Boskone 33 Trip Report
16-18 February 1996


Part One: "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow (But Not on Us)"

Upon hearing the weather report for Friday, Marina and I decided that it would be eminently sensible to leave, not at 2.30pm as previously planned, but first thing in the a.m. Marina got the day off from work (I had already done so), and we set out bright and early, cabbing it over to the car rental place, and departing NYC in our rented '96 Chevy at 9.15am. (The only snag was that we couldn't turn the lights off. It turns out that the '96's have a safety feature -- the exterior lights go on automatically when you go into drive or reverse. It would've been nice if they told us that, but there it is.)

We made excellent time, getting to Framingham in a mere three hours. We got out of NYC in no time at all -- at 9.15am, everyone's coming in to the city, no one's really leaving -- and hit no traffic on the way up.

The snow didn't start until a good hour after we checked in. That latter event proved amusing, as we arrived before Leigh Grossman and Lesley McBain, with whom we were sharing a reservation and an adjoining room. The hotel knew this, but put us in a room that adjoined with someone already checked in. We brought this to their attention, and they fixed it. (This was the first of many Stupid Hotel Tricks throughout the weekend. Messages didn't get left until the next day, keys that were supposed to be left for roommates weren't, and charges kept getting put on people's bills. The Sheraton Tara staff was not playing with a full duck on this particular weekend...)

After a sumptuous repast at the hotel restaurant, I took a nap, and Marina checked out the pool, returning later to announce getting a perverse pleasure out of swimming in a well-heated pool while it snowed.

In due course we registered, hung out in the Green Room, patroled the dealer room, and breathed sighs of relief as various individuals showed up despite the weather (including Leigh, Lesley, and Jeanne Cavelos, who shared our adjoining room). Indeed, the turnout was pretty good -- in fact, given the weather, the turnout was phenomenal.

We had dinner with Josepha Sherman, eluki bes shahar, Jeri Freedman, and Sharon Lee, which was punctuated by the fire alarm going off just as I got up to go to the bathroom. One of those fire alarms was located right over my chair, as I discovered to my chagrin upon returning from the Little Editor's Room. It was decided that the fire alarm was (chorus) All Keith's Fault, despite my objections. (I later learned that there was a genuine fire on the fourth floor that set the thing off.) This marked the second year in a row that the proceedings were interrupted by The World's Most Annoying Fire Alarm (it sounded like the chants of Aborigines with really bad colds).

Thence I proceeded to the Meet the VIPs, during which I made a moderate amount of trouble and used my free drink chit to get a Jack Daniels. When 9pm rolled around, Lesley and I went up to the room along with Connie Hirsch and Tom Galloway to join Marina in watching The X-Files, the second of two parts, thus marking the second year in a row that people sat in my room watching the second part of a two-part XF episode at Boskone. (Sadly, we were unable to coin a phrase the way Laura Anne Gilman did last year with "Hello, my name is Fox Mulder, you abducted my sister, prepare to die," though, naturally, someone could've said, "Hello, my name is Fox Mulder, you killed my father, prepare to die," during one of the Mulder/Krycek scenes.)

I was supposed to do a panel at 10pm, but I couldn't find it. While I was searching, I discovered LAG, the patient and decorative Peter Liverakos, and Jean Krevor milling about in the lobby, having just arrived. (LAG and Jean were snarling about missing XF; apparently they had seriously considered checking into a motel at 8.45 so they could see the episode.) I was conscripted to help carry luggage. From there, we went to the Tor Books party, where we drank beer and pointedly didn't discuss the XF episode, having received threats of bodily harm from LAG if we gave anything away.

Tor parties always have good beer, and this was no exception. Much of it was consumed in mass quantities. I schmoozed, admired the covers (remarking yet again at what an amazing art director Irene Gallo is), drank a lot, and eventually went to bed -- after all, I had to be up for a 10am reading the next morning....


