Thursday, January 29, 2015

Doctorow on Culture vs. Industry

Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS essay, on issues including DRM and the abuse of takedown notices:

New Deal for Copyright

A provocative comment about the difference between "industrial activities" and "cultural activities":

"Copyright laws were arrived at largely by codifying the practices of the entertainment industry into law, and because they were only triggered by making or handling copies of creative works, these rules only applied to the industry. When every copy of every book involves a printing press, then every copy of every book has been made by someone who’s using industrial machinery and is part of the industry. Computers work by making copies, so reading a book now involves making copies, as does lend­ing, reselling, or giving away books. That does not make reading into an industrial activity."

I've never thought of the history of copyright from that angle before.

And on the kinds of terms consumers must implicitly accept in order to purchase and use software from a company such as Apple:

"If you have to understand the law to read a book, we have failed. If you have to enter into a contract – any contract, even a ‘‘good’’ contract – to read a book, we have failed. These are cultural, not industrial activities. It’s insane to ask people to sign contracts to read books. Seriously, who actually thinks this is a good idea?"

Along the way, Doctorow talks about indie publishing (self-pubbing through services such as Lulu, etc.) as a "competitor of last resort to the Big Five." Nicely put, but I wish he'd acknowledged, at least in passing, the wide range of midlist and small publishers (both mainly-print and electronic) as alternatives in between those two extremes.

Off topic: Does it make me a bad, bad person that I tend to read news stories about dreadful calamities through the eyes of an English major? Example: For the past week, the headlines of our local paper have been dominated by the fiery destruction of a 16,000-square-foot house in which six people—a couple and their four grandchildren—died. The mansion had no sprinklers, because they weren't required for residences at the time it was built, and it sat on an isolated lot in a neighborhood served by well water, therefore devoid of fire hydrants. No question that this was a horrible disaster and a terribly sad event, two mothers losing their own parents and all their children in one night. But with each new article that appears, I can't help grinding my teeth at the annoying journalistic habits of (1) repeatedly using the real-estate jargon of "home" for "house," and (2) labeling every strikingly sad event and every disaster involving a large death toll as "tragic." In traditional English usage, "tragedy" has a specific meaning, which is NOT "very, very sad event." Why deprive the language, through habitual misuse, of a nuanced term that distinguishes some kinds of disasters and sad events from other kinds, I silently fume? Sigh.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Governing Humanity Part 1 - Democracy - by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Governing Humanity Part 1
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

In connection with this topic, you may want to look at Jack Campbell's THE LOST STARS series entry titled IMPERFECT SWORD, which is in the same universe as his THE LOST FLEET series (both highly recommended). 

The worldbuilding behind these two series has to do with scaling up historical governing structures to manage interstellar civilizations.  The discussion is entirely "off the nose" and constitutes excellent writing craft (and there's a love story!)

In October 2014, Allan Cole posted this on Facebook and comment to a news item which started an interesting discussion.

-----Allan Cole Quote---------
That's because there is no chance for democracy under the Chinese system, where there really is no "rule of law," because the Party makes - and breaks - the rules as they please.

-------END QUOTE--------

To which I commented:

Democracy can be seen as just "mob rule" -- High School Clique dynamics writ large (gangs, tribes, petty-Kings). The fudge factor thrown into USA constitution adds in elements of a Republic (then modifies the Republic model with a bit more mob rule). My contention is that the advent of "crowd-sourcing" via internet, blog, social media, etc. can now be creatively applied to the problem of governing humans, but I think we just won't figure out how to govern humans until we meet up with some non-humans and study them. There are unthinkable thoughts that need thinking on the issue of governance.

--------end quote ---------

Allan answered with links to two books I suspect could be vital resources for Romance writers doing Paranormal Romance -- time travel or fantasy or SF.

If you read the biographies of Allan Cole which I've pointed you to in previous posts here, you will discover where he gets his political savvy.  His recommendations for these two sources should be taken seriously.

Here are some of my posts mentioning or focusing on Allan Cole.

All of the theme and worldbuilding posts depend entirely on your understanding of the use of Conflict as a story component.

We will no doubt revisit the entire concept of CONFLICT as a component of Romance in future posts, so you have some time to catch up on this worldbuilding topic of governance theory.

Politics is always part of Romance -- and breaks up more couples than it welds into one.

Next week we'll look again at Depiction of  Money and Wealth in Depiction Part 6.

Depiction Part 5 is here:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sharing The Authors' Guild Conclusion on whether or not "Amazon Is The Reader's Friend"

I'm back from ConFusion, but struggling to get out my 1099-MISCs before the end-of-the-month deadline, therefore, with apologies, I am cutting and pasting (with permission granted) an AG report that I found interesting.

(For anyone who has an LLC or other business, 1099-MISCs have to be sent to attorneys and to anyone whom you paid more than $600.)

A lively audience of readers gathered last Thursday evening at New York City’s Kaufman Center to hear a panel of four authors hash out the contentious proposition that “Amazon is the reader’s friend.”
The Oxford-style debate, hosted by Intelligence Squared (IQ2), featured two writers arguing for the motion and two against it. In the Amazon corner were self-publishing guru Joe Konrath and Matthew Yglesias, Executive Editor of Vox. Pitted against them, former Authors Guild President Scott Turow and Franklin Foer, former Editor of The New Republic, contended that Amazon is not, by a long shot, the reader’s friend.
The IQ2 debates declare a winner by polling the audience at both the beginning and the end of the arguments, and comparing the results. The side that sways more people takes the cake. Before the debate, 41% of the audience voted for the proposition that Amazon is the reader’s friend, 28% voted against it, and 31% were undecided. At evening’s end, there was a clear victor: the Amazon apologists managed to increase their backers by a mere one percentage point, while Turow and Foer earned a 22% spike, overwhelmingly capturing the undecided vote.
Throughout the evening, Yglesias and Konrath largely stuck with the appealing arguments that Amazon’s low prices for readers and higher royalty rates for its self-published authors are benefits without downsides. But Turow and Foer’s effectiveness lay in taking a position that honored the diversity of the literary ecosystem. Left unchecked, they suggested, we may end up with a book world controlled by Amazon. The better option by far is a competitive plurality of publishers and distributors.
Turow agreed that self-publishing works very well for some authors in some publishing sectors. He was clearly encouraged, for instance, that self-publishing gives voice—and a second chance—to authors overlooked by traditional publishers. “I am not against self-publishing,” said Turow, before homing in on Amazon’s deliberate attempt to eliminate publishing houses, “but if we do away with traditional publishers, there will be a great loss to literary culture.”
Another reason Amazon can’t be trusted, Turow noted, is that it hasn’t even stood by the very self-published authors who defend it so vociferously. Turow illustrated this with a point that his opponents couldn’t counter: although many self-published authors rallied to defend Amazon during the Hachette dispute, recently Amazon dramatically cut the earnings of self-published authors enrolled in its Kindle Unlimited program.
Foer also pointed out that a loss of publishers could mean a loss of the nonfiction works requiring “deep reporting,” work which is time-consuming and expensive, and which can only be sustained by an advance from a publisher. It would also mean the loss of the committed editorial investments provided by publishers. “Writers are the people in the world who are least able to see the flaws in their own work,” he said.
“Scott and Franklin did a terrific job of articulating exactly what we’ve stood for throughout our many disagreements with Amazon,” said Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson. “Namely, that a diverse literary marketplace is a healthy literary marketplace. And I’m personally encouraged—though not surprised—that so many readers in the audience agreed.”
Much of the argument focused on Amazon’s place within the publishing industry at large. Yglesias opened by proposing that Amazon’s massive share of the publishing markets—it sells 41% of all books sold in the U.S., and 67% of digital books—is the result of its superior product. Turow countered that such market power is a danger in and of itself. A friend is someone who you can rely on to treat your interests as equal to their own, he said. But Amazon has “habitually turned on its allies when it suited its needs. Anyone who believes Amazon will wield its market power kindly has not read Lord Acton or Machiavelli,” he continued, characterizing Amazon’s history of browbeating as “a mugging sponsored by Wall Street.”
Reflecting on the evening, Turow offered the following summation. “I regard the question of Amazon’s role in American literary culture as truly important, and I was glad Frank and I were able to make many in the audience understand that Amazon is a Trojan Horse, offering low prices today—while Wall Street is willing to float a company that doesn’t make a profit—at the cost of destroying the publishing ecosystem that is indispensable to authors who can’t write several books every year, as many self-published authors do.” Turow further noted, “You never make all the points you want to. But I wish I had made more of the fact that Amazon actually prevents competition by locking its customers in through devices like Prime and DRM, which means Amazon customers can’t read books sold by Apple or Google Play on their Kindles.”
As the event came to an end, the writers’ closing arguments tended to encapsulate their styles. Konrath resorted to off-color humor and bribery: he offered free books for votes, making the salient point that, as a self-published author selling on Amazon, he is able to set the price of his books and even to give them away for free, and doing do, he has sold—and given away—millions of books. Turow spoke of how, like Konrath, he struggled to find a publisher for his first novel, and agreed that Amazon was good for readers and authors in some ways. The problem with Amazon, he explained, is the threat it poses to literary culture at large, and ultimately to the reader. “I don’t judge these things on the basis of what’s good for me,” he said, adding that while Amazon has been very good to him, “I care about what’s good for all writers.” Yglesias maintained that his opponents were painting an unrealistic doomsday scenario, but that for now, Amazon’s low prices and great service make it a friend to readers.
Foer had the last word. Alluding to the arrogance of the tech industry’s self-styled “disrupters,” he noted that Americans have made “disruption . . . our secular religion.” This particular brand of optimism might well lead us to a future “that could be wonderful, or it could be a dystopian hell.” Lastly, he encouraged the audience to speak directly to Amazon with their votes. Tell Amazon, he said, “You’re dealing with precious cargo. Don’t abuse your power. Be good stewards of word and thought.”
The audience, apparently, was listening. Let’s hope Amazon was, too.
The debate, expertly moderated by John Donvan, is well worth watching in its entirety. An on-demand version will soon be available here.
Feel free to forward, post, or tweet.  Here is a short URL for linking:

