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Archive for Sirens 2018

Guest of Honor: Violet Kupersmith

Due to a very happy personal circumstance, Zen Cho will no longer be able to attend Sirens this year. Instead, the incomparable Violet Kupersmith will join us as our hauntings guest this fall.

If you aren’t yet familiar with Violet or her work, here are some details: Violet is the author of The Frangipani Hotel, a collection of supernatural short stories about the legacy of the Vietnam War, and a forthcoming novel on ghosts and American expats in modern-day Saigon. She spent a year teaching English in the Mekong Delta with the Fulbright program and subsequently lived in the Central Highlands of Vietnam to research local folklore. She is a former resident of the MacDowell Colony and was the 2015–2016 David T.K. Wong Fellow at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. Her writing has appeared in No Tokens, The Massachusetts Review, Word Vietnam, and The New York Times Book Review.

To that, we’ll add that The Frangipani Hotel, which we’ve been enthusiastically recommending to everyone every year at Sirens, is a brilliant, incisive, subversive work. Her ghost stories are simultaneously retold Vietnamese folktales, an indictment of the Vietnam War, and an exquisite exploration of loss—of culture, of country, of family, of self. Her settings are palpable, her characters all-too-human, and her work unforgettable. We hope you’ll check it out before Sirens!

 

Book Club: The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

Each year, Sirens chair Amy Tenbrink posts monthly reviews of new-to-her books from the annual Sirens reading list. You can find all of her Sirens Book Club reviews at the Sirens Goodreads Group. We invite you to read along and discuss!

The City of Brass

People often ask me about my favorite type of books.

My reading volume is something of legend, not only at Sirens, but in professional circles where my bio—prompted by a public relations person who wanted to add some humanity to my list of accomplishments—has for a number of years included the number of books I read annually. Books are an easy conversation starter, right? What do you read? What’s the best book you’ve ever read? Have you read Lincoln in the Bardo or The Underground Railroad or inevitably some other borderline fantasy work by a dude? What should I read? What is your favorite type of book?

I have different answers for different people, of course. Some people struggle with the notion of fantasy generally, and then we have to talk about Game of Thrones and Westworld and how both are speculative, but only one is fantasy (and ahem, how only one is good). Some people are deep into fantasy, but read mostly white male authors, so we have to talk about Nnedi and Nora and Yoon and Guadalupe. Occasionally, people are well-versed in what I actually read, and I can discuss my deep and abiding love for fantasy-literary crossovers and high-fantasy adventure.

But if you ask me, unfettered, to tell you my favorite type of book, the answer has nothing to do with category or genre or women authors. If you ask me, unfettered, to tell you my favorite type of book, here it is: the sort of book where a woman—a powerful woman, a smart woman, a skilled woman—makes decisions.

They don’t have to be good decisions or smart decisions or immediate decisions, mind you, but she has to make decisions.

For a couple reasons, right? Partly because main characters who make decisions are more likely to be active, interesting, driven. They’re more likely to be protagonists or even antagonists, rather than simply narrators. Main characters who make decisions—good decisions, bad decisions, smart, foolish—tend to move the plot, redefine relationships, or even further the reader’s understanding of the story. Those characters, those characters whose decisions make things happen? Those characters are interesting. I want to ride with those characters.

But perhaps even more importantly, women spend so much of their lives without agency, without the power to make things happen, that it’s at best fundamentally uninteresting, and at worst, devastating, to see female characters without that agency. I want female characters who have agency, who can make decisions, whose decisions are powerful, whose decisions mean something.

Now some of you, probably many of you, don’t have this same quirk. Some of you, probably many of you, might even like heroines who are dragged, often kicking and screaming, into adventure and intrigue. Therefore, some of you, probably many of you, aren’t going to share my impatience with The City of Brass.

S. A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass opens in eighteenth-century Cairo, with Nahri—who despite having readily apparent magic, refuses to believe in it. (What?) She gets by on the streets by reading palms, stealing, and performing some rather miraculous healings. As part of a con, Nahri accidentally summons Dara, a djinn, and then all hell breaks loose. The dead rise from the mausoleum, Dara forces Nahri to flee from Cairo on a flying carpet, and a giant bird of unknowable power appears in the desert. How about that magic now, Nahri?