Part Two: "The Play's the Thing Where We'll Find that No One Has a Conscience"

Saturday began with Marina and I getting up and wending our way toward meeting The Gang for breakfast at 8.30. Unfortunately, by the time we showered and dressed and everything, it was 8.40, and The Gang had already gathered. We were presented with the alternatives of adding ourselves to the two ends of the large table (thus creating yet still more chaos for the harried waitstaff) or getting our own table. We opted for the latter -- I figured the waitstaff of the hotel restaurant would be having enough problems this weekend.

After we finished breakfast, Marina wandered off to do whatever vile and depraved things tall Russian women do at 9.15am, while I went over to schmooze with The Gang at their table, as seats had been vacated by LAG, Peter, and Jean (who still hadn't registered). Most of this schmoozing consisted of me describing the forthcoming scene in The One-Handed Archer to Esther.

Thence I proceeded to the Green Room, where they had coffee, beer, tea, a good variety of food, and various and sundry panelists, all preparing for the start of the paneling day at 10. They had scheduled LAG and I one after the other at 10am and 10.30am for readings (a sensible move, all things considered, as there was serious overlap in our audiences). LAG read from Changeling, her fantasy-in-progress, which has a character named DeCandido in it; not to be outdone, I read my Magic: the Gathering story "God Sins," which has a character named Gillmin in it. The most gratifying part of the reading was when someone walked by the open door, stood in the doorway a moment to listen to my reading, then came in to hear the rest of the story. Never did thank the guy....

I meandered around until my 1pm panel, determining at one point that Craig Shaw Gardner really had shown up, despite the snow (he was only in for the day on Saturday, and the snow had not stopped since it started at 1pm the previous day), since we had a lunch date. I checked out the art show, which had a higher-than-usual number of excellent painters and comparatively few lesser talents. Gary Lippincott, bless him, prominently displayed the painting for The Vampire's Daughter that I commissioned. My main regret from the weekend was not ever getting to meet Gary in the flesh (especially since I need a revised sketch from him...).

At 1pm, I did the "Comics: Crossovers and Other Strange Beasts" with Ken Gale, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Connie Hirsch, and the aforementioned Mr. Gardner. We mostly complained about the Spider-clone storyline, but we complained about other stuff, too. I plugged my books ("the Spider-Man novels are guaranteed clone-free!"), and we all waxed amusing.

At 2pm, Craig and I went to the restaurant for lunch, only to learn that it was closed. So we proceeded to Molly Malone's, the hotel bar, where we ate roast beef, drank beer, and talked about his upcoming Spider-Man novel. There's a lot to be said for discussing superhero novels over beer, lemme tell ya....

I decided to take a nap, having arranged to meet Marina and Leigh at 5pm after Leigh's 4pm panel. I figured I'd sleep for an hour. I am awakened by the dulcet tones of my wife's voice saying, "There he is!" It's 5.15, a good forty-five minutes past that hour I thought I'd sleep. With the able assistance of LAG, Peter, Lesley, and Jean, we unload Leigh and Lesley's truck, then the three of us trundle off into the wilds of Framingham to negotiate the purchase of victuals and libations. The liquor store had some excellent beers (much better selection than the liquor store we stocked up from last year), and we also pick up some wine coolers and munchies.

We drive back, order pizza, set up for the party, then LAG, Jean, Marina, Peter, and I head downstairs for the play.

To explain: Boskone does not do masquerades. However, they that run the joint, NESFA (New England Science Fiction Association) do give out awards every year, preceded by a banquet. This year, an Esther Friesner Original followed said banquet and awards.

The banquet ended late, then the non-banqueters were allowed in to view awards and play. The joint was packed, and none of them left after the awards, so they wanted a good show, obviously. (We later learned that several people missed the play because they didn't fit in the room.)

The awards were fun. The Lensman Award is traditionally awarded by last year's recipient. Said recipient, Mike Resnick, couldn't make it, busy as he was with the moving forward of the film version of his novel Santiago. However, he wrote a speech for a NESFA person to deliver. It was a highly entertaining speech, discussing, among other things, the story conferences he'd been attending ("But why can't one of the twins be black?"), culminating in his announcement that "in the politically correct year of 1996, one of the Lensman winners is Gay. The other is her husband Joe." The Haldemans were not on hand to accept the award, sadly. The Gaughan Award for artists went to Charley Lang, who proceeded to beat presenter Bob Eggleton about the head and shoulders for not telling him.

