Boskone 56: Fun, Plus Adding Foothills To My Mount To-Be-Read

Boskone 56 Pocket Program

By Daniel Dern: Boskone 56, held Friday, February 15 through Sunday, February 17, 2019 at Boston’s Westin Waterfront Hotel, was a fun con — good guests, fun interesting sessions, good readings… and good (for Boston winter) weather — bearably cold, and no snow or rain coming down or on the streets or walkways.

(Some of us still have memories of 2015’s Boskone when the MBTA (locally aka “the T”) pre-emptively announced, mid-Saturday, that due to the impending blizzard, they were shutting down the T starting 7PM Saturday, through Sunday.)

GoH’s for Boskone 56 were:

  • Guest of Honor: Elizabeth Hand
  • Special Guest: Christopher Golden
  • Official Artist: Jim Burns
  • Young Adult Fiction Guest: Cindy Pon
  • Hal Clement Science Speaker: Vandana Singh

(Burns, unfortunately, was unable to make it, due to a last-minute emergency; however, his art was still on display.)

Burns art, from Boskone 56 main web page

Boskone always gets a good bunch of writers, artists, editors and other sf pros. This year’s 150+ program participants included (drawing mostly on people I know/names I recognize) Ellen Asher, James Cambias, John Chu,  Brenda W. Clough, John Clute, Br. Guy Consolmagno, C. S. E. Cooney, Bruce Coville, Vincent Docherty, Sarah Beth Durst, Kate Elliot, Greer Gillman, KJ Kabza,  James Patrick Kelly, Justin Key, Dan Kimmel, Mur Lafferty, Patrick & Teresa  Nielsen Hayden, Errick Nunnally, Suzanne Palmer, Julia Rios, Erin Roberts, Michael Swanwick,  Catherynne M. Valente, Jane Yolen, and Brianna Wu.

(Side note: I just came back from the library with the 2018 “Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy” edited by Rich Horton – and there’s a good handful of authors whose names might not have recognized a week ago, but, thanks to Boskone, I recognize many more names and know I saw several panelize/read.)

Headcount of as 11AM Sunday, according to the con’s Helmuth newsletter, came in at 1,382 total members, 1,061 “warm body count,” and 270 “at-the-door” registrations — pretty consistent with the past few years’ numbers.

There was, as always, no shortage of things to do.

Program items spanned classic through current sf/fantasy people, titles and topics, from the serious through silly, plus a range of media-oriented discussions including comics, Star Wars, and Star Trek, along with a number of sessions aimed at new authors and artists. Plus readings, kaffeeklatsches, and a room for movies/anime and other videos, also filking, board-gaming, the Art Show, the Dealers Room, noshing in the Con Suite area (which was, sadly, due to new hotel regulations, limited only to individual-portion-packaged, no-refrigeration-needed snacks’n’such). And a few evening parties, plus NESFA’s Saturday evening chocoholics-delight schmorgasbord.

And the non-program items like “meet new people, schmooze with friends” and “be a volunteer.”

Boskone’s Friday afternoon sessions were free — a nice way to help let potential first-timers get a sense of the con (particularly, I suspect, for people who have never attended a con). (ReaderCon has been doing this, too, for the past several years, with its Thursday evening programming.) Free-to-public panel topics included “The new Dr. Who,” gaming tournament demos/rules/Q&A, “Welcome to Boskone,” “Laundering Your Fairy Tales,” along with media/TV-themed sessions, and useful panels for new writers.

The art show had good stuff to look at (I’ve used up my quota of wall space, so I’m just looking, these days), although it seemed slightly smaller than last year.

Art-show-wise, of particular interest: this year’s ~40-piece Special Exhibit: From the Collection of Joe Siclari and Edie Stern which included art by Hannes Bok, Chesley Bonestell, Margaret Brundage, Vincent Di Fate, Leo and Diane Dillon, and Ed Emsh.

Art collage from Boskone 56 website.

