Friday, July 24, 2020

CoNZealand/WorldCon schedule

I've been meaning to write about what it's like to live in the wonderful yet weird zone of Level 1, a.k.a. total freedom from COVID. New Zealand achieved the holy grail that I hardly dared dream of back in lockdown: complete elimination of the virus within the borders. We're enjoying life as more-or-less normal, with schools and restaurants and ski areas and bars all open, no masks or distancing required, albeit with a lot fewer tourists and a lot more uncertainty over the future. But I know how fortunate we are here. It's a bizarre and almost guilty feeling to watch the news and see what troubles others are facing.

Who knows how long NZ's blessedly virus-free status will last? The borders remain closed to all but returning citizens and permanent residents, who must complete a 14-day mandatory quarantine under Ministry of Health supervision. Yet one slip-up in quarantine procedures could lead to a disastrous new outbreak like the one Australia is currently struggling to contain. I'm glad the NZ government has a plan for how they'll stamp out new flare-ups (hooray for competent leadership!), but as Kiwis get complacent and testing rates fall, I worry NZ won't be able to detect viral spread before it snowballs.

I can't control the future, but I can seize the day while it's here. We've been exploring and enjoying as much as we can. The first 3-day weekend after lockdown ended, we headed down to the Catlins, an area on NZ's wild and rugged southern coast full of gorgeous waterfalls and sea cliffs and wildlife.

Nugget Point
Purakaunui Falls
Then for my son's 2-week July holidays, we headed to the "north of the south": Abel Tasman National Park and the Marlborough Sounds, for some glorious winter sunshine and plenty of kayaking, boating, and trekking.

Abel Tasman NP (I can never get over the color of the water!)

Split Apple Rock
Kenepuru Sound
The fun's not over yet: next week, I head to Wellington, which is where the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, a.k.a. ConZealand, was originally supposed to take place. The convention is all virtual/online now, but since my Air NZ flights to Wellington weren't cancelled, I decided to still use them and turn the Wellington trip into a kind of writing retreat. (I'm so close to finally finishing the infamous Cara novella, The White Serpent!) Plus it'll be fun to get together with some of the Wellington-area SFF folks.

I'm interested to see how well ConZealand will work as a virtual convention. I know the conrunners have put a ton of work into making it happen, and I know from friends who attended the SFWA Nebula con that online cons can still be a really fun experience. So, I'm excited to try it out, and if you too are attending, I hope to see you there! Here's my schedule:

Panel: Can Living in a Small Space on Earth Prepare You for Living in Space? 
29 Jul 2020, Wednesday 16:00 - 16:50 New Zealand Time, Programme Room 3

Could you live in a self-contained space that must supply food, water, and protection from a hostile environment for days and weeks at a time?  Some people have done this on sea, others on land.  Can these experiences help us survive in space or on another planet?  How can off-earth living spaces be engineered based on what we learn from building and living in small spaces here?

Katrina Archer (M), M. Darusha Wehm, Courtney Schafer, David D. Levine

Panel: Juggling for Writers: Making Progress When You've Got a Million Responsibilities 
30 Jul 2020, Thursday 16:00 - 16:50 New Zealand Time, Programme Room 4

In addition to writing, many authors work a day job and/or have child or elder care responsibilities. Tips and tricks from people who have been there, and are there, on balancing multiple roles and finding your balance.

(Note: I'm moderating this one, and boy am I interested in hearing what the panelists have to say, since this is definitely something I've struggled with in the last years!)

Erin Wilcox, Jen Zink, Courtney Schafer (M), Holly Black, Sam Hawke

Panel: Access to Space 
31 Jul 2020, Friday 16:00 - 16:50 New Zealand Time, Programme Room 1

It's hard to go into space ... but it's getting easier. With reusable boosters, increasingly capable robots, better space suits and now the first steps toward asteroid mining, is the tomorrow of yesterday's sf finally just around the corner?

Courtney Schafer, Bill Higgins, Dr. L. Suzanne Casement (M), Dave Taylor, Dr Stephen Dedman

Meetup: SpecFicNZ Get to Know Us
31 Jul 2020, Friday 19:00-19:50 New Zealand Time

Are you a Kiwi or Pasifika writer interested in meeting other SFF writers from the region? SpecFicNZ is the association for creators, writers and editors of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy and horror) in or from New Zealand. If you're not yet a member, come find out what resources and opportunities we have to offer. If you're already a member, come hang out with friends both old and new.

Reading: Courtney Schafer 
2 Aug 2020, Sunday 11:00 - 11:25 New Zealand Time, Reading Room 1

If you've been wondering what the heck I've been up to writing-wise these last few years, now's your chance to find out. I plan to read a short bit from The White Serpent (the Cara novella) and another short bit from my brand-new fantasy novel, The Dreaming Sea. 

Anyway, hope to see some of you next week at CoNZealand, and if you want to do some virtual travel by looking at more pics of our NZ adventures, I've been posting some on Twitter.