Thursday, August 28, 2014

Heterosexuals and Virgins

I've recently read two books by an author named Hanne Blank, STRAIGHT: THE SURPRISINGLY SHORT HISTORY OF HETEROSEXUALITY and an earlier work, VIRGIN: THE UNTOUCHED STORY, which offer lots of fascinating information and provocative questions for writers working on alien romance. These books defamiliarize and call into question two concepts that most of us probably take for granted as obvious. STRAIGHT highlights the fact that the term "heterosexual" was invented in the nineteenth century simultaneously with "homosexual." Human beings had been erotically involved with people of the same or opposite sex from time immemorial, but the idea of "sexual orientation" as a fixed "identity" didn't exist. Ironically, the invention of the paired terms "heterosexual" and "homosexual" was meant to conceptualize both as equally legitimate rather than privileging opposite-sex relationships as the default "normal." VIRGIN surveys social, medical, biological, and religious beliefs and customs surrounding virginity throughout history. Hanne Blank discusses how unstable the nature of "virginity" is. If a virgin means someone who has never engaged in sexual activity, how do we define sexual activity? If it means a woman with an intact hymen, that definition overlooks the fact that many women don't approach their first sexual encounters with intact hymens, and some don't bleed or suffer pain at the "loss" of virginity. (One interesting element of medical history documented in this book that I wasn't aware of—the hymen wasn't even known to exist until a few hundred years ago.)

The common factor between these two books is that both heterosexuality and virginity are treated as concepts, not concrete biological facts.

If we eventually meet aliens with different reproductive biology from ours, these concepts might not apply to them. Sexual orientation would mean nothing to hermaphrodites or to the inhabitants of the planet in Le Guin's THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, who are neuter most of the time but randomly become either male or female once a month. Species with more than two sexes, if they have sexual taboos at all, would focus on different behavior patterns from those we label heterosexual or homosexual. Virginity would mean nothing to a parthenogenetic species whose members are born pregnant like Tribbles (that's not impossible; some aphids reproduce this way). Nor would virginity have much application to an intelligent bee-like race, made up mostly of sterile workers and one queen who devotes her entire life to producing offspring. As for species that reproduce by budding or fission, of course they wouldn't fit into our categories of sexuality at all.

The protagonist of Theodore Sturgeon's novel VENUS PLUS X is transported to a future utopia. He admires this civilization's peace, prosperity, and advanced technology. After the initial shock, he accepts the fact that the people are hermaphrodites. Indeed, the absence of gender roles and sexual tension seems vital to the tranquility of their society. Near the end of the book, though, he faces the revelation that members of this mutant human race aren't born hermaphroditic. Surgical and chemical treatments in infancy transform them into that condition. Instantly the protagonist's reaction shifts from admiration to sickened horror. The discovery that their reproductive biology is "artificial" rather than "natural" makes all the difference. Why? After all, this procedure has made their utopian society possible. Like most of Sturgeon's work, a deeply thought-provoking story.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Social Networking Is Not A Promotional Tool - Part 2 Comparing Services by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Social Networking Is Not A Promotional Tool
Part 2
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Comparing Services  

Here is Part One on Social Networking

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/04/social-networking-is-not-advertising.html

A few months ago, someone on a Facebook Group of Screenwriters (serious beginning professionals with accomplishments to their names) asked what use TWITTER might be, and how to work with Twitter. 

A whole lot of people on the group had experiences with Twitter to relate and opinions about how effective the time spent on Twitter might be, plus hints and clues about how to get the most screenwriting info out of Twitter.

I tossed in a couple of answers, and someone tossed a question to me: "What is Google Plus?" 

Oh, boy, how this world of social networking is exploding so fast! 

Even those working hard to sell screenplays don't know what's happening in social media, even though it is reported on TV often and in depth!

I've been on Google+ since it was by Google's invitation only. 

So I put a link to my G+ page
https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JacquelineLichtenberg/posts

And my twitter:
https://twitter.com/JLichtenberg

And the questioner went and looked at it and noted some differences from the way Facebook presents information about people. And I answered that.

So the person who asked me looked up the stats and commented: the stats reveal Gplus has 300MM users compared to FB 1.2 BB   AND FB users spend 6 hrs a week or month vs Gplus 7 minutes...

That's about true.  G+ is much FASTER to use, somehow.  You get more done in 7 minutes than in an hour on Facebook.

My opinion, as you all know, is pro-Twitter.  I follow many video producers, actors, writers, directors, and production companies, Indie film promoters, just a lot of people in The Industry and the Indie segment of the film industry. 

But the Sime~Gen fans have created a Group on Facebook, so I also spend a lot of time with Facebook as well as Google Plus.

Here's the explanation of the comparison I wrote for the Screenwriter's Group on Facebook.

-----------QUOTE-----
I don't think it's worth while to compare Google+ to FB.  Both are just tools.  Your reward will come from your need for that tool and your ability to employ that tool to accomplish your purposes. 

One neat thing about G+ is that it can be set to use the same login as you use for your blogger.com blogs, for your gmail and other google tools.  And as with FB you can use that google login on other sites.  That neat thing is it's main drawback.  Lots of exposure to things you'd rather not be exposed to.  But for a professional, it can be worth the risk.

Many people I know are on both G+ and FB and cruise through those and several other social sites at whim.  Both are just TOOLS -- how rewarding the experience is depends on who you know not what you know. 

As a professional writer, I go where the people who want to talk to me are -- it is my responsibility to make the effort to accommodate the habits and preferences of my customers, without regard for my own. 

There are more people on FB, but G+ lets you connect easier with people you don't know but who want to know you. 

In socializing, it's more about quality than quantity, so the fact that FB is bigger is why I'm here and why my fans are gathering on the SimeGen Group here.  The fact that there are large numbers of writers on G+ is why I'm there.  Also there are lots more image-oriented people on G+ and writers are always evaluating images for cover potential.

G+ has been handling images better, but FB has caught up during their launch of more advertising in your stream.  FB interfaces with lots of other social media products so you can aggregate posts by making those connections.  Post an item on your tumblr blog and set tumblr to post that item on FB, Twitter, etc -- but G+ won't allow that cross-posting (yet.) so posting to G+ is a separate operation.  That's a huge drawback.  Also my blogger blog auto-posts itself on FB. 

My point here is that you don't choose ONE or THE OTHER -- you establish a core presence where it's convenient for you, then connect to all the other networks where your own customers tend to hang out with their friends.  Your objective is to do the most connecting with the least time/effort on your part as possible.  Efficiency is the watchword in social-media.

