Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Boskone 2014 Recap - Part 4 (Sunday)

I have never stayed through to the end of Boskone and I thought I might this time, and be able to help tear down, to attend the feedback session, and maybe even check out the Dead Dog Filk, but I had a chance to get a ride home instead of discovering first-hand whether the public transportation was affected by the storm.

After checking out and stowing my luggage in the luggage room, I attended two more panels. My Favorite (or Worst) Story and Why I Wrote It was moderated by Leigh Perry and included Paul G. Tremblay, Dana Cameron, and Charlaine Harris. It's always interesting to hear how writers come to their stories (or stories come to their writers), and this was no exception. Interesting and fun.

The second panel, Having Your Work Adapted to Film was moderated by Melinda Snodgrass and included Charlaine Harris and Steven Sawicki. They discussed what an option is (a placeholder so that someone else doesn't buy the rights, not an agreement to do a film), how the money works (the lower the money, the shorter the term), and why books must by necessity differ from the movie (books are internal, movies are external; books are too long to fit in 90 minutes or, with some, even 3 hours). Very informative, well-explained, and well-moderated.

Where Was I Supposed to Be?
Before I wrap up my recap, let me mention Boskone's new guide application. Based on open-source software called KonOpas, it runs on a browser and - a biggie for me - can even show the schedule when you're not connected to the internet. Because it runs on a browser, it doesn't matter whether your smartphone is an iPhone, an Android phone, or a Windows phone; you just open a browser and go to You can select the panels that you want to attend and they will appear in a chronological list under MyCon.

One of my friends said he actually preferred it over Guidebook, the app that Boskone used last year (and Arisia used this year). I have only two minor complaints: I don't think there's a way to add your own events (for example, going out to dinner or staffing the Broad Universe table) and I don't know how to pronounce KonOpas. Kudos to the team who implemented it for Boskone! (Boskone lists them as Eemeli Aro, Henry Balen and Tim Szczesuil).

So How Was the Interview with the Guest of Honor?
When I first started going to cons, I remember hearing "You should get to the room early. GOH events are always packed." I didn't, and after standing outside the room trying to listen to the well-modulated but under-amplified voice inside for a few minutes, I walked away. I forget who it was or where it was, but I felt that I had really missed something of great import, like going to Paris and missing the Louvre or La Tour Eiffel or the Catacombs.

I know people who plan their whole convention around the GOH events. I know others who avoid them because they can be too crowded. And then there are others like me, who forget to put them on their schedule and then do things like sign up for table duty because there's an empty slot (duh! I wonder why!) or go get lunch because there finally isn't a line (duh, again!)

So maybe next year the first thing I do when looking at the schedule using KonOpas will be to select the GOH events. I don't need to plan my con around them, but at least I'll remember they're there.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Boskone 2014 Recap - Part 3 (Saturday, continued)

Saturday, Continued
The next panel is one that I was really interested in and haven't seen at other conventions. The Long Series - How We Did It discussed how three multi-book authors handled long series. Ginjer Buchanan moderated Charlaine Harris, Melinda Snodgrass, and Steve Miller. How do you keep characters straight? Do you have an arc across the series? How does fan reaction affect your writing-in-progress? Charlaine has an assistant who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the books and checks continuity. Steve says that from time to time he and the other writers re-read books in the series. Once again, great panel, well-moderated.

I had to leave the panel early, though, because I had to get to the Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading. I was one of eight readers giving 5-minute readings from my work. I was reading a new piece, one that I had read through at home and in my hotel room, but once up in the front of the conference room I realized I should have done more. I didn't know the piece well enough to look up at the audience and then find my place quickly again. I tried the trick of using my left thumb as a bookmark, but forgot that for this trick to work, I really needed to look up at the end of the previous line so that the next word was the one next to my thumb, not a word in the middle of the sentence. I muddled my words a bit, and as I wrapped up the piece, I felt that I really should have picked a livelier extract. (Imagine my surpise on Sunday when I found out I actually sold a book from that reading. Thank you, purchaser! I really needed that.)

At this point I should mention the snow. Boston had a winter storm warning and I heard someone say that the City of Boston was asking people to stay off the roads after 5 pm so that the plows could do their job. Some friends and I had made a reservation weeks ago to go out to eat. Dear Hubby would come in to the city and join us, then stay over at the hotel and relax in the hotel room while I continued con-going.

After watching the weather forecasts, he reluctantly decided to stay home, with my encouragement, because you never know how serious snowstorms can get. (Remember the Blizzard of '78? I do. Read about it on WikiPedia.) Some con-goers who planned to go home Saturday night changed their lodging plans, too. Helmuth, the single-page news vehicle for Boskone, announced that the hotel would honor the Boskone rate if attendees decided to stay because of the storm. That was a nice touch.

Judging by the long lines outside the hotel's M. J. O'Connors restaurant, some con-goers must have changed their dining plans, deciding to eat in instead of exploring Boston's restaurant scene.

