M47 Programming Brainstorm

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The following is the list of panels available for signup at Minicon 47. We are no longer taking suggestions for panel ideas for Minicon 47. To submit an idea for a panel, please post it at the Minicon 48 Brainstorming Page, or send it to the programming department at programming@minicon47.mnstf.org

To sign up to be a panelist, send an email to programming@minicon47.mnstf.org Your email should include the titles of the panels that you are interested in, schedule limitations, and whether or not you would consider moderating any of the panels that you're volunteering for.

Our schedule is nearly finalized and we're working out the bugs. Assuming that panelists can fit into our existing schedule, we will accept panelists up to the moment of the event, though our publication deadlines are considerably ahead of that moment.


The following panels are most in need of panelists


Clifford D. Simak - Alien Life In The Heartlands

Clifford D. Simak set much of his SF in rural Wisconsin where he grew up and Minnesota where he worked as a journalist. Join this discussion of the work of Clifford D. Simak.

Goblinish Lore and Literature

Folkloric traditions and fantastical literature have presented many different versions of the roguish goblin, from Christina Rossetti's seductive fruit mongers to J.R.R. Tolkien's violent and villainous warriors. Recent fiction by Hilari Bell, Jim C. Hines, and others offers more sympathetic portrayals of goblinish people. What are the origins of these mischievous creatures, how has fantasy fiction reshaped them, and what new forms will they take?

Librarians as the Arbiters of SF

The needle-nosed icons on the spines lured us in as children, and the good librarians encouraged us to read SF. How is the genre and the readership evolving? How is archiving evolving? If kids never hook up with a series that resonates with them, will they be stunted? How are librarians keeping SF alive?

The Life and Works of Joanna Russ (1937-2011)

Joanna Russ is perhaps best known for her 1975 work "The Female Man," the 1972 short story "When it Changed," and her 1983 writing guide "How to Suppress Women's Writing." The dialogue regarding sexism in the field of science fiction and fantasy benefited from her voice, and her contributions still impact how that discussion is carried out. What do we think about all of this?

Writing the Blueprints for Fantasy

Many of Ted Chiang's stories weave intricate details around fantastic technologies, whether they be the means necessary to build a tower to Heaven, a sky-scraper with bronze age technology, or the process required to animate a golem. Let's explore some of the fascinating technologies Chiang has set up and how his use of detail breathes life (though not always argon) into the stories. What are some ways we can imagine alternate technologies? What other works have delved into the practicalities behind fantastic constructions?

The Year in SF - What Do I Read Next?

Our annual confab about what's good and (mostly) new in (mostly) science fiction and fantasy.

Young Children's and YA Science Fiction and Fantasy

A discussion of SF&F for the young, with a focus on the introduction to fantasy at a very young age. Which stories did we read to our kids before they were old enough to read themselves? What are some young people's books with great illustrations? How do I find great books to introduce young children to genre fiction?


The Art of the Snapshot, Part II

More detailed discussion about taking great photos at conventions, with examples aplenty! Discussion of etiquette, technique, fair use, and image manipulation resources. Needs to be in the multimedia room.

Fantasy Art Through Time

How has fantasy art 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 expectations does an artist usually need to meet, and how has the industry changed? What cool things are new artists doing?

Fandom and Zeitgeist

The Museum of Today... TOMORROW!

What is significant enough to preserve for the future, and how do museum workers go about deciding? How do we determine what's significant, or more importantly, what will be significant? How can we know what we should have saved for a hundred years from now? What does a curator do? How are museums changing? Now that the online world has exploded, should museums still treat their physical space as most important?

What Has Happened Since "Is There A Fannish Accent?"

A follow up panel about how fans talk and communicate. Many years ago, a speech therapist attended an SF convention. The therapist observed something very like an accent. After spending some time studying this phenomenon, the therapist returned to Minicon to report on her findings. Fans seem to have a dialect, and even psychological characteristics to their communication. Even Boing Boing has reported on her findings. Now that this idea has sunk in, how has the wisdom from the previous panel entered into the fannish imagination? Has there been more since then? Attendance at previous panel is not necessary to enjoy this discussion.


