Worldcon 78, CoNZealand, Has Moved to Virtual Attendance Only

The 78th World Science Fiction Convention, CoNZealand, scheduled for 29 July – 2 August 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand has made the announcement that they will be a ‘virtual convention’ only in the wake of the a.Covid-19 outbreak.

Here is the announcement dated 25 March 2020:

Another week, and another paradigm shift. The changes are still coming fast and furious as New Zealand enters into a four-week lockdown. We are all still dealing with an unprecedented set of circumstances that make it very difficult to plan for the future.

The choices we are faced with are:

Move the date of CoNZealand. We are constrained in the ability to move the con by the timing of other events that have booked the venues. It might be possible to move it to the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021, but that would put undue pressure on fans to travel to two Worldcons too close together, and there is no certainty about whether there would be another wave of illness.

Cancelling CoNZealand and minimally fulfilling the WSFS requirements. This would certainly be the easiest, but not necessarily the best or most fulfilling, choice.

Virtualise CoNZealand. This choice provides certainty about what we are aiming to do while we still have time to make the plans. This will allow folks who can’t travel this far or those who are immunocompromised to attend.

The strong belief that we can put on a great Worldcon has led us to the decision to make CoNZealand a virtual convention. Our Tech Division is confident they can deliver a virtual Worldcon and are excited about the possibilities.

We are standing by our decision not to cancel, but in consideration of the health, safety, and wellbeing of our members and crew, we think that holding a large face-to-face event, even if it were possible would be irresponsible.

Travel and accommodation

We understand that you will have to make arrangements to change or cancel your travel and accommodation plans. Please check our Hotels page for information regarding hotel room cancellations. We will continue to update the page with new information as we get it.

Memberships

Attending memberships will be required for people to fully participate in the interactive virtual convention. We understand that when you purchased your membership, you were not expecting an online con. None of us were. Our terms and conditions state that memberships are non-refundable. However, with the nature of the convention changing so fundamentally, we expect to offer limited refunds.

Over the last year and more we have spent a lot of money on things that will no longer be useful to us, and we now find ourselves needing to spend a lot more money on the platforms and services required to put a convention online. We will need some time to work with our venues and hotels to figure out where we stand. We ask for your patience at this time, as getting the information we all need is difficult during a period when New Zealand is locked down.

We hope to announce the new online membership rates for CoNZealand by 15 April.

Please note that at this time only Supporting memberships are available for purchase, until we have announced the new online membership rates. Attending memberships (of any type) can not currently be purchased.

In due course, we intend to refund any Child Attending memberships upon request, as well as any Unwaged Attending memberships that have not used their voting rights.

We are willing to refund any Adult or Young Adult Attending members the difference between the amount paid and the price of an online membership. We ask, however, that you consider not requesting that refund. Any money we have will go towards making this the best online convention ever. As a charitable society, any remaining funds will support fandom and future Worldcons.

Issuing these refunds is challenging, and we will need some time to set up a system. We will do our best, but we cannot at this stage say when we will be able to start issuing refunds.

Programme participants

If you have signed up to be a programme participant, we ask you to please give us some time to think about what a virtual convention will look like. We hope to be in touch with everybody by 15 April to discuss each individual’s options for continuing as a CoNZealand programme participant.

New Zealand Natcon

CoNZealand, as host of the 2020 New Zealand Natcon is staying in close contact with the board of SFFANZ and the organisations will continue to work together with regard to CoNZealand’s obligations as the organisers of the 2020 New Zealand Natcon.

Future updates

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our web news updates (you can find the sign up box on our website homepage).

We are planning to do some Q&A sessions via Zoom (covering different time zones) so that you will have an opportunity to ask questions of the two of us directly. Information on the dates and times of these will be circulated in due course.

As we have said before, please look after one another, and stay in touch. Especially when we are each isolated, it is good to be reminded that we are a community. We are together for a reason beyond Worldcon. We are fans. We are passionate. We love science fiction, fantasy, comics, art, worldbuilding, reading, writing and a million other things. Let’s concentrate on being kind to one another and helping each other through a very difficult time.

Kia Kaha (Stand Strong),

Kelly Buehler & Norman Cates

Chairs, CoNZealand

Announcement at conzealand.nz from CoNZealand committee.

While this is sad and sobering news highlighting the new reality of the world the CoNZealand’s decision to make this Worldcon virtual opens a possibly much larger attendance from people that could not afford to travel to Wellington. When the new virtual membership prices are released I can see many more fans becoming involved. I will certainly be looking into this.

It could also mean that there could be a higher number than usual voters for the much tarnished Hugo Awards. With a larger voter base there is less chance for people to complain that the system has been ‘gamed’ in any way. This could go a long way to restoring the prestige the award once had.

If this virtual membership works well enough I would expect it to become a permanent fixture to the convention, allowing those of us who could not be there physically to attend remotely. It’s rather astonishing that it hasn’t become part of the convention already.

While this announcement is sad it also points the way to the future of large event gatherings and a way for the world to stay connected in this difficult time. I wish the CoNZealand committee the best of luck with their endeavours.

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