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Sirens Newsletter – Volume 10, Issue 11 (October 2018)

In this issue:

 

GET READY FOR SIRENS

Sirens is only days away, and if you’re attending the Studio, you’re possibly already en route! Before you arrive in Beaver Creek, you might want to check off a few housekeeping items to ensure you have a great conference!

 

VOLUNTEER

We’re still looking to fill our volunteer shifts for this year’s programming. We have 5 spots remaining, and could use your help! Please check out our Volunteer page for more information, and thank you!

 

INSTRUCTION EMAILS

This past week, we sent out detailed instruction emails for the Sirens Shuttle, the Sirens Studio, the Sirens Supper, and registration check-in. Presenters should have also received an email with information and tips. If you emailed us about dietary concerns and haven’t received a response, and for any other missing emails, please contact us at (help at sirensconference.org).

 

CONTACTING US DURING SIRENS

Many staff members have already arrived in Colorado and are in the thick of Sirens preparations. While we’re unpacking materials and setting up for the conference, we won’t be able to monitor our emails as closely as we normally would. If you have an urgent question prior to arriving on-site, please email (help at sirensconference.org) and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.

Once the conference starts, the easiest way to reach us is in person! If you have any questions or simply want to chat, our information desk in Grouse Mountain Room will be open starting at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 25.

 

TWITTER

Starting tomorrow, October 23, we’ll be tweeting up a storm at our @sirens_con handle as Sirens will begin in earnest! We’ll be sharing programming schedule reminders, snippets from each session, and other goings-on at the conference. If you prefer not to receive these notifications, you can mute us and check back on Monday, October 29.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT …

Guest of Honor Interviews:

Books and Breakfast Spotlights:

Where Are They Now: Past Sirens Guests of Honor:


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

 

Books and Breakfast: Spotlight on Women Who Work Magic

Each year, we select a variety of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books—and then, during Sirens, invite our attendees to bring their breakfast and discuss them. Over the years, this program has highlighted the depth and breadth of each of our annual themes and given attendees yet another opportunity to deconstruct, interrogate, and celebrate what women and nonbinary authors are doing in fantasy literature.

This year, our Books and Breakfast program will feature eight books, with two dedicated to each of the themes of our past four years: hauntings, rebels and revolutionaries, lovers, and women who work magic. The complete list of our selections and a spotlight on our hauntings selections are here; a spotlight on our rebels and revolutionaries selections is here; and our spotlight on our lovers selections is here. We hope this helps you pick which ones you might like to read before Sirens!

 
2018 BOOKS AND BREAKFAST SELECTIONS

Hauntings

The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Rebels and Revolutionaries

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Lovers

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Women Who Work Magic

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

 
SPOTLIGHT ON WOMEN WHO WORK MAGIC

Our two Books and Breakfast picks focused on women who work magic are S. A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass and Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s Spellbook of the Lost and Found. Do you plan on picking these up soon? Let us know! Tweet @sirens_con or use the hashtag #Sirens18!

 

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

The City of Brass

The City of Brass opens in eighteenth-century Cairo, with Nahri—who despite having readily apparent magic, refuses to believe in it. She gets by on the streets by reading palms, stealing, and performing some rather miraculous healings. As part of a con, Nahri accidentally summons Dara, a djinn, and then all hell breaks loose. The dead rise from the mausoleum, Dara forces Nahri to flee from Cairo on a flying carpet, and a giant bird of unknowable power appears in the desert. How about that magic now, Nahri?

Nahri goes kicking and screaming. Despite her life on the streets in Cairo, she wants nothing to do with Dara, his magic carpet, or his impossible stories of ancient beings of fire and water. Or, for that matter, their destination: Daevabad, a magical city with mysterious ties to Nahri’s magical heritage—and one where secrets abound, plots unfurl, and magic is practically palpable.

