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Sirens Newsletter—Volume 13, Issue 6: August 2021

This month:

We are now fewer than two months from Sirens 2021! If you’re planning on joining us in Denver, we have guidance galore to help you plan your trip and prepare for an amazing, mind-expanding, soul-refreshing retreat. And if you can’t join us this year, we’ve got plenty of reading suggestions and online content to keep you engaged with and vitalized by the weird, wild, wonderful world of speculative fiction and the female and nonbinary people who love it.

A Siren’s Voyage

Our detailed guide to the Sirens adventure continues! In Part 2: Getting Here, we share details about our hotel, the Hilton Inverness. (Did you know it has a pool and a spa?) We also provide some tips on how to travel to Denver by plane, train, or automobile, as well as information on the Sirens Shuttle, a more affordable option for making it from the airport to the hotel.

Part 3: What to Bring spotlights that crucial pre-conference activity: packing! We give advice on handling the desert plains climate, the unpredictable October weather, and bringing an extra bag for all those books and auction items that will be begging to come home with you.

We Asked Sirens

Never been to Sirens and wondering what to expect? Attended many times but wondering how others experience the conference? Well, we conducted some informal surveys, and you can see the results in our We Asked Sirens series. We hope these posts will help you get psyched up for the unique energy you can only find at Sirens!

Books

Book Recommendations and Reviews:

  • There’s still time to join us for August’s Book Club, Sunday, August 29 at noon MT (2:00 p.m. ET). We’ll be discussing Violet Kupersmith’s The Frangipani Hotel. If you’d like to join the conversation, email us at (help AT sirensconference.org) to be added to our list.
  • Looking for a “hopepunk tale of the apocalypse” to get you through the world’s current and ongoing crises? Jazz Sexton reviews Catherynne M. Valente’s latest novel, The Past is Red-and even recommends some musical accompaniment to go along with it! “Long-time fans and newcomers will find Valente at her best, relishing in elaborate sentences packed with imagery that sort of make you want to visit Garbagetown despite it being the result of decadence and apathy.”
  • The fifth installment of this year’s Reading Challenge feature series focuses on the theme of “Saving Yourself.” We know that all Sirens have the capacity to be their own heroes—but a little inspiration from our fictional counterparts never hurts!
  • Continuing our Books and Breakfast series, this month we’re spotlighting our three young adult selections: Melissa Bashardoust’s Girls Made of Snow and Glass, Dia Reeves’s Slice of Cherry, and Rory Power’s Wilder Girls.
  • This month’s Read with Amy feature explores Hannah Abigail Clarke’s YA contemporary fantasy The Scapegracers and its tagline: Party Hard; Hex Harder. Amy is delighted to find a “mean girls” fantasy book that defies the patriarchy rather than reinforcing tired tropes. “Clarke couldn’t care less about some patriarchal notion of girls needing to relinquish their power in order to achieve an unnecessary redemption… This work is about characters to the exclusion of almost anything else and you’ll love these girls so much, admire them, respect them, that you’ll be back to pick up those dropped threads anyway.”
  • Still need a few more stories to keep you busy on a Labor Day weekend retreat or on a back-to-school or back-to-work commute? Be sure to look at our roundup of August’s new releases from female and nonbinary authors!

As summer winds down, we hope that you, yours, and our whole Sirens community are safe, well, and well-stocked with reading material!

This newsletter is brought to you by:

 


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

 

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 13, Issue 5: July 2021

This month:

Can you believe it? It’s July, which means that the Sirens Conference is only three months away! We hope that you’re getting your ducks in a row and your cats herded so that you can join us in Denver in October. There’s still time to register, and in the coming months, we’ll be sharing more travel tips to help you prepare for an amazing, exhilarating, restorative experience!

A Siren’s Voyage

To get you started, whether you’re a first-time attendee or a returner who needs a refresher on who we are and what we do, we’re launching the Siren’s Voyage series of posts. In Part 1: Answering the Call, we introduce our community ethos, our goals as a conference, and our guests for 2021. We also discuss Sirens Studio, the smaller, more intimate pre-conference event, and we introduce our 2021 Studio faculty.

We know that traveling to a new conference can be intimidating—and we know that some of you who’ve been before may be experiencing some reentry anxiety after a year and a half of comparative isolation. We hope that the entries in A Siren’s Voyage will ease the process of preparation. We want everyone who attends Sirens to feel welcome, comfortable, and valued, and we want you to leave the conference revived and reinvigorated. If you have any questions, please reach out to us at (help at sirensconference.org).

Sirens Community Day

Thanks to everyone who joined us for Community Day on July 25th! We hosted four virtual events on Zoom, including a BIPOC meet-up, the Sirens Book Club discussion of Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts, and a fantastic, mind-expanding lecture from Dr. Alyssa Collins on Afrofuturism, Black feminism, and technology, followed by roundtable discussions.

Sirens Faculty Interviews

In July, we finished introducing you to the Sirens Studio faculty:

Ren Iwamoto

Ren Iwamoto, an assistant editor at Augur Magazine, will be teaching “Seasoned with Soy Sauce: Asianization in Western Speculative Media and What It Means to be ‘Asian-Inspired’” at this year’s Studio. In her Sirens interview, she discusses the intersection of her academic work on post-colonial discourse and her professional work in the world of publishing. On what the future of speculative fiction might hold, Ren says: “Speculative fiction should destabilize. Topic is almost irrelevant to me so long as the story turns some stone over; then something meaningful was accomplished.”

