Program Ideas Page

Here is where we make a list of cool things that should happen at MarsCon 2023. As always, MarsCon programming is driven by our attendees. Please share in the fun by posting your ideas for programming here—talks you’d like to hear or give, presenters/performers you would recommend, subjects or activities of interest to you and other fans…

This plan has served us well for a few years now, so... read the ideas list… if you see a program event you want to help with drop us an email. If you have an idea for an event that isn’t yet listed jump to our online “blue sheet” and tell us about it.

By getting beginning programming suggestions online fairly early we’re hoping to stir your creative juices and generate even more great programming suggestions.

Costumes and Wardrobe in Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Historical Drama
How do costumers on movies and TV envision and execute such breathtaking costumes? From fabric selection to research to construction, experienced costumers and fashion designers share their perspective. Featuring Panelist Samantha Rei of Project Runway fame!

Suggested by Suz Woehrle on Sunday, February 05, 2023 at 22:44:22

Why World of Warcraft Sucks
Hey, my name is Aurora. I've been playing this game for longer than I care to admit for more hours than its worth. I'll be going over what made WoW good, and more importantly what made it bad.

Suggested by Aurora Pariseau.Orca/Aurorlock on Wednesday, February 01, 2023 at 23:10:34

Best Anime In The Last 10 Years
Join other anime fans in discussing your favorite anime and the best way to enjoy them.

Suggested by Suz on Wednesday, February 01, 2023 at 19:58:47

Manga Adaptations: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
If you've seen any sci-fi movies or Japanese animation (anime) you've probably seen a movie or a TV show that was adapted from a graphic novel or manga. Sin City, Batman, Nausicaa, Umbrella Academy and many others are out there but which are the best and worst. Share your opinions!

Suggested by Suz on Wednesday, February 01, 2023 at 19:55:53

Artificial Gravity by Rotation
We're familiar with big rotating wheels and spinning tubes like Rama, but these are major engineering projects with significant technical challenges. There are other ideas, such as the tumbling spaceship in The Rolling Stones that are more compact, easier to balance, and less expensive. Our panelists will discuss some of these designs in fact and fiction and the need to learn more about how people might live in gravities between zero and one. panel discussion or solo presentation with at least a weeks notice

Suggested by G. David Nordley on Monday, January 30, 2023 at 12:55:23

Posthumous Anticipation.
Heinlein's For us the Living, Verne's Paris in the 20th Century. like Bacon's New Atlantis, among others were published after their authors passed away with no final edit. None of these stories were gripping. but rather scaffolding for ideas about the future, much of which has come to pass. What is the place of such idea driven works in the field of Science Fiction? panel discussion, not solo presentation

Suggested by G. David Nordley on Monday, January 30, 2023 at 12:48:19

"New Atlantis & Magnalia Naturae" 400 years later.*
What was the key to Francis Bacon anticipating so many advances? What might be the next thing on his list to "come alive?" His times being what they were, Bacon needed to be careful to insulate himself against charges of atheism, so New Atlantis contains much of a pious nature, but which to discerning readers, was clearly and intentionally implausible. Still such made it hard to call the work atheistic. In the sense that Bacon, essentially, codified the scientific method, and New Atlantis was fiction, should we regard New Atlantis as the first work of Science Fiction? *[Bacon died in 1623 while the work was incomplete.] Either a panel or a presentation, but if the latter, please give me a week's notice.

Suggested by G. David Nordley on Monday, January 30, 2023 at 12:45:18

The Sands of Mars today
Arthur Clarke's The Sands of Mars was arguably the first, and for some time the most, realistic novel set on Mars. Our panel discusses how The Sands of Mars departed from prior Mars fiction and the differences seventy years of Mars exploration with telescopes and spacecraft have made in Clarke's vision of Mars Settlement. Panel, not solo.

Suggested by G. David Nordley on Monday, January 30, 2023 at 12:39:58

Around the World in 80 Days at 150
While not really in an sf genre (except, perhaps, steampunk), this story had entertained generations of readers. Why? What were the three main engineering advances that made an 80 day journey possible and how did they change the 19th century? Will a middle class person be able to buy a ticket for an 80-day trip to Mars in our lifetime? Panel, not solo.

Suggested by G. David Nordley on Monday, January 30, 2023 at 12:36:28

RAMA at 50: Can space colonies fly? Why?
What is a space colony versus a generation ship versus a space station? How would it handle longitudinal acceleration, or would it have to. What would the purpose of a flying space colony be? Panel, not solo.

