Sunday, 18 August 2013

Nine Worlds 2013

I didn't see half as much of Nine Worlds as I would have liked.

I think the only way I could have would have time travel, or perhaps the ability to create little homunculi of myself.  Nine Worlds had a lot of programming.  And the more the weekend wore on, the more I realized that even the bits of it that at a first glance hadn't looked even remotely interesting probably were.  I wish I'd hung around the Steampunk track a little more.  Jobeda spent much of Saturday telling me how good the Geek Feminism stuff was, and I caught the end of a panel on Joss Whedon and sure enough, it was tremendous; I've been to entire Cons that contained less enthusiasm and intelligent debate than that one small, overheated room.  I completely missed the Science track, and pretty much all of that looked interesting.  I did a little better with the All the Books track, since I was in it, but I still felt like I'd barely scratched the surface.  We never even got a look in at the Board Gaming, despite that being one of the things we'd specifically planned to do.  And what I've listed there is only scratching the surface of what was on offer at Nine Worlds.

On top of the basic impossibility of doing more than scratching that surface, I quickly discovered I wasn't feeling too well.  It turned out to be a chest infection, but over the weekend it was just a sore throat and a general feeling of crapiness, which did a good job of keeping me out of the bar and stopping me talking to a lot of the people I'd have liked to talk to - which was a lot of people.  I did manage a bit of socializing, particularly on the Sunday, and I got to give Paul Cornell a copy of Endangered Weapon B as a thank you for his brilliant introduction, which was high on my 'to do' list, but all told I spent a lot of time being frustrated that conversation equaled pain.

Francis, Benedict, Me, Den, Emma.
Then last up, and if anything even more distracting, there was the fact that I seemed to spend a large chunk of the weekend working.  Okay, doing a signing was no biggie, and I got stuck with a slot when no one was in the dealer's room, so I mainly spent that chatting with the lovely Forbidden Planet people and my old friend Flick (Hi Flick, good to see you!)  And the panel I was attending on Saturday, Gender and Sexuality in SFF, went smoothly - if unspectacularly - enough.  But those were things I've done before and are just about comfortable these days.  No, what kept me in a perpetual state of Serious Work Mode was the knowledge that I was moderating my first panel on the Sunday, and my being determined to make a decent job of it.
In truth, I perhaps got a bit carried away with my preparation.  I went in with twenty-some questions (many of which had sub-questions!), a separate page of questions for the audience and notes on my panelists, which I'd prepped during a frantic ten minutes spent at the Forbidden Planet stall.  Then I nearly lost all my notes.  Then I found out at the last minute that Benedict Jacka was ill, wasn't coming and had been replaced by someone I'd never heard of.  Then Benedict turned up, and was befuddled to discover that he wasn't expected. 
A scale model of the Nine Worlds hotel, possibly.
But minor, slightly surreal hiccups aside, it went well.  I think, possibly, that it went really well.  Certainly, I had a good time - which frankly was about the least likely outcome I expected.  I felt like we gave out a lot of valuable information, and everyone got their say.  I was fortunate enough to have four intelligent, witty and unusually polite panelists* in the shape of Benedict, Emma Newman, Den Patrick and Francis Knight.  We had some great audience questions, and one in particular that really touched me: it was something along the lines of, "say you were really shy and didn't feel up to mugging editors in the bar at Cons and all of the other things you've been advising us to?  Would it still be possible to get published?"**  That was about the only question I took myself, because - as I explained - I consider myself a basically shy person, who used to be a very shy person indeed, and yet somehow I've ended up doing things like moderating panels in front of dozens of people.  And while of course it is possible to get published without ever so much as speaking to an editor face to face, I think it's also true that confidence is a skill that can be learned like any other, and that Cons are tremendously good places to do that learning.
Which, I guess, is also my conclusion when it comes to Nine Worlds: it did what only the very best of Cons can do and created a hugely inclusive space where everyone seemed comfortable regardless of race, creed or My Little Pony costume.  It wasn't perfect***, but in its first year it was better than many established Cons, it raised the bar in a lot of ways that I hope get taken on board by the wider community, and I'm already looking forward to next year - when hopefully I'll actually get to do and see a bit more stuff.

* Seriously, this was the most polite panel ever.
** Wait, we didn't say that.  Buy drinks for, not mug.
*** Main imperfection being the extraordinarily pricy bar.  No pint of Coke on earth should cost six pounds.

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