Putting together a year’s best list is inherently weird.
Do I use books I read in 2019, or books that came out in 2019? Since I read ARCs early, it seems unfair to only do the former. But if I only do the latter then I miss older books, and I believe in supporting backlist. Especially since I haven’t gotten to all the books that came out this year that I want to read! (Like, I’m sure A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay would be listed if it wasn’t, you know, still on my TBR. >_<)
I also remain confused by people who were posting these in, like, November. Great for holiday shopping I guess, but I’ve read a dozen books since then! IN THIS HOUSE WE ARE EXCESSIVELY THOROUGH WHERE BOOK LISTS ARE CONCERNED and also honestly just in general.
So this is a mix, basically. But all books are available to purchase as of the end of 2019! I did cut sequels from the list, too: all these are stand-alones or beginnings of series.
More importantly, all of them are books not just that I enjoyed casually, but that I will yell about in an alarmingly enthusiastic fashion to anyone I can convince to hold still long enough.
These are, of the 150ish titles under consideration for 2019, my favorite reads. The top 15%, more or less. You may have heard me shout about them before, and you certainly will again. Requisite caveat that these are necessarily my personal taste, and I read primarily for character arcs and always want stories about powerful women.
So with that in mind, here they are in alphabetical by author’s last name order, genres all mixed together because I had too many edge cases XD; you can search by age or genre category as you like. All links go to IndieBound in the interest of supporting independent bookstores, so if you want to know more about any of them, just click!
(If we’re mutuals and you’re curious whether a particular book might be a good fit for you, you know how to reach me! Otherwise, if you want me to sell you books in person, you’d better register for Sirens Conference. >=D)
First, this was an incredible year for space opera for me across genres. If you only read one book off this list, make it Empress of Forever. Trust me.
Second, this is more YA than I’ve been excited about in ages–I’ve gone through a dry spell with YA for several years, so I hope this isn’t an outlier and 2020 will bring more of the same!
Also, that’s like… six whole books by dudes lol. If you’re looking for more books by and about women, nonbinary and trans people, people of color, queer people, neuroatypical and disabled people, I’ve got you fairly well covered!
Next year I plan to keep broadening my reading in middle grade and romance, but what I’m really hoping for is an adult epic fantasy series I want to yell at everyone about. We’ll see how it goes!
Hi friends! I have a busy schedule this week at Sirens Conference, so for those of you here in Denver, here are some times you can find me.
Tonight I’ll be introducing Sirens Studio guest of honor Roshani Chokshi, talking a little about women and power and myth-making.
Then tomorrow (Wednesday 10/23) gets exciting: surprise I’m running a two-hour workshop with Nivair Gabriel on women’s leadership in fantasy! Stop by for what we’ve titled “Who Run the Fantasy Worlds: Girls.” This has come together last minute as we’re filling in due to an emergency, so here’s what you can expect us to talk about.
On Thursday I’ll be helping get the much anticipated Sirens Bookstore set up! Throughout the remainder of the conference I’ll be stopping in to yell about books at you, so you have a good chance of seeing me there.
Friday starts bright and early with a panel I’m moderating at 9am on building inclusive bookish communities with Faye Bi, Shaista Fenwick, Traci-Anne Canada, and Cass Morris.
At 2pm I’ll be helping Amy Tenbrink tell you about all the new women-in-fantasy books released since last Sirens, and at 5pm you can find me at Book Speed Dating, where I will rapidly try to convince you to give a few of my favorite fantasy books a try.
(It’s very exciting that I am *scheduled* to spend so much of this conference shoving books at people.)
Saturday at noon I’ll be presenting my paper: “The Extraordinary Power of Heroines: Examining Women’s Heroism in Fantasy.”
And that’ it! You can DEFINITELY find me at the Sirens ball, but in general, I’ll be around and happy to visit old friends and make new ones. =)
I’ve been sitting on this for AGES and am thrilled to finally be able to announce I’m part of an anthology of fantasy chase scenes coming this October! The title is Swift the Chase, and you can add it on Goodreads.