Charkraborty has said that The City of Brass began as, essentially, history fanfiction. Scant references to djinn and Suleiman and myths that she researched and then wove into an entire secondary fantasy world stretching from Morocco to Ethiopia to China. In many, many ways, The City of Brass is a tour de force: breathtaking world-building, near-seamlessly dropped into actual history and geography; an extensive fantastic history, about which the reader salivates to know more; myriad distinct cultures premised on war or culture or art. This world is as impressive—and as interesting—as Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse or Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire universe; the art and culture as well-designed as Cassandra Khaw’s Food of the Gods or Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus; the secondary characters as developed and fascinating as Fonda Lee’s or Alex Marshall’s. You’ll want to stay a while.

 

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Spellbook of the Lost and Found

If you’ve read Fowley-Doyle’s previous novel, The Accident Season, you know her allure: She takes something so everyday, so commonplace, and turns it into a fairy tale, one that you’re not even sure is a fairy tale, as she glides along just the other side of coincidence and conjecture. She lives in the very best of that liminal space between the strangeness of our ordinary world and the merest bits of magic. Her work is gorgeous.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found does for lost things what The Accident Season did for accidents: examine the deeper meanings and interconnected themes of something that happens to all of us. It starts with hairclips and jewelry, but so soon, it’s so much more: a sense of safety, maybe a friendship, seemingly a person.

And while things are lost, others are found: The diary pages of a girl named Laurel—which hint at mysteries and magic. Three strangers squatting in an abandoned estate house. A spellbook. A spellbook that works.

If living in Fowley-Doyle’s enchanted spaces aren’t enough, if her oh-so-Irish, lyrical prose isn’t enough, stay in Spellbook of the Lost and Found for the twist toward the end, which ties everything—shockingly, beautifully—up neatly, almost savagely. No one gets out of this one unscarred, but maybe that’s just everyday life.

 

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 10, Issue 10 (September 2018)

In this issue:

 

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

Volunteers are vital to Sirens. Our greatest need during the conference is for room monitors—the designated adult for the room! Typical duties involve helping presenters keep on time, closing the doors if the room gets full, and getting help for more involved troubleshooting. Shifts last for a morning or afternoon, for a few hours at a time.

For more details, please visit our volunteer page. If you’re a returning volunteer, you don’t need to fill out the form—just follow the directions in the email sent through the Google Group to claim a shift or two.

 

IN-KIND DONATIONS: AUCTION ITEMS

Wakanda carvings, a magical adventure kit, a whale of a quilt—these are just some of the items in our auction this year! If you are planning to donate auction items, you’ll need to complete our new in-kind donation form no later than Monday, October 1. (If you are donating multiple auction items, please note that you must complete the form multiple times.) More information is available on our auction page.

 

UPCOMING INSTRUCTION EMAILS

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sending important instruction emails to registered attendees on how to meet the Sirens Shuttle, check in for the Sirens Studio and Sirens, and find the Sirens Supper—which is in a new location this year! Presenters will also receive communications from the programming team.

If you’re riding the Sirens Shuttle and you have not yet provided us with your flight information, please write to (help at sirensconference.org). We’ll track your progress toward Sirens and make sure that you haven’t run into any delays along the way.

 

WHERE ARE THEY NOW: GUESTS OF HONOR

To celebrate our conference theme of reunion, we continue to reflect on past conferences and check in with our past Guests of Honor to see what they’ve been up to these days. In 2015, our theme was rebels and revolutionaries, and our Guests of Honor were Rae Carson, Kate Elliott, and Yoon Ha Lee. Read the full post.

In 2016, our theme was lovers, and our Guests of Honor were Renée Ahdieh, Laurie J. Marks, and Kiini Ibura Salaam. Read the full post.

 

BOOKS AND BREAKFAST: SPOTLIGHT ON LOVERS

Sirens veterans know that we choose a variety of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books related to our theme, and invite attendees to bring their breakfast on conference mornings and discuss the selections. View all our 2018 selections—with four themes to match our reunion year!—including our picks for 2016’s lovers theme featuring Roshani Chokshi’s A Crown of Wishes and Ellen Klages’s Passing Strange.

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB

Like Water for Chocolate

Sirens co-founder Amy read Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate this month: “a scalding, blistering work of fiery passions and violent anger and ultimately, literal conflagration.” Read her review on the blog and on Goodreads.

