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Meet the Sirens Finance & Legal Team

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!

Way behind the scenes—and we do mean waaaaaaay behind the scenes—the Sirens Finance & Legal team is delightedly running at least a thousand spreadsheets. That may be an ever-so-slight exaggeration, but truly, this team lives and dies by its spreadsheets. Half are computational, used for budgets, finances, and the annual reports underlying the tax filings. But others are databases, such as our annual auction and our 40-column, 3,000-row bookstore database. And what feeds all these amazing spreadsheets: a thousand hours of research, a lot of creativity, and some truly enormous brains. Let’s meet Team Money!

What Team Money does may seem quite basic, but things around here get very complicated very quickly. Let’s start at the very beginning: Sirens runs a four-times-a-year budgeting process for each conference currently in development. Given the overlap in conferences, that’s roughly six budget reviews a year. Team Money does that. Add to that producing monthly financials, closing financials for finished conferences, and annual financial reporting to support the taxes. Team Money does that, too. And don’t forget that someone has to do the taxes! Team Money also designs and manages the twice-annual Sirens fundraising campaigns, including all of our scholarship messaging and fundraising. All those scholarships for BIPOC, programming presenters, those with financial hardships, and book professionals are made possible by this team—and the amazing generosity of the Sirens community!

But there’s a whole different side to Team Money as well: research, procurement, and sales. Every item that you can purchase at Sirens—villainous makeup, a Sirens water bottle, a Captain America shield, a giant stack of books, your new favorite T-shirt—are meticulously researched, sourced, or just magically made possible by the remarkable members of this team. Each year, this team invests thousands of hours finding unique auction items (Etsy!); researching low, low prices on merchandise; reminding the art team how much a three-color T-shirt print costs; and compiling data on the 500 new speculative works released by women, nonbinary, and trans authors since the last Sirens. Then these researching geniuses sit down with those budgeting geniuses and figure out how to make it all work. So when you walk into the Sirens community room each year, there are so many things to discover—and because this team also handles uploading all that data to our online inventory system, you can buy all of it without anyone needing to carry around a calculator. Thanks, Team Money!

Finally, we should really call this team Team Money, Esquire, because with finance and procurement comes lawyers. Every year, our lawyers handle everything from negotiating our annual contracts, obtaining our insurance coverage, updating our policies (anyone remember GDPR?), and generally being all around awesome people. We would tell you more about what they do, but they probably know a Confidentiality Curse or two.

But before Team Money, Esquire dives back into its spreadsheets, let’s meet them:

Zack Bernheimer: Zack is the sort of amazing guy who hears that his co-worker is working on this conference, and even though he’s never, not once been to this conference (Sirens at Home is a great time to start, Zack!), he wants to help out. So we handed this financial whiz our budgets and our financials and suggested that he go to town. And he did! Zack hails from Miami, Florida, where he produces financial and data analysis way more complicated than ours for a major media company. (We should note that his top-notch analyst skills at work were what got him recruited to apply those same top-notch analyst skills at Sirens!) When he’s not running our spreadsheets or his other spreadsheets, Zack is, literally, running. He also works out in a number of different ways—even his hobbies are often workouts—and he’ll happily compare his Fitbit data to yours. Zack also loves cruises quite a lot more than we’re sure is healthy and will be the first person to sign up for a trip to Universal Studios.

Casey Blair: Hailing from Redmond, Washington, Casey is a woman of many hats: writer, former bookseller, current entrepreneur, and oh, yes, the Sirens Sales and Auction Coordinator. We don’t quite know how she does it, though knowing Casey, we’re reasonably certain that there’s magic involved. Casey attended the very first Sirens and has been coming back regularly ever since—but if you’ve been to a Sirens with Casey and a Sirens without Casey, you’ll know that both our programming schedule and the dancing at the Sirens Ball are much superior at Sirens with Casey! When we asked Casey what surprised her about her Sirens job, here’s what she said: “Considering that Sirens fills a ballroom full of books to sell every year, people might not realize how much curation happens before that. Spoilers: It’s A Lot.” Thinking of vacations in the middle of quarantine, when we asked Casey what fantasy world she’d most like to visit, she said the Hidden Realm in Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits.

