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Sirens Newsletter – Volume 12, Issue 3 (March 2020)

This month:

We hope the end of March finds you and yours well, healthy, and safe! In these tumultuous times, know that we are thinking of our whole Sirens community and holding you in our hearts.

We also hope we can bring some reading content to lift your spirits! At a time when the whole world is finding solace in fictional worlds, we’re proud to contribute to ongoing conversations about those worlds and their creators.

Guest of Honor Week: Joamette Gil

Last week, we celebrated Guest of Honor Joamette Gil with a series of posts! Joamette is a cartoonist and the head of P&M Press, an independent comics micro-press specializing in speculative fiction by creators of color, LGBTQIA creators, and creators at the intersections. We’re delighted to be welcoming her as the Guest of Honor for the 2020 Sirens Studio.

Don’t miss her Sirens interview, recommended reading list, and the roundup of her appearances elsewhere on the internet. Get to know Joamette’s work as an editor with Andrea Horbinski’s review of Heartwood: Non-Binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy, a collection of woodland-themed comics from non-binary creators.

Since Joamette is our Studio Guest of Honor, we also wanted to remind you that registration for Studio is still open! We’re more than half sold out, so if you want to guarantee your space, register now.

Look for more Guest of Honor weeks as the spring progresses!



Submissions are now open!

If your recent binge-reading, Zoom chats, and inner contemplations have you eager to share your thoughts, we encourage you to submit a programming proposal before the deadline of May 15. We’re looking for a wide variety of topics and perspectives exploring gender and fantasy literature—maybe even on this year’s theme of villains!

If you want to present but have questions, concerns, or hesitations, the Sirens team is here to help! For more information about the types of programming at Sirens, what our vetting board is looking for, and how to submit, see our annual programming series Check out the #SirensBrainstorm tag on Twitter to get those brain juices flowing, or join us for the next programming chat on Monday, May 4, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific).


Sirens Essays

Sirens Essay Series

Our essay series continued this month with contributions that examine issues of representation, power dynamics, and audience reception of narratives:

In A Wife Should Have No Secrets: Unthinking Privilege and Privacy in Carmen Maria Machado’s “The Husband Stitch”, Faye Bi explores the transformation of folklore into a nuanced narrative of “social horrors.”

Witch, Please: An Apologia for and Indictment of Mean-Girls Stories in Young Adult Fantasy Literature, by Amy Tenbrink, examines common tropes of female social dynamics and their relationship to heteropatriarchal power structures.



One thing bringing the whole world together right now, it seems, is the opportunity to make a real dent in our TBR piles—or to grow them ever larger as new books and graphic novels keep coming out! If you can’t decide what to read next or are looking for things to order from your local indie bookstore, the Sirens team has some ideas to help you choose:

Book Recommendations and Reviews:

We’re delighted to share a few staff picks from March’s new releases:

Breath of Gods

Erynn’s Pick: Breath of Gods, by Tina LeCount Myers

As it is the third volume, preceded by The Song of All and Dreams of the Dark Sky, my recommendation is the Legacy of the Heavens Series, which this book concludes. This slow-building epic fantasy, set in a premodern arctic world, is based on folktales from the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia and draws from the Sámi languages. The conflicts center around a few key characters on the edge of a world divided into the Olmmoš, or humans, and the fey-like Jápmemeahttun, immortals who possess a natural power to obscure themselves and experience gender in a unique way.

The prose is beautiful and clean with a steady, informative pace. There’s subtle magic, excellent world building, and stories of found family. But above all, I really wanted to find a book with the right blend of escape and inspiration to fit this somber month, and the subtext of consciousness and compassion in the face of crisis is what makes this series exactly that.

The City We Became

Faye’s Pick: The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin

As New York has become a new epicenter of COVID-19, it has made me realize just how amazing and devastating living here can be. These days, the high population density means that interaction with neighbors ranges from silent cohabitation to unspoken acts of kindness that can make the difference between life and death. Where small businesses and big dreams hang by a thread, just one rent check away from opportunity or ruin, and a place where daily acts of heroism meet anonymous beneficiaries.

A continuation of Jemisin’s award-winning short story, The City We Became is considered a love letter to New York City, where five souls—one from each borough—need to protect the city from an ancient evil. And it’s just what I need right now, an astute, even funny, reminder that my home holds a multitude of diversity, ambition, complexity, and poetry in this extraordinary time, plus a little side-eye “screw you” to H.P. Lovecraft.

A Pale Light in the Black

Cass’s Pick: A Pale Light in the Black, by K.B. Wagers
Disclaimer: K.B. Wagers is a member of the Sirens staff.

I recommended this book on Twitter as “absolutely both buck-wild and queer af,” and I stand by that description. A Pale Light in the Black follows a crew of the Near-Earth Orbital Guard, or the NeoG, who are basically space Coast Guard. They’re just doing their jobs and training for a sort of pan-armed-forces Olympics when a discovery on a derelict ship and the arrival of a new member of the team entangle them with a nefarious, deep-rooted scheme.

If you’ve read Wagers’s prior Indranan War and Farian War series, the NeoG is somewhat lighter fare. The overall tone made me think of a slightly rougher-around-the-edges Star Trek with some of the ethical concerns of Gattaca shading it. The adventure clips along at a good pace, and as always, Wagers shines in creating imperfect characters for a reader to cheer on and adore. The NeoG team is definitely one I look forward to spending more time within the future!


As a final note, if you need some real-time but socially-distanced interaction, join us April 1 at 8 p.m. on Twitter for #SirensChat. This month’s theme is something we all need right now: humor!