Nahri goes kicking and screaming. Despite her life on the streets in Cairo, she wants nothing to do with Dara, his magic carpet, or his impossible stories of ancient beings of fire and water. Or, for that matter, their destination: Daevabad, a magical city with mysterious ties to Nahri’s magical heritage.

Charkraborty has said that The City of Brass began as, essentially, history fanfiction. Scant references to djinn and Suleiman and myths that she researched and then wove into an entire secondary fantasy world stretching from Morocco to Ethiopia to China. In many, many ways, The City of Brass is a tour de force: breathtaking world-building, near-seamlessly dropped into actual history and geography; an extensive fantastic history, about which the reader salivates to know more; myriad distinct cultures premised on war or culture or art. This world is as impressive—and as interesting—as Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse or Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire universe; the art and culture as well-designed as Cassandra Khaw’s Food of the Gods or Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus; the secondary characters as developed and fascinating as Fonda Lee’s or Alex Marshall’s.

But where Chakraborty stumbles a bit is her point-of-view characters. Nahri spends almost all of the book kicking and screaming—about everything. Even when she and Dara have reached Daevabad, she continues to kick and scream about big things and little things, not only impingements on her freedom, but also, early and often, about how much practice it takes to learn to use her magical heritage. And because she’s so often in the dark, and kicking and screaming to stay that way, she’s not much of a decision-maker; indeed, she spends much of the book manipulated by a bunch of men. If she’d just point all that energy in a useful direction, maybe she’d claim her agency long before the end of the book. (In her defense, I suppose, her intended character arc stretches across multiple books; the fact that she stops acting like a brat at the end of The City of Brass bodes very well indeed for the next book.)

The other point-of-view character is Alizayd, a younger prince trained in war to serve in his brother’s future government. Alizayd disagrees vehemently, impoliticly, and often rudely with his father’s rule, finding numerous inconsistencies between their holy texts or tenets of law and his father’s practicalities. Alizayd tends to come off condescending and prudish, especially in contrast to his older brother—and while the prudishness didn’t bother me, his hauteur regarding his father’s regime, especially in light of his ignorance about how to actually rule, was grating. Lord save me from young men who think they know everything.

In hindsight, I think you have to consider this book as a multi-book arc: not just for plot, which is so common in fantasy, but in terms of character arcs as well. I firmly believe that both Nahri and Alizayd will start making decisions further down the line, and when they do, they’ll almost by definition become far, far more interesting. In the meantime, enjoy the dazzling show that is Chakraborty’s magical world.

Amy
 


Amy Tenbrink spends her days handling strategic and intellectual property transactions as an executive vice president for a major media company. Her nights and weekends over the last twenty-five years have involved managing a wide variety of events, including theatrical productions, marching band shows, sporting events, and interdisciplinary conferences. Most recently, she has organized three Harry Potter conferences (The Witching Hour, in Salem, Massachusetts; Phoenix Rising, in the French Quarter of New Orleans; and Terminus, in downtown Chicago) and eight years of Sirens. Her experience includes all aspects of event planning, from logistics and marketing to legal consulting and budget management, and she holds degrees with honors from both the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and the Georgetown University Law Center. She likes nothing so much as monster girls, Weasleys, and a well-planned revolution.

 

Sirens Meet-Ups: Denver and New York City!

Each spring, we at Sirens like to break up the long year in between our conferences with some in-person meet-ups! While these casual get-togethers aren’t quite the same as the official conference in October, we’ve found that it’s a great way to connect with the Sirens community in the meantime. The following two meet-ups are hosted by Sirens staff members—Amy in Denver and Faye and Jennifer in New York, so if you live near those cities or happen to be in town, we hope you’ll join us!

We welcome all members of the Sirens community, whether you’ve attended the conference before and want to catch up, or have never attended and are curious. Bring your questions! Bring your friends! Bring your book recommendations! Whether over drinks, dinner, nibbles, or a pot of tea, books are always on the menu.

