Last year’s Capricon science fiction convention: one of covid’s better memories

If the pandemic has taught us anything, many of its lessons are bitter and involve loss, disappointment, and loneliness. Good memories are few, but here’s one. This is what I wrote in February 2021 about the online version of Capricon, inspired by the poem “To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian, by Ross Gay.” This year’s Capricon will be held on February 3 to 6, and I’ll be there! More about that in a coming post.


Capricon is a Chicago science fiction convention. We come together for four days in February at a hotel convention center, and we call ourselves family, except that in 2021 we did not come.

We met alone together, hundreds of us, with cameras, microphones, and keyboards, and we recreated what we could. Art, games, panels, films, freebies, kid’s activities, the guy in the goat costume, other people in costumes, music, parties — some with DJs — and of course the commemorative tee-shirt. It depicted a goat wearing a face mask.

At a science fiction convention, fans and authors, scientists and singers, costumers and gamers are the same, energized by ideas and self-expression. We gather to share our love for our mutual passions. It’s a tradition. The 2021 Capricon was the forty-first annual event.

With the freedom of non-meatspace we could welcome people from Vietnam, Brazil, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and thirty-eight states, not just Chicagoland and those who could travel. No hugs, but we enjoyed a wider horizon and intentional inclusion. We had special early hours so distant fans could share their dinner with our breakfast. Two hundred activities were offered to do over a four-day weekend, including bartenders to help you mix your own drinks at home during the evening parties. The box fort got built. Bar Fleet had its discotheque, this time virtual, not in a hotel suite crowded to sweaty capacity.

At a Zoom panel I ran, discussing the power of the short story, we wondered how short a short story could be, and an audience member wrote a three-word story in the chat box: “Hindsight is 2020.” There was a lot to unpack in that, but I just laughed, glad to be looking back.

Our convention had a theme: “Creating the Future We Want.” We talked about the future, and how it was made, both by intention and opportunity. We considered various futures after global warming. With or without police. With or without forgiveness. With enough room for a few grudges to hold their distance. With enough closeness to fill the space with thanks.

We tried so hard to have fun, to give each other fun, to be the family again.

We set out our intentions for the coming year’s convention with the theme of music, and we planned to meet at a hotel already reserved, brick and mortar, flesh and blood. We hoped to have again the future we were working to create. Sing us in, 2022.

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