Suggested by G. David Nordley on Monday, January 30, 2023 at 12:31:03

Orbital Mechanics Without Math
Hard SF stories and real space operations are influenced by the physics of moving in orbits. But you can understand the basics of orbital mechanics without doing any math at all. This presentation will show the geometry of different types of orbits and maneuvers.

Suggested by Karl K. Gallagher on Friday, January 27, 2023 at 21:58:46

Contracts You Shouldn't Sign
Writers and other creative types sometimes are trapped by contracts which take their work for marginal compensation. Here's a non-lawyer's take on things to look for, with examples from good and bad contracts.

Suggested by Karl K. Gallagher on Friday, January 27, 2023 at 21:51:25

Put Your Story Out There
You have a book, or a short story, or you're working on one. What's the best way to share it? There's Kindle, Kobo, Substack, anthologies, magazines, fanfic sites, what's the best home for your story? Can you actually make some money at this?

Suggested by Karl K. Gallagher on Friday, January 27, 2023 at 21:45:09

Billionaires in Space
Musk, Bezos, Branson - they're building and flying rockets. How much of a difference are they making? Will commercial space overtake government programs? Which will be first to the Moon and Mars?

Suggested by Karl K. Gallagher on Friday, January 27, 2023 at 21:35:52

What's Woke Got to Do With It?
Ripley in Alien. Frank N Furter in RHPS. Blade in Blade. Mitch Downe in ParaNorman. Representative characters have been present in genre works for numerous decades, but over the past few years, some segments of fandom have claimed that our films and tv series have become "woke." Even shows like Star Trek and Twilight Zone, which began as thinly-veiled allegories for social justice issues have been branded with the dreaded W-word. Our panel examines what woke really means, and what-if any0 impact the concept has on both the content and fan communities.

Suggested by T. Aaron Cisco on Monday, January 23, 2023 at 17:20:00

The Movie is Better than the Book
Due to the limitations of the medium, it's near impossible for a film or television adaptation to capture every aspect of the books and stories being adapted, so in every case, changes are needed. Join our panel of movie and book nerds as they examine those instances where the omissions and revisions improved upon the source material.

Suggested by T. Aaron Cisco on Monday, January 23, 2023 at 17:19:17

The Twilight Zone: Best Episodes
Long before Star Trek and Doctor Who, millions of sci-fi fans gathered around the television set to enter another dimension...The Twilight Zone! Rod Serling's iconic anthology has been imitated, referenced, and rebooted countless times, but nothing has come close. Join this group of TZ fans as they revisit the best episodes, and discuss the legacy of one of the greatest science fiction television shows of all time!

Suggested by T. Aaron Cisco on Monday, January 23, 2023 at 17:18:27

The Good Doctor: Celebrating 60 Years
Our favorite Time Lord burst onto the scene in November 1963. With 26 seasons, a revolving cast of characters, and several successful spin-offs, Doctor Who has continued to delight us through the decades. Letâ s discuss classic WHO, new WHO, and the greatest moments in time.

Suggested by CL on Monday, January 23, 2023 at 02:18:35

What little I know about story—a discussion of creating worthwhile stories for books, stage, gaming and life
What is a story? What makes it work or fail? Did you hate that movie because it fails to complete a hero's journey? Or love because it violates your expectations? Humans love hearing and telling stories. - Can learning more fix your book or increase your enjoyment of a game with a better understanding of story?

Suggested by Mr. Dave on Friday, January 20, 2023 at 15:23:27

Bite sized writing: creativity in the (very) short forms
No time for a novel? Come and learn to write little big stuff; jokes, slogans, micro-fiction taglines, buttons and more

Suggested by Mr. Dave on Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 21:12:30

A Space force reading! Old timey space radio show book reading
The Space Force and the mind reading cows from planet ranch dressing!!" A live reading from the forthcoming book. Do you like space blasters? Absurd dialogue? Evil space villains? Time traveling sharks? And, for some reason, sword fights on spaceships? (you might even get involved doing the voice of the evil overlord of doom!) A Space force reading!

Suggested by Mr. Dave on Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 21:00:30

Comedy writing.
Comedy writing. Want to write the funny? Come and learn the techniques and tools for writing jokes, scripts and books.A professional comedy writes shares techniques for books, scripts and resume writing. It's as simple as one, two, badge

Suggested by Mr. Dave on Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 20:57:16

Putting the Science in Science Fiction
Discussion. How much accurate science does there need to be in sci-fi? How much real science should you sacrifice for the sake of the narrative? Where's the line between incorporating accurate scientific theory and bogging down the audience? Where's the line between sci-fi and total fantasy/fiction? (Re: if the science the story is based on turns out to be totally false, does that story still get to be called sci-fi?)

