M45 Mar21 Version

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This is a backup of the Wiki page

Created Mar 21, 2010, before I start major editing.

Minicon 45 - Programming Brainstorm Page

Good news, everyone - it's not too late to volunteer for panels. Almost all panels have room for at least one panelist. It's time to remove the items that are clearly not going to happen this year - I'm working on that right now.

To volunteer for a panel, please send an email right now to programming at minicon45 dot mnstf dot org.


Science & Technology

All items in this section could use more volunteers. Items in red are in mortal danger of being dropped.

Ask a Scientist

A panel of Leading Experts in various scientific fields does Q&A.

Water: Past, Present, and Future

The availability of water has always affected the spread of humanity. Though we consider it a renewable resource, the fact remains that potable water something the world is running out of. How will we meet the water demands of the future on Earth? How does SF address the question of water availability?

Telling the Public About Science

Popular culture is full of images of the "mad" scientist - crazed, frizzy-white-haired men working in solitude to take over the world. How do we, as real-world scientists, tell the public about what we actually do in a way that they will understand? How do we help them see the relevance of "pure science" pursuits?

Space Science: The Year in Review

Space Exploration: People or Robots?

Large Hadron Collider: Where's it going?

What science are we doing on the ISS?

Goldi-alien and the Three Bears

Many of the other life forms envisaged in SF come from environments not unlike our own - not too hot, not too cold, with an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, etc. But we know life on earth can exist in extreme conditions - why not aliens? What other ecosystems or evolutionary pathways could we imagine - when E.T. shows up, will he have to bring his own life-support system?

The Science of the Supernatural

What happens when we try to legitimize fantasy tropes by giving them a scientific (or science fictional) rationale? Do vampires lose their appeal when we explain them as sufferers of porphyria? What are the motivations behind doing this, and should we really try?

The Philosophy of Science (Fiction)

To what extent does SF explore the meaning of science? Does it accurately portray the process for real scientists? How has science fiction affected the popular perception of science?

Aquatic Intelligences

What would dolphins do? What side of the road would cephalopods prefer? What do we know about our marine relatives? How does our understanding of marine intelligence influence possible SF species?


The distillation of alcohol (at least as it's done today) is entirely dependent on differential boiling points and gravity. How will we make booze as we move into environments (deep ocean trenches, free-fall space stations, etc.) where these parameters are different/missing?

Space Borne Life

From Aliens without eyes to intelligent balloons, the next step is ...

Bio-Engineering as Art

Rabbits that glow in the dark, flowers infused with the artist's DNA...

Steampunk That Works

The latest craze in home-made stuff is steampunk - steampunk laptops, steampunk electric guitars, steampunk rayguns. What can we make, using steampunk technology, that actually works? How far can we take steampunk?

Writing/Being a Writer

Almost all of the panels in this section could use at least one more panelist. The ones in red are in mortal danger of being dropped.

Managing a Cast of Thousands

How does a writer keep track of a huge number of characters with intertwined stories that extend over multiple books?

Do I Know Enough Science to Write Science Fiction?

What if you were never all that big on science in school, but you love the genre and want to break in? How do you educate yourself? Is it possible to learn how to write hard SF by reading lots of hard SF? How much science do you need for the soft stuff? Are there tricks for disguising your lack of knowledge in a way that doesn't make you look incompetent? [Insert joke about shoddy science in successful movies/TV shows here]

Writing in Somebody Else's Universe

Keeping the facts straight, getting the voice right.

Playing the God Card

How do you introduce gods into your work without pushing the human characters into insignificance? Does it matter if they are "real" (e.g. members of the Greco-Roman pantheon) or products of the author's imagination? Can deities play a role beyond gigantic projections of human characteristics? What makes divinities so attractive to fantasy authors? Why do readers find them so compelling?

Including Disabled People In Fiction

How is disability presented in movies, book and TV? What are some of the best examples, and what makes us change the channel or press the eject button? How can publishers and authors make media more friendly and accessible to disabled fans?

YA and Genre

In addition to the traditional genres, "young adult fiction" is often considered a genre in and of itself. But there is clearly a lot of (unlabeled) genre fiction with the YA library. Is there something about the nature of YA that makes genre fiction more acceptable/legitimate for this age group?

