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Programming, speculative fiction, science, technology
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Costuming 101: a panel at Linucon 2004

EX000045 The Tron Guy up close

Synopsis from Linucon program book: Wanting to build a costume? Grab a seat for some tips and tricks from those who know.

Panelists: Kim Kofmel, Jay Maynard, Cathy Raymond

My impression. There are several ways you can win a costume award at a masquerade. By making audience laugh, for example. By being original. There is also a fairly self-explanatory "workmanship" category. This panel devoted quite a bit of space to the tips and tricks of how to make a costume, and they managed to be quite entertaining while doing that. Far from being tedious, their discussion was enlivened with all kinds of titillating details from the costume history. The panelists also spoke about the psychology of wearing a costume, and the motivation for making one in the first place. All in all, an interesting panel even for those who, like myself, have only a marginal interest in costuming.

Pictures from Linucon 2004 can be found in my photo gallery.

Read more about The Tron Guy in my blog.

Wil McCarthy on his programmable matter career -- an ApolloCon 2009 Guest of Honor speech

P1050961 Wil McCarthy at ApolloCon 2009 demonstrates a programmable glass that grows reflective under heat

Wil McCarthy, a scientist and science fiction author, was the Guest of Honor at ApolloCon 2009. He gave a talk on the work he's been doing in programmable matter. He started off by showing the audience a piece of clear glass. Then he heated the glass with a hair dryer. An irregularly shaped reflective blob grew on the glass -- the heat turned the glass reflective. This was McCarthy's demonstration of materials he's working on in his startup.

Definitions and discussion of programmable matter can be found elsewhere on the web, and McCarthy did not dwell on the theory, but talked about his work in this area. His practical work in programmable matter developed from his nonfiction book "Hacking Matter", which it turn was born from his fiction. He talked about the events that lead to writing of "Hacking Matter", and how it attracted investors' interest, leading to creation of programmable matter startup. McCarthy talked about his company's journey to discovery of viable commercial applications for these materials, and why he avoids the word "nanotechnology" for marketing this technology to investors. He briefly discussed weapon potential and security issues of programmable matter with the audience. Finally, he talked about balancing his science and writing careers, or rather, impossibility thereof.

Pictures from ApolloCon 2009 are available in my photo gallery.

Read more about ApolloCon 2009 in my blog

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Gregory Benford at Fencon 2008

P1020518 Gregory Benford Keynote at Fencon 2008

Science fiction writer and physics professor Gregory Benford was the Guest of Honor at Fencon 2008. On several occasions during convention he shared his thoughts on topics such as American dominance in the world and its role to play in the technological future. Having been in science fiction fandom for four decades, Benford is proud of American science fiction and fandom influence on the world, which he puts in such blunt terms as "We own the future". At the same time he acknowledges that the future is not all rosy, and that science fiction may be the proverbial canary in the coal mine, signaling of darker times to come. Benford's keynote speech on Saturday was the problems facing the world and what can be done about them. Of those, global climate change was the most significant issue. He assured us that whatever is being done to counter it isn't working, because global warming is typically viewed as a moral problem (excessive consumption), when it needs to be seen as an engineering problem. To that end he proposed an unconventional -- or perhaps little known -- approach. At the end of his speech he spent some time on space travel and overpopulation.

Gregory Benford also appeared in the "Science -- fact or crap?" game at Fencon, where two teams of players competed regarding their knowledge of science facts. Read more about it in my blog.

Editing 101: Self-editing for the Spec Fic Writer: an ApolloCon 2007 panel

CIMG6517 Rosemary Clement-Moore at ApolloCon 2007

Panelists discuss the process of self-editing. And no, we don't mean just chucking it out the window and starting over. How can you honestly and dispassionately proof and edit your writing? Start with the ending and write toward the beginning; kill your darlings; summarize a scene in one sentence. Finally, funny tales from editors' trenches.

Panelists: Rosemary Clement-Moore, Melanie Miller Fletcher, Alexis Glynn Latner, Julia Mandala, Barbara Winter

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Pictures from ApolloCon 2007 are in my photo gallery.

More blog posts from ApolloCon 2007 (in my blog)

More blog posts from other ApolloCons (in my blog)

ArmadilloCon 2009: Stump the Panel

P1070075 Steve Wilson and a robotic squirrel

Panelists at this event are supposed to come up with mundane and science-fictional uses for objects supplied by the audience. They can also use objects they brought themselves. This year's team is C. J. Mills, Steve Wilson, and Chris Roberson. You may never look the same way again at a neti pot, metallic squirrel, or a USB hub.

Cyberpunk after 9/11: ArmadilloCon 2004 panel

Chris Nakashima-Brown and Lawrence Person

Synopsis from ArmadilloCon program book: Why have the cyberpunks abandoned the future? Do William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition" and Bruce Sterling's "The Zenith Angle" evidence a trend? (And don't forget the pre-2001 "Cryptonomicon" of Neal Stephenson and "Zeitgeist" of Sterling) Are they science fiction? What makes them different from more mainstream techno-thrillers? What does it mean for the future of SF?

Panelists: Chris Nakashima-Brown (moderator), Lawrence Person, Kurt Baty

What You Should Have Read This Year: an ArmadilloCon 2006 panel

CIMG3746 Willie Siros and Diana Gill on the What You Should Have Read This Year panel at ArmadilloCon 2006

ArmadilloCon traditionally has a panel "What You Should Have Read This Year". The panelists are usually people who are closely familiar with science fiction, fantasy, or horror genres: most of them are book sellers (like Willie) or editors (like Diana Gill). In this panel they talk about new noteworthy books that they recommend to everybody who likes these genres. This year the panelists were Bill Crider, Willie Siros, Diana Gill, and Zane Melder.

Miscellaneous ArmadilloCon 2003 panels

Some memorable or amusing moments from panels where I didn't take enough notes to yield an article of its own:

Ideas Somebody Should Write a Book About

Looking for an idea? Watch our panelists brainstorm.

Frontiers in Weird Research

What's the latest strange discovery? Our panel talks about the most recent results and odd topics they've seen.

Inventing the Next Frontier

Looking for new ground in speculative fiction, art and science.

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.