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.




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  • Edith Hope Bishop
    October 13, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Thanks for this post and for your own contributions to so many conversations. I couldn’t agree more with your title.

  • Katherine
    October 13, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    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.

    • Sara
      October 14, 2013 at 11:12 am

      Edith, thanks! Hopefully I’ll see you at Emerald City.

      And Kath, best of luck with PNW relocation!

  • Ellen Kushner
    October 14, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    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….!

  • Sarah
    October 15, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Wow, that sounds amazing. I’m so glad you went!

  • Katherine
    October 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    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.