I was at Nine Worlds over the weekend. It’s my second time at the Con, and it remains very nearly everything every con promises and very few deliver. It’s enthusiastic, incredibly varied in subject matter and refreshingly clear of the endless, dust-covered turf wars and bad history that tends to infect cons that have been around for a while.
The reason for that is that Nine Worlds isn’t so much a convention as a convention superstructure. Each content track is in essence a miniature convention in its own right and it’s entirely possible to attend one and not see any of the rest of them. You want to attend a small, extremely enthusiastic and critically nuanced comics convention? You can. Want to sprinkle some book panels, podcast stuff and Doctor Who on that? You can. I did.
In the space of three days I sat on two comics panels, one Doctor Who one, moderated a Books panel, helped win a trivia contest and was on standby to accept a Gemmell as a proxy if required. It was intensive, busy and fun. It was also a noticeably different experience from last year, in a way that’s worth unpacking. So here are three thoughts I brought home:
First and most important thing I learned this year; The best way to be at a Convention is to make sure you’re sometimes not at a convention. The Radisson Blu is a ridiculous, non-Euclidean venue that means you are always under everyone else’s feet if you’re in any space outside the guest rooms. As a result, it’s very easy to feel like I’m under foot. The fact the Radisson’s non bar public spaces were the lobby and the surprisingly tiny atrium didn’t help matters, nor did the 15 year Tube ride out to the hotel in the first place. So, a couple of times over the weekend, I slipped a gear. I was out of tune with myself and my surroundings so went somewhere quiet and reset for a bit. It really helped.
So, you are not going to see everything. Do not try. Take time alone when you need it.
Be Early If You Can
Defeat the razor sharp boomerangs of missing a panel you want to be on with the good natured, puppy-like super speedster of being a little early.
Be there with at least half a day before the first thing you want to see or are on. I rolled up an hour before my first panel on Friday and felt like I was running to catch up for most of the day. That in turn tied into feeling a little disassociated which, in turn, tied into not wanting to be around people.
That applies to panels too. I saw a lot more ROOM FULL signs this year than last and that, coupled with the lack of social spaces, could make you feel a bit shut out. So arrive early to avoid disappointment. Or going ‘Oh COME ON!’ a lot.
The Radisson Blu is a very, very awful hotel that seems to actively resent the conventions that pay to happen inside it. There were a host of issues this year including but not limited to rooms being full, the terrible layout of the hotel and the two venue monte you played every morning to see which room they’d herd the nerds into for breakfast so as not to frighten the other guests.
Then there were the vast wait times for food, the incredible (And not in the good way) prices and several incidents which honestly looked like con goers were being actively messed with. Case in point; we were told there was no need to make a reservation at one of the restaurants. When we arrived later that night for food, we were told that without a reservation it would take an hour or more to be seated. I’ve also seen other accounts of guests being treated far better if they took their convention lanyards off…
All this, plus so much more boils down to two things. Firstly, this needs to be the last year Nine Worlds is at the Radisson Blu. Secondly, you will blow £100 minimum on food and alcohol if you’re not extremely careful. And take it from me, a diet of cardboard sandwiches from the filling station up the road is not going to work for you. Likewise, our food load out last year was basically ‘Cakes! Pie! Crisps! Chocolate! An Apple!’
Not a good plan. You will feel as fuzzy and weirdly damp as the carpet beneath your room’s AC.
This year we went for:
-The Adoration of the Baby Cheeses. Or Babybels to be more accurate but less whimsical.
–Nakd bars. Fun to say, funner to eat. Basically 100 calorie or so protein grenades and, unlike so many other things of their ilk, they do not like taste like reconstituted failure and dust. I can particularly recommend the Cashew ones.
-Water. So much water. Seriously. That’s a good rule of thumb for any con but given the Radisson Blu’s internal temperature was never less than swampy, it was particularly necessary at Nine Worlds.
So that was what I learned about how to be at cons. Self care of every sort is absolutely vital at events like this so make sure you do it. Nine Worlds is a brilliant event that does a lot of stuff incredibly well but one of the ways they’ll get even better is if you feed back to them about your con experience and make sure you’re looking after yourself while you’re there.
Now, I’m off to Spokane next week for WorldCon so I really should get some laundry done…