The sudden return of winter over the weekend kind of took me by surprise (even though I should know better). It was warmish most of last week, and it was bright and sunny Saturday morning when I set off for Boskone wearing a light jacket, only to discover that it was only about 15°F outside. This turned out to be a bigger issue than I expected when I just missed the train at the Quincy Adams T station (due to the world's slowest parking garage elevator), and had to huddle for twenty minutes at the top of the stairwell leading up to the windy platform while waiting for the next train. I also just managed to miss my connection to the Green Line due to my unfamiliarity with the way things are done at Park Street Station, so I wound up missing most of the day's first session.
This was the first time I'd ever attended an SF con, but it turned out to be not all that different from most scientific meetings I've attended. Well, except for the autograph sessions. And the guy wearing a propeller beanie and orange satin cape. Anyway, here's the rundown on the sessions I went to.
• The first was a talk on extra-solar planets, given by a guy wearing a utilikilt. Some good stuff, but I missed most of it. Probably just as well, because there was one guy in the audience who seemed to know everything, and wasn't shy about imparting that knowledge to the rest of us.
• Next up was a talk by Alastair Reynolds about the recent resurgence in the space opera sub-genre, and was very useful for getting recs for future reading.
• There was a panel on superheroes (which was the sum total of the topic description) which was great fun. There was a discussion of definitions (e.g., is Batman a superhero?), questions about identity, and speculation about whether superheroes could even function in the real world.
• Another panel, this time on "SF Novels That Should Be Made into Movies," notable mostly for the fact that one of the panelists said that he wondered why nobody had ever tried to adapt The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and someone managed to mention that Tim Minear was doing just that even before I did. Then one fan stood up and launched into a dissertation on a specific story he would adapt including who they should cast in it, and I decided to sneak out the side door to look for some lunch.
• After lunch I went to the only autograph session I was at all interested in attending. To be honest, I hadn't even heard of most of the folks who were scheduled for autographing. This particular session, however, included Frederik Pohl, so there I stood in line with my beat up copy of Gateway. Pohl is an interesting example of a guy whose career really took off late in life. Not that his early career was anything to sneeze at. He was a contemporary of Asimov (they were in the same SF fan club as teenagers), wrote a lot of stuff in the forties and fifties (especially his collaborations with C.M. Kornbluth), and may have been the second most influential SF editor ever (after John W. Campbell), yet he's probably far better known for the books he wrote in his late fifties and later, such as Gateway. Anyway, I've read and enjoyed a lot of his books, and it was really nice to meet the man. Not that I actually said anything other than letting him know what my name was, and thanking him for the autograph. It's weird, I get in a line like that, and I totally freeze up, like Ralphie when he meets Santa Claus in A Christmas Story. It's not even my that I'm standing face-to-face with them, because the same thing often happens when Minear or Joss show up on the board. I can almost never think of anything interesting to say to them when they're around.
• One of the things that surprised me about the autographing was the size of some of the piles of books that were plopped down in front of the the signers. I've run into the phenomena before down at Spring training, and the authors didn't seem to have a problem with it, but it just seems like such a classless thing to do.
• While standing in the line, veejane wandered by, and I spent most of the rest of the day hanging out with her, which mostly involved watching demonstrations of combat techniques though the ages by the good folks from the Higgins Armory. Had dinner at one of Vee's favorite bars, ran into theodosia, along with her posse, on the way back, and then took a quick tour of the art exhibit. The exhibit had stuff by both pros and amateurs. It was heavy on unicorns and dragons, but there were some interesting pieces. Something I'd never seen the like of before were some exquisite little paintings done on feathers, which were really neat. There was also some pieces (a box and some block sculptures) in wood which were gorgeous. After that, I headed for home.
• Sunday I parked at Davis Square, and had far fewer problems with trains, so I was actually early for the first session, a panel discussion on space opera. It was okay. Fred Pohl was supposed to be on the panel, but never showed. The other panel members talked a bit about how space opera was long considered a pejorative term (not especially by me, but by a lot of writers, apparently). Shrug. I did get some good recs, including a book by Glen Cook I'd been previously unaware of. Cook's name came up in another session as an example of a guy who writes very good SF, but writes far more fantasy, because apparently that's what his fans will buy. Kind of an interesting trap.
• Next up was a panel on the role of scientists in science fiction, and the irony of how few scientists are actually featured as lead characters in SF. A lot of lead characters have been called scientists, but they are much more likely to be engineers and inventors. This lead us off into a long digression onto the series of YA novels featuring Thomas Edison (yes, that Thomas Edison) in the early part of the century, which then lead to a discussion of Tom Swift, and Tom Swift, Jr. (Most of the panelists were about the same age as me, and it seems all of us grew up on Tom Swift, Jr.)
• Ran into Veejane and Theodosia again, and went off with Vee to a panel on "SF on the Edge," whatever that means. There was some interesting stuff about alternate reality gaming, and similar online works. The discussion eventually turned to the increasing visibility of fanfic (panel member Kelly Link brought up the fact that fan ficcer cassieclaire is about to have a book published), and someone mentioned that they had come across slash fic about Tor editors. Vee opined that it was all the fault of boy bands, and I got to introduce the panel's moderator (who was one of the guys I had earlier had the discussion about Tom Swift with) to the term "puppy slash."
• Vee went off to another panel, and I was going to attend "Long Live the Legion! - Yet another meeting of the diminishing (and why? we ask) group of fans dedicated to keeping the Legion of Super Heroes alive for another year...." until I discovered it wasn't a panel, but was rather just a group of people (none of whom I knew, or who knew me) just sitting around a table in the con room talking. I bailed. It's one thing for me to go into a panel or a talk and participate. I've never had a problem with that, because it's easy for me to be just a face in a crowd in that situation if needs be. This was different. I would've had to pull up a chair, and introduce myself to five complete strangers. I couldn't bring myself to do it. Maybe next year.
• While waiting around for the final session, I wandered through the autograph area several times, and finally got a look at the con's guest of honor, Orson Scott Card. I haven't read much of his stuff, although I own a lot of his books thanks to my laxity at returning SF Book Club announcements. People I respect don't think much of him. I think he looks a bit like Neil Patrick Harris.
• The last session I went to was on SF-mystery crossovers, which I quite enjoyed, except for one panelist who kept insisting on pronouncing "protocol" so it sounded like "product." Despite that, I may still take a look at his books. There weren't a lot of recs for folks I didn't already know about (Glen Cook came up again), but there was still plenty of good information to be had on melding the two genres.
Afterwards, Vee and I made our way back over to Somerville for Jon B's birthday bash. ellenbs made an appearance, and gave me a bottle of wine with a penguin on the label. Got to chat some with FAQ Girl, which I really hadn't had much opportunity to do before. She is a marvelous party coordinator, btw.
In the time it's taken me to type all this stuff in it's now mid-afternoon, and the snow has turned to rain, so the roads are now full of slush. Oh... Joy...