Boskone 2012

Donald and I went to Boskone in February, over a month ago, and I’m so woefully behind on my blogging that I haven’t mentioned it yet.

Boskone is Boston’s other annual science fiction convention.  Arisia is much bigger, and a lot more people show up in costume.  Besides books, there are also movies, and gaming, and fan lifestyle panels, and panels to discuss TV shows.  Boskone is pretty much just books and an art show (okay, there’s some gaming and filk, too).

Since I’m more interested in the books than in any other corner of the science fiction and fantasy universe, I’ve usually enjoyed the scheduled programming more at Boskone than at Arisia.  This year was an unusual exception.  Arisia is doing a better and better job of putting together a great literary program, and I found that there weren’t as many panels at Boskone this year that I was really excited about.  Of course, panels during the day are only a small part of a science fiction convention.  I usually go more for what I sometimes euphemistically refer to as “networking”, but is really just sitting around drinking with friends.  (Although my theory is that effective networking probably should consist mostly of socializing with people in your chosen field with whom you have common interests and whom you like, unless you want to be a tiresome bore who never stops promoting their own work and can’t be bothered being nice to anyone who can’t help advance their career.  But I digress.)

Boskone was from February 17th to 19th, the Friday through Sunday of President’s Day weekend.  Things got underway at 5:00 pm on Friday, and mostly finished up by 4:00 pm on Sunday.  Here’s a list of the panels I went to (Donald also went to most of them):

How to Read Aloud
If you’re a writer, sometimes you have the opportunity to read your work aloud at a convention. Donald and I both feel we need all the advice we can get on this. We became writers so we wouldn’t have to talk to people in order to communicate. I thought the panel had some useful bits of advice about focusing your voice in different parts of your head and chest in order to differentiate character voices, though I’m not sure if I could actually keep this up for an entire reading. I didn’t find the exercises where they made the audience members stand up and try using their voices in different ways to be all that helpful, but that might just be because I don’t like going along with what everyone else is doing in public. I do think those sorts of exercises are probably more useful when it’s just you and a voice coach working together, though, because you can’t even really hear what you sound like when everyone else in the room is trying to make the same noise at the same time.

How Much Steam Is There in Steampunk?
Neither Donald nor I is really all that into steampunk (vaguely Victorian era or themed fantasy and/or science fiction, for the uninitiated. Although Donald has written a short story (as yet, unpublished) that could be considered steampunk. But Margaret Ronald from my writers group was on this panel, and also Stephen Segal, whom I know from other cons, so I wanted to go and hear what they had to say. (Maggie has written a bunch of steampunkish short stories that I really like, despite saying I’m not a big steampunk fan.) It was an interesting panel, though I’m still not convinced that the recent Scorcese film Hugo counts as steampunk just because it has an automaton and a lot of gears.

How Not to Produce An E-Book
Like many authors, Donald and I have self-published reprints of our own stories in Kindle format. Also, given the direction in which book publishing seems to be headed, I at least wonder whether at some point in the near future the only viable option for publishing a book will be self-publishing. So we hoped we might learn some tips about the e-book side of things. Unfortunately, I found the panel too advanced and technical to be of much use to me, but I think that’s my fault, not the panelists’. There’s a reason I’m using a standard WordPress theme for my blog and website instead of desigining my own.

Misuse of Weapons in Movies and on TV
Donald wanted to go to this one more than I did, but it turned out to be pretty entertaining. Some people from the Higgins Armory presented this, with video clips from Dr. Who, Star Wars, and The Princess Bride, among others. The only problem was that the lights in the room needed to be turned down low in order to see the video clips properly, and every time the door of the room opened, the lights would go back up. If you’ve ever been to a panel at a science fiction convention, you’ll know that people don’t put a high value on punctuality, and are constantly walking in late. If it were me running the panel, I would have stationed someone outside the door and not allowed any of the latecomers into the room, once it became clear that they were ruining the presentation for everyone else. But maybe that’s why people don’t let me run things.