DENVER
Date: Saturday, May 5, 2018
Time: 2:00–4:00 p.m. Mountain Time
Location: La Sandia as 8419 Park Meadows Center Drive in Lone Tree, Colorado
RSVP on Facebook

NEW YORK CITY
Date: Saturday, May 19, 2018
Time: 2:00–4:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Radiance Tea House and Books at 158 West 55th St, NY between 6th & 7th Avenue
RSVP on Facebook

Note: Participants must pay for their own food and beverages.

If you think you might join us, you can RSVP at the Facebook event pages above, to @sirens_con on Twitter, or to Jennifer at (jennifer.shimada at sirensconference.org).

Hope to see you there!

 

New Fantasy Books: April 2018

We’re excited to bring you a roundup of April 2018 fantasy book releases by and about women and genderqueer folk. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments!

 

As always, we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve sold a fantasy work, read a great recently-released story, discovered a fantastic link that we missed, or if you’ve got a book or story review to share, feel free to leave a comment below!
 

Twelve Sirens Scholarships Funded for 2018

Sirens has a mission: to provide a welcoming space for our attendees to discuss the remarkable women of fantasy literature. As part of that mission, we specifically craft Sirens to include and amplify all of the brilliant voices creating those discussions. Our greatest hope is that those voices will represent both a wide array of perspectives and experiences—reader, scholar, librarians, educator, publishing professional, author—and individuals of different genders, sexualities, races, religions, and abilities. As we approach our tenth year of Sirens, we find that topics related to women in fantasy literature are as limitless as ever, and that our opportunity to learn from our community’s discussion, analysis, and debate of those topics is equally limitless.

This year, because of the tremendous generosity of the Sirens community, we raised the funds necessary to provide twelve scholarships—more than ever before! To everyone who donated, thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you again! Thank you for your financial commitment to our community. Thank you for helping make Sirens possible for certain individuals who are critical to our conversations and who sometimes find it difficult to attend without additional support. Thank you for your magnificent generosity!

Each scholarship includes both a Sirens registration and a Sirens Shuttle ticket. The twelve scholarships will be allocated as follows: three to fans of color/non-white fans, three to those submitting exemplary programming proposals, three to those with financial hardships, and three to librarians, educators, and publishing professionals (which may be anyone from an editor to an agent to a publicist to a cover designer to a bookseller).

If you need assistance, we hope you’ll consider applying for a scholarship. We designed this program specifically to help additional voices join our conference and our community—and your voice counts. Please visit our Scholarships page for more information on how to apply.

 

Sirens Newsletter – Volume 10, Issue 4 (March 2018), Programming Edition

In this issue:

 

SIRENS SCHOLARSHIPS

Thank you to everyone who has already donated to our scholarship fundraiser! So far, we’ve raised 65% of our goal of $4,380.

We have already funded three scholarships for people of color, three for exemplary programming proposals, and one for those with financial hardships. If we meet our goal, we’ll provide another two for those with financial hardships and three for librarians, educators, and publishing professionals.

March 31 is the last day to donate toward this year’s scholarships, so if you can, please take a moment to chip in. Every amount helps us add more voices to Sirens!

Donate to Sirens Scholarships

If you need assistance attending Sirens, we hope you’ll apply for a scholarship. We’ll have application information on our Scholarships page starting next week!

Sirens logos 2014-2018, 2018 highlighted

2018 PROGRAMMING

All of Sirens’s programming—the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes presented at Sirens each year—is crafted, proposed, and presented by Sirens attendees. We hope that, this year, that will include you! From April 2 to May 6, anyone planning to attend Sirens this year, regardless of vocation, level of experience, or years at Sirens, is welcome to propose programming—and if selected, present that programming at Sirens. Our programming series provides an overview of the proposal process, an examination of each type of programming, and advice for preparing your proposal:

Since our 2018 theme is reunion, we discussed that theme and revisited our past four years’ themes on our blog for additional inspiration. If you’re new to Sirens, you can learn more about each theme at each of these links: reunion, hauntings, rebels and revolutionaries, lovers, and women who work magic. If you’re a returning attendee, we invite you to take a stroll down memory lane with us!