Kallyn Hunter: We asked professional researcher Kallyn what the most challenging aspect of being the Sirens Research Coordinator was, and she says, with a certain amount of despair, “The spreadsheets. Oh goodness, so many spreadsheets.” (You will come around on the joy of the spreadsheets, Kallyn, we promise! Maybe next year!) As if the spreadsheets of the actual bookstore inventory weren’t enough, Kallyn is also surprised by the number of books that don’t make it into the Sirens bookstore each year—“We curate such an amazing selection, and you can bet that the books that are on the shelves have been selected with care”—and you can bet that, whether a book makes it into the bookstore or not, we have a spreadsheet for it. But we’ll also tell you, for all the despair over the spreadsheets, the Sirens research has never been more thorough or more exciting. So Kallyn, please don’t run away to Tortall, even though we know you want to!

Amy Tenbrink: Most of you know Amy as co-founder and co-chair of Sirens, or perhaps as a programming presenter or Sirens blog book reviewer or the person who gives the welcome speech at Sirens. But what you probably don’t know is that Amy’s heart belongs to Team Money, Esquire, where she happily serves as chief data nerd. During the day (and often at night), she’s an executive vice president for a major media company, where she’s both an attorney and business strategist (which means she gets to spend a lot of time with data there, too). She lives in Denver, but until COVID-19 arrived, she was frequently on the road, spending a lot of time on planes with, as you might expect, a fantasy book and a carpal tunnel brace. Amy reads 150 books a year (she’s dangerous in a bookstore), bakes increasingly complicated pastries (kouign amann, anyone?), and is going to run a marathon again someday. The three books of her heart are Code Name: Verity, Conservation of Shadows, and Who Fears Death, and she says we can’t make her pick just one.

Meet the Sirens Logistics Team

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.

Meet the Sirens Customer Service Team

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!

If you’ve ever attended Sirens, you know that one of the things that sets us apart is the warmth and welcome that we provide to our attendees—whether you’re brand new or a ten-year veteran. The heart of that warmth and welcome is our Customer Service Team! This is the team that brings you those friendly emails in the months leading up to Sirens, who thoughtfully assembles attendees’ registration bags (including those apples!), who are the first smiling face that you see when you arrive at the hotel on the Sirens Shuttle or check in at the conference, and who answer all of your questions about whether this is this, or that is that, or how to add a Sirens Studio ticket to your registration. If you’ve ever walked into Sirens and felt right at home, that’s the thoughtful, kind work of the Customer Service team.

But the Sirens Customer Service Team handles work well beyond such obvious care of attendees. Our Customer Service Team manages two major projects each year: First, this team updates the Sirens website, a beast of a task that occurs right after Sirens, when everyone wants to just curl up on the couch with a book and a cup of tea—but our Customer Service Team graciously ushers us all through one more big project before we take the dark winter months off. And in the summer each year, the Customer Service Team also guides the Sirens staff through creation of the program book, another massive undertaking that requires everyone to chip in. While these tasks aren’t always featured, everyone who attends Sirens, and everyone who’s ever visited our website, uses their work.

The Sirens Customer Service team provides internal customer service to our team as well. Internal services such as editing and coding and management of the Sirens News page are part of the Customer Service Team’s responsibilities. Finally, and perhaps surprisingly, Sirens developed its own internal systems for everything from registration to programming proposal submissions. You might see the barest piece of those systems when you register or propose programming, but those systems involve an immense back end of data management and reporting options that, as our Customer Service Team will tell you, involve an absurd amount of feature creep.

