Programming ideas for Minicon 44
Minicon 44 programming items
This is a BRAINSTORM IN PROGRESS. However, it's about time to stop brainstorming, settle on some programming items and get them populated! If you are interested in participating in any item you see on this page, please email email@example.com.
We are still adding some new items (it's getting late, but great new ideas keep arriving!) Newer items are in purple to make them easier to spot.
- Full set of programming Wiki related links (room requirements, planning tips, etc.)
- Minicon44 home page
- Minicon44 Programming
Art, the Arts, and Craft
Creating Web Pages that Don't Suck
Whether you're a writer, an artist or a fan, chances are you're going to find yourself creating a web page sooner or later. What common mistakes should you be sure to avoid? How can you improve your website without getting too complicated? It's all about art and design, with a dash of marketing thrown in!
Arts vs. Crafts
For those who produce works of both sorts, what distinguishes art from craft? when does craft transcend its defining characteristics to be counted as art? Why do we distinguish art as a separate category? For those who specialize in one area or the other, how does craft improve art, art inform craft?
Social Issues, Internet, Fandom
The Legend of Forry Ackerman
In memoriam for Forrest J. Ackerman, one of the founders of science fiction fandom. This sounds like a good Krushenko's item.
Etiquette for Social Networking
There is no Emily Post for Live Journaling (is that a verb?), but perhaps there should be. Let’s create a set of social & politeness standards to journal and facebook by.
Getting Back Into It
Getting back into fandoms you've been absent from. Maybe you haven't read comics in a long time but would like to get started again, or you'd like to play RPGs again after a decade-long absence.
The basics of open relationships, polyamory, etc.
Drowning in Data
Too much info at our fingertips
Time to Go Back to Typewriters? What About the Paperless Office?
Privacy in a World Full of Cameras
Security cameras, satellite mapping, micro-cameras you can buy on the Internet. Wave, you're on Google Maps!
Seniors on the Internet
Scammer-baiters, but also hoax-spotters like Snopes, security activists
What fandom's like in countries where the main language isn't English. (And no, not just Japan, either.)
I Am Not A Number (But I am a database entry)
Living in a world where we are all data
Ask a Scientist
This panel is always so popular we just have to do it again. If you're a scientist of any type, please volunteer! The participants always have a great time.
Astronomy with Children
This class is for parents or teachers looking for easy, cheap astronomy projects to do with children. Topics will include how to create a solar analemma on the ground in a sunny yard or on a ceiling in a sunny room; how to use the wonderful planisphere; and how to find a person's real sun sign; plus various types of telescopes, where to buy telescopes, and where to go for a free astronomy experience. I will also give my take on how to get into amateur astronomy (go to a free star party, join a club, before spending money!) Children accompanied by an adult are welcome.
The Maker Movement
Teenagers used to tinker all day with their hot rods or their ham radio sets - where has that creative impulse gone in the modern world? In all sorts of crazy/wonderful directions it turns out, from kids hacking their iPhones to crazy inventors combining old VCR motors with gears and empty CD spindles to scout troops that spend their weekends building pumpkin trebuchets. The Maker Movement is gaining speed, with its own magazines (Make), Maker Faires, countless blogs, and most recently a fascinating TV show with a Minnesota connection.
Secret Underground Physics Labs
What's going on in the old Tower Soudan mine? (and why does it look so much like a Half-Life game?) Other underground neutrino detectors/experiments.
LHC First Light
The first collisions there may well be during Minicon
Current Trends in Science
If you had $700 billion, what would you put it into?
SETI Fact vs. Fiction
How is the real-world endeavor of SETI the same/different from how it is portrayed in SF (see Contact, Factoring Humanity, etc - there are LOTS of examples). Does the public perception of SETI really match what they do?
What else might we use beside radio waves? A message other than primes?
Portrayal of Science/Scientists in Popular Media
The Future of Batteries
or How Can I Ever Get a Multi-Shot Laser Weapon? Energy storage in the future.
Seems like one long-term fannish meme is intelligent jellyfish-like creatures living in the atmosphere of a Jovian planet. How plausible are such creatures, and why are they such a fixture of xenology?
