Art Show applications for WisCon 46 in 2023 are open (through March 1)! If you’re a visual artist planning to attend and would like to show or sell your work, we’d love for you to apply. Artists new to the show are very welcome! In past years, the Art Show has included painting/drawing, illustration, photography, comics, printmaking, wearable art, ceramics, fiber art, and more. We also accept mail-in art. More details about the show are available at http://wiscon.net/events/art-show/, or go directly to the application at https://forms.gle/6pQ4ZwpnGt6rpTSi8.
Do you have a new book out this year? A poem recently accepted for publication? A work in progress you’d like to share? WisCon’s Reading track is now open to proposals!
To start, form a group — readings are organized into 75-minute sessions of four to six authors, usually with a common theme. Forming a group can be a snap for authors featured together in a collection, critique groups, or a group of friends. We encourage you to try to form a group in advance, but if nothing’s coming together please sign up for a reading anyway. We’ll do our best to group individual readers.
Open poetry reading and rapid-fire sessions may have as many readers as you can fit into the time period. The WisCon Reading track is typically very popular, and so we must limit everyone to just one reading. There is one loophole! You may read again during an open mic event.
Much more information on our Readings track (and how to register) is available on our website.
The proposal period for Readings closes on Saturday, March 4. Please note that you must also register for WisCon 46 before signing up for a reading.
We look forward to hearing your work at WisCon this year!
SF3 is the parent not-for-profit that oversees WisCon. To try and improve transparency for our membership, we’re posting summaries of our Board meeting notes.
December 2022 Board Meeting – Society for the Furtherance & Study of Fantasy & Science Fiction
December 18, 2022 2:00PM Central
Attendees: Jeannette (President), Jaye (VP), Kit (Treasurer), Essay (Secretary)
- WisCon Online Con has a volunteer to lead the department – thank you Anna!! We’re waiting on her to be onboarded but we can confirm there will be an online track in 2023. However, since she is remote, we don’t currently have someone to lead a truly hybrid track – right now it looks like we will have separate online and in person tracks like last year.
- Hotel contract is signed, registration for WisCon 2023 is now open!
- Giving Tuesday : $7k raised for general fund, $660 raised for Wiscon Member Assistance Fund. Thank you Jaye!
- Approved plan to move SF3 records away from Box and into a Google Group
- Future of WisCon committee still needs volunteers to guide the, well, future of WisCon! Please send an email to email@example.com. No experience required, just enthusiasm.
- Personnel is also critically understaffed – if anyone has time to devote, please get in touch ASAP using the 2023 volunteer form! You can be remote! Tasks are all pre & post-con so there’s no commitment during the con itself.
- In-Person: $65
- Online: $25
- In-Person: $25
- Online: $25
Thanks to everyone who donated, volunteered, and helped spread the word, last year we were able to #SaveWisCon! It’s now up to us to #RebuildWisCon by building up our financial reserves to run WisCon 46 in 2023 and years to come and growing our volunteer base so that we can have an awesome con in 2023.
WisCon 46 in 2023 is happening!
We are thrilled to announce that Gillian Sochor (she/her, G is soft like “giraffe”, Sochor like “super soaker”) is joining Lindsey and Sherry as our third co-chair. This means we are going ahead with an in-person con for 2023!
As soon as registration and hotel rooms are available, we’ll send out an update via our newsletter. As always, please subscribe if you aren’t already on our list — email is the most reliable way we have of communicating with you!
Thanks to everyone who donated and offered matching gifts last year, we were able to cover the cost of our 2022 hotel contract. We are now looking to raise $30,000 in this year’s annual fundraiser which will allow us to do all kinds of awesome things for WisCon 46 in 2023, including:
- Offset the cost of hotel rooms for members who need to isolate due to COVID-19 and who otherwise might not be able to due to the financial burden
- Purchase more high-quality air filters for con spaces and masks for members
- Expand the meal voucher program, introduced last year, which enables members in need to eat for free at local restaurants
- Continue to offer CART services for transcription, now that the state of Wisconsin is no longer providing funds to offset that cost
If you weren’t aware, WisCon can’t pay for itself with registrations alone. We try to keep the cost of registration down to make our con as affordable as possible. But what that means is that we’re counting on the members of our community who can chip in extra to do so! Please donate today to help #RebuildWisCon!
