Thursday, September 03, 2015

Artificial Intelligence and Sentience

The September-October issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND includes an article titled, "When Computers Surpass Us." The new generation of AI differs from computers such as Deep Blue, the famous IBM chess-playing machine, in the way the software learns. These computers are taught by trial and error, similar to the learning processes of human and other organic brains. This method leads logically to the familiar SF prospect of machines with the ability to "self-improve by trial and error and by reprogramming their own code." Nick Bostrom, author of SUPERINTELLIGENCE: PATHS, DANGERS, STRATEGIES, contends that there is no reason why computer AI shouldn't eventually surpass human intelligence.

AI can be divided into "weak" or "narrow" and "strong" or general. Our technology has already achieved dazzling progress in narrow AI, computers "able to replicate specific human tasks," such as driverless cars and facial identification software. Some futurists, including Bostrom, believe we'll produce general AI, with the versatility, language comprehension, and learning capacity of a typical human brain, before the end of this century.

We might ask why we'd want to create a computer that thinks exactly like a human being, except as a research project. We already have a planet full of human thinkers. The advantage of computer intelligence is its ability to do things we can do only with difficulty or not at all, such as lightning-fast mathematical calculations or analysis of vast, complicated systems. Even if or when superintelligent computers are built or evolve, thinking like human beings but on a far higher level, would they be likely to threaten us? Presumably the original AI minds from which all others descend will be designed with some version of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. Machine intelligences, having no emotions, wouldn't experience greed, ambition, or hate unless programmed to have those drives.

Of course, as the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND article discusses, an AI constructed with completely benign motivations could still be dangerous, even a "weak" or "narrow" one. A narrow AI tasked with "maximizing return on investments" might decide a national or worldwide disaster would be the most efficient method of increasing the earnings of its designated businesses. A computer ordered to make people happy might fulfill that command by implanting electrodes in the pleasure centers of their brains. A "strong" or "general" AI single-mindedly motivated to maximize human welfare might accomplish that goal by reshaping the world in directions we don't expect or want. Remember Jack Williamson's novel about the robotic overlords who decided the optimal way to preserve human safety and happiness was to prevent human beings from doing much of anything?

Asimov's Three Laws can't solve the problem by themselves, since they're subject to complex difficulties of interpretation. The definitions of "human" and "harm" contain potential minefields. A robot must not harm a human being or allow a human being to come to harm through inaction. Suppose the only way to protect one person from harm is to hurt another, such as saving the victim of a would-be mugger? A robot must obey the orders of human beings (subject to the limitations of the first law). Does a robot have to obey a small child, a mentally disabled or deranged person, or a convicted criminal? Ambiguities such as these are why, in many of Asimov's stories, use of robots on Earth is forbidden, their employment being restricted to controlled environments. In one story, two superintelligent robots analyze the meaning of "humanity" and decide it should be defined by mental capacity, not physical form. Therefore, they conclude the two of them are the most "human" entities they know, and hence they don't have to obey anyone else.

Would a computer whose intelligence surpasses ours necessarily become conscious? Heinlein assumes so in works such as THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, with the self-aware lunar-wide computer system, Mike, and in TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE, where the self-aware computer Minerva decides to have her consciousness transferred into a flesh body (as much as will fit in a human brain, anyway) so she can experience love.

Another SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN article, "Intelligence Without Sentience," addresses this question:

Intelligence Without Sentience

The author maintains that our assumption of an intrinsic connection between high intelligence and consciousness isn't valid. The AI systems described in this essay are intelligent in the sense that they learn and remember, yet they "have none of the behaviors we associate with consciousness." He bluntly declares, "They are zombies, acting in the world but doing so without any feeling, displaying a limited form of alien, cold intelligence." Many people might argue that this behavior is by definition not intelligent, simply automatic. That would be circular reasoning, though, since if we include awareness as part of the definition of intelligence, the question implied in the article's title has no meaning. The prospect of a superintelligent but non-sentient AI doesn't seem as dire to me as this author hints. Without self-awareness, the computer wouldn't have any selfish motives or irrational emotions to prevent it from acting in humanity's best interests.

