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INTERVIEW Nine Worlds Geekfest Event

Paul Cornell, Jenni Hill and Erich Schultz reveal what you can expect from the new convention on the London scene

With guests from TV and film as well as literature and comics, brand new weekend experience Nine Worlds will hit London in August this year. Aiming to offer an alternative to the big merchandise and autograph fairs, it recently raised launch money on Kickstarter. We caught up with some of those involved to pose questions about what you can expect there. Some of co-organiser Erich Schultz's feedback features in issue 238 of SFX magazine on sale from Wednesday 24 July, but the rest is below.

Nine Worlds Geekfest Kickstarter

What: Nine Worlds Geekfest
When: 9-11 August 2013
Where: Radisson and Renaissance hotels near Heathrow Airport (London, UK)
Tickets and information: www.nineworlds.co.uk

Interviewed:
Quick link to Jenni Hill (literary stream organiser)
Quick link to Paul Cornell (author and guest)
Quick link to Erich Schultz (co-organiser)

Nine Worlds Geekfest 2013: The Q&As...

JENNI HILL

Jenni Hill

Jenni Hill, a London-based science fiction and fantasy editor, is putting together the book stream of discussion panels at the event.

SFX : What does your role as literary stream organiser entail - and what are your personal ambitions for the programme?
Jenni Hill:
We've got a wide range of events available at Nine Worlds – from costuming to gaming to our very own film festival. But I was asked to put together a few panels on science fiction and fantasy books. So many authors were excited about getting involved that it's turned from "a few" to a huge programme that stretches out over all three days of the con, and I'm really proud of how it's turned out. It became so big I jokingly started referring to it as ALL OF THE BOOKS instead of "literary", and the name seems to have stuck! I've never thought of myself as a "literary" kind of girl anyway, I'm more about the zombies and spaceships.

Kieran Gillen

SFX : What are you looking forward to seeing there from the other streams?
Hill:
I'm continually amazed by the kind of content that fans create for the books and shows that they love – so I'd love to check out one of the panels on the fanfiction stream; I don't think I've ever seen fanfiction discussed in a con setting. I'm also a big gamer and a comics fan, so if I get any time at all I might pop in and see one or two of those panels or stalk a few guests for their autographs...

I saw one of our ticketholders on twitter wishing for Hermione's Time-Turner so that she could go to all of the Nine Worlds events. I know how she feels, because I wish I could see everything!

SFX : What do you hope the event will offer that isn't already available at other conventions or expos?
Hill:
That's a really tricky one as I regularly attend Eastercon and Fantasycon and they're both fantastic events – I can't wait for World Fantasy in Brighton this year! But I think the fact that this event was Kickstarted with more than 200% of its target proves that there is still a big demand for this kind of con to appear on the geek calendar in the summer season, and I hope that we'll be able to combine the wide multimedia focus of an event like MCM with the share-a-pint-with-your-idols-in-the-hotel-bar joy of Fantasycon.

SFX : Thanks Jenni!

Click here to visit the Nine Worlds site or click here to read Paul Cornell's take on the event.

PAUL CORNELL

Paul Cornell

Top author Paul Cornell - whose novel London Falling recently met with great acclaim - is a regular at conventions around the world. He's attending the event as part of the literary stream.

SFX : Are you there as a fan or as a guest - and in either case, what are you most hoping to see?
Paul Cornell:
I'm a guest, part of a literary programme organised by an actual publisher, Jenni Hill . So I'm looking forward to being part of a books stream that attracts a lot of potential readers from the other media present.

SFX : What do you hope the event will offer that isn't already available at other conventions or expos?
Cornell:
I think the UK has needed an event that includes everyone and that stays in the same place with the same team, building up an institutional memory. I think the Worldcon/Eastercon model, moving around, just can't address certain things which fandom needs desperately right now, one of which is an increased sense of responsibility towards paying customers. Nine Worlds has a different shape to anything else on offer right now.

Rhianna Pratchett

SFX : How much will Kickstarter change the way fan events are convened in the future?
Cornell:
I think it may play a big part. I have problems with several things about Kickstarter itself, but when there's an upswell of popular opinion in favour of something, then I think it's a good way to approach that.

SFX : Thanks Paul!

Click here to visit the Nine Worlds site or click here to read Erich Schultz's take on the event.

ERICH SCHULTZ

Erich Schultz

Co-organiser Erich Schultz is on the con's operations team; he works as a genre film producer and writer, teaches screenwriting at university, and runs the London Independent Film Festival too.

SFX : What was the genesis of your event? Did it all start in a smoky back room, a small gang of disaffected convention goers secretly getting together to come up with something new?
Erich Schultz:
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 quite like that exists in the UK. France can drum up over 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.

SFX : There are big UK events like MCM Expo and the London Film And Comic Con. They can be enormously popular so why is something new needed?
Schultz:
Expos have their place, but they're not really our idea of fun. They can be heavily focused on shopping and paid autographs or photos, and standing in queue. We'd rather be at a weekend-long party with a vast array of activities and socialising, the kind of things you can only do at a proper residential convention.

SFX : What will you provide that isn't catered for by long-running smaller fan events?
Schultz:
Eastercon is great, and we love it very much. But its focus is pretty tight, and its numbers tend to hover around 1,000 people per year. We're really going for a much more multi-media fandom event incorporating TV, film, and lots of science-related content. We have a lot of talks and panels, including entire tracks run by the Royal Observatory, and another run by Skeptic Magazine. So lots of those talks with be very TED-like in nature. Also, we've got a full academic conference on sci-fi studies running during the convention with more than 20 papers scholarly being presented.

SFX : Early Bird ticket sales ended on 31 May. How are the numbers?
Schultz:
We're on track to sell around 1,000-1,200 tickets to the event this first year (which is about how big Dragon*Con was in its first year). We're in this for the long run, and we're confident that we'll grow by leaps and bounds from year to year.

SFX : Why decide to launch it with Kickstarter? And did that prove to be a good model for launching a new convention?
Schultz:
We knew from the start that we would Kickstart the launch. That focus guided every decision we made in the planning and development stage. It 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.

Syrio Forel

SFX : What actors do you have coming along? We understand you're against autograph queues but no doubt people would like to get close to their idols. What's your plan there?
Schultz:
The only actor who's asked for an autograph space has been Chris Barrie (mainly because he knew there would be demand and didn't want to get chased around the con). We agreed to this for Chris. It's possible we'll add a few more actors who'd like to sign. But the overwhelming reaction from guests has been wanting to be on interesting panels rather than signing autographs. Chris Rankin (who plays Percy Weasley in Harry Potter ) asked to run a small masterclass in acting, rather than sit at an autograph table. Similarly, Kai Owen (who plays Rhys Williams in Torchwood ) was more interested in talking with fans about sci-fi than in signing. We're not trying to push actors through a commercial treadmill to earn their keep. They might not make the big bucks if they're not spending all their time signing stuff, but they'll have more fun and be more part of things.

SFX : What are the Nine Worlds of the title? (Is it to do with European comics being popularly known as " the ninth art "? Or because there are traditionally nine planets in our solar system? Or...)
Schultz:
We liked 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.

SFX : Thanks Erich!

Remember, you can read more from Erich Schultz in SFX 238 on newsstands from 24 July. Nine Worlds Geekfest takes place 9-11 August at the Radisson and Renaissance hotels near London's Heathrow Airport. Click here to return to the front page of this article .