We need a revolution.
Our world has been designed to diminish women and nonbinary people. Societal traditions, expectations, and structures prefer commanding, charismatic men—and women who are silent, passive, pretty, chaste. So often, other people control not only our opportunities, our ambitions, and our compensation, but everything even more fundamental: our bodies, our stories, our power, our value. Others get to be heroes, leaders, players, while we are somehow lesser: mothers, wives, daughters, sidekicks, love interests, sluts. At best, we are a relationship in someone else’s story. At worst, we are erased.
We need a revolution.
And in 2015, Sirens chose rebels and revolutionaries as its theme.
Want a matriarchal line of rulers? A fantasy author wrote that. How about a failing matriarchal line? An evil queen? A displaced monarch relentlessly working to regain their place with their people? Fantasy authors wrote those, too. Want a different society? One where all genders are equal, or women are responsible for commerce or diplomacy or war, or war isn’t necessary because a nonbinary diplomat brokered peace? Fantasy authors wrote those. Want stories where gender isn’t binary or isn’t important or is so vitally important because someone on the page—a woman or a nonbinary person somewhere on a page—is doing something that our real-world society doesn’t allow? Fantasy authors have written legions of them. Legions of stories filled with complex, complicated people, who make choices, who rise and rule our way, with our skills and our goals.
If you want a revolution, look at what the authors of fantasy literature are writing today. Revolutions led by female or nonbinary characters, about gender, over repressed people’s rights, in order to place a new ruler on the throne. Revolutions that failed, revolutions that succeeded, and revolutions that succeeded in an unexpected way. Noisy, violence-filled revolutions and quietly convincing revolutions and everything you can imagine in between.
And then perhaps go a step further. Every year at Sirens we discuss reading our own revolution. We read widely, diversely, inclusively. We question what is published, reviewed, and available in bookstores and libraries—and then demand more. We seek female and nonbinary fantasy authors’ works and the works of female and nonbinary scholars. We talk to librarians and teachers. If our local independent bookstore doesn’t have what we want, we order it.
Sirens chose rebels and revolutionaries as a theme because every one of you, every single day, is the revolution.
In founding Sirens, we knew what we wanted: a place where people can, without shame or irony, declare themselves queens, dragon-masters, generals. A place where people aren’t constrained by what our real-world society demands. A light in a world that frequently excludes us. A blazing sun devoted to discussion, debate, and celebration of the remarkable diverse possibilities of fantasy literature.
And a community. A thoughtful, smart, warm community that welcomes people of all genders, sexualities, races, abilities, and identities. A community that discusses, with respect, what fantasy literature by and about women and nonbinary people has done—and what it can and should do in the future.
We are the revolution.
And as we approach this year’s Sirens reunion, we hope that you’ll contemplate rebels and revolutionaries, as well as the other themes of our past four years, in your reading, your conversations, and your programming proposals.
At Sirens, our reunion years are an opportunity to reexamine the themes of the previous four years, in this case: hauntings, rebels and revolutionaries, lovers, and women who work magic. Please look for more posts on these themes in the upcoming weeks—but please also know, as you begin to plan your programming proposals, that proposals need not focus entirely or even at all on theme topics. All proposals related to women in fantasy literature are welcome. Get inspired by our 2015 Rebels and Revolutionaries book lists, Suggested Reading and Reading Challenge.