust slate of presentations. If you did not have programming accepted for 2020, we encourage you to submit a proposal this spring—and if you’re not sure what that might entail, our annual programming series can explain it all, from what kinds of programming we seek to how to prepare your submission.

Sirens programming always seeks to include a wide variety of viewpoints, lived experiences, and points of view, so we very much hope that you will consider putting together a roundtable, presentation, panel, workshop, or afternoon class! Submissions will open in mid-April and close on May 15th.

Rin Chupeco’s Guest of Honor Week

Rin Chupeco Author

As we roll toward October, we also want to reintroduce you to the amazing Guests of Honor who will be joining us in 2021! This month, we showcased Rin Chupeco, author of fabulous books such as Wicked As You Wish (reviewed for us by Jo O’Brien) and The Bone Witch (reviewed by Faye Bi).

For more on Rin, you can check out their Sirens Interview and our list of their short fiction and other interviews. If your to-read pile of books isn’t stacked quite high enough yet, Rin has also given us a list of their favorite SFF books, and we’ve assembled a set of “Book Friends”—that is, books we think would pair well with Rin’s works.

Inaugural Sirens Community Day

With Sirens at Home last October, we all learned what an online Sirens conference might look like—and we liked it so much that we thought we’d offer periodic community days of online programming, collaboration, and discussion. Each will be free to attend, and we hope you will, whether you’ve had the chance to attend Sirens in person over the years or not, and you can sign up here. Please note that, as with Sirens at Home, for safety and security reasons, we will be sending video conference links out to registrants closer to the event.

Our first community day will be on April 25, featuring 2018 Guest of Honor Kameron Hurley, as well as a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, person of color) meet-up, a book discussion of Kameron’s The Stars Are Legion, and a roundtable discussion of hope in speculative fiction. We hope you’ll join us!

Speculative Fiction Book Club

We have so many amazing books on the 2021 Reading Challenge, and we want you to have the opportunity to discuss some of them before Sirens 2021. That’s why we’re launching Sirens Book Club. On the last Sunday of each month, now through August, we’ll discuss one of the 50 speculative works by female, nonbinary, and trans authors that are featured in this year’s challenge.

In March, we discussed Tehlor Kay Mejia’s We Set the Dark on Fire; on April 25, we’ll chat about The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley. If you’d like to join us, please email us at (help AT to be added to our list; for safety and security reasons, we’ll be emailing the Zoom link out to interested folks closer to the discussion date.

Speculative Fiction Book Recommendations

As always, the heart of the Sirens community lives in the stories we share, analyze, deconstruct, re-imagine, and celebrate. Whether isolation has prompted you to devour several books a week or pandemic-brain has slowed your pace, we hope we can guide you to some new reads that will delight your senses, challenge your mind, and give you another world to exist in, for a little while.

Book Recommendations and Reviews:

  • Reading has certainly helped many of us get through this pandemic, and Amy Tenbrink tells us that Katherine May’s Wintering was exactly the book she could rely on. Wintering is a book about the fallow periods in life and their importance: “Rather than dismissing her challenges as ‘somehow silly, a failure of nerve, a lack of willpower,’ May speaks eloquently about the idea of leaning into hard times as a crucible, something that may burn as you pass through, but will release a different you in the end.”
  • Paired with our Sirens Book Club for this month, Meg Belviso reviewed We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia, highlighting the book’s well-drawn world and incisive political exploration: “The young people in this world are ready to fight and love (did I mention there’s queer romance? There’s a queer romance!) and build a better future for themselves. The beauty and joy of Medio is never completely obscured by the greed and cruelty of its ruling class.”
  • Have you seen 2021’s release roundups? So far we’ve spotlighted new books released in November 2020-January 2021, February 2021, and March 2021.

The Sirens staff is delighted to be back on the horse, ready for another year of discussing and celebrating the remarkable work of women, nonbinary, and transgender people in fantasy literature and other speculative spaces!

This newsletter is brought to you by:


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


Save the Date! Sirens Community Day on April 25

As 2020 rolls onto 2021, with longer daylight hours and a stifling winter thawing into spring, we’re thrilled to be announcing more opportunities for our Sirens community—as well as anyone interested in gender and fantasy literature—to gather virtually. While not a replacement for our annual in-person conference this October 21–24, 2021, we hope you’ll join us for the first of our online Sirens community days on Sunday, April 25!

Our first Sirens community day will include four virtual events on Zoom, and will be free to everyone, whether you’ve attended Sirens before or not. We ask that everyone interested in participating in our community day register below. We will provide Zoom links to our online gatherings to only those who have registered.

Community Day Registration

You must be at least 18 years old to register and you will be required to acknowledge the Sirens Terms of Service, Anti-Harassment Policy, and Accessibility Policy as part of your registration.

