What will you be doing this time next year? With the strange and fluctuating state of the world at the moment it’s impossible to say for sure–but hopefully you’ll be joining us at CoNZealand! CoNZealand is the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, being held in Wellington from 29 July to 2 August 2020. That’s right, there’s only one year to go!
But what exactly happens at a World Science Fiction Convention, or WorldCon? Basically–a lot! There are writers’ workshops, specialist talks, gaming, cosplay, art exhibitions, charity auctions, parties, dances, masquerades, film festivals, autograph sessions, awards and more, all put together by fans. Each convention also has its own unique events: WorldCon 75 in Finland included a beer tram through Helsinki and a tour of the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant!
With 2020 rapidly approaching, the team at CoNZealand are putting together a convention of their own. They’ve already assembled a fantastic line-up of special guests, including Mercedes Lackey, Larry Dixon and toastmaster George R.R. Martin. We recently spoke to CoNZealand’s library liaison Jenny about how things have been going so far, and what’s coming up. Check out her answers below! (And remember, if you’d like to be part of CoNZealand, you can volunteer here.)
For those just discovering CoNZealand, could you please give an introduction to what it is?
CoNZealand is the 78th World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon), the world’s premier non-profit science fiction and fantasy convention. It has been running since 1939 (with a hiatus during World War Two), attracting thousands of writers, professional creatives and fans every year to talk about, celebrate and live science fiction and fantasy for five days. WorldCon is quite different from other events that may be more familiar, such as Armageddon Expo or ComicCon in the U.S. At CoNZealand you won’t buy a ticket, you buy a membership, because you’re not going to watch an event, you’re going to participate in panel sessions, workshops, Q & A sessions, music, gaming, costuming, as well as having the opportunity to mingle with celebrated authors and other fans.
One of the most impressive things about CoNZealand is the fact it’s run entirely by fans. Could you describe how this works?
As is often said, all the WorldCons are run by fans, for fans. Everyone taking part in running ConZealand is a volunteer, no one is paid, and any profit goes to charity. As soon as I knew about the ConZealand bid to run the 2020 WorldCon I volunteered to help. I highlighted areas where I thought I could be useful and ended up in the Promotions Division. There are 15 Divisions, each organising different aspects of running CoNZealand, and the Executive Division which oversees the whole convention planning and running. Any member of CoNZealand can volunteer to help before and during the convention, in big or little ways. It’s a great way to meet people from all around the world.
What do you think will make CoNZealand unique from other WorldCons?
WorldCons are a melting pot of participants and cultural styles, and CoNZealand will add a significant Kiwi “flavour” to the cultural mix. We expect there will be a great deal of interest in The Lord of the Rings films and other works from Weta Workshop – especially as our Wellington-based Artist Guest of Honour, Greg Broadmore, is currently working with Weta Workshop to develop an augmented reality game based on Greg’s retro sci-fi world of Dr Grordbort. With the presence of George R.R. Martin as our Toastmaster, we anticipate a lot of Game of Thrones fans will turn up too. Hopefully the Kiwi style will add a laid back, friendly atmosphere to proceedings.
What surprises and/or challenges have you encountered with CoNZealand preparations so far?
The challenges I’ve encountered are realising how much hard work is involved in running CoNZealand and fitting the work around a full-time job. It has also been a steep learning curve for me, I haven’t done project management or promotions work before so I’m learning as I go. I have also gained a lot from volunteering: I’ve learned a lot of new skills and I feel a great sense of achievement about what we are all creating.
What will the next few months of build-up have in store?
So much work to be done, so much work that all the volunteers are doing. The technology, financial, publications, events, and facilities management work is not my skill set so I’ve only seen a tiny fraction of the work they are doing. We are having staff meetings in July and October which will give me a better overview of all that is happening. On the promotions side I’m doing some blog posts (like this one), and I’m working on ways to effectively promote CoNZealand to libraries all around the country. We run stalls promoting CoNZealand at events all around the world: locally, we were at Wellington Armageddon and at Wellycon earlier this year, and you’ll have another opportunity to talk to us if you’re going to Auckland Armageddon in October.
What are you most excited about with CoNZealand?
I’ve only been to one WorldCon before, AussieCon 3 in 1999, and that was the most exciting, mind blowing experience. I’m not only going to another WorldCon, I’m helping to run it, and I feel like I’m part of creating something wonderful. I’m also excited about all the people I’ll meet who “get” science fiction and fantasy, and talking and hearing about aspects of the genre that I never knew existed.