DatesOctober 1–4, 2009
LocationVail Cascade Resort and Spa, Vail, Colorado
Guests of Honor
Kristin Cashore grew up in the Pennsylvania countryside as the second of four sisters. She has received a bachelor’s degree from Williams College in western Massachusetts and a master’s from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College in Boston; she has worked as a dog runner, a packer in a candy factory, an editorial assistant, a legal assistant, and a freelance writer. She has lived in many places (including Sydney, New York City, Boston, London, and Austin), and she currently resides in northern Florida, where her daily activities include walking along the St. Johns River and counting pelicans on the dock. Cashore’s debut novel, Graceling, grew from her daydreams about a girl who possesses extraordinary powers—and who forms a friendship with a boy with whom she is insurmountably incompatible. Her second novel, Fire, is a companion book to Graceling and was released in fall 2009.
For more information on Kristin, and for links to her blog, please visit her her website.
New York Times best-selling author Tamora Pierce began writing while studying psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. She has written everything from short stories to novels to scripts that have been featured on National Public Radio, and has worked in many aspects of the publishing industry, including as a manuscript reviewer and editor. Since her days at Penn, she has published several quartets of young adult fantasy books with female heroes (and millions have adventured with Alanna, Daine, Keladry, Aly, and Beka), as well as featured the magic of four children in her Circle books. Her most recent works are the Legend of Beka Cooper series, which begins with Terrier and the forthcoming Bloodhound, and Melting Stones, the latest installment in the Circle series, which is available in both print and audiobook.
Sherwood Smith writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short fiction. Her stories have been finalists for the Nebula and Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, and her characters, including Meliara, Wren, and Inda, are fantasy favorites. Her recently published works include Crown Duel (Crown and Court Duet), the Inda sequence, A Stranger to Command, Sasharia en Garde: Once a Princess, Senrid, the Wren series, and stories in Lace and Blade, Firebirds, and Firebirds Soaring: An Anthology of Original Speculative Fiction. In addition to coauthoring the Exordium series with Dave Trowbridge, she has published novels set in others’ worlds, including Earth: Final Conflict, Andromeda, L. Frank Baum’s Oz, and (with Andre Norton) the Solar Queen and Time Traders universes.
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Books and Breakfast
Friday, October 2, 2009
Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell
Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey
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2009 Accepted Programming
Bite Me, I'm Yours: Vampire Romance, Female Readership, and Negotiating Ideology
This paper examines the ways in which non-academic readers may use mass cultural texts to interrogate ideologies and their position within hegemony. I use the example of the contemporary vampire romance to argue that female readers are able to work with the text, no matter how restrictive, to come to a better understanding of the power structures of which they are a part. I cite examples from Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series as well as Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga. I argue that mass culture is important to study because of its ability to influence many, and its popularity and presumed innocence.
The Crone Witch in Modern Fantasy
This paper describes the portrayal of the crone witch in the fantasy works of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Terry Pratchett. It includes a comparison of Morgaine in Bradley's The Mists of Avalon and Granny Weatherwax in Pratchett's Discworld series.
A History of the Literatures of the Imagination: A Cross-Cultural Look at the Origins of Fantasy, with a Nod to Science Fiction
Frances A. May
It's always a good idea to know where you've been, to chart the future. We will trace the evolution of fantasy, from ancestral fires to urban lofts and coffee houses. The discussion will cover the ancient myths and folk tales which now form the inspiration for many fantasy writers; the Matter of several countries, including the Matter of Britain; fairy tales and old wives' tales; science fiction, where it enters the picture, and where there is crossover between the genres; and the role of women as warriors, whether bearing swords and axes, or staffs and wands.