Community Day Schedule

Sirens Community Day

Sunday, April 25, 2021

11:00 a.m. Mountain (1:00 p.m. Eastern)

As a continuation of our efforts to support and uplift diverse voices at Sirens, we are devoting the first hour of our community day for our Sirens members who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, person of color) to connect and converse. This casual meet-up will be moderated by a Sirens staff member—share your recent fantasy read or whatever is on your mind! Please note that these spaces are reserved for BIPOC; others are not invited to these spaces.

12:00 p.m. Mountain (2:00 p.m. Eastern)
Sirens Book Club: The Stars Are Legion

The Stars Are Legion

The Sirens Book Club meets monthly to discuss a book from our 2021 Reading Challenge, which includes 50 works by women, trans, and nonbinary authors that imagine a more inclusive, more empathetic, more just world.

This month, we’re reading Kameron Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion, which imagines, in a world of monstrous, living spaceships and endless war, two characters: one with amnesia, the other a known liar. The former has been dumped in the belly of the ship, for reasons mysterious and unknown, and must make her way on a very squishy journey back to the outer levels. The latter is playing a game of queens and pawns. Hurley uses this challenging setup, a good amount of body horror, and an all-female cast to explore—brilliantly, powerfully—reproductive justice.

1:00 p.m. Mountain (3:00 p.m. Eastern)
Kameron Hurley: Narrating Our Way to a Brighter Future

Award-winning author, essayist, and 2018 Sirens Guest of Honor Kameron Hurley will redux her keynote presentation, “Narrating Our Way to a Brighter Future.” Whether you missed it the first time or just need a reminder of what it means to hope in a time of rage, Kameron’s words will be good to hold close as we continue to navigate an uncertain, unjust world.

Kameron Hurley

Kameron Hurley is the author of The Light Brigade , The Stars are Legion and the essay collection The Geek Feminist Revolution, as well as the award-winning God’s War Trilogy and The Worldbreaker Saga. Hurley has won the Hugo Award, Locus Award, Kitschy Award, and Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer. She was also a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Nebula Award, and the Gemmell Morningstar Award. Her short fiction has appeared in Popular Science Magazine, Lightspeed and numerous anthologies. Hurley has also written for The Atlantic, Writers Digest, Entertainment Weekly, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, Bitch Magazine, and Locus Magazine. You can find her online at her website or her Twitter.

2:00 p.m. Mountain (4:00 p.m. Eastern)
Roundtable: Hope in Speculative Fiction

Following Kameron’s presentation, we’ll split into small groups for a true Sirens programming mainstay: the roundtable. With a Sirens staff moderator and the help of Zoom breakout rooms, we’ll offer everyone an opportunity to discuss, share, and explore the theme of hope in speculative fiction.

2021 Programming: Workshops and Afternoon Classes

At Sirens, programming means the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. In our 2021 programming series, we’re doing a deeper dive on each presentation format; this information will both help potential presenters select the proper format for their concept and provide details on proposal requirements. We also suggest that potential presenters read how Sirens programming works and our tips, tricks, and frequently asked questions. Previously, we took a deep dive into papers and lectures, panels, and roundtables. You can submit a proposal any time from mid-April to May 15.

Workshops are an opportunity to teach practical skills, often through hands-on instruction. Workshops sometimes feature writing topics, such as building magical worlds or forming an effective critique group, but we welcome presenters tackling different topics for different audiences: how to plan a book club, where to find resources for library collection development, or how to create a feminist course curriculum based on fantasy reading.

Afternoon classes are also an opportunity to teach skills through hands-on instruction, though these skills tend to be of interest to fantasy readers—but may not be connected directly to literature or other media. Topics may be as eclectic as battle weaponry, self-defense, historical dress or dance, and costume construction.

Audience size for both workshops and afternoon classes will be 25–40 people, depending on available room size.

The boundary between a workshop and an afternoon class can be thin, so please email us at (programming at for guidance.

Co-taught workshops or afternoon classes are welcome. Collaborators who have similar or complementary expertise may wish to present together, either to maximize the opportunity for hands-on instruction or to present different skills related to the topic (such as clothing construction and embroidery).

Materials, if needed, must be provided by the presenters. If your workshop or afternoon class is accepted, you are welcome to request a small donation from audience members to defray costs. Please write to (programming at for assistance in framing the wording for your summary.

Workshops are always 50 minutes long. If you have a topic that’s shorter than 50 minutes, you might consider finding a collaborator to present on some other element of the topic. Presenters should strongly consider hands-on elements and time for audience questions.

Afternoon classes can range from 50 to 90 minutes. Often these topics require additional time for instruction or practice (or, to provide one past example, taking turns stabbing a bale of hay with battle weaponry). We also often schedule afternoon classes in larger spaces, particularly if they’re demonstration-based or require room to move (such as martial arts or dancing).

