DatesOctober 10–13, 2013
LocationSkamania Lodge, Stevenson, Washington
Alaya Dawn Johnson has published four adult novels, and published her first young adult novel, The Summer Prince, set in a futuristic Brazil, in March 2013. She is the author of Racing the Dark and The Burning City, which explore a fantastic South Pacific and a world of elemental spirits, and the Zephyr Hollis novels, Moonshine and Wicked City, in which vampires and djinni rub shoulders with humans in Prohibition-era New York City. Alaya graduated from Columbia University with a BA in East Asian Languages and Cultures in 2004.
Ellen Kushner’s career spans writing, editing, radio hosting, and performing. Her first novel, Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners, which began her Riverside series, was hailed as the progenitor of the “Mannerpunk” (or “Fantasy of Manners”) school of urban fantasy. Her second novel, Thomas the Rhymer, won both the 1991 World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award. With Delia Sherman she co-wrote The Fall of the Kings, and her most recent novel, The Privilege of the Sword, a genre-crossing, gender-bending novel published by Bantam Books and Small Beer Press, earned an eclectic range of honors from New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age to finalist for the Nebula and Tiptree Awards, and won the Locus Award. Ellen is also the co-founder of The Interstitial Arts Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports work that exists between genres.
Robin LaFevers’s work includes Grave Mercy, the first in a series of assassin nuns in medieval France, called an “ambitious tapestry . . . [a] page-turnerwith grace” in a Kirkus starred review. The second novel in this series, Dark Triumph, was released in April 2013. As R. L. LaFevers, she is also the author of several series for younger readers: Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist; Lowthar’s Blade; and the Theodosia books. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos was a Junior Library Guild selection and a BookSense Summer Pick, and was nominated for the Malice Domestic’s Agatha Award.
Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s first novel, Under the Mesquite, is not fantasy, but is a tour de force work of verse that tackles the subject of cancer, received recognition such as the Pura Belpré Author Award and a 2012 International Latino Book Awards Honorable Mention, and was a William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist (YALSA). Her second, Summer of the Mariposas, retells The Odyssey with five Mexican-American sisters and La Llorona as a ghostly guide. Summer of the Mariposas is one of the “Best Books of 2012” selected by School Library Journal. Guadalupe has a BA in Theatre Arts and English from Sul Ross State University.
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Friday, October 11, 2013
Prophecy by Ellen Oh
A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton
The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff
Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi
Bronze Gods by A. A. Aguirre
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
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Female Warriors, Magical Beings, Goddesses, Storytellers, and Questing Women in Indian Comic Books
Rachel Manija Brown, Shveta Thakrar
Using storytelling and slides, we will share the stories of female warriors, Goddesses, magical beings, storytellers, and questing women from Indian history and legend, as they appear in Indian comic books. This presentation will be based on the comics by the publisher Amar Chitra Katha, whose books have been beloved by Indian girls and boys since 1967.
Sponsor: Undusty New Books
Naturphilosophie’s Dark Goddesses
This paper examines the influence of Naturphilosophie on the transformation of Mother Nature, in the work of E. T. A. Hoffmann and other writers. In these works, Nature shifts from a figure of nurturing and generative power associated with the green world to one of destruction, whose power is seated in caves, mines, and stone.
The Need for Transformation: Beauty and the Beast in the Works of Robin McKinley
“Beauty and the Beast” is a story type that Robin McKinley revisits again and again. She has directly retold the fairy tale twice (in her novels Beauty and Rose Daughter), but has also touched on the theme of the beautiful woman and the monster in several of her other works, particularly her novels Sunshine and Chalice and her short stories. This paper will briefly address the historical background of the fairy tale, and will then track the themes of human woman, monstrous man, and transformation through the works of Robin McKinley.
