* Note: I volunteer for this con as one of their blog writers.
This weekend I attended Boskone, the annual science fiction and fantasy convention put on by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA) in Boston, Mass. This year was the convention’s 51st year, retaining its claim to being the oldest science fiction convention in New England. This was my sixth year attending.
One of the reasons I attend this convention is it’s focus on the craft of science fiction, that is to say, there’s a focus on writing, science, art, and reading. It’s a small convention of approximately 1000-1500 people and due to it’s focus on craft, it does offer some gaming, cosplay and parties but you don’t feel that that they’re the driving force of the con. Here are some of the moments that stuck out for me this year:
For starters, I was curious about this year’s Official Artist, David Palumbo, who among his illustration and fine arts credits, has recently worked on the cover for the new Dark Horse Comics’ Aliens reboot and also creates art for Magic the Gathering. His working across so many fan genres (games, comics, fine art, book covers, etc) intrigued me. I attended his art demonstration on Saturday, where he painted for the audience while answering questions about his craft. He encouraged folks to go up and get a better look while he was working. As he worked, he talked about how sometime clients will provide color cues for when a type of action is happening, for example red for anger or violence. Fascinating, when you think about it in terms of comic book art.
Saturday night provided a live stage reading of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher. I had purchased the book a few weeks earlier but never got the chance to crack it open. If you’re a fan of Shakespeare and Star Wars, it’s a must see. The cast was great, with scientist Joan Slonczewski creatively beeping as R2D2, hotel hair dryers as gun props and actors falling off chairs for death scenes. I don’t think it outclasses the Avengers script read from Granitecon 2013, but it does rank pretty high on my list.
The one thing that disappointed me this year was a panel on comics that I had looked forward to attending. The panel, titled Capes, Canes and Superhero Comics, was supposed to “explore the complementary and conflicting nature of superpowers and disabilities.” I was also excited when I found there were three women on the panel with a male moderator. Unfortunately, the moderator didn’t have clear areas that he wanted the panelists to discuss and even the panelists didn’t seem sure as to why they’d been picked for the panel. For me, it was frustrating because it could have delved into so many interesting areas, like are there differences from the Golden Age to today, are having physical disabilities antithetical to the super hero trope, are there other comics handling disabilities in positive ways, etc. Instead it became a muddled, grasping-at-straws-for-disabilities ploy with, comments like “Nick Fury wears an eye patch”. In retrospect, Boskone isn’t known for its comic book discussions, so it shouldn’t have been a terrible shock.
And lastly, but probably most importantly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a mention of some of the science moments from the con. As a fan who likes science in her science fiction, including my comics (seriously have you read The Massive yet?) it’s refreshing to hear people talk about science, scientific discovery, and scientific methods so writers can include it in their work.
During the New Solar System Science Fiction panel, before discussing far off planets, the discussion started closer to home. Charles Stross postulated that Earth is not a habitable planet, based on dropping a single naked human on the surface for thirty minutes and seeing whether or not that human survived. With many surfaces of the Earth covered in icy oceans, snow-covered mountains or deserts, the likelihood of survival was low, thus indicating that Earth was not a habitable planet. In lively debate fashion, Joan Slonczewski rebutted that in order for the experiment to be more accurate, it should involve dropping a population of humans, which may in fact lead to a better survival rate. Or maybe not.
In the Chelyabinsk Meteor Strike panel, Bill Higgins and Guy Consolmagno talked the us about asteroids, their trajectories, and how “dashboard cams” and public surveillance video helped determine the details of this meteor’s path.
Overall, if you like reading science fiction, writing or talking about the process of creativity this might be a con for you.