The Many Forms of Female Heroism in Robin McKinley's Spindle's End
Annette Doblix Klemp
The presentation will begin with an overview of fairy tale conventions, discuss the popular versions of “Sleeping Beauty” presented by the Brothers Grimm and Walt Disney films, and discuss McKinley's own earlier revisionist fairy tales. The paper will focus on McKinley's Spindle's End, particularly on its rejection of passive female characters. Rosie, the true princess, finds her vocation as an animal healer and, with the help of animals with whom she can communicate, engages in direct combat with the novel's villain. Peony, whose gentle nature makes her suited to assume the role of princess, sacrifices herself to save Rosie. Both characters, along with a diverse cast of women of different ages and abilities, allow McKinley to depict and celebrate the diverse nature of female heroism.
The Power of Three: A Look at The Charmed Ones as Real Women Warriors, and What It Says about Us and Them
The Charmed Ones of the television show Charmed are the most powerful witches that the world has ever known. They are modern sisters who try to balance life, professions, love, and their superpowers. Prue, Piper, Phoebe, and their half-sister Paige have emotionally based powers that range widely: freezing objects, astral projection, premonition, telekinesis, and orbing. This presentation/workshop hybrid examines the world of Charmed by discussing the sisters' powers, their relationship to each sister warrior, and what these powers reveal about each character. We will create our own “package of powers” and see how it empowers the sisters' fans.
Psyche's Ugly Sister: The Woman Warrior in C. S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces
Female ugliness is a theme in C. S. Lewis's late writings. My paper examines Orual from Lewis's fantasy novel, Till We Have Faces, using two overlapping perspectives. One is the impact of a real woman on Lewis's writing: to what extent does his late-in-life relationship with Joy Davidman influence Lewis's emphasis on ugliness? The other is the intrusion of women into combat; why are feminine beauty and war incompatible in Lewis's worldview?
“Something that looks so fragile”: Holly Black's and Melissa Marr's Feminist Faerie Tales
This presentation examines Holly Black's and Melissa Marr's works of faerie fantasy and explores how each author's series complicates and/or subverts faerie tale conventions both to deconstruct gender binaries and to resist new (and equally constraining) reconstructions of gender roles. Through their respective reimaginings of faerie tale narratives, Black and Marr effectively problematize the traditional dualities of the faerie tale: good and evil, virtue and vice, self and other, and—most particularly—masculine and feminine.
Twilight of Empowerment: Bella Swan's Fantasies and Desires
Narrative views of sex and desire in the Twilight tetralogy are traditional to the point of archaism. For example, the only orgasm that matters is Edward's, inside Bella; she spends most of the books wrestling him to that point. (The series could have been much shorter if Alice had given Bella a vibrator for her eighteenth birthday.) Furthermore, Bella isn't transformed from defenseless prey to a formidable warrior until she is a mother; despite her dreams and desires, as a girl she must rely on the men in her life to keep her safe, and all that protects her from them is her own intuition. This presentation is part of a longer project exploring the fictions of popular culture, which also includes “Omar Khadr is not Harry Potter,” presented at Terminus in 2008.
Why Don't More Girls Carry Swords?
Silver slippers, golden compasses, magic elixir, enchanted books—why don't more girls carry lightsabers? Heroines actually have the harder journey, battling the terrible mother in the underworld without even a dagger as defense. Dorothy conquers her witch in Oz with a bucket of water; Philip Pullman's Lyra wins a kingdom for her friend Iorek Byrnison and frees fellow children from the land of the dead, all through her “silver tongue.” In Narnia, Lucy and Susan keep vigil at Aslan's deathbed, then return the Queen's victims to life, saving the battle. Each of these heroines accomplishes her quests without violence, needing cleverness and fortitude more than Excalibur.
A Woman Warrior's Battle for Redemption: A Return to the Garden to Reclaim What Was Lost
This presentation uses the Creation story from the Judeo-Christian Bible's book of Genesis to explore why popular young-adult female characters—such as Lyra, Bella, Reneesme, Hermione, Lily, Susan, and Lucy—leave reality and enter a fantasy world, where they battle to find harmony and balance with males. It invites inquiry into what the battle in the fantasy world reveals about male and female relationships in the reality of our current culture. It will conclude with audience participation and discussion of the questions raised by the presentation.
