I started Saturday at Nine Worlds bright and early with a talk at 9am about Alchemy & Chemistry in SF/Fantasy, which sounded promising but turned out to be more of a talk about the history of chemistry (which was interesting enough) and then a lot of “this made-up substance wouldn’t exist”, which… well, I think we all knew that. I nipped out at 9.45 when the speaker gave no indication of stopping (it was supposed to be a 45 minute talk but they’d suggested they thought it was an hour) to make it to a talk by EK McAlpine on The Real House Lives Of Westeros, i.e. the various historical figures and events that have or could well have inspired counterparts in A Song Of Ice And Fire. This was an excellent talk, and clearly very well researched, and gave me a few new historical figures to look up due to their extraordinary exploits.
At 11.45 I went to Top Of The SFF Cops, which was where the same panel who’d spoken last year about the realism of the depiction of police work in urban fantasy each put forward two candidates from genre fiction for the title of ‘Best Cop’. Sam Vimes from Discworld won the audience vote, which I personally think was a poor decision: Vimes is undoubtedly effective, but he is also a renowned maverick and the panel looked to be focusing on the actual characteristics needed for good police work, many of which Vimes lacks. It’s also worth noting that the panel sparked some controversy, as noted by one blogger in the aftermath of the convention: that of a serving police officer attending the con in their role as a police officer, when there were people at the con (people of colour in particular) who feel concerned about the police in general, and have in some cases been victimised by them. On the one hand, the blogger appeared to think that all three members of the panel were serving police officers (only one was, although one was also involved in the Department of Justice): also the officer concerned made it clear from the outset that she wasn’t there as a police officer as such, and certainly her views were not to be taken as the views of the Metropolitan Police Force. However, I feel the blogger in question had a valid point that an unmoderated panel of white people speaking about policing did, at best, lack consideration for wider social issues.
At 1.30 I had intended to be at a talk about Faster-Than-Light travel in fiction, but about ten minutes in it became apparent that the speaker had needed to pull out due to personal issues, but no one had realised this until now. As a result the rather over-subscribed panel about The Last Jedi was moved into the room where we were (for some reason the organisers had thought that a panel about The Last Jedi wouldn’t pull a large crowd, which seems… odd) and so I got to sit in on a different panel instead. This saw a panel discussing what was good and bad about The Last Jedi, how it reflects on the franchise in general, and what they want to see in the future. While there were many, many good points made, I found one point that Jeannette raised very interesting: when another panelist said that they felt Luke’s ‘green milk’ was too obviously played for laughs, Jeannette said that she’d actually found that very compelling because it was like being part of a diaspora and finding something that is almost, but not quite, like the food you got back home but can’t get where you are now. Although it seemed quite a frivolous thing, it was an interesting thing to consider for someone like me who’s never lived in a place where his culture is not the dominant one.
Then I found a second techpriest, this time Nick Bradbeer who gave a truly superb talk about spaceship design last year:
At 3.15 I attended a talk given by my friend Haplocke about Layers Of Meaning: The Dimensional Differences Between English, Chinese And Sign Language. Hap was born in China, moved to the UK as a child and is now a British Sign Language interpreter, and as someone who only speaks one language (plus oddments of German) but really wants to think about how he can make language do different things in his written work, this was a fascinating talk about just how different languages can be: not only in syntax and grammar, but simply the thought and intentions behind them.
At 5pm I went to The Female Gaze, but as I’d arrived a little late it had already started and I had to sit at the back and didn’t feel comfortable going up to put my Roger pen at the front where the speakers are. A Roger pen is a microphone, amongst other things, that Bluetooths sound to my hearing aids – it made a huge difference this year to my ability to clearly hear what was being said in panels, but without it I couldn’t hear enough to make much sense, plus also the panel were talking mainly about media I hadn’t seen. As a result i let myself quietly out of the back and went off to have a nap in front of the football in my room, prior to the Bifröst disco.
The Bifröst comes in two parts: first there is the cabaret, which I didn’t watch this year but was by all accounts as eclectic and amazing as usual. Then, after the room has been changed over, there is the disco. I was once again joined by Elaine to provide tunes, which she did until 12 and then I did until 2am. It was amazing fun, as always, and I was so happy to see people enjoying themselves and dancing until the small hours.
