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Friday: video game accessibility / Doctor Who / Afrofuturism / Academia / Pictionary / Whedon sing-along / Knightmare

Friday, 10am, Video Games Track: Access All Areas - Disability, games and good design

A good overview of accessibility in game design, with a particular focus on "you, game designers, are unnecessarily filling your games with unnecessary barriers for players"; and knocking down the false dichotomy between "interesting/challenging gameplay" and "accessibility".

Friday, 11.45am, Doctor Who Track: The Doctor Changed Your Life - How did that happen?

A gentle, friendly panel with lots of heart and truth. Particularly: the Doctor is kind. The Doctor believes in people. [personal profile] such_heights talking about Vincent & the Doctor and thus earning the first [personal profile] sebastienne-tears of the con.

I don't really get to count myself as a 'Wilderness Years' fan, but I always love hearing people's stories of that time (I never realised that it 'wasn't cool' to like Doctor Who; I was too busy being ostracised for other reasons for peers to even know that I did. So I don't think it counts as "keeping the faith" that I quietly, passively, loved the Doctor 1994-2004, because why wouldn't you?)

Friday, 1pm, Film Festival / Race & Culture Track: Afrofuturism 101

I am so glad that I went to this. It's probably left me with the longest reading/watching list of any session, so many thoughts about sci-fi as activism, and a real anger that all the time I was growing up with David Bowie and Velvet Goldmine I never saw / thought to look for this whole parallel ecology of space-age salvation stories. It also introduced me to the concept of the African diaspora as inherently post-apocalyptic (the apocalypse in question being the Atlantic slave trade) -- more on concepts like this in later sessions.

My watchlist/listenlist/researchlist:
Sun Ra
Sun Ra lived out his beliefs of afrofuturism in his daily life by embodying the movement not only in his music, but also in his clothes and actions. This embodiment of the narrative allowed him to demonstrate black nationalism as a counter narrative to the present culture. It was in Chicago, as well, in the mid-fifties, that Ra began experimenting with extraterrestriality in his stage show, sometimes playing regular cocktail lounges dressed in space suits.
If there's a reason besides racism that I've loved Ziggy Stardust this long and never heard of Sun Ra... I can't think what it is.
The Brother from Another Planet
Robots of Brixton
An Oversimplification of her Beauty

Friday, 3.15pm, Academia Track: Rebellion, Outsiders and Group Dynamics - Three talks on outsiders and relations to authority

Disability in the Vorkosiverse -- nothing I hadn't already noted but nicely put together with a clear thesis of "disability studies as cultural critique and activism". Nice to be reminded of how much I love these bloody books.

Gender & race in Judge Dredd -- made me want to go out and read some comics, even though this kind of boiled down to "nice try, progressive-identified white dudes, but... SERIOUSLY?!!" I must remember to ask L for recommendations.

Master/slave dialectic in Battlestar Galactica -- how about I do us all a favour and don't try to pretend that I understood this. Me and continental philosophy, We Do Not Get On.

Friday, 5pm, Star Trek Track: Star Trek Pictionary

After Fucking Hegel I was ready for something fun & frivolous. So this session was absolute bliss! I managed to pull "Pon Farr" and "Julian Bashir" from the clue-pot (the easy clue-pot.. I didn't touch the other one, which contained ideas like "the Sisko family's dubious fashion sense" and "Lizard babies"). I just loved every second of this, although I MAY have accidentally spoilered someone for DS-9 by using a MASSIVE SPOILER to indicate Bashir, oops.

Friday, 6pm, Worlds of Whedon Track: The Whedon Singalong - ...You will sing!

(CN: squee-harshing)

Meh. To be honest, I probably should have stayed in the Pictionary session and found out who won (everyone who drew a clue got to vote 'klingons' or 'vulcans' after someone guessed it).

What went wrong?

The first year, this was an awesome, almost spontaneous thing, hanging around a grand piano with friends and singing back-and-forth with casual acting and humour.

The second year, I treated it as a chance for a great vocal warm-up just before I went on stage; can't really remember what it was like beyond that.

This year... we were seated in rows, with cosplayers and track-runners on stage, and lyrics projected on the walls... it was somewhere between a Rocky Horror Floor Show and a Tommy Gnosis religious service. I felt very disconnected from the joy of it all. Also, sorry for squee-harshing, but 80% of Doctor Horrible is objectively terrible in almost every way. (I'll take a bullet for the Buffy musical episode, though.)

Friday, 8pm, Entertainment: Knightmare Live

Some great performances from this team (do I catch a whiff of an improv comedy background?), and some very well-pitched nostalgia hits (damn you Neil Buchanan!!) sadly undercut by transmisogyny of the pantomime kind: "lol, the villain thinks that's a sexy lady but it's obviously a man in a dress". Ugh. So that was disappointing, as was the 45-minute+ queue in the terrifying heat with nobody offering seats/water. It was fun, if slightly textbook stuff; not much different from seeing an OULES show then watching kids TV on YouTube at the cast party. Although the latter would generally not contain a guest appearance from Tom Scott from Off The Internet!

