Okay, here we go.
The main reason this write-up was so delayed was because of an incident that took place on the Saturday at Nine Worlds, and the aftermath of it. That’s now been resolved, and so I feel I can write about the weekend in full.
Saturday should have begun with “Orkish History 101”, a talk I was eager to attend as I’ve long held a soft spot for orcs/orks (my first internet username was Ufthak, when I joined the message boards of TheOneRing.net back in 2000, looking for information on the Lord of the Rings movies: Ufthak was an orc mentioned in passing by two other orcs in The Return of the King, in a conversation overheard by Sam Gamgee). Unfortunately it quickly became clear that the person giving the talk was unable to do so due to being ill, so I had to decide where to go instead. Sadly my other primary choice, “Archetypes in Fantasy” was already full up, so I went to “How To Write A Location You Can’t Go To” by Melissa Olson. This was a very informative and amusing talk, in which Melissa outlined what she uses to write locations: first, ones that she can visit, and how to maximise the useful time when there, and secondly, the ones that she can’t. Her techniques focus on finding a “useful local” who can answer questions, because how the locals talk and where the locals go is going to be very different to what tourists or visitors do! I also learned about a piece of Los Angeles that fell into the sea once.
After that I attended a panel on “Representations of the City in SFF”, which saw an architect, a couple of authors and an editor (and marketer) talking about how cities can almost be their own character in SFF, and how writing about them and creating them can influence the novel. There was a lot of discussion about things like Brutalism and Modernism too, which I completely failed to understand. Anna Smith Spark apparently took issue with the panel’s representation of what Modernism is about, but then she’s more educated than me.
The next panel was “Fictional Religions In Video Game Worlds”, which was interesting despite the fact that I’m not really much of a video gamer, certainly not the sort of Dragon Age or Skyrim-type games that they were mainly talking about. It was still interesting to hear people talking about religions, and the attitudes to religion within games, especially given that within games the player sometimes gets to choose on how to interact with religions as opposed to a novel where the character’s interactions are determined by the author and the reader just follows along. This panel featured Lucy Hounsom and Jen Williams, both merrily geeking out about their digital adventures (Lucy was in cosplay as someone from Dragon Age, I think, although I don’t know who).
After that I saw this piece of cracking Deathstroke cosplay, and asked to take a picture with them.
And then came the panel that caused the problems: “Redemption in Scifi – From Vader to Teal’c and Aeryn Sun”.
I’d been asked to appear on this panel, and had agreed. We’d found out on the Friday that the person we’d thought was moderating was no longer going to be, and so one of us stepped forward as moderator instead. Unfortunately for me that person proceeded to violate many of Nine Worlds’ participation guidelines and some of their anti-harassment policies, including interrupting me while I was introducing myself to make a joke about the sexuality that I had (in the interests of diversity and representation) disclosed as part of my introduction. My immediate instinct was to say “fuck it” and leave: I took a spur-of-the-moment decision to stay to as to avoid disrupting the panel. I’m not sure I made the right decision: my opinion as a panellist was that the panel was something of a garbage fire in the end. I hope it was enjoyable for those that attended, at any rate.
(I’m not going to name the person responsible, but for the record it was neither Ro Smith nor Adrian Tchaikovsky. Both of them were lovely and I don’t wish anyone to mistakenly think it was one of them. If you really want to look up the listed panellists to find out who that leaves, so be it)
I didn’t stay to engage in any conversation after the panel as I was due for a signing at the Big Green Bookshop stall immediately afterwards (they’re the ones who were tweeting Harry Potter at Piers Morgan). I was signing right next to Mike Carey, which was awesome, although the difference in our respective lines was a little sobering (although hardly surprising!). I’d like to thank the people that came to either buy a book or have one signed – gratifyingly the stall had already sold out of Dark Run by the time I was due to sign there, although they hadn’t been able to get many in.
I then went to the “Creating Original Dystopia In A Somewhat Dystopian World” panel, where Anna Smith Spark and Adrian Tchaikovsky were talking about this subject as part of a larger panel (including Pat Cadigan, who memorably stated something along the lines of “I didn’t promise you flying cars, I promised you nihilistic dystopia: how do you like me now?”). Anna did state that she was worried about whether or not anyone would actually want grimdark any more, given the general state of the world, and maybe people would just prefer to read about fluffy unicorns instead. However, I wasn’t really in the right mental space to stay for all the panel due to still being furious about what had happened earlier, so I let myself out quietly to get some food before Swordpunk!
Swordpunk! was a workshop where you could sign up to spend an hour learning the very basics of swordplay as taught in medieval documents. I partnered against Joe, who foolishly opted to go for metal swords rather than wooden ones. They looked better, but I had real trouble getting my head (and arms) around one of the moves, so Joe ended up holding his four feet of steel out in front of him with arms extended for long periods of time while I tried to work out what the hell I was doing. We concluded by the end that Joe had the better “feel” for it (he’d done a bit of work with swords before), but when it came to swinging a length of metal for prolonged periods of time, I would have the advantage.
After this, and encouraged by a member of Nine Worlds crew who’d been “off duty” in the Redemption in Scifi panel and had been equally outraged, I went to the Info Desk and informed them of the various infractions that had taken place during that panel. My statements were very sympathetically received and I was advised to put in all in an email so nothing got left out, which is what I then went and did.
Now, the reason why this blog post was so late in coming is that it took until last night for me to be fully updated on what had actually been done as a result of it. That seems like quite a long time – three weeks since the event, in fact. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that Nine Worlds is staffed and crewed by volunteers, who all have their own lives to live alongside operating the convention (including going to WorldCon the weekend after, for several of them). I didn’t feel that I could recount the events of Nine Worlds without touching on the thing that made me so angry, but likewise I didn’t feel I could do so without talking about how it was handled. Up until last night, I didn’t know exactly how it had been handled.
What I can say is that, despite the length of time it took to fully communicate with me about what had been done, I am satisfied with the outcome and I feel that Nine Worlds have acted entirely appropriately and in line with their advertised policies and guidelines. They don’t just talk the talk, they do walk the walk as well (it just might take a little time to let you know about the walking).
After I’d chilled out for a bit following Swordpunk!, it was time to get ready for the Bifrost disco. I caught the end of the cabaret, then (an hour later than planned, because these things never go to time), we opened the disco. I was delighted to find that the huge wait hadn’t put off the waiting crowd, and the dance floor was quickly filled by enthusiastic punters as myself, Lum and Elaine (who DJ’d with me last year) proceeded to play music at people. I didn’t take any pictures of the dance floor, as it would be impossible to get everyone’s consent beforehand, and consent is very important at Nine Worlds, even for photos. However, someone did manage to get a photo of me when I was DJing, and it’s fairly safe to say that I was enjoying myself at this point:
I also managed to dance so hard that I knocked the metal tip off one of my New Rock boots:
And just like last year, I had a truly awful creation of my own to drop on the crowd. This one wasn’t my idea, however, as during band practice a week or so prior someone had suggested mashing up Captain Hammer’s “The hammer is my penis” line from Dr Horrible’s Singalong Blog with “Cant Touch This” by MC Hammer. And so I did. And played it at 1.30am. And got a mixture of utter confusion and all-consuming laughter from the dance floor, so I call that a win.
I got to bed at some point after 2:30am. And there was still a day to go…