M50 Programming Brainstorm

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The following is the list of ideas for panels/activities at Minicon 50: April 2-5, 2015. Our GOHs are Jane Yolen, Larry Niven, Brandon Sanderson, Adam Stemple, Tom Doherty, and Michael Whelan. For general information about Minicon 50, see our main website.

Minicon is a member-driven, collaborative convention. Programming can only happen if you, the membership, suggest topics and then volunteer to sit on panels. All panelists are paying Minicon members (and/or our GoH), please consider becoming one yourself!

Panel idea submissions for Minicon 50 closed on December 1, 2014.

Panelist sign-up closes February 1, 2015. To sign up to be a panelist, send an email to programming@minicon50.mnstf.org.

If you are an author and would like to schedule a reading, send an email to readings@minicon50.mnstf.org.


Art, Crafts, & Costuming

Artistic Bravery

Releasing your work into the wild can be the scariest step in the artistic process. If you want people to see your work, you have to take the first step and share it. Hear stories from writers and artists detailing the good, bad, and ugly when it comes to sharing.

The Business of Art in Gaming

There are many manufacturers of games, small and large. What are their art directors looking for, and how do they choose the art for their products?

Collaborative Creative Projects

How to start them, how to find the right team, and how to keep everyone happy. Discussing the best practices for working with other creatives on collaborative projects and how to manage the details so your project is a success.

Costuming Skivvies

Do historically accurate undergarments make a costume better or just more uncomfortable? Where do we compromise between accuracy and today's materials and technology? We'll discuss undergarments through the ages and how to bring a whole new dimension to your costume.

Crafting in Spaaaaace

Through archaeology it has been determined that explorers had a tradition of crafting (e.g., nautical crews used needles and scissor for repair). It seems logical to assume that crafting will be used in the space frontier as well. What type of crafting will appear in space travel and colonization? What are the best skills to learn and teach in establishing a new colony? Why isn't crafting seen in media sf?

Designing a Cover from Concept (and Contract) to Page

Watch as artist David Lee Pancake live-renders a cover art concept after working with author Blake Hausladen to suss out the contract and cover design for one of his upcoming novels.

Make Your Own Historical Artifact/Aged Documents

Explore techniques for creating and aging your own documents and maps in both physical form and digitally.

Making Your Pitch

So you’ve made this thing — maybe it’s a book, maybe it’s a piece of art. What is the best way to approach a professional in your industry? And once you’ve got them in front of you, how do you sell them your work? (cross-listed with Lit programming)

The Origami of Pop-Up Books

What does it take to make a pop-up book? From very simple to very complicated, panelists will share techniques and/or examples of great pop-up art.

Techniques in Science Fiction and Fantasy Art

From traditional means to digital — is one technique better than the other? How do you choose? How does technique affect your end result?

Fandom and Zeitgeist

All About Coffee

During the American revolution, terrorists dumped tea into Boston Harbor and tea became symbolic of British overlords. Thus began our love affair with coffee, arguably America's favorite legal drug delivery system. Let's talk about the history of coffee, coffee in fiction, coffee in fandom, coffee in pseudo-science, great recipes containing coffee, how to make the perfect cup, and the chemical process that causes run on sentences.

Carleton SFA Reunion

The Carleton Science Fiction (and Fantasy) Alliance will be 30 years old in 2015, having been founded as the Doctor Who Club in 1985. The SFA is having an all-class 30th anniversary reunion get-together, including a big meet-and-greet retrospective on (probably) Saturday. (Other events may be added to this description later.)

Dude, Where's My Worldcon?

Can Minneapolis host a worldcon? SMOFs from across the country will engage in the debate. Will we make it for 2073?

Geeks Like Beer

You may not be a home-brewer (yet), but it's still cool. What is it? How does it work? We'll talk styles, breweries, books of beer. Maybe even a home-brew tasting.

Golden Age of SF

When is the best age to find sf? When do we have that best "sense o' wonder"?

Life with Fuzzy Pink (and Her Slippers)

Before marrying Larry Niven, Marilyn J. Wisowaty was a well-known science fiction and Regency literature fan, and active in SF Clubs; in fact, she is one of the founders of the New England Science Fiction Association. A discussion of the fan history associated with Larry and Fuzzy.

Mpls2073 Concom Meeting

Join us for the first major planning meeting for the Minneapolis Worldcon - now in its 6th year of bidding!

Pushing Society's Boundaries Without Losing Your Own

Let's be honest - many portrayals of women in fantasy/anime/comic books/etc are overtly sexualized, but just because you make a costume like that doesn't mean you're "open for business". Cosplaying with confidence, tips for deflecting bad behavior.

