Last year Nine Worlds was held at the Radisson Blu next to Heathrow, which is a spectacular hotel with impressive marble stairways, water features and so on. Unfortunately the staff seemed at best nonplussed and at worst downright grumpy about having a hotel full of geeks descend on them: I didn’t experience any problems myself but then again I’m a cisgender white male who wasn’t cosplaying as anything particularly bizarre. There were also some issues in terms of accessibility, the available room sizes, and also the amount of time between sessions (a mere fifteen minutes or so, as I recall: you had to race around the hotel to make the next session, and usually had to miss at least one in order to eat).
This year it was held at the Novotel London West in Hammersmith, and the difference was immediately obvious both in terms of location, venue and organisation. The Novotel was nowhere near as picturesque as the Radisson Blu (I mean, it’s a perfectly nice hotel, but not spectacular in any way) but the available spaces were more plentiful and (in general) larger. Also, its location in Hammersmith meant it was still easily accessible (the A4 literally goes past the front of it and it’s about 100 yards from the tube station) but there were far more amenities nearby: instead of being tied to expensive hotel food provision, a McDonalds next door or venturing into suburbia to find a pub, there were sandwich shops and supermarkets aplenty right on the doorstep. The staff were cheerful and helpful and seemed perfectly happy to have us there (the one exception being a barman whom I overheard being asked to go to ‘Table 4’ by a colleague and didn’t want to because the guy there was dressed as Slave Leia). Most importantly, perhaps, there was 45 minutes between sessions: that meant that they could run less of them, but you didn’t have to kill yourself charging around and still find that you were too late to get a seat, and you could go to the bathroom or grab a bite to eat if necessary.
I started my 2016 Nine Worlds experience at 10am with a panel entitled “World-building: No One Sells Happy Life Day Cards”, which featured a group of fantasy and scifi authors talking about how they create their respective worlds and working out the nuts and bolts of what makes it all work, and why, and why it’s important to make your fantastical world seem plausible in the details. Then I moved onto “Getting Fighting Wrong”, which saw a group of authors talking about what makes a good fight scene and what makes a bad one. At 1.30pm I went to “Science Fiction and Science Fact”, where a group of scifi authors discussed how much of their work has a background in actual science, where they think you can get by with ignoring actual science and where there should probably be some background plausibility.
Now, as you can tell, I went to a lot of writing panels. This is because I want to get better at it, and a very good way of doing that is listening to people talk to have been doing it for longer, have more books out, and have been nominated (or won) awards.
After that panel I got very good news in the shape that my friend Blaise would be joining us at the last moment, a spur-of-the-moment decision on her part. Blaise and I engaged in a creative writing competition between ourselves a few years ago, a “first to get to five short stories published” one that did wonders for my output (we were ruling by acceptance rather than publishing date so I technically won, but the place that was going to publish my fifth story actually went under before it did so, so I guess maybe she won in the end…)
At 5pm I went to a panel called ‘Without Fear’ about the Young Adult subgenre, and whether it actually counts as a genre at all (the panel had differing opinions), then went down to the Friday afternoon pop-up market where Eleanor had been selling her various comics and merchandise (and doing very well with it, apparently).
After that it was time to get some food, having been coasting on a huge breakfast all day: then I met Blaise when she arrived in Hammersmith (it turned out she’d booked herself into the same “party hostel” as Eleanor, albeit a different dorm). Blaise and I then went to “Building Better Dreams & Nightmares” at 8.30pm, where a group of authors discussed how to avoid just retreading the same old monsters/aliens and where to get inspiration for new, original creations.
After that we all went to our respective beds, as we’d all had long, busy and tiring days in different ways. However, in my case at least, Saturday was going to be much, much more so…