CoNZealand Goes Virtual

This year’s Worldcon is going virtual, because we’re currently living in a global pandemic, and despite what some clueless politicians might say, we’re not going to be out of the proverbial woods by Easter. Moreover, the nation of New Zealand is currently under a stage four lockdown and will be for several weeks, which I imagine makes it very difficult for the Worldcon planners in country to do much of their work. Finally, who knows when international travel will be unfucked. Add it all up, and not only is going virtual this year the best and most responsible choice, essentially it’s the only choice, short of calling off the Worldcon entirely.

For the record, I fully support and endorse the online version of CoNZealand; I plan to attend and, if they want me, will participate in the programming as well. We’re currently in a world that calls for flexibility and imagination in order for people to get together as individuals and communities, and the science fiction and fantasy fandom is one of my communities. This is how our tribe comes together this year, and I want to be part of it. I’m sad I don’t get to do it in the physical New Zealand this year — it’s always been one of my travel goals — but that just means we can visit some other time. This works for me in the interim.

If you were planning or even thinking about going to CoNZealand, I hope you’ll support and attend this version; it will work if we want it to, and show up. I’ll be there. I hope I’ll see you there, too.

27 Comments on “CoNZealand Goes Virtual”

  1. It’s a very SFnal solution!

    I was not going to be able to afford to go to actual NZ, but attending virtually might well be do-able.

  2. Imagine how much of an impact this will have on the carbon footprint for this convention. Flights to NZ are long and I think (I’m talking out of my ass here) that a lot of people would be flying a long way into NZ.

  3. My guess is that many events will have a virtual attendance option from now on, even after travel bans are lifted. As William noted that will do wonders for carbon control (not just flights but telecommuting and other adaptations). Plus it may increase attendance; I had no intention of subjecting myself to the rigours of that kind of travel even without current circumstances. Now I may attend and would like to see that option available in the future. Ditto for various other professional and technology conferences that until now I avoided.

  4. I heard of one pagan conference that is going virtual in April and I’m excited at the idea of virtual cons. God knows I wouldn’t be going to New Zealand otherwise!

  5. One idea that I’m pointing conference organizers to for virtual conferences is the following…
    The Emacs Conference last November was intentionally virtual, without any reference to current virus-y matters.
    One of the super-useful facilities that they set up was a shared notepad for the conference using EtherPad (
    They collected things, in shared fashion, during the course of the day, at and later reformatted into cleverer forms. (Emacs has it’s own thing, Org Mode)

    I found this shared pad to be sheer gold. During conferences, I tend to take fairly copious notes during sessions, and capture URLs of interesting things, and occasionally little bits more. The EmacsConf pad provided all the notes I’d have imagined, as well as some capturing (with some permanence) of material that would have been in “hallway sessions.”

    I’m pointing conference organizers to this concept, as, where useful, it’s likely to be REALLY useful.

    The “dark side” unfortunately is that sometimes people can’t behave themselves. For whatever reasons, that phenomenon did not emerge for EmacsConf, and thus I am grateful that the shared material was virtually “all gold.” I can, of course, imagine things going rather more poorly, leading to things like Wikipedia page-edit-battles. Alas.

  6. I will attend now! The truth is that accessibility prevents me from going to Cons. Virtual cons allow me to attend. I hope that more Cons will include this option in the future.

  7. I’m looking forward to the Virtual Worldcon. I’m a supporting member, but hadn’t been going to attend in person. They expect to announce registration/pricing on April 15, and it’ll be interesting to attend an online sf con that’s had time to do advanced planning.

    Consonance (SF Bay Area filk convention) went virtual this year. There wasn’t much advance prep time – Blind Lemming Chiffon organized a rotating living room concerts series for it, which went well for the parts I saw, including participation by several cats who do not usually attend. They also did some open filk over videoconference; I’m temporarily in the wrong time zone to have caught that, so I don’t know if lag was a problem.

    PancakesCon was an informal information security con that Lesley Carhardt and friends put together quickly. It had two tracks, the program for each was “speaker talks for 20 minutes on infosec and 20 minutes on something non-computer-technical”, which ranged from making non-alcoholic White Russians from scratch ingredients to makeup for videoconferencing to dog training to how musical instruments work. A couple of people had 1000- or 3000-seat videoconferencing licenses for work, and sometimes they filled up and somebody did rebroadcast, and there was a Slack channel for discussion. Extremely friendly social support for the community.

