Nine Worlds! Nine Worlds! It was better than ever!

Jonathan Green, and the cast of Knightmare Live!

Me, Tom Scott, Jonathan Green, and the cast of Knightmare Live!

So, I had a very good time at Nine Worlds, the best convention in the world, which seems to get better every year.

For those not in the know Nine Worlds Geekfest is a London convention that set out from the beginning to be an actively inclusive environment for women, people of colour, QUILTBAG people, disabled people, neurodivergent people, and, well, everyone who isn’t trying to exclude people from geekdom, basically. Their anti-harassment policy is clear and well-publicised. You can indicate whether you’re comfortable being photographed by the colour of your lanyard.  There’s an array of preferred pronoun badges you can pick up at registration. Access was provided for disabled people. The hotel loos on the main convention floor were relabelled in gender-neutral terms (Toilet with Sanitary Bins/Toilet with Urinals). Family friendly facilities were provided, including a creche and warnings for panels with adult content. All of this in addition to an incredibly broad spectrum of panels including an academic track, a race and culture track, a LGBTQAI+ track, a geek feminism track, and both a Religion and a Skepticism track, in addition to the more general (but just as plentiful and exciting), Entertainment, All the Books, Fanfiction, Worlds of Whedon, Tolkein, ASoIaF, Star Trek, Video Games, Young Adult, Yarn Craft, Supernatural, Podcasting, LARP, Future Tech, Creative Writing, Apocalypse and… AND SO MUCH MORE.

This post will touch on just some of the amazing experiences I came away with.

Knightmare Live

Another child dies in the Corridor of Blades

Another child dies in the Corridor of Blades

As pictured above, one of the highlights for me was being asked to take part in Knightmare Live, the stage production of the 80s TV show in which children were ‘sent to their doom’ by Treguard (the central figure above).

In an early effort at Virtual Reality TV, one child would be sent into a dungeon on a quest wearing the ‘Helmet of Justice’ – which had no eye holes, because justice is blind. His or her companions would remain behind, watching their progress on a screen, where the blind hero would appear to be in various places. The team would describe those places to the hero and guide them as to what to do whilst they solved puzzles and were pursued by the minions of Lord Fear. Very few contestants made it to the end, often falling to the fearsome Corridor of Blades.

The series was a critically acclaimed imaginative success. Knightmare Live is a theatre production in which adults get to take part in a version of the show that closely mirrors the original, although with much loving humour for its tropes. It’s hilarious to watch, and even more fun to be in. Having jokingly asked on Twitter if we could take part (and been told we could not), I was thrilled to be ambushed as I went into my paper and asked if I still wanted to.

I also very much enjoyed unexpectedly being teamed up with Tom Scott, whom I had known at university and who is now a successful YouTuber. I also had the great pleasure of meeting Jonathan Green (the fighting fantasy author) who was my companion in helping Tom (mostly) avoid death.

My Paper!

I was super thrilled to have my paper, ‘Battlestar Galactica and the Master Slave Dialectic: Relating Selves to Others’, accepted to the academic track. I was also super nervous, but I needn’t have been. People seemed to enjoy it and had loads of questions and some people even found me later in the convention to talk about it with me some more, which is just the best compliment. It was also lovely that lots of my friends turned up in support – thanks in particular to Adrienne Odasso, Lee Harris, Dave Moore, and Michele (AKA Neverwhere).

I also really enjoyed listening to the other papers given earlier in that slot by Ria Cheyne and Kelly Kanayama. Ria spoke thoughtfully and with scholarly rigour on extraordinary bodies and disability in SF, and Kelly was immensely charismatic and captivating in her talk on Judge Dredd (apologies that I can’t recall the titles of your papers!).

I plan to upload a video of the paper along with a written version sometime soon, but in the meantime, you can view my PowerPoint here.

My Panel!