My friends and I trudged through the snow on foot to the restaurant. The sidewalks nearest and around the hotel were relatively clear, crews out with mechanical sweepers trying to keep up with the snow. As we got further away from the hotel, there was an inch or two underfoot and I found myself needing to pay attention to how I planted my feet so I wouldn't slide, but this is February, in New England, and of course I had boots, a scarf, a winter coat, and gloves. I also thought to grab extra tissues from the hotel so that the three of us would be able to wipe off our wet eyeglasses when we arrived so we could actually see the menu.

We had a nice meal and good conversation while I sent my husband pictures of the restaurant and food, much to his dismay ("You're not making this any better.") As we left the restaurant, the sidewalk was more slippery underfoot, but once again, near the hotel it was fine.

After dinner, we managed to hit the first Book Launch Party, held in the Galleria/Con Suite. Authors and publishers with a new book sat at the Con Suite table with their books and swag and you were able to chat and inspect the new books. I hope they do that again next year (and that I have a book out next year so I can participate). Duncan Eagleson was there with his first novel Darkwalker. (Don't you hate multi-talented people? Just look at his creds!)

While staffing the Broad Universe table, I heard that I missed a great panel, Fun with Seriously Silly Poses, where participants re-enacted scenes from SF/fantasy/horror cover art. As Mur Lafferty pointed out in her post, it was similar to what Jim C. Hines did in his excellent "Striking a Pose" on his web site. Darn! Hope they repeat that one some time.

To be continued.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Boskone 2014 Recap - Part 2 (Saturday)

Trying to be a good convention-goer, I silenced the sound on my cell phone. I didn't remember that I did that when I set the alarm on my cell phone Friday night. It probably would have been okay except that 1) I kept waking up in the night with leg cramps from walking back and forth, and 2) I didn't even think of going to bed until 1:00 am because I was engaged in a great conversation with sister Broad Universe member Justine Graykin.

Add to that the fact that the Westin hotel has this great green/conservation program of allowing you to opt out of daily room cleaning (thereby saving water from linens and towels being washed when they really don't need to) and you have a recipe for wakeup failure. If I had opted for the normal housekeeping, a knock on the door would have woken me by, say, 9:00. Unfortunately, there was no knock, and I slept until 10:03.  I missed the Writers' Warmup by E. C. Ambrose, author of the Dark Apostle series, and Writing Fan Fiction for Kids with Mur Lafferty and Max Gladstone.

"Morven," you say, the shock evident in the look on your face and the low tone of voice, "You don't write for kids. You don't have kids..." True that, as they say. But I do listen to the "I Should be Writing" podcast and I believe there was an episode with Max and I thought they were fantastically intelligent and funny. Since Mur lives in North Carolina, I don't have the opportunity to see her at cons, so I was a little upset with myself for oversleeping and missing the panel.

The Writers' Warmup is a mini-workshop I've attended before and loved it. If it was the same this year, writer E.C. Ambrose sets you a writing prompt and you free-write for a set amount of minutes. Sounds tame, right? Maybe it's the writing vibes from the other writers around the table, but it was really productive and fun. Sorry I missed it this year.

I did, however, make it to the Broad Universe table at 11 to do the first of my one-hour shifts. One of the benefits for paid members of the organization is that you get to sell your books at the table, but you must put in two hours staffing the table during the convention. There are always two people staffing at a time, so even if traffic is a little slow, you get the opportunity to know another member of Broad Universe. My buddy for my first shift was Roberta Rogow, author and filker.

After my shift, I did finally get to see Mur Lafferty in a panel. Urban Fantasy in Transition, which was moderated by Leigh Perry, included Melinda Snodgrass, Mur Lafferty, and Max Gladstone.  This well-moderated panel had me wondering if my own work was more urban fantasy and gave me a better understanding of the genre (or is it category?) One high point was hearing Max Gladstone describe the bankruptcy process as a form of necromancy (Chapter 11 is like a circle of mystical wards, and bankruptcy court raises the dead. Think about it.)

Later that day I attended an interview with special guest Ginjer Buchanan, who, after 30 years as an editor, has just announced her retirement. The interview was conducted by urban fantasy writer/editor Leigh Perry (aka Toni Kelner), who is an excellent moderator and interviewer. Speaking of Urban Fantasy, in the Boskone program there's a pull quote that says, "Ginjer can partly claim responsibility for the rise of the subgenre known as urban fantasy." We were lucky to have her.

One of the great (bad?) things about Boskone is that I kept running into people I knew and having hall conversations. That meant I would be late for the next panel, and since I was late anyway, I might as well stop at the Broad Universe table and make sure they had coverage and see if I could cover if someone needed a quick break.

I was really late for the panel The Pleasures of Parasites, moderated by Priscilla Olson and including Jill Shultz, Frank Wu, and Joan Slonczewski. In high school, I found biology fascinating, so I was disappointed that I was able to sit in for about only 20 minutes. Still, what I heard was excellent. You could tell that the panelists not only knew their stuff, but were really fascinated by the adaptations and life cycles of parasites. Again, an excellent panel!

