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Steampunk Cons React to Coronavirus

Steampunk Symposium and Clockwork Alchemy take precautions amid COVID-19 outbreak

Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Steampunk Plague Doctor
Steampunk Plague Doctor by Domindik (CC BY 4.0) via Sketchfab.

Update 4: Reedpop, the producer of MCM Comic Cons in the UK, announced on Friday that the event in Birmingham has been postponed from March 21-22 to June 27-28.

Update 3: Clockwork Alchemy and the International Steampunk Symposium have both been postponed. Learn more here.

Update 2: The top public health official in San Mateo County, California, has issued a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people. Clockwork Alchemy is scheduled for March 20-22 in Burlingame, which is in San Mateo County. We’ll update this story when we get a response from the organizers of the convention. March 12, 7:10 p.m. PDT

Update: On Thursday, March 12, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine ordered a statewide ban on gatherings with more than 100 people. Aloysius Fox, the producer of the International Steampunk Symposium, issued a statement in response:

“At this time we are still learning more about what this means and how this will impact the 2020 Steampunk Symposium. Tomorrow morning, March 13th, 2020, we are meeting with the manager of the host hotel to get a better understanding of the situation and discuss what options are available. If it proves impossible to host the event on the originally scheduled weekend of March 27th to 29th, 2020, then we shall look into what options are available for rescheduling the Symposium at a later date. We will post updates as soon as we are able, and ask that you please be patient with us as we try to navigate all the moving pieces that this event ban has caused.”

We continue to monitor developments related to the outbreak and steampunk events and will post updates. March 12, 1:25 p.m. PDT

The original story follows:

Steampunk is not immune from the impact of COVID-19, the coronavirus disease that is sweeping the globe. Organizers of two upcoming steampunk conventions—Clockwork Alchemy near San Francisco and the International Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati—say they are going forward with plans for those events despite the outbreak. However, both say they are taking steps to minimize the risk of spreading the disease.

Clockwork Alchemy is scheduled for March 20-22 at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, California. The International Steampunk Symposium is set for March 27-29 at the Holiday Inn & Suites Cincinnati-Eastgate.

This weekend’s Geneva Steam Convention in Delavan, Wisconsin also appears to be on. However, one smaller event, a Steampunk Masquerade fundraiser for the Fitchburg Art Museum in Massachusetts, has been postponed until this fall. The museum itself remains open.

Statements from Organizers

On March 6, Clockwork Alchemy organizers posted the following message on the convention website: “The Con Chairs and board of Clockwork Alchemy would like to reassure our guests that the convention is still on, and there are no plans to cancel the event.

“The safety of our guests is paramount to us. We will be taking precautions to ensure a fun and safe event for all attendees. Clockwork Alchemy will be providing disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizers during the convention, and will be monitoring local and national news for changes in the public health situation around the Bay Area. Should any critical changes in the risk factors occur, we will notify our dear steampunks immediately.”

The International Steampunk Symposium posted this message on Facebook: “Steampunk Symposium 2020 is happening. We have been in communication with the host hotel and they have increased their cleaning staff shifts, have placed hand sanitizer stations around the meeting rooms, and other steps are being taken to increase hygiene practices at the Symposium. TOGETHER we can maintain a clean event. We trust our attendees to clean their hands, and we trust our attendees to sit this Symposium out if they know that they are sick.”

High-Profile Cancellations

The announcements came amid cancellations or postponements of some large high-profile events. The huge South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival and conference in Austin, Texas, originally scheduled for March 13-22, was cancelled under orders of the city’s mayor. SXSW has drawn more than 400,000 attendees in recent years. The Tucson Festival of Books, one of the largest literary festivals in the U.S., has also been cancelled. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Southern California, which has drawn as many as 250,000, was postponed until October.

Bans on Large Gatherings

In Washington State, site of the nation’s largest outbreak, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people in three counties, King, Snohomish, and Pierce, which comprise the Seattle and Tacoma metro areas. Prior to the March 11 announcement, Emerald City Comic Con, scheduled for March 13-15 in Seattle, was postponed until this summer.

In Northern California, Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco have barred gatherings of more than 1000 people. Burlingame is in neighboring San Mateo County, which had not announced a ban at press time. However, a similar ban in that county would not force cancellation of Clockwork Alchemy, which has drawn fewer than 1000 in recent years.

On March 11, following these reports, Steampunk Symposium producer Aloysius Fox reiterated that the Cincinnati convention will take place as planned “unless there is a state or county mandate ordering the show to close.”

UK Impact

In the UK, the Shrewsbury Steampunk Spectacular, scheduled for March 21, still appears to be on, as is MCM Comic Con in Birmingham, which is set for March 21-22. Reedpop, producer of MCM Comic Con, posted a statement on March 5 about the impact of COVID-19.

This is a fast-moving story, and anyone planning to attend any kind of event in the coming weeks and months should check the event’s website and/or Facebook page for updates. For general information about the outbreak and how you can protect yourself, see the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) websites.

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