Gender And Video Games

Modern Video Games, especially multi-player games are often criticized for a shortage of characters that people who are not young men or boys can identify with. Even the characters that are available for young men or boys can sometimes reinforce negative stereotypes. Keeping in mind that video games are the gateway to computer literacy for many young people, how does this affect girls' interaction with computers? What is the history of gender in video games? How is the industry changing?

iOS Game Development

Originally developed for the iPhone, Apple's operating system has been expanded to include the iPad, iPod Touch, and Apple TV. To date, more than half a million applications have been written for iOS, and the field continues to expand. No longer confined to a mouse and a keyboard, iOS games allow the player to swipe, tap, pinch, reverse or shake their device during game play. How does a game designer create games for this unique platform? How is the field of gaming changing to accommodate mobile devices?

Let Me Tell You About My Character!

What gaming conversations make you want to flee in terror? Why are these conversations so fascinating to the storyteller, and so horribly boring for the listener? What is unique about RPGs that cause this phenomenon?


George Lucas Retroactively Ruined My Childhood

When new versions of old movies are made, fans often express outrage and betrayal. When a franchise is being rebooted or expanded, there's speculation on "getting it right." When a sequel or subsequent work seems to portray something as deviating from the original work, are fans justified in their disapproval? When does an artist turn their work over as a part of a collectively owned culture? What are advantages and disadvantages of "open source" culture? Fan fiction writers often play in someone else's universe - what right do we as fans have to create new work, with or without permission?

GLBT Friendly Video SF

How do movies and TV treat GLBT characters? What are some good modern examples of entertainment for when a person wants to turn on the tube, crack open a beer, and not be driven to throw anything at the screen?

The Shaping of Film Genres, 1896-1949

From the turn-of-the-century fantasy shorts of George Melies to the first science fiction film (1902), the first Western (1903), and the growth, through the studio era, of comedies, horror films, gangster movies, and film noir, how did genre movies distinguish themselvs from "mainstream" cinema?

Science and Technology

The Chinese Space Program

In 2003, Yang Liwei's sucessful mission aboard Shenzhou 5 made China the third country to independently send a human into space. Since then, the Chinese space program has expanded. Current plans include a permanent space station and crewed expeditions to the Moon and Mars. How are these projects coming along? What other exciting developments are in the works?

The Future of American Space Exploration

How did the end of the Space Shuttle program finally wind up? How is the Russian Soyuz program doing in replacing the Shuttle? Now that the Constellation project has been shelved, how are related programs like the Orion Shuttle faring? The planning and implementation of any American space program is typically longer than the tenure of fickle politicians. Is the American political climate too volatile for future space exploration?

Let's Play God

Scientists and doctors are often accused of "playing God," but no one seems to have specified what, exactly, God does that can so easily be imitated, or what is wrong with imitating it. What sorts of things are considered godlike behaviors or experiments? What are the potential rewards or punishments? Are there any lines that should not be crossed, or slippery slopes that we are standing too close to? Should God be worried?

Was Horton Right? The Science Fiction of Dr. Seuss

Look what we found in the park in the dark! It's the twisted imagination of Theodore Geisel, poisoning our innocent tots' little minds with visions of subatomic galaxies, extraterrestrial zoos, and endlessly recursive stacks of hats. One could argue that the entire sub-genre of urban fantasy was inspired by the good doctor's first children's book: "To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street." And who could doubt that the science fictional morality tale of the Star Bellied Sneeches inspired that one episode of Star Trek?

The Year In Science

What exciting developments have happened in various science disciplines? Are we headed for a chocolate communist hellhole? What happened this year that knocked our socks off? What are the latest discoveries in the field of unknockable socks? Ask away.

The following panels have enough panelists to be viable, but may have room for more.

Panels that are not taking panelists are marked as such.


Appending Our Cultural Heritage

Public domain works such as Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and Alice in Wonderland continue to inspire new stories. Shakespeare's work has influenced countless retellings--and he practiced such adaptations himself. How does an author make a topic uniquely their own, and still respect the original story? When is a derivative story a crime against the source material? This panel is full, but may be able to take one or two more people if there are scheduling conflicts.

