The last three days my partner (Kez) and I have been enjoying the delights that were on offer at Nine Worlds Geekfest. We had a such a good time we’ve already booked our tickets for next year’s event!
We had backed Geekfest when it was just a Kickstarter, having returned from the Sci-Fi Weekender all nerded up and wanting more, happily finding the project with just two hours to go. I was in contact with several of the organisers about being on panels and such but as events transpired I attended in no official capacity, which was great by me as this meant I had no obligations to be anywhere at any particular time (or sober) and could just enjoy the event like all of the other fans.
Geekfest started on Friday afternoon, and unlike a lot of events this was not your normal ‘mixer in the bar’ or ‘meet and greet’ session. Oh no, nearly every stream (a stream being a particular type of geekiness such as SFF and genre books, knitting, Game of Thrones, My Little Pony, etc) was kicking off with panels and workshops.
We had hoped to start things off with a panel discussing the psychology of ghosts and hauntings but had forgotten an old adage. It used to be said that any work will expand to fill the time available. I’d forgotten also that traffic on the M25 motorway will likewise expand to fill the time available, so that no matter how much extra you allow for the journey you’ll always be in a rush by the time you get to your destination.
So as it turned out we missed the ghosts panel, but in a way this at least allowed us to get settled and catch our breath before we got stuck in. I started out with the ‘Cake or Death?’ panel, which was an interesting talk on character suffering and reward in narrative, and there was some interesting points made by the panellists and audience, who included Liz de Jager, Zen Cho (whose insights into Mary Sues and fanfic was enlightening) and Paul Cornell. There was also tea and cake, which is a great way to start any event. While I was doing this Kez was becoming acquainted with the anachronistic time explorers over at the ‘Steampunk 101’ session. As always at these sorts of things the steampunk room had some lively characters, great artefacts and lovingly made costumes on display. It was good to see stalwart Jonathan Green pimping his Pax Britannia wares, a regular fitting for such occasions these days. Apparently the talk was very informative, with a wide variety of opinions on what exactly steampunk consist of, and its appeal, offered to the attendees.
After a crossing of paths in the lobby we continued on our separate ways – I headed to the panel on Writers and Agents while Kez investigated the recent phenomenon that is My Little Pony fandom at the Brony Q&A. I am currently considering my options agent-wise (I don’t have one at the moment but it may be a wise move as I plan more non-Black Library projects) and it was good to get some honest, straightforward advice on the benefits and implications of involving an agent in my established writing/ publishing process. The panel was conducted by Den Patrick (author) and Juliet Mushens (his agent). We chatted to Den after the panel too (and on and off throughout the event), an example of one of those really friendly people you meet at conventions that you look forward to meeting again.
As well as Jonathan, Juliet and Den, there were numerous encounters with faces new and old throughout, including (link frenzy incoming!) Jim Swallow, Amanda Rutter of Angry Robot/ Strange Chemistry, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Danie Ware, Anne Lyle, Jen Williams, Dave Bradley of SFX (well, almost; we never did quite stay in exactly the same space at the same time long enough to get a pint together). One of the great things about conventions – whether Black Library Weekender, Edge.Lit, Geekfest or any other – is chewing the fat with folks that you’ve got to know at previous events, and making new acquaintances and friends too. The panels, workshops, gaming, displays and everything are entertaining, but at their heart conventions are about community and people. Which brings me too…
Kez reported back on the Bronies as we went to get something to eat at the Three Magpies pub down the road (quick review – cheaper food than the hotels, nothing special but nothing awful either, guest beers a bonus). I find the Brony situation interesting not on the level of how a fandom can be born, but as a study of how existing fandoms (and creatives) react to something new. In all honesty the Bronies were treated by quite a few people as a bit of a running joke; comments that they had replaced the Furries at the bottom of the geek hierarchy. It is true that for those of us who do not share their passion for MLP it seems strange, but they are the first to admit that. The disdain some people displayed towards the Bronies was disheartening on occasion, especially at an event that had gone out of its way to be inclusive and balanced, with LGBT and feminism tracks, serious considerations of accessibility and everything else a modern convention should include. That a few folks can, almost in the same breath, cheerlead for modern gender equality issues in geek culture and then sneer at the Bronies is towering hypocrisy.
Kez and I were initially mildly guilty of this before the event too, I have to admit, but she being of a mind to challenge such assumptions she went to the Q&A to fight ignorance with knowledge (one of the reasons I love her…). Having been a fan of the Powerpuff Girls previously, I can understand how a children’s show can be made in such a way that it has adult appeal too, but to see how the fandom genuinely encapsulates the ‘Friendship is Magic’ ideal was eye-opening. Sometimes (too often) a fandom can have moments where it is snide, exclusive, elitist, but there was not a hint of that from the Bronies. It was clear that the community they had created was just as important in bringing them together as the show they love, and that’s an important lesson for us all – there are no normal geeks, that’s the point.
Wear your anorak with pride and never look down on someone else’s anorak – not even the plane spotters who were outside the hotel (right next to Heathrow airport so there was steady supply of them). I wanted to invite them in to join the rest of the geeks, but that might have been taken the wrong way. To subvert a recent marketing effort: be more Brony!
After eating we returned to Helen Keen‘s It is Rocket Science ‘stand-up scientist’ routine, which was both an educational romp through the history of space flight and a jolly good laugh too. It also included one of the worst puns ever, which in my book gives it bonus points.
And after that, despite the lure of disco dancing and people to talk to in the bar, we hade to retire exhausted to our room. As much as we wanted to be the party people we already had our eye on Saturday’s packed schedule, which would start early, and so a full eight hours was required to keep us going.