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Fantasy Works Featuring Women Who Fight Back

By Suzi Rogers Gruber (@srgruber)

The characters I like best are often women who do the work that needs doing in spite of the heartbreak and horror that inevitably await them. Whether they are pursuing justice, seeking revenge, or securing their power, these women rise against terrifying forces again and again, even though their chances of survival are just as bad as their chances of success. They scheme and fight and resist until their last breath. They do what they have to do to survive.

Many of the characters on this list are kind of terrifying. Nyx will do anything to stay alive, and not many are left standing with her. Lila is made of weaponized machinery she can’t control. Irene gets and keeps her throne by assassinating the men who threaten her. Onyesonwu’s power is as tremendous as her rage and sorrow. All of them have been underestimated by their foes, assumed to be too weak or too broken to fight back. They fight anyway. They are often unpredictable, violent, ruthless. They have moments of doubt, vulnerability, and heartbreaking loss. They keep fighting.

Sometimes they even win, in the end.

 

WhoFearsDeath 1. Onyesonwu, Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor
 
GodsWar 2. Nyx, The bel Dame Apocrypha (God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture), Kameron Hurley
 
KeepingItReal 3. Lila Black, Quantum Gravity series (Keeping It Real, Selling Out, Going Under, Chasing the Dragon, and Down to the Bone), Justina Robson
 
MidnightRobber 4. Tan-Tan, Midnight Robber, Nalo Hopkinson
 
TheQueenofAttolia 5. Attolia, Queen of Attolia, Megan Whalen Turner
 
QuintanaofCharyn 6. Quintana, Quintana of Charyn, Melina Marchetta

 

Testimonials: Write about something that happened at Sirens.

Meg Belviso (@sistermagpie)
I forgot to bring a bathing suit, and really regretted it when a couple of attending authors announced an impromptu dip in the hot tub. Turns out underwear is just fine for a hot tub, though. A bunch of us sat there in the chilly night air, soaking in the warm water, and getting into a passionate discussion about the lack of good zombie romances. Sarah Rees Brennan is making a passionate demand for love stories about zombies. Why are zombies, amongst all Dark Creatures, left out of the Dark Romance trend? To make her final point, she faceplanted in the water like Ophelia. It was an inspiring moment.

 
Kate Larking (@astres)
What happens at Sirens stays at Sirens.

 
Casey Blair (@CaseyLBlair)
My first year at Sirens, I arrived at the welcome reception early, so early there was basically no one there. I kind of milled around slowly, trying to mimic normal human behavior and not draw attention to the fact that I had no idea what to do with myself. Eventually I set my purse down and then went to take my sweet time choosing desserts and snacks so I wouldn’t just be sitting alone at a table.

Eventually I could dither no longer, but to my happy surprise the table had become occupied in my absence. In short order I found myself in an animated conversation with another woman who also loved one of my favorite obscure anime. At some point I glanced at her name tag and realized I had been chatting with Sherwood Smith, one of the guests of honor that year.

That sort of set the tone for my experience with Sirens: arriving feeling awkward and then having awesome people totally blow my concerns out of the water. Pro or fan, we all go to Sirens because we’re passionate about women in fantasy.

A couple of years later, I was struggling with a novel that I just could not make work. I knew I needed help, and I found myself looking again at science fiction and fantasy workshop applications. I recognized enough of the names of instructors on the list for Viable Paradise that year to be daunted, but then I discovered Sherwood Smith among them. I figured, well, if Sherwood hadn’t devoured me whole as a wee convention-goer, I would probably survive a workshop she’d joined. Knowing at least one person on that board would consider my broken work seriously and respectfully was the impetus I needed to apply, and I was only confident in that assumption because of my experiences at Sirens.

