Presenting Sirens each year is a big job, one that some days is a joy and other days seems like an impossibly long to-do list. While dozens of folks contribute to Sirens in a number of ways—presenting programming, reviewing inventory, sorting supplies—it takes nearly 20 staff working year-round to produce Sirens itself. From budgeting to registration assistance, managing our programming proposal process to developing our systems, these folks contribute thousands of volunteer hours each year, not to mention their energy and expertise, to making sure that Sirens not only happens, but happens in a way that makes us proud.
In most years, you would have the opportunity to meet our team during Sirens itself. Some are visible, like the information desk team that checks you into the conference or the bookstore team that helps you find your next One True Book. Some are less visible, like the audio-visual team moving equipment in the middle of the night or the logistics team working with the hotel catering staff to make sure that everyone can eat safely. But 2020 is certainly not most years and we’ll miss introducing you to our team at Sirens—so we thought we’d introduce you to them online!
UPS once had a series of commercials, set to a catchy little song, about the sheer logistics of their operation. Today, nearly a decade later, we still sing that happy song every time we need something to be smartly organized and perfectly executed. That’s logistics! Probably more people on the Sirens team consider themselves logisticians than anything else, but most of them handle logistics-heavy responsibilities on other teams. Only a select few are part of the Sirens Logistics Team itself.
Logistics, we find, is one of those things that most people think they can do, but very few people do well. Logistics is not about just having a plan, but anticipating failure points in that plan and having a backup plan—and sometimes, against all odds, running through all your backup plans, having a quick cry in the elevator, and then figuring it out. The Sirens Logistics Team are our planners, our troubleshooters, our people who get stuff done, whether they had two years to plan for it or two minutes. They live and die by spreadsheets, by lists, and by the customer service principles that guide everything that the Sirens team does. They may not be greeting you at the door, but when your alternate plate is waiting for you at a meal, you know the Sirens Logistics team is taking care of you, so often in the wee hours of the morning.
At Sirens, the Logistics Team handles everything related to the venue, from selecting menus and managing dietary issues, to making sure room setups happen timely and properly, to working with the hotel staff to resolve all those little things that don’t quite happen as they ought—hopefully before you even notice! The Logistics Team handles the Sirens Shuttle in connection with the Customer Service Team, so that when you arrive at the Denver International Airport, there’s a bus and it doesn’t leave without you. You can thank this team, too, for all those magnificent Sirens Ball decorations. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, the Logistics Team handles safety and accessibility for Sirens—and in 2020, that means tracking the COVID-19 pandemic trajectory as well.
This is one of those teams that, assuming everything is going swimmingly, you don’t see much of during Sirens. So let’s meet them now:
Karen Bailey: Karen hails from Beaverton, Oregon, but if you ask her what fantasy world she’d most like to visit, it’s the hippo farms of Sarah Gailey’s American Hippo. (Us too, but maybe just for the tiniest ones!) Karen is an administration director for a nonprofit, and has been coming to Sirens since our inaugural year (one of fewer than ten people who has), but she just joined the Sirens team this year. She is shocked—shocked!—to discover how many details are involved in finalizing the menus for Sirens. (Are the rolls on the list? Is the butter for the rolls on the list? Menus are definitely one of those things that you think is fun, but in practice are an absolute headache.) Karen has also already discovered that, despite that Sirens does indeed pay its vendors, getting answers out of them can be something of a challenge. But despite all these wild surprises, doing the foundational work to put on successful events is nothing new to Karen—she does it every day at work. When she’s not marveling at the complexity of the Sirens menus, Karen quilts, crochets, and sometimes learns amazing new things (like heraldry) to present at Sirens.
Manda Lewis: When we met Manda, we were still working on giant conventions about the Books That Shall Not Be Named and she was still an engineer in the Air Force. Today, we work on Sirens and Manda is an events coordinator for a children’s museum in North Carolina—and a mom to two small bundles of chaos. (We should note that Manda is also a small bundle of the best sort of chaos.) You might know Manda as the gale force that marshals the Sirens logistics, but she’s also been the master of the Sirens visual aesthetic from the very beginning. The logos, the T-shirts, the program books, the website graphics, you name it, if it says “Sirens” on it, she’s designed it. While Manda will happily talk about the work of Robin Hobb and any sort of dragon, when we asked her what fantastic world she’d most like to visit, she said Aru Shah’s Otherworld: “My thirteen-year-old self just wants to hang with the Pandavas and walk down Navagraha Avenue in my pajamas.”
K.B. Wagers: During the week, Katy goes to work as an office manager in Colorado Springs. But at all other times, you know them as K.B. Wagers, author of the Indranan War series (featuring a green-haired gunrunner-turned-space empress) and the hopepunk NeoG series. At Sirens, though, we know them as our Safety & Accessibility Coordinator. While all of our staff are charged with safety and accessibility, it’s Katy’s job to consider these things first and foremost. While Katy joined the team this year because they “wanted to give something back to a conference that had made such a big change in [their] life,” they have also “learned more about virus shedding than [they] ever thought [they] would.” As you might guess, Katy has spent a significant amount of time this year researching COVID-19, monitoring both the United States’ and Colorado’s responses, and calculating trajectories of the pandemic. (“Let’s just say I’m really hoping that next year doesn’t try to one-up 2020.”) Katy would love to visit Fonda Lee’s amazing, dangerous Jade City world, so it’s a good thing they know how to fight.