FB limits the number of friends you can have (outside of your "Page" as a celebrity one-way communication).  G+ has no such tiny limit, which makes it valuable to me.  On FB I have just over 1K connections, but on G+ in half the time I have acquired 7K followers.  I have about 2200 followers on Twitter.  But as with FB only a few dozen actually TALK BACK when I say something.  I treasure those commentators because they really think!  

Both G+ and FB allow for Groups and Communities where you can meet and talk to people who aren't connected to your stream and don't see your general posts.  Each community on G+ has its own rules (just like FB) and a focused interest.  The NaNoWriMo folks are huge on G+ and they are a kick and a half! 

I suspect my problem is that I just love PEOPLE -- lots of them all talking to each other.  I sit back and marvel at the rich harvest of story-ideas! 
------END QUOTE---

So my advice to people who want to use social media to promote their work is don't do that.

Use social media as a source of your work, not a destination.

Then people who want to talk to you will appear.  You will get to say what's dear to your heart, and they will run off and repeat that while pointing their friends at your work.

Draw your story ideas from the subjects, ideas and attitudes bandied about among your primary audience, then tell them you have this new novel or whatever available in such a way that it's clear you understood what they meant. 

Don't tell them you took their ideas (which you didn't, but that's hard to explain).  Tell them their ideas.  They will recognize their own ideas, and run around espousing this ultra-clear statement of their own ideas by someone they barely know -- "I couldn't have said it better myself."

Even more, when you do it this way -- your readers will see confirmation and maybe even vindication in your restatement of their ideas because you can utilize SHOW DON'T TELL as the mechanism for explaining these very abstract matters.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Humorous Horror?

Innsmouth Free Press (innsmouthfreepress.com) recently blogged about a comic called ARCANE SECRETS, which parodies the Cthulhu Mythos. The blogger discussed humorous Lovecraftian fiction in general and asked whether it is possible to write funny Mythos fiction that isn't parody. Which raises the larger question: Can humorous horror exist at all? Many critics maintain that it can't, because the two emotions inherent in those genres are incompatible.

The Horror Writers Association seems to think otherwise, because they've published three volumes of BLOOD LITE anthologies filled with stories meant to combine humor and horror. I'm not sure they demonstrate the possibility of crossing the two, though. Parodies, funny TV series such as THE ADDAMS FAMILY and THE MUNSTERS, and movies such as LOVE AT FIRST BITE and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, in my opinion, don't qualify as horror. They use horror tropes in the service of humor. Likewise, paranormal romances use traditional horror tropes (e.g., vampires, werewolves) in a context of romance; they don't fit on the horror shelves. I tend to think the emotions of fear and humor are in fact too incompatible for a reader to react with both to the same scene at the same moment. They can alternate—you can have a scary story with moments of comic relief, like the comic relief in a Shakespeare tragedy—but not coexist simultaneously. Can anyone come up with a counter-example? A piece of fiction that chills the blood and provokes laughs at the same instant?

Considering the question from a different angle, it's also true that there's often a thin boundary between the two modes, requiring only a tiny shift in perspective to cross. GILLIGAN'S ISLAND and LOST are funny and terrifying versions of the same story. In the world of BEWITCHED, Darren's "hilarious" magical ordeals (frequent, unpredictable transformations, even being temporarily annihilated by his father-in-law), with a change in the tone and atmosphere of the narrative, could easily become surrealistic horror. Genre expectations make the difference. Framing a story as comedy assures the audience that no permanent harm can befall the characters, allowing us to laugh at events that would otherwise scare us.

I've written a couple of short Lovecraftian erotic romances intended to be funny, "Tentacles of Love" and its sequel, "Weird Wedding Guest." Despite the use of Cthulhu Mythos tropes in these stories, I don't classify them as horror. They can be found here:

Ellora's Cave

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reviews 9: Sex, Politics and Heroism

Reviews 9:
Sex, Politics and Heroism 
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Heroism is a topic that fascinates me.  It is the core of the "character arc" technique that is so emphatically insisted upon by film and TV producers.

Heroism is just one possible manifestation of a "character arc" exactly as "romance" is just one manifestation of Relationship as a plot-driver.

These are all complex subjects with many "moving parts" so we've been discussing the components of Sex, Politics and Heroism as individual variables a writer can learn to handle, one at a time, as if they were in fact separate components of story.

We've done a series on Dialogue and on Character, as well as on Theme-Character Integration.  Here are some links to these prior discussions:

Dialogue
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/10/dialogue-parts-1-4-listed.html
which now lists 8 posts on dialogue

Character
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/07/index-to-theme-character-integration.html

Part 7 of Theme-Character Integration is followed by Strong Character Defined Part 2
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/08/strong-character-defined-part-2.html

This can get very abstract if you are trying to master a skill.  What goes on inside your head when a story first bursts into your mind is the obverse of what goes on inside your head when you READ a story written by someone else.

Encoding and Decoding are two processes which which have to have a common source (the code itself).  The code that story tellers have used since the beginning of language is very difficult to discern and to master because we learn it so very young -- maybe age 3 or 4. 

We learn to DECODE stories told to us, to enter the story, become the character, triumph over the bad guys and attain our goal. 

We learn how stories we love somehow reflect (but don't represent or replicate) our actual reality.  We learn the difference between fantasy and reality, usually without being able to articulate that difference (except perhaps as "that's ridiculous" or "you've been watching too many cop shows."

We can tell when someone isn't living in "reality" -- at least not the same reality we live in.  Their motives for action and assumptions behind decisions just don't match up with our own -- so they live in a fantasy world of their own. 

But ENCODING our own perception of reality into a story that others would be able to DECODE into their personal fantasy-realities is a hard-learned skill for most people.

True, some take to story-telling like a duckling takes to water.  But most professional writers have to learn how to reverse the story in their heads into something another person can decode.

Learning that common-code that we all use with such facility is difficult because most people will assert that no such code exists.  It is embedded deep beneath the level of mind where we keep our "culture."  It's unconscious.

Bottom line: that CODE itself is our ART.

It is at this level that we personalize our lives, our world, and our destiny. 

We share so much yet no two of us are alike.

You want to start an argument?  Bring up Politics -- especially this time of year.

Right now, we are seeing Sex, Politics and Heroism writ large all over the news, so it is a grand time to launch into a study of how our everyday reality relates to the art of fiction-writing. 

Code is a symbolic representation of something. In the case of fiction, the something we are encoding so others can enjoy decoding is THE NEWS.

Understanding the news as a form of entertainment, of fantasy, of a world that is not-here, not-mine, a world to enter via the symbolism of video news clips, you can encode those Events in such a way that your readers can decode them and experience delight at a sudden recognition of something they have seen in the news.

This makes reading a novel by you into a treasure hunt.

