From the 10th to the 12th, I had my fourth encounter with the geekfest Nine Worlds. It was intense, as you might gather from the fact that this post is coming out so late.
If you don’t know Nine Worlds, here’s a bit of history. It was founded in 2013 as a convention for geeks of… well, here I’m just going to quote Simon Pegg:
Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something.
But what’s inside that “what you enjoy”? At Nine Worlds, it can be everything. It can be taking fencing lessons; it can be talking about the history of the Golem and whether Frankenstein’s Creature is one; it can be proving a theorem for the first time; it can be the sheer joy of fangirling over Padmé Amidala1; it can be discussing how to write realistic and compelling characters; it can be wondering how much words matter in a visual medium like comics. It can be crocheting, a Joss Whedon singalong (or two), cosplay, a new boardgame, poetry and dancing until late.
But now: how did I spend my weekend?
- The Way You Make Me Feel. Four writers of prose and poetry exposed their favourite (and least favourite) tricks to get an emotional response from their readers. Fun, clever, you could see the craft, the love, and the love of the craft.
- Fountain Pen Meetup. I dropped in the room almost by chance. I hadn’t used a fountain pen in years but, thanks to crochet, I’ve recently discovered that doing something with my hands is actually relaxing2. It was a great way to unwind - and now I want to write more on paper.
- Know Your Enemy. All the tropes about Villains, from queercoding to the dynamics of upsetting/restoring the status quo. A panel of writers who could go from serious political debate to hilarious technical criticism: everything you need.
- ‘Everybody hates moral philosophers’: The ethics of The Good Place. I’m not saying it because The Good Place is my favourite TV series, but this was a perfect Nine Worlds talk. Take something pop, analyse it thoroughly and with a good dose of humour, understand something about your life and your relationship with the world, and learn something – often, a lot. The slides are here on our teacher Ro Smith’s website (with spoilers and a Terminator. No, seriously.)
- The only way is indie. An independent comics writer with an experience in self-publishing and Kickstarter, two independent publishers of SFF fiction, many useful suggestions.
- Disco! Our DJs were Sarah Gordon and Kieron Gillen, who got the whole room dancing to (mostly) pop hits – and to Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, because that’s the power of music at 2 am. It was almost four hours of sheer, unapologetic, joy. I’m very grateful for the fact that they played Janelle Monáe’s Make Me Feel twice, because my queer heart can’t get enough of that song. Special mention to the little girl cosplaying as SuperGirl who spent the whole of Gloria, Heaven Is a Place On Earth, Material Girl and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (this should give you the gist of the playlist) twirling on the dancefloor as if the world revolved around her – and, let’s face it, she wasn’t completely wrong about that.
- Visual Poetry Workshop. I had already had the pleasure to listen to Angela Cleland during the panel about writing feelings. I’ve always been attracted to the visual side of text, from Futurist poetry to comics3. I was very scared by the idea of doing something like this, on the spot, while someone is watching, not in Italian… But Angela is a great teacher, always ready to give suggestions but never judgmental; the time limit, not being alone, thinking carefully about every word, turned it all into my favourite Nine Worlds experience of this year. I want more.
- Let The Past Die: Sacrificing Sacred Cows in Star Wars The Last Jedi. I’m a Star Wars fan, so I obviously couldn’t miss a panel like this. What’s not obvious are the takes on the saga4 that the panelist shared: the theme of sacrifice, the use of costumes that can be easily put together without buying merchandise, the myriad of ways people can become a fan… I particularly loved how Jeannette Ng talked about being inspired by Carrie Fisher before falling in love with Star Wars, and about how it can be hard to be impressed by something that’s part of a shared culture.
- Joss Whedon Sing-a-long. No Nine Worlds is complete (for me, at least) without sitting in a room full of people who share a song: Every single night, the same arrangement / I go out and fight the fight…
- Bifröst Cabaret. I caught only the first act. There were Celtic War Goddesses and intergenerational conflicts and Asian accents, Doctor-Who-obsessed boyfriends and all the suggestions you get if you have a chronic condition5, sign language stand-up comedy and Orkish poems. And it was hilarious, moving, insightful and simply beautiful.
- Dr. Magnethands. Thanks to Grant Howitt, the PM battled an hyrda that had emerged from the moon (that was actually an egg controlled by a supervillain) and Sarah Gordon defeated the power of friendship at the O2 Arena. You had to be there. It was amazing, trust me.
