“The hours stop; the days unwind;/Moments pass; memories sigh/At half past the best of times.”
So…I finally went to Nine Worlds! And it was awesome.
The con ran Friday through Sunday, with a couple of icebreaker events on the Thursday evening; we turned up about 8:30pm on the Thursday, hoping to go to the icebreaker quiz but a little bit too late (given that the quiz started at 8pm). But we did get to register and pick up our passes, so we didn’t miss *all* of the excitement.
Nine Worlds aims to be as inclusive as it can possibly be, so when you get your pass, not only can you write whatever name you want to use on it, you can also choose a sticker to indicate your pronoun (he, she, they, xe, or write your own). There were also coloured inlays you could use with the pass (basically a badge hung around your neck on a lanyard): red for “don’t talk to me unless it’s an emergency”; yellow for “don’t talk to me unless I already know you”; blue for “please talk to me!” And you could choose a yellow lanyard to indicate that you didn’t want to be photographed.
So once we’d managed to register we went off to have some dinner in the hotel lounge bar and then up to the hotel room to argue about the panels we wanted to go to. And then it was bedtime.
Friday morning, and the con started in earnest. The first panel I went to was “Representation Matters in Casting”, which actually turned out to be one of my favourite of the weekend: the panellists discussed the problematic casting of able-bodied and cis actors in disabled or trans roles, as well as whitewashing on screen and the general dearth of roles for disabled and trans actors and actors of colour, and how what representation there is is usually deeply unhelpful. It actually covered a lot of ground for an hour-long panel, with space for audience questions at the end, and was generally respectful and inclusive and interesting.
(This is going to be a long post.)
So the next panel was “Beginners Guide to Cosplay”, cosplay being a fascinating and terrifying unknown for me; there were lots of tips and examples around upcycling items you already own, and reassurance that it’s OK to buy a cosplay costume and wear it if you want to. We also met one of our TolkSoc friends there, and some more when we headed off to lunch after the cosplay panel (there was a 45 minute gap between each slot, which was great – there was plenty of time to move around the venue, socialise and grab food/water etc. and still get to the next panel a bit early).
The first real disappointment was “Games in VR: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes”; it was billed as a collaborative game using VR but actually turned out to be someone talking about various VR systems, which would have been very interesting for a gaming enthusiast but, given that the game I play most often at the moment is Candy Crush on Facebook, was a bit boring for me. This was followed by “Who Knew? New Who – 10 Wibbly Wobbly Years of Timey Wimey Canon”, a fun and lively panel about New Who‘s (lack of) continuity, taking in the number of regenerations a Time Lord is allowed, the effects on the show of introducing the Time War, and the retconny stuff around the Impossible Girl. I would have enjoyed it immensely had I not been thoroughly burned out by this point; the Circumlocutor was also kind of tired, so we skipped the next slot to go to the expo downstairs and spend enormous amounts of money (I bought: four books from Forbidden Planet – seriously, no-one should ever, ever let me near Forbidden Planet – some Tenth Doctor tea – zingy and lemony and bright – and an awesome steampunk hat which the Circumlocutor does have a picture of but has failed to send to me). Then we went to the board games lounge in the rest of the slot and played a game called Mysterium, which involved ghosts and psychics and dreams and was generally quite a lot of fun, and also proved that the Circumlocutor’s thought processes are utterly inscrutable.
Then it was time for THE MECHANISMS!
Well. Sort of. We waited for about an hour, because technical difficulties, but the wait was worth it: they were playing their new story cycle The Bifrost Incident, which is full of trains and eldritch monsters and electric guitars, and there is a Kickstarter here go and give them some money.
So by the time that had finished it was definitely dinner time. We went to the lounge bar again, and I had two glasses of wine and got very tipsy, and then we met TolkSoc Friends in the lobby for some low-key chat and then it was time to stumble off to bed.
Saturday was cosplay day.
(I also cosplayed on the Friday, but the Circumlocutor only did Saturday.)