The End of the Vanity Publisher

What are some of the options in self-publishing these days? What should writers be aware of? How are electronic venues making publishing more accessible to beginning writers?

Failing The Turing Test

In 1950, Alan Turing asked the question "Can machines think?" Since then, the test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour has sparked new questions. Is this test useful? Is it significant that some people are fooled by chatbots? What's the relationship between intelligence and personhood? In what ways are computers smarter than us? How have AI surpassed us, and what do we do when humans don't pass? This panel is full, but may be able to take one or two more people if there are scheduling conflicts.

Folklore or Fakelore

Or does it really matter? Authors who romp through the folk stories of the world, borrowing/grabbing/snatching up tropes as they go, will either tug their forelocks for doing so, find excuses for themselves, or boldly go wherever they want to and are happy to do so. Is there a "proper" use of our folkloric inheritance, or should the world's "basic" stories be up for grabs for whoever and whatever we want? This panel is full, but may be able to take one or two more people if there are scheduling conflicts.

A Love Letter to Jo Walton's "Among Others"

A celebratory discussion, along with an annotated bibliography of the books mentioned in "Among Others."

What Is Intelligence?

Ted Chiang's "Understand" asks and then attempts to very thoroughly answer the question of what it would really be like to be super-intelligent. Along the way, it delves into the definition of intelligence, and whether greater intelligence necessarily means greater morality. What's our current definition of intelligent? What is intelligence? is superintelligence something that could evolve? Could we achieve super-intelligence with performance enhancing drugs? What would it mean to be super-intelligent? This panel is full, but may be able to take one or two more people if there are scheduling conflicts.

Crossing over from SF to Mystery

Can SF and Mystery successfully co-exist in the same book? What qualities do the respective genres have that play nicely together, and which elements squabble bitterly? How do their respective backgrounds in the niche market of pulp make them unique? What are some of our favorite authors who successfully navigate the blending of these two popular styles?

Fanfic: Playing In Someone Else's Sandbox

Fanfiction isn't new, though the internet has made it much more accessible in the last two decades. Where is it growing? What is there to know about the explosion of fanfiction? How can we find fanfiction that we like? How can we find communities to help us develop our work? How do fanfic authors critique each other's writing?

Truly Alien Languages

Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" posits an alien language that is incompatible with human understanding. In what ways are human languages necessarily tied to human modes of thought? What forms of language could exist that wouldn't work with these modes of thought? What is alien language? How does one go about constructing a language from scratch? What can we learn from the secret languages of twins?


Frank Wu Slide Show

Frank Wu shows slides of his work and discusses what went into the making of his art. (GOH) This panel could use an AV assistant.

How To Design A Spaceship

The Science and Art of Spaceship Design. (GOH) This panel could use an AV assistant.

How To Draw A Dragon.

An Interactive event for all ages. (GOH) This panel is fully staffed.

Spinning Your Yarns

Many fans like working with our hands to create things, sometimes while we're participating in other activities. How does creating things keep us engaged? What are some of our favorites? Is it difficult to knit in a dark movie theater? This panel is full, but may be able to take one or two more people if there are scheduling conflicts.


Hugo Nominees

A presentation of this year's Hugo nominees. This panel is fully staffed.

Drink Tank! Live and In Person!

Chris Garcia asked that instead of a typical Guest of Honor interview, he'd like to turn the tables and interview members of the audience! This item is fully staffed.

Hectograph to Podcast: An Introduction to Fanzines

What is a fanzine? What makes a good fanzine? What kind of writing works best? How have fanzines changed over the years? How does the history of fanzines inform the present?


Mega Moneyduck

The mesmerizing return of The Magnificant Mega Moneyduck Machine. This panel is fully staffed.

Revolution 60

A Brianna Spacekat Wu and Frank Wu Panel. Revolution 60 is a breakthrough game for iPad, using the strength of the touch interface to tell a short, intense story. It features gorgeous animations using the Unreal engine and gameplay that is accessible to the casual iOS user. This panel is fully staffed.