 

READ ALONG WITH FAYE

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Are you, like Faye, sprinting to the 2018 Reading Challenge finish line? So close! Melissa Bashardoust’s Girls Made of Snow and Glass had a premise she loved: “the queen stepmother and the princess are pitted as rivals, but realize they are more similar than they are different. They eventually recognize each other’s strength and power, and rule the realm together.” Read her thoughts on the execution on the blog and on Goodreads.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT …


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

 

Books and Breakfast: Spotlight on Lovers

Each year, we select a variety of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books—and then, during Sirens, invite our attendees to bring their breakfast and discuss them. Over the years, this program has highlighted the depth and breadth of each of our annual themes and given attendees yet another opportunity to deconstruct, interrogate, and celebrate what women and nonbinary authors are doing in fantasy literature.

This year, our Books and Breakfast program will feature eight books, with two dedicated to each of the themes of our past four years: hauntings, rebels and revolutionaries, lovers, and women who work magic. The complete list of our selections and a spotlight on our hauntings selections are here; a spotlight on our rebels and revolutionaries selections is here; and we’ll be featuring the women who work magic selections in the coming weeks. We hope this helps you pick which ones you might like to read before Sirens!

 
2018 BOOKS AND BREAKFAST SELECTIONS

Hauntings

The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Rebels and Revolutionaries

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Lovers

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Women Who Work Magic

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

 
SPOTLIGHT ON LOVERS

Our two Books and Breakfast picks focused on lovers are Roshani Chokshi’s A Crown of Wishes and Ellen Klages’s Passing Strange. Do you plan on picking these up soon? Let us know! Tweet @sirens_con or use the hashtag #Sirens18!

 

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

A Crown of Wishes

First, a note: Please don’t let the fact that A Crown of Wishes is the second book in Chokshi’s Star-Touched series deter you! We promise, you may read it easily as a standalone—and in fact, only a single scene in A Crown of Wishes is informed by the first book in the series, and even then, only slightly.

A Crown of Wishes belongs to Gauri and Vikram, she a warrior princess struggling under her brother’s rule, he a puppet emperor ascendant of the neighboring kingdom. For reasons you won’t truly understand until the end of the book, Vikram stumbles into the Tournament of Wishes, a deadly game run by the enigmatic Lord of Wealth in a mythical land. Vikram’s invitation is for two, and in a somewhat improbable meeting with Gauri, helped along by the gods, he proposes that they enter the tournament together: He can wish to rule in truth; she can wish to rule in her brother’s stead.

But the gods, of course, have other plans. As Gauri and Vikram navigate myth and magic, they learn an awful lot, through near-death and chance encounters, through conversations and magic. Beautifully, though—and unlike in many romances—they don’t just learn from each other, though they do plenty of that. Here, they learn a lot individually, too: about their pasts, their stumbling blocks, their hang-ups. They see how they need to grow individually, and small spoiler, at the end of the book, when they take time to get their individual hopes and dreams in order before reuniting, you can cheer a relationship of equal individuals who choose to be together in a thoughtful way (even as Guari complains, as we all might: I sent him a gift. He should send a gift back. Why hasn’t he sent a gift back?).

A Crown of Wishes is, in many ways, the best of the rom coms: funny, smart, sexy, and with a twist at the end that levels their happy ending up from merely happy to legendary. Vikram is hot, of course, but also clever and willing to play the gods’ games. Gauri is a revelation: Though she is gorgeous, Vikram frequently describes her as a beast or a monster, in the most admiring terms possible, and it will make your feminist heart melt into a delighted puddle. She’s brute force to his calculated misdirection, a fierce directness to his patience, a dagger to his charm. And they so clearly belong together.

 

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Passing Strange

Passing Strange is, perhaps, best described a tone poem. A tone poem, for anyone who didn’t suffer through classical music classes once upon a time, is this: a piece of orchestral music, typically in one movement, on a descriptive or rhapsodic theme. They’re shorter than symphonies or concertos and, due to their single-movement nature, often lack the variation present in symphonies or concertos as well. Think of them as the musical representation of painting, perhaps. And the same is true of Passing Strange, it’s a glorious work, novella-length, that paints a lesbian romance in airy brushstrokes.

