2018 Conference Archive
The tenth year of Sirens focused on the Sirens community and the theme of “reunion”: we asked attendees to revisit the themes of Sirens’s most recent four years: hauntings and what it means, as a woman, to be haunted; rebels and revolutions; lovers; and women who possess and wield magic. Presentations on female fantasy characters and authors were welcome as well.


October 25–28, 2018


Park Hyatt, Beaver Creek, Colorado

Conference - Guests of Honor - Schedule - Books and Breakfast - Reading Lists
Programming - Vetting Board - Call for Proposals


Guests of Honor

Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse. With over one million copies sold, her Grishaverse spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, and The Language of Thorns—with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including The Best of Tor.com and the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer, and the forthcoming Ninth House. Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and even makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Los Angeles, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

For more information about Leigh, please visit her website or Twitter.

Kameron Hurley is an award-winning author and advertising copywriter. Kameron grew up in Washington State, and has lived in Fairbanks, Alaska; Durban, South Africa; and Chicago. She has a degree in historical studies from the University of Alaska and a Master’s in History from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, specializing in the history of South African resistance movements.

Kameron is the author of the nonfiction collection The Geek Feminist Revolution, which contains her essay on the history of women in conflict “We Have Always Fought,” which was the first article to ever win a Hugo Award. It was also nominated for Best Non-Fiction work by the British Fantasy Society. Her nonfiction has appeared in numerous online venues, including The Atlantic, Bitch Magazine, Huffington Post, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, and Entertainment Weekly, and she writes a regular column for Locus Magazine. Kameron’s space opera, The Stars are Legion, was published by Simon and Schuster’s Saga imprint in February 2017. Her epic fantasy series, the Worldbreaker Saga, is comprised of the novels The Mirror Empire, Empire Ascendant, and The Broken Heavens (forthcoming in January 2018). Additionally, her first series, The God’s War Trilogy, which includes the books God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture, earned her the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer and the Kitschy Award for Best Debut Novel. Kameron’s short fiction has appeared in magazines such as Popular Science Magazine, Lightspeed, Vice Magazine’s Terraform, EscapePod, and Strange Horizons.

Kameron has won two Hugo Awards and a Locus, and been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Nebula Award, and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Her work has also been included on the Tiptree Award Honor List and been nominated for the Gemmell Morningstar Award. In addition to her writing, Kameron has been a Stollee guest lecturer at Buena Vista University and taught copywriting at the School of Advertising Art. Kameron currently lives in Ohio, where she’s cultivating an urban homestead.

For more information about Kameron, please visit her website or Twitter.

Violet Kupersmith 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.

For more information about Violet, please visit her website or Twitter.

Anna-Marie McLemore is the Mexican-American author of The Weight of Feathers, a 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist; 2017 Stonewall Honor Book When the Moon Was Ours, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature and won the 2016 James Tiptree, Jr. Award; and Wild Beauty, a fairy tale of queer Latina girls and enchanted, murderous gardens. Blanca & Roja, a magical realism reimagining of Snow-White & Rose-Red meets Swan Lake, is forthcoming in 2018.

Anna-Marie’s historical short stories are forthcoming in the anthologies All Out, The Radical Element: Twelve Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes & Other Dauntless Girls, and Toil and Trouble. Her shorter work has previously been featured in The Portland Review, CRATE Literary Magazine’s “cratelit,” and Camera Obscura’s Bridge the Gap Gallery, and by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West.

For more information about Anna-Marie, please visit her website or Twitter.



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Books and Breakfast

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Rebels and Revolutionaries

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado


A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Women Who Work Magic

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle


Reading Lists

The following lists will open in your web browser.


2018 Accepted Programming


Papers and lectures feature one or more presenters talking about the topic at hand. The specific style and formality of each presentation varies according to the speaker: some may be more formal readings of scholarly papers, with or without time for questions at the end; others may be relatively informal lectures with more audience participation.

"A Wife Should Have No Secrets": Unthinking Privilege and Privacy in Carmen Maria Machado’s “The Husband Stitch”
Faye Bi

Carmen Maria Machado’s horror short story, “The Husband Stitch,” uncannily reflects a women’s worst fear: not being listened to, believed, or heeded to by men. This paper will analyze the text of the story and examine the pervasiveness of male privilege and entitlement through the lens of the female narrator’s marriage to her husband, who is depicted as--despite his ultimate betrayal--a loving spouse, father, and son-in-law. In the era of #NotAllMen, “The Husband Stitch” shows that even “good” men can fail to acknowledge women’s pain, experience, and truth, and in turn make the horrors all the more real.