Can you give $1k or more to help rebuild WisCon? Write me (Kit) at firstname.lastname@example.org to help start a matching funds drive.
WisCon Member Assistance Fund
This year we’re also looking to raise $3,000 for our WisCon Member Assistance Fund! The WMAF is a specially designated fund that can only be used to provide travel grants to help members attend WisCon. Please consider making a donation via PayPal.
We are so grateful to everyone who helped out pre-con and at-con in 2022! We are now still desperately in need of pre-con volunteers so that we can provide all of the activities and infrastructure that we did last year. This year, if we don’t have department leads in time, we’ll have to start cutting back on what we offer. If there’s something you really love about WisCon and you want to make sure it happens, now is the time to step up by completing our volunteer survey!
We’ll continue to send out calls for volunteers over the coming weeks, but right now we need new people in the following committees & departments (departments/activities at risk of getting cut in bold):
- Personnel: We need people for Personnel who want to do back-end checks, posts, and permissions. This role is great for anyone who likes checklists, many small & well-defined tasks, and staying organized. You get quick, small victories that recur with each new opening and candidate. The big payoff is getting each new person on board! It takes an hour per week, on average, though like everything else that can get more intense closer to WisCon, depending on staffing turnover. No at-con work, remote volunteers OK!
- AppDev: We need at least one more volunteer developer to help with our back-end scheduling & registration software (PHP/Apache/MySQL). Remote volunteers OK!
- Art Show: We need an Art Show Room Setup/Teardown Coordinator – Leads at-con volunteers to build the Art Show panel structures (out of pipes and pegboards) on Thursday afternoon/evening and tear them down on Monday. We have tools and instructions for this, but are looking for a handy/engineering-minded person to take charge of the process.
- Communications (Print Materials): We need help so we can offer print materials next con! We’re looking for a Print Coordinator to grab info from our departments and turn it into PDFs for printing so we can have some basic materials available. If you’ve got some basic word processing/layout skills and you like supporting our membership through communications, this might be a good fit for you! Remote volunteers OK.
- Communications (Marketing): We need someone who’s excited to help us spread the word about what WisCon is! We know there are lots more people who might be interested in joining our feminist speculative fiction con but they just don’t know about us yet. If you’ve got ideas for what we can tell or show people to excite them about WisCon, the Comms team can help you get those ideas out on our blog and social media. Previous marketing experience helpful.
- Communications (Twitter): Twitter’s still here, and we need someone to help out with WisCon’s Twitter account! At a minimum, this involves making tweets at the request of other departments and committees; but if you’re into it and enjoy being on Twitter, you’re welcome to put your own stamp on it by signal boosting our past Guests of Honor and others whose work might be of interest to the WisCon community. Previous experience using Twitter required.
- Con Suite: We need one to two more co-leads or we won’t be able to offer Grab & Go food or meal vouchers. This is an at-con position involving buying and working with volunteers to set up and restock the free food available to members in our Con Suite. Previous experience in food service is a plus but not required.
- COVID-19 Team: We’re looking for one online support volunteer and one in-person support volunteer to join our existing COVID Team members to help out during the con. Support volunteers are available to help set up air ventilation as needed and connect attendees who test positive for COVID with the resources that WisCon has available. We’re looking for folks who have a strong interest in keeping WisCon 2023 as safe as possible; a general understanding of public health policy making is helpful.
- Dessert Salon: We need at least two co-leads (at least one at-con) so we can run our Dessert Salon fundraiser this year! This involves working with the hotel to set the menu of desserts; scheduling dessert salon volunteer shifts; and working at-con on Sunday to pass out dessert line number tickets & oversee the event.
- Dealers Room: If you love checking out the vendors in our Dealers Room, we need an at-con co-lead to help liaise between dealers on site and the rest of the ConCom.