Have questions? Looking for a co-presenter? Need more inspiration? Check out the #SirensBrainstorm tag on Twitter; every Monday in April we’ll tweet fresh ideas free for the taking. In addition, we’ll be hosting two programming chats on our Chat page, which will be live at the scheduled times:

  • Saturday, April 7, 1–3 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m.–noon Pacific)
  • Tuesday, May 1, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

 

AMY’S BOOK CLUB

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

For her March book club, Sirens co-founder Amy Tenbrink muses on villainy in Julie C. Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns: “A villain story is, by definition, about the bad guy. Otherwise, the villain wouldn’t be a villain at all, of course, but a deeply conflicted heroine or even an antiheroine.” Read her thoughts on the blog and on Goodreads.

 

READ ALONG WITH FAYE

An Ember in the Ashes

How’s that 2018 Reading Challenge coming along? For hers, Communications Director Faye Bi reads and reviews Sabaa Tahir’s popular An Ember in the Ashes, with ruminations on young adult literature, fantasy, and bestseller-dom: “It bothers me when people cast down young adult fantasy for being more simplistic and less rigorous than adult fantasy, with worldbuilding just the backdrop for the kissing, the angst, and the feelings.” Read her full review on the blog and on Goodreads.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT …

Sirens Scholarship Fundraising:

2018 Programming:

Themes:

 


Questions? Concerns? Please email general queries to (help at sirensconference.org) and questions about programming to (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Sirens Scholarship Fundraising: Professionals

Sirens has a mission: to provide a welcoming space for our attendees to discuss the remarkable, diverse women of fantasy literature. Each year, Sirens raises funds to provide scholarships to help a number of people attend Sirens and add their voices to those conversations. Our scholarship fundraising will continue through March, but this week, we want to highlight the importance of our scholarships for those with financial hardships. In past weeks, we discussed our scholarships for people of color and those submitting exemplary programming proposals, and those with financial hardships.

Sirens invites everyone with an interest in the remarkable, diverse women of fantasy literature to attend our conference and participate in our conversations. Our attendees run the gamut of vocations—readers, scholars, librarians, educators, publishing professionals, authors, and more—and each of their voices is critical to the Sirens community.

The beauty of Sirens, in fact, are the many different perspectives, experiences, and identities that our attendees represent in our conversations and community. Each year at Sirens, you’ll see readers present alongside librarians, booksellers collaborate with educators, and authors learn from scholars.

Over the past decade, however, we have discovered that it’s significantly easier for some people to attend Sirens than others. In particular, librarians, educators, and publishing professionals so often provide exceptional services to book-loving communities—and are, especially at the beginning of their careers or when working with underserved populations, so often poorly paid for their efforts.

These librarians, educators, and publishing professionals who are creating the books we love and putting them in the hands of book-loving people everywhere have perspectives and experiences that make the Sirens conversations and community more vibrant and more brilliant.

New this year, we are asking the Sirens community to raise funds to help some of these professionals attend Sirens. Assuming that we reach our fundraising goals, we will provide a Sirens registration and round-trip shuttle ticket to one librarian, one educator, and one publishing professional (which may be anyone from an editor to an agent to a publicist to a cover designer to a bookseller). As part of the application process, we will ask for a resume and a statement of interest.

Can you help us reach our goal of including more voices in Sirens?

If you can—whether that’s $5 or a full scholarship of $365—we hope that you’ll help us provide these scholarships!

 

2018 Programming: Workshops and Afternoon Classes

Sirens programming is the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. For our 2018 programming series, we’re doing a deeper dive on each presentation format; this information will both help potential presenters select the proper format for their approach to their topic and provide details on proposal requirements. We also suggest that potential presenters read how Sirens programming works and our tips, tricks, and frequently asked questions. Earlier this week, we reviewed papers/lectures and panels, and roundtable discussions. You can submit a proposal any time from April 2 to May 6.

Workshop are an opportunity to teach practical skills, often through hands-on instruction. Workshops sometimes feature writing topics, such as building magical worlds or how to form an effective critique group, but can just as easily tackle different topics for different audiences: how to plan a book club, where to find resources for library collection development, or how to create a feminist course curriculum based on fantasy reading.

