I attended Boskone 60 this year, and I had a blast! For the first time since I started attending the Boskone back in 2018, I decided to volunteer. I’m so glad I did! It added additional layers of awesomeness to an already awesome convention.
If you aren’t familiar with Boskone, you should check out their website here, but let me sum it up quickly. Boskone is an annual science fiction convention hosted each February by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA) in Boston, Massachusetts. I believe it’s the oldest and longest continuously running Science Fiction convention in the country. Boskone focuses on literature, art, music, and gaming.
As in years past, the convention drew an incredible list of program participants. Authors and artists and scientists from all over the country, all of them charming and wonderful. The three-day convention was packed with fascinating panel discussions, kaffeeklatsches, and social gatherings. The art show was fabulous, and the vendors tempted me with an array of gorgeous hand-crafts and limted-print books.
Unlike in years past, I didn’t stress about filling every possible slot with a workshop or panel or reading or kaffeeklatsch. Instead, I spent a lot of time helping out behind the scenes.
Signing Up to Volunteer
At the beginning of January (I think) NESFA sent out an email plea for extra volunteers to assist. If you didn’t know Boskone is a non-profit convention run entirely by unpaid NEFSA volunteers. That’s why they’re able to keep the cost of the convention so low. It only works if enough folks pitch in and lend a hand, though.
After responding to the January email, however, I didn’t hear back with dates or times or needs. When I sent any inquiry, I was told to just show up and check in at the volunteer desk. That struck me as ever so slightly chaotic and disorganized, but heck, I’m a high school teacher. I live and die by keeping things organized. I may just have a low tolerance for a more casual approach to things.
I spent a few hours on Friday morning helping to hang beautiful pieces of art. getting to know some of the other volunteers–a great group of people. At 2 pm the convention began in earnest. I was sent to pick up my official “Volunteer” membership badge. I spent most of the rest of Friday helping to stock/restock the free snacks and drinks station in the con suite. Let me tell you, keeping up with demand for free hot coffee, cold soda, chips, crackers, and fresh fruit was intense and never ending.
Saturday morning had me doing more of the same, which I didn’t mind at all. Food is love, after all. What better way to ensure folks enjoyed their con experience than by feeding them! I excused myself to catch a few panel discussions around midday, then got back to volunteering in the late afternoon. At that point, I’d clocked over 12 hours of volunteer time–enough to qualify for a free membership to next year’s convention. Despite that, I think I’ll likely sign up to volunteer again next year, for a few hours at least.
When a panel moderator fell ill at the last minute on Sunday, I volunteered to step in. The panel was on a topic I’m familiar with (biology). And since a big part of my day job (high school teacher) is moderating discussions. (Keeping the chips well-stocked must have made a good impression.) The powers that be put my name on the program and let me ask really smart people to talk about interesting things.
An Unexpected Bonus
That “volunteer” badge was a little bit magical in some unexpected ways. First, I got fed lunch and dinner for free. It was good food, too! Full-on meals, not just snacks. Second, while hanging out with veteran con runners, I got to hear some of the interesting history and cool lore of NEFSA and Boskone. Third, program participants seemed more open and friendly and chatty with me this year. Don’t get me wrong, program participants at Boskone are always friendly, but this year they seemed a bit more willing to say hello and strike up a conversation. I think the “Volunteer” badge pinned to my shoulder may have had something to do with that, though I can’t be sure. Regardless, I had great conversations with Andrea Kritz, John Langan, Nicholas Kaufmann, Elaine Isaak, Marshall Ryan Maresca, and Paul Tremblay, among others.
Are you considering attending Boskone 61 next year? You totally should! If you do, I hope you’ll also consider chipping in to help out as a volunteer. It’s a lot of fun, an
Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and as always, happy writing!