Monday, February 25, 2013

Boskone 50, or "How I Spent My Winter Vacation"

Boskone 50 is a regional SF convention held in Boston in February. If it wasn't for this being such a fabulous convention (and the opportunity to see my sons who live up North), I can assure you I would never board a plane to leave Florida and go into Nor'Easter country in winter. But I've been doing it for ten years now, and even with the occasional blizzards and travel delays, it's still one of my favorite trips.

I flew to NYC and took the Acela train to Boston, as usual, and marveled again at how comfortable train travel is these days compared with flying.  The conference was at the Westin Waterfront, as it has been for most of the past decade and will continue to be in the near future. It's a nice hotel, a short taxi ride from South Station. In fact, last year the weather was so pleasant that I walked, rolling my suitcase behind me.

I didn't have any panels scheduled Friday night so I got my credentials and hung out with people, catching up on gossip, then heading out to supper. When we returned the Art Show and reception was in full swing, and I got to view some truly fine SF art, mostly covers from books and magazines, along with adorable, macabre and whimsical sculptures by artist Guest of Honor Lisa Snellings. I covet those sculptures, and have since I first saw them at Boskone 40. It was a lovely reception, with great food and magnificent desserts, plus as a program participant I got a free drink chit. Good times!

Saturday morning was when my work began in earnest. I had a reading at 11:30 and chose a selection from the WIP, [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby. I also learned it's difficult to say "multiplication" aloud multiple times, but I got the reading done and answered questions about the novel, now about 85% through the first draft.

I headed down to the Hucksters Room where I discovered Old Earth Books was delayed in setting up, but Larry Smith Books graciously agreed to sell my novels until Mike at Old Earth arrived. I love the spirit of cooperation in fandom. I didn't buy anything on Saturday, but made note of items I might return to later in the convention.

My first panel was "Going Graphic in the e-Book Age" with agent Joshua Bilmes, artist John Picacio and author Christopher Golden. I was the moderator for this panel and we discussed how epublishing is affecting the graphic novel industry. Are tablets going to be the medium for most graphic novel authors in the coming decades? Can you appreciate a graphic novel when it's displayed on a tiny phone screen? It was a lively discussion and I enjoyed it as a graphic novel fan.

Right after I had "Humor in the Stuff We Read", and I felt I could contribute both as a SF/Fantasy reader and author of historicals with more than a little humor. We talked about some of our favorite authors, including Terry Pratchett, Connie Willis, Douglas Adams and how they use humor to convey serious ideas. The panel was Justine Graykin, Craig Shaw Gardner, Paul G. Tremblay and Daniel M. Kimmel. It was a fun time with lots of zingers zipping past and audience participation as well in the form of questions and comments.

Lunch in the consuite, schmoozing with friends, a tea break, then my final panel of Saturday, celebrating the "Silver Anniversary of the Liaden Universe". Hard to believe it's been 25 years since Agent of Change was first published, and I'm thrilled for the following and acclaim that Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have earned since then. Our moderator was Bob Kuhn who not only led the panel beautifully, but had the foresight to pare it down from its original unwieldy size. I knew, as did the other panelists, that the audience was there to hear mostly from Steve and Sharon and we were happy to help facilitate that discussion.

Did I mention there was a blizzard on Saturday? I wisely chose to stay in the hotel for supper, grabbing a bite in the Irish pub and chatting with other con attendees, meeting new people. This Florida girl doesn't venture out into freezing, blinding white stuff if I can help it.

Later that evening was the annual MaltCon convention-within-a-convention for devotees of Scotland's finest export. My contribution was a flask of Glenfiddich 15, the Solera. I took notes on the beverages I tasted, chatted at length with other single malt fans, and washed glassware since I knew the organizers were shorthanded this year. MaltCon is a delightful (and educational!) break in the middle of Boskone.

Since this was Boskone's 50th anniversary the program team pulled items from past Boskones and ran them again. That's how I ended up on the Sunday panel "The Spirit of the Place", which I'd also sat on at Boskone 48. This year the panel was myself, Margaret Ronald as moderator, Sharon Lee and Steven Popkes. Each of us features specific cities or locales in our work, and Sharon, of course, has to build entire worlds for her Liaden books. For a Sunday morning panel we had a good turnout and kept the conversational ball rolling with the help of infusions of caffeine.

Some of the program participants scheduled for Sunday couldn't make it because of snowed in conditions. This is a problem that we've encountered before with Boskone, and I just plan accordingly, knowing I could be stranded by weather in transit or at the hotel as I was at Boskone 40. On the other hand, they get good rates at hotels in Boston in February, especially compared to summer rates.

I attended other panels between my own: "Harassment and Fandom" on Friday, with further discussion of this important issue as convention runners try to make safe spaces for all. There was also "Companion to Genius: Sherlock Homes and Doctor Who". I confess that I'm a latecomer to Dr. Who, but I enjoyed hearing the panelists discuss these two characters, particularly how they've changed over the years--the Doctor through his various incarnations, and Sherlock in his own incarnations. I also attended a Kaffeeklatsche with author Melinda Snodgrass, who has some fascinating movie deals in the works.

Finally, I volunteered for a shift at the Program Operations desk. SF conventions run on volunteers, and I like to give back when I can.

Overall this was not only a good Boskone, it was one of the best I've attended, both in the quality of the programming and the fun times I had with friends and fans. I'm very much looking forward to Boskone 51 next year in February 2014.

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