Wanted: panelists. If any of the topics below speak to you, please fill out our handy form!
We aim to fill panels with a wide variety of people, from fans to creators, from enthusiastic amateurs to academics; and we want to include people of all genders and from diverse backgrounds, regardless of prior experience. We encourage everyone to put their names forward for panels that interest them.
New! Actually, Frankenstein is the Name of the Doctor, not the Panel – Arguably the first true SF novel, we’re here to talk about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the influence of this seminal work and the recent resurgence of adaptations.
New! Assumed knowledge in fandom – What do we take for granted that people are familiar with when they enter fandom, whether they’re reading fantasy or science fiction for the first time or attending their first con?
Bogan Avenging Living Legends Squad – We’re inundated with superheroes, mostly American, but where are our Australian ones? Our panellists come up with a league of our own, including nemeses, and some uniquely Australian super powers.
New! Breaking the Mould – Where are the grannies, mothers and middle-aged heroines in speculative fiction, and what powers do they wield to change the world?
Buffy Comes of Age – 21 years ago Buffy the Vampire Slayer appeared on our screens and changed the landscape forever. We take a look back at this remarkable show, the influence it left and what it means to us.
Chosen – Are all chosen ones by their nature Mary Sues? Do we care? How much does it suck to be a chosen one. Life once the Chosen One task is over (Harry Potter, Moana, Avatar/Korra, Buffy comics maybe?)
Comfort Reading and Watching – What books, movies and tv shows do you return to again and again, and why?
New! Danger, Will Robinson! – Lost in Space never quite had the cultural impact of Star Trek — the talking vegetables didn’t help — but the last few decades have seen attempts at remakes, from the ’90s film to John Woo’s 2004 pilot, to the series hitting Netflix in April 2018. Why? What works, and what’s best left in the ’60s?
New! The Enlightenment Model of Magic – Discussing the emergence of new terminology in fantasy fiction separating “hard” and “soft” magic, the links some works try to make between magic and rational scientific analysis, and how the concept intersects with real world ideas about “hard” and “soft” sciences.
New! Everyone Dies at the End – What do people want from a grand finale? Some final books (or movies) read like a checklist of loose ends that need to be tied off. Otehrs just fizzle out, leaving us frustrated and wanting more. Others still drag on long after the climax. Let’s talk controverisal and disappointing endings. (Warning: spoilers. Probably.)
Experts v Everyman – Against the rise of the Ordinary Hero, we present recent fictional characters who are qualified for the job at hand and experienced in their field. Who are the new experts and how do they differ from the old? What challenges do they face in the current climate?
Fannish Legal Shenanigans – OH&S on the Enterprise; suing Hogwarts for child endangerment; is that unicorn endangered?
New! Fantastic Tongues and How to Write Them – Language in SF, how it represents a culture and contributes to worldbuilding, from Tolkien to Daniel Findlay’s Year of the Orphan, via 1984 and Story of Your Life/Arrival.
New! Feminism and Tabletop Roleplaying Games – Games that foster diversity and inclusivity. Games that specifically open space for genderqueer, asexual or disabled characters. Games that don’t necessarily focus on epic tales of heroism, but treat relationships and the domestic sphere as worthy of focus. (This could potentially be broadened to games generally, if there aren’t enough tRPGers.)
New! Filing the Serial Numbers Off – Turning fan fiction into pro fiction without getting all 50 Shades.
New! The Handmaid’s Sisters – Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has re-entered the zeitgeist, with the TV adaptation/expansion and the publication of novels with similar themes, including The Red Clocks and Future Home of the Living God.
Horror in Translation – Ghosts, zombies and hell screens – discussing the history and influences of Asian horror stories, plus what’s happening now and who you should be reading/watching.
In Parallel – Parallel universes: many-worlds, alternative timelines, the one where everyone’s evil and has a goatee. What are the best? The smartest? Does anyone have really strong feelings about Sliders?
The Inequality of Magic – Traditionally in fantasy there has been a very clear difference between the magic women can do and men can do. Wizards get to do great and powerful things, while witches are either evil sorceresses or confined to working in a small community. Wizards get formal training, whereas witches usually live solitary lives. Over thirty years after Pratchett published Equal Rites, how much has changed?
