Nine Worlds Geek Fest 2017
The Social OS Update
Alexander Gordon Jahans
I am wired and tired and, frankly, a little manic after nearly 5 days without writing or letsplays.
I have been on what can perhaps be best described as a psychological orbit during the last two years. Fatigue, pain and fresh crises causing me to fall further while letsplays, podcasts, writing, tv shows, walking and some very lovely people have kept boosting my altitude so that I never quite head into a death spiral. Though there have been one or two close calls.
The reasons for this are far too many to mention and frankly the answers bore me right now. The point is that I have not been well. Then as Nine Worlds Geek Fest approached, a number of things combined, some good, some bad, to make my mental state particularly ragged.
* I missed Universal Credit then had the rescheduled appointment a couple of days before I headed off to Nine Worlds Geek Fest.
* After waiting two years, my family picks the time period just before to get estate agents round to look at the house. So lots of stress as sleeping arrangements are shifted round to accommodate house viewings and certain members of my family seriously misunderstand how an autistic person will react to them cleaning without consent or oversight.
* I finished watching Blakes 7.
* I came close to the end of a short story I had been working on for weeks.
* I got the galloping shits.
So when I at last made the trip to Nine Worlds Geek Fest I was having serious doubts about whether I should go. I lived in absolute dread that I would get there and effectively have a nervous breakdown from the destruction of the fragile routine that had kept me in that stable orbit. Or worse that my isolation and mental instability had made me into a kind of offence generating time bomb waiting to go off. Between the last Nine Worlds Geek Fest I attended and this one I had after all managed to get myself publicly shamed and hated as a transphobic misogynist. Now here I was walking into perhaps the safest of safe spaces.
Incidentally the journey in (and trap back) was not fun. Taking luggage on the London underground, and having to go up escalators and stairs, not good. I got on the wrong train once and even when I arrived I started off walking in the wrong direction. My abusive father’s painfully insistent advice that there was a direct bus to Heathrow resounding loudly in my ears and I realised quite viscerally just how utterly unhelpful that advice would have been had I taken it.
The hotel I stayed in was shit. I had to go out to buy proper bogroll and the sink was too small to fit my bottles under the tap so I had to make squash by using a glass like a ladle to spoon the water inside the bottles held over the tiny sink. The walk from my hotel to the convention venue was bracing but not too tiring. Indeed the most tiresome aspect was negotiating the many crossings.
There is not actually much I can say about Nine Worlds Geek Fest 2017 itself. It was what Nine Worlds has always been, albeit perhaps smaller. I didn’t go for the guests and I considered the panels almost incidental. There were some good ones. A decent panel on Sansa Stark’s development in Game of Thrones. A nice one on Post Colonialism in Doctor Who. An interesting one on the city in SciFi and Fantasy. A good round table discussion on redemption in SF&F. A lot were alright but not memorable. Though the wrestling panel strikes me as something entirely outside my comfort zone but entertaining and interesting regardless.
There was the odd car crash of a panel. A couple I was in note worthy for providing me with a first hand view of how both old white women and old white gays can be dismissively bigoted in some ways. As a cis white male with interests in women I’m so used to being the demographic of the oppressor that it was eye opening to see that no women and gay men are indeed equally capable of being ignorant and problematic. Even these car crashes were enjoyable in their own way. A spectacle of stupidity. That said polyamorous and bisexual discrimination are not things to laugh about and are issues that need addressing in society. The fact I can take a punch down doesn’t mean others can and nor should they have to.
Which brings me to the the best part about conventions for me. The friends and friendly interactions. Nine Worlds Geek Fest is full of amazing and interesting people. I have to write and write from my perspective for my own reasons but this year I was very conscious that the world does not need more opinions from white cis males. Biting my tongue was at times hard, sometimes very hard, because I have spent so long on my own without a need to restrain myself but fundamentally I know what I think so I want to hear what they have to say instead. They have the new and interesting perspectives and they deserve to have their voices heard.
There is a misnomer within the right wing that what they want is freedom of speech. Now I will genuinely fiercely argue against censorship, if only because the old white cis rich men are still in charge in the vast major of cases. Yet like with the freedom of markets, something else I will ferociously champion the right wing doesn’t really want freedom.
Freedom is protected. You have a military (or vary good diplomats) to protect the freedom of your citizens from outside forces and you have a police force to protect the freedom of your citizens from internal sources. (Leaving aside the issue of police brutality and industrial racism just this once.) In the same way you have a regulation to protect the freedom of the markets from corporate bullies who would reduce competition. Freedom of Speech is protected in a similar way.
The right wing wants a world without rules because they have the money, they have the power and they like to think they have the physical might to enforce their will. (Even if the right wing and far right are by far the shittiest players of the martyr olympics.)
Never mind that freedom of speech refers specifically to protection from the government and nothing else, the spirit of their argument is self defeating. To protect free speech we do have to control and punish those with the largest power to exploit if they try to silence others. Even I have been cowed by the harassing voices of those who claim so viscously to defend the freedom of speech. These pricks silenced me and they react with outrage and indignation when their further harassment is silenced.
Nine Worlds Geek Fest is a safe space because it protects freedom of speech and representation from those who would seek to silence others with their might and violence. It is filled with lovely people from all walks of life and it feels like home.
I am immensely sad and kind of irrationally angry right now that it is over. I felt alive. I was talking to people and I liked it. More over I didn’t have to hide the scars I bore. I mean I didn’t flash them at anyone because I’m not a dick but this island of social progressivism, the safest of safe spaces, it didn’t make me feel unwelcome. Now maybe that’s because I’m a fucking unknown and a lot of my sins happened a long time ago now. Maybe the details would change it. That’s fair and that’s fine. What matters is that I was able to belong, however temporarily, however falsely, among this collection of different identities that I fundamentally champion and want to be victorious.
This convention finally put into words what I have been seeking for so long. Redemption. I fucked up and I fucked up bad. I hurt people, I made it about me and then my enemies hurt those people again. And the worst part is I know that it’s not just the writing, that I fucked up so bad but I will never really understand exactly, how, why and what I did wrong. There are so many steps along that chain where a different decision might have altered things so that I could maybe at least know how not to be such a fuckhead in the future.
That said there are some things I don’t think I will ever see eye to eye with some people about. I don’t believe in justice. I believe in the moral calculus of utilitarianism. I recognise social and political context as factors in that moral equation. That privilege and discrimination modify the result of whether a given action is moral or not. But I do not believe in justice.
I am a petty man with a long memory and I can be genuinely quite sadistic. I am not the hero of my own story. By my own morality I am a shithead who, at best, barely scrapes by without causing too much harm.
I will never trust in any system that trusts in the virtue, morality and goodness of anyone. I don’t care what demographic you are, you’re a person and that makes you capable of being moronic, petty, sadistic and corrupt. I would rather not have a society where ‘justice’ was carried out by well meaning citizens. The level of utter glee exhibited by some among the socially progressive at silencing, harassing and trying to end the livelihoods of people they have judged unworthy shocks and sickens me.
I don’t care what they’ve done, I don’t care what your demographic is. We have rules and systems to facilitate the protection of fundamental rights. Or we should anyway.
I cannot ever condone such actions. I can never condone revenge in real life. I have been hurt too deeply by far too many people to allow myself such an excuse. The things I could do to my hate stalkers in recent years alone. I appreciate that from another perspective that might seem like a demon criticising an angel smiting demons because as a demon, he’s not a nice guy. Unfortunately I think there is evidence enough to suggest that selective application of the rules leads in general to the wrong people exploiting that ruleset.
I do not think I can be redeemed, I don’t feel like it is possible. Barely passing for neurotypical in public is hard enough. Abiding by new sets of rules and identities is already hard at 25 and has to be consciously worked upon. I’ve already given up trying to reform the way I write fiction to a certain extent. I just don’t have the energy. Maybe the answer is I just don’t publish anything and quietly withdraw from public life. Heck I’m already sort of doing that.
I love Nine Worlds Geek Fest, I love the people, I love how they make me feel welcome and like I belong but if and when I get this short story collection published I feel like it’s going to be a nuclear bomb going off. The worst part is I’ll probably think I’ve gotten away with it. I mean what’s finished is already more than 80,000 words. So it’ll go unread and uncared about until the next time someone searches within the text for buzz words removed from context. In this story collection I break all of my rules. It is intended as a part 1 but also a capstone in case I never write again. It is also about my dealing with the wrongs I did through fiction.
If you think Steven Moffat and Joss Whedon are horrifically sexist, transphobic and otherwise problematic then block me now and save yourselves the bother. I wish I could say that I am seeking redemption through being a better man. I wish I could say this was a socially progressive short story collection. I wish I could be even half as good as they should like me to be. The reality is that a lot happened over the last two years. A metric fuckton happened. So this is about unpacking and displaying the horrors I feel like I was attacked for. This is about beginning the grieving process by finally drawing closure on the subject by earning the outrage.
I can’t seek redemption for something I don’t fully understand and know I did in good faith, meaning well. I can’t grieve for being a shit until I feel like I unambiguously am one and know why. It’s not as bad as it could be. It’s not as crude as it could be. There are story and plot reasons. No trans characters are actually harmed. None the less there is evil in these stories a level to which I have forbidden myself from writing before.
I kind of forgot about Richard Raspberry and how very evil he is while I was at Nine Worlds Geek Fest. I’m so close to the end of what is so far my most socially progressive short story that it clouded the memory of him and his actions. That I forgot that technically the story I’m writing is deliberately offensive and disgusting both in and out of universe.
I feel like a fraud and a monster. Oh and my diet is shot.
Anyway, I’m going to recover and then I’m going to review Blakes 7 and continue writing this short story.
Actually I don’t think even George RR Martin has anything quite as grotesque as what Richard Raspberry does.