- Gaming: Love games and helping people play them? We’re looking for an at-con co-lead to join our Gaming department! Should we continue to run scheduled games the way we have been doing? Should we look at a more Games On Demand style schedule (recruiting a small group of Game Masters who have a small catalog of games they can run with anyone who shows up)? If you have ideas about how you’d like to see gaming run at WisCon and want to help recruit people to run and play games, please join us!
- Gathering: If we’re going to have a Gathering this year, we need at least one lead! Leads solicit for activity ideas and help with room setup. If you want to help people mingle — maybe you have ideas for activities to help our members meet each other? — this would be a great fit!
- Green Room: Want to help support our program participants? We need co-leads to organize and schedule volunteer shifts for our Green Room.
- Guest of Honor Liaisons: We need two people, one for Martha Wells and one for Rivers Solomon, who facilitate communication with them pre-con and help direct them to where they need to be at-con. Liaisons also introduce them at the Thursday night reading and Sunday Guest of Honor speeches. If you’re a people person who’s into scheduling and logistics and you’re OK with some public speaking, this could be a good fit for you!
- Hotel: We need one person to be an at-con coordinator for A/V with our awesome hotel, one person to be a pre- and at-con liaison for our event spaces with the hotel, and one person to help manage the WisCon room block (remote OK). All these roles have been filled by one person for the past number of years and we need to bring in some new volunteers. The Concourse is awesome and the staff is very friendly and helpful, we’re looking for folks who are detail-oriented and excited about logistics.
- Kids’ Programming: If we’re going to have a Kids Programming track this year, we need one to two co-leads attending in person to advertise for activities and/or help run activities for kids. If you like working with kids, we’ve got plenty of supplies and ideas from past cons to get you started!
- Panels: Panels Programming needs more pre-con volunteers to help review panels submissions and help with scheduling; you can help out whether you’re attending remotely or in person.
- Readings: We need at least one person to help solicit for readers and work on scheduling readings or we won’t be able to offer Readings this year.
- Registration: We’re looking for two at-con leads to help coordinate the Registration desk during the con, and an at-con volunteer to help coordinate tech support for folks participating in online Zoom-based sessions. You don’t have to do everything yourself, you’ll be working with the Registration team to set up volunteer shifts and provide info & training to during-con volunteers.
- Safety: We need at least two co-leads to help us take care of us! Safety co-leads help promote a safer environment at WisCon through consistent security staffing throughout active con hours, issuing warnings as necessary, and working together with our Anti-Abuse Team, Con Co-Chairs, and hotel security. A lot of what Safety co-leads do involves recruiting volunteers for Safety shifts, offering brief trainings, and empowering those volunteers to help members who have questions or who need assistance.
- SignOut: If you love supporting our attending authors, we need a lead so we can have SignOut again this year! Leads help solicit authors to participate, plan for who sits where, and then attend & oversee the SignOut event.
- Workshops: Passionate about our workshops? We need an in-person co-lead to help solicit and schedule workshops and liaise between our workshop runners and the rest of the con, and a co-lead to help coordinate online-based workshops (remote OK!).
Thanks for helping us #RebuildWisCon!
Whether you’re able to donate or volunteer, we also need help spreading the word! Thanks for re-sharing us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and please subscribe to the newsletter and tell your friends to subscribe, too!
Last week Stephanie announced she would be stepping down as co-chair for WisCon 46 in 2023. Please join us in thanking Stephanie for all the hard work she did on the post-con survey, Guest of Honor nominations, and department outreach/coordination as co-chair. We’re really grateful for her willingness to jump into things after having only attended WisCon one time!
In order for WisCon 46 to move forward the SF3 Board will be starting recruitment for the open Co-Chair position (who must be able to attend in person). In addition, for online or hybrid programming to happen next year we need at least one, ideally two, Online Con Department Co-Leads (either one person at-con; or two people, one at-con and the other either at-con or remote).
