Wednesday, December 15, 2021
4:00 pm EST
Fanzines have been a vital part of science fiction and fantasy from the beginning of modern genre fiction in the 1930s. They provide a record of friends, feuds, fashion, and fascinations. Periodically their demise is predicted, but they are still going strong, drawing in new participants and evolving along with fandom. This is a chance to talk to current and previous Hugo nominees about why they produce fanzines.
Not Just D&D: Great Tabletop RPGs
An artificial intelligence does not necessarily have to think like a human being. How do current AIs approach questions of cognition and meaningful analysis? What are other ways that an intelligent AI might perceive and understand the world?
What to See While You’re in DC
Come to hear regional fans discuss their favorite Washington, DC, landmarks and destinations, including the lesser-known places you might otherwise miss.
5:30 pm EST
What does the future hold for carnivorous foodways as factory farming becomes less and less sustainable and more socially unpopular? Is the future cloned meat, vat steaks, cricket burgers, or fungus-based “chicken?” Are we growing past the need to refer to products as meat substitutes? Can we trust the companies which produce them? What are the ethical implications?
Science Fiction for Museum Futures
Description: Museums aren’t just historical repositories. They play an essential role in shaping how we see the future. To celebrate the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary, Arizona State University led an effort to imagine possible futures for the national museums and the communities they serve. Join artist Brian Miller, Elizabeth Merritt of the Center for the Future of Museums, and Ruth Wylie of the Center for Science and the Imagination to discuss the project and explore how museums can ignite civic imagination.
So This Is Your First Worldcon…
What the heck is all of this? What’s going on? What can I do? What should I do? Who is everyone? If you’ve never been to Worldcon before, this panel is for you.
Undead Shows: TV and Movies That Won’t Die
What makes a Classic a Classic?
Join us for a discussion of the books, TV shows, movies, comics, and computer games that have become classics and ask why they have stayed with us. Panelists will discuss everything from the content through to the context, the contemporary market, and the modern memory.
7:00 pm EST
A Closer Look at the Business Meeting Agenda
The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) is the body of fans who choose the recipients of the Hugo Awards and the locations for future Worldcons and NASFiCs. By attending DisCon III, you are a WSFS member, and can participate in the annual business meeting which takes place in sessions throughout the convention. But the meeting can be hard to follow if you don’t know the topics of discussion. Panelists will review the business passed on from last year’s con and the new proposals to be discussed.
The vast majority of the world’s population uses some kind of prosthetic or assistive device, from glasses, to mobility aids, to those jar-opening doohickies. How should they change our conceptions of disability and what using a prosthetic device really means? What bleeding-edge assistive technologies are out there right now that may seem like science fiction? Do engineers overthink it, and are some technologies impositions. And when is simpler, better?
Breaking a Story, Hollywood-Style
Costuming Tips I Wish I Learned Earlier
Ever wonder why your costumes don’t look as sharp as the ones on the front of the pattern? Our panel will discuss how to select the right fabric, why interfacing exists, the importance of ironing, and indispensable finishing techniques.
Viewing Disabilities Through a Historical Lens
Crude conceptions of disabled people abound in shallowly-written historical fantasy and popular imagination, but how was disability actually treated in historical cultures around the world? Our panel of archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and other experts sheds a modern, well-researched light on this oft-stereotyped area.
8:30 pm EST
Twenty years ago, a new age of internet magazines started rising alongside the print favorites. Now there are so many different ways to broadcast, produce, and consume short fiction. How are magazines changing to reflect that? We’ll look at how everything has changed over time, from what stories are popular to delivery methods to submissions rules and processes, and speculate about what may be coming next.
Thursday, December 16, 2021
10:00 am EST
Changing Genes: Can We, Should We?
CRISPR, the gene-editing tool, has made much greater precision potentially possible in editing the genes of bacteria, viruses, crops, animals, and humans. How far can an organism’s genome be changed? What are the possibilities, ethics, and outcomes of tinkering with genomes, including our own?
DisCon III Feedback — Thursday
Come talk with us about how the Worldcon is going and how we can improve.
Mrs. Hawking Storyboard Discussion
From the gaslit streets of Victorian London emerges a shadowy figure…Mrs. Hawking, a lady vigilante who stands for the downtrodden women of society. Join co-writers Phoebe Roberts & Bernie Gabin and members of the cast as they shed light into the world of Mrs Hawking from the series’s inception onstage to the innovative new “Zoom plus” productions.
Then, be sure to catch the performances of Mrs Hawking: Fallen Women and Gentlemen Never Tell, both of which are streaming during the con.
Planning and Running a Virtual Fan Event
Virtual cons have been contemplated for a while, but 2020 forced many of us to get serious about them for the first time. In the process, organizers were presented with a lot of new organizational and technical challenges. The panelists will explore the different challenges, organizational structures, and opportunities presented by a virtual con versus an in-person event.
The 1918 flu pandemic had huge impacts on culture over the subsequent decades, including significant changes to architecture and personal fashion. What kinds of long-term changes to our public aesthetic will we see in reaction to COVID-19? Will restaurants and other public spaces need to change their room layouts and building designs? Will branded, designer facemasks become de rigueur symbols of conspicuous consumption?
