Coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to change the way we live. This is particularly true for the organizers of major events, who must adapt to a strange new world of social-distancing in which group meetings IRL have become dangerous. To reflect safety concerns raised by the pandemic, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has announced that this year's Nebula Conference will be held virtually in May. The online event will raise funds for SFWA members impacted by COVID-19.
This is an unprecedented and bold move for the annual Nebula Conference, which is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year.
This year's event had been scheduled to take place in Woodland Hills, California. SFWA president Mary Robinette Kowal said in a statement,
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the board of SFWA feels that holding an in-person event this May would be irresponsible.
The Nebula Conference will include panels, solo presentations, conference mentorships, workshops, forums, chats, and virtual room parties (including a dance party hosted by John Scalzi). A portion of the funds we raise will go to assist SFWA members financially affected by COVID-19.
The online conference will run from May 29th through 31st, with the Nebula Awards ceremony streaming at 8 p.m. EST on May 30th.
Registration for the virtual conference will open to the public on March 31st, and cost $150. Those who had already purchased passes for the in-person conference will have the option to use their ticket for next year's L.A.-based Nebula Conference. They can also choose to receive a full refund, or to donate the cost of their ticket to COVID-19 relief.
Kowal also announced SFWA's plan to offer financial relief to members impacted by the virus. Anyone wishing to lend financial support to this cause can do so via the SWFA website.
Although it's disappointing that this year's Nebula nominees won't have the opportunity to celebrate their achievements in person, it's reassuring to see SFWA is prioritizing the health of its community, and proactively implementing new ways to foster fellowship in sci-fi and fantasy remotely. Kowal writes that the goal of the virtual conference is "for attendees to feel elevated through the content, enjoy a sense of community with their peers, and have an opportunity for celebration."
It's likely that other significant geek events will announce they're making the shift to a virtual gathering in the coming weeks. For instance, many are already questioning whether this year's San Diego Comic Con, arguably the biggest convention of the year, will continue as planned in July 2020.
Given the intense planning that goes into a successful conference, it can't have been an easy decision for SFWA to transform this year's event into an online celebration. However, we're grateful they're envisioning a way to make the 2020 Nebula Conference accessible and uplifting, even when members of the community can't physically be together.
Featured image vis SFWA.