In February, I backed a Kickstarter campaign for a new conference event called Nine Worlds Geekfest – an event which promised to be a first-of-its-kind mixed genre gathering of geeks, sci-fi fans, gamers, cosplayers and (as you can read below) lots of other fun topics.
Whether you’re into board gaming, film and film-making, Doctor Who / Torchwood, science, feminism, Tolkien, SF&F academia, video games, partying like a dancefloor demon, role play gaming, Discworld, My Little Pony, social gaming, SF&F literature, knitting, Harry Potter, creative writing, Star Wars, queer fandom, buying cool stuff, steampunk, open culture, Star Trek, skepticism, costuming, comics, or fanfic, chances are you’ll find something that rocks your world. [from Lanyrd]
The event took place at two hotels near Heathrow this past weekend, and I took a rare Friday off work to be there from the start, staying until late on the Sunday in the end, for reasons which I will mention in a moment. If you follow me on Twitter, no doubt you’re already aware of my weekend activities :-)
Aside: perhaps it isn’t much of a surprise to those who know me, but yes, I am a geek. I like science fiction and comic books. I’ve enjoyed the Whedonverse (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse etc), Star Trek, Babylon 5, superhero movies based on cartoons and comics I grew up with, Star Wars, The Matrix, Doctor Who, etc etc. In fact, one thing I have really started to get back into this past year has been the latter, Doctor Who… I grew up reading the Target novelisations (Peter Davison was my Doctor but I’m a fan of the whole series), avidly listen to Big Finish audio plays, and listen to several of the great podcasts about the show from fellow fans. It is also the 50th anniversary year of the show, and I’ve also been lucky enough to attend BFI screenings of showings from the Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy eras, with Eccleston and McGann screenings to come.
What kind of a fan or geek does that make me? Doesn’t matter. Go listen to this great (short) podcast from Shannon, or read her great blog post of the same. No really, follow that link and go read it, I’ll wait. She makes a beautiful statement on how we should accept one other.
… and that brings me back to where I started, Nine Worlds. The team that put the event together set out to create an interesting, fun, volunteer-run, inclusive and diverse event – and that is the standout memory of my 3 days at the con. The range of tracks, fandoms and cultures on offer and on display was outstanding and I enjoyed the opportunity to mix with all kinds of folks and make new friends from across all of them. I had a lot of fun, and met a lot of fantastic new people I’m looking forward to seeing again either next year, or at events in between. I went to a couple of Red Dwarf talks – Robert Llewelyn and Chris Barrie were both great, funny and engaging speakers in the main theatre. I was late to arrive at the Film Fest Quiz and as a result ended up spectating, but it was great fun to see cheesy clips from 1980s horror and teen crush movies! The evening comedy session on the Friday with Helen Keen was hilarious. It was also good to see her moderate the Saturday morning “Future” panel with Charlie Stross, Cory Doctorow, and Lilian Edwards, even if I did leave that one feeling despondent about society’s ability to be optimistic about the potential benefits of technology and its ability to decide to use it for good!
To satisfy my Dr Who obsession I spent a large part of Saturday on the dedicated track. I wandered past Andrew Cartmell in the trade room and stopped for a chat and an autograph (great to talk to him about the Big Finish “Season 27″ Lost Stories, and happy to discover that he’s also a fan of the line “unlimited rice pudding!!” from Remembrance of the Daleks). Simon Fisher-Becker’s session competed with a bunch of others and saw very low attendance, but Simon gamely just said “why don’t I just come down off the stage and sit in a circle with you”, so 5 or 6 of us got to quiz him in a very casual setting about his life and career, which was lovely. Later in the afternoon I found myself on the wrong side of the RTD vs Moffatt debate, which got pretty passionate… The evening session was a hilarious and great Big Finish panel with Gary Russell, Joe Lidster, Una McCormack, Matthew Waterhouse, James Swallow and Robert Dick – it just reinforced my love for the company and the amazing quality output they produce, as well as prompting me to want to go off and buy more of their stories!
Sunday saw additional Dr Who panels, including Chicks Unravel Time (I’ve now bought that book of essays); the Ones You Love to Hate, about villains in the series; and one on companions. I was disappointed that none of the panelists really mentioned Turlough, but someone else in the audience did say that he was her favourite, and I’d have to agree that he was one of the more interesting additions to the TARDIS crew in the past 50 years.
On the technology side, I got to play with an Oculus Rift developer headset. Very impressive stuff, and it left me wishing I had jumped on board at Kickstarter time.
The most fun I had all weekend, though, were the singalongs. I arrived early for the Once More with Feeling session and got talking to the pianist, David Merriman, about how he was going to run it… and ended up being the man nearest to the microphone when we needed to get things started and people gathered around the piano! My intervention(s) led to me being identified as “the music guy” (sorry, David!) around the con halls the next day, and several people insisted that I had to stay late for the Sunday evening sci-fi singalong as well… which ended up incorporating a spontaneous recreation of the end scenes of Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, when I jokingly shouted “solo number!” to a cosplayer dressed as Captain Hammer. You had to be there, but it was so, so much fun. Evidently I’ve impressed the Whedon track team enough that they want me involved next year…
I left with a stash of goodies (including a number of signed books) which will only reinforce my fan tendencies… I’ve marked up with picture with notes on Flickr if you are curious enough to look at what I picked out.
Criticisms? none really, just learning points I hope. Firstly it was unforgivable for the venue to a) charge for wifi at all, let alone b) not flag up their discounted rate to con guests as they checked in (should have been £5/day not £15/day if you were attending); and then they locked access to a single device, which was rubbish – especially given that many sessions were in the basement where there was no mobile reception. The bar was also expensive, and I was amused to discover that the cash only con-bar was actually more expensive than the main hotel (£4.90 a bottle at the con-bar; £4.50 a pint at the hotel bar; I took my choice). I’d hope both things can be negotiated in future years. I haven’t booked my return ticket for next year yet… but it is looking pretty likely.
Thank you to everyone who made Nine Worlds happen – organisers, volunteers, track leads, and speakers. And thank you to everyone who attended… you were all Brilliant!
There’s so much more I could say about the weekend, but then lots of people had different experiences, from different tracks – check out the various write-ups on Lanyrd.
I’m hoping to record a short segment for The Doctor Who Podcast covering the Dr Who track soon, so if you are a fellow subscriber, listen out for that.