The Secret Scandals of Frank Wu

Nobody knows exactly what the programming item is going to be except for Brianna Spacekat Wu, but it will undoubtedly be scandalous. This panel could use someone to help with the AV equipment.


Believable Antagonists

What makes a good antagonist? Why does Gaius Baltar on Battlestar Galactica work better than Anakin Skywalker in Episode III? Is the antagonist more about motivations, or contrast with the protagonist? What makes an antagonist believable?

Chris Garcia's Shorts

An appreciation for the short film. What sort of storytelling works in the short form film? How do I find these special and unique movies? What are some of Chris' favorites? This panel could use one AV assistant.

Guidolon, The Giant Space Chicken

Frank Wu and Chris Garcia discuss GUIDOLON THE GIANT SPACE CHICKEN, a movie about a Giant Space Chicken making a movie about a Giant Space Chicken. Remember - A Monster Movie *is* a Shakespearean tragedy! This panel could use one AV assistant.


A discussion of America's most popular illegal immigrant. What are some of the more interesting developments in the recent Superman comics and screen adaptations? Who are our favorite writers for these stories? What do we think about the upcoming Henry Cavill movie? Why is Superman so much more awesomer than Batman? If the panelists and audience are willing, the last 20 minutes of this panel will be devoted to Smallville spoilers.

The Doctor's Wife and Kids

Our annual Doctor Who hash out. How do we feel about the direction that Doctor Who is going? This last season, the doctor landed in Utah in an apparent attempt to appeal to a broader American audience, and less subtly, Torchwood: Miracle Day featured American characters in American settings. As the BBC attempts to expand their audience, what are they getting right and wrong?


Encore Game Show

A repeat of last year's popular game in which Two teams compete to come up with song lyrics. Prompted by a word, phrase or idea, the teams must act quickly to satisfy the judges. This panel is fully staffed.

SF Rock & Roll

From classics like Space Oddity and Rocket Man to Janelle Monae's Metropolis & The ArchAndroid, how is science fiction represented in the world of music? What stories are being told by songwriters, rather than book writers? Are there stories/themes that are particularly well-suited to being expressed in this medium? This panel is full, but may be able to take one or two more people if there are scheduling conflicts.

Filking For Fun

What is filk? Why do we filk? What's the fun in just talking about filk when we could spend that time making our own? During this panel, panelists and attendees will set out to create our very own filk song(s)! A familiar tune will be provided, attendees are welcome to bring instruments.


What's New In The World of Dinosaurs?

A Slide show featuring lots of great pictures of recent dinosaur discoveries. (GOH) This panel could us an AV assistant.

Computer Folklore

Computer Folklore is an academic discipline based on studying anecdotes of computer history. Apple's original Macintosh, software design, and the evolution from cash register to pocket calculator all have a different spin depending on who's telling the story. What do we hope to learn from this? If we're lucky, Chris Garcia may bring along some interesting pieces from the Computer History museum.

The Death Panel

Despite modern medicine and the promises of science fiction, immortality continues to elude us. Instead of bringing salvation, advances have made it possible to hang onto life well past when some would consider it desirable. Sarah Palin criticized the growing need for end of life decisions, but perhaps "death panels" are just what we should have. We will examine dying in American hospitals, options for end of life care, and how decisions should be made. How do you want to die?


To sign up to be a panelist, please send an email to programming@minicon47.mnstf.org

Your email should include the following:

  • The panels that you are interested in by title
  • Requests about when you’d like your panels to be scheduled
  • Whether or not you would consider moderating any of the items that you are volunteering for

If you would like to suggest someone else as a panelist, please include their contact information.

Minicon will be April 6-8 in the same location as last year, at the newly renamed Doubletree hotel in Bloomington, MN. Our Guests of Honor will be author Ted Chiang, fanziner Christopher J Garcia, and artist Frank Wu. If you haven’t registered yet, you may pre-register for Minicon until March 15. Registration information is at the Minicon Website at Minicon Registration