Today is the cover reveal (my very first cover reveal!! =D!), and I could not be more excited about this. The cover by Seedlings Design is gorgeous, and seeing my name listed along with these authors (!!!) is amazing.
The book is releasing October 8th, and we’re hosting a Facebook party to celebrate and give away free books! I’ll be on deck from 3:30-4:00pm PST to answer any questions and dole out Tea Princess Chronicles trivia.
Mark your calendars, check out the cover here, and read on for more about the anthology and my story!
Magic—danger—and the thrill of the chase!
Experience the rush of racing across rooftops with thieves—or the desperation of fleeing an assassin who knows you a little too well. From the fish market of a tropical island sultanate, to the monster-filled alleys of a steampunk London, to a land where souls take different forms as they rise or fall through the layers of the world, this collection of chase scenes and vignettes set in nine distinctive worlds will leave you spellbound.
Find unexpected allies, unshakeable enemies, sudden twists and turns, and always the swiftness of the chase—whether you’re on the hunt, or racing for your life.
This sampler includes an exclusive bonus scene set during the events of Tea Set and Match by Casey Blair, available for free online, and a scene from an unpublished novel by Rachel Neumeier not available anywhere else. The excerpts by Intisar Khanani, Raf Morgan, P. Djèlí Clark, Sherwood Smith, Joyce Chng, Melissa McShane and Andrea K. Höst are from longer works that are available for sale at all major retailers.
The Tea Princess Chronicles exclusive bonus scene stands alone but is set midway through Book 2 (Tea Set and Match), told from the perspective of Miyara’s best friend, the brilliant and prickly witch Lorwyn—and also features Miyara’s former bodyguard from Book 1 (A Coup of Tea), the assassin Entero, whom Lorwyn is Definitely Not dangerously in love with…
At and after our wedding, we of course received many well wishes and comments about the event, but I couldn’t help noticing a huge percentage of what people noted specifically was that our wedding was “creative” and “very us.”
The former was possibly inevitable, both of us being fantasy writers. The latter was extremely intentional.
A lot of people probably assume Django and I are both imaginative people, which is true. What is possibly less obvious is that we are both epic planners. We will research possibilities, craft logistics and backup scenarios, and do the work to actually make our dreams into reality.
I want to share some wedding pictures (I don’t have them all yet, but our photographer Rose Lily posted highlights on Facebook!) in part I admit to brag, because I think we did a great job of pulling off a wedding. But I also want to talk about, rather than the spreadsheets and the budgets and that side, intentionality in planning. Not just because of how it mattered with our wedding, but because it’s also something I think about and apply to my life—and my writing career in particular. All the spreadsheets in the world of wedding timelines or word count trackers won’t serve you if they aren’t set up bearing in mind what you actually want to accomplish.
There are so many ways to be a writer, after all. There are so many stories you can write, so many side opportunities you can pursue to supplement or complement, so many sides of yourself you can share publicly in different ways. We only have so much time in this world, and I choose to spend it deliberately.
When it came to the subject of weddings, it got to be something of a joke between Django and I how, given the many weddings we’ve been called upon to attend in recent years, both of us would end up analyzing logistics and vision afterward. So when it came time to plan our own, we put a lot of thought into what it was we were trying to accomplish.
Which begins with a very basic but also critical question, which is: why have a wedding ceremony and reception at all, given the cost in time, energy, and funds? What’s the point of it all?
For us, we wanted to bring together our communities of families and friends made throughout the years, to share with them who we are together. To share with them the foundation of our home, which is each other and the life we’re building here, for them to join us as we joined forces in making our home together. And that goal paved the way for most of our structural decisions.
What is our home? It’s our literal house, for one thing—and so the day after the wedding, we invited people there for brunch!
