CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, kicked off today as the first ever virtual Worldcon.
At the opening ceremony, New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, welcomed the participants: “I’m sorry I couldn’t welcome you here in person, though it seems in true sci-fi spirit, that this year’s convention will take place virtually, and I’m sure it will be a brilliant success.”
CoNZealand Toastmaster George R. R. Martin lamented not having the opportunity to make a grand entrance by bursting from a paper mache kiwi on a physical stage. He noted members were “Socially distant in our own castles but still as one, united by our love of fantasy and science fiction.”
Artist Guest of Honour, Greg Broadmore said, “I’m glad CoNZealand is doing this as it sets the stage for how some events will be held in the future.”
CoNZealand was originally planned to be held in Wellington — an event 10 years in the making, from when the bid process began to bring Worldcon to New Zealand for the first time. Once the bid was successful in 2018, hundreds of volunteers got together to put on an unforgettable South Pacific experience, with thousands flocking from across the globe.
“When the global pandemic was declared in March 2020, we had to move quickly to transfer the convention online,” say CoNZealand Co-Chairs Kelly Buehler and Norman Cates.
“Certainly, going virtual cannot replicate the atmosphere of a physical event, but given how hard everyone worked to make this fun and engaging, we’re off to a very good start.”
CoNZealand will run for five days, with hundreds of online events spread across five online platforms, integrated for a seamless experience.
[Based on a press release.]