Boskone 2020 Report

Kim Stanley Robinson

By Daniel Dern. Boskone 57, Feb 14-16, 2020.

The temperature ranged from chilly (it is winter) to downright frosty (12? Saturday morning, maybe up to 20? by 9:45AM when we walked the overpass from our hotel to the con), but on the other hand, no snow, rain, or weather public-transit shutdowns (all of which have happened to Boston-in-winter cons).

Boskone 57’s Featured Guests were:

  • GUEST OF HONOR: Kim Stanley Robinson
  • YOUNG ADULT FICTION GUEST: Holly Black
  • OFFICIAL ARTIST: Eric Wilkerson
  • MUSICAL GUEST: Cheshire Moon
  • HAL CLEMENT SCIENCE SPEAKER: Jon Singer
  • NESFA PRESS GUEST: Jim Burns

The 150+ program participants also included a mix of established and new writers, artists, editors and agents, along with well-known fans, e.g. (citing mostly people I know/names I recognize), Ellen Asher, Joshua Bilmes, Holly Black, Ginger Buchanan, Jeff Carver, John Chu, C.S.E. Cooney, Andrea Martinez Corbin, Josh Dahi, Julie C. Day, Bob Devney, Paul Di Filippo, Vincent Docherty, Debra Doyle, Tom Easton, Bob Eggleston, Esther Friesner, Craig Shaw Gardner, Greer Gilman, Max Gladstone, Anabel Graetz, Charlaine Harris, Grady Hendrix, Carlos Hernandez, Sarah Jean Horwitz, Jim Infantino, James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel, Dan Kimmel, Mur Lafferty, Kelly Link, James D. Macdonald, Darlene Marshall, Beth Meacham, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Julie C. Rios, Cameron Roberson, Erin Roberts, Joseph Siclari, Allen M. Steele, Michael Swanwick, Christine Taylor-Butler, Erin Underwood, Martha Wells, Trisha J. Wooldridge, Brianna Wu, Frank Wu.

(Some that, sadly, were listed but had to cancel included Bruce Coville, Steve Davidson, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Suzanne Palmer, Adi Rule, and Jane Yolen.)

While there was no File770 meet-up (that I was aware of), I spotted/chatted briefly with a few Filers (hardly surprisingly, of course).

FYI, NESFA Press had brand-new books available at Boskone 57:

I’ve just done purchase requests to my local library for these. Take that, Mount To-Be-Read!

A SATISFYING PROGRAM. This year’s program has lots of good stuff — for several time slots I saw three or even four that I wanted to go to. I could easily have spent the entire con doing nothing but program items, with brief breaks for food, schmoozing, and strolling the Dealer’s Area and the Art Show, of course).

In “Great Novels That Don’t Work”, Grady Hendrix, Allen M. Steele, Bracken MacLeod, Michael Swanwick and Brianna Wu talked about the problems of various sf works, from plot to “one unforgivable step.” I missed the first few minutes of this session, I’d love to hear/watch a recording of the whole thing.

Panel – Great Novels That Don’t Work: Bracken MacLeod, Brianna Wu, Allen M. Steele, Grady Hendrix, Michael Swanwick

“Business of Being a Writer” tracks are a staple at many cons, instructively essential for beginners, and often entertaining for all. (Particularly the “horror stories/don’t do’s.”) In “Editing from Agent, to Editor, to Publisher”, Melanie Meadors, Joshua Bilmes, Beth Meacham, John Kessel and James D. Macdonald examined the “manuscript’s journey” of read/rewrite/edit/revise from author through beta readers, copy editors, proof readers and other stations.

Panel – Editing from Agent, to Editor, to Publisher: Melanie Meadors, John Kessel, James D. Macdonald, Beth Meacham, Joshua Bilmes

I went to several readings, including Daniel Kimmel, reading a not-yet-published time travel story involving a character from his second sf novel (which you don’t have to have read to enjoy the story), Max Gladstone, and James Patrick Kelly, plus kaffeeklatsches with Esther Friesner and with Tor editor Beth Meacham.

TRIVIA PURSUIT! One of my favorite items at Boskones is the Trivia For Chocolate game show run by Mark and Priscilla Olson and Jim Mann, where us audience members strive to be the first (or loudest) to yell out enough of the right answers to sf trivia questions, with, per the name of the game, points being awarded using those thin rectangular green-wrapped chocolate Thin Mints (and only uneaten ones are count for your final tally).

