As promised on Monday, today I am delighted to host Kristen Blount with a guest post on her involvement with the Sirens convention in the USA and the production and publication of the newly released Queens & Courtesans anthology.
Please welcome the awesome, the amazing, the all-round speculative fiction afficionado, Kristen Blount! 🙂 *
Despite reading almost exclusively in the speculative fiction genre, I am not much of a con-goer. In 2009, though, a favorite author (Sherwood Smith) mentioned that she was going to be a Guest of Honor at the brand-new Sirens Conference – along with Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore. Yummm.
Being a responsible, part-time employed, full-time mom, I decided that I couldn’t really afford a weekend in Colorado (being 2/3 across the country from home).
I received one of my best Christmas gifts ever that year… registration to Sirens!
As Helen pointed out in Monday’s post, the conference describes itself as being, “dedicated to the diverse, remarkable women of fantasy literature: readers, authors, scholars, librarians, educators, publishing professionals, and characters.”
I did not really know what to expect and so was delighted to have a relaxing weekend in a mountain resort devoted to women in fantasy literature. The conference fostered conversations via roundtables, panel discussions, presented academic papers, and keynote presentations. It wasn’t overly busy, with plenty of time built in for side conversations, walks, shopping at the book store, a visit to the spa, and impromptu meals with other attendees. I now look forward to seeing my “Sirens friends” every other year or so.
I don’t know how to emphasize how different and lovely I found the experience of sharing a love of fantasy with other women (and the few men who joined us). It has been a revelation to meet all these other people who love girls with swords, the monstrous feminine, and even a little romance. These are just three of the themes that Sirens has considered – along with faerie, retold tales, and hauntings.
Finding new authors is always a bit of a struggle for me, since I am a shameless re-reader. This year, I discovered Renée Ahdieh’s magical retelling of Shaharazad (The Wrath And The Dawn; The Rose And The Dagger) and Laurie Marks’ Elemental Logic series.
I now can’t wait to meet to the authors! Kiini Ibura Salaam’s short story collection, Ancient, Ancient, is waiting for me to have a few more brain cells to devote to it. For some reason, short stories seem to demand more from me as a reader.
Speaking of short stories, something new and completely apropos arose among a group of Sirens attendees. We decided to produce an anthology! One of the writerly types talked on Facebook about having had a set of characters in her brain – a queen and a courtesan – who just would not leave her alone. This became a writing prompt, which quickly led to the proposed anthology to benefit our shared love of the Sirens Conference.
I happily signed on as a beta reader and editor. What a terrific experience it has been! Queens & Courtesans: A Sirens Benefit Anthology, edited by Jessica Corra, showed me a wide range of ways powerful women could interact.
In one of the stories I was lucky enough to proofread, all the characters are female: the ex-military space navigator/pilot, the nuns, and a bevy of school girls, one of whom is queen presumptive. Almost unbelievable, murderous plot twists aside, these women with different skills, agendas, and needs come together in frightening circumstances to work for a common good.
In another story I met a prince’s lover, who was chosen by his mother because she’s blind. This story is strictly told from the blind girl’s point of view, and it brings a richness of other sensory details with it. Every story in this anthology gave me something to mull over in the days, or weeks, after reading.
If you have the opportunity, please consider purchasing a copy of Queens & Courtesans (available via Amazon and for most e-readers). It promotes the voices and concerns of women within the speculative fiction field. And mostly, it contributes to continuing the Sirens Conference.
If you have the opportunity, I also encourage you to consider joining us some year for a weekend of reading, talking about reading, and writing.
~ by Kristen Blount
*For those of you wondering about my 'extravagant' welcome for Kristen, who of course thoroughly deserves it, check out Paul Bettany's Geoffrey Chaucer in the film, A Knight's Tale. ;-)
About Kristen Blount:
A lifelong reading enthusiast, Kristen enjoys speculative fiction most but will read just about anything that holds her attention and offers up a good story. With two adult-ish children who are nearing the end of school, Kristen has discovered the joys of free time to indulge in baseball, baking, and cross stitching. In order to pay the bills, she works in the local library’s marketing department as a graphic designer.