My first panel was at 10 am on the second day of Nine Worlds, and the noble Katy said she would attend, so a whole group of us ended up peeling ourselves off our beds (our lovely, lovely beds) at a disgusting hour of the morning to set off for the con. But because there were so many of us we took a cab, which was great! Since I/my friends have now used it multiple times I can recommend Airport Fare with reasonable confidence: I came across them when they put a card through my door; I passed the details cheerfully on to colorblue when she asked about airport transfers, and then freaked out when her parents booked them. Because what if they sucked???
But they did not suck, and £35 is very reasonable for a four-seater cab from Heathrow to North London, if you are looking for airport transfers. The online form is not super flexible, but they were perfectly happy to pick us up at the Renaissance and do two drop-offs for the price when we called.
Anyway, con report: The Two Towers! I dunno if it will stretch to a trilogy. Let’s write this and see!
My first panel was Heroes and Villains: The Debate, with Anne Perry moderating Stan Nicholls and Kate Griffin for the baddies and Adrian Tchaikovsky and me for the good guys. I actually came late to the email thread where people were taking sides, and found that a very British thing had happened where everybody secretly liked villains best but to be polite, had plumped for defending the good guys. I responded in a very Asian manner by taking the last piece of cake that everyone had left on the plate … when I didn’t actually want it myself.
But after a bit of striving with my inner Balrog of paisehness I realised that while I will sink to some pretty murky depths, defending villains vs. heroes is a thing I cannot do. So I swapped my villains for Kate’s heroes. Woohoo!
It was a very fun and giggly debate, and to my astonishment heroes won (we got a book each as a prize!). Absurdly I was left with the vague feeling that I could have defended heroes better, but I also felt rude for disagreeing vehemently with the villain-supporters. /o\ Why can’t we all just hold hands and get along???
Katy also pointed out that the panel didn’t mention an awful lot of female heroes and villains, which annoys me in retrospect — as in, I am annoyed with myself for not making more of an effort to remember some! I did mention Sun Wukong, by way of bringing up non-Western characters, but there weren’t a whole lot of those being mentioned either.
After Heroes vs Villains we went and #lobbyconned until, while LOLing away, I looked down at my hand … and realised I was missing a diamond from my engagement ring.
Me: “Wah, good thing Cephas is Catholic and isn’t allowed to divorce.”
Katy, more practically: “Let’s search this place where we have been sitting!” (We fail to find it.)
Me: “I can just buy a new diamond and put it in the ring and never tell Cephas, right? That’s a good way of doing marriage, right?”
Katy: (Still super together and goal-oriented and awesome) “Let us go to the room where you just had a panel and look around there!”
I trotted along more to show willing than because I thought there was any hope. But when we rushed into the room Marcus Gipps who had moderated my deathly cake panel the day before was there, and he sort of surveyed the floor with a Legolas-level laser-like eye and found the thing. He found the actualfax diamond on the floor! I mean, this is a <0.25 carat diamond that’s sort of grey on the underside; it was not by any means easy to find. I am still astounded that that happened. :O :O :O
So that was kind of amazing! Katy stuck around in the room of Books panels because she was being supportive of her friend’s kid sister (this was one of the funnier subplots of my con experience — Katy had just discovered that said friend’s kid sister is one of the hottest-shot young literary agents in the UK, and wandered around going, “But hasn’t she just finished her GCSEs … ?”). I pootled off to Why Is The Future So Binary, featuring Alex, Tori, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Jude Roberts and Cel West.
The discussion point that I found most interesting was the question of — Alex was talking about a story she is writing where there are three genders, and you may use whichever one of them you desire, and there is no societal baggage around that choice, and there is technology to change your body if you prefer the physical features commonly associated with other genders/sexes, and again everybody is fine with your doing that … but what weight does gender have in that sort of world? What does gender mean in that world?
There wasn’t an awful lot of discussion around these questions on the panel itself, if only because there wasn’t enough time to cover everything. I definitely came away feeling that there is still a lot to talk about and learn in this area, but it was a good panel, and I’m glad I went.
After binary futures was the New Goggles: Diversity in Steampunk panel, again featuring Alex, but also Sam Kelly, Maki Yamazaki and me. Er, this is the one where we made someone storm out of the panel! That minor drama aside, I thought it was a fun panel, and particularly enjoyed hearing from Sam and Maki about their sides of fandom — dieselpunk, atompunk, music, crafting and art, etc.
