Nine Takeaways from Nine Worlds 2014

Nine WorldsI’m a little late to the party with this, but the month since the Nine Worlds convention has been very busy for me (the Science Fiction Criticism Masterclass in Greenwich, the 2014 WorldCon – that being LonCon3 – as well as Shamrockon – this year’s European Science Fiction Convention – in Dublin… and that’s all before the start of the new term here at university).

That being said, the month has allowed me the time to digest the incredibly fun and inclusive Nine Worlds experience, and here are the things which I have found myself returning to again and again:

1.) If you ever get the chance to attend a talk by Nick Harkaway (The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World) then do! “The side-lining of science fiction in literary fields is the cultural establishment trying to make a claim about what is meaningful. It is collapsing now. Our world is waterfalling into theirs.” Later he added: “‘It sounds like science fiction but…’ is media code for ‘This is actually happening but you can ignore it’.”

2.) The area around Heathrow is like something out of a JG Ballard novel. A seemingly endless wasteland of concrete and tarmacadam filled with hotels and car parks. The distant, eerie pillar of light from the Spectra World War One memorial in the centre of London only added to this sense of unreality. On the other hand, regular busses within the Heathrow zone are free. So seek them out and don’t fall into the trap of the ridiculously expensive Hotel Hoppa service #ProTip.

3.) Non-hierarchical competition is fun for everyone! The Awesome Cosplay tokens were a delight. They promoted interaction, they rewarded effort, and they were sorely missed the next weekend at LonCon3.

4.) Lauren Beukes (Zoo City, The Shining Girl) has some things to say about the here and now: “There is a class divide over who is allowed to have privacy. Transparency is only for the masses.” We should all listen to her.

5.) A Deadpool cosplayer asking questions about torture and murder during the Likable Bad Guys panel. This is all.

6.) The integration of “academic” material into Nine Worlds was accomplished in a very satisfying manner. Not via traditional conference panels (though this worked very well at Loncon3) but through lectures, many of them as part of the Scepticism track. The one which stands out to me the most was the talk on the Psychology of Alien Contact (as in the psychology of those claiming such experiences) by Prof. Chris French. Informative, entertaining, and attended by one of the best Xenomorph cosplayers I’ve ever seen.

7.) You know you’ve come to the right place when you see a sign in a hallway pointing one way and saying “This way to All of the Books” and, pointing the other way, “This way to Creative Writing”.

8.) There were some minor venue issues (ranging from the con hotel clearly not having enough staff on to moments of “Here I am, happily walking down a ramp WHERETHEHELLDIDTHATSTEPCOMEFROM?!”) but, of course, none of these were a reflection on the con organizers or the spirit of Nine Worlds. In fact, complaining about the occasional issues with the hotel really brought us all closer together.

9.) Passes for next year’s Nine Worlds (August 2015) are available now. I recommend you investigate.

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