This newsletter is brought to you by:

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


Sirens Newsletter – Volume 12, Issue 2 (February 2020)

This month:

Whether you’ve been deep in winter coze, enjoyed an unexpected early spring, or battled a weather system that’s playing hopscotch with its seasonal choices, we hope you’ve had a great, story-filled month!

We hope, too, that some of those stories may have planted the seeds for conversations you’d like to have at Sirens this year, because the time of programming submissions is nearly at hand! Sirens needs you to make the conference’s many hours of presentations possible. It truly does take everyone: not only scholars and authors, but readers, librarians, lawyers, educators, retail workers, publishing professionals, booksellers, farriers, and other attendees from all walks of life. Sirens knows you have something important to share, and we hope you’ll submit a proposal to join this year’s sure-to-be-amazing slate of presenters!

Programming Series

On March 16, we will be opening the proposals system for submissions. We know that some of you have been champing at the bit with ideas—and that some of you might need help with inspiration and guidance. Sirens is here to assist!

In Unsex Me Here: Power, Gender, and Villainy, we answered the question: “Why Villains?” as the theme for Sirens 2020. It’s not only a natural counterpart to 2019’s theme of heroes; it also provides us with much fertile territory to explore in the realm of gender and power dynamics, revenge fantasies, and redemption. We can’t wait to see what our fabulous attendees will bring us this year.

But that said, all topics relevant to gender and fantasy literature are possible proposal topics. While proposals might address this year’s theme, they do not need do. Want to discuss monsters or witches or hauntings, as Sirens has in past years? Great! Or family structures or queerness or adventure—or all three? That’s great, too! How about race and portal fantasy and magic systems? Yes, please!

Have some nebulous ideas and want to talk them out? Join us for a Sirens programming chat on Sunday, March 22, 2-4pm Eastern (11am-1pm Pacific) or Monday, May 4, 9-11pm Eastern (6-8pm Pacific) to discuss your thoughts with Sirens staff and other attendees! Or maybe you know you’d like to participate in programming but are having trouble coming up with an idea? Check out the #SirensBrainstorm tag on Twitter to get those brain-juices flowing.

Be sure to follow our annual programming series for guidance on all the technical aspects of submitting to our system. The overview and tips and tricks posted earlier this month will give you a general sense of how submissions work. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing posts delving deeper into papers/lectures, panels, roundtables, and workshops/afternoon classes.


Registration Price Increase

On March 1, the registration price for Sirens 2020 will increase from the current price of $225 to $250. If you want to lock in your attendance at the current rate, be sure to register by Saturday!

Tickets are also still available for the Sirens Studio. This price ($100) will not increase on March 1, but these tickets are limited. In fact, we’re already half-sold-out, so guarantee your seat by registering soon!

Also, while you’re thinking about getting your attendance ducks in a row, we wanted to remind Sirens attendees from the U.S. that the REAL ID act takes full effect on October 1st. What does that mean? You’ll need a REAL ID-compliant form of identification to board a plane to get to Sirens! Check out the government’s info page for more information on how to make sure your ID will get you through the airport.



Thanks to the amazing generosity of the Sirens community, this year we are able to fund sixteen scholarships! Four will be allocated to people of color, four for exemplary programming proposals, four to those with financial hardships, and four to librarians, educators, and publishing professionals such as editors, agents, publicists, production personnel, and booksellers.

We also have three 2020 Sabrina Chin “Braver Than You Think” Memorial Scholarships. All first-time Sirens attendees are eligible for these scholarships, as are first-time presenters who receive one of our programming scholarships. Sabrina Chin co-chaired Sirens for a number of years before her passing in 2019, and her family has funded these scholarships to help us continue to welcome new voices to the vibrant Sirens community.

For more information on all these scholarships, as well as information on how to apply, visit our scholarships page. Please note that the deadline to apply for most of these scholarships is February 29th; the deadline for the exceptional programming scholarship and the Sabrina Chin scholarship for first-time presenters will be May 15th.


Sirens Essays

Sirens Essay Series

Our essay series continued this month with contributions that examine issues of representation, power dynamics, and audience reception of narratives:

In Autism in Seven of Nine, Mette Ivie Harrison explores the character from Star Trek: Voyager, nuances of Jeri Ryan’s performance, and the importance for women diagnosed with autism, particularly later in life, of seeing themselves represented in fiction.

In What Is It with Us and “Good Royalty”?, Emma Whitney interrogates the continued prevalence of savior-monarchs in fantasy fiction and asks why this trope endures rather than ceding ground to more egalitarian narratives.



Book Recommendations and Reviews:

  • On Twitter, Amy Tenbrink shared 150 speculative fiction books by female and nonbinary authors of color! Check out this list and be prepared for your TBR pile to swell.
  • Amy also discusses the drowning weight of Erin Morgenstern’s new portal fantasy, The Starless Sea.
  • Katie Passerotti raves about Tara Sim’s Scavenge the Stars, a genderbent, queer take on The Count of Monte Cristo.

We’re delighted to share a few staff picks from February’s list of new releases:

The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow

Erynn’s Pick: The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow, by Emily Ilett

One morning, Gail wakes up to see her shadow slipping away under the door. It’s expected as she has been barely keeping it together over the last two months since her father left and with him went her elder sister’s health and shadow. Realizing that she must be the one to bring the shadows back, she sets off on an adventure facing elements of magic mixed with light and grief, for her sister’s sake if not her own.