Afternoon classes are also an opportunity to teach skills through hands-on instruction, though these skills tend to be of interest to fantasy readers—but may not be connected directly to literature or other media. Think topics as diverse as battle weaponry, self-defense, historical dress or dance, and costume construction.

Audience size for both workshops and afternoon classes will be 25–40 people, depending on available room size.

The boundary between a workshop and an afternoon class can be thin, so feel free to write us at (programming at sirensconference.org) for guidance.

Co-taught workshops or afternoon classes are welcome. Collaborators who have similar or complementary expertise may wish to present together, either to maximize the opportunity for hands-on instruction or to present different skills on the topic (such as clothing construction and embroidery).

Materials, if needed, are provided by the presenters. If your workshop or afternoon class is accepted, you are welcome to request a small donation from audience members to defray costs. Please write to (programming at sirensconference.org) for assistance in framing the wording for your summary.

Workshops are always 50 minutes long. If you have a topic that’s shorter than 50 minutes, you might consider finding a collaborator to present on some other element of the topic. Presenters should strongly consider hands-on elements and time for audience questions.

Afternoon classes can range from 50 to 90 minutes. Often these topics require additional time for instruction or practice (or, to provide one past example, taking turns stabbing a bale of hay with battle weaponry). We also often schedule afternoon classes in larger spaces, particularly if they’re demonstration-based or require room to move (such as martial arts or dancing).

Proposal requirements include a presenter biography (50–100 words), a presentation summary (50–100 words), and a detailed abstract (300–500 words). We will publish the biography and the summary on our website and in our program book to help attendees navigate our programming and decide which presentations they’d like to attend. Each presenter must provide a biography, though no supplemental abstract is required. The abstract is for the vetting board. It should explain your topic and approach and be far more in depth than your summary. Presenters of workshops and afternoon classes may present a traditional abstract or, if they prefer, a detailed lesson plan.

Room set-up will depend heavily on the content and design of your presentation, as well as the available room. Set-up often includes tables and chairs with space for audience members to write or craft, though, if your topic is physical, we will help clear the room so you have space to work. Projection equipment and a small dry erase board or easel may be available as well (though we will ask you to specify how you will use projection equipment so that we can prioritize it for presentations that particularly need it, and make sure to clear it away if it might be damaged). If the room size warrants, we will provide a microphone (and if we do, we require that you use it, as it makes your presentation more accessible to the audience).

 

Looking for help or inspiration?

  • Join us for a programming chat!: Anyone interested in submitting a proposal can stop by to brainstorm, find collaborators, and get one-on-one advice from our programming staff. They don’t make the selection decisions, but they’re full of thoughts that might be helpful! Chat will be held here at the following times:

    Saturday, April 7, 1–3 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m.–noon Pacific)
    Tuesday, May 1, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

  • Find a mentor!: As a new initiative this year, we’ve asked some past Sirens presenters to be available as mentors for new folks submitting programming proposals. They’re available to share information on the Sirens audience, review your research and arguments, and help you craft your proposal itself. If you’re interested, please email Amy at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org) to get connected.

  • Free Topics: All through April, we’ll be tweeting programming topics that are free for you to take, develop, and use in your programming proposal. You might take them as is, you might use them as inspiration, or you might find that they get your brain moving! Follow us on Twitter @sirens_con or check out #SirensBrainstorm.

  • More Questions: Email us! You can contact our programming team at (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Examples of summaries of past workshops and afternoon classes from Sirens:

  • Ballads and Marching Songs by Ellen Kushner and 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.

  • Let’s Talk About Sex: Worldbuilding Through Lovers by B R Sanders: What counts as sex? What counts as love? Who is allowed to do what to whom and why? What happens when rules are broken? When you are worldbuilding, these questions can become murky and complicated very quickly. In this workshop, we will explore how using themes of romance, sex, love, queerness, and marriage can deeply inform worldbuilding in speculative fiction.

  • No Key, No Problem by Erynn Moss: When fighting the establishment, it helps to have a few picks up your sleeves. Or in your hair, under your collar, clipped to your belt … you get the idea. Come join us in some subversive fun! Tumblers, bumpers, Bogota picks, and shims. Work your way free from cuffs, and hone your hands with the tips and tools of professionals.

