Boskone 49: Wading in Up to the Sensitive Parts

In a continuing journey into a writing world, I attended Boskone 49 this past weekend. It was my second convention ever, after last year’s successful “dip my toe in the water” attendance at Capclave, here in the DC area. I had a great time, met some old friends and made several new acquaintances, attended some interesting panels, and learned a lot. Here to sum up –

The Top 10 Things I Learned at Boskone.

1. It’s Bos-cone (rhymes with pwn), not Bos-con (rhymes with faun). Yes, modern American English is complicated.

2. There’s usually some fruit and enough carbs to choke a horse available in the con suite, but finding enough vegetables to eat at a con is the modern fan’s grail quest.

3. Apparently, “SMOF” is a good thing. For those not in the know, it means “Secret Masters of Fandom” and refers to that group of semi-professional fans that help keep cons up and running.

4. Also apparently, Heinlen’s protagonists used their genius for douchery.

5. Kate Baker, Genevieve Valentine and the aforementioned Catherynne Valente, reading for the Clarkesworld 5th Anniversary panel, all have great reading voices. I could listen to all three of them for a long time.

6. An interesting panel insight:

All effective stories in speculative fiction end with the opening up of a new paradigm or new beginning. This makes them inherently progressive genres, or perhaps better said, genres open to new ideas, form and content. Mystery, thriller and (to some degree)  romance are more about restoring the established social order at the end of the story, a fact which makes them more inherently conservative than other genre forms.

7. Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts and John Scalzi’s Redshirts, both coming out this year, will be runaway bestsellers. The readings from both were freaking fantastic.

8. Middle books (in a trilogy) are for breaking stuff.

9. Another interesting panel insight, duly noted for the record as a gross oversimplification:

Genre protagonists have agency; they save the prince, escape the dragon, take that apparently death defying Kessel Run, and generally take action, moving themselves through the story. A lot of mainstream lit fic characters lack agency and the story moves around them, sweeping them up in its own events, to which the protag reacts. Part of the reason we identify with genre protags is that, in a world that often sweeps us off our feet, we all deeply crave that degree of agency in our lives.

10. It takes an amazing artist to paint a quick, yet accurate portrait of someone while that person is, essentially, holding a press conference. Oh yea, and a couple hundred fans watch over your shoulder and your model keeps moving. Dan Dos Santos, you are the man.

All in all, a really satisfying con experience. I haven’t decided which con I’ll be attending next – maybe Readercon in July – but I’ve definitely got the con bug now.




First Writing Convention: Getting Your Feet Wet

So…November got away from me and it’s taken me awhile to put together my thoughts on Capclave, the first speculative fiction convention I have ever attended.

Capclave is small, but local to the WDC area, so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to break into the con scene. Worldcon and Word Fantasy Con are the big boys on the bloc for writers of speculative fiction, but there was a lot to recommend breaking in with something small.

1. If I’m flying to another city and shelling out for three or four nights of hotel, if I don’t have a good time, I’m kind of screwed. Local and small meant costs stayed low which minimized the investment. I commuted each night – sure, that meant I missed a very small portion of the events, but I thought it was a good trade off.

1a. This also meant my wife could come with me. For moral support. Having someone there with me was a good move, at least the first time. She’s much less shy than I was, and helped me get over my “new and scary” initial reaction. (I believe it was “You’ve had your freak out. Now pull up your big boy pants and get over there.” or something to that effect…)

2. Accessible program. Unlike Worldcon’s 8,000 track monstrosity, Capclave’s program was very doable. I only had two or three choices each hour, including readings and kaffeeklatches. (Note: Speaking German was not required. A kaffeeklatch at a con is a limited-attendance small group with the Guests of Honor.) Nerd that I am, I wanted to select my program choices in advance and felt like I could with that kind of schedule. Highlights were “Using Medieval Myths in Fantasy”, “So You Want to Put Together an Anthology?” and the Guest of Honor Chat.

3. I was able to meet some new people. The con was small enough that you basically sat with the same people over and over again. One of my more convention-worldly friends suggested that you make it a habit to meet new people at each con. Networking is a huge part of the convention scene. Thanks to the wonderful Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Jean Marie Ward for the great Capclave history lesson and an explanation of some of the con undercurrents.

4. I got to meet and spend some time with the Guests of Honor, Catherynne Valente and Carrie Vaughn. Since the con was so small, I got to attend a kaffeeklatch for each. Both were awesome and gracious. It reminded me that these writers that I admire are normal real people too.

4a. My wife LOOOOOOVES Catherynne Valente, so I was able to score some major points there. She got her copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making signed, as well as The 2-volume set of The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden and In the Cities of Coin and Spice.

5. And I was able to better figure out what I might need to attend a longer/larger convention in another city. I need to better plan the food budget or bring food along. Be open to leaving a session if it’s not that interesting. Be ready to change plans in mid-stream. (Not easy for me.) Be open to meeting new people. Have a con buddy for shared snark and easy escape, if required.

All told, it was a wonderful experience and I will definitely attend again. I think my next venture will be Boskone in February. Watch out, friends in the NorthEast. I’m coming.