With that, let’s meet this amazing team who somehow manages everything from making sure all Sirens attendees have what they need to enjoy Sirens to keeping our own team chugging along:

Simon Branford: The mysterious Simon Branford—who has worked on Sirens since before it was even called Sirens, but whom so few of you have ever met—is a Research Software Engineer at a university in England. That, however, is an understatement of rather epic proportions, given that Simon holds multiple master’s degrees and a PhD in some sort of theoretical mathematics that we have never once understood. For Sirens, Simon has developed our systems, both the front-end systems that you use to register or submit a programming proposal and the back-end systems that our team uses every day to manage our data and provide the reports that we need to create Sirens every year. (Fun fact: Simon facilitated our compliance with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation long before California passed a similar law. We are serious about data security.) Simon would very much like us to stop gushing now, so we’ll just mention that it’s a surprise to precisely no one that one of his favorite speculative works is Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit.

Candice Lindstrom: Candice was born in Nigeria, but we’re happy that she now calls Dallas home—otherwise, we’re pretty sure that she wouldn’t have been one of those 84 intrepid folks who attended the very first Sirens! Luckily, discussing gender and speculative fiction was a great reason to leave the house. Candice is an assistant editor for a business magazine publisher covering women, LGBT, minority, and disabled-veteran enterprises, and for the past three years, she’s put those amazing skills to work at Sirens as well—though sometimes she finds it challenging to switch from business-speak to Sirens-speak. Candice edits every single thing that Sirens publishes, from big projects like the website and our annual program book, to the numerous pieces that we publish on the Sirens News page. Candice is also spectacularly organized and she uses those skills at Sirens, too: As our Conference Administrator she keeps track of all of us and what we’re supposed to be doing. (We imagine that this is a bit like herding dragons.) Candice says that she “could have done with a parking fairy a time or two hundred in my life,” so visiting Justine Larbalestier’s world from How to Ditch Your Fairy would be fabulous.

Becky Loucks-Schultz: Denverite Becky spends her days as an Applications Engineer Lead for a hospital and her nights at home with Fred (see below) and an army of cats (some theirs, others a series of fosters). She’s “always loved Sirens and was honored to be asked to help”—and just this year we’ve been lucky enough to put her tech skills to good use coding the ever-growing list of Sirens publications. (“I didn’t realize how much content was being posted by Sirens.” We didn’t either, Becky; we didn’t either.) Despite the volume, though, Becky loves being able to read all the Sirens publications. Becky’s also been a terrific sport about all those other Sirens publications—our 2,000 title bookstore—and she’s kind enough to help us sort, count, label, and box every year. Becky is also a talented Steampunk Maker and having just moved to a place with enough room for all those projects is a treat. Becky had a hard time picking a favorite speculative work—don’t we all!—but in the end settled on Going Postal by Terry Pratchett: “He manages to satirize modern capitalism and the conmen that run it all in the context of a fantasy world.”

Fred Loucks-Schultz: Fred lives in Denver with Becky (see above) and the cutest cat army in the world! If you ever need happy pictures of kitties, you know whom to ask! Fred is a systems administrator on information technology teams and tends to be just a bit of a hardware/systems geek, but has found himself enjoying all the coding he’s doing for Sirens. And he’s been doing a lot of coding! (And every time we use italics, that’s even more coding.) You’ve probably seen Fred around the Sirens team for a few years now, but he just officially joined the staff this year. We confess, if someone repeatedly asked us to tie bows on T-shirts and move boxes and boxes of books, we’d want to just up and join the team, too. But Fred doesn’t seem to mind the boxes too much, and he’s really enjoyed seeing the process of turning ideas and conversations into seemingly endless Sirens News page posts. One of Fred’s favorite speculative works is Semiosis, but shockingly, when we asked him about which speculative world he’d like to visit, he did not choose Sue Burke’s planet of sentient plants. He also notes that so many speculative worlds “don’t have proper antibiotics” so he’ll have to go with the future bits of Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.