I was also on a panel about being a geek in academia. Several panel members were added in addition to those originally scheduled, so I can’t give everyone’s names here, but everyone had had such fascinating and interesting paths through academia – covering comics and video games and fandom and archeology and more! It was encouraging to see how many had been welcomed to study their geeky topics more than has been my experience in academia, although I couldn’t help but feel somewhat sad to not have had the same experiences.

My Cosplay!

I cosplayed as Daenerys – again! But this time with a dress I had made myself (with a little help from Ultharkitty) using this really simple design. It wasn’t the highest quality attempt, and mistakes were made, but I was pleased to have made a passable garment. People told me they liked it, so it can’t have been that bad!

I also wore two different wigs, one closer to the style Daenerys wears in Qarth with this dress in Game of Thrones, and one done in the complex braids she has when stomping about the desert. I forgot my ‘stomping about the desert’ clothes, so wore the braided wig with the Qarth dress as well. The Qarth wig… didn’t look that great in photos, so you’re not seeing it – ha! Also, I got a lot of compliments on the braided wig – which took me HOURS, and some people actually asked if it was my own hair? (no one has real hair like that, but it’s kind of cool people thought I did) so here below is a picspam of that ensemble:

Sexy hotel room photo

Sexy hotel room photo

Me as Daenerys, in a garden in Qarth (or a carpark outside the hotel - WHATEVER)

Me as Daenerys, in a garden in Qarth.

And then there are the pictures of me with other cosplayers!

Me and another Daenerys cosplayer!

Me and another Daenerys cosplayer!

This other Daenerys let me share her dragons!

Myself and another Daenerys with dragons on our arms.

Daeneryses helping other Daeneryses.

Me and the Bowl of Petunias.

Me and the Bowl of Petunias

Me and the Bowl of Petunias

Other People’s Cosplays!

There were also a great may other awesome cosplays, only a few of which I managed to capture. Like this fantastic Mad Max themed trio:

Capable, Furiosa, and Mad Max.

Capable, Furiosa, and Mad Max.

Jenna Stannis from Blake’s Seven:

Jenna Stannis

Jenna Stannis

And there were those who consented to pose with the wooden spoon my workmates asked me to take with me…

Cosplayers and the Wooden Spoon

A Ghostbuster and the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man pose with the Spoon

A Ghostbuster and the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man pose with the Spoon

The Bowl of Petunias with the Spoon.

The Bowl of Petunias with the Spoon.

This incredibly photogenic pair:

Gamora and ???

Gamora and ???

A closer-up view of Gamora and ???

Furiosa and me!

Me as Daenerys and Furiosa with the spoon

Me as Daenerys and Furiosa with the Spoon

And this is just a small sample of the amazing cosplays on display. If my phone hadn’t run out of battery and if I had been braver about asking people there would have been many more!

The Whedon Crew

Unlike both previous years, I was unable to make the Whedon Sing-a-Long, but I did bump into the Whedon Track organisers, who took me along in their wake to the Whedon Quiz, and from thence back to a room party, with intermitent singing along the way. They remain simply lovely people full of passion and joy – a delight to hang out with!

General Chilling in the Bar

In addition to the many amazing events, I also just enjoyed chilling in the bar with many and varied people I would otherwise rarely or never see. This includes fellow Yorkites, Internet friends, old university friends, former workmates, and more. So many, many people that if I began to list you by name I know I would leave someone out and then feel bad about it. As it was, there were still many people I could wave at only in passing! But it was wonderful to sit and chat and catch up in such an open, relaxed and friendly atmosphere.


I had a wonderful time, the best yet, but not everything was perfect. A member of security worried several of my friends unnecessarily by telling them I was a missing person when I was confused about the time I was to be at Knightmare Live (I thought it was quarter to, apparently it was half and hour beforehand). In as much as I could have been said to be missing, I was missing for 15mins. I was completely unaware that I was considered missing and my friends spent a panicky evening not knowing where I was and unable to reach me because I had turned my phone off – as I was about to be in a stage production!

I understand the need to take these things seriously, but telling people someone is a missing person after only 15mins is rather extreme.

