Nine Worlds 2017

I got back from Nine Worlds Geekfest yesterday, and before I get working on my packing for Worldcon – it’s tomorrow! Aah! – I thought I’d get down some brief thoughts about it, particularly given my last post.

This year went better than last year, I’d say. The content was mostly great again, but the main thing is that I managed to not fall down an anxiety rabbit hole again, managing it by just giving myself permission to go off to my room and do something on my own a couple of times. Though I still spent far too much time standing around awkwardly on my own, the folks at Nine Worlds are pretty friendly and welcoming. I got onto quiz teams at the beginning and end of the con, and spent a little more time gaming than I did last year.

I’m still terrible at eating properly and looking after myself while on holiday. I survived on the included breakfast in the morning and a Tesco meal deal in the afternoon, which isn’t exactly a balanced diet. I’m not sure what I’ll do in Helsinki – in Norway last year I managed, but would spend far too much time trying to convince myself to go inside restaurants for each meal. I’ll survive, I guess.

But overall it was pretty good this year. I think if I keep going I’m likely to get gradually more comfortable there – at least in part because I might start to feel like I know people. I’m not quite there yet, since I still managed to feel like an outsider whenever I was around other people. Whether I go again next year might depend a little on my employment situation, though. We’ll see.

Anyway, Worldcon 75 awaits! I’m curious how the culture of the two cons will contrast.

Loncon3 – Sunday

Another day, another Stroll with the Stars; I said hi to a few people but once again didn’t really manage to chat with anyone. On the panels side, I started with The Spies We (Still) Love, all about spies in mostly TV and movies but also a little in literature. This was one that kind of got into just a series of people calling out names of spy shows they like, and it felt like the 1 hour slot didn’t give much room for discussion.

After a lunch break, I ignored some of my instincts and went to Learning the World, a panel about worldbuilding in secondary world fiction. I figured it’d be interesting, and the panelists – mostly experts in one area or another, like medicine or archaeology – did offer some good points on various things, but the panel seemed to spend a bit too much time focusing on small details. There were a couple of pretty bad questions from obvious amateur writers in the audience, and the moderator had a tendency to talk at length about what he was doing in his own work-in-progress (the words “In my fantasy novel…” came up too many times to count).

The Wrong Apocalypse was next, a panel about climate change and the environment, and the ways our media does, does not, and should tackle this serious issue. It was a good, interesting panel, which gave a lot of things to think about. I was planning to hop straight into another panel afterward, but by that point I was sore from sitting so long and very thirsty, so I didn’t go to my next panel. Not sure that was the right decision, because it left me with nothing to do for most of that hour and a half.

When I did get back to programming, it was for the We Have Always Fought panel, which used Kameron Hurley’s essay as a starting off point for a discussion of depictions of women’s roles in fiction, in history, and just in general culture. This was one of the more interesting panels, which touched on a lot of topics: real female figures in combat roles in history, particularly discussing female pilots; how gendered pronouns in language affect perception of characters; the gendered perceptions of genre as pertains to the labels “hard” and “soft” sci fi… There were just a lot of good points here, although the moderator got a little lost in her notes now and then. I was also happy to hear Rupetta by Nike Sulway recommended, because I really loved that book. I still need to get around to James Tiptree, Jr and Joanna Russ, sometime.

The last thing before the big event of the night was a reading by Elizabeth Bear; she read a portion of her short story Shoggoths in Bloom, which has me very tempted to go buy her collection in the dealer’s room tomorrow before I leave…

Finally, I did in fact attend the Hugo Awards ceremony. I’m not sure I gained anything from being there in person, other than tired hands from all the clapping, to be honest. I would’ve tried to chat with people beforehand, but I wound up sat between a group of friends talking in French and another guy who didn’t come across as feeling sociable. As for the results of the awards, I wasn’t very surprised, although I really didn’t expect Charles Stross’ story to win; I’ve come to think of Wakulla Springs as the best thing on that ballot (even though you may recall I actually voted it second place to Cat Valente). I’ll be taking a look at the full results at some point soon, and might decide to write about it a little.

So, that was my Worldcon. I leave tomorrow, and don’t really have time for any programme items at all, so this is the last of Loncon3 I’ll see. I have of course only seen a tiny portion of all that’s on here, and one person’s Worldcon will be very different from the next, there is such a huge variety of things to do. Being as unsocial as I am, my experience is certainly not representative of what the convention is for a lot of other attendees.