Passing Strange is set in San Francisco against the backdrop of the 1939 World’s Fair, and the city is as much a character as anyone: inviting, enchanting, deviling the human characters themselves. The World’s Fair’s Magic City makes an appearance, as do Chinatown and the city’s famous Painted Ladies rowhouses. For those of you who yearn for sentient settings, drawn with vivid magic and wills of their own, this one’s for you.

But this one is also for anyone who loves a love story for the ages, a moment in time where two people meet and everything else falls away. Where abusive husbands and judgmental people and your own limitations pale in comparison to the person in front of you. In this case, its two women finding each other, improbably, impossibly, despite the violence and discrimination of so many in the city. They are helped along the way by more women, and while the form of their happy ever after won’t surprise you, the beauty and transcendence of the scene depicted on the cover just might.

 

Books and Breakfast: Spotlight on Rebels and Revolutionaries

Each year, we select a variety of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books—and then, during Sirens, invite our attendees to bring their breakfast and discuss them. Over the years, this program has highlighted the depth and breadth of each of our annual themes and given attendees yet another opportunity to deconstruct, interrogate, and celebrate what women and nonbinary authors are doing in fantasy literature.

This year, our Books and Breakfast program will feature eight books, with two dedicated to each of the themes of our past four years: hauntings, rebels and revolutionaries, lovers, and women who work magic. The complete list of our selections and a spotlight on our hauntings selections are here; we’ll be featuring the lovers and women who work magic selections over the next few months as well so that you can pick which ones you might like to read before Sirens!

 
2018 BOOKS AND BREAKFAST SELECTIONS

Hauntings

The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Rebels and Revolutionaries

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Lovers

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Women Who Work Magic

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

 
SPOTLIGHT ON REBELS AND REVOLUTIONARIES

Our two Books and Breakfast picks focused on rebels and revolutionaries are Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone and Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties. Do you plan on picking these up soon? Let us know! Tweet @sirens_con or use the hashtag #Sirens18!

 

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone

From page one, Adeyemi’s debut novel will drag you relentlessly along, unable to stop for even a breath. Find yourself a few hours and a pot of tea; you might not be able to put it down.

We open with Zélie, a girl born of violence and secrecy. Several years ago, Zélie watched the monarchy kill her maji mother, but one victim of the throne’s massacre of the magic-workers of Orïsha. Now, she practices rebellion in secret, refusing to be broken by the lasting oppression of her people by the throne. But Children of Blood and Bone is more than covert combat schools and thwarting bullying authorities; this revolution is about bringing magic back to Orïsha—and with it, restoring the freedom and dignity of Zélie’s people.

Enter Inan and Amari, the royal children of Orïsha. Both resent their father deeply, but that resentment manifests in different ways: Inan perfects his father’s wishes in his search for approval; Amari clings to her sheltered life, closing her eyes to her father’s tyranny. When the king finally goes one step too far for Amari, she throws off her carefully crafted ignorance and escapes the palace, only to have a chance encounter with Zélie. The two become resentful, suspicious traveling companions in their joined mission to recover Orïsha’s magic and overthrow the king, while Inan gives chase, hoping to both maintain his world as he knows it and finally earn his father’s praise.

Adeyemi’s pacing is spectacular, her worldbuilding even more so. Adeyemi draws strongly on West African heritage and culture to build her world: Orïsha, its people, and its magic are vivid, unforgettable; its systemic oppression of Zélie’s people, raw and all too familiar. And Zélie and Amari are similarly vivid and unforgettable. You might think the book is Zélie’s, but Amari is equally compelling as she grapples with her privilege and her pampered upbringing, and the partnership that the girls forge of distrust and hurt is a thing of beauty.

 

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Her Body and Other Parties

For everyone looking for a flagrant, brazen, unabashed work of fantastic feminism, this one is for you. It’s fantasy as commentary, a collection of short stories that use myths, legends, and magic to carve furious insight into our everyday world. It’s for the angry girls, the queer girls, the “crazy” girls, the girls who just want one dang thing that’s their own private corner of the world. Why is that too much to ask?