Many people have complained about the service in the bar. It was pretty slow, and most of the bar staff seemed pretty clueless, but for me it was a minor point. Possibly more major for people who are used to going to cons purely to socialise and not to attend the organised events. As Nine Worlds’ panels and events are actually worth attending this wasn’t a big deal for me, but I do wish they had been better at putting on water. The first year, at the Renaissance hotel, acres of pint glasses full of water were laid out. At the Radisson it felt a bit as though they were limiting our water so we would buy from the bar… which then proved difficult to do!

Lastly, although both the panel I was on and the papers session I was in were racially diverse, I did hear account of other tracks being less so – the Race and Culture one in particular. As I didn’t experience it myself I can only say so much, but this was also a problem with the Race and Culture track last year. Whilst every track organiser I spoke to talked about the efforts they made to maintain diverse panels, if people are feeling the lack its worth considering.*

That said, this was still by far the most relaxed and inclusive con I have ever been to. As evinced by the more diverse nature of the attendees. Everyone commented about how great the atmosphere was and the difference that the active efforts of inclusivity made.

Thanks again, Nine Worlds staff! This is still the best con in the world.

*A couple of people have been in touch to say they are shocked by these comments and this definitely wasn’t the case; or that maybe it was for other tracks, but not the Race and Culture Track**. I don’t know how much clearer I could have been that it wasn’t my experience or what I felt from talking to track organisers. I strive for balance here, and if I’m singing the praises of something and it wasn’t the experience of someone with less privilege than me, I listen. That’s all. And if I want to say how diverse it seemed to me and someone else had a different impression, then I feel duty bound to mention it. That’s it. If it wasn’t your experience, cool, it wasn’t mine either. Please don’t come at me about how I shouldn’t have mentioned that dissenting opinion, though. It makes me feel really anxious about commenting on Nine Worlds at all, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the ethos of the event was supposed to be. I felt pressured into making an extra comment and I both feel rotten about that and awful about how imperfect this comment is.

**If I’ve misinterpreted what someone else has said, I’m sorry. This isn’t a perfect post and wasn’t intended to be perfect. It took me hours and I’m tired and I should have been preparing for my viva but I couldn’t print my thesis and I’m very, very stressed. This post was what I could do in a short amount of time.

Cosplay pics by the official Nine Worlds dude:

Daenerys Outfit 1

Daenerys Outfit #1

Guy was super against doing anything but a head and shoulders, for some reason, which is a bit weird for a cosplay photographer. Like, it’s nice that you can see the work I did on the top, but you don’t see the Stompy!Daenerys skirt I spent hours on at all.

Daenerys Outfit #2

Daenerys Outfit #2

Having been aware from the first shoot that he was resistant to full-length pictures, I specifically asked him to make sure he got in the belt, and it’s still kinda cut off? Like, I know I’m fat, and therefore less attractive under the boobs, but I dressed for the whole effect, and the belt was kind of a big deal, for me.

Don’t get me wrong, these are nice pictures – certainly a lot better than the one from the cosplay contest last year, which was small and blurry and never actually got sent to me as promised (I had to get it from the website) – and for £3, I can’t complain too much, but they’re just not quite what I was expecting of cosplay photography.

(Click to see bigger).

Nine Worlds Mark 2: Awesome McAwesomesauce

Me as Daenerys, plus some effects. Because.Somehow, Nine Worlds managed to be even more awesome than last year.  It was just so relaxed. It’s difficult to put one’s finger on any single thing that made it so, but what was clear was that the Nine Worlds crew had worked really hard to not only deliver a con as welcoming and inclusive as last year, but to improve on any imperfections.

For those unfamiliar, Nine Worlds is a general fannish convention with an explicit focus on inclusivity and diversity. They aim to provide a safe and welcoming environment for women, for disabled people, for people of all races, all sexualities (and none!), all genders (and none!), neuro-divergent people, and more.