Books

Book Recommendations and Reviews:

  • The fourth installment of this year’s Reading Challenge feature series presents books with something we could all use a little more of right now: Hope. While the speculative works we love may go to dark places, challenge preconceptions, and wrestle with thorny topics, we find it equally important to remember the power of our dreams and aspirations. “Even on our worst days, hope shines resolutely on: a north star, a firework, a beacon reminding us not of what is, but what could be.” Visit the post for an introduction to the Reading Challenge selections that we feel best embody this theme.
  • Continuing our Books and Breakfast spotlight series, this month’s post focuses on the adult novels in the list: A Feast of Sorrows by Angela Slatter, Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender, and The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley. Read our introductions to these wonderful, explorative, complex books and get ready to join our discussions on the nuances of villainy and vindication embedded within their stories.
  • We’re all busy these days. Super-busy. Too busy, perhaps, for doorstopper novels or even their more moderately-sized siblings to hold our attention. If your attention span is suffering due to pandemic brain or the demands of work and family life, Read with Amy has your back. This month, Sirens Co-Chair Amy Tenbrink shares a list of masterwork collections of short speculative fiction, perfect for immersing you in a fictional world in just a few pages.
  • Are there middle-grade readers in your life? Rook Riley shares a list of book recommendations drawn from their experience as a middle school teacher. “It’s been my pleasure, along with our school librarian, to help students find books where they can find themselves in the story.”
  • Sirens Book Club: In August, we’re reading Violet Kupersmith’s sublime short fiction collection, The Frangipani Hotel. To join the Zoom discussion on Sunday, August 29 at 12:00 p.m. Mountain time (2:00 p.m. Eastern), please email us at (help AT sirensconference.org) to be added to our list.
  • Still room on the shelf or space for a few more holds in your library queue? Check out our compilation of July’s fabulous fantasy releases by women and nonbinary authors!

Stay cool, Sirens! (Physically cool, that is; we know you’re all existentially cool already.)

This newsletter is brought to you by:

 


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

 

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 13, Issue 4: June 2021

This month:

Ah, June! The days stretched long, the flowers bloomed, and the book gods delivered unto us a veritable flood of new releases. Whether you’re the type to spend hours basking in the sun or you’re curled up in the comfort of shade and cool air, we hope you’ve got some good summer reads to keep you company—and if you’ve hit a reading slump, we’ve got some suggestions to help get you out of it!

Registration

If you haven’t yet registered to join us in October, now is a perfect time! We’re making all our plans, the hotel is open for reservations, and airlines have some amazing sales. So register now to take one thing off your to-do list.

Faculty Interviews

In June, we began introducing you to your Sirens Studio Faculty Members.

  • Jae Young Kim

    Jae Young Kim, who has worked as a nonprofit attorney advocating for immigrants, people of color, and survivors of domestic violence, will be presenting a career-oriented workshop: “Working for Change: Can We Wear Capes in Real Life?” during Sirens Studio. “I hope to share my real-life experience as a nonprofit attorney and provide insights into legal systems. I can share what it’s like working for social change as part of your job and the good and the challenging parts of my work.” Read about her work as an attorney, her thoughts on social change in and out of the courtroom, and her favorite types of fantasy stories in her interview.

  • Anna-Marie McLemore

    Anna-Marie McLemore, author of Blanca & Roja, Dark and Deepest Red, and the forthcoming The Mirror Season, among other works, discusses returning to Sirens as Studio faculty after having been a guest of honor in 2018: “It’s strange and wonderful coming back to Sirens knowing so much more about myself than I did a couple of years ago.” Their workshop, “Finding Magic: Enchanting Characters and Their Worlds,” will help Studio attendees think about magical realism and the interweaving of magic and character. Read their full interview for more of Anna-Marie’s insights on fairy tales, gender identity, and claiming our own stories.

  • Marie Brennan

    Author Marie Brennan, known for the Victorian adventure series The Memoirs of Lady Trent, among other works, is another former guest of honor returning as faculty—she first joined us in 2010! Her Studio workshop, “Faith in Fantasy: Building Believable Religions,” will draw from her extensive academic and non-academic work. “For any kind of worldbuilding, I think one of the most valuable things you can do is read about actual cultures in the real world; don’t just draw all your ideas from novels and other forms of fiction.” Read Marie’s full interview for more on developing character voices, color-coded reference charts, and the difference between teaching and doing.

Books

Remember being a kid and having your list of assigned summer reading? Isn’t the freedom of being able to choose your summer reads for yourself wonderful? To develop your own list, unbound by anyone else’s expectations, and secure in the knowledge that there will not be a quiz in September? And yet… at the same time… sometimes, it’s nice to have that guidance! Not to mention knowing that someone else has had the same reading experience, so that you’ve got someone to share your thoughts with, gush with, or vent to about what your brain has just consumed. As always, Sirens is here to help guide your bookish exploration!

Book Recommendations and Reviews:

  • Happy #SirensPride! To celebrate Pride Month, we’ve compiled a list of 30 Queer AF books for your enjoyment. Of course, we celebrate Pride and the works of LGBTQIAP+ authors all year long, so consider these titles but a sampler of the amazing speculative fiction produced by the queer community. We hope you’ll explore further, find more fabulous queer reads, and tell us all about them!
  • A new series on the blog reintroduces our Books and Breakfast selections for 2021, where we showcase a number of popular, controversial, and just plain brilliant books that address aspects of our theme. This month, we’re spotlighting the graphic novels on the list: Monstress: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, and Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.
  • The third installment in this year’s Reading Challenge feature series centers books with the theme of Revolution: the act which transforms personal action and private battles into organized action and real societal change. These are the books “that make us see things about our world more clearly—and show us how change might be possible.” Visit the post to learn more about the Reading Challenge selections that we feel best embody this theme.
  • Isabel Schechter shares an “It’s on my list” list, for all those of us who really keep meaning to get around to everything on our high-stacked TBRs.
  • If you’re in need of hopeful, joyful reads to help get you through tough times, let Lily Weitzman help with a list of her favorite daring, optimistic, community-oriented pandemic reads.
  • June’s Read with Amy feature shares Sirens chair Amy Tenbrink’s thoughts on S. L. Huang’s Burning Roses, a fairy tale remix with a Latina Red Riding Hood and a Chinese trans woman as the Archer. “As they travel, we learn their respective mistakes, their pain, their trauma, and their hopelessness—why each continues to throw herself in front of monsters, desperation disguised as heroism. And why heroics, in the end, are the path to neither redemption nor happiness.”
  • July’s Book Club selection is Violet Kupersmith’s The Frangipani Hotel. If you’d like to join the Zoom conversation on Sunday, July 25, please email us (help at sirensconference.org) to be added to our list!
  • Still need more? Here’s our June Roundup of new fantasy releases!

Good luck to you in your summer adventures!