“You Who Read, Judge”: Storytelling in Till We Have Faces
Many first-person novels use the conceit that the book itself is being written by the narrator. Fewer make that act of writing an integral part of the plot. In C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, Orual’s telling of her own story transforms her, as she comes to understand how she has been telling stories to control others and justify herself all her life. Her journey becomes an exploration of the ways in which stories are inherently participatory and transformative—and sometimes redemptive.
Anchoring Your Fantasy with Reality
Nancy Werlin, Delia Sherman, Caroline Stevermer
In pre-industrial society, the seasons held sway. What should we consider in crafting a fantasy world to avoid historico/socio mistakes? Even fantasy worlds need to be rooted in reality. You can change the laws of physics to allow dragons, but your horse still can’t gallop all day without rest. If you can’t be authoritative about cooking on the road, or the economics of an agrarian society, then how can you expect your audience to accept your authority in your magical system? The more concrete the everyday details, the more buoyant the flights of fantasy. Let’s discuss the world-building that it’s better not to fudge.
Diversity in YA
Malinda Lo, Sara Ryan, Guadalupe Garcia McCall
In the last couple of years, the issue of diversity in young adult fiction has unexpectedly gone mainstream. The publishing industry has launched a professional organization dedicated to promoting diversity, and numerous blogs have sprung up celebrating diversity in race, sexual orientation, gender, and disability. But is this enthusiasm translating into a wider readership for diverse books? This panel will delve into the experiences of several authors who have published books that fall under the “diverse” umbrella. We’ll discuss publisher support; reader reactions; whether “diversity” has become a blessing rather than a curse; and how “diversity” translates into fantasy novels.
Sponsor: Undusty New Books
Gender Masquerades 2.0
Malinda Lo, Mette Ivie Harrison, s.e. smith, Kate Elliott, Ellen Kushner
At Sirens in 2012, we discussed gender roles in the media and which TV/film characters subverted the audience’s views of gender. This year, we’re taking our discussion into fantasy fiction and asking: How is gender represented and problematized in fantasy? Does gender only exist as a binary, or is it a continuum of expression? As fantasy writers, we are able to create fictional worlds that do not conform to contemporary American norms. How can we engage with gender in new and interesting ways in fantasy? What have we done in the past that has worked, and what hasn’t worked?
Not Just by the Sword
Kate Elliott, Shveta Thakrar, Joy Kim, Delia Sherman
Beyond the blade, what other weapons are available to the female heroine? Wit, patience, cunning . . . even cookery (remember those marrow bones?)! In her recent essay “Fairytale princesses: tougher than you think,” British fantasist Katherine Langrish asked why the attributes of “hard work, faithfulness, determination and courage” displayed by female fairy tale heroines are undervalued. Is there a double standard? There’s a lot more to being a hero(ine) than just picking up a sword!
The Question of Food in a Fantasy Landscape
Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Ysabeau Wilce
Food in fantasy is often unthinkingly patterned on our own world and on clichés—aren’t we all tired of journeyers mindlessly eating stew? Consider that fantasy is thinner and weaker without thoroughly considering the foodways of the world. Unpacking food questions gives rise to musing on land types and land usage, food storage and preparation, nutritional needs, and also larger social constructs.
Sponsor: Justin Pava
Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves: Women in History and in Fantasy and YA
Andrea Horbinski, Robin LaFevers, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Gillian Chisom, Kate Elliott
Women have played a variety of crucial roles in societies around the world since the beginning of recorded history, but popular understandings of those roles don’t always match historical reality. At the same time, there have been many women throughout history who transgressed social boundaries. How have folktales, fantasy, and young adult books depicted and reflected women in history? What can we learn about the past and about our own current moment from these depictions? This panel will explore these questions and many more.
The Underground Influence of Georgette Heyer
Nancy Werlin, Delia Sherman, Caroline Stevermer, Alaya Dawn Johnson
The classic regency romance novels of Georgette Heyer have not only had an extraordinary influence on romance novels, but also on fantasy. We see an overt bow to Heyer in Lois McMaster Bujold's A Civil Campaign, but if we look, we will also find many more nods—both conscious and unconscious—in fantasy courtship plots and in world-building, especially when authors imagine societal structures and manners. This panel will theorize about why Heyer is so influential and whether her influence has a dark side, and consider the ways in which we can see her influence on the most modern of fantasy novels.
