M56 Programming Brainstorm

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Minicon 56 (2023) will take place April 7-9, 2023, at the St. Louis Park Doubletree.
Our Guests of Honor are:  Author Martha Wells, Artist Sara Felix, Fan Greg Ketter



Which doesn't mean it isn't still Under Construction. This is just the first pass as of 5pm, January 7, 2023. --- sharon


Here's the programming ideas that we have so far. Some of them may actually become programming items, especially if YOU volunteer for them! But there's still plenty of time to suggest new items or tweaks to the existing ones. We welcome your input!

Have a programming idea to suggest? See something you'd like to volunteer for? Shoot us an email at programming@minicon56.mnstf.org.


Opening Ceremony

Welcome to the convention! Meet the Guests of Honor! Find out about the weekend's events! Share the love!

Closing Ceremony

A chance to recap and reflect on what this year's Minicon has been, including a traditional assassination.

How to Host a Room Party

What do you need to host an excellent room party? Do you need a theme? Are chips and dips sufficient? What do you need from the con, and what does the concom need from you?

Moderators and Panelists Workshop

Tips on being an excellent panelist or moderator. First half for panelists, second half for moderators.


‘The Untamed’ Geek-Out

The Untamed is a Chinese live-action drama that started as a “phone novel” in China. It has spread worldwide, mostly through its popularity in fan fiction. There is a Chinese graphic novel, three seasons of an animated show (subtitled) and, now, a print publication of the English translation. We’re all big fans. (OK, actually we’re all obsessed with it.)

Writing Non-Gendered Characters

A discussion of the difficulties of using the English language without using gendered pronouns or descriptions. Ada Palmer has postulated a world where mention of gender is obscene. Becky Chambers’ Monk and Robot stories hide the biologic gender of both protagonists. And, of course, Murderbot chose to continue using it/its. It is difficult to write without pronouns? Should SF have come up with universally accepted non-gendered pronouns? Or we could just argue about whether we see Murderbot as male or female.

Educating Science through Fiction

Science fiction plays a prominent role in shaping the public opinion of science, especially among children, teens, and young adults. As creators, what is our take on the most effective ways to inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and researchers?

Worldbuilding in Fantasy vs Science Fiction

The Murderbot Diaries and Martha Wells’ fantasy books feature complex, detailed worlds. Is there a difference between creating an SF universe and a fantasy world? Is advanced science really just a form of magic? Are advanced scientific societies necessarily more advanced socially?

Pets or Pests

The creatures in F&SF are sometimes treated as beings (equal to us), sometimes as beloved pets, sometimes as annoying pests. They can be viewed as characters, companions, pets and pests, feral, and wild. How does that choice affect the story? What if a different choice had been made?

For example, fire lizards in Pern are depicted primarily as wild or pets. What if their primary role had been that of pests? How would that change the story? In the Liaden series, the cats are pets, but there are glimpses that they might actually be background characters.

Are there stories where the critters change their role over the course of the story? How does this transition affect the story?

Psychoanalysis for Robots

Can robots be mentally ill? Certainly robots are not neurotypical, but can they get depressed? Psychotic? Does the ability to process more information prevent or lead to autism? Do they have to malfunction to be unhappy? Let’s do psychological analyses of our favorite robots.

LGBTQ+ Representation in SF/F

Queer characters are showing up in both YA and adult F/SF. Where are they? Are they getting it right? Which books/shows are the best? And, maybe, assuming that such representation merely a good start, what is the next step?

Archive of Our Own

The platform for writers of fan fiction won the Hugo for Other Forms, at the Helsinki, Finland WorldCon. Anybody know anything about the history of fanfic, the beginnings of AO3, who writes for AO3? And, perhaps the biggest question, why?

Professionals Writing Fan Fiction

Some professional writers are quite open about their fanfic writing; some got their start there. Do you need to hide your identity when writing fanfic? How is fan writing different from professional writing? How do you interact with your fans through fan fiction? Do you read fan fiction about your own characters?

