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A Siren’s Voyage, Part 4: Feeling Safer

A Siren's Voyage

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.

You can read the first three posts in our Siren’s Voyage series, about whether Sirens might be the right conference for you, making travel arrangements, and what to pack, here, here, and here. This week, let’s talk feeling safer at Sirens during a global pandemic.

Sirens: Conference Changes

Last month, after much consideration of the current landscape and how to best protect the health of the Sirens community—and by extension, friends, family, hotel staff, and others—we announced that Sirens would take place in person in 2021. We have implemented safety requirements and procedures, and are considering additional measures, but we know that, as the Delta variant continues to spread in a number of areas, no additional safety protocols would be sufficient to permit everyone to feel safe attending an in-person event. Nonetheless, we plan to offer Sirens in person, for the first time since 2019, for whose who are able to attend—and interested in doing so.

Sirens will look different, though, as we work through how best to keep everyone as safe as possible. Most notably, we have canceled this year’s Sirens Studio in order to reduce everyone’s time traveling and everyone’s time around each other. Studio faculty who wish to attend the conference will present as part of the conference schedule, at no additional cost to attendees. We are refunding Studio ticket payments.

The Sirens schedule itself will look somewhat different as well. We are still working through changes as we confirm programming with presenters and incorporate the applicable Studio presentations, but we will separate the keynote meals from the presentations, to keep our Guests of Honor safer, and similarly, breakfast will take place before the auction. We thank you in advance for your patience, as it’s taking us some time to work through these changes.

Sirens: Vaccine and Negative COVID-19 Test Requirements

In order to attend Sirens this year, you must prioritize keeping the Sirens community safe.

You must be fully vaccinated prior to attending Sirens. This means that you must have received your second or single-dose shot by October 7, 2021.

  • We will require that you provide proof of vaccination when you check in for the conference. Please do not send us photos of your vaccination card, as we do not want to have copies of your personal medical data. A photo, paper copy, or app-based verification will also be accepted at check-in.
  • All human vaccines for COVID-19 that are fully approved or approved for emergency use by authorities in your country will be accepted.
  • We are not requiring a vaccination booster shot, as they are not yet widely available. Please follow the advice of your physician and other health officials regarding any boosters.

You must also show a negative viral test for COVID-19, with the test taken after 3:00 p.m. Mountain Time on Monday, October 18 (72 hours prior to the start of Sirens).

  • We will have rapid antigen tests available for free for all attendees to take prior to entry into Sirens.
  • If the rapid test is positive or inconclusive, you will not be able to attend Sirens until you have received a negative viral test, which is available locally at a number of testing sites.
  • You may wish to take a test prior to beginning your travel to Sirens. In the event that you are positive, that means that you may rest and recover in the comfort of your own home rather than at the Hilton Inverness.
  • The testing kit that we will provide all attendees contains a second rapid antigen test, which can be used 36 hours after the first.

You will be required to wear a mask over your nose and mouth in all conference spaces, except when eating, drinking, or making brief adjustments (such as fixing the fit or blowing your nose).

  • We strongly recommend KN95 or similar masks (like KF94 or N95) or two layers of medical masks. You are welcome to layer these options with cloth masks.
  • Single-layer gaiters, bandannas, face shields, and masks with exhalation valves or vents are not acceptable.
  • We’ll provide all attendees with a KN95 mask, as well as one medical mask with a clear panel for optional use such as while presenting.

Sirens: Other Safety Measures

We continue to work through additional safety measures, including actions that attendees can take to make Sirens safer for everyone. We are revising our room layouts to encourage social distancing and presenter safety, to reduce repetitive-touch areas, and to encourage everyone to keep their hands sanitized and their masks on. We will have additional rules regarding eating and drinking in the conference space and we will all wash our hands frequently.

If you are attending Sirens, we hope that you’ll work through additional safety measures as well. If you are using public transportation or flying, we strongly encourage you to put on a KN95 or similar mask before you encounter other travelers and to remove that mask as little as possible while in transit. If you wish to eat, we encourage you to do so away from others, rather than on a crowded airplane, train, or bus. If you wish to drink, we encourage you to consider a straw, which you can use without removing your mask. Practice social distancing and leave extra space between you and people who are not masked or who are wearing their masks incorrectly. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently—and use those wipes that airlines give you to wipe down the surfaces around your seat (including those overhead buttons for the light and the fan). Keeping yourself safe on the way to Sirens is the first step to keeping everyone safe while at Sirens!


We hope that you understand the hard choices the Sirens team had to make in deciding to present this year’s conference—and the compromises that we will all have to make to keep the Sirens community safe. Again, we appreciate your patience and your understanding.