Thursday, January 22, 2015


The PBS series NATURE recently aired two programs about the evolution of dogs. You can watch the first one here:

Rise of the Dog

The show discussed a theory about the domestication process that transformed wolves into dogs. Traditionally, scientists speculated that stone-age people raised wolf puppies from infancy and thereby favored genes for tameness, resulting in the development of dogs as we know them. The biologist who appeared on the show, however, thought this scenario didn't make sense, because the critical period for taming a wolf cub would have been so early in the animal's life that adopting and raising one would take too much effort. What incentive would prehistoric cultures have to do this with any frequency? Instead, it's proposed that proto-dogs effectively domesticated themselves. When Mesolithic people began to establish permanent settlements, they produced garbage dumps. Wolves would have scavenged from these stockpiles of food scraps, as wild animals often do today. Here's where the concept of flight distance—the point in a human being's approach when the animal flees—comes in. Wolves with an instinct for a shorter flight distance, letting people get closer before the animals run away, would get better nourishment and leave more descendants. So a subspecies of wolves self-selected to allow closer contact with human beings would evolve. Eventually the gene for tameness would dominate in this population, and the former wolves would become the dogs we know.

You've probably heard about the famous Russian multi-generational fur fox experiment. Within a surprisingly short time, interbreeding foxes that accepted human contact more readily than others produced a group of foxes almost as tame as dogs. Some even learned to respond to their names. Even more intriguingly, the docile foxes showed physical changes in traits such as head shape, coloration, tail position, and heat cycles. The shift to a more "dog-like" appearance is tied to the tameness gene. Many of these characteristics fall under the pattern of neoteny, retaining juvenile traits into adulthood, e.g., the rounder head.

Domesticated Silver Foxes

Did the human species domesticate ourselves? Neoteny could account for some of our characteristic human traits such as relative hairlessness (compared to other apes and the vast majority of land mammals) and the retention of curiosity and playfulness throughout life. Elaine Morgan (author of the controversial DESCENT OF WOMAN and other works on the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis) explores in THE DESCENT OF THE CHILD how our species' helpless and prolonged infancy could have driven our evolution into full humanity. Language, for instance. A newborn human baby has virtually no control over most of his or her body. He or she can command the adult attention needed for survival only by crying, smiling, and babbling. Since babbling produces such positive results, no wonder it evolved into language.

It's more pleasant to think we domesticated ourselves than to imagine we're the product of a breeding program by superior aliens. In the pulp-era novel SINISTER BARRIER (1939), by Eric Frank Russell, the Vitons, glowing blue spheres of unimaginably alien intelligence, have shaped human evolution to cultivate us as food. Nourished by psychic energy, they thrive on violent emotions. We are "emotional tubers...grown, stimulated, bred according to the ideas of those who do the surreptitious cultivating." All the bloody conflicts of Earth's history have been "grist for the Viton mill...unwitting feeders of other, unimaginable guts." A far cry from the presumably benevolent experimenters in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY who set up monoliths to stimulate ape brains to a higher level of intelligence.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Depiction Part 5 Depicting Dynastic Wealth by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Depiction Part 5
Depicting Dynastic Wealth
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

There is an old saying, "If you want to understand what's really going on, follow the money."

This is true in real life, yes, but because your readers live in that "real" life, it is exceptionally true in fiction.

When you do worldbuilding to create the society, government, laws, geography, political in-fighting, social status, technology, weaponry, economy, and dynamic evolution of culture that led to the situation your main theme and conflict depict, you must include not just MONEY -- but WEALTH. 

Money and Wealth (two different things) are the lifeblood of your world, not just of the economy but of the whole world. 

We discussed "wealth distribution" and the 1% here:

And we've been in hot-pursuit of the secret to the mechanism behind a type of novel we all enjoy -- the HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (King, Prince Charming, Lord something,), the Tall Dark Stranger who turns out to have power, connections, status, and sweep us away into a new life of prominence and privilege. 

Yet our society today (in the USA) is adamantly averse to the entire concept that there should be such wealthy people (how much did you say that CEO made per year?). 

We hold up the statistics about billionaires as examples of what's wrong with everything.

So how could there be any Romance in marrying a Billionaire (or King, or Prince, Mogul, Mob Kingpin, whatever)?  Why would anyone think that such a marriage would improve life?  You'd just be viciously hated.  Where's the romance?

And where's the Science Fiction in marrying a 1%-er -- since on this blog we deal with the hybrid genres that combine the appeal of Romance with any and every other genre.

We are especially focused on blending Science Fiction and/or Urban Fantasy or Paranormal into Romance.

Once blended, once you "have an idea" for a science fiction romance novel, you have to frame that idea with a "world" that you build to show-don't-tell the idea.  That's where the technical craft skill of "depiction" comes in.

Here are previous posts in the Depiction series and some hybrid topics:

One of my favorite types of reading is Historical Romances about the Aristocracy. 

I've always been enamored of hoop-skirts, and so one of my favorite movie scenes is the Polka sequence in THE KING AND I "Shall We Dance."

The classic rags-to-riches character arc is incessantly popular.  Anna in THE KING AND I has inherent "values" that govern her behavior even in the presence of royalty (and she comes from a country with Royalty) and immense wealth (and the power of life-and-death that goes with it in Siam but not England.) 

That immense wealth is (historically) viewed as "unearned" wealth and power that is bestowed by the "accident of birth" or somehow stolen, usurped (think Robin Hood and Maid Marian.)  Historically, such wealth/power was bestowed by the King upon the valiant Knight who saved the Crown (or whatever service). 

Given a Knighthood, a commoner might sally forth and win a Barony, marry well and beget sons who would marry up the hierarchy, and their sons might inherit a wife's inherited lands, and gradually over 6 generations or so, the family would be considered genuine Nobility -- and perhaps beget an heir to the throne.  Dynastic Wealth Personified.  Thus every Mother who raised a son could dream of being the (forgotten, and embarrassing) ancestress of a King.

The theme is: "Nobody could ever possibly earn such Royal wealth/power (1%-er Billionaire) in one lifetime."  If they have such wealth, it means they stole it.  That is a THEME. 

Wealth like that can't belong to any one person because that is "impossible."  Kings don't make their money, they steal it.  Everyone knows that. 

Remember, we're writing Science Fiction Romance.  So we can use any science to form the foundation of the worldbuilding.  We can postulate anything that violates the reader's current understanding of that science, then depict the world and portray the Characters and Conflict to argue the reader into believing the postulate (however impossible it might be.) 

The core essence of Science Fiction is "We do the improbable immediately; the impossible takes a little longer."  Think Scotty on STAR TREK. 

Or think Spock. 

The most scintillating line Spock delivers is "Unknown, Captain." -- when something is currently unknown to a scientist with 6 Ph.D.'s (like Spock) and it is now confronting the character, then we have a science fiction story. 

The plot's main conflict must be resolved to doing the impossible, by exceeding design specifications, by learning something that has never been known by humanity, and applying that knowledge to human advantage. 

Science Fiction is all about doing what you can't do. 

In science fiction, the characters do not ever say, "I'm doing all I can." or "We'll do everything possible."  NEVER!!! 

In science fiction, the characters live in a universe where there are no limits on humanity, and the stories are about the individuals whose conflicts are caused by an impact with an apparent human limit that is simply unacceptable.

The conflict resolution is by transcendence of that apparent limit, proving it was never a limit at all.  This pushes back the borders of human knowledge and capability -- which is what science is all about. 

In Science, there is no such thing as, "Man Was Not Meant To Know."  Today, a lot of research money is being spent on proving the Soul is not real, and everything humans experience can be explained by brain physics and chemistry. 

In Romance, the exact same conflict works: 

Right there stands MY MAN -- recognized at First Sight -- but he is unattainable.  The resolution of that conflict is the wedding, the impossible is attained. 