Fan Fiction and “Ficable” Moments

An exploration of what makes a book or show open as a launch point for fan fiction. Is it a large cast of interesting characters? Lots of plot holes or moments of ambiguity? Or is it places where deeper relationships between characters are hinted at but not actually explored? Which shows/books are the most “ficable”? Are there good shows/books that do not lend themselves to fan fiction?

Chinese Stories

A discussion of books, stories, and television coming out of China, in honor of 2023 WorldCon in ChengDu, China. There are dozens of Chinese-American and Chinese-Canadian writers, for both the adult and YA audience. The Chinese epic, Journey to the West got a modern abridged translation. The graphic novel American Born Chinese is being made into a movie. And Chinese dramas are streaming on YouTube and Netflix.

Restoring the Tower of Babel

The landmark fantasy, Babel by R.F. Kuang asserts that “An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.” It might be true that, since the fall of the Biblical tower, no one has been able to truly communicate. Let’s discuss the book, along with the concept of language as a barrier to communication. Can we properly translate another language? Can we truly understand each other just with words?

Writing the Twin Cities

There are stories that are of particular interest to the Twin Cities, that either take place here or represent a unique way of thinking.

Noir in F/SF

The hard-drinking, mostly-outcast detective working from a dingy office somewhere in the low-rent district, and barely getting by, never really went out of style. Though they no longer have to be male, right? Or a detective? What are some old and new examples of noir? What is the attraction of the noir story?

“Oh my God, It’s full of stars?”

There are moments in science fiction that send chills down your spine, as the universe suddenly opens in front of you. What books inspired this sense of wonder in the past? But it seems, these days, that stories happen mostly in bleak dystopias. Is there still a sense of wonder? Where can you find it?

Humor in genre fiction

A serious discussion of funny F/SF and horror.

Retelling Court Intrigue Stories

Many fantasy and science fiction stories take place in societies modeled after Courts and Kings and Swordsmen. Or, rather, they are modeled after the stories we have heard about such things. Which books use these ideas? Do they have to be fantasies? Which authors provide the most inspiration (Dumas, Austin, etc)?

Changing Worlds

How have current events and changing social norms affected what we expect from fictional worlds? This panel was proposed for the 2020 Minicon, and seems even more relevant in 2023.

Male Authors, Female Protagonists

What are some issues when men write women characters? What can they do better? What should they include, and what should they leave out? How to "Get it right"? How can you tell when it is "right", and when it is glaringly wrong?

Easter Eggs in F&SF books and stories

Easter Eggs have become part of modern TV and movies. Do they also have a place in SF Literature? Why or why not?


Midwestside Story: The Archival Movie!

Long ago at a Convention not very far away, there was a production called Midwestside Story. Come see footage of that historic event.

Minicon Costuming, Past and Present

The Masquerade / Costume contest has undergone many changes over the years. It has been a big production, with it's own sound and stage crews, and it has been a small event for children. It has seen amazingly crafted costumes, and also "make-your-own at the con" style costumes. Come see some of the best and the strangest from over the years!

Genre Bookselling Over the Decades

Specialty bookstores have had a nearly unrecognized effect on the genre. How have they contributed to the field? Why hasn’t anyone noticed? What are the benefits and pitfalls of genre bookselling?

What’s in the basement?

Lurking beneath the store on 38th Street is a basement bigger than the store. It’s totally packed with . . . who knows what. Contrary to popular belief, Neil Gaiman never lived there, and multiple requests to move in down there have been denied. What treasures might be down there? Or what monsters might emerge from the hearts of books?

What’s in the Porn Section?

Graphic novels with adult content have been a frequent target for politicians looking for easy public outrage. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has provided some protection against censorship of adult comics and prosecution of the comic shops that sell them. What is still available? How can we ensure continued access to stories some consider objectionable? Free XXXenophile comic for appropriately aged attendees.

Amazon is Evil

One-stop, on-line, instant availability of everything seems like a great idea. But booksellers have a particular dislike of Amazon, since it began with a stated intent to put actual bookstores out of business. How are they doing this? Do we want to stop them? Once Amazon is the source of everything, will they control our desires?

Are Corporations the Future of Nations?