Women, War, and the Fantastic
Robin Anne Reid
This project analyzes how the construction of women warriors in epic fantasy, urban fantasy, military science fiction, and space opera correlates with feminist theories. The focus is on patterns in contemporary genres of the fantastic, working with an intersectional method to consider not only gender but also class, race, ethnicity, age, and ability, in order to analyze just how “women warriors” are created. My hypothesis is that just as liberal feminism tended to ignore such areas of identity as race, ethnicity, and class, so too do many of the stories of the women warriors who inhabit the genres of the fantastic.
Buffy, Bella and Boys: Staking Your Life on Power and Identity
Sirens Staff, Elizabeth Abinante, Sarah Benoot, Katie Nolan
Joss Whedon specifically created Buffy, of vampire slayer fame, to subvert the archetype of the fun blonde girl who always dies in horror movies; what if, he asks, the monster followed the girl into an alley and she kicked its ass? Stephenie Meyer, in contrast, dreamed not her heroine but her hero, impossibly dazzling in a meadow. One character is a superhero, a warrior-girl; the other, a paint-by-numbers protagonist who takes nearly four books to find her power and in doing so, loses her humanity. Both fall for the bad guy: one for her enemy, the other for a superpredator. In a world of vampires, victims and vengeance, what do Buffy and Bella say about power and identity?
Fantasy Women in Harry Potter
Sirens Staff, Wendy Gouine, Paula A. Moses
In the Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling—prompted to use gender-neutral initials by her publisher—makes a point of balancing the male-female ratio among the teachers and students. Harry's friend Hermione is top of her class, the cleverest witch of her age; Professor McGonagall is trusted to step in as head of Hogwarts when Dumbledore is away; half of the school's founders were women. Yet, there's a glass ceiling leaving them the second-most important, the second in command. This panel will question portrayals of women in Harry Potter.
Creating Abstracts and Proposals for Sirens
Do you want to submit a program item for next year? Want tips on how to prepare your ideas for consideration by the vetting board? Join Sirens staff and a member of this year's vetting board for information on how to create a strong abstract for your programming proposal. We'll cover alternate abstract formats for workshops and roundtable discussions as well.
Nervous about writing fight scenes? Struggle with adding action to dialogue? Use theatrical techniques to turn dialogue into drama. Come choreograph a sword fight between Miranda and Ferdinand from Shakespeare's The Tempest, write your own dramatic dialogue for prose, and practice weaving dialogue together with action, setting, and emotion. Crowns, swords, and chocolate will be present!
Fantasy Writing Workshop
If you've always longed to write that novel, professional author Valerie Estelle Frankel will guide you through the process from start to finish. Build a magical world from scratch, with maps, cultures, plants, and animals. Create your characters and send them forth on a magical quest. Finally, we'll learn all about the world of publication and discuss how to break into magazines, anthologies, and more. All types of writers welcome.
How to Create an Active and Fun Fantasy Club at Your School
With the increased interest in fantasy books, many students want to do more than just read the stories: they want to interact with others who share the same interest. Via book release parties, concert series such as Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn, student-scripted plays, or a movie night, students are making connections through fantasy literature. This workshop provides participants with ideas on how to form fantasy clubs at their school. They will receive a promotions checklist and learn how to organize their group, ideas used in the past, and how to get students involved in conferences such as Sirens.
Mary Sue: An Intervention
As much as we'd like to deny it, every writer of fantasy has at least one great Mary Sue inside us. There is, however, one sure way to defeat her. How, you ask? By giving her her time in the spotlight, of course. Here, we will use words and pictures to create the most Sueish Mary Sue we possibly can, for only by embracing our inner Sue can we defeat her.
Sirens Compendium Submissions (for Presenters)
Sirens Programming Staff
This presentation seeks to demystify the process by which your talk, paper, workshop, or roundtable discussion can become part of a published book. We will discuss formatting issues, editing, bibliographic citation and why it matters, some differences between writing for oral delivery and writing for print, and why we cannot include that image you consider crucial. Please bring your questions, small or large!
