Right then, let’s get on this con report thing, shall we? (this incredibly long, rambling con report)
Nine Worlds was on in London from the 8th – 10th August, and I went to it! I was even on panels in it!
I started my holiday on the Monday before, by going camping in Sandringham with my Mum (who went to the con with me! :D). It was great fun, but my legs did end up covered in a metric fuckton of bug bites, which I think left me a little run down.
Anyway, on the Thursday, Mum and I made our way to Heathrow and checked into the Premier Inn there, because we’re fancy as fuck and have moved up from Travelodges. That evening we stayed in and I bleached + dyed my hair purple. Or at least, the top 2/3 of it, since I had neither enough bleach nor enough dye, ahaha. The bleach did unfortunate things to the ends of my hair, so Mum gave it a quick cut, and it actually came out looking rather good! Just in time for Friday, which was the first day of the con.
Mum and I arrived at the Radisson and registered. The process was incredibly simple – we just walked up to the desk and I gave my name and email. Then, as with last year, we moved off to use sharpies to write out our name badges (significantly more restrained and subtle, this year!). I didn’t pick up any communication clips or pronoun badges, since it looked like there weren’t enough for all members and I wanted to leave enough for anyone who did need them.
So, Friday shaped up like this:
Stark Tower Sleepover (Infinite Washing-Up Crisis). This was my first panel of the con \o/ I think it went fairly well! Briony Frost, Nat Wilkinson, Clara Belle, Dan Hart, Hazel Robinson and I all discussed domesticity in super hero comics. There was a lot of talk about Matt Fraction’s current Hawkeye run, which shows Clint Barton when he’s not being an Avenger, but we covered a few other comics too! I think one of the main conclusions we drew on this panel is that we, as readers, enjoy seeing the humanity in our superheroes, which isn’t necessarily evident when they’re busy smacking down the monster of the day. Showing how they cope in daily life lets us relate better to the characters that we’re reading, and really allows for some very poignant moments when we see the stresses and strains of being a superhero taking their toll on the person beneath the mask. I’ll make a new post at some point where I rec some of my favourite comics that have domestic aspects.
Fanworks Anonymous: Fanwork and Media Consumption. This was a roundtable discussion headed by Kate Keen on the effect being a part of fandom (mostly reading fanfic) has had on our media consumption, and indeed also on our social life. I think this was a really lovely programme item! There weren’t a huge number of us, but I think that let us open up and really discuss the effects fandom has had on us, which is not a thing that we necessarily do online. For me, reading fanfic has made me much pickier about the books that I read. I am much more likely to read a book by an author I’ve enjoyed before or a book that I’ve seen recommended by someone whose taste I trust. I’m also a lot more likely to read regency romance – if they’re by a good author, they have a sense of humour and a focus on character and character relationships that I much prefer to (fr ex) endless world building and serious men doing serious, MANLY things. I think a lot of us found that fandom has affected our social lives quite a lot – I think all but one of my close friends have been made through fandom, and it was the same for many other people. I’m so pleased Kate did this item, it was great!
Nine Fanwork Recs: Nine People Tell Us Their Favourite Fanwork. Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin! 9 people each had up to 7 minutes to tell us about their favourite fanworks. I have to admit, there’s only 1 I’ve really gone on to read (and another I want to check out!), but they all sounded like really good examples within their fandoms! There’s a helpful link here: http://9worlds-fanfic.dreamwidth.org/14121.html
Fourth Wall Fandom: Fandom/Creator Interaction (does that last bit look like a ship + title to anyone else? No? Alright then.)So this was the second panel I was on! \o/ Me, Emma England, Roz Kaveney (yes, that Roz Kaveney. Y’know, the author), Zalia Chimera and Kieron Gillen (yes, that Kieron Gillen. Y’know, the farmer comic writer) were discussing the state of the fourth wall (the barrier between fans and creators/content), whether we like it, whether it has its uses and how both fans and creators can take advantage of the lessening of it. Kieron comes from a particularly interesting background – punk zines, which are obviously much more egalitarian with regards to creator/consumer relationships than say, fanficcer and tv exec. So it was interesting to me that Kieron seems to regard most created content as available for everyone to use. Roz used fanfic to restart her writing career, which is a story that’s becoming much more common (see: Naomi Novik, Cassandra Claire, E. L. James), and I think again takes a more positive view of the crumbling of the fourth wall. Zalia found that, being an anime fan, linguistics played a part in keeping creators out of the section of fandom in which Zalia takes part (we also didn’t get to talk much about this aspect of the fourth wall, sorry Zalia! The rest of us had too much to say!). I think Emma and I both come from similar backgrounds, in that we are part of western fandoms, so it’s easier to connect with (and clash with) creators.