As we determined last year, Online Con Department Lead is a ConCom Co-Chair-level position due to the sheer number of departments that that position interacts with and the at-con workload. This means that if an Online Con Lead is willing to also take on some more general ConCom Co-Chairing duties, that person may fill the general co-chair vacancy and we may only need 1-2 new people total, not 3.
For more information on the Co-Chair role, see this blog post. Additional information about the Online Con Lead role will be forthcoming. If you are interested now in potentially becoming an a Co-Chair or Online Con Department Lead, please contact the SF3 Board at email@example.com.
In the interim, Ira is coming out of co-chair retirement temporarily to keep the ball rolling on Stephanie’s departments. Thank you Ira!
In the interest of transparency, we want to let you all know that if the open Co-Chair position isn’t filled by end of November, the in-person con will be cancelled. It is possible we may still do an Online-only con in that scenario, but that depends on a number of other variables. If we’re able to fill the Co-Chair position but aren’t able to recruit Online Con Department lead(s), the con will be in-person only (we won’t be able to have online or hybrid programming). In either scenario of in-person and/or online con not being able to happen, we will use that time to build up departments, train up leads and chairs, fundraise, and put ourselves in the best possible position for a full event the following year.
Because we don’t know whether or not we will be having an in-person con yet, we haven’t signed a contract with the Concourse. Without a contract in place, we also can’t open Registration or hotel room reservations. This does mean that in the case we’re not able to recruit a Co-Chair for an in-person con, we would not owe the Concourse a penalty fee.
We will continue to provide updates as we have them, and we will continue planning for an in-person convention for next year as recruitment for a Co-chair commences.
Are you a professional author or editor interested in running a critique session for WisCon 46 in 2023? Do you have other skills you’d like to share with the WisCon community? If so, then Workshops would love to hear from you!
In the past few years, we’ve been working to expand our events, and in addition to our critique sessions, we’ve offered special workshops on everything from special writing topics to hair braiding, handspinning, and panel moderation. Historically, we’ve also had volunteers coordinate workshops for our teen programming.
We’re already planning out the offerings for 2023, so now is the perfect time to be in touch. If you have an idea for a workshop, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re also looking for volunteers to hang out in our Writer Salon at the hotel to ensure it stays a quiet space for people who want to write there and people to run writing sprints for the online con. If you’re interested in volunteering for one of these roles, please send us an email so we get you on our volunteer list.
If you want to learn more about Workshops before committing, you’ll find answers to many of your questions on our Workshops page (https://wiscon.net/programming/workshops/).
SF3—the Society for the Furtherance and Study of Fantasy and Science Fiction—is the parent not-for-profit organization that runs the WisCon convention. The SF3 Board of Directors engages in long-term planning, recruitment, and fundraising for WisCon.
The 2022 SF3 Annual Meeting is coming up on Sunday, October 23, at 1PM Central Time. This meeting is entirely virtual! Information on joining will be sent to all current SF3 members a few days before the meeting.
If you’re interested in the future of WisCon and SF3, we encourage you to become an SF3 member (at the bottom of this post) and attend the Annual Meeting. Annual membership is $24, or $12 at our student/financial hardship rate, which we encourage anyone to use as needed. Free memberships are available to all BIPOC. To join for free, please email email@example.com with the subject line “SF3 Membership for BIPOC”.
We take payment by PayPal (below) or check, though if you plan to pay by check we ask that you email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know it’s on the way. The deadline for joining SF3 in advance of the Annual Meeting is Wednesday, October 19. Madison no longer has an in-city postal sorting office, so if you are paying by check, please make sure your letter is postmarked no later than Thursday, October 13, to ensure we receive it by October 19. Along with your check, please enclose a completed copy of the SF3 Membership form.
We know this continues to be a busy and difficult time for all of us. We hope the WisCon and SF3 community can be a source of support in these times, and it is with that in mind that we hope you will join us on October 23. If you have questions or concerns that you’d like to bring to the SF3 board, but you aren’t able to attend the Annual Meeting, please feel free to contact the board by email at email@example.com.