Fanfiction, Fantasy, and the Reader-Writer Relationship
Join Guest of Honor Sherwood Smith for a discussion of fanfiction and the women who write it, how concepts of “text” are changing, and how the Internet is affecting the writer/reader relationship—as well as how women are sparking these changes.
Finding Femininity in a Warrior's World
This roundtable discussion investigates how our warrior heroines connect with their inner woman. After first discussing what it means to be “feminine,” we will examine a few specific examples from the works of Tamora Pierce, Sherwood Smith, and J. K. Rowling, and discover the means by which our heroines become comfortable in their own body and their society's “woman” identity. We will critique our heroines' method of working within feminine conventions to become comfortable with their femininity and discuss whether connecting with such an identity is critical to the character. As these heroines' identities often influence our own, discussion will rely on participants' understandings of femininity and influence how we define “woman.”
“Give her a pattern”: Feminist Role Models and Their Male Creators
In his essay “Give Her a Pattern,” D. H. Lawrence asserts that women, by their very nature, must conform to men's ideals and that they suffer because men hold them to impossible standards. This discussion focuses on female characters in television, an industry dominated by male writers, and questions whether Lawrence's assertion holds true or whether there is a different dynamic at work. Particular attention will be paid to the work of Joss Whedon, although examples from other shows and movies are encouraged.
It's Just Plumbing: Gender Roles in Robin Hobb's Trilogies
One of the most beloved characters in Robin Hobb's Farseer, Live Ship Traders, and Tawny Man trilogies is the Fool (a.k.a. Amber, the Tawny Man, etc.), who offers a unique study of gender roles. Apparently transgendered, in different trilogies the Fool chooses to emphasize different personality traits and de-emphasize others in order to manipulate the way s/he is perceived by other characters. In so doing, s/he becomes a different person to these characters in order to gain their friendship and connect with them on the level they find most comfortable—or uncomfortable. Exploring the reactions of characters around the Fool—Fitz, Kettricken, Starling, Jek, Althea, The Pale Woman, Verity, Tintaglia—not only helps to illuminate the Fool's chameleon character; it also illuminates the other characters' gender biases and, by extension, ours.
Love Lives of Women Warriors
In traditional stories, the male warrior-hero is the lover, and the woman is the beloved; he acts to protect her; she lets him. But the advent of women warriors in contemporary fantasy and SF—from Tamora Pierce's Alanna, Keladry, and Circle of Magic students, to Lois McMaster Bujold's Cordelia, to Kristen Cashore's Katsa, to Robin Hobb's Fool, Althea, and Kettricken, to J. K. Rowling's Hermione, to Stephenie Meyer's Bella, etc.—shows that the romantic choices available to, and made by, women warriors have diversified. Even so, common elements prevail in all of these examples (and most others we can think of). For example, the woman warrior has to fight to redefine traditions of what makes a good woman... and often, her most formidable opponents are not her enemies but her closest friends and family members. (Please let the moderator know beforehand which heroines in particular you wish to discuss.)
The Mary Sue Critique: Characterization and Gender Bias in Fantasy Literature
“Mary Sue” is a label that has, over the years, become synonymous with original female characters that are intelligent, beautiful, talented, powerful, and well-liked—to the point of having no shortcomings, flaws, or faults that make them relatable to fans. Formerly used as a criticism for fan fiction, the term has recently been liberally applied to females in original fantasy literature. While male characters of equal or greater standing seem to escape the same label time and again, it begs the question: Does this “Mary Sue” criticism of female fantasy characters come from a deep gender bias in the genre?
A great deal of fantasy borrows from the histories of Western European cultures and infuses them with magic—but there’s more to fantasy than Nordic elves, Celtic faeries, and lords and ladies in castles. Join this discussion to talk about traditional and modern fantastic stories with settings around the world, and worldbuilding inspired by regions outside Western Europe. Please bring recommendations, and be ready to talk about books that you think represent non-Western cultures well and those that you think do not.
