Wednesday 13 August 2014

Nine Worlds Geek Fest 2014 - a review

I'm abandoning linear. My brain doesn't work like that. I experience the world through sensory 'anchors' and so these are some of mine. Intensity of something means it's included here, be it a thought provoked, or a connection made. The realisation that this is a beautiful thing and not a useless thing is thanks to someone awesome. We'll get there.

Whose fandom is this anyway?

6:45pm Saturday - Received fan wisdom is wrong

We walked in late (the venue was so awesome we managed to walk in late a couple of times and it wasn't an issue). Almost the first comment I heard was someone trotting out the 'all the girls chatting around the watercooler pretending they knew who the old doctors actually were, trying to bluff it out' trope and I nearly walked back out. I didn't because there were three women and Paul Cornell on the panel and I actually wanted to hear what they had to say, being as how they appeared to know what they were talking about. There was still a sense of 'you think that's love, you don't know what love is' aimed at new Who fans but I stayed because I wanted to know how bad it would be. It was bad.

2 days later I was trying to pick the music I would walk down the aisle to with my bridesmaid at my wedding. This is Gallifrey is one of the contenders. In the process of finding it I listened to almost all the new Who soundtracks. Every song jolted me back to the episode, every song made me feel how I felt when I watched the screenplay it accompanied. You can tell me I'm not a fan. You can tell me I don't love this show like you do. You can tell me so until you're blue in the face. But you don't know how beautiful The Girl in the Fireplace was. You don't know who Amy Pond was to me. You don't know how River Song makes me feel, what the scale, the sheer jaw dropping scale of the library did to my brain, how scared Blink made me feel. 

The panel missed one. Perceived fan wisdom on new vs old Who is wrong. Especially but not limited to when it comes to the fans thereof. I just didn't feel brave enough to tell you so.

We're using knitting needles and crochet hooks to quietly weave thoughts into peoples heads

3:15pm Saturday - Political Needlepoints: how the craft resurgence has influenced social politics

Knitting looks innocuous. It can be. It's okay for it to be. But you can choose to make it something else. The simple act of knitting in public is an expression of something - we take it outside the home and suddenly, is it in a space where it shouldn't be? What does that mean? The entire sessions was accompanied by the gentle dinging of someones bell stitch markers. 10 minutes in the most beautiful...creature walked in and nearly stopped the panel so beautiful was her cosplay. I asked a question badly about the invisibility of women and their craft in the general social media space and discussion. We are invisible because we do it in the home and then sell/publicise/speak about our work on the internet. 

That makes us invisible. That also makes us stealthy. With stealth comes freedom. Discussed in the panel was this (click the link):
Which I only found because the lady who made it followed me on Twitter after the panel. Twitter. It's easy to focus on the negative in this space. But it still brings amazing feminist rawwrrr women to my yard. I'm still grateful for that.

Community is only as good as those within it

Nine Worlds is the most inclusive space I've ever been in. I am not surprised there was a marriage proposal at the Bifrost evening entertainment from a girl to her girlfriend. If anything I'm surprised there weren't more. I keep trying to work out how you bring so many kind, gentle, patient, fun loving people into one space and so few problems happen. No raised voices. Lots of noise, oh my gosh lots of noise, squeals and sometimes shrieks so high pitched I became convinced I was a cat, unpredictable ways through spaces meaning trying to wind through those people is tricky, so many amazing costumes, so much hard work. Knitted Wonder Woman whom it took 45 minutes to get from one side of the con to the other but who didn't mind in the slightest. More than a few authors bouncing around talking to everybody and anybody, posing with said cosplayers and posting them proudly on Twitter.

I stood before the film quiz a few floors up from the Atrium looking through the glass so I couldn't hear any sound. I watched as people glided through the space, bounded through it, hesitantly entered it, carefully stuck to the edges of it. Aren't spaces amazing for that? Our community is just like that. No one is ever pulled into it unless they want to be. No one is forced to participate. But when it becomes obvious that someone in a wheelchair is struggling with something, the mountain moves. And it's for love, a shared love, and being unashamed and open about that love. The things that bring us together, that entwine us, and weave is together is such a firework explosion of fantastic diversity and colour is love. A show. Words. A book. Music. Thinking. Doing right. Doing wrong. Aiming to misbehave. Believing in something, someone, anything.

We are free because we love and everyone is welcome.

The town I walk through is very different to the town my partner walks through

I had tea with Emma Newman. The tea wasn't as good as their coffee in the Bijou Bar. The Columbian Andino was a happy dance of bitter sweet gorgeous. The tea was thick. So confusing. I could write up the hour she spent and gave freely, I could tell you the doors she opened so I could walk through them. I could tell you about the slightly bizarre sensation of someone talking to you and you being able to hear them so clearly with a world of background noise when you usually struggle so bad with that. I could tell you about being aware my face was possibly being too expressive but also knowing it would be okay and I didn't have spare processing to sort that out. I could tell you that enthusiasm is beautiful reflected. Or that wisdom given is the wisdom given equally by a beautifully dressed well spoken regency lady and a farmer in pedal pushers and t-shirt and running shoes bouncing up and down her track with her Jack Russell nipping at her heels. I could tell you that I am so scared of words sometimes but that I think that's okay, about never self editing and people not having faces.

