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Sirens at Home: We’ve tracked thousands of fantasy books by women, nonbinary, and trans authors for our Sirens bookstore. This is what we found

Once upon a time, we realized that Sirens attendees were looking for a different kind of bookstore. A bookstore that didn’t just stock commercial bestsellers or the same list of ten fantasy “classics” written by dead white cisgender men, but one that highlighted the luminous literature of our conference: the women, nonbinary, and trans authors publishing brilliant books in the fantasy and speculative space. Books written by and featuring people of all races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, religions, ages, and bodies. These would be the books found in prime placement on tables, face-out at eye level on bookshelves, or enthusiastically recommended in a book talk. Books in which our voraciously well-read community could discover something new, something surprising, something personal.

Sirens Bookstre 2018 Sirens Bookstre 2018

Those who have attended our conference know our bookstore is a once-a-year pop-up that takes a few folks on our bookstore team a year to exhaustively research and our entire on-site conference staff a half day to lovingly unpack and arrange. Each year since 2012, it has grown in size, to over two thousand titles lining the shelves and tables in our community room, where conference attendees can browse and purchase as many books as they desire. And because we cannot gather safely in person in 2020, we’re offering a unique look behind the scenes as part of Sirens at Home: a peek into our data for bookstore sourcing for the past five years.

Why tracking this is important

Each year, in order to accurately and broadly stock our pop-up bookstore with books by women, nonbinary, and trans authors, we spend countless hours prowling through catalogs, new book lists, publisher websites, social media, and bookstores. We attempt to track and identify authors who identify as LGBTQIAP+ and authors who identify as BIPOC to ensure that our lists are inclusive as possible. We showcase some of this work in our annual suggested reading list and reading challenge, our monthly new release book lists, as well as specially curated lists by affinity or identity, like our list of 150 queer speculative works, 50 brilliant speculative works by Black authors, and 50 Latinx authors and books to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month.

We’ve prided ourselves on knowing exactly what is being published in this space, and when, and by whom. Over the years, we’ve realized that our efforts are singular; we don’t see anyone else tracking this kind of data so we’ve had to do it ourselves. The data presented below begins with 2016, the first year we had meaningful complete data to draw conclusions from.

We know that not many women, nonbinary, and trans authors—particularly those who also identify as LGBTQIAP+ or BIPOC—get major publisher support or wide distribution in sales channels. We know that even major publishing houses have modest margins and depend on their backlist in order to be able to acquire and publish new voices. In the age of Amazon, we know how challenging retail environments are even in pre-pandemic times, and how many bookstores rely on those bestsellers and classics to keep the lights on. But that is exactly why we are especially scouring the catalogs of small independent presses and looking to international markets, and that is also exactly why the Sirens bookstore exists. For a few days each year, we make real our kind of bookstore—one that is queer, diverse, intersectional, and fiercely inclusive.

What this data is

We know any data project is imperfect. At its core, we are basing this project off of the thousands of books published in 2016-2020 that we’ve tracked and researched, for consideration to stock in our Sirens bookstore. In the data we’re about to present, we have chosen only to highlight 1,600 of those books that fulfill the following criteria, and thus are:

  • What Sirens defines as speculative literature. We know that the lines that delineate genre categories are thin and arbitrary. We are a conference on gender in fantasy literature, and while that includes second-world fantasy, horror, dystopia, contemporary and urban fantasy, fabulism, space opera, and paranormal romance, we cannot claim to comprehensively include science fiction even though we stock it—and we fully know some of the books in these subgenres are listed as such.
  • Books that may not be categorized as fantasy or science fiction, but befits this definition. This includes titles that might be shelved as literary fiction, mystery, thriller, magical realism, and others.
  • Published in or translated to English, particularly by or through an American publisher. Though we do track books published in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, if an American edition exists, that is the year and publisher it is listed under.
  • Novels, novellas, graphic novels, or collections of poetry or short stories. Novels, novellas, and graphic novels may have two or more contributors to a single narrative; poetry or short fiction collections only have one contributor.
  • Newly published standalone works or the first book in a series. Because our Sirens bookstore prioritizes discovery, we rarely stock sequels, movie novelizations, or reissues. Occasionally we will stock a special edition or sequel (usually by our guests of honor).
  • Intended for an adult, young adult, or middle grade audience. We do not yet include chapter books, picture books, or other formats or age groups, though we know that books for even younger readers have even more potential for fantasy and speculative elements.
  • Published by third-party publishers, which includes traditional presses including Big Five publishers and independent publishers of various size, but not self-published works. We have specifically looked at small independent publishers leading the way, since we know many of the works we source are not often acquired or supported by major presses; at the same time, we cannot keep track of all self-published works in this space.
  • Our best attempt to track authors who identify as LGBTQIAP+, BIPOC, or both. Our disclaimers and reasoning are explained in their respective sections below, and while it will be stated many times, our numbers reflect only authors who publicly identify as such.

What this data isn’t

As comprehensive as we aspire our data to be, and as many identities and experiences as we aim to uplift at Sirens, some aspects are nearly impossible for our small volunteer team to track and verify. Our survey of 1,600 books does not span:

  • Books written by cisgender men as the sole author(s). All books in this dataset are speculative fiction and have at least one female, nonbinary, or trans collaborator, since we know some books—particularly comic books or serial novels—have teams of writers. We cannot comment on the state of speculative fiction publishing as a whole.
  • The breadth of comics publishing, though we often did include first collected volumes of superhero comics like Wonder Woman or Shuri (but not individual issues).
  • Books that have been released eBook or eAudio only—we’re a pop-up bookstore so we’ve only tracked books that have a print version available.
  • Disability and neurodivergence. Though we so deeply admire authors who have publicly discussed their disability or neurodivergence—and even become outspoken advocates—we know many choose not to disclose their condition for reasons personal to them.
  • Religion. While we track some of this information if we are able to find it, such as authors who publicly identify as Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, we don’t have enough comprehensive data. While there is much to unpack about fantasy and allegory, religion, too, is deeply personal for each author and individual.
  • Body diversity. We value all body types and sizes at Sirens, and more so in speculative literature where we are not limited to the homogenous standards of beauty presented in our day-to-day lives. But this data, too, is difficult to track in a significant way.

Though not reflected below, our bookstore also stocks: anthologies; select nonfiction as it relates to feminism, gender, intersectionality; and literary criticism and scholarly work on speculative fiction that befits our educational mission.

What we tracked

If we held Sirens in-person this year, we would have stocked over 2,000 individual titles, with over 1,000 of these from this dataset of 1,600. The question of whether we got better at tracking is certainly up for debate, but it looks like the years 2019 and 2020 we significantly increased our number of books tracked—or very likely, expanded our definition of speculative fiction. We noticed that fewer books were being published this year, from 440 in 2019 to 368 in 2020 (likely from COVID-19-related publishing delays).

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors by Year

Out of the books in this data set, these were the rough categories we’ve imposed for our own bookstore research, sourcing, and organizing:

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors Fantasy vs. SF

Nearly all books in the “Both” category were short story collections by a single author that spanned both fantasy and science fiction.

