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.

Nine Worlds Schedule: Now with Extra Me!

Nine Worlds 2015 logoThe Nine Worlds Schedule is now up! And it’s freakin’ amazing! So freakin’ amazing that I can’t remotely take it all in!

But what I can now tell you is that it now contains TWICE as much me as anticipated! Yes!

NOT ONLY, can you attend my paper – which is the third of three papers included in ‘Rebellion, Outsiders and Group Dynamics’, 3:15pm-4:30pm Friday – but you can also catch me on Saturday, 10am-11:15am, where I will be on the ‘Being a Geek in Academia’ panel – OMG!

OK, on the (very considerable) off-chance that my sheer presence is not enough to tempt you, here are some exciting details:

‘Rebellion, Outsiders and Group Dynamics’, 3:15pm-4:30pm, Friday

Across these three talks, the speakers explore various ideas of difference and how those differences colour of perceptions of groups outside our own. The first will look at representations of physical and mental disability in the Vorkosigan series and how the series’ protagonist defies the standard template of science-fiction heroes. The second talk will focus on the seminal Judge Dredd story America, and look at gendered attitudes towards and forms of rebellion and interaction with the overwhelmingly white and male authorities of 2000AD. Finally, the series will conclude with a discussion of relationship between “self” and “other” in Battlestar Galactica.

‘Being a Geek in Academia’, 10am-11:15am, Saturday

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a geek in the world of academia? Considering how to apply your skills to your passions and use them to build a reputation and standing? This panel will explore various ideas of how one becomes a geek in academia, combining your skills and your passions, and what makes all the stress and struggle worthwhile.


Nine Worlds and Me!


I may or may not have green hair again for August. We shall see!

So, I have been accepted to give a paper for Nine World’s Academic track – I’m so excited! I’ll be giving a paper on ‘Battlestar Galactica and the Master/Slave Dialectic: Relating Selves to Others’, which is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.

It’s all a bit intimidating now that it’s real, but I’ll try to do a good job!

For those not in the know, Nine Worlds Geekfest is the best, most inclusive convention I’ve ever been to.

As a geek, it’s great, because it has umpteen million tracks, covering specific fandoms like Doctor Who and A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as Podcasting, Academia, LARP, Social Gaming, Fanfic, Creative Writing, Race and Culture, LGBTQAI + Fandom, Geek Feminism, Young Adult, All the Books, and SO MUCH MORE. Along with kickass evening entertainment, like FRIGGIN’ KNIGHTMARE LIVE and the now traditional Whedon Sing-A-Long, which I have been to every year (see the video of the first impromptu Doctor Horrible act-out here).

As someone who has been marginalised, it’s great, because everyone who is there is there because they want to enjoy a safe environment where no one feels marginalised. As well as having specific tracks to discuss issues faced (by, e.g., women, LGBTQAI people, and people of colour) they also have highly diverse panels for their other tracks. They have an excellent and well-publicised anti-harassment policy (which I have seen in action, being handled with great sensitivity). They also have clear accessibility information and have made an evident effort to ensure that all events are as accessible as possible. I’ve never seen so many disabled people at a con before, looking relaxed and like they’re having fun. Same for LGBTAI folks and women. More present. More relaxed. More fun.

I also appreciate how trans/gender-queer/agender/non-binary friendly they are. Last year all loo signs in the con area were changed to ‘with urinal’ and ‘without urinal’ rather than ‘men’ and ‘women’. Along with tags you could pick up at registration to indicate your prefered pronouns.

It’s also family friendly, and I enjoyed seeing a great many young geeks and their parents being able to enjoy the con.

It’s still a problem going to general SF&F/fandom events that you will have to deal with bigoted/sexist/racist/transphobic people. I experienced this at a local meet-up I attended. Most people were lovely, but I still ended up being shouted at by an older white man aggressively defending his sexist views. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the energy to endure that shit when I want to be geeking out anymore. At Nine Worlds? I simply haven’t had that problem. I once had a heated debate with another feminist, but that’s as confrontational as it’s gotten for me. And I never met anyone who wouldn’t let you drop out of the conversation or change topic if it was stressing you out.

I can’t recommend Nine Worlds enough, and I’m thrilled to be a part of the academic track. My profile is not up on the Guests pageit’s almost like I’m a real person.



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.