Emily Ilett’s debut novel is a middle grade, otherworld quest tale set on a remote island in Scotland. I immersed immediately into the place and the plight of the protagonist. Her prose is lyrical and full of all the passion Gail is trying to recover. She elegantly blends folktale allegory with real challenges of depression and mental illness. It is a well-told, heartwarming story of inner strength and sisterly love.

We Unleash the Merciless Storm

Cass’s Pick: We Unleash the Merciless Storm, by Tehlor Kay Mejia

If you came to Book Speed-Dating at Sirens in 2019, you know that We Set the Dark on Fire was one of my top picks, so I am of course incredibly excited for the sequel! We Set the Dark on Fire introduced us to a world where young women of high social class—or those aspiring to it—train to be wives for powerful men: either a primera, responsible for her husband’s business and social world, or a segunda, responsible for home and children. This society is cracking at the seams, and Dani, a lower-class girl whose whole life has been a con, gets swept up in the winds of rebellion.

Mejia is switching the POV for We Unleash the Merciless Storm, to Dani’s segunda, Carmen. I’m looking forward to seeing inside Carmen’s head and the way she operates. Given where things left off, she’s got a rough road ahead of her. I’m hoping Mejia will give us even more of the nuanced social commentary, rich interiority, and nail-biting suspense that I so enjoyed in the first book. Book One also turned the stereotype of the YA love triangle utterly on its head, and I’m eager to see where that goes.


This newsletter is brought to you by:

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


Sirens Newsletter – Volume 12, Issue 1 (January 2020)

This month:

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2020! With January comes a new year of Sirens—and we’re already busy, busy, busy! If you’re just now surfacing from post-holiday mania (and look, if the decorations are still up, we’re not judging), we hope this newsletter will help get you back into the swing of thinking about Sirens.


Scholarship Fundraising

January 31—today—is the last day to donate to our fundraising campaign for 2020 Sirens scholarships! Whether you can kick in a $5 boost or fund a full scholarship of $325, we hope you’ll get out those proverbial checkbooks. (It’s not too soon to call checkbooks proverbial, right?) Our scholarships help people of color, those submitting exemplary programming proposals, those with financial hardships, and educators, librarians, and publishing professionals not only attend Sirens, but share their work and their thoughts. This in turn helps Sirens remain a place for the vibrant conversations and warm community that attendees so cherish!

If you’d like to donate, please check out our scholarships page. We’ll announce next week how many scholarships we have available for 2020—and start taking applications as well!


Sirens Studio Workshops

Are you coming to the Studio this year? Are you thinking about coming to the Studio this year? Can we help you turn thoughts into action? Because in 2020 we have eight brilliant faculty members lined up to lead eight fantastic workshops—and this month, we shared what those workshops will be.

Whether you want to yeet the patriarchy or dissect Asianization, talk superheroes or villains, write about magical realism or religion, or pick up something valuable for your career-planning, we’ve got it. And you know you want in on this, so what are you waiting for? Check out this year’s Studio topics and buy that ticket today!


Sirens Essays

Sirens Essay Series

We had so much fun with—and learned so much from—our first Sirens essay series last summer that we invited six more people to discuss, analyze, dissect, and deconstruct something about fantasy literature. And we published our next two essays this month! So if you missed them, check this out:

In Lost Girls and Open Doors: Susan Pevensie and the Complex Legacy of the Portal Fantasy, Gillian Chisom explores what we always knew—that C.S. Lewis’s dismissive “nylons and lipstick and invitations” is only the beginning of the complications of Susan—and then dives deep into grief, faith, and portal fantasy.

If you’re into monstrousness—and you are all into monstrousness—Ren Iwamoto’s A Mirror Distorted: A Brief Meditation on When Real-Life Events Inspire Speculative Fiction is your jam. Ren tackles monsters born of real-life inspiration—and how they morph when viewed through different lenses.


So Many Books

Let’s start 2020 right! We have book recommendations, book reviews, and a look at some staff picks for January’s new releases.

Book Recommendations and Reviews:

And due to our late 2019 hiatus, our January round-up of new releases by women and nonbinary authors covered three whole months! Here, some of our staff share their picks:

Woven in Moonlight

Erynn’s Pick: Woven in Moonlight, by Isabel Ibañez
For a generation, her people have been decimated and displaced from their lush country of jungles and mountains. Those that remain lay their grief and fury at Ximena’s feet, looking to her to lead them to restoration. But they don’t understand. Ximena is not the real Condesa – she’s a decoy set to protect the last true Illustrian royal. When the usurper, Atoc, demands the Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s the revenge opportunity Ximena has been waiting for.

This debut novel is set in a world inspired by the author’s Bolivian heritage and uses rich descriptions food and fabric to fill the reader’s cultural apperception. What draws me to the story is the promise of power not just in obvious might and magics but, as the title suggests, textile arts! As Ximenia discovers the truths of her world are vastly more complex than she was raised to understand, this domestic craft magic has the subtly required to take on nuanced dilemmas.

The Iron Will of Genie Lo

Faye’s Pick: The Iron Will of Genie Lo, by F. C. Yee
If you spoke to me last year, you know I loved F.C. Yee’s The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, a modern-day interpretation of the Chinese novel Journey to the West set in California, in which a girl gets reincarnated as the Monkey King’s… battle stick… and is super cranky about it. In this second and final book, Genie is now officially a Heaven-appointed guardian—so she no longer slays demons but also has to care for them, and they’re multiplying. I hear there’s also a quest for the crown and a venture in-between worlds, but what I’m most excited about Genie coming into her powers—and coming into her own as a leader—just in time for graduation.