What journalists call "the narrative" is the tissue of connections among news items that may occur months apart to create another installment in a story.  Follow "the narrative" to find the deep motives, the cultural assumptions, behind the choices of what is "important" (a clue to the mystery) and what is not important.  Important installments advance the narrative, unfold the story, penetrate the mystery, and reveal that treasured diamond. 

This is true of TV News, Magazine news, blogger-news, and novels.

I have 3 authors to discuss today.  I've pointed you to these 3 many times in this blog. 

These are long-running series of novels.  When you notice an illustration of this "ripped from the headlines" technique in such a long-running series, you know that the series is successful, and can assess the viability of News Headlines as source material for themes, characters, and even plots. 

These 3 installments encode our USA election process, making pithy observations about politics, politicians, and qualities of character (especially heroic qualities that certain heroic women find irresistibly sexy) that are sparkling diamonds hidden deep in the code. 

The most political of these sex/heroism examples is Gini Koch's ALIEN COLLECTIVE



It is #9 in this series, released in May, with #10 due out in September 2014.
The ALIEN series straddles the line between Fantasy and Science Fiction where the Aliens (a huge variety of them) has powers usually attributed to Mages etc in Fantasy.

The series focuses on an Alien male, raised in a secret enclave on Earth, and a human female who become allies and then lovers while fighting for their lives and the existence of Earth's civilzation.  Somewhere in there, they marry and have a child, but alien science changes genetics, and the results are "unpredictable."

Meanwhile, the battle becomes public (amidst huge destruction), and the Aliens attain a kind of Diplomatic status within the USA.  By book 9, the aliens have a Representative in Congress -- and he is being pressed to run for Vice President, even though the Aliens still have a lot of secrets humans wouldn't like.

These novels are practically back-to-back battle scenes, combat scenes, and run-for-your-life scenes, all of which are generated by complex, mysterious, hidden enemies with convoluted conspiracies.  In other words, ripped from the headlines.

Read ALIEN COLLECTIVE during this current election. 

C. J. Cherryh is on Facebook and posts items about current politics, cultural choices, and moral dilemmas.  I KNOW she pays attention to the play of headlines, but digs deeper into the under-currents driving those headlines. 

She has distilled a wide variety of today's World Political Scene -- complete with factions within factions, personality driven "movements" and dynastic considerations fraught with tribal loyalties into the 15th novel in the FOREIGNER series (one of my all-time favorite C. J. Cherryh series.)




FOREIGNER is structured as a series of trilogies, and #15 thus finishes the 5th trilogy, setting up the action for yet another trilogy. It is one ongoing story about one particular character (Bren the translator) and all the humans and native-aliens and aliens-from-another-star that he tries to keep communicating smoothly.

The thematic material is woven from the idea that if we could just communicate, we wouldn't shoot each other so much, maybe. 

In this installment, Bren has to juggle a young alien's desire to have his human friends attend his alien birthday celebration and the adult alien and human political shifts in alliances.  This young alien boy is the son and heir of the ruler of the alien world, and among these aliens (the Atevi) politics is basically done by assassination.

As on Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover world, one must make public and legal declaration of intent to assassinate.  But among the Atevi, civilization rests on the Assassin's Guild and its integrity, for the Assassins both authorize assassinations of leaders and carry out both the legal judgement of guilt and the killing itself.

That is a lot of power for one organization, and it clearly wouldn't work well for humans.

Thing is, maybe because of human presence on the alien's world, the ancient method of trusting the Assassins Guild isn't working.

As with Gini Koch's intricate plots-within-plots, infiltrations, spies, turncoats, etc., the Atevi political world is shuddering under the impact of a traitor in a position of power within the Assassin's Guild.  The Guild is not supposed to have a political agenda.  This lone fellow has been using the Guild's unique power to ram through his personal, anti-human agenda for decades and it is now coming to light.

Hidden agendas "coming to light" (go read up on Saturn transiting the MC of a person's natal chart, and the various transits of Pluto) is a theme etched in high relief in both the ALIEN series and the FOREIGNER series. 

FOREIGNER has less sex, but it is a factor.  Both use procreation and inheretance more than simple sexual attraction to tell the larger story.  Ancestry (and royalty) matters in both these series.  That gives them a Fantasy flavor laced through the serious science.

Now we come to the 26th novel in Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Historical Vampire epic, The Count Saint-Germain, titled NIGHT PILGRIMS



This one is set in 13th Century Egypt when Christian pilgrims sought holy spots in remote locations in hopes of healing miracles, or sometimes as penance assigned by clergy for spiritual wrong-doing (or sometimes political mus-calculations).

Yes, a historical vampire novel about political calculations. 

The Count travels with a group of such pilgrims.  It is a story of the unraveling and ferreting out of the past, the secrets, the enemies, and the weaknesses of character in each of the travelers.  Ambushes, ordinary hazards, and the peculiar difficulties of being a Vampire in a sun-drenched landscape spice up the action, which is mostly psychological.

These novels are rich and deep in historical FACT (well, maybe not vampire-facts), but succeed as stories because of the pithy character studies.  The entire series is a bit short on plot -- there isn't that much action -- but the portrayal of the Vampire who is essentially immortal (thousands of years old) seems to me to be the most accurate in literature to date. 

The "plot" fails because St. Germain does not "arc" as a character -- he doesn't change as a result of his experiences.  He acts, yes, often in hand-to-hand combat, in heroic deeds, in taking extraordinary risks for the sake of human strangers, in deep understanding of humans around him, in every way a Hero would act. 

But he doesn't change as a result of the consequences of his actions. 

He passes through History, and though he may be part of the Historic Record we now possess, though he may in fact have affected that record, he is not affected by it.

In this installment, we travel through the wastelands of Egypt, but unravel and penetrate the tangled Religion-Politics interface of Europe.  These Pilgrims are seeking absolution FROM something.  That something is the diamond, the treasure, the reader can seek and find.

So the St. Germain series is a perfect example of the exception that proves the rule -- Hollywood insists characters must ARC (and so do most audiences).  But here is a character who does not arc, and this is the 26th book in this series -- widely reviewed, widely lauded, much beloved, (especially by romance readers), and thus a very successful series. 

If you feel compelled to write a character who does not arc -- study these novels carefully.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Zombie Apocalypse Camp

Did you know there's a zombie apocalypse training camp in New Jersey?

Zombie Survival Course

It's not entirely fantasy play. In addition to combat against zombie dummy targets, the course also teaches general disaster-related skills such as water purification, first aid, stocking emergency supplies, and assembling a bug-out bag.

