The weekend that was Boskone

This year, over the course of the con, three people asked whether there was a convention going on, including one startlingly handsome business man instigating a conversation with me in the elevator. (I only needed to go to the fifth floor so it was a very short conversation.) I’m not sure whether this shows that Boskone can be a rather subtle con–few con goers are costumed, for example–or that Boskone can be a rather small con. Compared to Arisia, because the two cons use the same hotel, the hotel lobby is downright empty. Maybe it’s both subtle and small. Those qualities have its strengths and weaknesses.

That said, I’ve seen more people in costume this year than previous years. Also, I’m seeing a wider range in the age of con-goers. Both of those are good things, IMHO.

The panel on gender roles in Doctor Who was amazing. For me, it was easily the best panel I attended of the con. Everyone had something interesting and insightful to say about how the show has dealt with gender over the course of its very long history. It was great to see a bunch of people who love the show deal with the ways in which it is and is not awesome.

My panel on Mike Ford was intimidating as I was the only person on the panel who didn’t know him personally. However, it meant I had the best seat in the room as Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Beth Meacham, Elizabeth Bear, and Jo Walton waxed brilliantly about the man as well as his work. The panel was the love-fest that it had to be. Also, it convinced at least one person to read his work. Mission accomplished! (And, if you haven’t read the work of John M. Ford, what are you waiting for? Go!)

The “Fun With Seriously Silly Poses” panel was just that. Gillian Daniels projected cover art on the screen and we, the panelists, tried to recreate it. The whole thing was both extremely silly and a lot of fun. Jennifer Pelland and I had decided ahead of time that we would gender-swap whenever possible, especially with those “woman hanging off of man” pictures. This meant, if nothing else, we both knew exactly what we were doing for any given moment. Actually, one thing that made this work was that everyone was game and didn’t hesitate to throw themselves into the scene. Not even improvisers always manage that much commitment.

I was extremely grateful for last-minute surprise guest panelist, Max Gladstone. Otherwise, I would have been the only guy on the panel (which might have been a bit limiting).

I went to a bunch of really terrific readings. In particular, the Clarkesworld reading was unusual in that, for a while, I was the only person in the audience. Since I’ve already heard all of their podcasts, I ended up having a nice chat with Neil Clarke, Kate Baker, and Jim Kelly (who was there to read one of his stories with Kate) until other people finally showed up. Then Kate read Spar (The Bacon Remix) by Kij Johnson. It’s as funny as the original Spar is disturbing.

Boskone always does some sort of presentation on Saturday night. This year, they did an abridged reading of Shakespeare’s Star Wars, a retelling of A New Hope in pseudo-Shakespearean verse. I got to play a collection of minor characters and Chewbacca. Well, the latter is mostly a visual role. He’s in a lot of scenes where he never says anything. Of course, when he does, it’s that roar you hear in the movies. So, in a table reading, he doesn’t to much except yell everyone once in a while. (Of course, being me, I spent a lot of time thinking, “OK, what is he really saying here? What is his intention for yelling?” when most of the audience just finds it funny that there’s this guy who yells at seemingly random moments.)

The Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi were wonderfully cast. David G. Grubbs has the requisite deep, resonant voice for the former and Bob Kuhn has the gravitas for the latter. Despite trying desperately not to cough, I had a great time. They’re going to do it again at the 2015 WorldCon in Spokane. I wish I could join them for it, but I’m not currently planning on going.

A play reading and panels are great, of course, but what makes any con for me are the conversations. Boskone is intimate enough that it takes a while before I feel like I have to get away and be by myself for a while. It’s always great to catch up with friends, especially the ones I don’t otherwise have a chance to see.

I met some people for the first time which is always cool. Myke Cole and I had an interesting conversation. With a bit of prodding, I introduced myself to Irene Gallo. She’s about to read the story I just sold to, so she recognized my name!

For me, this was a weekend with interesting conversations about, among other things, gender performance, the state of copyright law, and diversity in the field. All in all, a fun time and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Boskone, a con that I think is evolving in interesting directions.

Also, I was asked to write something to support the Helsinki in 2017 WorldCon bid. Things are a bit hectic for me for me to do justice to that right now. I’ll probably ping them in April to see if they are still interested in having me write something for them.

Of course, I came home to a driveway that needed to be shoveled out and the latest SFWA-adjacent controversy. One feels like a never-ending slog and the other involves pushing snow onto the lawn. As lots of other people have pointed out, we’re seeing this now because of (poor) decisions made in SFWA’s (recent) past and because of a concerted effort to reform SFWA into a professional organization that represents all of its members.

if you’ve spent literally your entire life being able to say whatever you wanted without consequence, that people are now calling you on your words is a palpable loss of ability. No one likes to lose an ability, even if it is the ability to be pointlessly awful to people without consequence.

Yes, there are people expressing more high-minded concerns, but they initially did it through examples that assert the right to be pointlessly awful to people without consequence. If these examples turn out not to be the sort of things you want to be associated with, then lending your good name to them was perhaps not the best move. If these examples accurately represent what you want, then why back away from them?

SFWA is changing. What I see in response is a lot of fear and anger. To the people reacting this way, how SFWA is changing is genuinely scary. I don’t think this is disputable. Whether that fear is reasonable or not, we still need to acknowledge it and engage with it. It’s been said that a basis of homophobia is the (unreasonable) fear that, in the absence of ostracization, gay men might treat straight men the way straight men treat women. Perhaps something similar is going on here. I, for one, look forward to a day when SFWA is truly a professional organization that represents all of its members in our great diversity.

However, one cautionary note. Lots of people are making ageist assumptions about the people reacting in fear and anger. That’s unjustified. There are people of all ages who support how SFWA is changing. There are people of all ages who oppose how SFWA is changing. Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this is purely age-related. That’s not helpful.

(As I was catching up on social media, I also saw that Lightspeed has announced Queers Destroy Science Fiction. Yay! It is forthcoming in 2015. Seanan McGuire told me at Boskone that Lightspeed will publish People of Color Destroy Science Fiction in 2016. Yay!)


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