Discarded Images: Astronomical Ideas That Were Almost Correct
This was a solo talk by planetary scientist Guy Consolmagno of the Vatican Observatory, discussing earlier theories about the solar system and universe, what assumptions the scientists and philosophers who came up with them made, and why they were wrong. Very interesting and informative, and often humorous.

Importance of Book Covers
This was another panel that Donald and I thought might be useful for any self-publishing we might need to do, but it turned out to be more about showing the recent cover art of some famous fantasy and science fiction artists whom we could never afford to hire, and giving them a chance to discuss how various covers developed from initial concept to final image. I thought it was still pretty interesting, though.

How Not to Lose the Plot
Donald wasn’t as interested in this one, so I went by myself. I think plotting is one of my weaknesses as an author. I have a tendency to make things happen for reasons of plot convenience, sometimes having the characters ignore really obvious issues or problems in the process. I don’t think I learned any helpful tips about how to not do this, though. But the panel was entertaining.

Surviving the Apocalypse
Another panel Donald wasn’t interested in. He went to What Every Dog Should Know About Quantum Physics instead, because he did his PhD in that area, and one of his pet peeves is misuse of quantum mechanics by science fiction and fantasy authors (especially the ever-popular multiple worlds theory). Apparently, the guy presenting the panel made reference to some of Donald’s PhD work, so that was cool. The apocalypse panel was all right, but not what I’d expected. I’d been hoping to learn about useful resources for authors of apocalyptic fiction, not useful tips for surviving an actual apocalypse.

It wasn’t all panels, of course. We went out for the annual Legal Sea Foods dinner with other members of the Brotherhood Without Banners (George R. R. Martin fan club), and stayed up at parties on Friday and Saturday nights later than Donald wanted and not as late as I wanted. Of course, the advantage of staying at the hotel for a con rather than driving back and forth each day is that we don’t both have to leave at the same time. But that gets really expensive, so we don’t do that for local conventions. At parties and elsewhere, we also ran into most of the members of my writers group, BRAWL, various local friends who are into science fiction, and out of town friends like former Worldcon chair Rene Walling and my Clarion West classmate Jim Stewart.

I did think that Boskone this year had better parties than Arisia, but that may have been because I knew a higher percentage of the people there.  But, like I said, I was less impressed by the panels.  Which was surprising, because in the past, I’ve often liked the programming at Boskone better than that at any other convention, including Worldcon and World Fantasy.  I’m not sure if it was me, or the programming, that was different this year.

One thing that I continued from Arisia was my new habit of crocheting during panels.  I found that I can still pay attention while my hands are occupied, and I’m less likely to be annoyed if the panel gets boring for a while.  I finished the scarf I’d been working on for a while.  This is very exciting for me, because it’s the first crocheted item I’ve actually finished.  Here’s a picture:

I’ve read that it gets less curly once you wash it and dry it flat. But I haven’t done that yet, because the label on the yarn says I’m supposed to use this special soap that I haven’t gotten around to buying. I’m also finding that I tend to make the foundation chain too tight, so one edge of the fabric ends up noticeably shorter than the other. Hopefully I’ll get over this habit with practice.

Here’s another view, so you can see the fringe at the end. Each end has a fringe like this. They need to be trimmed, though.

Here you can see the fringe

That scarf was made using all single crochet, which is the first stitch you learn. I think it’s supposed to be the easiest, but it’s smaller and tighter, and it takes much more time to produce a given area of fabric. For my next project, I’m going to make something with double crochet. So now I’m learning the double crochet stitch and making a test swatch, to see if I should use the hook size recommended by the pattern, or something larger or smaller.

My next project

Our next con will be Readercon in July, here in Massachusetts again.  I look forward to catching up with friends, meeting new people, finding out about interesting new books, and, of course, getting some work done on my new green scarf.

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