With the reservation, again, that an AI might view our best interests quite differently from the way we do.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Marketing Fiction In A changing World Part 14 -- Analysis Of 2015 Fiction Market

Marketing Fiction In A changing World
Part 14
Analysis Of 2015 Fiction Market
Internet Trends

Here is the index to the previous 13 posts on this topic:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/05/index-to-marketing-fiction-in-changing.html

Understanding the turning of generations is how great classics become great classics.

There are Eternal Truths -- but there's always a new way of expressing or explaining in terms of the experiences of the current readers. 

At some point in life, a generation turns to "seeking" eternal truths, but most of the time humans are too busy to be bothered by eternity.  Now is all that counts -- a little bit like sex.  NOW!!! 

But as a writer, your primary skill set is based on the ability to view any situation from multiple viewpoints at once.  In this case, the viewpoints to master are the classics of the distant past (Shakespeare, the Greek Plays, the Bible), the classics of the recent past (anything written in the 1900's), and the current classics in the making ( written since 2000). 

That encompasses three disparate points of view on the Human Condition.  Three points give you a "line" or curve along which to extrapolate into the future -- writing the novels that will become "Classics" 40 years hence.

I do highly recommend reading back-lists -- yes, and my own back-list as well -- as research for how to create the effects you aim for in your readers.

You want to know how to worldbuild around a theme to punch a wordless emotional message through to a certain reader looking for a certain experience.

Not every book will "work" for every reader.  Not every content will overwhelm all readers with tears, laughter or personal exoneration from guilt of wrongdoing.

Very often in life, everyone you know turns against you, blasting you with excoriation, destroying your sense of self-confidence, -- basically grandstanding to puff themselves up, but that isn't how it feels to the target being vivisected in public.

Back-list titles (especially in Romance which were written for a pre-Fem-Lib audience) don't "work" for millennials.  The emotional punch is invisible to those raised in a new world.

However, if you are learning to write, studying something that does not "move" you as the author intended  can unlock the clues you need to learn how to construct an emotional punch for your modern audience.

It is a "connect the dots" exercise.  Pick up the "line" of development from decades ago, follow the statistics of significant changes summarized, then contrast/compare then vs. now.

Flipboard.com is an amazing new thing, (actually probably going to be bought out by something huge because it is so neat, and so successful). 

Here is where to subscribe to my Magazines on Flipboard, where you can see what I consider significant developments in terms of audience composition, beliefs, tastes, opinions, and conceptions or misconceptions about science.  The Sime~Gen Futurology magazine is a collection of new discoveries about Space, Galaxies, Stars, and Time itself. 

https://flipboard.com/@jacquelinelhmqg

Flipboard is a "news aggregator."  You set up an account, then sign up to "follow" various newspapers, magazines (all the expensive big names, plus a lot of the best ones from around the world), and you can follow topics, too.  It produces a rich stream of professional articles you can save into "Magazines" of your own to read later, or share.

I'm using this post to share with you one of the most data-dense, richly enlightening articles I've found in 2015.

I have not checked the data, the statistics, and the sources cited in this Powerpoint Presentation, slide by slide.  But the graphs, curves and slopes seem about right to me.  I think it's close enough to let you grasp the Market you are trying to hit, and why you need to hit that market.

Here's a slide about millennial coming to dominate the work force.  You need to aim for "the workforce" because they are the ones with the disposable income to buy books.  TV Series aim for that market as to films.  You want to write novels that can be made into films.  If you get lucky, you cash in big time.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Fair" Use ? Exploiting Artists.

Some words, IMHO, simply should not be used as legal terms. "Fair" for one. "Fair" is too subjective; many people understand the term differently. What seems "fair" game to a student or a scholar or a person or business entity who is very happy to redistribute other people's property without permission, may not seem at all "fair" to a creative individual whose livelihood depends on the legal licensing or sale of their work.

My friend and colleague Marilynn Byerly recommends this article on Fair Use:
https://janefriedman.com/the-fair-use-doctrine/ 

Marilynn blogs about copyright here:
http://mbyerly.blogspot.com/ 

On Facebook this week, artist Jon Paul Ferrara posted about the permissionless use of his artwork on the covers of some ebooks being sold for profit on certain retail bookselling sites.
https://www.facebook.com/jonpaulstudios?fref=photo%3E

Musicians and authors receive most of the attention when copyright infringement is discussed, although there was a memorable dust up in 2012 - 2013 when some websites claimed the right to turn "user-generated content" (ie uploaded photographs) into posters and wallpaper and postcards which the sites would sell for their own profit.  I saw my own paperback book covers offered as posters etc. I wonder whether the intent was that I should purchase it?

