(Did you mean a John Benson fanzine?)
The panel, a program item during which a group of experts discuss a topic in front of an audience, is the principal type of programming at most sf cons. The subject matter can be anything.
The speakers, usually three to five people, may be fans, pros or a mix. Only prosucking concoms and for-profit gate shows program professionals only. In many cases, fans are more knowledgeable about the field, whereas some pros, especially neopros newly arrived from mundania, can only talk about their own work.
Occasionally, mundane experts, such as scientists, are brought in to participate. (Ditto, the fanzine-oriented con, has brought in speakers from the U.S. Postal Service and representatives of Gestetner.)
Often, a panel will be part of a subject-matter track.
Typically, a moderator, designated by the con’s programming department, leads the discussion. A moderator’s task it is to keep the program item more-or-less on track, to prevent anyone from hogging the microphone and to direct questions from the audience when appropriate.
If the con hasn’t selected a moderator, most experienced panelists will choose one from among themselves.
Moderators don’t necessarily have to be experts in their panels’ subjects — sometimes they merely direct the conversation and ask questions rather than contributing their own knowledge.
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