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Kinitra Brooks’ Recommended Reading

Sirens Guest of Honor Dr. Kinitra D. Brooks shares a recommended reading list of novels, short fiction, and nonfiction. If you enjoy her work, or you want to learn more about what writers, especially black women writers, are doing in the speculative space, this list is a spectacular place to start. Take it away, Kintra!

 

Conjure Women: A Novel Afia Atakora

Conjure Women: A Novel by Afia Atakora

This book is next on my “To Be Read” list. I’m so excited because it focuses on everything my current research project is centered on: Black Southern women and the spiritual/medicinal practices highlighted in the practice of conjure. I can’t wait!

Boondock Kollage: Stories from the Hip Hop South Regina N. Bradley

Boondock Kollage: Stories from the Hip Hop South by Regina N. Bradley

Bradley clearly talks to the ancestors. It is evident in her ability to raise the dead and conjure the spirits of the Black South in her short story collection.

Speculative Sankofarration: Haunting Black Women in Contemporary Horror Fiction Kinitra Brooks, Stephanie Schoellman & Alexis McGee

“Speculative Sankofarration: Haunting Black Women in Contemporary Horror Fiction” by Kinitra Brooks, Stephanie Schoellman & Alexis McGee

I know it can be a bit gauche to recommend your own work, but this is a short scholarly article I wrote with my graduate students that further teases out my approaches to black women’s horror writing since the publication of Searching for Sycorax. It’s heavy on the theory and disciplinary language, but I did want to offer it as an option for readers.

Let's Play White Chesya Burke

Let’s Play White by Chesya Burke

A great collection of short horror stories. Burke takes an interesting turn on the classic zombie story in “CUE: Change” making it hella black in its examination of what constitutes humanity. Burke also revises the evil child trope with the character Shiv in “I Make People Do Bad Things,” which takes place in 1920s Harlem.

LaShaun Rousselle Mystery Series Lynn Emery

LaShaun Rousselle Mystery Series by Lynn Emery

A quirky little series about a small-town outcast that returns to rural Louisiana to continue the conjure tradition of her ancestors while solving paranormal mysteries and battling the monsters that cause them. A great representation of contemporary Southern rural life and black women’s long history in these places.

The Crown of Shards Series Jennifer Estep

The Crown of Shards Series by Jennifer Estep

I just discovered this series as I am an avid fan of Estep’s Elemental Assassins series. But Crown of Shards is just different enough as it is placed in an alternate medieval monarchical society. If the magical assassins and gladiator fighting doesn’t manage to kill Evie Blair—palace politics just might do the job

Creole Religions of the Caribbean: An Introduction from Vodou and Santería to Obeah and Espiritismo Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert and Margarite Fernandez Olmos

Creole Religions of the Caribbean: An Introduction from Vodou and Santería to Obeah and Espiritismo by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert and Margarite Fernandez Olmos

So many times I discuss the influence of traditional African religious practices in horror. This book begins to clear up a lot of the misinformation that continues to exist about these practices, some which are actual religions while others are often supplemental practices to black folks’ Christianity. Each chapter focuses on a different religious practice and the knowledge begins to take away the fear of these Africanized practices that is historically steeped anti-black ignorance.

Mojo Workin: The Old African American Hoodoo System Katrina Hazzard-Donald

Mojo Workin: The Old African American Hoodoo System by Katrina Hazzard-Donald

A nonfiction book that begins to discuss the concept of conjure/hoodoo and the West and Central African practices that influenced them.

Skin Folk Nalo Hopkinson

Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson

A great short story collection that examines the magical and the peculiar that populates Caribbean folklore. My personal favorites are “Ganger (Ball Lightning)” in which a couple strengthens their relationship when they must battle their animated sex suit and “Greedy Choke Puppy” in which a young graduate student discovers the magical history of the women in her family.