I have enjoyed the con a lot, though the question is still unsettled in my mind as to whether cons are my type of thing. It’s supposed to be a very social event, but as expected I myself have gone through it pretty isolated. While I’ve enjoyed the programming, generally, I’ve not so much enjoyed the dead spots in between panels, where I, not knowing people and not being able to go up and talk to people I don’t know, would find myself lapping the fan village, dealer’s room, and exhibition area, or just sitting on a bench checking twitter. If I’d had longer here I might have eventually started to relax about starting conversations, but almost as soon as it’s started this is done, and who knows how long it might be until I come to something like this again. I don’t know if I could manage the same thing while also having to travel into a foreign country for it.

I didn’t talk about it here on the blog, saving it for Twitter, but my anxiety issues hit me pretty bad yesterday, and I don’t know if that was just a single specific incident, or a sign of what I’m likely to go through if I keep putting myself in these situations. Maybe I just can’t cope with it.

As always, I wish I knew more people in real life who shared my interests in science fiction and fantasy. I wish I knew how and where to find those people. It would help me a lot to actually be able to engage with people about the things I love, rather than only the kind of shouting into the void I do here. This trip was supposed to give me a taste of that, and it did, briefly, at Friday’s Welcome Party, but I guess I just can’t get past the way I am.

Anyway, I did not go into this post intending to run off on this particular tangent; I came here to talk about the things I did do at Worldcon, not what I didn’t do. And what I did was hear a lot of interesting, informative, and entertaining discussion of science fiction and fantasy and related issues. I enjoyed that side of it and that’s the memory I want to try to take away with me.

Loncon3 – Saturday

I started today off with the Stroll with the Stars again, where I once again didn’t really talk to anyone. The walk wasn’t so great either, since today’s route was largely along streets and through housing estates. Oh well.

My first stop after the walk was a reading by Aliette de Bodard. She read from a novel about fallen angels and magic which was dark and interesting, and the longest piece I’ve heard at a reading so far. After that was the panel Imaginative Resistance, which was all about the kinds of subject matter that challenge and provoke the reader, and the types of things the panelists were or were not willing to write about. It was a pretty interesting discussion that touched on sex and violence and on just other difficult subjects they had approached.

After grabbing lunch, the second panel was Being a Fan of Problematic Things. I enjoyed this one, it was a very interesting and wide ranging discussion on problematic issues, on responses to problematic elements in various works, and just that whole area. If the panel had one problem it was that for a lot of the first half hour the moderator did most of the talking, and a couple of the panelists barely got to say a word. Later on it opened up, though, and improved a lot. I stayed in my seat after that panel ended for the one immediately after, Feminism and Sexism in Fandom. Another good one, on a similar subject. (I feel a bit awkward toward this subject matter, because I’m very interested in these topics and want to support the issues, but don’t feel as a straight white male that I’m at all qualified to talk about them.)

That panel done, I had a quick snack and then I met up with someone who kindly took me on a whirlwind tour of the fan village introducing me to people; I appreciated the gesture, but me being me I mostly wound up feeling awkward and not knowing what to say to anyone. Ah well.

It was back to panels after that, with the Full Spectrum Fantasy panel. This one was on a pretty similar subject to the rest of the afternoon’s panels, talking about diversity, in this case focusing mostly on disability, class, and race. Once again, interesting things, lots of good points made.

The final panel I sat in on was How Superheroes and Superheroines are Changing in Comics. The title pretty much says everything here: it was about superhero comics and movies, what’s happening in them, the recent moves toward diversity, and good depictions of superheroes in other areas, like prose novels.

And other than dinner, that was pretty much it for my Saturday. There was a little bit more in there but I really don’t want to talk about it in blog form. On to tomorrow; I’ve still not decided if I will attend the Hugo Awards Ceremony.

Loncon3 – Friday

I write this while aching and sore from walking during the day and standing up for the last two hours.

My second day here at Worldcon started (after a disappointing breakfast) with the Stroll with the Stars, a short walk around the area near the convention. I enjoyed the walk, but didn’t speak to a single person there, which is pretty typical of me. The Stroll kind of fell apart near the end when it reached a set of statues dedicated to polo; most of the group stopped to look, some kept going, and then people trickled off a few at a time. I was one of those, as I wanted to get to my first panel.

