Alright, alright. I am tearing myself away from my Geek Stitch kit in progress (a Bulbasaur. It’s adorable.) and my stack of new books (Saladin Ahmed’s ‘Throne of the Crescent Moon’ is really hard to put down.) to write down my impressions of this year’s Nine Worlds Geekfest.
The main one being: Nooo, why is it over, I want to go back…
If you don’t know, Nine Worlds is a fantasy, sci-fi, comics, games, general nerdery geekfest (or “multi media, multi-genre residential pop culture convention”, according to the FAQ), which aims to be as inclusive and accessible as possible. It’s in its second year now, and it’s already better than any of the other cons I’ve been to. Granted, that’s not that many (a couple of Eastercons and MCM Expos), but nevertheless: come to Nine Worlds. You won’t regret it.
The Atmosphere. My favourite thing about the weekend at Nine Worlds was socialising, and that’s saying a lot. Socialising isn’t usually my favourite part of anything. I met up with a lot of friends friends – some for the first time offline! – and chatted with completely new people, too. I got this kind of feeling from the Eastercons I’ve been to, as well: that I could approach almost anyone and probably have a pleasant interaction; but at Nine Worlds it’s magnified. Probably that’s due in part to having a lot of people there who I knew already, but I also think the organisers did a lot to create a space where good conversations could happen.
I don’t think I’ve ever had people just use the correct pronoun for me before, in offline conversation, without having to laboriously come out and remind them. It was a non-issue here. Occasionally I felt a little guilty for having to put on a yellow tag, because what if I was missing out on cool new friendships, but just the fact that I had those tags in my pocket if I needed them, that people would probably get it, was comforting.
People were pleasant and welcoming. At Eastercon I’ve sometimes felt like I wasn’t nerdy or well-read enough to be there, but not so here. I even asked a question after a panel once or twice! As I said to someone late on Sunday night, staying up and chatting as long as possible to delay the end, Nine Worlds felt like a bubble where everything was more real than the real world. Because there was no need to bend yourself or hide, and it was acceptable to be as weird and enthusiastic about things as you wanted.
Of course that’s only my own view, and it doesn’t do to become too self-congratulatory. It did still seem like a mostly white space – although the Race and Culture track had some great content by all accounts – and I heard of some accessibility issues coming up occasionally, but I think there’s a good attitude towards problems: “how can we make this better,” rather than “we’re already doing so much, stop complaining”. I think it’s going to keep getting better in the years to come.
My only complaints have to do with the venue, rather than the organisation. At times it seemed like the Radisson wasn’t prepared to deal with the amount of people staying there. They ran out of different breakfast foods every morning! And there weren’t really enough places to sit and hang out without patronising the crowded bar and buying expensive drinks. A room with some tables to chill and play boardgames at would have been great.
Talks and Panels. I gave a talk this year! My first one ever. I think it went pretty well, despite getting nervous and losing my flow a little in the middle. My stumbling has only made me want to do it again and become more practiced. It seems like people enjoyed it; I definitely got a lot of cool recs and ideas from the audience afterwards. I’m going to be turning the content into a series of blog posts in the next week or so, so keep an eye out if you’re interested in world-building nerdery! (Also my thanks to Jenni Goodchild for organising the academia track so awesomely!)
I went to a lot of other cool talks and panels, too. These were some of my favourites:
„Where’s my Robot Butler?“ a talk about the history of robotics by Emma Byrne, where we learned about awkward early robots smoking and making off-colour jokes, and the limitations of humanoid forms.
„Creating Fantasy Religions that Work“ by Rev’d Phil Bettinson, which got me SUPER fired up for my own worldbuilding. Apparently it was a talk he’d only come up with the night before, but it was amazingly well-delivered and educational.
„Positive Practice: Awesome portrayals of people with mental illnesses“: I didn’t get as many recs for things to read/watch from this as I was hoping for, but it was still lovely. The panellists were so great about the topic. They noted beforehand that triggering content might be discussed, and left breaks for people to come back into the room each time the topic of conversation changed. There was talk about the ways mental illness can be portrayed in fiction, the importance of actually naming conditions instead of being vague, and relationships between mentally ill people in fiction. The room was filled enough to become a fire hazard, which in itself was pretty amazing. I felt like I was among my people.
Unfortunately this one clashed with „Writing LGBTQ+ characters in SFF“, which was apparently just as amazing.
„Creating Fantasy Languages“ was a quick run-through on the basics on conlanging. It was mostly stuff I already knew, but it renewed my enthusiasm for trying to make my own conlangs!
I went to some great workshops, too; „How to Beat Writer’s Block“ with the T Party Writers, and „Writing the Other“ with Stephanie Saulter, both of which taught me a lot in different ways.
And of course I got a long list of books to check out, and some cool new things from Geek Stitch, RetroGreat, Leisure Games, and Nerdgasm. And I got books signed by two of my fave authors: Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch!
There’s a lot of amazing things, entire tracks full of them, that I missed, because of conflicting timeslots, socialising, and the unfortunate need to eat and sleep, but that is always the way of these frail human bodies. I don’t regret the socialising in the least, and I managed to keep a pretty good grip on my energy levels all weekend (with the help of an occasional scolding from friends to remember the importance of food).
I left the con inspired to work on my writing, my world-building, and my art, and already lonely for the company of amazing nerds who I love. Now I’m making plans for next year: getting more involved, maybe cosplaying this time… less than 360 days to go!