Tell My Horse Zora Neale Hurston

Tell My Horse by Zora Neale Hurston

A collection of Southern oral culture gathered and transcribed by Hurston as an ethnographer in the first third of the 20th century. These stories show that black folks have long enjoyed horror stories and the characters that define them.

Dread Nation Justina Ireland

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Black girl protagonist in a zombie uprising initiated by The Civil War? Yes, please. I’m currently reading the sequel, Deathless Divide.

How Long ‘til Black Future Month? N.K. Jemisin

How Long ‘til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

The short story “Red Dirt Witch” is worth the purchase of this entire collection. I enjoy others, such as “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters” and “The City Born Great” but “Red Dirt Witch” is as close to perfect as one can get in a short story. This is Jemisin firing on all cylinders while also giving us a preview into the importance of black mother/daughter relationships she explores so thoroughly in The Broken Earth series.

Jade City Fonda Lee

Jade City by Fonda Lee

I’ve almost finished this book on Audible. It’s a gangster family drama set in an alternate history steeped in multiple Asian traditions. There is a unique complexity as her world-building is organic while her fight scenes are described like you are right there in the mix—you can smell the blood and feel the jade.

Talking to the Dead LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant

Talking to the Dead by LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant

This nonfiction ethnographic project interviews multiple women of the Gullah community and examines the traditions that define them. Manigault-Bryant examines the phenomenon I discussed in my interview, the concept of “tending to the dead,” that shows our folkloric practice of how the living dead manifest in black life.

A Blade So Black L.L. McKinney

A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

A fun retelling of Alice in Wonderland with great world-building and a complex protagonist who has to save the world and remember to take the beef out of the freezer for dinner.

Mama Day Gloria Naylor

Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

The first of the two novels I consider the perfect example of black women’s horror writing tradition. Mama Day is a conjure woman who is at least 80 years old and rules the island of Willow Springs with her medicinal knowledge, ancestral ties, and her knack for baking perfect coconut cakes. Just don’t piss her off….

Stigmata Phyllis Alesia Perry

Stigmata by Phyllis Alesia Perry

This novel is the second of the two books I consider black woman horror writing perfection. It has everything, possession, ancestral traditions, black mother/daughter bonds, time travel…I discover new things every time I read it. Simply amazing.

White Trash Zombie Series Diana Rowland

White Trash Zombie Series by Diana Rowland

These books are simply fun. A great little romp inside of an interesting mythology. Protagonist Angel Crawford is a delight who knows who she is and works the hell out of her lane.

The Santeria Habitat Series Kenya Wright

The Santeria Habitat Series by Kenya Wright

A fun series that has were-leopards, fairies, demons…and a Prime—a sexy fantastical creature based in an alternate history Miami. Miami is now a caged city divided into different regions named after major orisha. The protagonist is a half demon solving paranormal mysteries and choosing between two sexy shifter men. I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment that will feature were-dragons.

Honorable Mentions:

The Black God's Drums P. Djèlí Clark

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

The Ballad of Black Tom Victor LaValle

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

Salsa Nocturna: A Bone Street Rumba Collection Daniel José Older

Salsa Nocturna: A Bone Street Rumba Collection by Daniel José Older


 

Dr. Kinitra D. Brooks

Kinitra D. Brooks is the Audrey and John Leslie Endowed Chair in Literary Studies in the Department of English at Michigan State University. She specializes in the study of black women, genre fiction, and popular culture. Her current research focuses on portrayals of the Conjure Woman in popular culture. Dr. Brooks has three books in print: Searching for Sycorax: Black Women’s Hauntings of Contemporary Horror, a critical treatment of black women in science fiction, fantasy, and horror; Sycorax’s Daughters, an edited volume of short horror fiction written by black women; and The Lemonade Reader, a collection of essays on Beyoncé’s 2016 audiovisual project, Lemonade. She is also the co-editor of the New Suns book series at Ohio State University Press. Dr. Brooks spent the 2018–2019 academic year as the Advancing Equity Through Research Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

For more information about Kinitra, please visit her website or her Twitter.

