Farewell CoNZealand

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Miner-49er Vector Approach, by Fred Gambino

Another Worldcon is over, which means that my sleeping patterns can start to get back to normal. It’s been an unusual con, since it was mostly spent sitting at home in front of the computer, on Zoom or Discord sessions. However, it did save money and time as far as travel went – which for a Con based in New Zealand was a considerable saving.

Whilst CoNZealand was the first virtual Worldcon, it probably won’t be the last, and whether DisCon III in Washington D.C. next year will need to be at least partially virtual will depend on the Covid-19 situation. Regardless of that though, it would be great if there was more online content for those who can’t make future WorldCons physically.

The Con organisers did a fantastic job moving everything to digital in the last few months, though that doesn’t mean there weren’t some hiccups along the way.

Disadvantages of a virtual Worldcon

  • You don’t get to see a strange new city that you haven’t been to before (though, to be fair, I’d been to both Dublin and London before, and Helsinki has been the only new destination for me).
  • You don’t get the social experience of being physically around lots of like minded fans.

Advantages of a virtual Worldcon

  • No queuing up for an hour to get into a panel that you really want to see, then not being able to get in.
  • Being able to catch up on panels you missed because they were on at the same time, because they were recorded.
  • For an introvert like myself, popping into a chat room and having a conversation with a lot of strangers was a lot easier than walking up to a table in a real bar.
  • So much easier to slip out of a presentation that wasn’t up to your expectations, and move into a different one.

Overall, it went well, the only real challenge for me was the 11 hour timezone difference, and I didn’t really want to switch my body block entirely to NZ time. Instead I stayed up late, and got up early, and relied on the catch up for the sessions I missed. Unfortunately, some of those I really wanted to see don’t seem to have been recorded, which was disappointing.

As usual, it was some of the science panels that I enjoyed the most. Terraforming and Alien Life: A Biochemist’s Perspective and Pew! Pew! What Would Realistic Space Battles Look Like? both by Stephen Mulholland were both very good.

As well as virtual sessions, they had also put together virtual trade halls and art exhibits, where you could wander around and click on items to see what was for sale. I’m not sure it added much over a simple web page, but I guess it allowed us to see what the Con would have been like had we been there.

Virtual Dealer’s Room

Things I Found

Fred Gambino, Blue Rings

At Dublin, there was some artwork on display which I really liked the look of, but didn’t want to take back with me on the plane, so I decided to buy it online once I got home. Unfortunately the artist’s website didn’t have a simple ‘buy this’ button, so I never got around to figuring out how to buy it. This year, Fred Gambino had his art on display again, and I made the effort to contact him. Two days later, before the Con was even over, three lovely pieces of SF artwork had turned up, including the title piece above.

Fred Gambino, Scavenger

I also picked up a copy of Clarkesworld magazine after having a discussion with the Publisher in a chat room, and it looks pretty good. In issue 166, Three Stories Conjured from Nothing, and Strange Comfort were pretty good stories. I’m planning on continuing my subscription since it may force me to spend more time reading.

Someone also recommended You Look Like A Thing And I Love You, which is a beginner’s guide to Artificial Intelligence. I’m part way through it and so far enjoying it. Even though I have a degree in AI, a lot has changed in the last 25 years.

One final thing, though the Discord servers for ConNZealand are being shutdown, an unofficial server has been started for people wanting to continue their conversations after the Con, which was a great idea.

Going to DisCon next year would be interesting, but will have to depend very much on the world situation.

Samuel Penn