The take-away message as I see it? Speculative fiction is becoming more mainstream all the time! Consider how much SF, fantasy, and horror we can find on TV nowadays compared to the scheduled offerings on the three channels we had in the 50s and 60s. Just this past weekend, a series based on one of my favorite books, Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER, debuted on the Starz network. As far as I can tell from the opening episode, it's a winner. Truly we're living in a golden age of TV for genre drama.

Which probably couldn't exist without home video technology (as discussed in EVERYTHING BAD IS GOOD FOR YOU: HOW TODAY'S POPULAR CULTURE IS ACTUALLY MAKING US SMARTER, by Steven Johnson, which I've posted about before). When audiences saw each episode of a series only once, unless they happened to catch a rerun, creators couldn't assume knowledge of past episodes. Shows were designed to be viewed in any order, with story arcs scant or nonexistent and little attention to continuity. With the invention of the VCR, now that fans could re-watch old episodes, they could follow storylines that extended over whole seasons or multiple seasons. TV series could have more complex plots and character development. Writers now have the freedom to create multi-layered stories that reward (and sometimes require) many viewings. GAME OF THRONES could hardly have existed in the era of the original STAR TREK.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dialogue Part 8 Futuristic and Alien Dialogue by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Dialogue Part 8
Futuristic and Alien Dialogue
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in this series on Dialogue -- edited to list 7 previous items on dialogue:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/10/dialogue-parts-1-4-listed.html

A concatenation of incidents focused this Dialogue entry in my mind:

a) I got an app that Bluetooths from a proprietary device to an iPad/iPhone/iPod and produces graphs and stats on the Apple device.  The data can also be "air-printed" (an Apple wi-fi app) if you email the results to yourself, open the email on the iPad or phone and hit air-print (a feature some new printers come with). 

b) I saw an episode of SUITS, mentioned below, with vivid, sterling, incredible off-the-nose-dialogue

c) I saw a TV News item on a new app that's garnered major attention.  I grabbed the app (it's on Apple, Kindle, Android), and began making my own "Magazines" with it.  Then I started a group of Sime~Gen folks collecting more stories for a Magazine I created and titled Sime~Gen Futurology, collecting articles about the harbingers of a massive genetic shift in Earth's biosphere. 

https://flipboard.com/magazines/

d) a while back, I saw an interview with the CEO of Cisco Systems doing a victory lap as his phrase "the Internet of Everything" was becoming accepted by other CEO's of big companies.  And I had seen the thermostat that rats out your settings on the internet to your power company.  (not to mention the NSA)  New refrigerators may have that feature, irrigation systems, everything in your house. 

You can subscribe to our Sime~Gen Futurology Magazine, but right now I've no idea how to do that from the web or how to write a link you can find in-app. 

So of course while trying to figure out how to point people to this magazine, the futurologist in me started wondering what this world of apps will lead to --- Theodore Sturgeon's watchword, "Ask The Next Question."  --- and one idea just leaped out at me while watching Political ads ( a writer never wastes a moment!)

Last week we examined the definition of a "Strong Character" -- which is a common requirement publishers put in market reports. 

Our complaints about politicians boil down to we never seem to get a candidate who actually has the "strong character" his/her speeches present. 

Studying politicians can clue you in to how to create a "strong character" an editor will buy.

But after you've invented a Strong Character, how do you convey to the reader that this character is actually "strong?" 

Well, actions, of course, and the style with which they confront challenges will show-don't-tell their strength. 

Watch the TV Series SUITS (about lawyers doing stare-downs of other lawyers).  It's streaming on AMAZON.  Each of the main, ongoing lawyer characters has a part of their character that is "strong" -- other parts, not so much.  Together they make a team, a law firm.

Roddenberry said that he got the Kirk-Spock-McCoy team by dissecting his own personality into 3 components.  Distilling out clear traits is necessary for good fiction writing. 

A character may have more traits than you show the reader, but what you show has to be a distillation where all the components say the same thing about that character or the "story" won't blend seamlessly with the "plot."  Remember, it's Theme that connects all the components, especially the story and the plot.

Actions are paramount in delineating Character, especially in Science Fiction.

But dialogue is ACTION.  Speech is action.  At a Victorian High Tea, a single word from the right person can destroy another person's social and economic position in life.  Speech is action.

The secret to writing good dialogue is to understand that the only dialogue reported by the writer to the reader is the interchanges that MOVE THE PLOT.

The characters may interact, discuss, chatter, gossip, etc. off-camera for hours and the whole of it can be boiled down to a couple of descriptive phrases.  The "action" picks up when "conflict" generates the dialogue, and that conflict must be the conflict that generates the plot and is resolved in the last scene.  Dialogue that advances the plot and story (simultaneously) toward that conflict-resolution point is the only dialogue that is written out in quotes. 

The exchanges that are written out in quotes are always "Mortal Combat" or "Chess" or some other "Game People Play" where the point of the exchange is to "one-up" or fool the other character, or beguile, or confess, or beseech, etc.  

Who "wins" the exchange is the new data-point that moves the plot.  To keep the pacing on beat, you have no more than 750 words to depict that scene (in a novel -- less in a script).

A scene begins where two characters come together or an Event sparks an exchange.  The scene ends when one or the other leaves the location (exits slamming the door?), or when another character ENTERS that location in the middle of the dialogue, changing the subject.  Sometimes it's a phone call that ends the scene, or it could be an item that comes up on the TV screen that tells them they are wrong about something. 

Scenes are the building blocks of novels and films, each with the same internal structure as the overall novel or film -- narrative hook, plot movement, cliff-hanger.

Now to the futurology.

If you've set your story in the future -- or an alternate present where Aliens Have Landed on Earth (or we run into some on Mars etc) - then you must alter your dialogue STYLE -- the unspoken premises and assumptions behind the words you choose -- so that the style itself evokes "The Future."

The words you choose for your characters to say have both "text" and "subtext" (see the 3 SAVE THE CAT! books by Blake Snyder for subtext.)

The subtext is the assumptions the characters make. 

Your reader gets their good feelings from decoding the subtext.  This is especially true in Mystery.  Your job as writer is to convince your readers that they are smarter than you are and smarter than the (very smart) characters. 

When readers decode a meaning, they believe it.  What you TELL them, they don't believe.  In other words, "subtext" is one of the SHOW DON'T TELL tools.  And it is the make-or-break of your story.

FUTUROLOGY

You have to fake the futurology because we're in the present and so is your reader (for the most part, maybe).  So let's "fake" a future thematic premise for a Strong Character to overcome.

SUPPOSE: this world of "the internet of things" (as Cisco Systems has taken to calling the connections among common household devices) actually works.

