We’ve just returned from great weekend at the Nine Worlds convention! It was a wonderful few days spent meeting other editors, publishers, readers, as well as fans celebrating every aspect of geek culture that you can imagine. We were impressed by the costumes (especially No Face!); humbled by people’s kind comments; inspired by the talks and discussions; heartened by packed rooms of people engaging actively with writers; and quite hungover come Sunday morning.
Unsung authors Ian Hocking, Oliver Langmead and Aliya Whiteley were on panels in the Living Words track, just one of many strands of discussion that ran over the three days of the convention. Even with a focus just on speculative literature, there were a huge number of talks covering almost every aspect of writing (and publishing, and pitching, and editing…) genre fiction. It was busy too, with packed rooms even on Sunday morning!
We also spent Saturday down in the expo room with our stall opposite Kylo Ren and Jason Voorhees, braving the icy air-conditioning to sell books and talk to as many genre-fiction fans as we could. Thanks to everyone who came to the stall and chatted with us, signed up to the mailing list, bought a book or ate the chocolate we used as bait. It was a really encouraging day and we’ll definitely be back next year.
On the Friday, Oliver Langmead chaired 'Getting Fighting Wrong', a discussion of fight scenes in literature and what purpose they serve – the general consensus being that without the reader being invested in the human stories and the characters involved, a fight scene will never work.
Ian Hocking discussed ‘Science fiction and science fact’, about whether scientific accuracy in sci-fi is important or not – the answer was: sometimes, depending on what kind of science-fiction you’re writing…
Saturday kicked off bright and early at 10am with Aliya Whiteley taking part in ‘The end of the world, and why we love it’ with Lavie Tidhar, Rob Boffard and more. It was great to see a room packed full of people so early on, hungry to discuss why we love the apocalypse so much. The Day of the Triffids seemed to be a strong contender for favourite and most terrifying apocalypse.
Later on Aliya discussed ‘Re-envisioning history as genre’ which proved a really meaty discussion around the challenges of research and accuracy, but also the thorny issues of appropriation and how we relate to history. She finished at the ‘Inspiring Futures: The Ada Lovelace Day conversation’, focusing on women in science and sci-fi, where the Clarke Award announced their new partnership with Ada Lovelace Day!
One hilarious highlight was ‘Fantasy vs Science Fiction’, with fantasy authors arguing for sci-fi and sci-fi authors arguing for fantasy. Our own Ian Hocking argued for fantasy as the superior genre, and managed to convince no one, whereas Bex Levene, fantasy writer, made such a compelling argument against her own genre everyone got really confused.
Sunday featured a fascinating discussion on ‘Writing Utopia’ with both Oliver and Aliya on the panel. Is utopia a possibility? The general consensus was no (after all, it means ‘nowhere’ or ‘no-place’), but that striving for utopian ideals may still have value. ‘You can only have a utopia if there isn't any hope,’ suggested Aliya. It’s the hope that kills you, as they say.
We finished the Sunday with George on the panel ‘Surviving in Writing’, with editors from Cast of Wonders, Gollancz, Starburst and author Gavin Smith all discussing the dos and don’ts of navigating the industry. It was interesting to see many points of consensus from editors who work with short fiction, magazine editors, and editors for both large and small presses. Hopefully it helped demythologise the process for writers preparing to submit.
And that's just what we did there. We didn't even mention the games room, the lecture on the philosophy of time travel cinema, a knitwear Wonder Woman, countless Reys, the disco, Death, Dream and Delirium, Gary trying quail for the first time, the return of the bowl of petunias...
See you next year?