Disclaimer: This is getting very close to final, but is still subject to change, especially names on panels. Also, if there is a discrepancy between this listing and the schedule grid, go by the schedule grid.


Minicon 34 Program Listing


Art Auction

If it was in the Art Show and had enough written bids, now’s the time to defend your bid and buy the artwork of your dreams.

Artists’ Jam 1 and 2

Divers Hands

Artists get together and have fun jamming up collaborative works.

Ask Dr. Mike

John M. Ford

The renowned Dr. Mike, speculative engineer, answers Your Questions About Science.

At the Intersection of Computers and Art

Steven Vincent Johnson, Craig Finseth, Beth Hansen

From CGI and ray tracing to heartstoppingly real animation, the ubiquity of computing power is changing not just how we do art but what we conceive to be art. Experts discuss how and why.

Baseball in Science Fiction

Beth Friedman, Steven Brust, Cally Soukup, Jim Mann, Jim Frenkel

Is there any earthly reason so much SF and fantasy has been written about baseball? And what would really happen if the World Series came down to a race between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs? Serious works of speculative baseball will be discussed, along with peanuts and crackerjack.

Batman: Who’s Wearing That Cowl?

Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Neil Gaiman, Lenny Bailes, John M. Ford, Dave Howell

Batman is a rock-solid icon—and changes with the wind. From the 1930s "guy who punches everything" to the cheesy trivializations of the 1950s and the pop caricatures of the 1960s, to Miller’s epochal Dark Knight and the later movies, this supposedly consistent character has undergone major metamorphoses. What happened, why, and what’s cool about it?

Booksellers: What Touches SF Around the Edges?

Dave Nee, Greg Ketter, Hank Luttrell

If you really want to know which non-SF books appeal to SF readers’ tastes, ask a specialty bookseller. Four of the savviest in the business discuss the practical literary theory involved in knowing what SF readers are interested in when they aren’t reading SF.

The Bookstore as Community-Builder

Alice Bentley, Dave Nee, Don Blyly, Marci Malinowycz

As the big chains discovered in this decade (and good booksellers have known all along), bookstores can be community centers in a number of ways. Listen as some of the best SF booksellers talk about the pitfalls and advantages therein.

Breaking the Law in Comics


Eleanor Lang, Priscilla Olson, Bob Berlien, Dennis McCunney

Can your superhero team be sued for collateral damage if you take out half of downtown in a fight with a supervillain? How much legal protection does a secret identity give you? Do heroes who use energy-based superpowers contribute to global warming, and are such powers in violation of the Law of Conservation of Energy? And what’s behind the ever-increasing number of superheroes, supervillains, and gaudy mutations in the population? A group of mild-mannered citizens just like yourself discusses these and other issues confronting the modern costumed hero.

Buffy: Fantasy, Soap Opera, or Both?

Tom Whitmore, Beth Friedman, Caroline Stevermer, Kathy Routliffe, Bob Berlien

Is Buffy a specimen of supernatural fiction, or a soap opera in which the witches, werewolves, vampires, and other assorted monsters happen to be real? And is it or is it not the best-written show on television?

Children Get the Best Fantasy

Jane Yolen, Ruth Berman, Laurel Winter, Caroline Stevermer, Jim Frenkel, Jim Minz

Genre fantasy written for adults can get into a rut. In books written for children, you get worlds where the threat of a road-widening scheme can only be overcome by the choice of spoon to use in opening one’s soft-boiled egg, where it’s vitally important to do up one’s shoe laces correctly, and where goddesses can only be appeased by an offering of a complete set of Chalet School novels. Is this because children have fuzzier boundaries between the trivial and the important? Are they simply a tougher audience who won’t accept the kind of fluff that grownups are prepared to swallow? Or are we comparing the top end of one genre with the bottom end of the other?

Closing Ceremonies

Steven Brust et al.

Come see the wrap-up, hear about next year’s guests, and see the Minn-stf president assassinated.

The Cold Equations: Let’s Settle This Once and For All

Octavia E. Butler, Mark Olson, Nicholas Pollotta, Alan Bostick, David Dyer-Bennet

You know—that short story everybody’s always arguing about, where the guy has to throw the cute stowaway girl out the airlock so he can deliver the serum to a plague-stricken planet? Is the story a classic or a cheat? Did the author stack the deck? Was another answer possible within the story’s own terms? And why would the author do a thing like that if he didn’t have to?

Comedy of Manners in Fantasy and SF

Lois McMaster Bujold, Caroline Stevermer, Eleanor Lang, Steven Brust, Jim Minz

Mannered fiction has played an increasing role in modern fantasy and SF. Why? Who? How did they get in? And whose honor is at stake? (I protest, sir, we have been discussing nothing else for the past hour!)