For our own sorting, we separated out Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade categories. The two others require a bit more explanation:

  • Graphic: This includes graphic novels or comics, but doesn’t include middle grade books with spot illustrations. It also includes all age groups.
  • Short: This includes short fiction collections and novellas. It also can either be for young adults or adults, though most of these books are adult.

We told you it wasn’t perfect!

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors Fantasy by Category

But because we’re Sirens, what we really wanted to see was how many of those books were written by an author with a publicly verified LGBTQIAP+ and/or BIPOC identity:

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors LGBTQIAP+ and/or BIPOC Authors

We also took a look at the 1,000+ books from this data set of 1,600 books that we would have stocked in this year’s Sirens bookstore—and it turns out that, of those 1,000+ books, 48% (almost half!) would have been by at least one creator who identifies as LGBTQIAP+, BIPOC, or both. That translates to nearly 500 books out of this data set alone!

By publisher

As stated above, we have intentionally looked beyond major publishers to also include smaller independent presses and works published in English from non-U.S. markets. How have those numbers compared to the works published by the Big Five publishing houses here in the United States? The Big Five publishers are: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster and their in-house imprints under their respective umbrellas (Tor at Macmillan, Del Rey at Penguin Random House, for instance). These imprints under their parent companies have in-house marketing, publicity, and sales teams.

Publishers out of the Big Five range from small to midsized and even large in some other spheres of publishing. Educational giants such as Scholastic and entertainment companies like Disney have trade divisions as well as their own marketing, publicity, and sales teams, as do midsized publishers like Abrams and Workman. Some publishers like BOOM! Studios, Candlewick, and Chronicle are distributed by one of the Big Five, which means that they share a sales team but may have their own marketing and publicity teams. Smaller independent presses are distributed by yet other channels. The list of non-Big Five Publishers is truly exhaustive, but we’d like to give a shout-out to: Aqueduct Press, Small Beer Press, Sourcebooks, and Tachyon Publications—all presses whose books we stock often in our bookstore, as well as UK presses like Angry Robot and Titan.

Note: Because the data reflects the years 2016-2020, we have included Harlequin in HarperCollins’s numbers as it was acquired in 2014, but Disney Hyperion would remain separate from Hachette until 2020.

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors by Publisher

Though Penguin Random House is the largest publisher and has absorbed many speculative fiction imprints of yore, Macmillan has a larger percentage of titles we track perhaps because of their robust publishing programs from Tor, Tor.com, and various young reader imprints—and do recall, we are particularly tracking new voices in gender and speculative fiction, not series. A portion of HarperCollins’s numbers are YA—particularly fantasy—which dropped off significantly from 2019 to 2020.

The books we stock in the Sirens bookstore follows this breakdown closely, with a few percentage points in favor of Macmillan and Non-Big Five publishers, but not enough to be statistically significant. Curious to see which imprints and presses have the most books in our bookstore?

Top Presses and Imprints in the Sirens Bookstore

Note: We know a lot of children’s and young reader imprints are doing great work, but due to the consolidated nature of children’s publishing, individual imprints at Big Five houses share the same marketing, publicity, and sales teams. The number of young adult and middle grade books we ended up stocking were relative to the publisher’s size.

LGBTQIAP+ authors

Sirens is first and foremost a conference about gender in speculative literature, and one of our goals is to uplift authors who identify as queer, which encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and other identities (LGBTQIAP+) on a wide spectrum. We acknowledge that our numbers reflected here only include authors who are publicly out, either in an official biography, in a public interview, or on social media.

We are unable to provide a further breakdown of LGBTQIAP+ authors by category because these labels are rightfully fluid and may include multiple identities, and people often simply use “queer” to self-identify publicly. Please note that these books reflect number of standalone or first-in-series books by queer authors in this time period.

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors LGBTQIAP+ Authors by Year

Although the trend is encouraging, it must be observed that only 18.1% of new books by women, nonbinary, and trans authors in the speculative space in the past five years have at least one LGBTQIAP+ creator. Again, with a grain of salt that our tracking has gotten better each year since 2016, the percentage has risen as well, to 2020 being 22.0%.

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors LGBTQIAP+ Authors: Publishers vs. Sirens Bookstore

BIPOC authors

At Sirens, we acknowledge the lasting and deep-seated traumas of colonialism. Our data reflecting authors who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) is even less perfect, as is our attempt to break down the category of People of Color. Like with our authors who identify as LGBTQIAP+, our numbers reflected here only include authors who have publicly identified as BIPOC, either in an official biography, in a public interview, or on social media.

We have separated our data for BIPOC into the following categories, again fully acknowledging they are deeply imperfect: Black, Indigenous, Latinx, East Asian/Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander, South Asian/Middle Eastern, and Multiracial which contains more than one of the above categories. If authors identified as one of these categories and white, they were counted in that category. We also fully recognize that Latinx, as a colonialist construct, is a complicated identifier meant to include the communities of Mexico, Central America, and South America, but also includes white women of European descent. We have listed Afro-Latinx folk under Multiracial.

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors BIPOC Authors by Year

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors BIPOC Authors Breakdown

2020 marked a significant increase of around 9% of the previous years, 2016-2019, with an average of still only 21.9% of published titles in our criteria being authored by BIPOC. Current U.S. Census data [source] shows that only 60.1% of Americans identify as white, non-Hispanic, whereas we have included our Hispanic-identifying folks under Latinx. It is interesting to see that the categories of East/Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander and South Asian/Middle Eastern have a combined percentage of around 10%, despite being only 6% of the U.S. population. All other groups are underrepresented, especially published authors identifying as Indigenous and Multiracial.

New Books by Women, Nonbinary, and Trans Authors BIPOC Authors: Publishers vs. Sirens Bookstore

Conclusions

Over the past five years, we have observed—truly, with our imperfect data—that publishers of speculative fiction have indeed published more LGBTQIAP+ and BIPOC new voices, even if the increases are slight and a small piece of the overall publishing landscape befitting our criteria. These are our takeaways:

  • The increase has primarily been 2019 to 2020, with a 5% jump for LGBTQIAP+ voices and a 9% jump for BIPOC voices. There are many possible explanations for this, with 2020 being a singular year in several respects: the COVID-19 pandemic, social movements supporting Black Lives Matter and transgender individuals, and one of the most fraught election years in U.S. history. We can deduce—loosely—that while fewer books were published from 2019 to 2020, a greater percentage of the books that were published were authored by LGBTQIAP+ and BIPOC voices. This is a trend worth noting, but at Sirens, we lament that it took this extraordinary set of circumstances to see these increases.
  • Given that our LGBTQIAP+ and BIPOC data is publicly verified by authors, we also acknowledge that, in the 2020 literary landscape, more authors may have felt more comfortable publicly acknowledging and discussing these aspects of their identities, when they may not have previously.
  • Even with these percentages, it is significant to note that out of all the new books we tracked by women, nonbinary, and trans authors from 2016-2020, two thirds of them—around 65%—were being written by cisgender, heterosexual white women. Only in 2020 has that percentage come down to 55%.
  • Big Five publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster—are slightly below LGBTQIAP+ and BIPOC percentages than non-Big Five publishers, around 4.1% and 3.5% respectively. We can’t say this is statistically significant, but we can say…
  • In the Sirens bookstore, we do our best to provide a larger selection of books relating to gender in speculative fiction by marginalized creators. Out of the 1,600 books we tracked in this dataset, we would have stocked over 1,000 of them in this year’s Sirens bookstore—and of those 1,000 titles, 25.0% would have been by LGBTQIAP+ authors, and 30.9% would have been by BIPOC authors. Given that some creators of course identify as both LGBTQIAP+ and BIPOC, 48% of those 1,000 works that we would have stocked—or nearly 500 titles—would have been by creators who identify as LGBTQIAP+, BIPOC, or both. (And as a reminder, our bookstore would have stocked over 2,000 titles in total this year!)

