I didn’t know a lot about Sirens when I made my reservation several months back.
I mean, sure, some of the books that were most formative for me as a reader and writer are fantasy, and yes, they’re by women authors, and so the notion of a gathering honoring women in fantasy literature did, in fact, resonate.
But I decided to go mostly because friends were going to be there and it was an easy drive.
What I thought I’d get: some time with said friends, in a setting that makes me feel smug about living in the Pacific Northwest.
What I actually got: That.
Plus provocative, passionate, just flat-out smart presentations by the guests of honor, thoughtful and intense conversations both inside and outside of the official programming, new friends, a vastly expanded to-read list, and twenty-four pages of notes in the notebook I cadged from the dermatologists’ conference just down the hall. I’ll spare you a complete transcription of said notes, but here are Seven Things I Wrote Down (and I hope I remembered the correct attributions for the quotes):
- Caroline Stevermer: “Match the character’s appearance to the skills they are alleged to have.” If character is wielding a giant sword, for example, they should have appropriate strength & reach.
- Delia Sherman: “The people who really understand how an oppressive system works are the ones oppressed by it.”
- Ysabeau Wilce: “Wear the clothes and do the jobs.” Understand how particular clothing enhances or impedes freedom of movement, know how long it takes to build a fire, prepare a meal, etc., in a setting close to the one you’re writing.
- Alaya Dawn Johnson: “When do people have their big meals? When you eat implies how you organize time as a culture.”
- Malinda Lo: “Investigate yourself/your own culture as though you’re a stranger.”
- Kate Elliott on gender roles: “We need to ask the classic question ‘Who benefits?’”
- Ellen Kushner on the need to posit different gender & sexuality norms in literature as a way to move toward a more progressive society: “You cannot enact something until you can imagine it.”
And yes, I’m planning to go next year.