Joamette’s Recommended Readings

Sirens Studio Guest of Honor Joamette Gil shares a list of fantasy and other works that she loves. If you enjoy her work, we encourage you to check out these other reads, spanning graphic, short fiction, and novels. Take it away, Joamette!

 

Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha
1.
Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements
edited by Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha
Knights-Errant Jennifer Doyle
2.
Knights-Errant
by Jennifer Doyle
Spiritwalker Trilogy Kate Elliott
3.
Spiritwalker Triology (Cold Magic, Cold Fire, and Cold Steel) by Kate Elliott
Mooncakes Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
4.
Mooncakes
by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
Brown Girl in the Ring Nalo Hopkinson
5.
Brown Girl in the Ring
by Nalo Hopkinson
Through the Woods Emily Carroll
6.
Through the Woods
by Emily Carroll
The Haunting of Hill House Shirley Jackson
7.
The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson
On a Sunbeam Tillie Walden
8.
On a Sunbeam
by Tillie Walden
The Temple of My Familiar Alice Walker
10.
The Temple of My Familiar
by Alice Walker
This One Summer Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
11.
This One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Verse Sam Beck
12.
Verse
by Sam Beck

 

Joamette Gil is the head witch at P&M Press, an independent comics micro-press specializing in speculative fiction by creators of color, LGBTQIA creators, and creators at the intersections. Best known for her Prism Award-winning publication Power & Magic: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology, she also made the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award’s 2018 Honor List and received nods from the Ignatz Awards and Lambda Literary Awards over the course of P&M Press’s three-year existence. Her newest titles are Heartwood: Non-binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy and Power & Magic: Immortal Souls. Another new title, Mañana: Latinx Comics from the 25th Century, is forthcoming in 2020. Joamette’s own comics work has been featured by IDW, Margins Publishing, EverydayFeminism.com, TheNib.com, Oni Press, Lion Forge, and Abrams ComicArts. She also contributed to the Eisner Award-winning Puerto Rico Strong anthology benefitting hurricane disaster relief on the island. When she’s not inhaling graphic novels, she’s off plotting silly play-by-post scenarios or watching horror movies with her friends and familiars in Portland, Oregon.

For more information about Joamette, please visit her website or her Twitter.

 

Sarah Gailey’s Book List with Four Words on Each

Sarah Gailey book recommendations

Sirens Guest of Honor Sarah Gailey shares a recommended reading list, with four descriptors for each. If you enjoy Sarah’s work, or you want a recommended reading list of exceptional works, this list is for you. Take it away, Sarah!

 

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

To Be Taught, If Fortunate
by Becky Chambers

beautiful
hopeful
honest
tender

The Vegetarian

The Vegetarian
by Han Kang

intense
harrowing
scathing
brutal

The Need

The Need
by Helen Phillips

gripping
dark
furious
surprising

Sisters of the Vast Black

Sisters of the Vast Black
by Lina Rather

unflinching
kind
confrontational
sweet

The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker
by Jen Wang

lovely
aching
immersive
perfect

An Unkindness of Ghosts

An Unkindness of Ghosts
by Rivers Solomon

cutthroat
direct
relentless
brilliant

The Only Harmless Great Thing

The Only Harmless Great Thing
by Brooke Bolander

furious
dazzling
ambitious
satisfying


Sarah Gailey Book Recommendations

Hugo Award winner and bestselling author Sarah Gailey is an internationally published writer of fiction and nonfiction. Their nonfiction has been published by Mashable and the Boston Globe, and they won a Hugo award for Best Fan Writer. Their most recent fiction credits include Vice and The Atlantic. Their debut novella, River of Teeth, was a 2018 Hugo and Nebula award finalist. Their bestselling adult novel debut, Magic for Liars, was published in 2019; their latest novella, Upright Women Wanted, was published in February 2020. Their young adult novel debut, When We Were Magic, came out in March 2020.