Arranged Marriage, Abduction, and the Inaccessible Reunion
Eija I. Sumner

High fantasy and, specifically, court fantasies use the arranged marriage trope as a tool for world building and to quickly establish power structures within fantasy world building. But when the foundational world is built on the exchange of a young woman for political alliances, the female body is treated as currency. This paper examines the relationships between abduction, arranged marriage, and reunion in literature, and explores the historical significance of these topics from Helen of Troy in classical literature to more recent publications like Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.

Carmen Maria Machado and the Horrors of the Female Body
Lindsay Eagar

Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties is a genre-mashing collection of short stories that utilizes horror elements to explore what it is to be queer and female. Using this text as a jumping off point, this presentation will discuss the female body as “scary” in speculative fiction as well as examining ways to draw on personal experiences as women to write horror.

The Damsel Is Distressing
Jessica Corra

The "damsel in distress" trope is loathed for a reason: it removes a woman's agency. She exists as a plot device, not a person. But how did she get this way? What are the deeper implications of the character--and is it possible to reclaim this maligned trope? We’ll examine the specifically modern, Western version of the trope as a construct of the sexism and racism built into the idea of “bootstraps” individualism, and how the critique of agency cannot be separated from those contexts.

Death in a Dress: Is the "Girl Assassin" Really a Strong Female Character?
Ren Iwamoto, Marcella Haddad

The contemporary fantasy novel loves the “girl assassin.” She is young, beautiful, and dangerous. Often touted as a strong female character, she is nonetheless born of trauma and dominated by men. Thus, violence against women is inherent to the girl assassin figure. How, then, has the illusion that the girl assassin is a feminist construct come to be? This paper deconstructs the girl assassin by searching for overlapping themes across young adult and adult fantasy, and then provides resources and discussion points for writers who want to learn how to subvert and reinvent the female assassin trope.

GamerGate as Aversion: Gendered Territoriality in MMORPGs
Shaista Fenwick

MMORPGs have traditionally been analyzed as either a potential medium for education or as enhancing violence in players. This presentation explores the way in-game behaviors transfer from outside the game universe both as a result of enculturation and experience. A thorough literature review and theoretical analysis strongly indicates how the mix of toxic gamer culture and atavistic response to threat can yield a potentially aversive response to gaming in female gamers. As a rich source of socialization, it is critical for healthy communities to examine fantasy-based game spaces as a lead indicator of cultural trends and systemic vulnerabilities.

Haunted by the Future: Time, Grief, and Nostalgia in Connie Willis’ Oxford Time Travel Universe
Jennifer Udden

As Willis herself has said, time travel is an inherently sad genre; the traveler to the past is moving through a world that is already gone while carrying the truth of the future with them. In Connie Willis’ sprawling Oxford Time Travel universe, the novels and short stories follow characters grappling with these facts, often while trying to survive the dangers of a past that doesn’t care about their advanced knowledge. This paper will explore themes of grief, nostalgia, and understanding in these stories, through the lens of our increasingly nostalgic, troubled modern lens.

How Are Stories Retold?: A Proposed Taxonomy for Fairy Tale Retellings
Sarah Viehmann

What is a fairy tale retelling? Are all retellings cut from the same cloth? Surely not—but what are the differences? By establishing distinctions between terms such as retelling, adaptation, reimagining, and other currently interchangeable phrases, this presentation proposes a new tool for the study of a flourishing genre that continues to take form in books and other media. This taxonomy proposes six broad categories to examine new tale forms based on their historical precedent within the corpus of the adapted tales; the presence or lack of social critique; and the use of specific, familiar folkloric motifs and narrative devices.
Cora Anderson

Inside the Query Hive Mind
Jennifer Udden

This data-based presentation will take a deep dive into the query inbox of a New York–based literary agent. What trends are present? What are the red flags and the exciting opportunities? What tropes are cropping up? Are vampires a thing again?

Love Triangles: Fantasy, Angst, and Cognitive Estrangement
Maria Dones, Hannah V. Warren

Whether love triangles leave us sitting on the edge of our seats or rolling our eyes, they tend to evoke strong emotional reactions. In this presentation, we argue that love triangles in speculative stories help to ground the audience with a familiar trope, allowing an easier bridge between what is considered the real and unreal. Through comparing old and new media, we investigate how writers can update this tired trope by subverting or resisting the marginalization traditionally associated with it.

