I may write Part 3 tonight, but it won't be posted until I get home tomorrow. Internet is pay-per-24-hour period, and I can't justify spending another ten bucks on it for the two seconds I'll probably be awake. ;-)
The Lighter Side of Death (Jason Sanford, Esther Friesner, Laurel Ann Hill): Discussion of death as a character in funny fantasy. Of course, you have to get the obvious example out of the way - Terry Pratchett's Death. There was also discussion of Dead Like Me (yay!) and, wonder of wonders, Craig Shaw Gardner's "Disagreement with Death." I made a bit of an idiot out of myself when Hill asked if anyone had read it because I can *never* find *anyone* who has read those books and they, probably more than anything else (Douglas Adams included) shaped my idea of humor in spec-fic.
Anyhow, things discussed were the inversion of expectation, the fact that people in tough life-or-death situations often use humor to survive, and the fact that real world deaths are - horrible as we feel to laugh at them - sometimes just plain funny. I got two distinct idea sparks from this panel ... they're not complete stories, but they'll go in my files and I might be ready to take a break and write one in December.
Authors and Ideas (L.E. Modesitt, Tim Powers, S.M. Stirling, Jason Sanford, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ellen Kushner (panel-crasher)): I approached this panel with trepidation. I honestly expected to disagree with what they would say. Instead, I got a wonderful affirmation of the priority of story and the fact that the beliefs authors most commonly express in their works are the ones they don't even realize they hold. The authors touched upon the challenge of creating characters who hold beliefs the author doesn't share and the potential for fantasy to erode confirmation bias because it addresses situations in a different order.
Personal example: The world of Butterfly's Poison was consciously designed as a Renaissance setting, and one of the things I did include was slavery. I deliberately didn't want all my characters to express progressive attitudes about it because it jarred with the setting - basically substituting modernity for authenticity. (One character does free his slave and she's basically his willing bodyguard / confidante, but the other chars definitely think it's a little weird.)
Later, I tried to convert the setting into an RPG. I used a group of slaves who crash-landed on an island as my premise. I got one player who wanted to play someone whose main goal was to rid the world of slavery, which I emphatically did not want. It was never designed to be something to be defeated in the world. Yet I'd never say that I support slavery in any way, shape or form. I just feel there are inequities in the world that you can't solve, and they can be mentioned in a story without diminishing the final victory.
... which I guess illustrates a deeply held belief of its own, as I think about it.
Okay, this has been more about me than the panels - sorry! Wish me luck with the reading.