Proposal requirements include a presenter biography (50–100 words), a presentation summary (50–100 words), and a detailed abstract (300–500 words). We will publish the biography and the summary on our website and in our program book to help attendees navigate our programming and decide which presentations they’d like to attend. If more than one person will be leading the class or workshop, each presenter must provide a biography, though no supplemental abstract is required for additional presenters. The abstract is for the vetting board. It should explain your topic and approach and be far more in depth than your summary. Presenters of workshops and afternoon classes may present a traditional abstract or, if they prefer, a detailed lesson plan.

Room set-up will depend heavily on the content and design of your presentation, as well as the available room. Set-up often includes tables and chairs with space for audience members to write or craft, though if your topic is physical, we will help clear the room so you have space to work. Projection equipment and a small dry erase board or easel may be available as well (though we will ask you to specify how you will use projection equipment so that we can prioritize it for presentations that particularly need it, and make sure to clear it away if it might be damaged). If the room size warrants, we will provide a microphone (and if we do, we require that you use it, as it makes your presentation more accessible to the audience).


Looking for programming help or inspiration?

  • Free Topics: Over the next several weeks, we’ll be tweeting programming topics that are free for you to take, develop, and use in your programming proposal. You might take them as is, you might use them as inspiration, or you might find that they get your brain moving! Follow us on Twitter @sirens_con or check out #SirensBrainstorm.

  • More Questions: Email us! You can contact our programming team at (programming at


Examples of summaries of past workshops and afternoon classes from Sirens:

  • Siren with a Sword: Fencing 101 by Manda Lewis and Marie Brennan: Have you always wanted to join your favorite character on the training grounds where she first picks up a blade? Have you wished yourself in her place as she readies for the attack? This class will provide you the opportunity to do just that! Join us as we explore the history, terminology, and rules of the sport of fencing. Then you’ll take up a foil and practice what you’ve learned with your fellow attendees. You will see that fencing is not simply about overpowering your opponent, it’s about planning and strategy. We recommend wearing comfortable or athletic clothing.

  • Ballads and Marching Songs by Ellen Kushner and Ysabeau Wilce: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!” said Duke Ellington. As authors, we are very aware of how sound and rhythm inform good writing, and so we heartily agree! We also draw on music, particularly traditional music of the fireside and the parade ground, to inspire and support our work. And so: Ellen will sing some of the traditional ballads that inspired her novel Thomas the Rhymer, and Ysabeau will counter with some of the military ditties that form the backdrop to the campfires, parade grounds, and blind tigers of her Califa series. We’ll then turn around and show participants how to create a fresh ballad or marching song that fits the needs of an original fantasy novel.

  • Tools and Techniques for the Reluctant Rewriter by B R Sanders: Masterpieces are rarely written perfectly the first time around. Revision, rewriting, and editing are key steps in the writing process, but they aren’t always fun, and they aren’t always easy to master. For many of us, learning to write first drafts is more straightforward and easier than picking up the skills necessary to polish those first drafts. In this workshop, we’ll explore a variety of techniques writers can use to structure their revision and rewriting process to get the most out of it. Writers at all stages of their career and of all levels of expertise are welcome.

  • Chainmail 101 and the Steampunk Maker Ethos by Fred Loucks-Schultz and Rebecca Loucks-Schultz: From Bilbo’s mithril shirt to Red Sonja’s infamous bikini, and from steampunk retro-futurism to post-apocalyptic Hollywood movies, chain mail has long been a staple of fantasy literature. Learn about the Maker side of Steampunk, the cross-cultural history of mail both as armor and decoration, the tools and techniques for making modern mail accessories, and then build your own key fob or bracelet in this hands-on workshop.

For more examples of past programming, visit our archive.


We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia: Sirens Book Review

We Set the Dark on Fire Tehlor Mejia

Confession: Sometimes I suspect I’m not a natural fantasy reader. That doesn’t mean I can’t love fantasy, of course, but where some people are automatically excited to be dropped into a new world they don’t know anything about yet, I’ve been known to read a book and think, “So…why isn’t this just set in regular California instead of California where some people do magic?”

I never thought that reading We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia.

The world here—and this is the main thing I wish for in a fantasy book—felt immediately logical and real, even before I’d begun to explore it. The story—and the island nation of Medio—begins with a myth about two brother gods fighting over a woman. But the story isn’t about gods behaving badly. The myth, for Medionites, is there to provide justification for how their society operates. Sons of privilege take two wives. One wife, the Primera, is chosen for her logical, analytical nature. She’s the wife he takes to a state dinner. The Segunda is chosen for her passion and beauty. She’s the mother of his children.

Such an arrangement might have come across as bizarre or worse, hopelessly contrived to put our heroine, Daniela Vargas, into the terrible position she finds herself in when she’s chosen by Medio’s most eligible, wealthy bachelor, a man many believe will one day be president. Instead, it felt completely organic. Not just the marital situation, but the elite finishing school that prepares girls for one wifely role or the other. And the parts of the island said to have been cursed by the vanquished god, a place where Medio’s poorest are exploited and hidden from the wealthier inhabitants by a wall. Inequality, in myth and practice, is part of Medio’s soul, so the elite would have us believe.