As Faye Bi said, when she reviewed Her Body and Other Parties for Sirens earlier this year, “The stories are punch-you-in-the-face, unabashedly feminist. Darkly hilarious. Sex-positive. Queer. Smart as hell. More often than not, brutal. Her protagonists are easy for me empathize with and to cheer for. The stories, as I suspect Machado does too as in ‘The Resident,’ know exactly what they are and do not have the time—or patience—to beat around the bush.”

We could spend days analysing and deconstructing each of Machado’s stories. We won’t. Instead, we’ll simply add that this is collection is one of those works of unquailing, fuck-you feminism, wrapped in a package of monsters and ghostly bells and impossible death, and leave you to do with that what you will.

 

Books and Breakfast: Spotlight on Hauntings

Each year, we select a variety of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books—and then, during Sirens, invite our attendees to bring their breakfast and discuss them. Over the years, this program has highlighted the depth and breadth of each of our annual themes and given attendees yet another opportunity to deconstruct, interrogate, and celebrate what women and nonbinary authors are doing in fantasy literature.

This year, our Books and Breakfast program will feature eight books, with two dedicated to each of the themes of our past four years: hauntings, rebels and revolutionaries, lovers, and women who work magic. The complete list of our selections is below, but we’ll also be featuring these books over the next few months so you can pick which ones you might like to read before Sirens!

 
2018 BOOKS AND BREAKFAST SELECTIONS

Hauntings

The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Rebels and Revolutionaries

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Lovers

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Women Who Work Magic

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

 
SPOTLIGHT ON HAUNTINGS

Our two Books and Breakfast picks focused on hauntings are Kali Wallace’s The Memory Trees and Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts. Do you plan on picking these up soon? Let us know! Tweet @sirens_con or use the hashtag #Sirens18!

 
The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace

The Memory Trees

Sorrow Lovegood spent the first eight years of her life in an orchard in Vermont, wrapped in not only the love of her mother, grandmother, and older sister, but also the suffocating history of her matriarchal ancestors. The women of her family have lived in this same orchard for twelve generations, despite their harrowing misfortune and a legendary feud with the neighbors.

Then, something awful happens, Sorrow’s heart shatters, and she’s sent to live with her father in Miami. Eight years later, Sorrow, frustrated by her hazy memories of her childhood, returns to the orchard to confront her lost memories, her family’s history, and her haunted heart. What she learns, with the orchard’s help, is both revelatory and devastating: the truth of a tragedy centuries in the making.

The Memory Trees is, in turn, going to shatter your heart. Wallace’s decision to make Sorrow, with her lost memory, the narrator was a smart choice: Sorrow’s heart rends over and over again as she discovers incremental details about what happened eight years ago, and Wallace is such a skilful craftsperson that, every time Sorrow’s heart breaks, so does the reader’s. Much like The Monsters of Templeton, Wallace also uses an unusual narrative structure to convey information in bite-size chunks: She alternates contemporary chapters from Sorrow’s point of view with historical chapters depicting Sorrow’s female ancestors and the origins of the family’s neighborhood feud and perhaps related misfortune. The result is a harrowing portrait of grief, loss, and the very best of what a hauntings book can be—even sans ghosts.

 
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

An Unkindness of Ghosts

While Sirens is a fantasy conference, sometimes we can’t help ourselves. Thus, An Unkindness of Ghosts, an Afrofuturist science-fiction novel set on the HSS Matilda, a leviathan of a space vessel that has been shuttling its inhabitants to a mythical Promised Land for the past thousand years. The Matilda strongly resembles the antebellum South, with the wealthy, white Sovereign and similar inhabitants both occupying the upper levels of the ship and imposing vicious regulations and hash indignities on the inhabitants—people of color, queer people, neuroatypical people—who live on the levels below. Indeed, many of those lower-level inhabitants even farm the land of the colossal vessel under the authority of cruel overseers.

In case you were wondering if An Unkindness of Ghosts would be pulling any punches, it opens with Aster, a healer on the ship and our protagonist, amputating the foot of a child, an extreme surgery made necessary by nonsensical and dehumanizing rules, but a surgery that Aster, the child, and the child’s grandmother nevertheless take in stride. Brutality can make the extraordinary seem ordinary, even when that means carrying an amputated foot around in a cooler. This normalcy of Solomon’s world makes us immediately check our assumptions, our expectations, and our humanity.