That panel was Don’t Tell Me What To Think: Ambiguity in SF and Fantasy, which was fairly interesting. I had an early lunch there, then went on to the next panel, A Reader’s Life During Peak Short Fiction. I mentioned that I was going to this in an earlier post, and it was pretty good. The discussion was all about the markets that exist for short fiction in different formats, how that has changed, where it might go; it touched on the difficulty of finding the best stories for awards, anthologies, or best of lists, and how if you get a group of people, even those who read a large amount of short fiction, often you’ll find there’s little overlap in what they’ve read, because of the sheer size of the market right now. All pretty interesting. It also made me think again on that whole subject of supporting free fiction venues – I mentioned in that older post how my reading stories in Pocket is probably bad for the publishers.

Immediately after that, I ran downstairs to try to catch the last 5 minutes of Lauren Beukes’ signing slot, but they were already switching to the next group. So I went back upstairs to the Writing SF/F in Non-Western Modes panel. This was probably my favourite panel of the day, discussing culture, types of story, language, and just all that kind of thing. Entertaining,  enlightening,  all those words you say when you talk about something like this.

For the rest of the afternoon, I was pretty much chasing signatures. I attended Lauren Beukes’ reading, and though I’d read the book it is still interesting to hear the Q&A stuff, and afterwards she kindly signed my books. Then it was time for Elizabeth Bear in the official signing slots, so I got the full Eternal Sky trilogy signed (having picked up Steles of the Sky in the dealer’s room earlier, along with a bunch of new releases). Queuing for that meant I missed the next round of panels, so I didn’t do much for a while. I dropped most of my very heavy bag of books back at my hotel, then had a bite to eat – and for once not just a sandwich.

Jeff VanderMeer’s reading was next. He read some excerpts from Authority, and told a bunch of funny anecdotes about the absurd stuff from his past workplaces that have informed his fiction. After that he did a quick signing in the hall outside – I felt a bit awkward having a pile of 4 books when most of the other half-dozen or so people had only one or two. (I had brought 3 with me, but then Acceptance, which isn’t out officially until September, was on sale in the dealer’s room.)

My final Friday panel was on the 2014 Hugos Short Fiction ballot. This was a fairly interesting panel, talking about all of the Novella, Novelette, and Short Story nominees. Of course it touched on the Correia/Day thing, but mostly the panelists talked about what did and didn’t work in the stories themselves. For the most part what the panelists had to say agreed generally with my own feelings on the ballot (everyone seems very enthusiastic about John Chu’s The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere), so maybe some of my enjoyment of the panel came because it was confirming my own biases.

Finally, there was the Welcome Party. This consisted of a very crowded, very loud tent full of people chatting about stuff. I spent about an hour and a half talking to several other fans about all kinds of things, ranging from the Hugo Awards, to Night Vale, to Doctor Who, to Scottish independence. It was a fun end to the night; I enjoyed myself (despite my mouth being perpetually dry from having to talk so loudly over the crowd the whole time).

So, all in all not a bad day. Now that all my books are signed I’ll be spending more time in panels, and I’ll be posting all about that tomorrow.

Loncon3 – Thursday

Hello! I am now in London, for my second trip of the week. This time I’m attending Loncon3, the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention.

Today was a pretty light day for activity, because it takes 4 hours to get to London by train. I took that as an opportunity to read half of Elizabeth Bear’s Shattered Pillars, because after finishing Range of Ghosts on Tuesday I just couldn’t resist moving straight on to the next one.

I got to my hotel by the convention centre at 2pm, which didn’t leave me all that much time to see things. After getting my badge from registration I did some wandering around the halls, and didn’t keep track of time enough to hit a 3pm panel. I wound up in the games tent for a quick game of Pandemic instead (we lost). What I did then have time for, by sacrificing the chance to have a full sit-down meal, was a 4.30 panel, Ideology vs Politics in Science Fiction, which was pretty interesting.

That’s all I managed at the con today, though. After the panel I grabbed a quick sandwich and headed off on the tube to Leicester Square, because I had a ticket to see Book of Mormon. I’m still not convinced I should have spent so much on a single show, particularly coming back from the much cheaper Edinburgh Fringe, but the show was good and I enjoyed it a lot.

Tomorrow, my con starts for real. I’m still trying to talk myself into the Stroll with the Stars first thing, but I’m not sure I can get over my fear of talking to people I don’t know. (I have similar thoughts regarding the Welcome Party on Friday night, but that’s farther away and I’m able to not think about it much.) I will be attending a lot more other stuff, though, and will post another update.