This, of course, works just as well, if not better, when it's "There is MY WOMAN" but she's unattainable.

That's why Science Fiction and Romance blend so well, and so easily.  Both are always about doing the impossible and changing the course of human history by that deed. 

Science's product is the Cell Phone.  Romance's product is a child.  The cell phone was invented by someone's child.  Science Fiction and Romance are identical, at the core. 

Today, the contemporary romance market consists of women who are the children and grandchildren of a USA culture shaped by many forces.  Most prominent among thos forces is Taxes. 

Politicians call shaping public behavior by Tax incentives or dis-incentives  "social engineering."

"Social Engineering" is the idea that tax incentives can control the "masses" who live limited by the laws made by those who know better, who understand the world better, or who have a better idea of what correct behavior should be.  That's how Aristocrats think.  "Us vs. Them"

To tag a Character as one who thinks of himself as an Aristocrat, use the dialogue phrase, "Out There" -- but not "In Here." 

A character who says, "There is a lot of fraud out there," tags himself as an Aristocrat and a perpetrator of various frauds he/she considers legitimate privileges his Class has but other Classes do not. 

The "out there" phrase is modern American for the assumption of the existence of a Class Structure.  The Constitution was framed with the assumption that there is no such thing as Class.  But it was framed by Aristocrats. 

The USA is founded on the principle that anyone can attain anything.  It's often termed "upward mobility" -- but it really means upward and downward mobility -- and if you think about it, you see that if an "up" or a "down" can be defined at all, then the entire philosophy is founded on a Class Structure.

Some writers term the USA a Meritocracy -- where those of merit gain elevated status.  About 40% of your readers subconsciously look at it that way. 

The individual who refuses to accept barriers to achievement is a great subject for fiction -- especially romance, and these days doubly especially Fantasy or Paranormal Romance. 

Those who refuse to accept limitations or barriers are called Heros.

All Romance that depicts an HEA is Heroic Literature because the HEA is so fundamentally impossible in our modern world.

Nevertheless, the HEA is real and does happen (frequently). 

Your job as a writer of Romance Novels is to make the Happily Ever After ending seem plausible to your readers, and attainable in real life, even if that requires writing in Historical times of Kings and arranged marriages for Dynastic reasons.

In the historical days of Kings and their horse-mounted tax collectors, taxes were used by Kings to do social engineering, controlling the peasants, and later the Merchant and Craftsman classes. 

Tax Collectors would raid farming villages and steal the seed corn, then come back the next year and punish the people for not having enough for them to steal.

The Kings and the Aristocracy needed the money to support armies (to defend themselves against peasant revolts), and their lavish lifestyles of conspicuous waste.  They needed money (and food) for Armies to conquer neighboring Kingdoms, gain more peasants and better land, and stop neighboring Kings from raiding their peasants. 

It was all very raw, very brutal -- and very much in the current events News of today where the Kings are Drug Kingpins, Cartel bosses, one or another Terrorist cult, or Street Gang.  All those groups are totalitarian.  The law is what the strongest guy says it is, unless he changes his mind.   

And yet, the ultimate rags-to-riches Romance in the Cinderella story is still very popular.  It's a fantasy complete with fairy godmother and ravishing Prince Charming, and kids grow up on it. 

There is an assumption behind that story, that is never questioned.  Adding science fiction to Romance means incorporating such never-asked-questions into the worldbuilding and into the theme. 

So ask yourself, "When Cinderella was identified by the Prince via the glass slipper, was it 'A GOOD THING' for Cinderella?"

If Aristocrats and Kings (and Billionaires) are such horrible, unprincipled, vicious, death-dealing, selfish, bullies, then why would what happened to Cinderella be A GOOD THING for Cinderella? 

Why would anyone want to join with such people, have their children, raise their children to be selfish, horrible bullies in their turn?  What sort of selfish-horrible-bully was Cinderella that she'd be willing to have anything to do with the scion of such a family?

If a person is a bully with their money, won't they bully their wives - and God Forbid, abuse their children?  If Cinderella's Prince is not a selfish-bully when she meets him, inheriting wealth and power (the Crown) would turn him into something worse than Darth Vader -- wouldn't it?  So why wouldn't she run for her life when he finds her? 

Is she that stupid?  If she wises up, what will she do as Queen?  Become a worse bully than her Prince and put him in his place?  Hire an Assassin?  Stage her own death and run for the hills? 

Those are the sort of questions that science fiction themes ask, but Romance themes shy away from because they require direct confrontation with emotional pain, and the pain of uncertainty, in a way that is softened by being in love.

When you combine science fiction and romance, you get an explosive combination that gives that softened world of love some hard edges. 

We know that Cinderella was the step-daughter in an aristocratic House - a minor House that coveted an invitation to the royal Ball (Major Houses don't covet such invitations; they ponder whether to accept or not.) 

Cinderella was "entitled" because she was a relative, but they enslaved her to do the work of a servant. 
(Servants are slaves is a theme). 

Note how THEME, CONFLICT, and DEPICTION dovetail into an artistic composition. 

Here are some posts that are indexes to lists of posts on Theme and how it integrates with other components of a composition.

The theme behind the Cinderella type of Rags-to-Riches Historical Romance about the Aristocracy is Tax Collectors Are Thieves.

What has Cinderella, the abused step-child, to do with Taxes? 

If you want to understand what's really happening, follow the money. 

Why was the family mean to Cinderella?  Because they hated her?  Well, why did they hate her?  None of the versions show her as a person of bad character in a family of solidly good characters. 

This was a family which, to Cinderella the child, seemed rich and privileged, but she didn't understand the Situation because she didn't know how to "follow the money." 

The step-mother's objective was to marry her own daughters off to RICH MEN (Billionaires, the 1%).  To do that, she had to appear to be still as rich as her husband would have let her be.  Her only hope for her own existence was to bag a 1%-er for at least one, if not all, her daughters.

To do that, she had to have A SERVANT -- and no "servant" could aspire to marry a 1%-er, or  A Billionaire.  A CEO. 

So the Step-mother made a servant out of her step-daughter, whereupon said step-daughter no longer owed her any loyalty. 

That started a downward spiral in the relationship with Cinderella, and it became not only OK but REQUIRED that she be abused so she wouldn't get uppity.  She had to learn her place (which was difficult because it was in fact not her place, and step-mother and step-sisters knew it.)

Meanwhile, the step-mother is required to PAY TAXES as if she still commanded a fortune.  When the King gets taxes from his aristocracy, he sees those tax-payers as his supporters (think Campaign Donations), and supporters get access (Ball Invitations.)  What Cinderella does not know is that the step-mother has no money left because of the taxes.  This Ball is her last chance, and Prince Charming is her only hope. 

Remember, Tax Collectors also have wives and children.  But who dreams of being a tax collector's wife or husband?

What if your true Soul Mate is a tax collector (or today, an accountant, bookkeeper, or IRS Bureaucrat).  They make a good living, but aren't "rich" by the 1% rule, not on the Forbes Billionaire List.

And tax collectors don't make the tax laws.  In fact, the tax collectors and IRS auditors don't even get to make the IRS "regulations" which are enforced by the IRS as if they were actual Law.  "Bureaucrats" that you, as a tax-payer, never get to talk to, make those Regulations. 

You can go to jail for violating a regulation made by people you did not elect, but who were appointed by your enemies. 

Is your reader's situation fundamentally different from Cinderella's step-mother's situation?  Or Cinderella's for that matter -- underpaid working-stiff.

Is today any different from the days of Aristocrats and Kings? 

Is there something less "romantic" about contemporary Romance novels than Historical or Regency Romance novels?

In a realm of Kings and Aristocrats, the tax collectors siphoned off the "profit" made by "peasants" (usually farmers, but merchants and craftsmen too), and accumulated that wealth in "storehouses."  The King had a treasury, would buy gold, jewels, etc as a means of storing wealth, and as an investment.

When it came time for a war, the King would sell gems and whatever to buy Mercenaries, and conscript, train and arm young men from his peasantry.  Merchants and craftsmen could buy their children out of the army with -- yep, taxes.

In the historical days of Kings and Aristocrats, even at the top, lives were short.  A 40 year old man was elderly.

So marriages were early, especially for girls, and children were the main agenda item for any marriage into wealth.  The production of the Heir was paramount.

Study History all the way back to, say 2,000 BCE, maybe 3,000 BCE.  Look for the beginning of Civilization.

OK, "history" actually begins (according to historians) at the year 1,000 CE when we have some documentation.

But I consider History stretches at least back to the Biblical accounts of Kings and Prophets.

If you read the books of Kings and Prophets, it is clear that cities existed and were taken for granted even then.  Egypt had cities.

Archeology has dug up cities farther back -- Persia, Babylon, etc.

Anthropology dates "civilization" (the transition from hunter-gatherer, tribal nomads) from the discovery of agriculture -- and that's around 9,000 years ago, or more in some places.