A Siren’s Voyage, Part 3: What to Bring

What to Bring to Sirens Conference

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.

You can read the first two posts in our Siren’s Voyage series, about whether Sirens might be the right conference for you and about making travel arrangements.This week, let’s talk what to pack—and why you might want to bring an empty suitcase!

Sirens Conference: Denver, Weather, and Altitude

Sirens takes place at the Hilton Inverness Hotel, located in south Denver, about 20 minutes from downtown. What dominates the Denver landscape, though, isn’t its skyscrapers, but the magnificent Rocky Mountains, which form the western edge of the city.

Denver was founded in 1858 as a mining town during the Pikes Peak gold rush in western Kansas Territory. Visitors today find that the city retains much of that western spirit: big dreams, expansive views, and a sometimes philosophical connection to the outdoors. We hike, we bike, we ski, and we do as much as possible four seasons of the year. If you’re looking to get outside during your trip to Sirens, no matter the weather, you won’t be alone. The Hilton Inverness offers a running/walking path right outside the hotel, but the hotel is also located just a couple miles from the nearest light rail stop (and offers a complimentary shuttle in a five-mile radius) and only a couple hours from the famous mountain towns of Breckenridge, Vail, and Winter Park.

The weather in Denver in October—not to mention September and November—can be changeable, so when we talk about what to pack, we’re talking layers. The weather usually hovers around highs in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit (10-20 Celsius), with colder temperatures after sunset, but Denver usually gets its first significant snowstorm of the year in October, so anything is possible. Unless you’re planning on exploring, you’ll likely spend most of your time inside—where the weather will be more predictable, but also hotel-conference-space cold, so you’ll want those layers indoors and out. A jacket and sweaters, gloves and fingerless handwarmers, scarves no matter where you are.

Denver sits at exactly 5,280 feet—one mile for those trying to do the mental math—above sea level, which sounds impressive to flatlanders, but isn’t nearly so high as mountain-town elevations (or standard airplane pressurization), where the elevation usually exceeds 8,000 feet. Denver’s elevation does not give rise to altitude sickness or other health concerns associated with mountain towns.

But! Denver does not have as much oxygen in the air as you might be used to at lower elevations. You’ll breathe more quickly, you’ll sweat more easily, you’ll be hungrier, and you’ll need more sleep. Further, as every Denver bartender will tell you, alcohol will have a greater effect. Denver’s altitude also comes with less atmosphere, so bring your sunscreen and sunglasses. Unless you’re coming to Sirens for a really long time, you won’t acclimate while you’re here! It often takes a week or more to stop getting winded climbing a flight of stairs at altitude—and it can take six months or more for your workout to feel normal again. Prepare to take it easy!

To add insult to injury, Denver’s prevailing climate is high-plains desert. It’s hard to see in the city, but if you drive 20 miles east, you’ll see miles of dusty ranchland between you and the horizon. Colorado is one of the driest states, especially the eastern plains, where Denver lies, so even while you’re sitting in our climate-controlled meeting space, please remember that you’re in the desert. You’ll need to drink a lot—a lot!—more water in Denver than you do at home, and if you start drinking a lot more water a few days before you arrive, you’ll be much happier. You might need to supplement with the occasional sports drink. You’ll also want to bring all those things that Coloradans take with them everywhere: a water bottle, lip balm, hand lotion, eye drops, saline nasal spray, and so on, as those items can help you feel more comfortable in a very dry climate. This dryness can also lead to insomnia or headaches, so you may want to bring sleep aids or painkillers, take it easy on the alcohol, and ask the Hilton Inverness for one of their guest-room humidifiers.

Sirens Conference: Packing

So with all that, let’s talk a bit about packing! First, let’s abandon the notion that you’ll be able to do Sirens with just a carry-on. The dry-climate toiletries aren’t going to fit in that tiny zippy bag! And once you’re checking one bag, hey, why not two? Because, friends, we are going to have over a thousand speculative titles by female, nonbinary, and trans authors at Sirens. We ship! But if you don’t want us to ship, how do you plan to get those books home? A second suitcase, of course!

Toward that end, have you thought about flying Southwest, where bags fly free? We know it’s the bus of the sky, but if you can manage their cattle-call boarding policy, you might be able to jettison the notion of trying to cram all your hydrating needs into a tiny bag and all your Sirens merchandise, auction items, and books into your single suitcase—and then lifting that suitcase over your head into the bin. Fly in style: with a suitcase for your lip balm and another for your books!

