Con Schedule: Nine Worlds 2016

(Updated 11 August 2016)

Nine Worlds is less than three weeks away, and the programme is finally out. I’m on three panels this year, all of which look excellent:

Friday 12 August, 10-11am (Bouzy)

World-Building: No One Sells Happy Life Day Cards

Economics, geography, infrastructure – it’s the background stuff that, like concrete breeze blocks, comes off as the dull, uninteresting graft of world creation. But what makes it come alive and make sense for the reader? What makes people care, and what makes a fictional culture viable?

James Barclay, Genevieve Cogman, Edward Cox, Al Robertson, Stephanie Saulter, Chris Wooding

Friday 12 August, 1:30-2:30pm (Bouzy)

Science Fiction and Science Fact

Normally bending the rules is a bit of a dangerous act, but in fiction the laws of science are bent to breaking point all the time – so what’s going on behind all that? What famous popular concepts work, and which are entirely unreasonable? What are we close to making happen, and – really! – does scientific accuracy even matter for the sake of a good time? I mean, how far can you get on science alone*, I mean, haha, honestly.

* Probably, like, quite far. The distant edge of the solar system, probably.

Anne Charnock, Ian Hocking, Stephanie Saulter (moderator), Jamie Sawyer, James Smythe, Adrian Tchaikovsky

Saturday 13 August, 8:30-9:30pm (Bourg)

Inspiring Futures: The Ada Lovelace Day conversation

Can SF inspire a life in science and technology? Do women write a different kind of SF? Should we celebrate that 4 of the last 5 winners of the Arthur C. Clarke Award were books by women SF writers?

Anne Charnock (moderator), Yen Ooi, Anne Perry, Stephanie Saulter, Stephanie Troeth, Aliya Whitely

The convention is being held at the Novotel London West in Hammersmith this year, and tickets are still available at the late rate.


TFFX writing contest, 9W con report(s) & a couple of cool reviews

UPDATE: The TFFX flash fiction contest has been extended!


Further to last week’s post: as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations, The Future Fire is holding a flash writing contest for speculative fiction stories of no more than 500 words, on the theme of the number 10. The deadline is midnight on Sunday 23rd August (yes, that’s THIS SUNDAY!), entry rules are here, and the prizes are copies of Gemsigns and Binary (which I’ll be happy to sign or inscribe for you if you win) and Jennifer Marie Brisset’s Dick- and Locus-nominated novel Elysium. Don’t forget to check out (and tweet links) to the TFFX anthology crowdfunder!

In my first couple years of going to cons I would always write up a report/ review afterwards. I seem to have fallen out of the habit, largely because I’ve become so busy following up on things that arose from or at the con (or that I was ignoring until the con was over). Suffice it to say that Nine Worlds was, once more, an intelligent, thoughtful, fun-filled, inclusive, kind and curious celebration of every nook and cranny of science fiction and fantasy creativity and fandom. The two sessions of the Writing the Other workshop were both exceptionally good and full to capacity; the two panel discussions I participated in – Arcadia or Armageddon? on the question of fictional utopias and dystopias, and I Don’t See Race on how aliens, mutants and robots are often stand-ins for the ethnic “other” – were lively, engaging, thought-provoking and packed to the rafters; and I loved catching up with friends, fans and fellow writers. But the thing that makes Nine Worlds so distinctive is the way in which it embraces those who don’t necessarily find public events and spaces as easy to navigate as I do – so here are two proper con reports that describe what makes it different, and why it matters.

Of course it was particularly special for me this year because of Regeneration, now making its way in the world. It was lovely to chat with folks who’d read Gemsigns and Binary (and in one case someone who’d started with Binary and was about to take up Gemsigns … it’s totally okay to read them out of order, as I explain here), and were looking forward to seeing where the story goes next. The reviews are coming in thick and fast; they can all be found under the Reviews tab above, and so far they’re all very good indeed. No reasonable writer can hope to appeal to everyone, nor expect that their intentions will be clear to – let alone appreciated by – every reader; but every writer, I think, has a soft spot for those readers who not only like what we did, but who get what it was we were trying to do. So on that note, here are two of my favourites.

