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Arisia science fiction and fantasy convention in Boston this weekend

Posted by Samantha Laine  January 15, 2014 08:37 PM

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Clara Kim and assistant Justin Nyquist won Best in Show with their costume The Clockwork Droid in last year's Masquerade.

The 25th annual Arisia—the largest and most diverse science fiction and fantasy convention in New England—will be taking place January 17 to 20 at the Westin Boston Waterfront.

The convention promises panels and activities ranging from video game competitions and live action Angry Birds to discussions on how to kill your characters and Zumba for nerds.

Rachel Silber, last year’s convention chair, said Arisia is the perfect place for geeks to gather and connect. While some conventions are fairly small or limited to specific topics, Arisia spans many topics of discussion that exist within the science fiction and fantasy genre. She said the convention’s goal is simply to bring together the masses and connect different communities.

“Diversity is in the geek community. Whatever area that you want to focus on—whether you’re a historical recreationist, dancer, editor, artist or if you make things and want to share them—there’s a place here for you,” Silber said.

This year, Arisia’s theme is cross-culturalism. Nicholas Shectman, a former convention chair from years 1996 and 2006, said there are people participating from all over the world, including the convention’s guests of honor, author Tanya Huff, artist Lubov, and James Nicoll. He said this year presented a great opportunity to highlight how different cultures can come together and influence many aspects of sci-fi/fantasy.

“We have a lot of different cultures among our guests of honors, so it’s an opportunity to highlight the different types of groups that’s come to Arisia. You can interact with people who may have interests that are related to yours or are totally different,” Shectman said. “It’s a way for the different subcultures in geekdom in Boston, the U.S., and the world to interact with each other, for the sum to be greater than all of its parts.”

Throughout the convention, events, movies, panels, performances, and competitions are available 24 hours a day. Silber said that with so many varied interests, it’s difficult to limit opportunities for discussion and participation during the day.

Some of the top picks include New England’s largest Masquerade competition, an art show where participants can purchase sci-fi/fantasy art pieces, graceful period dances, a showing of the silent film The Hunchback of Notre Dame accompanied by live organist Jeff Rapsis, and a gender-reversed presentation of Star Trek’s “The Trouble with Tribbles.” There truly is something for everyone.

Silber said that one aspect of Arisia that is different than other conventions is its focus on community and families. She said that now that the convention is in its 25th year, they are starting to see second-generation Arisia lovers. They offer specific programming targeted to children and teens, as well as babysitting services.

“One of the things I find unique [to Arisia] is how we have integrated family into programming and what we have to offer,” Silber said. “We get families together and let them network and meet each other in as many ways as they can. Those kinds of networks and relationships keep people coming back to Arisia every year, because that’s where those relationships are.”

Silber said that a lot of work goes into this convention, but that every year it grows and is worth it to the people who attend. Last year over 3500 people attended the convention.

“We are a completely volunteer-run organization,” Silber said. “It’s a large undertaking, but done with a lot of love.”

Shectman said he hopes people will take the opportunity to check out one of the biggest and most diverse conventions in the area. He said there is something for everyone, and that it’s amazing what people find when they participate.

“It’s a chance to find a community, or many communities. Which community or what event you’ll want to attend is different for everybody, but there really is something for everyone,” Shectman said.

Arisia will take place on Friday, January 17 until Monday, January 20 at The Westin Boston Waterfront. For more information on the convention, programming, or registration, visit the event’s website.

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