Nineworlds - Part 1 (10-11th August Novotel Hammersmith, London)
So, I’m now a Nineworlds veteran having been there at all six to date. Having been to a reallllly bad convention weekend where I felt a) content had been scribbled out of a tv guide and b) rather unsafe at night when the drink started to flow one of my best friends suggested we check out Nineworlds that a kickstarter in 2012 started with the idea of being the British version of Dragoncon. Its grown a lot and while it is not Dragoncon it has its own ethos. It ended on a note that it’s next incarnation is now due and what form that takes will be quite important as to how this con can thrive. I had a very good time, but I think some of the concerns and issues raised in the past have come to ahead so new challenges await (more of which to come in part 2)
But for starters lets talk about what I did while there
Thursday – I caught up with friends old and new. I did not do the quiz and this time the people I usually meet with got first place….
The Way You Make Me Feel (Angela Cleland, Roz Kavernay, Zoe Sumra, Sue Tingey)
This panel examined how do those evil authors make us cry/scream/laugh and cheer. It was fascinating to hear that some authors have an emotional plot to run alongside their narrative ones – the key points where you will FEEL that required emotion. It didn’t come across as purely a technical exercise – some of the panel had been surprised by what a character ended up doing! They admitted to not feeling too much shame about what they do to their characters or their readers, but the writing of a tragic ending might still hurt them as much as it hurts us.
Putting the Punk into Cyberpunk – Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, Harriet H, Jade Leamcharaskul, Simon Potthast, Jeremy Szal, Maki Yamazaki)
Since the term got coined in the 80’s and William Gibson defined it there has been a suspicion that the genre is now finished and more an aesthetic. Is there a future in the that type of future? The panel made a valid point that it predicted an internet ruled by soulless ultra-capitalist corporations, so it certainly had a point. The panel did a good job of selling it as a story of the outsider and rebellion. Its influence can run from architecture to VR technology, but it also raises questions of transhumanism. An interesting discussion but I didn’t feel there had been many recent examples Altered Carbon was mentioned but not very positively! But this does seem to be a good time particularly on the social media front for a story where rebellion takes place and that is an area I’ll be watching SF with interest.
Know Your Enemy (Mike Brooks, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jeannette Ng, Anna Stephens)
This panel examined the concept of the villain. Are they there purely as a device of opposition or are they proclaiming something lost (which veers towards the antihero). The panel all seemed to agree that the best villains are those with a cause/belief in their plan. There is a temptation in fiction to other the villain through disability, mental health or sexuality when as 2018 shows most tend towards white, rich and very very privileged. The writers did raise an unusual point that in a story its all about how your frame the narrative – with two fairly equal sides battling over resources it is rare one side will not lose out in the narrative and become the villain.
Knighmare Live – Finally!!
For its second appearance at Nineworlds there was a much bigger room and so I finally got into see this event. This clearly marks me as a child of the 80’s watching a dungeon kill children, but this version is a charming mix of reverence for the actual concept and in jokes but also doing it on a much lower budget. It was very funny through the small cast but also watching a grown adult not remember their left and right so that they walked through the wall of the dungeon was hilarious
Alchemy and Chemistry in SF/Fantasy (Penny Ellis)
I may have stayed up too late for this session to concentrate. Half an examination of the history of chemistry and alchemy and then an examination of some famous examples of plotonium. I felt it would have probably been better split into two different talks. The first half was for me the more interesting as I suspect the reason writers make up the rest is to always serve the story and not respect the science
Who is Wakanda? Representation in Black Panther (Tara Brown, Zarich Catlin-Hallet, Helen Gould, Jade Leamcharaskul, Russell A Smith)
This was one of my highlights across the weekend. Five panellists talking about their reactions and interpretations of the recent Marvel Movie. I really got a new appreciation for how much thought went into this film from discussions over the music and fashion choices for even minor characters that went into illustrating many cultures and historical traditions but also with a lot of modernity. The discussion raised from was Wakanda right to step into the wider world to how Killmonger was one of the most complex villains in film combining attitudes with the feeling of the pain of diaspora with a very toxic sense of rascality. It was a really good flowing intelligent discussion that I could have happily watched another hour and made me want to watch the film again once home to watch the bits I hadn’t noticed before.