Then there’s the Segunda, the other wife Dani’s going to live with. Imagine your worst enemy in school. The girl you trust least in the whole world. Now imagine sharing your husband with her…while you’re being blackmailed into spying on him for a group of rebels. None of this is a spoiler. The minute you’re introduced to Dani’s situation you know where she’s quickly headed. You just don’t know how she’s going to handle it once it happens.

Dani’s situation is dire, but never bleak. I’ve heard Mejia’s world referred to as a dystopia, but the book felt too hopeful for that label to me. The young people in this world are ready to fight and love (did I mention there’s queer romance? There’s a queer romance!) and build a better future for themselves. The beauty and joy of Medio is never completely obscured by the greed and cruelty of its ruling class.

The stakes of the story are very clear, both for Dani and for the people of Medio. The danger is real, and it’s not at all clear that Dani is up to the task. She may have graduated finishing school with a degree in strategy, manipulation and repressed emotions, but she’s really none of those things at heart. Sometimes she does risky things for emotional reasons, but rather than being impatient with her, I just found myself rooting for her to get out of this alive.

I was rooting for the rebellion as well. The world of Medio is painfully relevant to our world, while still standing on its own as a fantasy creation. Latin American culture, class conflict and feminism are woven into the DNA of the book and Dani herself. Her parents sacrificed everything to lift her out of poverty and give her a better life, but can she in good conscience enjoy the good life herself knowing others just like her are still oppressed? Even if she wasn’t being blackmailed? Either way she chooses, she’d be letting someone down, so she can only choose based on who she, Dani, is…once she figures that out.

Meg BelvisoMeg Belviso holds a BA in English from Smith College and an MFA from Columbia University. As a writer and editor, she chronicles angel encounters as staff editor of Angels on Earth magazine and has written for various fiction and nonfiction properties, including several biographies in Penguin’s Who Was…? series.

Programming Tips, Tricks, and Frequently Asked Questions

Earlier this week, we shared how programming works for Sirens—and we highlighted how, each year, our programming is the collective work of our attendees. Regardless of your vocation, your level of experience, or your number of years at Sirens, you have something to say. And we hope that you’ll take a crack at sharing your thoughts and expertise as part of our programming this year!

Today, we have general programming information, how to find help from real people, tips and tricks for proposing programming, and answers to frequently asked questions about our programming process. Here we go!


Conference General Information

  • We will open for proposals mid-April and accept submissions through May 15. All proposals must be submitted in full, including any supplemental abstracts for panels, by May 15, and all presenters must have “checked in” by following the links in emails that we send out when a main presenter indicates there will be a co-presenter.

  • The Sirens vetting board will make decisions by June 15. All accepted presenters must be registered and paid for Sirens by July 10.

  • We will have three scholarships (a 2021 Sirens registration and round-trip shuttle ticket) available for exemplary programming proposals. We also have one Sabrina Chin “Braver Than You Think” Memorial Scholarship available for a first-time presenter. You can apply for these scholarships as part of the submissions process.

  • You can propose programming in a number of formats: papers or lectures (including as a set of pre-empaneled papers/lectures on a single topic), panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, afternoon classes, or a combination of multiple formats. (Please consult with the programming team before you submit a combination, though!)

  • You are welcome to present with co-presenters, except for roundtables, which may have only a single moderator. Please note that the person submitting the proposal will be our main contact for the proposal (and in the case of a panel, will be the moderator). Again, please make sure that your collaborators are aware that they will need to confirm their participation by May 15—and in the case of panels and pre-empaneled papers, will need to submit a 300–500-word abstract of their own (note that the vetting board will review all abstracts in determining whether to select a proposal).

  • All communication is via email. Please use an email address to which you’ll have access throughout 2021, and that you check regularly.

  • Programming is reviewed and approved by an independent vetting board. All proposals are kept confidential.

  • Additional information can be found in Sirens’s official Call for Proposals.


Conference Programming Help from Real People

  • Free Topics: Over the next several weeks, we’ll be tweeting programming topics that are free for you to take, develop, and use in your programming proposal. You might take them as is, you might use them as inspiration, or you might find that they get your brain moving! Follow us on Twitter @sirens_con or check out #SirensBrainstorm.

  • More Questions: Email us! You can contact our programming team at (programming at They can’t guarantee your acceptance, but they’re full of helpful advice, and are glad to help you figure out the best format for your proposal, answer questions about the process, and so on.


Conference Programming Tips and Tricks

  • Everyone is welcome to propose programming! Sirens is a conference where readers and students present alongside authors and scholars, who present alongside librarians, educators, and publishing professionals. Everyone’s voice is valid, valuable, and necessary to our conversations and our community!

