M53 Programming Brainstorm

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Minicon 53 (2018) will take place March 30-April 1, 2018, at the St. Louis Park Doubletree.


THE MINICON 53 PROGRAMMING BRAINSTORM WIKI page is now open for business!

We intend to have a spiffy online database available eventually for managing programming ideas and volunteers. But until that project comes online, we have the good old Wiki Brainstorm.

  • Do you have ideas for programming items for Minicon 53?
  • Great! Please email programming@minicon53.mnstf.org with a description of your suggestion. The description does not need to be in final form, but the more detail the better. Please indicate if you would be willing to participate in the programming item yourself, and if you would like to moderate it.
  • If you have a login to edit this page and you are comfortable editing a Wiki, feel free to add your ideas below. It would be nice if you would drop a quick email to programming@minicon53.mnstf.org to let us know that you added something.
  • If you are an author and would like to schedule a reading and/or signing, send an email to programming@minicon53.mnstf.org.

  • To volunteer to be a panelist, send an email to programming@minicon53.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.


Religious Memes in F/SF

Both of our GoHs have used religious memes and imagery in their work, although not necessarily with their conventional religious meaning. How are modern writers using angels, pagan gods, Jewish mysticism, etc. in creative ways to add resonance to contemporary ideas?

The Golem and other Jewish Themes in F/SF

Many Jewish themes have become well-established tropes of speculative fiction, but the legend of the golem is arguably the most popular. In popular culture, the replicants from Blade Runner have been proposed to be golems, and the rock monster aspect of The Fantastic Four's Ben Grimm can also be connected to the legend. Discuss the well-known and more obscure retellings of this theme. And then, as always, there's Frankenstein.

Angels in Literature

Another specific panel on religious memes, suggested by Lyda's Archangel Protocol

Gods on the Side of a Milk Carton

The deaths of gods in polytheistic worlds has been a theme in novels by such authors as Max Gladstone and Robert Jackson Bennett. And why not kill them? Some of the gods from classical mythology were completely Rabid Puppies. How does deicide by mere mortals differ from classical mythology? If you can't off them because of immortality, what about other methods, like banishment and entrapment?

Fanfic Coexisting with Pro Writing

How do you make sure that your pro writing doesn't get in the way of your fanfic writing, or maybe vice versa? Is there anything weird about writing fanfic in your own universes? How can fanfic and pro writing live happily next to each other?

Combining the Mystery/Detective Genre with SF

Although humanity changes very slowly, in the future the methods used to commit crime and enforce laws will certainly change. What elements of detective fiction make for satisfying science fiction? What elements of science fiction make for satisfying mysteries? In the cold world of cyberpunk, does justice usually prevail?

Is this the cyberpunk future we were promised?

We never got that future full of flying cars and jetpacks, but we do seem to have quietly arrived at a cyberpunk dystopia: ruled by oligarchs, everyone uses their cyberdecks to be online all the time, there's massive surveillance, bodymods are commonplace, AIs seem to be lurking on the fringes... Or did we? How different are futures in William Gibson's Sprawl or Lyda Morehouse's Archangel Protocol series from what we have now?

Remembering Damon Knight

Damon Knight is the recipient of the 1995 Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He was arguably better known for his reviews, criticism, and editing than for his fiction. His series of Orbit anthologies contained many renowned stories, but were also known for publishing stories that were atypical of most genre fiction appearing in the magazines. Discuss how Damon Knight's fiction, nonfiction, and anthologies influenced your SF fandom.

Tarot Cards for World Building and Character Development

Regardless of one's belief in the efficacy of Tarot cards, a deck can be used as "a machine for constructing stories", as the Italian writer Italo Calvino once wrote. How can the images be used to clear writer's block, add background to a character, or create plot elements?

Flash Fiction Workshop for Teens

A workshop where teens write very brief bits of fiction and then get feedback from other writers.

Some Cool Manga You Might Not Have Read

An introduction to some interesting manga you may not have heard of.


Autism and Fandom

It has been frequently noted that folks on the autistic spectrum are over-represented in science fiction fandom. Is this really true, and if so, why? And is this historic neuro-diversity part of what makes fandom the wonderful, weird world that it is?

Sex in Cyberspace: Tinder, Porn, and You

What are the most interesting and important way technology has already changed sex, relationships, and dating? Has the definition of sex changed? How will technology affect sex in the future?