It was also a really refreshing panel as I got to a watch a panel of mainly people of colour get to discuss and analyse a piece of culture and their reactions to it. Watching people talk about their excitement in the run-up to the film; their reactions watching and then digesting the film and seeing people like them on screen and referencing cultures they know was a reminder why ensuring we don’t just have straight white males in every bit of media is important. It also was a strong reminder that such panels where rather than purely the issue of diversity itself but instead we see a meaty discussion of a facet of the genre can be far more rewarding. A great panel is one I think about weeks later…this feels like one of them
Top of the SFF Cops – (SJ Groenewegen, Laura Manuel, Caroline Mersey)
Three panellists with different connections to law enforcement raised who they felt were the best type of cops. An interesting selection came down to Dana Scully versus Sam Vimes with Vimes winning by a landslide. It was interesting to hear the qualities they looked for, but I think perhaps a wider group of panellists may have helped broaden a discussion.
Let the Past Die: Sacrificing Sacred Cows in Star Wars The Last Jedi (Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, Avery Delany, Michael Duxbury, Jeannette Ng, Gabriel Petersen)
I’ll lay my cards out now I loved the Last Jedi and thought it gave a long-needed kick to the series challenging the archetypes that were there before, so I was intrigued by how the panel would discuss it and I was not disappointed! I liked the idea that Kylo Ren and his Darth Vader memorabilia could easily be read as a commentary on how the films have perhaps become too focused on toys and traditions spreading from those toys while the film’s best characters were learning sometimes such symbols need to be destroyed to allow for new growth while Kylo is still locked into his past. There is a lot to be said for showing that those who are emotionally invested in a cause like the Rebellion are hard to beat but several did wonder if in the long run Disney would still want to return to various interpretations because that is what makes the money. The key message I took away though was that a fandom that wants to thrive needs to eb prepared to let new people play with it and create a more diverse longer life for it. Another panel that will stay with me.
How to Keep Making Things When the World is on Fire (Alix Penn, Laurie Penny, Claire Rousseau)
One of the nice things about Nineworlds it you have so much choice you can have moments when you just decide to go to a panel on the spur of a moment and this one turned out to be useful to me personally. How to deal with the desire to make any content when the world is on fire be that a reaction to the rise of Trump and fascists or more localised issues such as health or other competing demands. A key message is that being impacted by such things is not something to feel guilty about and self-care is both important for yourself and to assist those people who may then have to spend time reminding you that sleep, and healthy food is important. As someone who struggles with this and feels guilty when the other sides of my life mean I can’t review and blog as quickly as I’d like hearing that lots of other people face the same issues and their tips for dealing with these moments I came away with loads of good suggestions (which several have asked me to capture): -
- Self-care is not a self-indulgence it’s an act of political warfare that you don’t allow the world to eat you up
- Give yourself permission to sleep and feed
- Cut yourself slack
- If your best friend was doing this to themselves would you be probably be telling them to take better care. If so why can’t you apply the same lessons to yourself
- Don’t be overly critical of what we produce for fund and entertainment, so you end up holding back from releasing it into the world – often we do these things because we find them fun so enjoy it
- Deadlines we set can be help and make us accountable to others. Breaking big tasks into mini deadlines can help us turn up for the work and this is our job
- What we create can help others cope with the world in small ways
- Don’t let Capitalism win and always think these activities are without value and so can be unpaid (particularly for those who create material for larger companies’ outlets)
- Interaction with others helps you share tips and not feel alone
- After you go through crisis mode you should adapt your work balance accordingly based on the lessons you learnt
- Don’t be negative on yourself
- Your work unpaid or not has a value and creative work will have an impact on reality and how people view the world
- It’s completely ok to just focus on one or two things at a time but also consider what things you are not focusing on
- Don’t attempt to do your entire To Do list at once – make them achievable goals
- Stick to your work plan and don’t always be tempted by what mood you are in a regular schedule you have can help a lot.
- Sometimes doing the work won’t be the fun but remember the sense of achievement you often feel when you finish
- If you do need to push yourself to your limits to achieve something bear in mind the consequences for future you – the need to sleep and recharge – don’t continually put those things off
- You may need to lock yourself down from distractions while you work