The Legacy of Le Guin – Remembering Ursula Le Guin and her vast body of work, and the many impacts and influences she’s had on speculative fiction.
Lyrical and Poetic – What’s the difference between purple prose and lyrical prose? Is it a matter of degree? Good examples? Is there any decent poetry out there in SFF writings? What about classical examples of epic poetry — La Morte D’Arthur, Dante’s Inferno, Homer? (If anyone wants to follow this with a reading of the new translation of the Odyssey by Emily Wilson…)
The Magic of Cats – From ancient Egypt to witches’ familiars to Catwoman, felines have always had a significant place in our mythology. It’s not a question of if cats are magic, it’s just how powerful they are. Although the venue will not allow pets, cat pictures are welcome.
New! Mental Health in Speculative Fiction – Depictions ranging from the good, the poorly informed and the downright insulting; plus, the rise of #ownvoices and the future.
Middle Grade Magic – Why let the young adults have all the fun? Let’s talk about classic and new speculative fiction for readers aged nine to twelve.
New! The Monstrous Feminine – Female monsters and toxic femininity — from literal monsters (the Borg Queen) to the human kind (Serena Joy and Aunt Lydia of The Handmaid’s Tale, Rachel of Orphan Black).
New! One Star – How to handle negative reviews — as an author and as a reviewer. Some forums, especially GoodReads, can foster an “Us versus Them” mentality. What’s the professional and respectful way to approach critical reviews?
New! Out in the Open – Fan fiction used to be hidden away, subject to takedown notices, and sometimes kept secret from friends and family. Now there are successful mainstream novels about fic writers and readers, and some creators allow writers to earn money from their work. Is this legitimisation or exploitation? What has been gained and what’s been lost in the process?
Percy Jackson – Examining and celebrating Rick Riordan’s books for middle graders and his work in promoting diverse authors and characters in the spin off series.
New! Podcasting Killed The Radio Star – Does podcasting offer writers new outlets for audio stories not offered by traditional mass broadcasting, or is podcasting too fragmented and disorganised to be successful in this space? Which speculative podcasts are most successful?
Pokémon Go as Cooperative Social Experiment – Pokémon Go does more than augment reality with cute little monsters. While it can be played solo, the game design actively encourages community — with some elements requiring cooperation between players to complete — and provides little incentive or reward for toxic competition. Maybe we should all be living in a Pokémon world?
The Prequel Menace – It’s our regular Star Wars panel … but with a twist. If your first encounter with a galaxy far, far away was via the prequel trilogy, we would love to have you on board to discuss how this has affected your relationship with the franchise and fandom, how you feel about the new trilogy, and the nature of your feelings about Jar Jar Binks.
Put Your Damn Underwear On The Inside – Superhero Burnout – Superheroes are dominating the pop culture landscape, so what do you watch if you don’t like them? Join us to talk about all the great non superhero stuff out there.
New! Queerbaiting, Representation and Censorship – Where does one turn into the other? And how do we distinguish between them?
Raise the Castle, or Raze the Castle? – Western Epic Fantasy seems to default to a European Feudal background. Why? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? What sort of different backgrounds would be good, without straying into the territory of cultural appropriation?
The Romance of Structure – Whether you write your SFF as urban, epic, historical, dystopian or travelling through time, there’s much the romance genre can teach about structuring a novel. Join us for a discussion of hooks and plot points, and find out what keeps people coming back for more.
seaQuest DSV – The show was set in 2018, so where’s our talking dolphin? Time for some retrofuturism, 90s style!
Secondary Worlds Sans Magic – Swordspoint, Captive Prince, The Traitor Baru Cormorant — if a secondary world fantasy has no magic, is it still fantasy? Or historical fiction for writers who hate research? No dragons, just worldbuilding here in this panel!
SF in YA – Some of the most interesting and successful modern science fiction is being written for teen audiences, but works for young readers are often overlooked by genre gatekeepers. As Worldcon prepares to introduce a new award for genre YA — separately to the Hugo Awards — we ask, why is that the case? And what are fans who don’t read YA missing out on?
