GS EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Nine Worlds Geekfest

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We talk to the organizers of Nine Worlds Geekfest to find out why this should be the must attend event for any geek this year.

There are more than enough conventions that fill up our geek calender nowadays but which ones do you choose to go to. Nine Worlds think they have found a niche in the market and they dared to take a chance. The event is a “3-day celebration of geek culture on August 9-11, 2013 in London”.

They are doing something more than the usual convention and are reaching out to all sides of Geekdom. If you don’t believe me let them tell you.

Nine Worlds has organisations like the Victorian Steampunk Society (which run the world’s largest Steampunk event, Weekend at the Asylum) running a Steampunk track. London on Board (a 2000+ member board gaming society) is running a non-stop gaming and play testing of new games. Skeptic Magazine is running a full track of talks about Skepticism and the Royal Observatory is running a Space Exploration track. Durham University is sending their Harry Potter Studies instructors to lecture about Harry Potter academia. And lots more — even got smaller organisations like BUCK, fans of My Little Pony, are showing off their fandom.

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So with all this in mind we reached out to the team at Nine Worlds to ask some question and demand answers. The first of which was how Nine worlds came about and the origins of the convention.

Nine Worlds: For years our core organising team have been going to huge US events like Gen Con, Dragon*Con and SDCC, and we got to wondering why nothing like that exists in the UK. France can drum up 20,000+ sci-fi fans for Utopiales, heck, even Finland can find 15,000 fans for FinnCon. But when it comes to epic, fan-driven multi-genre sci-fi cons in the UK, pickings are pretty slim. We just really wanted something a big and fabulous sci-fi convention to exist in London, and eventually we decided we’d have to build it ourselves. And once we decided to build it, we knew we wanted an event that would be inclusive on many levels, and we came up with lots of awesome ways in which we’d try to improve on the existing sci-fi con model.

We knew from the start that we would Kickstart the launch. That focus guided every decision we made in the planning/development stage. It’s a good model because it gives people a great chance to show their support and to get involved right at the beginning, and really helps with creating a community. In all these respects, it was an overwhelming success. Having such a successful Kickstarter really put us on the map and got people talking about us, which is exactly what we needed.

GS: OK so as I mentioned before there are a lot of conventions out there now but would would you say Nine Worlds is unique and different from other cons but why is that?

NW: The sci-fi events scene in the UK is divided between smaller specialised cons (focusing on a particular show, or specifically on literature), and the giant corporate expos which are primarily about selling stuff and celebrity signings. Our ambition with Nine Worlds Geekfest is to bring together thousands of fans from many different areas to create a critical mass of fun and geekery. Nothing like that exists in the UK.

The why is that while we really like lots of the sci-fi cons we go to, we’ve reached the stage that we were spending a lot of time thinking of things we’d do differently like “oh, what about all these other aspects of geek culture that don’t revolve around the standard con fare” and “wouldn’t it be awesome if a con worked harder on being inclusive, and challenging the harassment culture”. We’re building Nine Worlds to be the con that we wished existed.

GS: The logo of Nine Worlds has a Frost Giant. What can you tell us about him?

NW: Ymir? Isn’t he lovely. He’s our tie-in with the Nine Worlds.

We took the name Nine Worlds because it sounded inclusive, like lots of things are going on in one space. We always intended for Nine Worlds to be home to many strands of geekery and fandom. And we also liked it sounding kind of outer spacey and sci-fi. But the name actually refers to the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology, including Asgard (home of the Gods) Midgard (Earth), and Jotunheim (home of Giants). And our mascot, Ymir, is a cuddly Frost Giant from Jotunheim. So, in so far as Nine Worlds has an aesthetic, its soul is born from Norse mythology.

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GS: We all know that London is the center of the universe but conventions are happening all over the UK now so what was the reason  you choose London and the two hotels the Radisson and Renaissance hotels near Heathrow.

NW: We live in London, and we felt there’s so many geeks in this great city, they really deserved an annual residential Geekfest.