  • Siren with a Sword: Fencing 101 by Manda Lewis and Marie Brennan: Have you always wanted to join your favorite character on the training grounds where she first picks up a blade? Have you wished yourself in her place as she readies for the attack? This class will provide you the opportunity to do just that! Join us as we explore the history, terminology, and rules of the sport of fencing. Then you’ll take up a foil and practice what you’ve learned with your fellow attendees. You will see that fencing is not simply about overpowering your opponent, it’s about planning and strategy. We recommend wearing comfortable or athletic clothing.

2018 Programming: Roundtable Discussions

Sirens programming is the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. For our 2018 programming series, we’re doing a deeper dive on each presentation format; this information will both help potential presenters select the proper format for their approach to their topic and provide details on proposal requirements. We also suggest that potential presenters read how Sirens programming works and our tips, tricks, and frequently asked questions. Earlier this week, we reviewed papers/lectures and panels; we’ll review workshops/afternoon classes later this week. You can submit a proposal any time from April 2 to May 6.

At Sirens, roundtable discussions are moderator-led conversations among an audience of roughly 25 people. These presentations approximate college discussion sections, and because of this format, are best suited to topics where everyone in the audience is likely to have something to contribute. A discussion of reading practices, a debate over effectively retold fairy tales, or a conversation on sex in young-adult fantasy literature would all be great roundtable topics.

Roundtable moderators will lead the discussions through a series of questions and will be responsible both for facilitating the conversation and keeping the audience on track. Moderators who wish to tackle an esoteric topic or convey their research, analysis, or viewpoint should strongly consider presenting a paper or lecture where their knowledge can shine, instead of a roundtable discussion—here, it’s essential that the audience not need an introduction to the topic.

Roundtable discussions may have only one presenter. Since the moderator is the facilitator in a roundtable discussion, we limit this presentation format to only one presenter.

Roundtables are always 50 minutes long. Presenters should plan enough questions to fill the entire time. As audience participation is the heart of this presentation format, presenters need not save time specifically for audience questions.

Proposal requirements include a presenter biography (50–100 words), a presentation summary (50–100 words), and a detailed abstract (300–500 words). We will publish the biography and the summary on our website and in our program book to help attendees navigate our programming and decide which presentations they’d like to attend. The abstract is for the vetting board. It should explain your topic and approach to the vetting board and be far more in depth than your summary. Roundtable abstracts may be in the form of a series of at least ten questions (with appropriate follow-up questions), rather than a more traditional paragraph format, if the presenter prefers.

Room set-up includes tables and chairs arranged in a square or U-shape. As the rooms hosting roundtables are small, no audio-visual equipment will be provided. However, a small white board or an easel will be available.

 

Looking for help or inspiration?

  • Join us for a programming chat!: Anyone interested in submitting a proposal can stop by to brainstorm, find collaborators, and get one-on-one advice from our programming staff. They don’t make the selection decisions, but they’re full of thoughts that might be helpful! Chat will be held here at the following times:

    Saturday, April 7, 1–3 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m.–noon Pacific)
    Tuesday, May 1, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

  • Find a mentor!: As a new initiative this year, we’ve asked some past Sirens presenters to be available as mentors for new folks submitting programming proposals. They’re available to share information on the Sirens audience, review your research and arguments, and help you craft your proposal itself. If you’re interested, please email Amy at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org) to get connected.

  • Free Topics: All through April, we’ll be tweeting programming topics that are free for you to take, develop, and use in your programming proposal. You might take them as is, you might use them as inspiration, or you might find that they get your brain moving! Follow us on Twitter @sirens_con or check out #SirensBrainstorm.

  • More Questions: Email us! You can contact our programming team at (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Examples of summaries of past roundtable discussions from Sirens:

  • Can You Go Home Again?: Fantasy, Re-Reading, Childhood Favorites, and Nostalgia by Faye Bi: This roundtable will explore the transformative joy of re-reading an old favorite, as well as the flip side of discovering that a beloved book is no longer a favorite. With influence from Jo Walton’s and Laura Miller’s ideas on re-reading, we’ll delve into the books read long ago and see how time, successive reads, and reading companions change our relationships with them.