Nora Roberts: Genre Bending Romance
Bonnie Nichols

Over her career in publishing, Nora Roberts has become the grande dame of romance. Many people don’t know, however, that she has been a stealth fantasy and urban fantasy writer almost from the beginning, interweaving fantasy elements into many of her books, even the “category romances” of her early career. From ghosts haunting the hometown of four brothers to a fair folk prophecy in Ireland, and from modern day witches to immortal beings playing with mortals’ fates, Nora has injected some time-honored fantasy tropes into her mainstream romance, influencing the genre.

Reclaiming Ruin: Hybridity, Toxicity, and Feminine Agency in Ruin and Rising
Leanna O'Brien

The magic of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, built under the guiding principal that like calls to like, is deeply entangled with questions of kind and category. However, Genya’s power to shape both organic and inorganic matter places her in a liminal space between two orders of magic, granting her the ability to exploit the porous membranes of her own body and of the distinctions between corporeal and mineral, life and non-life. Her hybridity opens a revolutionary potential for an alliance between feminine agencies and toxic environments, a breakdown of the categorical boundaries, and a reclamation of ruin.

A Regiment of Monstrous Women: The Nature of Monstrosity in The Queens of Innis Lear and The Belles
Haviva Avirom

This paper discusses women as monsters in Tessa Gratton's The Queens of Innis Lear and Dhonielle Clayton's The Belles. Touching on the "natural" and "unnatural" nature of womanhood and what constitutes a "good woman," the paper explores sexuality, presented gender, magic versus science, personality, and loyalty as ways of constructing monsterhood.

Something Postmodern Going On: How Women Transformed Manga in the 1970s
Andrea Horbinski

The 1970s witnessed extraordinary developments in manga: young female creators transformed the category of shojo manga (girls’ comics) from a despised afterthought to a genre that pushed comics expression globally further than ever before, and was a mainstay of manga fan cultures after 1975. Together, the changes that female fans and creators popularized were revolutionary not only the manga industry, but for the Japanese mediascape overall--and, as the influence of anime and manga has percolated globally since the 1980s, for media and fans worldwide as well.

Unsex Me Here: Gender, Power, and Villainy
Amy Tenbrink

The question of what makes a specifically female villain is deeply complex. Society so often demands that our heroines display the traits we’re told are attractive in girls: beauty, youth, passiveness, silence, ignorance. This construct similarly demands that other women—ambitious women, smart women, powerful women, women who refuse to silence their voices—be cast as villains. Relatedly, perhaps, society also demands that female villains fall into familiar roles: hypersexualized, shockingly ugly, older than twenty-nine, uncouth, improper, obsessed with female tokenism, and probably eating babies in a candy cottage in the woods. In the end, the ultimate betrayal of these powerful women is, of course, not their “villainy” at all, but their redemption: an inevitable stripping away of their power to redeem them from, what else, their unseemly desire for that power in the first place.

What If Sleeping Beauty Had Sleep Apnea?
s.e. smith, Jacqueline Koyanagi

What if Sleeping Beauty had sleep apnea? Or Rapunzel had OCD with trichotillomania? Or the Little Mermaid used sign language? Hints and clues of disability are all around us in fantasy, but disability is rarely explicitly included, and when it is, it tends to be used to underscore helplessness or villainy, suffering or piteousness. Join us for a conversation about modes of storytelling that include disability, cripping your faves, and what happens when disability goes bad.
Icewine Rose

Yes, I Can Breathe in This: Addressing Common Misconceptions About Women’s Fashion in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Cass Morris

No, Elizabeth Swann, the women in London haven’t learned not to breathe, and those stays you’re wearing restrict your movement no more than tight leather pants impair your cyberpunk sisters-in-heroism. But how does women’s fashion affect the wearer, and how has that been reflected--and misrepresented--in science fiction and fantasy over time? Get under the skirts of sartorial storytelling in this multimedia and tactile presentation.

Papers and Lectures - | - Pre-empaneled Papers
Panels - | - Workshops - | - Roundtable Discussions
Afternoon Classes



Pre-empaneled papers refer to a set group of scholarly papers that are presented as a single unit. Like papers and lectures, pre-empaneled papers may be formal presentations of papers, more interactive discussions of a topic, or a combination.

Reading Bodies

The Page Is No Mirror: The Limited Bodies of Literature
Bethany Powell
A woman checking out her sexiness in a way so rooted in male gaze as to be ridiculous makes the rounds of Lit-Twitter, and it is easy to laugh. The more troubling undercurrent takes more time to deal with--our bodies are often not on the page in a way we see them. Often, too, we are presented with false dichotomies: thin or fat? Strong or weak? Nerdy or athletic? Our bodies can be as complex in identity as our minds. This essay explores how we read outside ourselves and how disembodying that process can be.