Sirens is a conference on gender in fantasy literature, presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. If you appreciated this analysis or support our mission of discussing and celebrating gender diversity in speculative spaces, and you are able, please consider making a monetary donation here.

Sirens at Home is holding a virtual Books and Tea on Saturday, October 24 at 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time (6:00 p.m. Eastern Time) with some of our bookstore staff, who will share books they love and books they’re excited to read. Please learn more about Sirens at Home here, and register to receive your event links via Zoom.

 

Sirens Annual Donation Drive

When we created Sirens, we created something big and bold and bright.

A place where women and nonbinary people can gather to discuss, with both great brilliance and great excitement, the fantasy literature that we all love through an intersectional feminist lens.

A place where all attendees’ voices are valid and valuable not in spite of, but because of, their different identities, experiences, and perspectives.

A place where you can never be too much or too little. Never too smart, never too shy, never too ambitious, never too furious, never too anything.

A place where you can squeal about books over breakfast, learn from a renowned scholar over lunch, and present your literary analysis in the afternoon—all before donning your pjs, grabbing your cocoa, and listening to a famous author read from her new book at bedtime.

A place that is as much a community as it is a conference.

 

SIRENS RUNS ON DONATIONS, VOLUNTEER HOURS, AND MAGIC

When we created Sirens, we planned an upside-down budget where our expenses exceeded our revenue. Part of creating a community is providing opportunities for that community to grow—and sometimes those opportunities, such as the communal meals at Sirens, are expensive. Yet, despite those costs, we remain committed to keeping the price of Sirens as low as possible, so that more individuals have an opportunity to attend our conference and participate in our community.

As a result, the costs of presenting Sirens exceed our registration revenue by over $15,000. In fact, every time someone registers for Sirens, we lose money. Yes, this gives us heart palpitations every year!

And every year, Sirens covers that monetary gap by raising funds, in three ways, from those who can perhaps provide a bit more support. These funds go directly to covering Sirens’s costs and are critical to our ability to continue providing registrations at lower prices so that our community can continue to flourish.

If you can—if you believe in what Sirens does and you have a few bucks, or a skill, or some used books that you can share—we hope that you’ll donate to Sirens.

 

MONETARY DONATIONS

Each year, thousands of dollars of the costs of presenting Sirens are offset by monetary donations in amounts ranging from $5 to $1,500. The donors are members of the Sirens community, friends and family, and even strangers who simply believe in our mission of providing a space to discuss gender and fantasy literature. All monetary donations go directly toward the elements of Sirens that provide immediate value for attendees: catering, registration materials, audiovisual equipment, event insurance, and so forth.

If you’d like to make a donation, you may do so here. We will acknowledge you on our website, in our program book, and at Sirens.

Amount (in $USD):

Individual or Organization Name for Donation Credit:

If you leave this field blank, we will credit you as “Anonymous.”

AUCTION

The Sirens auction has become an unexpected source of funding in recent years, and one that we especially love: while raising money for Sirens, we’re also providing attendees the opportunity to obtain amazing items and services.

Auction items are frequently fun, sometimes one-of-a-kind, occasionally startling, and often a terrific deal on professional services. We’ve featured everything from geeky and fantastic t-shirts, pillows, journals, and jewelry to professional services such as manuscript critiques to query letter reviews, to art pieces such as custom digital artwork, character naming rights for upcoming books, and original watercolors.

The sky’s the limit, and if you are interested in donating an item or two for our auction, please complete our auction donation form by October 1 so that we can plan on including your donation and ensure all relevant paperwork has been completed in time. If you have any questions about what our attendees might find appealing, please email Amy at (donate at sirensconference.org).

 

BOOKSTORE

A few years ago, Narrate Conferences, Inc., the presenting 501(c)(3) charitable organization behind Sirens, began operating the Sirens bookstore as a fundraiser. This gives us the opportunity to both use the bookstore profits to support Sirens, and in defiance of the commercial market, stock our bookstore with thousands of speculative fiction titles by women and nonbinary authors—a collection that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

In many ways, our bookstore operates like any other bookstore: we acquire new books for sale just like any other store. But in two ways, our bookstore is different. First, our community frequently donates new books, just to make sure that the bookstore includes them in its inventory; sometimes these attendees work for publishers or have authored the books themselves, but more often, these attendees are simply Sirens supporters who want to help make our bookstore as wonderful 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 those books to the following address, to arrive no later than August 1, so that we can include them in our inventory. 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, CO 80135

 

TAX DEDUCTIONS

Narrate Conferences, Inc., the presenting organization behind Sirens, is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Therefore, all donations to Sirens are eligible for tax deduction in accordance with U.S. law.

 

THANK YOU

We want to thank everyone who donates at all, in any amount, any item, for your support of Sirens. So much of Sirens is magic, and we hope you know that your support is magical, too.

 

Sirens Support

When we created Sirens, we created something boldly aspirational: something smart, something friendly, something inclusive. Something that is as much a community as it is a conference. An inviting space full of respect, brilliance, and inspiration, where people both speak and listen, and where many people now feel at home.

In order to foster that community, we include elements in Sirens such as our keynote addresses that bring all attendees together, often over a shared meal. These elements raise Sirens’s costs significantly.

Yet, despite these costs, we remain committed to keeping the price of Sirens as low as possible, so that more individuals have an opportunity to attend our conference and participate in our community. As a result, we run an unusual budget structure: the costs of presenting Sirens exceed our registration revenue by over $15,000. In fact, every time someone registers for Sirens, we lose money.

We’re here to ask for your help. Each year, Sirens covers that monetary gap by raising funds, in three ways, from those who can perhaps provide a bit more support. These funds go directly to covering Sirens’s costs, and are critical to our ability to continue providing registrations at lower prices so that our community can continue to flourish.

We hope that you’ll consider supporting Sirens this year in one or more of the following ways.

 

MONETARY DONATIONS

Each year, thousands of dollars of the costs of presenting Sirens are offset by monetary donations, in amounts ranging from $5 to $1,500. The donors are members of the Sirens community, friends and family, and even strangers who simply believe in our mission of providing a space to discuss and debate the remarkable, diverse women of fantasy literature. All monetary donations go directly toward the elements of Sirens that provide immediate value for attendees: catering, t-shirts, registration bags, audiovisual equipment, event insurance, and so forth. (In fact, it’s worth noting that Sirens does not incur many of the indirect expenses that most events incur, such as salaries or office space rental, as our staff are volunteers who not only donate their time, but also use their personal computers, cellphones, and living space to plan Sirens.)

