Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Five Things I Learned At Nine Worlds 2016

1. The Duke Mitchell "Night of the Trailers" was problematic af, with several of the trailers completely inappropriate for a crowd who sees nothing wrong with cross-dressing or queer coding, and rather a lot wrong with catering for the male gaze.

That said, both the short films shown were rather nice, and the second in particular was delightfully sweet and melancholy. I've embedded it below, and strongly suggest you give it a try; it's only fifteen minutes long, and entirely lovely.

It's also worth noting that we got to vote on whether to see this. We had the choice between this, described as "funny and sweet", or two sci-fi films, one "weird" and the other "gritty". We went with this one. Which, honestly, how cool is that? How many other screening sessions at a sci-fi/fantasy convention are going to plump for "sweet" over "weird" and "gritty"?

This is why Nine Worlds is my home now.

2. A depressingly small number of Trek fans understand the difference between utopianism and utopia, conflict versus disagreement, and realism versus adolescent grimdark. I feel really bad about saying I hoped Star Trek Discovery returned to the utopianism of early-mid TNG, because it led to a dozen or more people to drone on about how the Federation should be considered venal and corrupt, as though that were mutually exclusive to the ship's utopianism. I mean, there's probably worse things to say in a discussion about Star Trek than "the human race is built on conflict", but I'm not sure what they'd be, short of actual bigotry.

Still, at least I knew I wasn't the worst (albeit accidental) derailing specialist in the room; that prize went to someone two seats from me who'd decided the queuing system to speak put in place by the (rather excellent) panel didn't apply to them, so long as they were correcting somebody else. Needless to say, more than one of their corrections were incomplete, or flat-out incorrect. So well done, self-appointed fact-checker! You're an arsehole and useless at your job!

3. Red Seven is a rather nice game, even if its name makes it a rather cruel trick to suggest playing it during a sci-fi convention (clearly an AU tie-in opportunity there). Jamie described it as a better-designed Fluxx, I called it a child's primer to R. Scott Bakker's benjuka, because I'm pretentious.

Either way, it's one of those games where your actions change the rules themselves. Players receive seven cards, each a unique combination of colour (red to violet) and number (1 to 7), hence the name of the game. Each card can be played in front of you (in your "palette") or be placed on top of the rules deck to change how the game is operating - each colour has its own winning condition. You can play a maximum of one card to each location a turn, so there's never more than 98 strategies you can enact when it's your go.  By the end of your go, you have to be winning by the current rules, or you're out. So either you have to play a winning card under the current rules, change the rules so you're now winning, or do both.

Which is pretty straightforward, with none of your turns requiring more than two minutes to work out what combinations will keep you alive for another round. The part where it gets interesting is knowing that every card you use to improve your palette is one you can't use to change the rules, and vice versa. Having the red seven (the most powerful card in the game since there's a colour hierarchy with red on top) is really useful under red rules (highest card wins), of no more use in general than any other under blue rules ("most different colours wins"), and an active drag factor under violet rules ("most cards under 4"). If you play it in your palette, you can't use it to switch to the red rules which it's an automatic winning card. If you play it on the rules pile so that highest card wins, you'll need a different high card to avoid going out. Your resources keep dwindling, in other words, and it's made more difficult by knowing every card you give up could be the one you need when someone else changes the rules, and that every time you have to change the rules and play to your palette to be winning, you've used two of the seven cards you started with, which could leave you unable to take a turn whilst others still have cards left to play.

It's immensely elegant, tactical without being overwhelming, and all over in five minutes. Very much recommended.

4. A more serious one here: the talk and subsequent discussion on fat representation in genre fiction was absolutely fascinating.  I took away a few recommendations (I'm more eager than ever to find a way to experience Steven Universe without having to pay a ludicrous amount for it) and acquired some useful zingers/responses for future use. Mainly though, I was amazed at how little tolerance people in the room had for any of the "nicer" synonyms for fat, insisting that fat was what they were, and this was fine, and trying to find other ways to say it is just an attempt by people to separate the fat people they like from the fat people they don't.  Which is so obvious a point I'm amazed it had taken me so long to encounter it.

Which I guess is to say: I am fat.

(I also learned from someone in the audience that in her experience she got far more anti-fat remarks directed at her whilst presenting as feminine than she did when presenting as butch. This is the sort of thing that even decades of getting crap over your weight can't lead you to understand when you're a cis-het white guy.)

5. The history and uses of filk are both great fun to learn about, and common meter is incredibly useful:

"Oh Elven grace, how sweet the ground
In Rivendell I see.
I once was lost, but now I've found
A homely house for me."


Jamie said...

Tickled that you included Red 7, glad it made that much of an impression.

Was a great con! Must remember to get my 2017 ticket before the price rises in September...

SpaceSquid said...

Have you watched that vid yet? Don't talk to me until you've watched that vid.