In April 2014, a promo from CISCO said this on twitter:
The #InternetofEverything helps @UPS improve delivery experiences to customers: cs.co/60169TtG pic.twitter.com/O9nA1ZmmtP

That article is
https://blogs.cisco.com/ioe/my-internetofeverything-perspective-driving-smarter-with-technology-and-ups
They're using RFID chips on packages etc. to "track" "stuff."  And now they're upping their game, interfacing with recipients and making everything ever so much more "convenient."  The article doesn't mention anything about privacy.  Imagine what enemies might do with this info about what you get, when, and where.

That tweet was posted the day a Union turned down part of a contract with UPS. 

Liar? Think about it.  Touting all the upside -- never mentioning the downside.

SUPPOSE: all this data-collection (from NSA spying on telephone calls all the way through electronic medical records) ends up succeeding in recording every traffic light you pass, every driving habit, every drink at a bar on the way home, every job task completed, every bit of clothing you buy, every morsel of food passing your lips, etc etc -- suppose EVERYTHING is a matter of record.

SUPPOSE: all these records are no longer considered private.

SUPPOSE: we make a law inserting recording devices all over Washington so no politician can so much as go to the rest room without every word spoken being recorded. (OK, maybe they'll leave out images?)

SUPPOSE: this means nobody can get away with a lie any more because on the TV News Screen beside the video clip of the politician's speech is a running counter-point of every single thing that politician did or said on that topic.  No more smoke-filled-back-room deals.  No more theatrical performances before cameras at Hearings after writing the script in a smoke-filled-back-room (ok maybe they'll leave out the smoke for political correctness?)

Total transparency.

Can Romance, even Alien Romance, coalesce without the gossamer veils of half-truths and uncertainty?  Looking into such a theme, a writer of Alien Romance might address the real nature of Romance itself.

What would it take to destroy humanity's ability to drift into Romance, to fall into Love?

SUPPOSE: all the politician's constituency lived lives just as recorded and transparent.

NO TV COMMERCIAL COULD EVER LIE TO YOU AGAIN -- right there on the screen is the clear, concrete (un-hackable) (unalterable) evidence of the real-reality.

You really wouldn't be "entitled" to your own facts. Subjective conclusions would still differ, but the reasons for the difference would be changed forever.

SUPPOSE: people just got out of the habit of lying at the age of say, 3 or 4.  Any time you make an honest mistake your "Google Glass" wearable appliance blasts out the correction for everyone around you to see, hear, and comprehend.  You get used to it, and nobody remembers anything being any different. 

NOW WHAT?

Well, humans being human, the be-all-and-end-all of existence would be to hack the system and gain control over everyone.

But what if our current civilization met up with Aliens who lived in a "recorded world" like that describes?

Are we toast?  Or are they? 

Power, the use and abuse thereof, is fodder for CONFLICT which is the essence of STORY (and plot).

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Fight Over The Right To Establish E-Book Prices


Few writers are unaware that there is a debate raging about the price of e-books. Some would say that a retailer may sell any item (that it has negotiated the right to sell) for any price it pleases...

... as long as it pays the copyright holder (or copyright owner) the price it agreed to pay the copyright holder (or copyright owner) for the privilege of acting as middleman.

The crux of Amazon's rant about fighting for lower, "more affordale" e-book prices cannot be about the price it charges to readers. It must be about the price it PAYS to copyright owners and copyright holders.

Also (and I will get to this later), Hachette ought to be giving Amazon the same price per ebook that it gives to a lending library, because when a copyright owner "sells" one ebook to Amazon, Amazon then assumes the right to lend additional copies.

Under copyright law, Hachette and any other copyright holder has an absolute right to set whatever price makes sense to Hachette for any given work it holds.

It is for Hachette to calculate the cost of acquiring, editing, proofing, publishing, distributing, and marketing any title in a bundle of formats. Hachette has no duty to sell at a loss or to subsidize another publisher (Amazon) or manufacturer of devices (Amazon) or retailer (Amazon) or for-profit subscription service (Amazon) or marketplace for used products (Amazon).

Nor does Hachette or any other copyright holder or copyright owner  have to give away any rights granted under the law.

BITLAW on the Distribution part of copyright protections for copyright holders. (Mostly with regard to physical products, rather than ebooks. As noted, First Sale Doctrine does not apply to digital content.... which is what ebooks are.)

The wording about "rental", "lease" and "lending" is of interest, given KU and Lending Enabled. Copyright owner have the exclusive rights to agree or not to agree to renting, leasing and lending and subscription models.

http://www.bitlaw.com/copyright/scope.html
Distribution:
The distribution right grants to the copyright holder the exclusive right to make a work available to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending. This right allows the copyright holder to prevent the distribution of unauthorized copies of a work. In addition, the right allows the copyright holder to control the first distribution of a particular authorized copy. However, the distribution right is limited by the "first sale doctrine", which states that after the first sale or distribution of a copy, the copyright holder can no longer control what happens to that copy. Thus, after a book has been purchased at a book store (the first sale of a copy), the copyright holder has no say over how that copy is further distributed. Thus, the book could be rented or resold without the permission of the copyright holder.

Congress has enacted several limitations to the first sale doctrine, including a prohibition on the rental of software and phonorecords.

When Amazon talks about the price of ebooks, commentators should not overlook the fact that for many ebooks, when Amazon facilitates a "sale" (really a license to read), it often also acquires the right to make multiple additional copies available for LENDING by the reader who paid Amazon, also for backup, also for account sharing as noted in the Engelin revelations

 http://epubor.com/share-kindle-fire-books-with-friends.html#M2

http://dearauthor.com/ebooks/sharing-a-kindle-account-with-a-friend/


And http://dearauthor.com/ebooks/how-to-share-an-ebook-without-stripping-the-drm/

"it was revealed that up to six Kindles could share one account. The Kindles did not need to be in the same household or owned by the same person. Thus, according to Amazon’s interpretation of the Kindle terms of service, up to six Kindles can share one account and the digital copies attached to that one account."
Also http://www.amazon.com/forum/kindle?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1D7SY3BVSESG&cdThread=Tx3CY8UVEMY3HUU "The problem comes with the number of devices a book can be on at one time. Most books you can put on 6 devices at a time, if you have more than 6 people in the club with Kindles then you will have a problem."

Also this http://kindleworld.blogspot.com/2010/01/sharing-kindle-books-on-one-account.html.

My point is, when Hachette negotiates a deal with Amazon, it's more like licensing an ebook to a lending library than selling one product at a discount or wholesale price for the retailer to sell on once.

Nowhere in Amazon's rant is this acknowledged. Amazon ought in my opinion to be paying Hachette at least $14.99 for the right to distribute six or more copies for every one "sold" to a Kindle reader.
Possibly the existence of lending and account sharing may also throw off the rationale for pricing in Amazon's "Dear KDP author" letter.