An Unkindness of Ghosts is, as you might anticipate, a deconstruction of our society, an interrogation of our values, and a cautionary tale. After all, please remember that its fundamental premise is an Afrofuturist spaceship that replicates the antebellum South. Historical trauma looms large in this book, and Solomon’s examination of race, slavery, and prison is just as incisive as, say, Jesmyn Ward’s in Sing, Unburied, Sing. Similarly, Solomon considers issues of power and control through the lenses of gender, sexual identity, race, class, and ability. As Aster realizes that she can better her world, but only if she’s willing to foment a civil war, we’re all in.

 

Books and Breakfast: September Spotlight

Welcome to the last of our spotlights for this year’s Books and Breakfast! We have three more popular, controversial and just plain brilliant titles related to our 2017 theme of women who work magic. You can also check our highlighted titles for June (which also includes the full list), July, and August.

Read the descriptions below of 2014 Guest of Honor Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns, Angela Slatter’s A Feast of Sorrows, and Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona. Thoughts? Picked out your books for each morning? Let us know on Twitter at @sirens_con and at the hashtag #Sirens17.

 

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns

Every generation, three triplets on the island of Fennbirn are raised to compete for the crown. Each possesses a coveted magic: Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers; Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache; Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions. Raised apart, the sisters are fated to not only fight to become Queen, but to kill her sisters to do so. The night that Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe turn sixteen, the battle begins.

Three Dark Crowns is a brave book. Kendare crafted three heroines: three difficult, conflicted, resentful heroines struggling to reconcile expectations and likely death with what they might want for themselves. Kendare also crafted a world of people who view the sisters as objects, not to be loved, but to be used to gain power. Stick with this one until its cliffhanger end: the sisters will surprise you.

 

A Feast of Sorrows by Angela Slatter

A Feast of Sorrows

This collection of short fiction features twelve of the World Fantasy and British Fantasy Award-winning author Angela Slatter’s finest, darkest fairy tales. In them are women and girls—fearless, frightened, brave, bold, frail, and fantastical—who take the paths less travelled, accept (and offer) poisoned apples, and embrace transformation in all its forms. You won’t just find princesses and ghosts, but the gamut of artisans as well: bakers, quilters, crafters, spinners, and coffin-makers. Never have the feminine arts been so magical or so deadly.

Reminiscent of Angela Carter and Emma Donoghue, or even Aimee Bender’s The Color Master, Slatter’s work is both timeless and fresh: fascinating, feminist reflections from the enchanted mirrors of fairy tales and folklore. This one is to be savored, one story, one revelation, and one smart, determined woman at a time.

 

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona

Noelle Stevenson’s award-winning webcomic became an award-winning graphic novel. Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are. But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that his sidekick’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

Brilliant, witty, and subversive, Nimona includes everything from dragons to science, archnemesis and secret lovers, assassination attempts and nerdy references all over. But more than that, it’s a terrific exploration of feminine ambition and agency in the all-too-masculine world of superheroism and supervillainy.

 

Books and Breakfast: August Spotlight

This month, we’re spotlighting three more popular, controversial and just plain brilliant Books and Breakfast titles related to our 2017 theme of women who work magic! You can check our highlighted titles for June (which also includes the full list) and July.

Read the descriptions below of Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s This Strange Way of Dying, and Jewell Parker Rhodes’s Bayou Magic. Thoughts? Let us know on Twitter at @sirens_con and at the hashtag #Sirens17.

 

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, Vasilisa spends her winter huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. She loves the tale of Frost, a blue-eyed demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil. After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings back a devout new wife, who is vehemently against the family’s honoring household spirits. But as crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer and misfortune stalks the village, Vasilisa must find her own power to protect her family from a threat that seems pulled from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Even in fantasy literature, the word “witch” is so often a slur. The Bear and the Nightingale, beautifully crafted and set in a Russia bound by tradition, picks relentlessly at this trope: gendered expectations that limit women to marriage, children, and faith; how quickly society cries “witch” when women defy those expectations; and what it means when those allegations, so rooted in ignorance and fear, are actually true.

