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 1
Sirens in 2011
Thank you again to everyone who attended Sirens in 2011. We had a fabulous weekend: thoughtful presentations and discussions, snow that came and left at just the right time, gracious guests, dedicated volunteers, and engaged attendees. We couldn’t have asked for better.
On the down side, just as we prepared to send you updates from Sirens, Photobucket changed its terms of service. We’re not so pleased about the changes (and figured that past attendees wouldn’t like to have their images used by all and sundry), so our reports from Vail will be delayed until we’ve had the chance to find a new photo host and get everything uploaded again. This affects pictures from past events as well. In the meantime, please accept our apologies, and please look for 2011 reports from Vail in December.
Auction items and supporting registrations have been mailed out. If you’re expecting books by media mail, those might still be in transit. If we recorded your presentation for you, please know that we’ll need some extra time to get those to you, and keep an eye on your e-mail in December. Presenters who plan to submit to the compendium have until November 15, 2011, to provide their papers, articles, discussion questions, and lesson plans; please refer to the compendium e-mail from the programming team for more information.
Again, our thanks to those who attended. You made the conference really special.
During the breakfast at the end of Sirens, we spoke briefly about why Sirens came to be in Vail: it was a “hometown” event for Narrate Conferences; we wanted to serve the western part of the United States; the Rocky Mountains in October provided us with many cost savings; our parent nonprofit is exempt from sales tax in Colorado; and we were already near a world-class location for getting away from it all, so it seemed a shame not to share. To consider moving Sirens, at all, was not something we took lightly.
At the same time, we want Sirens to be able to continue for years to come, so as a one-year experiment, we’ll be in a new location. In 2012, Sirens will take place near Portland, Oregon, at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington, on the Columbia River, on October 11-14. Skamania Lodge is excited to welcome us–to host our conference, to let us use their library, to have attendees rock in chairs in front of the 85-foot high fireplace in the lobby, to have us hike on their trails or relax in their hot tubs. The hotel offers a rustic but comfortable ambience, and we think that it’s a great option for us in 2012.
The nearest airport to Skamania Lodge is Portland International Airport, which is served by Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Horizon Air, JetBlue, SeaPort Airlines, Southwest, Spirit Airlines, United, and U.S. Airways. If you’re arriving to Portland by Amtrak or by Greyhound, the station downtown is about 12 miles from the airport, and a quick taxi ride–or bus or light rail ride–away. You can ride the Sirens Shuttle from Portland International Airport to Skamania Lodge; we’ll have rider and ticket information ready for you next year, but we expect to be able to reduce the price of a shuttle ticket a little bit and to get you to Skamania from the airport in just under an hour.
Because we’ll be in a new location, we expect change–we just don’t yet know what or how. We’ll be moving into new space and trading one set of perks (and quirks) for another. For that reason, we’re not yet posting an exact schedule of events and activities. You can, however, expect keynotes with our guests of honor, book signing time, book discussions, and attendee-generated papers and presentations, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and afternoon classes.
The 2012 website can be viewed here.
In 2012, we’ll take on the theme of “tales retold.” Potential presenters are encouraged to focus on existing stories that have been imagined and re-imagined in the fantasy genre. This year’s logo was inspired by Scheherazade, who saved her own life by retelling takes she knew, and whose tale has been retold countless times.
Of course, as always, other presentations related to women as readers and creators of fantasy fiction and art, workshops for readers and writers, academic analyses, roundtable discussions, and fantasy-related afternoon classes are welcome. Please visit the programming section of the Sirens website for more information, and we’ll be looking forward to receiving your programming proposals in the spring.
Guests of Honor
Speaking of things we’re pleased to announce, we’re thrilled to announce two of our guests of honor for 2012. Young adult author Malinda Lo and author, editor, folklorist, and academic Kate Bernheimer will be joining us to talk about tales retold. We will announce our third guest at a later date, and we’ll be featuring the work of all three in our newsletters and on our website throughout the coming year. In the meantime, please feel free to visit the Sirens reading list to find out what tales they and others have retold.
Registration, Travel, and All the Rest
Registration is open on the Sirens website. Information about Skamania Lodge and travel generally is already on our website. Information about the Sirens Supper and Sirens Shuttle will be added in 2012 once we can provide scheduling and pricing.
Sirens Review Squad
The Secret History of Moscow
Prime Books, November 2007
The Secret History of Moscow isn’t so much about Moscow as it is about the people who live there. Rather, the story is about human connections through shared history.
We meet three main characters: Galina, a woman labeled as a spinster who was formerly institutionalized for seeing and hearing things that were not there; Yakov, a detective with English roots who is keeps himself emotionally distant from his missing persons investigations; and Fyodor, a painter choosing to live on the streets who has an ingrained fear of gypsies thanks to his mother’s superstitions, and his willingness to give into them.
All three are in some way estranged from loved ones or their own emotions, and are just unhappy enough to find their way into the underground of Moscow where people who have been turned into jackdaws, and Koschey the Deathless are locals. You’ll get a bit of a crash course in Russian folklore from Secret History, but it helps to know the stories to appreciate the in-jokes.
Galina seeks her sister among the humans-turned-jackdaws; Yakov tries to solve the mystery of the jackdaws so the humans can return home; and Fyodor–well, this painter/alcoholic/pickpocket is out to save himself, and redeem himself in the eyes of a Romani girl he wronged years ago. A large cast of characters pass through the pages, and though several of them are inconsequential to the plot, they eloquently illustrate the struggles of the Russian people. Sedia’s prose is elegant, spare—using the right words and the right amount—and able to provoke the harshness of Russian winters as well as the cold, bitter feeling in one’s heart when life throws too many curve balls to handle, leaving you on the outskirts of society.
Galina is the most well-drawn character, and the one likely to interest Sirens readers the most. The book gives us many glimpses into the history her loving, passionate relationship with her younger sister. Through their experiences, Sedia poses the difficult question of what type of life is worth living, what type is worth giving up—though giving up does not mean death, and if any life is lesser than another.
The Secret History of Moscow ends in a shocking and brilliant turn of events that may at once break and warm the hearts of those who would sacrifice all they ever knew for the person they love most. —Jazz
Thank you for your patience and for stepping into the unknown with us in 2012! In the meantime, please feel free to contact us at (help at sirensconference.org) with questions.
See you next year!