2019 Programming: Papers and Lectures

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 2019 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. Later this week, we’ll review panels, roundtable discussions, and workshops/afternoon classes. You can submit a proposal any time from April 4 to May 15.

Papers and lectures are our umbrella terms for a presentation format in which one or more presenters convey research, analysis, or other information. Maybe you’re a reader who wants to examine the use of technology in fantasy literature, or an educator who wants to analyze course curricula that include fantasy works, or two agents who want to deconstruct frequently seen feedback on fantasy submissions. These approaches to these topics would make terrific papers or lectures.

The difference between a paper and a lecture, at least to Sirens, is quite small. For Sirens, you’re welcome to read a paper, present with PowerPoint slides, or simply speak from your notes. Please note that you need not provide your paper or slides as part of the submissions process, though you may want to have us publish them in our compendium after Sirens.

Papers and lectures are researched in advance—though “research” can mean a number of things. As this format is great for sharing information, papers and lectures often require some amount of research. Scholarly papers, certainly, are heavily researched (usually for academic work that is relevant to Sirens), but even a reader’s textual analysis, a course curricula presentation, or an overview of legal provisions involves gathering information for presentation. You may do more or less research depending on your topic and your existing knowledge.

Papers and lectures may be 25 or 50 minutes long. Shorter slots generally work out to reading about 6–10 pages of a paper. Some presenters may prefer the longer period, especially if they want to dedicate time for audience questions; these presenters will need closer to 10–15 double-spaced pages to read or the equivalent in speaking notes.

You can collaborate on papers and lectures. Often, individuals with complementary expertise or shared opinions on a topic will co-present a paper or lecture. This can work in two ways: (1) the presenters co-present the topic itself in a way that works for them (perhaps presenting jointly or splitting a topic into sub-parts), or (2) the presenters propose pre-empaneled papers. If you and your co-presenters generally tend to agree on a topic, though, we strongly encourage you to consider proposing a paper or lecture, as opposed to a panel (which is a format best suited for discussion and debate among panelists with different perspectives).

Pre-empaneled papers—a series of two or more papers or lectures on a similar topic or theme—are one option for multiple presenters. Pre-empaneled papers are proposed as a unit, but presented individually in sequence. Each presenter will have 25 minutes to present their individual paper. If presenters prefer, a moderator may organize the group and keep everything on time, perhaps leading the audience question period (or even asking questions of the presenters), and that moderator may also read a paper if they choose.

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, be far more in depth than your summary, and demonstrate your research, analysis, and conclusion.

In co-presented papers and lectures (including pre-empaneled papers), each presenter must provide a biography. In pre-empaneled papers, each presenter must also provide an abstract for their individual paper or lecture.

Room set-up includes a microphone, 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 13, 1–3 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m.–noon Pacific)
    Monday, May 13, 9–11 p.m. Eastern (6–8 p.m. Pacific)

  • Free Topics: All through March and 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


Examples of summaries of past papers and lectures from Sirens:

  • “All the Queen’s Women”: Female Political Leadership in Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles by Joy Kim: The women of Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles are queens and pawns, survivors and victims, exiles and prisoners, young and old. This paper will explore how the author complicates traditional narratives of male heroism by offering alternative narratives of female political leadership through the stories of Isaboe, Quintana, and Phaedra. It will compare and contrast their leadership styles and journeys, and consider how their leadership and power is influenced by their age, sexuality, and romantic relationships.

  • Reclaiming Ruin: Hybridity, Toxicity, and Feminine Agency in Ruin and Rising by 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.

  • IIntersecting Magics: Examining Assemblages of Magic and Technology in Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti by Alyssa Collins: This paper examines the intersections of magic and technology in the novellas of Nnedi Okorafor. Okorafor’s Binti series prompts us to think about the particular ways in which the black fantastic and black technological practices align to create moments of history-making and memorialization, especially in the community-building moments after persecution or state violence. This paper examines not only the operations of such magic and technology in the text, but also gestures to the affordances of such magical and technological thinking in what can be seen as analogous memorializing and community-building moments in black contemporary culture.

  • Sorceresses Transgress: Examining Treatment of Female Magic Users by Casey Blair: Fantasy literature is rife with incredible sorceresses, witches, and other female magic users. Magic can be an avenue for female characters to play an integral role in an otherwise patriarchal narrative, but does that approach give women power, or is it another kind of trap? This paper will discuss the ways magic is used to empower and constrain female characters, from the evolution of tropes casting feminine magic as “good” or “evil” to the limitations and opportunities for female magic users in their worlds—and what that says about ours

And the two separate summaries from a set of pre-empaneled papers:

  • Reading Bodies by Bethany Powell and Charis M. Ellison:

    • The Page Is No Mirror: The Limited Bodies of Literature
      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
      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.


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