More broadly, it’s the Pacific Northwest, the place where we live on purpose because it resonates with us. It’s the forests we adventure through, and so it was a forest where we held our wedding, chosen and decorated to evoke an elven forest vibe, and it was the Pacific Northwest cuisine we catered there. It’s the place where Django and I have celebrated our anniversary and made memories many times, where we held our rehearsal dinner, combining both.
And less physically, it’s books, and it’s stories. We held our welcome reception at the bookstore where I work, with displays of our favorite fantasy books and our favorite local desserts. And specifically it’s fantasy: it’s our shared interest in anime and Japanese culture, which we brought in with our ceremony music choices of songs with epic fantasy moods and the food prepared for brunch. It’s dragons and swords and dashing capes, and the magic we feel with each other and in this place and that we build it, together.
It’s that we approach this not as the start of our story nor as the end of it, which would render whatever comes before or after less meaningful; it’s marking a change in the continuing adventure we’re on together. And in the spirit of what we wanted to accomplish, we wanted the whole event to feel cohesive. So we chose the physical locations and the kinds of events that would suit us, to be ourselves and share that with our guests, and everything was designed around combining these elements: fantasy and stories, forest and adventure, home, and us.
Beyond that, we talked and established our top three goals for the wedding itself (which, given our fortunate but nevertheless limited budget, affected a lot of decisions, in terms of how much we could afford to spend overall and how we chose to allocate that money).
We wanted to look awesome in pictures.
We wanted to love the food at our wedding.
I wanted to dance. (And Django wanted to not spend the entire reception dancing.)
In a way it’s hard to talk about our decisions in brief, because everything overlaps, but it all comes back to these same starting points. That last goal affected venue choice: we needed a place that would have separate spaces for dancing and people not dancing, so Django would be able to carry on conversations and actually be able to hear—but also not have walls between us, so he could dance with me at all. Then to take advantage of the forest setting, I wanted an outdoor wedding, and given that we didn’t get to start planning this until October, we had to rush to look for venues that weren’t already booked and then get the save-the-dates out as quickly as possible since so many folks would be traveling from out-of-town and needed to be able to prepare. And to get the save-the-dates out and give people the information they needed to start planning, we had to make a series of other decisions to have that information available on a wedding website, the URL of which would be provided on the save-the-date.
Many decisions later, I had the wedding website up (chosen for which website had the functionality and appearance options we needed) to set the tone, as the hub where people could go for information about us and this event. On the home page there’s a picture of me and Django in a forest location at an important moment for us; there’s an introduction (“Adventure!”) that begins giving an impression of who we are individually and together, crafted to also introduce the mood for the wedding and what people could expect if they chose to attend; there’s a brief description of each event that echoes it; and all that ripples throughout information throughout the website and every other logistical and aesthetic choice.
Our stationery for the save-the-dates and the wedding invitations themselves was customized to reflect this as well. We chose dark purple (which, among other things, connotes magic) for the wedding color, and then used it for both the storybook format of the save-the-date with dragon stamps and the magical forest vibe of the invitation.
Django commissioned artwork for a wedding crest for House Wexlair, which resulted in a perfect image of two dragons entwined, in flight separately and together. Our initial idea was to get custom seals and send our wedding invitations sealed with our house crest in (purple) wax, which we did, and it was awesome. (Let it be known we were Extremely Clear at every step of this process that we were inviting people to a nerd wedding =).) But then we had this custom artwork, right? So we put it on everything.
We had an actual crest, which we used as the idea basis for our guestbook. (As an aside, let me just say that this wedding was largely accomplished by Etsy rather than DIY—unless you count all the planning, which we did ourselves and not with a coordinator—and most were not expensive.) We also put it on the sword we used to cut the cake! (The sword, FYI, is now known as Wexcaliblair and is getting a sign noting it as such for our wall.)