Come Tumbling Down

Cass’s Pick: Come Tumbling Down, by Seanan McGuire
I ran through the audio versions of all of McGuire’s Wayward Children series in rapid succession last year, so I’m excited to get my hands (or ears) on the next installment. Her multiverse is a fascinating exploration of what happens to kids when Narnia or Neverland spits them back out for some transgression or other. Eleanor West, once lost and found herself, rescues these teenagers from reality, giving them a safe space either to re-adjust to life here on our earth–or to find a way back to the world of their preference. Through her protagonists (many of whom are queer and/or neuroatypical), McGuire has taken all the tangled problems of puberty, coming-of-age, and self-determination and spun them into poignant tales of the search for belonging. Come Tumbling Down looks like it’ll be revisiting one of the horror-themed worlds from a previous book (think of a playground for Doctor Frankenstein and Dracula, set on moody moors), and it may give some insight into Eleanor, the woman who set up the sanctuary-school for all those Wayward Children in the first place.


This newsletter is brought to you by:

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


Get Ready for Sirens

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 11, Issue 10: October 2019

This month:


Get Ready for Sirens

Sirens is coming up furiously fast, and if you’re attending the Studio, you’re possibly already en route! To ensure the best Sirens ever, have a look at these housekeeping items before you head off to Denver!


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


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 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 Alpine 1 will be open starting at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 24.



We will be tweeting with all our might at our @sirens_con handle as Sirens gets underway! 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 28.


In Case You Missed It…

In case you missed it, we’ve rounded up some important highlights from our posts this year:

Guest of Honor Interviews:

Studio Faculty Interviews:

Books and Breakfast Spotlights:

Community Interviews:

Sirens Essay Series

Essay Series:

Also in the news:


Rake Up Some Fall Reading

To whet your appetite right before the Sirens Bookstore opens, take a look at these new October releases by women and nonbinary authors!

Erynn’s Pick:

The Library of the Unwritten

Somewhere in the lesser known levels of Hell is a library full of all the books that never made it to completion. Keeping them organized, mended, and shelved is more than a simple job for the Head Librarian, Claire, as such stories are not keen to sit still for long. Claire must go chasing after an AWOL Hero, with the help of a former muse and a demon courier. Penned by Sirens attendee, A.J. Hackwith, The Library of the Unwritten is the first installment in a series of deliciously fun stories featuring librarians at the forefront of a Heaven and Hell power struggle.


Faye’s Pick:


Though narrowly missing Mid-Autumn Festival this year, I couldn’t be more excited by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu’s queer, adorable, and magical graphic novel Mooncakes. It features two Chinese Americans: Nova, a witch and hard-of-hearing, and Tam, a nonbinary werewolf—because intersectionalism! Listen, this is a celebration of unconventional families, bookshops, cute towns, banter the Gilmore Girls would be proud of, and baking! Do I need to say more?


This newsletter is brought to you by:

Erynn Moss + Faye Bi

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


We are in need of some volunteer heroes!

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 11, Issue 9: September 2019

This month:


We are in need of some volunteer heroes!

Sirens runs on volunteer magic—and we need a bit more at the conference itself than we do the rest of the year. The best part is that you can help out while attending the Sirens programming you were planning on anyway, since our biggest need 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 happen in the morning or afternoon, for a couple 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.


Instructions Emails

Keep a sharp eye on your inbox! In the next few weeks, we’ll be sending important instructions to attendees on how to meet the Sirens Shuttle, check in for the Sirens Studio and Sirens itself, and find the Sirens Supper! 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 as soon as possible. We’ll track your progress toward Sirens and make sure that you haven’t run into any delays along the way.


Get to know your community: Joy Kim, Ren Iwamoto, and Gillian Chisom

This month we spoke to three more returning attendees to find out more about them!


What we read this month

From our volunteer led review squad, Lily Weitzman read and sings her praises of the epistolary novella, This is How You Lose the Time War co-written by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.

Why does Ana Simo’s Heartland make Amy think of Raging Bull Pete? Read her review in this edition of Book Club to get that perspective and why Heartland seems to be more about head space on the blog and Goodreads.

Tere Mahoney raves about Mona Awad’s Bunny, a sharp-eyed critique of the world of academia and MFAs that you won’t want to miss.


Fall in Love with these New Autumn Books!

Once again, our team has done the legwork to give you more of what you crave. Click here to see all the beautiful new releases in fantasy by women and nonbinary authors.

Erynn’s Pick:

The Mythic Dream

Editors Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe who previously collaborated on two other amazing anthologies, The Starlit Wood, and Robots vs Fairies, have put together a collection from 18 star-studded authors of reimagined mythology. The Mythic Dream takes ancient tales from around the world and respins them to the present and future. Contributors include Amal El-Mohtar, Ann Leckie, Seanan McGuire, Naomi Novik, Alyssa Wong, and, among others, Sirens 2019 Guest of Honor, Rebecca Roanhorse!


Faye’s Pick:


From Akwaeke Emezi, the author that brought us Freshwater, comes much-lauded YA debut Pet. Set in a religious, so-called utopian world, a transgender girl named Jam inadvertently animates her mother’s painting… and out of it comes otherworldly Pet, a grotesque creature trained to hunt human monsters—monsters who should have been eradicated—like the one plaguing Jam’s best friend’s otherwise happy home. Emezi conceptualizes social ills like violence and drug abuse into actual monsters and the reviews promise that it lives up to the hype!