Writing Cross-Genre

Cross-genre fiction is coming popular at the same time that many new sub-genres are being defined. What is there about SF today that calls for ever more specific categories while also inviting blurring of those boundaries?

One might say the whole point of genre is to help bookstores/libraries/etc know where to shelve your book, and cross-genre books are notoriously difficult to categorize. And if no one knows what to do with your book, it probably won't sell well. So why write cross-genre fiction? What is the appeal?

The Flight of the Female SF Author

From Asaro to Zettel, female authors that used to stock the science fiction shelves are now almost exclusively writing fantasy. What are the reasons behind the mass migration? Are there new women coming into the genre, or will our daughters find the SF section filled solely by men?

The Power of Research

How do successful writers keep expanding their horizons and avoid simply writing what they know? Is being a writer a good way to educate yourself? How much unknown material is it reasonable to bite off? What do you do if you find yourself writing about a topic that bores you? Tips and stories about learning on the fly.

Female Villains Done Well

Creating a female villain can be tricky. There are too many examples of stereotypical, unsympathetic female antagonists out there. But where has it been done well, and how can we do it well ourselves?

Writer's Groups: A Beast of Many Forms

The seemingly simple concept of a writer's group comes in a great many stripes. Which stripe is right for you? Learn about all the different ways writer's groups can be organized and all the different things they can do. Should the members all have similar goals, similar levels of skills, and write in a similar field? Or is diversity desirable? Which kinds are the most beneficial for which kinds of writers?

Science Fiction

Almost all of the panels in this section could use at least one more panelist. The ones in red are in mortal danger of being dropped.

Wheel of Time from the Younger Point of View

Younger fans of Wheel of Time talk with the GoH.

Finishing the Wheel of Time: How Brandon Got the Gig

Robert Jordan (James Oliver Rigney) died before completing the last part of his magnum opus, the Wheel of Time. How did Brandon Sanderson wind up being the guy to carry forward the work on the final book of the series? What were the hopes and fears of fans of the WoT when the announcement was made? (And what was the Minnesota fannish connection involved?)

The Year in SF

Our yearly roundup of what's great in SF&F.

Who Wants to Live Forever?

Extending the human lifespan for centuries, even to the threshold of immortality, is an eternal human dream and a popular subject for speculative fiction. But there's always a catch, isn't there? The difficult implications of extended lifespans range from boredom to loneliness to raving insanity. On the other hand... you don't have to die!

Borges as Science Fiction

Jorge Luis Borges wrote some wonderful, mind-bending fiction. One of his stories was an inspiration for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Where have his stories taken us?

Alien Monoculture

When space-faring humans encounter other races, it seems that all representatives from a particular planet are the same - a Klingon is a Klingon, a Wookie is a Wookie, etc. Why do we assume that everyone from FarFarAway belongs to the same culture - after all, aren't there hundreds and thousands of distinct cultures on Earth? Is it just laziness on the part of the writer, or does this speak more to our vision of the future on Earth. Will we (have to) become a monoculture before we can achieve space flight and extraterrestrial contact?

Women of the Wheel of Time

Needs description.

Does SF Have a Silver Age?

The Golden Ages of science fiction & comic books have a number of things in common - both occurred during the late 1930's and through the 1940's, both established archetypes and tropes for the genres, and both are more or less considered to have ended with the post-war technological boom of the 1950's. The Silver Age of comics is well-known - but what about for science fiction?

The Future of the World

Much (near-future) science fiction set on the Earth tends to deal with the future of the Western world, particularly the United States. But what about the rest of the world? What does the future hold for up-and-coming countries like Brazil, China, and India? What of the Third World?

Revenge of the Screaming, Helpless Vixens

In a genre known for forward thinking, women are still often depicted as brainless and braless. Galaxy Quest tackled the issue with humor, The Stepford Wives approached it with horror. What are some of your favorite examples of positive and negative genre depictions of women characters? Aside from investing in some sensible shoes, what would we like to see our heroines do differently?

From Elantris to T'Telir: Themes in Brandon Sanderson's Fiction

A mysterious process that converts an ordinary person into a "god". A fabulous city where these "gods" reside, steeped in magic. Young women, engages via treaty for political stability, whose husbands don't turn out to be who/what they expected. What draws our GOH to these settings/characters/themes?