11:30 am EST
This panel will discuss the differences between fictional artificial intelligence and the real thing. How are the real dangers of AI different from the ones envisioned in fiction and popular media?
Balancing Story and Scientific Authenticity
But, I Don’t Want to be a Hero
Horror Folklore Around the World
Let’s visit horror traditions from all over the world, providing creatures such as manananggal, vampire pumpkins, and Wurdulac. What frightens us? What do our fears tell us about the way societies work? How do different traditions write fear?
Sin, Sine and Cosine in African SF
The Scientific Core of African Sci-fi, African lore and religion in Science & Magic systems & world building. One of the core features of African SFF writing is the continuity of traditional and spiritual belief—and their validity as effective technologies and sciences.
Small readers, big issues: MG and YA fiction
Middle Grade sf, fantasy and horror works with the hopes and fears of the young; it explores moral and ethical dilemmas. Some of these are interpersonal issues, but many are about the way the we treat the world around us, and how it treats us. Our panellists will discuss the most challenging YA fiction in our field and how it responds to the concerns of younger readers.
What Makes a Great SFF Audio Book?
There are more audio books on the market every year. This panel will tackle questions such as how much they cost to produce, how to market them, what makes science fiction and fantasy audiobooks good, how to choose the right voice, and what can the reader get from an audio book that they might not get from reading the page?
1:00 pm EST
Adding Fannish Skills to Your Resumé
Wrangling volunteers, publishing fanzines, beta reading, negotiating hotel contracts… Plenty of fannish skills can be converted to real-world professions. How can you translate fannish experiences into a career?
Honoring Charles Saunders’ Sword and Soul
In honor of his recent passing, our panelists explore the continuing influence of Charles Saunders’ inversion of sword and sorcery — “sword and soul” — on current writers and publishers such as P. Djeli Clark, Nalo Hopkinson, Troy Wiggins, and Sheree Renée Thomas. Learn how FIYAH Magazine and others are continuing Saunders’ work of encouraging Black speculative fiction writing collectives. Hear about the efforts to turn the Imaro books into a TV series.
Is There a Doctor in the House?
After the fight, what shape is your hero in? Can they realistically carry on hero-ing in the next scene, or will they need a recovery scene before jumping back into the fray? What are some good ways to plausibly introduce complications into the healing and medical processes established in your setting to make the hero’s recovery more interesting?
Logistics of Off-World Disasters
Poverty and Wealth Inequality in Science Fiction
How are the productivity gains depicted in science fiction distributed? Why do so many stories feature an oligarchical ruling class? Does the expression of class differ across times, cultures, and nations? How do science fiction and fantasy writers discuss the intersection of class and other modes of oppression and discrimination?
Nancy Kress won the Hugo and the Nebula in 1991 with Beggars in Spain. She won the Nebula Award for Best Novella in 2013 for After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, and again in 2015 for Yesterday’s Kin. She is a prolific short story writer and novelist. Her most recent book is Sea Change (2020). Come discuss with our panelists the work of DisCon III’s Author Guest of Honor Nancy Kress.
Is it best to publish under the name in your wallet? Should you have different names for every genre, or put all your work under a single name so your fans can find you? Is it disingenuous to use a pen name to imply an identity that’s not your own, or is this just creative expression? Under what circumstances does using a pen name cross a line? Panelists explore these questions, and the degree to which authors “become” their pen names.
It’s 2021, do you still need an agent? Typically, yes! Agents are very useful, not only in securing a traditional book deal, but also in handling contract disputes, foreign rights, and helping you land that elusive movie or TV option. Panelists will discuss when and why agents are useful, and how to determine if your agent is doing the best job for you.
2:30 pm EST
Ask an Editor: Short Fiction Writing
What makes a good short story? How do you know it’s ready? Where should you send it and how should you respond to comments? This is your chance to ask burning questions to a panel of respected short fiction editors.
Language in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror
From The Languages of Pao to Embassytown, authors from all eras have explored the limits of humankind’s greatest invention: language. In this panel, linguists and language experts discuss what works and what doesn’t, and how to walk the line between science and science fiction with respect to language.
Let’s Judge a Book by Its Cover
What makes a good speculative fiction book or magazine cover? How can you give good art direction to help the artist succeed? How do we feel about eye-catching covers that show scenes that aren’t actually in the book? Our artists and publishers cover the subject in as much detail as 50 minutes will allow!
Robert’s Rules and Accessibility
Robert’s Rules of Order is a set of strict rules for running meetings used by governmental bodies and many fan groups. They can also present a significant entry barrier for many, including people with disabilities, non-native English speakers, and people with nontraditional educational backgrounds. How can we work within the framework of Robert’s Rules to ensure accessibility to everyone who wants to participate?
The Fallout of Being the Chosen One
Being a Chosen One isn’t always happily-ever-after. The season-by-season model of television, and the multi volume novel, allows viewers to explore the arc of the chosen one-type hero after the initial hero’s journey is complete. What are some of the emotional impacts and plot implications of the Chosen One’s story? What kind of generational trauma can being, or being near, the Chosen One inflict?