Nine Worlds: A Thank You

This has been a con not quite like any other, and it is deserving of a post-con post not quite like any other. I don’t just want to give a shout out to the people I met whose names I can remember and say that I had a good time (although that will come), I want to thank people. An awful lot of people.

I want to thank the organisers for their vision. For wanting to do an event as open in its geekery as the big US cons at which British geeks on a tight budget have only been able to look on with envy. But not only that, I want to thank you for the vision to go further, to make inclusivity front and central. The name, Nine Worlds, frames the space in terms of multiplicity from the outset. It is in stark contrast to the most famous con, Sandiago Comic-Con, which still sounds, whether that is the intention or not,  as though the Real Geeks, the ones for whom the convention is Really For, are the comic fans – implicitly the same (straight, white, male, cisgendered, ablebodied) geeks who form some kind of nebulous Old Guard, who claim to have read the entirety of the DC and Marvell back catalogue and are ready and able to school you on it. I don’t blame Comic-Con for its name – it grew out of comics into something much broader, and that’s fine – but that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate Nine Worlds for using their fresh start to do something different and better.

And it’s not only surface deep. The inclusivity and multiplicity goes all the way down.

It’s here in the accessibility of the con. Accessibility information is front and centre on the web and in the programme. And it makes a difference. I’ve never seen so many people with (visible) disabilities at a con, and I can only suppose that that is a consequence of them feeling confident that they could go to the con and get about and fully enjoy it, the same as everyone else.

I’ve also never seen so many women. Granted, the presence of women in cons has been more than the zeitgeist would have you believe for years, but with the exception of ‘Just a Minute’, which I went to on the first day (which was led by a man and at first seemed like it would go on without a single woman on the panel, and which did single out the woman on the panel and a gay guy for mockery (however mild) on the basis of their deviation from the (assumed male, straight) norm) you could really feel the difference in attitude in the equal presence and treatment of women, both on the panels and in the audience. I think that’s a consequence of two things: the well-publicised and explained policy on harassment, and having a whole track for events on Geek Feminism across the weekend. That says that the organisers want to make women feel comfortable and safe, but also that they regard the issues women face in Geek Culture not just as valid in themselves, but worthy of devoting time, space, and serious consideration to as an interest of geeks.

And with that in mind we reach the next person I want to thank: Siân Fever, who organised and ran the Geek Feminism track. Due to a Cow-on-the-Line delay, I missed the first Geek Feminist session I was supposed to be helping out with, but she was very understanding and when I attended her ‘What the FRAK is Geek Feminism’ 101 on Saturday morning I was beyond impressed by her understanding of the myriad of issues that face modern feminism in general, and geek feminism in particular; by her clarity in explaining these complex and fraught issues; and by her openness and ability to engage her audience. Honestly, it’s a talk that should be online for everyone to sample. But beyond her talk itself, her willingness to enter into discussion helped set a tone for the weekend and let me know, as a woman, as a feminist, as a geek, that this was a convention that was going to do things right in a way I hadn’t encountered anywhere else.

Whilst we’re on the topic of geek feminism, I want to thank Laurie Penny, whose talk on Cybersexism surprised me by bringing me to tears more than once. It surprised me because in many ways she didn’t say anything I didn’t know already or hadn’t said myself on multiple occasions, but there was an unexpected power to the sense of recognition hearing her say those things gave, and in the fact that she had been given the platform to say those things, which showed that the organisers respected her and recognised the validity of her opinions also. Here were the things that cut so very close to the bone, and that one has said so often one feels mentally hoarse (and suspects, or has even been told, that one is exaggerating and should just shut up about), and they were laid bare in a scenario that said they were worthy of attention, being expressed by an articulate and confident woman. A woman younger than me who has gained national and international recognition for speaking out on these issues and received a backlash beyond the sort of things I have experienced which have led me to have a hair-trigger blocking policy on Twitter and to close my Ask box on Tumblr. A woman who earlier this week received a bomb threat. And for what? For saying things like this:

That male geeks, geeks who were persecuted, isolated, picked on and marginalised at school, still don’t understand – still will not accept – that female geeks were right there with them, being just as geeky, and further marginalised still. Because we were the ones that even the male geeks disdained and persecuted – who are still being disdained and persecuted now. Apparently there were Dungeons and Dragons groups at my school, but I would never have known about it, because the male geeks at my school would not have been seen dead with me. Because it would have ruined their street cred – their geek cred – to give credence of the lowest of the low: a geek who is also a girl.

