M53 Programming Brainstorm

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




Okay, it's official. The time for brainstorming is OVER. I am putting together a final schedule, and dropping all the ideas on this page that haven't gotten at least two or three participants. You can still look at this page if you want to, but if you want to see

The New Spiffy Programming Database. Take a look - Programming Database

  • You can volunteer directly from the detailed item description in the database (you do have to create a login first)
  • If that doesn't work for you, you can still send an email to programming@minicon53.mnstf.org.
  • If you have problems with the database, please report the issue to the same email. Please be a little more specific than "It didn't work for me," including what browser you were using and exactly WHAT didn't work. Thanks.

Volunteer emails 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. You could also include a little about yourself and/or why you're interested in this programming item.


Writing - Breaking the Rules

Breaking the rules - when and how to break the rules of fiction, like "don't write in second person" or "don't use information dumps."

Writing - Retellings

how to write texts that interact with earlier texts

Disability in Science Fiction

From GoH Rachel Swirsky: "I'm also interested in disability in science fiction right now, which could be relevant coming up because of Uncanny's forthcoming [1] Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction project." Note that this topic is "Disability in SCIENCE FICTION," not "Disability in SF Fandom."

The Art of the Review

Making a good review of a book or other artistic endeavor is as much an art as the original crafting. What makes for an interesting review? How do you gain the trust of the audience? What's the best balance between honesty and fairness? Who do you look up reviews by when you want to get the best info? Our panelists will discuss these and possibly other questions.

A Saucer of Loneliness - the Fiction of Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985)

It's the 100th birthday of this popular, genre-defining writer. Let's discuss his work and his impact on the field.

Wrinkles in Time - Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007)

Ursula K. LeGuin, In Memoriam (1929-2018)

The Year in SF

What new and interesting F/SF have you encountered this year? Note: you don't have to be an encyclopedic reader to volunteer for this panel. If you just discovered some new written works this year that you're dying to share, please join us, whether it's an exciting new author, new works by an old favorite, or maybe a whole new sub-genre!

John M. Ford Group Reading

In honor of his birthday, which is just past the convention. We're thinking of starting out in a programming room (probably in a circle) and then adjourning to the bar to continue.

Religious Tropes 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?

Golems 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 more specific panel on religious memes, suggested by Lyda's Link Angel novels.

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.

Art of the Serial novel

Charles Dickens was doing serial fiction back in the 19th Century and Scheherazade long before him - what hacks! Today there is technology that neither ever imagined, is tailoring modern day bibliophiles to read differently, and also provide input to the novelist. Is this the new wave of future publishing? How do you do it successfully?

Is There Something Special about Short Form Writing?

What is the difference between writing short stories, novels, and serial fiction, other than the word count? Most people seem to be better at one form vs the other - is there anybody that can do both equally well? Does short fiction require a different skill set from long form writing? What about other forms of short fiction such as song writing and graphic novels?

This Will End Well

Sometimes a long-running series ends with just the right notes, wrapping up enough loose ends but not too many, in a way that satisfies all the fans. But there are many examples of endings that have been muddled, controversial, or downright bad: the BSG series reboot; Mass Effect 3; the 2001 Planet of the Apes movie; maybe Evangelion... How can writers avoid messing up endings? What can fans do when endings go wrong anyway?


How to Spot a Fan

Have you ever wondered if you were at the right location for a fannish event or convention until you looked at the other people in the parking lot and then you knew immediately? What are the clues and commonalities that immediately identify us as SF fans? Is there more than one fannish archetype?

Senior Women's Meetup

An open free-form space for senior women feminists to meet and discuss their experiences. Discussion topics may include but will not be limited to - "Second Wave Feminism in a New Wave World," "Being heard," and "Strategies for confronting ageism."

What's Your Neuro Tribe?

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? "

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?