Quoting from TheTrichordist from 2013
"When Instagram attempted to change its terms of service that would allow the company to monetize the work of the individual without the individuals permission, consumers went ballistic. It seems that permission is not such a difficult concept to grasp when people are personally effected. This is why privacy is a much more universal issue, because everyone is effected by it....."
http://thetrichordist.com/2013/05/08/permission-privacy-and-piracy-where-creators-and-consumers-meet/

"User-generated" too often means "User-Uploaded" but not generated or owned by the site member.

Here's an excellent site that studied social media sites that strip metadata and copyright information from photographs etc.
http://www.embeddedmetadata.org/social-media-test-results.php

Bouquets for Google, in this case. Brickbats for Facebook... apparently.

The sites that remove copyright information could be a potentially serious issue from copyright holders, because these sites, in effect, make copyrighted works look like orphan works or public domain works.  Why does the law allow this? If the artist's name can --and may-- be lawfully removed from a painting, why shouldn't the author's name that the title of a book be stripped from the book?

(I am not seriously suggesting that attribution and titles should be stripped from copyrighted books. My point is that it should not be stripped from artwork.)

For authors who are self-publishing, make sure you purchase your cover art from a reputable source, and make sure you have the appropriate licensing for your anticipated print-run or distribution. If there are photographers and models involved, see if you can obtain waivers from both.

My best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Earth's Population Rising and Aging

Current U.N. projections predict that global population will rise to 11.2 billion by 2100. While population increase has been steadily slowing and is expected to level off eventually, it hasn't stopped yet:

World to Get More Crowded

And another article on the same study: World Population

Most of that predicted increase will occur in Africa, while birthrates continue to fall elsewhere. I was surprised to note that North America and Oceania together account for only five percent of the world's people. I knew we were in the minority, but I didn't realize how small a minority. Also, everywhere outside of Africa the proportion of older people is increasing. At present, about a quarter of Europeans are age 60 or older. The global median age today is 29.6. It's expected to reach 36 in 2050 and 42 in 2100.

Back in the 1960s, the prevalent fear was that population would keep increasing out of control until the planet became uninhabitable. Isaac Asimov wrote an essay calculating how soon this fate would overtake us at the then-prevailing rate of increase. I don't remember when he published this article or exactly when he figured the limit would be reached, but his doomsday date fell in the surprisingly near future. In that hypothetical year, he predicted the entire Earth would have the population density of Manhattan at noon on a work day. Everybody would live in high-rises, and food would be grown on the roofs, probably in tanks. Of course, in the real world rather than the realm of mathematical models, society would collapse under the strain and populations would crash long before that point.

The SF motif of relieving terrestrial overcrowding by interplanetary colonization isn't likely to materialize. When such colonies become possible, they will siphon off only a tiny percentage of Earth's people. New World colonies might have revitalized Europe in many ways, but they didn't make a significant dent in the population of the Old World.

At present, though, it appears that our long-term problem won't be overpopulation but an aging society. What solution to the potential shortage of working-age people in first-world countries wouldn't lead to unwanted population increase? Maybe robots?

Also, as has often been proposed, a society dominated by elderly people would need to shift its focus from working for a livelihood to the fruitful use of leisure time. Work as we know it would become only one phase among several stages of life. The residue of our country's Puritan work ethic (one hangover of which is the peculiar "early to bed, early to rise" attitude that sixteen active hours out of twenty-four are somehow more worthwhile if they start at sunrise) will have to be reexamined. We need to question the still too prevalent idea that workaholism is a virtue and relaxation a wicked indulgence. We can hope the world won't look like Jack Williamson's classic novel, in which robots took over all jobs and forced human beings into total idleness for their own safety. Ideally, people relieved of the need to labor for survival would devote themselves to tasks or leisure pursuits that would enrich their lives.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reviews 17 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg Alien Separation by Gini Koch

Reviews 17
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Alien Separation
by
Gini Koch


Today we're going to look at a genuine Science Fiction Romance with what seems to be Fantasy elements -- that turn out to be alien-advanced-science.  This series is popularizing mixed genre. 

