I am glad I went to Sirens.

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.




6 Responses to “I am glad I went to Sirens.”

  1. Katherine

    Sounds like an interesting conference. I’m hoping that sooner rather than later we’ll be smug about living the the Pacific Northwest as well.

  2. Ellen Kushner

    Ahahahaha!!! We are one blood, thou & I. I very nearly cadged one of those notebooks, too.

    So very glad that you loved Sirens, too. I’m very much looking forward to the fruit of those 24 pages of notes….!

  3. Katherine

    Thanks, Sara. Miss PDX so much, not sure why I left in the first place. The Spouse seems to love it there, too. We just need to sort out living arrangements and a job for me. I don’t imagine there are a lot of librarian jobs going.