After a very unusual year, in which we transformed Sirens into an online gathering, we are again planning for an in-person event this fall. We are readying the programming schedule, collecting newly released books, searching for amazing auction items, and discussing how we can make Sirens—after a year away—feel as warm and welcoming as ever. We confess: This all feels a bit strange.
And we suspect that coming—or coming back—to Sirens might feel a bit strange to you, too. So we thought we’d offer a series of posts about what Sirens is (or isn’t), some travel tips and tricks, and how you might choose to engage with the conference and community. If you’re considering attending, we very much hope you do. And if you’re returning, we can’t wait to see you again.
Here are the first four posts in our Siren’s Voyage series, about whether Sirens might be the right conference for you, making travel arrangements, what to pack, and pandemic protocols. This week, let’s talk about meeting new people and joining the Sirens community.
Sirens: Meeting New People
People, for many of us, are a source of stress. We don’t know who they are, we don’t know what to say, we worry if they’ll like us or think we’re smart. For many, the hardest part about Sirens, especially if you’re attending for the first time, is figuring out how to navigate all those strangers. We expect that this will be especially true this year, given the pandemic. People are a new source of stress for all of us, in ways they haven’t been before. You check to see if they’re wearing their masks properly, you’re hyper-conscious of your personal space, and every touch is an awkward, often unwelcome uncertainty. Even if you’re a Sirens veteran, this year may be different: fraught and uncertain in ways that perhaps it hasn’t been in the past.
But here’s the thing: No matter how expert, talented, or intimidating Sirens attendees might be—no matter if they are an accomplished scholar or experienced librarian or capable parent-of-five, a brand-new agent, a first-year teacher, a part-time bookseller, a newly published author, or a small-town farrier—every single person at Sirens has one thing in common: They love speculative literature. Especially speculative literature that interrogates societal marginal identities and oppressions.
There’s no easier place to meet people than at Sirens because at Sirens, all you need is a single question:
What are you reading?
There are follow-on questions, of course, if you like: What are some of your favorite fantasy works? What have you read this year that you loved? Have you tried [fill in your favorite book here]? Maybe they’ll have that in the bookstore? Let’s go find out!
While there are a lot of intersections at Sirens—vocations, experiences, interests—the common ground will always be our collective love of the revolutions, aspirations, and necessities that we find in speculative literature.
And we hope that that makes everyone at Sirens a lot less scary—and a lot more welcoming, even in this off-kilter year.
Sirens: Joining the Community
The possibly quite unhelpful answer to that question is, frankly, whatever you want. We deliberately create community spaces as part of Sirens, because while our programming forms the foundation of the conversations we have, those formal presentations and discussions are only a jumping off point for another thousand conversations that folks will have over the weekend. So, we’ve built in both time and physical space for those conversations to happen:
- In the welcoming lobby of the hotel, which features comfy chairs and outlets for our ever-present electronics
- Over a cup of tea as you arrive and check into Sirens
- In the bookstore, which will feature over 1,500 speculative titles by authors of marginalized genders
- As you browse our geektastic auction items
- In passing between programming sessions
- In the sun-filled community room that we’ve set aside this year just for social-distanced conversations
- Early in the morning over our Books and (Nope, Not This Year) Breakfast discussion
- At the Sirens Ball, where you’ll wear whatever you want—a ballgown, a costume, or your jeans because you should feel as casual or as fancy as you wish
- In the evening in or near one of the hotel’s many alcoves and fireplaces
- At the rollicking spectacle that is the Sirens live auction on Sunday morning
We hope that you’ll feel comfortable(ish) using these times and spaces to strike up these conversations, no matter how awkward they might feel at first. With a little bit of courage and books as your always-at-hand icebreaker, you’ll be a full-fledged member of the Sirens community in no time at all.
And the Sirens community wouldn’t have it any other way.