Women in Fantasy: Present and Future
Susan Chang, Miriam Weinberg, Stacy Hill
George R. R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, and other men seem to dominate the bestseller lists; where are the bestselling female fantasy writers? Are women more successful in certain subgenres? Why is it that even in young adult books with kickass female protagonists, such as Katniss from Hunger Games or Katsa in Graceling, there’s always some sort of romantic subplot? Three editors will discuss trends they’re seeing in fantasy; where they think the genre is going; and whether the field is more, or less, hospitable to female fantasy writers than in the past. (Please note that although the editors will provide information on Tor's upcoming adult and young adult lists, and talk about the kinds of books they're looking to acquire as well as how to submit manuscripts to Tor, the editors will not accept manuscript submissions at the conference.)
All Warriors Need a Weapon, But Every Girl Wants a Pony: How to Write Believable Horses
Would you love to include horses in your manuscripts, but find that you don’t actually know much—or anything—about them? Many authors write horses into their books without consulting a professional horsewoman (okay, or horseman) first. The result might be an amusing mistake, or a total turnoff to the reader. Don’t worry; with a basic understanding of horses and the equipment related to them, anyone can write horses into their stories as a mode of transportation or as fully realized secondary characters.
Sponsor: Cora Anderson
DIY Rich-Media eBooks for Authors, Lecturers, and Fans
Dorothee E. Kocks
Previous Sirens sessions taught about song, fencing, dance, and other non-textual activities important in fantasy fiction. What if you had a book that could play music and show swordplay and invite fans to talk about what they are reading? Is it even desirable to leave the private, intimate world of words on a page? Find out what you think about “transmedia” as we create a sample ebook in 50 minutes. Participants will learn about new programs and get a feel for this genre’s potential. Our sample book is a how-to introduction for do-it-yourselfers.
Read Like an Editor: Acquiring Fantasy
The acquisitions process for books can seem mysterious and fraught with peril for the aspiring author. Are manuscripts just thrown into a cave of hungry dragons for immolation? This workshop will provide a peek into the decision-making process and an analysis of what makes fantasy manuscripts stand out in the slush pile. (Please note that no manuscripts will be harmed, enchanted, or acquired during this presentation.)
Beyond the Binary—Sexual Orientations and Gender Identity in Fantasy Literature
In recent years, there has been a growing acceptance and inclusion of gay and lesbian characters in fantasy literature. But these still fall into binary patterns: men and women, heterosexual and homosexual. What about people who fall outside of this binary? Asexuals, demisexuals, transgender people, and people without gender? How are they represented? This roundtable encourages discussion on these topics as well as reading recommendations for those interested in books that fall outside the binary.
Big Bad Mamas: Motherhood in Fantasy
Whether she’s the hand that rocks the cradle, offers the poison apple, or laces up the corset, a mother’s influence is a powerful thing. This roundtable will discuss popular images of motherhood in fantasy and examine young heroines both as daughters and as potential mothers themselves. We’ll pay special attention to the dark, violent or monstrous mother figure who lurks behind the caregiver—and might want to eat you.
The Borders of Elfland: Defining Fairies
The ancient Irish called them the aes sidhe, the people of the hills. In the Middle Ages, they were the angels too good for hell but too wicked for heaven. The Victorians rendered them declawed and defanged, as the innocent flower fairies—except when they were the insidious goblins, purveyors of dangerous fruit. And in modern times, they have alternated between sugar-sweet pixies and boyfriend-stealing vixens. (But even Disney's fairies go on adventures.) What makes a fairy—or a faerie? And what has made them so compelling to people over such a long span of time? Come discuss your perceptions of fairies, and the ways they are depicted, and defined, in fiction.