I think my view is influenced very much by the fact that I do still remember authors flat out declaring that they hate fanfic. I’m so used to needing a fourth wall to keep me from seeing scorn from people I want to respect about things that I really enjoy. I also find it useful to have a strong fourth wall because I see people like Jeff Davis and MTV exploiting fandom to retain/grow audiences and then about facing and making fun of fandom or fandom’s ideas. So, I see the fourth wall being useful in this case because frankly, I’d rather be left to play about in the fandom sandpit without the powers that be looming over our shoulders and courting us when it suits them, only to mock us when it doesn’t.
And with that, I believe my Friday at Nine Worlds ended! I felt very unwell, so Mum and I hit up the Premier Inn restaurant and then crashed out.
Saturday dawned and Mum and I took great delight in raiding the all-you-can-eat breakfast and then walking back to the con hotel! So, things shaped up like this:
Dragons vs Werewolves vs Vampires vs Warlocks: The Ultimate Deathmatch Smackdown. So, Joanne Harris, Gail Carriger, Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch with Anne Perry moderating engaged in a vigorous and colourful debate as to which is the best magical creature. Dragons won, but I think we all know that any magical user falling under the warlock umbrella was the actually winner. We have jazz hands, do dragons? (It helped I was in an outfit that makes me feel like a total witch, haha.)
Dis/Continuity: Long-Running Characters, Change, Evolution and Disruption. This was a panel where some creators and fans (Kieron Gillen, Paul Cornell, Nat Wilkinson, Misha Sumra and Adam Christopher) talked about the difficulties of writing a long-running character, whether adhering to previous canon was important and what to do if you were handed a character and told to reboot them. It was pretty interesting! I think one of the main takeaways was that both writers and fans would prefer a character to be written true to their values and ideals, rather than clinging maniacally to all past characterisations. Personally, I agree with this, since with characters like Batman or Wolverine, there has been SO MUCH written, and so much badly written, that I would much prefer to read the best version that the creator could come up with, rather than something hindered by trying to reference and include as many facts laid out in past storylines as possible.
Creators on Comics. This was two talks, one given by Si Spurrier and one by Kieron Gillen. I have to admit, I only lasted through Si’s fascinating talk on storytelling and why comics are a fantastic way to approach narrative (the space between panels where we infer the story ourselves, in case you were wondering). I really enjoyed it, and Si is a great speaker, but by the end I was feeling utterly fucking miserable, so I took the chance to nip out of the room once he’d finished his talk. I’m quite sad to have missed Kieron’s talk on Watchmen, since by all accounts it was also really great – but I think I was genuinely nearing death and was taking the time to wish farewell to all my loved ones and divvy up comics between my brothers. Cue much head clutching and praying for swift death to embrace me, etc. etc.
Blurred Lines: Boycotting and Buying In. But alas! For it was not my time to bid adieu to the world! Instead, I was on another panel. Daniel Tellerman , Alasdair Stuart (check out Escapepod!), Dan Hart and Hazel Robinson and I all discussed what can turn us off titles, creators or companies. I got in my obligatory rant about DC betraying my trust (hence why I will not buy anything from them that doesn’t include Damian Wayne, Jaime Reyes or at least one female creator). We all agreed that promises made by DC hadn’t been kept and that the product they produce is, in many cases, not enough to justify trashing everyone’s favourite characters/storylines. We also talked about Brian Wood and how many of us are not buying anything by him again, even though he was the writer on an all-female X-Men, which we otherwise would have liked to support. The guys talked some about dropping titles when writers do something they don’t like with characters they love (fr ex, recent Sam Wilson escapades), and this transitioned into moaning about the big two creating cross-over events which affect a character, but not including ANY OF THIS in a character’s solo-title, so you can come back after a month or two and EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED, but you don’t know why. We did talk a bit about whether or not it’s appropriate to call for a creator to be fired from a title because of something they do – I think most of the guys took a fairly moderate stance here, in that they would drop the title and probably inform their friends/twitter, whereas I, if I weren’t lazy and completely aware of how ineffectual asking a company for something is, would totally call for a creator to be fired for being a sexist bag of shit. Or a racist one. Or a homophobic one. Or…. You get the picture. My justification for this is that you are never entitled to an income from me or other fans. You earn the money by creating content we wish to consume, and if you fail in that, by being a bigoted twatwaffle, then I’m sorry, there are more than enough creators out there to fill your shoes. Go work in Screwfix or something.
We did all agree that creators can have an incredibly hard time on the internet and that some fans do cross the line. A creator should never have to face death threats or online dog-piling.
It was a really great panel, I think we discussed a lot! I was really feeling rough by this point though, so I might be misremembering everything (so if you thought this was the worst panel you’d EVER been too, mostly because of the drooling husk freaking out the other panel members, SORRY!), and I may have been less coherent that I might have wished.