 

This Strange Way of Dying: Stories of Magic, Desire and the Fantastic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This Strange Way of Dying

Spanning multiple time periods and the genres of fantasy, science fiction and horror, Moreno-Garcia’s collection of short stories is infused with Mexican folklore, yet firmly rooted in a reality that transforms into the weird and fantastical. The stories lift the veil of the everyday to expose the realms of what lies beyond, with creatures that shed their skin and roam the night, vampires in Mexico City that struggle with disenchantment, an apocalypse with giant penguins, legends of magic scorpions, and tales of a ceiba tree surrounded by human skulls.

This Strange Way of Dying is full of wild, beautiful prose and with Mexican folklore and myths—and Moreno-Garcia shines when she’s writing about liminal spaces and being caught between identities such as heritage, class, and race. And we think you’ll love the bold, empowered Jaguar women who go after what they want.

 

Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Bayou Magic

It’s Maddy’s turn to have a bayou summer with her grandmother. At first she misses life back home in New Orleans, but soon she grows to love everything about her new surroundings—the glimmering fireflies, the glorious landscape, her grandmother’s famous gumbo—but then there’s something else, deep within the water, that only Maddy sees. As her grandmother shares wisdom about sayings and signs, Maddy realizes she may be only the sibling to carry on her family’s magical legacy. And when a disastrous oil leak threatens the bayou, she knows she may also be the only one who can help.

Bayou Magic is all about a girl finding her power. Set in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, Maddy’s grandmother’s community and the bayou are practically tangible, and how a bayou summer changes Maddy is equally vivid. Bayou Magic celebrates hope, friendship, and family with a clear conservationist bent.

 

Books and Breakfast: July Spotlight

Sirens veterans know that each year, we select a variety of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books related to our annual theme—and we invite attendees to bring their breakfast on Friday and Saturday mornings during Sirens to discuss them. Last month, we announced our 2017 Books and Breakfast books on women who work magic, and you can check them all here.

Every month, we’ll be highlighting a few titles chosen, in the hopes that you pick up these great books in time for Books and Breakfast! For July, our spotlight is on Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky, Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch, and Laura Anne Gilman’s Silver on the Road. Questions or thoughts? Comment below or sound off on Twitter at @sirens_con and the hashtag #Sirens17.

 

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the SKy

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca of San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

All the Birds in the Sky asks hard questions: about magic and morality, about technology and the ethical use thereof, about people and life. Its near-future setting, and its almost magic vs. technology structure, allows Anders to explore these questions and more about our societal mores and ambitions. Notably, even as the book careens toward the end of the world as we know it, humanity remains center stage.

 

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

If you like ambitious girls, this one’s for you. Because while Tea starts the novel quite young and understandably afraid, by the end of the novel, she’s a woman who makes choices—and you’ll be waiting breathlessly to see what she does in the second installment. Further, the novel’s bifurcated timeline structure allows the reader to compare Tea in her childhood with Tea today: a luxury for readers who love character-driven novels.

 

Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman

Silver on the Road

A heroic fantasy about a young woman who is trained in the art of the sinister hand of magic, but at what price?

On her sixteenth birthday, Isobel makes the choice to work for the Devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you think you know. This is a being who deals fairly with immense—but not unlimited—power, who offers opportunities to people who want to make a deal, and makes sure they always get what they deserve. But his land is a wild west that needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in. Inadvertently trained by him to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy is raised to be his left hand and travel the circuitous road through the territory. As we all know, where there is magic there is power and chaos…and death.

Silver on the Road is a slow burn of a book. Izzy’s choice to become the Devil’s Left Hand happens quickly at the beginning, and you spend the rest of the book traveling the Wild West with her as she learns what it really means to have made a deal with the Devil. But it doesn’t mean what you expect: There’s both good and bad for Izzy, great power and, yes, great responsibility, and all of it much more subtly wielded than your usual deal-with-the-devil fare.

