For those of you who don't know, Sirens is a yearly conference about women in fantasy literature. For an eloquent explanation of why I love Sirens, you should read what praetorianguard has to say, here.
My feelings can be summed up by this image, which features a quote by Nnedi Okorafor, one of our guests of honor, and which is part of a monster bag I won at the auction on the last day:
|From Sirens 2011|
(But more about the monster bag later.)
This year's theme was "monsters," with Justine Larbalestier, Nnedi Okorafor, and Laini Taylor as Guests of Honor. Which was a pretty exciting lineup!
I came in early to help with setup, so I was already there before the Sirens Supper on Wednesday. The Supper is an optional event, the night before the conference proper begins, where people who come in early (staff, sometimes guests, and a handful of attendees--often repeat attendees) come in early to share a meal. Since the Sirens supper is smaller than the conference as a whole (I think it had around twenty people this year?), it allows for smaller, more intimate discussions.
I brought my husband, jmpava, to Sirens for the first time this year. I know he was a little nervous, but I think the Supper helped a lot, because it was a place he could get to know a few people before the whole conference fell on his head.
Anyway, I wound up sitting with Artemis and Marie Brennan, and we talked about all kinds of things, from books to travel to sleep to dealing with RSI. It was great to catch up. Then Amy asked an icebreaker question, and we all went around the table answering it: name one book that changed your life.
I chose Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, which was the book that taught me that you could make friendships through books. And I don't think that I've ever told the story of how it changed my life here, so now I will!
So, as many of you know, my seventh grade year was miserable. As it was for many of you, I know. I had a miserable year seventh grade, and my way of dealing with it was to put my nose in a book and not take it out for any reason at all. I read my way through the SFF section of the junior high library, partly as a shield. If I had a book, I could escape.
But I was still pretty lonely—I'm an introvert, but I'm not completely asocial. I had one friend, one, who had stuck with me from elementary school (the rest dropped me like a hot rock; one explained that she still liked me as a person, but I was social nuclear waste, and she had no desire to glow in the dark due to proximity), and we shared almost no classes, and that was it. I was isolated as hell.
There was a day, oh, halfway through the school year, maybe, when I was doing my thing and reading a book, perched off to one side, after we'd changed clothes after gym class but before we'd been released to our next classes. I was reading a book, something terrible. I want to say that it was one of the Piers Anthony "Xanth" books.
A girl with striking long blonde hair, who I had never met—I found out later that she was new—came up to me and asked what I was reading. I showed her the cover.
"It's not very good, is it?" she asked.
"No," I said, because it wasn't.
"Here," she said, "read this, you'll like it," and she gave me a copy of Howl's Moving Castle.
So I did. I read it in one night, and I did like it—she was exactly right. And then I found her the next day (or maybe she found me) and we talked about it. She lent me another book (I think it was A Tale of Time City) and then a few days later she introduced me to Dragonlance. I'm pretty sure it was me who first gave her The Hero and the Crown, though. And then we were friends.
It was the first time I ever made a friend through a book, but it would most certainly not be the last. In fact, Sirens is basically all about making friends because of books—loving books, talking about books, reading and writing books. But it all started with Howl's Moving Castle in seventh grade.
We lingered a while, chatting, and then I went to bed earlyish in preparation for the first "real" day of the conference.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth Comment here or there. comments currently at DW.