Here’s what we’d pack:

For the weather:

  • Outdoor coat or jacket
  • Outdoor mittens or gloves
  • Scarf
  • Sweaters or sweatshirts
  • Layering t-shirts or tank tops
  • Fingerless handwarmers for chilly conference rooms
  • Things to wear with pockets! For your lip balm, your hand sanitizer, and your tiniest notes

For the altitude/climate:

  • Lip balm (nothing beats original Chapstick!)
  • Hand lotion (heavy duty repairing, like for gardeners, is best)
  • Body lotion
  • Eyedrops
  • Saline nasal spray
  • Water bottle (though we’ll have Sirens water bottles for sale)
  • Healthy snacks (the hotel has a convenience shop with a limited, expensive selection)
  • Headache medicine
  • Sleep aids (if you’re prone to trouble sleeping)

For COVID-19 safety:

  • Masks (N95 masks are now readily available and come in colors!)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Spray hand sanitizer for soft surfaces
  • Sanitizing wipes (for shared surfaces)

Just because:

  • Any books you’d like signed by our guests of honor (we’ll have copies for sale, but if you already have your own, you’re welcome to bring it)
  • Your shopping list
  • A notebook and your favorite pen
  • Whatever you’d like to wear to the Sirens Ball
  • That second suitcase!

And with that, we hope to see you at Sirens! With a bit of luck, these packing suggestions will make your journey to Sirens and back again just a little bit easier. And we’re all about making things easier as we continue to muddle through 2021.

A Siren’s Voyage, Part 2: Getting Here

Getting to Sirens conference

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.

You can read the first in our Siren’s Voyage series, about whether Sirens might be the right conference for you, here. This week, let’s talk about traveling to Sirens!

Sirens Conference: Hotel

sirens conference accommodations
Sirens conference hotel

Sirens—all conference programming and events, including the Sirens Studio—will take place at the Hilton Inverness Hotel, just south of Denver, Colorado. And let us tell you: Having everything under a proverbial one roof makes things super-easy for you and for us! We love having a sunny, warmth-filled lobby, a cozy bar, a convenience shop, and a quiet, soothing spa available for you, and a one-stop destination for meeting room setup, on-site catering, and audiovisual support available for us.

You don’t have to stay at the Hilton Inverness to attend Sirens, of course, but if you’re looking to simplify your Sirens experience, especially if you’re coming in from out of town, we recommend that you do. As you navigate Sirens, you may find that having everything just steps away from the conference is a convenience that can’t be beat: You’ll have both guest rooms and dining options just steps away from the conference, not to mention that, if you want to take a break from Sirens for a quick visit to the gym or the pool, or even to take a break in your hotel room, you can—and if you want to continue programming discussions over happy hours or late at night in the hot tub, you can do that, too!

Sirens attendees have access to a discounted rate at the Hilton Inverness: $169/night, regardless of occupancy, beginning on October 15 and ending on October 26. This is significantly lower than the hotel’s usual rates at this time of year, and we hope that this discount makes traveling to Sirens more affordable for everyone. Also, your stay at the hotel helps Sirens meet its financial obligations to the hotel, which also helps us keep the cost of Sirens lower for everyone.

To make a reservation at the Hilton Inverness for Sirens, just click here. If you prefer to call, you may telephone the hotel at (303) 799-5800, and please make sure to use the discount code “10NC.” For more information about the hotel, check out its website, and for those seeking accessibility information, you may find that here.

If you’re seeking roommates, we invite you to tweet us @sirens_con or post on our Facebook page. And if you have any questions or concerns about the Hilton Inverness’s policies or encounter any difficulties in making a reservation, we invite you to contact us, as we can often assist.

Sirens Conference: Travel

But how do you get to Sirens in the first place? Planes, trains, and automobiles all work, so let us tell you how!

By plane: The closest airport to the Hilton Inverness Hotel—about 30 miles away in the hinterlands of the high plains desert east of Denver—is the massive Denver International Airport. While some may find the sheer size of DIA somewhat daunting, we can assure you that the moving walkways (almost always) work, there is (almost always) food to be found, and there is (always) a place to sit. Especially if, like conference chair Amy Tenbrink, you sometimes fly in a blizzard.

Denver airport during blizzard

Please note that DIA is currently undergoing a massive, multiyear renovation, so be prepared for large sections of it to be walled off. DIA has attempted to compensate for this inconvenience by providing windows so you can see the construction progress and also by putting up posters that lean into the rampant conspiracy theories about the airport. If you see an alien, please let us know!

Denver Airport Aliens

If you choose to fly, you might look at Southwest or United, both of which occupy almost an entire terminal at DIA. Southwest, for those who don’t know, doesn’t permit you to purchase specific seats, so you’ll want to check in 24 hours early to secure your place in line—and then make sure that you’re at your gate on time—but often offer terrific sales. United tends to be more traditional, but also more expensive. And a number of other airlines fly in and out of DIA as well.