SF Literature and skiffy concepts
The Science Fiction That Lurks Beneath
[m] Greg Johnson Some of the most memorable novels of the last thirty years and more have come in the guise of fantasy stories that are revealed to actually be science fiction beneath the trappings of fantasy. We’ll talk about some of the best examples, and discuss the challenges faced by authors attempting to write stories which, when they work, contain the best of both worlds. Several of Karl Schroeder's novels fit right into this topic, as does the artwork Stephan Martiniere has done for Kay Kenyon's Entire and The Rose series.
There's Something about Twilight
No matter how you feel about Stephanie Meyer’s skill as a writer, you can’t deny that her Twilight books have captured the imaginations of teenage girls everywhere. I would like fans of the book to talk about the reasons they find it so compelling, and what messages the story sends to its readers. Non fans of the book can then decide whether or not the books’ popularity is a Good Thing. Feminist issues may or may not be discovered.
Vampires and Zombies and Werewolves, Oh, My!
The long standing popularity of these three fictional races argues that the stories we tell about them are more than just horror stories to scare children. Is there a cultural reason for this popularity? Can we mine any deep psychological meaning from our interest in these sorts? If vampires are a metaphor for forbidden sexuality (aren’t they?), then lets see what we can make of zombies and werewolves.
The Romantic Poets in SF/F
We’ve done Shakespeare and Jane Austen in the past, and now it’s time to talk about the influence of the Romantic Poets on the genre. Since I’ve learned everything I know about these poets from Tim Powers and Pamela Dean, if this panel needs any more description than that, perhaps someone else should write it.
My Mind, It’s Going: Memory Loss in Science and Fiction
From Flowers For Algernon to the popular pre-teen video game Kingdom Hearts, memory loss has a place in SF and fantasy. Sometimes it’s just a plot device, and badly researched at that. But sometimes, intentionally or not, it taps into our deepest fears of loss of self. We will discuss stories that deal with memory loss, and why they are important in an age when Alzheimer’s seems to always be on the news.
The New Male Hero Class?
Starting with Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond (or maybe before), I have noticed a new type of male hero. Instead of charging into battle, sword at the ready, he is more likely to betray his loved ones (and himself) for important reasons known only to himself and the reader. He is secretive, vulnerable, and bound by an acutely painful sense of honor. Who are these guys, and who is creating them? Why now? (Brandon Sanderson, Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, Patrick Rothfuss, The Runed Man)
Steampunk: the Romance of Science
What is Steampunk? Attitude or merely fashion statement? Or is there something about the buoyant spirit of the late 19th century that speaks to our feelings about technology today? Who else is defining the genre? Check out this incredible video: Steampunk meets Maker Movement.
“Careful the Wish You Make . . .”
The line is from Sondheim’s Into the Woods, and is followed by the assertion that “wishes come true, not free.” From wishing upon a star to three wishes, we will discuss the techniques, rewards and perils of having one’s wishes granted. What would you wish for?
Borges wrote strange and wonderful stories that always seem to be at the edge of science fiction. Phil Dick was called an American Borges, and Borges' story "The Aleph" strongly inspired 2001: A Space Odyssey. Let's give Borges thought in this panel.
Genocide Narratives in SF/F
Hmmm . . .
Adventures For Young Women
Even young women get to kick a lot more butt these days than they used to, but adventure stories for girls are still different from those for boys. We’ll discuss both female and male young adventurers, with the goal of discovering directions yet to be taken. Feminism may come up.
Empowerment of Children During Wartime
Hmmm . . . The Narnia books and Bedknobs and Broomsticks were mentioned by someone.
Harlequin Science Fiction panel
You got your romance in my SF! No, you got your SF in my Romance! Romantic plotlines seem to be making frequent appearances in SF/F. And fantasy or SF settings for romance novels have become extremely popular. Combining romance with fantasy or SF might even be a good way to get published.
Wikis as Literature
There's a long history of wonderful worlds presented in a reference or non-fiction format -- Pure setting, no plot. One logical extension of this is for authors to create beautiful multimedia wikis (perhaps by a single author, perhaps by collaborative effort) that people can explore, and maybe even expand, without the encumbrance of a plot or main characters -- would people pay for this? What examples already exist?
The Future of Fashion
Corsets are back in style, but worn on the outside. Who knew? What other fashion statements will the new century bring?
The Future of Food (and Drink?)