Saturday: Cosplay / treasure hunt / Thor v Thor / apocalypse planning / transhumanism in Doctor Who / Bifrost queer cabaret

Saturday, 10am, My Hotel Room: Being drawn on in pink marker pen

Yeah, I skipped this session in favour of COSPLAY.

It was fun being Rose Quartz! I only had to use one of my emergency cool-packs to stop myself falling over in the heat and that wig.

Saturday, 11.45am, Future Tech Track: Complex Mechanical Puzzles / Treasure Hunt

I'm not saying this con was over-sold, but... I couldn't get into "Mad Max" or "Historical Headcanons", so ended up in a random session because it had the words "treasure hunt" in the title. I might have enjoyed it if I hadn't been standing up at the back of sweltering room 11 in a giant wig... running around and code-breaking for the treasure hunt was fun, though.

Saturday, 1.30pm, Religion Track: Ghost in the Shell: Kami and Transhumanism / Thor v Thor

Having shown up for GitS/Transhumanism, it was a bit sad to find out it had been cancelled (with at least several days' notice, it sounded like, which is strange as other tracks were updating their online listings in real time but this one was still advertised). But this session turned out to be one of those hidden gems -- an utterly engaging ad-hoc Q&A on the cultural specificity of faith, followed by a barely-changed talk-for-ten-year-olds on Norse Thor v Marvel Thor. (It doesn't matter how many implausible super-powers you give to Marvel's Mjolnir, Norse Thor still wipes the floor.) John Scholes was probably my favourite discovery this con - a viking re-enactor and norse mythology expert with a sort of down-to-earth uncomplicated kindness to him. More from him later on!

Saturday, 3.15pm, Apocalypse Track: Ragnarok! - The Nine Worlds Apocalypse Survival Committee

Couldn't get into the 'Representations of Death' panel, so went for this one instead.

(CN: zombies, violence)

This was a silly, fun session, although it did keep trying to make serious points which got undercut by somebody saying "cannibalism!" "dictatorship!" "kill the jocks!" etc. I think we ended up using Heathrow's jet-fuel stocks in about a week on flamethrowers and flaming moats (it was a zombie apocalypse after all). About halfway through they invited an audience member up on stage because said audience member was making more intelligent points than most of the panel. (Antibiotics, infrastructure, bananas. No, seriously; our hypothetical post-apocalyptic society had a banana-pollinator before it had schools or hospitals.)

Saturday, 5pm, Doctor Who Track: Doctor Who and Transhumanism - What are we so afraid of?

On leaving this session, [profile] crouchinglynx said to me: "wow, Doctor Who really is kind of reactionary..", and yeah, that summed this up for me. Panel and audience combined couldn't find an unambiguously positive representation of transhumanism outside last year's Time Heist (possibly-not-unrelatedly, I now really want to re-watch Time Heist). An hour in, and nobody had mentioned disability, although someone had said "isn't it better to fear ourselves-modified than to fear marauding aliens, because racism" so I did one of those terrible "questions-that's-actually-just-a-statement" to point out that "ourselves-modified" can be just as problematic a thing to fear, because ableism.

Saturday, 8pm, LGBTQAI+ Fandom Track: Bifrost

Aaaaaaah Bifrost! It was always going to be a bit of an ask to top last year's live onstage surprise (but pre-negotiated) proposal, but this show made a sterling effort. Lots of short sets gave it a real variety-show feel, Sally was amazing as always, and it was nice to finally see Playing Rapunzel and Irreverent Dance do their respective things. Scattermoon and Riotstar are amazing DJs with magnificent stage presence, but sadly I flaked on the dancing before too long because SUCH TIRED SO MUCH WIG WOW. (Also I think I preferred last year's approach of having cabaret and dancing in two different rooms... the 45 minute break where they threw us out to change the layout of the room and the tech setup really kind of killed my energy.)

Sunday: Disability & the apocalypse / metaphors for race / Steven Universe / Bioware

Sunday, 10am, Apocalypse Track: Disability and the Apocalypse

Now THIS is the kind of killer politics and on-point analysis that I go to Nine Worlds for!

Four disabled panellists absolutely nailing it with regard to bullshit abled white dudes' lone-wolf survivalist fantasies.

And yes they went straight for Fury Road (don't think that loving Furiosa means we can't see how you made all the bad guys disabled in stereotypically 'grotesque' ways).

Some of my favourite points, sort of mashed together:

The apocalypse is a massively disabling event. Even if it isn't a nuclear event or Day of the Triffids (ie leaving previously abled people with impairments/injuries/conditions which are disabling in our current society) there will be catastrophic breakdowns in infrastructure, supply chains, the ways we are used to living.

And do you know who's got experience of navigating a world where previously-accessible things suddenly... aren't?

That's right -- anyone who's ever acquired a disability.

And many disabled people share one particular experience: needing to meticulously plan every last aspect of a day's activities, which an abled person might breeze through without thinking. That's another huge survival skill, right there, and something that will be vital in any post-apocalyptic community. (Spoon theory as an analogy to resource scarcity?)

