Back from NineWorlds Geekfest

Yesterday I made my way home from the inaugural NineWorlds GeekFest. As always, I was a bit sad to be leaving the event, but happy that I didn’t have to eat McDonald’s anymore (hey, I don’t have £200 to spend on meals, so this was my only option for the weekend’s food!).

The Geekfest had fewer attendees than I thought it would, although still large. But there were enough streams that I think in the coming years it could grow into what they organizers hoped it could be. As an example, for me, primarily following the book / science streams, it seemed a lot like Eastercon. Refreshingly, minus the beer focus. But I couldn’t help notice the greater encouragement of cosplay. And then, of course, there were the dedicated Harry Potter and Dr. Who streams. I even learned a bit about muggle Quidditch (more on that in my next post).

For an inaugural event it was quite well put together and ran impressively smoothly. There were many big name Brits present, especially representing authors. And there were many of the newer faces also. However, although I’m only a veteran of about 5 years of conning, there were some noticable changes they could make to improve the con.

First off, I was surprised by the lack of opening and closing ceremonies. Especially since this was the first year. Also, there were also no guests of honour — very strange for any genre event hoping to make it large. There was very little in the way of trans-atlantic collaboration, or even the rest of Europe. Again, both features that could help turn a decent event into a truly awe-inspiring one.

Furthermore, the dealer’s room was quite small — Eastercon’s is larger, and there was no art show. The latter I didn’t mind so much, as it was nice not having to lug around a suitcase full of art work to one convention. And I suppose, with the focus on younger attendees (my impression was that it seemed geared primarily for the 16-24 demographic), there wouldn’t be much expectation to sell artwork.

Finally, something I like to see occassionally, would have been a movie room, showing science fiction classics. Although, admittedly, these are usually poorly attended. At least I would have liked perhaps one movie event per night, showing a classic SF con-related films. A recent classic at Eastercon has become Galaxy Quest, and another I’d vote for is Paul.

None of this is to say it wasn’t a good event. There was many streams, and a lot of enjoyable panel discussions. Always favourite panelists, Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross teamed up for several discussions during Saturday. For the record, one of my favourite panels was where these two were joined by Tricia Sullivan and Jaine Fenn. Anyone who’s seem them talk, knows that Cory and Charlie can really build up a head of steam, but I think Tricia and Jaine did a good job of checking that, providing just the right balance.

The one other question I had about the NineWorlds Geekfest regarded the time for the con. With LonCon3 (the 2014 SF Worldcon) being held at very close to the same time, it seems either gutsy or unintelligent to try and start a new annual con (which seems the intent) that will be a direct competitor to that established event. A smarter move, although one requiring much more patience, would have been to have the inaugural NineWorlds in 2015, capitalizing on the post-Worldcon desire to have a UK SF convention in August.

But, c’est la vie. I very likely won’t be attending NineWorlds next year, just because of the timing (Worldcon will likely be the largest art show I’ve exibited in and will take all my resources). So we’ll just have to see how it goes and hope NineWorlds gets enough support to encourage them to return in 2015.

Insight and longevity

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