Nine Worlds; One Valkyries Trip To London’s Inclusive Fan Convention
Conventions appeal to different fans for different reasons, whether it be comic con, a game expo, YouTube/Blogger convention or whatever the medium but one common factor in all of these conventions is the possibility to meet other like-minded fans! As well as hopefully getting the chance to meet your idols!
There is a Con though that really thrives on fans, it is called Nine Worlds (London’s Inclusive Fan Culture Convention). A Con with a difference – the difference being it is made by fans for fans to meet other fans and just enjoy and celebrate their fandom in all it’s crazy geekiness.
It has been going since 2013 when it was first set up but I only heard about it last summer (2017) when I discovered that one talk held there was titled “It’s research! Or Why it is ok to play over 100 hours of Dragon Age when you really should be writing.” This, as a huge Dragon Age fan since discovering Inquisition, spoke to me on a level that none of my immediate friends understood or appreciated. Unfortunately I was unable to attend Nine Worlds in 2017, but the fact that there was a time and place to have such a discussion on such a unique fan-based topic inspired me to endeavor to attend in 2018. So as soon as the Early Bird Tickets became available I put my money where my heart wanted me to and I began to plan and save for a big solo adventure to London for Nine Worlds 2018.
I also made another bold and brave and foolish decision to sign up as a Content Provider for Nine Worlds 2018!
Why? – because why not? I have been a mega reader, hoarder and fan of all fiction featuring, adapting or retelling Norse Mythology for years and Nine Worlds provided me with the ideal and probably only platform where I could take the chance to share my enthusiasm and passion for the genre of Norse Fantasy. The Nine Worlds Team accepted my proposal, so, on top of saving for the hotel room on-site and booking train travel I also had to plan a lecture/talk – I was both really nervous and really excited! The months, weeks and days soon dwindled down to departure day and then I was off down to London for what I hoped would be a fun and busy weekend.
Now on to the fun bit – the various sessions and events and panel discussions! These were the ones I attended but over 50 were held each day of the convention so this is just a small sample of what fandom and genres were covered.
Session One – LARP (Live Action Role Play). Speakers; Penny Jackson, Adam Dinwoodie, Mx RA Madgwick and Haplocke Spence
As I am attending my first ever LARP event, set in the world of Dragon Age in November this was a must for me! The panel was made up of experienced and new-ish LARP players and they gave a great insight into how LARP’ing works, the various types and systems involved, clothing and equipment, rules for both play and player protection and more.
Session Two – The Only Toilet in Thedas. Speakers; Sarah Gordon, Phil Dyson, Angela Cleland
Now who couldn’t resist that title? Especially when you are a Dragon age fan. This panel discussion was the most interesting because it covered not just the world of games but also of books, TV and Film. It made me realize how much in Fantasy the practical matters of hygiene from toilets to sewers to bathing are just not address yet in Sci-Fi it’s more visible. The panel discussed whether it was a taboo or simply a matter of too much detail on a very personal and private matter – for instance do you want to know how long the hero, heroine, villain or indeed any character takes on the toilet? If they wash their hands or not? – but then again social, religious and cultural practices exist even within the bathroom and so perhaps it should be represented more?
Session Three – Know Thy Enemy. Speakers; Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jeanette Ng, Ms Anna Stephens
This was a panel debate all about the nature and representation of Villains. I found it fascinating to discuss Villains and their nature, one panel member made the very good point on how it is wrong to see the Villain as the champion of Chaos and the Hero of Order for it is in fact the other way around. In many scenarios across all mediums it is the Villain that has established some type of order whether through politics, society, culturally or religious or just geographically or financially but it is the Hero who emerges to disrupt that form of order and thus bring about chaos. This made me instantly think of Katniss in the Hunger Games, she is rebelling against the ruling society and its cultural practice of the Games and thus brings war to the capital city and thus chaos. Another issue discussed was whether the viewer/reader must be sympathetic towards Villains. The panel debated hard on this topic and in the end agreed that sympathy isn’t necessary for a Villain to be a true villain or a good villain but what is necessary is that the viewer/reader gets a sense of the Villain’s journey to their villainy – they must see where, how and why the character has become the Villain, whether for good or bad, and so enjoy the Villain’s redemption or come-uppance by the hero.
Session Four – D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) for Young People. Speaker; Elizabeth Prais
In my day job as a college Librarian I had recently learned of a lunch-time Dungeons and Dragons group being set up by a teacher after some students expressed an interest. So, I was eager to learn more tips and tricks to either host such a group in the Library or pass on to my colleague. The lady who hosted this session hailed from America and was very open about how she ran her local residential D&D group for her daughter and some local children. She gave some great recommendations and advice on timing, kit, planning, preparation and how to adjust and adapt the large and complex set of rules for a younger more impatient audience.