Over the Effing Rainbow: Lisa observes that, “This is not a story for anybody who’s not interested in change.” She’s right.

A Fantastical Librarian: “What happens when the status quo is challenged?” Thank you, Mieneke. That, indeed, is the question.

Regeneration! Fantasy in the Court! Nine Worlds!

6 August 2015. The day the ®Evolution ended.

Well, not quite. There’s a short story, Discordances, yet to be released; Regeneration won’t be out in North America until next year; and publication in various editions and territories will roll on for a few years yet.

But: Regeneration, the 3rd book in the ®Evolution trilogy, is out in the UK today. 

Four years ago I was about two-thirds done with the manuscript for what would become the first book. I didn’t know that anyone besides a handful of friends would ever read it, and I had no plans for any more. I didn’t have an agent, let alone a publisher. If you had told me in August of 2011 that this is where I’d be in August 2015, I’d have laughed and bought a lottery ticket.

So how am I celebrating? At Fantasy in the Court, which will entail a suitably epic trek across London town, seeing as there’s a Tube strike on. Given the troubled times the ®Evolution chronicles, hiking on a day of industrial dispute from the urban wilds of Hackney through traffic-choked streets into the literary heart of this ancient city seems entirely apt. Then it’s off to Nine Worlds, the annual tribal gathering of writers, readers and fan-folk of all descriptions, where there’ll be a launch at Friday night’s Jo Fletcher Books summer party, and discussions throughout the weekend of utopias and dystopias, representation and exclusion, and what it means to tell stories; what makes them meaningful, how we reflect and transform ourselves in their image, why they may be the most important cultural artefact we create.

The power of story is something I’m thinking about a great deal at the moment. It’s going to be the big theme of the next book. (It’s also a concern of The Future Fire, a magazine of social-political speculative fiction currently celebrating their 10th anniversary – look out for more on them next week.) It has, I realise, become the big theme of my own life.

I know what stories I’m going to write next. But which ones, I wonder, will I be written into? Four years from now, what tale will I tell?

Con Schedule: Nine Worlds 2015

The Nine Worlds Geekfest is once again right around the corner, and the lovely folks there have once more invited me to teach a workshop and talk on panels. I also get to launch the book I was writing during last year’s con, and generally marvel at the completion of the ®Evolution trilogy. I’ll be happy to sign and chat, so do come help me celebrate – tickets are still available!

Friday 7 August, 6.45pm-8pm, Room 38

Arcadia or Armageddon? – an exploration of utopian and dystopian futures

From the (arguable) utopia of Iain Bank’s Culture to the dusty carnage of Mad Max, why are we so keen to explore our future and what’s the allure of the downfall of civilisation?

Francesca Haig, Geoff Ryman, Kim Lakin-Smith, Gareth L Powell (moderator), Dave Hutchinson, Stephanie Saulter

Friday 7 August, 8pm-10pm, Room 38

Jo Fletcher Books Summer Party & Book Launch

It’s the long-awaited launch of Regeneration! Also Tom Pollock’s Our Lady of the Streets in paperback, Sebastien de Castell’s Knight’s Shadow, and Snorri Kristjansson’s Path of Gods. Forbidden Planet will be on hand to supply books, authors will be available to provide signatures, and an abundance of good cheer and merriment is guaranteed.

Saturday 8 August, 10am-11.15am, Room 31

Writing the Other – learn to write outside your own experience

How does one write with sensitivity, avoiding the traps, tropes and clichés that reinforce stereotypes and produce one-dimensional characters? Back for the third year running and hosted this time around by the Fanfic track, I’ll help participants to identify their own preconceptions and develop strategies for addressing them. This interactive workshop provides a primer on pitfalls to avoid, and techniques for improving representation.