I also plucked up the courage to give out the five Awesome Cosplay tokens given out at registration (if you collected fifteen you got a prize): one to a Twelfth Doctor strolling around with impressively Capaldian insouciance; one to a highly realistic Izabel from Saga; one to a person in a knitted Dalek dress; one to a friend cosplaying Sabriel; and one to an Adora Belle Dearheart from Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.
Panel-wise, Saturday kicked off with “Changing Face of Representation for Immigrants”, which had the rather major flaw that all the panellists were white Europeans. The moderator (and overall organiser for the “Identity and Culture” track) admitted that they’d failed in that respect, although one of the panellists was being slightly an idiot about it and a couple of people walked out.
Moving swiftly on. The next thing we went to was “Storium Live!”, another gaming one that involved a collaborative roleplaying game, unfortunately interspersed with some plugging of the RPG platform Storium. (Which does, to be fair, look quite interesting, but I would have enjoyed some more gaming to the session.)
“Dresses of Future Past: how Costume Designers use historical clothing to create futuristic fashion” was a fascinating academic talk about costuming in far-future SF, including Star Trek, Firefly and The Matrix. After that was a Swordpunk workshop I’d pre-booked, with real – blunt – swords; trickier than it looks, but also quite satisfying.
Then we went to a Haberdashery Social Gaming session, which was fantastic, involving lemon jousting, nerf guns and slow-motion ninja fights: a lot of fun, and a great way to recharge from con intensity.
After that, I went for sushi outside the hotel with some TolkSoc friends who planned to go to the Bifrost Cabaret that evening (the Circumlocutor wanting to go to a panel instead): the sushi was good and the cabaret swung between fantastic and awful, as variety shows always do, but all in all was a lot of fun. I went to the Bifrost Disco immediately following the cabaret, but gave up after about forty minutes as my interest in dancing is directly proportional to how well I know the songs, which in this case was hardly at all.
Sunday seemed to roll around remarkably quickly, as Sunday often does, alas. The Circumlocutor wanted to go to one of the 9am panels, so we got up early and I read for a bit until the 10am panel on “The Limitations of a Strong Female Character”, another deeply interesting “Identity and Culture” panel on the difference between a “Strong Female Character” and an actually strong female character. The panel discussed the dearth of female friendships in films and TV, and the equation of strength with masculinity which makes successful women try to emulate men, and various insidious aspects of the male gaze: another panel that managed to fit a lot into its time slot, and props to the moderator who did a great job, having only been told that they were moderating about 50 minutes before the panel started.
The next panel I went to, which I’d been specifically looking forward to, was “LGBTQIA+ Representations in Saga“: a small panel with questions from, and discussion with, the audience throughout. I’m a relative Saga newbie, so stayed quiet, but the basic theme running through the panel was that Saga is generally about outsiders, people queered by their societies even if they’re not explicitly QUILTBAG, which made me wonder about the role of Saga‘s art. (Watch out for this in my next Saga post! Possibly.)
Lunch was Hasty Tasty Pizza from the shopping centre at Hammersmith tube station, five minutes down the road from the venue, after which I hurried back for the surprisingly busy panel “WELCOME TO CREEPYPASTA TOWN, POPULATION: YOU”. (Slender Man is a monster that still haunts my sleep.) The panel mainly annoyed me, talking about things like fictional texts being inseparable from factual ones as if they were new to storytelling; for gods’ sake, people in the seventeenth century were fooled by Gulliver’s Travels. The only really new thing about creepypasta, it seems to me, is virality: on the internet, you often can’t trace copy-pasted stories to their original sources, and that‘s the thing that obscures their fictionality and makes them scary. But there wasn’t really any discussion of that, and I was burned out by this point in the day, so once I’d met back up with the Circumlocutor we headed off to another rejuvenating Haberdashery session for the last slot of the con.
We’d been hoping to attend the Quiz at the End of the Con, but it was sadly full by the time we got there. Mildly disappointed, we drifted around with some friends, didn’t find anything better to do, and decided to wave goodbye to Nine Worlds for 2016.
Now to start planning for next year…