Accepted Programming
Due to COVID-19, Sirens postponed its 2020 conference to 2021. At the time of the postponement, the Sirens independent vetting board had already reviewed and selected a number of proposals, and we’re excited that the presenters below have indicated that they will attend and present their work in 2021. In the spring of 2021, we will open to programming proposals for our 2021 conference from only those who did not have a proposal accepted and rolled over in 2020. Read on for the presentations we’ll gladly attend in 2021!


Papers and Lectures - | - Panels - | - Workshops
Roundtable Discussions - | - Afternoon Classes


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PAPERS AND LECTURES

Papers and lectures feature one or more presenters talking about the topic at hand. The specific style and formality of each presentation varies according to the speaker: some may be more formal readings of scholarly papers, with or without time for questions at the end; others may be relatively informal lectures with more audience participation.

As the Heel Face Turns: Fault, Forgiveness and Gender in Redemption Narratives
Meg Belviso

Redeemed villains are some of the most popular characters in contemporary pop culture—and some of the most consistently male. This paper looks at the popular antagonists of three highly successful franchises: Darth Vader, Severus Snape and Prince Zuko. It will analyze what is needed for a redemption story, how these examples have so captivated audiences, and question why such a popular trope is so rarely seen with female and non-binary characters.

The Emancipation of One Harley Quinn: Female Villainy and Its Role in Smashing the Patriarchy
Katie Passerotti

The heroes and villains of the comic book world use fantasy to reflect and examine the best and worst aspects of our own society. The 2020 film Birds of Prey not only addresses the fight between good and evil, but highlights the deeply ingrained norms of the patriarchal society we exist in—and subsequently smashes them. This session will explore not only the allegory and symbolism of the film, but how Harley Quinn must embrace her villainy in order to successfully navigate this world and emancipate herself.

From Man to Woman: The Modern Tiresias
Taegan Howells

Fantasy literature has often featured female characters who must disguise themselves as men for the freedom masculinity allows. Situations in which men present as female, on the other hand, are rarer and less heroic, often appearing as moments of intense humiliation. Many times, instances of swapping gender presentation carry a homoerotic undertone. In this presentation, I argue that 1970s science fiction explores the limits of understanding the Other, situating progressive depictions of sexuality against more conservative depictions of gender (and occasionally, vice versa).

Grief and Eventual Affirmation in Time Travel Narratives
Mette Ivie Harrison

Using Connie Willis's time travel books and Jo Walton's My Real Children, as well as her own experience with losing a daughter, Mette will discuss the narrative impulse to deny grief through time travel and related narratives, and the way that accepting loss is also a communal experience shared through books.

Monstrosity, Community, and Reproduction: Lacking Disabled Maternity in Contemporary Speculative Fiction
Emily Lange

Villainy and monstrosity do not always go hand in hand, but when discussing villains, the concept of the monstrous usually rears its head. What or who we as a society consider monsters illustrates larger patterns of inequality and discrimination. Two pieces of speculative short fiction, Seanan McGuire’s “Each to Each” (2014) and Mia Mingus’ “Hollow” (2015), help guide an inquiry into presentations of female identity, disability, maternity, and perceived monstrosity.

Powerless, Marginalized Monstrosity: Female Vampires with No Bite
Rhonda Jackson Garcia (Joseph)

Monstrosity and terrors are named according to the ideas, objects, and people that are deemed frightening by the societal majority. As a result, a patriarchal society that continuously centers the fears of men plays a large role in assigning monstrosity to female characters and determining whether the monsters deserve sympathy. Assigning the label of vampire to certain film and literary characters in the horror genre follows these guidelines and maintaining this tradition not only limits how the genre and definitions can grow but also erases the experiences of marginalized groups, specifically, women. The very existence of women and the nuances of femininity are often horrific in ways that are rarely examined, especially in horror fiction. Even after the assignation of monstrosity, as in the case of vampires, the monstrous women are not afforded the power nor the sympathy given to other traditional vampire characters. This analysis seeks to dissect the construction of these female vampire characters with a focus on how monstrosity was assigned to each woman, how they were viewed within the story, and the ultimate powerlessness that destroyed each.

