So, I had a very good time at Nine Worlds, the best convention in the world, which seems to get better every year.
For those not in the know Nine Worlds Geekfest is a London convention that set out from the beginning to be an actively inclusive environment for women, people of colour, QUILTBAG people, disabled people, neurodivergent people, and, well, everyone who isn’t trying to exclude people from geekdom, basically. Their anti-harassment policy is clear and well-publicised. You can indicate whether you’re comfortable being photographed by the colour of your lanyard. There’s an array of preferred pronoun badges you can pick up at registration. Access was provided for disabled people. The hotel loos on the main convention floor were relabelled in gender-neutral terms (Toilet with Sanitary Bins/Toilet with Urinals). Family friendly facilities were provided, including a creche and warnings for panels with adult content. All of this in addition to an incredibly broad spectrum of panels including an academic track, a race and culture track, a LGBTQAI+ track, a geek feminism track, and both a Religion and a Skepticism track, in addition to the more general (but just as plentiful and exciting), Entertainment, All the Books, Fanfiction, Worlds of Whedon, Tolkein, ASoIaF, Star Trek, Video Games, Young Adult, Yarn Craft, Supernatural, Podcasting, LARP, Future Tech, Creative Writing, Apocalypse and… AND SO MUCH MORE.
This post will touch on just some of the amazing experiences I came away with.
As pictured above, one of the highlights for me was being asked to take part in Knightmare Live, the stage production of the 80s TV show in which children were ‘sent to their doom’ by Treguard (the central figure above).
In an early effort at Virtual Reality TV, one child would be sent into a dungeon on a quest wearing the ‘Helmet of Justice’ – which had no eye holes, because justice is blind. His or her companions would remain behind, watching their progress on a screen, where the blind hero would appear to be in various places. The team would describe those places to the hero and guide them as to what to do whilst they solved puzzles and were pursued by the minions of Lord Fear. Very few contestants made it to the end, often falling to the fearsome Corridor of Blades.
The series was a critically acclaimed imaginative success. Knightmare Live is a theatre production in which adults get to take part in a version of the show that closely mirrors the original, although with much loving humour for its tropes. It’s hilarious to watch, and even more fun to be in. Having jokingly asked on Twitter if we could take part (and been told we could not), I was thrilled to be ambushed as I went into my paper and asked if I still wanted to.
I also very much enjoyed unexpectedly being teamed up with Tom Scott, whom I had known at university and who is now a successful YouTuber. I also had the great pleasure of meeting Jonathan Green (the fighting fantasy author) who was my companion in helping Tom (mostly) avoid death.
I was super thrilled to have my paper, ‘Battlestar Galactica and the Master Slave Dialectic: Relating Selves to Others’, accepted to the academic track. I was also super nervous, but I needn’t have been. People seemed to enjoy it and had loads of questions and some people even found me later in the convention to talk about it with me some more, which is just the best compliment. It was also lovely that lots of my friends turned up in support – thanks in particular to Adrienne Odasso, Lee Harris, Dave Moore, and Michele (AKA Neverwhere).
I also really enjoyed listening to the other papers given earlier in that slot by Ria Cheyne and Kelly Kanayama. Ria spoke thoughtfully and with scholarly rigour on extraordinary bodies and disability in SF, and Kelly was immensely charismatic and captivating in her talk on Judge Dredd (apologies that I can’t recall the titles of your papers!).
I plan to upload a video of the paper along with a written version sometime soon, but in the meantime, you can view my PowerPoint here.
I was also on a panel about being a geek in academia. Several panel members were added in addition to those originally scheduled, so I can’t give everyone’s names here, but everyone had had such fascinating and interesting paths through academia – covering comics and video games and fandom and archeology and more! It was encouraging to see how many had been welcomed to study their geeky topics more than has been my experience in academia, although I couldn’t help but feel somewhat sad to not have had the same experiences.
I cosplayed as Daenerys – again! But this time with a dress I had made myself (with a little help from Ultharkitty) using this really simple design. It wasn’t the highest quality attempt, and mistakes were made, but I was pleased to have made a passable garment. People told me they liked it, so it can’t have been that bad!
