Edge of the World 2021

The Edge of the World Expo straddles a line between blessed and cursed. In 2019, it was scheduled and held for the first time on the 16th & 17th of March. In light of the events of the 15th March in Christchurch, the event organizers got the message out that while we would still gather to celebrate things we loved, those things were not to include realistic-looking guns nor military-like attire. I suspect this didn’t put too many people off, as decent Star Wars or Pokémon costuming doesn’t push that boundary. The event ran smoothly, only shadowed softly by the knowledge that, yes, New Zealand is awash with racism.

That year, I attended and shared a booth with four other authors, and a total of five of us did two Q&As over two days (4 each day) and read passages from our books. Those panels went well, I thought, and drew a few interested listeners. I also sold about 6 books over the course of the weekend, which felt like a success.

In 2020, by the weekend of the 14th & 15th of March, Covid-19 was circling, drawing nearer. The Expo went ahead with a few extra hygiene measures, and once again we celebrated things people love safely.

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Expo-ing in a time of a pandemic

Dunedin Speculative fiction stall at the Edge of the World Expo 2020 at Edgar Centre Dunedin with book poster, stacks of books for sale and t-shirts for sale

We live in a rapidly evolving time.

A couple of weeks ago, it felt as if we lived in a world of abundance. If you had the money, you could buy the things you wanted because you wanted them, and you didn’t have to worry too much if that left much in your savings account. Sure, saving is always a good idea, but didn’t it feel, not that long ago, as if the world would provide? I don’t know about the rest of the world, I admit, but Aotearoa had been ticking along quite nicely with relatively low unemployment. True, we’ve also been struggling with poverty, as that seems to have been growing despite all our advances as a species… but that is another topic.

Fact is, from where I sit now, things are still kind of the same, and yet… different.

I’m lucky enough myself and my family are healthy (well, we’ve all got a minor cold, which is a bigger deal these days, but nothing drastic). So far, community transmission of Covid-19 seems to be non-existent, despite a bit of a scare at a local High School. (Note: I wrote that yesterday, and today there does seem to be possible community transmission in New Zealand… How things change).

Like many people, I have had moments of anxiety over the previous week, especially when it officially landed in our city. And then the panic buying really ramped up. I guess I’m lucky I bake bread anyway (sourdough), so it’s normal to have some flour in the house. And I do have baker’s yeast for standard loaves… that expired in July & October last year… Eh. They’re still good. Baked a loaf yesterday afternoon, in fact. Thought I better extend the flour a bit, just in case, and substituted some for whizzed up oats. Came out yum. Today: a sourdough loaf.

So, yes, our supermarkets are struggling to keep toilet paper, flour, yeast, hand sanitizer, and various cold and flu remedies stocked, just like much of the rest of the world.

Anyway… stockpiling and mass fear is not what I wish to cover with this blog post. It’s all too big of a topic for me to write without preferring to blur it with a veneer of fantasy, anyway. My empathy meter is swinging pretty erratically these days. I’ll wear myself down if I dig too honestly into how I feel about it all.

I wanted to talk about last weekend. Right before it all got too close to home.

The Edge of the World Expo went ahead because we had nothing to fear down here in Ōtepoti, Aotearoa (aka: Dunedin, New Zealand). So long as everyone respected personal space and washed their hands well, all would remain well.

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