Costume Reception

Amber Tatge, Marci Malinowycz, Suford Lewis, and Tony Lewis, hosts

Pose, promenade, be presented by our MC, or be part of the admiring throng. Didn’t prepare a costume? Be instantly adorned by our assistants! See and be seen in your finest (or weirdest) plumage.

Dave Nee, interviewed by Greg Ketter

Dave Nee, Greg Ketter

Stories told, mysteries revealed, odd bits explained, by our Bookseller Guest of Honor, a seriously interesting guy. Come and listen.

A Deepness in the Sky

Lydia Nickerson, Jim Frenkel

The most-discussed new hard-SF novel of 1999 so far, responsible for gigabytes of Internet traffic already: Vernor Vinge’s new novel set in the universe of A Fire Upon the Deep. Plunge, with our guides, into what John Clute once called "the frenzy of interpretation." Note: this discussion will contain spoilers for both Deepness and Fire.

Doc Smith: Which Is Better, the Science or the Style?

Mike Ward, Mark Olson, David Dyer-Bennet

The works of E. E. "Doc" Smith are widely regarded as the wellspring from which galaxy-slamming space opera descends—and they’ve recently all been republished. David Dyer-Bennet thinks the science is the best thing about them; Mark Olson thinks it’s the literary style. Mike Ward will be acting as referee.

Does Photography Have a Role in SF and Fantasy Art?

What does photography have to do with science fiction and fantasy? Is it only relevant if you diddle with the photo to add SF/fantasy content? Or can the photographer's eye add more to the photo than simple reality?

Exposition: How Much Is Enough?

Katya Reimann, John M. Ford, Eleanor Arnason, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Steven Brust

One of the surest ways to kill a good story is to explain everything: an over-elaborate backstory, the nuts and bolts behind the magic, or how the Riverworld works. On the other hand, sometimes the best way to convey a complicated future, fantasy world, or alternate continuum to your readers is to just tell them about it. Do all questions have to be answered? Are there ever good reasons to leave the readers hanging, or is it just fun? And what’s the place of an elegant infodump?

The Fannish Impulse Over the Wires

Lenny Bailes, Ulrika O’Brien, Laurel Krahn, Fred A. Levy Haskell

Once we did it with hectographs and mimeo ink. Now we do it with email and HTML. But is it the same thing when it travels at the speed of light? And what does it mean when half the mainstream culture seems to be doing the same thing? Fans hailing from before and after the change grapple with these and other questions. This is not your father’s "fandom on the Internet" panel.

The Fiction of Octavia E. Butler

Eric Heideman, Octavia E. Butler, Jeanne Gomoll, Lisa Freitag, Debbie Notkin

Our Writer Guest of Honor’s distinguished and compelling body of work, discussed by some of our most thoughtful readers.

Filking and Folking: A Historical Retrospective

Lenny Bailes, Nate Bucklin, Fred A. Levy Haskell, Bruce Pelz, Dave Clement

Back before "filk" was practically a separate fandom, it was just something fans did—contiguous with a widespread interest in folk music and other informal music-making in a fannish context. Journey with us through the Wayback Machine as we discuss the roots of filk and the history of music in fandom, and maybe even find some common ground between the widely separated descendants of that original fannish impulse.

Filking for Kids

Anne Gay, Nate Bucklin, Aliera Brust

Find out why filking is fun! Make a filksong of your own on a subject

you choose, and sing it full volume until the subject cries for mercy.

From Here to the Federation: Extrapolating the Star Trek and Babylon 5 Backstory

Beth Friedman, Magenta Griffith, Suford Lewis, Gordon Garb, James Nicoll

Does the Trek universe only make sense if you assume the Soviet Union won the Cold War? Given the settings presented by the two shows, what’s implied about the intervening historical background? Is it even possible to get from here to there?

Garden and Architectural Design as it Applies to Conventions

Tom Whitmore, Priscilla Olson, Lydia Nickerson, Elise Matthesen

How can the principles of good garden design be used to create convention spaces and flow patterns that people will use and enjoy? Why do sofas arranged around three sides of a square work better than three sofas in a line, and why does putting it on a square of carpet work even better? If you’ve ever wondered what smofs talk about late at night, come and listen.

Gender Play/Gender Roles in Hong Kong Fantasy-Theme Films: A Talk, With Media

Catherine Lundoff

As a general rule, women have stronger and more interesting roles in Hong Kong action films, both fantasy-themed and otherwise, than American actors have had in the same types of films. There is also a long-standing tradition, dating back to Cantonese opera films of the early 1930s and 1940s, of gender and sexuality play, women playing male roles, drag (male and female), etc. Examples and discussion.

Getting More from Your Reading

Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Debbie Notkin, Scott Marley, Pamela Dean

Presenting a handful of tricks and techniques your teachers may have forgotten to mention—the readerly equivalent of ResEdit or Norton Tools, for those moments when a much-praised book strikes you as totally opaque. They’re fun, they’re dead simple, and they can magically increase the number of really good books in your universe.