CORNELL is also worth quoting.
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/106
Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:
(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;
(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
Here's an interesting side note regarding copyright infringement;
(e) Involuntary Transfer. — When an individual author's ownership of a copyright, or of any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, has not previously been transferred voluntarily by that individual author, no action by any governmental body or other official or organization purporting to seize, expropriate, transfer, or exercise rights of ownership with respect to the copyright, or any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, shall be given effect under this title, except as provided under title 11.2

Here we get to the matter of content (ebooks)

§ 202 . Ownership of copyright as distinct from ownership of material object

Ownership of a copyright, or of any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, is distinct from ownership of any material object in which the work is embodied. Transfer of ownership of any material object, including the copy or phonorecord in which the work is first fixed, does not of itself convey any rights in the copyrighted work embodied in the object; nor, in the absence of an agreement, does transfer of ownership of a copyright or of any exclusive rights under a copyright convey property rights in any material object.

Here's the skinny from the Government, I think from Wikipedia.
The Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution (1787) authorized copyright legislation: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." That is, by guaranteeing them a period of time in which they alone could profit from their works, they would be enabled and encouraged to invest the time required to create them, and this would be good for society as a whole. A right to profit from the work has been the philosophical underpinning for much legislation extending the duration of copyright, to the life of the creator and beyond, to their heirs.
The original length of copyright in the United States was 14 years, and it had to be explicitly applied for. If the author wished, they could apply for a second 14‑year monopoly grant, but after that the work entered the public domain, so it could be used and built upon by others.

Exclusive rights for copyright holders

  • to produce copies or reproductions of the work and to sell those copies (including, typically, electronic copies)
  • to import or export the work
  • to create derivative works (works that adapt the original work)
  • to perform or display the work publicly
  • to sell or cede these rights to others
  • to transmit or display by radio or video.[28]
The phrase "exclusive right" means that only the copyright holder is free to exercise those rights, and others are prohibited from using the work without the holder's permission. Copyright is sometimes called a "negative right", as it serves to prohibit certain people (e.g., readers, viewers, or listeners, and primarily publishers and would be publishers) from doing something they would otherwise be able to do, rather than permitting people (e.g., authors) to do something they would otherwise be unable to do. In this way it is similar to the unregistered design right in English law and European law. The rights of the copyright holder also permit him/her to not use or exploit their copyright, for some or all of the term. There is, however, a critique which rejects this assertion as being based on a philosophical interpretation of copyright law that is not universally shared. There is also debate on whether copyright should be considered a property right or a moral right.[29]
http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html

My apologies that the above was somewhat repetitive, but one has to quote multiple sources.
:-)

Now, an interesting comment revealed the sense of entitlement that readers who own Kindles feel, and perhaps this is because Amazon sold them Kindles based on a promise of cheap reading?

What  George Orwell really said
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/09/orwell-is-amazons-latest-target-in-battle-against-hachette/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

"Customers have a lot invested in devices and internet connections..."   quoth one correspondent to explain why publishers and authors should accept less for ebooks.

Is it Hachette's fault (or the responsibility of any other copyright holder or copyrigh owner) that Amazon might have made a promise like that in order to market its own proprietary devices? Is it Hachette's duty to make good on a promise Amazon may have made?

Sincerely,
Rowena Cherry   (aliendjinnromances)
PS. Most of the Amazon letter (there was no copyright notice on it.)



Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the 
foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when 
movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 
25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of 
copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy 
and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have 
celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and 
circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary 
culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many 
bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use 
unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. 
The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new 
paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them 
and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion. 

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary 
establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 
billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about 
e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being 
released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. 
With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no 
returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no 
transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be 
resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been 
caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far 
those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding 
with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly 
disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position 
that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” 
They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten 
times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up 
rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with 
e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They 
think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against 
mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If 
we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books 
actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that 
is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes 
down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books 
from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would 
sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, 
if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then 
customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue 
at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The 
important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties 
involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty 
check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is 
simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change 
can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are 
hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback 
books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this 
issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: 
“Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to 
this post are worth a read).  A petition started by another group of authors and 
aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered 
over 7,600 signatures.  And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and 
readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a 
healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another 
piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between 
large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. 
Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even 
acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in 
our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take 
authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) 
jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we 
suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this 
dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business 
operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy 
charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and 
repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their 
revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage 
from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making 
books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please 
email Hachette and copy us.
.....................
Please consider including these points:

- We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to 
overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
- Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like 
paperbacks did.
- Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take 
them out of the middle.
- Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not 
united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.
 
The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at www.readersunited.com

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Values Dissonance

This is a term used on TVTropes.org. It refers to fiction (in whatever medium) written and-or set in a different time or place, in which the characters and-or the author cheerfully and unquestioningly embrace values that seem strange or downright immoral to contemporary American readers. I thought of Values Dissonance last week while watching the first few episodes of one of my favorite old sitcoms, BEWITCHED. Having never seen the very earliest episodes, I was eager to make up for the omission.

The early 1960s were a different world in several ways, starting with the oddity (from today's perspective) of a perfectly healthy, intelligent, childless middle-class woman (not a wealthy lady of leisure) staying home and doing nothing but take care of the house. The depiction of smoking as a ubiquitous activity—Darren and Samantha don't seem to smoke but do offer cigarettes to visitors as a routine gesture of hospitality—didn't surprise me, since I'm old enough to remember when almost all adults smoked everywhere. (I WAS shocked, though, upon viewing TWILIGHT ZONE episodes in which characters even smoked in a doctor's office.) But I did find the BEWITCHED characters' drinking habits jarring, because alcohol use wasn't part of the 1950s-60s subculture in which I grew up, except maybe champagne for the adults on New Year's Eve or an occasional beer in summer. In BEWITCHED, Darren seems to have a cocktail every afternoon upon getting home from work, and "I need a drink" is his typical response to stressful moments. Alcoholic beverages are everywhere, including in Darren's office! From the viewpoint of today's more health-conscious culture, those people look like alcoholics in the making.

