Nine Worlds is a London “geekfest” convention that I’ve now attended for 3 years. With 3 days of content, it’s all about nerdy pop culture with panels, workshops, discussion groups and all kinds of activities. As my first year at the convention fell just months after I’d decided to transition, it’s also an event I’m quite emotionally attached to. It’s become a marker in the year, a time to check on how I’m doing and hang out amongst some familiar faces.
As the last few months have been exceedingly stressful, with money problems and impending unemployment, I couldn’t wait to get away to Nine Worlds this month for some geeky goodness.
Unfortunately, things did not quite go to plan.
Day 0 – Thursday
As the convention is packed from morning until evening with content across all three days, I always travel on the Thursday, and leave on the Monday. Meaning altogether I’m out of the house for more than half a week. I’ve come to see it as my yearly mini-holiday, the only time I really get away for something other than appointments.
On the Thursday morning, myself and Retta popped into a taxi and set off towards the coach station. After being taken in the wrong direction and having to awkwardly inquire if the driver had made a mistake or was kidnapping us, we finally arrived at the station in time to jump aboard our coach.
I planned to spend the journey looking out of the window and listening to music, so it was quite a surprise when I found myself jolted awake at the coach’s announcement that we’d arrived in London. Apparently I had slid off to sleep without noticing, which isn’t the first time that’s happened. Last time I fell asleep on a coach I found myself sat with my head tilted flat and my mouth wide open, hopefully I wasn’t quite as inelegant this time but knowing me I wouldn’t put any bets against it.
After strolling across London with as much comfort as you can with 4 bags between two people, we arrived at our hotel and flopped onto some comfy seats in the lobby.
9 hours later! Now safely settled into the hotel ✨ pic.twitter.com/QaV8V8Hcog
— Mia Violet (@OhMiaGod) August 3, 2017
While waiting for our room to be ready, we were spotted by some friends and engaged in lively and excitable conversation about the convention to come. This is what reminded me of the best part of Nine Worlds, the whole reason I was here: the people.
The panels are great, the vendors are fun, but it’s the amazing, accepting, and positive people that attend and arrange the convention that make Nine Worlds such a special place to be. As the convention focuses on inclusivity and accessibility, it attracts a crowd that equally consider those two points as being highly important. That means the weekend becomes a bubble of considerate and friendly people who all get along. I’ve never been anywhere else that feels as welcoming and safe.
Attending Nine Worlds is like returning home.
Day 1 – Friday
One of the best parts of Nine Worlds is that the whole convention takes place in a lovely 4-star hotel. That means when it comes to picking an outfit, pesky practicalities like keeping warm, or not frightening the general public, can be thrown out the window. Nine Worlds attendees generally dress however they like, with everyday mundane outfits, to loud and dramatic costumes, everything is fair game.
I decided to dress a little over the top, taking the excuse to wear some fancy and poofy dresses that would be a little overboard in another context. I also tossed on my increasingly-trademark rose coloured glasses, to help myself look a little more recognisable to those who knew me via Twitter. After a trip to the vendors, I also added a pair of white and pink cat ears, just to up the ridiculous factor.
My outfit choice made me laugh, in the best way. At the start of my transition, before even the first Nine Worlds, I would dress very conservatively. But on that day, exactly 18 months after I started HRT, I felt the most comfortable wearing a loud outfit with lots of pink and a healthy self-awareness of how playfully over-the-top I looked. I no longer want to blend into the background, I want to express myself and just be a little silly, while still trying to look as coordinated and as stylish as I can in such a loud outfit. Being in my late-twenties I figure the time I can’t quite get away with such attire is rapidly approaching, I may as well enjoy it while I can!
Readers of my last WordPress blog may remember that I talked about Nine Worlds last year, and the fact that I was on 3 panels across the weekend. As I only knew that I’d have the money to attend this year’s convention a week before it began, I didn’t volunteer myself for any panels or sign up to be a contributor at all. But as a friend still had an empty seat to fill, I happily slid in to round out the Toxicity in Fandom panel last minute as the fourth and final panelist. Since the panel was due to take place on the Friday afternoon, I thought the timing was perfect. It meant I would be able to enjoy the majority of the day at my own leisure, take part in the panel after lunch, and then have no other obligations whatsoever for the rest of the convention on Saturday and Sunday.