After that, the play.

Hoo-hah, the play.

Called The Blessed Life and Gory Death of St. Stefano Di Bordello, ostensibly written by a medieval Spanish woman named Ursula, this was another of Esther's silly productions, this one a perfect sendup of the medieval saint's play. This was my third outing in an Esther play, having previously been Lust in The Marriage of Love and Beauty at Phrolicon 8 and Dan Steeljaw in The Shame of Maudie Jones at Lunacon '93 or '94.

The play opens with a Herald (Joe Mayhew) setting the stage, followed by the entrance of that drunken lecher, Stefano di Bordello (me), presently drinking heavily and being dripped on by various wenches (Patty Wells, Lucienne Diver, Marina, and Jean). Stefano's childhood friend, the weaselly Edgardo (Bruce Coville), implores Stefano to repent his evil ways. When that fails, he brings on his sister Helena (Jane Yolen), who catches Stefano's roving eye.

Pretending to repent, Stefano lets Helena lead him to a deserted church, whereby he attacks her. When a priest (Joe Mayhew again) intervenes, Stefano kills him. An avenging angel (LAG) descends from the heavens and hits Stefano with a baseball bat, thus freezing him until he truly repents. Helena prays for him, Stefano sees the error of his ways, becomes unfrozen, and vows to become a priest, travel north with Helena and Edgardo, and try to convert heathen Vikings to Christian ways.

The Vikings prove somewhat uninterested in being converted (though the maids rather like it) and one Viking, by the name of Erik Ironthighs (played by someone whose name I can't for the life of me remember), with his friend Aesthetlan (Joe Mayhew yet again), decides to have his way with the Christian woman, Helena. Edgardo sees this, tries to salvage his sister's honor, until he realized that doing so will involve fighting. Cowering abjectly, he runs off, leaving Helena to the Vikings. Stefano sees this, strikes Erik with his staff, and leads Helena away.

Despite a warning from the avenging angel, Erik takes another shot at Helena. Edgardo, shamed by Stefano's bravery and Helena's continued ability to sustain her faith despite all these drunken men trying to paw her, tries to stop them, and gets killed for his effort. The angel then comes in with a host of other angels (Lucienne, Patty, Jean, Marina, and Tom Galloway) to bear Helena away before her virtue finally gives way.

Furious, Erik tries to convert Stefano at swordspoint to Norse. Stefano refuses, and is killed. The angel, who has had enough of this crap, kills Erik and sends Stefano to the heavenly host. Aesthetlan is overwhelmed by this miracle, and converts to Christianity and lives happily ever after (good thing, since he's the only one left alive).

That's the plot.

Needless to say, there was more to the production than that. For one thing, it's not like we, y'know, rehearsed or anything. (Esther dubbed us the "Rehearsals? We Don' Need No Steenkin' Rehearsals!" Players at show's start.) Esther began with a lengthy semi-academic treatise on Ursula -- and would also, throughout the play, interrupt with pseudoscholarly footnotes.

Jane pointed out that she was too old to be kneeling as much as Helena had to, and demanded stunt knees or kneepads the next time she's in one of these things. LAG, upon her first entrance, adjusted her halo, spit on both hands, and really wound up before striking me with the bat (and afterwards turned to the audience and said, "I was born to play this role" to raucous laughter). After being frozen by the bat, I said, without moving my lips, "Oil! I need oil!" which, to my surprise, got the biggest laugh of the evening.

The best moment, though, was when the angels bore Helena off the stage. At the last second, Tom was inspired to literally bear Helena off, and the other angels picked up on this, and picked up a very surprised Jane and literally carried her off the stage.

