Arisia 2001 - January 12-14, 2001by Ernest Lilley                            (more photos)

 photos Ernest Lilley 2001

 paintings Wojtek Siudmak

Arisia: Friendly Goths and Serious SF
official site:

Over at the "other" Boston Con with a name taken from E.E "Doc" Smith, I understand that the staff of the con paper discussed using my photography in their daily coverage. The idea was rejected on the grounds that people would think it was a Fredrik's Catalog.

They must have been looking at Arisia Coverage.

It's hard to take pictures at Arisia and not have them look like an ad for a leather and Goth getaway weekend. Which in fact is half true. The other half is that it's a great SF con, with a good mix of older and younger fans and well attended panels on the past, present, and future of SF and Fantasy.

It's a friendly con too, which is a delightful paradox considering the composition of undead and other SF fans. I always ask "mundanes" what they think of the whole affair, and at Arisia, they tend to think it's a hoot, a great pageant put on by fun folks who are happy to talk about what's going on. I've gotten different answers at different cons, and I think in part it's the diverse nature of Arisians that make them so inclusive. Good for you. 

Arisia was settling back into its traditional digs at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers after trying out a newer hotel two years ago. The Park Plaza does seem to have a certain Gothiness, and at $103 for a single with a cot, the con room rates were quite reasonable. The hotel has more character than you'll find in the recently extruded econostructures further out from the city, that's for sure. Elevators were at a premium as usual, but panels were only a few flights up by foot and everyone seemed to make out all right. 

All the panels I stopped in at were well populated and interesting. True, I came in at the end of several as I showed up for my three - Retro SF, Mil-SF, and SF, Still Outsider Fiction? We had a ball. Wish you were there.

This year's Con Chair was Elka Tovah Menkes and from what I could tell she and the Arisia crew in general deserve a round of applause for a most enjoyable weekend in Boston. If you've been getting the impression I liked Arisia 2001, you're right. There are other cons I take more seriously, but this one had just the right balance of pervasive party atmosphere and sf intellectualism to get me into the mood.

Guest of Honor this year was Lois McMaster Bujold, Fan GOH was the inimitable Wombat, and Artist GOH was Wojtek Suidmak. That's quite a lineup.

Crashheap Challenge

Fresh from competition in the Junkyard-Wars on The Learning Channel, Arisia was fortunate to have the N.E.R.D.S. (NEW ENGLAND RUBBISH DECONSTRUCTION SOCIETY)
in the persons of Jeff "DP" Del Papa, and William "Crash" Yerazunis the first American team to compete in the British version of Junkyard Wars. Early Saturday morning a crowd gathered around a pile of junk in the basement of the hotel to compete in the construction of whatever gizmo the hosts challenged them with. In this case a Bocchi playing machine. Tension and the smell of hot melt glue guns filled the air. Duct tape held it all together, and the whole thing looked like a bizzare re-enactment of the Apollo 13 skull session. It was great fun.

Author GOH: Lois McMaster Bujold.

Lois has a fan base whose loyalty borders on the kind of armsman fealty that one of her characters might swear. In fact, it's often easy to see a lot of crossover between her fans and her characters. Talking about mutual fans and friends the author remarked, "I'm flattered by the quality of my fans." Though the author has certainly earned her fans by the quality of her writing, she's 100% right to feel that way.

There were a number of enactments of elements from the author's Vorkosigan Universe, including a dress ball complete with a "Mirror Dance", the dance she created for the book of the same name. I caught a practice session in NYC a month before the con, and though there was some grumbling that authors should really consult dancers before inventing steps, a good time was had by all. The ball at the Con was a rousing success, by all accounts, and I'm sad that I wasn't able to arrive in time to get pictures.

All the same though Lois, could we please have a bit more space opera and a bit less dancing in the next installment of Miles' adventures?

Artist Guest of Honor: Wojtek Siudmak
Polish born artist Wojtek Siudmak considers himself a "fantastic hyperrealist", and his work draws on the work of Salvador Dali and other "surrealists". 

The program book and art show included some wonderful artwork by the GOH, not to mention the many talented artists that showed their work at the con. The images here are from several websites where you can see more of the artists work.

Imagenetion   /  Camarila  /  Araindex


Fan Guest of Honor: jan howard finder, AKA "Wombat"

Wombat is one of those colorful characters that you can't miss at a con. He's always wearing his Aussie hat, usually giving a back rub to some comely coed, and invariably ready with a friendly greeting for everyone. 

The picture to the left shows him resplendently garbed in a tux, and it's a pity he wouldn't hold still, but he was on his way to judge the masquerade. To the right we find this cuddly marsupial in his native habit, a con elevator on his way somewhere giving aid to a fan in need. 

Author Ben Bova wrote an "appreciation" for Wombat in the program that convinced me that he must have been a Swiss Army knife in a previous life. Wombat has published fanzines and edited anthologies, run auctions, authored aphorisms, given countless backrubs and considerable encouragement, and is a dedicated space activist.

Good on you, furry little guy! 

Industry and SF Cons - Viridien's recruting party
I've often wondered why high tech companies don't come to SF Cons. Not only are cons loaded with tech types, but we tend to be the obsessive kind of geek that companies love, which is no surprise to anyone in SF. We don't just work with technology, we love technology.

James Turner, principle software engineer of Viridien, a computer consulting firm, thought the same thing. So he pried some cash free from the recruiting budget, ordered enough cold cuts and shrimp platters for the whole con, and held a recruiting party. James and co. were able to pick up more than a hundred skill assessment forms to follow up on and had the fun of giving away a Palm IIIC as well as all that food.

As Jim says, "Most companies think that being an SF fan makes you weird, we think it's a feature." They went to Boskone last year, but decided that Arisia is a younger hipper crowd, just the sort of folks they want.

If you missed the party, you can always stop over at the website ( or get in touch with them by email. contact:

On to the Masquerade!

There was no shortage of talent at the masquerade (directed by Donna Dube), and Susan de Guardiola kept the whole thing moving along as she shepherded the contestants across the stage from the podium. Here are two of my favorite entries, Rachel Wyman as a Klingon Opera diva (ghIS'a'bella the Glamour Targ) and part of the ensemble for "Shock Treatment", a 50's style SF movie about love and reanimation. See the photo gallery for more masquerade shots.

I was a hit man for Harlan Ellison

While putting together the Arthur Clarke tribute for this issue, I called Harlan Ellison to try and pry a few bon mots out of him, when he found out I was going to Arisia he asked me to try and find a Finnish fan who was supposed to be there and was trying to get in touch with him. 

Though I kept my eyes open and asked around, I never did find my quarry. If you know or see Ulla Tissari, from the Finnish Arts Festival and SF Convention, please email me at

Clear Ether

Clear Ether, the show daily, reported all the news it could fit, regardless. In addition to programming items and helpful tips the paper was sprinkled with the news no one (except possibly the Enquirer) would print, like this little item --

The Arcturian Invasion continues. However, since Arcturians stand 4mm high, their colony currently consists of an 1/2 acre back lot in Absecon, New Jersey. No action is planned.

go to Arisia Photo Coverage        Arisia 1999 coverage

Next month....See you at Boskone for the SFRevu annual garage sale. Official Boskone 38 Website     Boskone 37 coverage