We put it on bookmarks, which we chose as our wedding favors. They’re made of wood and decorated with leaves, evoking the forest vibe, they’re engraved with a woodland fairy kind of font that would read clearly on wood (I will refrain from delineating all my font choices for the various signs and stationery and websites and all for this event, so this is just to say I they were all chosen very deliberately and I had a lot of fun and the ampersand in the bookmark font is a magic wand!!), they have purple tassels to match the wedding, they mention adventure, and they’re used for books.
We put it on the ring box for our wedding rings. The wedding rings themselves were another series of choices for us. The rings are both custom-designed for each of our different aesthetic preferences that nevertheless coordinate in terms of finishes and feature dragons in flight. Mine also has leaf details as a callback to my engagement ring, also chosen to evoke an elven vibe. It’s fantasy and dragons and stories and us, all combined in rings. Because if we’re going to wear symbols of our love for each other every day, shouldn’t they reflect who we are as individuals and together? Shouldn’t they be special, and should they not look awesome? Obviously they should. (And if you’re in the Seattle area I recommend Green Lake Jewelry Works and our designer Benjamin Marchant highly.)
There were so many other pieces. Django and I don’t drink alcohol, but since I used to work at a root beer store, we had a root beer tasting instead of a cocktail hour.
Our centerpieces? Crafted around dragon eggs. The eggs were DIY, but by my superhero maid of honor Dodo. And Django handled the rest, incorporating leaves for the forest and more.
We didn’t want advice on how to be happily married together, but I came across the idea of a bucket list card, where people suggest adventures you should go on together, and that seemed entirely appropriate.
Rather than tossing rice as we processed out from the ceremony, we discovered we could get custom magic wands—with tinkling bells and ribbons in purple and silver for our magic wedding colors, and the effect as people waved them was incredibly cool. (In related news, ping me if you need a cat toy? XD)
It’s the women in our families who most enjoy dancing, and my mother and I in particular have a history of dancing together. So rather than separate parent dances we had the mothers—who gave speeches at the wedding whereas the fathers who helped sponsor the rehearsal dinner and welcome reception spoke the night before—open the floor with me for dancing.
And there’s a customary wedding thing we didn’t have in our ceremony or anywhere else: flowers. I don’t care about them. I didn’t want to have to deal with them. Florists are exorbitantly expensive, and for something I don’t care about, I wasn’t going to spend money on it or exhaustively figure out how to do it cheaper or even have a substitute for bouquets. That time, effort, and money was better allocated to what I actually cared about. Like: more dragons!
Or our unity candle! We lit this together during the ceremony (because we are planners, we had a backup plan of lighters already on hand when it was too windy to get the classier tapers to light XD), and the candle was a dragon egg in our wedding colors (there’s purple under the silver coat), that, when melted, would reveal a tiny metal dragon figurine inside. (I do not kid. Etsy is truly a dangerous place.)
One of the aspects people kept pointing out to us was how perfect our ceremony was, and I have to say it does help to have the best officiant. We were delighted when our friend Amy agreed to be our officiant. And at one point in the planning process when I was like, “AMY I have a bad?? idea WHAT IF we structured the ceremony like a story!” her response was that this was a great idea, and then she singlehandedly figured out how to make it work and it was amazing. It was a fantasy story structure that then included references to how stories work and excerpts from some of our favorite fantasy stories, and through it all she perfectly reflected who we are, separately and together.
The other specific piece of the ceremony people were especially impressed with was our vows. This is in part because Django and I are both writers, and evidently they could tell. But I think it’s also worth noting that we wrote these vows together. We decided what was important for us, to say and to hear, and we crafted them accordingly. So they were meaningful to us, and the audience got a window into that, too.
It also helps, and I cannot overstate this, to have the best people, as we took to referring to our collective group of best man-type positions and crew. They were critical support for us in the preparation for the wedding and downright heroic during the wedding events themselves. We armed them for battle accordingly.