- Impromptu Joss Whedon Sing-a-long in the reception room. With sign language translation by Haplocke Sixspence!
- Disco! Part 2. Unfortunately I could stay only for the part DJ’d by Scattermoon, which was as explosive and exhilarating as a rocket launch - or a good dancefloor screaming along the words of Mr. Brightside.
The Golem: Jewish folklore and modern interpretations. Where Hannah Hazi not just told the origin stories (plural!) of the Golem, and not only she discussed their representation through the ages – by Jews and non-Jews, for better or for worse, but she also made us realise how the Golem myth pervades our culture. I’m ashamed to say that I had never noticed how much the Avenger’s Vision takes from the Golem (the gem on his forehead!)… Another point that I found extremely interesting (possibly the most interesting of all) was how Frankenstein’s Creature is the polar opposite of a Golem: created by a single man for egotistical purposes, unloved and rejected, whereas the Golem is created for a community, by a man who can follow divine instructions, and becomes part of a family.
Boardgames room! After such an intense talk, playtime! I managed to play an RPG adventure from start to finish for the first time in my life. Two hours of fun, a few embarrassing moments, yet another thing that this edition of Nine Worlds showed me I can do.
Disabled representation in comics. Last talk of the con! Panelists Sarah Gordon, Miranda Brennan and Clouds Haberberg shared their thoughts about the issue (the flying wheelchair as a metaphor for superpower that overcompensates for the hero’s disability was brilliant) and tips for doing better. There were connections with tropes older than the medium, a rundown of our favourite and least-favourite characters, and the obvious-but-clearly-not-that-obvious “do your reasearch”; about the latter, it was very useful to hear how to find financial and other resources from Sarah, whose Deeds Not Words features many disabled characters, including a deaf protagonist.
There were many more talks I wanted to go to (special mention: the introduction to Takarazuka, and the panels about representation in Black Panther, women in Star Wars and James Bond), but the rooms were often full (congrats! to the speakers) and my body is stil not 100% efficient after The Cancer Incident and I had to take it easy (bo-o-o-oring). And if I have to choose between a chat with a human being and a talk, nine times out of ten I will choose the human being - and the human beings you meet at Nine Worlds are usually wonderful.
So, what did I take away from this Nine Worlds? Most of all, I gave myself permission to do something new. I suspect that’s typical of women and people who were raised as women: I feel like I’m should get a “stamp of approval”, an invitation to the club – or I’m overstepping my limits and being (the horror!) impolite. But this year I followed talks about writing thinking of myself as a (potential) writer; I scribbled with those beautiful pens that seemed to come out of a period movie; I even wrote that poem. I also gave myself permission not to do everything, to accept that my health isn’t perfect.
|My poem. I wrote it, it’s mine.|
Here I think I should mention that Nine Worlds is far from perfect. I won’t dwelve into details, as I found out only later that something had happened, and (even more important) I don’t think I have the credentials to comment on this. Long story short: Nine Worlds prides itself on being an inclusive and safe space. This didn’t wasn’t the case this year, in particular with regards to a panel on substance abuse. This is a a recap that I found very interesting and compelling. There have also been potentially bad news from the financial point of view - I’m saying “potential” because I can’t help hoping that this will lead to a more diverse group of people who create a more inclusive, and therefore better, geekfest.
So: I hope to see another Nine Worlds in 2019, with more space not just for everything but for everyone too. If this will be the case: I hope to be there too – and maybe give myself permission to do something more.
And now: the obligatory (albeit partial) cosplay gallery!
|A perfect case of Nine Worlds cosplay: a knitted Captain America shield|
|Everything Is Fine! after Ro Smith’s (or is it Mindy St Claire?) gave her The Good Place talk|
|Another TGP cosplay - she’s doing her homework!|
(Yeah, it’s my favourite series.)
|A perfect Lady Sybil (with moving dragon)|
|Jeannette Ng as Admiral Holdo (in red), right after the amazing Star Wars panel|
I take it for granted that everyone fangirls over Leia. ↩
I know. Everybody says that. It’s become like you should try yoga. Well, yoga’s never worked for me, but my very multicoloured blanket kicks ass. ↩
I own a Finnish and a Kölsch edition of Asterix the Legionary because I wanted to see the shape of the words in the balloons. ↩
Part of the room was nodding very intensely, everyone was laughing to tears. ↩