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Boskone 44 Report

Over the weekend, gnomi and I attended the Boskone science fiction convention. It felt a bit odd to be attending during the shloshim period of mourning, but for me a science fiction convention can be considered a professional conference, so I had no stark religious dilemma about attending. I simply made a point of not attending any parties, and I took myself off a humorous program item I had originally been scheduled on.

Nomi and I had an excellent time at the convention for the most part. Jim & Laurie Mann put together an enjoyable program, as they always do whenever they run programming for a convention. We did have some issues with the hotel, mostly because of the difficulties they had in accommodating our sabbath needs. This is the third time we've gone to a convention in a Westin hotel, and all three times the staff promised us a refrigerator would be delivered "in ten minutes" without ever actually providing one. The last time we stayed at a Westin, the apologetic manager on duty Saturday night asked Nomi how he could make things better, and she suggested that he instruct the staff not to lie to guests. Indeed, if the Westin had just told us in advance that they would not have refrigerators available, we would have figured out other options for our kosher food. Instead, they kept telling us that they would provide us with a fridge, even going so far as to tell us the additional cost for the fridge over the weekend. And then, as I said, no fridge ever appeared.

But I don't really want to go on about the missing refrigerator, or the Brookline cab company that told us that we'd have a cab in ten to fifteen minutes, and then when we called back twenty minutes later told us it would be another fifteen minutes. Instead, let me go through the good stuff that happened at the con, including all the panels we attended.



Friday:

Friday 6 pm
The New Solar System: One Less Planet, Many New Facts
Panelists: Richard Binzel, Guy Consolmagno, Jordin T. Kare (M)

We were very interested in this panel because of our support for Pluto, but we were also interested in meeting Richard Binzel. Binzel is one of the scientists working on the New Horizons mission, which Nomi and I have been following very closely. After the panel, we got to meet him, and we also got to talk with Brother Guy again, whom we haven't seen since 2004. Guy helped me with "Sanctuary," and as a thank-you I quoted him at the beginning of the story. He was delighted to hear that the novella will be a Nebula nominee this year.

Friday 7 pm
To Boldly Go: Ethical Issues in Star Trek Through the Years
Panelists: Lou Anders, David Gerrold, Suford Lewis (M)

You know, I enjoyed this panel, but I can't remember what the panelists talked about. Isn't that odd?

For the intervening hour, Nomi and I hung out in the Con Suite, talking with Jen Pelland (LJ: jenwrites) and Andy Benson. I also found Laurie Mann in Program Ops and offered my services for another panel (about which see more below).

Friday 9 pm
Hal Clement Science Speaker Talk: The New Horizons Mission to Pluto
Speaker: Richard Binzel
This, of course, was a delightful program item for Plutophiles such as Nomi and me. Binzel went through some of the usual discussion of the history of our understanding of Pluto, but then he moved onto the history and development of the New Horizons mission. What struck me most was the incredibly long time scales of these space probe missions. First you spend years convincing NASA to fund the mission, then you spend years building the probe and getting ready to launch...and then you wait even more years as the probe travels on its journey to its destination. I suspect that planetary astronomers are probably the one subset of human beings who truly understand what it is to take the long view.

We had also planned to attend a 10 pm panel on the best movies and television from last year, but at that point we felt too exhausted. So we returned to our room and went to sleep.

Saturday:

Saturday 10 am
Heroes: So He Saved the Cheerleader--Is He on the List?
Panelists: Michael A. Burstein, F. Brett Cox, Laurie Mann (M)

Originally, Tamora Pierce was supposed to be on this panel, but as readers of her blog know, she had to cancel at the last minute. Nomi and I are fans of the show, and had been planning to attend the panel anyway, so the previous evening (as I mentioned) I offered my services to Laurie Mann as a panelist. Although the panel was supposed to be about Heroes, we spent quite some time comparing and contrasting the show with other recent genre television. I discovered much to my delight that Brett and I watch all the same shows, which led to my observation at the end of the panel that Brett has excellent taste in television.