And of course, there were the clothes. There were some fraught times involved on that axis to put it mildly—in particular, because problems with my dress threatened the primary goals of looking awesome AND dancing, it was a failure point that despite very intentional effort had the potential to make me unhappy—but ultimately we made it work. I wore a dress and accessories that reminded me of an elven princess, and Dodo wore a purple dress that made her look fae in the best way. The best man complemented the fantasy space emperor vibe we worked out for Django, with non-Western style shirts and fantasy details. And Superhero Seamstress Friend Marissa didn’t just contribute tailoring: she was entirely responsible for creating everyone’s capes.
Why even have a fantasy wedding if you can’t wear capes, I ask you? So we did.
And that’s really what everything boiled down to, ultimately. Why even have a wedding if you can’t be who you are and do what matters to you and celebrate both?
So we did.
Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? What do you think that looks like, and how do you make that happen—on a grand scale, and in the details?
I’m going to do these next two blog posts as a set (read part two here), because they’re both ultimately about making choices to effect change. Let me start on the craft side of things, because it’s been ages since I wrote a craft post.
For some people, the idea of socially conscious fiction can carry connotation of it not being fun; I emphatically disagree. On a fundamental level, all my work ends up being about, in some capacity, empowering people to exercise agency in their own lives. Fantasy is a great genre for this because it involves creating new rules for worlds, which can give readers both cognitive distance to consider different perspectives and also ways to imagine other ways of being.
When talking about writing empowering fantasy, I like to talk about this on a spectrum from escapism to engaging with injustice. My work tends to be some sort of hybrid, but it’s a useful framework for discussion.
On one end, you have escapism. So women are oppressed in your lived reality, but what if you could get away from that and read about a world where sexism just doesn’t exist? This can be an incredible relief, to get away from all the micro and macro aggressions of daily life. It can also be incredibly satisfying, to have a marginalized protagonist who gets to just exist and be awesome without being dragged down by any of this bullshit.
We don’t have to reproduce sexism, racism, disablism, homophobia, etc. in our fantasy worlds. It can actually be very challenging not to, because systemic oppression is so pervasive it can be hard to imagine reality without them. But that’s one of the reasons it’s so important to try. Another is, if people can imagine a world without oppression, perhaps we’ll become more able to effect it in reality.
On the other end, we have engaging with injustice. Instead of imagining a world without sexism, we instead imagine a world with similarly powerful institutions where women can and do actively topple that systemic oppression. We model ways to overcome the oppression we live with in our world, and the empowerment comes in reading characters successfully triumphing over the systems working to keep them down.
While some people find it immensely satisfying to not have to read about their own oppression, others find not acknowledging its existence dishonest, or like their lived experience is being erased and dismissed. Neither approach is necessarily better or worse. People are different, not every story will work for every person, and at different times people will need different stories.
For instance, in my own reading, I’m generally not interested anymore in the ‘teen girl wants to do the same thing as men and isn’t allowed to’ narritives with the ‘girls can wear pants too’ depth of feminist nuance. For many people, reading these stories is important and wonderful and necessary. Cheers for variety, and may we all find the stories we need!
But I encourage writers to think about the kind of story you’re writing—or editing, if this sort of consideration interferes with your initial creation process—what you’re trying to accomplish, or what you want the readers’ experience to be. That will determine what approach your story needs. The tone and mood of your story, the world-building, the kind of character arc, all of that can tie into the question of what kind of worlds we imagine for our stories. In a memorable case for me, I restructured an entire book after realizing I’d essentially tried to have both extremes in an incompatible way, and I had to choose what that story really needed to be.
We have to choose.
We get to choose.
And what we choose matters—in our fantasies and stories and lives.
The other night Sirens Conference co-founder Amy Tenbrink called me out on Twitter (my weakness is dance music playlists, the trashier the better, now you all know), and obviously I picked up that gauntlet because of course I did.
For every $50 donated to the Sirens scholarship fund that night, I gave one suggestion for a panel not solely consisting of writers as the panelists (aka interdisciplinary panels), because this is important to me.
