A Bit late but better than never…


Last weekend I went to the Nine Worlds Convention in London.


My first ever convention was this one last year, and this year was JUST as good.


I was possibly a bit OVER ambitious in wanting to travel down by train from Peterborough two days in a row with a Sunday for recovery before work on Monday.  Realistically, I absolutely should have gotten a room and stayed for the duration, and will be next year.


So it all started Friday morning with me getting up at ridiculous o’clock (my normal wake up time weekday of half six ;) ) to get a taxi to the train station.  I had packed way too many snackings, of which I ate most of the packet of hobnobs on the way down.  At this point I pretty firmly declared – fuck it, the diet is off for the weekend!


I had a bit of an adventure helping my good friend Hisham with an error that was made when he packed to come down for the weekend but made it to the Novotel in plenty of time for my first panel.  I even got a decent amount of Pokemon Go in on the journey and caught an Unown – my first.  It’s weird.


My First event was the Access:LARP workshop, which was highly interesting, useful and informative, and I now have a Space LARP I want to run as a result! (You MAY hear more about that if I actually manage to get back to doing semi regular blog posts).  This workshop was ALL about designing, making and running a LARP that for people with any form of disability – mental or physical NO MORE DIFFICULT than for other players.  It was NOT about making it easier for disabled players to participate, it’s entirely about inclusivity and designing accessibility in FROM THE BEGINNING so that it’s not accommodation to make things easier, but so that anyone and everyone can participate and enjoy regardless of who they are.


I had a bit of time before the next panel and caught up with a few LARP friends, including the wonderful Annie Czaikowski, who was my LARP mama at Emma Newman’s Split Worlds LARP last year.  She does some fantastic Cosplay.  Last year she did Princess Buttercup, and Westley, This year she was Link one of the days – and I didn’t recognise her until up close!


The Next Panel was shut up and write where inspiration in the form of “The Muse” was discussed in both ancient greek and modern terms.  I call my inspiration Plot Bunnies – they bite hard, and breed like rabbits!  Key questions you need to ask when struggling with a project include:

What are you working on right now?

Why Are you doing this project?

What is the outcome when this is finished?

What are the immediate consequences of not finishing the project?

How would you feel if you temporarily stop?

How would you feel if you permanently quit?

What do you believe society would say if you gave up?

Which among the above questions are you most afraid of?

I asked a very pertinent question in the end section – I have MANY projects, each roughly about the same level of development and can’t decide which to work on – how would the panellists choose in the same situation.  I liked the answer – they would chose the one they think will be most fun to do!


They also mentioned various tools to aid with the writing process.  The most pertinent for me are using the Forest app to keep me off my phone for a designated time – a modified form of the Pomodoro technique (it sort of guilt trips you into not using your phone or you will kill the tree that’s growing through that set time)


After this I had a sit down, a munch through my snackings and had a good shop for books and things.  I came home with some EXCEPTIONAL books, many from the Rebellion Publishing Stand – having spent this entire week recuperating via doing little more than reading I can HIGHLY recommend THE CHANGE by Guy Adams – they are a fantastic, and gore-festy and quirky and fun take on the apocalypse. Also I got lots of geeky clean bath bombs and candles – they smell divine, are undoubtedly geeky, and vegan friendly to boot!


Third panel of the day was Exploring the World via Fanfiction.  Which looked largely into the slash fic research generated by HBO’s ROME series, and how odd it was largely all homoerotic despite there being some strong female characters, which diverged into talking about Atalanta and the different categories of mythological related fanfic that the presenter from the OU (I’m SO AWFUL with names!).


Name only

Name and attributes/Similarities

Retelling the story set in a world based on Greek myth

Retelling in the Modern world

Re Use of a character in a new story

Re-working – using the myth as inspiration for a new story


After this we workshopped – and wrote either a story or the outline for one based on a Greek myth.  I’ve already done a Medusa style one recently, so this time I chose Icarus – in space.  My brain being what it was whispered that wouldn’t it be a GOOD idea if I worked through ALL of the Greek myths and do the same thing.  I firmly told it no, but the idea’s still niggling in the back of my head.  Damned plot bunnies!


After this panel I was flagging a little despite trying to keep fully hydrated with LOTS of water – con’s are so tiring! I’m not great with crowds, I’m an introvert so the spoons I have for social are finite, and I was engaging and fully concentrating on the panels I was attending.  I sometimes wonder if I’m on the Aspergers spectrum.  I tick a LOT of the boxes, but just not in huge majorly obvious ways… So I spent 20 minutes in the specially designated quiet room which was full of colouring books, fidget toys, cushions and seats, and two mattresses for sleep and a tray of water and fresh fruit.  My favourite pat though, was the tiny tiny spoon – and a note – Help yourself take one for when you run out!  I took one, and it’s a lovely reminder of a great weekend.  The Acessibility coordinator did a wonderful job.


