Boskone 47

Morven Westfield

Morven Westfield, the vampire geek, seeks wifi in the Westin lobby (photo courtesy Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert)

At Boskone 47 I also learned not to fear moderation, that relying on con-food can be risky, and that I really need a watch. I found out that Mary Kay Kare has excellent taste in clothes (and likely thinks the same of me). Our panel agreed that SF was being pushed out by Fantasy at least in part because Dark Forces rule, and Science has failed to give us jet-packs.

Trisha Wooldridge and I sampled cider and cheesecake. But best of all, there were BRAINS and Elaine Isaak enjoyed a whole plateful, with a side of vital organs. (Thanks to Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, we have photos catching her in the act!)

The filking was grand, including a Gorey Alphabet (“N” is for Neville who died of ennui), Mary Crowell, and a cute little plush Cthulhu.

Hotels that charge for wifi deserve rats in their kitchen. The Westin did grudgingly offer wifi in the lobby, but that is drattedly inconvenient, what with the noise, distractions and drafts.

No Green Room. We all rub elbows with the unwashed masses (yes, I know, I was one of them last time and now I’m putting on airs) in the ConSuite. Living on Con food is a chancy deal. At Arisia I ate well. At Boskone it is mostly bread (okay, very good bread, if slightly stale) and fruit with the occasional veggie and cheese. Corn chips and salsa. Hard boiled eggs. And way too many sweets! Muffins and cheese Danish and baklava (yes, but too much of a good thing). Restaurant food is expensive, but desperation forced me to resort to it. (Like many writers, I am a person of limited means.) Bless fellow Broad Roberta Rogow, who took pity and shared her fish and chips with me. I sprang for the Guinness.

Roberta Rogow

Roberta Rogow demonstrates filk in our room

That brings me to the filking. Roberta is a filker. The term “filk” was arose from a typo due to the proximity of the “i” and “o” on the keyboard. The music was born on vinyl in 1976, sold as “Folk songs for folk who ain’t been born yet.” Parodies, poetry set to music, ballads and the hijacking of popular tunes for nefarious purposes, all with SF, Fantasy and Horror themes.

I discovered filking last year at Boskone and I made sure to hunt the filkers down again this year. I came into the room and entered a circle of folks armed with guitars, electronic keyboards, harps, drums, notebooks and laptops. Some just came with their voices, enthusiasm, and an astonishing repertoire of material. Roberta was strumming her guitar and singing a venerable old filking chestnut, “Banned from Argo.” The general story is about a certain starship crew who behaves so badly on shore leave that they are told, firmly, that they are no longer welcome in Argo. Everyone joins in the chorus.

The songs progress naturally from topic to topic as people jump in, inspired by the previous song. We got onto a zombie theme, with several folks coming up with an assortment of brain-eaters (Michael McAfee looked up from his composing, jotting notes with pencil on a pad of paper, and commented, “The brains are a lie.”). Gary McGath of MassFilc, who has a wonderful voice and accompanies himself and others with his keyboard, entertained us with a Zombie Protest Song, entitled, “I Don’t Get Zombies.” This transitioned into vampires, with Gary McGath supplying a number about Megabyte, an undead computer. And on and on.

Gary McGath

Gary McGath just doesn't get zombies

“Sassafrass”, who in this incarnation consisted of four women and a drum, sang a capella with beautiful, often very intricate harmonies on epic fantasy themes. Jeff (I’m sorry, but I didn’t write his last name down,  but I do remember hanging out with him for a while.  Hopefully I’ll catch up with him next year) supplied a delightful rendition of Edward Gorey’s alphabet set to music. Some of the singers were almost painfully bad (as Roberta would say, they were “singing in the key of off”) but no one cared and no one passed judgement. The idea is to have fun and share something they all love. It was at times beautiful and most of the time hysterically funny.

Plush Cthulhu

Cute li'l plush Cthulhu, the filker's friend

I recognized one of the songs, something by Roy Zimmerman called “Today is Tomorrow’s Yesterday.”  Roy Zimmerman happens to be a close personal friend of my husband Larry.  Well, he did stay at our place while he was doing his Fifty State Tour a few years back.  Zimmerman is without question (in my mind at least) the most clever political satirist and lyricist since Tom Lehrer, with wit sharper than a ninja’s shuriken.

Parties: Boskone doesn’t hold a candle to Arisia, but Renovation, the World SF Convention in Reno (August 2011) had an interesting cider-tasting party Friday night. I now know more about cider than I ever did before. Why a cider tasting? According to Jim Mann (Boskone Chair) who was taking a turn serving up the samplers, “Several people on the committee like cider.” What more reason do you need?

