The weather was pretty foul the weekend of Boskone, with a series of snow storms dumping on Boston and likely diminishing attendees. Traffic at the tables (known as the Hawker’s Area) was light at best. This was my first time running the Broad Universe book table. I wasn’t on programming so I could focus on the business of selling books. As a result, I actually attended more panels than usual. There were plenty of Broads ready to volunteer and cover the table.
For any of you who might not be aware, Broad Universe is an excellent support organization for the emerging writer of SF, Fantasy, Horror, or speculative fiction of any type. It’s a way for Indie and Small Press authors to get their books to conventions like this. Sales were actually quite brisk in spite of the small crowds. Those who showed up were serious fans eager to try something new.
I attended two readings, one by an author I knew and one I didn’t know. The latter, Jill Shultz, is a fellow Broad, peddling her new release, Angel on the Ropes, a science fiction novel set in a future circus. The cover is gorgeous, and her research of the art of trapeze is impressive. I was there to record her for the BU podcast, but found myself thoroughly enjoying the reading. Evidently others were impressed as well, as a good number of copies sold over the next two days.
That was Friday night. There wasn’t much in the way of parties, although I and Morven Westfield (of Darksome Thirst fame, a delightful melding of witches, vampires, and computer geeks) looked in on a couple of the tame promotional bids for other conventions before calling it a night and adjourning to her room to chat and drink a couple glasses of a surprisingly decent box wine.
It’s a pleasure to run into a contemporary who remembers doing the same crazy shit you did way back in those deliciously misspent days of youth. My younger son teases me about being old. Really old. So old I can remember when there weren’t any personal computers and the Internet hadn’t been invented. We can joke about it, because I really don’t mind being old. It’s a badge of pride. Dammit, I was there for stuff! Like the Apollo landing, and the Beatles, and Martin Luther King Jr., and hippies and LSD and the arrival of the Mac 128K. And so was Morven. We sat in her room and drank wine and talked about stuff.
Young folks don’t always realize that old people were once young and did crazy things. Mostly because a lot of old people don’t remember it themselves, or if they do, they don’t want to admit it, because they want to Set An Example for the aforementioned young people. Don’t drink! Don’t smoke dope! Don’t party and stay out late and dance naked on the beach at 2 o’clock in the morning! Don’t take wild road trips with strange people and pick up hitchhikers! Never mind that I did it, had a great time, and somehow survived.
So Morven and I laughed and confided and waxed wistful until the hour grew late and we had to crash, because we’re old and need our rest.
Saturday I got up bright and early to go hear Dan Kimmel read. I met him last year at Boskone. I listened to him read from his book, Shh, It’s a Secret (a book about Hollywood, aliens and the Bartender’s Guide) and laughed myself silly. It dawned on me that his sense of humor wasn’t so different from mine, so I wheedled him into reading my own book, Archimedes Nesselrode. Bless him, he agreed, and wrote a blurb for me. So I was eager to hear what his new one was like. It’s a time travel novel in which he gleefully exploits every time travel cliche that has ever been used. (Title: Time On His Hands.) Once again I laughed myself silly. He’s waiting on the word from a publisher on this one, and I look forward to picking it up when it comes out. I do love the way he writes. It’s warm, funny, engaging, surprising and absolutely delightful.
I did a couple of Dr. Who panels, which are all the rage what with the 50th anniversary and all. One dealt with gender in Dr. Who. Many of the companions have been strong females, starting with the incomparable Sarah Jane Smith. Tribute was made to Donna Noble, my own favorite of the new series. As the Doctor has gotten younger, he has gone from being a rather paternal figure to being a sexual being, capable of feeling desire. And of appraising his female companions in that light. Not everyone sees that as a good thing.
Laurie Mann moderated, with LJ Cohen (who was on the other Dr. Who panel, “Good Bad and Ugly”), Carrie Cuinn, Julia Rios (a fellow Broad) and Max Gladstone (who would later gleefully participate in the antics of “Silly Poses”), contributing to a lively and insightful discussion. How is gender used to “humanize” characters? The most “alien” enemies are those who have been stripped of all sexual characteristics, and in fact, as in the case of the Cybermen, make humans one of them by, in part, stripping their human victims of gender distinction.
Then there was fun with Seriously Silly Poses, an inspired “panel” in which the participants attempted to emulate the frankly ridiculous classic cover art of Sci Fi pulps. Gillian Daniels, John Chu, Max Gladstone, Mur Lafferty, Jennifer Pelland and E.C. Ambrose (a.k.a. Elaine Isaak) used wonderfully lame props to bring these absurd images to questionable life. They had a screen behind them, onto which Gillian projected the originals, and they would try to capture the essence as best they could. My own Winged Snake had the honor of participating (alas no photo, since I was up there assisting). Biggest regret: I did not get the shot of E.C. Ambrose as Cat Woman, propped on one foot and soaring awkwardly in a pose human anatomy was not designed to convey.
The big Saturday night event was the NESFA Awards Ceremony, followed by the Reduced William Shakespeare Star Wars Reading. This was an adaptation of Ian Doescher’s Shakespearian interpretation of the classic Star Wars movie, Verily, a New Hope, performed by an all-star cast including Jane Yolan and Bruce Coville as Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. Laurie Mann directed, and the results were marvelous. Doescher’s language is pure Shakespeare (Luke, addressing the helmet of a deceased stormtrooper, laments, “Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not…”) and the readers did a brilliant job, with special kudos to Joan Slonczewski for her vocal mastery of R2D2. Highlights included the duel with light sabers between Darth Vader (David G. Grubbs) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Bob Kuhn). Doescher’s whole piece would have run over 2 hours. Laurie Mann’s skillful abridgment brought it down to a little over an hour while still capturing the fun and spirit of the production.
There was also filking every night, a small conclave of gamers, and a fine display of art including a retrospective of classic Science Fiction cover art. The volunteers who kept the con suite going, with basic sustenance and a steady supply of caffeine, did a great job as always. Also a word of thanks to the folks who organize the Hawkers’ Area, although as dealers increasingly rely on the internet to conduct business, it seems highly unreasonable not to supply access as a part of the table fee. Con-goers had Internet access in their rooms, but this did not extend down into the dealer’s area, and an additional fee was required for access at the tables. Let’s hope this is not the case in years to come.
Final note: I mention Boskone (and NESFA) in a longer rant primarily directed at SFWA and its ongoing woes. Although I came by my opinions honestly, distilled from my own impressions and several conversations I had with others at the convention, I urge readers to check out the comments, particularly one by Laurie Mann, who took exception to what I said. As a philosopher and a human being, I reserve the right to be completely wrong, so take what I said with a healthy serving of salt. Much of what I write is not intended to necessarily convey The Truth, but to provoke discussion, out of which something closer to truth may then emerge.