GS: There has been a lot of talk around cons this year with some getting it right and others getting it wrong and some being cancelled. What have you taken from that if any to make Nine Worlds better?

NW: We go to a lot of cons, and we’ve spent a lot of time looking at the things that go right, and those that don’t. One thing we’ve done differently is to avoid different classes of ticket. There are no Gold or VIP tickets at Nine Worlds. Another is our focus on anti-harassment starting with our anti-harassment policy, our internal protocol for dealing with any racial or sexual harassment issues that might arise, and our Safety Team who’ll be on duty at the con to deal with anything that goes wrong. There are lots of big and little ways in which Nine Worlds is different.

GS: Considering what has happened recently at over conventions this sounds like a real step in the right direction.

You have a lot of areas and themes announced but who is this con aimed at?

NW: Geeks. Geeks have a wide range of diverse interests, and at this year’s Nine Worlds we’ve got 22 tracks of content running simultaneously. The aim to provide something for every taste.

GS: You have chosen to run this con over two locations, the Radisson and Renaissance hotels. How will that work with people wanting to attend things at both sites?

NW: The two locations are conference hotels just across the street from each other. It’ll be no problem leaving one hotel at the end of a session, and making it to the other hotel before the start of the next session.

GS: What can you tell us about the line up of guests attending?

NW: We’ve got lots and lots of guests. Over a dozen fairly big names in UK Sci-Fi lit, like Kim Newman, Ben Aaronovitch, Charlie Stross and Catherine Banner. On the acting side, we’ve got Chris Barrie (Red Dwarf), a few Game of Thrones actors, and a few Doctor Who/Torchwood actors. And we’ve got people like Rhianna Pratchett (creator of the new Tomb Raider game), Kieron Gillen (Marvel Comics’ big author in the UK) and lots of scientists and academics. Journalist Laurie Penny is coming, as is Monte Cook (author of D&D 4th Edition), and open source advocate Cory Doctorow. And several dozen more; check out our website for the full list.

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GS: You have some truly fun things going on but what would you say is the most anticipated one?

NW: Oh, I couldn’t say. Everyone will be excited by something different. Myself, I’m really looking forward to the Steampunk tea duelling and the queer-feminist sci-fi cabaret.

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GS: When will we see the full programme for the event listed?

NW: Most of the programme is on the website now, listed under each track. We’ll have an all-encompassing master schedule ready two weeks before the event.

GS: Meeting the guests and mingling with them for a chat or a drink is key to the success of convention but how will the attendees be able to mingle with the guests?

NW: Most of our guests are around for the whole weekend, so after their sessions many of them will be at the bar hoping a fan will buy them a drink. There’s a good space of time between sessions as well, so it’ll be very possible to chat with guests after their panels as well.

GS: Are any parties or socials planned for the event and if so tell us about them?

NW: Most tracks have some themed evening entertainments and parties planned. The hard part will be choosing which ones to go to. Really, the whole weekend is one big long party.

GS: Sounds excellent.  What can you tells about any sellers or companies attending the event?

NW: We have a full vending hall with several dozen vendors attending. We’ll be posting a full list of vendors shortly.

GS: This is your first year but have you already started thinking about next year and if so what have you discussed already?

NW: We’re in this for the long haul. We’ll run at the same location, during the same weekend in 2014, and we’ll be expanding out the space we’re using to incorporate more tracks and more exciting content. We’ll stay in the Heathrow area for the foreseeable future, as that’s really the only place in London with enough conference hotels to make a residential con work.

GS: What one bit of advice would you give to all attendees for Nine Worlds?

NW: Spend time doing some of the more social interactive stuff, like the sci-fi pub quiz, or the live-action quiddich, or anything in the social gaming track. Those are really great ways to connect with people and make new friends. Also, remember to eat. We don’t schedule a dinner break, so you’ve got to take a session off to get a meal.

GS: Sounds like a convention NOT TO BE MISSED! Thank you and we will see you in August.

You can find out more about the event HERE and for tickets go HERE.

Keep checking back as we countdown to Nine Worlds Geekfest 2013


Reporter: Montoya

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