For example, in “First Lines” — “The baloney weighed the raven down.” (“N Svar Naq Cevingr Cynpr, Crgre F Orntyr” — as I was yelling out the answer mid, ahem, weigh.)

I usually place in the enumerated winners short list (see my Boskone 56 report.

This isn’t the kind of content you can cram for, and I’m not sure you could even study for it — certainly not time-effectively. The only way is to have consumed sf&f voluminously — and remembering the relevant details.

The not-so-secrets to doing well in TRIVIA FOR CHOCOLATE include location (front or second row), luck, low memory-to-mouth latency, chutzpah and having consumed sf (including f, and h) omnivorously for years-to-decades.

This year, to my happy surprise, I came in first, by a 14-point spread against tied-for-seconds Karen von Haam (who, I’m pretty sure, was the person on my right snagging answers right and left for the open several minutes), and the always-impressively-knowledgeable-about-really-obscure-stuff Bob Devney.

(I donated all but two of my winnings to the Narnia Coat Check Closet. ’nuff et!)

Panel – Illustrating Children’s Books: Christopher Paniccia, Ruth Sanderson, Ingrid Kallick, Cat Scully

MY SESSIONS. I was on four items this year.

“Journalism in Speculative Fiction”, along with Clea Simon, Darlene Marshall, and Dan Moren. Here’s the session description:

From Wells and Orwell to Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, and Annalee Newitz, there’s a long tradition of reporters becoming writers of SF/F/H. Our veteran newshounds report on what a background in journalism can bring to genre work. Are you already accustomed to research, deadlines, and low wages? Does the drive to get the facts mean it’s harder to make stuff up? Can reporters be written as good genre characters? While pounding out a hot story, must you wear a fedora?

This could easily have filled a day-long symposium. Heck, I could (preferably with at least 20 minutes advance notice to web-refresh my brain) have done an hour just on Mark Twain. (“Connecticut Yankee,” “Captain Stormfield…” “The Mysterious Stranger,” etc.) Lots of great stuff was said, by all panelists — let’s do this one again!

I also did a reading, a workshop on learning magic tricks and becoming a magician (my handout including reading list available on request), and, in DragonsLair, my young-kids-oriented magic show (heavy on the funny props and bad jokes).

And, as nearly-always, I spent some time walking around taking photos.

Looking ahead, here’s the Featured Guests currently scheduled for Boskone 58, February 12-14 2021:

  • Guest of Honor: Joe Abercrombie
  • Official Artist: Julie Dillon
  • Special guest: Tamsyn Muir
  • Musical Guest: Marc Gunn
  • NESFA Press Guest: Ursula Vernon
  • Hal Clement Science Speaker: Mike Brotherton and Christian Ready (Launch Pad Astronomy)

Photo gallery follows the jump.

7 thoughts on “Boskone 2020 Report

  1. Indeed, I enjoyed Dan Kimmel’s story very much. He also did a very good job filling in (for Jane Yolen) at the awards ceremony.

  2. The Henderson book was new at Boskone; I don’t know what gave the impression it was a 2019 title, but the copyright page says “FIRST EDITION\nFebruary 2020”, and I remember the cheer in the clubhouse when we were told it had in fact arrived in time. I didn’t even notice the panel on ex-journalists, and regret missing it.

  3. @Chip – Whoops, right you are – 2020 not 2019. I don’t know why I said that, I was looking right at its NESFA press page (including grabbing the URL). Mike, please fix, thanks! (I plead eyeball fatigue, or hopping back and forth between two many pages. I won’t claim it’s a typo, that’s unlikely.)

    Note, I don’t think that panel called them “ex-journalists”… more like, “journalists who (also) went on to write spec fic.”

    @Andy P – I don’t need your pix, but OGH might (still) be happy to get and use them, I’d ask him 🙂

  4. Some that, sadly, were listed but had to cancel included… yours truly, Brendan DuBois.

    Which severely bummed me out. I had a nasty bronchial infection that put me flat on my back, so I missed attending, the first time in several years.

    And I hear the Boskone and its attendees were its usual awesome self.

    Next year!

  5. @Chip H – OGH has (at my request) corrected the NESFA new-book info in the post proper (body of the post?). If I still got it unright, please advise, tnx.

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