Thursday, 14 August 2014

Nine Worlds 2014: Part 1

I mentioned in my last post that, although I'd definitely had a mostly-good time, I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about my Nine Worlds experience.  A couple of days on and I'm clearer, though perhaps still not entirely there.  Part of the problem, I think, is that I was just expecting too damn much - the excellence of last year but with the rough edges shaved off, basically - and that was not entirely reasonable.  Part of the problem, too, was that there was some last-minute personal stuff that made the whole experience a bit more stressful that it might have been.  However with a couple of day's perspective I suspect that the remaining part is that it was just the teeniest bit disappointing; probably as good as last year's Con, which lest we forget was pretty damn great, but without those refinements to the formula I'd hoped the intervening year might have produced.

Now out, Germany.
Anyway, I'm preempting myself here, so maybe I should just talk about what actually went on instead.  The day got off to a pretty good start when I traveled from Leeds to London on a freebie first class ticket that East Coast had given me to apologize for once making me two and a half hours late, and I arrived in King's Cross with a proper breakfast in me and my socialist ideals somewhat tarnished.  From there I made a brief trip up the Northern line to visit my agents, Zeno, who were holding some copies of the just-out paperback release of the German edition of Giant Thief for me.  Then, with yet more books in my rucksack - I think I was up to sixteen by this point - I headed back south and picked up the Piccadilly Line for Heathrow.  From there I hurried to Nine Worlds, checked in, rushed on to my guest house, checked in there too, had a quick and much needed shower and dropped off my bag and headed back to the conference hotel - and then kept going, to grab a sandwich from the nearby garage - and finally, finally, properly arrived at Nine Worlds at somewhere around three o'clock.

Thus began a rather irritating trend that would end up being one of my few gripes with the convention, as I dashed to the Archeological World-building talk only to be turned away because the room was full.  (In the end this happened three times over the course of the weekend; as Oscar Wilde famously said, to misjudge the audience size for one panel may be regarded as a misfortune; to misjudge three looks like carelessness.)  Oh and hey, let's get most of the grumbling out of the way right here, shall we?  As someone who believes in sustainability, not to mention not carrying around loads of crap I don't want, I really don't want a plastic carrier bag full of books I'll never read and adverts and booklets and little plastic tokens that don't look even slightly recyclable.  Seriously, I get that everyone does this, Nine Worlds, but you guys know better.  And in fact, what with the millions of plastic cups floating about and a few other things, things were pretty crummy on the giving-the-slightest-crap-about-the-environment front.  Please will someone in the Con scene set a precedent for not getting this so wrong?  And since no one else seems even close to trying, please could it be Nine Worlds?

Okay, done grumbling!  (Well, mostly.)  So, denied enlightenment on the Archeological World-building front, I gave in to my baser Con-going instincts and retired to the bar to meet my friend and bestselling-author-to-be Dan Scrivener, and sometime after that my friend Jobeda Ali.  And both of them were nice enough to buy my drinks, which - not being an oil baron - I would otherwise have struggled to afford.  (Damn it!  Okay, now I'm done.  For this post anyway.)

All of this afternoon drinking was in fact just psychological preparation for early that evening, when came my third-ever stab at panel moderating: the Writing Trans-Media panel.  This time around, however, what with the whole 'writing being the day job' thing, I had one advantage I'd never had in the past: I was shockingly over-prepared.  I mean, 'two pages of questions with sub-questions, having researched my panelists and even prepared specific questions for them' over-prepared.  And having done it that way once I'm convinced it's the way to go in future, because once we got started I wasn't a bit nervous, things went unexpectedly brilliantly, and my panelists - Barry Nugent, Anna Caltabiano, Simon Guerrier and Adam Christopher - were every one of them completely great.  If you happen to read this, thank you everyone, you made a scary thing painless to the point of being actual fun.

After that, of course, it was back to the bar. This being my third Con near Heathrow and my second in that particular hotel, I now know the area distressingly well, so I dragged Dan to a half-decent pub nearby and then back to the hotel bar, where we eventually ran into Adrian Tchaikovsky, Ian Whates and - it being a bar - lots of other people.  But because I was determined to learn the lessons of all the conventions I've made a hash of in the past, I retired at the entirely sensible hour of midnight to my guest house cell.  (I mean this in the monastic rather than the prison sense.  It was spartan, but there were no bars on the windows.)

Thus ended Friday.  Next: Saturday!  Sunday!  Less griping!  More drinking!

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