Not to mention that if there is some massively impairing event, then previously-disabled people will be best placed to educate and support the newly-disabled.

And there was John Scholes (Thor v Thor) in the middle of it all, gently bringing the panel back on-topic when they drifted off into "and we could hoard all the medication because we know what it is, and become the Evil Disabled Overlords that abled people are so often imagining into their post-apoc worlds". ("Perhaps Immortan Joe achieved his improbable position by Really Meticulous Planning. And was he really so bad? He did give out free water...") Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with revenge / power fantasies... but Scholes' gentle insistence that we could be better than that, that we could build a kinder society on co-operation and community and playing to one-another's strengths (rather than having one hegemonic idea of strength that won't educate any children or treat any PTSD) was just SO warm, SO inviting, that for a moment I almost wanted a meteor-strike right then.

Sunday, 11.45am, Race & Culture Track: "I Don't See Race" - On telling PoC narratives without PoC

Another politically incisive panel, nuanced in its critique of 'metaphors for race' and pointing out that it's different for PoC by acknowledging that it's hard for writers not to include 'metaphors for things I've experienced every day of my life'.

"Home" was front-and-centre in this panel (have you heard me raving about it? A kids' movie where the main character is a teenage black girl who is neither infantilised nor inappropriately sexualised) for its representation of different types of colonialism, and its clear condemnation of 'benevolent' colonialism.

(One panellist had adored the Zebra episode of MLP:FIM which I definitely need to go away and think about (no, a PoC liking something doesn't stop it being racist; but their interpretation was so divergent from my own that I feel like I've missed vital context somehow).)

Reading list from this:
The True Meaning of Smekday

Sunday, 1.30pm, Apocalypse Track: Stories, Science & Averting the Apocalypse

Wow, I sure went to a lot of things on the apocalypse track! I pretty much just went to this because some people I knew were on the panel; but I ended up sobbing into my knees at a short story Jenni Hill was reading about an antibiotic-resistant future, and generally feeling overwhelmed by how amazing people I know are.

I ended up having to self-soothe by playing phone-games while some of the panellists spoke (which was ironic as they were talking a lot about how narratives of fear around potentially-apocalyptic events tend to cause people to switch off and hide).

Sunday, 3.15pm: Ad-hoc meetups and planes

Couldn't get into the MMORPG improv show (which might be a blessing actually considering it was from the creators of Knightmare Live and I fundamentally don't trust them not to be a bit awful), but did stand in the queue for a long time chatting with an STC member (Studio Theatre Club in Abingdon who premiere all Stephen Briggs' Pratchett plays). As I think I'd suspected, there's a seriously high amount of.. devotedness amongst that group of people. (After mentioning the Oxford Wyrd Sisters in passing, he said, "oh yes well they introduced a narrator to that, which I did think was strange" -- ten years on and the Briggs crew are still angry that we messed with his masterpiece!!)

After this I spent a while at an ad-hoc Steven Universe meetup, which turned out to be made almost entirely of Oxford residents.. lots of feels and theories and WHY isn't there another episode 'til September??

Then I wandered across the road to watch the planes land for a while. The 9W hotel is right near the point on the Heathrow runway where the planes touch down, and the area is lousy with parked cars and binoculars. There's even a purpose-built viewing platform!!

Sunday, 5pm, LGBTQAI+ Fandom Track: Anime, cartoons and LGBT representation

"So, remember six months ago when we all thought that Legend of Korra was the queerest thing ever to queer?... NON-BINARY GAY SPACE ROCKS"

This panel wasn't ENTIRELY about Steven Universe, but two out of the five panellists WERE cosplaying Rose Quartz and Rainbow Quartz respectively.

I got seriously tearful when Tori was talking about Stevonnie, and afterwards talking about Malachite with the track head.

I have no idea how this tiny little cartoon can support so much love and critical engagement, but I'm so glad that it does, and I'm so glad that I got into it.

There's just every kind of representation in it -- complicated conversations about consent violations within loving relationships. Non-normative family structures, non-sexual intimacies, "no is a complete sentence". Diverse body types and gender expressions and queering EVERYTHING. Not to mention all the [personal profile] sebastienne-bait like alien attitudes to humans and prog rock caravans and sciiiii fiiiiii worldbuilding.

Sunday, 6.45pm, Video Games Culture Track: Relationships in Games - Influences from tabletop role-playing

This may sound very high-concept, but it was basically four drunk nerds ranting about their favourite Bioware romances (or their problems with Bioware's gamified romance concept) and I cannot think of a better way to end my weekend. I've played over 100 hours of Dragon Age Inquisition in the last month, and hearing those characters name-checked, that gameplay discussed, was the most intense feeling of belonging that I can describe.

In the end - has this con left me with inspiration: an overwhelming urge to be everything that I can be, to be as amazing as all the people I saw performing and speaking and cosplaying and asking questions and sitting quietly absorbing the beauty around them? Or has this con just left me with an overwhelming urge to play all three Mass Effect games and romance somebody called Garak?

We shall see...
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sebastienne: My default icon: I'm a fat white person with short dark hair, looking over my glasses. (Default)

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