Where Are the Fat Girls? The Absence of Plus-Size Characters in Fantasy Literature
Charis M. Ellison
In popular culture, fat bodies are discussed most frequently in terms of negative space: pounds lost, dress sizes dropped, the empty half of a pair of giant trousers. This void extends deeply into the worlds of fantasy literature, art, and film. Despite the boundless opportunities presented by the genre for women to explore new worlds, identities, and power, fat women continue to be a notable absence. This presentation is both personal essay about the experience of being a fat woman, and an exploration of fat representation in fantasy, including discussion of existing fat characters and misconceptions about fat bodies.

Papers and Lectures - | - Pre-empaneled Papers
Panels - | - Workshops - | - Roundtable Discussions
Afternoon Classes



Panels feature several speakers discussing a topic before an audience. Panels may take questions or discussion from the audience, but are not required to do so.

Are You Experienced: The Gendered Sex Gap in YA Fantasy
Robin LaFevers, Kate Elliott, Mette Ivie Harrison, Anna-Marie McLemore, Rebecca Kim Wells

There has been a long tradition of heroines in young adult literature having minimal sexual experience. Unlike in male-centered stories, these heroines' early sexual experiences are not celebrated as heroic accomplishments or rites of passage in a bildungsroman. What are the cultural, societal, and historical roots of this experience gap? Why is sexual inexperience still such an important component of a likeable heroine? Do heroines in fantasy have more latitude in closing that experience gap? This panel will discuss how issues of sexual experience play out in works of fantasy and how the genre reinforces or subverts them.

Can't Have a Slayer Without the Scoobies: Building Chosen Family in Fantasy
s.e. smith, Gillian C Chisom, Andrea Horbinski, Jennifer Udden

Absent parents. Abusive stepparents. Neglectful guardians. Scrappy bands of orphans wandering the streets of the Dregs. Heroes of destiny with biological families that just don't get it. Fantasy is filled with heroes and villains who are, at first glance, alone in the world. But it's also filled with found families: The support networks that make it possible for Slayers to slay and Chosen Ones to choose. For readers who have built families of their own, these tightly formed communities resonate with personal, and sometimes painful, experience. This panel will talk about favorite chosen families.
Icewine Rose

Expanding the Epic Map: Is the Modern Narrative Altering the Ancient, Entrenched Topography of the Epic?
Kate Elliott, Kameron Hurley, Robin LaFevers, L. Penelope

Achilles, Aeneas, Beowulf, El Cid, Gilgamesh, Manas, Moses, Odysseus, the Pandava brothers, Roland, Rostam, Siegfried, Sunjata, and Xuanzang are heroes of ancient epics that define our cultural ideas and ideals of who and what a hero is. While women (and goddesses like Inanna and Isis) have also been the focus of ancient epics, almost all of the best-known and most influential epics in world history center on men’s journeys and on a sphere of battle and politics long considered the purview of men. In this panel, writers discuss the challenges of placing women at the heart of epic stories.
Kate Larking

Faith Across Worlds: Religion in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Katherine Locke, L.L McKinney, Yamile Saied Mendez, Cass Morris

This diverse panel will explore the use of faith and religion in existing science fiction and fantasy, why inclusion of faith is important (or not! Let’s discuss!), and how readers and writers can approach faith in science fiction and fantasy literature. This panel includes Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Mormon, and pagan representation, and the panelists are women and nonbinary people who write across middle grade, young adult, and adult categories in science fiction and fantasy.

Godpunk: Religion and Spirituality in Fantasy
L. Penelope, K. Tempest Bradford, Rosamund Hodge

Religion and spirituality are deeply entwined in the development of culture and vital in building rich fantasy worlds. Faith in fiction, whether rooted in real world religions or entirely invented ones, are part of the tapestry of engaging worlds. Panelists will discuss how to portray religions in fantasy stories and how to respectfully borrow from or utilize existing traditions to inform a fictional world.
K. Blount

Late Female Bildung
Mette Ivie Harrison, K. Tempest Bradford, Kate Elliott, Tiffany Trent

Female characters are often delayed in their development toward Bildung (identity and place in society) by romance and child-bearing. When delayed Bildung takes place, the female characters often look different and act different. This panel will offer some illustrations of late female Bildung, using female characters past the age of child-bearing and a typical romance, among other factors.