And she addressed the narrative of my generation where the changes that have been positive for male geeks have had negative effects for female geeks. Where the ‘geeks are cool now’ story has been expressed as a male story of male success in making money and showing the bullies they grew up with by getting the symbols of power and wealth – including getting ‘the girl’. This misogynistic tale most tellingly expressed in The Social Network, that successful tale of a man getting ahead by shaming women in the grossest fashion, and who somehow is presented as winning the sexy lawyer lady at the end of the movie, too, despite his despicable character and misogyny. I couldn’t believe the success and critical acclaim of that movie, and it meant a lot to hear Laurie Penny take it down for the exact reasons I found disgusting and appalling.

I don’t even know how to put into words how much this talk meant to me, and how much that, in itself, surprised me. So I just want to say thank you: thank you Laurie Penny, for saying these things; thank you, Siân Fever, for organising the track that put her there; thank you, Nine Worlds, for giving Siân the power to do that.

And at the same time as the Geek Feminism track was doing all this for me, there were also tracks that addressed LGBT issues, along with fun stuff aimed at queer geeks, too – discos and high tea and poetry. Whilst I don’t know what it’s like to be a queer person being given that validation and celebration and consideration, I can relate to it by considering what the feminism track did to me. And I can see the results – again, there have always been LGBT people at cons and in fandoms and involved in geekery, but there did seem to be a more visible and (this is important) relaxed quotient of LGBT attendees. And that’s fantastic.

There have also been events addressing race issues, and, again, a greater diversity of race, both in attendees and panellists. I’ve seen very few all white panels, and both the New Voices events I attended for debut authors contained a diversity of race and gender and cultural background that I, as both reader and writer, was grateful for. Some of the most interesting readings were from people of colour coming at genre fiction from different angles than mainstream white Anglo-American specfic.

These things might seem poe-faced matters to those who are privileged to enjoy cons without facing the issues some of the rest of us geeks face, but it’s not just about addressing and airing serious issues. Because by addressing and airing the serious issues it’s made the whole of the rest of the con that much more open, relaxed, and enjoyable. I thought I’ve felt geek circles to be welcoming and progressive in the past, but in the context of the experience I’ve had here, those experiences seem pale and fraught and tense. This is how you use geekery to set enthusiasm free. This is how you get all manner of geeks to feel comfortable getting to know strange people and having fun.

And coming from that I have to thank the people who have made the experience better for me on a personal level. My internet friends, Amanda Rutter, Anne Lyle, Jennifer Williams, Doug Strider, Chris Brosnahan, and Liz de Jager, who welcomed me into their midst on Friday evening when I was feeling left out and lonely because I’d come to the con by myself. My old friend, Jo Oldham, who I hadn’t seen in years and who introduced me to her new friends late on Saturday night; and Dave Tallerman, who I caught up with on Sunday. New friends I’ve made this weekend (most of whose names I am ashamed to say I have forgotten in con-overload) like Becky Austin, the best Buffy cosplayer I have ever seen, and her friends who I joined in the ‘Once More with Feeling’ sing-along, and who welcomed me without hesitation when I asked if I could be Tara in their planned live action ‘Once More, with Feeling’ at next year’s con.

And whilst I’m here, I want to thank everyone involved in the Buffy and Doctor Horrible Sing-Alongs on Saturday and Sunday night, especially our fantastic pianist, David Merriman. Someone did get a complete video of the Doctor Horrible one (complete with spontaneous re-enactment of the Town Hall scene, including two excellent Doctor Horrible cosplays), and if she gets permission from everyone involved to share it on YouTube, I’ll share that with you guys, too, because, damn, that was a very special experience.

Overall, there was just such an incredible atmosphere of inclusivity at Nine Worlds. So that, yeah, I want to tell you that I cosplayed Daenerys and people liked my wig, and the programme was full of more varied and wonderful things than I could actually go to, and I got a signed photo of Miltos and he was lovely and he kissed my hand. And I want to tell you the minor gripes: that the dealers room wasn’t that impressive and that lack of free wifi in the main hotel was a definite bummer. But mostly I just want to say: go to Nine Worlds next year. You haven’t been to a con like it and you’ll be missing out if you don’t.