In many ways, Boston is where it all began for me. February 1979, my parents and my younger brother are staying at the Sheraton Boston the same weekend as Boskone, we're allowed into the dealer's room even though we don't have a membership, somebody's pimping free samples of Omni Magazine, before you know it I'm reading stories by Orson Scott Card and George R. R. Martin, getting hooked on the stuff, and some 31 years later I'm one of the leading literary agents for sf/fantasy. There's also the six weeks I spent at Harvard in the summer of 1981 overshooting my allowance on movies, comic books and fantasy and sf novels. So whenever I go to an sf-y something in Boston, it always has a nice extra bit of resonance for me. With not too much lead time, I decided to take a break from NYC and head up to Boskone this year.
So what's up in Beantown?
Since my last visit a few years ago, the good news is that Pandemonium Books in Cambridge survived a scare a few years back when relocation delays led to money problems led to some difficulties with the IRS. The bad news is that the store's book inventory is now mostly new books for the new books, but then mostly used books for the backlist. Better that than not to have the store around at all, and there were customers and a decent crowd in the downstairs gaming room this past Saturday. I did them a favor and suggested they not charge $3.95 for a decent used copy of Beyond the Blue Moon by Simon R. Green, which goes for $16+ on Amazon at the moment.
Pandemonium is the successor to a bookstore on the second floor of a building on Eliot Ave. in Cambridge where I spent many a dollar when I was there in 1981. That building is still around, but now connected to another building with an IHOP where I didn't eat because there was too big a line. I ended up getting Ben & Jerry's for breakfast from their outlet in The Garage, which was the building that housed the previous incarnation of Pandemonium.
I think the Pizzeria Uno in Harvard Square was around in 1981 but too expensive for me to eat at. On this trip, I ate at an Uno's one stop up the Red Line in Porter Square, the 52nd Uno's that I've eaten at. This is in a little shopping mall that may once have been thriving and now is not, and I'm sure once upon a time you couldn't just walk in and find a table on a Friday night. But I must say that the new Moroccan Lentil Soup is one tasty bowl of soup, and with under 200 calories in the bowl. I highly, highly, highly recommend.
The Out of Town News kiosk in the center of Harvard Square was saved from closure a while back, and honestly it may as well go, because it's not even a good version of a US newsstand any more, really, and has about as many out of town newspapers as you'll find at your local Midas outlet. But across the street, the Crimson Corner sundries shop still puts Analog, Asimov's, F&SF, EQMM and AHMM on display right at the front door. If there's ever a tradition you'd think not to have stood the test of time, but somehow or other you still can't walk into this little shop without having a chance to catch up with some good mystery or f/sf fiction.
Besides getting to my 52nd Unos, I took the MBTA out to Dedham Mass to visit the largest Whole Foods in New England, and I believe my 101st of those. I had a very good time. This is in the very busy and prosperous-seeming Legacy Place lifestyle center, which as we can see
here is theoretically going to have a new Borders in it come Summer 2010.
Peeking in through the window...
... and looking at all of the other stores that have opened already at Legacy, you get the unfortunate impression that they decided a while back to maybe take a break from actually building out the store in order to decide if it made more sense to actually build and open the store or find their way out of the lease. I sure do hope the store will be open in the Summer, because this looks like a nice happening place for a Borders, and I do so love being part of the first day excitement at a new bookstore.
The Vinny T's across from the Prudential Center where Steve and I had dinner with Simon Green in 2004 is now closed. I did pop in to the Sheraton Boston in the Pru to pay proper homage to the 2nd floor South Tower meeting room where the hucksters room had been in 1979. Boskone hasn't been at the Sheraton for a while, and the past few years has been in a nice Weston attached to the new convention center in a desolate waterfront area not quite a mile away from South Station. That neighborhood is alas just as desolate as I remembered it being a few years ago, but Boskone itself was a solid convention. Around a thousand people, well run, people seemed to be having a good time. Next year Charlaine Harris will be a special guest, so I will probably be back for more.
The Acela is a nice train, but it is so frustrating not to have real high speed rail in the US. For whatever reason, we had a really pokey train ride up and were 15 minutes late, kind of like being in a car that you know wants to go faster only it can't. The trip was better coming back since the train was actually going at the speed it's supposed to. Except when we had an unscheduled stop just after the bridge from Groton to New London, and sat for 45 minutes because of some signal difficulty. It was still faster both ways than the unelectrified bad old days when the train went slower and had to do an engine change in New Haven, and the seat is nice and comfortable.
I sat in on a couple readings and a panel on the Google settlement. Ya know, folks, Google at least wants to pay authors money. I wish half the energy being spent opposing Google was being spent thinking on ways to deal with piracy and file-sharing and other people and places and companies and things that would rather not pay authors at all. As Jane Yolen and the other panelists pointed out, the Google settlement is flawed.
The flagship Borders on School St. in downtown Boston is still a really nice bookstore selling lots and lots of books. Borders has a new sf/f buyer as the excellent Morgan Burns has been promoted to doing graphic novels and other such things. We'll miss him!
I finally found my way to the Landmark Kendall Square and saw The Last Station. So maybe I'll blog about that.
I didn't get as much work reading done as I'd hoped on the weekend, I never do. But I did catch up on comic books and other fun things, and I did very well on each of the Friday, Saturday and Sunday crosswords in the NY Times.
Basically, it was nice to be in Boston, to look out my hotel window and see the Sheraton Boston across the way, and to walk in to Harvard Yard and look at the staircase where I can remember reading Robert Heinlein in the summer of '79.