Shakespeare and SF – From Forbidden Planet to, oh, about a third of Star Trek, the Bard has had a tremendous impact on speculative fiction. Is it the epic themes? The universal observations about human(oid) nature?
New! So You Want To Be A Book Reviewer – An exploration of the best ways of getting on publisher lists, experiences had with publishers (positive or negative), and the pros and cons of e-copy of physical review copies…
New! Space Westerns – Why is SF so obsessed with westerns and why do the genres mesh so well?
New! Speculative Ethics – Whether this is the battle between good and evil on Pelennor Fields, the Prime Directive of the Federation, or T’Challa’s decision for the future of Wakanda, Fantasy and Science Fiction have often raised difficult questions about what it means to be good, the obligations we have to each other and the implications which arise from our moral beliefs. As readers and viewers, we make moral decisions about these stories: Who ought sit on the Iron Throne of Westeros? Should we be Team Cap or Team Iron Man? Can I justify post-apocalyptic murder?
Sports Romance – Looking at the sports romance genre in all its forms, and considering the overlap between sports fandom and speculative fiction fandom.
Stealth Cosplay – Nerdy nails, Disneybounding and more – Want to rep your Hogwarts House at work … without violating the dress code? Want to know what Disneybounding is? (Yes, you can google it if you want.)
Subscriber Blues – Outlets like Patreon and Twitch are great ways for creators to be paid
regularly for their work. But with so many, as a fan there’s a financial limit to the number you can give to. How do you choose which to subscribe to and how do you handle the guilt of not being able to support everything you love. Is it furthering the divide between low and high incomes by offering exclusive content for those who can pay? Will there be a saturation point or have we already reached it?
New! Supergirl – The DCTV series juggles overt mainstream feminism and queer themes with saving the city (or the planet), friendship, and wearing a whole superhero costume under normal clothes every day.
Supernatural Detectives – With shows and books like the Expanse and Altered Carbon, the cross-genre detective is making a comeback in a big way. Why is it so easy to mash-up the detective story with speculative fiction? And what makes a great genre-bending detective? These fans and authors discuss where these pulpy detectives come from, the best (and worst) stories and how to write one without falling into the trope traps of hardboiled PI meets femme fatale.
This Panel Is Its Own Grandfather – Let’s talk about time travel: the good, the bad, the paradoxical. The works that exist, and the works that have not yet been released in this timestream.
New! Try to be Kinder – In The Wicked + The Divine, Tara just wants to perform her own work, but her ‘fans’ demands that she perform her Divine Powers instead, booing her and abusing her when she doesn’t comply with her Goddess role. How does fan entitlement – to one’s energy, one’s attention, one’s creations – affect the way artists are able to create and present their work? How do artists deal with demands from fans and wider society of their work or their personal lives, simply because they’re in the public eye or occupy a particular demographic? Is there a way to differentiate valid requests from boundary-crossing demands?
New! Twisted TV Tales – Classic TV series like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents used surrealism and fantasy to shed light on contemporary issues. Now we have Black Mirror — will it be as influential as its predecessors?
Universal Monsters – Universal studios bought some of the most iconic literary monsters to the big screen in the 30s and 40s, monsters we return to again and again. What is it that fascinates us about them, and what resonates with every new generation that discovers them?
New! Utopia from Dystopia – Which seemingly utopian ideas are really dystopian? And how do we construct a utopia for the 21st century?
Very Disco – Star Trek: Discovery brings the venerable franchise into the 21st century, with more ambiguity, serialised storytelling and fungus than previous iterations. Let’s talk tropes, tribbles and Klingon subtitles.
New! The Weather Report – The current state of climate change science and science fiction.
Welcome! Everything is Fine – Discussing The Good Place, comedy afterlives, ethics, moral philosophy and puns.
Wonder Woman – 2017’s Wonder Woman destroyed the myth that a woman cannot lead a successful superhero movie. Was it just a matter of a better story than its predecessors? Where does the genre go next?
Zombie Politics – If vampires are aristocrats, are zombies the working class joes of the supernatural world? How would society adjust to a zombie apocalypse? (If Canberra is overrun by the undead, will anyone notice?)