By train: If trains are your thing—and they’re definitely ours—Amtrak’s California Zephyr route runs right through Denver, stopping at Union Station downtown, where you can transfer to Denver’s very much improved light rail station. The light rail will bring you within just a couple miles of the Hilton Inverness Hotel—just a quick cab ride or Uber away. When you arrive, we’d love to see your pictures!

By automobile: While we love planes and trains, if you ask us, road trips are that most American of adventures. If you’re looking to reduce your human contact—and we all are in these difficult times—Denver sits at the junction of I-70/I-76 and I-25. For those of you who think of cars and automatically think “traffic,” let us assure you that driving across the Midwest is flat and fast—and driving through the mountains is a joy, though in October, you never know when there might be snow. Once you arrive, the hotel offers free parking—and we’ll want to hear about every weird thing you saw along the highway on your way.

Sirens Conference: Ground Transportation

If you choose to fly to Sirens, you’ll still need to make it those last 30-ish miles to the Hilton Inverness Hotel—and we can help you with that! When we researched commercial shuttle options, not to mention cabs and Uber, we saw the outrageous prices and thought, “Wow, we can definitely do better than that.”

So we chartered a bus! If your travel is flexible, we can offer you a cheaper option for getting from DIA to the Hilton Inverness and back again, and to meet other Sirens and their families and friends along the way. The Sirens Shuttle costs $45 each way, or if you buy a round-trip, only $75. A shuttle will leave Denver International Airport at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, October 18, and at 4:00 p.m. on both Wednesday, October 20 and Thursday, October 21; the return trip for all shuttle riders will depart the Hilton Inverness at noon on Sunday, October 24. Because of travel time, and to leave room for any delays, we recommend that you arrive in Denver no later than 7:00 p.m. on October 18, or 2:00 p.m. October 20 or October 21, and depart no earlier than 2:30 p.m. on October 24. We hope to see you on the Sirens Shuttle!


And with that, we hope to see you at Sirens! With a bit of luck, this travel information will make your decisions and your journey to Sirens and back again just a little bit easier. And we’re all about making things easier as we continue to muddle through 2021.

A Siren’s Voyage, Part 1: Answering the Call

Sirens conference

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.

Sirens: The Conference

If you’re considering attending Sirens, but you aren’t sure, let us ask you some questions: Do you love books? Like, really love books? Speculative books about made-up worlds or a more magical version of our own? Books with dragons or revolutions or living spaceships?

We do, too! That’s why we created a space to talk about those books and what those books, those aspirational books in their aspirational worlds, have to say about gender. And even more, to discuss what you—readers, scholars, educators, librarians, publishing professionals, and authors—have to say about speculative literature and gender. Because after centuries of being silenced, we all have a lot to say!

Sirens is a conference dedicated to examining gender and speculative spaces—and works by women, nonbinary, and trans people in those spaces. We are committed to the fundamental premise that every voice at our conference—veteran or newbie, seasoned or learning, reader or author or scholar—has something valid, valuable, and vital to say. We are committed to including people with diverse perspectives, experiences, and identities in our conference and our community.

After all, we all love speculative literature. It speaks to all of us.

So if you love books—books with queer dragons or feminist revolutions or living spaceships headed for the stars—we do, too. We hope you’ll join us at Sirens this October. Our guests of honor will be Dr. Kinitra D. Brooks, Rin Chupeco, Sarah Gailey, and Fonda Lee. You can see the programming that will be presented here. And you can register here.

Sirens: The Studio

While Sirens is fabulous, it can be hectic: so many people to see, so many conversations to have, not nearly enough time to grab a seat by the fire and just read. The Sirens Studio, however, gives you both that book-loving, gender-discussing Sirens experience and that down time that we all need: small-group workshop intensives led by exceptional faculty in the morning; flexible time to read, write, or relax in the afternoon; and on Tuesday night, both a reception with our Studio faculty and a guest of honor keynote address available only to Studio attendees.

It’s Sirens, but smaller, more intimate, maybe a little less intimidating. And it happens before Sirens, so you might find that it’s a good introduction, an easier way to dip your toe in the water.

This year, our Sirens Studio Guest of Honor is Joamette Gil, who will present the event’s keynote address. Our 2021 faculty include: for reading workshops, Casey Blair, Rin Chupeco, Ren Iwamoto, and Fonda Lee; for writing workshops, Marie Brennan and Anna-Marie McLemore; and for career development workshops, Dr. Kinitra D. Brooks and Jae Young Kim. And you can see their workshop topics here.

If this sounds like your thing, and we hope it does, you can add a ticket to your Sirens registration here.

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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