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Programming, speculative fiction, science, technology
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Interactive Fantasy World Building: Armadillocon 2004 panel

P518 Cat Conrad and his hemomancy drawing on the worldbuilding planet at ArmadilloCon 2004

The official summary "Our panelists pull out all their knowledge and create a world before your very eyes, with assistance from R. Cat Conrad on the white board." as it turned out, misrepresented the format of the panel.

Panelists: Gloria Oliver (moderator), Mark Finn, Rie Sheridan, Caroline Spector, Rachel Caine, R. Cat Conrad

Mark Finn. I thought we were going to have to build a world.

A panelist. No, no, make them work!

So it was the audience that built the fantasy world, not the panelists. The latter provided feedback in a form of wisecracks (Mark Finn), by coaxing the audience to think through the issues involved in building a fantasy world (Gloria Oliver) and seek out plot devices that would turn the raw fantasy product into an actual story material (Caroline Spector).

One thing the audience didn't need was to be prodded into activity. The topic was selected cleverly or fortuitously enough to send the audience's imagination into overdrive.

If you want to know what story ideas and themes the audience came up with without reading their entire thought process, click here for the summary.

Pictures from Armadillocon 2004 are available in my photo gallery.

Stump the Panel: an ArmadilloCon 2006 panel

CIMG3762 Kurt Baty with a swiss tool

Summary: The panelists are supposed to make up a science-fictional or a fantasy use for a random object. The objects are chosen by the audience. Some of them are a bit mysterious: their everyday function is not apparent.

Panelists: Bradley Denton, Scott Bobo (moderator), Jessica Reisman, Kurt Baty, James P. Hogan

Con disaster stories: an ArmadilloCon 2007 panel

CIMG6820 Janice Gelb and Patty Wells, and barbeque that they shared with the audience at Con Disaster Stories panel

The program book said: "Want to hear about the best disasters in the fandom world?" Indeed, some of the fiascos, or merely weird stories, mentioned in this panel, were real pearls.

They swooned over Brad, even though he wasn't Pitt

To stir things up, put a dyslexic in charge of printing the program

Sprinklers are not a sex toy

Panelists: Janice Gelb, Patty Wells, Stephen Boucher, Brad Denton, Lynn Ward

Pictures from ArmadilloCon 2007 can be found in my photo gallery.

Authors and the fans who love them: maybe a little too much: an ArmadilloCon 2007 panel

Description in the program book: Ever wonder why your favorite author looks a little scared when they see you? The panelists will talk about the tale-tell signs of a stalker and tell amusing stories about what has happened to them in the past. (For instance, did they call you at home during a baseball game?))

Since the stories told on this panel were somewhat personal in nature, the panelists' names were omitted.

Tips on how to properly stalk a writer

Unconventional gestures of admiration

A writer who lied to a priest

Guests Of Honor with unusual demands

John Scalzi's Guest of Honor interview: ArmadilloCon 2008

John Scalzi's interview took a different format than the usual Guest of Honor interview. There was no interviewer; Scalzi paced back and forth, shooting the breeze with the audience. He probably didn't say anything one wouldn't find on his blog. It's how he said those things that made him so entertaining. He acted out various stories from his life as little skits, from a Hugo winner's attitude to getting to know 16-year-old girls. He also commented on Neal Stephenson, openly admitted to stealing from other authors, and talked about why he could not afford to be as polemical in "Old Man's War" as Heinlein was in "Starship Troopers". Finally, he revealed an unexpected fact about himself.

The pictures from ArmadilloCon 2008 can be found in my photo gallery.

Create a World: an ArmadilloCon 2007 panel

Panelists Alexis Glynn Latner*, Samantha Henderson, Rachel Caine, R. Cat Conrad, Deborah Chester, James Stoddard, Mikal Trimm

Every ArmadilloCon has a world-building panel, where the panelists and the audience "create" a science-fictional or fantasy world by collective brainstorming. Artist R. Cat Conrad often participates by drawing scenes from this world on a whiteboard.

For starters, the panelists and the audience decide by voting: are they building a science fiction or a fantasy world? The audience is almost equally split between the two, but, but science fiction prevails by a small margin.

To keep the scope of the task manageable, we'll focus on one city in this world we are building. The city is half-submerged in water. Or it may be fully submerged and exist under a dome of a force field. What kind of inhabitants will it have? What kind of conflicts will arise in this society? They may arise from the different species' fight for dominance, or natural cataclysms. What kind of religion will they have, and what part will it play in the conflict? What myths will this society tell itself? And finally, some silly touches.

More pictures from ArmadilloCon 2007 can be found in my photo gallery.

Building the Perfect Universe: an ArmadilloCon 2006 panel

CIMG3726 Julie Czerneda and James P. Hogan

Every ArmadilloCon has a world-building panel. It's one of those panels that can be done a million times and still remain fresh. With different panelists it can be very different each time. This time the panelists were James P. Hogan, Elizabeth Moon, Julie Czerneda, Paul Benjamin, and Mikal Trimm.

The world creation process was anything but logical. It was based on loose associations and wordplay. It was 10 pm, and anything more rigorous may not have been fun.

ArmadilloCon 2008 writers' workshop: pros' advice and a story construction game

P1010528 Don Webb, Julie Kenner, and Kimberly Frost

The writers' workshop started with advice panels on writing. Some of the advice the pros gave was debunking common writing myths, so in a way it was metaadvice. Sheila Williams, the editor guest of honor, shared some good, compelling pieces of wisdom. It's all the more valuable coming from the mouth of the Asimov's editor.

Then Don Webb conducts an audience participation game. He and the audience collaboratively construct outlines for two genre stories: an immuno-defficient woman in a bubble encounters a giant germ (horror) and a little slave boy in the 19th century American south meets aliens (science fiction). For this, the audience needs to decide: the story's genre (SF, F or H), who is the protagonist, where or when the story is taking place, and, most importantly, what is the driving force for the story. If it's horror, what is the protagonist afraid of? If they are aliens, what do they want?

After the critique sessions, ArmadilloCon guest of honor John Scalzi gave a closing speech for the workshop students on the power of suck.

The pictures from the writing workshop and the rest of ArmadilloCon 2008 can be found on my web site.

Building An Alien Society From The Ground Up: ArmadilloCon 2003 panel

Participants: Carol Berg (Moderator), Deborah Chester, Jane Lindskold, Elizabeth Moon, Cary Osbourne, Vernor Vinge

Topic, according to the convention program: A major challenge to science fiction writers is creating believable aliens. Our panelists will give insight into their own creative processes in tackling this task.

Where do they start building an alien society? (Do they answer questionaires about alien societies? :-) What do SF writers fail to consider when they are creating alien societies? What are the ways writers can communicate their alien cultures to their readers, without doing an info dump?

Pictures from ArmadilloCon 2003 can be found in my photo gallery.

The Future of Computers in Fiction and Reality: ArmadilloCon 2003 panel

Participants: Kurt Baty, Tom Becker (Moderator), Alexis Glynn Latner, Bruce Sterling, Vernor Vinge

Topic, according to the convention program: We just thought it would be cool to have this group discuss future possibilities.

What was said on the panel: Vernor Vinge found irony in the panel's "weaselly" title; are there technical errors in Vernor Vinge's works? When fans find excuses for the writer's technical errors; what are some of the most interesting recent computer-themed SF books? theological value of ubiquitous computing.

Images from ArmadilloCon 2003 can be found in my photo gallery.