Saturday 11 am
Fantasy and Fables: Fantasy in Graphic Novel Form
Panelists: Michael A. Burstein (M), Bruce Coville, Timothy Liebe, Jane Yolen

As before, Tamora Pierce was supposed to be on this panel. In fact, the panel had been her idea, and she was supposed to moderate it. Instead, the others allowed me to do so. I had been hoping that we'd spend the whole panel talking about cool stuff in Fables, but Bruce hasn't caught up with all the story yet and Jane hasn't even read it. So we discussed other fantasy in graphic novel form, and why it's becoming so popular. By the way, Jane has two fantasy graphic novels coming out soon, and I'm looking forward to them.

Saturday 1 pm
Getting Lost : Another Chapter in the Continuing Saga
Panelists: Michael A. Burstein, MaryAnn Johanson, Priscilla Olson (M)

Paul Levinson was supposed to be on this panel as well, but he was unable to attend Boskone. The three of us discussed the show, and the Big Question: do the creators really know where they're going with this thing, or are they just making it up as they go along? And whatever the answer, they better give it a satisfactory resolution, or they'll have a lot of angry fans.

Saturday 3 pm
The Works of David Gerrold
Panelists: Michael A. Burstein, Anthony R. Lewis (M), Lawrence M. Schoen, Allen M. Steele

If all you know of David is tribbles, go check out his series on the Chtorr, or the novella or novel version of The Martian Child, or his classic novel of time travel, The Man Who Folded Himself. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Saturday 5 pm
My Favorite Bad SF Movies
Panelists: Guy Consolmagno, Bob Eggleton, MaryAnn Johanson, Daniel Kimmel (M), Timothy Liebe

Apparently, there are a lot more fun-to-watch bad SF films out there than I ever know. I now have a note in my Palm device to track down and watch something called Starcrash. And did anyone out there keep a list of the recommended films? If so, please post it somewhere and let me know.

Saturday 6 pm
Broad Universe Reading
Readers: Victoria McManus, Jessica Reisman, Morven Westfield, Jennifer Pelland

Originally, there were supposed to be four more readers, but various obstacles kept them from getting to the convention. Nomi and I enjoyed the reading; I was particularly intrigued by the selection of Jennifer Pelland's unpublished novel Machine that she chose to read. If the rest of the novel is that good, I'm surprised it hasn't found a publisher yet and been nominated for an award.

After the panel, Nomi and I headed to the room of the Aronoff family for Havdalah. On the way there, we ran into Christopher Stasheff, the NESFA Press guest. I met Stasheff years ago at a convention put on by the Columbia Science Fiction Society, and I loved his Warlock and Wizard books. I took a few minutes to wax enthusiastic to Stasheff about his work, and some of the scenes I vividly remember; he seemed quite pleased, even though I stalked him on the elevator to do so.

Nomi and I spent the evening in the Con Suite talking with lots of people, possibly too numerous to list. If you were there, and want your name dropped, let me know and I'll edit this part of the report.

Sunday:

As is our tradition when we attend local conventions, Nomi and I checked out of the hotel early, took all our stuff home, checked our email, and went to Rubin's for breakfast. As it so happens, my email included more estate stuff I had to think about, so that's what we discussed over breakfast.

We made it back to the hotel around 10:15 am and browsed the Hucksters Room. I somehow managed to trip and fall flat on my face as we entered, but a former Arisia con chair helped me to my feet.


Sunday 11:30 am
Reading - Sara Beth Durst

I've known Sara Beth for a few years now, having met her at a convention at some point that is lost to the sands of memory. Sara's first novel is coming out this summer, a YA titled Into the Wild, and from the excerpts she read, it sounds like it will be a fun read. Sara, if you're reading, I'm hoping for an advance copy. :-)

Sunday 12 noon
Guest of Honor Speech – David Gerrold

David's brain sounds like a bizzaro place to live. But I enjoyed the window.

Sunday 1 pm
Screenwriting, In Its Simplest Form
Panelists: David Gerrold, George R. R. Martin, Melinda Snodgrass

This panel was less about screenwriting and more about the panelists' adventures in screenwriting. But I was just there to be entertained, and entertaining it was.

After the panel, Nomi and I spent the last two hours in the Con Suite, talking with ianrandalstrock, lonfiction, and Lon's friend Shelley.