The Dealers Room was mostly booksellers, including publishers and groups like Broad Universe, along with a handful of single-author tables. (My bookshelf space is, like my wall space, mostly full, although I did buy a few books… plus snarfing up about a foot of read-and-pass-on magazines and books from the Free Books table.)

Still, between books and magazines, I had no trouble spending thirty or forty bucks on additions to my Mount To-Be-Read (referring, of course, to that pile of books, often near the bed). Of course, by the end of the con, I had a vision of foothills forming around my Mount TBR of yet more books and authors to pursue, hopefully as library borrows.

(The late Morris Keesan once remarked (possibly at one of the monthly RISFA-North sf fan gatherings), when somebody mentioned to him their stack of TBR’s, he responded, more or less, “Stack? I’ve got a bookshelf.”)

Everyone I chatted with was having fun — schmoozing with friends, going to sessions, getting autographs, more schmoozing, etc.

Me, I had fun.

  • One of the things I did this year was go to more readings, including well-known’s like Jane Yolen, John Chu, Fran Wilder and Bruce Coville, as well as some newer and lesser-known authors and groups of authors. All were good, and helped add to my “authors and books to look for” list.
  • Also, kaffeeklatsches, in particular, Jane Yolen and (her son) Adam Stemple), and Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. (I still wish Boskone could find a less noisy space for the ‘klatches rather than the public area in between the Art Show and the “Con Suite” space.)
  • I got a Press ribbon, to point at as I was taking pictures.
  • I wasn’t originally on the program (not a complaint, I’ve had my “turn at bat” at Boskone plenty of times, in main and DragonsLair programming), but while I was buying my membership, I inquired at Program Ops, and was given an empty-as-of-then slot in the Readings track. (I had come prepared with a handful of my short-short stories.)
  • Equally nice, when I went to see if there were any open slots for the Flash Fiction Slam competition — with points deducted if you run over three minutes — I discovered I was already signed up! So I read my newest shortie, “Vampire, T.Rex Bite Robot, Chomp! Gnash! Ouch!”

One of my favorite Boskone Program Items is Mark & Priscilla Olson’s “Trivia For Chocolate” contest — SF trivia, of course, from way back when through current stuff, where speed matters as much as correctness, with the green-rectangle chocolate Thin Mints used as point counters totaled up at the end (emptied wrappers don’t count).

This year, I tied with Bob Devney for 4th place, with 23 points. Karen von Haam thirded with 30 points, Kimball Rudeen came in second with 35, and Rich Horton ate all our lunches with 60 points.

A quick browse through past Helmuths (“Helmith”?) confirms my sense that Devney and I often place in the top five, e.g.:

  • Boskone 55: Bob Devney 52, Daniel Dern 44, Tim Liebe 27. Peter Turi 23.
  • Boskone 54: Kim Rudeen 65, Tom Galloway 45, Jordin Kare 45, Bob Devney 32, Daniel Dern 29.
  • (Boskone 53: I wasn’t there.)
  • Boskone 52: Kimball Rudeen 51, Karen Von Hamm 44, Bob Devney 16, Naomi Hinchen 15, Daniel Dern 12.
  • Boskone 50: Bob Devney 54, Athena Martin 30, Zev Sero & Peter Trei: 16
  • Boskone 49: Jordin Kare 69, Bob Devney 48, Christopher Davis 40, Daniel Dern 35, Team of Burton, Klein-Burton, Wall & Moore 30.

Plus, schmoozing.

Like I said, a fun weekend.

Daniel’s photos of Boskone 56 follow the jump.

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Pixel Scroll 2/1/18 Five Little Pixel Scrolls, Argued On The Floor, One Used A Fallacy, And Well, There Were Still Five

(1) HORROR POETRY. At the Horror Writers Association blog: “The Word’s the Thing: An Interview with Michael Arnzen”

Q: How important is language in poetry? I realize the question is a bit open ended and hints of a “duh” question. However, there is something that distinguishes the many genre poets from a Marge Simon, Linda Addison or Bruce Boston. The subject matter may be similar but the language of poets of that caliber is just different. You can read many imitations of Poe or The Graveyard Boys, but the handful of poets that truly stand out seem to have this almost magical way of using language.

