Con Report: Boskone 52

Record blizzardy snowfalls could not deter the fans from attending Boskone 52

Forget attack of the con crud.  This year it was the ATTACK OF THE NEVER-ENDING SNOW MONSTER!!!

The weather conspired to cut short my plans for Boskone this year.  In previous years I’d commuted to the convention, missing out on the real networking that takes place at parties and “after hours”.  I’d made plans to get some of our posters into the trade show (Thanks Mike!!!) and upped my ante on panel appearances from 3 to 7 and booked a room in the hotel to stay over from Saturday to Sunday (thus allowing me the luxury of staying up late for the parties;  I’d had high hopes of buttonholing certain people to talk to and even sprang for a quiet get-away for serious discussions.

Alas, the best laid plans of fans get screwed by the weather.  I ended up bailing on Saturday evening and spent a quite harrowing three hours on the hiways getting home.  It wasn’t so much coverage on the road surface itself that made the trip a nightmare, but the fact that somehow, a lot of human beings with brains god wouldn’t give to a field mouse somehow manage to obtain driver’s licenses.  Or maybe a lot of folks with reading impairments like to drive during blizzards.  (At least that’s the only reasonable explanation I can come up with for an answer to “what about ‘SPEED LIMIT 45 MPH’ do you not understand?”)

But this is a con report, not the weather channel, so I’ll put this subject to rest by saying:  “Oy Vey!  Two more storms coming!”

The con seemed well-attended despite the weather – at least as well attended as previous years, if not a bit more so.  And as usual, the staff of Boskone largely displayed their long years of experience with running such things.  I had nothing resembling an “issue” (despite the fact that they couldn’t find me in the registered members database, that minor hiccup was handled quickly and efficiently).  I did notice a bit of a line at registration for the first hour or so on Friday, a line longer than usual, but when I had a chance to check again a few hours later, that seemed to have resolved itself as well.

One thing I did take note of was an apparent equity between male and female attendees.  I may have been seeing something that wasn’t there (apparently guys see parity where reality only provides a 1/3rd-2/3rds mix), but it looked like a good representation to me.  Still few POCs, though.  Oldsters did out number youngsters, but I was heartened to see many apparently under thirties in attendance at the panels I worked.  I hope that these incremental changes continue, and I hope that they are the result of hard work at outreach by fans.

This may be partially due to Boskone’s brilliant move of making most of the Friday activities free to attend.  I did hear several people remarking that this special offer was drawing in people who don’t normally attend traditional conventions and that can only be a good thing.  I’d urge other traditional cons to take a look at and give some serious thought to adopting some version of this program for their own conventions.

Hotel staff at the Westin Waterfront hotel is well-experienced with fans and conventions and those I interacted with were pleasant and professional.

000_4566Down in the Huckster’s Dealers Room, Old Earth Books, Broad Universe, Pandemonium Books & Games, Niekas (a long running fanzine) and the rest of the vendors were well trafficked, though it is a bit dismaying to see spices, teas and jewelry displays outnumbering the book vendors.  (I remember “the good old days” where the Huckster’s room as packed with book and magazine sellers and it would take a seriously interested fan several hours to survey the offerings.  I fear those days are long gone, but boy do I miss them!)

Another nice feature of Boskone are the free giveaways courtesy of the NESFA library and NESFA press.  Every year they apparently cull the library and place the remaindered book and magazine stocks on two tables at the entrance to the Dealer’s room.  Several folks were sharing their finds on Facebook (Bob Eggleton aced me out of some large-size Analogs, but I ended up with the issue that published Piper’s Gunpowder God, a nice find for me).  I also picked up a Vol 1, Number 1 Unearth, a hole in my magazine collection I’ve been looking to fill for several years.

featured taliaCostumes were evident but not overwhelming.  I saw one Jedi Knight, glimpsed a women with silver skin and saw a guy who’d put a lot of effort into some kind of fantasy armor costume quite a bit, as well as Talia Duci who was kitted out as some kind of “desert, steam-punky archaeologist”, complete with ray gun for defense against desert-dwelling steampunky monsters and villains.  Talia works with Inbeon Studios and does the scripting and artwork for a comic titled Kitsunegari.

The overall atmosphere was relaxed (lots of good, casual conversations and catching up with folks I’ve not seen for at least a year);  I was pleasantly surprised at the increased recognition that Amazing Stories was receiving (I heard “Oh, you’re the Amazing Stories guy” a lot, and it usually sounded positive….),  There was a LOT of discussion of the weather.

The Panels

As mentioned earlier, I was scheduled for 7 panels throughout the weekend, including one I was to moderate on Sunday.  About which, the following:

The panel I was moderating was titled How To Promote Your Project and, among the panelists joining me for the discussion was Brianna Spacekat Wu, about whom you have no doubt read much regarding the harassment and death threats she continues to receive after having spoken up about #Gamergate.

The privilege of moderating the panel accorded me an opportunity to publicly recognize Brianna, sadly curtailed by my absence on Sunday.  So I will take this opportunity to deliver that little thank you.  This is how it would have gone during the introduction to the panel:

Good afternoon and thank you all for coming.

As is the custom, I’m going to briefly review the panel’s subject and how I plan on conducting things and then we’ll get right to the give and take.

But first, I would greatly appreciate it if you would all join me in thanking Brianna Spacekat Wu for her courage, her outspokenness, her fortitude and for being the person that she is.

