Review by Ernest Lilley
Arisia, Inc Con ISBN/ITEM#: Arisia06
Date: January 13-15, 2006 / Show Official Info /
I arrived in Boston after a two part nine hour drive up from DC, stopping over to see friends in NJ. Either I'm driving slower or things are getting further apart, but I didn't get to the con until 5:30 Friday evening, a few hours later than I'd planned. Well, there was fog on the roads, so maybe I was just being cautious. Cautious. So, it's come to that.
I parked in the big garage right by the Park Plaza hotel, where they immediately started socking it to me at the rate of $24 a day. If I'd read the con website, I would have known that the Boston Commons garage, which is underneath a big green space by the same name, was giving a discounted rate of $5 a day for con attendees. As Steve Sawicki, my room mate, patiently explained to me.
Steve and I poked our heads around the con long enough to get registered and run into some friends, including Bob Eggleton and his wife Marianne. After we'd gotten checked in with both the hotel and con, the four of us headed next door to McCormick and Schmidt's for dinner. McCormick and Schmidt's is a seafood restaurant, a fact that has surprised me more than once upon arrival. Clearly I'm confusing them with another chain (probably Smith and Wolansky) that does steak. Still, you can get steak or other land fare here if you really want, so perhaps it doesn't matter. And I'm a big fan of clam chowder, so I was happy with a bowl of the stuff, which was excellent. A bit heavy on the thyme, for me, but well within what I'd consider the chef's discretionary right, and overall in the top ten chowders I've had.
Back at the con we prowled the various panels and events. One especially good one was the drum circle. Except that hotels might have reasonable qualms about waking all the guests, I'd recommend this for more cons. It's a largely, but not totally gender separated event, with guys pounding rhythmically on large drums, and gals dancing their interpretive dances nearby. Now, that may sound unreformed...but seriously...do you want to watch guys perform free form interpretive dance? They'd be welcome, I'm sure...but personally I'd rather watch laws and sausages get made. There was also a Rocky Horror performance by a fan troupe, which seemed to be having a lot of fun, and had put in some serious costuming and practice effort.
There were a few parties, including the Pie Party for PiCon, and we wandered them for a wile until around midnight, when I turned in and Steve went off for drinks with an editor. He came back after a few hours complaining about the cost of beer at the hotel bar, which, at $5 for a bud, does seem a bit excessive. The hotel had an aggressive alcohol policy for parties, insisting that any booze served was bought from the hotel. This kept the serving down considerably, but perhaps that's just as well.
Somehow I never quite managed to get to sleep Friday night, which made Saturday a bit blurry in spots, but when we decided it was too light outside to actually still be night, Steve and I went off to brave the intermittent rain and overcast, and rescue my car from the big garage to sequester it under the Commons. With the money thus saved, we went off to breakfast at The Paramount Café on Charles Street, which is a terrific source of cheap eats that deserves all the Best of Boston awards arrayed in the window. I had a Belgian waffle with sausage, coffee, and orange juice all for $9.95, and since it's served out cafeteria/deli style there's no need to tip, though we did anyway. On the way back I detoured a block to buy a mini USB cable at a Radio Shack I'd found on my cell phone's web browser, so that I could charge up said phone.
I managed to have just enough panels to claim to be a guest, without actually having to do any real work. Yes, that would be one. The Kinnison vs Vorkosigan Panel came off very well, partly because of the fine folk on it, but more because of the high grade attendees, all of whom were well read and educated as to the relative merits of two of SF's favorite heroes. Personally, I'm still of the opinion that Miles could take Kim...but it would have to be underhanded.
Saturday Night Con Fever - Chris' Famous Party was wall to wall humanity in a suite at the end of the hall. There was booze here, unlike all the other parties, but it was all purchased from the hotel. They told us to say that about a hundred times, so it's probably not true, but I'm sure they can provide a convincing paper trail to back it up. Dave McCarthy's sister was serving up Chicago hot dogs to promote an '08 Windy City Worldcon bid, offer herself as a possible con chair, and arguing with her brother about whether Arisia was her second or fourth con. Clearly Chicago '08 had managed to find a source of spirits as well. Down the hall Bob MacIntosh and Mike Nelson, both DC area folks (who are considering their own '11 bid) were standing in for the Denver '08 crowd. We haven't had a Denver con since the '80s, they pointed out, and it's time again. Hmm. I've never been to Denver, but Chicago hot dogs and a hot Chicagoan Con Chair are a tempting combination too. There were a number of parties I didn't bother to go in (or dare to enter) like the "Church of Skank" which no doubt wasn't "skanky" enough to enter anyway. But watching the comings and goings was enough for me anyway. Maybe more than enough.
Automating The Con - One panel I was keen to go to was the Sunday morning session on con-automation. Between the home grown "Zambia" package that the Arisian's developed for programming and scheduling, and the fan business venture run by "Shadye" of Stonekeep Consulting. The panel was rife with Con IT types, including myself, and a number of us asked if Arisia would be willing to offer code for other cons to use. Definitely maybe, though it's not quite ready for release.