This past weekend I attended Boskone 51, NESFA’s signature convention, child of Worldcon’s and fixture on the fannish calendar for, well, fifty one years.
I’ve been to several Boskone’s in past years and I’ve always enjoyed them; like many of the conventions I grew up with, Boskone (which takes its name from Doc Smith’s Lensman series) is a traditional convention, firmly rooted in the now 75 year old history of fannish conventioneering.
By that I mean that to a large extent, the arrangement, organization and management of the convention still retain many of the features I’m familiar with – a huckster’s room filled with books (now called a “dealer’s” room), a con-suite that offers beverages and snacks (now located in a large open area as opposed to a hotel suite); fans and pros hanging out together; programming so filled with juicy subjects that everyone has to dither over what to attend; interesting new people to meet, old friends to say hello to.
The difference for me this time around is that I’ve now ascended to the ranks of panelist AND panel moderator. Reports of my performance are still filtering back to the powers that be so whether or not I retain that status is still up in the air (I’d like to think I did a decent job both as panel contributor and moderator, but that is for others to decide), but I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Before I go any farther, I need to thank those with whom I spent several pleasant hours discussing our favorite subjects (in no particular order): Joe Siclari, Teresa Nielsen Hayden (who remembered that we’d first met ages ago, probably in Andrew Porter’s apartment!) Jo Walton, Ellen Asher, E. C. Ambrose, Steve Miller, Mallory O’Meara, Bill Roper, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Brianna Spacekat Wu and Janice Gelb.
All of them had cogent, interesting and mind-expanding things to say on the various topics we discussed which were (in order of presentation): Gateway Drugs: The Stories That Turn People Into Fans: Efanzines, Fanzines, and Blogs, Oh My! (the panel I moderated) and Understanding Fan Culture.
The first panel (Gateway) gave me an opportunity to share with everyone my mother’s naked astronauts story; Teresa mentioned her mother’s influence on her reading habits and provided the perfect segue. My mother (in desperation no doubt as before I was a voracious reader I was a voracious memorizer and wanted new stories at bedtime) apparently made up a series of stories about a ship of astronauts exploring the solar system. At one point they had to make an emergency landing on the Sun and dealt with the heat by removing their clothing until they were naked. I told everyone that to this day I’ve been too afraid to ask why my mother was telling her pre-school son stories of naked astronauts, and managed to draw a decent laugh from the crowd.
We talked about the stories that got us hooked and then attempted to figure out what there was about those particular stories that drew us in. Unfortunately for the authors out there, no definitive, formulaic conclusions were to be had.
The panel I moderated was enhanced greatly by the presence of individuals who had a good handle on the history of fanzines and fan publishing. We ultimately came to the conclusion that while the medium may not be the message, it can and does influence the message; blogs and fanzines and ezines (and twitter and FB and…) can all serve as community builders for fandom and there is a lot of joy (and education) to be had for those willing to break out of their everyday and to try something new.
Understanding Fan Culture was quite the ride; we covered the history of fan culture, issues facing it today, whether or not it was worth preserving (it is, with caveats) and maybe ferreted out a few reasons why there (may be) a disconnect between “graying old fandom” and the new generations of fans.
The only real disappointment of the weekend was low attendance at Amazing’s own special interest meeting. Scheduling, weather and probably some things I’m unaware of kept attendance low. On the other hand, I was stopped and talked to about Amazing Stories (and various pieces we’ve published over the past year) by many different people throughout the weekend.
And – I’ve lined up some new contributors and some great new content that will be filtering your way soon.
More to come – including photos from the event from Amazing’s photog, David Decker – soon.