This week, we want to introduce you to Sirens, Narrate Conferences' next event--and hopefully an event that we can present annually for years to come. Sirens is a conference focused on women in fantasy literature: women authors, women professionals, even women characters. We've designed an event that is both scholarly conference and networking weekend, and that can be a retreat for our attendees as well. We expect scholars, authors, professionals and readers from all walks of life, and as we've done in our Harry Potter
-focused conferences, Sirens will include attendee-driven presentations and discussions, as well as related "stuff to do" that's both educational and fun, so we hope that you'll come and share your thoughts.
Sirens will take place October 1-4, 2009, at the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa in the mountain town of Vail, Colorado. We've deliberately limited attendance so that Sirens is more intimate than our Harry Potter
conferences have been, and we hope that this is a weekend away full of lively discussion and debate that you'll return to year after year.
While it's pretty easy to explain what Sirens is, where it will take place, and how much we hope that you’ll join us, explaining why
we chose to make Sirens the next Narrate Conferences event is perhaps a little harder.
First, the Narrate Conferences staff, and friends who advise and support the organization, tend to be voracious readers, particularly in genre fiction. One of our favorite areas is fantasy literature, and in seeking it in both popular and obscure corners, we kept running into stories new and old about women working in or with the genre. This author took a man's name to publish under; that one used initials because boys won't read books written by girls. That reader found bookshelves full of male authors--and male heroes; that author noted that authors who "write like boys" tend to be more successful financially. This academic noted that the dominant literary canon doesn't include a lot of female creators; that one, that there aren't many studies on certain topics, even as women enroll in college at rates far exceeding men.
In response, we created Sirens, an examination and celebration of women in fantasy literature--and we identified some key goals. First, we wanted to focus on fantasy literature. There are fabulous conferences which cast a wider net and where the presentations we hope for at Sirens would be welcome, of course, and conferences focused on fantasy that are aimed at an academic audience. But this is where some other goals come in.
Next, we wanted to be both narrower and broader in focus than some other events. We'd like the conference (and our programming) to, on the whole, focus on fantasy literature written by and about women. Clearly, this will include some context and studies that won't be just about works by or about women. There might be some presentations that incorporate other fantasy media, and there are certainly male authors who write interesting and engaging female characters. But, since we want to recognize and study women's stories, characters, and careers, here's the difference: a paper about Will in Pullman's The Subtle Knife
wouldn't be quite what we're seeking, but a paper that examines Will's relationship with Lyra, or that examines Mrs. Coulter's motivation, or that discusses gender roles in the series would be well within the scope of Sirens. So would a paper on Harry Potter, or one on George R. R. Martin's Danerys, or gender issues in scholarship or publication. So would a writing workshop, and so would be a roundtable discussion on Eowyn, Alice, and Dorothy.
We also want to continue our mission of bringing together a variety of scholars, professionals, and fans--which is easier said than done--and we hope people will encourage others to present and to attend. While working on three Potter
conferences, I noticed a gradual change for the better in the quality of presentations, and that's because the attendee community wasn't afraid to reach out to others and give presenting a try. At Sirens, academics will find that their audience exists beyond the ivory tower, professionals that their work experience explains trends and gives them the skills to teach hands-on workshops, and readers that their engagement and perspectives inform discussions of texts. All our attendees have viewpoints to share, regardless--and sometimes because of--their varied backgrounds, and you might just find that an academic is particularly interested in fan viewpoints or that fans want to hear how fantasy literature is marketed.
Finally, we want Sirens to be a conference that people attend to learn, to think, to share, to network, and to rejuvenate. We want it to be a retreat, and so we deliberately chose a friendly venue with has limited space. This will be a smaller event than our past offerings, and we think that that will make it more welcoming and more engaging. We’ll have fewer tracks, longer sessions, and longer breaks, so there will be plenty of chances to discuss, both formally and over a drink with new friends and colleagues. We're encouraging people to read their formal papers in the morning--and demonstrate archery in the afternoon. (This year's theme: warriors.) We want people to talk to each other, hence the inclusion of a dessert reception, two keynote lunches, and a breakfast as part of all registrations.
Most of all, we want to provide a venue for talking about things that we suspect aren't being talked about--and that definitely aren't being shared across disciplines and professions, or with fan input. So, please, if you’re interested in Sirens, even if you can’t attend this year, do share this with your friends; success depends on word-of-mouth. The main page of the website is here
, the call for proposals is here
, and there's even a link on the Sirens home page to tell a friend
. If you can make it, join us. We’re looking forward to the conversations!