Last year I was impressed by how many more visibly disabled people I had seen than at any other convention in the past. Why? Because everything was accessible. I was also impressed by how just the inclusion of a Geek Feminist track had made me feel safer and more included, and I assume others felt similarly for LGBQT and Race and Culture tracks. But I also felt that this year they had made a real effort to go beyond that.

At the reception desk there were communication tags so that people could signal their availability to chat: blue for  willing to chat to anyone, yellow for only wanting to talk to people you know, red for not wanting to talk to anyone. Really useful signals, both for people who have trouble judging other people’s openness, and for people who are easily overwhelmed by people and are uncomfortable talking to strangers. They also had pronoun badges so that people could indicate whether they wanted to be referred to as ‘he/him/his’, ‘she/her/hers’, ‘they/them/theirs’ and so forth – a really useful tool for helping trans and non-binary people indicate how they wish to be referred to.

If I had one criticism of this, it would be that the note accompanying the tags and badges said to only take if you really needed it, because numbers were limited. As a socially anxious, non-binary woman, I would have loved to have taken all three colours of tags for use when appropriate, and I would have liked to take a ‘she/her/hers’ badge. But I didn’t want to take them if there then weren’t enough for neuro-divergent people or trans people who really needed them more. In general, I think there’s something flawed in telling people who struggle with communication to consider whether they are worthy of aid – I know it wasn’t intended that way, but I hope that, for the future, Nine Worlds will obtain more such tags and badges so that people don’t have to hold back in that way.

Nevertheless, I think the ‘default blue/approachable’ assumption did have a positive effect. And I think I, personally, benefitted from going down on the Thursday and engaging in the smaller, sociable events held then. I felt so much more at ease getting to know people, and I have never met so many awesome people at one time. I even felt easier about approaching people I thought I might know from the Internet. Maybe some of that’s me, but I think the general atmosphere helped.

As with last year, the sheer range of activities was also a bonus. Nine Worlds has a plethora of different tracks, ranging from Academia to Social Gaming, Cosplay to Comics, Geek Feminism to Podcasting, and more. Last year I went to a lot of the Geek Feminist events, but this year… I don’t know. I guess I had more fun. I think last year I needed the Geek Feminism to feel included; this year I could be more relaxed, and I also just needed a break from the seriousness of my Real Life. I attended a session on finding your voice as a podcaster, one of fight choreography for writers, a Live Action Role Play, A Song of Ice and Fire Sewing, the Whedon Track’s Sing-Along, Reading SF While Brown, African Speculative Fiction, and more.

My experiences were almost universally good. I confess, I deliberately avoided issues that looked fraught – the sessions on Mental Health in SF, and Sexual Assault – but reports from others told me they were handled very sensitively. The only session I found a bit strange was the one on African Speculative Fiction, where the panel was entirely white. This was partly due to one of the panelists being in a traffic accident and thus unable to attend. I was pleased that his (white) replacement noted the uncomfortableness of this, but I did rather feel that when hosting a panel like that the organisers should have ensured that one person being unable to attend (for whatever reason) would not end up with an entirely white panel. The panelists were knowledgeable and did cover a number of perspectives of which I was not aware, including how the expensiveness of books has led to a vibrant fiction culture accessed via mobile networks. Nevertheless, I found myself wondering whether the perspectives offered were not, of necessity, limited.

In contrast, the Reading SF While Brown panel was entirely people of colour, and it was very interesting to hear their different perspectives. Both for myself, as a writer, and as a part of a community where it is easy to be unaware of casual slights and prejudices.

I also enjoyed the cosplay, both my own and others. There was a system of handing people tokens if you thought they had a good cosplay. If you got 15 tokens you won a prize. I’ll admit, I was somewhat sad to only recieve four, especially when there were people walking around with over 50, and I had heard that over 100 people had claimed a prize. It does make one feel a little sadder than if there had just been a few prizes and I was just one of many who had lost out. On the other hand, it was nice to give and receive tokens and did make a way of getting talking with people.