Science Fiction in Classic Rock

Rock music has had a long relationship with myth, fantasy images, and science fiction. Many rock concept albums tell stories with fantastic themes. Discuss the themes of such artists as David Bowie, Hawkwind, Jefferson Airplane, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, and Yes.

Discussion of the Hugo Award Finalists

The 2018 Hugo finalists were announced this weekend! Discuss the nominees. Were you happy? Sad? Indifferent?


The Mystery of the WTF Star

The star known as KIC8462852, aka "Tabby's Star", became a hot news item when it looked like an alien megastructure had been discovered there. That may not be true, but the star is still a mystery. Let's discuss what is so weird about this star, what explanations have been speculated on, and what we know now.

The Space Program in the Trump Era, Year 2

Practicing Science in a Post-Fact World

This came out of a discussion at a Minnstf meeting. We don't want this to be a huge bitch-fest about the ongoing assaults on scientific fact being perpetuated by the current administration. We want to talk about how scientists and people that love science are coping with it. Rogue park rangers defiantly tweeting out facts about climate science, or more quietly simply ignoring order to remove factual information from park exhibits. Websites in Canada working hard to preserve information that is being removed from US Government sites. How do government scientists with a lifetime of dedication to their work deal with the current political climate?

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.


Bladerunner 2049 [contains Spoilers]

Many people think that Bladerunner is the best sf film ever made. At long last we have a sincere sequel. Did they get it right?

One Season Wonders

Which ones do you remember fondly? Firefly, Wonderfalls, The Middleman, and so many others deserved more than ONE measly season. Didn't they?

The History of Shockwave

Jerry Stearns hosts this remembrance hour, plays audio highlights and tells the story of Shockwave and what it meant to Minnstf and Minicon. This could be a solo presentation or a panel if other cast members volunteer.

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.

Superheroes on Screen

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

A Magic Draft style tournament created entirely with cards from the cheapie bin or donated leftovers that didn't fit into someone's deck. Players will build a 60 card deck with draft style allocation, and have a chance to play with and try out the mechanics of some of the less commonly used cards. There is room for up to 15 People to sign up, sign up will be at the Registration Tables. Feel free to bring cards to donate for future games.

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 expressions of interest make the event more likely to be scheduled.

Toastmasters Presents: Speculative Fiction Table Topics!

Toastmasters International is a club for practicing public speaking.  One favorite activity is Table Topics, where each member is asked random questions to answer in 1-2 minutes.  After our panelists demonstrate, the Table Topics Master will be encouraging audience participation.  Be prepared to address such topics as "getting rich through time travel: ethical or unethical?"

Participants should be current or former Toastmasters.

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.

Easy Morning Yoga

Yoga is for everyone. Standing, sitting and being calm and mindful are all parts of yoga. Liz Fish will lead some easy yoga to help folks stretch and feel more conscious of themselves, with a focus on adaptability. Wear comfortable loose clothing, feel free to bring a towel if you'd like.

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!

The Alchemy of Diversity: Poetry Open Mic

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association invites you to come and bring your poems and we will read round robin until we run out of time.


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? Let's talk about the difference between "a job" and meaningful work. What are the elements of work that make it something that a human being might like to do?

Big Data - Everybody Lies

Years ago, if people wanted statistics, they made a thousand phone calls and sifted through the census data. In the age of the internet, everything has changed. It turns out that people answer statisticians questions differently than their search history would suggest. What did Google do to revolutionize searchability, and what do we find out when we search for searches on Google Trends? What sort of information is available about who we are today? What do we want to be known, and how do we protect who we are from less than benevolent entities? How will this change in the future?

Could You Kill a Robot?

Humans have the ability to develop affectionate attachment to almost anything - our cars, our phones, even that stupid lamp in the Ikea commercial. There are reports of soldiers having funerals for the little spider-like robots that blow up land mines. What will happen when it's time to recycle your first real robot? This is kind of the flipside of the question of AI rights. When does the anthropomorphism of technology go too far?

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.