Based on Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward. Suitable for all writers. Sign up in Room 12, from 4.30pm on Friday.

Sunday 9 August, 11.45am-1pm, Connaught B

“I Don’t See Race” – on telling PoC narratives without PoC

Looking at using aliens, mutants, robots and anything else other than people of colour to tell stories about racism.

UPDATE: Georgiana Jackson-Callen, Natalia Mole, Stephanie Saulter, Russell Smith

Sunday 9 August, 3.15pm-4.30pm, Room 31

Writing the Other – learn to write outside your own experience 

This is a repeat of the Saturday session.

Nine Worlds: The ‘Just Don’t’ list from Writing the Other workshop

One of the things I did at the Nine Worlds convention over the weekend was run a workshop, Writing the Other (well two of the things really, since there was a repeat session on Sunday morning for those who couldn’t get in on Saturday). Writing the Other is intended to help writers learn how to identify and avoid harmful tropes, stereotypes and associations when creating characters that depart from the dominant paradigm; and to write with greater accuracy, sensitivity and insight. Many thanks to all the attendees – you were engaged and interested and lovely, and I learned at least as much from you as I hope you learned from me.

The reference text is Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, which for the purposes of the workshop I summarised, Anglicised and crammed into just under ninety minutes. I ended with a checklist of some of the tired, offensive and oft-repeated devices that serve only to reinforce unfounded prejudice, unearned privilege, and unquestioned presumption. I’ve been asked to post my notes on this section; so here is my plea to …


  • Cast heroes/villains exclusively along lines of race, religion, sexual orientation or any other form of ‘other’ – a classic example is embodied in the line “The dark hordes attacked.”
  • Use the issues which affect a minority/marked group to reemphasise the importance of, and say generally positive & uplifting things about the majority/unmarked group – Glory syndrome
  • Create a marked secondary character whose sole purpose is to validate or create a motivation for the central character – i) the cool sidekick phenomenon, ii) “fridging”
  • Reinforce power imbalances; often done even when characters are beautifully and sympathetically drawn, but nevertheless and for example: all the Asian women just happen to be timid & obedient; all the black men just happen to be sexually promiscuous; all the poor people just happen to be uneducated. This is a subtle form of victimisation, but it’s still victimisation.
  • Cast the unmarked-state hero as saviour of the marked-state victims.
  • Fetishise difference, by an unmitigated focus on the characteristics of otherness. Examples include: the Noble Savage; the simple-minded spirit-worshipper; the ‘beautiful flower’ sexual stereotype of Asian women.
  • Use a specific instance to imply a general truth; where an assertion or action of one member of a group is taken as representative of the entire group.
  • Be disrespectful with dialect. I don’t hold with the view that the marking of accents and dialects in the text automatically deprivileges them by flagging them up as nonstandard; pretending variations don’t or shouldn’t exist is just as deprivileging. But the careless use of dialect, diction and language is a very easy way to be unintentionally and terribly offensive. Be careful.
  • Emphasise evil by ramping up innocence – the Saintly Victim trope. The target of racism does not need to be honest, quiet and hardworking; the child who is abused does not need to be the most adorable infant ever born; the rape victim does not need to be a nun; for racism, child abuse, rape to be abhorrent.
  • Use abuse as a catalyst for positive transformation – for example the rape victim who emerges stronger, smarter, better from the experience, with the implication that it was the thing that finally ‘turned them around’, made them ‘get themselves together’, etc. ad nauseum. (To say nothing of the victim who falls in love with his/her rapist. Really? Don’t.)

Nine Worlds! New Voices!

I spent the weekend travelling across worlds — the Nine Worlds Geekfest, to be precise. It’s hard to imagine a better celebration of fandom in all its wonder, weirdness and glory. There was something for everyone: from academic studies of trends in fan fiction, to the fantasy authors playing a locked-room Call of Cthulhu, to panels on time travel, cyberpunk and superheroes, to cosplay that covered the gamut from steampunk to Sharknado.  And while clever programming is definitely something to crow about, the diversity and inclusiveness of the con is, for me, its biggest win.