Navigating the White Gaze: How Racial Issues Affect Literature
L.L. McKinney, Zoraida Córdova, Justina Ireland

The White Gaze, the idea that cultural experiences of white people are universal and “right,” saturates every form of media. So how do writers from other cultural backgrounds center their identities while subverting expectations of white readers? This panel will discuss what Navigating the White Gaze means for them and racially diverse storytelling overall. Panelists will consider what impact the White Gaze has upon their works, how they subvert the expectations of white readers with a narrow definition of quality, and compare and contrast the idea of the White Gaze to the better known Male Gaze, and how the intersections of each impact the range of stories available within a marketplace.

Re-Dreaming the World: The Intersection of History and Fantasy
Jessica Corra, Violet Kupersmith, Cass Morris

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, but what if that history includes dragons? History haunts us and revolutionizes us. It harbors epic love stories and women so inspirational they make their own sort of magic. In short, it’s the perfect setting for many a fantasy. This panel will converse on the role history plays in fantasy and the role historical fantasy plays in the genre and world at large.

Papers and Lectures - | - Pre-empaneled Papers
Panels - | - Workshops - | - Roundtable Discussions
Afternoon Classes



Workshops are hands-on explorations of a topic. This category can include writing workshops, practice in strategies for teaching and learning, craft-based presentations, and other hands-on and highly interactive topics. Please note that the seating in workshop rooms is very limited to allow the presenters the maximum hands-on teaching time for each attendee, as well as to control costs that the presenters incur in providing materials. Thank you for your understanding.

Bullet Journaling for Readers and Writers
K.B. Wagers

This workshop will cover the basics of bullet journaling with a look at spreads for both writers and readers. Attendees will have a chance to look at Katy’s Indranan War series notebook and her everyday bullet journal, and to talk about the various resources that can make bullet journaling both fun and useful. Participants are encouraged to bring their own bullet journals if they own them, and there will be sample pages for everyone to give a layout a try.

Fight Scene Breakdown
Blair MacGregor

If you've studied the elements of writing action scenes, but still aren't sure how those elements work on the page—or if you want to understand more about them—this is your opportunity. We will break down a well-written fight scene to examine structure, rhythm, and word choice as well as social, cultural, and character-based indicators that create a compelling reader experience. Then we'll use that knowledge to build action passages of our own, examining how every choice impacts the reader's experience of scene and story.

The Magic Number
Hallie Tibbetts

This workshop—for writers and curious readers—will demystify the profit and loss statement, a document that's been called a fantasy in itself. Before publishers offer on books, they create financial documents to help with decision-making. Likewise, self-publishers can use profit and loss statements to explore different financial scenarios. Join in for fun with spreadsheets, magical math, sales tragedies, and a few fairy tales.
Amy Tenbrink

Music as Magic, a Song as a Spell: Composition Basics to Create Your Own Sonic Fantasy
Lindsay Eagar

Fantasy stories come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes they come in sonic form! Whether you are an aspiring filker or simply wish to dip your toes into the delightful world of music composition, this workshop will provide you with the necessary tools to create your own song or suite and will develop your ear so you can understand the elements of your own favorite music to conjure the worlds you're dreaming of.

Pace Yourself: Tools and Techniques for Pacing Your Fantasy Novel
Robin LaFevers

With their world building, epic scope, and traditionally larger casts of characters, fantasy novels present a number of pacing challenges. This workshop will offer a wide variety of tools, strategies, and hands-on exercises for both the big-picture, structural considerations that affect pacing as well as techniques that can be applied at the scene level.

Pitch It!
Amy Boggs

"So what is it about?" Whether the question comes from an agent you hope to sign with, a potential reader at an author event, or a well-meaning family member, the question can bring dread to any writer's heart. How can you condense a full book into a few short sentences, especially with all that fantasy world-building in there? Fear no more! This workshop will involve studying various pitch structures and using them to draft a one- or two-line pitch to reach for in any situation, and is for writers at any point in the publication process.

Writing Revolutions
Kate Ristau, Katie Hoffman

Revolutions can be violent overthrows or a series of small acts leading to radical change. In this workshop, we will consider the possibilities of revolution, and how we can guide our readers through revolt, riot, and rebellion. With the help of an editor and an author, we will examine the mechanics of revolution. Then, we will develop the tools authors and characters can use to achieve them, from the sword to the laurel.

Papers and Lectures - | - Pre-empaneled Papers
Panels - | - Workshops - | - Roundtable Discussions
Afternoon Classes



Roundtables are interactive discussions of a topic led by a moderator, and attendees are encouraged to take an active part in the discussion. Please note that seating in roundtable rooms is very limited to allow everyone in the room the opportunity to participate.