Erynn Moss: Fewer than ten people have attended every Sirens, but Erynn is one of them! Today, she’s a stay-at-home-mom in Kentucky, and if you’ve never been quarantined with a toddler and a dog, she has a toddler and a dog that she would like to lend you. Erynn is the Sirens Registration Coordinator, both because she is the warmth and welcome of Sirens personified, but also because she’s attended Sirens as much as anyone, so she certainly knows the ropes. If you’ve corresponded with our Customer Service Team, you’ve likely experienced Erynn’s extraordinary caretaking. Even after a year on our team, Erynn still gets excited every time someone registers—and to be honest, so do we! She says her superpower is summoning Pinkie Pie levels of enthusiasm, but wow do a lot of you finish the annual Sirens Reading Challenge quickly. Erynn is a spectacular seamstress, always bringing one of the most spectacular costumes to the Sirens Ball. And as of a few years ago, before the United States added new ones, she’d visited all the National Parks. Speaking of visiting, she’d love to visit Discworld.

Meet the Sirens Programming Team

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!

The raison d’être of Sirens is its programming: those dozens of hours of bold, brilliant presentations by readers, writers, scholars, librarians, educators, and publishing professionals that make up the heart of the Sirens conference schedule. This programming is not only presented by individuals from a wide variety of vocations, it is presented by individuals from a wide variety of perspectives and identities as well.

This foundational commitment requires that we approach programming selection a bit differently than other conferences and conventions in the speculative space. Our staff does not select programming topics and panelists; instead, we invite everyone interested in presenting as part of Sirens to submit a programming proposal. Then we ask an independent vetting board to review those proposals and select those that will be included in the Sirens schedule that year. Those individuals who proposed the accepted presentations then present them at Sirens.

Each year, our programming team directs this process, from vetting board selection to encouraging proposal submissions, assisting the vetting board in their process of sending out acceptances, administering the programming scholarship awards, setting the programming schedule, communicating all the information that presenters need to be successful at Sirens, and more. This process is crucial both to presenting an interdisciplinary conference and to cultivating a programming schedule reflective of the diversity of the Sirens community—and as you might guess, this process requires individuals who are invested in Sirens’s mission and have the magic to both apply educational theory and manage logistics. And that’s even before you get to the more interactive elements of our programming, such as the writing, art, and craft programs, the fantasy-themed games, and the devilishly clever murder mystery.

So let’s meet the brains behind the Sirens Programming machine—because when you wonder at the bold, brilliant presentations that are the heart of Sirens, this team makes that happen.

Sarah Benoot, Programming Coordinator – Exploratory

A favorite fantasy work: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Sarah spends her workdays as an operations specialist for a large broker-dealer, where her degree in media production comes in handy more often than you might expect. She’s been working on conferences since The Witching Hour in 2005, when she found that she liked helping people find new ways to interact with literature enough to volunteer for Phoenix Rising, Terminus, and Sirens as well. Among other interests, she spends a lot of time trying to fit just one more book on her overloaded shelves.

Hallie Tibbetts, Conference Chair and Programming Coordinator – Academic

A favorite fantasy work: Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue

Hallie has been involved with Narrate Conferences since its inception in 2006, serving variously as education officer, communications officer, and vice president, along with chairing a number of conferences (including many years of Sirens). She works in editorial at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on books for children age zero to eighteen, but doesn’t mind if grownups like those stories too.

2020 Vetting Board

As we spotlight our programming team, we also want to feature the work of our independent vetting board. Each year, this group of individuals pools their collective expertise, experience, and wisdom and accepts the difficult task of selecting which programming proposals to include in the Sirens schedule. While the board changes every year, here are the members of the 2020 vetting board:

Kaia Alderson is a fiction author, comics writer, and an e-learning curriculum developer. Her debut historical fiction novel Soldier Girls will be released in 2021. Her comics work has been featured in the Ladies’ Night Anthology series and the International Girl Gang Encyclopedia, which made its debut at the 2017 Angoulême International Comics Festival. She is an alumna of the Hurston/Wright Foundation, Second City, and Voices of Our Nation (VONA) writing workshops.

Alyssa Collins is an assistant professor of English and African American Studies at the University of South Carolina. Her work explores the intersections of race and technology as depicted in 20th century and contemporary African American literature, digital culture, and new media. When she’s not working, she writes about race, superheroes, television, and embodiment around the internet.