A:  There’s no poetry without language, obviously, but you make a really good point about what distinguishes one poet from another – I’d call it their “voice.” Poetry is a kind of music; the sound matters and it should reverberate in the body and fetch the ear when spoken in a way that narrative fiction cannot. Words are as important as the “notes” in music, but every poet might have an instinctive, experienced and individual way of “singing” or giving shape to those words. But genre poetry is not opera and it doesn’t require a reader to be schooled in anything special; it’s more like pop music. Remember, although we can trace the legacy of genre back to Beowulf, through the Graveyard Poets of the Romantic Period and then Edgar Allan Poe, horror poetry as we think of it today really got its start as filler — a way for pulp magazine editors to put content in the blank spaces on the page of early magazines and fanzines.  So some of the best horror genre poets in my opinion are more accessible and reaching readers with more easy to swallow language, perhaps using lyrical forms but not in an overbearing way, while still retaining a unique voice.  I’ve read hyper-literary genre poetry, but no matter how interesting it might be, it often feels like its pretending to be something it’s not, and rings false when it taps the emotional chords. So in my opinion language matters, but it really can’t get in the way of the emotional connection in this field. Music is the instinctive part of poetry that just “feels” right, and the best genre poets are the kind who know how to reach the audience — they sing in a way that reaches new fans and experienced readers/viewers/lovers of horror alike.

(2) UNSTOPPABLE MONSTER. Forbes’ Ian Morris says “Hulu Is Gaining On Netflix, But Star Trek Discovery Is An Unstoppable Monster”.

What’s interested me though is the Star Trek: Discovery “Demand Expressions” or, better known as the number of people talking about a show. According to Parrot Analytics – video below – Star Trek: Discovery has more than 53 million people talking about it in the US. That beats The Walking Dead which has around 46m expressions. Netflix’s Stranger Things also has a staggering 33m of these within the US.

(3) IRONCLAD PROMISE. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak reports “BBC is making a Victorian-era War of the Worlds TV series”.

Earlier today, the BBC announced a number of new shows, including a three-part series based on H.G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. The show is scheduled to go into production next spring, and it appears that, unlike most modern adaptations, it will be set in the Victorian era.

The series will be written by screenwriter Peter Harness, who adapted Susanna Clarke’s Victorian-era fantasy novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell for the network, as well as a handful of Doctor Who episodes.

(4) APEX MAGAZINE THEME ISSUE TAKING SUBMISSIONS. This summer, award-winning author and editor Sheree Renée Thomas (“Aunt Dissy’s Policy Dream Book,” Apex Magazine, Volume 95 April 2017 and Volume 101 October 2017, Sleeping Under the Tree of Life, Shotgun Lullabies, and the Dark Matter anthologies) will guest edit a special Zodiac-themed issue. Sheree seeks short stories that explore the heavenly cosmos and unveil mysteries, tales that reimagine Zodiacal archetypes and/or throw them on their heads.

As the stars align themselves above, write bold, fun, weird, scary, sensual stories that heal, frighten, intrigue, amuse.

Length: 1500-5000 words

Genres: Science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, etc.

Deadline: May 1, 2018

Email submissions to: sheree.apexmag@gmail.com

Payment:  Original fiction $.06/word; Solicited Reprint fiction: $.01/word; Podcast $.01/word

(SFWA-certified professional market)

No simultaneous submissions. No multi-submissions for short fiction.

Publication: August 2018, Apex Magazine

(5) MEREDITH MOMENT. John Joseph Adams’ anthology HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! and Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects is discounted to $1.99 on Kindle from now until Feb. 7 (11:59pm PT).

Includes stories by Seanan McGuire, Daniel H. Wilson, Chuck Wendig, Tobias S. Buckell, Carmen Maria Machado and many others.

(6) TWISTED OPEN. Editors Christopher Golden and James A. Moore are taking submissions for their horror anthology The Twisted Book of Shadows until February 28.