Session Five – Philosophy and Mass Effect. Speaker; Michael Duxbury, Emily Marlow
Now this was the first session I wasn’t entirely clued up on as I myself am still stuck half way through playing Mass Effect 2 by Bioware so a lot of the moral/ethical dilemmas they talked about I hadn’t actually experienced yet, or I couldn’t remember what I chose in the ones I was familiar with. Yet it was interesting and food for thought on how the scenarios were portrayed, and the fixed set of options provided resulted in the moral and ethics becoming such a personal dilemma for players. It wasn’t always a case of choosing the lesser of two evils but how the player and indeed the character depending on their Renegade to Hero balance would pick. Some panel members and indeed people in the audience felt that more choices would improve and increase the dilemma levels instead of just A or B. The panel also discussed how often, at least amongst themselves, they would pick based on the benefit or not long term, not the short term and play with a view of working towards achieving success or a goal.
Session Six – Beyond Marvel and DC – What comics you should be reading. Speakers; Angie Wenham, Stephen Lacey, Kate Barton, Ram V
The panel mentioned a great many titles, artists, apps and webcomics that they recommended as alternatives to Marvel/DC and then invited the audience to contribute. I recommended Nimona* by Noelle Stevenson and I Hate Fairy Land by Skottie Young.
* Interested in Nimona? Check out our review!
Session Seven – Disney Sing-A-Long
This was the true highlight for me as an eternal child thanks to the magic of Disney. I wasn’t the only adult in the room, it was a very popular event and there were children of all ages and their parents and even a few Disney cosplayers too. We were all able to sing-a-long via screen projecting the words, or handouts or follow a link online. A whole range of songs was sung and Frozen ‘Let It Go’ proved to be a major popular one with a member of Con Staff leading a friendly stage invasion and then everyone proudly showed off all the right moves to the lyrics. I honestly was in tears with joy as some of the most powerful songs were sung by young and old alike.
The final event I will review was the FABULOUS MMORPG SHOW. Speaker; Misha Anker, Paul Flannery
Which was a blend of audience power and D&D – we basically had the Game Master who set up a story, invited some members of the audience to join him on stage and fill in character sheets but they had to be as unconventional as possible and then he would invite the audience to provide character names, objects, powers etc. to the story narrative and the players would roll a giant D20 (20-sided dice) to determine the outcome. This was a whole lot of fun and silliness and the story involved a Bee with a Human Leg, a Swarm of Wasps and a Wizard whose greatest spell was making Jam, they had to find the Cheese Board for the Duck of Doom! You had to be there to believe the story and it was amazingly resolved within the 1 hour and a half session.
Norse Fantasy, My own presentation!
Was scheduled bright and early on a Saturday morning the night after the first big disco (alas Becky did not go dancing due to a very painful wisdom tooth spoiling things) and yet the room quickly filled up much to my delight. Despite not having the colorful presentation I spent hours on, due to not having my own laptop to plug into the screen, I was still able to explain, explore and introduce so many of my favourite authors and titles to a new audience. Some of the audience also proved to be fellow fans of many of them and a good number took photographs of my favourite title list to go away with to look at later and thanked me for the session, which was an awesome feeling. I was even complimented on my choice of t-shirt for the session – my own Valkyrie t-shirt from Redbubble. It says, “Valkyrie of Odin – Midgard Original – Since 793”. If you are interested in my presentation, I am planning on doing a written version of it for the Valkyries Blog so stay tuned!
Last but not least was the fab mini Geek Market that was on all weekend and as it was also my birthday, I indulged myself in another t-shirt from Genki Gear, some D&D themed tea, tea strainer and mug, two new bookmarks, some funky acrylic necklaces featuring a book and a fox in a bin, some super cute little clay keyrings of Flynn Rider, Thor and Pizza and of course BOOKS! Each attendee got a surprise free book in their bag, but I got two based on libraries and books, The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman and Bookworm by Christopher Nuttall – expect a review on here once I have got around to enjoying them.
Now the managing team have recently stepped down to consult with attendees and invite new members, as they are reviewing their constitution to try and make it more inclusive and representative of those who attend. Although from what I witnessed their inclusive and equality practices were out of this world compared to other cons I’ve been too. I do hope the new organizers can continue what has already been established and continue to make improvements where they feel it is needed. I for one enjoyed it all – despite my wisdom tooth being a very literal pain throughout – for I definitely would attend again.
Did you attend Nine Worlds? What did you think? What was your favourite presentation?