It was the Golden Boskone, the New England Science Fiction Association‘s fiftieth convention. After you’ve had your fun with the parties and cosplay of Arisia, you sober up and get down to business at Boskone. Not that they don’t have fun. But it’s different. Arisia had Barfleet. Boskone had the Maltcon scotch tasting party.
First panel was Friday afternoon, barely giving me time to check in and register. The topic was “Are Writers and Fans Good for Each Other?” (answer: sometimes Yes, I Couldn’t Live Without You and sometimes Kindly Back Off You’re Creeping Me Out) moderated by Priscilla Olson, with Elaine Isaak, Beth Meacham and myself. After that, with barely enough time for me to grab a bite to eat, was a real plum of a panel, another question, “Is the Internet Reprogramming Your Brain?” I shared the table with Charles Gannon, John P. Murphy, and Jerry Pournelle, with James Patrick Kelly immoderating. Daniel Dern was supposed to join us, and I was disappointed to find out he wouldn’t be. Never mind; one more person on the panel would just have made it even harder to get a word in edgewise. Jerry Pournelle, who was after all the NESFA Press Guest, had a great deal he wished to share with us.
Note: Pournelle self-describes as “somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan”, and is the author of Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy: “In any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.” Brilliant. I don’t particularly like his example, but the law itself elegantly explains a great deal.
Following shortly thereafter was the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading, which featured authors Elaine Isaak, Trisha Wooldridge, Rose Mambert, Lisa Bouchard, and Terri Bruce. Roberta Rogow, who also does filk, varied the fare by singing instead of reading.
After all that, I welcomed the pleasant break of the Boskone Reception, with a dessert smorgasbord and cash bar, which included white and dark chocolate fountains. The assortment of sweet treats was breathtaking and gorgeously laid out. One of the perks of being on the program was getting a chit for a free drink, so I was able to enjoy an excellent glass of chablis while watching the rest of the room (which included, by the way, George R. R. Martin) tuck into their amaretto cheesecake and pineapple mango trifle. After that, a tour through the art gallery, sweet treats (and some not so sweet) for the eyes.
Saturday I made the acquaintance of Daniel Kimmel, author of Jar Jar Binks Must Die (which was nominated for a Hugo, which means, as he put it, it lost). I was on a panel with him about “Humor in the Stuff We Read” later in the day, so when I noticed he was reading during an empty slot in my schedule, I went to listen. He was picking selections from his new book, Shh! It’s a Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide, and I enjoyed it so much I bought the book. Dan, by the way, returned the favor by coming to my reading, an excerpt from Archimedes Nesselrode, which is coming out later this year. I had one of those “What Was I Thinking!?!” moments when I realized that what I had chosen to read did not, to my horror, represent my work terribly well. It seemed like a good choice at the time. In spite of this, Dan kindly agreed to read the rest of the book to see if he’d be willing to blurb it. What a mensch.
The panel, by the way, was a lot of fun. We were joined by Craig Shaw Gardner (who has written lots of stuff), Darlene Marshall, and Paul Tremblay, who “fears many things, including the return of his uvula.” Darlene normally writes historical romance about pirates, privateers, smugglers and the occasional possum, but got in on her creds as an SF fan. I love humor panels.
Now, I really must hand it to Boskone Programming for boldly going where Arisia refused to tread. Even if they did do it holding their nose, and stuffed us in the tiny little Independence room where unknown writers go to die, Boskone gave us the Brony panel that Arisia refused to. This still baffles me, considering that Arisia is far more into lifestyle and fandom panels. I can only guess that all they know about Bronies is what Faux News told them. It’s easy to dismiss the idea of a male adult fandom to an ostensibly little girls’ show as something perverse, perhaps just east of pedophilia. And to be sure, there is that dark corner of the fandom (think Rule 34). But that is monstrously far from what Brony fandom is really all about, and that is why I have pushed to have panels on the subject to correct the misconceptions.
Thank you Boskone. You did a good thing. We had a packed room and had to bring in extra chairs, and even so there were people sitting on the side tables and standing against the wall. A man even came in and set up a camera because his daughter desperately wanted to attend the panel but couldn’t be at the convention. That’s the kind of demand there was. We had several parents whose children, male and female, were Bronies and they wanted to understand why. We even had one young man who talked his mom into going to the panel so he could “come out” to her as a Brony in a safe environment.
Fellow panelists Gillian Danials and Shira Lipkin and I talked about the quality of the show, how great the writing and the animation is, what a fantastic job Lauren Faust, the creative force behind MLP Friendship is Magic, did to take the rather one-dimensional My Little Pony franchise and turn it into a show with strong characters and themes of feminism, cooperation and compassion. Part of its appeal is its optimism, its message that strong bonds of friendship can allow you to grow and endure the dangers and struggles of life. In a world filled with fear and bigotry, the Brony community has become a place of acceptance and safety, a place where males and females both can cast off the gender roles society tries to force on them.
In screaming contradiction to the myth of the queer man-child living in his parents’ basement, many bronies are young professionals (and thus have the resources to contribute all that money that has been raised by Bronies for social causes, including helping handicapped children and donating to Doctors Without Borders). Most are heterosexual and many are in the military (as was the son of one of the mothers at our panel). To further dispel the misconceptions and help folks understand what this is all about, we recommended checking out the documentary Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony.
A few shout-outs and tips of the hat: Thanks to Aradia Willard for the awesome glassware! To Broad Universe, and particularly the New England Broads chapter, for the time and skills they volunteer to promote new women writers of spec fic. And special thanks to BU president Trisha Wooldridge for making it possible for me to get to Boskone this year (of course, you did get pack mule services out of me, lugging the BU gear to the Dealer’s Room and back). A big thank-you to the volunteers who kept the Con Suite going, although I must plead with you to open earlier. I need my Earl Gray hot by 9:00 am anyway if I’m going to make a panel by 10:00.
Biggest gripe: limited opportunities for dinner. No Green Room and only one restaurant. We faced nearly a two hour wait at the hotel pub, and the only alternatives were walking several blocks or ordering out. Then again, eating out did have its advantages, despite the discomfort of poor Terri, who had to wobble there on spike heels. Aradia set up the parameters for me to improvise a story while we waited for dinner, based on suggestions from everyone at the table. It was a smashing success. Remind me sometime to tell you about the Pope, the leprechaun’s farm, and the zombie prostitute.