Boskone 2015 was the year of the blizzard. “Ghostcon” as Allen Steele dubbed it, suffered a bad blow to attendance due to nasty weather conditions which shut down the T and filled the already snow-choked streets with yet more white stuff Saturday night into Sunday. Panels got reduced to lectures or do-it-yourself discussions as panelists fled before the storm. Looking out the window Sunday morning, the world had turned a ghostly white and the con was a ghost town with a few hardy tumbleweeds who had a room in the hotel and no place better to be. Day trippers gave it a pass.
This year Boskone was trying something new, with free panels on Friday afternoon before the con opened properly and required membership. We had a good deal of traffic, which was a good thing considering what happened Sunday. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much the con benefited from that traffic. Total badge sales were something over 1,000 from was I heard, not bad, but pale next to Arisia‘s 4K. I probably shouldn’t make comparisons, though. Boskone has no ambitions to be Arisia, and is quite proud of its quieter, more serious, less flamboyant roll. If you consider the difference between Fantasy fandom and SF fandom, the numbers are not that far off.
I had three panels and Broad Universe‘s Rapid Fire Reading on Friday, plus setting up the BU table in the Dealer’s Room. At 2:00 programming started, and I was talking about The Cutting Edge, scientific and engineering developments that are new or emerging, or that may be just a short step from development. With me were Tom Easton moderating, Brother Guy Consolmagno (Vatican astronomer), Mark L. Olson, and Karl Schroeder. Right after that at 3:00, Books That Just Barely Failed, a discussion of various books that should have done better, but had some fatal flaw that ruined the experience. Maybe the protagonist’s character, the society, or the worldbuilding was inconsistent. Perhaps disbelief couldn’t be suspended quite so far. Vincent Docherty moderated, with Fred Lerner, and me. Patrick Nielsen Hayden was also supposed to be on the panel, but got to the con late,
At 6:00 I was on The Continuing Adventures of the QUILTBAG panel with John Chu (moderating), Susan Jane Bigelow, and Julia Rios. We talked about how our media may be starting to feature more characters and situations from the queer/questioning, undecided, intersex, lesbian, transgender/transsexual, bisexual, allied/asexual, gay/genderqueer (QUITLBAG) perspective, but there’s still a long way to go. How do we move from tokenism to full inclusion? It was a great discussion, but I couldn’t help noticing that the audience numbers were down. It could have been because the free admission ended at five o’clock, or maybe people had gone to dinner.
The Rapid Fire Reading at 8:00 was well-attended, with readers Roberta Rogow, E.C. Ambrose, Valerie Frankel, Anna Erishkigal, Jill Shultz, and myself. After that, I was done in, and retreated to the blessed peace of my room to chat with friend and fellow Broad author Morven Westfield.
I attended a panel that included Dan Kimmel on Films that Changed Everything, which was great fun. And I was on an excellent panel on a topic near and dear to me, Reading Your Own Work Out Loud with Bob Kuhn and Bruce Coville, both of whom I greatly admire. We provided tips on how to read in front of an audience or a mic, and had several folks get up and read out loud for 1-2 minutes and receive live feedback. I was pretty impressed by one of them. (Thanks go to Daniel Dern for a well-timed cup of water, and yes, you really should do something with that “if you give a Tyranosaurus a cookie” piece.)
Thanks to all the volunteers who minded the table in the Dealer’s Room. Among those on hand (that I remember) were L.J. Cohen, new BU member Angi Shearstone (who does amazing artwork), Anna Erishkigal, Jill Shultz and her awesome minions, Roberta Rogow (the Filk Queen), and Valerie Frankel, who picked a fine time to leave sunny California and come to Boston (Roberta composed a song about it in her honor, which she would no doubt sing for you should you ask her.). Kudos to Mary Holland, our Money Wrangler, who guided me through several minor crises with the sales process remotely via email. And to Trisha Wooldridge, BU Prez Chick, who was not there but helped with preparations and questions remotely. Sales were remarkably good considering the circumstances, even on Sunday when attendance numbers tanked. It speaks to the quality of the work we Broads are peddling.
I wasn’t selling books myself (a certain matter of a Massachusetts Tax ID), but I’d made a commitment and I stuck to it. Broads have done a whole lot for me. Running a table ain’t easy, at least, it wasn’t for me. There are procedures that have to be followed, an iPad mini with a Square for credit card sales which can sometimes be persnickety, and paperwork that has to be done. Imagine taking a final exam in a room full of people who are talking to you. At one point I was trying to organize the cash, troubleshoot the iPad (via email with Mary), help a Broad collect her books, cash out and leave the con before the storm, plus say goodbye to several others who had stopped by the table before leaving. All at the same time. This, ladies and gentlemen, is stress.
Saturday evening I hung out with SMOF Jeff Warner (professor of autodidactism, a not-recently-published writer, an associate of first fandom, a 7th level ninja-smof with a lawful/good alignment, available for cheap dates, a co-founder of 3 SF conventions and a utility infielder for many others, a freelance blurb-meister, and a philosophical entertainer. “Geek, Nerd, and Dork? I’m a Triple Threat!”), who beguiled me with tales of cons past, including tubs filled with green jello, picking the locks and breaking into the pool and hot tub room at the hotel after hours, and the great 20,000 Leaks Under DC fiasco, which involved ill-considered bondage practice (there’s a reason why they advise guests NOT to try hanging things from the in-room sprinklers). I found out Jeff was one of the founders, primary organizers and guest wranglers for I-Con, one of the biggest conventions in the Northeast (currently in hiatus, another tragic victim of Hurricane Sandy). Thanks to my friendship with Jeff I now enjoy only 2 degrees of separation from George Takai, Gene Roddenberry, and a host of other major figures in fandom.
Finally, I gotta say, Stephen Wilk has to be one of the great undiscovered gems. Readers might remember how I raved about his Grinch Beowulf from last year. After missing him at Arisia we managed to connect at Boskone, and he read me his latest, a collision of High Noon and classic Universal monster movies called “Frankenstein Noon”. We sat at a table outside of Starbucks and I damn near wet myself as he read it to me. Dear god, will somebody please record and podcast this guy? He’s the author of How the Ray Gun Got its Zap, and has had several short pieces of fiction published. An expert on Optics, Physics, History, Mythology, and Pop Culture, his first book was Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon. His eclectic interests, expertise and sense of humor give him the ability to do amazingly geeky and brilliant mash-ups.
Boskone didn’t end well for me. I’ve already blogged about that. I have some great memories (talking about the evolution of life on Earth and elsewhere in the hotel hot tub at midnight; splitting an order of fish and chips with a disappointing side of haricots verts followed by a splendid dessert accompanied by much merriment). Thanks for that. I’m not burning any bridges, but then, I don’t expect to be coming back across them again any time soon.