  8. Well, damn. At 71 I was really looking forward to my Last Big Trip, to a place I’ve wanted to visit again since I was there in ’99. But this is not unexpected news, and I bet I’ll find something else to do with the money. But, damn.

  9. M.A., I’m 71 too, and if the virus doesn’t get me I’m a long way from my Last Big Trip!

  10. Makes me think of a story in F&SF, back in the ’80s, set at a Worldcon in a near-future post-apocalyptic world where the guests and fans have to ride wagons and sailing ships to get to Worldcon, but they’re still writing about traveling to the stars ….

    ETA: Found it; “The World SF Convention of 2020” by Ian Watson; F&ST; October 1980. I remembered the cover illustration.

  11. Damn it — mistyped that title. It was “The World SF Convetion of 2080”. Unconscious slip.

  12. And it was in F&SF, of course, not F&ST, whatever the hell that would be. Jesus, Royal, pull your head out.

  13. I completely understand and agree with their choice to do this, but it was going to be the first and possibly only time I could afford in terms of time and money go to a Worldcon in person; living in New Zealand it’s a bit hard to get to a Worldcon anywhere else in the world. I’m quite sad that they had to.

  14. I had pretty much ruled that trip out, but now I’m in.
    I spent a lot of time in Dublin standing in line. Of course, there were other compensating advantages to meatspace.

    This certainly seems the right choice given the situation. It will be an interesting experiment.

    They say pricing will be announced by April 15.

    Looking forward to tips for managing this experience after things settle down.

  15. In many ways, this is a positive thing.
    This will make Worldcon accessible to anyone with a device and internet access. On the entire planet, all at once. Which really puts some world into Worldcon.
    The cost is now down to one membership, and they’re wisely cutting the price. No hotels, no flights, no shuttles or taxis, no dreaded airport food.
    More writers can be involved. And more panelists. And more everything.
    Drawbacks: no autographs, no con suite, and no picking things up in the dealer’s room or seeing them in 3D. And kind of sterile & lonely.

  16. Bill Stewart: Thanks for the mention, and glad you enjoyed parts of Festival of the Living Rooms. (BLC)

  17. It was a good choice to go virtual. I hope everybody has a great time. We will be seeing a lot more virtual get-togethers before the virus is done.

  18. Count me among the folks who may now be able to participate in CoNZealand. We were not planning on going since we are realized attempting to take a hyperactive, oppositional preschooler on that long a flight was insane. Participating virtually may be possible, assuming they don’t do the entire thing via Facebook. (We are a FB-free house.)

    Bill Stewart – I made one of the virtual filksings. The only way it works is if everyone other than the performer mutes their lines. So you lose the communal sing-along. On the flip side, you can have the kind of lively conversation in the chat box while performances are going on that would be horribly rude if you were all in the same room.

  19. It will be interesting. The membership should only need to cover the ethernet hosting and whatever interface is used. They can use anywhere for the hosting, which means they can shop around. I was not going to be able to make it IRL, but this gives me the chance. Room parties are going to be BYOB :^)

    I suspect fans are going to get together (assuming it is wise to do so) in a given geographic area, so this gives a chance for the personal interaction.

    I assume the same bat-time/date.

  20. I’ve wanted to do a con but don’t love crowds. This may be the perfect time to dip my toe in the water!

  21. The Baltimore SF Society just canceled Balticon which was scheduled for Memorial Day weekend in May. I was disappointed because I won’t get to meet Wen Spencer, but glad they did it for health reasons. So I’ll spend my refund from that con on New Zealand, which I couldn’t have afforded to go to.

    The National Book Festival in Washington announced last year that they will be streaming the talks this year. Two friends of mine that have attended in the past will come over to my place and we’ll take in the talks without having to travel to D.C. Sounds like a winner to me.

  22. The membership should only need to cover the ethernet hosting and whatever interface is used.
    Although in this case much $$ has been spent on now ‘wasted’ costs, so that needs to be covered too.

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