Attending Boskone 2021

One of the few upsides to the pandemic that’s keeping us in our homes is that it’s also enabling me to attend conventions which have transformed into virtual events.

Thanks to the miracle of high-speed fibre broadband (for which I am daily grateful) I can beam into festivals around the world and take part on panels with a wide variety of people, many of whom I might not ordinarily meet.

I’m terribly pleased to be a programme participant at the online iteration of Boskone 2021 (12-14 February), the annual (and oldest) science fiction convention in New England, USA, organised by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA).

Here’s the exciting line-up of the VIP guests:

  • Joe Abercrombie – Guest of Honour
  • Julie Dillon – Official Artist
  • Sheree Renée Thomas – Special Guest
  • Marc Gunn – Musical Guest
  • Ursula Vernon – NESFA Press Guest
  • Mike Brotherton – Hal Clement Science Speaker
  • Christian Ready – Hal Clement Science Speaker

Among the exciting variety of events planned for the convention, here’s my schedule:

Star Wars: The Mandalorian Format: Panel
13 Feb 2021, Saturday 10:00 – 11:00 (15:00 -16: 00 Irish time), Harbor Ballroom (Webinar) (Virtual Westin)

We’ve come to know the players and plots most likely to emerge from the Star Wars storyverse. Does Disney’s hit TV show The Mandalorian measure up? Does it exemplify new character types and story forms? Rogue One cracked the mold, and The Mandalorian left it in pieces … in all the right ways? How? And why is this? What about The Mandalorian is “vintage” Star Wars and what is a game changer? And how about the episode that left fandom in tears?
[Expect spoilers. This is the way.]

Panellists: Nicole Givens Kurtz, Frank Wu, Maura McHugh, Aliette de Bodard, Erin Underwood (M).

Female Character Evolution in Speculative Fiction Format: Panel
13 Feb 2021, Saturday 13:00 – 14:00 (18:00 -17: 00 Irish time), Burroughs (Webinar) (Virtual Westin)

Is there more to life than virgin-mother-crone? Let’s look at how physical and psychological change in women is portrayed in fiction today. We’ve talked about how the representation of women in fiction has changed, but we’ll talk here about how a woman actual changes through time and experience within today’s works. How does SF/F/H approach the physical changes, from childhood to womanhood or the later changes in life? How do print and screen differ in this regard?

Panellists: Nancy Holder, Gillian Daniels (M), Maura McHugh, Connie Willis, Tamora Pierce

The Magic and Science of Scriptwriting Format: Panel
13 Feb 2021, Saturday 16:00 – 17:00 (21:00 -22: 00 Irish time), Indy C (Mtg Room) (Virtual Westin)

Critics and reviewers praise or pan the finished products: movies, television programs, and plays. Usually each is built upon a script. How do script structures for these three media differ from each other? In what ways can a script evolve from original author to screen or stage? When the script calls for fantastical or science fictional elements, what may or may not be beyond the limits of each medium? We’ll discuss examples from screen and stage to understand the literary mechanics behind the curtain and silver screen.

Panellists: Andrea Hairston, Tim Lebbon, Cat Scully, Brad Abraham, Maura McHugh

Reading: Joe Abercrombie and Maura McHugh Format: Reading
14 Feb 2021, Sunday 10:00 – 11:00 (15:00 – 16:00 Irish time), Indy C (Mtg Room) (Virtual Westin)

Readers: Joe Abercrombie , Maura McHugh

Horror Comics: The Art of Graphic Terror Format: Panel
14 Feb 2021, Sunday 11:30 – 12:30 (16:30 – 17:30 Irish time), Burroughs (Webinar) (Virtual Westin)

From comics to graphic novels, these artists and authors don’t pull their punches. Instead they excel at steadily building the narrative dread through a combination of disconcerting story elements that happen both in the panel and off the page as they push old tropes into unknown territory. From body horror to creepypasta, zombies, noirish superheroes, organ farmers, demonic ice cream men, and fairies dwelling inside the rotting corpse of, well, never mind, why do we read them? Is it the sheer inventive fun of titles like Afterlife With Archie; Killadelphia; Die; Crawl to Me; or Gyo: The Death-Stench Creeps? Maybe it’s the sequential-storytelling skills of writers like Joe Hill, Cullen Bunn, Gail Simone, Victor Lavalle, or Carmen Maria Machado? Or maybe there’s just something wrong with us?

Panellists: Jack Haringa, Cat Scully, Maura McHugh, Gillian Daniels (M), Joe Hill

This event will no doubt be the highlight of my February, and I hope my voice will hold up – it doesn’t get as much exercise these days!

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