For more information about Sarah, please visit her website or her Twitter.

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

Fantasy
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

Just in Time for Halloween, 13 Spooky Speculative Books

Halloween is here, and even though 2020 is scary enough as it is, we couldn’t resist gathering a list of thirteen of our favorite spOoOoky books. Turn off the news for a bit, shut the computer down, and check out some of these fictional scares instead!

We’ve included links to those works at Bookshop in the titles. Bookshop supports both Sirens and independent bookstores, so if you’re looking to purchase any of these titles, they’re a great option!

1. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood Cas hunts ghosts. But when he meets rage-filled, vengeful haunt Anna, everything about his too-tidy life changes. The revelation of this work is Anna, Blake’s study in dichotomies, in violence, in victimization, and in heroism.

2. Black Cranes ed. by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

Black Cranes Black Cranes collects beautifully eerie, darkly real works by Southeast Asian authors. These stories run the gamut from nightmarish folktales to chilling futurism, but they all revolve around the horror of cultural expectations.

3. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys A Latinx trans boy with a traditional family tries to prove he’s a brujo by summoning a ghost. But he summons the wrong boy—and falls for him instead! A spooky yet cozy and heartfelt book about strength, affirmation, and honoring your truth.

4. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth Gideon hates every fucking second of her time as cavalier primary to Harrowhark, master necromancer, as they navigate an impossible puzzle in a house of death in space. Muir’s work is gloriously, ferociously ambitious, defiant—and hilarious.

5. How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison

How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend A collection of horror poetry and prose, How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend absolutely nails the low, creeping dread of giving yourself away in pieces. It’s not death itself that serves up the fear here, but what comes after.

6. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Into the Drowning Deep A missing ship and crew. A scientific excursion to the Mariana Trench. Tory Stewart just wanted to learn what happened to her sister, and instead finds bloodthirsty mermaids. A gory, scary tale of how far one will go for revenge.

7. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic In 1950s Mexico, socialite Noemí finds herself trapped in a house of horrors both supernatural and all-too-human. This exploration of invasions, colonization, and ultimately autonomy is the pulsing heart of modern feminist horror.

8. The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

The Luminous Dead Caver Gyre is trapped below ground on a far-flung planet, with only expedition director Em in her ear—Em, who lies, who manipulates, who injects Gyre’s body with unknown drugs. An utterly suffocating, utterly magnificent horror novel.

9. The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

The Girl from the Well “I am where dead children go,” begins Chupeco’s debut novel about a potent spirit who uses all her deathly power to punish those who hurt kids. A must-read for anyone who’s ever sympathized more with the ghost than the people it haunts.

10. The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke

The Scapegracers When Sideways Pike is paid to do magic at the cool girls’ party, it goes gloriously right. But magic going right has consequences. Feral, delicious, and queer af, this hard-edged ode to fierce female friendship is a whole vibe.

11. The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

The Unspoken Name An ambitious fantasy, smeared across a hundred vibrant worlds, acknowledging the old tropes of the genre and then soundly subverting them. The Unspoken Name reads like Larkwood asked herself what scared her the most—and the answer was “gods.”

12. Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Vassa in the Night In a world of creeping night, Baba Yaga runs a chain of nightmare convenience stores in Brooklyn—and she’s all too happy to behead shoplifters. Headstrong Vassa stubbornly takes on a suicide mission for lightbulbs. Enter bravery and cleverness.

13. Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Wilder Girls Power’s quarantine book might be a bit much right now, but her exploration of female friendship, queer love, and resilience through a little mystery and a lot of body horror is stunning, revelatory, a must-read.

Sirens at Home: Villains Books

Villains

In 2021, Sirens will examine villains, especially with respect to what that means for people with marginalized identities, with Guests of Honor Kinitra D. Brooks, Rin Chupeco, Sarah Gailey, and Fonda Lee, as well as Sirens Studio Guest of Honor Joamette Gil. We’ll deconstruct classifications of villainy and expectations of redemption, and how those differ based on a person’s gender, not to mention other axes of oppression.