This newsletter is brought to you by:

Erynn Moss + Faye Bi

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


How reading translated fiction challenges your cultural assumptions

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 11, Issue 8: August 2019

This month:


Juliet Grames both loves and hates genre distinctions

Readers of fantasy chasing the thrill of world immersion, please follow along as we learn how editor-publisher-author Juliet Grames leaps over barriers of language to roll and delight in the words of other cultures. In our interview, she tells us more about her feelings on genre and what fantasy must deliver, and the writing of her debut novel, The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna. This fall, Juliet will be leading the Sirens Studio reading intensive: “Not All Who Wander Are Lost in Translation: A Behind-the-Scenes Discussion About Translated Literature.”


Hurry up with those registrations and tickets!

Remember, we stop selling online registrations for Sirens on September 21. After that, we’ll have limited availability at the door, but no guarantees. We’ll also stop selling tickets for the Sirens Studio, the Sirens Supper, and the Sirens Shuttle on September 21—and those will not be available at the door. Get them before they’re gone!

Find out more!


Our 2019 Conference Schedule is live!

Are you ready to see when we scheduled your favorite things, ostensibly at the same time as your other favorite things? Get your quills out, and check out this year’s Sirens conference schedule here.


In our Sirens Essay series this month…


Get to know some members of our amazing Sirens community

As our conference creeps closer, we’ll be chatting with some of our returning attendees to find out more about them and what they love about Sirens. We recently spoke with Seattle-based YA author, Julia Ember, who shared with us her personal path to glittery gender-deconstructing fantasy writing, as well as Susie O’Brien, a voracious reader and spectacular seamstress.


Books and Breakfast: Body Selections

Still looking for some books to discuss first thing in the morning with your fellow Sirens attendees? This month we looked at the titles that were selected for breaking the typical body mold of heroism. Get the rundown here on the first volume of Faith and the novel Gullstruck Island to see how they fit your fancy.


What we’re reading

Too much heart shredding already happening in the world? Join Amy in her latest monthly book club read for a much-needed heart-soothing tale of female friendship, Destiny Soria’s Iron Cast on the blog and Goodreads.

From our review squad:


Awesome August Book Releases

See the beautiful new books we rounded up for you here!

Erynn’s Pick:

Hollow Kingdom

A feast for crows it is not. When humanity succumbs to self-inflicted fleshy decay, Kira Jane Buxton’s foulmouthed narrating protagonist S.T., a domesticated crow, would much rather have some Cheetos. Unfortunately, his kind-but-pathetic human companion has also fallen victim to the zombie malady afflicting Seattle. So along with a new dimwitted dog, S.T. sets out to use his television education to save all the silly people. Described as both heartwarming and tragic, transformative and funny, Hollow Kingdom is a post-apocalyptic tale that I can sink my beak into.


Faye’s Pick:

The Magnolia Sword

I have never met a Mulan retelling I didn’t like. The 1998 animated Mulan was formative for me as a wee Chinese North American girl, and my feelings for the live-action remake aside, each version comes with different interpretations of Chinese identity that I know are found in multitudes both on the mainland and in the diaspora. I already love Sherry Thomas’s romance novels, so when I found out she was taking on this fierce genderbending iconic warrior in this wuxia-inspired romantic YA… just take all of my money already!


This newsletter is brought to you by:

Erynn Moss + Faye Bi

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


This month’s Sirens Essays tackle the complexity of female relationships

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 11, Issue 7: July 2019

This month:


Programming Announcements

We are thrilled to announce the titles of this year’s accepted programming!

Click on the links to see what’s in store: Papers and Lectures, Panels, Roundtables, Workshops, Afternoon Classes, and Combination Presentations.

If you would like to support Sirens, our presenters, and our programming, we invite you to sponsor a program at $35 per presentation. The deadline is August 15 for us to include your name in this year’s program book with our profuse thanks!


Nia Davenport, A Master on Many Missions

We’re in the full swing of summer break, which means teacher and author Nia Davenport has swapped out her red grading pens and lab equipment for character profiles and plot building. We chatted with her this month as part of our get to know your Sirens Studio faculty series. Read the interview here to find out more about how she manages multiple disciplines in her work and demands the same diversity from her fiction. Fittingly, Nia will be leading a workshop “The Danger of the Single Narrative” at the Studio this fall.


New Sirens Essays Tackle Female Relationships

Introduced last month, our Essay series is a welcome breeze of fresh discourse from our community to keep you cool through the summer while we patiently wait for October:


Your Sirens Community

If you’ve been following Amy’s reading for even a little while then you probably know she’s not a big fan of science fiction. But why? This month, Amy spells out her problems with the genre in general and how Vandana Singh’s Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories made it to the super elite pile of Amy-approved sci-fi on the blog and Goodreads.

Our review squad has been reading—and loving—illustrated texts!

Lani Goto offers up a fantastic list of comic books with nary a spandex suit or punch in sight, including collective volumes of webcomics, standalone graphic novels, and a D&D-inspired fantasy.

Bethany Powell analyzes the first volume of Yoshiki Nakamura’s Skip Beat series, a shojo manga starring a girl with multiple jobs struggling to make it in showbiz, and happens to have grudge-demon activated powers.


Books and Breakfast: Gender and Sexuality

Continuing our Books and Breakfast breakdown series, July focused on the two titles selected for bringing issues of gender and sexuality to the morning discussion tables: April Daniels’s Dreadnought and K Arsenault Rivera’s The Tiger’s Daughter. Find out why we picked them, and why you should add them to your reading list here.


