I went to Nine Worlds this weekend, my first ever convention for anything, ever, and it was AMAZING.
I got up early on Friday 7th August and set off for the Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow (the hotel where it’s held, and where I was staying) at 7am, thinking that I would hit a lot of traffic on the way. Especially since I was going to a hotel right next to Heathrow airport on a Friday morning.
Amazingly, I encountered no such thing. I didn’t want to risk the M25 (I’ve driven on it once myself in my life that I recall, as a driver myself, and it took me 40 minutes to go one junction. That was a very long journey to Brighton) so I took the M1 to Northampton, cut down the A43 to the M40, then cut down again on the A404 to pick up the M4 that took me right into London. The Radisson Blu is very handily on the A4, so once over the M25 it was only a couple of minutes before I was pulling into their carpark feeling rather pleased with myself, having made the journey more or less in the time Google Maps gave for it.
I have to say that after that the weekend simply got better.
Check in was 3pm and I’d arrived just before 10am. I was expecting to have to leave my bags in the car but it turns out that I could have left them with the concierge. However, as it happened my room was ready so they let me check in straight away, which was REALLY nice. So I got my bearings and took a quick wander around the hotel.
Basically, the Radisson Blu is a pretty swanky hotel (although they do a convention-specific concession rate for rooms, and also for parking, which is rather decent of them). It’s got these nice, airy spaces, with water.
It took me a little while to work out where everything was (it’s a bit of a maze until you get used to it, and most of the rooms that are named begin with ‘C’ – County, Commonwealth, Connaught and so on), but I quickly found my way down to the first panel I was interested in: ‘Dorne – Bowed, Bent or Broken?’ which was an examination of whether the portrayal of Dorne and its inhabitants in the TV show of Game of Thrones lived up to their portrayal in the books (spoiler: no). This was led by Chloe, who had taken on the role of leading the ASoiaF track despite her stated fear of public speaking, and Natalya, who was leading the Race & Culture track (and the portrayals of the Dornish are kind of a little problematic on the racism front). This was more of a round-room discussion, with the chairs arrayed in a circle, and afterwards I went with three of the group (including Chloe) to Starbucks to continue the conversation until it was time for the next session.
(this was one of the great things about Nine Worlds. You knew that these people had the same interests as you because they were in the same place talking/listening about the same things, so you could just strike up conversations and people were interested)
For me, the next panel was ‘Beyond The Binary’, a look at gender and sexuality in YA fiction, which was more of a standard panel set-up with several authors behind a desk with microphones who responded to questions put to them by the moderator and then took questions from the audience. After that I managed to meet up with my friend Eleanor, who’d braved a coach trip down from Halifax overnight and hadn’t actually slept since 9am the previous morning, and so was a little wired! Sadly I couldn’t get into the next talk I wanted to, about picking apart the tropes of kick-ass female characters, and got into one about demons and possession but found it appeared to be delivered by someone who actually believed in it, which wasn’t what I was expecting, so I left.
With nothing else to do, I wandered to Commonwealth, where for most of the weekend (unless it was needed for other things) there were board games freely available to play, and the Forbidden Planet stall were selling books. I signed all five copies of DARK RUN that were there and sat down with a family of three I’d never met before to play a card game none of us had played before, called ‘We Didn’t Playtest This At All’. From this, I learned three things.
a) This game is hilarious
b) It can also be really unfair
c) I seem to be quite good at hilarious, sometimes-really-unfair games.
While I was playing this I was recognised by someone who is a ‘fan’ of my Facebook page, who came over to say hello and then bought one of the copies of DARK RUN (to which I added an additional dedication). I also bumped into Liesel Schwartz about this time, one of my fellow Del Rey UK authors, and this rather spectacular piece of cosplaying:
Surely that was all the excitement a Friday could provide? No. No indeed, because Eleanor and I found ourselves in the Social Gaming room, playing games involving a big group of people standing in a circle and pretending to shoot each other, or themselves (the rules made sense, sort of, honest), and then one about two rooms of people and trying to get a bomber into the same room as a president. That one didn’t seem to make much sense so we left to get some food (the hotel food was expensive so we went to The Three Magpies just up the road, which was crowded but did decent food at a far more reasonable price, and very quickly despite the amount of people there).
In the evening I went to a panel about the disparity between an increasing number of characters in media who are people of colour, but with the creators (at least of mainstream products) still mainly being white people. This was a challenging one, especially for someone like me who is a white male writing novels featuring an ethnically-diverse cast. I am somewhat caught in the dilemma of: do I write a diverse cast and risk not accurately imparting the experiences they would have, or do I write a non-diverse cast and just ignore the existence of people who aren’t Like Me? I of course have gone (and will continue to go) for a more representative cast in my work, but if nothing else it was a reminder to try to ensure that my depictions are as accurate as I can make them.
Finally, I was going to go to Rockclub London, essentially a giant Rock Band karaoke session, but it was running late and although there were some songs on the list I wouldn’t have minded taking a shot at (literally: my preferred option would have been ‘Hey Man Nice Shot’ by Filter) I didn’t want to be too late to bed since I was getting up early the next morning to do my first ever talk at a convention. Also, most of the songs on the list were classic rock (and about three pages of The Beatles) and I didn’t much fancy listening to that while other people were doing their thing. So I retired to my room and tried to sleep…
TO BE CONTINUED