Boskone 56 – 2019: A Con Report

When my wife and I moved from Florida back to her home town in New Hampshire, I was a bit (just a tad) apprehensive; I’d recently begun re-engaging with Fandom and was giving up the chance to be able to drive to numerous conventions as well as moving to a region of the country that was not well-known for having a bunch – with the exception of those held in Albany and Boston.

Despite having lived in New Jersey for a large portion of my life, and despite many years in the 70s and 80s when I regularly attended conventions, I’d always gone south or west for my cons and had never done a Boskone.

Being a first time convention attendee is different from being a first time at this particular convention attendee.  It had been quite a number of years since I’d been to a con, though reading and conversations with other fans assured me that traditional coventions were still pretty much traditional conventions.

And so my first Boskone turned out to be – Boskone 49 (or was it Boskone 48?)

I didn’t attend as anything other than a Fan.  I made the 85 minute drive into Boston (I’ve driven in a lot of the world’s major cities, Boston takes the cake for worst so far as I’m concerned), did the registration thing, went back over my annotated program book and did what I always had done at conventions – visited the Dealers Room, walked the Art Show, attended a few panels and visited with new friends and old in lobbies and hallways.

You will note that this year was either my 8th or 9th consecutive Boskone.  Obviously I felt welcomed enough to warrant numerous repeat visits.  It also doesn’t hurt that Boskone is the first convention series that ever invited me to appear on panels.

I’ve found being on panels to be a personally rewarding experience.  I like to think I do a good job both as member and as moderator;  public speaking is something I enjoy, especially when doing so on subjects I am personally passionate about.  I can phumpher my way around just about any subject, but I get a true sense of giving back to the field when I am able to offer meaningful or insightful commentary.  I’m particularly fond of making the audience member’s laugh.  I think the best compliment I ever received from a fellow panelist was when Frank Wu said of a panel I had moderated “That was the wildest panel I’ve ever been on!”.  I do have to confess that I chose to take it as a positive;  I’ve never asked Frank to qualify it.

The single biggest element of Boskone I admire the most was its early acceptance of the idea that conventions needed to make themselves accessible to a more diverse audience.  The convention committee has diligently implemented programs and changes to address those needs while at the same time maintaining the convention’s appeal and ambience as a traditional convention.

Every year I deliberately make note of the fact that there are more and more women and more and more visible minority groups in attendance.  This year was no exception.

Operationally, this crew has their job(s) down to a science.  Registration is a breeze, whether you are a panelist, a pre-registered member or purchasing your membership on site.  Traffic is never an issue, even when it gets busy between panels.  There’s always a staff member around to ask questions of;  signage is prominent, the schedule is updated promptly when needed.  The business of running the convention never interferes with attending the convention.

This year, as mentioned elsewhere, I was scheduled for two panels and two “presentations”.  Both of my panels dealt with subjects I’m very interested in – The legacy of the first Worldcon and How did SF become respectable (it didn’t;  it’s gained in influence, but not respect).

Things seemed a little smaller this year, though that may just be a passing impression.  I spent about an hour wandering through the art show – Boskone’s is always a fine exhibit.  I left feeling very jealous of Joe Siclari’s holdings.

The Dealers room was its usual mix of books, jewelry, hand-crafted this and thats;  I picked up a copy of Chris Offut’s  My Father the Pornographer, A Memoir (more than halfway through, not what I expected but interesting nonetheless) and Valente’s Space Opera, which I should have read already.

I put twenty bucks down to support the DC in 2021 Worldcon bid;  I expect they are going to win.

I picked up a few older Poul Anderson titles at the NESFA freebies table and put out a box each of the latest two issues of Amazing Stories.  By the end of the convention it looked like a fair number of copies had been taken.

I did expect more to go, but it may have been impacted by the only real down-note of the con:  Chizine’s inventory for their table was mixed in with the NESFA freebies unintentionally and quite a number of books had been taken before the mistake was realized.  According to the latest reports and following an appeal to attendees, over a third of the materials had been recovered.  After that, I think that people were a little reticent about taking “freebies” that were not clearly from NESFA following this incident.

BTW:  if you picked up a Chizine title at the con from the freebies table and didn’t hear about the mistake until after you had left the convention, please think about getting in touch with them;  they’re a good but not huge operation and I can’t help but believe that the loss of so much inventory is going to have a negative impact on their bottom line.  Do the right thing.

I had a bunch of great conversations with random folks in the lobby and hallways;  one, Lex Berman, who I met years ago and was an early supporter of Amazing, may see him writing some posts  for Amazing Stories.  Lex is retiring from his numerous projects at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard (I advised him to take some time for himself) and may come on board here.  He currently writes the Yunchtime blog.

Followiing my (4th, 5th?) panel with Joe Siclari (legendary BNF), I talked with him about “doing more between Amazing Stories and the Fan History Project.  Neither of us knows what that might be, but we agreed it would make sense to figure something out, so we’ll be doing that.

I met with Judith Dial (feel better) who may be making some headway with her memoir project.  I’d say more, but am not sure what is and what is not for public consumption, other than to say she has an interesting story to tell.

I had dinner one night with Allen Steele and Eleanor Wood of the Spectrum Literary Agency (!);  plans are afoot.  Deponent further sayeth not. (Wow, I’m hanging out with the heavy hitters!  Comes close – real close – to the private party with Roddenberry and ST:TOS cast and the lunch with Asimov, hanging with Ackerman or Clement…you know, cons have provided me with some of the most interesting and exciting moments of my life.)

I also rolled out the banner for –


and was suitably questioned.

Oh, you have questions too?

Well, it is currently envisioned as a one-day “microcon” – an intimate experience with the GoHs – very “local” and a chance for those not familiar with traditional conventions to get a taste and a feel without having to commit to an entire weekend.

I had several well-experienced con-runners offer their assistance once they’d learned of the program, so it looks like we’ll be moving ahead with this, though I don’t expect to host the first one until late 2020 at the earliest.

Thanks to Felicia Herman for the photos!

So there you go.  Boskone peeps – you do a wonderful job and I had a great time!  I’m already looking forward to next year’s!


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  1. Thanks for the very nice review: we at NESFA are really glad you had an enjoyable experience at Boskone. Could I ask for one tiny favor? Please fix the “2018” in the title here, so people googling for material about the just-concluded con aren’t misled.

    By the way, our freebies table is a general space for anyone in attendance to distribute free genre-related books or magazines — it’s not a specifically “NESFA freebies” thing. But thanks for asking folks who took any ChiZine books (they have a CZP or CHITEENS or CHIGRAPHICS imprint on the spine) to do the right thing. People can contact us at about such books.

    I also took both of your Amazing Stories issues…they look great.

    See you next year!

    –Richard Duffy
    Chair, Boskone 56

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