This is the official newsletter for Sirens, a conference dedicated to women in fantasy literature. The newsletter is published once a month to the Sirens News page, message boards, mailing list, LiveJournal, and Facebook. Certain other updates are posted on the conference’s Twitter.
Volume 4 – Issue 3
Guests of Honor
Happy new year!
We’re thrilled to announce that with the new year comes wonderful news: our third guest of honor for 2012!
Nalo Hopkinson has published four novels and numerous short stories, and has edited or co-edited four anthologies, most in the realms of science fiction and fantasy. She is a recipient of the Locus Award for Best New Writer, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the Ontario Arts Council Foundation Award for Emerging Writers. Her works have won a World Fantasy Award, a Gaylactic Spectrum Award, an Aurora Award, and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic (twice), and have been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, the James R. Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award, the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and the Nebula Award for Best Novel. Brown Girl in the Ring was also a finalist in Canada Reads. Nalo holds an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, and is currently an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. She has served as faculty for Clarion East, Clarion West, and Clarion South, and she is a founding member of the Carl Brandon Society.
Nalo Hopkinson will join Kate Bernheimer and Malinda Lo and complete our guest slate for 2012. All three authors have re-written familiar tales, and some unfamiliar tales as well, and the work of each reinvents those tales in unexpected ways. Further, we think that our three guests, collectively, showcase the breadth of what re-tellings can be: myths, legends, folklore, fairy tales, new tales in old traditions, and old tales turned upside-down. We couldn’t be more excited!
Programming Ideas and Retellings
The deadline for programming proposals is May 6, 2012, leaving you just under four months to design a paper (or set of papers), panel, workshop, roundtable, or informal afternoon class. For this year’s theme, “tales retold,” we want to encourage you to use the intervening time to think outside the box.
First, when thinking about retelling tales, you might consider process: What craft goes into reimagining and revamping a story? What might a storyteller need to consider when choosing a tale to retell, or when constructing a retelling? What makes a particular tale interesting or difficult to retell, and why do we retell stories?
Second, you might consider “product,” though that’s perhaps an ungraceful word to describe stories. What we mean is this: How successful are individual retellings, given particular criteria? How does a retelling illustrate change in society, our reading tastes, our politics and beliefs? Can we compare different retellings?
Finally, while we know that fairy tales and princess stories are always popular, we strongly encourage you to think beyond those ideas this year. There is a plethora of tales that include women in fantasy to think about and discuss–a plethora of stories that have gained (or lost) fantasy trappings through retellings, of stories that have their roots in other genres, of stories that have been passed down outside of the collections of Grimm and Perrault, of stories that are the descendants of folk tales and mythology.
Consider, perhaps, L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy, and then MGM’s, then The Wiz, Tin Man, and both the book and musical Wicked.
Consider Lewis Carroll’s Alice versus Disney’s versus American McGee’s versus Frank Beddor’s ultraviolent reworking versus Tim Burton’s sword-wielding Jabberwocky slayer (and also who is in charge of the retelling, for Alice and for Dorothy Gale).
Consider Ponyo as a riff on “The Little Mermaid,” not to mention all the modern retellings of the story that feature not only the Little Mermaid herself, but sometimes her daughter.
Think of retellings of legends and folklore from around the world, from Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Palace of Illusions to Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, from Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber to Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, and consider tales that draw on ancient traditional stories that were themselves shared between different groups.
Remember that mythic retellings are fair game, from Francesca Lia Block’s poetic “Psyche in a Dress” and Sarah Diemer’s lesbian reworking of Hades and Persephone, to Patricia McKillip’s retelling of Baba Yaga in In the Forests of Serre and Catherine Fisher’s Nordic Snow-Walker.
Think of fantasy retellings of plays, such as Lisa Mantchev’s Eyes Like Stars, which takes on much of Shakespeare, and the stories that playwrights have been sharing and re-sharing for centuries.
And if fairy tales are your thing, remember that they’re more than just princesses: the Pied Piper, the Little Match Girl, the Snow Queen, Donkeyskin, and the White Cat make a quick list of fairy tales that have fantasy retellings to get you started, and for a look at what a fantastic author can do with the fairytale tradition, take a look at Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby.
In the coming months, we’ll help with brainstorming for programming and go over the nuts and bolts of different types of presentations, but in the meantime, please feel free to visit the programming and reading list sections of the Sirens website for some inspiration and a place to start your research.
Review Squad Deadline Extended
If you’re interested in writing a handful of reviews for the Sirens newsletter in 2012, please note that we’ve extended the application deadline to January 31, 2012. Please see this page for more information.
Questions? You can comment here or write to us at (help at sirensconference.org).