Redemption: What It Is, Why We Need It, and When It Doesn't Work
Mariana Saric

What makes a villain? What un-makes a villain? Redemption arcs have the potential to be powerful tales about atonement and forgiveness, but it's equally possible such a story can become an atrocity-justifying mess. We'll examine falls from grace, common ideas of villainy, which characters our media most often forgives, and why some villains-turned-heroes fall so woefully flat. Come prepared to consider which devils we give our sympathy to, which acts our society refuses to condone, and what circumstances help us choose where a character falls on the "redeemed" scale.

Taking the Measure of Madness
Lisa M. Bradley

Following the We Need Diverse Books and #ownvoices movements, we are much more aware of the need for disability representation in speculative literature. We may be hard pressed to judge the quality of such representation, however, especially if we don’t share the disabilities of the characters we’re reading about. Author and disability activist Kenny Fries developed a three-question test to assess a book’s disability rep. This presentation will examine a variety of speculative fiction work featuring mentally ill characters to see which books pass the Fries test and which don’t, and what we can learn from using such a seemingly simple rubric.

Villains You Love to Hate: The Psychology of Narcissistic Leadership
Alison Scribailo

What makes a compelling villain? With emotionally fragile egos and a penchant for violent outbursts, narcissists still manage to inspire the people around them. They are the villains that we love to hate, that we enjoy watching on screen, or reading about in our books. Their charisma makes them compulsively likable despite the damage they cause to those around them. This lecture will discuss the psychology behind these villains and why giving in to our emotional and selfish side can be so vicariously appealing.

Why Don’t Female Villains Deserve Redemption Arcs? (aka I’m Still Mad About Morgana Pendragon)
Alexandra Overy

We all love a good villain, and a villain who ends up helping the hero is even better. But across all media, why do we see more and more male villains being offered forgiveness? Why are female villains the ones who get the gruesome ends? This session will explore these questions and examine how we look at villains, and why (cis, white, het, abled) men are often deemed more worthy of forgiveness than their female counterparts.


Papers and Lectures - | - Panels - | - Workshops
Roundtable Discussions - | - Afternoon Classes


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PANELS

Panels feature several speakers discussing a topic before an audience. Panels may take questions or discussion from the audience, but are not required to do so.

Gender but to the Left: Nonbinary Identities in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Allyson Burns (moderator), Ren Iwamoto, Jo Ladzinski, Emory Noakes

As nonbinary identities become increasingly visible in our society, the world of SFF has also seen an increase in stories that feature nonbinary characters and experiences. Science fiction and fantasy stories can take many approaches to look beyond the gender binary, including character creation and world-building. Because of these opportunities in SFF, it is, in many ways, the perfect playground in which to look beyond the biases and conventions present in our real world with regard to other genders and identities.

Staging the Future: How Stagecraft Creates New Worlds in the Real World
Darian Lindle (moderator), Cass Morris

Fantasy in the theatre is as old as theatre itself, but science fiction and theatre have a much newer relationship. Both theatre and speculative fiction rely heavily on the audience's imagination, yet it is rare to find much overlap of this medium and genre. There is a widely held assumption that theatre cannot plausibly present the fantastic vistas required by science fiction and fantasy. Still, the confluence of artists, audiences, and ideas can create the most magical theatrical experiences and the most willing suspension of disbelief. This panel of theatre artists will discuss the challenges and triumphs of creating new worlds in the real world of live performance.

The Villainy of Grief: In Lit and in Life
Kristen Blount (moderator), Allyson Burns, K.B. Wagers

Grief is a villain. It steals. It lies. It provides ulterior motives and hidden agendas. It ambushes us, taking our feet from under us and breath from our lungs. It's also part of our common human experience. Why is grief so all encompassing? Why do we have such a hard time talking and coping with grief in our lives? As with so many other fundamental life questions, literature can provide a way to process large issues.


Papers and Lectures - | - Panels - | - Workshops
Roundtable Discussions - | - Afternoon Classes


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WORKSHOPS

Workshops are hands-on explorations of a topic. This category can include writing workshops, practice in strategies for teaching and learning, craft-based presentations, and other hands-on and highly interactive topics. Please note that the seating in workshop rooms is very limited to allow the presenters the maximum hands-on teaching time for each attendee, as well as to control costs that the presenters incur in providing materials. Thank you for your understanding.

Beyond Book Bibles and Binders: The Super-Villain's Guide to Efficient Resource Management
Rosemary Clement (moderator), Rook Riley

Join our associates from VR (Villains Resources) as we take henchmen through the new hire process. Burning questions will be answered. For example, how do you keep those protagonists straight? What's special about the technology or mythology they use? Where is that last big battle? By the time the associates finish with you, you'll be fully vetted and informed. This workshop is for readers and writers to create their own book guides. Bring your laptop, your imagination, and a good sense of humor. Don't be late. The Super-Villains hate that.

Finding a Home for Your Fantasy Book
Lindsay Eagar

There are so many places to seek publication as a fantasy writer—but with every option comes pros and cons. This workshop examines these options (traditional publishing, self-publishing, indie publishing, small presses, Wattpad, Patreon, and beyond!) from an unemotional and nonjudgmental standpoint. We'll examine the harsh and hopeful realities of each possible route, with considerations for finances, validation, accolades, audience reach, personal fulfillment, the "odds" of success, and more.

Verse VS Reality: A Speculative Poetry Workshop
Bethany Powell

Poetry may be the earliest storytelling form, but much like stories with gods and monsters, these days it is often seen as niche and not of general interest. And poetry that envisions alternative realities? Weirder than weird. But perhaps...not difficult. In this workshop, read some examples of poetry by fellow Sirens and similar poets, use prompts to create your own transgressive poetry, and form an affirmative writing group to share your work if you choose.


Papers and Lectures - | - Panels - | - Workshops
Roundtable Discussions - | - Afternoon Classes


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ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSIONS

Roundtables are interactive discussions of a topic led by a moderator, and attendees are encouraged to take an active part in the discussion. Please note that seating in roundtable rooms is very limited to allow everyone in the room the opportunity to participate.

Seven Deadly Villains
Kristen Blount

Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy, Gluttony: A laundry list of bad behaviors that used to be considered as bringing about an automatic fall from grace. No hero would...or even could...indulge. Let’s consider the extent to which these terms still inform how we think about villainy, and even what we expect from those we have termed villains.

So You Wanna Bang a Baddie
Cass Morris

Something wicked this way comes—or so we hope, because some of those evil masterminds are total hotties. If you’ve been tempted by villainous vice over the allure of heroic virtue, come discuss the magnificent malefactors you’d invite to your secret volcano lair. This roundtable will be a judgment-free zone to discuss the fantastical villains for whom we suffer pangs of lust, the narrative constructions or actor embodiments that make such characters attractive, negotiating attraction to our problematic faves, and whether or not we feel even slightly sorry for our sexy sins.


Papers and Lectures - | - Panels - | - Workshops
Roundtable Discussions - | - Afternoon Classes


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AFTERNOON CLASSES

Some presenters have been accepted to teach classes in topics related to fantasy literature and the activities of its characters. These tend to be heavily demonstration-based and interactive. You may be required to sign a liability waiver to be in the room during physical sessions.

Beyond the Black Hat
Karen Bailey, Manda Lewis (moderator), Erynn Moss

Join us for a hands-on tutorial to create your very own villainous headpiece! We’ll talk about the most infamous gear to top our favorite dark fiends along with techniques for creating your own crown, circlet, helm, hat, or mask. Whether it’s filigree and jewels that are your cup of tea or the bones of your enemies stitched with their sinew, we’ll help you make a statement piece to strike fear into the hearts of the weak.

Crafting for Community and Self Care
Nivair H. Gabriel, Jennifer Ogden

The history of crafting is a history of community. Whether we craft in a group or alone, we all learn from somewhere—from friends or family, the author of a book or someone on YouTube. In this way doing a craft makes you part of a long-lasting community. Crafting can be therapeutic—offering challenges to keep the brain occupied, or repetitive motions that may function as meditation. Join your fellow Sirens and pick up a new craft: knitting or cross stitch. Supplies will be provided, mistakes and challenges embraced, and space left to breathe.


Papers and Lectures - | - Panels - | - Workshops
Roundtable Discussions - | - Afternoon Classes

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.
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