A few days ago, I posted a review for Sirens and I hope y’all have had a chance to read it. And have now had a chance to pick up the book (it was released this past Tuesday). Today I have the genuine pleasure of introducing LS Johnson, one of the contributors to the anthology. LS speaks on “Why Sirens?” especially in reference to this day and age.
Check it out, check out more of the blog tour (I’ll try to see about updating the links later today or tomorrow). And make sure to pick up your copy of Sirens from your favorite retailer.
There are few original references to sirens: Jason and the Argonauts, Odysseus on his ship, a handful of others . . . If that wasn’t bad enough, the details are inconsistent. Sometimes they’re winged and sometimes they’re scaly and sometimes they’re just beautiful women, sometimes they eat men and sometimes they mourn them, sometimes there’s two and sometimes they’re five and sometimes they were changed against their will and sometimes they were always thus. It’s barely enough for an episode in a man’s journey.
Which is the only purpose they have: to provide a temptation that the hero can overcome, preferably while exhibiting his craftiness or proving himself more noble than his fellows. But it makes me wonder about these beautiful temptresses. What motivates them? What do they actually sing? What do they think about, what do they do with themselves, when they’re not ruining men? No one seems to know or care, because they’re not really people in the end; they’re temptation embodied, useful only to the extent that they serve the hero’s narrative.
Unless, of course, someone writes them otherwise.
You can look at a project like Sirens in a couple different ways. You can view it as, say, reworking a trope—a fun exercise that can produce some amazing stories, for it has.
But as I type these words, my social media is filled with the outcome of the Stanford rape trial. The victim’s statement had me in tears; the backlash against her, and the messages in support of her rapist, have left me shaking with anger. In such a framework every act of voicing by a woman—whatever the content or the medium, whatever her race and creed, whether she is cis or trans, queer or straight—is an urgent and necessary act.
Julian Jaynes posits that Greek mythology arose from a time when humanity had no self-consciousness as such, and instead was possessed of a bicameral consciousness: that their decision-making occurred when one hemisphere projected orders/images to the other, like a kind of schizophrenia. What the Greeks called gods—Athena, Zeus, Apollo, Hera—were in fact personifications of the voices in their heads. Bearing in mind that nearly all the texts we have were written by males, with male protagonists: what do creatures like the sirens personify, and why have they continued to resonate all this time? For “there’s always a siren singing you to shipwreck” as Radiohead tells us.
What motivates sirens, what’s their story? Because we need to know their story: we need to understand why the shipwrecks, why the ruination, if it’s even really about shipwrecks and ruination. Because behind every siren is a woman, and no matter how much she sings, she may be heard but she’s sure as hell not being listened to.
L.S. Johnson was born in New York and now lives in Northern California, where she feeds her cats by writing book indexes. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Interzone, Long Hidden, Year’s Best Weird Fiction, and other venues, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and longlisted for the Tiptree Award. Her first collection, Vacui Magia: Stories, is now available. Currently she’s working on a fantasy trilogy set in 18th century Europe.
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