Gordon R. Dickson: 50 Years of Authors, Agents, and Publishers

Gordon R. Dickson

Gordon R. Dickson (author of the Dorsai books and The Dragon and the George) speaks ad libitum, answers some questions, signs some autographs, rattles a few skeletons in their closets, and generally holds forth. Come hear one of SF’s great storytellers.

History as the Hard Science in SF

John M. Ford, Eleanor Arnason, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Russell Letson, Peg Kerr

Resolved: that history is as much a core science in our genre as astronomy, biology, or physics, and that our concept of what comes next in the human story is determined by our idea of what’s happened up to now.

How Do You Recommend Books?

Tom Whitmore, Dave Nee, Lenny Bailes, Eleanor Lang, Michael Levy

A panel for booksellers, teachers, librarians, and fellow-travellers. What questions do you ask would-be readers who aren’t sure what they’re looking for, and how do you make recommendations based on their answers? Should you try to teach them techniques for finding their own books, or is it more help to them to just diagnose their reading history and make your best guesses as to what they’d like?

How to Enjoy a Science Fiction Convention

Priscilla Olson, Vicki Rosenzweig, Tom Whitmore, Martin Easterbrook

Useful tips from a cadre of veteran hedonists and conrunners. If this is your first con, you’ll likely find it useful. If it’s your hundredth, come kibitz.

The Industry Fen Don’t See

Jim Frenkel, Leigh Grossman, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Eleanor Lang, Katya Pendill

Believe it or not, there’s more to publishing than the mighty editor rejecting (or occasionally accepting) a manuscript. Come hear tales of agents, production departments, packaging, marketing, and the other invisible lodges of the craft. Contemplate that eternally inscrutable question, "What do Art Directors want?" And much more besides. This will be an informal roundtable, with plenty of Q&A.

Intellectual Property: Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, et al.

Hilary Moon Murphy, Bruce Schneier, Seth Breidbardt, Jim Minz

What’s the difference? What do they do? How can you best protect your work? Some likely digressions: Are software patents a valid protection for innovators, or a tool that allows the giants of the industry to squash their competition? Is copyright a natural right or a social convention? How long is it reasonable for copyright protection to extend after a creator’s death? And: how do you move from idea to invention in the real world?

Lady Poetesses from Hell

Terry Garey, John Rezmerski, Jane Yolen, Laurel Winter, Rebecca Hubbard

Local poets get togged out in their most ladylike gear to read their most unladylike poems.

The Legion of Superheroes

Priscilla Olson, Lenny Bailes, Dave Nee, Christopher Jones, James Nicoll

Come and celebrate the weirdest and most endearing team in the history of comics, beloved of our co-FgoH Priscilla Olson. Long live the Legion!

Mark Time Radio Hour

Jerry Stearns and Richard Fish

Live science fiction radio, plus the presentation of the Mark Time Awards for the Best Science Fiction Audio Productions of the year, and the Ogle Awards for the Best Fantasy/Horror Audio Productions. A Minicon tradition. See the Souvenir Book article for more information!


Linda Lounsbury

Mardi Gras is over, but you can still make a fantastical mask. We’ll provide materials. For adults and children.

A Neo’s Guide to the Freebie Table

Geri Sullivan, Bruce Pelz, Michael Pins, Martin Easterbrook

A passel of fans who go to a lot of conventions pick up one each of all the flyers on the freebie table, and interpret them for your edification and amusement. Audience participation will occur.

Occult Fiction in Fantasy

Magenta Griffith, Betsy Lundsten, Tom Whitmore, Catherine Lundoff, Kris O’Higgins

From Aleister Crowley’s Moonchild to the bestselling novels of Laurel J. Hamilton, the occult has fascinated writers and readers, and yet fantasy based on these themes is often treated as a poor relation. Why? And should we take a second look?

Octavia E. Butler, interviewed by Janice Bogstad

Octavia E. Butler, Janice Bogstad

An hour with our distinguished Writer Guest of Honor. This should be self-explanatory. If it isn’t, drop by for the explanation.

Opening Ceremonies

Fred A. Levy Haskell, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Octavia E. Butler, Dave Nee, Mark and Priscilla Olson

Here’s where it all starts. Notables will be introduced. Silliness will transpire. Moose will be taught to speak Swedish and process insurance forms. Welcome to Minicon!

Patrick O’Brian, Dorothy Dunnett, Bernard Cornwell, Georgette Heyer: A Politely Uncivil Thrash

Tom Whitmore, Steve Brust, Jane Yolen, Pamela Dean, Bruce Pelz, Tony Lewis

They’re historical novelists—so why do so many SF readers like them so much? What’s the affinity? And when you get right down to it, which series is objectively better? (No throwing food.)