One of my favorite parts about Sirens is that any attendee can propose programming, and they have no better shot at getting in than anyone else. The vetting board is independent of the conference staff, and all they care about is your proposal.
(Really. I promise. I did my first programming back in 2011 without a credential to my name, and the first time I wanted to do a panel the programming staff helped me figure it out. If you want to participate in Sirens programming but need some backup, EMAIL THEM.)
And that matters. It matters that there is no box anyone has to check to be allowed a platform to speak and share their thoughts.
Once more, because it’s super important: SIRENS IS NOT A WRITERS CONFERENCE.
Yes, there are writers there, and that’s great. But what’s also great is that there are readers, academics, publicists, librarians, editors, booksellers, and, oh, did I mention readers? Because the one thing we ALL have in common is that we read fantasy, and we’re passionate about the remarkable work of women in the genre.
One of the ways Sirens demonstrates its commitment to lifting up everyone’s voices, to making sure Sirens is a place where anyone can participate in practice and not just in theory, is by offering several scholarships. Right now, they’re down to the wire to finish meeting this year’s goal.
I think somehow people have gotten the sense that only writers can be on panels, and nothing could be further from the truth. But to have non-writers on panels, attendees need to submit proposals for those panels–and they need to be able to attend.
And if you’re going to Sirens this year, I hope you’ll consider submitting programming, which opens soon. To help get you going, here are my panel suggestions from the other night, and all of them are free for the taking.
(Sorry friends I am The Worst at snappy titles.)
The Role of Reviews
What are reviews for? What are readers looking for in a review–help choosing a book, or critique to consider it more thoughtfully? How can reviews help or hurt marginalized communities? How does the publishing side use reviews? Are there right/wrong approaches?
I think the Sirens community could have a field day unpacking the challenges/opportunities of reviews. A panel like this could easily include readers, reviewers, librarians/booksellers, publicists, editors, writers, etc.
Female Friendships in Fantasy
Let’s talk not just about our favorite female friendships, but what makes them work, and why women having non-toxic and complex relationships on the page, being excellent separate from men, is important.
Why does it matter to see female friendships in fantasy–for readers in today’s world, and in the context of the fantasy genre? What kinds of friendships do you want to see, and have there been shifts? What are common pitfalls? WHERE ARE THE GIRL GANGS. Come on, Sirens! =D
Women’s Clothing in Fantasy
First off, there had BETTER be cosplayers on this panel, and also historians, AND I KNOW SIRENS HAS A PLETHORA OF BOTH AMONG ITS ATTENDEES I SEE YOU.
How is clothing in fantasy used to restrain or free female characters? Are dresses and corsets really swordplay prevention (SPOILERS THEY ARE NOT–so what else does fantasy commonly miss?). How does it reinforce values of femininity or its rejection (can we talk about transformation sequences?!)?
Plot-bearing women over the age of 30 in fantasy novels: where are they?
And by that I mean, not just side characters, but women well into adulthood who actually shape the course of the story.
Where are the mothers? Where the successful career women? The badass old ladies who aren’t just generic stock crones (though I do love a cantankerous witch)? (None of these are mutually exclusive!) Why is it so important to have them on the page (and not just as villains!)?
And I’d LOVE to see some of our older readers at Sirens on this one. I want to hear their perspectives on these characters–what’s done well, what’s missing–as well as on how the fantasy genre has evolved on this point, if at all.
Women’s Work in Fantasy
I want to see historians on this panel, but also knitters and bakers and seamstresses, programmers and chemists and engineers.
How does fantasy privilege traditionally masculine-coded disciplines (like physical combat) over feminine-coded ones (homemaking, textile work, gardening, etc.), and why does this matter? What stories are we missing? How can this work tie into magic, tech, economics, intrigue?
As some of you know, I’m now working at a local independent bookstore. Which is exciting on its own, but the more recent excitement is that I’m going to be moderating a panel at Brick & Mortar Books one week from today!