This could be about either science--cloned food, irradiated food, better/worse nutrition--or fiction--soylent green, anyone? Alcoholic beverages were essential in the Middle Ages, perhaps they will be again when all the water is polluted.
Booze and S.F.
Alcohol has a special place in s.f. fandom (smoooooth) and has also played a key part in a surprising amount of classic s.f. and fantasy. Remember a Bicycle Built for Brew? Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster anybody? An associated workshop or lab for this panel has also been suggested. There are several directions that this could take: a workshop on creating (and more important, naming) new mixed drinks; serious discussion of single malt scotch (preferably with samples); or a panel of con bartenders sharing their favorite stories.
SETI Fact vs. Fiction
A discussion of SETI and the possibility of contact with life on other planets. How is the real-world endeavor of SETI the same/different from how it is portrayed in SF? Does the public perception of SETI really match what they do?
This Year in SF/F
The usual discussion of the best books and stories of the year. It never gets old!
Swashbucklers in Space
More fun than pirates, better dressed than ninjas, swashbucklers, whether in space or on the high seas, are often found fighting on the side of the good guys - but in quite non-standard ways! We’ll discuss swashbucklers, their appearance in our favorite stories, and their particular code of honor.
Zeppelins in SF/F
This might be combined with the panel on Swashbucklers, who seem to have a fondness for airships in SF and fantastic worlds. Not just in books but also movies (Treasure Planet, Adventures of Mark Twain, Stardust) and games (Crimson Sky).
Victor Raymond observed that you can always tell a book is alternate reality because there will be zeppelins. Humor aside, he's got a point -- we often seem to wish for a world in which airships are commonplace. What needs do zeppelins fulfill for us?
Which singularity is it?
SF has dealt more and more with the Singularity, Vernor Vinge's concept of the point beyond which we cannot predict, but which singularity is it? The post-scarcity singularity, when no one has less than they need? The post-scarcity singularity where everyone gets everything they want (an important difference)? Or the one where artificial intelligence is cheap and frequent? Or the one where we all upload ourselves and our intelligences are no longer limited by flesh and blood. Transhumanism is a kind of singularity -- humanity evolving to the next stage, whatever that is -- as are Christian "left behind" narratives. Which singularities seem likely, which ones do we actually hope for, and what does that say about us?
Writing and publishing
- New ideas - added Feb 21
What does it take for two or more creators to work together?
Humor With An Edge: Mixing The Silly With the Profound
What is it about the writings of humorists (like Terry Pratchett) that allows them to work on controversial issues that other writers won't touch? Does humor give more license for subversion? What about depth? How does humor allow writers to strike deep emotional chords with their readers?
How to get famous and make lots of money writing. No? Well, how about a group of writers discussing the basics of publishing--from preparing a work for submission to coping with rejection.
The Scoop on Writers' Workshops
the Ups and Downs of Local Critique Groups, Online Critique Groups, Clarion & Odyssey How to get good feedback on your work without succumbing to group think. Also, cogent advice on what NOT to do in a writers group.
Short Fiction Markets You Should Know
We all know the big names in short fiction, but what magazines and web sites should you be reading that you aren't? Come hear the panelists discuss their favorites, and bring your own lists to share.
What Negative Emotions is it Okay to Evoke in Your Readers?
How much of a social contract do writers have with their readers? What about making past memories come back painfully?
How To Not Get Depressed When You Work Alone
There’s always something on the writer’s life. For some reason, people are actually jealous. Let us know what direction to take with it this year.
Basics of Book Design and Publishing
There’s nothing quite like reading (or just holding) a really beautiful book. The cover design, interior illustrations, type face, layout, and even paper quality all contribute to the experience. What goes into creating a satisfyingly artistic volume? How does it effect the experience of the reader? Can electronic books ever come close?
Let’s Create a World
This is a panel to practice world-building by actually doing it. Join our team of experts as we create a new world. Will it be science fiction or fantasy? Aliens or elves? How many moons? How will the magic/ science work? And who will be the first person to write a story in it when we’re done?
Characters You Care About
How do you create a character that the reader really cares about from Page One?
What It's Like to Have Your First Book Remaindered
Does anybody want to talk about this? For an hour?
Is There a Secret Handshake?
Getting Your manuscript read and ready. Another topic that people never seem to hear enough about.
