23 February 2017

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It was a pleasant Boskone, temperate of weather and collegial in spirit.  It was good to see old friends and new young faces, which Boskone of late has sadly lacked.  Let’s hope the revival goes onward and upward.  We are so fortunate to have three cons here in B—:  Arisia, electrifying and exhausting, a nightlong circus; Readercon, intense and cerebral, the engine that drives me from July to July; and Boskone, old-slipperish, a little shabby, but of lineage. 

It has an excellent con suite, which is also the green room, providing:

75 dozen hard-boiled eggs, with condiments;
a golden Alps of bread, with all sorts of butters and jams;
endless, always hot coffee, tea, cocoa.

I brought my own tea (black Yunnan); I brought chocolate.  I can live on that for a weekend; though I wish clementines were still in season.

And thank heavens for the largesse, because this con’s in the Westin Way-Beyond, and there’s nowhere else around to eat, and usually a howling Siberia between the hotel and Chinatown.

Boskone has always had a most excellent art show, leaning toward large pieces by established artists—great oaks—but with a good mix of the up-and-coming in the underwood.   It’s noted for its access to collections—this year’s special exhibition was a century (at least) of illustrations in black-and-white:  Hannes Bok, Walt Kelly (Pogo), Charles Addams, the Dillons....

The dealer’s room is not quite the bibliophile’s delirium it is at Readercon, but it has many more bookstalls than at Arisia, which tends toward chotchkes:  plushies and bondage gear, plushies in bondage gear, steampunk goggles, clockwork oranges...

I bought a stunning scholarly folio, lavishly illustrated, at rather less than half price:  Here Be Dragons:  A Fantastic Bestiary, by Ariane & Christian Delacampagne (Princeton University Press, 2003).  Haven’t yet read it, but it holds an unusual and thoughtful gallery of images, many quite new to me, from many cultures:  ancient and contemporary, sacred and vernacular, all gorgeous.  

Ruth Sanderson was there with her stunningly beautiful edition of George MacDonald’s odd numinous fairytale, The Golden Key

The programming was solid and engaging this year.  There were one or two things every hour that I wanted to hear, and (fortified with strong tea and egg sandwiches), I thoroughly enjoyed some good conversations on (among other things):  Pros on Prose; Non-Linear Narrative, an excellent history panel; one straight from the heart on the importance of libraries (now more than ever); My Gateway Book; Great Ghost Stories, &c., &c..

I heard only three readings, all excellent:  Theodora Goss, with her memoirs of the daughters of the great mad scientists (the piece she read was by Justine Frankenstein); Margaret Ronald, with a good, thoughtful, sciencey story; Jo Walton, doing Mansfield Park on Mars.

And I managed to keep my end up on my own events, thank heavens.

Achilles Needs a Heel: The Problem With Power

I’m rooting for the grass, I said, to break through the pavement.

Poetry and Performance

Moderated by Bob (“Spoken Like a Gentleman”) Kuhn, who asked for a brief verse bio; I supplied:

Tiptree, World Fantasy,
Greer, of the Gilman kind,
Writes—and has written of
Jonson and Cloud;

Gives airy nothing a
Life and a larynx, in
Ink, and aloud.

Panelists were each to do a brief piece; and as it fell out, I was to follow three showstoppers:   C. S. E. Cooney, being vibrant and  gypsyish; Ada Palmer and Lauren Schiller, singing deep myth in complex harmonies; Linda Addison, rocking out in dreads.   All I had were words.  I gave them a brief bit of “A Crowd of Bone” where narrative changes to performative ritual:  Whin telling a death.  I couldn’t say how well it went over—there was at any rate, applause—but afterwards Bob (who knows whereof) said it was well-spoken, with good control, and good timbre.  That made me very happy.

Design Your Own Mythology

Lively and hilarious.  (Doyle, Bear, Friesner, Sarah Beth Durst.)  My takeaway:  When building a mythology, you need to ask “What do my people fear? What do they desire?”  Belief must not be decorative:  if you yourself can't sense the numinous, if you can't imagine a cult enwoven in the daily lives of your characters (Doyle:  "the Spiderian altar guild"), then your world will be flat. 

Reading by Greer Gilman

I had just three listeners:   but they were Michael Swanwick and Marianne Porter, and my old friend Sarah Thompson who curated that fabulous Hokusai show at the MFA, and they were marvellous.  

How Stories End

In the penultimate hour of the con, this turned out to be a dialogue between me and Swanwick, three others having fallen off:  a very nice thing, if only we’d known beforehand.  Still, we managed to tap dance.  I found myself babbling about favorite styles of ending:  “The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo. You that way: we this way” and how Bertie surrenders his purple socks.  We talked about how the endlessness of Discworld is so much more satisfying than your endless (n-1)-logy, unfolding like a bolt of a fabric, whump whump whump.  Prachett’s work builds in space-time:  it fits together like a puzzle map.  We talked about arrowy SF; we talked about fantasy and infinite regret; about how LOTR closes door after door:  from the great gates, down to the Sam’s round wooden one, with the fire within;  “Well, I’m home.”  We talked, of course, about further in, about Narnia and its discontents, and Little, Big.  It was a lovely ending to the con.

Can anyone remember what novel I called “a bildungsroman for the planet”?



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