Speaking on panels is something I really enjoy, but I find the buildup to them a little stressful at times. As I want to ensure I can put on the best performance, I like to prepare and brush up on the topic. I then start to focus on the panel and can find it hard to concentrate on other things until I’ve gotten it out of the way. But once I’m in the moment and chatting away, I always have a great time. There’s nothing quite like hearing a crowd bubble up into laughter at one of your jokes, or watch a sea of smiles and nods as you explain an opinion that people agree with. It’s exciting to work as a team and try put on an hour of entertainment by bouncing off of your peers. I’m happy to say that the panel went really well and I think altogether we did a great job!
When I first attended Nine Worlds in 2015, I only knew a single person who would be attending, in contrast this year across the first day I met countless familiar faces and gave out plenty of hugs, as well as meeting new people and even some who recognised me from Twitter. Everybody was lovely and I had an absolute blast chatting about all sorts and enjoying the laidback atmosphere. It reminded me in a funny way of how many friends I actually have. It’s easy to feel a little lonely down on the coast when my friends are so scattered, it’s actually quite rare I get to hang out with people in person. But when so many of us are in the same place for a weekend it reminds me how many people actually recognise me and want to hang out and talk, it’s a really reassuring feeling for someone who has struggled with self-worth issues!
Day 2 – Saturday
Just after midnight on Saturday morning, as the day began, I realised something was amiss. My stomach felt off and my whole body was swimming with nausea. I’d felt absolutely fine just hours earlier, but now I couldn’t even lie down.
I then threw up, quite dramatically, with lots of pathetic cooing noises as I felt sorry for myself during and afterwards.
I had food poisoning, for the first time in my life. Whether from the sweets I had just eaten hours ago, or the chicken I had devoured the day earlier I wasn’t sure. My body was aggressively emptying itself and rejecting everything it currently had in it. After hobbling to and from the bathroom countless times I decided to just camp out in there.
When morning came, Retta returned from the chemist with tablets and supplies. Although they were very hesitant, I encouraged them to head down to the convention and have fun without me. I didn’t want to waste their day just because I’d been unlucky enough to fall ill.
The rest of the day was a blur. Moaning on Twitter about how I felt, I appreciated that a few friends asked if I needed anything in particular, or if they could do anything to help, but all I wanted to do was sleep.
At the end of the day I did perk up enough in the evening to watch Terminator 2 at least.
At least Terminator 2 is starting so that's my evening sorted.
Or "erminator udgement Da" as this badly calibrated hotel TV just showed.
— Mia Violet (@OhMiaGod) August 5, 2017
Day 3 – Sunday
I woke up thinking I felt slightly better on Sunday, that perhaps today I could return to the convention.
Then I was promptly sick, again.
Contacting the front desk, I was told that to send the hotel doctor out it would be £150. Mentally I had braced myself for something in the range of £70, expensive but worthwhile when my symptoms were still so severe, but £150 was well outside of my price range. I curled into a ball and hoped I’d feel better soon as the day faded into a hazy blur.
When the evening came, I realised I hadn’t eaten since Friday, but I finally had some form of an appetite. Thanks to room service, a plate of fancy looking chips arrived, but I only managed to keep down a handful before my stomach made protesting noises and the dizziness doubled. I decided not to push it and take any more.
At this point the convention was ending, with friends messaging to say they were sorry I had skipped so much, and it was a shame I had missed some people altogether. Meanwhile, I was hoping that I’d feel well enough the next morning to actually get home.
Day 4 – Monday
I heavily considered extending our stay. I still felt horrendous but the idea of spending a fortune on extra accommodation and travel in London, was slightly more terrifying than the possibility that I may be sick on the bumpy coach home. I decided to press on, I’d make it work.
I cursed my bag of fancy dresses, as I dragged my suitcase across London towards the coach pickup stop. The short journey took about twice as long as it first had, now that the case felt twice as heavy. I still hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday’s chips, I didn’t dare risk more food with the travel coming up.
Thanks to powerful anti-sickness pills, I managed to quell the dizziness before the coach arrived. Once we were 30 minutes into the journey, I started to feel settled and confident that I’d make it home without any incidents. Thankfully, I was able to collapse onto my bed 2 hours later with nothing awkward or messy occurring in the meantime.
Looking back at Nine Worlds, it was a bittersweet experience. The one day I did spend there was incredible. But it’s hard not to feel sad about missing out on so much. I basically only experienced a third of the convention.
At first on getting home I was simply relieved to be back, I hadn’t had time to be disappointed, but as time has passed I’m feeling more regret over getting ill. It’s a whole year until Nine Worlds 2018, and some friends I didn’t even get a chance to see. Still, the time I did spend there was brilliant and even with the sickness, it was well worth it.