  • Female Game-Changers by Sherwood Smith: Let’s talk about heroines as catalysts in revolutions. Not all heroines are battle commanders, though we can take time to appreciate the ones who are. Many begin with little besides their wits and skills. Some have special gifts, some do not. Some are born to rank, others are outsiders in various ways. In this roundtable discussion, we will talk about the different ways heroines in genre literature bring about change.

  • Queer-Coding and Queer-Baiting by Kate Larking: Queer-coding, when a character is given traits commonly associated with queer people but not explicitly stated as queer, has been present in fiction media for some time. A more recent narrative evolution is queer-baiting, where implied sexual tension or character dynamics are constantly and frequently thwarted, leaving a promise of queer representation that isn’t, ultimately, fulfilled by the canon. Join in on a discussion of queer representation in media, subtext and canon, and the impacts on both fiction tropes and queer identities.

  • The Socioeconomics of Magic: Correlations Between Class Structure and Use of Magic in Fantasy Narratives by Emma Whitney: In the struggle for power that constitutes the plot of many fantasy novels, magic is often the primary tool. This use of magic generally confers a particular social status to the user. Frequently, especially in classic “epic” fantasy, this is an elevated status, but that is not always the case. In this roundtable we will discuss how magic is used to reinforce or break down social structure, and what this might say about how we view class distinctions.

2018 Programming: Panels

Sirens programming is the dozens of hours of papers, lectures, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes that make up the heart of Sirens. For our 2018 programming series, we’re doing a deeper dive on each presentation format; this information will both help potential presenters select the proper format for their approach to their topic and provide details on proposal requirements. We also suggest that potential presenters read how Sirens programming works and our tips, tricks, and frequently asked questions. Earlier this week, we reviewed papers/lectures; we’ll review roundtable discussions and workshops/afternoon classes later this week. You can submit a proposal any time from April 2 to May 6.

At Sirens, panels are a group of 3–5 presenters discussing and debating a given topic. Unlike papers or lectures, where the primary purpose is to convey information, panels are all about robust dialogue among panelists. Panels are led by a moderator, who will guide the discussion and may ask questions of the panelists (and panelists may, depending on preference, give a brief position statement to start the panel).

The strength of a panel depends on two things: the skill of the moderator and the inclusion of different perspectives on the panel.

  • Skill of the moderator: The moderator is generally responsible for eliciting thoughtful discussion among panelists, which means preparing questions in advance and ensuring that all panelists have a chance to speak. Moderators may also participate in the discussion if they wish. For Sirens, the moderator must submit the primary panel proposal on behalf of the group.

  • Different perspectives: Because panels are designed for discussion and debate, a panel’s success generally depends on the inclusion of panelists with a variety of perspectives and opinions on the given topic. If your panelists all agree, you’ll be conveying information rather than engaging in robust dialogue—and we strongly encourage you to consider a co-presented paper or lecture instead.

Panels are always 50 minutes long. While your panel may feature brief opening position statements by the panelists, you should use most of your time for your panel’s discussion, perhaps with some time for audience questions at the end.

Panels should have three to five total panelists, including the moderator. Panels must have only one moderator. If your panel has only two panelists, you might consider co-presenting another type of presentation, since you’ll likely be spending more time conveying information than debating your topic. You only have 50 minutes for your panel, so including more than five panelists will mean that not everyone gets to participate in a meaningful way. Typically, larger panels come back to us with the feedback that the panelists didn’t have enough time to contribute individually, and typically, the audience feedback is that larger panels end up lacking the depth everyone hopes for.

Proposal requirements include presenter biographies (50–100 words), a presentation summary (50–100 words), a primary abstract (300–500 words), and supplemental abstracts (300–500 words). We will publish the biographies and the summary on our website and in our program book to help attendees navigate our programming and decide which presentations they’d like to attend.

The abstracts are for the vetting board. The primary abstract should explain your topic and approach and be far more in depth than your summary. If the moderator prefers, the primary abstract may be a series of at least ten questions (with appropriate follow-up questions) rather than a more traditional abstract. To provide the vetting board with insight as to the direction that the panel will take, each panelist must provide a supplemental abstract demonstrating the thoughtfulness and experience that they will bring to the panel. The vetting board will consider all abstracts (including any missing abstracts) in making its programming selections.