The Place Between Art and the Way Real People Use Art

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Jane Yolen, Ruth Berman, Brad Foster, David Wilford, Ctein

How does the best SF art frame and contour our skiffy "sense of wonder," or does it in fact constrain and limit it? Why does so much fantasy art try for the romantic sublime, but wind up—even when it’s very skillfully executed—serving only as decoration? When does SF and fantasy art overcomes these problems, and how?

Really Big Engineering in SF

Howard Davidson, Mark Olson, Doug Wickstrom, Jeff Schalles, Gordon Garb

SF is full of grandiose engineering projects; one critic has claimed that "giant object" SF is an identifiable subgenre. Is the stfnal impulse to Big Engineering a characteristic aberration of our field, or a long-term human impulse? Are really big projects economically feasible, or are they simply too much fun to leave alone? Are any of them genuinely plausible?

Rich Science

Mark Olson, Howard Davidson, Lynn Litterer, Gordon Garb, Bob Webber

Some writers (Simak, Schmitz, Brin) write their stories in universes where the laws of science are very rich and there are numerous ways to do things: Brin has six different kinds of hyperdrive in operation; Simak’s aliens invent things we can’t understand because they look at the world differently. Others write worlds where there is at most one way of going FTL, and where the laws of science are plain and universal. Is extravagance just plain more fun? Is parsimony actually more realistic?

SF and the Political Slipstream

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Victor Raymond, Neil Rest, Jeanne Gomoll, Laurie Edison

Science fiction and political radicalism have been dancing partners since the 1930s. From technocrats to libertarians, SF writers and readers have entertained the best and worst ideas of the political fringe. Sometimes, as with feminism, those ideas have gone on to become mainstream; sometimes not. Is this the true utopian impulse, or just another case SF’s appetite for outré ideas? And what role does the SF subculture-fandom play in influencing the SF that gets written?

SFWA Charity Auction

Linda Dunn

Charity auction for the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund. All sorts of autographed items and memorabilia will be available. Come early, bid high.

SFWA Regional Meeting

Linda Dunn

SFWA members only, and you’re not missing a thing.

Spy vs. Spy in the Computer Age: A Talk

Bruce Schneier

Dead drops, semaphores, cut outs, telltales...the tools of spying. In a world of continuous communications and ubiquitous eavesdropping, is there any hope for covert communications? Learn about some old tricks of the trade, and some new ones.

Milk-and-Cookies Storytelling Hour

Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen tells stories. We listen, eat our cookies and drink our milk. A Minicon tradition.

Tour of the Art Show

David Wilford

Guided tours of the Minicon Art Show, conducted by our friendly and artistic guides.

Trivia Contest

Mark Olson, Priscilla Olson, Jon Singer

A panel of experts will throws questions at the audience, and award candies for the correct answers. The one with the most uneaten candies wins. Organized by Fan Guests of Honor Mark and Priscilla Olson, masters of all they survey.

Weren’t We Waiting for the End of the World?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Victor Raymond, Lydia Nickerson, Bob Berlien, Jim Minz

Social histories of the 1960s have tended to heavily downplay the extent to which many people, mundanes included, assumed that a catastrophic social collapse was right around the corner. Though it never happened, the expectation that it would shaped a great deal of the science fiction and fantasy of that period. What was going on? How much can we tell about it from those books and stories? And what changed?

What’s Depressing, What’s Cautionary, What’s Uplifting

Debbie Notkin, Octavia E. Butler, Lois McMaster Bujold, Kara Dalkey, Linda Dunn

Brian Aldiss once described the British SF of the 1960s as being full of "bracing gloom," thus demonstrating that you can’t necessarily predict what some people will find uplifting or downbeat. Skiffy speculation that horrifies one reader may strike another as wildly optimistic—and the worlds that some readers long to live in may strike others as dystopias. Editor and bookseller Debbie Notkin prods some of our best minds to hold forth on these and related subjects.

Xena and Hercules: The Gods in Our Own Image

Dennis McCunney, Jim Frenkel, Elise Matthesen

Pause for a moment. Forget about Xena/Gabrielle and Hercules/Aeolus, and look at the secondary characters. If gods are humans writ large, with corresponding virtues and vices, what does the portrayal of the gods in those shows suggest about our current view of ourselves? (Aphrodite as a California beach bunny? Okayyyyy...)

The Year in Science

Mark Olson, Tony Lewis, Howard Davidson, Lynn Litterer, Gordon Garb [m]

Just in case you needed reminding what the S in SF stands for: our crew of lively professionals and laypersons will take a gallop across the fields of What’s New.

You can email comments to the Minicon programming department.

Programming Grid

[Minn-StF] [Minicon] [Minicon 34]

Revised:   March 24, 1999
  by Laurel Krahn / webmaster@minicon34.mnstf.org