Hot-Hot-Hot New Books for July

Once again, we’ve rounded up a beautiful array of new titles in fantasy by women and nonbinary authors. Click here to look them over!

Erynn’s Pick:

House of Whispers

Though the issues of House of Whispers by former Sirens guest Nalo Hopkinson started coming out last fall, some people (me) may prefer to stock their shelves with a sleek volume edition. Part of a line of four stories chosen by Neil Gaiman to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his original Sandman Comics, House of Whispers is the sort of hybridized Afro-diasporan mythology that one expects from Nalo but set in the Sandman Universe. The tale starts when a Yoruba goddess, Erzulie, finds her otherworldly ship has veered off course and crashed into the Dreaming between the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets. Nalo’s goddess needs to find her way home while simultaneously solving a strange soul sickness breaking out among her people in the mortal realm.


Faye’s Pick:

Gods of Jade and Shadow

I have been impressed with Mexican Canadian writer Silvia Moreno-Garcia since reading her story collection This Strange Way of Dying from a years-ago Sirens Reading Challenge, and my reaction to hearing the premise of Gods of Jade and Shadow was instant obsession. Set during the Jazz Age in Mexico, it stars Casiopea, who opens a box while cleaning her wealthy grandfather’s house and accidentally frees the Mayan god of death. With a humble protagonist, a bargain with a god, and an odyssey that’ll take Casiopea from the Yucatan to Mexico City, this is bound to be an amazing blend of fantasy, fairytale, and Mexican folklore.


This newsletter is brought to you by:

Erynn Moss + Faye Bi

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


Sirens runs on donations, volunteer hours, and magic

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 11, Issue 6: June 2019

This month:


Programming Decisions Are Out

Congratulations to all our accepted presenters and thank you to everyone who proposed programming for this year’s conference! Our official big reveal is coming in July, so if you’re waiting with bated breath to see this year’s presentations and programming schedule, you don’t have to wait much longer. Just a reminder, all presenters must be registered to attend the conference (and paid in full) by July 10th.

If you are dying to know something coming up on the schedule this fall, the Books and Breakfast titles have been announced and here’s more information to help you select which titles you want to discuss over morning coffee. Or tea. We know how you all feel about tea.


Stay on Target with Sara Megibow

Continuing our monthly get to know you series of this year’s Sirens Studio faculty, we spoke to Sara Megibow, an agent from kt literary. Sara’s background in Six Sigma process improvement serves as magic-viewing goggles in her current role, where she proves that creative, passionate, literary people are not incompatible with the analytic and strategic world of publishing. During the Sirens Studio, Sara will be leading a professional development workshop, “Heroines Can Fly,” aimed at helping attendees define and achieve their personal goals.

Tickets are still available for this year’s Sirens Studio! And if you haven’t already checked out our past interviews with other Sirens Studio faculty, here are those links (with Nia Davenport, Juliet Grames, and Rebecca Roanhorse yet to come):


Introducing Sirens Essays!

This month we debuted Sirens essays, sometimes scholarly, sometimes personal, always thoughtful pieces crafted by members of the Sirens community. We hope these essays give you something to think about—and we think they’re a great example of the kinds of topics, debates, and programming that Sirens has to offer.

Both of the essays we shared in June examined the tricky task of specifying the individuals and instances that make up a great, long established, subtle system of injustice but in quite different contexts.

Nivair H. Gabriel’s academic paper, “Remake the World”: Algae, Art, and Indigenous Futurist Thought in Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince, takes a deep dive into the techniques used by Johnson to build a world’s worth of problems into the finite pages of her “cli-fi” novel.

Meanwhile, Robyn Bennis shares a personal shopping trip story as a tool to discuss the benefit-of-the-doubt optimism of cisgendered people and the mathematical theory they need to let go of polite indifference.


Support Sirens

When we created Sirens, we created something big and bold and bright: a place to discuss gender in fantasy literature through an intersectional feminist lens—and celebrate the remarkable, diverse work of women and nonbinary people in this field. In doing so, we also created an upside-down budget where our expenses exceed our revenue. We do this deliberately—even though it gives us heart palpitations—so we can keep our registration prices low and make Sirens more affordable for more people.

But how do we close that budget gap? Through the magic of the dozens of people each year who donate a few bucks or a hundred, a fun or amazing auction item, or a few new or used books. If you are able to support Sirens, here are several ways you can help.


Your Sirens Community

Whether you have read, are considering reading, or just plain curious about Emiko Jean’s Empress of All Seasons, check out this month’s book club review on the blog and Goodreads. Amy has a lot of feels about the monster women, warrior women, and more.

From our volunteer review squad, Christina Spencer shared what books from this year’s reading list broke the mold of her avid reading mind in her list of 5 books that broadened her horizons.

Also up for review is E.K. Johnston’s The Afterward. This epic, young adult fantasy about what happened in the years after major world-saving heroics won over Andrea Horbinski with its real-world relatable political and economic drags but lost her in other ways. Click here for her full report.


Get Them While They’re Hot

Click here to see the summer’s new releases in fantasy fiction.

Erynn’s Pick:


Myth, magic, and forensic investigation. Karen Lord’s newest heroine, Dr. Miranda Ecouvo might have correctly put together the pieces of a string of strange murders and incarcerated the guilty party but since she has landed herself into a dimension of mazes and memories with the Trickster God, that seems doubtful. In Redemption in Indigo, I love how Karen Lord smudged the lines between myth and realism to tell a wonderful tale. Unraveling seems ready to do the same and to meander between layers of plot, philosophy, and humor.