From 2.45 pm to 6.45 pm I had a glorious NOTHING IN MY SCHEDULE — I did consider going to Alex’s Feminist Utopias panel, and am sorry I missed it, but I really wanted a nap. So I had a nap and an instant coffee in raven‘s hotel room, and felt enormously better for it.
Post-nap, we went looking for dinner. This was a very sad time. If you want to know how sad it was — some of us ended up getting our dinners at the tiny Co-op attached to the petrol station, and some of us got our dinners at McDonald’s. Yeah.
This was my main complaint with the con — it’s meant to be a residential con, so the long commute to Heathrow was my own fault for not planning in advance to stay nearby. But the fact that there is no food that came from a living plant or animal without having stopped by an industrial freezer on the way anywhere near the hotels is kind of dreadful! I mean, there is hotel food, of course, but you don’t want to be paying £12.50 for a tuna melt at every meal you have over the weekend. Next time I must do some advance food research and come up with an action plan. >:| <– grim face of determination!
After our “things from the Co-op masquerading as dinner” non-dinner we went for nanila‘s Could Saturn’s moons support life? talk, which was super cool! Subsurface seas! I have decided that the subsurface seas of the moons of Saturn are inhabited by glowy sea angels like in The Abyss. <– lives in a world of science FANTASY (well more like pure fantasy really)
After the talk we went to the pub, where we met someone I recognised from my Dreamwidth network! So funny! We headed back to the hotel in time to catch a couple of songs from Maki, who was performing at the Bifrost Queer Cabaret and was great, and I stayed just long enough to see a bit of Lashings of Ginger Beer before I had to depart for my reading.
I was reading at the Saturday edition of the New Voices Slam Session, and had been mildly disappointed to discover at the Friday edition that despite being called a Slam Session, it was not taking place in a dark smoke-filled bar, with a super chilled out, mildly sozzled audience snapping their fingers like in West Side Story. In fact it took place in a ferociously lit conference room, with everyone looking very awake and sober, even the ones toting full pint glasses.
Readings are terrible! To make it easy for myself I did my Monkey story, because oyceter put in a vote for it and I am in a very Monkey mood anyway, as I am working through the Jenner translation of Journey to the West.
Everybody else was very good, but the two I remember most were Snorri Kristjansson, who does an awesome drunken Viking bellow and must be very good at telling bedtime stories, and Tom Pollock, who read the thrillingly action-packed first chapter of his novel while looking all the while like he might jump over the table at the slightest provocation and go rampaging off after a train demon.
Rochita made the interesting point after the session that all the readings were of male POV characters. I hadn’t noticed this, but it is interesting if it is right — I recall there being decent gender parity among the authors themselves, but it is peculiar that the stories being read should have ended up being so dudely. (Monkey King, Faerie Queen is in fact the only one of my short stories with a male protagonist; he and the protag of my novel are the only two main male characters I have written since I started writing original fiction regularly in 2010. How weird is that?)
After readings we went home. This is already a very long blog post, but rather than going all the way to The Return of the King I think I shall do Sunday briefly, and wind up my con report.
My only panel on Sunday was Racefail 101, with Anne Perry, Stephanie Saulter, Tade Thompson, lovely Rochita, and me. Anne put up a post with the recommendations we made during the panel.
This was an interesting panel to do, because I think we were all coming from different places (figuratively as well as literally), and perhaps had quite different ideas about what we wanted from the SFF genre in terms of racial representation and equality. One audience member raised the risk of, er, balkanization may be the word, of the genre — this idea that, you know, the dreadful consequence of multiculturalism or whatever is that everybody will split off into their different groups and end up just reading things that cater to their own tastes and worldviews. I found this quite funny in a way because I don’t really see what is scary about this.
Because isn’t that kind of just how life works? It is already happening and has been happening for ages, only a small number of dominant groups think their own little bubble is the only bubble that exists and has value, which wouldn’t really matter except that their bubble is sucking all the money and power and respect and validation away from other people’s equally valuable and awesome bubbles. So you know, I don’t think the solution is to destroy all the bubbles. I think it is to build effective channels of communication and transport between the bubbles, and make sure all the bubbles have equal access to resources and respect.
I would really like to live in a world with lots of bubbles. That’s what I liked about Nine Worlds. That’s why I’m going to go again. (And next year, let’s hope there’ll be an Anime/Manga track! That would be awesome. *_*)