Brainstorming Panel Ideas

I’m attending a couple of my favorite science fiction/fantasy conventions next year, WisCon and Readercon. One of the reasons I love them is that they solicit ideas for the programming that will be offered. Here are some of the panel ideas I’ve come up with so far.

They’re rough ideas; it’s seemed to work well in the past if I didn’t narrow the topic down too much, because eventually other people will be tweaking the ideas and voting on them and figuring out what will work best with the available panelists. If you have any thoughts, feel free to comment!

I love trying to come up with catchy titles, too.

Apocalypses, Personality Sorting, and Love Triangles: How is current YA speculative fiction reflecting current social anxieties? And what’s the next trend? Social justice movements?

Addiction in Fiction: Real drugs, imaginary drugs, and magical addictions to other people’s dreams – how are addictions handled in science fiction and fantasy? How about fictional worlds in which addiction is not seen as a problem? Or in which addiction has become adaptive (are vampires addicted to blood?). The panel could focus on either real or imaginary addictive substances.

Unpacking Tarzan: Interest in the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs is bound to increase this spring when the new John Carter of Mars movie premieres. ERB character Tarzan, though, is the one who really took root in American culture, with movies and comic strips popularizing the character until he was firmly entrenched in “canon.” How does the Tarzan character’s popularity relate to enduring sterotypes of Africa? How does Tarzan, and the idea of the “white man gone native” (or in this case, ape) still reverberate in today’s entertainment world? Who are the modern descendents of Tarzan? (*cough* “Avatar”)

Fen to Pros and Pros to Fen: In many sectors of fandom, those who make money from writing or editing or publishing speculative fiction are sometimes set apart from those who are primarily readers. This separation isn’t present everywhere, though. Some “pros” maintain fannish activity and some who primarily act as “fans” might have, for example, sold a novel or two. With the growing mainstream popularity of fanfiction and self-publishing, how is that division changing? How do these divisions affect online interactions, live interactions, and how fandom is viewed from outside? Is there truly a “geek hierarchy”?

MUPPETS!: What did you think of the 2011 movie? What’s been your life experience of the muppets? Does your age group make a difference in how you feel about them? I think it would be awesome to discuss the muppets as a vehicle for social change, but suspect we wouldn’t get beyond the squeeing.

YA Love Triangles – Cultural Advance or Retreat?: A common theme in popular YA novels, spec fic and otherwise, is the ongoing love triangle, usually one girl who is in love with two boys. So far, she always chooses just one of them. Why is this so popular right now? Does it support at least thoughts of polyamory or other alternatives, or does the average reader refuse to consider that option? Is the love triangle meant to demonstrate conclusively that only heteronormative couples are acceptable? Have any YA writers been specifically working against this trend?

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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