Faye’s Pick:

Magic for Liars

A murder investigation at a magical school? Count me in! But Sarah Gailey’s debut novel is so much more than wizards, wands, and boarding school. Unreliable narrator Ivy Gamble hasn’t a drop of magic in her and, perhaps because of that, is estranged from her magical sister, Tabitha. When Ivy investigates a murder at the school where Tabitha teaches, Ivy gets to step into that world of magic. If this is anything like Gailey’s American Hippo novellas, I expect terrific characters, a fascinating setting, and, as Gailey has discussed, a queer story.


This newsletter is brought to you by:

Erynn Moss + Faye Bi

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


Why inclusive heroism is not just suggested, but essential

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 11, Issue 5: May 2019

This month:


What does heroism mean to Roshani Chokshi?

“To me, heroism is the act of celebrating the individual. There’s not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to the Chosen One.” – Roshani Chokshi

Continuing our series of getting to know this year’s guests of honor, this month we’re getting to know our first ever Sirens Studio guest, Roshani Chokshi, known for the Star-Touched series, the Pandava series, and The Gilded Wolves.

In our interview, Roshani extolls most eloquently the way a hero’s weakness is possibly more important than her strength. And while storytelling may have created important bridges in her own identity, it took some overcoming to insert herself into her own narratives. Jae Young Kim, from the Sirens review squad, praises Roshani’s tales in her review of Aru Shah and the End of Time, and our community rallies to share their favorite sarcastic animal sidekick in fantasy in our #SirensIcebreaker.

If you finish Roshani’s books and need to get cozy in some more of her work, visit this list we put together here, or check out some of her book recommendations here. We also advise poking around on her enticing website,, or be floored by the most glamorous of fantasy author Instagrams!


Sirens Studio Faculty Spotlight

If you haven’t yet signed up for the Sirens Studio, well, why not? Faculty this year include:

  • For reading workshops: teacher and author Nia Davenport, Soho Press Associate Publisher and brand-new debut author Juliet Grames, Dr. Jen Michaels, and Sirens Guest of Honor Rebecca Roanhorse

  • For writing workshops: Sirens Guest of Honor Mishell Baker and author and illustrator Nilah Magruder

  • For career development workshops: agent Sara Megibow and media industry executive vice president (and Sirens co-founder) Amy Tenbrink

Buy your tickets here!

This month, we interviewed fabulous faculty member, Nilah Magruder, who will lead the writing development workshop “The Visual Narrative: Developing Illustrated Projects and How to Write Like an Artist” this fall. Nilah discusses finding inspiration sources for her artistic styles, teaching writers to bridge narrative and visual story, and who she still needs to send copies of her books to. [Note from Erynn: Nilah’s How to Find a Fox is the only book on the Sirens reading list my toddler has finished. He recommends.]


2019 Books and Breakfast Selections

Each year, Sirens showcases the breadth and complexity of our annual theme through our Books and Breakfast program. We select a number of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books that address aspects of our theme, and then attendees bring their breakfast and join a table to discuss one of those books—another chance to deconstruct, interrogate, and celebrate the work that women and nonbinary authors are doing in fantasy literature!

For 2019, we’ve selected eight 2019 Books and Breakfast titles that we hope will expand your definition of who might be a hero or what acts you consider heroic. Toward that end, we’re highlighting four areas in this year’s selections: religion, race, gender/sexuality, and body—and please note that some titles sit on multiple axes, not just the one they’re listed under!



The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson
The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner


Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich


Dreadnought by April Daniels
The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera


Faith Volume 1: Hollywood and Vine by Jody Houser, Francis Portela, and Marguerite Sauvage
Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge

Click here for more on our Books and Breakfast program and this year’s selections, including a detailed spotlight on The Bird King and The Sisters of the Winter Wood!


Programming proposal submissions are officially closed…

…and the vetting board is hard at work reading all the amazing submissions. Fist bumps of gratitude to everyone who sent in proposals! Decisions will be made and relayed to you by email by June 12th. If you have any questions in the meantime, send them to (programming at


Sirens Community Round-up

For her book club this month, Amy Tenbrink reviewed Claire Legrand’s Furyborn, with exceptional praise on the satisfaction from a “competent” book, on the blog and Goodreads.

From our Sirens Review Squad, Lily Weitzman put together this list of seven short stories to refresh readers in need of variety, and Jo O’Brien’s review of Kiersten White’s The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, a companion to Mary Shelley’s classic, envisions the struggle to break free from toxicity and reclaim personal power.

Scroll through the official Sirens Twitter feed to admire all the geeky treats from the May the Fourth Sirens Meet-up in Denver! Other Sirens satellite parties joined up in New York and Seattle this month. For those who will be in Boston on June 6th or D.C. on June 22nd, click here to get the scoop on those meet-ups.


Start your summer with these 66 new books this month

By clicking on our collage of May’s new fantasy books!

Erynn’s Pick:

The Devil's Guide to Managing Difficult People

“I met the devil at a Motel 6, poolside.”

Cheeky author and Sirens attendee Robyn Bennis has delightfully captured the misanthropic esprit de 2019 with The Devil’s Guide to Managing Difficult People. Jordan is stuck in a bleakly entertaining deal with the devil that is highly relatable. If it’s at all like her previous novel The Guns Above, I expect great characters and battles on top of the humor.


