Bouchercon, the annual mystery fiction convention, was to be held live this August in New Orleans. But an email to registrants sent out on Wednesday confirmed that, due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, the event would be canceled.
"Bouchercon Board and the Local Organizing Committee feel a moral obligation to think of attendees’ safety and health and, with the partnership of the Marriott, have now made the hard decision to cancel Bouchercon 2021 New Orleans and reconvene as Bouchercon 2025-New Orleans," the email from cochairs Mike Bursaw, Heather Graham, and Connie Perry read. "Our guests of honor will remain the same."
This year's Anthony Awards, which are presented yearly at Bouchercon, will still be held, the cochairs added; details on when and how are forthcoming. Next year's Bouchercon is planned for Minneapolis, Minn., in September.
Full refunds of registration fees will be offered to all registrants registration fees, although Bouchercon is giving attendees the option to donate some or all of the fees to the convention for operating costs. So far, more than 60% of registrants who have responded have told Bouchercon to keep the money, a representative of the conference said.
Vida Engstrand, director of communications at Kensington Publishing, said that the publisher—which had planned to send roughly 30 authors and two staffers to the event—had "been getting increasingly concerned about Delta and the low vaccination/high positivity rates in Louisiana over the past two weeks, but our plan was to move forward with supporting any authors who wanted to attend Bouchercon." Engstrand noted that publishers found out about the cancellation at the same time as attendees, putting Kensington in a bad spot.
"We’d already shipped boxes of swag and around 1,500 books to the convention receiving warehouse and were getting last minute plans nailed down when Bouchercon sent out their announcement yesterday," she told PW. "My poor colleague who’s been in charge of our presence at the convention, Larissa Ackerman, spent all day yesterday touching base with our authors while trying to figure out what to do with the palette of books and promo that’s now stranded in Louisiana."
Still, Engstrand called the cancellation "a bit of a relief." And Ackerman said that, "while we’re sad that we won’t be able to see all of our friends at Bouchercon this year, we believe this is the best, safest decision that the Bouchercon 2021 committee could make as the cases of the delta variant in New Orleans continue to rise."
This story has been updated with further information.