Timing Not Perfect for Boskone 49

Timing Not Perfect for Boskone 49

By David Price

Would you have the wedding rehearsal after the wedding? No, I didn’t think so. So I am a little confused as to why the sci-fi convention Boskone would be held about a month after the much larger spectacle of Arisia, in the exact same hotel, no less. This would be like going to watch the Super Bowl on the jumbotron of the stadium it was played in a month after it was over and everyone else had left. That would be something of a letdown, right? Oh sure, the vendors would still be open and you could pay ten bucks for a beer if you really wanted to, but it’s not the same thing. Now, by contrast, if they had played the first Giants/Patriots Super Bowl on the jumbotron in the stadium a couple days before this year’s, that might have been cool. It would have been a primer for what was coming.

Photo by David Price

All right, admittedly, every time I have been to some sort of fan convention in the last six months, it has been a first time for me. But maybe, just maybe, that means my opinions should matter, just a little, if some of these cons want to actually attract newbies. Boskone is very much like a primer or practice run for something as grandiose as Arisia. I’m not saying that both shouldn’t exist together in the same world, but I can’t help but feel that Boskone should be held before Arisia, not after. Just four weeks before Boskone was held, I was completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of Arisia. Held at the Westin Boston Waterfont, Arisia seemed to make use of every single conference room in the hotel. To be honest, I’m surprised the Westin had enough space available to accommodate the seemingly hundreds of events that Arisia had going. As I walked around with my eleven year old daughter at Boskone, I found myself asking, where’s the rest of it?

Also, what’s with almost all of the vendors selling books? Nothing against books, per se, but don’t sci- fi fans also like to wear cool geeky t-shirts, watch movies, and own toy props from their favorite series? There hasn’t been as much of that as I expected, at either Boskone or Arisia, to be honest. Arisia had a better mix, to be sure, but still fell short of my expectations when it came to vendors. My daughter was drawn to a woman who sold stuffed animals of every imaginable species. She even had dodo birds! My daughter, Kayleigh, asked for a monkey backpack. Since she was nice enough to accompany me to something that she had no idea if she would enjoy, I bought it for her.

Kayleigh’s squid. Photo by David Price.

We sat down and watched the Higgins Armory put on a display of medieval sword fighting for a while. This was cool for me, because I actually took those classes at the Higgins Armory about ten years ago, so watching it brought me back to the fun I had learning that style. It wasn’t the most exciting thing for an eleven year old girl, however, so we eventually moved on. The most fun we had together was at the art show. I was happy to see how all the artwork appealed to my daughter, since I have loved fantasy art for as long as I can remember. I wish we had more money on hand, because there was a piece Kayleigh really admired, but I couldn’t afford it. We must have walked through the art show a half-dozen times and I saw something new each time. Knowing what I know now, I’ll be more ready for it next time.

I will say this about Boskone, it has a much more personal atmosphere than Arisia. There were reserved tables all over the place for groups to get together and game, chat, hang out or whatever. But since I am not a member of any of those groups, that part of the con was lost on me. As Kayleigh’s enthusiasm started to wane, I finally talked her into checking out the kids section that they called Dragon’s Lair. She didn’t want to at first, since it seemed to have mostly younger kids in there. She gave in at last, because the children in Dragon’s Lair were obviously having fun. While Kayleigh was in the kids’ section, I spent some time going through a display that advertised many of the upcoming cons. I’ll give many of them a try this year, and I have a feeling I will have a much better idea of the what will appeal to me after all is said and one. 2012 is going to be an interesting year. After goofing around in there for a little while, Kayleigh came out with a balloon animal squid. That was pretty cool, since a giant squid attacks my hero and his friends in my first novel.

A lich. Photo by David Price.