Nivair H. Gabriel is a writer, editor, and aerospace engineer. She has presented work on intersectional feminism and indigenous futurist thought at WisCon, the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, the Children’s Literature Association Conference, and Sirens. She reviews children’s and teen fiction for Kirkus Reviews and has also contributed work to Marvels & Tales, io9.com, and two Sirens benefit anthologies. As an editor at Barefoot Books, she edited a handful of critically acclaimed picture books. She received her MA/MFA in Children’s Literature and Writing for Children from Simmons College, and her BS in Aerospace Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When she has any free time, she watches immigrant family sitcoms.

Sharon K. Goetz is a technical product manager at a real estate brokerage. Too fond of textuality for her own good, she has also worked in scholarly textual criticism and web publishing, tested software, documented software, and completed a PhD investigating medieval English chronicles amidst their manuscript contexts. As time permits, she reads widely and plays computer games.

Yoon Ha Lee is the New York Times bestselling author of the middle grade novel Dragon Pearl. His debut novel, Ninefox Gambit, won the Locus Award for best first novel and was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Clarke awards; its sequels, Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun, were finalists for the Hugo Award. He is also co-author of the Serial Box space opera The Vela with Becky Chambers, Rivers Solomon, and S. L. Huang. He lives in Louisiana with his family and an extremely lazy cat, and has not yet been eaten by gators.

Suzanne Scott is an Assistant Professor in the Radio-Television-Film department at the University of Texas at Austin. Her most recent book project, Fake Geek Girls: Fandom, Gender, and the Convergence Culture Industry, considers the gendered tensions underpinning the media industry’s embrace of fans as demographic tastemakers, professionals, and promotional partners within convergence culture. Surveying the politics of participation within digitally mediated fan cultures, this book addresses the “mainstreaming” of fan and geek culture over the past decade, how media industries have privileged an androcentric conception of the fan, and the marginalizing effect this has had on female fans. She is also the co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom. Her scholarly work has appeared in the journals Transformative Works and Cultures, Cinema Journal, New Media & Society, Participations, Feminist Media Histories, and Critical Studies in Media Communication, as well as numerous anthologies, including Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World (2nd Edition), How to Watch Television, The Participatory Culture Handbook, and Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galactica.

Meet the Sirens Communications Team

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!

While Sirens is a one-weekend-a-year conference, our Communications Team is a 365-days-a-year team! These talented folks take what you love about Sirens—the thoughtful conversations, the community gatherings—and turn those into a year-round endeavor that we hope keeps your brain whirling and your heart full even when we aren’t at Sirens itself. If you’ve read a Sirens essay, a book review, a curated book list, or a newsletter, if you’ve chatted with the Sirens community on Zoom or Twitter, or if you’ve stared in awe at any of the Sirens artwork, that magnificence was cultivated, curated, or created by the Sirens Communications Team.

Sirens is, in many ways, about both content and community, and in its simplest form, the goal of the Sirens Communications Team is to create both. But in a conference as community-focused as Sirens, that’s no easy feat! While our staff produces much of our content, such as the newsletters and the artwork, our Communications Team works with a broad swath of the Sirens community to develop almost all of the book reviews, book lists, essays, interviews, and other content that Sirens publishes. And one of the directives for the Communications Team is to make sure that that content reflects the diversity of the Sirens community itself: in vocations, in perspectives, and in identities.

You might think that with a publication schedule that can involve as many as fifteen or even twenty posts or other pieces of content a month that the Communications Team might draw a proverbial line. Not this team! This team also handles all of the Sirens community engagement across social media and other platforms. In fact, Jennifer Shimada, our Sirens Community Coordinator, founded the Sirens attendee Facebook group before she ever joined our team. Today, because of her and new-this-year Cass Morris, we offer engagement opportunities across Twitter, Facebook, and Zoom, including video chats and Twitter chats.