The evolution of the fan T-shirt

Convention t-shirts over the years. How did the T-shirt get to be the "thing" to get? Do we own enough t-shirts yet? Who wears printed t-shirts besides fans and children?

I am not Chuck Tingle

"Doctor Chuck Tingle, a taekwondo grandmaster from Billings, Montana, who acquired a PhD in holistic massage at DeVry University (which does not offer such a degree), was the clear savior of the 2015 Hugo award, and continues to be a delight. Dr. Tingle has yet to make a public appearance, and speculations about identity are easy to come by.

Who is Chuck Tingle? What are our best Chuck Tingle theories? "

Fannish Imposter Syndrome

Fandom in Taiwan

A brief introduction by Rachel. Maybe a slideshow?

Actually, it's pronounced 'PED-an-try'

A big part of geeking out is pride in knowing more about a topic than other people do. But this can easily shade into pure pedantry, or worse. How do we embrace our own geekiness without stomping on anyone else's? How do we de-link geekiness and oneupsmanship?


Ask a Scientist

A panel of varied scientists answers questions from the audience. This is a perennially popular Minicon panel, and we will certainly do it again at Minicon 53 - provided we can find enough qualified panelists. We'll even split it into two if we get enough volunteers - maybe soft vs. hard science or whatever sorting mechanism seems appropriate.

Raspberry Pi discussion

What can be done with a Raspberry Pi (and why)?

All About Sleep

Sleeping is pretty awesome, right? Or would life be better if we didn't have to sleep? Why do people need to sleep, anyway? And are some people just better at it than others?

Cosmetic Neuroscience: I Sing the Brain Electric

Faradization has an established medical history. How close are we to using electrical currents to induce endorphins in the brain or accelerate learning (transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS)? When will we be able to use a neural interface socket to purchase skill-chips instead of bothering to learn something?

Myth-Conceptions of Science

Many commonly held beliefs of science have little or no basis in fact. Ostriches do not hide their head into the sand to hide from enemies. Chewing gum does not take seven years to digest. Nikola Tesla did not invent a power source using alternating current (but did help popularize its use). What are the facts about science that you think you know, but which are misconceptions?

The Cassini Project: Out in a Blaze of Glory

On September 15, the Cassini probe completed its spectacularly successful investigation of Saturn by plunging into the planet's atmosphere and burning up, transmitting images until the end. In its 20-year career Cassini revealed the structure of Saturn's rings and exposed two of the moons as prime targets in the search for extraterrestrial life. It would be great to have an item at Minicon including a slideshow of some of the images Cassini transmitted and why it was so awesome.

Astrophotography by Rachel

A slideshow of some recent astrophotography by Rachel Kronick.


Podcasting as an Art Form

The explosion in podcast technology makes audio drama and audio books ever more accessible (for both listeners and would-be creators). How does the experience of listening to an audio book differ from reading it? Is audio drama essentially different from simply reading a story aloud? And is the serial podcast a whole new form of literature?

Waaaaaaaaaaaay up your butt. The Rick and Morty Panel

It's a figure of speech, Morty! They're bureaucrats! I don't respect 'em... Where are my testicles, Summer? They were removed. Where have they gone? Let's get Schwifty! All the Rick and Morty quotes you can handle, plus other favorites from Adult Swim.

DC on Screen

There is a divide in how well DC Movies and TV shows work out. Why do DC superheroes seem to work better on the small screen, but Marvel dominates in the theater? What about the animated movies?

The Westworld Panel

It's no longer a fresh sf idea to yell, "The robots are sentient! RUN!!" Now we want to know how and why they achieved sentience and what the ethical implications are going to be for all of us. How does Westworld's take on sentience compare to the other popular shows and movies currently tackling the same subject matter? (Humans, Extant, Her, Ex Machina). Not to mention good old Blade Runner. Am I the only one that was reminded of Stephenson's Snow Crash when Dr. Ford started explaining the theory of the bicameral mind? For that matter, how many of the humans on this show actually meet the high standards for sentience defined by the park's creators? Who really has more self-awareness and agency: Maeve or Felix and Sylvester?

The Meaning of Captain America

Captain America has always stood for things that are actually good about the US: caring about the oppressed, working to make society fairer, doing the right thing. How has that vision changed over the course of Cap's history? How is recent politics affecting what Captain America means now?