Today's Science in Science Fiction

Many near-future stories avoid current scientific problems (climate change, energy shortage, etc) in favor of less-pressing and/or seemingly more solvable ones. While science fiction's role is not strictly one of prediction, what responsibility does the genre have to address these problems?

My Mind, It’s Going: Memory Loss in Science and Fiction

From Flowers For Algernon to the popular pre-teen video game Kingdom Hearts, memory loss has a place in SF and fantasy. Sometimes it’s just a plot device, and badly researched at that. But sometimes, intentionally or not, it taps into our deepest fears of loss of self. We will discuss stories that deal with memory loss, and why they are important in an age when Alzheimer’s seems to always be on the news.

Culture, Politics, Etc.

I don't think any of these have enough panelists to be viable right now.

The Tides of Science Fiction

How does our political/economic climate affect the popularity of science fiction? The interest in science & technology after WWII launched a second generation of successful science fiction novels and led us to the moon. Lately, however, interest in SF seems to be eclipsed by the explosion of fantasy. Now that there is a science-friendly administration back in the White House, will we see a new resurgence in SF? and can this lead us back into space?

Geek Love Through the Ages

Once, "sexy" was synonymous with predominately physical attributes, today it's much more trendy to admit that geek is sexy. Pop culture still idolizes the bold, fist-fighting daredevil surrounded by explodeyness, but the sexy geek is less anomalous than in previous years, and "genius" doesn't always go with "evil" anymore. How has the intellectual appeal of the protagonist character changed over the ages in movies and in literature? Are smarter characters a sign of a cultural shift, or just that brainy writers like for the intellectual characters to get some once in a while.

Power in the Hands of the Everyman

In Sanderson's Warbreaker, anyone can become a Returned and gain a god-like physique and powers and make decisions like whether the country will go to war. In the United States, any citizen can, in theory, become the President. But is just anyone really the "right" person to be making these decisions? What are the ramifications of giving power to the everyman?

The Whole World as "The Village"

Number 2's dream voiced to Number 6 in the 1967 Prisoner episode "Chimes of Big Ben". While we might not be numbers, as a series of database entries that risk theft of identity & individuality, spyware in communications technology & cameras everywhere, among other things we've come to accept, yet guard against invading our privacy today, how well did McGoohan predict this New Global Village in which we live?

SF in the Minds of the Masses

How does the mainstream media report on the world of SF? How is SF perceived, how can it be covered well? What can fandom do to get its story across? When, for example, the Current featured CONvergence on the 9:30 Coffee Break, were they really doing us any favors, or just making fun - if the latter, what can we do to turn this sort of thing around?

Fannish & Miscellaneous Topics

Almost all of the panels in this section could use at least one more panelist. The ones in red are in mortal danger of being dropped.

Game Theory - Through the Prisoner's Dilemma, and BEYOND

Game theory as an approach to the study of human behaviour has become a scientific metaphor for a wide range of human interaction. Forget the computer models, lets try some game theory games on some unpredictable humans! Come discuss and play some finite number of zero-sum and non-zero-sum games.

The Fannish Community Center

The suggestion has been made: Should we have a fannish community center in the Twin Cities? What could we use such a thing for? What are the next steps, if we want to take them?

Recursiveness in Science Fiction That's About Recursiveness

The first rule of Mime Club is "Don't talk about Mime Club." Enter the hall of mirrors to discuss some favorites in fiction about fiction, games about games, movies about movies and other stuff about itself. Is it the novelty of the genre that allows us to enjoy self-aware entertainment, or is it the other way round? What does it all mean? Is this postmodern, or should we discuss that tomorrow?

The Evil Librarian Panel

Our author GoH has written a book called "Alcatraz vs.the Evil Librarians," so this seems like as good a time as any to do a librarian panel. Really, I'm more interested in how the role of the librarian is transforming as libraries are mutating into destinations and byways on the Information Superhighway. But with the possibilities that offers for global domination, I'm sure we can work the "evil" angle in there somewhere.

Secrets of the Sheraton Bloomington

Some of us have been attending conventions at the Rad South Sheraton Bloomington for decades. We've played hotel tag in the stairways, made friends, gotten married, experienced life-changing firsts. Some of our younger members may even have been conceived here. Let's celebrate this architectural fixture in our fannish lives. Remember watching the sun come up from Mr. C's on the 22nd floor? Does anybody know where the time capsule is hidden? What is the weirdest place we've ever found a sleeper?