Both Bruce and I way overdid our death scenes. Bruce writhed in agony for quite some time before falling off the stage. LAG yelled at him, "On the stage, die on the stage!" and Bruce obligingly rolled back on and completed his death. Not to be outdone, my own death involved some of the worst overacting I've ever done (and I did four Gilbert & Sullivan plays in grammar school); I worked in elements of Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Westerns, and Sanford & Son, before I finally collapsed on Joe Mayhew, whispered, "Rosebud," and fell to the stage.

Afterward, Esther instructed us each to come out and introduce themselves. Jane went out first, said her name ("Jane Yolen") and walked off. Joe followed, introduced himself as Jane Yolen, and walked off. This set the tone, as everyone referred to themselves as Jane Yolen (save LAG, who said she was "Jane Yolen's Evil Twin") until I came out last. I introduced myself as Lois McMaster Bujold.

Photos were, sadly, taken by Jane Jewell. As one person put it later, "it's the end of our careers and the beginning of Jane's." Jane also took a staged shot of LAG threatening me with the baseball bat and me cringing -- this will likely be the editor photo for OtherWere. (Either way, I want a print.)

After much laughing, giggling, Rockette-imitating, and doo-wap singing (you haven't lived until you've heard LAG and Tom doing "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" which is good, because after hearing it you're likely to die in agony), we retired to the parties. Several of us put in an appearance at the Baen party before settling at the Young Turks Of Publishing Party thrown by Leigh, Lesley, LAG, Peter, Marina, and self.

Pete played guitar in one room, Jean sold jewelry in another, I got to meet a couple of Tor publicity people attending their first con (and they hadn't run screaming, proving their qualifications for the job), and a good time was had by all.

We eventually kicked everyone out and collapsed around 2am....


Part Three: "You Owe Me a Lunch..."

On Sunday, I inexplicably woke up at a reasonable hour (go fig'...), and went to the Green Room in search of caffeine, bumping into LAG on the way. We shot the breeze and worshipped caffeind until 10am when I had my "The Writer as Editor" panel.

This was a muchfun panel, I think my favorite of the ones I was on. I moderated, and was joined by Esther M. Friesner (author of dozens of books, editor of Blood Muse, Alien Pregnant by Elvis, and Chicks in Chainmail), Jane Yolen (author of millions of books, editor of the Xanadu anthologies and her own imprint of Harcourt Brace), and Lois McMaster Bujold (author of a whole bunch of books, coeditor of Women at War). The joke at the beginning was that several of us had edited others of us and vice versa, which prompted the editor to proclaim that she owed the author a lunch.

Having been involved in the assembly of eight anthologies and embarking on two more, I had much to say on that subject, not to mention being on both sides of the fence. One thing I mentioned was how being on the editorial side has made me very receptive to editorial comments I receive when I'm on the writer end. (When I wrote my Doctor Who story, I got revisions along with loud apologies for asking for so many changes, to which my reply was, "What's the big deal? This is simple stuff." Made me wonder what kinds of replies other authors gave to revision letters....)

Afterward, I was surprised to find myself approached by a fellow from an SF/comics radio talk show/newsletter. He wanted to interview me about the Marvel books and any other items. We set up a time, then I went to get our stuff out of the room (the Tara has automatic checkout, assuming your bill is accurate; ours was, a condition not shared by Leigh & Lesley, nor LAG & Peter, nor many others). I also made a second search for my boots, to no avail.

I didn't explain about the boots, did I? Okay, cast your mind back to Part One of this report, when they put us in the wrong room. We switched rooms, but before we did, I had changed out of my snowboots and into my shoes. When we moved all our stuff to the other room, I rather stupidly left my boots in the old room. I didn't notice this until Saturday evening when we prepared to go get libations and victuals for the party and the boots were nowhere to be found.

Sunday morning, I finally gave up and checked out the lost and found (no luck) and filled out the lost item form. (The story does have a happy ending; the week after the con, I got a call from the hotel saying they were located. They arrived at the office via UPS on Friday 1 March -- just in time for the latest snowstorm.)