If you’d like to make a donation, in any amount, please visit our donations page. We will acknowledge you on our website, in our program book, and at Sirens.

For those of you particularly interested in programming, very soon you will be able to sponsor individual presentations for $35, and in doing so, support and encourage particular presenters or the inclusion of particular topics on our schedule. If you’d like to sponsor a programming presentation, please visit our accepted programming page. (We expect to begin posting summaries of accepted presentations very soon!) We will acknowledge you in connection with your chosen programming presentation on our website, in our program book, and at Sirens.

For those of you particularly interested in other elements of Sirens, we’re always happy to discuss sponsorship of programming and events. If you’re interested, please email us at donate at sirensconference.org. Please note that, to include your support in our program book, we must have your donation by August 15.

 

AUCTION

The Sirens auction has become an unexpected source of significant revenue in recent years, and one that we especially love: while raising money for Sirens, we’re also providing attendees the opportunity to obtain amazing items and services. Our auction includes both a silent component, culminating at our Reunion Ball, and a live component, which provides an always-raucous element to our final breakfast.

2017_Auction_Oct-28-1 2017_Auction_Menagerie

All items in our auction are donated by individuals: Sirens staff, Sirens attendees, and other Sirens supporters. These items are frequently fun, sometimes one-of-a-kind, occasionally startling, and often a terrific deal on professional services. We’ve featured everything from unique articles such as t-shirts, pillows, journals, and jewelry; to professional services such as manuscript critiques to query letter reviews; to art pieces such as custom digital artwork, character naming rights for upcoming books, and original watercolors.

The sky’s the limit, and if you are interested in donating an item or two for our auction, please email us at donate at sirensconference.org no later than October 1. (We need the advance notice for recordkeeping reasons. Thanks for understanding!)

 

NARRATE BOOKSTORE

A few years ago, Narrate Conferences, Inc., the presenting 501(c)(3) charitable organization behind Sirens, began operating the Sirens bookstore as a fundraiser. This gives us the opportunity to use the bookstore profits to support Sirens, and it also gives us the opportunity, in defiance of the commercial market, to stock our bookstore almost exclusively with fantasy books written by, or featuring, amazing women—books that we and the Sirens community love.

2016_Bookstore_Oct-20-1 2017_Bookstore_BookSurprise

In many ways, our bookstore operates like any other bookstore: we acquire new books for sale just like any other store. But in two ways, our bookstore is different. First, our community frequently donates new books, just to make sure that the bookstore includes them in its inventory; sometimes these attendees work for publishers, but more often, these attendees are simply Sirens supporters who want to help make our bookstore as wonderful 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 those books to the following address, to arrive no later than August 1, so that we can include them in our inventory. (Again, thanks for understanding about our need for the advance notice!) 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, CO 80135

2017_Bookstore_Oct-27-2 2017_Bookstore_Oct-27-3

 

TAX DEDUCTIONS

Narrate Conferences, Inc., the presenting organization behind Sirens, is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Therefore, all donations to Sirens are eligible for tax deduction in accordance with U.S. law.

 

THANK YOU

Regardless of whether you are able to provide us with additional support this year or not, and if so, regardless of the type or amount of that additional support, we thank you. This community means the world to us, and we’re both honored and humbled to say that we’re presenting our tenth year of Sirens this October.

 

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 10, Issue 7 (June 2018)

In this issue:

 

GUEST OF HONOR: ANNA-MARIE MCLEMORE

We’re interviewing each of our 2018 Guests of Honor about their inspirations, influences, and craft, as well as the role of women in fantasy literature, as befits their corresponding reunion theme.

Earlier this month, we spoke to Anna-Marie McLemore on lovers, found families within the LGBTQ+ community, her lyrical, transcendent writing style, and, as a Latina queer woman, not having the option to leave politics out of her art: “I want to write fairy tales for my communities. I want to write stories that are honest—in all their blood and history—and also hopeful—in placing LGBTQ+ characters and characters of color at their centers, in giving them space to claim the magic that belongs to them.”

Our feature on Anna-Marie also includes a review of When the Moon was Ours by B R Sanders, a list of books we feel would be friends with Anna-Marie’s books (in a new feature titled “Book Friends”), and a fantasy book list curated by Anna-Marie on the lovers theme!

 

WHERE ARE THEY NOW: GUESTS OF HONOR

This fall will mark our tenth year of Sirens. With our conference theme of reunion, it’s the perfect chance to reflect on past conferences and revisit some old friends. In this series, we check in with our past Guests of Honor to see what they’ve been up to these days. In 2010, our theme was faeries, and our Guests of Honor were Holly Black, Marie Brennan, and Terri Windling.

Read the Full Post

 

REGISTRATION AND TICKETS UPDATE

Our Sirens Supper is sold out, and we currently only have 8 tickets remaining for the Sirens Studio. If you’d like to register or purchase a ticket, we recommend you do it soon!

To individuals who have submitted programming proposals, a reminder that you have until July 10, 2018, to register and be paid in full for this year’s conference.

Register or Purchase Tickets

 

PROGRAMMING

After the presenter registration deadline of July 10, we’ll be revealing this year’s highly-anticipated presentations on our Twitter 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, whether it was your first or tenth time, for another wonderful year of presentations!

 

SIRENS BOOKSTORE, ATTENDING AUTHORS, AND BOOK DONATIONS

A few years ago, we began stocking our own bookstore as a fundraiser for Sirens. This allows us, in defiance of the commercial market among many other benefits, to stock our bookstore exclusively with fantasy books written by, or featuring, amazing women. Bookstore stocking is well underway for this year’s conference!

If you are an attending author with published books, we’d like to make sure your books are in our bookstore! Please email Amy at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org).

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, 2018. (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 conference mornings and discuss them. Here are this year’s 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

Please check out the first Books and Breakfast post on the blog, here.

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB

The Prey of Gods

This month for her book club, Sirens co-founder Amy Tenbrink reviews Nicky Drayden’s The Prey of Gods: “To envision a realistic world, set in the near future, that includes both sentient AI and a living mythology, and then to envision that world saved by an almost random group of often-marginalized people is an act born of tremendous ambition.” More thoughts on the blog and on Goodreads.

 

READ ALONG WITH FAYE

Her Body and Other Parties

Communications Director Faye Bi reads Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties for her reading challenge this month, which she describes as “punch-you-in-the-face, unabashedly feminist. Darkly hilarious. Sex-positive. Queer. Smart as hell. More often than not, brutal … [these stories] know exactly what they are and do not have the time—or patience—to beat around the bush.” Read her full review on the blog and on Goodreads.

 

SIRENS REVIEW SQUAD

From Unseen Fire

Our Logistics and Art Director Manda Lewis reviews Cass Morris’s debut, From Unseen Fire, the first of her Aven Cycle trilogy; she found Morris’s historical research of a Romanesque republic particularly noteworthy: “I was easily pulled into the world with her rich descriptions of the city, its people, the architecture, the food, and even the fabric!” Read her full review here.