The ability to domesticate animals and grow food creates the ability to live in one place, year round. 

And then structures are built, crafts are invented, bridges installed and things are made.

Economics is the study of how transforming human time, effort, energy, and cleverness into THINGS which increase lifespan and lifestyle stability, creates WEALTH.  THINGS are "wealth."  When those things change ownership, you begin to have "money."

Kings coin "money."  A medium of exchange of wealth -- to transfer wealth from one person to another by a symbolic intermediary (coin).  So money becomes a proxy for wealth.  And in some minds, money becomes wealth itself.  Pointing out the fallacy behind such thinking is what writers do, in every genre, by formulating themes that expose the fallacy.

Here are some posts on the ways writers can use Fallacy:

"Fallacies and Endorphins"

"The Fallacy of Safety"

"The Fallacy of Trust"

Kings get their wealth by stealing it (calling that taxes.)  This  can be considered a Misnomer or a Fallacy, depending on the point of view.

Here are some posts on Misnomers -- a powerful dramatic technique:

"The Use Of Media Headlines"

"The Gigolo and the Lounge Lizard"

If they are clever Kings, they steal it a little at a time so as not to kill off the peasants who did the work to make the profit which working-stiffs can't be allowed to keep because then they'd have POWER.

The King's profession is keeping power out of the control of peasants.

To do that, the Kings have to convince most of the peasants (and merchants and craftsmen) that peasants can't manage wealth.  There's something unique and special about a King that bestows the wisdom to manage vast wealth or power to make lives miserable. 

This knack of wealth-management is inherited by the Heir. 

Some use the theory of "Divine Right" -- others admit it's just being the best swordsman or the most ruthless killer.

But in either case, the populace needs the legitimate Heir to inherit and manage that Power.

So look back all the way to the beginning of civilization, living in cities with people who are not related to you by blood or marriage. 

Scientific advancements (such as domesticating animals and agriculture) allowed peasants to make a profit (enough to buy food, clothing, shelter) and pay taxes.  Kings slowly accumulated into enough wealth to wield real POWER.

Follow the money.

Wealth, turned into money, flowed to a central point, came under the control of individuals (who hadn't worked to earn it), and became POWER which was used to control the peasants as if they were slaves or possessions.  Their freedom was only an illusion. 

Over thousands of years, we have records of good kings and bad kings, kings who delivered prosperity, and kings who delivered poverty.

If you haven't reviewed the Book of Kings lately, you should do a quick read-through. 

Yes, it is a book of The Bible, but those are accounts of real people who really lived, and struggled to do their best (edited to show a specific theme, but still facts about what people did).  A lot of those Kings were really bad Kings. 

The heirs of Good Kings turned out to be Bad Kings -- leading their kingdoms into war, or ill-fated alliances.  But their heirs were good Kings, returning to the values and principles that had produced prosperity some generations ago.

The trend, though, was downhill. 

The succession of Kings shows increasing ineptitude, culminating in Exile(s).

Some essential skill at Wealth Management did not transmit across generations.  It would be established, last maybe two or three generations, and fizzle away.  That pattern seems to repeat throughout all human history, all over the world.

Science Fiction looks at accounts of this kind and asks questions such as, "What did they do right when skills did transmit to the next generation?"  "What did they do wrong when skills were lost?" 

The spiritual answer is the simple and obvious one made by the Books of Kings and Prophets -- follow God's Commandments, you do just fine; stray away after the gods of other cultures, you crash-and-burn. 

Romance novelists ask the question, "Why does a next generation ever -- EVER -- absorb the parents' values?  How can it be that skills of wealth-management ever transmit properly to the next generation?" 

And the Romance Novelist will come up with the best answer I've ever encountered.  It works because of the Wife - it works because of the Soul Mate - it works because of the WOMEN!!! 

The right woman is the flywheel stabilizing a man's power-management judgement calls. 

The theory behind the "arranged marriage" (which is another type of romance novel I adore) is that the adults (remember, historically marriage had to happen in early-teens because life-expectancy was short) had a better chance of mating a pair who were in fact Soul Mates than there would be if the children just chose.  Children are still growing into themselves and make choices they out-grow in a few years.  A Mother can foresee what the child will grow to be. 

Remember High School?  How many boys did you date?  How many heart-throbs did you fall for?  How many crushes did you have?  How many boys did you yearn after, hoping they'd notice you and now you're glad they didn't? 

Do you now have confidence that you had enough wisdom to choose a life-partner during those years?  Yet those are the years in which marriages had to be consummated in order for civilization to continue, because life spans were so short.  You had to have your children in your teens in order to live long enough to transmit any values to them by the time they were teens.  (Romeo and Juliet were kids, remember?)

Of course, when we are in our early teens, we have no clue that our choices aren't wise, and no idea what information adults have that we don't.  Adults are really stupid. 

There's another consideration about teen-marriages.  The following 10 years, maybe all the way through age 28, produce enormous changes in an individual's agenda, coping strategies, and operating premises.  The basic personality doesn't change, but the implementation of that basic personality's main attributes does change.  So a marriage appropriate for a 16 year old girl to an 18 year old (or 25 year old) guy has a high probability of going bad within a decade. 

Arranged Marriage is not anti-feminist, but it's not focused on romance. 

When an arranged-marriage couple hits it lucky, they grow together, toward each other, rather than away during the first decade or two, and after that they are comfortable.

Now, here's the question.  What sort of marriage process results in transmission of wealth-management skills on the level a King requires?  What heir apparent upbringing is necessary to produce a future King who won't destroy the Kingdom? 

Or phrase it for a contemporary romance novel: What sort of marriage does the protagonist require to grow to understand he/she is a King, the decision-making boss whose will shapes the behavior of Elected Officials.  Remember, the US Constitution was written in revolt against a King, and put The People in charge instead of a King. 

The People were to interview and hire a President to manage administration, and others to make laws - and those two would hire Judges to make sure laws were consistent.  Today Voters are the Kings, and government workers the peasants.  Or employees are the Kings and Corporations the peasants who work for the employees.  This is all POINT OF VIEW SHIFTING - a skill writers must practice.

In Depiction Part 6, February 3, 2015) we'll look at what it takes to learn and then transmit the difference between money and wealth. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thoughts on The Beverly Hillbillies

How much realism does comedy require? Personally, I find a TV sitcom or any other type of humorous fiction funnier if it's not downright silly. In other words, I prefer comedy—if it claims to be set in the world as we know it—to have some recognizable grounding in reality.

This topic came to mind because I recently borrowed the first few episodes of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES from Netflix. This series embodies one of my favorite themes, "fish out of water." It admittedly contains many funny moments, and contrary to first impressions, its humor doesn't rely on holding the displaced rural mountain folk up to ridicule. The Clampett family more often than not gets the better of the Southern California city slickers; their family values show up favorably in contrast to the mercenary motives of the banker, Mr. Drysdale; and Miss Hathaway's mistaking the new millionaires for servants is a graver error than Jethro's mistaking a flamingo for a big, pink chicken. But too many unrealistic details keep wrecking my suspension of disbelief and jerking me out of the story.

Okay, Granny has never cooked with a stove that didn't burn wood and tries to start a fire in the electric oven. She doesn't know what a freezer is. I can stretch to accepting those assumptions. And I rather like the term "cement pond" for the swimming pool. As for Jed's qualms about going upstairs when they first enter their mansion, on the belief that the second floor must surely belong to somebody else, that's an almost poignantly believable detail. But the Clampetts don't recognize a refrigerator as a variation on an old-fashioned icebox? They drive a truck and have seen movies but have no clue what a television is? They've never heard the word "million" before (even though Jed's cousin, Jethro's mother, knows what it means)? The conversation in which they reveal their ignorance of telephones struck me as a particular wall-banger. Come on—the most remote rural areas of the country have had phone service since the early twentieth century. Despite not having a phone themselves, the Clampetts must surely have seen one. As for other technology, the Sears catalog has also been ubiquitous in rural culture for a long time. They must have seen pictures of many items they've never encountered in person.

Come to think of it, if they own a truck, why don't they know oil is valuable? Many such details can be justified only by what calls "the Rule of Funny."

Of course, similar criticisms could be aimed at GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. They brought all their luggage along on a three-hour tour? (Maybe they planned to head directly to the airport from the dock?) That show, however, is clearly fantasy; there's obviously a curse on the island, given all the far-fetched incidents that prevent the castaways from escaping. And their endless supply of necessities and comforts must mean the boat contains an infinite-capacity bag of holding. Seriously, all GILLIGAN'S ISLAND needed to transform it from comedy into horror was a slight shift of perspective, as we saw with the airing of LOST.

Did you hear about the ill-advised attempt (at some point during the past couple of years, I don't remember when) to create a reality TV series on the same premise as THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES? Some network actually planned to transplant a real-life rural mountain family into an affluent suburb and film the resulting hijinks. It would be nice to think the better angels of their nature inspired them to abandon this degrading notion, but I suspect they dropped it because they realized how hard it would be nowadays to find an American family, even in a remote nook of Appalachia or the Ozarks, that doesn't have satellite TV and Internet (or at least a nodding acquaintance with same).