Submit your Guest of Honor nominations for WisCon 47 in 2024!
Anyone in the WisCon community is welcome to nominate themselves or others for Guest of Honor for WisCon 47 in 2024! The deadline for nominations is September 1, 2022 at 11:59pm US Central time.
Every year, we ask our community to make nominations for the convention-after-next: As announced in May, WisCon 46 in 2023 will feature Rivers Solomon and Martha Wells as our Guests of Honor. So now we’re ready for your suggestions for Guests of Honor for 2024!
Please email your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org and include a short statement describing the nominee’s qualifications or why you think they’re a good fit for WisCon.
After y’all submit your nominations, all 2023 WisCon/SF3 pre-con volunteers will have the opportunity to vote on Guests of Honor for 2024 based on those nominations. Our Guests of Honor are chosen by you, the WisCon community, so please submit your picks! You can submit as many names as you like.
WisCon and SF3 are pleased to announce that our Guests of Honor for 2023 will be Rivers Solomon and Martha Wells! As we celebrate our 2023 guests, keep in mind that nominations for the WisCon Guests of Honor for 2024 are open, and anyone in the WisCon community can nominate anyone they wish, including themselves! Please send your nominations to email@example.com.
Rivers Solomon (fae/fer or they/them) is a refugee of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade who resides on an isle in an archipelago off the western coast of the Eurasian continent and writes about life in the margins, where they are much at home.
Solomon’s debut novel, An Unkindness of Ghosts (2017, Akashic Books), won a Firecracker award and was shortlisted for the Locus, Lambda, Otherwise, Astounding, and Hurston/Wright awards, as well as being named a best book of 2017 by The Guardian, NPR, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Bustle, and others. Faer second book, The Deep (2019, Saga Press), is based on the Hugo finalist song of the same name by the experimental hip-hop group clipping, headed by Daveed Diggs. The Deep won a Lambda Award and was shortlisted for the Nebula, Locus, and Hugo Awards. Their third novel, Sorrowland (2021, MCD Books) was described by Tor.com as “a genre-bending work of gothic fiction that wrestles with the tangled history of racism in America and the marginalization of society’s undesirables,” and The Guardian said, “It’s about escape, self-acceptance and queer love. It’s about genocide and the exploitation of black bodies, self-delusion and endemic corruption, motherhood and inheritance.”
Faer short work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Best American Short Stories, Best American Horror and Dark Fantasy, Guernica, and Black Warrior Review. Solomon also collaborated with Becky Chambers, S. L. Huang, and Yoon Ha Lee on the serial novel The Vela.
Martha Wells (she/her) has been writing speculative fiction since 1993, and in that time has won Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Alex Awards. Her work has also been nominated for the British Science Fiction Award and the Philip K. Dick Award, and she has been a USA Today Bestseller and a New York Times Bestseller. She has written for Star Wars, Magic: The Gathering, and Stargate: Atlantis, as well as writing short fiction, non-fiction, and YA novels.
Wells is best known for her Ile-Rien, The Books of the Raksura, and, most recently The Murderbot Diaries series. The Books of the Raksura won the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Series, while the novellas, short story, and novel in The Murderbot Diaries have been shortlisted or won Alex, Locus, Nebula, BSFA, and Hugo Awards, culminating in 2021 with the novel Network Effect winning the Nebula and Hugo awards for Best Novel and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel while The Murderbot Diaries as a whole won the Hugo Award for Best Series.
Wells’s powerful and believable worldbuilding and fictional societies are assisted by her Bachelor of Arts in anthropology, and she has written nonfiction about the women of Doctor Who; the ups and downs of a long career; and magic systems, the environment, and non-humans. She lives in the USA in Texas with her husband.
