Cultured Vultures @ Nine Worlds Geekfest 2015

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Thanks to the wonderful team at Nine Worlds, I was lucky enough to enjoy a Sunday full of all things geekery. Nine Worlds, if you don’t know, is a convention for geeks. Now, you may be thinking of places like MCM and asking yourself what the difference is? Well, there are quite a few but if I had to summarise, I would say that Geekfest is the thinking geek’s convention.

Although there are opportunities to meet some people you may have read or seen on TV, Nine Worlds has a definite focus in the thinking about what geek is and asking the questions we’ve probably all wondered and in some cases probably should if we haven’t. At Nine Worlds, you can prioritise your time using tracks. Tracks are like the series of events for each topic or genre, for example; ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Fanfic’, ‘All of the books’.  I could list them all but you’d probably get bored so for a complete list please check out their website here.

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Making my way to Heathrow, frightfully early for a Sunday afternoon, I was steeling myself for a day of geekery and down right dirty nerding out. I got that and more. At their registration desk I picked up my very heavy goodie bag. The bag had free books (which made me very happy, reading is good kids), the lanyard for my badge – which I got to write my own name on and the usual sort of flyers and promotional material you might expect to find. There were also tokens which confused me greatly until a cosplaying friend of mine explained that if you liked someone’s cosplay you could give them a token and cosplayers would aim to collect 15 tokens to win a prize.

I kicked off my day with Dystopian London in fiction – The unreal city at bright and early 9 am. The talk was hosted by Vanessa Thompsett and in the interest of transparency I have to admit that she is a personal friend of mine who I could rave about for hundreds of words and none of it be a true credit to amateur journalism. Instead, I will surmise by saying that hers was the only session I attended where people were turned away because the room was full.This was despite the fact that most sane people would have only just got out of bed. Her talk traversed the many images of London that media has presented us with through the ages and she wove this into her discussions of Brave New World, 1984 and V for Vendetta with a mixture of ease, cunning and wit. The session finished with questions and answers which showed the depth of passion in the audience but also just how engaged with the topic they had been throughout.

My next session of the day was Story Translation and Archaeological Museums – Changing Environments and Changing Audiences. This was two talks in one. The first discussed the journey of Big Hero 6 from its developments in comic times through to the recent film and the second on how stories with a historical setting/reference point affect audiences in different settings. I would love to give you the names but unfortunately I relied on my programme from which the names are absent. I found the first talk interesting, particularly with a view to Honey Lemon’s character development from the hyper sexualised world of comics to the film where she’s kind of making science pretty cool. The second half I found a little less interesting. This was possibly due to technical difficulties ensuing from having a speaker on skype. However, if you’ve ever wanted to watch cult tv or film in a museum surrounded by crazy cool objects in the name of science, then do keep an eye out at the Petrie museum of Egyptian Archaeology for the next opportunity.

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I followed this session on by attending Of Power and Porn – Have Mortals Corrupted the Faerie Dance? I have slightly mixed feelings about this experience, if only because in the timetable in the programme (rather than the full listing) this was simply listed as “Of power and porn. [adult content] Geek feminism.”  Which sounded like something very different from what it was. Nonetheless, a quick read of the full programme told me it would be about the use of faeries in modern culture and whether or not it was an empowering statement for women. Attending the talk by Jane Fae, we spent a lot of time learning about faerie folklore and it’s interpretations. This was definitely quite fascinating if a little further out of the realm of my comfort zone. However, I found the discussions about it being empowering or not to be very gripping and interesting. I really enjoyed hearing peoples views and definitely had me reflecting on women – particularly in a fantasy context- and whether sexuality and empowerment can ever truly sit in harmony.

Social Science as Geek Play was my next session of the day lead by Alex Lamb, author of new novel Roboteer. As a former drama student, nothing we did in that session was particularly new to me however it was definitely a breath of fresh air in the day which had otherwise been spent sat down. The session involved drama class style games which explored human interaction. It was a pretty interesting experience considering I was in a room with 30-40 strangers. If there is one thing I love about geekdom it is that generally we’re all pretty happy to get on with each other and social awkwardness is an occasion easily pardoned. My favourite moment was a game based on the game theory prisoner’s dilemma which allowed us to either help each other out or be self serving. Exploring the human psyche through games and competition is really fantastic fun and discussing the intellectual edge to it even more so.

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Bridging the Abyss was the last full session I attended. Delivered by Lucy Wills, this session was part of the religion track. It explored the spiritual questions we can ask ourselves that derive from stimulus in cult tv and film. We did an exercise in deconstruction where we had a list of tv shows, a list of occult themes and a list of psyche themes and based on the roll of three ten sided dice we had to discuss how they are connected. So for example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Resurrection and Hope. This was a very intense session and I’m very glad I attended as it came with a perspective I would have otherwise never had.

The next session I had intended on visiting involved cocktails and the history of lead by Ruth Ball, but with it being popular (free cocktails? Never…) and being rather tired at this point, I opted out. I have had it on very good authority that they were very tasty though!

The one thing that really struck me, and continues to strike me, is how fantastically community lead this event is. I was shocked by the amount of people I ran into who I knew from various Geek communities and even more so to see them delivering talks and programmes. I also couldn’t not mention that Nine Worlds has one of the most LGBTQA+ friendly atmospheres I have ever experienced. Even in the little details such as badges with preferred pronouns on them.

All in all, I had a fantastic time at Nine Worlds and I feel like I’ve attained an IQ point or 3 just by being there. I will definitely be back.

Check out their website at: nineworlds.co.uk

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