Sponsor: Amy Wilson
Constant, Continuing, Inevitable: Changes in E-reading and Digital Publishing
This roundtable will examine digital publishing and the options available for readers and writers of fantasy. It will also discuss recent news in the constantly evolving publishing landscape.
People spend a lot of time arguing about genre. This roundtable will discuss what we mean when we talk about genre, and whether it matters at all. Who defines genre? If genre is fluid, do classifications restrict more than help, or are there ways to make them work for us? We’ll approach this topic from the perspectives of readers choosing books, marketers selling them, and authors writing them.
Sponsor: Suzanne Rogers Gruber
Queens and Monsters: Likeability and Female Power in Fantasy Novels
Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In and Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, has famously asserted that “[s]uccess and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.” Numerous studies have validated that statement in the corporate world, demonstrating that successful women—those who assert power or act competitively—are criticized as insufficiently feminine and ultimately unlikeable, while men who evidence similar behaviors in similar situations are instead lauded as commanding or visionary. As a society, we are deeply uncomfortable with powerful women. Which leads one to ask: Are we also deeply uncomfortable with powerful female protagonists in fantasy novels?
The Question of Girlhood
Must a heroine appropriate male attributes to have an adventure? Must she dress like a boy, pretend to be a boy, wield a sword, etc., to be taken seriously? Must her main obstacle be her actual girlhood? The girlie heroine seems to be only found in the fantasy romance. This roundtable will explore these questions, and whether this is due to reader and writer expectations, or to a lack of writerly imagination, or whether the construction of heroics is so gendered that the only way for a girl to be a hero is to become a de facto boy.
Sponsor: Amy Tenbrink
Re-Reading: Reunions with Books You Love and Those You Loathe
What happens when we are reunited with a book? Let’s talk about reunions with characters, authors, and plotlines. Have you ever re-discovered a beloved book, and then been disappointed after re-reading? Or fallen in love with a character you hated? What happens when we are reunited with a favorite book through another medium, like film or art? We’ll chat about whether these changes are in response to personal evolution, market trends, style expectations—or something entirely different. Why are these reunions powerful, and how do they shape who we are today?
Sponsor: Amy Wilson
We’re Only Human After All
Join a discussion about the ways that authors make Others (monsters, creatures, and aliens) separate from their human characters. Where do the lines between Human and Not fall? Where do they blur?
Women Political Leaders in Fantasy
Female political leaders in fantasy include hereditary rulers and elected leaders, women warriors, and civil servants. This roundtable will consider the different types of political leadership demonstrated by women in fantasy literature. How is their leadership shaped by their gender, their age, and the political system in which they work? How do these characters gain and exercise their political power? Have depictions of female political leaders in fantasy changed over time?
Sponsor: Christine Kling
Ballads and Marching Songs
Ellen Kushner, Ysabeau Wilce
“It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing!” said Duke Ellington. As authors, we are very aware of how sound and rhythm inform good writing, and so we heartily agree! We also draw on music, particularly traditional music of the fireside and the parade ground, to inspire and support our work. And so: Ellen will sing some of the traditional ballads that inspired her novel Thomas the Rhymer, and Ysabeau will counter with some of the military ditties that form the backdrop to the campfires, parade grounds, and blind tigers of her Califa series. We'll then turn around and show participants how to create a fresh ballad or marching song that fits the needs of an original fantasy novel.
Come to the Ceilidh!
Come spend an afternoon learning group dances as they would be performed in Ireland. Kristen will teach the basics of Irish soft-shoe dances and lead two basic Irish ceili dances, the Seige of Ennis (a reel) and The Haymaker’s Jig. No prior experience needed!