Having a Physical In-Person Convention at All
The first question in COVID-19 safety considerations is whether an in-person event should be happening at all, and we’ve had some people ask about why we chose to hold one. Our answer, which is the same for many other cons in our situation, was that we had already committed to hold WisCon 2022 back in 2019 when we signed a contract with the Madison Concourse Hotel. It’s standard practice to sign these hotel contracts several years in advance to reserve the space, and WisCon typically signs ours two to three years out. These contracts specify very high penalties for cancellation, increasing as the date gets closer, with a few strict exceptions. One of those exceptions is an act of government that prevents the event from taking place. In Spring 2020, indoor gatherings were prohibited by local public health ordinance, allowing us to cancel the planned physical WisCon without penalty and instead hold a fully virtual event. In 2021, Dane County (where Madison is located and WisCon is held) still had some restrictions on large gatherings, but it may have been technically possible to hold an event with drastic changes to the format. However, we made it clear to the hotel that we would not be able to fulfill our 2021 obligations under those conditions. Because we have a very good relationship with the hotel, they very graciously did not charge us a penalty for cancellation and proposed a much smaller, non-WisCon event to help generate some revenue.
However, for 2022, there was no superseding ordinance. If we cancelled the event, the contract stipulated that we would owe the hotel much, much more money than WisCon or SF3 has, rendering the organization insolvent and ensuring that there would be no more WisCons ever. So our options were to try to hold the safest in-person WisCon we could— or never have any WisCons again. As it is, we will still owe the hotel a lot of money because the event we were able to have was still much smaller than the WisCon envisioned and expected when the contract was signed in 2019.
But! With very many thanks for your help to #SaveWisCon, between our fundraising and fulfilling a sizable portion of our 2022 obligation, we will remain solvent and have the resources to run another in-person con in 2023. We have specifically — and with much, much patience and grace from the hotel — held off on signing anything for 2023 until we could reasonably guarantee our own solvency and the safety of our members, and also until we saw how things went in 2022 so that we could negotiate for an appropriate size and obligation for WisCon 2023. The WisCon 2022 ConCom, the SF3 Board, and the hotel have been working together to put both WisCon and the hotel in a good position for next year.
COVID-19 Safety Measures for WisCon 2022
- The ConCom instituted a vaccination policy that required all members to be “up to date” on their vaccinations/boosters and show proof before picking up their badges. The registration desk (including vaccine checking) was in a separate room, rather than out in the open on the second floor, to help separate possibly un- or under-vaccinated members from the general con space. There were no exceptions to our vaccine policy, meaning that those who could not be vaccinated (including all children under 5) could not attend in-person. The policy also included contractors and vendors such as our childcare providers, our CART providers, and the dealers in the Dealers’ Room.
- The ConCom instituted a masking policy requiring well-fitting masks in all public WisCon spaces, with unmasking only permissible for necessary sips or bites. As people have different intake needs for food, drink, or meds for their health, safety, and comfort, we trusted our members to follow the spirit of this policy. And, with notably few exceptions that were addressed and corrected without conflict, WisCon members overwhelmingly followed the masking policy in WisCon spaces. We also strongly recommended high-quality medical-grade masks rather than cloth masks or other types of masks, and provided such masks to in-person WisCon members for free at the Info Desk.
- The ConCom, COVID-19 Safety Team, and Communications Committee encouraged members to test as much as they were able before, during, and after the con, and provided free rapid testing kits as well as information on where to obtain rapid testing kits and PCR tests locally.
- The ConCom instituted a 600-member in-person attendance cap (down from our typical 800-900 attendance) to ensure that WisCon-exclusive spaces were less crowded. However, this came with tradeoffs in regards to other hotel guests, not subject to our policies, taking up more of the non-WisCon-exclusive spaces. Please see our final case report and takeaways (below) for additional related considerations. Our final in-person attendance was approximately 407 people.
- The hotel agreed to a masking policy for hotel employees while in WisCon event spaces.
- The day before WisCon started, the hotel changed out all of its air filters on the 6th floor, where a number of WisCon spaces such as ConSuite, Kids’ Programming, Teen Programming, and Parties were.
- The Parties policy was changed such that no food, and only non-alcoholic beverages, could be served. As Parties are WisCon spaces, masking was still required between sips.