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

If The HEA is Implausible, How Come It Happens?

If The HEA is Implausible, How Come It Happens?
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

As I've mentioned many times, one of the hardest things about Romance gaining the respect it deserves is the firm conviction on the part of a huge segment of the potential audience that the Happily Ever After "ending" is impossible.

Life, they say, just does not go like that.  The Happily For Now ending is all you can ever expect.

Well, true, if life is long enough, there will be challenges, failures, ignominious defeats, many tears, and many-many funerals to attend.

This is all especially true if you marry and have children.  Children are the joy of life, but they are also the source of buckets of tears.

We all know that, yet STILL persist in understanding the world and our lives in it as heading toward an HEA.

Overcoming the initial obstacles to finding and hooking up with that one special Soul Mate should be the End Of The Story -- and from there on, you live the Happily Ever After.

Just get through the Wedding Day (a real challenge for most!) and it's clear sailing after that.

Those who scorn Romance feel that in reality there is no way that can ever happen. 

And yet, in actual reality -- the real reality we live in every day -- such long-long-stable-marriages actually do exist.

Here is an example that hit the Internet some months ago.

The pair say the secret of married life is kindness, love and tolerance

A couple who met as teenagers 10 years before the start of World War Two have celebrated 80 years of marriage.

Maurice and Helen Kaye, from Bournemouth, met in 1929 when they were 17 and 16 respectively.

They courted for four years because Mrs Kaye's mother wanted her older sister to be married first.

The couple, who are now 102 and 101, said the secret to a happy marriage was being tolerant of each other and being willing to "forgive and forget".

The pair, one of Britain's longest-married couples, plan to celebrate their oak wedding anniversary with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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There's a lovely video on that page you should watch and think about.

This video and some of its images spread through the internet like wildfire.  But nevertheless, there are those who are still convinced such a thing never EVER happens in "reality."

Because we believe in such happenings, such lives, we are the unrealistic people. 

Personally, I don't think there's any great advantage to living within the confines of "reality" -- I think the ability to imagine what is impossible is the Human Trait responsible for all human progress.

But still, a reality-check every once in a while is absolutely necessary to keep progress on course. 

This couple is real, not fantasy.  They are the reality check that those who scorn Romance because of the HEA need to consider.

The HEA is not a fantasy.  It is the reality of real life, and the standard by which success should be measured.

Note this couple has great-grandchildren.  Don't for a moment suppose those 80 years were without challenges, tears, failures, ignominy, and defeat.  But such low-moments in life do not mar HAPPINESS.  Such moments are integral components to happiness.

The HEA is the major, envelope theme for all Romance genre stories, novels, videos, etc.  One sub-theme that should be a part of each HEA is that sadness, loss, grieving, failure, and even embarrassment are components of Happiness.

Live Long and Prosper,
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Authors' Guild vs HathiTrust Resolution

This is cut and pasted from an email sent out by Authors' Guild.

Court papers filed yesterday evening brought to an end the Guild’s copyright infringement lawsuit against the group of research libraries known as the HathiTrust. The Guild claimed the library group infringed by reproducing copyright-protected books for inclusion in its HathiTrust Digital Library, a searchable database.
The case arose in June 2011 when the HathiTrust announced its “Orphan Works Project,” which would begin freely distributing digital copies of “orphan works”—books that are still under copyright, but whose rightsholders cannot be found. HaithiTrust abandoned the Orphan Works Project shortly after the lawsuit was filed. The Guild had demonstrated that the copyright owners of most of the books were easily found, forcing HaithiTrust to acknowledge that its search methodology was flawed.
The resolution of the case follows a June 2014 decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which approved two limited uses of the HathiTrust Digital Library—full-text search and display to the print-disabled—but sent down to the district court the question of whether the copies made by HathiTrust for “preservation” or “replacement” purposes were done in accordance with the copyright law’s exceptions governing libraries, which require that libraries determine that the original was either damaged or lost and not obtainable at a reasonable price before making a copy to replace the original.
The agreement filed in the lower court should resolve that question. In it, the libraries represent that their copying complies with these requirements and will continue to do so unless and until they provide written notice to the Authors Guild. If the libraries change their copying practices, or if they unilaterally decide to distribute so-called orphan works under a new iteration of the abandoned Orphan Works Project, the Guild will have the right to bring a new lawsuit.
“Our pursuit of this claim was ultimately a success,” said Authors Guild Executive Director Mary Rasenberger. “It led directly to HathiTrust’s 2011 abandonment of the Orphan Works Project. Moreover, the stipulation filed today resolves one of our biggest concerns with the HathiTrust Digital Library—namely, that its copying wasn’t done in accordance with the rules for library copying laid out in the Copyright Act.”
A related case—Authors Guild v. Google—is currently under consideration by the Second Circuit, which heard oral argument from both parties on December 3. 
Feel free to forward, post, or tweet.  Here is a short URL for linking:

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Describing Characters

I've just read a blog post about describing characters, which cautions against the static type of opening scene with the character examining herself in a mirror or doing something else equally dull that doesn't advance the story. The post discusses the importance of beginning with action and emotion as means of characterization. No argument there! The writer also says, however, that most readers don't really care about the character's appearance; they will happily visualize their own concept of his or her physical description.

I've seen this claim before, and I'm dubious about it. Maybe some readers do feel this way. I want to know what the major characters in a story look like, though, and therefore I like to describe my own hero, heroine, and supporting actors, if only (in the case of walk-on extras) with a brief reference to some identifying trait. I remember when I learned that Eunice in Heinlein's I WILL FEAR NO EVIL was intended to be black. The text NEVER reveals that fact. There's only one tiny hint one can recognize AFTER finding out, from external sources, what her skin tone is supposed to be. I reacted with annoyance that I'd been unnecessarily envisioning her all "wrong" in each prior reading of the novel.

Of course, as writing experts often advise, the author should avoid a "police blotter" description listing the character's height, body type, eye and hair color, and clothing the first time he or she appears. Description should be worked into the forward movement of the story. How does an author reveal what a viewpoint character looks like, then?

The mirror scene is obviously out, having long since become a cliche. I've occasionally planted a photo of the heroine with someone important in her life and had her contemplate the picture while reminiscing. Having used that trick at least twice, I won't be doing it again. Other possibilities: The heroine might have a reason to consider her clothes, fretting over the fit or whether the color clashes with her hair. She might reflect on her own appearance while worrying about whether the hero finds her attractive. Reaching for an item on a high shelf could hint at her height. The comfort or snugness of a chair or airplane seat could give information about her weight and build. How far up she has to look up to meet the hero's eyes can show approximately how tall both of them are. Accessories—glasses, jewelry, an ever-present cell phone, etc.—can suggest appearance and reveal character.

Lately I've been able to avoid viewpoint-character self-description in most of my fiction because I've narrated from the viewpoints of both hero and heroine. That technique solves the self-description problem by having each character notice the salient physical traits of the other.

Do you feel most readers want to know what the hero, heroine, and villain look like? And how do you handle character description?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Setting-Character Integration Part 1 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg - Mindspace Investigations

Setting-Character Integration
Part 1
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Mindspace Investigations

In Reviews 11, we looked at a number of science fiction novels and films that depict Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Among them were the recent Mindspace Investigations novels and stories by Alex Hughes.

The most recent Mindspace Investigations novel came out in December 2014 in paper and e-book.

Here's the description from Amazon:
Nothing ruins a romantic evening like a brawl with lowlifes—especially when one of them later turns up dead and my date, Detective Isabella Cherabino, is the #1 suspect. My history with the Atlanta PD on both sides of the law makes me an unreliable witness, so while Cherabino is suspended, I’m paying my bills by taking an FBI gig.   

I’ve been hired to play telepathic bodyguard for Tommy, the ten-year-old son of a superior court judge in Savannah presiding over the murder trial of a mob-connected mogul. After an attempt on the kid’s life, the Feds believe he’s been targeted by the businessman’s “associates.”

Turns out, Tommy’s a nascent telepath, so I’m trying to help him get a handle on his Ability. But it doesn’t take a mind reader to see that there’s something going on with this kid’s parents that’s stressing him out more than a death threat…

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So I'm hoping by now you've read at least one or two of these Mindspace Investigations novels. 

A couple of the titles on Amazon are shorter than novel length.  Here may be some spoilers -- but even if they are spoilers, they won't spoil your enjoyment of these novels.  This is the kind of writing that just can't be "spoiled" by knowing what will happen.

Now we want to discuss one of those structural questions Romance writers face when writing a science fiction novel.

How much space must I devote to science and action to make it science fiction?"

The Mindspace Investigations novels are an example of how to strike that balance using the same kind of apportionment that Star Trek used.