"A Crone Is a Woman Who Has Found Her Voice": Crones in Fantasy Literature
Cora Anderson

The older, magical woman is a common figure in fantasy, but how she is portrayed can vary widely. Is she a wisewoman, or a wicked witch? Is she content with who she is, or desperately attempting to regain her youth? Is she a knowledgeable mentor--and if so, how is she both similar to and dissimilar to male mentors? Is the crone an independent woman of power, or a menace...or both? In this roundtable, we will discuss the crone figure in folklore and fantasy literature, and how she reflects feelings about women's power and women's ageing.
Amanda Lewanski

Barely Feminist: Female Heroism in Fantasy Literature
Amy Tenbrink

In our society, we define “heroine” very differently than we define “hero.” Heroes are noble, courageous, slayers of dragons and evil tyrants alike, usually with top-of-the-line armor and a lot of bossing people around--which, in this context, we call “leadership.” Heroines, by contrast, cannot be too noble, lest we deem them boring; they cannot be too brave, lest we admit that they do not need protecting; and here we call bossing people around “nagging.” Instead, heroines are young, pretty, passive, and so often stumbling ignorantly through a revolution or a war through luck, good intentions, and the “leadership” of a stalwart boy. In a similar vein, heroes so often aggressively seek power--they want to overthrow the tyrant in order to, oh-so-obviously, take his place--but ambition in a woman is an unseemly, unlikeable thing. Accordingly, our heroines regularly step aside at the denouement, saved from delivering the killing stroke or, even worse, a life of unseemly, unlikeable leadership. Join this roundtable to discuss female heroism and its reaction to our traditional male tropes.

Does Authorial Intent Matter?
Faye Bi

Great fantasy novels often have characters that resonate with us well beyond the page. Fanlore can achieve legendary status beyond an author’s original vision. In this roundtable, we’ll explore identity, fanlore, and character coding, comparing them to what we know of authors’ original intention through interviews, authors’ notes, or blog posts. We’ll discuss J. K. Rowling’s after the fact confirmation of Dumbledore’s gay identity and Hermione reintroduced as black in the new Harry Potter plays, as well as Tamora Pierce coding Kel as aromantic long before the term aromanticism was commonly known, among others. We’ll also muse on Anne Rice’s famous “interrogating the text from the wrong perspective” rant and question if there is a singular or correct way to interpret a book and its characters--and if there is, is it the author’s?

Domestic Disturbances
Meg Belviso

Countries, kingdoms, corporations. These places were traditionally expected to be run by men. The home alone was considered the woman’s domain. So what does it mean when a house becomes haunted? In this discussion we’ll look at the haunted house as a female space and talk about how writers can use it to deal with sensitive subjects like trauma, abuse, and systematic injustice.
Cora Anderson

Finding Stories/Finding Readers: The Dilemma of Lesbians in Fantasy
Heather Rose Jones

This roundtable discussion will explore the complex challenges of discoverability for fantasy stories with overtly lesbian characters and themes. How do we discover and communicate about stories with lesbian content in ways that make them both discoverable and welcoming to all readers?

I Thought I Already Dealt with This Shit: Confronting Internalized Kyriarchy Through Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing
Kate Larking

In her seminal How to Suppress Women’s Writing, Joanna Russ lays out eleven ways the patriarchy silences women writers. But sometimes marginalized creatives are our own worst enemies, and those ways can show up through internalized sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. (collectively called the kyriarchy). Join this rountable for a discussion of both the philosophy of Russ’s work and how to recognize these blocks and move past them. While familiarity with Russ’s material will be helpful, it is not strictly required.
Hallie Tibbetts

Obligatory Horrors
Jen Michaels

Daughter, sister, girlfriend, mother, wife, companion, princess--murderer. Fairy tale stories have always had a dark side, but in a number of new story collections, such as Angela Slatter’s A Feast of Sorrows: Stories and Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s The Merry Spinster, a repeated commonality between protagonists in roles traditionally held by women in fairy tales is how choices and circumstances lead them to murder. In this roundtable discussion, we will examine how societal expectations and obligations are the true horrors in many of these stories and how the authors enable us to root for those who might have been portrayed as villains in traditional fairy tales.
Amy Tenbrink

Reading and Writing Fantasy as Self-Care in Troubling Times
Edith Hope Bishop

How do we take care of ourselves as readers and writers when things fall apart? What texts and authors do you turn to when you need comfort or inspiration? What habits do you find most helpful as a reader and writer in this day and age? Join this roundtable discussion on how reading and writing fantasy can soothe and support us and our communities during difficult times.