Not Overshadowed by Awesome: Girls on the Side
Sidekicks. Backup. Whatever name you use, they serve the same purpose: to help the main character succeed in their quest. Without them, the world would not be saved, the crime would not be solved, the quest would not be successful. Despite being relegated to a secondary role, the girls on the side can be an important part of a story in their own right. What would Harry have been without Hermione (J. K. Rowling), or what fate would have befallen Olympus if Percy hadn't had Annabeth (Rick Riordan)? What lessons might Beka have missed if not for Clary Goodwin (Tamora Pierce)?
The Rise of the Vampire Romance Novel
Over the last decade, sales in the vampire literature subgenre have exploded. Beginning with The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice and culminating in today's Twilight craze, book sales, movie ticket sales, and overall interest have skyrocketed to an alarming high. This roundtable delves into the following questions: Why vampire romance has been on the rise? How does the literature treat its female characters? Are the leading women seen as heroes or as victims to be rescued? We will focus on the following series: Twilight (Stephenie Meyer), Blue Bloods (Melissa de la Cruz), and Southern Vampire (Charlaine Harris). Discussion will follow historical and sociological approaches to when and why interest has increased, as well as what type of impact it has had on female readers and society as a whole.
Tough Love: When Partnership Becomes a Paradox
This roundtable discussion will explore the effects of love and all its complications on strong female characters. We will examine several examples of women warriors from the works of Kristin Cashore, Anne Bishop, and Tamora Pierce who successfully juggle love and weapons. Participants will be encouraged to debate whether women need love in order to be viewed as strong, well-rounded warriors, while at the same time critiquing the commonly accepted social standards of femininity and maternity against which women warriors are judged.
Join Kristen in an afternoon class perfect for budding warriors. If you’re interested in getting ideas for writing fight scenes or in protecting yourself, this beginning self-defense class is for you. This class will include warm-ups and stretching, a basic punch, kicks, basic grabs and techniques for breaking away from attackers. Kristen holds a first degree brown belt from Tompkins Karate Association, a school in Maryland which teaches traditional Tang Soo Do and a modified form of ju-jitsu.
Dark Ages Armor
Bring your curiosity to this presentation on dark ages armor. Dave will show you materials commonly used to make dark ages armor such as leather, hides, and wrought iron, as well as a few dark ages weapons. He will demonstrate the effectiveness of these weapons in penetrating these armor materials. Attendees may be able to try on various bits of armor. By the end of this class, you’ll have an appreciation for armor used in the dark ages and how effective it would be at enhancing the survivability and combat potential of those who wore it.
Sharon K. Goetz works for a print-and-digital project that creates critical editions. Too fond of textuality for her own good, she has also written software manuals, taught college writing courses oriented around speculative fiction and King Arthur, and completed a Ph.D. investigating medieval English chronicles amidst their manuscript contexts. Sharon served as Academic Programming Coordinator for Terminus and Phoenix Rising and as Programming Secretary for The Witching Hour; in 2002 she chaired the Medieval Performativity conference that celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the UC Berkeley Beowulf Marathon. Amongst Sharon’s leisure pursuits are reading widely, playing video games, and volunteering as a Strange Horizons copy-editor.
Hilary K. Justice, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English at Illinois State University and a Senior Admin for the On-line Wizarding Library fan-fiction archive. Her academic work includes The Bones of the Others, a book-length study of the creative process, and she has won several awards for her fan-fiction, most recently a Quill-to-Parchment award for A Walking Shadow, a novel-length alternate to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. When not teaching or writing, she enjoys chamber music and reading knitting patterns.
Jessica Moore holds a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of WisconsinMilwaukee, and has undergraduate degrees in History and English Literature from the University of WisconsinLa Crosse. She can usually be found at an institute of higher learning, where she works as an all-purpose academic assistant, doing everything from scouting potential event locations to helping develop professional enrichment courses to the ever-present photocopying. In 2005, Jessica traveled to Salem, Massachusetts as an Information Desk volunteer for The Witching Hour, her first experience with a literature conference drawing attendees from all over the globe. An avid reader, Jessica has a particular interest in modern graphic novels and young adult literature.