Social Pressure in Fandom

Social standards in fandom often operate on a pedulum, swinging from very laid back ("anything goes"/"don't be such a prude") to very cautious ("you can't say that!"). We have yet to find a happy medium. How do we, as a community, deal with that tension and find the acceptable range of acceptable? How do we draw boundaries without tightening the noose?

Why Are We Still Having This Panel?

There are panels that have been done a thousand times (you know the ones we mean) - which ones are still necessary? Which ones will we all gouge our eyes out if we have to see it again?

Will SF be Destroyed by its Own Success?

What do we do now that the walls are down? The Guardian has an SF columnist, and the boundary between SF and literary fiction is becoming increasingly blurred. The SF ghetto may have been intended to keep our sort from contaminating literary fiction, but it also made it easier to find our community. Now that nerds have become mainstream and cool, do we still have a future or will we dissolve into the greater society like Jello in the ocean?


Gaming While Parenting

Can you keep up your weekly game night after having a baby? How do you continue playing Smallworld with little hands trying to grab stuff off the table? How to still have fun gaming while taking care of your kids (and maybe getting them to be gamers too).

Is This the Golden Age of Board Games?

It's been claimed, but is it true? Is this really the best time to be a tabletop gamer? How do you keep up with all the new stuff? How do you find the ones you'll like and make the best of the new era?

Making a Game From Scratch

Talking throught the start-to-finish art of self-publishing your games, from getting people involved, making the right art, to desgining the right format and getting it printed.

The Superhero Genre in RPGs

There are currently several Superhero RPGs, such as the Hero System, Champions, Silver Age Sentinels, and Godlike. Which Superhero RPG allows you to play your favorite comic book hero? Which allows you to make your own special super hero? What does a Superhero Genre game bring to the table that other games don't bring?

Table Management Strategies

How do you handle table talk, such as rules lawyerism or talking out of character? How do you handle disruptive activities at the table or in a convention setting? What about distractions at the table (e.g. electronic)? Snacking or no snacking?

Tékumel Politics

Let's discuss the real-world politics around/behind Tékumel (Empire of the Petal Throne).


Adventures in Collaboration

Many of our attending authors have co-authored narrative works with other writers. How did such collaborations come about? How do authors with distinct voices come together to create a cohesive tale? What affect (or benefit) does collaborating have for an author at the beginning of his/her career versus when it is well-developed?

Celebrity Picture Book Reading

Dramatic readings of picture book favorites (old and new) for children and adults.

Deviance in Fiction

A partner commits adultery, someone is murdered, or a tyrant takes the throne. How does wicked behavior increase story tension?

Emma Bull's War for the Oaks

Each chapter of that book was titled for a song, for instance "Valerie." When Emma was asked, was that the Richard Thompson song or the Steve Winwood one? The former, she said. Come hear songs and snippets and talk about how they relate to the book & chapters.

The Evolving Business of Books

Some of our guests have been involved with the publishing industry in some way or another for fifty years. How have things changed? What has stayed the same? How has the proliferation of small press and self-publication changed the field?

Hobbies as Research

When reading about something isn’t enough - sometimes you have to DO it to really know what it’s all about. When does this investigation go beyond just research and start to take over? Or, how do you turn your hobby into an awesome excuse to write a novel?


Need we say more? An appreciation of the under-appreciated British writer we lost last year.

I'm a Cover Shopper

How does cover design impact sales of a book and placement on book shelf displays? With the popularity of ebooks, does cover design even matter anymore?

Inappropriate (Mis)uses of Astrophysical Matter

Forget about using the universe for good! That's not the human way of doing things! Murder by black hole was used as a plot device by Larry Niven in his Hugo award-winning "The Borderland of Sol." Dominic Green postulated using a Penrose accelerator as a waste management "solution" in his Hugo-nominated story, "The Clockwork Atom Bomb [1]." A discussion of the Pandora's Box aspect of particle physics and astrophysics within SF.

Lady Poetesses from Hell

Lady Poetesses From Hell is a poetry performance group. They dress very nicely and have wicked senses of humor.

Let's Build a World

(run by Rachel K) Starting with some general categories (atmosphere, geography, economics, etc.), we'll take our ideas -- loopy or logical -- then brainstorm an amazing world together, in just 75 minutes. Come see what materializes!

Let's Write the World We Built

(run by Deanna S) You made it, now take the world and start writing. It could be a character, a story, whatever you like. This exercise is meant to get your creative juices flowing!

Linked Short Stories and Modular Novels

The fix-up novel is a novel pieced together out of short stories. What are the advantages of writing this way? What are the problems?

