Thursday, September 14, 2017

9 Worlds Con Report V: Inferno

It is a complete coincidence that "Inferno" should be the subtitle for this long-delayed con report from Nine Worlds 2017, and has no bearing on it also being the subtitle of the fifth entry in the Hellraiser series - the point in which they all seemed to be films made from unrelated scripts, retrofitted into a Hellraiser setting to get them made and/or distributed.

When it comes to Nine Worlds con reports, I have talked in the past about learning to realize what privilege is, and how best to check yours; how social justice is more than just pointing at The Bad Thing and going "I Have Spotted A Racism!"; how narrative tropes shape a common consciousness and can reinforce outdated modes of thinking; the necessity of feminism despite it having been the 21st century for quite a while now. 

On a more personal level, it has been where I met (and was introduced to) quite a few dear friends, and slowly but surely started questioning my own gender identity. Nine Worlds has been, no kidding, quite a formative experience in my life. 

This year, however, the very concept of "privilege" was addressed in a far more meta sort of way than I could have guessed. Ever since the first con in 2013, my partner and I had been flying in to help a friend out who was part of the organization. For the first few years, content was organized along "tracks", themed rooms that had a person/persons at the helm. Our friend Andrew (of The Lost Cat fame) had a screening room and was in charge of the "Cinema" track. Though the categorization of content into tracks was already a thing of the past by that year, 2016's edition still saw our friend in charge of a screening room and generally being left alone.

2017, however? A full reorganization of all content into purely crowdsourced material. More democratic and in the spirit of the con, absolutely. But on the other hand, also a far bigger risk for my (romantic) partner Ella, (writing) partner Travis and I, who put some effort -- financial and otherwise -- into getting to London from THE CONTINENT and THE COLONIES respectively. As a result, we wouldn't have a screening room to fall back on in case nothing in a particular timeslot appealed to us, showing stuff organized by a close friend and therefore somewhat catering to our tastes.

In other words, the system was no longer rigged in our favor. In other, other words, our privileges were REVOKED! I cannot deny that we actually left with some trepidation this year because of this, which just goes to show how quickly one gets used to being a privileged party in even the slightest of ways.

Strange as the experience was, we did get some proper good stuff in front of our eyeballs. Howard Hardiman's BSL interpretation of ancient Greek myth was a surreal and eye-opening (no pun intended) simulation of media experience by deaf people. A reading of a text fragment was followed by a clip with deaf actors portraying the snippet we'd just heard, so the (mostly hearing) audience would know what was going on. Besides the empathy for deaf people, another goal of this project was to recontextualize the level of distance we usually take for granted when ancient Greek texts are translated into English.

Privilege lulz: one of the first audience questions was a chap who wanted to ask if they would be putting these out with subtitles. Cuz frankly hearing people want to enjoy this too!

I would be remiss not to use that to segue into Travis' solo-outing at Nine Worlds, namely "Ghostbusters Forever"; a celebration of all things Ghostbusters from the earliest show to carry the name to whatever crossover fanfic IDW Comics is currently paying licensing fees to publish. A fine, light-hearted sort of history of Ghostbusters with one awkward moment*: one male audience member asking if anyone didn't like the new movie? I actually didn't particularly like it myself, but I like to think of myself as someone with enough presence of mind and lack of ego to not start that discussion in a room where a good 30% probably has a crush on Holtzmann. Let people have their safe-space fun. Luckily Travis nipped this in the bud by heartily saying they weren't going to go there and to keep the atmosphere fun and light-hearted. The chap defended himself by saying "Well, I liked it!" which admittedly changed the tenor of the question. Hilariously, another guy piped up with "What if you thought it was good but not as good as the old one?" because it's important to get your not-sexist cred reinforced. Some more watermelon-watermelon grumbling and shit was moved past. Kudos to mah boiii Travis for navigating the dangerous waters that Ghostbusters has become in 2017!

A talk about Jordan Peele's debut "Get Out" and the horror of race was among my favorite items of the whole con this year, with the lady holding it reducing many in the room to tears with her righteous screed on the tragedy of Grenfell Towers, wherein she had lost people.

For sheer laughs, the absence of the Duke Mitchell Film Club was somewhat softened by a nice little grab bag of VHS oddities, hosted by Bunny Galore (last of the UK horror hosts!) and Ash Fairbrother, whose name I remember cuz he was also relatively involved with previous years' cinema offerings. If nothing else, it introduced me to RESSHA SENTAI TOQGER -- a Super Sentai show focused on trains, and one of only two Super Sentai shows that were not imported to the West to form the basis of a Power Rangers show.


Conservationist Avery Delaney talked about the Jurassic Park series (and World in particular) from the perspective of nature preservation and drew many a parallel to the heart-wrenching doc Blackfish about abused killer whales at Sea World. I enjoyed helping maintain a lively discussion, as the young lad was on the spectrum, and requested any questions to be submitted via #consroarvation. It was also one of those quietly giggle-inducing moments where a lot of time was spent talking about the emotional torment of the Indominus Rex, whereas my opinion of it was always "Cool! They made a proper HEEL dinosaur! Let's shoot it with bazookas!"

Strangely enough, I was also rather fond of the talk on MST3K, a show I've never seen an episode of, nor am I super inclined to. As a bit of sociology, it was pretty interesting, however! Seeing intelligent, well-spoken fans articulate what brought them to the fandom, and what they enjoyed (or didn't) as it evolved and changed was absolutely endearing to me. I suppose that 2017 is the year I understood one can enjoy a fandom without really caring too much about the thing they are fans of!

2017 was also the year where I felt that, besides on political matters, my friends and I are fairly divorced from nerd culture in general. Being pushed out into the wild more, we were all rather taken aback at the uproarious laughter greeting what we often felt were no more than mildly amusing statements. Hit upon a reference or apply a meme template in conversation and you'll get the laughs. I guess it's the age-old adage of looking for security in nerddom translated into humor. "I recognize this thing, I can control it, I feel safe, therefore my emotions are positive! Ha ha!" 

Maybe 2007 me would have been condescending about it, but 2017 me is all "The world is a fuck, enjoy your things, friends!"

This did, however, result in a couple of moments where my friends and I would look at each other and shrug. We discussed our alienation from the non-political side of nerddom over drinks in the evenings, and felt that we were all in the same boat. Were we just... getting old...?

I mean, undoubtedly we are! But here Travis and I are doing a sequel to last year's pretty darn successful Kaiju Kavalcade which... drew less than stellar numbers (probably also due to the fact that we were scheduled late Sunday afternoon and most people were probably packing already). Little did that matter, however, since we had return customers -- the two little kids and their family that won our contest last year had specifically come back. How lovely to know that two people's giant monster related idiocy touched the hearts of some! 

By attending Nine Worlds truly as guests, we had a different -- and not always more pleasant -- experience.** But it did, as usual, bring us all to some realizations. In this case: getting knocked off a pedestal to have the everyperson experience can be valuable and eye-opening. 

And yes, we are working on content submitted via channels like everyone else for next year (ex. "Whedon Was Always An Asshole" and "Captain America & Hydra: Everything You Like Is Fascist Anyway"). See you in 2018!

*Two, but I didn't see this: during his explanation of what Hi-C Ecto Cooler was (European audiences!), Travis joked that it may have single-handedly caused the American epidemic of diabetes and obesity. This caused one person to walk out and quietly flip him off! If that person is reading this, he felt quite bad about it for quite a while but didn't run into you again. Sorry!

**One good tip if you find yourself somewhat recognizant of my feelings above: talks are better than panel discussions. 

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