Before we left, Kayleigh insisted I buy something for myself as well, especially since we couldn’t afford the art we had been admiring. I finally settled on a small statue that truly embodies my two favorite genres; horror and fantasy. The statue is of a lich. If you are unfamiliar with the term, consider it an undead sorcerer. There is just something about it that is inspirational to me. I guess when I look at it; I imagine that it is what my muse probably looks like, when I am writing my particular brand of monster fantasy. Anyway, Boskone 2012 was also Boskone 49. I imagine the organizers are planning something big for the fiftieth anniversary of Boskone next year. Maybe that’s why this one seemed a little small to me. Perhaps they are saving up the big guns for next year. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Experiencing Arisia

Experiencing Arisia 2012

by David Price

When did steampunk become so popular, would someone tell me? I went to Arisia for the first time this year, which, for those who don’t know, is a yearly science fiction and fantasy convention in Boston. Now, admittedly, my convention-going experience is limited. When I was a kid, I used to go to some of the local comic book and Star Trek conventions, but that was over twenty years ago. Last year, I went to a horror convention called Rock and Shock, in Worcester, Massachusetts, and a horror writers’ convention called Anthocon in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Neither one of those prepared me for the spectacle I would find at Arisia.

I had expectations for Arisia. I’ve seen these kinds of things on tv, so I thought I would find a bunch of people dressed up like Starfleet officers, Klingons, Jedi, Hobbits, Elves, and Battlestar Galactica pilots. My expectations were, however, blown out of the water. Instead, it seemed like every science fiction fan woke up one morning and said, “Hey, I finally get that 1960s television show, The Wild Wild West. You know the show, right? Robert Conrad and Ross Martin were James West and Artemus Gordon. These two were a couple of James Bond types during the time of the Old West. It was half science-fiction, half western. The gadgetry they employed was far in advance of what you would expect for the period, with things like cyborgs, force fields, flamethrowers, and batman-style grappling hooks. The 1999 version starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline really sucked, but they played up the whole steampunk angle even more than the series. So that’s what steampunk is, this blending of Old West and Victorian era time period with science fiction elements.

If the the Arisia I attended is representative of what it is usually like, they could just call it a steampunk convention. There were plenty of people dressed up in costume, that’s true, but most of it had that steampunk theme. I saw one Starfleet uniform, one hobbit, and a couple of guys who might have been Jedi, but they didn’t have light sabers, so I couldn’t be sure. Dressing for the occasion seems to be the way to go at one of these things too, as I would say a good three quarters of the convention-goers showed up in costume. I was in the minority. It was fun to go there and people watch, though. Let me tell you something; nerd girls dress up in some of the, ah, *ahem*, most appealing costumes you could imagine. I’ll admit they surpassed what I expected. There may not have been any Slave Leias, but there was a scantily clad elven archer from the Lord of the Rings or Skyrim, a seductive assassin from the video game Assassin’s Creed, and a very revealing Poison Ivy from Batman wrapped in only, you guessed it, ivy.

All right, so I still decided I would go in there and enjoy myself. I like Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Babylon Five as much as the next geek. Stepping into the dealer room was like entering some alternate universe, where geeks didn’t even know who the Doctor, Captain Kirk, Han Solo or Starbuck were. I wandered around and checked out everything they had to offer, but nothing really jumped out at me. I’m amazed to say that I walked out of Arisia without purchasing a single thing. When I went into the dealer room, however, it seemed the dealers got the same memo that everybody else did. It was Steampunk Central in there. I’m an introvert by nature and I have to admit that I found the place to be a bit overwhelming. I think I could have settled in better if I found some of the familiar Harry Potter and Star Wars elements that I expected to, but those things were almost non-existent, except for one notable exception. One of the highlights of the day was a life-sized stormtrooper cake that was on display. Towards the end of the day, it was sliced up and served to a very long line of hungry Star Wars fans. I passed on that, because hey, how good could it really be? If it was Darth Vader cake, maybe, but stormtrooper? It was probably just a cloned recipe, anyway.

The biggest lesson I learned from this convention, was that I should have made myself familiar with the schedule before I even walked in the door. There were hundreds of events that included movies, seminars, discussion groups, and even combat sword training. I know I would have enjoyed a bunch of those, and next time I intend to have a plan of attack. I missed the discussion I had planned to attend, which was a panel of critics wrapping up the science fiction movies from 2011. A friend of mine, Woody Bernardi, had what they call a “fan table.” Woody started a group called the Boston Science Fiction Association, which is really just a bunch of fans who get together and hangout sometimes. He got the fan table to drum up some more interest in the group. So far we’ve mainly been getting together for lunch at the Tavern at the End of the World, in Charlestown, Massachusetts. I agreed I would take a turn watching the fan table for Woody so he could go to some of the discussion groups that interested him. I think he was particularly interested in a tribute to Anne McCaffrey. I was happy to sit down and unwind a bit. I actually talked to more people sitting at that table than I had wandering around the crowded dealer room.