Overall, I feel just so refreshed by the whole experience. My geekery has been recharged. I can’t recommend Nine Worlds enough. Come hell or high water, I will find a way to be there next year, and I recommend that you do the same.

Daenerys – Qarth Dress Cosplay

Me in my more upmarket Daenerys cosplay:

Me in my Qarth Daenerys CosplayI also got proper photos done by the official Nine Worlds photographer (only £3!!!).

Big thanks to my mate, Steve, who bought me the belt/metal corset/thing for my birthday – it looks AWESOME.

This is the dress I am approximating, for comparison:

qarthdanyObviously there are differences, and I know I have the wrong hair (I tried restyling this morning, and that was a disaster, so I have returned to the same style as yesterday). But I think it worked out OK 😀

Cosplay in action

I’m at NineWorlds now (yay!) and am taking a time out because ILL, but using this moment to show you my cosplay in action 🙂

(Apologies for the lighting conditions in all of these.)

me as DaenerysDSCF5293DSCF5295A number of people have complemented me on the wig (:D), but I also got a ‘cool cosplay’ chip for the detailing on the top. Which I’m well pleased about, because I put a fair bit of effort into it, and it doesn’t show up well on film.


Daenerys Targaryen on a Budget

So, this time last year I was preparing to go to Nine Worlds and cosplaying Daenerys in her Qarth Dress. I bought a wig, a blue dress, a bronzy horn necklace I got from New Look in the sale, and painted a belt gold. The result was this:

Me being a sunburnt Daenerys, shortly after reaching Qarth.

Me being a sunburnt Daenerys, shortly after reaching Qarth.

Which was OK, but not awesome. Besides which, the belt I got from eBay was cheapass plastic and is basically stretched out around the buckle and unwearable now. Not to mention that I also wore the wig for Halloween and got caught in a rainstorm, which kind of tangled it up.

Now, a mate of mine actually bought me a proper kickass Daenerys-filigree-gold-belt from Etsy for my birthday, so that is going together with a new dress in the same style as this, but closer to the right colour, and (if it arrives on time) a better wig (bought with birthday money). But before I knew that was going to happen, I had started on my new costume, based on some of Daenerys’s more practical garb.

What I’m aiming for, this time, is Daenerys’s Stomping Around in the Desert  over-trousers crossover dress.

Daenerys Targaryen, stomping down her lines of men.The kind of dress you take a city in, basically.

There are actually a number of different versions of this dress. Those that are this dress, but with increasingly more embroidery suggestive of dragonscales. A posher, paler version that she wears with the white pleated skirt, and the one she wears when she’s crowdsurfing brown people with the leather crossover bit (which I definitely did not want). I was going for the one pictured right.

You can actually buy really plain versions of this dress for upwards of £70 on eBay, but a) I don’t have that kind of money; b) they don’t look that great, or that accurate for the money; and c) it’s kind of more fun to make/put to gether your own, rather than just buy the whole thing. So, I wanted to give it a go.

And, let me tell you, I scowered eBay for a dress either a bit like this, or that I could make look like this. No luck. None at all. In the end, in the very last charity shop a friend and I visited costume hunting, I found an A-line white linnen skirt and a white stretch cotton v-neck top that I felt I could work with (about £7 for both).

My new Daenerys costume

Sorry for the cruddy quality of the photos. Most of the light in my house comes from above, making good photos super hard.

I dyed them blue (£5 Dylon Ocean Blue from Amazon). Colour worked out more sky blue than ‘ocean blue’, but it was remarkably consistent. I took the skirt and cut one side to match Daenerys’s skirt-chap thing, flipped the cut cloth, trimmed it to shape, and sewed it back on, with what had been the bottom at the top. I also used remaining fabric to cover up the white thread that hadn’t dyed properly.

I then cut the sleeves off the v-neck top and sewed in shoulder pads  (mine came from another top I had that didn’t really need them, but you can get them cheap from most sewing/haberdashery stores/eBay). With the left over fabric from the sleeves, I used the same American arrow smocking used on Daenery’s dress to add scale-like texture. With more time and better materials (say, a non-stretch fabric) I could have done a lot more, and with a better finish, but it could be worse.