Suggested by C. M. Alongi on Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 17:21:27

Creative success secrets - how to thrive as a professional creative person
Let's talk about your career: how do you mix creativity with business success? Whatâ s the difference between a skilled creator and a profitable one? Come hear from a successful creator with more than 30 years of business success. For writers, performers, inventors, artists and other creative persons.

Suggested by Mr. Dave on Wednesday, January 18, 2023 at 18:55:06

â Kind-of-A-Concertâ
I can play keyboard again. I still may not be good enough to call it a concert, but Iâ ve got some new music.

Suggested by Lisa on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 at 22:07:50

Strong women over the decades
How images of women as heroes have evolved over the years.

Suggested by LCB on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 at 22:05:58

Books Under Cover
Book covers for a series that evolved over decades, or just complain about book covers in general. How have they changed over the years? Have they?

Suggested by LCB on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 at 22:03:41

Caregiving for loved ones with dementia
As fandom ages, more of us are dealing with mental health decline in loved ones. This is one mental illness that may be more devastating for the caregiver than the patient. This panel will share tips on living with a partner in decline. What is it like living with a partner with dementia? What things should (and should not) be said or done? How can friends help?

Suggested by Lisa on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 at 22:01:44

Pandemic update
Is everyone tired of hearing about this?

Suggested by Lisa on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 at 22:00:38

Fellowship of the Woosters
A reading from Mike Fordâ s legendary story starring Bertie Wooster as Strider. Perhaps one of the voice actors could do this. (May need permission)

Suggested by LCB on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 at 21:59:30

Chinese Space Program
Learn about the origin of Chinaâ s space program and current missions.

Suggested by Ben on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 at 21:57:39

A Tragically Bad Ending
Is it possible to unmake a seriesâ popularity in the last few episodes or books? Of course it is! Give examples.

Suggested by LCB on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 at 21:52:22

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.

Suggested by Lisa on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 at 21:50:50

Ficable Moments
What makes a book or show open to fan fiction. There is a theory that there are moments of ambiguity in the original shows or books that seem to be common launch points for fan fantasy. These may be places where deeper relationships between characters are hinted at but not actually explored. Letâ s call them â ficable moments.â What are these moments like? Which shows/books have them? Are there good shows/books that are lacking in these moments?

Suggested by LCB on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 at 21:48:25

Meet up for AO3 or panel about AO3
s, at the Helsinki, Finland WorldCon. Anybody know anything about the history of fanfic, the beginnings of AO3, who writes for AO3 and why?

Suggested by LCB on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 at 21:46:44

Astronaut on a Budget
Want to be an Astronaut but don't think it can happen? There are ways to live out your dreams that don't involve years of college or applying to NASA or another government Space Program! Join Mike Urvand, Technology Engineer and Analog Astronaut as he speaks about ways that you can live your Space dreams while still living firmly on the ground!

Suggested by Mike Urvand on Sunday, January 15, 2023 at 23:38:47

Debbie's Validation, Vindication, and Vanquishing Tour 2023,
When I came to MARSCON the last time I was under the thumb of some Evil people. They have been Vanquished and I would love to do a couple of entertaining panels or be on the stage again to tell about it. I would like to reach out to other Actor friends of mine and have them be part of this too - IDK - I can't approach them yet if I can't offer them anything.

Suggested by "Debbie" Carl David Burks on Friday, January 13, 2023 at 18:01:55

The Pleasures of Reading
What do you look for in a good book? How do you persuade other people to read books that you like?

Suggested by Catherine Lundoff on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 at 21:39:54

Small Press SFFH and Finding Good Reads
Panel or presentation. What are sone of the small presses putting out new books and how can you find more of whatever it is youâ d like to read?

Suggested by Catherine Lundoff on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 at 17:20:39

Copyright and the mouse
Steamboat Willie is finally public domain. Does this mean you can now re-use Mickey Mouse in your own writings, images, audio, video? Well... it's a little more complicated than that.