  • Look at past programming schedules. Our vetting board knows what topics have been presented in past years—and you should, too, so you don’t repeat them! New topics, or brand-new takes on old topics, will be considered more favorably. We make all our past programming available in our conference archive.

  • Go beyond introductory topics and analysis. Sirens is over ten years old, and we assure you, most Sirens attendees are well-versed in basic topics like “Reclaiming Fairy Tales” and “What is Diversity?” Push the sophistication of your topic and your analysis further.

  • Consider what type of presentation suits your topic best. We’ll be doing a deeper dive on each of these in the coming weeks, but here’s a preview: papers and lectures are good for experts to convey information or frame an argument; panels are suitable for rigorous debate among experts with differing expertise or opinions; roundtable discussions are great for topics where every audience member will have an opinion or contribution; and workshops and afternoon classes are perfect for hands-on explorations of practical topics.

  • Focus on one or two proposals rather than several. This will help ensure your proposals are well-prepared and well-argued—and will increase their likelihood of acceptance.

  • Choose your co-presenters wisely. We strongly encourage you to seek out co-presenters with a variety of expertise, perspectives, and identities. Differences in expertise can bring additional thoughts and approaches to your work, while different perspectives and identities can enrich discussion and debate over your topic. (Bonus tip: If your topic is for people with complementary expertise to present information, we strongly encourage you to consider a paper or lecture with co-presenters, rather than a panel; the panel format is best suited for discussion and debate among panelists with different perspectives.)

  • Leave enough time to write a thoughtful summary and abstract. Since these descriptions are what the vetting board will judge your proposal on and will determine fellow attendees’ interest in your topic, it behooves you to not wait until the last minute! This is especially true for pre-empaneled papers and panels, where co-presenters must also submit an abstract by May 15.

  • You are not required to present on this year’s theme of villains. Proposal topics must be relevant to Sirens, but do not need to address our theme for this year. Please do be sure that, at minimum, you’ve mentioned how your topic relates to fantasy!


Conference Programming Frequently Asked Questions

What are the requirements for being a presenter at Sirens?
The only requirement is that you must be a Sirens attendee, which also means you have to be 18 years old by October 21, 2021. Otherwise, everyone is welcome to propose programming—and if accepted, to present it!

How can I find co-presenters or panelists?
You can tweet @sirens_con or post on the unofficial Sirens Attendees Facebook group. You might also be able to find co-presenters or co-panelists at our programming chats.

How many proposals can I submit?
There is technically no limit, but we recommend focusing on one or two as it usually makes for better-prepared (and better-received) proposals. If you already had programming accepted for presentation at Sirens 2020, we ask that you not submit additional proposals during the 2021 submission period.

Can I change my proposal later?
Before the May 15 deadline, you can submit a correction or contact us to withdraw and resubmit the proposal. Following May 15, however, we will pass your proposal on to the vetting board and you can no longer make changes.

Can I contact the vetting board about my proposal?
Please direct any questions to (programming at instead. Vetting board members only review proposals, and we ask them to keep their reviews confidential.

Can I request a specific day and time to present?
The schedule depends on our ability to track presentations by type, theme, and audio-visual needs, so we can’t accommodate schedule preferences. If you have an immovable conflict, such as your grandmother’s 100th birthday party, please write to us at (programming at

I have more questions!
We have more answers! Write us at (programming at


Sirens Programming Comes From Attendee Proposals

How to Propose Programming for Sirens

Welcome to our annual programming series! In these posts, we’ll give you all the information you’ll need to propose programming for Sirens. We’ll have a post with tips, tricks, and frequently asked questions next week, and we’ll feature a post specific to each type of programming in the following weeks.

In 2020, we conducted our annual round of submissions. Because of the pandemic and our transition to Sirens at Home, many of the accepted submissions have rolled over to this year. We’ll open our proposals system mid-April for a second round so that we can arrange a full schedule of programming for 2021.

We invite all Sirens attendees and potential attendees to submit a proposal or two—though if you had a proposal selected for presentation at Sirens in 2020, we ask that you do not submit additional proposals during this secondary round.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Programming, for Sirens, is the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, workshops, roundtables, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of the conference. While a thousand conversations happen at Sirens every year, the true vanguards of those discussions are the brave and brilliant individuals who share their wisdom and expertise as part of our programming. See the archives to find out more about the kinds of topics and discussions that have been presented in the past.

So how does Sirens create its programming?

We don’t create the Sirens programming. You do! We don’t want Sirens to be limited by the interests, knowledge, and networking of our staff, so we invite our attendees — readers, scholars, librarians, authors, and more — to propose programming for our schedule. And each year, dozens of individuals answer the call: they create, craft, propose, and present the lectures, papers, panels, workshops, roundtables, and afternoon classes that become the programming at Sirens.