As corporations accrue more power and financial influence, the world seems to be drifting toward corporations as governing agencies. Multinational corporations are organizing to explore space. This drift is being noticed by science fiction writers such as Martha Wells, Ada Palmer, and Paolo Bacigalupi. Is the galaxy going to be populated by nations or by corporations? Should we be worried about the current trend of corporations participating in government?

Neurodiversity in F/SF

Neurodiverse characters are showing up in both YA and adult F/SF. Where are they? Are they getting it right? Which books/shows are the best? And, maybe, assuming that such representation merely a good start, what is the next step?

The Ethics of Robot Soldiers

AI? Autonomous drones? So many directions we could go with this.

Risk Assessment in the Modern Age

How well do we assess risk? How accurate are our risk assessments, and what distorts them?

Examples are many: Covid and RSV risks and precautions, Monkey pox risk to different groups, airline travel vs automobile, food safety, crime.

Panelists pick one or two current risks and discuss in depth.

Aging Fannishly, or The Next Step

How do we cope with the challenges of aging?  Mobility, hearing, and eyesight issues, and feeling overwhelmed by Too Much Change can interfere with our fannish lives. Agism is a nasty prejudice. What do we wish younger fans knew about older fans? What are the assumptions on each side?

The History of Filk

The history of Filk in story and song.

RUNE Lives!

Writers, reviewers, and artists are needed to keep this fine fannish tradition alive.  Come hear about our clubzine in print and find out how YOU could contribute.

Convention Travel Tales

Come hear about What Happened on the way to or from a con and add any offbeat stories you have.

My First Convention, or What Not To Do

One person’s first con involved a broken bathroom door, a room full o' fans getting by cheaply, AND a broken bed.  Oh, and one person who'd been up all night announced to a roomful of sleepy people that the sun had just come up.  He was not defenestrated, but it WAS close.  Tell us your stories!

Stories from Convention Volunteers

You just know there are some incredible experiences to hear about.  Come listen, then share yours.  And if you don't volunteer, find out how you can contribute to fandom.

The History of Minicon

Share stories of Minicon through the decades. How has the con ( and fandom) evolved? When did it become more mainstream?  What happened to the hotels??!

Fannish Hobbies

What do fans like to do and what makes these activities fannish?  Did you know that fanzines are still around?

The Power of Play

The concept of play includes many ideas such as stress relief, a path to creativity, connection with others (and our younger selves), and more. Science fiction and fantasy fans enjoy playing around mentally, after all. Silly hats, clothes, footwear, and toys are encouraged for panel members and attendees.

A Minnesota Worldcon

This has been talked about since Minneapolis lost the bid for the 1973 worldcon -- and kept running bid parties for the fun of it.  Is a worldcon here possible?  What are the pros and cons?

Peeps Funeral / Memorial

The man who invented Peeps died recently. Would anyone be interested in organizing a memorial table with a diorama, or perhaps a procession of peeps dressed in black crepe paper tuxes and black gowns?


Designing and making the Hugo and Lodestar Awards

The famed Hugo rocket design has been the same for ages but, each year, the WorldCon committee choses a different artist to design a unique base. Sara Felix has designed two of these, and has also designed several Lodestar Awards. Come see a presentation by our Artist Guest of Honor about the awards and the design process. With photos!

Make Your Own Tiara

Sara Felix hosts a workshop in which everyone gets a kit to make a simple tiara, with extra bits to make it their own. Probably we will also hear about how to make tiaras, what supplies are needed, and where to get them. Bring your own projects or (Buy a kit for 15 dollars.)

Crafting and Creativity

The world of Fine Arts seems to elevate some media over others. Our Artist Guest of Honor works in resin, inks, and tiaras. How do you choose an artistic medium? When does something usually called a “craft” become Art? Are some media meant for “letting go” while others demand complete control?

Parenting and Creativity

Having kids, of course, forces parents to redesign their entire lives and all of their priorities. Not to mention, they’re a huge distraction. How does one maintain an artistic career, or even hobby, once their lives have been rearranged?

Creating with your Kids

Parents and their kids talk about teaming up to do a fannish/artistic pursuit.

Fabric Swap and Discussion

Bring your leftover or never used fabric for swapping. Share stories of how you use up scraps and pieces. Other than traditional fabric stores, where are some good places to find interesting bits to work with? What is your favorite YouTube channel for fabric ideas? How much is too much? Bring your extra bits and swap for other people's extra bits.