This newsletter is brought to you by:

 


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

 

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 13, Issue 3: May 2021

This month:

Spring feels especially wonderful this year, doesn’t it, as the weather warms, the flowers bloom, and vaccine numbers are looking up? While we’re still finding the world challenging in far too many ways, we’re also finding that, in a number of little joys and delights, we’re suddenly optimistic. So with that optimism, let us help you find the stories that will make sense of the mayhem or transport you out of it.

Conference Registrations

If you’re looking forward to joining us in October, now is a great time to confirm your plans! The current registration rate is $275, and includes all of our programming and keynote addresses, four meals and receptions, and a conference bag and t-shirts. Sirens Studio tickets are still available as well, if you’d like to join us a couple days early for our smaller sessions with exemplary faculty. Register now to lock in your attendance.

Guest of Honor Weeks

In May, we featured two more of 2021’s Guests of Honor! These brilliant minds have done incredible work in the field of speculative fiction, and we are so excited to welcome them to Sirens in October.

Dr. Kinitra Brooks Author Searching for Sycorax Dr. Kintra Brooks Sycorax's Daughters Dr. Kinitra Brooks

Dr. Kinitra Brooksis a lauded scholar of popular culture, specializing in Black feminist theory and genre fiction. In her Sirens Interview, Kinitra discusses her work, with a particular eye to the erasure of genre boundaries and the fluidity of expression in Black women’s writing. Her Further Reading features media analysis on works like Lovecraft Country and Black is King, interviews about topics including folklore and syncretic practices, and much more! The Sirens Review squad celebrates Searching for Sycorax, Kinitra’s literary monograph presenting black women characters as both stereotypical fodder and literary backbone of the horror genre, and Sycorax’s Daughters: A Revolution in Horror, a collection of poems and stories which Kinitra edited, showcasing the extraordinary variety of the horror genre as written by Black women. Kinitra also supplied us with a recommended reading list of novels, short fiction, and nonfiction, and we have a list of Book Friends to complement her work.

Joamette Author Heartwood Joamette Author Power & Magic Joamette Author Power & Magic Immortal Souls Joamette Author

Joamette Gil is our Studio Guest of Honor. As the head witch at P&M Press, an independent comics micro-press specializing in speculative fiction by creators of color and LGBTQIA creators, Joamette has a wonderful perspective on both the creative and business aspects of speculative comics to offer our Studio attendees. You can read about her love for comics and her experiences Kickstarting collections in her Sirens Interview. The Sirens Review squad takes you inside Power & Magic and Heartwood: Non-Binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy, both of which Joamette edited. Joamette also offered us some recommended reads, including graphic novels, short stories, and novels, and we’ve put together a collection of what we think are great read-alikes for the comics she’s edited. You can also see some of Joamette’s own comics, along with other interviews, in her Further Reading.

Books

Do you switch out your winter to-read list for a summer to-read list at the same time you change out your wardrobe? However you arrange your shelves, nightstand stacks, or ebook files, here are some suggestions for starting the summer right with fabulous works of speculative fiction from marginalized authors:

Book Recommendations and Reviews:

  • The second installment of this year’s Reading Challenge feature series centers on the theme of Transgression: “In the speculative space that is Sirens, our second mission statement is transgression: to find and share those stories, our stories, that transgress boundaries, expectations, and limitations for all people of marginalized genders.” Visit the post for a look inside the works from this year’s Reading Challenge that most thoroughly explore rule-breakers, barrier-busters, and paradigm-shifters.
  • In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’ve compiled a list of fifty great speculative works by female, trans, and nonbinary AAPI authors. These books range from graphic novels to YA to adult, from hilarious romps to sweeping epics to lush romance.
  • Sirens Chair Amy Tenbrink spends her days reading, reading, and reading some more, and this month she tried to review a book, and ending up down a rabbit hole. In “On Politeness and Monstrousness,” Amy tells us why she eagerly gobbles up books about teenage monster-hunters and is invariably disappointed by them. “No demographic needs to claim their monstrousness more than teenaged girls.”
  • As the school year wraps up and we look forward to summer reading, writer and high school teacher Katie Passerotti offers up a list of highly teachable fantasy books. “If we expect students to become lifelong readers, it’s vital they be given choice and be provided with opportunities to read broadly and outside of the very cis, very white, very male literary canon.”
  • Wonderful new fantasy books by women and non-binary authors joined the world in May! Be sure to peruse our Round-Up to find your next great read.
  • Our June Book Club selection is The Seven Necessary Sins for Women & Girls by Mona Eltahawy. If you’d like to join the Zoom conversation on June 27th, please email us (help at sirensconference.org) to be added to our list!

Happy reading!

This newsletter is brought to you by:

 


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

 

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 13, Issue 2: April 2021

This month:

Your Sirens team has been at a full gallop, busy as bees, getting our ducks in rows and our cats herded and other animal idioms properly aligned. But don’t worry, we’re not chasing any wild geese. We aim to give your brain and spirit some rejuvenation, because you’re the pick of the litter! So go hog wild with this month’s Sirens content.

2021 Sirens Programming Submissions

Did you know? Submissions are now open for 2021 programming. We’re looking for excellent roundtables, workshops, afternoon classes, panels, papers, and lectures to fill out the schedule of events. So if you have research to share, an idea to explore in conversation, or a skill you can help others build, and if you don’t already have programming accepted from a 2020 proposal, we hope you’ll submit!

Need help figuring out what to submit or how to structure your submission? Our ongoing annual programming series has the answers you need! You can also head to the #SirensBrainstorm tag on Twitter to find a plethora of ideas, free for the taking.

Submissions, including any co-presenter confirmations, are due May 15.

2021 Sirens Scholarships

We’re delighted to announce that, due to the overwhelming generosity of last year’s Sirens at Home attendees, we have thirteen additional scholarships to offer 2021 attendees. Four of those scholarships will be granted to those who identify as BIPOC, three for exemplary programming proposals, three to those with financial hardships, and three to librarians, educators, and publishing professionals (which may be anyone from an editor to an agent to a publicist to a cover designer to a bookseller).

We are also again offering three Sabrina Chin “Braver Than You Think” Memorial Scholarships to first-time attendees and presenters. 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 her work with Sirens.

If you need assistance, we hope you’ll consider applying for a scholarship by May 15!

