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Programming, speculative fiction, science, technology
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Stump the Panel: ArmadilloCon 2008

P1010628 Rhonda Eudaly with a nail file

On "Stump the Panel" the panelists are supposed to come up with mundane and science-fictional uses for objects supplied by the audience. Indeed, in Rhonda Eudaly's, S. Andrew Swann's, and Lou Antonelli's imagination things like a pen, a nail file, and a box of Tictacs become something completely different. Especially the nail file. Rhonda had to restrain her imagination regarding this object, because there were children in the audience. :-)

Here is an article about an older "Stump the Panel" at the ArmadilloCon 2006, featuring James P. Hogan's inimitable wit.

Pictures from ArmadilloCon 2008 are available in my photo gallery.

Creating a Believable Religious Society: an ArmadilloCon 2004 panel

Panelists: C. J. Mills (moderator), Alexis Glynn Latner, Louise Marley, Wendy Wheeler, Elizabeth Moon, Uncle River

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.

Using Myth and Storytelling: an ArmadilloCon 2004 panel

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?

Panelists: Kay Kenyon (moderator), Louise Marley, Neal Barrett Jr., Jayme Lynn Blaschke

There was one other panelist that wasn't listed in the program. I think it may have been Mikal Trimm.

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.