The con must go on. This weekend, instead of heading up to Madison, Wisconsin, I sat in front of my computer to watch panels and presentations on YouTube and chat with others via Discord.
The virtual format allowed me to attend events that I don't normally have a chance to watch, such as the Thursday night reading by the guest of honor and the speeches on Sunday night. On the other hand, there were only a few hours of programming instead of the normal all-day affair, and the choices were much more limited. I wound up watching more readings and academic presentations than I normally do at WisCon. For the first time, I even watched the "Not Another *#?! Race Panel," which is a staple at WisCon. This is a panel where people of color discuss anything other than race. Normally I would pick a more focused panel dealing with something I wanted to learn about, but I enjoyed this panel more than I expected. I learned about an awesome Filipino bakery in Chicago, and the discussions about bad Star Wars parents and how the Harry Potter characters would handle quarantine were funny. Would I attend the panel next time I'm at WisCon? It would depend on what else is scheduled at the same time.
I have to admit an online Dealers Room and Art Show don't have the same draw, and even though there were a lot of subject-specific channels on the Discord, I didn't feel like I had anything to add to the conversations. I missed attending Farmers Market Saturday morning, listening to readings at Michelangelo's Coffee House, and shopping at the Soap Opera. When you've been going to a particular event for so long you expect to run into a past self in the elevator, any change feels strange. Hopefully next year the con will go on in person. But if for some reason I can't attend, being able to watch at least part of WisCon online would keep the connection alive.