Writing Historical Detail
Getting your thread counts, cannonball weights and whatever right. Yes, it takes research. Do we want to talk about this again?
Media and comics
Pushing Daisies: what comes next?
While we don't *know* how the story works out, and won't until the three finished episodes are aired and the graphic novel wraps up the story (if these things ever happen), we can certainly speculate. Come prepared to discuss Ned's last name, the fate of Lil Gumshoe, the agelessness of Digby, and all those glorious colors.
Building Your DVD Collection Inexpensively
Shopping for DVDs in the 21st century.
What's New in Old Comics
Comics publishers have had to look beyond publishing periodicals to maintain their bottom line & have dug into the past to reprint classic material in collected volumes. From Marvel's Masterworks, Omnibus & Essential lines, DC's Showcase, Archive & Absolute lines to Dark Horse's reprinting of Gold Key classics (Magnus Robot Fighter, Doctor Solar, MARS Patrol, Tarzan, et al) and the Warren horror line, find out what's available at a fraction of the cost of the original back issues. Also: Titan Books' 007 newspaper strip collections, Gladstone's EC collections & various Irwin Allen & Gerry Anderson properties, 1960s Star Trek, Conan and more.
The Convenient Comic Book
Now that publishers are regularly collecting multi-issue story arcs into Trade Paperback & Hardcover editions, it is easier than ever to enjoy comics, without spending time looking for individual issues (& discovering you missed a chapter/issue) or trying to remember what happened last month. If you love comics, but gave up on the frustrating weekly pursuit of "floppies" (comic magazines) and just want to read a good stand-alone story of your favorite heroes with a minimum of confusion, find out which TPBs allow you to do just that.
The Many Faces of Batman
Did Frank Miller go too far when he turned a beloved comics icon into a borderline psycho, or return him to his 1939 essence? Was there really any point in Heath Ledger redoing The Joker after Jack Nicholson defined the character in the 1989 movie? Did its sequels channel too much camp from 1966? Does the latest cinematic take on the Dark Knight pull its punches, or correct the balance?
SF FILMS SANS SFX
Science fiction has always been about ideas. But, in film, they often take a back seat to the rush of visual effects. Some of the most thought provoking films in SF have little in (obvious) effects. Find out what they are and discuss their merits.
Make your pitch!
- Did a Michael Rennie's then-unknown status make him a more convincing alien than superstar Keanu?
- How many remakes of a Kevin McCarthy classic does it take to convince us that "They're Here!" ?
- Did we need to see Director Tim Burton "go ape"?
- How many times can a man fall to earth?
- How many versions of War of the Worlds are there?
- Is Will Smith finally the Last Man on Earth after Charlton Heston & Vincent Price became 'Legend'? "
- Are you tingling with anticipation over the upcoming Fantastic Voyage remake and dreading that of Forbidden Planet?
The Prisoner: The Whole World as the Village
Number 2's dream voiced to Number 6 in the 1967 episode Chimes of Big Ben. With security cameras everywhere, spyware online, theft of identity and other things we've come to accept, yet guard against today, did McGoohan predict this New Global Village in which we live? Plus, things you may not have known about this amazing series.
LONG LIVE NUMBER 6!
Since The Prisoner wrapped until his recent death, Patrick McGoohan said little about his most influential work. Does ICE STATION ZEBRA and the Columbo episode IDENTITY CRISIS tie in to THE PRISONER? Was Number 6 actually Danger Man/Secret Agent John Drake? If so, some episodes of the earlier series reveal clues to the question, "Why did he resign?". Why would McGoohan never tie Number 6 to Drake? The answers may surprise you! Plus, news on the 2009 AMC/ITV mini-series with Jim Caveizel as Number 6 and Ian McKellan as Number 2, adaptations & homages of The Prisoner in books, comics and a place you never expected!
This Year in Film
What were the best and worst sf/fantasy films this year?
WHO WATCHED THE WATCHMEN?
Obstacles beset WATCHMEN from the start. When DC acquired Charlton Comics' superheroes & had other plans, Alan Moore's idea to grandly reinvent them as the WATCHMEN had to be reinvented itself, with new, albeit similar characters. Once filmed, "the graphic novel that could not be filmed" for almost 20 years, saw lawsuits over the movie rights threatening to prevent its release. With no on-going characters, realizing WATCHMEN on film had one chance only. The final hurdle: Did they get it right?