- The ConSuite underwent a complete change of format, removing the buffet-style service of meals cooked by volunteers. Only individually pre-packaged food was served, and meal vouchers were provided so members who needed them could obtain free hot meals at the hotel or a nearby restaurant following their own safety needs and comfort levels. We also had designated rooms for eating for those who were not staying in the hotel and could not eat in their rooms.
- The Dessert Salon (which includes the Guest of Honor speeches) was changed to a takeaway format, with no eating at the salon itself during the speeches and the desserts served afterwards in containers. Dessert Salon seating was changed to a reduced and spread out auditorium format developed by the hotel (rather than seating people close together at round tables for eating and talking). The Dessert Salon ticket system for both seating and serving was modified to discourage crowding as people waited to be seated or served. The Dessert Salon was also streamed, and members attending in person who did not wish to be in the ballroom but still wanted a dessert could purchase a ticket, watch from wherever they felt comfortable, and come get a dessert after the event was over.
- In all programming spaces, we requested and the hotel developed individual room layouts such that seating was reduced and spread out.
- The 2022 Con Co-Chairs asked for and the SF3 Board approved a budget of $7,870 for the COVID-19 Safety Team; not all of these funds were used.
- The COVID-19 Safety Team provided free N95 masks, hand sanitizer, and rapid testing kits to in-person WisCon members.
- The COVID-19 Safety Team developed a reporting and contact tracing form for anyone who tested positive or was experiencing symptoms, including space for members to specify their locations and activities while at the con. The COVID-19 Safety Team sent emails with all shareable details of these reports twice a day (if new cases had been reported) as well as posting notifications in the WisCon Discord. The emails included information on local healthcare resources and were timed so that members would have the most up to date information in the morning and around mid-afternoon so they could make decisions regarding their morning/daytime or evening activities based on the latest data. The COVID-19 Safety Team had a member dedicated specifically to the task of communication, compiling and disseminating this information.
- The COVID-19 Safety Team recruited at-con volunteers to help provide quarantining or isolating WisCon members with supplies such as food, testing kits, and medication without those members having to leave their rooms.
- The COVID-19 Safety Team purchased five LEVOIT Core 400S commercial air purifiers to place in key locations around WisCon spaces.
- The COVID-19 Safety Team purchased materials for 35 Corsi–Rosenthal Boxes to supplement the commercial air purifiers and the hotel’s HVAC system. The day before WisCon started, ConCom members, COVID-19 Safety Team members, and at-con volunteers constructed the boxes. Two fans were damaged in transit, so overall 33 functional Corsi-Rosenthal Boxes were constructed and deployed. Between the Corsi-Rosenthal Boxes and the commercial air purifiers, all public WisCon spaces such as rooms with programming items or administrative activities had at least one kind of supplemental air purification, with larger spaces having multiple boxes and/or purifiers. WisCon then retained 15 of the Corsi-Rosenthal Boxes for reuse (as many as would fit in our storage unit) and offered the rest for sale for a suggested donation of $20.
- The Con Co-Chairs, the COVID-19 Safety Team, and the Online Con department developed a plan for pivoting to an entirely online event in the middle of the convention if we saw either a notable outbreak among in-person WisCon members or extremely high rates in Madison and Dane County. This plan was still contingent on us having started with a physical event in the first place due to the contract with the hotel, and included measures from multiple departments earlier in the process, such as Panels Programming asking all participants if they were comfortable being streamed during the panels matching and scheduling phases.
- And, of course, we did our best to offer hybrid programming, including streaming of Guest of Honor speeches and three fully online programming tracks, so that members, whether in-person or online, could participate from their homes or hotel rooms.
Final COVID-19 Case Report and Takeaways
Two weeks out from the end of the convention, we are stopping our case tracking efforts. While it’s impossible to say with any certainty whether some members arrived sick, contracted COVID-19 during travel to/from, or contracted COVID-19 at the con, we can, with much gratitude, report that we had a total reported count of 13 cases including one possible false positive, or 3% of our estimated 407 in-person attendance. That’s just about miraculous.