A special note: We want our programming to represent a broad range of perspectives, experiences, and identities: readers, scholars, librarians, educators, publishing professionals, and authors, of course, but also individuals of different genders, sexualities, races, religions, and abilities. Similarly, we hope that, regardless of your vocation, your level of experience, or how many years you’ve attended Sirens, you’ll take a crack at sharing your thoughts and expertise as part of our programming. Every voice is important at Sirens, including yours.

And how does Sirens choose its programming?

Each year, an independent vetting board—a diverse group of tremendous individuals who know and love Sirens—review the proposals for thoughtfulness, relevance, and inclusiveness, and then select which ones to include on that year’s programming schedule.

  • Thoughtfulness: This means the vetting board considers the research, logic, and sophistication of the arguments. Is the proposal well-conceived? Is the proposal well-argued? Is it interesting? Is it innovative?

  • Relevance: Is the topic relevant to Sirens’s overarching topic of gender and fantasy literature? The topic doesn’t need to specifically address the theme of any given year, and doesn’t have to be about gender and fantasy and literature (but if your proposal doesn’t address at least two of the three, you might want to consider how you can make your topic more relevant to the Sirens audience).

  • Inclusiveness: Sirens values diverse perspectives, experiences, and identities. Does your topic address an inclusive selection of literature? Do your co-presenters represent a variety of perspectives, experiences, and identities, whenever possible?

In crafting your presentation, please also consider the following:

  • Audience: You are likely to find your presentation audience composed of voracious, critical readers, as well as accomplished scholars, librarians, educators, authors, and publishing professionals. Further, Sirens attendees tend to be quite experienced in discussing women in fantasy literature, as well as related topics such as feminism, social sciences (and occasionally hard sciences), and writing. Please plan the sophistication and complexity of your proposal accordingly.

  • Repetition of Past Presentation Topics: The vetting board is familiar with programming presented at Sirens in the past, and duplicative topics are often considered less relevant. Please make sure that you have reviewed our archive page before deciding on your topic and that, if you intend to propose a similar topic, you highlight the innovation of your work in your proposal.

How does someone propose programming?

Sirens operates its own proposals system specifically for programming proposals. We’ll open this system on mid-April and close it May 15, which is this year’s deadline for proposals. After May 15, our vetting board goes to work.

You need five things for a proposal:

  • Personal information: Your name, contact information, and a third-person biography that we can use on our website and in our program book;

  • A summary: 50–100 words about your topic and approach, which we’ll also publish on our website and in our program book (see our 2019 summaries for examples)

  • An abstract: 300–500 words explaining your presentation and approach to the vetting board; this should be far more in depth and should demonstrate your research, analysis, and conclusion on the topic

  • Audiovisual requests: Information on your requested audiovisual equipment for your presentation, if any

  • Contact information for any co-presenters: Your co-presenters will then receive an email asking them to provide their personal information and, in the case of panels, a supplemental abstract of 300–500 words demonstrating the perspectives and expertise that they will bring to the panel

So let’s do this!

We know that the proposal process can be intimidating, especially for those new to Sirens. It takes a lot of courage to put your thoughts and analysis out there, first to a review board and then at Sirens itself. But each year, dozens of individuals screw their courage to the proverbial sticking place and, in doing so, make Sirens smarter, more thoughtful, more interesting, and just plain better.

We hope that that will include you this year!


Book Friends: Rin Chupeco

Reintroducing… book friends! As part of our 2021 Guest of Honor weeks, the Sirens team recommends books that would be friends with a guest of honor's books. Below is a curated list of titles that we feel complement the works of Rin Chupeco, author of Wicked As You Wish, the Bone Witch trilogy, the Never Tilting World series, and The Girl from the Well duology.  If you enjoyed their work, we hope you check out these other reads that feature contemporary fairy-tale retellings; explorations of systemic racism, feminism, and villainy; awesome queer characters; really good book boyfriends; ghosts; snarky phoenixes; and the occasional second-world high fantasy.

Rin Chupeco’s Favorite SFF Books

Sirens Guest of Honor Rin Chupeco shares a list of favorite science fiction and fantasy works. If you’ve enjoyed Rin’s work, we encourage you to check out these other reads. Take it away, Rin!


Gideon the Ninth Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

I cannot stop screaming about this series. Lesbian swordfighting necromancers arguing in space as they explore a haunted house space station is the wildest description I never thought I would want. Muir’s prose is gorgeous, and I have never wanted to paint my face like a skull till I read this book.

The Bear and the Nightingale Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

How breathtaking is this book? A young Russian woman named Vasya who is worth her weight in magic, holding her own against a powerful zealot and the god of winter himself—this is a gorgeous, gorgeous delight.

Uprooted Naomi Novak

Science Fiction
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
I don’t know how to even begin to describe this book. It hits all my favorite tropes, from surly cranky broody magician to powerful magical girls who finally understand their own worth.