A close-up on the shoulder beading.I then added some beading to mirror the beading on Daenerys’s dress. The beads and sequins were left-over from a Christmas card-making kit I got from PoundLand.

Had I but world enough and time I would have done loads more beading and embroidery (I bought some gold-coloured thread for about £2), but I really don’t. So I used gold glitter fabric paint I got from Hobby Craft for £3.50 to echo some of the gold embroidery in Daenerys’s dress. I know, gold glitter isn’t really as subtle as her embroidery, but pfft!

a close-up shot of Danerys's hair when she's feeding her dragons in QarthThen, of course, there’s the wig. Now, I’m using the same wig as last year, which cost about £17.50 (I wish I could remember the brand!) but I wasn’t going to be able to do any of half-ponytail braiding Daenerys usually favours as the really long synthetic hair had become hopelessly tangled and lost its crisp curls in brushing. So, instead, I went for one of the few styles she uses where her whole head of hair gets braided back. This also had the advantage of making the bulkiness of the wig look more natural. She wears this in Qarth, but only when she’s ‘dressed down’. This is clearly a practical do for her. So I think it goes with the Stompy Dress.

Left side Daenerys wig.There are five intrgrated brais, here. Two simple braids drawn back from the top of the head and then woven together at the back. Then two chunkier French braids taking up the rest of her hair at the side of her head, and then woven together to become one big braid at the back.

Now, you’ll note that I went for French braiding rather than the reverse French braiding the original style uses. This is simply because of how tough the hair was to work with. I spent hours brushing this thing, even adding leave-in conditioner to loosen up the synthetic fibers, it was just very difficult to work with, and I think this looks good enough.

Daenerys wig right side.There are also a few other changes.

Firstly, the top braids are much higher up. Again, this is because of the limitations of the wig, which has a kind of layered thing going on. Basically, the hair at the top is just too short to be brought any lower and still be integrated at the back.

Secondly, I had to let a few strands hang down the side of the face to disguide the edge of the wig. Similarly, the wig came with a fringe (it hadn’t looked like it did in the picture, but that’s what happens when you buy online).

I also managed to recurl those strands by putting them in rollers, dipping them in hot water, and leaving them overnight to dry – quite impressed with the result!

Daenerys wig from the back.Oh yeah, and grey leggings, which I already had. Basically any plain/dust-coloured trousers would do. It’s not the best Daenerys costume ever, but (including the wig, which I spent b’day money on), it cost me about £35; £37 if you include the necklace I had from last year. Which is half the price of those boring-ass ones you can buy on eBay, and the ‘dress’ part only cost me £17 itself 🙂

Come to Nine Worlds!

You may recall that last year I went to Nine Worlds and it was kind of the Best Thing Ever.

Well, it’s happening again this year and I booked my ticket before I quit my job so I will be there! And you should come, too! See this nifty video from last year that shows all the fun we had! (And spot the brief glimpse of Rhube in her (slightly battered by that point in the convention) Daenerys costume.)

I don’t know if the plans to have a live action Once More with Feeling are still on, but if they are, I’ll be playing Tara. Frankly, that should be all the incentive you need.

(No, really, come! We can hang and stuff in a cool environment where everyone is super cool and no one is creepy.)

[Edit:] Oh, hey! They finally put my cosplay photo up 😀

Me being a sunburnt Daenerys, shortly after reaching Qarth.

Me being a sunburnt Daenerys, shortly after reaching Qarth.

You can’t see my painstakingly woven plaits, but you get the general idea. I plan to do better this year. (Photo credit to Cosplayuk)

[Edit 2:] Oh! Hey! You can see my plaits on the back of my head behind someone getting interviewed in the video:

The back of my hair.[Edit 3:] It’s been pointed out to me that I really should say where and when it is. London, 8-10th August, the Radisson hotel.