fantasy

Sirens and Voice

The other night Sirens Conference co-founder Amy Tenbrink called me out on Twitter (my weakness is dance music playlists, the trashier the better, now you all know), and obviously I picked up that gauntlet because of course I did.

For every $50 donated to the Sirens scholarship fund that night, I gave one suggestion for a panel not solely consisting of writers as the panelists (aka interdisciplinary panels), because this is important to me.

One of my favorite parts about Sirens is that any attendee can propose programming, and they have no better shot at getting in than anyone else. The vetting board is independent of the conference staff, and all they care about is your proposal.

(Really. I promise. I did my first programming back in 2011 without a credential to my name, and the first time I wanted to do a panel the programming staff helped me figure it out. If you want to participate in Sirens programming but need some backup, EMAIL THEM.)

And that matters. It matters that there is no box anyone has to check to be allowed a platform to speak and share their thoughts.

Because one of my other favorite parts of Sirens is that it’s not a writers conference.

Once more, because it’s super important: SIRENS IS NOT A WRITERS CONFERENCE.

Yes, there are writers there, and that’s great. But what’s also great is that there are readers, academics, publicists, librarians, editors, booksellers, and, oh, did I mention readers? Because the one thing we ALL have in common is that we read fantasy, and we’re passionate about the remarkable work of women in the genre.

One of the ways Sirens demonstrates its commitment to lifting up everyone’s voices, to making sure Sirens is a place where anyone can participate in practice and not just in theory, is by offering several scholarships. Right now, they’re down to the wire to finish meeting this year’s goal.

I think somehow people have gotten the sense that only writers can be on panels, and nothing could be further from the truth. But to have non-writers on panels, attendees need to submit proposals for those panels–and they need to be able to attend.

If you can donate to the scholarship fund, I hope you’ll consider it.

And if you’re going to Sirens this year, I hope you’ll consider submitting programming, which opens soon. To help get you going, here are my panel suggestions from the other night, and all of them are free for the taking.

(Sorry friends I am The Worst at snappy titles.)

 

  1. The Role of Reviews

What are reviews for? What are readers looking for in a review–help choosing a book, or critique to consider it more thoughtfully? How can reviews help or hurt marginalized communities? How does the publishing side use reviews? Are there right/wrong approaches?

I think the Sirens community could have a field day unpacking the challenges/opportunities of reviews. A panel like this could easily include readers, reviewers, librarians/booksellers, publicists, editors, writers, etc.

 

  1. Female Friendships in Fantasy

Let’s talk not just about our favorite female friendships, but what makes them work, and why women having non-toxic and complex relationships on the page, being excellent separate from men, is important.

Why does it matter to see female friendships in fantasy–for readers in today’s world, and in the context of the fantasy genre? What kinds of friendships do you want to see, and have there been shifts? What are common pitfalls? WHERE ARE THE GIRL GANGS. Come on, Sirens! =D

 

  1. Women’s Clothing in Fantasy

First off, there had BETTER be cosplayers on this panel, and also historians, AND I KNOW SIRENS HAS A PLETHORA OF BOTH AMONG ITS ATTENDEES I SEE YOU.

How is clothing in fantasy used to restrain or free female characters? Are dresses and corsets really swordplay prevention (SPOILERS THEY ARE NOT–so what else does fantasy commonly miss?). How does it reinforce values of femininity or its rejection (can we talk about transformation sequences?!)?

 

  1. Plot-bearing women over the age of 30 in fantasy novels: where are they?

And by that I mean, not just side characters, but women well into adulthood who actually shape the course of the story.

Where are the mothers? Where the successful career women? The badass old ladies who aren’t just generic stock crones (though I do love a cantankerous witch)? (None of these are mutually exclusive!) Why is it so important to have them on the page (and not just as villains!)?

And I’d LOVE to see some of our older readers at Sirens on this one. I want to hear their perspectives on these characters–what’s done well, what’s missing–as well as on how the fantasy genre has evolved on this point, if at all.

 

  1. Women’s Work in Fantasy

I want to see historians on this panel, but also knitters and bakers and seamstresses, programmers and chemists and engineers.

How does fantasy privilege traditionally masculine-coded disciplines (like physical combat) over feminine-coded ones (homemaking, textile work, gardening, etc.), and why does this matter? What stories are we missing? How can this work tie into magic, tech, economics, intrigue?

 

Let’s do this, Sirens. ❤

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SFF Authors in Action!

As some of you know, I’m now working at a local independent bookstore. Which is exciting on its own, but the more recent excitement is that I’m going to be moderating a panel at Brick & Mortar Books one week from today!

The topic is writing action in science fiction and fantasy, and the panelists will be Fonda Lee, Chuck Wendig, and Alex Marshall, all of whom write amazing, action-packed SFF. I am super excited about the panel and plan to pick their brains on how magic affects writing action, the strengths of action scenes with the written word as opposed to movies, how to use POV and pacing, and what they wish people understood and what they’d like to see*.

This will be happening Thursday, 3/1, which is the first night of Emerald City Comic Con. So if you don’t have con plans that night yet, come hang out with us! And if you’re not going to make it to the con, here’s your chance to see some great authors from out of town. =D

It’s been great to have so much freedom to organize this event on my own so soon after joining the bookstore, and I can’t wait to see how this goes. I hope to see some of you there! (And if you are going to be able to make it, you can RSVP on Facebook!)

 

*I do not promise to ask all of these questions, because panels develop organically. But they are on my list of potential questions, and I’m sure we’ll have time for at least a couple before I let the audience have a crack at a few of their own.

Tea Princess Chronicles is Up!!

TEA PRINCESS CHRONICLES is live now!

TEA PRINCESS CHRONICLES follows the adventures of Miyara, a princess who escapes her meaningless life and goes into hiding, as she finds her place in the world serving a struggling community by running a tea shop that sits on the edge of a magical disaster.

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Check out Leigh Wallace‘s wonderful artwork!!

Chapters of the serial will be posted weekly, but you can read the first four chapters on the website here! After that, feel free to click over to the Tea Shop Interludes for side scenes featuring Miyara’s experience running the tea shop, each featuring a tea with a different fantasy ingredient. =)

If you’re interested in supporting my work, my Patreon is here with details about how to participate in bonus content I’ll be writing for the serial! Or, you can always buy me tea, which in turn powers the tea writing.

Happy reading!

A Sirens Reunion

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.