This year’s 78th World Science Fiction Convention, CoNZealand–which includes the Hugo Awards—won’t take place as an in-person event this summer, because of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. In its place, organizers will set up a virtual convention for fans to attend.
The move comes as the New Zealand government instituted a state of emergency and lockdown to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The lockdown, according to Bloomberg, will last for four weeks, while new arrivals are to be quarantined.
CoNZealand’s organizers explained that they had a couple of options for the convention: to shift the date later this year, to cancel the convention altogether, or to move it online, much like the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America recently announced would happen with the upcoming Nebula Conference.
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.
The convention has been around since 1939, but has been held annually since 1945. This change will mark the first time in 75 years that a WorldCon hasn’t taken place in its traditional form. The last time was the period between 1942 and 1945, because of the Second World War.
Participation in this year’s virtual convention will still require a full membership, and while the convention’s terms and conditions say that memberships are non-refundable, they “expect to offer limited refunds.” The convention will offer up new membership rates for online participation by April 15th.
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.