Nine Worlds and Loncon3

Ugh. Next time there are two conventions within a week of each other I think I might just go to one of them. But Nine Worlds and Loncon3 were both amazing.

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Nine Worlds was held at the Radisson Edwardian at Heathrow, an opulent, labyrinthine conference hotel that I knew from the 2010 and 2012 Eastercons. Nine Worlds describes itself as a ‘Geekfest’, and gives equal weight to a broad range of geeky subjects, rather than prioritizing sf/fantasy literature like a traditional con. It went out of its way to be inclusive, and that led to an extremely friendly atmosphere. Even though I was on my own most of the time (I had a few friends coming but they were only there for part of the con), I felt more welcome than I had at any previous con. It was also very smoothly run. Half-hour gaps between programme items meant that no one seemed to be hurried and I never had to miss a programme item in order to get something to eat; and there were big tables with free drinking water in the common areas. Small touches like that make a lot of difference.

The Nine Worlds programme items were good. Highlights for me included a discussion on self-promotion for writers with Tom Hunter of the Clarke Award (take-away message: it’s all about Twitter), a panel on privilege and Doctor Who, and a panel on cyborgs and gender which gave me a couple of story ideas.

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Loncon3 was the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, and was exhaustingly large. It was my second Worldcon, after Interaction in Glasgow in 2005. In the few ‘traditional’ cons I’ve been to (two Worldcons and three Eastercons), there has been a certain atmosphere of cliqueishness, with a pre-existing fan community of which a newcomer is not automatically a member celebrating its own history and giving itself awards. That was a very small element of this con, though, and didn’t make me feel excluded.

Loncon3 had an amazing variety of panels, of varying quality, but the best of them made me feel like the trip had been worthwhile. (Highlights: a panel on climate change narratives and science fiction; a series of items on interstellar travel; and a panel busting publishing industry myths with some hard numbers.) Most panels were packed, there were often several things I wanted to go to at once, and there were only short breaks between panels, which made it a little overwhelming. The Worldcon also had a number of big events, including a concert by the Worldcon Philharmonic Orchestra formed out of members of several London orchestras (amazing, especially the ‘Song to the Moon’ from Dvořák’s Rusalka, beautifully accompanied by moon landing footage), a stage adaptation of Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates (fun but confusing, as I couldn’t always hear what the actors were saying), and of course the Hugo Awards. I don’t want to write a lot about the awards, but I am utterly delighted that Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice has now picked up every major sf award.

And now I’m home, and I think I need to spend a day unpacking my brain of all the things I saw and heard and learned at the cons – and thinking about what con I will go to next!

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6 Responses to Nine Worlds and Loncon3

  1. Felix Pearce says:

    I look forward to seeing the results of your gender and cyborgs story ideas 🙂

    • John Ayliff says:

      My main idea (which looks a bit less interesting in the cold post-con light, so I don’t know if I’ll ever use it) was to use cyborg-ness as a metaphor for non-binary gender. In the future, robots are legally recognised as people, but the cultural and legal assumption is that every individual is either a human or a robot, there’s no middle ground. Cyborgs replace their organic parts with cybernetics or vice versa, even to the extent of having a part-organic, part-robotic brain – you can see where that’s going. Not sure how I’d make it into a story, though.

      • Felix Pearce says:

        If you want to kick that idea around I’d be delighted, I think it’s got mileage. It sounds to me like you might need a plot that’s largely separate from it apart from a thematic relation, such that the protagonist’s cyborg status sheds a different light on things. You’ve got all sorts of interesting things to play with like the idea of a “stealth cyborg” who has no visible modifications, as a metaphor for the way people react to trans people who pass well, and so on. I’d really like to see this happen.

      • John Ayliff says:

        I don’t know when or if I’ll use this idea. You’re welcome to use it yourself if you want the story written!

        You might also want to look at the Isaac Asimov stories ‘Segregationist’ (full text here) and ‘The Bicentennial Man’, which explored the same theme.

      • Felix Pearce says:

        Hurf, I’m writing about like I knit at the moment, I wouldn’t hold your breath for it. Also I really don’t have your depth of hard(ish) sci-fi skills. I do think it has potential though, don’t throw it out completely!

  2. Pingback: Looking back at Nine Worlds

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