Suggested by Rich on Saturday, January 07, 2023 at 09:28:28

Discussion with P.C. Hodgell of her new book, and the overall Kencyrath series
Title kind of says it. I'd like to make this a Rivendell Discussion Group (of the Mythopoeic Society) discussion, and also simulcast it over Zoom for those who can't attend in person. If that's possible. In the past we've often had Rivendell discussions as official con events in the Twin Cities, though that really came to something of a hold during Covid pandemic. I'm pretty sure we've done this with MarsCon in the past, but maybe not for some years. Maybe even 10. Maybe only 5. P.C. Hodgell has a long history with Rivendell, going back to her days as a grad student at the U of M English Department, when she was a regular attendee at Rivendell discussions. We heard her first short story, later pretty much incorporated into _God Stalk_, "A Matter of Honor," before it appeared in print. Ideally, we'd like to do this on Saturday afternoon, but we've moved things around for con schedules in the past, as well.

Suggested by David Lenander on Thursday, December 29, 2022 at 12:24:44

Is this a Cookbook?
A themed cookbook is one thing, but a manga about cooking? A tale of eldritch horror? A literal dream from a webcomic mostly about cats? You may be surprised to learn these are all delicious recipe guides.

Suggested by Cas on Wednesday, December 28, 2022 at 22:14:05

Queer Webcomics
While print comics are unfortunately still mired in the politics of the publishing industry, webcomics, which are published independently online, have found it easier to show a fuller rainbow. Weâ ll talk about some comics that feature characters who identify all over the LGBTQIAAP+ spectrum.

Suggested by Cass on Wednesday, December 28, 2022 at 21:58:05

Science Fiction and Fantasy for Middle Grade Readers
Trends in YA SFF are often discussed, but what about the younger readers? The Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series started with middle school heroes and the Rick Riordan Presents series are aimed at Middle Grade readers. What are the new trends in MG?

Suggested by Kathryn Sullivan on Monday, December 19, 2022 at 20:37:48

Writing Geeky Characters
How do you write geeky/tech characters without blogging the story with technical terms? How do you write mundane issues without boring the reader?

Suggested by Kathryn Sullivan on Monday, December 19, 2022 at 15:28:48

The Dresden Files
The Dresden Files Series, telling the story of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Chicago's first (and only) Wizard P.I. We will talk about all of the books including the new stories of Peace Talks, Battle Ground, The Law, and Fugitive, As well as what might be ahead for Harry in the series in books 18 and 19 : Twelve Months and Mirror Mirror. They will be spoiled all the way up to Fugitive.

Suggested by Tony on Saturday, December 17, 2022 at 10:12:40

The Power of Board Gaming
The power of Board Gaming, comedy meets legitimate reasons why folks should be playing Board games together. Expect lots of laughs and gain knowledge why boarding Gaming sessions are good for you from someone in the gaming industry.

Suggested by Sam Hedden on Sunday, December 11, 2022 at 13:46:07

Haidong Gumdo Sword basics
Come play and learn some of the basics of Haidong Gumdo (Korean Sword Art) Will be teaching some basics on how to cut and form stances for this Martial art.

Suggested by Steve Erickson on Sunday, December 04, 2022 at 17:02:05

Haidong Gumdo Sword Demonstration
Come watch and learn about the Korean Sword art form Haidong Gumdo from local group White Tiger Martial Arts located in Fridley. We will be demonstrating some of the basic forms and showing some basic cutting technics.

Suggested by Steve Erickson on Sunday, December 04, 2022 at 16:58:41

The Historical Basis of the LotR and Hobbit Costumes or How to Dress A Dwarf
Presentation on the historical garb that inspired the Hobbit and LotR costumes: Comparing the costumes seen on the screen of Jackson's adaptations to actual historical examples. Advice on how to reconstruct basic Dwarf, Elf, Wizard, Human and Hobbit clothing. Giving online links to available pattern sources, museums, etc.

Suggested by The DreamStitcher on Monday, October 24, 2022 at 12:52:01

An appreciation of and discussion of what we love about the media-addicted construct.

Suggested by Kathryn Sullivan on Tuesday, October 11, 2022 at 16:51:24

Sci-Fi Scenes From A Hat
Sci-Fi themed improv comedy similar to "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" 60+ minute show featuring crazy improvers dressed up in various sci-fi outfits doing sci-fi related improv comedy with suggestions from the audience for scenes and parameters.

Suggested by Steve Murphy on Thursday, September 15, 2022 at 16:43:18

Trailer Park 2023
Check out trailers to the movies & series coming out this year. Be on your top game when conversing with other folks here at MarsCon! Be ready for that panel! Plan what you are going to see next weekend? Donâ t miss THE TRAILER PARK!