The Snob in Every Fan

Given the common dismissal of our favorite genre, you might think that fans would be a little more accepting of others. But, let's face it - we all have (types of) books that we look down on. What kinds of fiction get ignored or marginalized by fans? Why?

Disability Self Care and Fandom

How do you balance the demands of your disability - be it energy, medication schedules, battery life, whatever - with your desire for the Full Con Experience™? What specific modifications could fandom make to create a more accessible environment? What does fandom get right and why do we stay involved?

Jewish Mothers in Fandom

No reason, except that one of my favorite Jewish mothers is going to be here for Minicon and she'd be great on this panel. Anybody else? Best case: Jewish mothers and children of Jewish mothers on the panel with their respective children/mothers in the audience. Think of the audience interactions!

Books You Don't Expect to Get Back

What books do you buy over and over to give away to your friends? What's the best gift book you have ever received?

Booze and Science Fiction

Alcohol has a special place in s.f. fandom (smoooooth) and has also played a key part in a surprising amount of classic s.f. and fantasy. Anybody remember "A Bicycle Built for Brew?" Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster anybody? An associated workshop or lab for this panel has also been suggested. There are several directions that this could take: a workshop on creating (and more important, naming) new mixed drinks; serious discussion of single malt scotch (preferably with samples); or a panel of con bartenders sharing their favorite stories.\

Encouraging Readers and Fans

What can we do to introduce SF and fandom to others? Do new readers need fandom? Is fandom still relevant? Do we need a Fandom 2.0?

The Importance of Food

Food can tell us an immense amount about a world or a culture. It can tell us about trade routes and taboos. It can tell us about rituals, love, and death. What role does food play in speculative fiction? in fandom?

Mad Social Scientists

Who says chemists & physicists are the only ones who get to have any fun? A discussion of the powers of the social sciences to wreak havoc and destroy the world.

How to Get Laid at Minicon

Our traditional neofan panel.


All of the panels in this section could use at least one more panelist. The ones in red are in mortal danger of being dropped.

Doctor Who and the Forest of the Stolen Timey-Wimey Monster Planet

As of 2010, Doctor Who has a new production team, a new companion, high profile writers and a new Doctor. Which of the announced changes are we most looking forward to? What other changes would we like to see? Which of the classic series episodes will be referenced in the 2010 season? Which Which was worse - "The End of Time" or "Daleks in Manhattan"?

Avatar - Cinema Event of the Year or Festival of Plagiarism?

James Cameron's high-tech sci-fi cinema baby has finally been delivered, and it's a blockbuster. But its reception among s.f. fans has been decidedly mixed. The plot and theme strike some as iconic and deeply moving, where others see it as trite and derivative. Cameron has been accused of plagiarizing everything from "Dances With Wolves" to Poul Anderson's famous novella, "Call Me Joe." Enthusiasts have declared that this movie redefines the cinema experience so deeply that a decade from now 2D will be as retro as black and white. Others are less enthusiastic, especially the ones throwing up in the aisles. What do you think - cinematic breakthrough or a just a big yawn?

Genre in the Digital Age

At some level, one can consider the role of a genre label as a sorting system for bookstores and libraries - a way for readers to navigate their shelves. In this age of e-books and practically unlimited storage space, on-line publishers and "if you liked this, you might like..." lists, what is the role of genre? Are these categories more important than ever to help us sort through the onslaught of choices, or is speculative fiction losing thousands of potential readers by sticking to its genre label?

New Media & Successful TV

Especially with seasons of DVD-TV coming out fairly soon after the shows air, more or more people are "waiting and seeing" - do other people say it's good, will the series be renewed for a second season - before they watch a new show. But with viewer numbers so important for whether shows get renewed, how can we expect these shows to do well? What obligations do we have to support the shows we want to see?

Media fandom and disabilities

Talking about disabled people in movies & TV, whether anyone's ever gotten it totally right, and what things make us change the channel or press the eject button.