  • Will have zero spaces reserved for marquee names.
  • Will use a blind submissions program (we won’t know who wrote the stories until we’ve selected them).
  • Will pay professional rates — a minimum of six cents per word, with a cap on advances of $300 per story.
  • Will pay royalties — a pro rata share of 50% of all royalties earned.
  • Will make our best efforts to spread the word, so that marginalized communities of horror writers will be aware of the call for stories.
  • Will employ a diverse Editorial Committee. In recognition of the possibility of inherent bias in our reading, the editors have engaged an astonishing team of diverse writers and editors who will read submissions alongside us and will offer their input and aid in the selection process. These authors and editors have a breadth and depth of experience that has transformed this project into THE horror anthology for the coming year.

Golden told Facebook readers:

PLEASE share this far and wide, but I’d ask that you make a special effort to share with authors interested in horror who also happen to be women, people of color, non-binary, LGBTQ, or part of any commonly marginalized community. Anyone who has ever felt discouraged from submitting is actively ENCOURAGED to submit to this. If the work isn’t great, there’s nothing we can do about that, but we can guarantee you a fair process, blind to any identity other than the quality of your story. All we care about is what you write.

(7) RECOGNIZING ROMANCE. Awards news at Amazing Stories — “Science Fiction Romance Awards Announced”.

This is a big week in science fiction romance as the SFR Galaxy Awards for 2017 were announced on January 31st. Judged by respected book bloggers and reviewers in the genre, the Award has the following theme per their website: The theme of the SFR Galaxy Awards is inclusiveness. Instead of giving an award to a single book, this event will recognize the worth of multiple books and/or the standout elements they contain.

(8) AT 45. Megan McArdle says“After 45 Birthdays, Here Are ’12 Rules for Life'” at Bloomberg. There’s a familiar name in the first rule:

  1. Be kind. Mean is easy; kind is hard. Somewhere in eighth grade, many of us acquired the idea that the nasty putdown, the superior smile, the clever one liner, are the signs of intelligence and great personal strength. But this kind of wit is, to borrow from the great John Scalzi, “playing the game on easy mode.” Making yourself feel bigger by making someone else feel small takes so little skill that 12-year-olds can do it. Those with greater ambitions should leave casual cruelty behind them.

(9) HOW THEY STACK UP. Rocket Stack Rank has posted its “Annotated 2017 Locus Recommended Reading List for short fiction”, sorted by score to highlight the stories that made it into the “year’s best” anthologies so far (Gardner Dozois, Jonathan Strahan, Neil Clarke) and the “year’s best” lists from prolific reviewers (Gardner Dozois, Rich Horton, Greg Hullender [RSR], Sam Tomaino [SFRevu], Jason McGregor, and Charles Payseur).

Annotations include time estimates, links to the story on the author’s website (if available), author links with Campbell Award-eligibility marked (superscript for year 1 or 2), blurbs for RSR-reviewed stories, links to reviews, and links to digital back issues (of print magazines) at eBookstores and library websites.

RSR reviewed 96 out of the 123 stories in the Locus list (78%). Of the 27 not reviewed by RSR, 10 were stories from horror magazines and horror anthologies. The rest were from other science fiction & fantasy sources, some of which might be reviewed by RSR as time permits.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 1, 1970 Horror of the Blood Monsters, starring John Carradine, premiered.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 1, 1908 – George Pal

(12)COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock asks, “What are they doing in there?” — Nonsequitur.

(13) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Could be even worse than yesterday’s! Fox News reports “China is building a laser 10 trillion times more intense than the Sun that could tear space apart”.

According to the Science journal, this laser would be so powerful it “could rip apart empty space”.

The idea is to achieve a phenomenon known as “breaking the vacuum”, whereby electrons are torn away from positrons (their antimatter counterparts) in the empty vacuum of space.

Right now, it’s possible to convert matter into huge amounts of heat and light, as proved by nuclear weapons. But reversing the process is more difficult – although Chinese physicist Ruxin Li believes his laser could manage it.