Alien Series Book 11 from DAW Science Fiction, ALIEN SEPARATION by Gini Koch. (534 pages of small print)




Last week and the week before, we looked at Why We Do We Cry At Weddings. 

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2015/08/theme-symbolism-integration-part-2-why.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2015/08/theme-symbolism-integration-part-3-why.html

While I was writing those two posts on why we cry at weddings, I was itching to cite Gini Koch's series because it is a case in point. 

In 2011, the 3rd in Gini Koch's Alien Series was all about The Wedding after two of the hottest Alien Romance novels you will ever read, and was aptly titled Alien In The Family.  I loved the Wedding Dress on the cover.



Here is Gini in 2011, Gini in the foreground and me in the background, at the con where we first met in person.  Photo curtesy of Marsheila Rockwell. 

Gini Koch and Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Gini Koch and Jacquelne Lichtenberg
Only up to Book 3 in this series, and I already admired what Gini was doing with a story that was complex and thus difficult to tell.

Yet, she turned this galaxy-spanning tapestry into a follow-your-nose page-turner plot using elegantly simple techniques but orchestrating them into a symphony. 

These novels illustrate how a text-only writer can use the techniques developed by camera-directors for big screen cinema to create close-up reader engagement.

The tight use of Point Of View enhances the emotional impact because all the things that happen, and all the consequences of actions taken by Kitty-Kat (the main POV character - a human woman with morphing genetics) are felt sharply by the reader.

As I've noted previously, the novel writer's medium is not "words" but "emotion."  These 11 novels are crafted of the emotional spectrum that a modern, well educated, intelligent woman would experience when hit by the inexplicable, the bewildering, and the confounding.

Kitty-Kat's theme song is, "But What Is Really Going On?" 

Think about that theme -- This Is What I See, But What Is Really Going On? 

That is the seminal question of our everyday lives right now. 

Last week, we looked at several scientific reports detailing the 7 Primal Emotions or Primary Emotions as in Primary Colors.  And we looked at one list that reduced that 7 emotions to 4.  None of these lists pinpointed LOVE.  Then we contrasted those scientific lists with a different list that started with LOVE and used love as the driving force behind all the other 6 primary emotions. 


In other words, we did a Kitty-Kat exercise of "What is really going on here?"

We look at the world as it is painted in the News, at the "excuses" employers use for hiring/firing/promoting/transferring workers, at the kinds of cars everyone in your current traffic jam are driving, at what your neighbor's house just sold for, at what your doctor just billed your insurance for, at the endless lists of declared Presidential Candidates, and we think, "Wait a minute!  What's really going on here?"

So we all relate to Kitty-Kat's double-takes and we wish we could penetrate the blurry flog surrounding us the way she solves galactic riddles.

The close following of Kitty's Point of View gives us the perspective on our own problems, and makes each of these novels a treasure of a Good Read. 

The real delight in the series as a whole, a long series of long novels, is how the Romance starts with Love At First Sight, continues through harrowing adventures and desperate combat to the Wedding, and then after the Wedding the Romance continues to get more intense, the "tall, dark stranger in Armani suits," more mysterious and more dear.

As noted in Why We Cry At Weddings, the typical Romance ends before the Wedding Planner is hired.  Gini Koch has crafted a MARRIAGE which is a continuous, ongoing, cliff-hanger Romance (complete with amazing sex scenes).

Kitty-Kat, a human woman from a human family, marries an Alien -- native to Earth, yes, but of off-world ancestry.  The off-world in-laws take a real-time interest in the Wedding, and their political situation on their planet continues to change Kitty-Kat's life, right on through the birth of her first child, and the boomerang genetic effect gestation of that child has on her body. 

Here in Book 11, ALIEN SEPARATION, for the second time, Kitty-Kat and her alien husband are targets of assassins.  That's another theme that runs through Kitty's new life -- she has a very happy marriage still shrouded in Romance, but there's always someone (several someones, usually, and never who you'd expect) trying to kill her, her husband, her daughter, or others who matter to her.

Sometimes, what seems to be an attack actually turns out to be help-in-disguise, or perhaps a cry-for-help.  It gets complicated because there are pure-energy-beings, beings who are native to the inside of worm-holes, hybrid-beings of various types, clones, and mechanical beings.  And you can't quite tell which are "just" animals. 