Trisha Wooldridge

Party hopping companion, Trisha Wooldridge (photo courtesy Morven Westfield)

Didn’t care much for Harpoon (Paul Leiberman generously called it “subtle”; others had less complimentary comments.) I quite liked the English and Irish ciders. Strongbow, weighing in at 5% alcohol, had a more yeasty taste than Woodpecker at 4.2%. Woodchuck, a domestic brand out of Vermont, was more applish. Their oak-aged was good, “scotchy” as one of my fellow tasters described it, but I preferred the Dark & Dry, despite another’s contention that it was too yeasty (like the Strongbow, a gusty 5%). I must award the prize to Growers Granny Smith, from British Columbia, weighing in at 7% and boasting a delicious flavor true to its name.

I got to the Anticipation party too late for the stronger beverages, but Philcon had cheesecake. We stood around talking about snowstorms past and present (particularly the present difficulties of regions south of us) and ate cheesecake. Really good cheesecake. I am very favorably disposed towards Philcon .

Elaine wants brains

Never mind cheesecake. Elaine Isaak wants BRAINS! (photo courtesy Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert)

James Harper looks awesome in a kilt. And I hope it isn’t another whole year before I run into Eric Mulder (who lives in a Mexican restaurant) again.

What a great group at the Reading Your Work Aloud workshop! It was a small group, actually just the right size for what we did. Lots of energy, lots of ideas. I didn’t know quite what to expect when I set the thing up, but all I had to do was wind it up and let it go. The participants did the rest.

Note to myself: make sure I have a watch next time. Two watches, in case one fails. In spite of this embarrassing lack I managed to get by on the kindness of others. After a somewhat uneven start, the panel I was moderating on How the Internet is Changing How We Read went very well (Jim Kelly was right) thanks to a great line-up: Scott Andrews, Neil Clarke, James Patrick Kelly and Teresa Nielsen Hayden.  One thing that the Internet has changed about the way people read is their expectations.  How do writers, editors and publishers who actually have the audacity to want to be paid for their labors survive in an era where so much is given away free on the Internet?  (Or by Jim Kelly who kept waving around the CD he was passing out as swag.)  We talked about different strategies, from advertising revenue to graduated membership levels.

Panel on How the Internet is Changing How we Read

And the panel debating whether Fantasy is Displacing SF went splendidly well. I was privileged to share the table with Mary Kay Kare (honest, we didn’t coordinate our clothing before the panel), F. Brett Cox, and David Hartwell (!).   We started out debating if the decline in the popularity of SF was related to the decline in the appeal of science to the general public.  Science hasn’t delivered on its early promise of better living through chemistry and robots doing all the hard work while we fly around with our jet-packs.  Instead we have a big scary world where the Dark Forces threaten us.  It was suggested that perhaps science fiction has become ho-hum because Apple keeps releasing Star Fleet technology.  Who needs SF when you are surrounded by tech?  On the other hand, for most people these whizz-bang devices might as well be operated by magic for all they understand about them.  All these marvelous miracles of modern life are just that: Miracles.  If your device fails, get a geek shaman to invoke an arcane formula to make it go again.

I had twice the attendance at my Boskone reading that I had at Arisia, and matched the sales. Plus sales at the Broad Universe table were brisk for myself and others. It’s a great selection of books by BU authors, running the full spectrum of speculative fiction from light fantasy to hard SF to dark horror, all by women. (Did you know that the first SF novel was written by a woman?  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.)

I must give thanks to my fellow Broads, whose encouragement and support are beyond price: Jennifer Pelland (in spite of buzzing me at the RFR), Trisha Wooldridge (on to Pi-Con!), Phoebe Wray (the book table queen), Morven Westfield (vampire geek), Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert (who takes great photos), Roberta Rogow (my filking roommate),  and Elaine Isaak (without whom I would never have gotten this far. Literally. She drove.).

Boskone 47 Broads

Boskone 47 Broads (lacking Roberta Rogow and Morven Westfield) photo courtesy Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert

Boskone 46

[back to (Un)conventional]


4 responses

22 02 2010

😀 Was sooo much fun hanging out with you for parties, too, & totally looking forward to Pi-Con!

I really wish I could have made it to your reading panel, but I’m glad you had such a good turnout!

6 03 2010
Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert


Great blog entry! Great capture of the events. It was fun hanging with you while there, also! 🙂

14 09 2012
Lynda Williams

Justine! Surfed here looking up Roberta Rogow. Doing an interview with her for Reality Skimming. Ok if we use your picture? With credit, of course!

14 09 2012
Justine Graykin

Absolutely fine. Everything on this website is licensed under Creative Commons share alike, non-commercial, attribution. In other words, as long as you aren’t selling it, and you attribute the source, it’s yours to use.

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