For the second year in a row, Conflation had to go to an online format. They made the decision when Omicron was looming over us, and I certainly couldn’t argue with their logic. It’s perhaps frustrating that the virus is now down to fairly low levels and restrictions are loosening up just as the con took place, but once again the organizers of Conflation came up with wildly creative alternatives to the dry Zoom-panel format.
There were, in fact, Zoom panels and activities, including a stitch-n-bitch, fashion show, freestyle discussion groups and my writing workshop, which was the first time I’ve tried to incorporate my MFA training into a con panel. The good people of Conflation were kind enough to be my experimental subjects, and I was very happy with how it came out. I think in the future I might shorten it a bit to allow more interaction, to let the writers talk a little bit about their experiments and how they came out, to give time for a Q&A – it would be perfect as a two-hour workshop, and I may propose that for the next round.
But what is unique about Conflation’s solution to the Voldevirus is Second Life. If you’re not familiar with it, I wrote a column about it last year. It was last year’s Conflation that introduced me to Second Life, and much of the programming this year took place in that virtual environment. I gave my writing workshop sitting in a lovely coffeehouse deep in a fairytale wood (with a cow and the Wendigo watching from the door – what’s surreal about that?). It was simultaneously broadcast on Zoom and on a live stream, so I might have achieved peak social media at that point.
Everybody is sick of Zoom, though it certainly provides a decent alternative to canceling events altogether. However, Second Life programming allowed us to “see” each other, to dance to fantastic music, to float in a pool and wax philosophic about surviving the pandemic, all those social interaction moments that make the difference between an online convention that is a progression of Zoom presentations and a true meeting-place for the mind.
I had a delightful time at Conflation, even though I missed getting to see the good folks at the con. As much fun as we had dancing up a storm into the wee hours, I hope that next year we will be able to hug each other in real life, as some things simply can’t be replaced.