Crappy Card Magic Draft

Get rid of some Magic The Gathering cards that never really fit in with your other decks, and maybe gain something useful (probably not). Bring 30 lands (six of each color) and 45 other cards, approximately half spells and half creatures (You can tell if an artifact is closer to a spell or a creature by reading the card). We'll shuffle them all together, then build a 60 card deck with a draft style allocation, and then play. Do not bring cards that you expect to get back.

Gaming with Rachel

Come play board and card games with someone on the other side of the planet!

Your Gender is Virtual: The Sexualization of Video Game Bodies

What are the bodily expectations that gamers have for their avatars? Should game designers provide a wider variety of male and female bodies, or customize them with other body types?

Potential panelists may want to check out Nicholas Maisonave's thesis for a Masters degree at Stanford University, Gender in Gamer Culture and the Virtual World. Other online essays include Virtual Muscularity: A Content Analysis of Male Video Game Characters, Virtual Ideals: The Effect of Video Game Play on Male Body Image, and I Wasn't Looking at His Nice Ass: Female Gaze and Video Games.

Lovecraftian Games

Games based on the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft have exploded on the market. The popularity of the Call of Cthulhu RPG no doubt resulted in the appearance of Lovecraftian board, dice, and card games, such as several titles from local game company Fantasy Flight Games, and more specialized games like Cthulhu Confidential and The Laundry RPGs. Discuss your adventures losing sanity while battling the cosmic horrors from beyond.

Gaming the Martian Way

From well-established titles such as Martian Rails and Space:1889 to new games hitting the market (e.g. First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet, Mission: Red Planet, Terraforming Mars), the Red Planet is becoming a popular theme for board games. What are their differences? How scientifically accurate is each game? With board games becoming more expensive, where should one start?


The Czech Art of Easter Egg Design

Learn how to decorate Easter eggs the Czech way, creating incredibly detailed hand-painted miniature works of art. Google "kraslice" to see some examples.

Yarning Around

We'll keep having panels about knitting and yarn for as long as people keep volunteering for them.

Flounce Like You Mean It

Probably about costuming. Maybe about how to stop attending a convention or quit a facebook group. We just liked the title.


Typically these items need only one volunteer - someone to lead/coordinate the event. But feel free to suggest more like this.

EV and Hybrid Vehicles in the Parking Lot

Are you considering an EV or Hybrid vehicle? Meet EV and Hybrid vehicle owners and their cars. What features do they like and dislike? Are public charging stations worth it? What are the benefits of having a level 2 charging station in your home? We'd love to have some volunteers to show off their own vehicles and to contact a dealer or two to bring in vehicles.


Hang out with other knitters while knitting your knittables. Bring and demonstrate your favorite yarn gadget. Crochet will also be tolerated.

Group Yoga on Sunday Morning

Relax and stretch to help your energy level, your concentration and your balance

Model Building

It's great to work on something while other people are around, but not actually have to talk to them. It's called "Parallel Play" and toddlers do it all the time. Now shut up and let me concentrate on my model.

Raspberry Pi interactive session

Bring your own keyboard, mouse, monitor and raspberry pi. All skill levels welcome.


If you know what this is, you might be the leader we are looking for!

Poetry Open Mic


Maybe classifying programming items is just stupid and arbitrary and all the ideas should go here. I'm having a hard time figuring it out this year. If you have an idea what category these items ought to be in, let me know.

Ask An Expert Who Can Get A Word In Edgewise

Women from identified professional backgrounds discuss and answer questions about their field.

Automation and the Future of Work

Are robots coming to take away our jobs? Or will human work become less tedious and more productive with the assistance of helpful AI?

Big Data - Everybody Lies

And we're not just talking about Google and Walmart. Unfortunately, your ProgHead didn't take sufficient notes on this one and can't quite remember just what we WERE talking about here. Anybody?

Could You Kill a Robot?

This might be The Westworld Panel in disguise.

Who Has Your Password?

If you died tomorrow, who would manage your digital legacy? We have so many passwords, so many accounts. Could your partner pay the bills - do they know the bank account password? What happens to your frequent flyer miles? Who would stop Facebook from ghoulishly reminding all your friends to wish you a happy birthday each year? We could also discuss the concept of "literary executor" for unpublished and non- written word material.