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Nine Worlds 2014

This weekend (8th-10th August) I was at Nine Worlds Geekfest, a British convention very much in the mould of CONvergence. 2014 is only Nine Worlds’ second year, so it’s something of a work in progress, but it still manages to be one of the best of the UK circuit.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the convention is the programming. In addition to a strong books track, there were tracks on comics, games and various other fandoms (including steampunk, cosplay, Doctor Who and Joss Whedon), and even one for knitting – a welcome surprise, given my recent (re)take-up of the hobby. Some of the tracks were inevitably a little sparse, but with so much variety there was always plenty going on to choose from.

This year I didn’t have any professional duties; I was invited onto a panel but it was scheduled for Friday lunchtime and I had too many day-job commitments that week to take a day off. However it was nice to be just another fan for a change, instead of having to plan my weekend around a bunch of promotional activities. Hence I indulged in a little low-key cosplay, adding a leather jerkin, over-the-knee boots and one of my CONvergence vambraces to my usual con uniform of black trousers and baggy white shirt, as the junior version of my favourite videogame character, Ezio Auditore.

Sharknado!
Sharknado!

Of course many attendees put in a lot more effort and imagination than I did, and everyone was given five tokens to hand out to cosplayers whose costumes they liked best. Among those I gave mine to was a lady in a Wonder Woman costume that was entirely knitted from head to toe (even her boots!), but for sheer crazed inventiveness it was hard to beat my friend Max Edwards as Sharknado!

Another highlight for me was the Whedon singalong, this year not only with a piano player but with some of the participants up on stage. The programme was also extended; as well as Once More With Feeling, there was – appropriately enough – a Doctor Horrible sing-along complete with cosplayers as Captain Hammer and a gender-flipped Doctor Horrible. This year I made sure to take along a bottle of water so that I didn’t sing myself hoarse; next year I might even remember to learn all the lyrics beforehand!

If I have one criticism of Nine Worlds 2014, it’s that the atmosphere wasn’t quite up to last year’s standards. I don’t know if it was the layout of the Radisson Edwardian, which lacks the huge open-plan lobby of the Renaissance, or maybe it was the cleverly staggered schedule that kept traffic jams down to a minimum in the often narrow corridors and stairways, but there seemed to be a lot fewer people around even though attendance was higher. Usually at a convention I manage to bump into everyone I know, but I definitely missed several people at Nine Worlds.

I also have to say that the Bijou is probably the worst hotel bar I’ve ever been to, in terms of both prices and selection: nothing on tap, just a handful of bottled beers and one cider (Magners – ugh!), and on Friday night I was charged £4.50 for a small glass of sparkling water! (On Saturday night I paid only a few pence more for a large glass of red wine. Go figure!)

Despite these minor quibbles, Nine Worlds remains one of my favourite conventions, for its inclusivity and the thought that seems to go into all aspects of organisation. If this is the future of fandom, count me in!