As you can see, the Sirens Communications Team are a swarm of busy bees year-round. So let’s meet these fabulous folks:

Faye Bi: By day, Faye is director of publicity at Bloomsbury Children’s Books in bustling New York City, but at night, watch out, because her thoughts on books—all kinds of books, but with a sweet spot in feminist fantasy literature and immigrant stories—will make you think in the best possible way. Faye joined our communications team a decade ago and she keeps coming back because “[i]t gives me an opportunity to experiment and make real the ideas and practices I’ve only philosophized about. Corporate America is not kind to women of color. Sirens isn’t just a space that prioritizes thoughtfulness, brilliance, and inclusivity, it’s part of our design—and most workplaces don’t reward those things.” This year, Faye tackled special projects for Sirens, which has turned out to involve a whole lot of book list curation. And she’ll tell you that she sticks around because Sirens helps her engage with books in a unique way, with conversations about progressivism and speculative spaces that she’s not finding elsewhere. If you’ve never heard her dissect the magnificence of The Beast Player or Her Body and Other Parties, or proclaim that middle grade speculative fiction takes no prisoners (see Maybe a Fox), or even wax poetic on immigrant themes in The Golem and the Jinni, you’re missing out.

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.”

Cass Morris: Cass somehow hails from both Virginia and North Carolina, and while we know they’re next to each other geographically, we also know Cass, and we’re pretty sure she’s magic. Cass joined Sirens just this year (“I say yes to things so that people will like me. ;)”) and she’s our Conference Content Coordinator, which means that, if you’ve marveled at the warmth and welcome of the newsletters or loved the dishy emails about our Guests of Honor, you’re really marveling at the singular word-smithing of Cass. The sheer tonnage of words and graphics that Sirens shares with the world each month has been a bit of a shock, even for someone who’s been a part of the Sirens community as long as Cass has, but Cass also finds that “Sirens truly spotlights an incredible number of marginalized people working in or consuming fantasy fiction.” When she’s not writing for Sirens, Cass somehow juggles writing fantasy novels (check out From Unseen Fire!), working in a bookstore, teaching college, and volunteering for a number of other organizations—and will somehow still beat you at Mario Kart! If you’re feeling intimidated, don’t be: While Cass would love to visit Dinotopia, she’s quick to note that it’s “Like Jurassic Park, except the dinosaurs are your friends and they wear flowers and no one gets eaten.”

Jo O’Brien: Coloradan Jo is one of those people who can seemingly do anything. She reads, she writes, she’s a computer whiz, she rides horses, and she will stab you with the pointy end of a sword. (Jo has a very impressive cache of weapons, including a number of light sabers!) As if that isn’t enough, Jo also creates the most magnificent artwork. Though Jo just joined the Sirens team late last year, we’ve put her to work (“I didn’t know I could draw so fast!”): Almost all of the artwork that we’ve published this year, most notably all of the artwork that accompanied this year’s essays, but our social media pieces as well, is Jo’s. (Though sometimes we have A Conversation about how many severed heads Sirens can have in its artwork, even in a villain-themed year.) We are clearly very lucky to have her, though as Jo says, “I didn’t even realize I was taking a staff position in the moment—if I had, I probably would have said I didn’t have time. But it turns out I always have time for Sirens!” #SorryNotSorry

Jennifer Shimada: When New York librarian Jennifer joined the Sirens team three years ago, we had a bit of an epiphany. Sirens has always been about community, but Jennifer’s inimitable skills in building communities helped us really see the wonder that is the Sirens community much more clearly—and Jennifer has been the driving force behind developing year-round opportunities for that community to gather. Jennifer’s brilliance is absurdly apparent to the thousands of people who follow us on social media or anyone who’s ever joined one of our Zoom chats—not to mention that Sirens at Home wouldn’t be possible without her online expertise and her thoughtful approach to community building: “I’m good at creating systems and planning/organization, and I think a lot about how to approach systems design from a human- and equity-centered mindset. At Sirens, this means that I spend a lot of time thinking through how to create systems and processes that help people to build relationships and community.” While Jennifer loves Sorcerer to the Crown, when we asked which fantasy land she’d like to visit, she’s still, despite all its issues, enchanted with Narnia’s mythical creatures and talking animals.

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.

 

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