But really, actually, truly? The town I walk through is very different to the town my partner experiences. That's magical. Not fearful or weird or random or odd or negative or anything. If I can help people to walk beside me as I walk through a space, as I recall with perfect clarity the sensory experience of walking through that space, then that's magic. So Emma Newman is a magician. Which feels right. 

Then Emma turned to me as a ball of energy and nuclear frisson bounced over to us and said 'Louise, meet Tom Pollock' and I lost every word. All my words just abandoned, a tornado of a name jumbling everything, and I ran away. He was epic sweet about the entire thing and I need to write a post about Pen who taught me I am only beautiful when I am entirely myself but that's other.

Free is a lie

Yes it is. But Aral Balkan stopped in the wrong place. His presentation is fantastic. It joins the dots and spots the patterns and the way he delivers it is a joy. But he stopped.

It is wrong that only prisoners in this country (and possibly serving forces) must submit to knowingly having their mail opened and yet email, something equally as private on occasion is not treated with the same reverence nor accord.

However. Ingress, a game which is owned by Google is data gathering and yes it's spyware. The geeks playing it, in the majority understand this. But they understand this and they're making the trade because the trade is this. Ingress tracks your pedestrian movements. When I ask Google Maps to tell me how far it will take me to talk from a to b within London, this is not flippant. It is not a throwaway query. It is a query upon which sometimes my ability to function can hinge. I need to know the real deal. The actual number, of minutes, it will take me to get from where I am standing right now, to the crucial place I need to be in 5/10/15 minutes time. 

I need reality. If Ingress means I get reality, so be it. Because who the hell else is gonna care some occasionally disabled woman needs a real time real assessment of time taken to walk from a to b? No one. That's who.

We trade. All of us trade. Every minute of every day. You make the tea this time and I'll make it next. You have your favourite food this time and I'll have mine next. I am exhausted but you're driving 300 miles so I'll down 3 cans of Red Bull so I can keep you company.

Trading is what moden life is built on. So here's the thing. Yes Ingress is spyware. So is Facebook. So is G+ and cookies and ten thousand other little things in modern life. I don't want you to take it away. I want you to educate me so I can make an assessment if this trade is of enough value to me that I'm prepared to let some of my data go. Millions of people don't understand their data is the trade. Fix that. Don't give me another flipping product.

If you can't deal with me sad, you don't deserve me when I'm happy

I'm a ball when I'm happy and a mare when I'm sad. When I'm sad and ill, I have to make a judgement every second on whether you're the person worth spending some of my hard hoarded energy on. This weekend, people were not draining. No one drained. I didn't need to pretend. I just was me. I dropped the mask, stopped pre-empting every conversation with a disclosure and decided to see how I got on.

I ended up, with three other girls, designing my wedding dress. There was laughter, there was smiles, there was tonnes of chatter. Something I was so worried about became something joyous, something to enthuse about. Why would I want a dress like everyone elses? I'm not like everyone else. I'm like me. Some people spend the time to get to know me and understand me. Those are the people who attend Nine Worlds. They like to think. Sometimes. They like to party. Sometimes. They like to understand people and help them, all of the time. Yes, I'm autistic. Yes, I'm aspie. Yes sometimes I couldn't hear stuff cos of space and sometimes conversations were in the wrong space. Sometimes there was sound leak and sometimes people were too raucous. All of this was drowned by nice. Nice people. Good people. 


Women are very present at Nine Worlds. In panels, organising, volunteering, attending. There's a feminism track. Of course there is. But this isn't a place where those discussions, you know the difficult ones, the ones that make you feel sad then angry? they're not limited just to one track or one room. They're happening everywhere. Game of Thrones and rape as a mechansim. Needlepoint and traditionally women's crafts and how we subvert that and is woodwork more serious somehow? I wondered into a Do black holes exist talk and understood every word - so did the other women there. Women were cosplaying but so were so many men. The fanfic track? I didn't go anywhere near it but I suspect there were women there too. Many women. All squeeing madly about their OTP. Does it matter? Not at all. 

The thing is, if you create a space where people can flit from deep thinking to fangirl squeeing, that's what happens. Suddenly, I am not boxed as a fangirl or someone who likes to think. I can be both. I can be shallow. Just because I like to discuss the ins and outs of astrophysics doesn't mean I have to. Doesn't mean I want to. 

It's okay to be shallow. It's okay to have fun. It's okay to love the things you love deeply and dearly and still fancy the male protagonist. Or the female one. It's okay to be big and dressed as Wonder Woman, childrens reactions to you will be just the same. It's okay to wield a massive hammer and not be dressed as Thor. It's okay if you don't wear make up and it's okay if you do. It's okay if you want to learn how to braid your hair and it's okay if you want to learn how to sword fight. It's all just fine.

Promenado no no no

Gollancz held a 'book launch' on the Saturday night. Ventured in. Lots of people networking. Walked out. Ventured back to thank Adrian Tchaikovsky for his books. He was lovely about it. Ran away again. Nope, still not dealing with this enforced social thing. Okay, that's fine. Maybe next year. 

Just a moment is always awesome

And what else is there to say about that.

Thank you Nine Worlds. I came, I was nervous, I needn't have been. I found, I laughed, I chatted, I made friends, I missed seeing some others. Nine Worlds is simply awesome. 

1 comment:

  1. I really love the words you used to describe this. Thanks for that.