You can probably guess, but yes, at this point, Mum and I returned to the hotel!
I woke up on Sunday feeling a little bit better! To be fair, I couldn’t have felt worse without moving into the whole vomiting and incredible light sensitivity area, which I was quite glad to avoid!
Braids of Ice and Fire: Game of Thrones Hair Workshop. There was an element of incredible personal weirdness to this panel, which I won’t go into. Still, I was stuck in the middle of a crowded row in a full room, so there was no graceful way to escape this panel! I’m not sorry I stayed though, it was very informative and whilst I may still not be able to do a three-strand plait on myself, I CAN do a rope braid! So that’s pretty! And it was a great insight into hair design on GoT. During this panel I ended up quite amused that the speaker had to keep going, “Guys, please, be quiet. I know it’s fun to do this yourself but be quiet.” Because it’s never not funny to treat your audience of grown-ups like children 🙂
More-Than-Mild-Peril: Beyond Sidekicks. Another thing I was on! So there were nine of us on this panel. Nine panellists for Nine Worlds, amirite? Ok, so I was really unsure of how well this would work out because seriously, so many people! But actually, it was fantastic! With such a variety of people on the panel (including an actual teenager!) it really led to some wide-ranging and insightful discussion, both from a fan, creator and publisher perspective. I think one of the best comments came from the 14-year-old next to me (who was on her first panel!), that the best media for young people follows the self-discovery journey and shows us the widest variety of characters possible. Like seriously, this girl was making brilliant points AND her eyeliner was on point! Much jealous. Along with cool comics for domesticity I’ll thrown in great comics about young people (spoiler: both will include Blue Beetle!) in a later post.
A/Romantic: Asexuality in Comics. A really interesting short panel on asexual characters in comics, and indeed the utter lack. With a brief diversion into Shatterstar and Rictor, because why not? Because this was a short discussion, it meant it segued into a talk between Hazel and Emma Vieceli (who illustrates the Vampire Academy graphic novels, the Alex Rider graphic novels [squeee!] and the webcomic Breaks) about Emma’s art. It was pretty cool! I always find it really fascinating to hear how artists develop their characters and why they choose their stylistic decisions. I’ve also just checked out the Alex Rider Tumblr for the progress of the Scorpia GN and omg. Do want!
Gutter Spills: Comics Across Other Media. The last comics track panel, and in fact the last panel of Nine Worlds for me! I’m glad I chose such a great one to end on! Charlotte Geater, Roz Kaveney, Hazel Robinson, Jenni Cole and Kate McAlpine [I think] and the wonderful Junior Novelisation of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. To be honest, the best bits of this panel were when Charlotte read from the CA:TWS book. It’s utterly bloody awful and completely hilarious!
Sooo that’s all the programme items I ended up going to, and as this post is already WAY TOO LONG, I’m going to finish with a needlessly verbose list of pros and cons (heh).
- The Radisson is still a really ridiculously laid out hotel. If I were the type to have tear ducts, I’m pretty sure it’d have made me cry.
- It’d be nice to have a green room, or some space where panellists can all agree to meet up before items – not only does it give us a chance to say hello to each other and figure out where we want the discussion to go. It also gives me somewhere to be before each item I’m on that ISN’T just hanging awkwardly around the desk at the front of the room.
- I may have briefly died and then returned from the afterlife to pass my plague onto any living creature I encountered. Er. Sorry?
- I didn’t get much of a chance to check out the dealer’s room, so I only ended up with one cool necklace. I know, a tragedy.
- The friendly, inclusive atmosphere! Not only does Nine Worlds feel like a safe space to be yourself, it feels like a safe space to discuss potentially difficult issues – without having to explain why you hold feminist views or why you have a pronoun badge, etc. etc.
- The care taken to make attendees feel welcome, whoever they might be. I know someone at Worldcon mocked the Nine Worlds’ Code of Conduct, but I have to say that the attention to detail shown in it, and in other aspects of the con (like reminding moderators not to presume a person’s gender when calling on an audience member) showed that not only did the con attendees work hard to create the atmosphere, the people running the con did too.
- The variety of programme options! Much of the programme wasn’t for me, but to my mind, that’s a good thing! I love that Nine Worlds includes so many interests and aspects of geekery J
Overall, I had an absolutely fantastic time! Special shoutouts to Ludi (for being such a great person and con organiser!), Kate and Tanya (for the fantastic transformative works track!) and Charlotte and Hazel (fuck yeah comics!). And also my Mum, who patiently put up with me being the biggest, mopiest, whiniest wreck in human existence 😉
I’ve already bought my tickets for next year, I hope to see some of you there! ❤