Among the highlights were the New Voices sessions, featuring five minute readings from unpublished and debut authors. I had the pleasure of MCing on both Friday and Saturday nights; here’s a list of the authors and their works.

FRIDAY 8th August 2014:  

JY Yang: Harvestfruit

Available to read on the Crossed Genres website.

Vincent Holland-Keen: Billy’s Monsters

Available from Fox Spirit Books in November 2014.

Angus Watson: Age of Iron

Available to buy from all good bookshops in September 2014.

Chele Cooke: Fight or Flight

Available now from all major online retailers.

Laura Lam: False Hearts

Available from Tor/Macmillan in January 2016.

Pete Sutton: Roadkill

Not yet published.

Anna Caltabiano: The Seventh Miss Hatfield

Available at Waterstones, Amazon, and other bookstores.

Cleland Smith: Sequela

Available in paperback and on Amazon Kindle.

Matt Suddain: Theatre of the Gods

Available now from Jonathan Cape/Vintage, in all formats from all major outlets.


SATURDAY 9th August 2014

KT Davies: Breed

Available from Fox Spirit Books in September 2014.

Tade Thompson: The Last Pantheon

Co-written with Nick Wood, and will be released later this year in the AfroSF2 Anthology.

Rhiannon Thomas: A Wicked Thing

Available from February 2015.

Stephen Aryan: Battlemage

Available from Orbit in 2015.

Stark Holborn: Nunslinger

This is a serialised work; books 1-9 are currently available in ebook format, the final 3 instalments will be released in September, and the full paperback omnibus is due for release in December 2014.

Anne Charnock: A Calculated Life

Published by 47North, available as an eBook and paperback.

Peter Newman: The Vagrant

Published by Harper Voyager, available in May 2015.

Taran Matharu: Summoner: The Novice

Available in Spring 2015.

Tiffani Angus: Threading the Labyrinth

This is a Creative Writing PhD project, and should be available after Tiffani graduates in 2015.

My Nine Worlds Geekfest Schedule

UPDATE 30 July: Signing and room assignments added


Here’s my schedule for the 2nd Nine Worlds Geekfest Convention, now (gasp!) only a month few days away:


Friday 8 August 15:15 – 16:30, County C&D

Superheroes and Superhuman: exploding the myth of the superwhathaveyou

Superheroes are everywhere these days, from comic books to literary novels to the Disney Store. How is society exploring what ‘super’ means, and how does that change depending on the suffix attached?

Nick Harkaway, Jenni Hill, Taran Matharu, Barry Nugent, Stephanie Saulter


Friday 8 August 22:15 – 23:30, Royal B

New Voices: Welcome to the class of 2014!

The evening showcase of new writers – one of last year’s most popular events – returns! Bring your drinks, bring your friends: this is your chance to find your next literary addiction. Fun and fast, New Voices is an opportunity for debut writers – if you know someone who would fit the bill, head over to Twitter and nominate them at @booksnineworlds.

MC: Stephanie Saulter


Saturday 9 August 11:45 – 13:00, Connaught B

Writing The Other – A workshop for writers

How do you write ‘the Other’ without falling into common traps, harmful tropes, and clichés? Back by popular demand after last year’s successful event, we will be exploring these issues in a writers’ workshop, with exercises, discussion and a Q&A.

Facilitator: Stephanie Saulter


Saturday 9 August 22:15 – 23:30, Royal B

New Voices: the class of 2014 continues!

More fun and fast-paced readings from the best new writers.

MC: Stephanie Saulter 


Sunday 10 August 11:45 – 13:00, Connaught B

Reading SF While Brown – Views on speculative fiction

For many of us, reading science fiction and fantasy was a formative experience — one that introduced new ideas, and shaped what we knew or hoped to be possible. But what imaginative leaps does a reader have to make to buy into worlds that don’t include anyone who looks or talks like them? And what impact does making that imaginative leap, time and again, ultimately have? Genre writers and readers talk about their experiences of reading SF while brown.