I did my interview with the radio guy, which ended with a massive plug for OtherWere, then did final passes through the dealer room and art show. I also attended bits of the art auction with LAG & Peter. Then I had my "Surviving the Freelance Jungle" panel, which turned out to be the Gary and Bob show as Gary Ruddell and Bob Eggleton more or less took over the panel, with moderator Rosy Kirstein (author), panelists Cortney Skinner (artist) and Ann Tonsor Zeddies (author), and I all reduced to supporting roles. Not that the panel wasn't good and informative, but it talked too much about being a freelance artist (or just general freelance issues) and not enough about other types of freelancers. Still, Gary and Bob were most excellent and erudite on the subject.

That was it for the con for us, leaving our two visits.

When Marina was at MIT, she became friends with H. Tyler Stewart, proprietor of the Pandemonium bookstore in Cambridge's Harvard Square, the only genre bookstore in the Boston vicinity. The only time we get to visit Tyler and his friend and coconspirator Andy is when we go to Arisia. Sadly, Arisia didn't happen for us this year, so we decided to take some time out on Sunday to drive into Cambridge to visit them at the store. Marina had called earlier in the week and told Andy that we'd be coming.

As expected, getting from the Framingham exit to the Allston/Cambridge exit on I-90 is faster than getting the much shorter distance from the exit to Harvard Square, as traffic is silly (and is of the usual Massachusetts variety, to wit, stay within two inches of the car in front of you -- any more and you will be cut off). We find a parking lot has room (no mean feat), and walk over to the Garage Mall where Pandemonium is located.

We find a nerdy-but-polite young man that neither of us recognizes behind the counter. No Tyler. No Andy. Querying of the nerdy-but-polite young man reveals that Tyler is off at a film festival and Andy took the weekend off. "WHAT!?" we say.

The nerdy-but-polite young man allows us use of the phone to call Andy at home. Marina gives him a serious hard time -- the dear boy apparently completely forgot that we were coming. He couldn't even remember if he told Tyler or not (it turns out he hadn't), though Tyler wouldn't have been there in any case. But Andy took the weekend off, forgetting that we'd be coming. Needless to say, Andy got some major guilt ("We came all the way to Cambridge in the snow to see you guys!"). We bought some books anyhow, I chatted about various and sundry genre things with the nerdy-but-polite young man (who is very well versed in the field; a good trait in a clerk at an SF bookstore), and then we headed out, grousing about the wasted time.

We then headed into the wilds of Connecticut for the Swordsmith housewarming party. Aside from momentary confusion over whether or not a blinking stoplight counted as a traffic light in the grand scheme of things (it didn't), and the general unpleasantness of driving west in the sunset, it went fine. Leigh & Lesley have moved to a house that really is in the middle of nowhere -- it reminded me of the area of rural western Pennsylvania where the vast majority of my mother's side of the family lives, all twisty roads and no street lights -- but it's a very nice house, with a huge kitchen that would've made me more jealous if it had a dishwasher, and what would've been a lovely view of the woods were it still daylight. More to the point, Leigh & Lesley are very happy with it, and that's what counts.

We had missed the first wave (Peter Heck & Jane Jewell, Esther and family); only Jean was present, having been brought over by Pete & Jane (Marina and I were taking her home). LAG & Peter arrived shortly thereafter, having also visited people in the area (unlike the people we visited, LAG & Peter's relatives were actually there), as did Nick Jainschigg and a friend of his whose name I couldn't remember. We ate the copious amounts of food prepared by Lesley (one of those people who always overcooks, figuring, rather sensibly, that There Can Always Be Leftovers).

The only practical way to get back to New York City from their place is via I-95, sadly. I hate I-95, but since it was late Sunday night of a holiday weekend, there probably wouldn't be much traffic, and indeed there wasn't. The three of us listened to music, chatted, and Marina and Jean both slept a whole lot. (I didn't. I wasn't even tired. I was driving. I love driving, and I hardly ever get to do it anymore, grump grump. But I was in no danger of nodding off -- open road, music playin', good company, that always keeps me going strong.)

[First posted on the "Keith R.A. DeCandido [KEITH.D]" topic on Genie from 19-26 February 1996; also posted on the "Boskone 33" topic on 26 February 1996.]

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