Panelists: Ted Chiang, Louise Marley, Michael A. Stackpole, W. J. Williams, Janine Ellen Young (moderator)
What it was supposed to be about (synopsis from the program book): When do "scientific" worldview elements move a concept out of fantasy? Systematic magic, planetary bodies, rudimentary experimentation, the cusp of alchemy into chemistry...
What it was really about
First, the panelists admitted they didn't really understand the topic of the panel as stated in the program book. They didn't get much mileage out of "scientific worldview elements moving a concept out of fantasy". After addressing the distinction between technology and magic, and Ted Chiang stating why he believes Clarke's famous adage is incorrect, the panelists quickly became mired in the age-old debate of what is science fiction, and what is fantasy. Oh no, not again, you say! Well, this discussion wasn't quite like beating a dead horse. I heard some interesting insights.
A lot of western fantasy writers prefer magic to be systematic, i.e. to have laws, rules, constraints. An arbitrary magic, where everything is possible or impossible, depending on whether it is convenient for the author, they don't find very interesting. But does systematizing magic move it closer to science? Not necessarily.
Traditionally it's thought that it's the presence or absence of scientific / technological elements -- the so-called furniture -- that causes most people to view a certain story as science fiction or fantasy. But actually, the worldview expressed in a story may be more relevant. (Though apparently there are no universal criteria how to determine the genre a particular story belongs to, because some people in the audience disagreed over which genre certain books belonged to.)
Two of Sharon's closest friends, authors Kay Kenyon and Louise Marley, ask her about her life and her work. How does she manage to find time for writing while having a full time job? How many "trunk books" she wrote until she got published? Why are mothers so terrible in her books? And many other questions.
Synopsis, according to the ArmadilloCon program: You need a religious society for your work, but you have no idea where to begin and how complex you should make it. Should you have a couple of pages written down? Or should you make another book that describes the entire pantheon and religious rites?
Pictures from Armadillocon 2004 are available in my photo gallery.
Synopsis, according to the ArmadilloCon program: Myths as springboard for worlds and plot ideas in fantasy and science fiction. Mythic elements in science fiction. The Hero's Journey reconsidered. This panel explores myth as inspiration and diagnostic.
My summary: How do the writers on the panel use myth in their own work? If a story is inspired by myth, is it necessarily predictable? Is that a bad thing, or is predictability exactly what SF readers want?... Do the limitations in our understanding of how the modern world works give rise to new myths? For example, does average person's erroneous understanding of how the Internet works morphs into a myth? Or does science leave no room for myth? What would it take for a myth to arise in our "rational" times?
There was one other panelist that wasn't listed in the program. I think it may have been Mikal Trimm.