The Lure of Ages Past

Bronze age mysticism, Edwardian pomp, Civil War relived - what draws us to historical fiction (realistic or alternate)? Which authors are we reading? What makes the past such an alluring playground for authors?

...and Magrathea Ground to a Halt

Worldbuilding can be hard - what is the biggest thing that cause you to stop? What was that major obstacle, and how did you overcome it?

Making Your Pitch

So you’ve made this thing — maybe it’s a book, maybe it’s a piece of art. What is the best way to approach a professional in your industry? And once you’ve got them in front of you, how do you sell them your work? (cross-listed with Art programming)

The Merging of Media & Literature in Fandom

Maybe you're a Star Trek fan, but you're really interested in the tie-in books, more than the movies. Let's discuss crossover pathways (media franchise that became books, books that became video games, ...) into fandom. Are they compatible or at war?

Middle Grades Optimism vs YA Dystopia

Magical wonder abounds in middle grade lit but seems to disappear once stories make the jump to the next age bracket. Does pessimism go hand in had with the advent of hormones? Is middle grade more than it appears?(from both reader and writer perspective)

Novel Beer

Our favorite characters like a sudsy glass of brew now and then. From George RR Martin and Ommegang Brewery to Harry Potter and Butterbeer (what IS it exactly) to writing about beer in your own novel. We can talk about the basics of brewing and the different styles of beer in addition to the impact of beer on literature and the writer! Great for brewers, writers, fans, and drinkers.

Publishing After the Door Slams

What do you do when you discover you can't sell to the big New York publishers? Writers talk about self-publishing, small press, Kickstarters, short stories, and more.

Recreating the Fairy Tale

Fairy tales are in their own quiry way more prominent now than in past years. They are simply everywhere - they have infiltrated poetry, novellas, novels, musicals, TV, advertising, movies, music... and there seems no stopping them. They are imagined, re-imagined, stood on their heads, flung into outer space, moved into the twenty-first century and beyond. What is it about the fairy tale that makes it so compelling? Where will we take them (or they take us) next?

Rivendell Discussion Group

Join discussion of the recent novels by Guests of Honor Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple: "The Seelie Wars:" Book 1, The Hostage Prince, and Book 2, The Last Changeling. There might even be some discussion of their sorely under-appreciated B.U.G. Big Ugly Guy!

Rock Fantasy!

Minnesota fantasy writers LOVE rock and roll! This panel discusses the influence of rock on their writing.

Speculative Poetry Round Robin

Come one, come all. Bring your poetry to share with the group - everyone who wants will get a few minutes to read until we run out of time.

Second Foundation Meeting: The Works of Larry Niven

Back in 1983 in the very first Krushenko's, the then-new speculative fiction book club Second Foundation held a discussion of the works of Author Guest of Honor Larry Niven with Mr. Niven present and participating. We'd love to repeat the magic.

Sex with Aliens

Writers talk about their stories (safe for work and non-) about sex and romance with other sorts of creatures. Bonus: how much will Eleanor and Naomi blush?

The Uses and Abuses of Enchantment

Ever since Bettleheim's seminal work in using fairy tales as therapy with disturbed children was both a bestseller and a critical success, people have been psychoanalyzing folk tales in a major way, for good or bad. So are you a Freudian, a Jungian, or just a Story-ian (as opposed to an Historian) when it's the matter of tales?

What's New for Middle Grade Readers

The focus of youth fiction has been on Young Adult for years now, but there are great things happening in Middle Grade Fiction too. What’s new, what’s hot, and what kind of books do we hope to see in the coming years?

Women in YA

While the adult best seller author list can often be described as a sausage-fest, the best sellers in YA are overwhelmingly written by women. Popular series like Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight, and Divergent are just a few examples. YA is arguably dominated by women authors and most often marketed to young women and girls. Why do we think this is? Are the portrayals of women and girls in YA fiction positive portrayals? Should they be?

Writing the Gypsy

It was a suite of songs that became a novel that became a CD. GoH Adam Stemple and Steven Brust discuss the germination of the idea and how it grew.

The Year in SF

Our annual review of the best (or, at least, some of the most interesting) works released in the past year.

The Zombie Connection

Why are there so many tales about zombies, and why do they eat our brains? Vampires are werewolves are out - what is it about this specific time in history that gives zombies such a powerful symbolism (particularly in YA)? Why are we so compelled?


Anime and Manga for Speculative Fiction Fans

From the days of Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy and its intelligent robots, manga and anime with science fiction and fantasy themes have been popular. Let's discuss some of the most interesting ones for speculative fiction fans, both current and vintage.

Cinematic Gold

A quest for the best fantastic (science fiction, fantasy, horror, and unclassifiable) films released since Minicon 1 in January 1968. Prepare to brainstorm!