Robin Reid is Professor of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M UniversityCommerce and an active participant in online Lord of the Rings fandom. Her areas of teaching are creative writing, critical theory, new media, and speculative fiction. Her most recent publication is Encyclopedia of Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Greenwood, 2008). Robin has published essays on The Lord of the Rings (novel and film) and fan fiction. Her current projects include an edited anthology on fan fiction and one on queerness and the fantastic, and a book in progress titled Slashing the Fathers: Female Writers Crossing the Borders of Male Texts.
Suzanne Scott is a Ph.D. candidate in Critical Studies at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts; she earned her B.F.A. in Cinema Studies and Journalism at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In addition to serving as Programming Chair for Phoenix Rising (2007) and as a vetting board member for Terminus (2008), she has been a fixture at Harry Potter symposia, presenting multiple papers and speaking on multiple panels at Nimbus2003, The Witching Hour, and Lumos. Suzanne is currently hard at work on her dissertation, an examination of convergence culture’s commodification and appropriation of fan practices and nerd culture, with special emphasis on Harry Potter Wizard Rock, Comic-Con, and the ancillary content model of shows like Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, and Lost. Suzanne’s work was recently published in a collection titled Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica (2008), and she has been named as a HASTAC Scholar for 2008.
2009 Call for Proposals
CALL FOR PROPOSALS: Sirens
October 1–4, 2009
A conference on women in fantasy literature presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.
Sirens, a conference focused on literary contributions by women to the fantasy genre and on fantasy works with prominent female characters, will take place October 1–4, 2009, in Vail, CO. The conference seeks papers, panels, interactive workshops, roundtable discussions, and other presentations suitable for an audience of academics, professionals, educators, librarians, authors, and fantasy readers.
The theme for 2009 is “warriors,” and programming prompted by the theme is encouraged; presenters are not limited to this theme, however, and proposals that address specific aspects of a work or series, works related by other themes, and studies of the fantasy genre across all disciplines are encouraged as well. A non-exhaustive list of sample topics includes literary analyses of novels; studies of genre history; use of fantasy works in schools and libraries for education; examination of related business and legal issues; media and fan studies; craft-based workshops in writing, art, and publishing; and overviews of how fantasy works fit into larger contexts.
Presentation submission to the vetting board is by online system only. No other format or contact will be considered. The online submission system is located at <http://www.sirensconference.org/submissions/> and will open for proposals on November 21, 2008.
The deadline for proposals is April 12, 2009, and notices regarding proposals will be sent no later than May 1, 2009. Those requiring an early decision in order to obtain travel funding should contact the programming coordinator at (programming at sirensconference.org).
At the time of proposal submission, presenters must provide an abstract of 300-500 words, a 50-100 word presentation summary for publication, and a presenter biography of no more than 100 words. Those wishing to submit a proposal for an interactive roundtable discussion may submit a brief explanation of a topic and a list of 10-15 sample discussion questions in lieu of a formal abstract. Presenters must be available to attend the conference in its entirety; no partial or day registrations will be offered.
Conference papers will be collected for publication at a later date. Presenters must be registered for the conference no later than May 22, 2009. For more information about programming, the review process, suggested timing and structure of presentations, audio-visual availability, and proposal submissions, please see the Sirens website at <http://www.sirensconference.org/programming/>. Questions specifically about programming may be directed to (programming at sirensconference.org), and general conference inquiries may be sent to (help at sirensconference.org).
Sirens is a presentation of Narrate Conferences, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with the mission of organizing academic, literary, and exploratory educational conferences that address themes of interest to scholars, educators, students, professionals, and readers. For inquiries about Narrate Conferences, Inc., please write to (info at narrateconferences.org).
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