 

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 9, Issue 7 (June 2017)

In this issue:

 

2017 MILESTONES SO FAR

Last week, Sirens co-founder Amy Tenbrink wrote about Sirens’s unprecedented growth, elaborated on this year’s conference theme of women who work magic, and waxed poetic on our nine-years-in-the-making community: “One that’s becoming increasingly brilliant, increasingly inclusive, increasingly confident, increasingly vocal. One that believes in itself and each of its parts. A once-a-year respite, where you can repair your armor, replenish your magic, and remember how truly remarkable the women of fantasy literature—from queens to readers—are.” Read the full post here.

 

INCLUSIVITY AT SIRENS

This month, we also kicked off an important series of posts addressing diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality at Sirens in order to highlight voices that are both vital to our community and are too often unheard. In our first post, Faye Bi shares her Sirens experience and offers some food for thought for new and returning attendees: “[Sirens] doesn’t feel like battle, when so much of my daily life does. That’s a feeling to ponder, but also one to protect.” Read the rest of her post here.

 

REGISTRATION UPDATE

At this point in time, Sirens is sold out for 2017.

To individuals who have submitted programming proposals, a reminder that you have until July 9, 2017, to register and be paid in full for this year’s conference, after which the registration that we are holding for you will be made available to the public.

We’ll continue to post updates on registration availability on this blog, on our Twitter, and on our Facebook page. If you are still seeking a registration, we recommend that you check back on July 10. Please also watch our Twitter for announcements of any individuals seeking to sell their registrations.

 

PROGRAMMING

After the presenter registration deadline of July 9, we’ll be revealing this year’s presentations in small batches on this blog and on the Accepted Programming page! If you proposed programming and missed the email with the result of your proposal, please email (programming at sirensconference.org) right away. Thank you again to everyone who proposed programming this year!

 

HOTEL

This year, we have already had to ask the Hotel Talisa to make additional rooms available at the discounted Sirens rate twice! We are pleased to report that, as of last Monday, there are again discounted rooms in our block—but we strongly recommend that you book yours as soon as possible. You can find reservations information here.

 

ATTENDING AUTHORS

If you are a published author attending Sirens this year, let us know! We’d like to make sure we have your books available in our bookstore—and if you’d like, a place for you in our author signings. Please email Amy at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org).

 

BOOKSTORE DONATIONS

Speaking of our bookstore, a few years ago, we began operating our own bookstore as a fundraiser for Sirens. This gives us the opportunity, in many ways in defiance of the commercial market, to stock our bookstore exclusively with fantasy books written by, or featuring, amazing women.

In many ways, our bookstore operates like any other bookstore: we acquire new books for sale just like anyone else. But in two ways, our bookstore is different. First, the Sirens community frequently donates new books, just to make sure that the bookstore includes them in its inventory; sometimes these attendees work for publishers or are donating books that they’ve written, but often, these attendees simply want to help make our bookstore as amazing as possible. Second, we have a used section of our bookstore where we offer gently used fantasy books for $5 each. That section of our bookstore is stocked entirely through donations.

If you would like to donate books to our bookstore, please send your books to the following address, to arrive no later than August 1, 2017. (And remember, if you’re shipping only books, the USPS media mail option is terrifically cheap, but terrifically slow, so please leave time for your package to arrive.)

Sirens
c/o Narrate Conferences
P.O. Box 149
Sedalia, Colorado 80135

 

BOOKS AND BREAKFAST

Sirens veterans know that we select a variety of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books related to our theme—and invite attendees to bring their breakfast on Friday and Saturday mornings of the conference to discuss. Here are this year’s selections:

Friday, October 27

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves
This Strange Way of Dying by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Saturday, October 28

A Feast of Sorrows by Angela Slatter
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
The Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman

For 2017, we’re spotlighting three books per month, so you can plan your reading and join us! Check out our post on The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Slice of Cherry, and The Land of Love and Dreaming here.

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB

Sister Mine

For June, Sirens co-founder Amy Tenbrink read Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine. Read her review, coming out later this week, over on the blog and on Goodreads.

 

READ ALONG WITH FAYE

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

This month, Faye read Emily Croy Barker’s The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic in pursuit of the 2017 Reading Challenge, which she recommends for readers who “like reluctant heroines…[and] can stomach unlikable protagonists.” Check out her review on the blog and on Goodreads.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…


Interesting Links

 


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

 

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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