THE PLAYLIST IN FULL (* denotes requests):
1.Whigfield — Saturday Night
2. Le Tigre — Deceptacon
3. SLACKCiRCUS — Fabulous Secret Powers (HEYYEYAAEYAAAEYAEYAA) (cover of Three Non-Blondes — What’s Up)
4. Led Zeppelin — Immigrant Song (from ‘Thor: Ragnarok’)
5. Kendrick Lamar & The Weeknd — Pray for Me (from ‘Black Panther’)
6. oneboredjeu vs Lady Gaga & Dua Lipa — Bad Rules (‘Bad Romance’/’New Rules’ mashup)
7. Studio Killers — Jenny*
8. Baltic House Orchestra — Brooklyn Nine Nine Theme
9. DJ AG — Cantina Band (remix from ‘Star Wars’)
10. Stefán Karl Stefánsson (as Robbie Rotten) — We Are Number One (from ‘Lazytown’)
11. SunStroke Project & Olia Tira — Run Away (Eurovision 2010 Moldova)
12. Eleni Foureira — Fuego (Eurovision 2018 Cyprus)*
13. Måns Zelmerlöw & Petra Mede — Love Love Peace Peace (Eurovision 2016 Interval Act)*
14. Hayley Kiyoko feat. Kehlani — What I Need*
15. Approaching Nirvana — Jurassic Park Theme
16. Was (Not Was) — Walk the Dinosaur
17. Chuck Lorre — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
18. Linked Horizon — Guren no Yumiya (from ‘Attack on Titan’)
19. a-ha — Take On Me
20. Wax Audio vs George Michael & Billy Idol — Careless Rebel (‘Careless Whisper’/’Rebel Yell’ mashup)
21. Ryan Knecht/Brad Breeck — Gravity Falls Theme Song
22. Ryan Elder — Rick and Morty Theme
23. Busted — Year 3000
24. Against Me! — 333
25. The Killers — Mr Brightside
26. Pet Shop Boys — It’s a Sin
27. Savage Garden — Affirmation*
28. Gina G — Ooh Aah (Just A Little Bit) (Eurovision 1996 UK)
29. Joby Talbot/The Eagles — Journey of the Sorcerer (from ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’)
30. Nicki Minaj — Starships*
31. Public Service Broadcasting — Go!
32. SOPHIE — Immaterial
33. Janelle Monáe — Make Me Feel*
34. Belinda Carlisle — Heaven is a Place on Earth (from ‘Black Mirror: San Junipero’)*
35. Limahl — Never Ending Story
36. bouman91/NilsOfficial vs Avicii & Chumbawamba — Knock Me Down, Wake Me Up Again (‘Wake Me Up’/’Tubthumping’ mashup)
37. Joy Division — Love Will Tear Us Apart
George Michael – Careless Whisper
DMX – X Gon Give It To Ya
Skindred – Nobody*
Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name
Against Me! – I Was A Teenage Anarchist*
Goldfinger – 99 Red Balloons*
Rise Against – Savior*
My Chemical Romance – I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
Finch – Letters To You
The Used – The Taste Of Ink
Less Than Jake – Gainesville Rock City
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – The Impression That I Get
Republica – Drop Dead Gorgeous*
The Bloodhound Gang – The Bad Touch
(it was at this point that the Macarena started on the dance floor)
VNV Nation – Chrome*
Apoptygma Berzerk – Until The End Of The World
Rotersand – Exterminate Annihilate Destroy
Erwin Beekveld – Taking The Hobbits To Isengard*
The Sisters Of Mercy – This Corrosion
Ghost – Square Hammer
Turisas – Rasputin* (the Boney M version, anyway)
Linkin Park – Papercut*
Half Man Half Biscuit – Vatican Broadside
Slipknot – Duality
Backstreet Boys – Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)*
Nightwish – Phantom Of The Opera*
Hole – Celebrity Skin
Paramore – Misery Business
Rammstein – Feur Frei
Mindless Self Indulgence – Shut Me Up*
Crossfaith – Omen
Pendulum – Propane Nightmares
Feeder – Just A Day
Metallica – Fuel
Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer
Europe – The Final Countdown*
Then I went to bed, and failed to get to sleep until about 5am thanks to a triple revolving earworm of The Final Countdown, Rasputin and Everybody. Thus are the sacrifices we make for our art.
As a result, I unsurprisingly was not up and about for the 9am talk of How To Design Your Alien/Monster From The Ground Up, which I was really disappointed by as it sounded fascinating, but there was really no way that was going to happen. However, thankfully someone took notes and has kindly forwarded them to me! At 10 I went to Inflatable Shark Olympics and joined the staff team, whereupon we competed in four events to get our inflatable shark across the dance floor in different ways.
I went first, in the Hammer(head) Throw.
The event was won by Sharkshank Redeption, apparently for the second year running. After this at 11.45 I went to Depictions Of Mental Health In Media And Art, for much the same reasons as I went to the first session on Friday. It was a panel instead of a roundtable, and threw up some very interesting talking points from people with experience of mental ill health, either themselves and/or at work. I actually asked a question here, in response to the statement that they panel would like to see mental ill health actually given the appropriate labels in media for proper representation. My question was how this can best be done when writing in genres that would not share the labels our society has – fantasy being the obvious example, where the term ‘paranoid schizophrenia’, for example, would seem very jarring. The panel suggested that it should be labelled as the person being ill, even if the actual term can’t be used, or I could invent a term, which is an unsatisfying answer to me: then again, it’s perhaps impossible to find a truly satisfying answer in this context!
I was flagging by this point, especially with the prospect of a drive back up the M1 ahead of me, so my last panel of Nine Worlds was Portrayals Of Migration In SF. This was, again, a fascinating insight into the experiences of people from a background other than my own, and really drove home again how that reality that we perceive can be very different for others. D Franklin once again live-tweeted this, and undoubtedly did a much better job than I could at summarising it.
And that was it. Joe and I said our goodbyes to those we could find and headed off back to the Midlands. It seems that Nine Worlds is entering a state of flux now, but I sincerely hope that it will be back again next year, and for many years to come. If it is, I will be too.