Through the Looking Glass: What Do Fantasy Counterpart Cultures Say About Us?
Jennifer Shimada

Many fictional fantasy cultures are based off real world cultures, most commonly medieval Europe. This allows readers to more easily relate to the culture than if it were completely made up, and it gives the author more opportunity to change and interrogate a culture than if the book were set in the real world. However, fantasy counterpart cultures can also be a result of lazy worldbuilding and can reflect and amplify cultural stereotypes. Come discuss fantasy counterpart cultures: how they are used in fantasy literature, their benefits and challenges, and what they say about our views of the real world.

Writing That Breaks the Rules
Amy Boggs

“Never use adverbs.” “The farmer boy is a secret king.” “Don’t kill the dog.” There is no escaping audience expectation, whether from publishers, producers, buyers, readers, or viewers. That expectation can be turned into rules when a bit of advice gets turned into an absolute and suddenly writers are sheepishly deleting prologues from their books. In this roundtable discussion, we will examine the expectations (both general and personal) we bring to a narrative, and the stories we know that break those rules and how they do it successfully.

Papers and Lectures - | - Pre-empaneled Papers
Panels - | - Workshops - | - Roundtable Discussions
Afternoon Classes



Some presenters have been accepted to teach classes in topics related to fantasy literature and the activities of its characters. These tend to be heavily demonstration-based and interactive. You may be required to sign a liability waiver to be in the room during physical sessions.

Lock Picking 201
Erynn Moss

Rebels--you attendees of Sirens in 2015--may recall a trick or two when it comes to locks, tumblers, shims, bumpers, and escaping handcuffs, but can you make your own picks? And what about pilfering file cabinets, breaking into briefcases, and yes, cracking safes? We'll cover the fundamentals from the first class for those who missed it or need a refresher then take a stab at the next level in sneakery!

Self-Defense for the Rest of Us
Blair MacGregor

Most of our beloved fighting women in fantasy share common traits: youth, physical ability, time to train, and a willing mentor. The positive depiction of fight-capable women is inspiring and empowering, but what about the rest of us—the majority of us? Self-protection isn't a privilege reserved for special people. In this workshop, we'll examine limitations perpetuated by fictional and real-life depictions of self-defense, compare and contrast the mindset with mastery, learn basic self-defense options, and discuss how to evaluate self-defense training programs. Physical experimentation with basic, low-contact self-defense techniques is included. Those preferring to listen and observe are welcome.

Tussie-Mussies: Using the Language of Flowers
Karen Bailey

Do you need to send a secret message? Are you too shy to talk to the one you admire? Do you want to pacify an unruly spirit? The language of flowers can help you send the message you want. In this afternoon class, we will briefly discuss the history of flower language and learn about the most popular meanings of common flowers. We will then have the chance to create a tussie-mussie, a mini-bouquet of paper flowers to send the message you want.

Whip Up a Whimsical (Or Wicked) Wand
Manda Lewis

The wand has long been a symbol of magic and power in history, mythology, religion, and fiction. From Circe transforming her foes into animals to Hermione Granger dueling Death Eaters, women have used wands to channel personal power into action. Join us to create your very own wand for decoration, display, costume, or even writing inspiration. A variety of materials and tools will be at your fingertips to build the perfect magic instrument, however you choose to wield it. A small donation for materials is welcome.

Who Goes There? We Do: Remote Outposts in Strange, Cold Places
Regina Carns

Fantasy and speculative fiction often take place in worlds very different from our own. But it turns out you don't have to leave Earth to visit places where physics doesn't work quite as you expect it to, where the usual roles of animal and human seem reversed, where even sunrise in the east isn't a given. Learn about the weird extremes and the mundane practicalities of life at a research outpost near the poles.

Papers and Lectures - | - Pre-empaneled Papers
Panels - | - Workshops - | - Roundtable Discussions
Afternoon Classes


Vetting Board

Amy Boggs recently joined the contracts department at Kensington Books after eight years as an agent at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She is a devoted fan of fantasy, science fiction, and all the wibbly-wobbly of speculative art. In her spare time, she tiptoes through fandom and rants about media on Twitter @notjustanyboggs.

Daniella Bohill is a Massachusetts-born transplanted Coloradoan with a passion for buying, reading, and talking about books of all kinds. When she isn’t reading you can find her gardening, baking, or drinking tea (okay okay, wine).

