Nineworlds - Where all the fandoms meet

Location – London Novotel (3/8-6/8)

Five years ago a good friend of mine and I attended a rather spectacularly bad con and she suggested to try a brand new con started by a kick-starter.  Off we went into unknown territory (London) and five years on Nineworlds is now my annual geek holiday and something I look forward to every year.

Friends often ask ‘ok so what exactly is Nineworlds?’ - this is the tricky bit! Nineworlds was started to be similar to the US Dragoncon (though much smaller!). A con run by fans for fans.  It basically covers...well everything. This is not a con where the TV stars will gather for autographs and loads of memorabilia is sold as you might find in LFCC nor is it purely author panels like an eastercon.  Instead it's a delicious buffet of fandoms ranging from books, film, craft, science, social theory, history etc. - if you have a niche interest there is a good chance you'll find someone here to discuss it and probably running a talk on it. At the same time some fantastic cosplay and a rather great disco! A distinguishing point is that a lot of the content ideas come from attendees (over 50% this year!) made into a series of 'tracks' linking ideas together.

The other major part of Nineworlds is that this aims to be the most inclusive and accessible con that respects everyone. Compared to cons known for very poor codes of conduct and lax approaches to incidents; in Nineworlds you are in a very safe environment. This is a place that really does love Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (Trek references duly applied).

This is my experience of Nineworlds and yes I always gravitate towards books a lot of the time - so I can't tell you about the sword fighting, cosplay tips, Mars Missions and archaeology presentations but have a look around they are out there

Day 0 Aka I've not seen you in agggess

The Thursday is informal. Weary travellers arriving to find the bar..I mean hotel..and join up with friends. Highlight for me is the annual Ice Breaker quiz some friends of mine organise (Hail Becca, Lems, Jane, Dave and gloriously sequinned Phil!).  Again I was delighted with third place for my team and my Furry Lament Configuration car dice are a thing of beauty! It’s a good way to relax after a long day's travel; introduce yourself to new people and yell Khannnnnnnn with a room full of your people.

Day 1 aka Why have they not yet invented time-turners?

Friday we get down to business and there are around 9 things going on at once. Highlights for me where a Retrospective conducted with Megan Leigh (of the excellent Breaking the Glass Slipper podcast) interviewing the author Chris Wooding author of the Kitty Jay books. Really interesting to see how writing styles develop and how he got into publishing (and more importantly stayed in!).  After that a great panel on Policing and Urban Fantasy where three guests with experience of the Met and other related organisations (Sarah Groeneegen, Caroline Mersey and Laura Manuel) debated the pros and cons of Paul Cornell's Shadow Police and Ben Aaaronovitch's Rivers of London series.  Overall impression they have of the feel of the police right but have had to make some unlikely changes to suit the stories but also a feeling many geeks lurk in uniforms (I feel safer!)

There was a fascinating interview with Helen Armfield talking to Pat Cadigan - an author I've not yet read before but her intelligence and zest for life really has made me keen to read her books. After that I went to an actual recording of Breaking the Glass Slipper - a podcast keen to promote feminism in SF.  The three co-hosts were all in attendance (Megan Leigh, Charlotte Bond and Lucy Hounsom) with two new debut authors RJ Barker and Anna Smith Spark. The discussion was on what makes a good character and a nice contrast to see how authors respond in different ways to a subject.  Spark focused on getting the purity of the emotion for the scenes right while Barker (often very self-effacing) seemed to put a lot of his own experiences.  Great discussion and well worth the listen when it comes out! Cruelty to Unicorns notwithstanding

The evening became a quest for food and a mosey around (yes books were bought) and game playing with friends in the bar - bliss!

Day 2 - Ain't No Disco like a No-Face Disco

Saturday is even busier as the con also does day passes and this was the most full on day in the schedule. A discussion on Archetypes in Fantasy with Sarah Mussi, Melody Barron, Mike Carey and Ed McDonald moved quickly from the debate of using Jungian archetypes ad more into the future of them.  How they can both embed sexism and allow room with those of other cultures to show people in new lights.  I felt very optimistic that now most authors and readers understand that it's important and better for any world you read or create that it reflects the diversity of the actual world around us.

A bit of architecture followed with a discussion on Representations of the City in SFF. The architect Amy Butt moderated with Jared Shurin, Al Robertson and Verity Holloway as to how architecture influences stories. This ranges from the feeling of disconnection, the horror of the suburbs and also the knowledge that a city is itself watching you and expecting you to comply. A peculiar mesh of public and private spaces that I really enjoyed and a few more authors are in my to read pile (weeping commences). The discussion of ideas I found fascinating and will be watching out for in more novels.

A similar good and at times challenging discussion came out of Redemption in Sci-Fi with Mike Brooks, Ro Smith, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jan Siegel. Quite a few views ranging from the love SF has for simple solutions and overlooking the vast amount of bad acts one person may have committed; it's love of self-sacrifice and why Vader killing his Boss for his son is not entirely selfless. A lot of fun but glad no one died!

I got to see my friend Ric Crossman actually teach maths for the first time in Sums of the Undead. In this the latest mathematical theories on disease modelling were applied to the ever-likely zombie threat in a really helpful-to-understand and often amusing way. Again demonstrating that Nineworlds bring all fandoms together in action here - the room had to turn people away and the crows actually sighed when Ric explained that this year he was no going to go into all the equations.  Next year a larger space and all the maths please!

Finally a searing and philosophical discussion about the agony of writing in ahem It's Research! (or, Why It's Totally Okay to Play Dragon Age For 100+ Hours When You Should Be Writing) the authors Vic James, Jen Williams, Lucy Hounsom and Taran Matharu all confessed/outlined their daily schedule as well as approach to research (or ju7st making things up). Really good panel often funny but a reminder authors are very human too.  I may have ordered Dragon Age...totes for reviewing purposes of course...

My evening got later with Space Opera! SF&F in Musicals where Charley Hasted played us clips of Repo Man, Little Shop of Horrors and a Japanese Opera version of Dracula I must track down. Finally I slid into the Bifrost disco listening to the Inspector Gadget theme tune followed by REM's It's the End of the World As We know it- a very relaxing evening watching No-Face from Spirited Away on the dance floor - all the geeks were dancing (I shuffled against a wall!)

Day 3 - Coffee oh please give me coffee

I saw only two panels all day. BookTube - Reviewing Books in the 21st Century with Claire Rousseau, Kaitlin Gray, Stevie Finegan and Elana Robertson talking about reviewing moving into YouTube ad while that's not where I'm currently I found their tips really helpful and energising for this blog! Finally I went to the Future of Nineworlds where essentially the Board of Nineworlds gets a chance to explain how the past year has been.  They are extremely honest - it's carrying a debt for a good few years to come; it may move to Birmingham next year for a several reasons but it's also starting to find its feet marshalling content together. Overall feedback was very very good!

At this point being awake for four days took hold; seeing friends and book buying and coffee was all I managed!!

I thought this year felt really relaxed and well organised. Plenty to do and so much I wished I could have attended at the same time. I was absolutely knackered after four days but at the same time my geek batteries were recharged and so good to be with your friends in a place that gets you! Over the years I've seen that many people who go to Nineworlds tend to come back so I would suggest f you're thinking about it give it a go.  And say hi



Matthew CavanaghComment