Monday, February 19, 2007

Scattered Boskone Thoughts

I forgot to make any notes, so I'm probably forgetting most of what happened, but here's what did sink into my brain:

I drove up on Friday, and stopped for lunch semi-randomly on I-84 -- ending up serendipitously at the Traveler Restaurant (Traveler Food and Books, says the sign), which was not actually visible from the interstate. It has decent American diner-style food (about what you'd expect from the closest restaurant to an interstate exit), but the interesting thing is that the restaurant is lined with bookcases, and diners are encouraged to take up to three free books away with them. (There's also a decent-sized actual used bookstore in the basement, with books that cost money to buy.) I had a fine lunch of fish and chips, and walked out with a trade paperback copy of The Best of Plimpton (by George Plimpton) -- which also is a conversation piece, since the book block evidently went into the binder upside down, and got bound on the right edge. So, if you're driving up I-84 to a book-related gathering, I'd definitely recommend lunching at Traveler.

I arrived at the Westin Waterfront about 3 PM -- it was Boskone's first year in this hotel, but it was also my first Boskone, so I can't compare. The hotel was notably swanky for a SF con, though (with prices in the restaurant and bar to match), though the service in the bar on Friday was shaky, to say the least. (The hotel recently opened, and apparently was still in shakedown-cruise mode.) The hotel is in South Boston, right off I-90 (aka the Mass Pike), near the airport, and otherwise in an industrial wasteland. It was also ridiculously cold, so I was one of many who didn't leave the hotel at all once I got there. (Everyone did express hopes that next year there would be some other restaurants and things in the neighborhood -- and there probably will, since a building boom was evident.)

I checked in, got my various stuff, wandered through the dealer's room once or twice (paused to read a novella in my hotel room -- Jonathan Strahan had delivered Best Short Novels: 2007 earlier in the week, so I had to read through it during the con), and then settled into the bar somewhere between six and seven o'clock. I pretty much stayed in the same place for the next four hours, having something dinner-like with a group including Josepha Sherman and a bunch of artists (Ruth Sanderson, Linda Graves, Elizabeth whose-last-name-I-can't-remember, and intermittently Ruth's daughter). Others dropped in after we ate, including Laura Anne Gilman, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, the agent Joshua Bilmes, and at least one other person with the Gilman-Bear axis who I've completely forgotten. If the service were faster than glacial or the waitress somewhat better at understanding colloquial English, it would have been perfect -- the space wasn't too noisy and the couches and chairs were very comfortable.

(Sidebar: this is a great hotel for lounging and chatting; there were clumps of comfy seating all over the place. That's one of the things I look for most in a con hotel, so I like this place a lot.)

Eventually I dragged myself off to the art show reception, where I mostly talked shop with my boss (the uncrowned queen of science fiction, Ellen Asher), and then went to bed.

Saturday dawned cold. Well, every damn day for the last two weeks had dawned cold, too, so that was no surprise. The Starbucks in the lobby had no baked goods that I could see myself eating for breakfast (it was all cookies and such), so I reluctantly had the buffet in the hotel restaurant. (The food was good, but it was still a mistake, as usual -- I always feel like I have to eat enough to make up for the outrageous cost of the meal, and so end up over-full and logy.)

My first panel was on "Neglected Authors," and I'm afraid Greg Feeley hijacked it. His version of it would have been a great panel: his point was that, essentially, panels like this all talk about the same few dead old farts, who have all been republished by NESFA Press by now anyway, so we should look at the recent neglected authors. Unfortunately, none of the rest of us had prepared for that version of the panel, so Greg went on at great length (as he does), and the rest of us spun our wheels, reacted somewhat, and tried to keep up. It was probably better than doing the same old thing one more time, but I wish I'd been prepared for the Feeley Variation.

(In between many of the paragraphs here, you have to mentally picture me plopping down in a chair somewhere -- remember what I said about the comfy chairs? -- reading another novella, and then moving on.)

My second and last panel of Saturday was on Urban Fantasy, and the devastatingly devastating Elizabeth Bear moderated me and Mark Del Franco. (I'm afraid Elizabeth and I dominated most of the time, though I think we let Mark speak up enough, here and there.) I came in with notes, glib rationalizations, and a boundless sense of my own sparkling wit, and I think I didn't do too badly. I put forth my taxonomy of Urban Fantasy, which seemed to be accepted by Elizabeth and at least some elements of the audience. Excellent.

I'm not sure what I did after that, but, around about seven, I found myself wandering aimlessly, hoping to run into someone to have dinner with. As luck would have it, I found Karl Schroeder in exactly the same predicament, so we went to the hotel restaurant and had a nice dinner together. (I hadn't actually sat down and talked with Karl since I met him at the Chicago worldcon, so we had plenty to talk about.)

The evening entertainment involved a playlet about the history of NESFA, which was reasonably entertaining (preceded by a long and tedious filk song, unfortunately -- though, since I find most folk songs long, tedious and dull, I can't say I have a specific antipathy for filk), and then the usual awards. (I was actually sitting next to Mike Walsh, who was named a Fellow of NESFA.)