Greg Knows Everybody

Really, he does. Name just about any F/SF author from the past fifty years, and Greg will almost certainly have a story. He can start with Harlan Ellison, RA Lafferty, Julia Adams (who played the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s love interest), and Joe Lansdale. Requests will be encouraged.

Martha Wells Q&A

Our Author GoH answers questions from the audience.

The Fellowship of the Woosters

A reading from Mike Ford’s legendary story starring Bertie Wooster as Strider, for which a typed manuscript was recently unearthed at DreamHaven. Greg can’t read it because he’ll laugh too hard.

Instant Stories

Panelists will create stories based on prompts from the audience.


If you would like information about scheduling an author reading, please also let us know if you’d like a 30 or 60 minute time slot, and if you’d like information about what you’re reading in the description.


Ask a Scientist

A selection of scientists answer questions from the audience.

Ask a Scientist to Respond to Knuckle-headed Clickbait Headlines

Real headlines from articles that you don't want to read! "Scientists Hatch Bold Plan to Save Humanity From Supervolcano," "Selfies can now Diagnose Cancer," "Automated Cloud Security In Four Steps," "19 shocking food facts, you'll never want to eat again," "Is clickbait killing science journalism? The answer will shock you!"

Ask an Expert Who Can’t Get A Word In Edgewise

Really smart people who normally get overshadowed by their more outspoken compatriots share their expertise.

Caffeine: Different Effects in Different People

Food Chemistry

How does food nourish us on a chemical level? How does it affect our brain chemistry? What are some issues with food today vs issues 100 years ago? Can lab designed foods be healthy?

Gardening in Climate Change

How is climate change affecting what you plant in your garden? Is your climate zone changing? If so, is that killing your favorite plants? Is it opening the way to plant things that you couldn't grow before? Are new weeds, and new insects moving in?

Is gardening to augment your pantry becoming necessary, or is that just a trend? Will food forests take off? If so, who has access to the food?


Geologists and aficionados geek out about volcanoes.


Storytelling in games

Games are stories. In video games, the player becomes the protagonist of a story that at least seems to be controlled by the player. But the best games are written to guide the player’s choices along the intended story line. How do they do this? What games have the best stories? How does the player contribute to the story?

Music in Video Games

The use of orchestrated music in video games has possibly inspired a whole new generation of musicians. Which games have the best or most elaborate sound tracks? How does music add to the game experience?

Future methods of storytelling

Some of us are used to getting our stories in some published form, like magazines or novels. But there are many other ways to tell stories. We will discuss live storytelling, the cooperative worldbuilding of fan fiction, video and board games, manga and graphic novels, and anything else we can think of except, possibly, interpretive dance.

The Multiverse Goes Mainstream

There’s a lot of action in alternate universes these days, what with the whole Marvel Multiverse thing. It seems like Everything has its own alternate world these days. Does this really represent a new way of thinking? What would Einstein think?

SF/F Shows and Movies We Think You'd Like

Recommend Shows and movies from the last year. The last part could involve obscure shows and movies from any year.

Portable Gaming

With the most recent entries into portable gaming, the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck, how has portable gaming changed, or has it at all? Have these devices changed how people think of a "gaming laptop"? What games lend themselves to screen sizes? What accessories are a "must" for these consoles?


Not the day of the week… the TV series. Discuss the show, the characters. Have they changed over time from other Addams Family shows? What do you love about the new show? Did anything not live up to your expectations?

Sandman - Original vs Screen and Audio Adaptations

How well did the TV series reflect the original? Get your Squee on for all things Sandman...



Longtermism is the idea that we are at least as obligated morally to ALL future humans as we are to present humans, and that we currently live at the most important moment ever in human history - for the first time, we are capable of destroying ourselves. Mistakes made today could lead to permanent civilizational collapse, or even human extinction. What should we be doing? Panel will reference Longtermism books like _What We Owe the Future_ and _The Precipice_, and movements based on Longtermism ideas, like Effective Altruism and 80,000 Hours.