Urban Planning in the Space Age
In the colonies of the future, who will be responsible for planning what the city looks like and how it develops? Is this a job for engineers, for the civil service, or someone else? What factors should be considered?
Food can be a vital element to help readers better understand the world of a speculative fiction story. How does technology in your story define the food culture (or is it the other way around)? What does the food say about trade and commerce, and how does it reflect class structure?
4:00 pm EST
Ask An Editor: Long-Form Writing
What makes a good novel? How do you know it’s ready? Where should you send it and how should you respond to comments? This is your chance to ask burning questions to a panel of respected agents and editors.
DisCon III Special Guest Sheree Renée Thomas and other panelists discuss Black speculative poetry and read from their own work.
We all know what cities look like. How do you take that foundation and turn it into a setting for your urban fantasy story? This panel will offer tips and suggestions to get you started.
Presented with all of SFF to review, how does a reviewer determine their beat? Should they read widely, and address work as a knowledgeable generalist, or read deeply within their specialty, and bring that specialty to bear? Reviewers will discuss their practices of how they choose what to review or not to review, their path to their current specialty, if any, and their intentions for future work.
Speculative media content is increasingly offered through subscription services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and CBS All Access. Do your subscriptions reflect your identity as a consumer and fan? What does it say if you subscribe to Britbox and Shudder versus Prime and Disney+?
The Art of Filling in the Program Survey
Program participation surveys vary in form and interest, but they all have one thing in common: they want to know what makes you interesting and what you can offer. All program teams can tell similar stories: “you know me, just assign me to something,” topics so popular they could run nonstop for 35 hours with a different team every hour, “I know nothing about this but I love talking about it so I’m ideal.” Come to this panel to learn what program teams really want to know about you.
The Role of New Technology in Preserving History
Understanding and preserving the past can be a challenge. How have new technologies, including developments in remote sensing and physical preservation, allowed us to study the past in a less destructive manner? Where do digital archives fit in? What about preserving digital media as artifacts?
Worldbuilding Spacefaring Civilizations
How can you, as a writer, effectively build a spacefaring civilization into your work? What parts of space empires can be directly extrapolated from world history, and what elements will you need that are unique to interstellar commerce, diplomacy, warfare, and lifestyles?
5:30 pm EST
An Avatar of Your Own—Bodies in Video Games
When video gamers create a character, we often want it to resemble us in gender, body type, age, and ability. However, the options in character generation are often limited by design choices that can be influenced by prejudice, assumption, or lack of anticipation of need. What companies are doing a good job? What could be done better?
Story, characters, and plot are important, but what often defines a book is the feel of the prose. It can turn a merely adequate story into a raging success… or an excellent story into something barely tolerable. The voice as heard by the reader is critically important. So, what defines voice? From stylistic choices like dialect and punctuation to narrative choices like POV, this panel will discuss how to find the authorial voice that best fits you.
Folklore & Mythology Across Three Traditions
Three academic talks:
Gillian Polack: Jewish Cultural Representation in Novik’s Spinning Silver.
Foodways are integral to interpreting the use of food. How Jewish characters and culture are depicted in Spinning Silver through foodways demonstrates how Novik depicts cultures and religious values in the novel. Viewing foodways in the context of the culture of Jewish Lithuania in illuminates Novik’s invented Litvas.
Alison Baker: Folklore in Three British Children’s Fantasy Books.
In this paper I will be discussing the use made of three characters from folklore (the Black Dog, the Headless Horseman and the Brownie or Hob) in Briggs’ Hobberdy Dick, Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men. I will outline the use the authors make of folklore to underpin or under cut the sense of Britishness and social class.
Eugen Bacon: African Creation Mythologies.
Aligned with cultural influences on international genre works, this paper will gaze at creation mythologies in the African continent. It showcases the rich belief systems that carry across Africa and the diaspora, and that might inform current and future black speculative fiction.
Talking About the Big Heart Award
Worldcon awards the David A. Kyle Big Heart Award each year to a member of the science fiction community for their good work and great spirit. This panel features past winners of the Big Heart Award who will talk about its influence on fandom.
The CW’s Contribution to Genre TV
What did it look like when our ancestors created and wore costumes? The panelist will discuss knowledge derived from theater, historical art, costume parties, tableau, pageants, and early photography.
7:00 pm EST
Alternate Families in SF, Fantasy, and Horror
From found families to werewolf clans to polyamory to alien hives, this panel will discuss the best (and worst) examples of alternate family structures in science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
Archaeological Fact in Historical Fiction
What was the Ishango bone for? What games did the Romans play with d20s? We may never know, but archaeologists spend a lot of time working it out. For the rest of us, it can be hard to tell the difference between a fact, a likely fact, and a mere educated guess. Learn how to tell the difference to make your historical fiction and fantasy better.
Horror offers so much more than slasher movies and ghost stories. The importance of the horror genre across literature, film, and increasingly television can hardly be overstated as a crucial platform to explore human weakness and critique social ills—while sometimes delivering sensational scares! Join a discussion about what horror is for, and what horror can do across mediums.