Last weekend I attended my second Arisia convention. Arisia is a large science fiction and fantasy convention held in Boston MA annually over the Martin Luther King Jr holiday weekend. I went with my friend avangyline and her family. Although they live only about an hour away from me, we only ever see each other when we attend cons together in Boston. I joke that it's our annual date.
I was particularly excited to go as two authors I enjoy very much, Laura Anne Gilman and Tanya Huff, were scheduled to be there. Unfortunately, Gilman cancelled right before the start of the con. Arisia chose not to announce it on their website or add an addendum to the program. I only knew about the cancellation because I follow Gilman on both Facebook and Twitter. Towards the end of the weekend I discovered that twice a day they put out a flyer called Clear Ether that they set out around the hotel with no explanation of what it was or who put it out. You only knew that it was con-related if you picked it up and started reading it. That seems to me a very poor way of communicating last minute changes. Why not update the website and post updates at the registration desk and info desk?
Although I missed hearing Gilman reading from her work and getting books signed by her, I did connect with Huff. Her reading was wonderful. She read a short story, whose name I forget, but it was about King Arthur's knights and had a twist at the end; I enjoyed it and she did a good job voicing the different characters. Once the story was over, she spent the rest of her time answering questions from the audience. When she first walked into the room, I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't recognize her. She came in and began passing out flyers about books of her that are now available in ebook. She was chatting, passing out flyers, and it took me several minutes to realize she was the author and not the author's assistant or a con volunteer. *head desk* She was quite down to earth and at the end of her panel we chatted while she signed my souvenir program.
Later, my friend avangyline and I attended a workshop that Huff was part of on the topic of vampires in fiction and whether or not their time is over. It was an interesting, occasionally R-rated convo, and most people seemed to think that vampires are here to stay. The next day I made sure I was early for the line for her signing. I was second but because she was only signing three books at a time, I had to go through the line three times. Each time, we chatted and she wrote notes in each book; eight books, eight different notes. I was impressed that she managed to come up with different notes for each book, on the fly, and that she made the effort.
Other panels I attended were on censorship, books that make us want to throw them across the room and paganism in fantasy, to name a few. Arisia has 24 hour progamming from Friday evening through Monday afternoon. In the wee hours, it may be a showing of a movie but there's something all day and night long. The range of panels and events is amazing - how to flirt, designing your own costumes, feminism, RPGs, killing off characters, a masquerade ball (I didn't go), singing, movie and tv showings, comics, brewing beer, diversity in YA, writing the other, and on and on and on. There were blocks of time where nothing interested me or only mildly interested me and others where I wanted to be at three, four, or five panels at once. Sigh.
I don't know if this was a first or not, but the con sold out over the weekend. Saturday and Sunday walk-in tickets were sold out early and I was glad I registered in advance and paid for a weekend pass. It was absolutely worth it. Also sold out were the food trucks the con arranged for participants. Luckily there are several restaurants in the hotel and many other choices with a mile of the hotel.
There was a problem at the Starbuck's at the hotel. I went in on Saturday to get a frappucino and a muffin. Many of their pastries had cinnamon so I asked if the muffin I wanted contained it, specifying that I was allergic. I was told no, I purchased it, I ate half of it, and my chest started tightening up. I threw the muffin away, did my medicine, and within five minutes I my chest and breathing started to ease. I talked to the restaurant manager later, he apologized, and said he'd look into it and call me back. I haven't heard from him since. It was fortunate that my reaction was mild and brought under control quickly but the next customer given incorrect food information might not be so lucky.
I dislike the set up of the hotel; the second and third floor where the conference rooms are split. The east side and west side of those floors are on opposite ends of the hotel and you can't access one from the other. You have to go down to the first floor, walk to the other end, and then go up. I don't know if the guest rooms are set up that way but I hate the set up for the conference rooms. It's my main gripe with that hotel. (I've attended several events there.)
My other gripe with the location is the lack of internet. Theoretically, there's both free and paid access. I only attempted accessing the free wifi but was never able to connect. It either wouldn't connect at all or it would drop within five minutes. It wasn't a problem with my cell phone as it accessed the 4G but my tablet, which is only wifi, couldn't get online. I had hoped to write up this blog post on my tablet while I was there but no luck.
Before I forget, I should mention the costumes. Many people, participants and attendees both, dress up. It is possibly my favorite part of the con. One family was there both days that I was and although I didn't get pix, I loved their outfits. There were three kids, a mom and a dad; they all wore matching outfits. One day they wore matching jester outfits and the next appeared to be minstrel outfits. Even the baby was dressed. I saw characters and costumes that I recognized and others that I had no clue but I enjoyed them anyway. I didn't get any pictures and a few didn't come out well but here are a couple.
If you have a chance to attend Arisia, do it. It's well organized, reasonably priced, and lots of fun.