Magic for Liars Sarah Gailey

Science Fiction
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
It’s a murder mystery at a magical school by a hard-knock private detective who is both seasoned and salty at the same time. I love a lot of Gailey’s works, and they are just fantastic at this.

An Unkindness of Magicians Kat Howard

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard This is urban fantasy at its best, and this was an amazing read. I am a sucker for magical fighting tournaments and seedy moneyed politics.


Rin wrote obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and did many other terrible things. They now write about ghosts and fantastic worlds but are still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. They are the author of The Girl from the Well and its sequel, The Suffering; The Bone Witch trilogy; The Never Tilting World duology; and the A Hundred Names for Magic series, starting with the first book, Wicked As You Wish. They were born and raised in the Philippines and, or so the legend goes, still haunt that place to this very day. For more information about Rin, please visit their website or their Twitter

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Bone Witch Rin Chupeco

I’m going to confess: I picked up Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch with some trepidation. I had tried reading this YA fantasy before and stopped a few times before filing it away and ultimately restarting. The worldbuilding—freshly un-Eurocentric and inspired by the mythologies of the Middle East and Asia—was, at first, confusing. The novel’s structure demands time and patience, as it flips between short italicized chapters in the present, and longer, more narrative chapters set in the past before the storylines converge. And I’ll tell you upfront: Reading The Bone Witch is, at minimum, a two-book commitment—since the storylines don’t converge in the first book, nor the sequel. You’ll have to wait for the grand finale for that.

But damn, it’s so worth it.

Understanding The Bone Witch

And so, I do you a service because you all need to read these books. In the land of Eight Kingdoms, there are two rules of magic that, if you know them up front, will make the series easier to delve into. First is that magic is gendered in a fascinating and strange way. A chosen few have magic and can control the elements like fire, water, earth, etc. If you’re a girl when this talent is discovered, you are trained as an asha in the capital, where you learn how to wield your magic alongside learning etiquette, dancing, and entertaining heads of state in a diplomatic capacity. If you’re a boy, you’re conscripted into the Deathseeker army. There’s a lot to unpack here, especially through Likh, a trans girl who wishes to become an asha—and who is also one of my faves in this book.

And second, there’s a thing called a heartsglass that people wear around their neck, which is tied to one’s identity in complex ways. If your heartsglass turns silver, it means you have a capacity for magic; you can also give it away to a loved one in an act of romance or safety, but at the risk of that other person having control over you; if you are especially magically talented, you can read other people’s heartsglasses since they will change color depending on their true emotions (and you can tell if they’re lying to you).

What The Bone Witch is About

Then there’s Tea. We’re introduced to the world of The Bone Witch through Tea’s eyes, and she is only twelve at the beginning, when she inadvertently raises her brother, Fox, from the dead. It’s discovered that Tea is not only an asha, but a dark asha, with magic that allows her to raise and control the dead. And so, Tea is one of two bone witches in the realm, a profession that, despite its importance, is much maligned. Ever since The False Prince used death magic to raise the daeva, monsters that terrorize people every so often, bone witches have done the dirty work to keep them at bay and are tainted with that reputation by association.

The Bone Witch is a painstaking book of set-up. With uneven pacing, we get all the above, plus Tea’s origin story where she’s whisked away to the palace to train as an asha by the only other bone witch, Lady Mykaela. Despite her aptitude, she faces setbacks, including some pranks by fellow ashas-in-training, a training master who hates her, and mounds of backbreaking chores. She reaps chaos by not knowing how to control her power and accidentally raises dead kings and monsters. She catches the eye of the prince and his cranky cousin-slash-bodyguard, and is thrust into the royal court’s political machinations.

The biggest and most satisfying arc in this book is Tea’s relationship with her brother, Fox, where they learn these nice things called healthy boundaries and how to be a family despite the supernatural link between them.

But please, have patience. This is no worse than The Name of the Wind, which many of you have enthusiastically or like me, begrudgingly, read. You can see the schematic of something bigger before you—a cast of characters you will cheer on and love, a thoughtful musing on women rebelling against the roles their society has trapped them into, a descent into villainy (or anti-heroism? Let’s do some more unpacking) when justice is denied with each betrayal, and a girl who learns how to command her power despite the trauma inflicted on her by her peers and foes.

And I’ll just say, I’ll just say. There’s barely a hint of a romance in The Bone Witch. But then you read The Heart Forger and it does things to you and what the heck, Chupeco? How dare you? Must you make me agonize over this slow burn relationship and then smash my heartsglass into a million pieces in The Shadowglass? The seeds of the romance planted in the first book turn out to not only be SUPER SWOONWORTHY but like, really screws you up especially during this quarantine life when your emotions are dialed up to eleven, okay? And that’s just the main couple, there are other relationships that are lovely and meaningful, fantastically queer, and too adorable for words—sometimes all at once.