Prequels: When You Know the Ultimate Outcome, Where's the Drama to the Back-Story?
If you found individuals on this planet who had never seen Star Wars, would you show them Episodes 1 - 6 in that order, or 4 - 6, then 1 - 3? Remember how blown away you were when Vader tells Luke, "I am your father"? Would you ruin this moment for someone by showing them Episode 3 before Episode 5? Babylon 5's sequel series Crusade occurred 15 years before B5's final episode. Since you know that Earth survives, was the series a pointless exercise? What of the upcoming Caprica prequel to Battlestar Galactica?
Fringe: X-Files Conspiracy Show for a New Decade?
After 8 years of real life conspiracies from the Bush administration on the news, TV viewers seem to have a renewed tasted for fictional ones. How does Fringe compare to X-Files? And, does anyone remember Heroes creator Tim Kring's short lived Strange World? Would Eleventh Hour benefit from an ongoing conspiracy element?
TV Show to Movie and Back Again
Are shows like Futurama and Star Wars: The Clone Wars more palatable in 22-minute increments on TV and insufferable at feature-length? How does Sarah Connor Chronicles stack up to the Terminator films? Should we even mention X-Files?
The Worlds of Blade Runner
Released the same week as E.T., initially critically and financially trounced, Blade Runner became a cinematic phoenix. While last year's DVD release of The Final Cut closes the book on the original film (probably), we'll enlighten you to films and TV shows similar in theme and look to help relieve your withdrawal. (Anime series Ghost in the Shell and sequels; TV series Total Recall 2070 owes more to BR than the PKD-inspired Total Recall film; Natural City, referred to by reviewers as "the Korean BR" to name a few).
Who's Your Doctor?
Calling all Dr. Who fans! Who was your favorite Doctor? Is there one you couldn't stand?
The Secret RPG Gamer
A lot of people are into RPGs but don't admit it, or at least aren't forward about it. Why? What's to be done, if anything?
Board Games: What's new and cool
(aka the Richard panel)
Info-dumping in RPGs
In RPGs, there's a great deal of exposition to be done. GMs need to explain setting information, and as a player, it can be frustrating when the GM tells you vital information after you needed it. ("What do you mean there's a lever on the wall? Why have we been trying to bust down this door for the past half-hour?") But exposition can become long-winded and tiresome. How do GMs and players strike a balance?
Publishing your RPG
How to go from basic idea to holding it in your hands to being a rich and famous RPG author. Okay, maybe not the last part.
Not exactly panels
The State of Lego
What's new and cool in Lego bricks? This would be great if we can get people to bring some in to demonstrate.
Is there enough interest to do this again?
This item was always a hit; is it still on sabbatical?
How to get started, or some kind of workshop; working on historical detail in costume (or “future historical” detail)
Prep for Anticipation?
Sci-Fi French, or useful French, etc.?
YA programming (or texting vs. Morse code)
There and Back Again
Sci-fi quotes run through machine translation as a game show
Reading from Favorite Pulps
I'll Show You Mine if You Show Me Yours
Hey, let's all get together and compare our new mini-laptops, smart phones and whatever other electronic gadgetry we got for Christmas. We can set up our own wireless network right there in the programming room!
or Roomba Obstacle Course Does anybody still have one of those cute little Roombas? We could run them through a maze or obstacle course.
The Traveling Panel
Same panel at Minicon, Convergence, Marscon, maybe Diversicon) - now we just need a topic!
Opposable Thumbs Appreciation
Part panel, part “workshop” on what it’s like not having opposable thumbs. Tentacles vs. thumbs -- how would society be different? Crossover appeal to children. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Guindon cartoons (huh?).
Storm-Chasing with Shauna
Lecture, maybe slide show?
Chess Tournament for Kids
- Minicon Sarcasm Theater: let's get a bunch of fans in a room with a bad skiffy movie and encourage them to make sarcastic comments. (Note how well this meshes with the next item, not to mention with our limited film budget).
- B-List Movies: Cinema Obscura Ideas: Twilight Zone episodes, small indie sf films -- Is Metropolis public domain? The Thief of Bagdad -- the old silent one with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.