Nine Worlds: Queertastic
My blogging about Nine Worlds is, I think, going to be in two parts. The other part will focus on "What I did on my holidays", but this will focus on something I'm struggling to give name to.
Briefly, Nine Worlds is a new convention (con) trying to bring together a lot of different geeky strands in one huge weekend of fun and giggles. It's like EasterCon but where the focus there is on SFF (particularly the book side), NineWorlds was trying to be bigger and wider. My normal Con experience (I've only been to EasterCon so it's going to be pulled out a lot) organises its programme centrally - one person, one programme (maybe there will be a delegated "Film" track or "Media" track). NineWorlds, by contrast, put together a load of strands, or tracks, and had someone specific programming each track.
I liked it. A lot.
Some of the Tracks were specific fandoms (Game of Thrones, Vampires, My Little Pony, Tolkein). Some were specific activities (Knitting, Science, Skepticism, Costuming). Some were a bit wider (Academia, All the Books, Gaming, Fanfic). Some were "Metaculture" (Geek Feminism, Queer Fandom).
It was the Queer Fandom track that I made my home.
I was able to go along at the start for "Queer High Tea" to decorate cakes and provide thigh-slapping percussion to a sing-a-long (no, I wasn't expecting an acapella version of "I am the man who arranges the blocks" to become my earworm for the con (or the Brony version)) and meet people and then form a band of roving Alexs for most the rest of the day.
I was able to go before or stay after an interesting panel and chat with people without feeling overwhelmed. That actually was very important to me. I'm not good at talking to new people. Throw me in a room with a loads of people chatting and the best I can do is pretend they don't exist and stick my head in a book, Twitter or the nearest corner (or dance like there's no-one watching). Put me in a small group in a safe space and I am so much more comfortable.
That's what the Queer HQ provided me: an opportunity to interact with other queer people. Living in Warrington, halfway between Manchester and Liverpool actually finding a queer scene is remarkably hard. That's part of my problems with Pride - a gay scene is just not my thing. I would probably enjoy some club nights but, as above, I'd end up spending the night alone and wouldn't make friends there. A smaller room, with people who must share some of my interests with conversations I can follow... This was a place where I could actually socialise with queer people.
That was massively important for me.
As was taking part in the conversations and panels generally. It's one thing reading blog posts and connecting online, but actually having the discussions taking place in front of you brings new vibrancy and new understanding. Hearing THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!'s angry Scottish tones voicing his views on The New Sodom was inspiring. Hearing discussions on, for example, how we're represented in the media by panellists who have had an opportunity to think about the subject and care about the subject and are invested in some way in the subject reminds me that the issue is more important than it feels when trying to explain it suddenly and off the cuff to non-queer people.
This is important too.
We need a Queers In The Pub! Or something...
So, I like the model of this Con. Are there lessons to learn and improvements to make? almost certainly. Are there things that this Con can teach others... maybe. I'm not sure that EasterCon could work with Tracks/Streams like this, the narrower focus would cause problems. It also already does include programming for diversity even if it is not an identifiable track. Different Cons will always work differently. I like EasterCon, I like NineWorlds. Having said that, doubt I'll go to either in 2014 - NineWorlds is just too damn close to LonCon3 (a WorldCon) and EasterCon has John Meaney as a Guest of Honour