Geez, Boston. Got enough snow?
Boskone, or Snowkone, if you prefer, was everything I hope for in a convention. I don’t like mentioning people, because I’ll leave someone out and feel bad, but the whole thing was a joy. I was very well taken care of by the convention, the panels were fun, and the weather wasn’t all that much of a problem except that too many people I wanted to hang out with couldn’t make it or could only make it for a while (I’m looking at YOU, @rnmelton). I missed saying hello to my old friend Vicki, and would have liked to have spent more time with Charlie Stross, but I can’t really complain. The VP dinner was a delight. Great good times. Thanks to everyone who made it so much fun.
I need to specifically mention the bio that Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden wrote for me. Some conventions seem to have abandoned the old tradition of finding someone to say nice things about you in the program book, and then laughing at you when you get flustered. And since I’m on the subject of conventions, here are a few things that Certain Other Conventions can learn from Boskone (and Minicon, and Loscon, and many others who do it right). Some of these are from my experience, others from friends.
1. If you can’t afford to give your guest’s “+1” a free membership, you can’t afford the guest. This applies to GOHs, and to those invited to participate in programming in exchange for a membership. When you say, “We will give you a free membership, and give your friend a special reduced rate,” you look like you’re in over your heads, and many of us worry about being trapped at a convention that is going to fall apart. (Some of us have been to those, and failed to enjoy them.)
2. If someone in your department, or in another department, is screwing up, do not try to enlist the guest on your side of the political infight this has produced within your convention committee. If you aren’t all working together in perfect harmony, fake it.
3. The thing of offering the GOH a choice between giving a speech and being interviewed is relatively new, and awfully nice. (Thanks, Jo–that interview was a high point of a great weekend.) But if the GOH must give a speech, let him or her know about it. Preferably before the convention.
3.1. Heads-up: A panel with one person on it is called a “speech.” See above.
4. Do not ask the guest to write a free story or draw a free picture or whatever, even for charity. (I’m a little embarrassed to mention this one, because after feeling all put-upon by one convention that asked me to do that, I developed some major health problems, and the next year I was the charity. It was extraordinarily kind, and I still have warm thoughts about them. But still. You ought not to do it. Or at least, make sure the guest knows about it before accepting.)
5. Checking the guest into the hotel before he or she even arrives is not required, but, oh my god, it is wonderful when it happens. I mean, Cesare H. Tapdancing Borgia, is it nice! You get to the hotel, exhausted, stressed, worried that you’re going to suck as a GOH, and someone walks up to you and says, “Here’s your key. Go to your room and chill out. Want help with your bags?” Until you’ve been in that situation, you have no idea just how big a deal that is.
6. First thing, even before the room, make sure the guest knows where meals and such are coming from–ie, if you’re supplying a per diem, put it in the guest’s hand before he or she has to ask; if the charges can go to the room, say so. This is to save embarrassment. Some of us feel really weird saying, “So, um, I’m hungry. Can you, er, buy me a meal?”
6.1 ETA: This is more of a note-to-self to check on it before accepting an invitation, but, if you’re offering a per diem, make sure it is actually enough to feed the GOH and any guest for the time you’ve asked them to be there.
7. Having a programming questionnaire that includes things like, “what events do you not want to be against,” and, “who do you want to do panels with,” and, “who do you not want to be panels with” is also relatively new, and a very fine thing that saves a lot of irritation. For the record, there was no one at Boskone that I asked not to do a panel with, but I very much appreciated being asked.
8. After the convention, if the guest didn’t suck, say so. I mean, give us a bit of reassurance. You would be amazed at how insecure we can be. “They hated me,” we say to ourselves. “I was stupid on panels, and didn’t talk to enough people, and they really wish they’d invited Jerry Pournelle instead.” (To be fair, as a guest, you should do the same–if they ran a good convention, like Boskone did, tell them so. Hey, Boskone, you rock!)