March 2004
2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Boskone 41 Report
New England Science Fiction Association  / Con Dates: 02/13-15/04
Official Website:
Report by  by Daniel Dern
image: Boskone 41 Program Cover by Richard Hescox

Guest of Honor: Stephen Baxter
Official Artist: Richard Hescox
Special Guest: Betsy Mitchell
Featured Filkers: Bill & Brenda Sutton

Boskone 41 Con Report: A Modest But Enjoyable Event

With the Noreason Four World Science Fiction convention coming to Boston a scant six-and-change months away, it probably was no surprise that Boskone 41, held in Boston in February as usual during Presidents and Valentine's Day Weekend was comparatively modest and low-key. This is neither a complaint nor a criticism. That NESFA felt they had the time and energy to field a Boskone, with WorldCon approaching (admittedly, the crews aren't identical,
though obviously there's a lot of overlap) was impressive

(ReaderCon, a Boston-area con usually held in early July, by contrast, is taking a pass this year, partly in deference to WorldCon -- although the ReaderCon committee is, I gather, hoping to generate some WorldCon program items.)

After many years of being held at the semi-pseudo-medieval-looking Sheraton Tara in the Boston suburb of Framingham, right off the Mass Turnpike and with free parking, but close to inaccessible by public transit, and with minimal internal food facilities, Boskone returned this year to the Sheraton Boston in downtown Boston, adjacent to the Hynes Convention Center (where the fast-approaching Noreascon Four will be held) and Prudential Building, with expensive parking, lots of fooderies accessible within the building or through enclosed over-street walkways, and easy access by public transit.

Unlike for Arisia earlier in January in Boston, the weather was cooperative -- it was cold to chilly at times (well, it IS winter), but no rain, hail, snow, ice, wind or other traffic-snarling conditions. It got dark out at times, but that's what happens at night.

The location of the rooms, especially Registration and the entrance to the Dealers' Room, put Boskone right in the middle of a lot of through traffic -- people going between the Hynes and the Hotel registration.

I don't know if this caused any problems. (I didn't ask.) In the adjacent Hynes, for some of the weekend, was an event by Vision New England, formerly known, according to their web site, as the Evangelistic Association of New England... plus some indeterminate but presumably sizeable roster of Valentine Day celebrants. If nothing else, this made getting restaurant reservations a bit harder for some of the time slots. However, it was probably just as well that this Boskone was low on hallway costumes and other get-uppery.

The Con suite was a pleasantly large room, well-stocked with edibles including some that were actually nourishing. (Plus interesting things at the con bid and other tables, like the chocolate Godzillas.)

Unusually, there was no Green Room for program participants to hob and nob away from (the) hoi polloi (yes, I know that "the hoi polloi" is redundant), due to various circumstances -- The Powers That Be are working to change this for Noreascon. I did find myself wondering whether the more dedicated venue of Sheraton Tara was more conducive to conning. I don't have any immediate answer -- the availability of a wide variety of food and walk-to eating places was a significant plus, and hard to balance against privacy.

The GoH/etc roster for Boskone 41 was Guest of Honor Stephen Baxter, Official Artist Richard Hescox, Special Guest Betsy Mitchell and Featured Filkers Bill & Brenda Sutton.

Among the several dozen pros expected (see for a fuller list of who was expected), ones I saw (on panels, in hallways, etc.) included Michael A. Burstein, Bruce Coville, Ctein, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Bob Devney, Esther Friesner (cheebles and 'mancy in hand), David G. Hartwell, James Patrick Kelly. George R. R. Martin, Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Tamora Pierce, Allen M. Steele, Charles Stross and Jane Yolen. (Robert Sawyer was unable to attend, due to some illness.)

There were lots of interesting programming items, including what seems to be becoming a tradition, "Twenty Panels in an Hour," where Michael A. Burstein, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Leigh Grossman and moderator Bob Devney discussed or otherwise disposed of more 20+ topics in the advertised time, with a lot of hijinks, ad libs, audience participation, and seriously bad jokes. Frighteningly enough, in many cases it felt like the mini-panel was just the right length.

Another traditional Boskone panel, the Friday night Trivia Content, by Mark L. Olson and Priscilla Olson ("You answer the question, you get the chocolate") was, as usual, a delightful success. During the year, the Olsons (with help, this year from Bob Devney and possibly others) rack their brains or otherwise clearly go through too many books and media to come up with questions ranging from the traditional "first or last line" or even "a line from
somewhere in..." to characters (e.g., full name of these cats), titles, and stuff my mind's too blank to recall.  Answers are yelled out; the Olsons throw scoring tokens -- Andes chocolates. Judges can award based on accuracy, near-accuracy, speed of response, volume, or humor... and occasionally demand participants return a token or two for excessive zeal or other excesses.

In any case, the winners clearly know waaaay too much about the subject matter (which means not only having read/watched it, but remembering it).  But it's not always just about knowledge. The challenge, as participants quickly learn, is to come up with the right part of the answer -- it's easy to recognize it's a Heinlein story, harder to yank the title, or other demanded information. Interestingly, as Mark Olson noted at the end, this year, while there were (even with neither Tom Galloway nor Tony Lewis playing) some big winners, there were lots of right answers from all over the room... often, from someone who'd just walked in.  (I got about ten or twenty points.)  Even if you don't care about playing, it's fun to sit and see what you do -- and don't -- know about our field and its history.

Jane Yolen was celebrating her 65th birthday; in addition to a cake, she did a panel with Bruce Coville, which was (for the half I was at -- we got there late) doing a mix of interviewing, and asking questions that led to stories. Yolen talked about her father, who was, among other things, the International Kite Flying Champion and author of two books on kite flying, and the hidden room in a house they moved into, as well as books in progress, and other anecdotes. I'm sorry to have missed the first half of this session!

Memorial panels for the late Hal Clement included one sharing personal thoughts (which I missed), and another, with Michael Burstein and David Hartwell, plus Jeff Carver and yours truly, on his science fiction, and his influence on the field. Hartwell pointed out, among other things, that it wasn't until the seventies that Clement's true influence became clear, in rigor of world-building. (Be sure to read Clement's final novel, Noise.)

The Huckster Room was medium-sized, a lot of new books and pricier, often signed books (along with one pile of "rare unsigned Allen Steele editions"). Missing were more of the stacks of used fairly-priced-for-reading books -- there were some, but since I didn't find what I was looking for (mostly give-away duplicates of some of my favorites), there obviously weren't enough of these vendors.

The Art Show was small, not surprisingly; some good stuff by the Artist GoH and others. I nearly bid on one of the mock street signs. There was a screening room with pretty-much continuous anime that always seemed to have a quietly-happy audience.

People seemed happy enough -- granted, I wasn't polling, but I didn't hear any significant amount of con-related grumbling, always a good sign. Enough fun for a local (for me) show... and a good mini-trial research run before Noreascon Four comes to town.

2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
columns - events - features - booksmedia        home  /  Join Mailing List