You all know how Science Fiction Romance exploded onto the commercial scene during the Star Trek fanzine boom.  There was the "Get Spock" story where a character had to capture Spock's romantic interest, or just sexual.  There were such stories devoted to every other character.  There were terrific triangle novels where Kirk and Spock vied for the same woman.

Variations were endless, and are still going online with the new characters.  From Trek, it all spread to other TV and film universes.  

This enthusiasm for adding the personal life story-arc to the action/adventure story arc of a set of characters is increasing.

So if you create a purely adventure setting -- an all male cast of soldiers for example -- and pit them against a nemesis to create a purely action novel or TV show (or film), someone will write about their love lives, even if you stringently leave it all out of your story.

If you create a pure Romance, or a story that happens entirely during a Romantic Interlude -- on a Cruise, or a vacation in Paris, etc. -- take the characters out of their normal everyday responsibilities and their lives, and toss them into a Romance, someone will write the action-adventure part of their story.

Whatever is missing, that is what fans will write fanfic about, just as Sime~Gen fans keep writing stories about how the Territories eventually crafted some kind of working relationship.  They also gravitate toward writing about how the Sime~Gen mutation happened.  Fans write the missing parts.

So how do you get ALL the parts into a novel? 

Apportionment -- a little of this, a bit of that, more of this other, a little and more.  As you change the apportionment of the parts of a story, you change the genre.

So the Romance writer attempting a science fiction novel does have a valid question to answer -- how much space must be devoted to science, and how much to romance? 

Here is a wry, humorous way of looking at that apportionment.

I certainly don't expect writers to copy those apportionments, but there is a lot to be learned by the way it makes you laugh when you read the captions.

What the target audience loves most gets the most space devoted to it.

So if you're writing SCIENCE fiction ROMANCE, you need equal amounts of Science and Romance.

There is a way to accomplish this balance, and Mindspace Investigations does it gracefully.

The method is setting-character integration.

Every bit of description of the Setting also lends dimension to the Characters, to their motivations, their culture, their limitations, and their abilities (or Ability as Alex Hughes terms the various ESP function.)

Generally, Science Fiction does not encompass telepathy, but stories about telepaths (and other ESP functions) first arose inside science fiction during the years when ESP was being investigated using the best tools science could come up with at that time.

Today, telepathy etc is usually relegated to the Fantasy genre unless you can come up with a scientific explanation of how it works and why it works.  Of course, you can always rely on aliens from outer space to be your telepaths, (as Star Trek did introduce telepathy via Spock). 

The Science Fiction and Fantasy fields split several decades ago, and now they seem to be on a convergent path.

What is causing that convergence?


Just as Spock became a hugely dominant character - the very symbol of Star Trek - for his mind meld, so science fiction adventure novels are blending back into the fantasy field.

It is CHARACTER that integrates into the SETTING that permits the blurring of the genres.

Notice how Alex Hughes uses a telepath who investigates murders by "reading" "mindspace" -- which is far beyond mere telepathy, and close to clairvoyance. 

The origin of humans with Abilities is not explained in the Mindspace novels, but the origin of the Guild that gives them legal status is explained.

Artificial Intelligence was used by some really nasty people to attack and dominate humanity (very bad war), and AI went wild.  The humans with Ability came forth to do battle with AI and won.  Now AI and most computerization is legally forbidden, and The Guild virtually owns all those with powerful Ability.

All this deep history is clumsy to explain, but emerges naturally as we follow the main character through his desperate plights. 

He was a professor of high level telepathic tricks and has precognition that works very well (sometimes), but because of a Guild research program, he became hooked on an addictive drug.  Because he was addicted, he was thrown out of the Guild -- they expected him to die on the street. 

He survived, and we pick up his story as he has been "Clean" for a few years and has a job as a consultant for the police.  He does Interviews of accused perpetrators (and gets confessions), and helps with murder scene investigations by reading Mindspace to see who did what to whom. 

His personal history could not have happened in any other setting.

This setting could not HELP BUT generate a character such as this one.

The setting produces the character; the character produces the setting.

With these two crucial elements fully integrated, it takes very few WORDS (or screen time) to depict the action, the adventure, the characters, the science behind the ESP, or the absence of a functional Internet and other smart machines. 

So the setting is the somewhat near Future -- which makes it science fiction.  The setting is after a war to conquer Artificial Intelligence gone wild, which makes it relevant to today's world.  The setting is 1960's technology with a few bits and pieces of seriously advanced materials science that startles readers and depicts "the future." 

The Character is what SAVE THE CAT! terms "A Fish Out Of Water."   He was raised in the Guild, is used to dealing with people with Abilities, and has been thrown out among "normals." He is a highly educated, very respected individual who now is not even trusted to manage his own salary and expenditures.  When he needs new shoes, he has to ask his minder on the police force to take him to a store -- he can't even drive.  He can't buy food except where they have set up an account for him.

His self-esteem is in shreds.

SPOILER:  when he does have to deal directly with the Guild, their sense of him is contemptuous because he has lost at least one level of his Ability.

Even though the setting is a strongly developed science fiction scenario, and the Character faces unique fantasy-universe challenges, the underlying story is familiar, routine, easy to slip into and identify with.

The character is a typical Detective (in the process of becoming Hard Boiled, but very soft-boiled right now), and a typical recovering drug addict who fights that battle every day, and sometimes loses, and he's a typical Exile.

The Exile story is the dethroned king or prince.  The Detective story is the typical talented person using a hidden talent to rebuild his life.  The recovering drug Addict story is the typical 12 step program.

These 3 dimensions of Character would be enough, but because he's an Exile, he's ripe for an emotional relationship.  Now, to further his new career, he's working with a woman detective on murders -- and ROMANCE fills the air and the Mindspace.

Because of a battle they fought together, the telepath and police officer are now "Linked" -- with a mind-link that should fade provided they don't have sex.

She hates having her thoughts exposed to him.  He needs that mental contact until his mind heals -- and beyond.

In addition, they are falling for each other big time. 

Look at that Romance/Sex dynamic from the point of view of a Romance writer.

Love is an urgent must-do, and it meets an equally urgent can-not in these opening novels of the series.

That is CONFLICT -- the progenitor of STORY. 

As with Private Eye novel series, or Police Procedurals, there is the problem-of-the-week in the murder, and the opposition to solving the problem is usually the perpetrator.  That is one plot.  And at the same time, there is another plot driving the personal STORY of the detective (in this case the Telepath ), and his/her Relationships.

It was the relationship dynamic among the Bridge Crew of the Enterprise that drove fans to writing Star Trek Fan Fiction.

In the Mindspace Investigations series, the mystery-of-the-book is solved at the end of the book, but the Relationship Issue Of The Book is not resolved.

The Setting provides the element of Character that can not be resolved, just as it usually does in real life.  In real life, we have to keep this job (at least until another comes along), we have to keep up on the mortgage, we have to deal with people we don't like at work, in the community, and the general environment just can't be changed on a whim.

Our SETTING provides the ongoing problems, but one by one we do resolve our problem of the week or problem of the year.  We find people to establish Relationships with.  We find a lover.  We move in.  We get married.  We have kids, or adopt.  And sometimes we move to a completely new setting.

There is the Gothic Novel where the heroine inherits an old house, meets an irresistible Guy, has an adventure with a ghost and sells the house or gets an exorcism, then marries the "other guy" because the irresistible Guy turned out to be the Bad Guy.

The setting for the Gothic Novel is a creaky old house -- in an unknown locale, where the people are strange and different. 

The setting for the Mindspace Investigations is the near-future where everything is strange and different except the people who are just exactly who you would be, or want to be, if you had grown up in that world and been treated like that.

With Setting and Character fully integrated, the science and adventure (solving crimes, fighting Guild Politics or Police Department budgets) do not compete for space on the page. 

You don't have to worry about proportions.

You don't have to separate the action from the romance, the science from the relationship -- they are one and the same thing.  Each paragraph detailing entering or reading a murder scene also advances the Mental Link/Sex issues because Setting and Character are fully integrated.

Study Mindspace Investigations by Alex Hughes for the key to integrating the fictional elements so that it takes fewer words to convey the intricacies.

Setting and Character integration are not the only things done well in this series.

The fewer words it takes to advance the plot and the story, the more vivid the impression you leave on your readers.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Copyright Protection Evolves

IMHO, best round up of copyright changes in 2014.

Fair Use expands... more power to libraries, and to Google. Privacy is eroded, more power to Google.

Google wins again.

Some of us remember - who? Wyden and the "Open" scheme? - that the litigant with the biggest money bags always wins, and plaintiffs of modest means have no chance of prevailing when their copyrights are infringed if a) the government or b) Big Tech or c) someone rich...  is involved.

Happy New Year!

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Vampire Bugs, Lion Men

The January 2015 issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC mentions a cricket-like insect called the hump-winged grig, which engages in a slightly gory mating ritual. The male allows the female to nibble on his hind wings during sex and drink his hemolymph, "the bug version of blood." The male hardly ever dies of this predation, although a grig who's successful with lots of females may end the mating season "chewed right down to the nub." A real-life example in nature of a vampiric seductress trading sex for blood—and her "victim" inviting it!