Community Day

Thanks to everyone who attended our first Community Day on April 25th! We had an excellent BIPOC meetup, followed by a vibrant discussion of Kameron Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion with the Sirens Book Club. Kameron then revisited her 2018 Guest of Honor keynote speech, “Narrating Our Way to a Brighter Future,” and we followed that up with roundtable discussions in breakout rooms.

If you weren’t able to join us and are suffering the pangs of envy for those who did, fear not! We’ll be hosting more virtual events between now and October.

Guest of Honor Weeks

In April, we featured two more of 2021’s Guests of Honor! Both are dazzling writers with many award wins and nominations to their credit, and we are overjoyed to welcome them to Sirens.

Sarah Gailey Author

First, our showcase of Sarah Gailey included an exclusive Sirens interview, as well as the Sirens Review Squad covering Magic for Liars and American Hippo. We also compiled some Book Friends for Sarah’s work, in case you need some read-alikes on your shelves. Sarah also has a mountain of short fiction, essays, and interviews available online! We’ve rounded them up for your reading convenience. If you’re looking for some ultra-quick recommendations to plump out your to-read list, Sarah made a list of favorite reads described in four words each.

Fonda Lee Author

Our second Guest of Honor week in April helped you get to know Fonda Lee with an interview and a sampling of Fonda’s works from around the web. The Sirens Review squad read Jade City and Zeroboxer in hopes of tempting you to add them to your to-read list. Fonda gifted us with a rec list of books featuring women wielding power, and we compiled a list of Book Friends that we think complement Fonda’s work.

Books

Whether the full flourishing of spring has you frolicking in the daisies or reaching for the antihistamines, we hope you’re getting the time (and un-allergy-bedeviled eyes) to do some reading!

The 2021 Sirens Reading Challenge seeks to amplify voices that are pushing boundaries in speculative spaces. We’ve picked works that are innovative, challenging, and even uncomfortable, but that we think look toward a more inclusive, more empathetic, more just world. This month, we started a six-part series featuring the themes and messages important to Sirens, beginning with “Reclamation”, and used works from the challenge list to highlight that theme. We hope you’ll take a look, see why those titles made this year’s list, and decide to dive into them yourself.

Book Recommendations and Reviews:

  • Has a year of quarantine shortened your attention span for reading? You’re not alone; we’re hearing that from a lot of the Sirens community. Fortunately, the Sirens Review Squad is here to help: Emory Noakes shared a list of five LGBTQ+ fantasy novellas ideal for pandemic brain!
  • The Sirens Book Club pick for May is Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee. If you’d like to join the conversation on Sunday, May 30, email us at (help AT sirensconference.org) to be added to our list.
  • Need yet more potential new reads? Be sure to check out April’s roundup of newly-released fantasy fiction by women and nonbinary authors!

Well, cats and kittens, that wraps up the things we have to crow about this month. If we’ve put a bee in your bonnet, convinced you to feather your nest with new books, or persuaded you to take a gander at a new author, we hope you’ll howl about it till the cows come home.

This newsletter is brought to you by:

 


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

 

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 13, Issue 1: March 2021

This month:

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

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

Welcome Back

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

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

2021 Sirens Programming Submissions

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

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

Rin Chupeco’s Guest of Honor Week

Rin Chupeco Author

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

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

Inaugural Sirens Community Day

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

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

Speculative Fiction Book Club

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

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

Speculative Fiction Book Recommendations

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

Book Recommendations and Reviews:

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

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

This newsletter is brought to you by:

 


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

 

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 12, Issue 9: September 2020

This month:

Whether you’re a pumpkin spice latte or apple cider sort of person, or eschewing fall-themed beverages altogether, the equinox has come and gone, and change is on the wind. Whatever patterns your life may be falling into these days, Sirens hopes we can provide you with some entertainment, some intellectual stimulation, and some companionship, even across the miles.

2020 Sirens at Home

The big news this month is Sirens at Home! We may not be able to convene in Denver, but we can come together in virtual space. From October 22nd to 25th, we have a schedule of events designed to show off the best of what Sirens is: a warm, supportive community celebrating fantasy fiction and those who love it. During the weekend, we’ll be sharing essays, hosting panels full of brilliant minds, giving book recommendations, and gathering in groups both large and small, both general and specific, for discussion and merriment!

If you haven’t attended Sirens before, or if you’re trying to convince a friend or colleague to join us, this is a fabulous opportunity to get a taster of what Sirens is all about. The weekend is a veritable sampler of what you’d get at a full in-person conference – and it’s totally free. That’s right! Anyone can attend with an absolutely no-charge registration.

How should you do that? Well, all you need to do is register, and we’ll send you all the info you need to join the online events.

The Sirens staff is so excited about the online programming we’re putting together, and we hope we’ll see many friends, old and new, on our screens in October!

Sirens Chats

Sirens at Home isn’t your only chance to see your fellow Sirens! We’re also holding more Zoom chats in October and November. These video meet-ups have been very chill and sociable, a chance to blow off a little steam, connect with far-flung friends, and trade recommendations on books, binge-watching, recipes, child-and-pet-wrangling, and more.

Here are the dates and times for the next two Zoom chats. If you’re not yet on the list to receive reminders, email help at sirensconference.org, and you won’t miss a thing.

  • Saturday, October 3, at 12 p.m. PDT/3 p.m. EDT
  • Monday, November 16 at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST

We also have a text-only chat option, ideal for the camera-shy or just camera-exhausted! On Thursday, October 8, 9 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. CDT, we’ll have a spooky-themed Twitter chat! Simply follow #SirensChat and answer questions with the hashtag to join in!

Books

It’s starting to be cozy-up reading season, isn’t it? Maybe you get to curl up on a porch with a blankie, breathing in the crisp autumn air and letting a pleasant chill settle over you as you leaf through the pages of a new adventure – or maybe you’re huddled inside, seeking refuge from tumultuous weather. Whatever your reading situation is, we hope we can bring you some delights and give you something to chat about with your fellow Sirens.

We’re even doing Books and Breakfast for Sirens at Home! Check out the seven 2020 releases being featured, and if you’d like to take part on Friday, October 23rd, pick one to read, make sure you’re registered for SAH, and join the discussion.

Book Recommendations and Reviews:

  • Amy Tenbrink calls Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia “a must-read for anyone interested in both female horror and its evolution.” Read the full review.
  • Tina LeCount Myers gives us a reading list featuring stubborn, willful, goal-oriented heroines.
  • September gave us a whole slate of fantastic new releases by women and non-binary authors! Check out our round-up if you need some inspiration.

Our staff members are full of excitement for some of October’s new releases. Here’s what we can’t wait to get our hands on:

Erynn’s Pick: Burning Roses by S.L. Huang

Burning Roses

Enjoy a dark adventurous escape into the fairy tale world of Rosa, aka Red Riding Hood, a recovering assassin, and Hou Yi the Archer from Chinese mythology. These once-gloried heroines are queer, middle-aged, tired, and full of angst over the past. Instead of relaxing away their retirement, they must team up against deadly sunbirds, sent by Hou Yi’s former apprentice, ravaging destruction through the countryside.

In the midst of chaos, Rosa reminisces guilt over her associations with scam artist Goldie (of three bears fame) and marriage to Mei, a foreign beauty who was imprisoned by a prince-turned-beast. Meanwhile, Hou Yi, finds opportunity to make amends to her family following her ruthless chase of immortality. Burning Roses is a quick read with a big feel, written by MIT mathematician and professional weapons expert/stuntwoman, S.L. Huang.

Cass’s Pick: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

The Once and Future Witches

There’s no such thing as witches – but maybe there could be. When the Eastwood sisters join the suffragist movement in New Salem, they begin a process of melding magic into their political efforts. Invoking ancient rites and the strength of their words, they seek to open new avenues to power for women. Their actions might change the course of history, if they can evade the dark forces lining up against them.

Having read The Ten Thousand Doors of January this past winter and absolutely eaten it up with a spoon, I’m so excited to read Harrow’s next effort. Her prose is gorgeously spell-binding, and the witchy theme should make this a perfect October read.

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

 

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 12, Issue 8: August 2020

This month:

This summer has been A Lot, hasn’t it? So many of us are dealing with so many different kinds of trauma. Isolation and health, racial justice and social reform, political and personal and professional pressures mounting and mounting and never seeming to crest.

We know it’s tough. We are so proud of our whole Sirens community, because we know how hard you work and how much you care. We hope that we can provide a forum to further all these conversations, inspire you to both thought and action, and also give you a respite when it’s time to step away, rest, and replenish yourself.

2020 Sirens at Home

While the “villains” year of Sirens may be postponed to 2021, we are busy planning for Sirens at Home, which will take place October 22-25, 2020. Even though we won’t be together, that doesn’t mean that we cannot gather and have some of those conversations that we would usually have at Sirens.

Keep an eye out for announcements in September, but we’re planning panels, discussion groups, safer spaces, Books and Breakfast, book recommendations, and even an at-home version of our Sirens Ball. So read those books and pull together those costumes because we’ll have more information for you soon.

2021 Sirens Registrations

If Sirens at Home is making you ready for 2021 when we all hope to be together again, you can register now. And if you register for 2021 by September 1, 2020, we’ll send you a Sirens at Home care package this October—including a limited edition T-shirt!

Sirens Essays

Our summer essay series concluded this month! In “Women of Feral Souls,” author Artemis Grey takes us on a rich journey from isolation to community, exploring the ways in which souls reach out to one another: “Living deeply in oneself, as I and many other feral souls do, gives you nearly impenetrable armor, but that armor creates an island: atolls of emotional vacancy crowned with wary cliffs interrupted only by deeply embedded linns wrought of warning and disinclination, against which churn and froth the waters of humanity.”

Interviews

In August, we continued introducing you to some of the amazing members of the Sirens community! This month’s interviews feature academics, publishing professionals, and a whole lot of love for fantasy fiction.

  • Scholar Adriana De Persia Colón tells us about her academic work on Boricua fiction and ethnoracial identity. “I also love that SFF can tackle complex issues such as imperialism and colonialism, for example, while having action-packed plots and adventures.”
  • Rine Karr, reader, writer, copyeditor, and tea-lover, tells us what she loves about fantasy fiction and how it relates to her background in anthropology. “There have been many times when I’ve found solace and strength in the actions of a character in a fantasy story.”
  • Editor Diana Pho takes us inside her process for preparing a book for publication: “Once I get my mind wrapped around a story, I get so involved in the building blocks of the narrative—re-tooling a line edit, constructing an editorial letter, or sorting out a reverse outline—that it is its own creative high.” She also tells us about her work as a playwright, ongoing conversations about diversity in publishing, and highlights of her con-going life.
  • Isabel Schechter, builder of speculative communities and author of essays on race and representation in science fiction and fantasy, discusses fandom spaces in-person and online, now and in the future, and shares some of her favorite con experiences from Sirens and elsewhere. “I have been able to make connections at every convention I’ve attended. I remember being on a panel about found family and I started bawling and soon so was everyone else in the room.”

Sirens Chats

When did you last get to squee about an amazing read to another human, face-to-face? It may be virtual, but we invite you to join us online to share what you’re reading, what you’re loving, what you’re doing. Here are the dates and times for the next four Zoom chats. If you’re not yet on the list to receive reminders, email help at sirensconference.org, and you won’t miss a thing.

  • Tuesday, September 1 at 5 p.m. PDT/8 p.m. EDT
  • Thursday, September 17 at 6 p.m. PDT/9 p.m. EDT
  • Saturday, October 3 at 12 p.m. PDT/3 p.m. EDT
  • Monday, November 16 at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST

We also have a text-only chat option, ideal for the camera-shy or just camera-exhausted! On Thursday, September 10, 9 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. CDT, we’ll have September’s Get-To-Know-You Twitter chat! Simply follow #SirensChat and answer questions with the hashtag to join in!

2020 Reading Challenge

We hope that you are hard at work on the 2020 Reading Challenge because the deadline for completion is still October 1, 2020. (Surely you did not expect that Sirens would give you two years to read 25 books!) We’ll be rolling out our 2021 Reading Challenge during Sirens at Home later in October. So get those books read for this year—and clear your reading schedule for 2021!

Books

Reading is at the core of all we do at Sirens, and August has been another fascinating month for fantasy fiction. Here are some of the books that have been on our brains:

Book Recommendations and Reviews:

Our staff loves to share their excitement and reading recommendations with you, too! Here are a couple of August’s new releases that have brought delight:

Erynn’s Pick: Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Star Daughter

Normally wearing a mask of quiet mediocrity, seventeen-year-old Sheetal Mistry is learning to shine under extreme family pressure from both her paternal extended desi family’s push for perfection and the manipulative politics of her star mother’s celestial court relatives.

When high emotions incite her star fire into a chaotic flare, critically injuring her mortal father, she must seek out her estranged mother and allow herself to become a political pawn, performing as a human champion for the stars in order to save his life.

Thakrar’s coming of age story is a sparkling spin of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust in a world inspired from Hindu mythology. Beautifully descriptive and full of family, friends, traditions and feelings sometimes so supernal they can only be expressed in music, Star Daughter will illuminate her space on your bookshelf.

Cass’s Pick: Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston

Bookish and the Beast

I have loved the whole Once Upon a Con series, and the third installment is as delightful and charming as Geekerella and The Princess and the Fangirl were. Bookish and the Beast picks up the story of antagonist Vance Reigns, bad-boy actor used to a life of privilege and fulfilling the “hot villain” trope in the Starfield universe (the Star Trek analog which this series uses as the basis for its in-world fandom). When tabloid scandal forces him to hide out in a small rural town, he encounters Rosie Thorne, a girl feeling trapped by her life, struggling to decide both who she wants to be and how to become that person.

And, of course, they hate each other at first—except it turns out that they’ve met before, at the ExcelsiCon masquerade the year before, when they had started to fall for each other. So much of this story is about taking down those masks and barriers. Vance, as with all Beasts, has a lot of work to do! But he and Rosie both grow and learn that there might be more strength in trusting each other than in keeping protective walls around their hearts. The book also features some great rep: Both main characters are bisexual! One of the secondary characters is nonbinary, we see two gay men as parents, and queer characters from previous books make cameo appearances as well.

I adore that these books are YA romances for geeks. Reading them as an adult has both made me affectionately think of my own youthful romances and yearn for the day when we can go to conventions again, because surely I’m not too old for my own magical moment, right?

 


Forward into fall!

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

 

Rine Karr: Exclusive Sirens Interview

We’re getting to know some members of the Sirens community! In this attendee interview series, we talk to scholars, creators, professionals, readers, and more: about their love of fantasy literature, their current work and passions, why they chose to attend Sirens, and what keeps them coming back. We think you’ll find that the Sirens community is full of fascinating, accomplished individuals with much to share—and we hope you’ll join us someday!

Today, Sirens co-chair Manda Lewis interviews Rine Karr, a reader, writer, copy editor, and tea-lover who first attended Sirens just last year!

 

MANDA LEWIS: When did you fall in love with fantasy literature? What do you love about it?

Rine Karr

RINE KARR: Oh my gosh, I don’t really know exactly when I fell in love with fantasy literature. I was lucky to be raised by bookworms. My parents met playing D&D, which says a lot about how imaginative my family can be. As a child, I remember poring over my mum’s unicorn coffee table books, reading lots of fairy tales, Greek and Roman myths, and fantasy books like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I also watched a lot of fantasy films like The Princess Bride, Willow, and The Last Unicorn. I somehow missed out on the Song of the Lioness series, but I read other fantasy books like A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Prydain, The Worlds of Chrestomanci, Redwall, lots of Point Fantasy books, as well as my parents’ Science Fiction Book Club books. I was close to the target age for Harry Potter when it came out, so I read those, of course (although I don’t really want to acknowledge J. K. Rowling right now). I was also obsessed with the His Dark Materials trilogy. Strangely, I didn’t read any Tolkien until after the Lord of the Rings movies were released, although, at the time, I think I got into those mostly because of Legolas!

Regarding what I love about fantasy literature, I could probably write an entire thesis on this topic. I think that back when I was a kid, although now too, I loved fantasy stories because they were a means of escape. There are times—like now—when life can be very difficult. Fantasy stories can transport us away from our problems, even if for only a little while. Fantasy stories are exciting. They often portray better worlds. But even if they don’t portray better worlds, fantasy stories show us how to be better in the face of injustices and truly frightening things. There have been many times when I’ve found solace and strength in the actions of a character in a fantasy story. Ella in Ella Enchanted, for instance, was an important heroine for me when I was a child.

 

MANDA: Close your eyes and imagine: You are in your ideal reading space, the aroma of your favorite beverage is wafting toward you, and you are holding a favorite book. Where are you? What elements are important to creating this space for you? And how much does creating this space affect your reading experience?

RINE: If I were to close my eyes and imagine the perfect reading space, it would be a private library with a big comfy chair to read in and a forest or a lake or the ocean outside the window. There would be tea—and lots of it—and probably a thick fantasy book in my lap. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a space like that right now. I live in a city in a one-bedroom apartment that is a bit of a mess currently because of the pandemic and having to find space for both myself and my partner to work from home. Most of the time, I read on the couch or in bed before bedtime. Reading is not really a ritual practice for me—it’s just something I always do! I read during quiet moments at work. I read on my lunch hour. I read while my food is cooking. I read whenever I can. Before the pandemic, I read a lot on my commute, both e-books and audiobooks on my phone. I think that I’ve learned how to make both space and time for reading, and that I hardly think about the atmosphere within which I read anymore out of necessity. Still, I’d love to have a devoted reading space in my home someday.

 

MANDA: I’m curious if your background in anthropology affects how you approach reading. Do you enjoy stories where there is a strong depth to the societies and the history of the world? Is it irksome when it’s not believable—and what makes it not believable for you?

RINE: My background in anthropology probably does affect how I approach reading, although it has been a long time since I’ve studied anthropology. It was one of my majors in undergrad, the other being religious studies. Also, my anthropology coursework focused more on archaeology, especially the science of it—lots of digging in the ground, learning how to use plumb bobs and such. So, when I see stories about archaeologists, I do often find it irksome when they’re portrayed like Indiana Jones, even though I do like Indy. I can be pretty critical of stories portraying archaeologists having wild adventures and basically stealing from other cultures. Archaeologists in the past did sometimes do these things, but good archaeologists now don’t.

But anyway, I think that I do enjoy stories that have a strong depth to the societies and the history of the world. I’ve always been imaginative and can suspend my disbelief, but I do find myself lauding books that have strong worldbuilding. When the world in a story is believable, when it feels more concrete, it makes it easier for me to fall into that story. Of course, believability is a difficult quality to describe because it can be subjective and different for everyone. But for me, I think it’s a sense of logic. I think that’s why, as an adult, I don’t really enjoy fairy tales or fairy-tale retellings as much as I did as a child. I want concrete answers about why something is happening in a story, and fairy tales don’t often explain why something is happening.

For example, I know a lot of people loved This Is How You Lose the Time War, but I struggled with it. I know the purpose of this story is the love story and the beautiful prose—which is thoughtfully written—but I couldn’t help but wonder about the future, the war, and the mechanics of time travel as I read this story. I wanted to know all of the things, which is why perhaps a book like Ancillary Justice is more my style. There’s a lot in Ancillary Justice that Ann Leckie doesn’t tell us—after all I don’t want all the answers—but there is so much about Radch culture—the tea, the deities, the gloves, Radch views on purity and impurity, their views regarding gender, the list goes on and on—that she does give. I really do enjoy that kind of worldbuilding!

 

MANDA: You recently created a wonderful dragon-themed reading list for Sirens. Have you come across a depiction of a dragon that you would befriend and wish to have in your daily life? If so, who and from what book? If not, what dragon qualities make you glad they are on the page and not in your living room?

RINE: I’m going to cheat a little with this question because one of my favorite dragons comes from a film and not a book, but…I can’t help it! I think my favorite dragon is Haku from Spirited Away. His love for Chihiro makes my heart melt. Also, I’ve always liked how Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki weaved Japanese Shinto and Buddhist folklore into the worldbuilding for Spirited Away, especially Haku’s true identity, which I won’t reveal here to avoid spoilers, but which is reminiscent of my own feelings regarding nature and how humans, no matter what we do, will always be part of the natural world.

 

MANDA: Why did you first decide to come to Sirens? And then why did you decide to come back to Sirens the next year?

RINE: If I recall correctly, I first heard about Sirens from V. E. Schwab’s Twitter. I think it was 2017, the year Schwab attended as a guest. At the time, I was still just getting into science fiction and fantasy writing, although I was of course reading voraciously as I always have. So, I wasn’t sure if Sirens was for me. I was definitely intrigued by the con, especially because of how Sirens focuses on women and nonbinary people in SFF. I’d thought about attending a local SFF writing convention before, but I’d decided against it because I didn’t feel comfortable going alone into what felt like a highly male-centered space. In the end, when Sirens moved down from the mountains and into Denver, I knew I wanted to attend because that made it much easier and more affordable for me to get there. I decided to return because although I only dipped my toe in last year, I had a wonderful time. I’d like to continue meeting more fellow SFF lovers, and I’d like to contribute more to the Sirens community in the future. I really want to support Sirens’s mission.

 

MANDA: Sirens is about discussing and deconstructing both gender and fantasy literature. Would you please tell us about a woman or nonbinary person—a family member, a friend, a reader, an author, an editor, a character, anyone—who has changed your life?

RINE: This is such a difficult question because there have been so many wonderful women who have changed my life—my mum, my sister, my grandmothers, my maternal great-aunt, my mother-in-law, one of my partner’s aunts, a boss I had in the past, and a few Dharma friends that I have. All of these people, and more, have for one reason or another shaped who I am today. The ways in which they’ve changed my life are largely personal, but I think each of them has taught me in their own way how to find and kindle my inner strength, and many of them have taught me how to move with confidence in a world that so often pressures women and nonbinary people to conform to certain social conventions, many conventions of which I’ve learned to no longer accept. Basically, many of these people have taught me how to keep up the good fight against the patriarchy!

If I were to pick a fantasy author specifically who has changed my life recently, I think I’d pick someone I mentioned earlier: V. E. Schwab. When I was beginning to get back into reading fantasy again after a long break from it (grad school can unfortunately do this to people) and I was starting to work on writing my own fantasy stories too, a friend—one who has also changed my life—introduced me to the Shades of Magic series, and from that time on, I’ve primarily read fantasy stories written by women and nonbinary authors. I had finally realized with Schwab’s series that these are the types of stories that I wanted and needed—stories by and about women and nonbinary protagonists who are allowed to be who they are no matter what. Stories that remind me of the stories I read as a child. Stories like those of Gail Carson Levine, Diane Duane, Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeleine L’Engle, Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper, and K. A. Applegate, but ones written by my own generation of women and nonbinary writers.

 


Rine Karr is a writer and aspiring novelist by moonlight and a copy editor by daylight, with a background in anthropology/archaeology, international human rights, and Buddhist studies/art history. When Rine is not writing or otherwise working, she can be most often found reading books and drinking tea. She also loves to travel, and her heart is located somewhere between Hong Kong and London, although Rine currently lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains with her partner. She’s also currently—and almost always—in the midst of writing a novel.

Manda Lewis served as an engineer in the Air Force for seven years. She currently works for a children’s museum in Raleigh, North Carolina, hosting after-hours special events. She is also the caretaker of two small bundles of chaos. Manda has always made it a habit to draw, color, and doodle on just about everything within reach and loves themes far more than anyone really should. She has been a volunteer for Narrate Conferences since 2007.

Sirens Newsletter—Volume 12, Issue 7 (July 2020)

This month:

Wasn’t cabin fever supposed to be a winter malady? With pandemic protections and unpleasant weather combining forces to keep people from venturing outdoors, we know many in our Sirens community may be weary of pinging against familiar walls. We hope that we can give your mind a respite and a bit of escape through this month’s interviews, essays, and book recommendations!

2020 Postponement

We hope you’ve seen our email or website announcement about the postponement of Sirens to October 2021. While we will miss the Sirens community so very much, given the continued presence of COVID-19, we prioritized the health and well-being of our attendees, presenters, guests, staff, and everyone whom their lives touch.

If you had already registered for Sirens and/or been accepted for programming, please check your email for information about how to proceed.

We hope that everyone will stay safe and well, wear your masks, and be ready to reconvene next year!

 

Sirens Chats

Fortunately, modern technology does afford us ways to keep in touch, even when we can’t congregate in Denver as planned. Our next Sirens Zoom chat will be on Tuesday, August 4, 8 p.m. EDT. We’d love to see your face! These chats have been a wonderful way to keep in touch, take a few minutes to relax, and discuss what we’re loving in fantasy fiction right now. If you haven’t joined us before and you’d like to, please email help at sirensconference.org, and we’ll add you to the list to receive reminders and the Zoom link.

We also have a text-only chat option! On Thursday, August 6, 9 p.m. EDT, we’ll have August’s Twitter chat on the topic of weather and climate in speculative fiction. Simply follow #SirensChat and answer questions with the hashtag to join in!

 

Sirens Essays

We released three more genius essays interrogating some weighty issues this month. The summer round of Sirens Essays will wrap up in August, so be on the lookout for the final installment.

  • Bestselling author V. S. Holmes unpacks the harmful implications that attend the assignation of disability and disfigurement to villainous characters in “Moral Disability: How Villainy Looks When You’re the Monster”. Holmes asks readers and creators alike to consider the message sent when a character becomes evil because of illness or injury and the further implications of redemption arcs and magical or technological “cures” for their conditions.

  • In “A Room of Her Own: The Post-Modern Haunted Houses of Nova Ren Suma,” editor and freelance writer Meg Belviso explores “the haunted house as a transitional space” in modern speculative fiction. She focuses on Nova Ren Suma’s YA novels The Walls Around Us and A Room Away from the Wolves, which center the two-pronged liminality of teenaged heroines experiencing hauntings while living in temporary housing.

  • S. M. Mack, scholar and author of short fiction, examines the necessity of sitting with painful realities in “On Bearing Witness in Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, connecting a book that re-centers the Iliad on Briseis, enslaved and abused by Achilles and Agamemnon, to present-day injustices and crises.

Interviews

In July, we continued featuring the amazing people who will be running workshops during Sirens Studio. We’re delighted that they’ll all be joining us in 2021! We hope these interviews will serve as good introductions and help you look forward to meeting them in safer times.

  • Author, former anthropologist and folklorist, and former Sirens Guest of Honor Marie Brennan discusses crafting character voices, fuzzy boundaries between academic and non-academic writing, and her Sirens workshop, “Faith in Fantasy: Building Believable Religions.”
  • In her interview, Ren Iwamoto, a scholar focusing on twentieth-century East Asian literature, Japanese colonialism, and post-colonial discourse, expresses her view that “speculative fiction should destabilize” and prepares us for her Studio workshop, “Seasoned with Soy Sauce: Asianization in Western Speculative Media and What It Means to Be ‘Asian-Inspired’.”

This month, we also began featuring members of our Sirens community! In the coming months, you’ll hear from a variety of attendees representing the wide spectrum of professions and backgrounds which makes Sirens so vibrant.

  • Nicole Brinkley, manager of Oblong Books & Music, tells us what she loves about hand-selling books, how she fits a book to a reader, and her hopes for the future of speculative fiction.
  • Teacher Traci-Anne Canada tells us about building a classroom library and helping students find books they enjoy and that will speak to them.
  • Voracious reader Danielle Cicchetti shares the books she’s been loving recently, her secrets to finishing 150+ books a year, and how Sirens has contributed to her reading habit.

 

 

Books

Whether you’re reading in the bright sunshine or huddling beneath the sweet shelter of the air conditioner, we hope we can introduce you to your new best book friend! This month’s book recommendations feature a dazzling array of new releases and old favorites, guaranteed to invite you into other worlds and to prompt you to think critically about the one we live in.

Book Recommendations and Reviews:

  • Faye Bi recommends Bethany C. Morrow’s A Song Below Water as a crucial component of a reader’s journey to anti-racism. “[Morrow] seamlessly and ambitiously unpacks intersectionality, racism, sexism, police brutality, protesting, affirmative action, gentrification, education, beauty standards, and more.”
  • Casey Blair provides a list of books featuring “Women in SFF Who Dream Big Dreams and Don’t Let Anyone Stop Them”.
  • Chelsea Cleveland reviews The Power by Naomi Alderman: “While this isn’t the first title I’ve come across where supernatural abilities were attributed to one gender, I have never seen it done with such gut-punching impact or specificity.”
  • Whether high summer has you yearning for the adventure of a road trip, the solitude of camping in the woods, or the sweet scent of the ocean breeze, Amanda Hudson’s Summer Nights rec list has something sure to delight.
  • If those recommendations aren’t enough to get you through the dog days of summer, be sure to look at our compilation of July 2020 new releases!

And here are a few staff picks for this month:

Erynn’s Pick: Wonderland by Zoje Stage

Wonderland

At the age of 41, Orla Bennet is reluctantly retiring from the dance stages of New York City and relocating with her family to a farmhouse in the Adirondack mountains. Quiet and privacy are the charms of their new expansive home with the closest neighbor a mile away. The space is intended to afford her partner, Shaw, inspiration for his new-found calling as an artist, their anxious preteen daughter her own bedroom, and their exuberant son freedom for his curiosity.

But, of course, strange things start to happen once they settle in. An enigmatic presence calls to the family through the trees and earth, seeping into their minds, and securing their isolation. Part suspense, part horror, Stage’s story is one of maternal strength told with exquisite prose.

Cass’s Pick: Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott

Unconquerable Sun

If “genderflipped Alexander the Great in space” doesn’t grab you, then perhaps “genetically engineered human-aliens, cutthroat galaxy-spanning politics, queernorm worldbuilding, and imaginative future tech” will. Unconquerable Sun is an ambitious and exciting opening to a new series, inspired by but not directly imitative of its historical sources. There are plenty of Easter eggs for the classical studies geeks, but nothing in the book relies on that knowledge. Elliott builds a whole new galaxy with deep roots and evocative details.

Sun is an astonishing hero: charismatic, decisive, brilliant, sharp. The cast that surrounds her is equally grand, from the wily Persephone to the handsome Alika and all the rest of Sun’s Companions. The writing is as bold as Sun herself. Elliott has taken some risks in the way she handles the various point-of-view characters, changing person and tense in a way that helps the reader feel, deeply, the soul-deep shifts between each character, rather than merely placing the camera behind another person’s head. It pays off: the book is an enthralling adventure from start to finish.

 


Keep cool, keep safe, and keep reading!

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

 

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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