I look forward to the next one, though, now that I’ve had a chance to process the experience. As a writer, I dream of a day when people will be dressing up as characters from my fantasy novels. That would be something to see. Would I go in costume? I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. Of course, my ultimate goal is to be one of those guys sitting behind a table with a long line of people waiting to see me. I’ll be serving the Darth Vader cake, of course.

Author Reading from Her Anthology this Sunday

Writer and NEHW member Trisha Wooldridge will be reading and signing at the Worcester Writers Collaborative event at the Tatnuck Bookseller on Sunday, Jan. 29.

Wooldridge will be reading from UnCONventional, an anthology that she edited with Kate Kaynak, at 2:30 p.m. The collection was published by Spencer Hill Press and was released on Jan. 15 at the Arisia convention in Boston. Wooldridge also has a story in the anthology. She will also be signing copies.

The WWC includes writers of many genres, all from around Central Massachusetts. Authors will be chatting with readers, signing books and reading excerpts from their works at the event, which runs from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Every WWC book bought at the event will be an entry into a raffle to win an all-inclusive photography package from AG Photography of Worcester (www.alanagordonphotography.com).

The Tatnuck Bookseller is located at 18 Lyman Street, Westborough, MA. Check out the Bookseller’s website, http://www.tatnuck.com/.

For more information about the WWC, check out its website, www.worcesterwriters.org.

If you can’t make the event, you can purchase UnCONventional from Amazon.

A Writer Experiences Arisia

This convention write-up by NEHW member, Kendra Saunders, for the Pure Textuality wesite.

A Writer Experiences Arisia

by Kendra Saunders

Arisia in Boston has a longstanding history for being the conference where geeks, nerds and steampunk enthusiasts can party and battle snowstorms. Arisia 2012 was remarkable in many ways, but most strikingly, because the skies overhead were blue and snow-free.

Your intrepid reporter (intrepid? No, that’s a lie. A bit overtired, over-excited and over-caffeinated), left snowy and icy New Hampshire on Friday morning with about three bags full of clothes, writing supplies, books and her well-travelled Loki action figure, and hit the road for southern New Hampshire. After connecting with a considerably more famous author, Elaine Isaak (The Singer’s Crown, The Bastard Queen), the journey continued southwards.

As soon as we hit the MA border, the ice and snow disappeared and the skies turned blue and the clouds fluffy, as if we had stumbled across a lovely summer afternoon. Well, maybe not summer, as the temperature was freezing and the winds quite raw.

The convention geared up late in the afternoon as participants threw their belongings in hotel rooms and rushed to get in line for registration. The lines were a bit long and crowded, and the whole matter was disorganized, but once registration was finished, the guest was free to wander at will. A Starbucks and bar/grill stood guard on either side of the hotel’s lobby, providing caffeine or beer, depending on your mood.

Costumes on Friday night were muted compared to the rest of the weekend, but even so, you might easily find yourself sipping coffee with Robin Hood, a Jedi and three young Victorian chaps. Bowler hats and goggles popped up more frequently as dinner-time loomed, and panels about role playing, writing, corset-design and gender gave way to several spectacles on the ground floor of the hotel. A disastrous but amusing showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show held my interest for ten minutes, but I soon joined the crowds of people that flooded out of the room due to DVD malfunctions (yes, really). Wandering down the hall from the movie room, I heard pounding Goth synths and investigated only to find a dark room of dancing witches, Vikings, teenagers, middle aged steampunk guys and a few curious passersby.

It must be said that if you will ever, ever, ever feel comfortable in the knowledge that you can be dressed in PJs and have curlers in your hair, and you won’t be the weirdest thing on the dancefloor… it’s probably at Arisia. I found myself dancing (badly) to songs by Lady Gaga and Blutengel. The DJ was phenomenal.

After passing out at 2:30 a.m. and waking up around 6 a.m., getting dressed in my diesel punk outfit (20s crossed with futuristic/steampunk inspired fashions) and wandering down into the hotel lobby, I discovered rather quickly just how creative the people who attend these conventions really are. Everywhere I looked, women strolled by in Victorian garb, giant hats, skimpy lace outfits and elaborate animal costumes. The men were dressed in a variety of fashions, though many of them seemed to stick close to the steampunk aesthetic. It was gorgeous. And most of the costumes were made by the people who wore them.