And then they closed the con up, and it was time to go home.

Comments

Re:fridge -- ouch!
I didn't see you at the gripe session, but you should make sure to pass that along to the hotel liason.

Out of curiousity, since I saw the Helmuth notice about the hotel stairs not opening on guest levels, how did the con/hotel handle the shomer shabbas attendees?
I know of one shabbas observer who actually taped one of the stairwell doors open, so it wouldn't lock during the con. In our case, we relied on the kindness of non-Jews who were taking elevators. (But we did our best not to have to go back to our room on Saturday, so it wouldn't be an issue.)
You know, that really should be mentioned to somebody in NESFA.
Because all the discussion I heard about the stairs in the gripe session focused on better signage.

If the mere fact that the doors are locked is a problem for a subset of attendees then the con needs to know, and make arrangements -- getting the hotel's okay to tape those doors open over the weekend or something. [Did they at least put the shabbos block on one of the lower floors?]
Boskone doesn't have a shabbas block the way Arisia does. No one has ever pushed for one, and the fact is that there are a much smaller number of shabbas observers attending Boskone than Arisia.

I might bring this all up in an email to Ben, to see if they might be able to work out some other arrangements for next year. But having been on Boskone ConCom for a few years myself, I know how many other issues they have to deal with.
It can't hurt to email them. I can't believe it wouldn't occur to a national hotel chain that perhaps they'd have shabbas observers checking in to their hotel some day.
The sad fact is that shabbas observers tend to be a very small constituency when it comes to the hotel business. Otherwise, most hotels would have kept at least one or two guest rooms that only required a metal key, and not an electronic keycard.

We'll mention the issues to Boskone; we're just not sure what the committee can actually do about them.
I saw a large number of men and boys wearing kippot, so it might be a broader issue than you think.
It would be helpful if they'd tell us that they're around. The greater the number of people affected, the easier it is to make the case to the hotel that accommodation is necessary.
Lis, I'll be putting together a list of names of regular shabbas-observant attendees as soon as I can.
Thanks. You might be right that it's not enough to move the hotel, but then again, you might be wrong--and Ben has from time to time pulled off some amazing things.
Details noted and being passed along to the committee list.
Elaine, could you do me a favor and explain to the committee that I'm not talking behind their back, that I did plan (and still plan) to bring all this to their attention, but that because of my Mom I'm back to dealing with other things at the moment?

Frankly, I would be willing to help, by generating a list of shabbas-observant Boskone attendees, and information on our general needs and how they could be served by a shabbas block.
No problem. I will probably also put this in context with the fact that I personally was asked 2 or 3 times during Friday evening/Saturday day elevator boardings what floor I was going to by observant Boskone attendees.

And the inability to take stairs between sleeping room floors is an issue even for those of us who'd prefer to be able to get some exercise that way ...



Just FYI, I've emailed Ben.
Do email Ben. Yes, there are lots of other issues to deal with, but he can't even decide whether there's a good opening for getting this solved, if you don't even bring it up to him. And given the safety issues involved in the staircases sending the unwary out into the night in February, and not necessarily anywhere close to the main entrance, having this additional point to make may help him.
I will email Ben, but as I told Elaine, right now I'm in the midst of dealing with more pressing matters. If you and Elaine could let him know that my emails will be forthcoming, I'd appreciate it.
And as I told Elaine above, I've just emailed Ben.
The hotel taped the stairwell door on our floor open for us. This let us go to the outside, walk a few feet in the ice, cold, and dark, and confront the fact that every single door into the hotel lobby was electrical and equipped with a motion sensor. I gave up and went back to elevator roulette.

The hotel did empty the minibar refrigerator for us and then refill it on Sunday. They promised not to charge it. I kept a lot of the food I would have otherwised refrigerator in the portable roaster oven I bring to cons. 25 hour cooked Chinese food is not the worlds most palatable dish, but substantially better than browsing on con suite food.
I thought there was at least one non-electric door, but I could be mistaken.

Keep a close eye on your credit card bill; when Nomi and I stayed at the Copley Westin for an Arisia, they told us to use the minibar and then charged us for eating food from it. I had to call the hotel and have them eliminate the charge.
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