Sirens currently suggests a number of books to expand your reading on villainy. For Sirens at Home, though, we want to feature 10 books that we think have something to say about gender and villainy, and how we so easily view those with marginalized identities as villains. Here are those books, as well as their opening words—and we’ve included links to those works at Bookshop in the titles. Bookshop supports both Sirens and independent bookstores, so if you’re looking to purchase any of these titles, they’re a great option!

1. A Feast of Sorrows by Angela Slatter

A Feast of Sorrows “My father did not know that my mother knew about his other wives, but she did. It didn’t seem to bother her, perhaps because, of them all, she had the greater independence and a measure of prosperity that was all her own. Perhaps that’s why he loved her best.”

2. American Hippo by Sarah Gailey

American Hippo “Winslow Remington Houndstooth was not a hero. There was nothing within him that cried out for justice or fame. He did not wear a white hat—he preferred his grey one, which didn’t show the bloodstains. He could have been a hero, had he been properly motivated, but there were more pressing matters at hand.”

3. Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed

Beneath the Rising “My earliest memory of her smells like blood. I remember just enough.”

4. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth “In the myriadic year of our Lord—the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death!—Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.”

5. Jade City by Fonda Lee

Jade City “The two would-be jade thieves sweated in the kitchen of the Twice Lucky restaurant. The windows were open in the dining room, and the onset of evening brought a breeze off the waterfront to cool the diners, but in the kitchen, there were only the two ceiling fans that had been spinning all day to little effect. Summer had barely begun and already the city of Janloon was like a spent lover—sticky and fragrant.”

6. Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender

Queen of the Conquered “My mother kissed my forehead with a smile when I cried, upset that the party would carry on as I was sent away to sleep, and while I lay awake in my bed of lace, huddled beneath my covers and shivering in the cool trade-winds breeze, I heard when the tinkling piano stopped and when the laughter turned to screams.”

7. Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves

Slice of Cherry “Fancy only allowed three people in the whole world to get close to her: Daddy, who was on death row; Madda, who was working the graveyard shift; and Kit, who was dead to the world in the bed next to hers. And so when she awoke to find a prowler hanging over her, violating her personal space, her first instinct was to jab her dream-diary pencil into his eye.”

8. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch “The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer. She held no weapons except for the diamonds glinting like stars above her brow, against hair like a dark mass of sky. She wore no armor save a beautiful hua of mahogany and amber spun from damask silk, a golden dragon embroidered down its length, its body half-hidden by her waist wrap. She raised her arm, and I saw nothing. But the creature saw, and its wrath gentled, until it did little but whimper.”

9. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War “‘Take your clothes off.’
Rin blinked. ‘What?’
The proctor glanced up from his booklet. ‘Cheating prevention protocol.’ He gestured across the room to a female proctor. ‘Go with her, if you must.’
Rin crossed her arms tightly across her chest and walked toward the second proctor. She was led behind a screen, patted thoroughly to make sure she hadn’t packed test materials up any orifices, and then handed a formless blue sack.”

10. The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

The Shadows Between Us “They’ve never found the body of the first and only boy who broke my heart. And they never will.”

For more information about our 2021 conference, please see our website.

Sirens at Home: Heroes Books

Heroes

In 2019, Sirens examined heroes in all their forms, but especially what it means to be a hero when you have multiple marginalized identities—and we did so with Guests of Honor Mishell Baker, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Rebecca Roanhorse, Suzanne Scott, and for the first time, a Sirens Studio Guest of Honor, Roshani Chokshi. As we interrogated what it means to be a hero, and explicitly rejected the traditional, hypermasculine notions of heroism, we discovered a pantheon of more revolutionary, but no less valuable, BIPOC, LGBTQIAP+, disabled and neurodivergent, and other heroes worthy of discussion and celebration.

