Highlights from Boskone

Between holidays, snow, and work commitments, this was maybe  not the ideal weekend to go to a sci-fi/fantasy convention.  I went anyway.  Last year was my first con ever, and much as I had an immensely enjoyable time at Arisia, I’d heard Boskone had a lot going for it as well, so that was this year’s adventure in geekery. (So far.  It’s only February, after all.)

"Snow Drops" by Patricia McCracken, my favorite artist find from this year's Boskone. Click for source (and to order her lovely prints!)

“Snow Drops” by Patricia McCracken, my favorite artist find from this year’s Boskone. Click for source (and to order her lovely prints!)

One of the selling points of Boskone is the chance to have a close encounter with some pretty big names in the world of sci-fi and fantasy writing, and when I saw that this year’s guests of honor included Jane Yolen and Seanan McGuire, I was definitely sold.  I do, after all, have that thing about meeting your literary heroes, and I’ve been a fan of Yolen’s basically since I learned to read.  Though I only started reading McGuire’s Rosemary and Rue this week, I’ve been following her on Twitter and Tumblr for a while and have a lot of respect for the way she interacts with her fans and the way she stands up for inclusion and respect in geek culture.

Despite having an abbreviated stay at Boskone due to weather et al, I had a fabulous time.  It was as inspiring and entertaining as I hoped, and the worst part was that there were way more events I wanted to attend than I had time for.  These are some of my favorite moments from the weekend:

  • “Finish It!” panel on ways to cope with and defeat everything that gets between you and finishing your novel: best tips included setting yourself manageable goals like ‘write non-stop until the end of the playlist,’ and making sure to ‘touch base’ with your novel every day, even if that means writing up bits of background for minor characters or historical elements to your world instead of advancing the main story.  (With the bonus that you might get a short story or another book out of those extra elements later!)
  • “The Evolving Role of Heroes” panel on what’s beyond Joseph Campbell: lots of great questions raised about heroes outside the Eurocentric hetero male model.  Author Greer Gillman talked about how many of the female hero stories centered less on the ‘zero to hero’ trope and more on the idea of finding a way out of restrictive circumstances (labyrinths, castles overseen by older, dangerous people), finding a solution to a problem (and often rescuing a clueless boy as a side-project).  Others talked about how all heros’ journeys are about self-discovery–but some are about following the steps to taking power (Aragorn), and others are about being forced out of one’s comfort zone for the greater good (Frodo).  There was also a fun discussion of alien cultures and what would heroism look like in a collective society, what would our concepts of heroes look like to them, etc.
  • “The Light Fantastic” and “Humor in SF” panels each focused on recommending and supporting the happier, more humorous side of sf/f, and on the defense of escapism and humor as a teaching tool and cover for topics that are actually harder to take on in drama.  Bruce Coville was particularly entertaining in the SF panel, and in between admitting to having an 8 year old’s sense of humor and telling body humor jokes, handed out some great advice about emotional pacing and build-up (“three and a topper”), pleas for wit over thin parody, and ‘cute and fuzzy humor with teeth.’  Plus I got a list of new authors to check out, bonus.
  • Interview with Seanan McGuire pretty much had me laughing the entire way.  Not a lot of focus on writing technique, etc, but who knew reptile and raven rescue stories could be so funny?
  • Discussion group with Joshua Bilmes, literary agent, who took the time to answer lots of questions about networking, the search for an agent, what to look for in an agent, and to dispel myths about needing short story credits to query for a novel, etc.
  • Tea and Coffee with Jane Yolen! 45 minutes at a table with Yolen and 9 other people, in which I did not make a blithering idiot of myself and asked a few relatively intelligent questions about the market for recast fairy tales, got to hear about some of her new projects, her opinions on how authors should or should not try to tie in with the Common Core, and all kinds of other fascinating stuff.  I didn’t take notes because it was an informal conversation, but she was warm and funny and just so incredibly cool.  Definitely the summit of my con experience.

In short, chances are good I’ll be going back next year.

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