Boskone 49 -- Feb. 17-19 - Westin Waterfront, Boston, MA
by Daniel Dern
Review by Daniel Dern
Date: 17 February 2012
I've been going to Boskone pretty regularly for the past 15 or 20 years. (If memory serves, the first Boskone I went to was somewhere between 1967-1969, while I was still in high school. It was at what is now called the Boston Park Plaza. I do remember that Isaac Asimov and Anne McCaffrey were there, among other pros.
This year's Boskone 49, run by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA, which was held over the 2012 "Presidents' Day weekend" (this year, Friday, February 17 through Sunday, February 19) at the Boston Westin Waterfront, was a satisfying mix of good sessions, good events, good schmoozing -- and, for mid-February in New England, remarkably good weather. (No rain, no snow, cold but above freezing -- decent for walking to nearby restaurants!)
Boskone 49 took place in the Westin Waterfront hotel, adjacent to the Boston Convention and Exposition Center (BCEC), where it's been since Boskone 44 in 2007. (Arisia was there this and last year, as well.) I miss Boskone's being in the Boston Sheraton Hotel in Copley Square -- aside from it being much more convenient to get to by local public transit, the Sheraton is near lots of restaurants and a food court that can be gotten to without going outside -- usually a big plus in mid-February.
This year's Guest of Honor was John Scalzi, author of the Old Man's War series, the recent Fuzzy Nation, and other fiction and non-fiction. The other Guests were:
According to the final con tally -- "this includes a penguin, a couple dogs-in-tow, and Fluff Cthulu!" -- nearly 1,300 badges were given out. That's a good number; it feels to me like that first Boskone I attended had more like 400 people. (I could look it up, I'm sure.)
Boskone occupies only one side of the Westin's public rooms, so NESFA utilizes the big lower-level area for the dealers area, art show, con suite, DragonsLair, autographing, ops/programming/information, green room, gaming, demo areas, and a few other things. It isn't crowded, but as you can guess, it can be harder than desireable to have table-sized conversations, e.g., the kaffeeklatches.
The art show and dealers area were reasonably sized. A lot of nice art to see and bid on (I looked but didn't bid), a good selection of affordable prints in in the Print Shop portion. The dealers area was (I'm estimating) half to two-thirds book dealers, the rest jewelry, costumes, spices, T-shirts, stuffed animals and gaming/media sundries. I bought a small stack of inexpensive books -- in particular, some comic book trade paperback collections at a price too good to pass up.
Some cons I seem to spend most of the time wandering around. This Boskone I spent more than half at program events. Six because I was on the panel/event, a lot because they sounded interesting, and/or had people on them I wanted to see. (I ended up being on panels with three of the Boskone 49 Guests.) These give a good sense of (some of) what Boskone 49 was like:
Ian Tregillis, Leah Wilson, John Scalzi and I were on REBOOTS: REFRESHING OR DEPRESSING?, where we discussed the merits and demerits of this for comic books, books, movies, TV shows, etc. Then we rebooted the panel
Due to a bad cold that seemed to be a virus, Jerry Pournelle had had to cancel his trip. I'd been scheduled to interview him (I was editor of Byte.com from 1998-2001, and Jerry's CHAOS MANOR was the site's anchor column) -- and thanks to Skype and last-minute hard work by Boskone tech staff, we were able to do the interview, with Jerry projected on a screen, and coming through clearly on the speakers. (FYI, I'm scheduled to re-interview Jerry for the recently-revived Byte.com.)
On Saturday, Bruce Coville, Gregory Feeley, Tony Lewis, Steven Popkes and I named and recommended a batch of "Neglected Authors" (meaning, "deserving of regaining attention"). NESFA Press and others have done great jobs of preserving/revising many authors and their works, but there's still a lot more worthy of being read and discussed. (My suggestions: Robert Stallman, author of one great trilogy; also, Phillip Wylie.) Greg Feeley continued to astound us panelists (and presumably also the audience) with his near-encylopedic knowledge of a lot of these not-so-well-knowns -- something he couldn't have studied up on in advance, at least not for the ones I suggested, since I didn't email my names around to the panel.
On Sunday, I had the pleasure of joining Science Guest of Honor and techno-security maven Bruce Schneier, plus NESFAn Gary McGath, for the session, DIGITAL ESTATE -- VIRTUAL PROPERTY OR ON THE INTERNET, NOBODY KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD. E.g., what happens to your "property" and stuff in Second Life when you die? Or to your Yahoo content? A lot of this is still a little fuzzy, law-wise, it turns out.
Plus I did my usual magic show for the kids in DragonsLair -- if anybody finds a half-brother, I've got the other half ready to rejoin with it; a reading of new and semi-new stuff... and I came in fourth in Mark and Priscilla Olson's TRIVIA FOR CHOCOLATE memory/reflex-intensive sf trivia contest.
And that was just the program items I was on. I went to a fair number, and there were two or three times that many that looked interesting... but were time conflicts.
Boskone, like many cons, typically has great educational sessions for new and experienced writers alike. Aside from the near-obligatory "Mistakes To Avoid" (a.k.a. "It Came From The Slush Pile," "Don't Try These In Your Home Office," etc.), this year's Boskone had (and I went to) great panels on "How To Read Aloud" (for professionals reading their own work, as well as parents) -- a good mix of information and brief exercises/demos; "Writing Freelance: How To Pitch Your Idea"; "How Not To Produce An E-Book"... you get the idea.
Other panels I went to included "Winter is Here: How GAME OF THRONES Plays on TV" -- It's mind-boggling how much detail panelists and audience remember of the books and episodes, and are able to compare, e.g. "They left this big speech out!"
And there were a lot of panels I wish I'd been able to get to, like "WHy I Love/Hate Heinlein," a Higgins Armory fencing demo or two, readings by several of my favorite authors... ah well, there's always more good stuff at the next con, and the one after that!