Deep, deep down, part of me believes I moved from a landlocked state to one bordering the ocean in order to secure a prime location for a siren sighting. I mean, it’s a possibility if one believes in magic, right?
I’ve always been drawn to stories involving sirens, and they are the only mythological creatures I’ve written about more than once. Whether of the feathered or finned variety, there’s always been something wildly intriguing about bewitching, seductive creatures who can bring others to a violent end by way of beautiful music.
When I learned of Rhonda Parrish’s Sirens anthology, it was like hearing a siren’s call. I needed the collection. Immediately.
And I was absolutely charmed by the very first story in the book, “Siren Seeking” by Kelly Sandoval, in which a reformed siren named Thelia, fully integrated into modern society, has signed up for an online dating service for magical beings … and we all know how that goes …
I spoke with Kelly about “Siren Seeking,” writing comedy, and women in mythology – and I may have fallen in love with her sense of fashion, too (tiny hats!).
First of all, what attracts you to sirens?
I’m attracted to myths about women, particularly women who are also monsters. They always seem to be doomed or deadly, or both. So often, these stories feel like cautionary tales. Stories told about women and to women, but not by women. And everything’s taken for granted. Sirens lure men to their deaths. Why? They just do.
I was excited to move beyond that, to see what it all looks like from the siren’s perspective.
The protagonist in “Siren Seeking,” Thelia, is a siren in modern times who’s signed up for a month of online dating through Elsewhen, a service specifically for magical beings. I have to say, a number of Thelia’s negative experiences were all too relatable. So, I have to ask … did you pull any inspiration from real-life experiences? Either yours or those of your friends?
To be completely honest, I’ve never used an online dating service. But, at the time I wrote this story, one of my friends was playing OkCupid roulette. While none of her experiences directly inspired the story, talking to her is definitely what started me thinking about the difficulties of online dating. I remember joking with her about creating a dating app for writers. From there, I started to think about other groups that might need an online dating app. Immortal beings, for example.
If you were a member of Elsewhen, what kind of magical creature do you think you’d most jive with, and why?
Oh, immortals seem like they’d be too much work, don’t you think? That said, I think every writer wants to date a muse, at least for a little while.
The Grashe (one of Thelia’s dates) were simply intriguing. Is that multi-deity based on any particular lore?
The Grashe are based less on a specific deity and more on a specific idea of deity. The idea that gods are in some ways a reflection of their worshippers’ expectations shows up a lot, and I started to wonder what that would feel like. What happens when you go from being foolish Aries to mighty Mars? Do you keep a little bit of each inside you? The Grashe reflect that difficulty. I imagine they’re very old, older than Thelia realizes. Probably more dangerous, too.
There’s an interesting theme that comes up in your story: whether an immortal – in this case, Thelia – can truly distance themselves from their past. Do you think that distance is possible for magical folk to achieve? How about mortals?
This is a great question, and it’s one I keep returning to in fiction. But I don’t know the answer. Certainly, they must try to change. We all try. But immortals are often archetypal in some way. They represent ideas, concepts. When you’re part concept, how do you become something new?
It’s easier for mortals, and that contrast is great story fodder. You’ve got these timeless beings who are essentially stuck. But pathetic humans, with their gnat-like lifespans, keep changing. Keep striving.
Thelia ponders something thought-provoking with her friend, Meda, toward the end of “Siren Seeking” – what will they be in 100 years. What do you think the next incarnation of the siren will be in the world you’ve created?
Thelia’s role will always be one of coaxing people, of getting them to want. I imagine she’ll get into government work eventually, selling the idea of space travel to nervous colonists. 100 years after that? Maybe a summer home on Titan, swimming with alien fish.
This story made me laugh throughout! You have a great sense of humor. Do you have any advice for authors who want to incorporate more comedy into their writing?
I wrote this story in part as a challenge to myself. I like to joke that I write “sad stories about sad people being sad.” I wanted to try my hand at something funny. I think it’s important to push your boundaries every once in a while.
The best advice I can give is to write characters with a sense of humor. Thelia finds her situation funny, so she makes jokes about it. It’s all a matter of the character’s perspective. If Thelia approached each date with starry-eyed hope, it’d be a much darker story.
Where can we find more of your work? And are you working on anything we can be on the lookout for?
My website, kellysandovalfiction.com is the best place to find more of my fiction. For another story that explores immortality and change, I suggest “The Wolf and the Tower Unwoven,” which was published in Uncanny Magazine. As a warning, it’s a bit sad.
I’m currently finishing up an interactive novel for Choice of Games. It’s about class warfare and adorable baby gryphons. No release date yet, but I imagine it will be some time next year.
About the Author
Kelly Sandoval’s fiction has appeared in Uncanny, Strange Horizons, and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. She lives in Seattle, where the weather is always happy to make staying in and writing seem like a good idea. Her family includes a patient husband, a demanding cat, and an anarchist tortoise. You can find her online at kellysandovalfiction.com.
Featuring stories by Kelly Sandoval, Amanda Kespohl, L.S. Johnson, Pat Flewwelling, Gabriel F. Cuellar, Randall G. Arnold, Michael Leonberger, V. F. LeSann, Tamsin Showbrook, Simon Kewin, Cat McDonald, Sandra Wickham, K.T. Ivanrest, Adam L. Bealby, Eliza Chan, and Tabitha Lord, these siren songs will both exemplify and defy your expectations.