Waiting for the Next Issue

More and more canceled (or otherwise ended) TV shows are finding a second life in comics. How is this changing our understanding of these franchises? Are fans who don't read them missing out, or are fans who read them disappointed by what they're getting? Is there something missing from this format, or can comics bring us something that we couldn't get from more episodes of TV?

Hard SF on Screen

Is it possible to do hard SF on screen (big or small)? Are there franchises that are well-known for getting their science correct? Does a movie/TV show that tries to use hard SF lose a fraction of its audience - in other words, is dumbing down inevitable if a program is going to be accessible to a wide audience?

It's a Disaster!

Disaster movies often reflect the times in which they were made. From nuclear war to terrorism to eco-catastrophe, what do these movies tell us about ourselves? Do they help us deal with our fears or just make things worse?

Arts and Crafts

All of the panels in this section could use at least one more panelist. The ones in red are in mortal danger of being dropped.

Portfolio Review

Are you an aspiring artist? Come get your portfolio reviewed by our artist GOH. He'll discuss the weakness and strengths of your work, and what you need to improve. We could also integrate a small lecture on promotion and how to get jobs. [note: you don't have to volunteer for this in advance, but it would be nice to know if people are interested. Our Artist GoH proposed this one.]

Popup Books

Come and see some resplendent examples of the popup book art form, and learn what goes into the construction of these little masterpieces. Yes, we've done this several times before, but it gets bigger and better every year!

Paper Engineering

This year the paper-folding workshop gets its own time slot. Learn a little origami, cut out a snowflake, or make a folded-paper fortune telling machine customized for Minicon.

Oil Painting with Dan Dos Santos

Our artist GOH will show us how his work happens with a live demonstration of painting.

Visualizing Magic: The Gathering

From card to art -- how the process works.

Book Covers, Start to Finish

From commission to final art, what's it like to create a book cover? How do you work with an art director? Capturing the essence of a book visually can be a fascinating process.

New Images of Fantasy

How has fantasy illustration changed over the past few years? How has digital media changed the field, and what's it like to break in as a new artist? What cool things are new artists doing?

Concept Art

If you want to turn a script into a finished motion picture, you'll need concept art. Our artist GOH has worked in this field, and will let us know how the process works -- maybe even a demo, if we're lucky!

Arts vs. Crafts

For those who produce works of both sorts, what distinguishes art from craft? when does craft transcend its defining characteristics to be counted as art? Why do we distinguish art as a separate category? For those who specialize in one area or the other, how does craft improve art, art inform craft?


The Social Contract: Making It Explicit

We've had a lot of discussion about the social contract -- the rules by which our gaming groups operate, whether unspoken or not. Too often, though, they remain unspoken until someone blows up, or stinks up, the game. How can we go about making sure everyone is on the same page regarding how we game together? Is such a thing even desirable?

Designing Your Own Game

A lot of us can't help but house-rule and fiddle with games. Many gamers want to take the next step and design our own games. How do you get started? How can you become rich and famous designing games?

Invasion of the German Games

German and European boardgames have become immensely popular in the past few years. What qualities do they share? Which ones are the best?

Blade & Crown: The Bandit Map

Bandits have been plaguing the area for years. Now, you have found a scrap of paper that seems to reveal the location of their base. Whether for fame, wealth, or just to do the right thing, you resolve to journey to the highlands and stop them. An RPG, played using the Blade & Crown system. GM: Rachel Kronick. Up to five players.

Retro Videogame Tournament

Psst... Don't tell anyone, but our Artist Guest of Honor, Dan Dos Santos, is a huge fan of old videogames. If we're lucky, he may bring his Atari in for a tournament.

Not Really Panels

Yoga for the Old and Decrepit

A workshop to teach yoga techniques adapted to make them accessible to people with physical limitations.


Costume Doctor

Bonnie and Seven help you deal with good costumes gone bad, wardrobe malfunctions and other costuming problems.

Easter Parade

In your Eeeeaster bonnet, with all the squids uponnnnit... miscellaneous finery, costumes, kazoo bands.

Kids and Family Programming

Tool Time

Take apart a computer.

Children's Concert

Music for children by Minnstf musicians.

Create a Costume in Two Hours

We'll provide the raw materials and you have two hours to whip it into a costume for the Easter Parade. Photographers will be on hand to immortalize your new persona.

Astronomy with Kids

A continuation of Michael Kauper's presentation from last year.