The moderator must submit the initial proposal, and should provide their biography, the panel’s summary, and the primary abstract. Each additional panelist will provide their biography and supplemental abstract.

Moderators are responsible for ensuring that their panelists’ confirmations and supplemental abstracts are submitted by May 6. This means that moderators should make sure that all panelists know what is required of them in advance!

Room set-up includes several microphones, a podium and table, projection equipment, and a small dry erase board or easel. We can accommodate a variety of presentation styles, and we ask that, as part of your proposal, you specify how you will use projection equipment so that we can prioritize it for presentations that particularly need it. Presenters are welcome to stand or sit, though we do require that you use the microphone, as it makes your presentation more accessible to the audience.

 

Looking for help or inspiration?

  • Join us for a programming chat!: Anyone interested in submitting a proposal can stop by to brainstorm, find collaborators, and get one-on-one advice from our programming staff. They don’t make the selection decisions, but they’re full of thoughts that might be helpful! Chat will be held here at the following times:

    Saturday, April 7, 1–3 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m.–noon Pacific)
    Tuesday, May 1, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

  • Find a mentor!: As a new initiative this year, we’ve asked some past Sirens presenters to be available as mentors for new folks submitting programming proposals. They’re available to share information on the Sirens audience, review your research and arguments, and help you craft your proposal itself. If you’re interested, please email Amy at (amy.tenbrink at sirensconference.org) to get connected.

  • Free Topics: All through April, we’ll be tweeting programming topics that are free for you to take, develop, and use in your programming proposal. You might take them as is, you might use them as inspiration, or you might find that they get your brain moving! Follow us on Twitter @sirens_con or check out #SirensBrainstorm.

  • More Questions: Email us! You can contact our programming team at (programming at sirensconference.org).

 

Examples of summaries of past panels from Sirens:

  • Conversations with Octavia Butler by K. Tempest Bradford, N. K. Jemisin, and Kiini Ibura Salaam: Octavia Butler’s novels have taken millions of readers on a fantastic journey—but what about the woman herself? This panel will give participants a glimpse into Octavia Butler, the individual. Through audio clips, we’ll hear from the woman who has brought the world fantastic vision, as Sirens guest of honor, novelist N.K. Jemisin, and two speculative fiction writers, Kiini Ibura Salaam and K. Tempest Bradford, engage in conversation with Butler’s ideas, visions, and brilliance.

  • Fans and Fandom as (Re)Tellers of Tales by Andrea Horbinski, Marie Brennan, Rachel Manija Brown, and Hallie Tibbetts: It’s a common jump from loving a book, a story, a TV show, or a movie, to wanting to play around with its elements oneself. Fandom offers many girls and women a space in which to do just that. This panel looks at fandom and fans as retellers of tales, asking questions such as: what kinds of stories do fans choose to retell? What are some of the most common, or most interesting, kinds of fannish retellings? What is the line between “fannish” and “professional” retellings of stories such as fairy tales? What makes fandom (and retelling) original and creative?

  • The Great Big Interfaith Dialogue by by s.e. smith, Gillian Chisom, Kate Elliott, Shveta Thakrar, and Amy Tenbrink: What happens when an atheist, a Jew, a Hindu, and a Christian walk into a panel? Find out in this discussion of faith, collaboration, humanity, and the role of faith in real life as well as fictional faith, cataclysmic social change, and more. Panelists will discuss the role of faith in both new and beloved fantasy texts in addition to exploring the incorporation of religion in worldbuilding.

  • The Magic of Beauty: Beauty as Narrative Device and Social Construction by by Kate Elliott, Faye Bi, Dhonielle J. Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, and Kiini Ibura Salaam: In what sense has beauty been treated as a special magic gift that some girls and women possess? How has it functioned as a narrative device that gives its holders a form of power other girls and women don’t receive? This then obliges us to confront and discuss social constructions of beauty. Who is allowed to be beautiful in narratives and on what terms? For whom is beauty a limiting characteristic? For whom is it an empowering one?

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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