Our Sirens Journey: Discovering Feminist Fantasy and Ourselves
How has Sirens changed you? My own journey at Sirens has reflected how I connect with feminist fantasy literature, particularly my struggle in defining femininity. Using favorite memories of Sirens—past panels, guest of honor speeches, hallway conversations, and more—I invite you to share how those moments have affected your understanding of women in fantasy. This analytic retrospective is for all attendees, new and repeat, as we discuss what Sirens can offer and how it continues to influence us today.
Sponsor: Amy Tenbrink
Creating Proposals and Compendium Submissions for Sirens
Sirens Staff and Vetting Board
Are you thinking of submitting a program item for next year? Want tips on how to prepare your ideas for consideration by the vetting board? We’ll cover abstract formats for papers, panels, workshops, afternoon classes, and roundtable discussions. Also, your talk, paper, workshop, or roundtable discussion can become part of a published book: every two to three years, Sirens produces a compendium of presentations. We will discuss formatting issues, editing, bibliographic citation and why it matters, and some differences between writing for oral delivery and writing for print. The presentation will be very informal; attendees are welcome to drop in for a few minutes to ask a quick question or to use the time for group brainstorming.
Sponsor: Undusty New Books
Cora Anderson has been an avid reader of everything she could get her hands on for as long as she can remember. She is especially fond of fantasy and young adult literature, both prose and manga. Cora has a history degree from the University of Southern California, and currently lives in Seattle, Washington, where she works as a technical writer. When not working, writing, or reading, Cora enjoys cooking, playing video games, and exploring Seattle.
Kate Elliott is the author of numerous works of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent Spiritwalker Trilogy (Cold Magic, Cold Fire, and Cold Steel) is an Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency adventure fantasy with airships, sharks, and lawyer dinosaurs. In her spare time, she paddles outrigger canoes.
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 PhD investigating medieval English chronicles amidst their manuscript contexts. Amongst Sharon’s leisure pursuits are reading widely, playing video games, and volunteering as a Strange Horizons copy-editor.
Emily Gref is an agent with Lowenstein Associates, where she is always on the lookout for fantasy and science fiction stories with compelling women and new twists on old tropes.
Andrea Horbinski is a PhD student in Japanese history at the University of California, Berkeley. She was previously a Fulbright Fellow at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, researching hypernationalist manga. She currently serves on the editorial board of the journal Mechademia, on the advisory board of The Ada Initiative, and on the board of the Organization for Transformative Works.
Joy Kim works as a public librarian in Washington state. An active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association, she has chaired YALSA’s William C. Morris YA Debut Award and Great Graphic Novels for Teens committees. She also reviews children’s and teen books for Kirkus Reviews, and even occasionally finds time to read for fun. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, running, and watching ridiculous Korean television shows.
Lacey Skorepa is a fairy tale fanatic. No, she is not addicted to stories of white knights, princesses, and happily ever after(s). Her interest in fairy tales comes from a more sinister place; a place where birds pluck out eyes, where roses bloom with violent thorns, and where inversions become societal subversions. She has presented papers at several conferences, most recently at the 2013 ICFA conference where she presented the paper “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Who’s the Most Feminist of Them All?” Lacey is working toward a PhD in English literature at Wayne State University, with a concentration in fairy tales and feminist theory. She earned her MA at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she studied English literature with a concentration in fairy tales and children’s literature, and she graduated from Western Illinois University in 2011 with a BA in English literature and philosophy.
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 10–13, 2013, in Stevenson, Washington, near Portland, Oregon. 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 2013 is “reunion,” and presenters are especially invited to explore fantasy based on extant stories covering any of our past themes of warriors, faeries, monsters, and tales retold. Programming prompted by the themes is encouraged, but presenters are in no way limited to these themes. Proposals that address women in fantasy literature, such as 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/>.
The deadline for proposals is May 10, 2013, and notices regarding proposals will be sent no later than June 3, 2013. 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; workshop proposals may be formatted as lesson plans. Afternoon classesinteractive demonstrations of interest to fantasy readers that may be less formally related to the thememay also be presented as lesson plans. 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 July 3, 2013. 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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