It’s become an annual February event in my household. What has, you ask? Valentine’s Day weekend? No. Presidents Day weekend? Definitely not. No, I’m talking about Boskone weekend!!
What is Boskone?
Boskone is the longest running science fiction convention in New England. When I was studying to get my MFA in creative writing at Lesley University back in 2018, one of my professors directed me to it, and since I do love my speculative fiction, it made sense to go. Also, I live close by–just north of Boston (home of Boskone). On top of that, it’s one of the most affordable SFFH writing conventions around. A $55 membership gets you full access all weekend long.
That first convention back in 2018 hooked me. To read about that awkward but incredible first experience, check out my blog post, Gearing Up for Boskone56.
This Year, Boskone went Virtual
The good folks who put on this convention each year – the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA) – had the foresight to put together a micro-virtual convention in July called ReCONvene. Much shorter, just one day. I attended. It was great. Especially since ReaderCon, the other wiring convention I strive to attend each year, had been cancelled because, you know, pandemic.
The NESFA folks learned lots of important tech and logistical lessons from the mini-con in July. From that experience, they crafted a truly excellent virtual Boskone event. Check out the line up of special guests!
The Pros and Cons of a Virtual Conference
It goes without saying that a virtual event can’t fully replace an in-person experience. After almost a whole year of social isolation, I definitely missed seeing and talking with other real-life people as opposed to in-the-computer people. Still, I think this year’s virtual Boskone had some uniquely positive elements.
How nice to snuggle on my couch under blankets with a cup of coffee while listening to panelists talk shop. I certainly couldn’t have sat and painted my nails during a panel discussion last year. The virtual dealer’s room didn’t have the same feel as the real thing. What could? The look of all those shiny books, the smell of their pages, the feel of the paper beneath my fingers. Nothing will ever replace that, but because I didn’t drop $300+ on hotel and travel, I was able to buy more of the books panelists recommended when someone asked the inevitable question, “If you could recommend just one book that you think exemplified X, what would it be?” Yeah, my TBR list got a LOT longer this weekend, and what a wonderful problem that is!
Here’s what I bought (a fraction of what was recommended):
Motivate Your Writing by Stephen P. Kelner, JR PhD
The Exorcist 40th Anniversary Edition by William Peter Blatty
In Search of and Others (short fiction collection) by Will Ludwigsen
Judges: Psyche (a Judge Dredd novel) by Maura McHugh
Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay
The weekend proved to be a whirlwind of wonderful. Here’s what I got up to.
Let the Friday Fun Begin!
I wanted to kick things of with the “Fountain Pen Show & Tell Discussion Group” at 3:30, but I didn’t finish up my teaching day until 3:30 and didn’t get home until 4:30. But, through the grapevine I hear it was a lot of fun.
Bouncing Round the Rooms
At 5:00 pm, I hopped in and out of the Opening Ceremonies event, the “Science of Fantasy” panel discussion, and “The Transformative Power of Women in Horror” panel. All while ordering dinner online and writing end-of-trimester comments for my students. Being able to unobtrusively enter and leave zoom panels was definitely a plus. So was knowing that most of the panel discussions would be recorded. No more agonizing over which panel to attend at time X because they’re both so amazing I don’t want to miss either one. They’re all available for viewing at my leisure moving forward! Huzzah!!
A Conversation about Craft
“Admiring the Scene-ry” was a fantastic panel to listen in on as I ate dinner in my living room. John Chu made some great connections between improv theater techniques and writing crisp, in-the-moment, engaging scenes. Scott Edelman offered up the time-honored advice to get into a scene as late as possible and get out of a scene as early as possible. Michael Swanwick swooped into the conversation to defend the effectiveness and merits of the narrative “hook” in writing.
What does the future hold for us?
From there I tuned into the 8:00 pm panel discussion, “Bizarre Biotech” with Jeanne Cavelos, Colin Alexander, Frank Wu, and S L Huang. Frank cued up some google slides showcasing several examples of authentically bizarre biotech in development around the globe. The panelists (and attendees via the zoom chat) spent the hour cracking each other up as they discussed the merits (or lack thereof) of various tech ideas. Energy producing “urine socks” anyone? No? No takers? Shocking.
Snuggle In and Tell Me a Story
I capped off my Friday evening listening to Joe Hill and Paul Tremblay take turns reading from existing or in-progress works. After the reading, they hung out with the audience members who had zoomed in and we all had a relaxed and down-to-earth chat about… oh, you know, stuff and things. It was super chill and really excellent.
Final Thoughts on Virtual Boskone
This post would grow much too long if I attempted a summary of every panel and kaffeeklatsch I attended on Saturday and Sunday. If you’re desperate to hear more, let me know in the comments and I’ll consider a “part 2” post. For now, know that Saturday and Sunday were as good if not better than Friday. Despite never leaving my house, I was surprisingly exhausted by the end of my final activity on Sunday night (a kaffeeklatsch with Joe Abercrombie).
Boskone 58 was a smashing success, even in its modified virtual form. I’m glad I went, but I do hope it’ll be in-person next winter. Nothing can replace the excitement of traveling to the hotel, eating way-too-expensive hotel food, dressing up a little nicer than usual, and bumping into like-minded folks I haven’t seen in six months between panels and at the “after-con” evening gatherings.
If you’ve got questions about Boskone, drop them into the comments or you reach out on Twitter and we can compare notes!
Did you attend Boskone this year? What were the highlights for you?
Thanks for stopping by, and as always, happy writing to you.