We want to especially extend our thanks to those who tested positive very soon after arriving and took the necessary measures to take care of themselves and keep those around them safe, up to and including leaving the convention entirely. We know it must have been so gut-wrenching and disappointing. Thank you.
Our COVID-19 reporting was sent directly to all members who had purchased an in-person membership, and sometimes included additional, voluntarily disclosed information such as names. An anonymized record of all 13 reported cases, including the possible false positive and location information, is available publicly at the link above.
Of the reported cases, a number cluster around the Governor’s Club Lounge, or the Governor’s Club Library. The Governor’s Club refers to floors 12 and 14 of the hotel, which require a specially coded room keycard to access. The Lounge is an open service bar located on the 12th floor that also serves breakfast, evening appetizers, and late night desserts, and requires the same keycard to access. (Note that this is a separate space from The Bar, which is a publicly accessible bar on the ground floor of the hotel.) The Library is a smaller room adjacent to the Lounge that serves tea and coffee, also requiring the same keycard. The Library and Lounge share a wall that has small decorative openings, meaning that the two rooms are not sealed off from one another and share some amount of air exchange, especially at the seating close by the wall on either side. While both of these spaces are popular with WisCon members, they are not WisCon-exclusive spaces subject to our masking and vaccination policies. In addition, other hotel guests were there, often taking different or no COVID-19 safety precautions, and many hotel guests staying on these floors (WisCon members or otherwise) bring other guests into these spaces.
In our (manifold) COVID-19 preparations and pre-con communications, we tried to stress that, because we expected to fill less of the hotel, there would be more non-WisCon guests at the hotel, not subject to our policies. We also can’t control what WisCon members, or any hotel guests, do in public spaces such as the lobby, non-WisCon-exclusive semipublic spaces such as the Governor’s Lounge, or private spaces such as individual guest rooms. Safety department volunteers, all three Con Co-Chairs, and additional ConCom members (as available) circulated in WisCon-exclusive spaces throughout the con and reminded members of our policies when necessary (in addition to members reminding each other), but WisCon had no power to do that in spaces not exclusive to WisCon, or in private spaces. This is a safety consideration that every in-person event, and every in-person event attendee, will have to negotiate for themselves.
Finally, one last wrench in the works: The federal mask mandate for air travel was repealed very shortly before WisCon 2022. This changed many people’s personal safety calculus on travel, and we informally heard from some registered members that they were not attending in person, as well as receiving some last-minute requests to change from an in-person membership to the cheaper online membership (in-person memberships include all online membership access). This made it hard to estimate our total in-person or online attendance in the end. However, this also caused a last-minute wave of cancellations or no-shows for reservations at the hotel. This can unfortunately result in financial hardship, as the rooms within the block we reserve for WisCon every year come at a specifically negotiated lower rate. Because of these specific terms, rooms in our reduced-rate block have a more stringent 14-day cancellation policy rather than the 24-hour cancellation policy on general reservations. This caused some members who planned to join us in person, but ultimately could not, to still be charged for the first night of their planned stay. The best we can do, and what we recommend for other events, is to very clearly communicate the specific policies and timelines for their event’s hotel(s) so attendees and members can make informed choices.
Ultimately, we wish there had been zero cases, that no one arrived sick, got sick during travel, or got sick while in Madison for WisCon. But we think everyone who works to put on WisCon — which specifically includes all our members, who *ARE* the people who make everything from panels to chairing possible — did an amazing job doing our best to keep each other safe.
Thank you all for your hard work, your communication, and your care.
Thanks to everyone, online and in person, for your participation in WisCon this year!
For our in-person attendees: Please keep testing regularly until 2 weeks after the con, to the extent you are able! If you test positive, please let us know using the COVID reporting form. The link to that form is available in our emails sent out to registered members and on our official Discord.
As part of our COVID-19 safety policies at WisCon 45 in 2022, we will send out email updates to registered in-person members each day we learn of at least one new case, just as we did each day during the con. We plan to do this for two weeks after the con, then post a final update and summary publicly on wiscon.net.
Thanks for your help in continuing to keep our members safe!