“That would be very exciting. It would mean you could generate something from nothing,” he explained.

The team has already created a less powerful version called the Shanghai Superintense Ultrafast Laser, which is capable of a 5.3-petawatt pulse

(14) NO UNIVERSES WERE HARMED. Meanwhile — “Simulation of universe provides black hole breakthrough”.

The most detailed simulation of the universe ever created has provided a breakthrough revealing how the most powerful and mysterious forces interact on an enormous scale.

Scientists said the detail and scale provided by the simulation enabled them to watch how galaxies formed, evolved and grew while also nursing the creation of new stars.

Dr Shy Genel, at the New York-based Flatiron Institute’s Centre for Computational Astrophysics (CCA), said: “When we observe galaxies using a telescope, we can only measure certain quantities.”

But “with the simulation, we can track all the properties for all these galaxies. And not just how the galaxy looks now, but its entire formation history”, he added.

He said the simulation is the most advanced ever developed.

(15) CRUSADING JOURNALISM. Florida Man has been heard from again: “Man Prefers Comic Books That Don’t Insert Politics Into Stories About Government-Engineered Agents Of War”The Onion has the story.

APOPKA, FL—Local man Jeremy Land reportedly voiced his preference Thursday for comic books that don’t insert politics into stories about people forced to undergo body- and mind-altering experiments that transform them into government agents of war. “I’m tired of simply trying to enjoy escapist stories in which people are tortured and experimented upon at black sites run by authoritarian governments, only to have the creators cram political messages down my throat,” said Land, 31, who added that Marvel’s recent additions of female, LGBTQ, and racially diverse characters to long-running story arcs about tyrannical regimes turning social outsiders into powerful killing machines felt like PC propaganda run amok….

(16) BANGING ROCKS TOGETHER. To go with the recent Pixel about early humans ranging more widely, “Discovery In India Suggests An Early Global Spread Of Stone Age Technology”.

Somewhere around 300,000 years ago, our human ancestors in parts of Africa began to make small, sharp tools, using stone flakes that they created using a technique called Levallois.

The technology, named after a suburb of Paris where tools made this way were first discovered, was a profound upgrade from the bigger, less-refined tools of the previous era, and marks the Middle Stone Age in Africa and the Middle Paleolithic era in Europe and western Asia.

Neanderthals in Europe also used these tools around the same time. And scientists have thought that the technology spread to other parts of the globe much later — after modern humans moved out of Africa.

But scientists in India recently discovered thousands of stone tools made with Levallois technique, dating back to 385,000 years ago. These latest findings, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, suggest the Levallois technique spread across the world long before researchers previously thought.

(17) BIRDS DO IT. Everybody’s doing it: “Luxembourg PM sees his country’s satellite launched”.

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, has just watched one of his country’s satellites go into orbit.

He was at Cape Canaveral, Florida, to see the launch of GovSat-1, which will be providing telecommunications services to the military and institutional customers.

The Luxembourg government has a 50-50 share in the project.

Its partner is SES, the major commercial satellite operator that bases itself in the Grand Duchy.

GovSat-1 is another example of Luxembourg’s burgeoning role in the space sector.

Its deputy prime minister, Etienne Schneider, who was also at the Cape, has recently positioned the country at the forefront of plans to go mine asteroids.

GovSat-1 rode to orbit on a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket. It will try to forge a new market in satellite communications.

(18) EARLY WARNING. With this it may be possible to detect dementia before it ravages the brain — “Blood test finds toxic Alzheimer’s proteins”.

Scientists in Japan and Australia have developed a blood test that can detect the build-up of toxic proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

The work, published in the journal Nature, is an important step towards a blood test for dementia.

The test was 90% accurate when trialled on healthy people, those with memory loss and Alzheimer’s patients.

Experts said the approach was at an early stage and needed further testing, but was still very promising.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Dann, Andrew Porter, John Joseph Adams, Greg Hullender, Jason Sizemore, StephenfromOttawa, ULTRAGOTHA, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]