Suggested by CL on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 13:15:31

Astronomical Slide Show, courtesy of James Webb Space Telescope and Hubble Space Telescope
NASAâ s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was successfully launched on Christmas Day, December 25, 2021, despite an ongoing pandemic. JWST is a space telescope designed primarily to conduct infrared astronomy. As the largest optical telescope in space, its high infrared resolution and sensitivity allow it to view objects too early, distant, or faint for the Hubble Space Telescope. Enjoy a slideshow featuring spectacular images captured by both telescopes so far.

Suggested by CL on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 13:09:52

Intro to Gaming
Some cut their teeth on Dungeons and Dragons, and some have only known card games, tabletop games, online games or console games. If you are new to gaming and want to get started, whatâ s the best game? Where can I play it? Join the discussion and hear recommendations from longtime gamers.

Suggested by CL on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 12:10:30

Middle-Earth in the Modern Era
A discussion of the Tolkien books, film adaptations, TV series, games and controversies surrounding them.

Suggested by CL on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 11:42:34

You Never Forget Your First
What book or other work inspired you and started on your journey in SF/fantasy fandom? What stood out? What resonated with you? Come and share your firsts among friends.

Suggested by CL on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 11:28:50

Eye Candy! Best Costumes in Movies & TV
Which series excelled in wardrobe? What shows or movies should costumers be checking out now? Looking for source material, ideas and suggestions for what to watch to inspire the next/greatest cosplay.

Suggested by CL on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 11:14:58

The Greatest Movie Adaptations of Books
What did the screen writers do right? Does the adaptation need to be completely faithful to the original work, or are there areas where compromise turns out for the better? Which adaptations totally missed the mark?

Suggested by CL on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 11:02:58

Best of Streaming SF/Fantasy
SF/Fantasy and speculative fiction are flourishing with the advent of streaming channels, but not everyone has every streaming channel. What are the best shows out there that will justify that extra monthly cost, and what channels provide the shows you most desire?

Suggested by Christine on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 10:37:05

A grand costume contest with prizes and half-time entertainment

Suggested by Christine on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 10:24:16

Biden Space
Discussion about recent developments in astronomy and space exploration.

Suggested by Ben on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 10:19:33

My time as a government lab rat.
My 50yr NDA is complete. I can now talk about my time being placed with caucasian aliens, part of the Gateway Experience, and time with the Montauk Project. Providing I am still alive, I will be there. If not I suggest a ghost communicator.

Suggested by Joe Swenson on Sunday, June 12, 2022 at 15:00:27

Is Software Sentient?
AI software seems more and more sentient. When do we reach Skynet? What could possibly go wrong?

Suggested by Rich on Sunday, June 12, 2022 at 14:44:48

Is interplanetary travel green?
Massive amounts of energy are required to bust out of Earth's gravity well - with additional massive amounts needed to travel to Mars, Venus or beyond. Oh, you want to get there quickly? That's extra. Is there a green way to travel to the nearest planets (let alone the stars)?

Suggested by Rich on Sunday, April 10, 2022 at 20:37:38

Online “blue sheet” - please offer your program idea.

(Real or Fanish) name:

Event title:


Anything (except HTML) entered above this line will be sent to our programming department and might appear on this web page in a while. If you are a Nigerian prince offering herbal supplements designed to Make Money Fast your ideas will be receive all the attention they deserve. Anything entered below this line will not be published but will be sent to our programming department.

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Are you willing to Make This Happen?
If you are, what is the maximum number of events at MarsCon you could help run?
In an ideal world, what time or day during MarsCon would this event happen?
What time(s) or day(s) during MarsCon would not work for you running this event?

Set up information:
We will attempt to provide a basic video projector + screen setup in all programming rooms. Still, if your presentation will need video goodies tell us now. We are learning it works best if presenters bring their own computers—that way they can be pretty sure their presentations will work... We can probably come up with adaptors for whatever type of video output is on your computer if you tell us in advance. If you are unsure what you have, here is a picture of many types of display outputs. If your presentation will have sound we will need to know that as well—if your sound output is not a 3.5mm plug what is it? The most important thing is to let us know in advance.


If nobody suggests an event, it won’t happen. Thank you for your suggestions.

MarsCon 2023

“When Books Come Alive”
March 10 - 12, 2023

Hilton Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport Mall of America
3800 American Blvd E
Bloomington, Minnesota

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