By Daniel Dern: Taking place Friday, January 15 through Monday, January 18, Arisia 2021 was, unsurprisingly, virtual-only with, according to the con runners, about 1,500 registrations.
For comparison, according to my File 770 report on Arisia 2020:
“The first Arisia had just over 800 attendees; Arisia 2017 had over 4,500 registered attendees! According to the con’s Monday morning January 20 Clear Ethernet newsletter, Arisia 2020 is reporting 3,052 registered attendees.”
Arisia 2021’s Guests of Honor were Suzanne Palmer (Author GoH), Hannibal King (Artist GoH), and Kat Tanaka Okopnik (Fan GoH).
Currently — fingers and pseudopods crossed! — Arisia 2022, January 14-17, 2022, is planned to be IRL, back at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel, with Guests of Honor Andrea Hairston (Author GoH), Reiko Murakami (Artist GoH), and Elsa Sjunneson (Fan GoH). Memberships are for sale here.
Over the past year, I — like, I presume, everybody else reading this — have “attended”/participated in my share of family, friend, social, and work-related virtual events, including, for me, over the previous week or so, press events for the Consumer Electronics Show that’s normally live (and crowded) in Las Vegas.
However, Arisia 2021 was my first virtual Con. And I was under the weather enough that other than fulfilling my own panel commitments — part of a Readings panel, plus, over in FastTrack, reading some of my Dern Grim Bedtime Tales, Few Of Which End Well, & Other Stories, plus an instructive attempt to do my magic show en Zoom — I didn’t do anywhere as much as I might otherwise. (Plus, alas, no hall costume pix.)
That said, here’s some info, screen grabs (with permission from Arisia, where appropriate), and some other notes’n’thoughts. (Please feel encouraged to put links to your own reports/posts for Arisia 2021, or other thoughts, in this post’s COMMENTS.)
ARISIA ONLINE! Arisia 2021 was organized to take place “entirely online, primarily across Discord, Zoom, and a new Arisia Virtual Convention website, designed specifically for this convention with an eye to recreating what we all love most about an in-person convention experience.”
Activities included meetups (using Zoom and Discord), including use of Zoom break-out rooms.
Arisia 2021 also of course used the usual gamut of email and social media for communicating/schmoozing, including Arisia’s Clear Ether blog, Twitter (https://twitter.com/Arisia), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/arisiainc/), and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/arisiainc/). (My apologies if there are any I’ve missed.) (Balticon 54, back in May 2020, apparently used Second Life extensively. According to Balticon: “Balticon 54 will be hosting a social space inside Second Life for convention attendees. The convention space, Balticon Station, will be a virtual con suite where you can meet and hang out with other fans. We also plan to sponsor Second Life convention activities, events, and to provide links to sci-fi and fantasy themed locations throughout Second Life.”)
Arisia 2021 had over 100 panels, meetups, song-circles, and sing, hosted live on Zoom. According to Arisia, “This year’s panels are running 55 minutes, instead of 75 minutes, with 35 minutes between sessions. This gives program participants time to make sure all of the technical pieces are working for the next session, hopefully minimizing technical disruptions.”
THE HELP DESK WAS STRONG: Program participants were expected to connect to Zoom half an hour before the actual session, to confirm those pesky details like “are my video and audio working,” “are all the participants here,” and (where appropriate) also making sure we were Discorded in.
Support cued us up at start the session, hung around in the background just in case, and helped make sure panelists and audience knew where the virtual break-out rooms where. Having been on my share of multi-person, many-newbies Zooms by know, I could tell we were in good, experienced hands.
THE MASQUERADE: You can still watch Arisia 2021’s half-hour Virtual Masquerade video, and while you don’t get the part-of-an-audience dynamic, you get a much closer, fuller look at the costumes, some in motion, along with some close-ups of the work and some comments from the creators.
DEALERS ROOM AND ART SHOW: According to pre-con info from Arisia, “The Art Show https://online.arisia.org/artshow and the Dealer’s Room https://online.arisia.org/dealers will be available to the public for the first time in Arisia history! …This year, Art Show and Dealer sales will happen through the specific Artists’ and Dealers’ websites. Links will be provided on their pages.”
Dealer and Art Show participants were organized alphabetically with info-tiles — straightforward enough, but lacking the walk-through/visual-browse of a live room, of course. I wonder whether there are manageable (as in, easy to implement and cross-platform/device-usable) ways to do this, like, say, using Second Life.
Arisia 2021 also offererd Gaming, filking, workshops (including swordplay — see the picture), dancing, and meet-ups — if anyone reading this participated in any of those, I welcome your thoughts below in the comments.
EXPERIENCES AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM MY OWN SESSIONS. I was in one of the multi-person reading sessions, along with Anne Nydam (nydamprints.com), who read from her The Extraordinary Book of Doors (which I enjoyed, and highly recommend — it also includes books, libraries and cats), and RR Angell reading from a rather somber cyber/military-SF story. (I read a few of my flash-length Dern Grim Bedtime Tales.)
The audience was, by default, muted. Particularly since I was looking at my text, I couldn’t keep an eye on the audience view, I found the lack of audio feedback disconcerting.
Doing magic tricks — especially for FastTrack kids — proved harder than I thought, between things (unwantedly) disappearing into my virtual background, trying to keep my cards, rabbits, hats, etc. in my camera view, and properly lit. On the other hand, we — about eight or nine kids — had fun also asking and answering questions, telling jokes, showing me (and the rest of the audience) tricks, keeping us all happily occupied for the near-hour, which, I’m pretty sure, more than met the hopes of many of the parents/adults.
The good news: no problems with weather, hotel reservations, or public transit. No need to board our dog. Everybody had an equally good “seat” for events.
The sad news: none of the opportunistic or planned schmoozing with friends.
Were there bid or other parties? I forgot to check.
See you — with the emphasis on “see!” — you next year, tentacles twirled.