I slept much better on Saturday night, mainly by saying ‘sod it, I’m deaf anyway’ and just having the damn air conditioning on.

Sunday started with breakfast, and then me hanging around near the info desk waiting to be able to sign up for a Fika (a Scandinavian word, apparently – it basically meant ‘chat’ in this case) with Claire North, better known to me as Kate Griffin, author of the Urban Magic books. Once I’d done that it was time to head off for my first panel, which was ‘Disability & the Apocalypse’.

(while waiting for this panel to start we were all in the corridor and a guy in full Ghostbusters kit came through the door at the end, then his gun starting flashing and his proton pack started to play the Ghostbusters theme tune and he strutted past us like at the end of the animated series, followed by the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and an apparently-unconnected Judge Dredd trying not to piss himself laughing)

In some ways, my first panel was rather more nerve-wracking than my first talk. I could prepare for the talk on Saturday, and the things in it were going to be things that I’d intended to talk about because I felt I knew enough about them to talk about them. In a panel you don’t know entirely what’s going to be coming your way (although Chris the moderator had emailed us the questions beforehand). I met my three fellow panellists, of which I was almost certainly the least disabled (my hearing loss is annoying, and means I have to wear hearing aids a lot of the time, but it doesn’t majorly impact on my life that much), and we got down to it.

I spent most of the panel as devil’s advocate, I think. My colleagues were adamant that disabled people would do well in a post-apocalyptic world due to constantly having to plan for unfortunate eventualities just to get through the day – I was rather more pessimistic. However, very good points were made on both sides I think, and it was certainly a very interesting (and good-humoured) discussion. Someone came up to me afterwards and asked me what my novel was called, too, so maybe I made another sale! It occurred to me afterwards that perhaps I should have pushed the book a little more, but it was indeed only afterwards that I remembered my main character Ichabod Drift might technically count as disabled, since he only has one eye (the other having been lost in an unspecified accident and replaced by a mechanical prosthetic). One of my co-panellists Janet Edwards was talking about her books, which apparently have very visible disabled characters, and I was busy thinking that actually mine didn’t. It does, I’d just forgotten!

After that I went to the Fika with Claire North (for which I was apparently called Chris, along with everyone else – don’t ask), whom as well as being Kate Griffin is in reality called Catherine Webb. She’s been writing books under various names since she was doing her GCSEs, and I personally love her Kate Griffin books. Her prose is some of the best I’ve ever read, and while it might be focused around magical goings-on in London, the quality of writing is up there with true literature to my way of thinking. You can’t read Kate Griffin’s descriptions of London and not recognise it as incredibly evocative. I said this to her afterwards and she looked about as embarrassed as any human can possibly be. And that’s the thing about her – not only is she infuriatingly talented and has been from an annoyingly young age, but she’s also disagreeably friendly and funny and likeable and humble. And she’s pretty much a socialist. She has to have a failing, but I’m yet to find out what it is. Perhaps she’s actually seven cats in a human suit and that’s her big secret. On the other hand, I like cats, so that doesn’t really work either.

Anyway, the Fika was very good fun, and it was genuinely a chat with her and us – it wasn’t an informal Q&A, it was a genuine back-and-forth conversation, she asked us stuff too, she even asked me about my book when she found out I was also a published author, and it was a very nice hour. I made a couple of new friends from our little group too (including a possible beta reader…), and we all learned that she’s likely to be saying ‘Mmm, that’s a mighty fine pie!’ over the next week or so, and exactly why she has so many author pseudonyms. However, it would be wrong for me to share these details…

My last panel of the weekend was ‘Writing Historical Swordplay Techniques’. This was a man with a stick demonstrating various ways of hitting other people with them – he was a fight choreographer, fencing student and HEMA student, and there was much discussion about unrealistic screen fighting, and how we could write realistic fight scenes in our own creations. It was also the most aggressively I’ve ever seen anyone use a banana.

After that, I managed to catch up with E.J. Swift, who’d just done a panel on the future of sci-fi writing, and got a copy of her latest book Tameruq (the last book of The Osiris Project, which I heartily recommend checking out). And then I was done. I had intended to go to another panel on Swashbucklers and Bravos, but realised I was pretty much conned-out. As a result I checked out and headed back to Nottingham, leaving behind me a long weekend of excellent and very colourful people and a lot of fun activities.

In summary, Nine Worlds is most things I’d want from a con (albeit a bit overcrowded at times). It has people dressed up in costumes, but it’s big on consent – no one should photograph you without your permission, and if you don’t want to appear in any pictures AT ALL, even in the background, you can get a special ‘no photos’ lanyard. There are pronoun badges so you can display how you wish to be addressed, you can write the name you wish to go under on your membership pass (shout out to the subtle Harry Dresden cosplayer going around in plain clothes but with ‘An Innocent Bystander’ on his pass!), there are communication badges so you can highlight that you don’t wish to be spoken to, or you don’t wish to be spoken to unless someone already knows you, or even that actually you’d love people to start talking to you. There are gender-neutral toilets (and toilets with ‘Gentlemen’ and ‘Ladies’ replaced by signs saying ‘Toilets with urinals’ and ‘Toilets with sanitary bins’), lifts, quiet rooms if you want to escape from the noise and bustle (and don’t have a hotel room, as I did). I went through the ENTIRE weekend without anyone once attempting to touch my hair (trust me, this is a big thing).

Would I go back? Well, I bought my ticket for next year’s event yesterday…

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