The topic is writing action in science fiction and fantasy, and the panelists will be Fonda Lee, Chuck Wendig, and Alex Marshall, all of whom write amazing, action-packed SFF. I am super excited about the panel and plan to pick their brains on how magic affects writing action, the strengths of action scenes with the written word as opposed to movies, how to use POV and pacing, and what they wish people understood and what they’d like to see*.
This will be happening Thursday, 3/1, which is the first night of Emerald City Comic Con. So if you don’t have con plans that night yet, come hang out with us! And if you’re not going to make it to the con, here’s your chance to see some great authors from out of town. =D
It’s been great to have so much freedom to organize this event on my own so soon after joining the bookstore, and I can’t wait to see how this goes. I hope to see some of you there! (And if you are going to be able to make it, you can RSVP on Facebook!)
*I do not promise to ask all of these questions, because panels develop organically. But they are on my list of potential questions, and I’m sure we’ll have time for at least a couple before I let the audience have a crack at a few of their own.
TEA PRINCESS CHRONICLES follows the adventures of Miyara, a princess who escapes her meaningless life and goes into hiding, as she finds her place in the world serving a struggling community by running a tea shop that sits on the edge of a magical disaster.
Chapters of the serial will be posted weekly, but you can read the first four chapters on the website here! After that, feel free to click over to the Tea Shop Interludes for side scenes featuring Miyara’s experience running the tea shop, each featuring a tea with a different fantasy ingredient. =)
If you’re interested in supporting my work, my Patreon is here with details about how to participate in bonus content I’ll be writing for the serial! Or, you can always buy me tea, which in turn powers the tea writing.
The theme of Sirens this year was reunion, which is important, because there’s a reason I, and so many others, keep coming back.
Sirens was actually the first con of any kind I attended, and I had no way to know how much it spoiled me. The more involved I get in the SFF community, the more I hear about the kinds of exclusion and harassment going on at other cons, and people talking about how that’s “just the way it is.” And that’s all kinds of problematic, but it was particularly confusing and jarring when I compared those accounts to my experience at Sirens. Because the very idea of that sort of thing going on at Sirens is actually laughable, and I think that’s wonderful.
Sirens is a safe space. More than that, it’s an open, inspiring, and caring one.
Understand, I’m an introvert. I’m not scared of meeting new people, but I’m sometimes awkward about it. Sirens starts out with a dessert reception. I walked in my first year about ten minutes early and was lingering awkwardly on the side of the ballroom for a few minutes until I eventually decided to just plant my purse somewhere and start loading up on dessert and tea. By the time I returned to my table, it was inhabited by other people, and I was minutes into a discussion of a lesser known manga called Saiyuki and what makes it awesome before I realized I was talking to Sherwood Smith, one of the guests of honor that year. And that’s normal at Sirens: anyone will just walk up to someone they’ve never met and casually start arguing about art. Like you do.
Here’s an interesting statistic for you: almost half of Sirens’ attendees are involved in programming in some capacity.
Think about that for a second, because I think it really gets to the core of what makes Sirens work. Programming is screened, but it comes from the attendees, because it’s for the attendees.
We come back to Sirens over and over because it’s a community. It’s a community of academics, agents and editors, authors, readers, people who are passionate about books, games, expanding fantasy’s horizons, women, issues of representation, and just about everything under the sun, but people who are interested in things, people who care. It’s a community where no one person’s ideas are given more weight than another’s, where everyone is encouraged to share their ideas and those ideas are considered seriously.
Ideas I’ve bounced around with people at Sirens have gone on to be seeds for panels and novels. We share books, career advice, apartments, experiences. Support. I see Sirens friends once every couple of years, and every time, even the first time, it’s like coming home.
Sirens is held in a mountainous location, like a retreat. No one is just riding into town periodically; we’re all together somewhere magical. And it is magical to be with people who share your passion, smart and fun people who approach everything differently and are actively interested in what you think.
Sirens is beautiful, mind-bending, empowering. Next year is ghost year, and I hope you can make it.