In 2019, we suggested a number of books that portrayed this new definition of hero. For Sirens at Home, though, we want to feature 10 books that we think have something to say about what it means for anyone to be a hero, but especially those who haven’t been privileged as such in the past. Here are those books, as well as their opening words—and we’ve included links to those works at Bookshop in the titles. Bookshop supports both Sirens and independent bookstores, so if you’re looking to purchase any of these titles, they’re a great option!

1. A Pale Light in the Black by K.B. Wagers

A Pale Light in the Black “Commander Rosa Martín Rivas pasted another smile onto her face as she wove through the crowds and headed for her ship at the far end of the hangar. She and the rest of the members of Zuma’s Ghost had weathered the post-Games interviews with as much grace as a losing team could, answering question after question about how it felt to come within three points of beating Commander Carmichael’s SEAL team without ever breaking expression. That wasn’t entirely true. Jenks had slipped once, muttering a curse and giving the reporter a flat look.”

2. A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

A Song Below Water “It feels redundant to be at the pool on a rainy Saturday, even though it’s spring, and even though it’s Portland, but maybe I’m just more of a California snob than I want to be. Back home I went to the beach on more than one cloudy day. I’d stand on the cold sand, burrowing my toes beneath the surface as though there’d be some warmth there, and I’d listen. Just like I’m doing now.”

3. Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Aru Shah and the End of Time “The problem with growing up around highly dangerous things is that after a while you just get used to them. For as long as she could remember, Aru had lived in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture. And she knew full well that the lamp at the end of the Hall of the Gods was not to be touched.”

4. Borderline by Mishell Baker

Borderline “It was midmorning on a Monday when magic walked into my life wearing a beige Ann Taylor suit and sensible flats. At the time I had more money than sense, and so I had been languishing at the Leishman Psychiatric Center in Silver Lake for just over six months. The Center had a rigid routine, and there was a perverse comfort in knowing what misery of boredom to expect and when.”

5. Every River Runs to Salt by Rachael K. Jones

Every River Runs to Salt “I keep an ocean in a jar on my nightstand and a handful of coffee beans in my pocket. My roommate Imani once held the Pacific Ocean hostage in our living room, but that was before she died and I followed her down to the Under-Ath to fix the mess she left.”

6. Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Star Daughter “Sometimes keeping secrets was the hardest thing in the world. Sheetal Mistry decided to make a break for it. Right past the mirrored walls that reflected one another until the swanky banquet hall expanded into infinity—a horribly overcrowded infinity made of noisy kids, successful aunties and uncles, and gossiping grandparents. Everyone watching, everyone talking and laughing.”

7. The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Bloodprint Seven. Eight. Six. Arian traced the numbers in the sand. She was crouched behind a dusty ridge, surveying the land ahead. The wide, flat plains extended in every direction, broken in places by sparse shrubs, the faintest traces of greenery and life. She passed her field glasses to the coal-skinned woman perched to her right. ‘Do you see it?’”

8. The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad

The Candle and the Flame “The muezzin’s call pierces the thinning night air, extracting Fatima from dreams of fire and blood. Her eyes open to the darkness, and for a moment, she is caught in the dark space between sleep and wakefulness. This space is filled with beautiful snarling faces, fear as vast as the night sky, and grief only just realized.”

9. The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah

The Light at the Bottom of the World “Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.”

10. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning “The monster has been here. I can smell him.”

For more information about our 2019 conference, including the programming presented that year, please see our 2019 archive page.

Sirens at Home: Magic Worker Books

Magic Workers

In 2017, Sirens examined those who work magic—witches, sorceresses, enchantresses, and more—with Guests of Honor Zoraida Córdova, N.K. Jemisin, and Victoria Schwab (and in our 2018 reunion year, Guest of Honor Leigh Bardugo represented magic workers). While the foundation of our 2017 theme was witches—and how, even in the wholly new worlds of speculative spaces, the word “witch” is still a slur—we sought all examples of magic-working in fantasy literature by women, nonbinary, and trans folks, and focused on how magic in speculative spaces is so often an analog for power.