I left reasonably refreshed to attend the final panel of the day Interpretations of an Interstellar Future (My SciFi streak has reared it’s head after reading the MOST EXCELLENT The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, and A Closed & Common Orbit by Becky Chambers – It’s Firefly – only better!


The panel discussed why we write about humans in space, depictions of human civilisations between different star systems from familiar to totally strange – the pro’s and cons of writing civilisations with FTL and without and how humanity to do such colonisation would have to do what effectively was a GIANT kickstarter to travel to the stars given how much its likely to cost.  Also discussed were the different forms of fiction that come with and without the FTL drive – if you have a generation ship, you get better traction for a psychological thriller because they are all stuck on the one spaceship.


There was discussion of the happy generation ship and the purposes of an artificial colony – everyone relies on one another, and the more likely result the recent TV series EDEN being touted as the prime example – everything collapsed and got really dark because it is human nature to take our troubles with us.  Everyone has a reason for leaving/travelling to a place – they aren’t all good!  Even Wall-E which on the face of it LOOKS like a Utopia – isn’t.


The other point the panellists made is that the future is OLD – there will be dirty bits, and things that are in need of fixing.  Also the pet peeve of all of the panel – explosions in space – space is a vacuum – there is no sound!


After which I dragged myself home, and basically passed out after booking the taxi to take me to the station again in the morning.


Next morning I managed to drag myself out of bed on time, mainlined tea until I woke up enough to be sensible and did a bit of Pokemon go before reaching the hotel.  I tried a solo raid on a Moltres – as you can imagine I had my arse handed to me lol.


First panel was Writing the unknown setting – really interesting and useful.  It started with an interesting conversation on how people measure distance – most people do it by how long it takes to get there rather than the numerical distance.


Useful points and questions:

Why is the story set there?

Where does the story need to be?

Sometimes inventing a location is the best thing, but they are generally based on a known location.

The setting should almoist always actively contribute to the plot’s direction – the setting is a character in it’s own right.

Where you ive is influencing you

If you can change the name of the city and it’s fine – you have gone wrong!


Tips for when you can’t visit:

Find a designated local to tell you the ins and outs you are interested in.

There is NOTHING wrong with leaning towards a location you already know.

Contact the local Tourism guild

Crowd source the problem on social media

Check in with local writing groups

Cal the local library

Search Facebook groups.

Use your technology – google maps local library websites to discover what locas find important, official city websites, local newspapers – especially the comments section.


Don’t be afraid to go old school – the history of an area is as important as the current events. Ask the designated local if there are any elder community members willing to share.


Find a local beta reader.



When you CAN go to the place:

Before going make a scene wish list

Find unique local spots to switch out for generic placeholders

Plan for 1-3 scheduled events/visits per day to allow for spontaneous discovery

Schedule interviews with local experts

Make sure you know operating hours of localities you want to visit


While there:

Always be professional,

TELL people you meet you are a writer – the person could be a potential fan/source of surprise info.


Take lots of photos – more than you think you need – at different orientations, and lots of notes

Visit local bookstores – they make great contacts for future events


Bring ARC’s of previous works for them to peruse

If they stock your books you can sign them (ask first)



After the trip:


Send thankyous, a special gift for designated local(doesn’t need to be expensive – could be a character in the novel)


Transcribe your notes – how did locations feel – use 5 senses


Label the photos.



I had a break after this and had Lunch with the lovely Annie before heading off to an RPG.

I had been planning to go to some other really interesting sounding talks, but I probably didn’t have the spoons for that, also Days Of Future Craft was a one off, never going to be played again game that intrigued me.  SO I went to that.  I will write that up in full in a separate post, but suffice to say, three characters in three different timelines had to figure out some crazy things that were going on, using their super boosted crafting skills, and save the day.  It got a bit crazy as timelines converged as you can imagine! So much fun J



The final panel I really wanted to attend was How to write Dystopia in a somewhat Dystopian World.  By now I was a bit wiped out, so wasn’t as switched on listening.  It discussed the differences between dystopia and utopia, and how the apocalypse is already here – just not evenly distributed.


There was discussion on how as a child you live in a utopia, grow up and end up I na dystopia, or grew up in a dystopia, clawed your way out and ended up in a different kind of dystopia and how one person’s utopia is another’s dystopia.  There’s never an environment that’s going to please everyone.


Dystopia is the story of people getting crapped on by society.


In the real world dystopia we are powerless, which is why we enjoy the fictional kind so much – you are enabled – there is successful survival and resistance, the ability to change things which we can’t do in real life. Basically dystopian fic is a way of distracting people from what is going on in the present.


One of the panellists wanted to see more dystopia of unintended consequences of trying to make things ‘better’ – like Thalidomide was supposed to cure morning sickness, and caused thousands of babies to be horrendously disfigured.


They also want to see more original works – there’s a lot of remakes and revisitations of this sort of thing on TV and in films.


They finished with a line I think I will finish my blog off with.  After this I dragged myself home and passed out on the bed.  This is something I think is as relevant to real life as it is to fiction:


“By being Kind to each other, We create a Utopia”