Dispatches from Boskone 54,
Day 1

Panelists Brandon Sanderson (left) and Charles Stross speak at Boskone 54 in the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel, Feb. 17, 2017. Photo by Gaelen Morse/BU News Service

Eesha Pendharkar, Érico Lotufo and Kris Atienza
BU News Service

Boskone 54, New England’s oldest science-fiction convention, kickstarted at the Westin Waterfront Hotel this Friday, with New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson as guest of honor. The BU News Service team was there to accompany some of the many panels of day 1.

 

“My Toughest Book”

A writer’s life isn’t always easy. In the first panel featuring Guest of Honor, Brandon Sanderson, authors remembered their hardest book to write. Walter Jon Williams, Allan Steele and Charles Stross also participated, with Darlene Marshall moderating.

“Mine would be the last Wheel of Time book,” Sanderson said. “A Memory of Light” was the final volume of the epic fantasy series, originally written by Robert Jordan (James Rigney’s pen name). Sanderson was called to write the final three books after Jordan’s death in 2007.

“It was all the pressure,” he said. “I’m proud of it, but I would never do that again.”

Some hard books, on the other hand, hit closer to home.

“You can write to pay the bills, but one day you’ll write from the heart. That was Arkwright,” Steele said. “Arkwright” is his latest book, released in 2016. “I don’t think I can pull that off again.”

The hardships of writing, the panel argued, can be attributed to the excessive critical voice inside each writer. Ignorance, in this case, is bliss.

“You have to be willing to suck long enough to be good at writing,” Sanderson said.

 

“The Once and Future Teen”

In the late afternoon, an all-woman panel discussed Young Adult fiction, the prejudice on the genre and why it has attracted so many adult readers.

Melanie Meadors moderated the panel discussion with authors Erin Hartshorn, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Tui Sutherland and Hillary Monahan.

“YA is more of a marketing thing than a literary thing,” said Sutherland, author of the “Wings of Fire” series.

Monahan also sees YA as just a stamp, but with more sinister reasoning behind it.

“If it’s a coming-of-age for girls, it’s considered YA,” she said. “If it’s for boys, it’s fine-fiction. The industry is sexist that way.”

She gave examples as how classics such as “Huckleberry Finn” aren’t considered YA, despite having the same target audience.

However, YA novels aren’t being read only by teenagers. According to The Balance, some estimate that nearly 70 percent of YA books are bought by adults.

“Harry Potter made it cool for adults to read children’s books,” Sutherland said.

This means YA authors must raise their stakes and write even better teenage characters. Monahan thinks the solution for that is simple.

“If you want to write a teenager, talk to teenagers,” she said.

 

“Comics Confrontational”

Comic books and graphic novels can be an escape that allows people to see a world they wish they lived in. Just because the stories are fictional, it doesn’t mean that they can’t provide important insights into the real world.

The Comics Confrontational panel allowed people to have “deep, heavy thoughts” about some of the comics the panelists enjoy and highly recommend. The discussion featured Brenda Noiseux moderating and independent comic book authors such as Robert Howard, Elwin Cotman and Josh Dahl.

They argued that devoted comic fans can really think about the type of comics they’re enjoying and even possibly consider adding new titles to their collection. Not just the mainstream line of publications you find with DC or Marvel’s brand, but comics that would be considered “off the beaten path.”

While movies and films may be more hesitant to “rock the boat,” the panelists explained that this particular niche of comics allowed creators to tackle heavier issues that should be discussed yet hardly see any big screen representation, such as female exploitation in jails and criminal safe havens, for example.

 

“The Harry Potter Effect”

“The Harry Potter Effect” offered fans an hour of rehashing their favorite aspects about the Harry Potter universe, including the books, movies, fan fiction and Pottermore.

The hour-long conversation started with the panelists’ Potter journey. “I grew up with Harry Potter.” said writer Victoria Sandbrook, who met Harry through the books when they both were 11.

“It made reading cool again,” said Emma Caywood, a Children’s Librarian at Mamaroneck Library. The panelists agreed on how Harry Potter was accessible fantasy. You no longer needed to be a geek to love Harry Potter, because the series allows for “muggles” who appreciate passively.

“Harry Potter has done for fantasy what Star Trek did for science fiction,” panelist John Murphy said.

The discussion included questions on how the series could be different, specifically how better writing and more diversity would be expected from the Harry Potter universe in the near future.

On the Wizarding World and technology, if it were written today, Caywood said to the audience’s amusement: “If I had Floo Powder, I would give up my iPhone in a second!”

Panel members shared what house they belonged to and what were their thoughts on Pottermore and the extensive, creative world of Harry Potter fan fiction. The discussion then moved on to what was expected of the series moving forward.

Everyone agreed that tampering with Harry and his world was unacceptable, evident from their negative reaction to the recent sequel-play “The Cursed Child.” The Wizarding World though, was something readers were open to exploring from different perspectives, which we might see through Fantastic Beasts.

“She’s only allowed to write ONE more book,” Caywood declared, “called Harry’s Shadow, which will be Neville’s point of view.”

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