In the same issue, an article on prehistoric art shows a photo of a foot-high carving from Germany known as the Lowenmensch, which depicts a figure who's part man and part lion. The article calls this piece the first known representation of "a creature that was completely imaginary." From a fantasy and science fiction perspective, however, this artwork reminds me of Jack Williamson's DARKER THAN YOU THINK and S. M. Stirling's Shadowspawn trilogy, both featuring a shapeshifter-vampire-sorcerer race that co-evolved with humanity from the dawn of Homo sapiens. In the world of those novels, the lion-man would not be imaginary but would represent paleolithic man's quite rational horror of the superhuman predators who stalk the forests of the night.

Leaping to a totally different topic, how about New Year's resolutions? I've long since stopped making them as such, because the word "resolution" turns me off; for me, it has connotations of a potential set-up for failure. I do have goals, though. My short-term goal, in the next few weeks, is to revise a horror-erotic romance crossover novella I wrote before the holidays and send it to a publisher. Next, I'll try to work up a story to submit to this year's SWORD AND SORCERESS anthology. In the long term, I'm expecting to write a paranormal romance novel with Lovecraftian elements I've been outlining, the long-planned sequel to my horror novel FROM THE DARK PLACES:

From the Dark Places

Happy New Year!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Depiction Part 4: Depicting Power in Culture by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 4
Depicting Power in Culture
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
This post is about developing Rules of Engagement to depict a culture different from our own, yet thematically related in a way that allows the reader/viewer to walk into the story and see the whole thing as "real" even though the "world" you have built is truly alien. 

This skill-set of depiction arises out of the Theme-Worldbuilding Integration series.

The previous posts on Depiction are:

In short: depiction is show-don't-tell brought into a high, subtle, "off-the-nose" artform. 

Depiction is the author being sneaky and not letting their own opinion leak through into the worldbuilding.  No two readers will assess what is depicted the same way.  But what they do assess is the part of the book they will remember longest.

That's why, when you go on social networks and try to get someone to help you remember the title or author of a book you halfway remember, and relate this vivid scene or starkly memorable character, what you get back is scattershot attempts to help, and not the book you are looking for.

The part you remember is the part you found in the depiction.

As a writer, you can't use depiction to make your point. 

But if you do not have a point, and you are not trying to make that point, most readers will get bored and drop the story in the trash. 

If you don't stick to the point you depicted on Page 1, and STOP once you've made that point (nail The End), if you let bits and pieces remain in the final draft that should have been deleted for use in another book with another point, you will get very angry readers giving you 1-star reviews on Amazon.

The clarity of "point" that most readers want has to be made off-the-nose.  It is via that point depicted that the reader enters this alternate Reality and rides with you to The End.

One of the issues that many readers have with Romance Novels is the HEA, the Happily Ever After ending that just is not plausible in their own everyday reality.  The lack of plausibility is often (not always) traceable to the depiction of the HEA. 

The HEA is the resolution to a problem that the reader believes can not be resolved.  The resolution of the conflict has its roots on Page 1, in the way the conflict is depicted.  Do Page 1 right, and the reader suspends disbelief and actually believes the HEA (at least for a few seconds). 

The Depiction series of posts on this blog is about mastering the techniques of depiction in order to create an HEA that is not a HFN (Happily For Now), and yet is absolutely believable by readers living in a harsh reality.

To that end, we are examining how to depict culture. 

Cultures are based on abstract ideas like religious ideas that the cultural pressures (peer pressure) make desirable. 

If you live the beliefs of the culture around you, you are taking the easiest path to developing Relationships.

In Science Fiction, we focus mostly on the individual who is an oddball, a maverick, an outcast, a 'drifter' type in a Western, a "First-In Scout" (an explorer with no ties to anyone).  We focus on the Loner who has no problem with being a loner.  And Science Fiction is mostly about depicting by stark illustration what value such loners have to society and ultimately to the culture.

The Loner is not always the person so unstable they are about to freak out and murder a mob of people just because they're angry.

The Loner is depicted as honorable, kind, just, and strong. 

Being a Loner is not the problem a Science Fiction Novel is written to solve.  The Main Character of a Science Fiction Novel does not experience being a Loner as a PROBLEM.  He/she is not "in conflict" with the situation of being alone. 

The Science Fiction hero's Loner situation usually comes about because of being at odds with the Establishment.  He's the Scientist who believes there really is life on Mars, or UFO's have visited Earth, or human activity really is not creating climate change, but natural forces of Earth itself are causing what we observe.

The Science Fiction Hero is the oddball, tin-hat crazy who turns out to be correct, and the plot-driving major conflict depicts his determined effort to prove he is correct -- or depicts his efforts to just get away from those who want to make sure he never proves he's correct.

His opposition has a "vested interest" (an emotional need) to know beyond doubt that this Science Fiction Hero's ideas are crazy, and thus untrue.

The HEA rejection mechanism is psychologically similar, so pay attention. 

The Powers That Be in our modern culture have that kind of "vested interest" in convincing the majority that the HEA is not possible.  The Universe structure which makes it obvious to us that the HEA is possible lies at odds with the Universe structure that gives the Powers That Be power over us.

Here are a few posts on the HEA.

So the typical Science Fiction Hero (this blog is about Science Fiction and/or Paranormal Romance, the hybrid genre), is alone, at least at or before the start of the story. 

What does it mean "alone?" 

It means not just having no family ties, or being free of obligations, debts, and other strings, but also it means being sovereign over your own mind, heart, body, and course in life. 

The Science Fiction hero is a person who has become a Strong Character because of being a Loner.
Part 3 has links to previous parts in the Strong Character series.

So it is natural for the Science Fiction Hero to become the Most Desirable Hunk in the Romance heroine's world.  He's a REAL CATCH -- and unattached to boot. 

Why did it take so long for Romance to discover Science Fiction?  (it all started with Star Trek, you know, and the Vampire Romance)

So when you set out to build a world around your story, you hide the point deep inside the worldbuilding.  Your point, as a writer, is an unconscious assumption of your characters, and a given of their culture. 

You get to state your point baldly in a single sentence that takes up half a line at most -- and is placed near the end or actually at the end of the novel.  It is Blake Snyder's "theme-stated" beat (see SAVE THE CAT! trilogy of books on screenwriting.)  Your point is inside your theme and is depicted within the characters' culture.

In Science Fiction, you often have two or more cultures to play with, and usually they are at odds with one another creating the main external conflict.  That's how most science fiction turns out to be about wars.

So a culture that is the outgrowth of war has to have its most prominent identifying beliefs focused on the use and abuse of Power.

Remember Star Trek's Klingons.  A good day to die.  The relish of the fun of combat.  Social interactions based on dominance displays. 

The original depiction of the Klingons (designed to work in the tiny space allowed in a TV episode), was very comic-bookish, too cliche, too facile.

So as the popularity of the Klingons grew, we saw different foreheads, a more thoughtful explanation of their values, and development of the language by a fan, and the addition of culturally specific weapons depicting tradition.  The culture acquired a history, depth, and real people. 

And all of it is based on the combat stance in personal relationships.  So Klingon culture has a whole lot of rules about who can do what to whom, when and how much.

The unfolding of Klingon culture from a line-drawing sketch of something to oppose the Enterprise into a galactic dominating, swaggering, and mighty culture with real people, and a character named Worf who grew up in a human family is a good model to study for depiction of opposition, and for worldbuilding a culture in order to depict a "worthy opponent."

Note how as Star Trek developed, this formidable opponent was nearly destroyed, and was rescued by Kirk et. al., then became an ally of the Federation that Kirk represented.  That "arc" of development of the Relationship between the two cultures is DEPICTED, -- shown not told.

One could make the case that early Klingon versions were bullies, or the most admirable trait in Klingon culture was bullying. 

We discussed bullying in the Theme-Worldbuidding series:

The anti-bullying culture subscribes to some simple rules of them to detect bullying situations. 

"Don't hit below the belt"

"Don't pick on someone smaller than you" (in size, power, reach, ability)

This picking on someone smaller than you is what Israel is depicted as doing to the Palestinians especially in Gaza.

See how easily depiction can be used to paint a picture which remains indelible in the mind long after a conflict is over?

The USA culture despises the Bully and righteously rejects bullying.

But how many Americans actually know what Bullying is? 

Most people don't think philosophically, or theoretically.  In life as in fiction, people want concrete, clearly defined edges to the ideas that form the world.

So they know what bullying is because they've seen it in school yards, or on Gang dominated streets.  Maybe they've seen it in domestic abuse.  They know it when they see it, but they don't analyze it to figure out what it is, and how to "depict" it in a Alien Culture (non-human culture).

Lifting out the essence of a concept like Bullying and using that essence to generate a non-human fictional culture is Art.  It is what Artists do for a living -- depict the world from a different angle than the reader/viewer has ever seen.  The artist does this to reveal an inner, hidden truth.