ALIEN SEPARATION starts out with Kitty, her husband, her daughter, and an ensemble cast of her friends and allies being swept up and transported in a "beam" to an Alice-In-Wonderland-Fantasy world complete with talking animals (or are they animals?).  They land separated from each other, scrambling to survive as they hunt for each other. 

Again, as in the first novel, TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN, the environment and events give the reader the definite impression that this is a Fantasy Series -- when all of a sudden, what is "really going on" begins to re-arrange your assessment of the difference between science and magic. 

If you want to write Alien Romance that reads like Science Fiction to science fiction fans, like Fantasy to fantasy fans, like a Videogame to videogamers, and at the same time, like Romance to romance fans, then make this series your textbook.

Here are some previous posts I've done mentioning or featuring the Alien Series by Gini Koch.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/04/turning-action-into-romance.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/09/theme-worldbuilding-integration-part-3.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/05/theme-plot-integration-part-9-use-of-co.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/05/theme-plot-integration-part-10-use-of.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/11/reviews-2-by-jacqueline-lichtenberg.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/05/reviews-7-by-jacqueline-lichtenberg.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/06/information-feed-tricks-and-tips-for.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/08/reviews-9-sex-politics-and-heroism.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/10/dialogue-part-9-depicting-culture-with.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2015/03/reviews-12-heroic-point-of-view-in-mass.html

In most of those mentions of Gini Koch, I have noted that absolutely everything about her Alien Series makes it a Must Read, whether you are studying how to blend genres or just looking for a good read.

But every time, I have noted that some readers may find the text wordy in spots, which makes the pacing un-even in an annoying way.  Most readers have a "fast-skim" mode and just skip over of fly through sections where there are too many words used to tell a brief part of the story.

When you write a novel, you have to just let the words flow -- and there will always be too many words here and there.  Second draft sees about 10% cut, and third draft -- or the editor's blue pencil over the manuscript -- soaks another 10% out.  If those cuts are well done, the result is easier to read, and more fun to read, and re-read.

When you have a long story to write and a tight deadline, very often there's no time to do those careful cuts.  To know what to cut, you have to let the manuscript sit for a few months, then re-read it and cut as you go.  If you do not have the time to let it sit, then wordy-structures will get into print.

There is one other way to prevent wordy-structures from making it into print -- don't write them to begin with.  Make a habit of crafting your sentences tightly -- of constructing dialogue without loops and repetitions, without one character recounting to another what the reader already knows (except where a character is lying to another character and you want the reader to know that.)

I don't know how she did it, but Gini Koch achieved a huge reduction in wordy-constructions and looping dialogue with this novel.  The published version would not benefit from another 20% cut. 

Every page is filled with purposeful, plot-advancing, story-enhancing words and nothing else.

It's not terse writing, yet, but it is very different from the previous 10 novels. 

For that reason alone, I recommend that you read these 11 novels in order.  This series is not like Sime~Gen, where you can read in any order.  This is an ongoing saga, a story that unfolds in chronological order, and all about the same characters you get to know in depth.

December 2015 has book 12 scheduled for publication -- ALIEN IN CHIEF. 

Go to Gini Koch's Amazon Page and on the upper left, click the button to FOLLOW her.  Amazon will email you when the next book comes out. 

I love that FOLLOW button!  I follow a lot of series this way.

All in all, Gini Koch's Alien Series is a classic in the making.  It breaks new ground, gives a new perspective, and heralds the shifts in modern publishing and audience taste. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com




  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Time Travel Restrictions

Having just reread LIGHTNING, one of my all-time favorite Dean Koontz novels, I was newly impressed by the way Koontz manipulates time travel to create suspense. It would be easy to think time travel lets characters do almost anything to solve their problems. But ingenious authors place conditions on time travel by which it complicates protagonists' lives and sometimes generates as much trouble as it prevents.

The most extreme example of time travel as more of a curse than a boon appears in THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE. If you've read the novel (or seen the movie), you'll remember that the protagonist jumps to different moments in his past or future (and in at least one case, after his own death) at random and involuntarily. He has no control over when or where he arrives. Worse, he can't take anything with him that isn't part of his body, not even tooth fillings. He can, however, appear in a time and place where he already exists and often does. In theory there could be any number of versions of him in a single location at once. Thanks to the nonlinear nature of his time travel, he can develop his relationship with his future wife in foreknowledge of their life together.