In 2017, we suggested a number of books that portrayed this wide variety of magic workers. For Sirens at Home, though, we want to feature 10 books that we think have something to say about magic and power, especially across axes of oppression. Here are those books, as well as their opening words—and we’ve included links to those works at Bookshop in the titles. Bookshop supports both Sirens and independent bookstores, so if you’re looking to purchase any of these titles, they’re a great option!

1. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic “Kell wore a very peculiar coat. It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.”

2. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Labyrinth Lost “The second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing. Earlier that day, my mom had warned me, pressing a long, red fingernail on the tip of my nose, ‘Alejandra, don’t go downstairs when the Circle arrives.’ But I was seven and asked too many questions.”

3. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows “Joost had two problems: the moon and his mustache. He was supposed to be making his rounds at the Hoede house, but for the last fifteen minutes, he’d been hovering around the southeast wall of the gardens, trying to think of something clever and romantic to say to Anya.”

4. Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Snapdragon “Our town has a witch. She fed her eye to the devil. She eats roadkill, and she casts spells with the bones. That’s the kind of bull the dumb kids at school say. Witches ain’t real. She’s just an old loony. But…they also say she eats pets.”

5. Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Möira Fowley-Doyle

Spellbook of the Lost and Found “Daylight is only just touching the tips of the trees when the bonfire goes out. I am leaning against a bale of hay upon which someone I don’t know is sleeping.”

6. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season “Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.”

7. The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta

The Lost Coast “The first time I saw a redwood, I had a brand-new feeling—like discovering a color you’ve never seen before, or smelling snow for the first time if you were raised in a world without cold. Mom and I were driving up Highway 101 in a mostly good mood. We’d called Dad from the airport, and he hadn’t sounded tragic, even though I knew he missed me. And I’d seen a dozen rainbow flags between San Francisco and this stretch of wildness. Every single one felt like a welcome sign.”

8. The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace

The Memory Trees “Beyond the window, the morning was bright and glittering, the sky a breathless blue, and the hotels on Miami Beach jutted like broken teeth across the water, but all Sorrow could see was the orchard. There were trees whispering behind the walls of the office, and she almost believed if she turned—if she was quick—she would glimpse their sturdy thick trunks and rustling dead leaves from the corner of her eye.”

9. The Queer Witch Comics Anthology edited by Joamette Gil

The Queer Witch Comics Anthology “We banished darkness outside the walls.
Inside our walls, the people followed Așa and worshipped light.
‘Where there is light, there is growth.’
‘Where there is light, there is truth.’
As future Așa, I was eager to learn.
Especially from her.”

10. We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

We Ride Upon Sticks “Two minutes into the second half, Masco’s #19 took an indirect shot on our goal. For a moment we lost sight of the ball in the scrum of players huddled in front of the net, the air blurry with sticks as if a hundred defenders were trying to clear it and a hundred others were trying to score. Considering how the first half went down, there really wasn’t any reason for those of us on offense to keep watching, our defense porous as a broken window. True, our opponents, the Masconomet Chieftains, hadn’t officially put it in the net, but it was a foregone conclusion, the ball already as good as in, another Masco goal adorning the scoreboard. Girl Cory turned and started the humiliating trek back to midfield. A few of us began to follow.”

For more information about our 2017 conference, including the programming presented that year, please see our 2017 archive page.

Sirens at Home: Rebel Books

Rebel

In 2015, Sirens examined rebels and revolutionaries, and what it takes to stand against oppressors, with Guests of Honor Rae Carson, Kate Elliott, and Yoon Ha Lee (and in our 2018 reunion year, Guest of Honor Kameron Hurley represented rebels). We cast a wide net in our definition of rebels and revolutionaries, seeking not just traditional fantasy uprisings, but more revolutionary notions of rebellion as well.