Just do yourself a favor, and acquire The Heart Forger and The Shadowglass so you have the whole trilogy before you start. You’ll thank me later.

Faye Bi

Faye Bi is the director of publicity at Bloomsbury Children’s Books, and spends the rest of her time reading, cycling, pondering her next meal, and being part of the Sirens communications team. She’s yet to read an immigrant story she hasn’t cried over, and is equally happy in walkable cities and sprawling natural vistas. You can follow her on Twitter @faye_bi.

Further Reading: Rin Chupeco

Rin Chupeco Author

Have you already loved the work of Rin Chupeco? The Girl from the Well and The Suffering? The entire Bone Witch trilogy? The Never Tilting Planet? Wicked As You Wish? Are you looking for more? Let us help you! As part of Rin’s Guest of Honor week, we’re pleased to compile some of their interviews and work from around the web.


Rin’s Short Fiction:

Rin’s Interviews::

  • Interview with PJ (2020): On what’s next for them, “Writing the third and final book of the Hundred Names for Magic series (the first book being Wicked As You Wish) and then finishing up some adult crossover books I’ve started working on – one about bi vampires in the vein of The Witcher and Castlevania, and another that’s basically Swan Lake meets Untitled Goose Game.”
  • Interview with Enthralled Bookworm (2020): “What I love most about YA, particularly in the SFF genre, is that a lot of issues are frequently discussed there, but…the fact that it’s set in fantastical worlds means readers can have that necessary distance to process real world issues tackled in the book.”

  • Interview with Rin Chupeco, author of The Never Tilting World (2019): “I was in Boracay, an island resort in the Philippines, when the super typhoon Haiyan hit, and it first made landfall there. It was a frightening time; the power was out, all routes out of the island were unavailable, and all communication lines were down, which meant we had no way of contacting friends and family for days. In that time, it felt like the world had shrunk down to just that one tiny island. That experience stuck with me ever since, obviously, so when I thought about writing a book where climate change is the villain, where the world seemed to have decided that the only way for it to survive is to get rid of the parasitical humans on it, this was what I drew from.”

  • Interview with JeanBookNerd (2019): “[…]I’m now in the position to talk to other writers who want to take the same path and tell them that yes, this is a feasible option and that it’s possible, and it’s been gratifying to have people tell me that my books are their incentives to be writers themselves, especially among other Filipinos living in the Philippines!”

  • Interview with Fae Crate (2019): “I think I’m very partial to most of the characters in The Girl from the Well, simply because that book is my first ever baby (I like to joke that it’s my autobiography couched as fiction). That said, Okiku, my ghost girl in that series, and I share similar worldviews, but it’s Tark, the boy unfortunate enough to be haunted by every ghost within his reach, that has my personality and ridiculousness, so he tends to be my favorite.”

  • Who Stokes the Fire: Talking about The Bone Witch and World-Building with Rin Chupeco (2019): “The problem with [writing] hard magic, though, is that you need to make sure your magical system or your world-building answers every problem you might come across while writing the book.”

  • Interview with Rin Chupeco for The Shadowglass Blog Tour (2019): “The Bone Witch came at a difficult, sleep-deprived time in my life. I just had my first son, which was an emotional time. I had a brother I never knew, who died before I was born, and I started wondering about what our relationship would have been like had he lived. It’s how Fox first came to be, who’s sort of an idealized version of the brother I would have liked to have.”

  • Spooky Q&A: Rin Chupeco (2018): “My absolute favorite ghost is the kuchisake-onna—a pretty girl wearing a flu mask who’ll ask you if you think she’s beautiful if you encounter her along a dark road. If you answer wrong (and based on the legend, practically all possible answers are the wrong ones) she removes her mask to reveal a long slitted mouth, and kills you.”

  • Guest Post with Adventures in YA Publishing (2017): “Writing for a hobby is a lot different from writing for a living. Creative writing is the only profession I know where experience is not required, where you won’t know if you did well until it’s frequently too late for you to do anything about it, and where anything you come up with will be put under a microscope almost from the moment you submit your manuscript and long after it’s been published.”
  • Interview with The Witch Snitch (2015): “Living as a writer in the Philippines is a lot different from living as a writer in most first world countries, which is hard enough as it is. Writing fiction here is like making street graffiti—you don’t do it for the money, because there isn’t any, but you do it for everything else that matters. Most writers in Manila were either literary fiction novelists who had hefty contracts with schools to use their books in literature classes, or those who wrote Harlequin-esque romances in the local language. I didn’t want to do either of those.”

  • Filipino YA horror author Rin Chupeco on life and The Girl from the Well (2014): “Okiku kills other murderers. She has the same triggers and sadistic tendencies as in the original. In my book, she goes to different places looking for murderers. Think Sadako with a conscience.”


This post was updated on March 17, 2021.

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.


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