 

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).

 

Sirens Support

When we created Sirens, we created something different: something smart, something friendly, something inclusive. Something that is as much a community as it is a conference. An inviting space full of respect, brilliance, and inspiration, where people both speak and listen, and where many people now feel at home.

In order to foster that community, we include elements in Sirens such as our Thursday afternoon tea and our keynote addresses that bring all attendees together, often over a shared meal. These elements raise Sirens’s costs significantly.

Yet, despite these costs, we remain committed to keeping the price of Sirens as low as possible, so that more individuals have an opportunity to attend our conference and participate in our community. As a result, we run an unusual budget structure: the costs of presenting Sirens exceed our registration revenue by over $12,000. In fact, every time someone registers for Sirens, we lose money.

We’re asking for your help. Each year, Sirens covers that monetary gap by raising funds, in three ways, from those who can perhaps provide a bit more support. These funds go directly to covering Sirens’s costs, and are critical to our ability to continue providing registrations at lower prices so that our community can continue to flourish.

We hope that you’ll consider supporting Sirens this year in one of the following ways.

 

MONETARY DONATIONS

Each year, thousands of dollars of the costs of presenting Sirens are offset by monetary donations, in amounts ranging from $5 to $1,500. The donors are members of the Sirens community, friends and family, and even strangers who simply believe in our mission of providing a space to discuss and debate the remarkable, diverse women of fantasy literature. All monetary donations go directly toward the elements of Sirens that provide immediate value for attendees: catering, t-shirts, registration bags, audiovisual equipment, event insurance, and so forth. (In fact, it’s worth noting that Sirens does not incur many of the indirect expenses that most events incur, such as salaries or office space rental, as our staff are volunteers who not only donate their time, but also use their personal computers, cellphones, and living space to plan Sirens.)

If you’d like to make a donation, in any amount, please visit our donations page. We will acknowledge you on our website, in our program book, and at Sirens.

For those of you particularly interested in programming, very soon you will be able to sponsor individual presentations for $35, and in doing so, support and encourage particular presenters or the inclusion of particular topics on our schedule. If you’d like to sponsor a programming presentation, please visit our accepted programming page. (We expect to begin posting summaries of accepted presentations July 24!) We will acknowledge you in connection with your chosen programming presentation on our website, in our program book, and at Sirens.

For those of you particularly interested in other elements of Sirens, we’re always happy to discuss sponsorship of other programming and events. If you’re interested, please email us at (donate at sirensconference.org).

 

AUCTION

The Sirens auction has become an unexpected source of significant revenue in recent years, and one that we especially love: while raising money for Sirens, we’re also providing attendees the opportunity to obtain amazing items and services. Our auction includes both a silent component, culminating at our Toil and Trouble Ball, and a live component, which provides an always-raucous element to our final breakfast.

All items in our auction are donated by individuals: Sirens staff, Sirens attendees, and other Sirens supporters. These items are frequently fun, sometimes one-of-a-kind, occasionally startling, and often a terrific deal on professional services. We’ve featured everything from unique articles such as t-shirts, pillows, journals, and jewelry; to professional services such as manuscript critiques and query letter reviews; to art pieces such as custom digital artwork, character naming rights for upcoming books, and original watercolors.

The sky’s the limit, and if you are interested in donating an item or two for our auction, please email us at (donate at sirensconference.org).

 

NARRATE BOOKSTORE

A few years ago, Narrate Conferences, Inc., the presenting 501(c)(3) charitable organization behind Sirens, began operating the Sirens bookstore as a fundraiser. This gives us the opportunity to use the bookstore profits to support Sirens. But it also gives us the opportunity, in defiance of the commercial market, to stock our bookstore exclusively with fantasy books written by, or featuring, amazing women—books that we and the Sirens community love.

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, our community frequently donates new books, just to make sure that the bookstore includes them in its inventory; sometimes these attendees work for publishers, but more often, these attendees are simply Sirens supporters who want to help make our bookstore as wonderful 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, CO 80135

 

TAX DEDUCTIONS

Narrate Conferences, Inc., the presenting organization behind Sirens, is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Therefore, all donations to Sirens are eligible for tax deduction in accordance with U.S. law.

 

THANK YOU

Regardless of whether you are able to provide us with additional support this year or not, and if so, regardless of the type or amount of that additional support, we thank you. This community means the world to us, and we’re both honored and humbled to say that we’re presenting our ninth year of Sirens this October.

 

What is a great book that you’ve found in the Sirens bookstore?

s.e. smith (@realsesmith)
Amy is a dangerous fiend, so I can honestly say that I’ve found many great books in the bookstore thanks to her ongoing efforts to ruin my credit score. However, my current fave is the infamous Enchanted Chocolate Pot book that everyone raves about — you absolutely have to get it when you come, and you’d better get it fast, because they always sell out.
 

Sherwood Smith (@sherwood_smith)
I sat here for the longest time trying to figure out which books I’d first encountered in the Sirens bookstore, until it occurred to me that it was less about individual books than about new female names in publishing.

Every Sirens I attend, I come away with a long scribbled list of people to check out, which might take me most of the rest of the year. This is my favorite way of finding new reads: word of mouth from other readers, whose enthusiasm I can see. And I love, love, LOVE the fact that most of these writers and books turn out to be diverse. It’s much tougher these days for these voices to be heard, so I doubly appreciate Sirens for my exposure to these new voices.
 

Edith Hope Bishop (@ehbishop)
The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, edited by Rose Lemberg, made me exceptionally happy when I found it. So many beautiful and breathtaking pieces behind that lovely cover art by Terri Windling.
 

@jazzagold
I was super excited to read Yoon Ha Lee’s collection of short stories, A Conservation of Shadows. I actually first came across Yoon’s games first, as I am a bit of an interactive fiction nerd. So when I found out that Yoon had written short stories, was coming out with a novel AND was a guest of honor?

You can also add A Darker Shade of Magic.

Oh and Fire Logic. I actually bought Earth Logic and Water Logic, as I know Laurie is coming to this year’s Sirens. So mad I can’t come. Cannot wait for Air Logic.

The bookstore is a dangerous place.
 

Sirens Support

When we created Sirens, we created something different: something smart, something friendly, something communal. A place where people feel welcome to both speak and listen, where people respect others and their differing opinions, and that, to many people, now feels like home.

In order to foster that community, we include elements in Sirens, such as our Thursday afternoon tea and our keynote addresses, that bring all attendees together. Those elements raise the cost of presenting Sirens significantly, and challenge our commitment to keeping the cost of attendance as low as possible for all attendees. As a result, we run an unusual budget structure: the costs of presenting Sirens far exceed our registration revenue.

We’d like to talk for a moment about how Sirens makes up that gap, and how you can help. Each year, Sirens raises in excess of $10,000 in monetary donations, auction proceeds, and bookstore revenue. Each of those is vital to the continued success—and availability—of Sirens, and each of those depends on the support of the Sirens community. We hope that you’ll consider supporting Sirens this year in one of the following ways.

 

Monetary Donations

Each year, thousands of dollars of the costs of presenting Sirens are offset by monetary donations—and it’s worth noting that none of our staff receive a dime (or a free registration or hotel room) in exchange for their work on Sirens. All monetary donations go straight toward the elements of Sirens that provide immediate value for attendees: catering, t-shirts, registration bags, audiovisual equipment, dance floor rental, and so forth.

We are always thrilled to take donations in any amount. Many of our monetary donations come in from our staff, but we also receive donations from attendees, friends and family of attendees, and from strangers who believe in our mission of supporting the remarkable women of fantasy literature. For those of you particularly interested in programming, you can sponsor individual presentations, and in doing so, support particular presenters or the inclusion of particular topics. For those of you particularly interested in other elements of Sirens, we’re always happy to discuss sponsorship of other programming and events.

If you’d like to make a donation, please visit our donations page.

If you’d like to sponsor a programming presentation, please visit our accepted programming page.

If you’d like to discuss a different sponsorship or donation, please email us at (donate at sirensconference.org).

 

Auction

Quilt-NoSignatures AuctionPile-3

The Sirens auction has become an unexpected source of a significant amount of revenue in recent years, and one that we especially love: while raising money for Sirens, we’re also providing attendees the opportunity to obtain amazing items and services. Our auction includes both a silent component, culminating at our Insurgents’ Ball, and a live component, which provides an always-raucous element to our final breakfast.

All items in our auction are donated by individuals: Sirens staff, Sirens attendees, and other Sirens supporters. These items are frequently fun, sometimes one-of-a-kind, occasionally startling, and often a terrific deal on professional services. We’ve featured everything from unique articles such as t-shirts, pillows, journals, and jewelry; to professional services such as manuscript editorial letters to synopsis drafting; to art pieces such as custom digital artwork, character naming rights for upcoming books, and original watercolors. The sky’s the limit, and if you are interested in donating an item or two for our auction, please email us at (donate at sirensconference.org).

 

Narrate Bookstore

BookstoreThursNight-5 BookstoreThursNight-1

A few years ago, Narrate Conferences, Inc., the presenting 501(c)(3) charitable organization behind Sirens, began operating the Sirens bookstore as a fundraiser. 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. But more than that, this gives us the opportunity to fill a bookstore with books that we—and the Sirens community—love.

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, we frequently have attendees donate new books, just to make sure that the bookstore includes them in its inventory; sometimes these attendees work for publishers, but more often, these attendees are simply Sirens supporters who want to 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 this address, to arrive no later than September 19, 2015. (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, CO 80135

 

Tax Deductions

Narrate Conferences, Inc., the presenting organization behind Sirens, is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Therefore, all donations to Sirens are eligible for tax deduction in accordance with U.S. law.

Regardless of whether you are able to support us financially or with in-kind donations or not, and if you do donate, regardless of the type or amount of your donation, we thank you for your support of Sirens. This community means the world to us, and we’re both honored and humbled to say that we’re presenting our seventh year of Sirens less than two months from now.

 

Sirens Auction and Bookstore

At Sirens, we’re committed to keeping the cost of attendance as low as possible for all attendees. Because of that commitment, we run an unusual budget structure: the costs of presenting Sirens far exceed our registration revenue.

Each year, exceptionally kind individuals, many of them on our staff, cover approximately half that gap through thousands of dollars in donations. And each year the Sirens auction and bookstore raise thousands more dollars to cover the rest of that gap. In other words, our donors’ generosity, and our auction and bookstore, are necessary to making Sirens, a space that discusses and celebrates the remarkable women of fantasy literature, real.

And you can help.

 

Auction

Our auction includes both a silent component, during our Insurgents Ball, and a live component, during our final breakfast. The items, all donations from wonderful individuals, have ranged from unique articles such as t-shirts, pillows, journals, and jewelry; to professional services such as manuscript editorial letters to synopsis drafting; to art pieces such as custom digital artwork, character naming rights for upcoming books, and original watercolors. The sky’s the limit, and if you are interested in donating an item or two for our auction, please email us at (donate at sirensconference.org).

Quilt-NoSignatures AuctionPile-3
 

Bookstore

Once a year, we dig through our bookshelves, inquire of our friends, and stock a bookstore full of (almost) entirely fantasy works written by women. While we select much of our new inventory, friends of Sirens have been known to send us new books that they want to make sure we have for sale. Our bookstore also contains a used section, where every book is only $5, and that section is stocked with donations of gently used books. If you would like to donate fantasy books by or featuring remarkable women, whether new or used, please send them to us at the following address, so that they arrive no later than September 19, 2015. (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, CO 80135

BookstoreThursNight-5 BookstoreThursNight-1
 

Monetary Donations

We are always delighted to accept monetary donations as they defray thousands of dollars of Sirens’s costs each year. You can donate here. In July, after our programming is finalized, you’ll also have the option of sponsoring a programming topic that inspires your fancy and show your support for presenters.

 

Tax Deductions

Narrate Conferences, Inc., the presenting organization behind Sirens, is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Therefore, all donations to Sirens are eligible for tax deduction in accordance with U.S. law.

 

To everyone who donates to Sirens—whether cash, auction items, books, or time—we thank you.

You are the fairy godmothers who make Sirens possible.

 

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 7, Issue 8 (June 2015)

In this issue:

 

SIRENS SCHOLARSHIPS AND DEADLINES
This year, because of the generosity of the Sirens community, we are pleased to offer scholarships in three categories: via Con or Bust, for programming proposal merit, and for people with financial hardships. Each scholarship includes both a Sirens registration and a Sirens Shuttle ticket. Con or Bust is coordinating the first set of scholarships (and two were claimed at the time of this writing), and to be eligible for a programming merit scholarships, presenters opted in during the submissions process. Sirens is taking financial hardships scholarships applications until June 15, 2015. If you need assistance, we hope you’ll consider applying for a scholarship.

 

PROGRAMMING DECISIONS ARE COMING!
Notices regarding programming proposals will be sent no later than June 8, 2015 (and you should expect them close to or on that date, rather than sooner). Please note, however, that if we’re still tracking down your co-presenters, a decision may be delayed. Thank you in advance for making sure that all proposal collaborators have checked in! We’ll be sending programming scholarships decisions with the decisions on proposals. The vetting board and the scholarships committee both thank you for your participation, and are giving thoughtful consideration to your proposals.

 

REGISTRATION PRICE INCREASE AND PRESENTER REGISTRATION DEADLINE
The last day to register for Sirens for $195 is July 7; the price increases to $205 on July 8. July 7 is also the deadline to register for presenters; if you’re a presenter and need an extra day or two to register and pay, be sure to coordinate with (programming at sirensconference.org) so that your accepted presentation is not dropped from the schedule.

 

SIRENS STUDIO
For the first time, Sirens is delighted to offer a pre-conference option for readers, writers, scholars, and professionals! The Sirens Studio will start Tuesday morning and feature two days of workshop intensives, discussion, networking opportunities, and flexible time for you to use however you wish. Check out the schedule, workshops, and faculty here.

 

SIRENS SUPPER
If you’ll be in Denver on the evening of October 7, 2015, perhaps you’d like to join us for the Sirens Supper. Each year, our conference staff hosts a dinner for a limited number of attendees and friends, where we get to know each other before Sirens starts, and you’re welcome to come. The menu: petite greens with jicama, orange segments, cilantro-lime dressing and cornbread croutons; local corn and roasted poblano chili chowder; a medley of fresh, seasonal vegetables; black bean rice pilaf; fresh baked rolls and butter; baked salmon with Yucatan spices and coconut; cane sugar-rubbed roasted pork loin with Creole mustard sauce; quinoa-stuffed eggplant with roasted pepper marinara; margarita cheesecake; fruit empanadas; and coffee and hot tea. Tickets are $60, and those who also register for the Sirens Studio get $10 off the dinner price.

 

SIRENS SHUTTLE
Ground transportation in Denver is expensive, and Denver’s public transportation isn’t what it could be. In addition, the Inverness Hotel, the location for Sirens, is out of the way. Sirens offers discounted group transportation so that you can ride to and from Denver International Airport. We’ll pick you up and return you to the airport for $60, less than other vendors want for a one-way trip. You can add tickets for yourself or friends on a new registration or to an existing registration. Get more information and the Sirens Shuttle schedule here.

 

AUCTION AND BOOKSTORE DONATIONS
Each year, Sirens covers thousands of dollars in operating expenses with the proceeds from our conference auction and bookstore. While the bookstore does purchase its new inventory, Sirens attendees and supporters always generously donate both auction items and used fantasy books in order to help us raise these necessary funds. Auction items can—and have been—everything from custom artwork to professional services, advanced reader copies of fantasy books to t-shirts, pillows, and journals. Anything that might interest fantasy readers, writers, or professionals is welcome. Similarly, we accept gently used fantasy books by female authors or featuring complex female protagonists for the used section of the bookstore. If you are interested in donating an auction item, please email Amy Tenbrink at (donate at sirensconference.org) to let her know that you’ll be supporting our auction; if you are donating used books, please send them so they reach us at the following address no later than September 19, 2015 (and you can use media mail!):

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

Thank you for your support!

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB

TheMirrorEmpire

Come read with us! Sirens co-founder Amy leads the Sirens Book Club each month. June’s book is The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga #1) by Kameron Hurley. Join the discussion here on Goodreads, starting on Saturday, June 6.

 

YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT…

Interesting Links:

We are saddened to hear of the passing of Tanith Lee (1945–2015)

Fairy tales, fantasy and dangerous female desire: Celebrating Angela Carter, the literary link between Bros. Grimm and ‘50 Shades’”

Subversive Pleasure”: On Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber

5 Black Women Authors Everyone Should Be Reading”

Dear Marvel and Sony: We Love Movies for Their Kick-Ass Female Heroes, Too, You Jerks”

Feminist Thor Selling Way More Comic Books Than Dude Thor”

2015 Locus Awards Finalists

2014 Shirley Jackson Awards Nominees

The 2015 Norton Award jury has convened and seeks entries; young adult and middle grade books with speculative content published in 2015 are eligible

Lumberjanes optioned for a live action movie

 

Recent Releases:
This month, we’re changing how we tell you about recent releases. In July’s newsletter, we’ll give you the June roundup. We love to hear about new books, whether yours or those you’re anticipating; please send the details to (help at sirensconference.org).

 

SIRENS REVIEW SQUAD
We’d love a few more volunteers to supply us with short reviews of works they have read and loved. If you think you could contribute a book review of at least 250 words sometime during the next year, we would be pleased to have your recommendation for the Sirens newsletter.

Review squad volunteering is flexible; we simply ask that you share information about books you’ve enjoyed. (We are, of course, especially interested in fantasy books by and about women, and we hope you’ll consider interesting, diverse selections.) You can contribute once or on an ongoing basis, and on a schedule that works for you. Please visit the volunteer system and, when we ask you what position you’re interested in, type in “Book Reviewer.”

 

This month, 2009 Sirens Guest of Honor Sherwood Smith offers us a look at two recent releases.

Crimson Bound, Rosamund Hodge
Uprooted, Naomi Novik

Some twenty, twenty-five years ago, I recollect a lot of scorn poured on the pastoral fantasy. Which is fine—no every subgenre pleases every reader, blah blah—but (as people will) the pastoral novel was derided as being not only twee but backward-looking, especially compared to the Cool New Cyberpunk, which was all about the edge of the future.

Of course there were readers who cheerfully admitted to liking both. I remember rolling my eyes and bailing discussions as soon as they devolved into if-this-is-good-that-has-to-be-bad. Especially when “pastoral” was narrowly defined as twee stories about sweetly eccentric English hedge witches and revampings of Beatrix Potter. (To which I once responded, have you actually reread Beatrix Potter recently? Or the poetry of William Blake?)

Anyway, for whatever reasons, pastoral fantasies largely went out of fashion, at least I hadn’t seen any until this month when two came out within days of each other. They contained a lot of similar elements, they were not set in an idyllic England, and they are very, very not twee.

These are Crimson Bound, by Rosamund Hodge, and Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

Before I talk about them, I want to address what I think pastoral fantasy is. This is an old form that resurfaces every few generations, in art, poetry, and fairy tales. It’s not always twee or cute, though there is an emphasis on natural beauties. But pastoral fantasy can explore beauty that is dangerous, inspiring but unsettling, powerful and even subversive because it has not been neatly clipped into box hedges, cemented over, and civilized into an urban pretense of order.

CrimsonBoundPastoral fantasy is not grimdark, which emphasizes the ugly and grinds down the dispossessed; it permits the tangle of the forest to get its roots and leaves into the urban walls and streets. Pastoral fantasy can be dark and dangerous but also full of beauty, hope, and tenderness: you can die in the same wilderness you go to experience peace, beauty, and calm. Alone in nature, you become aware that you are not the most powerful force there.

I think that that is the most important distinction of pastoral fantasy: that humans are not the most powerful force.

Neither of these two new novels takes place in fantasy England: Uprooted is set in a semblance of eastern Europe, and Crimson Bound in a fairy tale France circa the seventeenth century—which was a time of dynamic change.

In both, the woods play a fundamental role—a threatening, dangerous, horrific role. Some of the most evocative writing in both books is about the forest and its dangerous nature.

From Crimson Bound:

Erec led them through the Chateau, and it was almost the forest. Bleeding through the marble hallways, Rachelle saw labyrinthine paths between trees whose branches wove together overhead until they seemed like a single plant.

Birds called with warbling, half-human voices. The wind dug its fingers into her hair, burned at her eyes.

From Uprooted:

There was a falling tree stretching across the space, a giant, its trunk taller across than I was. Its fall had opened up this clearing, and in the middle of it, a new tree had sprung up to take its place.

But not the same kind of tree. All the other trees I’d seen in the Wood had been familiar kinds, despite their stained bark and the twisted unnatural angles of their branches: oaks and black birch, and tall pines. But this was no kind of tree I had ever seen.

It was already larger around than the circle my arms could make, even though the giant tree couldn’t have fallen very long ago. It had smooth gray bark over a strangely knotted trunk, with long branches in even circles around it, starting high up the trunk like a larch. its branches weren’t bare with winter, but carried a host of dried-up silvery leaves that rustled in the wind, a noise that seem to come from somewhere else, as though there were people just out of sight speak softly together.

I’d say both books are New Adult or above; both are centered around seventeen-year-old girls who gain terrific powers, tackle adult relationships, and fight their way against terrible odds. Uprooted is pastoral fantasy but also horror, and Crimson Bound, while not horror, is more of a dark fantasy; while it doesn’t have the Die Hard body count of Uprooted, it is no slouch in dealing with duels and death.

UprootedAnd in both the woods are compellingly dangerous.

In spite of these similar elements, they are very different books. To read one is not at all to have read the other. I talk about them more specifically on Goodreads here and here; though they head in different directions (and I’m not getting more specific lest I tread into spoiler territory), there is one important element they share: their exploration of female emotional growth, and agency.

These heroines are not looking backward, nor are the thematic elements of their stories. They are playing out, in entertaining format, what life will be like for young women moving into positions of authority. That includes the cost of moral and ethical choices, and the inexorable ramifications of decisions made when you have the power to effect others’ lives.

Both are immersive, compelling reads, and in spite of the retro-fantasy setting, have a great deal to say about issues right now. –Sherwood Smith


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

 

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 6, Travel Edition (October 2014)

In this issue:

 

CHECK-IN AT SIRENS
Our Registration Desk will open at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 16. We’ll be located in the Baker room in the conference center at Skamania Lodge. To pick up your registration, please bring photo identification and a copy of your registration confirmation.

The official check-in time at Skamania Lodge is 4:00 p.m. If you arrive earlier and you wish to store your luggage, please talk to the hotel’s front desk.

The Narrate Conferences bookstore will be located in Baker. In the Rainier room, afternoon tea will be available beginning at 3:00 p.m. and evening appetizers at 5:00, and we’ll also host fantasy games, meet-ups, and space to chat.

If you’re arriving early and would like to meet others for lunch, please stop by the Cascade Dining Room at noon on Thursday, October 16. If you’d like to meet others for dinner, either in Skamania Lodge or in nearby Stevenson, please stop by Rainier at 5:00 p.m. on October 16. Even if you aren’t looking for company, if you’d like recommendations on places to eat, we’re happy to oblige.

If you’re attending the Sirens Supper on Wednesday, October 15, you should have received information via email; if you did not, please write to (help at sirensconference.org).

 

CONTACTING US DURING SIRENS
Many of our staff will be traveling to Stevenson as early as Friday, October 10, to prepare for Sirens. While we are in transit and when we’re on site unpacking and setting things up for the conference, we will not be able to monitor our emails as closely as we do at other times. If you have an urgent inquiry during this time, please send it to (help at sirensconference.org) and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.

During the conference, the best way to contact us is in person! If you have any questions or would simply like to chat, please stop by our information desk in Skamania Lodge’s Baker room starting at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 16.

 

SIRENS SHUTTLE MEET-UPS
Does your flight arrive early on Wednesday or Thursday, or are you driving to Portland International Airport (PDX) and meeting the shuttle there? There will be meet-ups for attendees at PDX on Wednesday, October 15, and Thursday, October 16, for anyone arriving early who’d like to connect with other attendees. Once you have claimed your bags, please feel free to join us as we gather for a little conversation and perhaps a bite to eat before it’s time to board the Sirens Shuttle. There is no host for these meetups, and lunch is on your own.

Location: Beaches Restaurant and Bar, outside the security checkpoint for Concourses D and E at Portland International Airport
Time: Noon and later

Sirens Shuttle check-in point, both Wednesday and Thursday:
Seating area near Baggage Claim 2/Southwest Airlines baggage assistance desk/TriMet MAX light rail exit from the airport
Time: Please gather by 3:00 p.m. to ride the Sirens Shuttle.

 

REGISTERING AT SIRENS
We have very few on-site registrations available, and those will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis starting Thursday, October 16, when the information desk opens at 3:00 p.m. If you have been thinking about coming and don’t yet have a registration, you might check the message boards; there may be a few for sale by people who can’t make it this year.

 

VOLUNTEERING DURING SIRENS
We still have many openings for volunteers, and we’d love to have your help! The shifts are usually no more than an hour or two long. We’re always in need of room monitors, who typically stay in the room during presentations, help the presenters get situated, and keep things running on time.

If you’re interested or would like more information, please take a look at the schedule on our Volunteer page and email us at (volunteers2014 at sirensconference.org) with your top three shift choices and the number of shifts for which you’d like to volunteer. Thank you in advance!

 

BOOKSTORE
Thank you to everyone who has donated books! We really appreciate your support for our mission, and we hope you’ll stop by during Sirens to browse and maybe find a new (or new-to-you) book to add to your collection. We will also continue to accept donations on site; if you have a moment, please contact Amy Tenbrink at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org) with what you plan to donate. If you’re planning to shop, we’ll have books by the guests of honor, from the Books and Breakfast list, and by attending authors, as well as a selection of other really good reads.

 

AUCTION
Do you have an item to donate for this year’s auction? Please let us know by the end of the day on Thursday, October 16. All sorts of items are welcome! If you’d like to donate an item or you have questions, please email Amy Tenbrink at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org). She’d love to hear what you’re planning and address any concerns you might have. Thank you in advance for your support!

 

TRAVEL TIPS
Packing and Weather
October in the Pacific Northwest generally ranges from the upper 40s to low 60s Fahrenheit (about 7–17 Celsius), and there is always a chance of rain. Be sure to pack comfortable, casual layers to make the transition between indoors and outdoors—and the temperature that you prefer in your room and the temperature of the conference space—more comfortable. Sturdy closed-toe walking shoes are recommended, as is a raincoat or umbrella. For more packing tips, please check out the Travel page of our website.

Driving Directions
Directions for those driving to Skamania Lodge from the north, south, or east can be found on our website.

Where to Eat in Stevenson
Skamania Lodge has two restaurants on site, both featuring locally sourced regional cuisine. River Rock, the bar and restaurant next to the lobby, is the more informal of the two and typically has slightly lower prices. The Cascade Dining Room, which is farther down the hallway past River Rock, is more formal and has fantastic views of the Columbia River. On Sunday mornings, the Cascade Dining Room hosts a champagne brunch, which might make a nice splurge if you’re leaving late; be sure to make reservations in advance. The hotel gift shop has snacks and grab-and-go items. The lobby offers free tea, coffee, and cocoa in the mornings. Room service is available from 7:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m. The hotel will also offer grab-and-go options like juice and pastries in the Conference Center Lobby if you need a breakfast to bring to Books and Breakfast.

If you’d prefer to have a meal outside the hotel, the official Stevenson website offers a listing of area restaurants on their Dining page, and you can check the last pages of your program book for our list of nearby eateries. Please note that the hotel does not provide shuttle service to Stevenson.

 

TWITTER SCHEDULE
Beginning on Thursday, October 15, we will be posting the conference schedule on our Twitter. If you prefer not to receive these reminders, you may want to mute or unfollow @sirens_con until Monday, October 20. (The schedule will not be posted on Facebook, though a few highlights might be.)


Questions? You can comment here or write to us at (help at sirensconference.org).

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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