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Programming, speculative fiction, science, technology
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science fiction

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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.

The Coming Singularity And What It Means To Me: an ArmadilloCon 2003 panel

Participants: Daniel Abraham, Jess Nevins, Vernor Vinge, Sage Walker (Moderator), Don Webb

Topic, according to the convention program: Our panel looks for the coming breakthrough in technology that changes everything.

For another debate on Singularity, see my blog post from the SXSW 2011 Singularity panel with Doug Lenat, Michael Vassar, and Natasha Vita-More.