 Camille Lofters, Taran Matharu, Rochita Loenen Ruiz, Stephanie Saulter (moderator), Aishwarya Subramanian


Sunday 10 August 13:30 – 14:45, County C&D

X-Punk: punk as suffix, genre and state of mind

Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Grimpunk, Sandalpunk, Godpunk, Pinkpunk, Punkpunk… what’s nextpunk? Our panelists consider the next big thing – and the perils of the X-Punk genre lifestyle.

Djibril al-Ayad, Kim Curran, Mathew Pocock, Stephanie Saulter, M. Suddain


Sunday 10 August 14:45 – 15:45, Commonwealth West

Signing @ Forbidden Planet table

Gail Carriger, Stephanie Saulter, M. Suddain



You can follow Nine Worlds news and updates on Twitter at @London_Geekfest.

Heard it on the radio

I was going to write a quick post with a summary and links to the podcasts for yesterday’s Ujima Radio appearance in Bristol, but since my wonderful host Cheryl Morgan has already done so on her site I’m going to save myself the trouble and just reblog hers. Thanks again Cheryl, and Paulette and Jackie and Judeline and Mark (who was Tech Guy so you won’t hear him on-air, but lovely and clever nonetheless).

Today on Ujima | Cheryl’s Mewsings.

Well that was a busy day. Huge thanks to Stephanie Saulter for being a fabulous guest on the show. I seem to have monopolized most of the two hours this week. Here’s what went down.

The first half hour was all about Stephanie. We talked about her trip home to Jamaica to launch Gemsigns. We talked about her experiences at the Nine Worlds convention over the weekend. And we talked about the current state of affairs in Jamaica, which ranged from the economy to Usain Bolt and Chris Gayle to the horrific transphobic murder of Dwayne Jones.

The Nine Worlds coverage include shout outs for Hal Duncan, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Tade Thompson and quite likely a few other people. I also got in a mention of the fabulous new @WritersofColour Twitter account, and my friend Nikesh Shukla, who has a great article on their blog today about how brown people get used in movies.

In the second half hour I talked to Hannah Lawton, a young Bristol lady who, with her friend Jessie Van Beck, will be rowing across the Atlantic for charity this December. This is part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. You can read more about Hannah and Jessie, and why they are undertaking this grueling challenge, here.

The first hour of the show is now available as a podcast here.

Hour two begins with the Lighter Look at Life segment, which this week was all about proverbs and grammar and, well, it rambled a bit. And I think we might have got a bit confused between Axioms and Maxims. Stephanie and I both feature.

Then after 15 minutes we have the Woman of the Week slot, in which I talk to Stephanie about her life, her amazing family, and how a girl from Jamaica with what might have been the best job in the world ended up in the UK and becoming a science fiction writer.

Finally we have 15 minutes on summer reading, including Jackie’s kids being charming about their love for Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Between us Stephanie and I managed to recommend Nalo Hopkinson, Ian McDonald, Karen Lord, Juliet McKenna, Jon Grimwood and the whole of the World Fantasy Awards Best Novel ballot.

The second half hour is available as a podcast here.

Nine Worlds Wash-Up

As trailed in the last post, I spent the weekend at the inaugural Nine Worlds Geekfest near Heathrow. I said at the time that I was optimistic about the organisers being able to pull off the majority of their wildly ambitious multi-track programme reasonably well. In the end, it was even better than I expected.

The big thing that really deserves to be bigged up is just how truly inclusive it was. I had flashbacks to Danny Boyle’s lump-in-the-throat catchphrase from the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony: ‘This is for everyone.’ When a gathering of geekdom welcomes and facilitates (and acknowledges the crossovers between) players of muggle Quidditch; the full spectrum of LGBTQ+++ persons, interests and issues; fierce feminists; middle-aged and mostly male My Little Pony enthusiasts; steampunk cosplayers; parents with kids; knitters of swords, spaceships and dragons; writers, academics, bloggers and filmmakers; and, and everybody else – well, you know you’re in the presence of something very special. Against the occasional muttering that there was perhaps just a tad too much going on, I’d have to say that for many of the people who came it was probably a pretty rare opportunity to let their particular geek/freak flag fly in a safe space. And that, I think, has immense value. I was so proud to be a part of it.

The con loaded the 400+ items on the programme onto the Lanyrd app to provide attendees with a way to keep track of events. It integrates with Twitter and LinkedIn and works brilliantly on iPad and iPhone. I liked it a lot – if the Loncon3 organisers haven’t settled on their solution for individual schedules/profiles yet, they could do worse than to check it out.

I’d hoped my first item on Friday would be the Cake or Death panel, but by the time I got there it was beyond standing room only, and the army of cheerful volunteers, who kept things running smoothly throughout the con, cheerfully kept latecomers out. So I went to the Tea and Consequences fanfic welcome session instead, met the lovely Kate Keen who was running it, confessed my total ignorance of fanfic, and was given bespoke tea and delicious cakes and inducted into the mysteries. Next up was the Jo Fletcher Books double-trouble launch party for Snorri Kristjansson’s Swords of Good Men and Tom Pollock’s The Glass Republic (both of which have of course been added to the teetering pinnacle of my own Mount To-Be-Read). Mead flowed, along with wine and good cheer, and a grand time was had by all. Finally for Friday was the New Voices Slam Session: five-minute readings from nine new authors, including yours truly. It was emceed (when did that become a word?) by Hannah Chutzpah, on secondment from running the Creative Writing track, who suggested that since the Slam had been my idea maybe I’d like to go first – and I did – and it was great. I read a particularly crunchy scene from Gemsigns, and had a blast doing it. Then I got to sit back and enjoy readings from Adam Christopher, Emma Newman, Barry Nugent, Danie Ware, Jennifer Williams, Liz de Jager, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, and Lou Morgan. And you know what? There wasn’t a dud in the bunch. I don’t claim to have brought home all their books (too many! too many!), but they all sounded like cracking reads.

I wasn’t on the program on Saturday, which was a blessing since I’d only managed a couple of hours sleep. It also meant I got to go listen to lots of clever people talk about things variously amusing, interesting, and important (often all three). The day started with the Heroes vs. Villains debate (hilarious, and oddly insightful), followed by Why is the Future so Binary? More futurist speculation followed, with Is the Future Utopian or Dystopian? as determined by a stellar panel of SF authors.  Then a real quandary, as there were no less than four things on at 3.15 that I wanted to go to – in the end I plumped for New House Old Ghosts: Reinventing Mythology and the Supernatural, moderated by my very own editor/publisher Jo Fletcher. I followed that up with Women’s Worlds: Feminist Utopias in Literature which was particularly interesting following the earlier utopia vs. dystopia discussion, and continued the theme (sort of) with the Gender & Sexuality in SFF panel. Then I crawled away into the night to find food, came back fortified, hung out in the bar for a bit, and finally made my way, wine in hand, to the second New Voices Slam. Managed by Paul Cornell this time, with readings in alphabetical order by author, it featured Catherine Banner, Chris Brosnahan, Zen Cho, Laure Eve, Francis Knight, Snorri Kristjansson, Den Patrick, Tom Pollock, and Tade Thompson. And again was fabulous. Tom does an amazing runaway train (okay, Tom possibly is a runaway train), and Snorri’s drunken Viking pig farmer was worth the price of admission all on its own.

And finally Sunday, with no decisions to make about what to attend since the con had kindly put me on the programme all day. First was the gloriously named Can’t Take The Sky From Me: Science Fiction & Space Travel panel discussion, moderating Adam Christopher, Jaine Fenn, Gavin Smith, Charles Stross and Ian Whates. They were thoughtful and clever, and we had what turned out to be (for me anyway), a deeply interesting discussion on the imaginative possibilities and pitfalls, the technical challenges and thematic opportunities, and the literary evolution of stories set in space. I think I did all right as moderator; the questions I’d prepared kept the ball rolling, I made sure everyone contributed, we kept to time, and  got a lot of really astute audience questions in too. They were a great panel and I’d happily have many more chats with any or all of them, with or without an audience.

Can I say that a panel was great if I was on it? Next up was Racefail 101, moderated by Anne Perry, with Zen Cho, Rochita Ruiz, Tade Thompson and me. It was an incisive and pretty fearless discussion, very much in keeping with the spirit of the con, and I was incredibly impressed by my fellow panellists. We talked about historical baggage and cultural tropes, why they persist and the damage they do, and the barriers (for both readers and writers) of expectation, indoctrination, and fear that make it so hard to tear them down. Anne has summed it up nicely here, and has included the books we all recommended. Zen got to Karen Lord before I did, and my remaining recommendations are perhaps not obvious; but I wanted to give a shout-out to three straight, white, middle-aged men, because I worry that if our examples are only ever authors of colour/colonialism/some other form of otherness, we will perpetuate the myth that no one else can (or should try to) write realistic characters who are unlike themselves. So my picks are Neil Gaiman, Ian McDonald and Richard Morgan, who I think are shining examples of working hard to write race right. Once again the audience were deeply engaged, and contributed hugely to the discussion. The lesson: we can fix anything if we’re prepared to talk about it. We can’t if we’re not.

After Racefail I sat and signed at the Forbidden Planet table for an hour, and met and had long chats with lovely people, as you do. I shared the slot with Jonathan Green, who I hadn’t met before, and who I still ended up not talking to nearly enough because of all the other people we both had to talk to. So if you read this Jonathan, hello! I don’t normally break off half-way through every other sentence. And many thanks to Danie Ware and her FP colleagues for organising everything.

Last but by no means least, Rochita and I led a workshop on Writing the Other; and once again, in the spirit of the con, although it was nominally part of the Queer track, it was by no means limited to othernesses of sexuality and/or gender. We got very close to the maximum of 18 participants, many of whom I’d seen at Racefail and other panels; most were writers, one was a teacher, another a librarian, all interested in examining and improving their own reading and writing habits. Three of the four exercises were pulled from a longer workshop and accompanying guidebook of the same name, devised and authored by the American writers Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, which Rochita had completed some time before. The fourth was a test of perception and presumption that I invented. They all went really well, I thought. We ran twenty minutes over, which was probably due to a combination of trying to cram too much into the time available, and the knowledge that it was the end of the con and the last item of the day for most of us. I really enjoyed doing it, but if I were to attempt it again I think it would need to either be a full ninety minutes, or fewer exercises and more time for discussion of them.

And that was almost it; a few books to buy, a few people to say goodbye to, a hasty cup of tea, and the 200-mile drive back to Devon rounded out my day. But I can’t leave Nine Worlds without huge thanks to both Jenni Hill, who ran the Books track, and Tori Truslow, who did the same for the Queer track. Sound the trumpets, toss confetti, give speeches in their honour. They are phenomenal, and they made my con.


P.S. No rest for the weary, let alone the wicked. Part of the reason I’ve been so detailed in my reportage here is – apart from the fact that I want to have a record of all the things I did and as many of the people I met as possible – that I’m going to be talking about it all tomorrow with Cheryl Morgan on Bristol’s Ujima Radio (98FM) at 12noon. Podcast to follow, but do tune in if you can – nothing like hearing someone lose the thread live on air!

Nine Worlds News

Where have I been, where have I been?

Enjoying that rarest of phenomena, a proper British summer; selling my house (big moves afoot! more in a future post); rereading the Binary draft, collating thoughts — editor and agent, the ®Evolution Readers, and my own (again, lots of material for its own post here) — and commencing my own edit; all interrupted, for the past 36 hours or so, by a visit from the norovirus (who knew you could get the winter stomach flu in the summer?!?); and getting ready for the NineWorlds Convention, now only two and a half weeks away.

I jumped on the Nine Worlds bandwagon when it was running its Kickstarter back in February. The organisers billed it as ‘an unconventional convention’, with multiple tracks to accommodate all fans of the fantastic; from comics and cosplay, to gaming and Game of Thrones, to films and fanfic, to academia and, of course, books. If I’m honest, the thing that had me most worried was the sheer enormity of their ambition – could a first-time convention put together by a bunch of fans actually pull off something on this scale? But I made my pledge anyway, because I prefer grand ambitions to puny ones, and because I was really impressed by the con’s commitment to being thoroughly diverse and completely inclusive; to internalising the full breadth and depth of fandom, and making the event a place where everyone is welcome and safe, and no one feels marginalised. That, I thought, was well worth a punt.

I’ll report back after the event, but on both fronts the signs are good. The number of tracks is frankly mind-boggling, and they all seem really well programmed. The guest list is, to say the least, impressive. And judging by that programme and those guests and the regular bulletins we’ve been receiving, they’re doing what they promised and making it a con for everyone.

My appearance schedule looks like this:

  • Friday 9th August, 10:15pm: NEW VOICES SLAM SESSION. Short readings from nine of science fiction and fantasy’s most promising new authors! (Full disclosure – I suggested this one to the organisers, because there are always more authors wanting to read than can be accommodated, plus it’s hard for new authors to pull an audience on their own. So if it tanks, blame me. But it won’t. It’ll be great. I can’t wait. It’s on Saturday night as well, with a different line-up — go to both.)
  • Sunday 11th August, 10:15am: CAN’T TAKE THE SKY FROM ME: SCIENCE FICTION AND SPACE TRAVEL. It’s over fifty years since we sent the first humans into space. Are we still as excited about going to the stars? How have real-world concerns about the reality and practicality of space travel affected the genre? I moderate Charles Stross, Adam Christopher, Jaine Fenn, Ian Whates and Gavin Smith.
  • Sunday 11th August, 11:45am: RACEFAIL 101. The panellists discuss colonialism, xenophobia and racism in science fiction and fantasy, recommending the best works discussing these issues as well as discussing the problems we face in writing and reading SFF and what we can do about them. Anne Perry moderates me, Zen Cho, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, and Tade Thompson.
  • Sunday 11th August, 1:00 – 2:00pm: BOOK SIGNING. I’ll be racing from Racefail to the Forbidden Planet table to sign copies of Gemsigns – do drop by for a chat and a scribble.
  • Sunday 11th August, 3:15pm: WRITING THE OTHER. Last but by no means least, I’m joining Rochita Loenen-Ruiz to run this workshop as part of the Queer stream. The thinking is to follow on from some of the themes of the Racefail panel, looking broadly at issues of inclusion, diversity, and social justice in addition to the core LGBTQ focus. I’m told that signups are essential for this one; email

In addition, I’m definitely going to the launch party for Tom Pollock and Snorri Kristansson‘s new novels (The Glass Republic and Swords of Good Men respectively) at 8:30pm on Friday; to the panel on gender and sexuality at 8:30pm on Saturday; and then to the New Voices Slam at 10:15pm Saturday, assuming I’m still vertical. In between all of that I shall be spinning around like a top, trying to work out how to take in all the other great events.

Nine Worlds is being held at the Radisson and Renaissance hotels near Heathrow. Tickets are still available here, and you can follow them on Twitter; the event-wide handle is @London_Geekfest, the Books track is @booksnineworlds, the Queer track is @NineWorldsQueer, the Writing track is @9WorldsWriting … and there are more. Did I mentioned I’m impressed? I’m impressed.

  • I love stories.
    My new novel, Sacred, is all about them. Publication info will be posted as soon as I have it.

    In the meantime check out Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, available wherever good books are sold.

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