The theme of Sirens this year was reunion, which is important, because there’s a reason I, and so many others, keep coming back.
Sirens was actually the first con of any kind I attended, and I had no way to know how much it spoiled me. The more involved I get in the SFF community, the more I hear about the kinds of exclusion and harassment going on at other cons, and people talking about how that’s “just the way it is.” And that’s all kinds of problematic, but it was particularly confusing and jarring when I compared those accounts to my experience at Sirens. Because the very idea of that sort of thing going on at Sirens is actually laughable, and I think that’s wonderful.
Sirens is a safe space. More than that, it’s an open, inspiring, and caring one.
Understand, I’m an introvert. I’m not scared of meeting new people, but I’m sometimes awkward about it. Sirens starts out with a dessert reception. I walked in my first year about ten minutes early and was lingering awkwardly on the side of the ballroom for a few minutes until I eventually decided to just plant my purse somewhere and start loading up on dessert and tea. By the time I returned to my table, it was inhabited by other people, and I was minutes into a discussion of a lesser known manga called Saiyuki and what makes it awesome before I realized I was talking to Sherwood Smith, one of the guests of honor that year. And that’s normal at Sirens: anyone will just walk up to someone they’ve never met and casually start arguing about art. Like you do.
Here’s an interesting statistic for you: almost half of Sirens’ attendees are involved in programming in some capacity.
Think about that for a second, because I think it really gets to the core of what makes Sirens work. Programming is screened, but it comes from the attendees, because it’s for the attendees.
We come back to Sirens over and over because it’s a community. It’s a community of academics, agents and editors, authors, readers, people who are passionate about books, games, expanding fantasy’s horizons, women, issues of representation, and just about everything under the sun, but people who are interested in things, people who care. It’s a community where no one person’s ideas are given more weight than another’s, where everyone is encouraged to share their ideas and those ideas are considered seriously.
Ideas I’ve bounced around with people at Sirens have gone on to be seeds for panels and novels. We share books, career advice, apartments, experiences. Support. I see Sirens friends once every couple of years, and every time, even the first time, it’s like coming home.
Sirens is held in a mountainous location, like a retreat. No one is just riding into town periodically; we’re all together somewhere magical. And it is magical to be with people who share your passion, smart and fun people who approach everything differently and are actively interested in what you think.
Sirens is beautiful, mind-bending, empowering. Next year is ghost year, and I hope you can make it.