When I went upstairs to collapse at a still-early hour I discovered that the hotel had stuck me on the party floor. (grumble grumble) I was tired enough to fall asleep quickly anyway, so there was no harm done.

Sunday was a bit weird for me -- I usually bug out of conventions as early on the last day as I can. (And, at least once -- the aforementioned Chicago worldcon -- I rearranged plans to get out a day early because I was sick of being away from home. I'm not that bad these days, but I'm still a hermit and a curmudgeon by nature.) But I was scheduled to moderate a panel at 2, so I had to stick around for that.

I'm glad I did, because it was fun. It was essentially about what the major works, trends, and authors have been of the millennium thus far. (Parenthetically, I will be so glad when people finally stop talking about "the millennium.") Joining me were Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Vincent Docherty. I forget all that we talked about -- though I'm sure it was utterly brilliant and provided a model for all future fantastic literature -- though I did get to unload another one of my attempts to invent some skiffy terminology. (I aspire to be the Boy Clute.) I said that John Scalzi -- who had already left the con and wasn't around to protest his name being used in vain -- should continue on his entry-level SF kick and produce a real manifesto, throwing people out of the movement and creating a posse of "in" writers. In fact, I already have a name for his movement, should he want it: the New Comprehensible. (Patrick was at least humoring me on this topic., for which I have to thank him.)

Immediately after that, I got the hell out of Dodge and drove back home. It was about three and a half hours of driving (four and a half with stops for gas and dinner), which I didn't mind at all. I didn't actually start driving until I was thirty (though I got my license a year earlier than I should have), and this was my longest driving trip to date. So I really enjoyed it -- I've been listening to Bruce Springsteen songs all my life, but now they really make sense.

Today I tried to catch up on stuff, and tomorrow it's back to the SFBC salt mines.


Anonymous said...

You know, I spotted you at one point from afar, and I meant to say hello, but I never saw you again. (I don't think we've met in person yet.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden said...

This was your longest driving trip to date?

Excuse me, that's the most science-fictional thing I've heard all week.

John Scalzi said...

"I said that John Scalzi -- who had already left the con and wasn't around to protest his name being used in vain -- should continue on his entry-level SF kick and produce a real manifesto, throwing people out of the movement and creating a posse of "in" writers. In fact, I already have a name for his movement, should he want it: the New Comprehensible."

Bwa ha ha ha ha hah!

Tobias Buckell said...

Andy, it was awesome catching up :-) And as for the manifesto, do we get badges for signing up or what?

Adam said...

Andy, in the overlooked writers panel, you still managed to come up with a name (an '80s-era writer who riffed on Asimov's robots), but I foolishly wrot it down on my pocket program (which I then lost). Would you mind posting his name?

Andrew Wheeler said...

Michael: No, I don't think we've met in person -- maybe next con.

Tobias: I'm trying to position John as the front-man for this thing -- I'd like to just be a shadowy behind-the-scenes presence, known only by my influence -- so that's not really my department.

Adam: It was John Sladek I was talking about -- the novel about the robot whose "Asimov circuits" go wonky so he kills people is Tik-Tok (which is a nasty black comedy that I love) and his "big book" is currently in print as The Complete Roderick (an omnibus of the two original novels).

Anonymous said...

"... and then the usual awards. (I was actually sitting next to Mike Walsh, who was named a Fellow of NESFA.)"

Looking at the list of those given Fellow of NESFA, the number of non Boston/NESFAns is quite small.

Anywho ... I was surprised. Woot!

Michael Walsh

Adam said...

Thanks, Andrew. Just ordered a used copy of Tik-Tok off Amazon, and have added some of the more expensive books to my list. BTW, it looks like a few of his later novels (Wholly Smokes, Lunatics of Terra, Maps) were issues or re-issued by Cosmos in the last few years, and are in print.

Celia said...

I think I was the other member of the gilman/bear axis that you forgot, but that's okay cause a) I don't think we were ever introduced and b) I didn't know your name either.

Also, as someone who walked back and forth to the hotel friday and saturday i can tell you that it was actually about 900 times *better* than the previous week. Of course, it was still far away from fun, and I envied people who managed to go the whole weekend without going outside.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Adam: Lunatics of Terra is one of Sladek's short-story collections; I actually just ordered a copy myself the other day, so I haven't read it yet. Wholly Smokes is the fictional history of a family and their tobacco company; it was only published after Sladek's death and is probably only interesting to completists. Maps is a mixed bag; it's the complete collection of the short works left uncollected at his death, so it has some good stuff and a lot of more literary, experimental stuff (including some collaborations with Tom Disch). I'd recommend one of his older collections -- the US Best of John Sladek isn't hard to find used, and is a good overview of his '70s SF work.

Celia: Yes, I think we were repeatedly not-introduced all weekend (we were at opposite ends of the same crowd a couple of times); we'll have to introduce ourselves directly the next time we're in the same place. It was nice to not-really-meet you.

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