I know we're still on Saturday, but let me stop here and continue later. There's so much to talk about!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Boskone 2014 Recap - Part 1 (Friday)

Sometimes I come home from a convention tired. No, let me restate that: I usually come home from a convention tired. After all, I've stayed up late two or three nights in a row preparing, I've driven into a strange city or for many hours, I've lugged books and vending setups, and I've walked miles back and forth between my hotel room, event rooms, and my car. And then I don't always eat full meals, sleep less on a strange bed, and either eat the wrong foods or have one too many glasses of wine or cups of coffee.

Despite all of that, I returned home from Boskone today feeling great.

Just as I want to do an investigation when cons go wrong, I now find myself investigating why this one went so right.

Let's start on Friday. I managed to get the day off work. That's a big plus. I wasn't thinking of work-related projects, I wasn't rushing out of the house into rush-hour traffic. Instead I was sitting on a commuter train into the city, listening to Mur Lafferty's "I Should Be Writing" podcast while gazing out at the beautiful snow-covered winter tableau.

I checked in and put everything away before registration or vendor setup even started; no rushing in at 7, late to the game, apologizing that I couldn't help.I helped set up the Broad Universe table with Elaine Isaak and Justine Graykin and met a Broad new to Boskone, Jill Shultz, and her husband. Okay, so I wasn't feeling guilty and I got to meet new people. Score one on that.

I was able to attend a panel when panels began at 5:00 —— a first for me —— on The Fine Art of Murder with Dana Cameron, Leigh Perry, and Charlaine Harris, moderated by Vincent O'Neil. O'Neil did a great job of moderating, something I saw repeated throughout the convention and that I heard others praise over the weekend. Did Boskone send out guidelines for moderating? Did this crop of moderators just remember to do their homework? Was it just because they were blessed with a panel of professionals? I don't know, but the panel (and audience) were excellent.

And how does mystery/murder fit in with an SF convention? It made perfect sense to me, and maybe to others, too, because the next panel I attended was the Blurred Lines panel, which discussed how the lines between genres are becoming more blurred. Again moderated by Vincent O'Neil, this panel included Joshua Bilmes (JABberwocky Literary Agency), editor Stacey Friedberg, and writer Paul G. Tremblay. In the panel they discussed both how genre categorization helps (helps readers discover other writers who write the types of novels the reader likes) and how it's not really that important these days. (I kept thinking that with the internet, it's not the genre that matters, but the keywords, and you can have multiple keywords, whereas in bookstores, yes, it's true that you have to figure out which shelf to put things on.)

Had a tasty dinner and engaging conversation with Terri Bruce, author of  the novel Hereafter, an adventure into the afterlife when thirty-six year-old Irene Dunphy makes the mistake of getting behind the wheel after a night bar-hopping with friends. Terri is also one of the co-ordinators of the robust New England Chapter of Broad Universe. For dessert, we hit the Boskone Meet the Guests & Art Shop Reception that started at 9. Those who know me know that I follow a low-carb diet these days, but it's hard to resist the cakes and sundries there. (I was restrained: only a tiny slice here and there.)

Justine Graykin joined us as we ate our desserts and the three of us did check out the party floor before returning to our rooms, but Boskone is a very restrained con. The parties were convention bids for future WorldCons. That is, you went in and sampled their arrays of cheeses or snack food and they told you about their bid for the next WorldCon. It was nice, no pressure, and informative. But the three of us didn't hang out long. Bed was beckoning.

[to be continued]

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Broad Universe Events at Boskone (in Boston, MA) this Coming Weekend

In a January 30 article, Boston magazine listed Boskone in its Culture Calendar as one of its seven "must-see arts and entertainment events in February 2014."

It's not surprising. After all, Boskone has been going now for 51 years. This year's lineup includes Guest of Honor Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant, Official Artist  David Palumbo, Special Guest  Ginjer Buchanan, Featured Filker Bill Roper, Hal Clement Science Speaker Bill Higgins, and NESFA Press Guest  Jane Yolen.

The New England Chapter of Broad Universe, an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, encouraging, honoring, and celebrating women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative genres, will have a table in the Dealers' Room and will present a Rapid-Fire reading.

What's a Rapid-Fire Reading? "The Rapid Fire Reading (RFR) is one of the oldest events Broad Universe holds. Usually at science fiction, fantasy, and horror conventions but branching out to other venues, too, the RFR showcases snippets of published and in-progress work from members for the audience to enjoy." Source: Broad Universe web page

The RFR will be on Saturday, February 15, at 6 pm in Burroughs. Readers include Sandra Barret, Terri Bruce, Anna Erishkigal, Justine Graykin, Morven Westfield, Phoebe Wray, Jill Shultz, and Roberta Rogow.

Other members who will be attending, some presenting on panels, include

Elaine Isaak
Ellen Larson
Jennifer Pelland