Faye’s Pick:

The Dark Fantastic

Dr. Suzanne Scott mentioned it in her book round-up last month, and I’ll definitely be checking out Ebony Elizabeth Thomas’s The Dark Fantastic, a detailed analysis of the diversity—and lack thereof—in children’s books, television, and film. Thomas’s scholarly work traces the narratives of four black female characters in four popular fandoms: Bonnie Bennett from the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Rue from The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC’s Merlin, and Angelina Johnson from the Harry Potter series.


This newsletter is brought to you by:

Erynn Moss + Faye Bi

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


How do heroes confront power structures?

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 11, Issue 4: April 2019

This month:


What does heroism mean to Dr. Suzanne Scott?

“Heroism, at least from my perspective, is about the defiance of expectations…all heroes force us to grapple with how the normative is entrenched, and our own relationship to hegemonic power.” – Dr. Suzanne Scott

If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, just pop over to Suzanne’s faculty bio on the University of Texas website, which reads like a Sirens wishlist. And as if that’s not enough to get you super excited for our first-ever scholar Guest of Honor in October, check out our interview with Suzanne where we talk fandom, feminism, cosplay, Cordelia Chase, and more on her role as a Professor of “Geek Culture”.” You can also read a review of Suzanne’s book, Fake Geek Girls: Fandom, Gender, and the Convergence Culture Industry from our review squad, and you can find some more of Suzanne’s academic writing around the web, which we’ve compiled here. In honor of Suzanne, check out people’s #SirensIcebreaker on their favorite or most memorable fandom experience. Last but not least, take a crash course in fan and media studies with a list of Suzanne-recommended works.


The Programming Proposal Window is Open (Until May 15th)!

Sirens’s amazing, magnificent, you-have-to-see-this programming is proposed by…attendees! That means you! (No, you don’t have to be registered to propose programming, only planning to attend—or planning to attend if your proposal is accepted.)

You have an amazing fantastic must-be-discussed topic for this year’s Sirens! Great!

Are you ready to tell us about it? Submit your proposals here.

Do you have questions about types of presentations and what you need to submit? The guidelines are here.

It’s good, but you need to bounce your ideas around or find some collaborators? Visit us on Twitter or our unofficial Facebook group to connect with other Sirens. Or join the upcoming chat on May 13th, from 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific).

You’d like to submit, but on what? Find some ideas to spark your imagination on Twitter at #SirensBrainstorm.

Want to get to know this year’s Vetting Board? We chat with a few of them here.


Sirens Studio, Get to Know Your Faculty: Amy Tenbrink

You might know Sirens co-founder Amy Tenbrink, but do you know about her ass-kicking career powers? We interviewed her earlier this month to find out what drives this legendary lady and what Studio attendees can expect from her career development intensive, “Negotiating Your Professional Life.” “Unless you’re willing to sacrifice your ambition, your assertiveness, and your self-respect, I recommend that you start getting comfortable with the idea that you will sometimes make any number of people…very uncomfortable.” Also, check out her thoughts of Mingmei Yip’s The Witch’s Market for her book club read this month on the blog and Goodreads.


By You, For You

The Sirens Review Squad is made up of Sirens volunteers, who submit short reviews of books they’ve read and enjoyed! This month, we’re lucky to have two indie booksellers stop by with recs, as if you needed more books to add to your shelf.

The Beast Player

Casey Blair reads, reviews, and waxes poetic on Nahoko Uehashi’s The Beast Player, translated into English by Cathy Hirano. It’s “a coming-of-age story, but it is also a meditation on, in particular, what it means to be free.” Full review here.



Celebrate the joy of reading with Sami Thomason’s list of 7 Fantasy Books for Bibliophiles, “from middle grade to young adult to adult, about enchanted books, magical libraries, and the power of the written word.” Read the full list here.


Heads Up

  • Sirens Studio is filling up because of course it is. Have you seen this year’s faculty? This is going to be awesome, so get your ticket today.

  • Missed the Programming Chat? There will be one more May 13th!

  • Programming Scholarships: our fabulous community raised funds for three scholarships for presenters, and now is the time to apply! Simply specify your interest in being considered when you submit your programming proposals, which again, are due May 15th.

  • But October is too faaaar! Fear not, this May you can attend a Sirens Meet-Up in Denver (May the Fourth Dessert Party!) or New York (BYOBlanket and picnic!).  Details for Seattle on May 25, Boston on June 6, and D.C. on June 22 coming soon!


Look at all the fresh spring books blooming this month

By clicking on our collage of April’s new fantasy books!

Erynn’s Pick:

A True Blue Idea

I was drawn to this book by what looked like the traditional tarot High Priestess relaxing in her off-time on the cover. However, Marina Colasanti’s A True Blue Idea is actually a collection of ten short, illustrated, and often dark fairy tales by a long-established Brazilian author/artist only now being translated into English. Her poetic style utilizes irony and symbolism, and her work has been described as “feminist utopian fiction” and a “unique blend of the poetic and the socially conscious.”


Faye’s Pick:

Pilu of the Woods

Sometimes, all I need is a heartwarming graphic novel with adorable art to make me have faith in the world again. In Mai K. Nguyen’s Pilu of the Woods, Willow gets into a fight with her big sister, and runs away to the woods, where she meets a forest spirit named Pilu. Call me millennial mush, but I’m in full favor of acknowledging, naming, and feeling all the feelings for the good of one’s emotional health. This one is a purported gem about grief, growing up, nature, and family. And there’s a dog, too!


This newsletter was put together by:

Erynn Moss + Faye Bi

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


Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.


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