Friday saw me scheduled for a panel titled 25 Things I Learned From SF.  I was joined by Laurie Mann (Moderating), Gillian Daniels, Walter H. Hunt,  and Fred Lerner.  Fortuitously, Laurie mentioned that the panel would not descend into arguments over whether or not Pluto was a planet, which allowed me to mention that one of the things SF taught me was that if I needed to compute an orbit from Earth to Pluto, all I needed to do was grab a copy of Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, since there’s a pretty good lesson on orbital mechanics in that book.

I thought the discussion lively and interesting.  I believe we came away with largely agreeing that SF taught readers an appreciation for the scientific method, for facts and for an appreciation of wonder.

On Saturday afternoon, I participated on the Building Fandom and Community panel, joined by Janice Gelb (Moderating),  Jim Mann, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Jen Gunnels.  I thought the most interesting part of the discussion took place before the panel began.  Jen Gunnels is apparently doing some ethnographic studies of fandom that may yield some interesting insight into doing what we do as fans better.

As usual (I’ve been on this topic before), we identified a lot of the issues, but didn’t really come up with any solutions.  One thing I was glad to hear discussed was the lack of marketing engaged in by conventions.  As mentioned earlier, Boskone has their excellent Free Friday program, but we all still need more.

One interesting comment from the audience (regarding the different in size of attendance between traditional cons and commercial cons) was that “we don’t necessarily want them all”;  this was accompanied by the recognition that traditional cons are often difficult to find out about.  What traditional cons want are fans who are willing and/or desirous of being “actifans” – people who want to volunteer for staff and/or get involved in traditional fannish activities;  there is a “barrier to entry” and more/better marketing may end up bringing in a lot of folks who just don’t want that much from a fannish experience.

On that score, I say, we should make every effort to get them in the door and THEN let them decide whether fandom is for them or not.

I then joined the panel The Walking Dead: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with Erin Underwood (Moderating), James D. Macdonald, Jennifer Pelland, and Thomas Sweterlitsch,

This was the liveliest panel of the weekend for me;  during the discussion I stated, and received a lot of agreement for, the contention that the show really requires the viewer to relax and not question things too deeply (otherwise you get hung-up on things like:  if the brain stem of zombies is the only part that comes back to life, how come zombies ‘die’ when you hit them in the head anywhere? or – please explain to me how zombification works?  Everyone is already infected with the virus but you have to get bit, which induces a fever that you die from and then come back?  Why does getting bit activate the virus you are already infected with?  How did such a dual infection virus evolve? &c), and that it was the very strong character arcs and moral dilemmas presented to the characters that carries the show.

At the close of the panel we were all asked to give our predictions for what comes next:  my speculation was:  Rick eventually dies;  Daryl mentors the group until Carl grows up and becomes John Connor – which speculation was met with a fair amount of interest by both panel members and audiences.

However, on that long ride home, I was thinking about what another panelist said – James MacDonald, I think – that Rick was already dead, twice (once from the gunshot wound at the beginning of the show, and once after he’d been beaten and Carl couldn’t wake him up on the couch).

Which led to this thought, at least partially inspired by Tyrese’s death scene hallucinations (listening to news reports on the radio):  what if Rick (and the others) are the zombies?  What if the people they see as zombies are live people that they’re attacking?  The group is a horde.  The virus has seriously distorted their perceptions of reality, making them ultra paranoid and seeing everyone who isn’t infected as a threat (zombie).

This theory jives with the group’s perpetual inability to stay in place.  Zombies are compelled to shamble on.  In fact, the more I delve into this theory, the more it seems a possible answer to a lot of the illogicalities one finds in the show.

Regardless, time will tell.

My final panel for Saturday (which ended up being my final panel for the con) was Hugo Awards: Dramatic and Written Works, where I was joined by Bob Devney (Moderating), Vincent Docherty, Daniel M. Kimmel, and Jim Mann, all of whom had far more to say than I did.  (My reading over the past couple of years has largely been restricted to web site posts and non-fiction related to the field, though I was able to give a shout out to Star Trek:  Phase II for Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

We largely agreed that Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern reach Trilogy would make it to the final ballot and that both Interstellar and Guardians of the Galaxy would be seen there as well.  Multiple other works were suggested in a variety of the categories, but they’re a drop in the bucket from a Niagra of offerings.

Which brings us to odd bits and pieces:  I picked up a copy of Locus’s year in review issue and noted, pleasantly, the fine write up that Amazing Stories received;  I wandered the art show (always a fine example of this program feature);  I was immediately dissuaded of the near-term possibility of purchasing any Vincent di Fate originals;  I stopped by the DC in 2017 bid table and voiced my very strong support for a potential Worldcon that would be within driving distance for me (not owning an amphibious car, Helsinki unfortunately remains a fly-to):  the last potential “drive-to” Worldcon was in 2009, which I couldn’t get to for unrelated reasons.  I don’t think that nearly a decade should pass between drive-to Worldcons for anyone (yes, I know folks not on the north american continent go far longer, and I’m sorry about that, but I must give in to my own personal desires here and forego “fairness”).  Besides, the crew working on DC in ’17 are drawn from the same fannish groups and clubs that used to (and still do) put on Balticons, Disclaves and other south-central east coast cons, a crew I have working history with and I’m sure they’ll do a fine job.  Not the least of which is offering a Worldcon under one roof, a concept that was championed by the Orlando in 2015 bid that Iworked on a couple of years ago.

And so, another Boskone comes to an end (prematurely for me).  It was great to see friends and fannish acquaintances;  it was great to participate on the panels and share my hard-won “wisdom”, to make new connections and to get to be a FAN again.

 

 

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