A deeply unsettling instance of Values Dissonance, however, occurs in the episode "It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog." A client of Darren's advertising agency, during a party at Darren and Samantha's home, makes an aggressive pass at Samantha, even getting her alone outside and physically cornering her. In desperation she turns him into a dog. When Darren finds out about the incident, he doesn't believe the man's behavior justified the punishment, is more worried about losing the account than about Samantha's feelings, and angrily declares that a "normal wife" (i.e., one who isn't a witch) would have found a less drastic way of dealing with the situation. He eventually apologizes and knocks out the guy (now restored to human form) with a clean punch to the jaw, but only after catching the man pawing Samantha on the office couch. In other words, he doesn't take his wife's testimony about sexual harassment seriously and effectively blames her for the incident! To a modern viewer, Darren's apology after viewing the client's caddishness with his own eyes looks like too little, too late. Yet Samantha readily forgives him, and the writers clearly expect the audience to accept this outcome as a happy reconciliation. In another episode, Darren is having trouble with an ad campaign, and Samantha gives him some ideas that strike him as brilliant. After thinking them over, though, he jumps to the conclusion that she must have created them by magic. When she assures him she didn't, he doesn't believe her. This man who's supposed to be madly in love with his wife calls her a liar and implies that she couldn't possibly have the intelligence and creativity to produce good ideas on her own. Again, he changes his mind only upon being presented with proof, in this case the fact that the client rejects the new slogans instead of jumping at them. This is supposed to be a good marriage?

Of course, for many viewers BEWITCHED has an essential problem at its core—Darren's insistence that Samantha abstain from magic (a condition that gets violated every week, of course, as desperate situations justify exceptions). In the words of Endora, Samantha's mother, he's refusing to let his wife "be herself." His prejudice against magic seems to run no less deep, even if less violent, than the typical witch prejudice against mortals. Admittedly, as a comment on TVTropes points out, Darren could never survive in Samantha's world. (On their first meeting, her father disintegrated him, albeit only temporarily.) And Samantha does seem happy to embrace the mortal lifestyle. But she's doing it only to make her husband happy, and her constant "lapses" hint at dissatisfaction with the status quo. Nowadays, would we accept as funny and romantic a series whose whole premise relies on a man's readiness to accept his wife as long as she's willing to suppress her own identity and "pass" for "normal"? The writers seem to present the show's theme as an ongoing affectionate compromise between two people trying to succeed in a mixed marriage. To a viewer nowadays, it may look as if Samantha makes all the concessions.

What common attitudes and customs reflected in today's media might look shocking or bizarre to future audiences?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Strong Character Defined - Part 2 - Responsibility by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Strong Character Defined
Part 2
Responsibility
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 1 posts on Oct 21, 2014 with the following URL
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/10/strong-characters-defined-part-1.html

We've been discussing Theme-Character Integration, combining two skills into one for a seamless flow into the Art of the Story.

And of course, since Plot (what happens) is meaningless unless it impacts a Character to create the Story  (the arc of how the Character changes under impact of Events), creating "appealing" characters is the main objective of professional writers.

The Character must be comprehensible at the starting point, the change in character has to be comprehensible during the novel, and the new Character has to be plausible.

Most Market Reports contain the specification that the submission must be about "Strong Characters" -- but editors never define what, exactly, a 'strong' character is.

Market Reports do not contain calls for "Weak Characters" -- so we have nothing to contrast it with.

However, the News is full of examples of Weak Characters, and of characters who do not "arc" -- do not learn from Events.

So we've been puzzling over this requirement of "Strong" characters -- a must in an action-Romance! -- and how to use a Character's attributes to convey thematic information without large info-dumps and expository-lumps. 

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/07/theme-character-integration-part-7.html
Gives a clue about how to define Character Strength and has a list of previous Parts.

We have discussed at length how to use current Headlines to generate novel plots, and here is yet another way to use current events as information (even when they aren't actually real-world information). 

Here is an example from 2014 of a show-don't-tell that a Character is WEAK.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/03/25/three-secret-service-agents-on-obama-detail-sent-home-after-one-was-found-passed-out-drunk-in-hotel-hallway/
---------QUOTE--------
WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) — The Secret Service sent three agents home from the Netherlands just before President Barack Obama’s arrival after one agent was found “drunk and passed out” in an Amsterdam hotel, The Washington Post reports.

The three agents were benched for “disciplinary reasons,” said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan, declining to elaborate. Donovan said the incident was prior to Obama’s arrival Monday in the country and did not compromise the president’s security in any way.

Still, the incident represents a fresh blemish for an elite agency ...
----------END QUOTE--------

You take a job (any job) and you are giving your Word of Honor that you will do whatever the job-description says, usually involving being a subordinate to a hierarchy above you.  Of course, being hired to BE the top of such a hierarchy is another thing, and we have to discuss "Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely" together with the old fashioned (but popular Fantasy premise) of Royalty running the world.

Now here's the definition of Strong Character you can use in a Plot.

A "Strong Character" keeps his/her Word of Honor.

For references, see Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover Series, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain (Vampire-Romance) series. 

These employees did not keep their Word of Honor to be vigilant at all times in order to fend off any threat to their package.  It doesn't matter that this package was POTUS.  What matters here is the Word of Honor.

Noblesse Oblige (illustrated in the St. Germain novels) is a related topic.

It means the obligations of being born Noble.

Being Royal or Noble -- OWNING LAND is the definition -- being the King of your Own Castle in the USA -- means being OBLIGED, or obligated, to provide certain kinds of protection to others. 

The way you get to be Noble is to keep your Word of Honor when you're just a hired soldier.  You distinguish yourself on the battlefield (or for non-combatants on the field of political maneuvering), and get Knighted.  Your children distinguish themselves and get awarded a Barony (Land and tenants), and their children earn a greater amount of land and tenants, etc.  How?  By prospering on the land they have been awarded command of (all Land belongs to the King).

So the heirarchy goes right up to the King who owns everything and appoints certain people to be custodians of the economy and of the safety of the Kingdom from invasion.

A great example of this is illustrated in the long series by Katherine Kurtz called The Deryni Series.  Like Darkover, border Lords are responsible for defending the Kingdom's border.

"Responsible" is the key word here -- "Strong Characters" fulfill their Responsibilities no matter what the personal cost.

And that personal cost is usually emotional (Love, etc. all the Romance ingredients).

No matter the emotional pain, no matter the personal deprivation (not allowing oneself to get drunk or "have a good time" with a willing damsel), the Strong Character fulfills all responsibilities.

But the writer can't just say "this is a Strong Character" and let that be the end of the matter.

No, it has to be illustrated, all encapsulated in SHOW DON'T TELL. 

And that's what this news item does.

The news item does not say these agents were of Weak Character.

It shows you what they DID (Plot) and indicates a story-arc for a character who isn't mentioned here, a character you can make up and write about, who did not LEARN FROM EVENTS -- who didn't "arc" within his own story.

Scan the news for other examples of Weak Characters, then see if you can find any Strong Characters who are being highlighted by the Media.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Lessons From A Pyrrhic Victory


While it would not be exactly true to say that I have a "fondness" for any underdog in any fight, I dislike unfairness, particularly when the Media piles on and stirs the pot with half truths and --what I perceive as-- maliciously inaccurate reporting.

