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


-------

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 Complexity of the Villain: Roja del Cisne's Journey in Anna-Marie McLemore's Blanca & Roja
Adriana De Persia Colón

In her world—just as in the West—Roja del Cisne is a villain, an "evil" character or monster to be destroyed. For most of the book, Roja tries—unsuccessfully—to conform to the norm, yet her power lies in embracing her villainy, for it is the framework wherein her complexity as a racialized and gendered Otherness is possible. In my reading, I subvert "villainy" to mean the framework that allows us to see Roja's complexity, without the need for Western humanization.

Dark: The Descent and Rise of Elizabeth Frankenstein
Jo O'Brien

In The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Kiersten White explores a familiar story from a new perspective. Elizabeth is a recognizable character: by supporting a man she believes she needs, she allows him to subsume her genius. She constantly looks after him, covers his tracks, and White asks: Does supporting villains make us villains? And can we seize the power of our own darkness to rise above them?

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.

Fear Is the Mind-Killer: The Descents of Alia Atreides and Morgana into Completely Avoidable Villainy
Haviva Avirom

What happens when the Chosen One has a powerful, intelligent sister? What happens when he gets the guidance and support and love and she...doesn't? An exploration of the ways that being Chosen One–adjacent can lead to female villainy, not through jealousy or intentional harm, but through neglect and denial of power and maybe a little brainwashing, through the characters of Morgana in the BBC's Merlin and Alia Atreides in Frank Herbert's Dune.

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.

Killing Eve’s Feminist Queering of Bluebeard
Amy Tenbrink

For generations, retellings of "Bluebeard" have retained the heteropatriarchal trappings of the original tale: marriage to a violent man, a seeming transgression of female curiosity, and a reductively feminist triumph in which the wife's family rides to her rescue. By contrast, season two of Killing Eve offers a feminist reinvention of the Bluebeard story focused on emboldening, rather than prohibiting, female curiosity, with assassin Villanelle-as-Bluebeard luring MI6 agent Eve to the forbidden room with promises of judgment-free indulgences: material pleasures, sexual pleasures, violent pleasures. By removing the usual heteropatriarchal trappings, Killing Eve retains what is truly fundamental to the Bluebeard story—an exploration of female curiosity—while claiming women’s power, however decadent or lustful or violent, in a manner far more effective than any retold tale of forced marriage and dead wives.

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.

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.

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


-------

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.

As Certain Dark Things Are to Be Loved
Roseanne A. Brown, N.E. Davenport, Emily A. Duncan, Rosamund Hodge (moderator), V. S. Holmes

As long as there have been stories about villains, there have been villain romances. What is it that draws us to this trope? Why are there so many evil boyfriends and so few evil girlfriends? And what unexplored depths might villain romance still have to offer us? This panel will discuss these questions and more.

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.

Revolutionary and Undervalued: Challenging Perceptions of Middle Grade Fantasy
Faye Bi, Casey Blair (moderator), Kelly Jones, Yoon Ha Lee

Middle grade fantasy is a rich and nuanced genre full of incredible stories that many adults know surprisingly little about. This interdisciplinary panel will both introduce and analyze middle grade fantasy, from the kinds of stories middle grade fantasy excels at to common misconceptions of the genre. Come learn what's exciting and powerful about middle grade fantasy stories, why their value is often overlooked or undermined, and why they're fundamentally important.

Staging the Future: How Stagecraft Creates New Worlds in the Real World
Haviva Avirom, Andrea Hairston, Maggie Lee, 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.

This Page Intentionally Left Blank: Processing Grief and Trauma Through Fiction
Kate Elliott, Andrea Horbinski, Jae Young Kim, s.e. smith (moderator)

For readers, books are not simply entertainers: they are companions, advisors, friends. Facing emotions and experiences we struggle with, we often turn to books to guide the way. The complexity, depth, and individuality of grief, and similarly of coping with traumatic experiences, can make it uniquely challenging and isolating—especially in a society that fears death and often seeks to minimize trauma. We gather to talk about the books that brought us comfort, challenged us, advised us, and ushered us through the practicalities of trauma and what comes after in a year when many of us have faced personal, social, and cultural trauma.

The Villainy of Grief: In Lit and in Life
Kristen Blount (moderator), Allyson Burns, Rin Chupeco, Tina LeCount Myers, 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


-------

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.

The Art of the Book Review
Faye Bi

Have you ever added a book immediately to your TBR pile after reading a great review? Or did you just read a great book and want to convince others to give it a go? With over ten years of experience in book publicity, Faye has seen her share of book reviews from trade journals, major press, book bloggers, consumer retailer sites, booksellers and authors, and more. In this practical workshop, we'll cover balancing summary and opinion, formatting for platform and audience, finding your own reviewer voice, and best practices, plus a little of what we look for in the Sirens Review Squad. Come prepared to review a fantasy book you love!

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.

Worldbuilding with Style (Sheets)
Hallie Tibbetts

It can be incredibly difficult to keep track of all the moving parts of a fantasy work in progress, including names, places, timelines, and more. In publishing, a style sheet is often used in late stages of editing to ensure consistency, but this tool can also be used for worldbuilding. This practical workshop will teach authors how to use style sheets when creating cohesive, consistent, expansive worlds. Analog and digital devices are welcome for the hands-on portion of the workshop.


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


-------

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


-------

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.


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

Presented by Narrate Conferences, Inc.
Share this:

Connect with the Sirens community

Sirens Twitter
Sirens Facebook
Sirens Goodreads

Sign up for the Sirens newsletter

Subscribe to our mailing list