So conspiracies and International Intrigue, subterfuge and obfuscation make wonderful raw material for the Artist.

Remember how Leonardo DaVinci would look at a slab of marble, and see the statue buried inside it, then free that statue by paring away the dross?

That's what artists do -- take away the dross to reveal something hidden inside. 

So take the Middle East situation as an example.

Most people look at that mess and say Israel is a Bully -- because clearly they have a strong economy, high tech weapons, and can fend off the worst that Gaza can throw at them.  A few Israelis died, and thousands of Gazans died, so who's the bully? 

Obviously tiny little Israel is a horrible bully for keeping the Palestinian borders closed, and policing every movement they make.

That's Leondardo DaVinci's view from outside the block of marble. 

What does the artist see looking at this mess?

The artist sees the Gazans as the bullies. 

Isn't that startling? 

You can make the case that the Palestinians are more powerful than Israel if you understand the hidden connections and the history.  If you don't believe the history, you can't see the Gazans or the Hamas infestation in Gaza as the bullies.

The Palestinians have been made into a political football, or hot potatoe, by the much larger countries and factions surrounding the area.  They are the boxing glove worn by Iran and bigger countries in order to punch Israel without being hurt themselves.  They have been armed, deprived, and ginned up with religious fervor to be used as a weapon against a tiny country. 

Or so the argument goes.

Those who argue that Israel is the bully, say that Israel threw the Palestinians out of their homeland. 

Those who argue that Hamas and Palestinians are the bully, say that when Israel was forming as a State under U.N. Mandate, the Jewish refugees had no problem accepting the residents of the area as citizens of the new state.

But the Powers That Be in the surrounding countries lied to the residents to make them flee the new Israelis.  And then those Powers That Be refused to accept the refugees they had made homeless. 

There are conspiracy theorists who hold that those same Powers That Be planned to use those refugee homeless to attack and destroy the fledgling country Israel, a pushover without an army, populated by shell-shocked, starved people rescued from concentration camps.

Artists, especially those writing novels, love conspiracy theorists.  Such Drama!!!

Regardless of the actual motives of those Powers That Be, or even which countries they were from, the net result is a population of Stateless People, people not protected by a government, and without a land franchise of their own.

That population has grown, but as it has grown, it has not produced world class universities, patents, trade goods, intellectual property, or anything to add to the world GDP.  Trillions of dollars of the world's wealth has been poured into the Palestinian populace, and nothing has been added to the world Gross Product, the wealth of humanity. 

They are poor, and make a profession of being poverty stricken. 

So obviously anyone who attacks them is a bully. 

So what is a bully to do when the weakest kids on the block are given powerful weapons and attack as a mob?  Is the bully required (by cultural rules of engagement) to refrain from fighting back?  To refrain from self-protection?  To refrain from pre-emptive strikes to disarm?

The Palestinian situation makes a wonderful Situation to study for an interstellar war simply because the actual war is all about something totally different than Israel vs Palestinians.

What exactly it's all about -- aha, that's a matter for the Artist to chip away and reveal.  If you're stumped, go look again at the Klingons and the Romulans. 

Take this Situation, set it out amidst the stars of this galaxy, create different species, religions, billions of years of history, ancient ruins, Great Shrines of sacred planets,

Observe the Middle East melting down, and observe the techniques used to cause that to happen.  Look deeply into the religious wars, the many religious factions within factions -- there are as many flavors of Muslims as there are flavors of Christians, and Jews are no slouches in the flavors department.  A new faction seems to arise every week or so.

Are you looking at a religious war, or is the religious war an excuse to hold a good war the way the Klingons love to do?

How would Klingons (or Romulans) react to finding out they were someone else's patsy, a tool to hammer an enemy and escape retribution?

Which side is the bully and which the victim is a question few readers are comfortable pondering.  The reader wants you to tell them the answer.

There's a basic human psychology principle behind that reader preference.

People who bully in other areas of life become truly upset when they see what they think is bullying happening before their eyes.  They become upset because they can't look at themselves and acknowledge their own bullying tendencies. 

The psychological principle behind this is rooted in the subconscious.  What we hate other people for is the very thing we loathe so much in ourselves that we bury it deep in the subconscious. 

The Artist knows that when you see a flaw in someone else, it is because you have that flaw in you.  It's a reliable principle.  If you don't have that flaw, it won't irk you in others even when it is there.

So human cultures establish rules-of-thumb to measure or judge behavior objectively. 

You can tell a busy-body "Mind Your Own Business" by citing that cultural rule of privacy without getting personal, insulting, or obnoxious.  It's a generally accepted principle, not something you just made up.

The Prize Fighter waits for the guy he decked to get back on his feet before attacking again.  There's an ethical reason for that, and a moral one, but a referee enforced cultural rule. 

"Pick on someone your own size."  -- yes, you must fight, but only people who are an even match. 

One time there was a strike in Football, and instead of the scheduled match they televised a match between a professional team and a college team -- the college team got creamed.  And spectators didn't enjoy the sight.  They never did that again.

Do we enjoy such sights of uneven matches these days?

Check YouTube. 

There are a lot of Video posts by teens are of uneven matches.  There is that "trend" of walking up behind someone and sucker-punching them to the deck -- and it is done to older, more frail, or less fit (even handicapped) people.  The objective is to deck the other person WITHOUT WARNING, and that's pretty much like the old American Indian idea of counting coups by sneaking into another tribe's camp and stealing or marking their horses, leaving trace that their defenses are porous.

The message from the more powerful to the less powerful is "I am BETTER than you, so don't mess with me."

The message is MIGHT MAKES RIGHT.

That is the bully's message to the weak.

Is that now the new cultural mantra we all must live by?

Or do we still know that the weakest contestant in such a transaction is the bully him/herself.

Yes, bullies are cowards.  That's one of the oldest principles, and the origin of the advice parents always gave kids beset by the class bully -- just punch him back good and hard.  Deck him in front of his cronies.  That's the end of him because he'll react with cowardice not heroism.

Bullies are all about their Pride, so they focus on Who Is Right. (see the illustration at the top of this blog).  They do that because they are afraid they are wrong.  The Hero, the Strong Character (or one getting stronger) is focused on What Is Right, and always curious to find any error, misconception, or mistake.  The Hero is about correcting mistakes, and takes joy from each mistake found and corrected.  That's a hero.

Both Science Fiction and Romance are about heroes.  But very often, a combination of SF and Romance depicts a coward becoming a hero.  Many World War II movies depicted that character arc showing the flinching coward becoming a "real man" by finding inner courage.

On the TV Series DEFIANCE,

where several species of aliens have landed on Earth, each with their own culture and customs.  There is an alien culture where males are unquestioned in their (brutal) dominance of females. 
Exposure to Earth's ideas has given the wife of one prominent businessman some ideas about just becoming the boss.

She has framed him for crimes, had him imprisoned, nearly killed him in the street, humiliated him before other males of his species, used his son by her as a patsy and commanded the business interests behind the screen of his son.  She wants dominance in a MIGHT MAKES RIGHT culture that attributes its strength to dominating its women absolutely.

Their religious leader opposes her, and she frames him for murder of several women (wives of the prominent and powerful) and he is publicly executed.  She does this right in front of her husband.  The acting is absolutely superb and makes the show worth watching all by itself.

Now these are not "real" aliens, you understand -- they are Hollywood Aliens created to DEPICT a THEME.

At the inter-cultural interfaces among the various species, ideas cross over.  Each culture has its own definition of bullying, and of the value of the bully to a culture.

And yes, just as humans have a zillion cultures, likewise each alien species has different cultures.

The location is the USA, vastly transformed by destruction at the arrival of these aliens, and continuing threats.  The various aliens and all the different kinds of humans clash, and form uneasy alliances, and in some cases get along quite well.

The entire series is about Power -- who has it, who doesn't, what to do with it.

In the sparse, superficial language of Television Series, this series depicts Power In Culture.

The devastation depicted wipes the whole Israel/Palestinian conflict off the map.  The series doesn't give much about what's going on in the rest of the world, but clearly nothing that was going on is still going on.  Nobody turns up from China or a new Caliphate to take over the US, Canada and Mexico.

The focus is close up on a group of people (and non-humans) just trying to survive long enough to learn to get along.

And it's very much a "Strong Man" and "Gang" dominated society, very much like the "failed state" scenario we saw in The Balkans, and are seeing now in Libya, Somalia, some African areas, and Iraq, etc.  But Iraq might yet pull together something.

Still, DEFIANCE is a science fiction series depicting the failed state pulling itself together -- sort of.  It takes a really big bully to pull such a mess together. 

Is that why humanity is so well supplied with bullies?  Do we need them?  Is humanity's need for the bully-personality (cowardice and all) the reason God created so many bullies?  Or was that just evolution speaking?  All that is raw material from which to craft themes you can depict by using the culture you create for your characters.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg