Rolling Dice in Anger

Heromeet takes place in bar uno at Bangor university it is part games soc reunion part games fest.  I’d been invited to go along by friends who are long time gamers, we boardgame with them quite regularly and had been told that we would be very welcome to join them at this meet.

Friday night was spent playing board games, Ticket To Ride, Seven Wonders at least that’s all that I remember playing there was a lot of general catching up with folks we knew and general merriment.

But Saturday was mainly taken up with playing Dungeons and Dragons.  Oh my freaking squee. Its worth pointing out at this point that I’ve not played ADnD or any RPG for that matter for more than 15 years.  I got adopted into the Games Society at University in Freshers week, they were my people even though I didn’t know it at that point.  All I really knew was that the other girls in my flat had taken against me for no reason that I could fathom and the guys in the games soc were friendly a couple of them were rather cute and they were more fun to hang out with and they were more than happy to have me hang out with them even though I knew very little of table top RPGS or running around with rubber weapons although that would change.

So playing some ADnD at the weekend was pretty freaking cool.  I played a warrior whom I named Catlyn and all was well with the world.  I have missed rolling dice in anger.  I have missed the shared storytelling, the stupidly funny situations which are only funny to your party because you really had to have been there.  I may have bugged the DM afterwards to run us another session in the not too distant future.

There are Role Playing groups out there, but they are all very established and I dont’ have the guts/gall to approach and say, hey can I play and the reasons for that are many.  It always was very much a male hobby.  Or at least the groups I played with were.  When I broke up with my first boyfriend post uni that was pretty much me out of Role playing.  So I’ve been out of the hobby for years.  Lately I’m aware of male friends who have a regular group but when I asked about maybe popping by I was told that the group would probably not be a good fit for me it being very laddish and bantery.

I’ve never had the confidence to run my own games I don’t know enough, they get pretty technical and I wouldn’t want to screw things up for people being a GM is a difficult job. But after this weekend I have hope.  I am going to prod my friend who ran the session and see if he’ll make it a more regular thing. I’ve missed it and I want to play some more.

On Fandom, snobbery and other ills

I’ve been thinking about fandom and the arbitrary hierarchies that are constructed by the tribes within. I’ve written before about how I find it problematic and one thing I really dislike is the way some people like to laugh at ‘lower/less worthy’ fandoms. I’ve been guilty of it myself I have rolled my eyes at someone else’s and I have come to the conclusion that it really is just not on to harsh on someone else’s squee.

Which brings me to Twilight. I read the books and the first film and decided it was not for me. It made me feel all kinds of wrong. However, an awful lot of young women loved the books and it is not for me or for anyone else to tell them they are wrong. Tastes change and evolve, the important thing is that they have connected with people who share the love for something and that is incredibly cool. When they move onto other fandoms – and they will – it is kind of awesome. I would have had a much better time at school had I been able to geek out with more people.

Now this next part is controversial. I’ve not read the books and I’ve not seen the film but have read a tonne of articles about how horrendous Fifty Shades of Grey is and how it is bad for “the women’s self esteem.” This is the thing that gets me riled up, is that reading it or watching it is somehow going to make them more susceptible to abuse. And I call bull.

What this is about is snobbery. Oh you like reading that do you… Oh I won’t read it because its badly written… Started out as fan fic. Its about fear of women publicly consuming and enjoying something risqué. There is no difference to teenagers passing round Judy Blume’s Forever. It is the same feeling of reading something ilicit.

It annoys me that women are pouring scorn on other women for wanting to go and see the film. We have to trust each other that we can separate fact from fantasy, we’re all doing that on a daily basis after all.
Fundamentally all of this about respect. It is about groups of people needing to feel superior by deriding something else.

There is enough gatekeeping within fandom as it is. If fandom is supposed to be an inclusive space then it should be without judgement of those who like different things.

Sci Fi Weekender 6

Last weekend I went to the 6th Sci Fi weekender run by Chic at Hafan y Mor Haven Holiday park in Pwllheli. I’ve attended the last four of these events and I’ve always enjoyed myself. However, this year whilst I enjoyed the partying it felt somewhat flat.

In the past the weekender has been buzzing with activities. Author panels and signings, great panels and much in the way of cabaret entertainment and parties.

The first biggest difference was that this year the Sci fi weekender was sharing a site and facilities with the prog rock weekender. This essentially meant that the usual venue for all of the films was out of use and instead of an all day programme, there was only a evening one.

The author panels were relegated to Starbucks but at least that meant you could hear what was being said.
The trading area was not full of fandom goodies but of rawk paraphernalia and of no interest to me at all.
Some of these issues are not new which is frustrating because it feels like Chic is not learning from event to event.. There is always a sense that the programming for this event is a little bit weak. The weekenders are forever calling for more guests and more things to do.

This year the party didn’t really get started and that has left me really disappointed and trying to weigh up whether I want to go back to further events in the future.

For example in Previous years Area 51 have worked their socks off to provide on-going pizzazz. Whether you like the scantily clad ladies in sci fi gear or not they are out and about working the crowd and giving the event something else. Last year there was the carnival of lost souls which was utterly brilliant. This year as far as I could see the Area 51 only did the imaginarium and that was more miss than hit. Caspian was excellent but the mesmerist was really quite dull. I could be wrong but the guy who appeared to be in charge last year wasn’t there and they did seem to be missing half of the crew, were they double booked?
In previous years the stage has been dressed and efforts have been made this year, it felt very lacklustre.

The weekender is not a serious con. I don’t expect it to be, but what I do want to do is have is choices of things going on. This year was the first time I’d ever felt that things were severely limited in what was being offered.

Things I did like: Festival of the Spoken Nerd were as ever awesome. I

Darth Elvis and the imperials were also a lot of fun. They got us boogying. The sci-fi London quiz was as impossible as ever. And still pandered to a tiny minority. Just saying. Just a minute is totes awkward without the Lovely Paul Cornell running it. But watching Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred with Gareth L Powell and Bryony Pearce was a lot of fun. Well done to David J Howe and Sam Stone for stepping up for that event.

I didn’t enjoy the one man star wars/Lord of the Rings. It was too shouty and I couldn’t see much of what was going on as he spent most of his sets rolling around on the floor shouting.

If I’d been there on my own and didn’t know anyone then I would have been a very sad panda indeed. Fortunately I shared a caravan with some brilliant people and we did indeed make the best of things.

I got the impression that there were a lot less people there this year. There seemed to be fewer costumes. Bars were quieter, the dance floor was half empty on the saturday night. This is an event that needs people, it needs an atmosphere and for the first time this year, the atmosphere lacked somewhat.

So Chic, if you are reading this here are my bullet points.

  • A shared site for events is not working.
  • You’ve promised us a range of guests and have not yet managed to deliver we know stars back out but still you don’t manage to match up to other events.
  • Content content content not everything has to be staged but maybe offer slots to event goers who feel like organising something in the space port.
  • still need a chill out space somewhere to play board games

Gatekeepers and why I’m not a fan

I have a problem with Gatekeepers in geekdom and fandom. Self-appointed guardians of what it means to be a fan. Those who have a personal credo and if you don’t know the answers to the questions or you weren’t there at the beginning then you can’t be a real fan.

I’m quite a sensitive person, I’m a survivor of bullying and I hate us and them mentalities. I understand the need for folks to create their own communities where they create safe spaces and the desire to control that space by building walls around it and pulling up the drawbridge. I am someone who usually ends up outside the castle and from the outside all these coteries, cliques and fandom look mean.

I also struggle with those who can only things their way and who insist others follow their example whether it is right for them or not. Those who create a cult of personality around them to ensure that they get their own way. It is a subtle form of bullying but it is a form of bullying, especially when their own rules are used to put others down.

I avoid these spaces and folks who behave this way – that said you can stumble across these people accidentally and before you know it you are feeling like you have done something unforgivable when all you have done is expressed an opinion.

I think what I’m trying to put forward, rather inelegantly is that there is always a plurality of ways of looking at things and there are no definitive answers when it comes to fandoms. Anything can and indeed will go. Judging people who do not conform to your expectations is not good, snarking about them or their fandom or the way they take part in fandom is just low and if its being done to make themselves feel better, then maybe some time reflecting on this is the best way forward.

On going to a Convention by myself

I have done something for the first time. I have booked to go to a convention on my own.

Of course now I am a little bit terrified, but I did expect it.

The con in question is Bristol Con and I understand it isn’t a huge one but I am fearful and excited in equal measure.

My main motivation of going is to see Emma Newman talking about stuff. But that is only part of the day. There are hours where I’m not sure where I’ll be going or what I’ll be doing and I won’t have a friend to keep my spirits up. I know I will enjoy myself but the shyness I feel or the overwhelmedness I experience in new places on my own will be quite the battle royale.

In order to give myself the illusion of control I will be all over the programme like a rash when it is published. I will read inwardly digest and then plan my sessions like a german train timetable. I will no doubt invoke the power of the spreadsheet and then I will feel like I have control.

The biggest fear is talking to people. Once you know me you cannot shut me up but I need to feel safe in order to be me. Nineworlds with its clips for please talk to me I’m shy were great but at this event there won’t be any and I’ll have to try and save sanity chips in order to not be a complete doofus. I am incapable of small talk, even the phrase makes me tense.

The other worry I have is that large rooms full of people talking is one of the hardest environments for me to cope with. I’m not sure if I’m going a bit deaf, or whether I just struggle filtering out the wrong noise, but there are times in loud rooms where I rely on being able to see people’s mouths move at the same time as they are talking.

I will be there though, and I will love it and you are going too say hi and wave because its nice meeting fellow geeks.