 
Erynn Moss (@erynnlk)
I always volunteer to lead a hike. Last year I didn’t even look at what volunteer slots were covered and just said dibs on the hike. And then I got the reply that I wasn’t needed because our keynote speaker, Rosemary Clement-Moore, would be leading it. I recovered enough by con time to be mostly joking when I told her that she stole my thunder. She was so nice and charming about it and in the end we didn’t even go. Our group voted to skip the rain and gathered around the fireplace instead to chat and giggle with the author of Texas Gothic, who, by the way, is susceptible to chocolate.

 

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 7, Issue 11 (September 2015)

In this issue:

 

REGISTRATION DEADLINE
Sirens is next month—and we can’t wait to see you! If you haven’t purchased your registration yet, please make sure to do so by September 12. When the clock strikes 11:59 p.m. on September 12, we’ll close our online registration system. After that, you must register at the door at an increased price.

If you have any questions, please contact us at (registration at sirensconference.org).

 

TICKETS
The registration deadline is also the deadline to purchase tickets for the Sirens Shuttle, Sirens Supper, and Sirens Studio. The Sirens Shuttle provides attendees and their guests affordable transportation to and from the Denver International Airport. The Sirens Supper is a wonderful way to connect with staff and attendees the night before the conference officially launches. And, new this year, the Sirens Studio offers two days of workshops, networking opportunities, discussions, and flexible time for writers, readers, and professionals. We’ll stop selling these tickets on September 12, and they’re very unlikely to be available at the door, so add them to your registration before the deadline.

 

TRAVEL AND HOTEL RESERVATIONS
No matter how you’re traveling to Sirens, we have information available for you on the transportation page of our website. Denver is a large and sprawling city, but the Inverness Hotel offers some fabulous amenities and dining options right at home. If you haven’t made your hotel reservations yet, please do so by calling the hotel directly at (303) 799-5800; rooms are filling up quickly. (Please do not call the toll-free number, since they don’t seem aware of our room block.) If you have any issues making a reservation and getting the Sirens discount rate, please do let us know at (help at sirensconference.org).

 

UPCOMING INSTRUCTION EMAILS
If you’ve registered for Sirens, please keep an eye on your inbox during the beginning of October. We’ll be sending you emails regarding, as appropriate, meeting the Sirens Shuttle, checking in for the Sirens Studio, finding the Sirens Supper, and claiming your Sirens registration.

 

SCHEDULE
If you’ve got all of your travel details set, it might be time to review the accepted programming and schedule for Sirens and daydream about owning a Time-Turner, or to volunteer (see below). It might also be time to review the Books and Breakfast list and pick out something to chat about before the day’s programming starts, or time to squeeze in a few more books from this year’s themed reading list. Remember, if you’ve finished this year’s Reading Challenge, please email us by September 12 to let us know of your victory; we’ll have a button suitable for gloating waiting for you at Sirens!

 

VOLUNTEERING
We’d love your help at Sirens! Volunteer shifts vary in length and responsibilities, but most volunteer shifts are during programming and allow you to attend presentations. You might help people find seats, turn microphones on or off, give presenters their five-minute warnings that time is up, and gather lost and found items. See the volunteers page page on our website for more details. 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. Thank you!

 

SUPPORT SIRENS
Each year, Sirens raises thousands of dollars in order to hold the conference and to keep registration costs as low as possible for everyone—even as the cost of hosting events skyrockets. If you can support Sirens through a donation of money, auction items, or used books, we’d be very appreciative.

 

GUEST OF HONOR INTERVIEW

Rae Carson

Read our in-depth interview with Guest of Honor Rae Carson, where she discusses inspirations, gold panning, Princess Leia, writing and more.

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB

AnEmberintheAshes

Come read with us! Sirens co-founder Amy leads the Sirens Book Club each month. September’s book is An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Join the discussion on Goodreads.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

July Recap: Sirens News, Book Releases, and Interesting Links

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Roundtable Discussions

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Workshops

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Afternoon Classes

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Panels

Rae Carson: Five Young Adult Fantasy Works with Adult Crossover Appeal

Andrea Horbinski: Five Fantasies of the Roaring Twenties from the New Gilded Age

Erynn Moss: Eight Fantasy Works That Don’t Over-Explain

s.e. smith: Five Dark and Twisty Young Adult Works

Casey Blair: Six Secondary World Urban Fantasies

Testimonials: If you’ve attended Sirens more than once, why did you decide to come back to Sirens?

