January 21-23, 2005
With fellow author and con-hopper Tony Ruggiero grudgingly meeting up with me at the Plaza Hotel, I was returning to Beantown after two years. In 2003, I visited Arisia and was impressed by the convention. I skipped a year just to give other January cons a try, but the return to Boston reminded me of just how good Arisia is and how I should make the trek north more often.
The weekend began with a smooth check-in at the Plaza Hotel, something I will say was a huge improvement from the last visit. In 2003, Arisia had a “hotel liaison.” Guests and con-goers needed to contact the convention, Arisia would then make the reservation via the liaison, then the liaison would confirm the reservation with the con, and then the con would confirm with the guest. It was chaos with many attendees sitting by their luggage wondering, “What the frel happened to my room?” This year, the reservations were handled directly by the Plaza. No frack-ups. Well done, Arisia.
This year’s Arisia appeared busier than 2003. With such a busy con, I salute the Boston fans running this weekend without incident or mishap. All my best to Sheila Oranch and her staff for creating tracks with great topics, easy to meet schedules and plenty of items to keep attendees busy. And extra bonus points to the con staff for commandeering the Plaza Hotel’s private channel for showing favorite SF/F/H television series and movies during the con.
The panels themselves were extremely well attended, two of the most impressive turnouts on my schedule being “The SciFi Superiority Complex: Elitism in SF/F/H” and “The George Lucas Bash-a-Thon.” The Elitism panel was a bullet-sweating moment, as one of the panelists and half the audience had read my article on this very topic appearing on StrangeHorizons.com. The discussion was passionate, spirited, and still talked about hours later. As far as “The George Lucas Bash-a-Thon,” I think the last time I had that much fun on a panel was at Balticon 38 with Mike Pederson, the Lamplighter-Wrights, and other panelists talking about Harry Potter with a ballroom filled to capacity. The jokes flew, left and right, along with the frustrations, and this panel was—much to my elation—captured and “enhanced” (with clips from Star Wars and credits) for posterity by Astronomicon’s Con Chair, Wayne Brown. I had two more panels planned for Sunday…
…but it is here where Arisia took a wild, wacky and windy turn.
Saturday afternoon, Tony and I were enjoying some downtime in the bar and watching TV. What was on, you ask? Not the New England Patriots. Not a replay of the Red Sox’s winning game. Not even a repeat of Battlestar Galactica, featuring Richard Hatch’s return to the series.
No, the TV was tuned to The Weather Channel.
We were all watching as a Nor’easter (one of the biggest and baddest in the past century) was heading our way. The lucky ones on the fringes of this storm would get six inches of snow. At the least. And the fringes of this storm were places like Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Washington, D.C. The more beer we drank, the closer the storm came, and around us attendees and local guests all said the same thing: “Eh, we’ll just ride it out. It’s not going to be that bad.” Tony and I, on the other hand, decided the best course of action was to call Amtrak and brave the storm before it hit Boston full force. Saying our goodbyes, Tony and I managed to grab one of the last cabs available in the city. The storm, it appeared, was moving faster than The Weather Channel predicted. The Plaza charged us for only one night’s stay—again, another pleasant surprise—and Amtrak was apparently having a very good day. By the time we boarded the train, Logan Airport had officially shut down. When we left Boston, the Nor’easter was on top of us. Fourteen hours later, I stepped off the train in Quantico.
I was told by guests who rode out the storm that Arisia extended itself an extra day. The Plaza was hospitable, trying not to fleece those guests unexpectedly forced to stay. Things were getting a little tense when the hotel kitchen reported that supplies were getting low, but in the end there were no “missing guests” followed by a “Dahmer Party Special” from Room Service. Logan reopened two days later and everyone made it home safely, with a few fun stories to swap with friends, post on blogs and write about for premier magazines.
In 2003, Arisia was a bumpy ride with illness, reservation mixups and a longer than usual train ride. In 2005, it was a mad dash to Amtrak through a nasty Nor’easter. You would think I would read the signs and say, “Maybe I shouldn’t do Arisia. MarsCon is closer, and Chattacon in Tennessee is less northern.” So what are my plans for January, 2006?
After a weekend like this, what can I say other than, “See you in Beantown, baby!”