Dispatches from Boskone 54,
Day 2

Brianna Leonardo tests out Samsung Virtual Reality goggles as her friend (left), who identifies as Tingkerbell, and volunteer Bill Todd look on in the gaming room at Boskone 54 in the Westin Hotel in Boston. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/BU News Service

Érico Lotufo and Kris Atienza
BU News Service

Boskone 54 continued Saturday in the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. The BU News Service was there to report on some of its many panels and events. For yesterday’s coverage, click here.

“Brandon Sanderson: Building a Career”

Boskone 54’s Guest of Honor got a panel all to himself, in which he told fans how a Mormon kid raised in Nebraska became a best-selling author. Brandon Sanderson was joined by his wife Emily, agent Joshua Bilmes, Tor Books editor Moshe Fedor and renowned artist Michael Whelan.

As an artist known for science fiction and fantasy book covers, Whelan’s presence wasn’t a coincidence.

“They say you can’t judge a book by its cover,” Sanderson said. “I think that’s not true.”

After getting into fantasy books in the 8th grade, Sanderson used Whelan as his go-to reference for books.

“I would read books just because of a Whelan cover,” he said. “If they got Whelan for the cover, it must be good.”

“I’ve never been so honored,” Whelan responded.

Sanderson’s obsession with the artist finally paid off in 2010, when he released “The Way of Kings,” his first solo book with a Whelan cover.

“I made this huge presentation when pitching my book,” Sanderson said, “and Tom [his publisher] asked ‘I’m buying your book already, why go through all this?’”

“I want a Whelan cover!” he responded.

Whelan is now the official artist for the Stormlight Archive series, beginning with “The Way of Kings.”

“It’s a fine art to match author with artist,” Whelan said of the partnership.

“Design your own Mythology”

Much of what makes fantasy so attractive is the diverse pool of mythos that each fictional universe has. Sometimes, they are entirely new. Other times, they are adaptations of real-world myths, which requires caution.

“We should misappropriate our own stuff, not someone elses,” said author Elizabeth Bear. She was joined by moderator Debra Doyle and fellow authors Sarah Beth Durst, Esther Friesner and Greer Gilman.

“It’s like playing with someone else’s toys,” she added.

Creating a new mythology from scratch can also be a challenge for writers. Gilman, however, sets a clear goal for aspiring novelists to try to complete.

“”When building a mythology, you need to ask ‘What do my people fear? What do they desire?’” she said.

“”If you’re going to write a Black Spider God,” Doyle added, “you have to worship that god at least a little bit.”

“New England: The Legend, The Lore, The Mystery”

As night began to fall on Day 2 of Boskone 54, moderator Peter Muise, Theodora Goss, John Langan and Brett Cox discussed what about New England just seems to find itself as the background for many fictional tales.

Goss, Langan and Cox may not be natives to this part of the country, but the trio agreed that very nature of New England could be a big reason why stories can be found in this setting. They all also added that their own writing had been influenced by the time they have spent living in the region.

Goss pointed out that New England has so much history and just how “ominous” it can feel in this part of the country during the winter.

Cox also added that this attitude towards the unfamiliar could be a result of the deep connection to Puritans, who were apprehensive of mysterious and unknown.

“If you’re from a place with a strong sense of identity, it’s bound to rub off,” said Cox.

According to the moderator, the folklore behind New England goes back for centuries and the truth behind these facts can “be just as strange as fiction if not stranger.”

According to Langan, one particular work that captures the essence of region’s creepy history was Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. He explained that King’s novel was able to convey the deep history of the area, while still incorporating sin and damnation in a classic tale that makes you very hesitant to bury things anywhere in New England.

“Science and the Media”

What do science and journalism have in common? Panelists Tom Easton, Jordin T. Kare, Allen M. Steele and moderator Daniel Hatch point out that the two fields are actually quite similar.

Hatch explained that “science and journalism are both approaches to understanding the world and testing to see how it works.” Science and Journalism are both fields in which those involved are always working to test the norms and the truth while constantly facing opposition and struggling to get support.

Throughout the discussion, it was made clear that both fields are facing their own respective struggles of people believing the validity of their work. Both are facing constant pushback for their work and being discredited for wanting to be the first to publish while not always being the best in checking the sources for their information.

Despite journalists and scientists both wanting to be the one to make the big discovery, Steele, a former journalist, stressed the need that, in order to be responsible, both groups have to confirm their sources and information before trying to pass the knowledge off as factual.

“A Muddle of Mad Scientists”

In many works of fiction, the world seems to be in peril due to the diabolical plans of a mad scientist. But can a mad scientist even exist in the world of today? These panelists think so, just in a different context.

From Doc Brown to 2016 Ghostbusters’ Jillian Holtzmann even to Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz in Disney’s Phineas and Ferb prove that the idea of the mad scientist still exists in modern media today.

Mildly annoyed scientist, Jordin T. Kare, pointed out that films like Avatar capture this future, with corporations now considered the “mad individual.”

Novelist Debra Doyle says that the trope of the Mad Scientist might fade away for a bit, but it’s not completely over for a mad scientist.

“One mad scientist doesn’t cut it anymore. You need a mad laboratory now,” said Doyle.

“Cooking with Chemistry”

The oldest annual science fiction convention in New England also celebrates the science of food.

A small panel hosted by B. Diane Martin and David G. Shaw helped break down some of the science behind some food concepts one might not try in their everyday diets, from noodles with an odd texture to ice cream that seemed to be inspired by Turkey (the country, not the food.)

Other than providing interesting cooking tips, such as investing in a waffle iron, boiling eggs and iron skillet care, Shaw and Martin emphasized that cooking is a process of trial and error to get delicious results.

They might not always be successful, like when they ended up with buffalo flavored taffy, but when they get it right, it’s great. One of their favorite recipes was a three-ingredient way to make macaroni and cheese, which if you’re a broke young adult, they highly recommend.

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