Jennifer Marie Brissett is a writer, an artist, a former bookstore owner, a former web developer, and current faculty for the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She is British-Jamaican American (born in London, England), and immigrated to the U.S. when she was about four before growing up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In her late twenties, she moved to Brooklyn, NY, and for three and a half years, she owned and ran the indie bookstore, Indigo Café and Books. Jennifer has a master’s in creative writing from the Stonecoast MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine, with a concentration in speculative fiction, and a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary engineering (electrical engineering with a concentration in visual art) from Boston University. Jennifer’s short stories have been included in The Best of Halfway Down the Stairs, 2005–2010, and have been a finalist for the 2013 storySouth Million Writers Award. Her debut novel, Elysium, received the 2014 Philip K. Dick Special Citation Award, was a finalist for the 2015 Locus Award for Best First Novel, and placed on the Honor List for the Tiptree Award.

Gillian Chisom is a PhD candidate in history at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently writing a dissertation about gender and embodiment in the early Quaker movement. A lifelong fantasy reader, over the last several years she has wrestled with the genre’s flaws and possibilities and become committed to writing fantastical stories which center queer voices. She was a Lambda Literary Fellow in Young Adult and Genre Fiction in 2013, and her work has appeared in The Toast, Global Comment, and Specs Journal.

Alyssa Collins is a PhD candidate in the English department of the University of Virginia and a 2016–17 Praxis fellow in the digital humanities. Her dissertation “Racing the Posthuman: Examining Representations of Technological and Virtual Embodiment” looks at the intersections of race and technology as depicted in 20th century and contemporary African American literature, digital culture, and new media. When she‘s not writing her dissertation, she writes about race, superheroes, and embodiment around the internet.

Sharon K. Goetz tests software. Too fond of textuality for her own good, she has also worked in scholarly textual criticism and web publishing, written software manuals, and completed a PhD investigating medieval English chronicles amidst their manuscript contexts. As time permits, she reads widely and plays computer games.

Andrea Hairston is author of Redwood and Wildfire, winner of the 2011 Tiptree and Carl Brandon Awards, and Mindscape, winner of the Carl Brandon Award. Lonely Stardust, a collection of essays and plays, was published in 2014. Her latest play, Thunderbird at the Next World Theatre, appears in Geek Theater—15 Plays by Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers. Her third novel, Will Do Magic for Small Change, came out in May 2016. In her spare time Andrea is the Louise Wolff Kahn 1931 Professor of Theatre and Africana Studies at Smith College and the Artistic Director of Chrysalis Theatre. She bikes at night year round, meeting bears, multi-legged creatures of light and breath, and the occasional shooting star.

Joy Kim works as a public librarian in Washington. She is a past chair of YALSA’s William C. Morris YA Debut Award and Great Graphic Novels for Teens committees, and even occasionally finds time to read for fun. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, running, and watching Korean reality shows.

s.e. smith is a Northern California-based writer and journalist who has appeared in Bitch Magazine, Rolling Stone, Vice, Teen Vogue, Rewire, Esquire, The Guardian, Pacific Standard, and many other fine publications, in addition to several anthologies, including The Feminist Utopia Project and the upcoming (Don't) Call Me Crazy (Algonquin Young Readers, Fall 2018). smith’s work focuses on an intersectional social justice-based approach to exploring social issues, with a particular interest not just in diversity and representation, but in those acting as creators, editors, and gatekeepers of media and pop culture.



Beaver Creek, Colorado
October 25–28, 2018
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 25–28, 2018, in Beaver Creek, Colorado. 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 2018 is “reunion,” and presenters are invited to consider the fantasy-literature themes of Sirens’s most recent four years: hauntings and what it means, as a woman, to be haunted; rebels and revolutions; lovers; and women who possess and wield magic. 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 deadline for proposals is May 6, 2018, and notices regarding proposals will be sent no later than June 11, 2018. Those requiring an early decision in order to obtain funding from their institutions should contact the programming coordinator at (programming at sirensconference.org).

At the time of proposal submission, presenters must provide an abstract of 300 to 500 words, a 50 to 100 word presentation summary for publication, and a presenter biography of 50 to 100 words. Those wishing to submit a proposal for a panel or 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 classes—interactive demonstrations of interest to fantasy readers that may be less formally related to the theme—may also be presented as lesson plans. Panelists must submit supplemental abstracts detailing their contributions to the panel.

Accepted presenters must be available to attend the conference in its entirety; no partial or day registrations will be offered. Presenters must be registered (and fully paid) for the conference no later than July 10, 2018. Conference papers will be collected for optional publication at a later date.

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/present/>. 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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Call for Proposals

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Conference - Guests of Honor - Schedule - Books and Breakfast - Reading Lists
Programming - Vetting Board - Call for Proposals

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.
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