Fool's Gold: When Adaptations Go Bad

The D&D Movie - what was Jeremy Irons thinking? Battleship - need we say more? And just because the result of an adaptation isn't a great work doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable - a book need not be great literature to be a great read.

Miyazaki as a Gateway to Anime (& Manga)

How many of us got into anime via Miyazaki? Where are good places to start? Where do we go after?

Minicon/Mnstf History

Minicon 1

What was it like at the very first Minicon? Come listen to some of the original members talk about their experiences. (Can we get Anthony Tollin (talked to Clay at CONvergence), Ellen Kuhfeld, and Fred Levy Haskell to all come?)

My First Time

Many of us (obviously) were not at Minicon 1, but we all have our "first" Minicon - what was yours? What was it like? How has the con changed, how is it still the same?

Next Generation

Beginnings in SF

Everyone has their own origin stories - how we found SF and how we found fandom. How have these paths into speculative fiction and its communitites changed with the new generation? What effect has the Internet had on the finding of fandom?

Kids/Teens Recommend SF to Adults

The new "What Should I Read Now?" Let's face it - there's way more out there that you could ever possibly read and much you never hear about because you're not the target audience. What's new and awesome for the younger crowd that adults should read to? Books? Graphic novels? Something else entirely?

Science and Technology

Almost There

So, we don't have flying cars. What "technology of the future" is actually right around the corner? A discussion of technologies that we almost have licked including nuclear fusion, anti-gravity, cloaking devices, and teleportation.

Ask a Scientist

A perennial favorite. Bring your science/technology questions and our scientists will do their best to help you understand.

Battle Armour of Tomorrow

Powered and unpowered - a discussion of various battle armors in Sci-Fi and the corresponding reality of what is being fielded, under development, and what is to come. May include a discussion of Battle Mechs/Mecha/etc.

Directed Energy Weapons: Fact and Fantasy

Wanna shoot like a Storm Trooper? destroy Alderaan? Not possible, you say? Come find out about the real world development and deployment of lasers, particle beam weapons, rail guns and other directed energy weapons.


They're here! What will you do when Amazon drop your bowling ball through your roof?

Living with the Inevitable Hack

Let's face it - someone, at some point, is going to hack your personal information. What do you do? (What can you do?) What will you do when all your password-protected, private thoughts finally go public?

Megastructures - What to Build When There are No Limits

From ringworlds to Dyson spheres, science (fiction) abounds with ideas for EXTREMELY large structures to maximize energy usage and deal with the population problem. While still hypothetical, do today's advances in technology and materials science make any of them more likely? What does the future of astroengineering hold?

The Space Program in the Obama Years, Year Six

Continuing a long-term series about the challenges facing space science and exploration under the cash-strapped Obama administration.

Warping Hyperspace

Planning a pan-galatic empire? It's going to be tough if you can't actually travel to all its planets... But wait! Would you believe real research is being done today on FTL travel? A discussion of the growing work being done today in warp drives, hyperspace, and other means of defeating the speed limit imposed by E=mc2.

When 3D Printers Go Wrong

The replicator may be coming, but we're not there yet. What can't 3D printers do? (And yes, there will be visual evidence.)

When is a Cyborg

Assistive technology for people with disabilities is getting better by the year. We can’t yet rebuild Steve Austin better, faster, stronger, but we’ve already seen serious debate about whether Oscar Pistorius’ spring-loaded feet gave him an unfair advantage in the Olympic sprints. How much longer before assistive technology is so good that everybody will want it? Certainly some of us envy Manny (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) his wonderful prosthetic arm.

GOH Panels

The Business of Brandon

(not for volunteers) Ben, Isaac, and Michael talk about working with/for our GOH.

Cats Laughing: The Panel

Adam and the band sit around and talk (and answer questions?)???

Golden Panels

Our returning GOHs talk about the best panels they've been on.

Who'da Thunk?

Our GOHs sit together and interview each other - who knows what stories they have about each other?


  • Auntie Jane's Naptime Stories (?)
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple (Together Again)
  • Lady Poetesses from Hell (Jane et al)

GOH Interviews

  • Jane Yolen - interviewed by The Scribblies (à la M25)
  • Larry Niven - ?
  • Brandon Sanderson - ?
  • Adam Stemple - ?
  • Michael Whelan - ?
  • Tom Doherty - ?


  • Adam Stemple (solo concert? jam? both?)
  • Cats Laughing

Other GOH Events

  • Michael Whelan - slide show? demo?
  • Brandon Sanderson - Magic tournament?
  • book club/discussion for any/all author GOHs?