Sirens Support

 


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

 

Five Fantasies of the Roaring Twenties from the New Gilded Age

By Andrea Horbinski (@horbinski)

As a historian, I’m a huge (if somewhat picky) fan of historical fantasy, and I’ve become increasingly fascinated with the 1920s and with books set in that era. It was a time of headlong social changes and precipitously widening social inequality, of glittering wealth at the top and grinding poverty at the bottom—sound familiar? It’s no accident that this new Gilded Age has produced a fine crop of novels set in the Jazz Age. Here are some of them, both young adult and otherwise:

 

Moonshine 1. Moonshine, Alaya Dawn Johnson
Set in an alternate 1920s New York City populated by vampires and djinn as well as bootleggers and immigrants, Moonshine is the story of Zephyr Hollis, the so-called “vampire suffragette,” a thoroughly modern woman with a zeal for social reform. Vampire novels are a dime a dozen these days, but this one is appropriately red of tooth, and it’s well worth tracking down.
 
TheGirlsattheKingfisherClub 2. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Genevieve Valentine
A retelling of the fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses—from the princesses’ perspective—set in Jazz Age New York before the crash, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is fleet on its feet and manages to make each girl believably individual, and desperate, even as it stays within the perspective of Jo, the eldest, the self-appointed general, the one who not only helps her sisters survive their tyrannical father, but escape him.
 
TheDiviners 3. The Diviners, Libba Bray
The Diviners is a big, ambitious book that’s trying to do a lot of things at once, and though I can’t yet say whether the series (this is the first of four) will be the great American historical epic of magic and race and freedom that I’ve wanted for years, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Evie, who gets sent to New York City as punishment for her inveterate drinking and smoking and truth-telling in her small town, and of Memphis, a young poet and numbers-runner in Harlem, and of the magic, murder, and mystery that brings them and a lot of other people together.
 
CuckooSong 4. Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge
Frances Hardinge is one of my favorite writers, hands-down, and this book, her first non-secondary world fantasy, is all the crunchier for being set in 1920s England. It’s the story of Tris, who slowly comes to a horrible realization about her own existence that propels her out of her family’s suffocating bosom into a desperate race against time, but what really makes the book is the presence of the hard-bitten, motorcycle-riding flapper Violet, and the bond of grief and magic that ties the two of them together.
 
Razorhurst 5. Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier
Set in 1920s Sydney, Razorhurst is the story of two very different young women—Dymphna Campbell, the so-called “best girl” of mob boss Glory Johnson, and Kelpie, the street waif who shares just one of Dymphna’s talents: the ability to see ghosts. The hardscrabble neighborhood of Surry Hills, called “Sorrow Hills” and “Razorhurst” by the people who live there, is the setting for a tense and richly detailed story of two people who couldn’t be more different but who also find themselves thrown together against the odds, and against the gangsters who are hunting for them.
 
Bonus: The Legend of Korra
This isn’t a book, but it is one of the finest animated shows I’ve seen in a while. The sequel show to the wonderful Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra stars the next Avatar, the female water bender Korra, and takes place 70 years later in an around Republic City, which was clearly inspired by 1920s Shanghai. Though the pacing was sometimes rough, particularly in the first season, Korra became an ambitious, complex, and above all engrossing show about one young woman’s development as a person and as the Avatar against the backdrop of a world that is rapidly outgrowing old paradigms. And the animation is frequently pretty darnn awesome, too.

 

Eight Fantasy Works That Don’t Over-Explain

By Erynn Moss (@erynnlk)

The beauty of Conservation of Shadows to me comes from what Lee doesn’t say. His use of negative space makes the stories elegant and invites the reader to softly feel their way through. I’m hard pressed to come up with a whole list in that style but here are some books that successfully kept me spellbound by not over-explaining.

 

ConservationofShadows 1. Conservation of Shadows, Yoon Ha Lee
 
TheMapmakersWar 2. The Mapmaker’s War, Ronlyn Domingue
 
NightCircus 3. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
 
AncillaryJustice 4. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
 
TheFolkKeeper 5. The Folk Keeper, Franny Billingsley
 
TheShiningGirls 6. The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes
 
Deathless 7. Deathless, Catherynne Valente
 
WestoftheMoon 8. West of the Moon, Margi Preus
 

 

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Roundtable Discussions

By Hallie Tibbetts (@hallietibbetts)

Are you ready to talk? Then you’ll want to take a look at the roundtable discussions that will be offered at Sirens in October.

Roundtables are interactive discussions of a topic led by a moderator, and attendees are encouraged to take an active part in the discussion. Sometimes they are a meeting of the minds; sometimes they’re contentious; sometimes they’re boisterous; sometimes they’re contemplative. They’re always interesting.

Please note that seating in roundtable rooms is very limited to allow everyone in the room the opportunity to participate—once there are 24 attendees and one moderator, the discussion is closed.

Follow this link to find out about the presenters and what they’ll be talking about in these presentations:

The Boobs Tube: The Rebellious Women of The Legend of Korra and Steven Universe

Female Game-Changers

How about Real-Life Rebels, Revolutionaries, and Spies?

Just Your Average Rebel: When Rebellion Means Not Changing Who You Are

Quiet Revolution

Rebelling against the Binary: Gender in Speculative Fiction

Rebellious Reading: Who—Or What—Do You Challenge by Choosing Diverse Books?

Rogue Resources

If you would like to support both Sirens and our presenters, we invite you to sponsor these (and other) presentations. The cost is $35 per presentation. Unfortunately, at this time, we can no longer include sponsors in our conference program book, but we will include your name next to your chosen topic on the accepted programming page and at the conference.

 

July Recap: Sirens News, Book Releases, and Interesting Links

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of interesting links and July book releases of fantasy by and about women. Look for this ever-expanding collection of good news to come to you at the end of the month in the future.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve sold a fantasy work, read a great recently-released story, discovered a fantastic link that we missed, or if you’ve got a book or story review to share, please get in touch. Send news to (help at sirensconference.org), and see the Sirens Review Squad section below for how to become a reviewer.

 

ON THE BLOG: JULY 2015

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 7, Issue 9 (July 2015)

Testimonials: Write about a good friend that you’ve met at Sirens.

Six Fantasy Books with Non-US Settings

Sirens Guest of Honor Interview: Kate Elliott

Five Fabulous Epic Fantasy Works by Women

Friday Books and Breakfast

Saturday Books and Breakfast

Sirens: A Love Letter

Seven Fantasy Books Featuring Non-Western Mythology and Folklore

Sirens Guest of Honor Interview: Yoon Ha Lee

Six Fantasy Works for Sirens

June Recap: Sirens News, Book Releases, and Interesting Links

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Papers

Influential Fantasy for Heroines

 

YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT…

Interesting Links:

 

Book Releases:

2015JulyCollage

Click the image for a closer look at the covers.

July 1:
Beneath the Cape: The Superhero Anthology, Angela McPherson, Cheryl McIntyre, Christine Zolendz, D. Nichole King, Laura Thalassa, Lynn Vroman, Magan Vernon, and Sunniva Dee
The Blood Curse, Emily Gee
Bone Swans: Stories, C. S. E. Cooney
Darkness Brutal, Rachel A. Marks
Letters to Zell, Camille Griep
No Time Like the Past, Jodi Taylor

July 2:
Fearless, Marianne Curley

July 6:
An Immortal Descent, Kari Edgren
The Hunter’s Kind, Rebecca Levene

July 7:
The Small Backs of Children, Lidia Yuknavitch
Chicks and Balances, ed. by Esther Friesner
The Child Eater, Rachel Pollack
Cities and Thrones, Carrie Patel
Elisha Rex, E. C. Ambrose
Flight from Death, Yasmine Galenorn
Hallowed, Tonya Hurley
The Heart of Betrayal, Mary E. Pearson
The House of the Stone, Amy Ewing
The House of War and Witness, Linda Carey, Louise Carey, and Mike Carey
Ink and Bone, Rachel Caine
Renegade, Kerry Wilkinson
The Shores of Spain, J. Kathleen Cheney
Silver in the Blood, Jessica Day George
Spellcasting in Silk, Juliet Blackwell
Survive the Night, Danielle Vega
Wicked Embers, Keri Arthur
Witchlock, Dianna Love

July 14:
About a Girl, Sarah McCarry
The Blind Wish, Amber Lough
The Golden Specific, S. E. Grove
Cold Iron, Stina Leicht
Lagoon (US edition), Nnedi Okorafor
Rebel Mechanics: All is Fair in Love and Revolution, Shanna Swendson
The Seer’s Spread, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Natasha Pulley

July 20:
Ether & Elephants, Cindy Spencer Pape
Hollywood Witch Hunter, Valerie Tejeda

July 21:
Backyard Witch, Christine Heppermann, ill. Ron Koertge, Deborah Marcero
Bound in Black, Juliette Cross
The Dark Arts of Blood, Freda Warrington
The Obsidian Temple: A Desert Rising Novel, Kelley Grant
Pale Kings and Princes, Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman
Resonance, Erica O’Rourke
Stormbringer, Alis Franklin

July 28:
The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden, Emma Trevayne
The Conquering Dark, Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
Every Last Breath, Jennifer L. Armentrout
The Forgotten, Heather Graham
Oblivion, Kelly Creagh
Old Dog, New Tricks, Hailey Edwards
Siren’s Call, Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle
Spider’s Trap, Jennifer Estep
Thor Volume 2: Who Holds The Hammer?, Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman

 

SIRENS REVIEW SQUAD

We’d love to have more volunteers contribute short reviews of works they have read and loved. If you think you could contribute a book (or short story, or a work related to fantasy literature) review of at least 250 words sometime during the next year, we would be pleased—nay, thrilled—to have your recommendation for the Sirens newsletter.

Review squad volunteering is flexible; we simply ask that you share information about work you’ve enjoyed. (We are, of course, focused on fantasy books by and about women, and we hope you’ll consider interesting, diverse selections; if you’re not sure about a particular work, email help at sirensconference.org and we’ll advise!) You can contribute once or on an ongoing basis, and on a schedule that works for you. Please visit the volunteer system and, when we ask you what position you’re interested in, type in “Book Reviewer.”

Testimonials: If you’ve attended Sirens more than once, why did you decide to come back to Sirens?

Meg Belviso (@sistermagpie)
The first time I went to Sirens it was even better than I’d hoped for. As I waited at the airport for my plane home I was already looking forward to the next year, so I’d really already made my decision to return. Often when you go to a conference there are at least some parts that just get to be too much for two days straight. I found Sirens to be just the right mixture of intense and laid back. The conversations made me intensely focused and enthusiastic about the subject, but the social aspect was really laid-back and friendly. It was easy to talk to just about anybody.

 
Shveta Thakrar (@ShvetaThakrar)
In 2010, I saw Sherwood Smith talking about Sirens on LiveJournal, and my interest was piqued. A conference about women and fantasy—and the theme that year was “faeries,” a topic that always fascinated me. So I proposed a panel and went, not knowing what to expect.

Well, I got so much more than I could have dreamed. Not only was my panel a success, but I also listened to luminaries like Terri Windling, Holly Black, Ellen Kushner, and Delia Sherman share their insights, I talked and talked about books with really smart, thoughtful women, I met wonderful people who later became my good friends, and I experienced firsthand how vital it is to have a safe space where diverse voices are not only welcomed but genuinely sought out. Above all, the conference was just plain fun. My heart full, I left knowing I would be returning the next year and the next and the next.

I had found my home away from home, my conference, where my voice mattered. Where I could talk about things that make me happy and kindle the spark of passion in my heart. Where every year, I learned more and spoke more and found more kindred spirits and books to add to my never-ending to-read pile. Where I belonged.

And that’s why I’ll be returning yet again this year. I hope to see you there.

 
Erynn Moss (@erynnlk)
I am an overly enthusiastic reader and Sirens is full of fandom fairydust. Finishing a good book, I want to delve into a deeper level of appreciation of motives and characters and worlds. At Sirens, I get to do that. I’ve sat down to dinner with an author and talked about archaic language (can I drop names? Marie Brennan). I’ve discussed diversity in comic books with a writer of non-graphic novels (Nalo Hopkinson). And even though I didn’t realize it was my fantasy until it was happening, I’ve stayed up until the wee hours of the morning with amazing authors (Guadelupe Garcia McCall and Alaya Dawn Johnson!) and a couple cheeky literary agents, sipping wine, and discussing the fascinating and mysterious publishing industry.

Also, Laini Taylor was really cool and wore the horns I made for her to the Monster Ball even after I awkwardly confessed my love to her. I’m pretty sure she got that I meant it in a bookish way.

 

Five Young Adult Fantasy Works with Adult Crossover Appeal

By Rae Carson (@raecarson)

All the books I’ve chosen are young adult fantasy that have crossover appeal to adults. I have a lot more book recommendations where these came from, so find me at Sirens and ask!

 

TheWrathandtheDawn 1. The Wrath and the Dawn, Renée Ahdieh
I expected to be underwhelmed by this. The fable of Scheherazade—about a woman charming her way out of horrific abuse—is not one I have ever loved. But Ahdieh’s interpretation surprised me at every turn.
 
TheWinnersCurse 2. The Winner’s Curse, Marie Rutkoski
The swoony female on this cover does not appeal to me in the slightest. Is she about to use that dagger on herself? Or cry out for smelling salts? Ugh. I shouldn’t have judged this book by its cover, though, because it’s smart, subtle, and detail-rich.
 
GraveMercy 3. Grave Mercy, Robin LaFevers
This book would definitely have been shelved in the adult category a decade ago. It’s about assassin nuns. Assassin. Nuns.
 
Serpentine 4. Serpentine, Cindy Pon
A critically acclaimed fantasy inspired by Chinese folklore.
 
Seraphina 5. Seraphina, Rachel Hartman
After reading this complex and mature tale, you’ll never think of dragons in the way same again.

 

Sirens Accepted Programming for 2015: Workshops

By Hallie Tibbetts (@hallietibbetts)

If you’re ready to dig in to craft, you should take a look at the workshops that will be presented at this year’s Sirens.

Workshops are hands-on explorations of a topic. This category can include writing workshops, practice in strategies for teaching and learning, craft-based presentations, and other hands-on and highly interactive topics. Please note that the seating in workshop rooms is very limited to allow the presenters the maximum hands-on teaching time for each attendee, as well as to control costs that the presenters incur if they provide materials. Likewise, this means that if you’re attending a workshop, you get to ask questions and get instruction in a small group. Attending a workshop is a great way to get your creative gears turning!

Follow this link to find out about the presenters and what they’ll be talking about in these presentations:

Five Ways to Build and Break a World

Infiltrate the Query Pile

Unpacking Character: Creating Dimensional Characters with Distinctive Voices That Live beyond the Page

Writing Women with Agency (workshop and roundtable discussion)

If you would like to support both Sirens and our presenters, we invite you to sponsor these (and other) presentations. The cost is $35 per presentation, and we will include your name next to your chosen topic on the accepted programming page. We’ll also list your sponsorship in our program book for this year’s event if we receive your sponsorship by August 21, 2015.

 

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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