I am talking about a recent libel suit against the estate of a deceased author, in which the majority of a jury allegedly found for the plaintiff.

http://redalertpolitics.com/2014/07/29/jury-awards-jesse-ventura-1-8m-defamation-case-american-sniper-author-chris-kyle/

Almost every talking head that I have heard has vilified the plaintiff and focused on emotional buzzwords equivalent to "motherhood" and "apple pie" to suggest that the outcome of the trial was an outrage simply because of the buzzwords associated with the defense.

This might give comfort to authors who may consider libelling (or allegedly libelling) a public figure for profit, especially when pundits on TV asseverate that anyone can publish anything (regardless of truth) about any public figure.

Perhaps the supermarket tabloids do so with impunity, but perhaps they have better insurance policies than the average debut author.

Reality check. Word Castle Publishing kindly purblishes online a sample contract, so I have made fair use (I hope) of a couple of pertinent clauses which are typical of my experience with four other publishers whose contracts I have read, but which are supposed to be confidential.

Author Warranties
3.        The work does not infringe upon any copyright, privacy rights, rights of a third party, or any common law or statutory law.
4.        The work does not contain any material of a libelous or obscene nature.
http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com/sample-contract.html

And....
B.       Author Agrees to hold Publisher harmless and indemnify the Publisher against any claim, demand, action, suit, proceeding or any expense whatsoever, arising for claims of infringement of copyright or proprietary rights, or claims of libel, obscenity, invasion of privacy, or any other unlawfulness based upon or arising from the publication or any matter pertaining to the work.
C.       Author warrants and represents that to the best of Author’s knowledge and belief, all statements of fact contained in the work are true and based on appropriate and diligent research. A note may be added to the work to show proof of research completed if Author so desires.
http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com/sample-contract.html

Please notice such words as "privacy", "libellous", and "based on... diligent research". Also notice "indemnify the Publisher" and 'hold Publisher harmless". In theory, that means that the Publisher and the Publisher's insurance company will not pay out.

Notice also that most publishers put the entire onus of any breach of the above-mentioned warranties on the author and the author's heirs and assigns.

Interestingly, there appear to be three authors of the book, but only one is mentioned as the plaintiff. I wonder why. No matter.

Check your own contracts. Then read this account of the controversial trial. It is probably not typical.... in that the Publisher and the Insurance company is paying up.

http://redalertpolitics.com/2014/07/29/jury-awards-jesse-ventura-1-8m-defamation-case-american-sniper-author-chris-kyle/

I visited Amazon to check out the front matter of the allegedly true memoir in question, but Look Inside is not available. Preview is not available on Barnes and Noble, either.

Scribd came through with the front matter disclaimer:

"The events that happened in this book are true, recounted from the best of my memory.... we've reconstructed dialogue from memory which means that it may not be word for word...."

http://www.scribd.com/read/163638913/American-Sniper-The-Autobiography-of-the-Most-Lethal-Sniper-in-U-S-Military-History

I guess, if you put dialogue into the mouth of someone else, and you admit in the front matter that what you remember that he (or she said) may not be word for word.... you shouldn't have a legal leg upon which to stand.

This has been a highly instructive saga.  We could all do well to learn from it, even if most of us write  science fiction and fantasy, and our front matter disclaims any resemblance of our alien characters to any real person alive or deceased.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

alien romances

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gaiman on Genre

The new issue of the JOURNAL OF THE FANTASTIC IN THE ARTS includes Neil Gaiman's guest of honor speech from the 2013 International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Having been enthralled by the talk when I heard it in person, I'm delighted to have the printed version to remind me of so many great lines I'd recalled only vaguely.

Gaiman's main topic is genre, but he begins by discussing the interaction between author and reader. As authors, he says, "What we give the reader is a raw code, a rough pattern, loose architectural plans that they use the build the book themselves. No two readers will ever read the same book, because the reader builds the book in collaboration with the author." Reminds me of Jacqueline's Tailored Effect! Gaiman mentions the not uncommon experience of returning to a beloved childhood story and rereading a scene that you remember "so vividly, something that was etched onto the back of your eyeballs when you read it" and discovering that the rain, wind, sounds of horses, etc. that you remember so clearly aren't on the page—"you realize you did it all." Something like this experience probably inspires a lot of fanfic: We're driven to articulate what we saw in the original work that was implied but not openly expressed there.

Gaiman takes a stab at defining genre, after briefly discussing the pragmatic market definition of it as a heuristic device for enabling readers to find the kinds of stories they like on bookstore shelves. Some comments:

"Genre, it had always seemed to me, was a set of assumptions, a loose contract between the creator and the audience."

He compares porn movies to musicals by drawing an analogy between the sex scenes and the songs. "In a musical the plot exists to allow you to get from song to song and to stop all the songs from happening at once. So with a porn film. . . . If you've gone to a musical and there are no songs, you are going to walk out feeling that you did not get your musical money's worth."

"If you take them out—the songs from a musical, the sex acts from a porn film, the gunfights from a Western—then they no longer have the thing that the person came to see. . . . If the plot is a machine that allows you to get from set piece to set piece, and the set pieces are things without which the reader or the viewer would feel cheated, then, whatever it is, it's genre. . . . Subject matter does not make genre."

I'm not sure this statement doesn't minimize the importance of plot a bit too much. Still, it blew me away when I heard it. Each genre has its defining elements. A romance reader expects a love story at the center of the plot and a happily-ever-after (or happily-for-now, at least) at the conclusion. It has been quite rightly said that GONE WITH THE WIND and Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER aren't romances, because they don't conform to these "rules"; they are better described as "novels with romantic elements" (a category, incidentally, that the RWA has deleted from its RITA contest on the grounds that the category dilutes the organization's focus on romance). Genre fiction even has its "obligatory scenes," without which the reader will feel cheated out of the anticipated reading experience. For example, in the original STAR WARS, it seemed obvious that Luke Skywalker would have to face Darth Vader in combat, since at that point all we knew about Vader was that he'd allegedly killed Luke's father. The absence of that confrontation at the end of the first movie came as a disappointment—but a clear set-up for a sequel. We knew the story wasn't "finished."

Gaiman again: "Now the advantage of genre as a creator is it gives you something to play to and to play against. It gives you a net and the shape of the game. . . . Another advantage of genre for me is that it privileges story."

Do science fiction and fantasy, being broader genres than the romance or the Western, have certain defining "set pieces" without which we aren't in the genre anymore? Or, more narrowly, do certain subgenres, such as the quest fantasy, possess these elements?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt