When Bad Things Happen to Good Conferences

The sad news yesterday that Bouchercon 2021, the beloved annual mystery fan conference that was scheduled for the end of the month in New Orleans, wasn’t surprising. Increasing concerns regarding the insufferable Covid and its variants had many registrants canceling their attendance. It became apparent that the health and safety of attendees were at risk and so the agonizing decision was made to cancel the conference. A tough call, made to the credit of the Bouchercon committee.

            To people who have never been involved with holding a conference, the choice to cancel may have seemed simple. Those who have volunteered to work at a mystery writer/reader conference, know better. Most conferences are staffed largely, if not entirely, by volunteers. The work is intense and motivated by the love of mysteries and devotion to the close community of those who love reading and writing them. The work begins far in advance of the actual conference.

            Bouchercon 2021 was eagerly anticipated for several reasons. It was the first in-person conference scheduled after Covid resulted in the cancellation of all for a year and a half. People were excited that the venue was New Orleans, the site of previous Bouchercons that have delighted many, including me. My first Bouchercon was in New Orleans. Think books, bars, and Bourbon, a perfect combination. After years of hard work, it’s hard to imagine the disappointment the Bouchercon 2021 organizers must be feeling. Those who planned to attend share their disappointment and have expressed gratitude and appreciation for their efforts.

            These are tough times for conferences. I didn’t attend Left Coast Crime in 2020, but the stories about how it had to be canceled just as it had started and the disappointment people felt as they returned to airports in dismay were gut-wrenching.

Most conferences have responded creatively to Covid restrictions with virtual alternatives. Malice Domestic held More Than Malice last month ago with rave reviews. But there is a hunger for mystery lovers to meet in person and hope that will soon happen.

Conferences continue to schedule in-person events, hoping vaccinations and other efforts to contain Covid will result in eagerly awaited reunions of the mystery community. I have volunteered for the New England Crime Bake committee for more than fifteen years and long for the day when I can hug the friends I have made over the years. We plan to meet November 12-14, 2021 in person. I’m hoping that will happen and that each of the conferences scheduled for late 2021-2022 will go forward.

In the meantime, bravo to the Bouchercon committee for placing the health and safety of mystery lovers above all, and a toast to better days.

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