I also wore two different wigs, one closer to the style Daenerys wears in Qarth with this dress in Game of Thrones, and one done in the complex braids she has when stomping about the desert. I forgot my ‘stomping about the desert’ clothes, so wore the braided wig with the Qarth dress as well. The Qarth wig… didn’t look that great in photos, so you’re not seeing it – ha! Also, I got a lot of compliments on the braided wig – which took me HOURS, and some people actually asked if it was my own hair? (no one has real hair like that, but it’s kind of cool people thought I did) so here below is a picspam of that ensemble:
And then there are the pictures of me with other cosplayers!
This other Daenerys let me share her dragons!
Me and the Bowl of Petunias.
Other People’s Cosplays!
There were also a great may other awesome cosplays, only a few of which I managed to capture. Like this fantastic Mad Max themed trio:
Jenna Stannis from Blake’s Seven:
And there were those who consented to pose with the wooden spoon my workmates asked me to take with me…
Cosplayers and the Wooden Spoon
This incredibly photogenic pair:
Furiosa and me!
And this is just a small sample of the amazing cosplays on display. If my phone hadn’t run out of battery and if I had been braver about asking people there would have been many more!
The Whedon Crew
Unlike both previous years, I was unable to make the Whedon Sing-a-Long, but I did bump into the Whedon Track organisers, who took me along in their wake to the Whedon Quiz, and from thence back to a room party, with intermitent singing along the way. They remain simply lovely people full of passion and joy – a delight to hang out with!
General Chilling in the Bar
In addition to the many amazing events, I also just enjoyed chilling in the bar with many and varied people I would otherwise rarely or never see. This includes fellow Yorkites, Internet friends, old university friends, former workmates, and more. So many, many people that if I began to list you by name I know I would leave someone out and then feel bad about it. As it was, there were still many people I could wave at only in passing! But it was wonderful to sit and chat and catch up in such an open, relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
I had a wonderful time, the best yet, but not everything was perfect. A member of security worried several of my friends unnecessarily by telling them I was a missing person when I was confused about the time I was to be at Knightmare Live (I thought it was quarter to, apparently it was half and hour beforehand). In as much as I could have been said to be missing, I was missing for 15mins. I was completely unaware that I was considered missing and my friends spent a panicky evening not knowing where I was and unable to reach me because I had turned my phone off – as I was about to be in a stage production!
I understand the need to take these things seriously, but telling people someone is a missing person after only 15mins is rather extreme.
Many people have complained about the service in the bar. It was pretty slow, and most of the bar staff seemed pretty clueless, but for me it was a minor point. Possibly more major for people who are used to going to cons purely to socialise and not to attend the organised events. As Nine Worlds’ panels and events are actually worth attending this wasn’t a big deal for me, but I do wish they had been better at putting on water. The first year, at the Renaissance hotel, acres of pint glasses full of water were laid out. At the Radisson it felt a bit as though they were limiting our water so we would buy from the bar… which then proved difficult to do!
Lastly, although both the panel I was on and the papers session I was in were racially diverse, I did hear account of other tracks being less so – the Race and Culture one in particular. As I didn’t experience it myself I can only say so much, but this was also a problem with the Race and Culture track last year. Whilst every track organiser I spoke to talked about the efforts they made to maintain diverse panels, if people are feeling the lack its worth considering.*
That said, this was still by far the most relaxed and inclusive con I have ever been to. As evinced by the more diverse nature of the attendees. Everyone commented about how great the atmosphere was and the difference that the active efforts of inclusivity made.
Thanks again, Nine Worlds staff! This is still the best con in the world.
*A couple of people have been in touch to say they are shocked by these comments and this definitely wasn’t the case; or that maybe it was for other tracks, but not the Race and Culture Track**. I don’t know how much clearer I could have been that it wasn’t my experience or what I felt from talking to track organisers. I strive for balance here, and if I’m singing the praises of something and it wasn’t the experience of someone with less privilege than me, I listen. That’s all. And if I want to say how diverse it seemed to me and someone else had a different impression, then I feel duty bound to mention it. That’s it. If it wasn’t your experience, cool, it wasn’t mine either. Please don’t come at me about how I shouldn’t have mentioned that dissenting opinion, though. It makes me feel really anxious about commenting on Nine Worlds at all, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the ethos of the event was supposed to be. I felt pressured into making an extra comment and I both feel rotten about that and awful about how imperfect this comment is.
**If I’ve misinterpreted what someone else has said, I’m sorry. This isn’t a perfect post and wasn’t intended to be perfect. It took me hours and I’m tired and I should have been preparing for my viva but I couldn’t print my thesis and I’m very, very stressed. This post was what I could do in a short amount of time.