In 2015, we suggested a number of books that portrayed this wide variety of rebels and revolutionaries. For Sirens at Home, though, we want to feature 10 books that we think have something to say about what it means to rebel or revolt, especially for those with marginalized identities. Here are those books, as well as their opening words—and we’ve included links to those works at Bookshop in the titles. Bookshop supports both Sirens and independent bookstores, so if you’re looking to purchase any of these titles, they’re a great option!

1. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Alif the Unseen “The thing always appeared in the hour between sunset and full dark. When the light began to wane in the afternoon, casting shadows of gray and violet across the stable yard below the tower where he worked, Reza would give himself over to shuddering waves of anxiety and anticipation.”

2. An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows

An Accident of Stars Sarcasm is armour, Saffron thought, and imagined she was donning a suit of it, plate by gleaming, snark-laden plate. ‘Nice undies,’ leered Jared Blake, lifting her skirt with a ruler. No, not a ruler—it was a metal file, one of the heavy ones they were meant to be using on their metalworking projects. He grinned at her, unrepentant, and poked the file upwards. The cold iron rasped against her thigh. ‘Are you shaved?’

‘Fuck off, Jared,’ Saffron shot back. ‘I’d rather have sex with an octopus.’”

3. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

An Unkindness of Ghosts “Aster removed two scalpels from her med-kit to soak in a solution of disinfectant. Her fingers trembled from the cold, and the tools slipped from her grasp, plopping ungracefully into the sanitizer. In ten minutes’ time, she’d be amputating a child’s gangrenous foot. This shaking and carrying on would not do.”

4. Bitch Planet: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro

Bitch Planet: Extraordinary Machine “‘Excuse me?’
‘Pardon me?’
‘I’m so very sorry!’
‘She’s not there?’
‘No, and she’s got 10 seconds to walk through that door before I read the damned thing myself. 10…9…8…’”

5. Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee

Conservation of Shadows “It is not true that the dead cannot be folded. Square becomes kite becomes swan; history becomes rumor becomes song. Even the act of remembrance creases the truth. What the paper-folding diagrams fail to mention is that each fold enacts itself upon the secret marrow of your ethics, the axioms of your thoughts. Whether this is the most important thing the diagrams fail to mention is a matter of opinion.”

6. Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

Court of Fives “We four sisters are sitting in the courtyard at dusk in what passes for peace in our house. Well‐brought‐up girls do not fidget nor fume nor ever betray the least impatience or boredom. But it is so hard to sit still when all I can think about is how I am going to sneak out of the house tomorrow to do the thing my father would never, ever give me permission to do.”

7. The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

The Geek Feminist Revolution “‘Persistence.’ It was the answer to a question posed to science fiction writer Kevin J. Anderson in an interview about what he thought a writer required most in order to succeed in the profession. I read that interview when I was seventeen, hungrily scouring the shelves of the local B. Dalton bookseller for advice on how to be a writer.”

8. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns “Prayer candles flicker in my bedroom. The Scriptura Sancta lies discarded, pages crumpled, on my bed. Bruises mark my knees from kneeling on the tiles, and the Godstone in my navel throbs. I have been praying—no, begging—that King Alejandro de Vega, my future husband, will be ugly and old and fat.”

9. The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water “There was a brief lull in the general chatter when the bandit walked into the coffeehouse. This was not because of the knife at his hip or his dusty attire, suggestive of a life spent in the jungle. It was not the first time Weng Wah Coffeehouse had seen a bandit and it would not be the last.”

10. We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

We Set the Dark on Fire “Daniela Vargas woke at the first whisper of footsteps coming up the road. By the time the sound of shattering glass in the courtyard alerted the campus to the presence of intruders, she was dressed and ready. For what? She wasn’t sure. After a childhood of heavy-footed military police in close pursuit, she knew better than to mistake the luxury of her surroundings for safety.”

For more information about our 2015 conference, including the programming presented that year, please see our 2015 archive page.

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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