Early in the day, the women of Broad Universe hosted a book reading for women writers in the organization. I was among the readers, and after a bout of nerves, I managed to deliver a chapter of my book with all of the glee and grade-A ham that any of us frustrated actor/entertainers harbors inside. Everyone laughed when they were supposed to, clapped when they were supposed to. KT Pinto gave a spirited reading that had everyone nearly in tears with laughter.

Most of Saturday was dotted with various panels for attendees, but perhaps the greatest draw was the never-ending parade of fabulous costumes in the lobby. Batman posed for pictures, Sherlock Holmes wandered the halls, the 10th and 11th Doctor made multiple appearances, a Dalek drew gasps and Tony Stark smirked while he posed for pictures with hot women. The masquerade ball was allegedly one of the best in the history of Arisia and was talked about loudly for the rest of the weekend.

KT Pinto’s book-signing that evening culminated in one enthusiastic fan kneeling in front of the author’s table for a copy of her upcoming book (shhh!) A cancelled party sent hordes of too-sober nerds back into the lobby, most of them choosing to drink and mope and converse in grumbles about their party being cancelled. A few found solace in watching the football game. And let me tell you, there’s nothing like a bunch of men in Ren-fair clothes yelling at a TV screen and cheering on their favorite football team.

Another late night rolled into a somewhat later morning than the one before it. Sunday at Arisia boasted just as many costumes, but a bit less energy as the alcohol and lack of sleep caught up to the attendees.

Broad Universe and Spencer Hill Press hosted a hugely successful book launch for the Spencer Hill Press anthology, UnCONventional. A dragon cake was consumed, fans were able to get autographs from many of the anthology’s writers and much conversation floated around the crowded room.

Arisia attendees were fed a steady diet of somewhat appropriate food offerings—dry, stale bread, butter, a few bruised fruits, assorted cheeses and crackers and endless tea, coffee and hot chocolate. The food was laid out on multiple tables and left to be picked over by the sleepy maidens, grumpy young peasant children, stiff anime characters and confused men in crumpled business suits. I couldn’t help feeling that it was fitting and, for that reason and that reason alone, clever. So yes, I mostly lived off of stale loaves of bread, warm butter and cups of black tea… just like any good waylaid steampunk girl stuck in a great valley of dragons, street vendors and magicians.

And then more than once I hit up the bar/grill in the lobby for their delicious curry. If you stay at the Westin, try the curry. It’s surprisingly addictive, with or without the suggested French fries. Don’t mix it with Guinness though. I already did that for you, so I could warn you. Awfully kind of me, yes?

JA Starr was on hand to take lovely professional photos and he generously shared some of his honey mead with me. Delicious!

By Monday, most everyone was scurrying about to hug their new friends, say goodbye to old friends, get contact information or just figure out what the heck they did with their (keys, bag, purse, child, etc). I had fallen victim to a nasty bout of vertigo, thanks to the elevators and far too little sleep, so admittedly I was rather happy to see things winding down.

All in all, I suggest Arisia highly for fans of fantasy, fans of role-playing, costumers, steampunk enthusiasts, and writers in the Northeast. It’s a great chance to meet fans, make friends, meet heroes, dress up in your old ballgown (everyone has one, right?) or just gawk at the most creative people in the world (fans, of course!) While I didn’t find the panels to be quite as interesting as I was expecting them to be, the pure spectacle of the costumes and fandoms and vendors are enough to justify attending. And the conversations! Oh, you’ll have conversations with all sorts of people.

Included are pictures of the event and some of my favorite costumes from Arisia. Enjoy!

For more about Broad Universe, a world-wide organization that supports and promotes female writers, visit www.broaduniverse.org.

For more about Spencer Hill Press or UnCONventional, visit www.spencerhillpress.com.

For more about one of the incredible vendors at the show, visit www.etsy.com/shop/EmrysFynery.

For books by Tim Lieder visit http://www.amazon.com/Dybbuk-Press/lm/R1LB59CKVHK136.

For more information on me, visit my fancy-dancy, newly updated website, www.kendralsaunders.com