The TV series QUANTUM LEAP allows its hero, Sam, to leap only into the past and only within his own life span (although late in the series exceptions were finagled). He travels by changing places with a person native to that time period, who's made to wait in a sort of holding area until Sam leaps into another person's life. People in the other time see and hear him as the person he replaces. Therefore, he of course can't bring objects with him.

Connie Willis's time travel series (DOOMSDAY BOOK, TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG, BLACKOUT, and ALL CLEAR) features a research facility at mid-21st-century Oxford University, which sends historians back to study the past. They can go to any time and place, but some force inherent in the nature of time prevents them from getting too close to critical events, so they can't change pivotal turning points. (As far as they know—doubts on this issue plague the characters in BLACKOUT and ALL CLEAR.) They can wear and carry items from their own period into the past. But more than one version of an individual can't occupy the same moment. Although the exact outcome of accidentally doing so seems unknown, it's certain to be disastrous.

In Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER and its sequels, the magic inherent in certain spots on the earth (usually marked by stone circles) transports people into the past or forward to their own native era. The traveler can take as much as she can wear or carry. There's no control over when the traveler will arrive, though. Each circle seems to transport people a fixed number of years backward or forward. Therefore, nobody has the option of staying in the past for years and then returning to her "present" minutes after leaving. The same amount of time will have transpired as if she'd stayed in the present.

With the time turner in the Harry Potter series, a wizard can travel to any point in the past (or the future?—I don't remember that the books addressed that question), can carry objects along, and can exist in the same moment as an earlier or later version of himself or herself. The only limitation seems to be how long the device will allow someone to stay in a different time.

The closest approach I can recall to a time travel method that empowers the hero to do almost anything occurs in Heinlein's TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE. Lazarus Long's time-traveling spaceship can go to any spatiotemporal location, and the system freely allows two or more versions of an individual or object to exist in the same moment. So any character can survive apparent death if a time traveler rescues him or her even at the last microsecond, as long as it's soon enough for transportation to the distant future where almost any disease or injury can be healed. This method saves "dead" people in both TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE and TO SAIL BEYOND THE SUNSET. Maybe that power contributed to the impression of one reviewer who wrote about one of Heinlein's late novels that his characters "have no problems, only transient difficulties."

Stephen King devises an especially odd variant in his novel about the Kennedy assassination. The time portal in this book leads to a particular moment on a particular date in the 1950s, no other time or place. Most peculiarly, any trip back through the portal by anyone resets to the default timeline all changes made during the previous visit. The only way to ensure permanent changes would be to destroy the gate after the last trip. Thus, a traveler can always wipe out his mistakes (or someone else's) and start over. Unfortunately, all changes, whether bad or good, get obliterated. Each visit to the past is a total reset. (Or maybe not exactly, but that wrinkle shows up only toward the end of the story.)

The heroine of Koontz's LIGHTNING enjoys the protection of a mysterious "guardian" who pops in and out of her life at critical moments to head off various disasters. In fact, he has watched over her since before she was born, for his intervention prevents her from dying at birth along with her mother. Because he's a time traveler, he doesn't have to experience her life in linear order. If he learns an event has gone horribly wrong, he can return at an earlier date to fix it. (I won't mention what time period he originates from, since that's one of the book's thrilling surprises.) He can carry items back and forth. He wears a device that allows him to return to his own era at will, so he has no constraint on how long he can stay in a given period. Because of the limitations of his time machine, though, he's far from all-powerful. He can't travel to a moment when he already exists. Anyone who tries simply bounces back to the base site. Koontz uses this condition to create nerve-wracking suspense at the novel's climax. To save the heroine from certain death, the hero has to take advantage of a tiny window of opportunity. If that attempt fails, he has run out of moments he can travel to and still make a difference in the outcome.

For such conditions to incite the desired emotional responses in readers, of course, the rules have to be set up clearly in the early part of the work and adhered to with faithful consistency.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Theme-Symbolism Integration Part 3 Why Do We Cry At Weddings Part 2 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Symbolism Integration
Part 3
Why Do We Cry At Weddings Part 2
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Symbolism
Bride&Groom Pray Before Ceremony
Without Seeing Each Other

Previous Parts of Theme-Symbolism Integration
PART 1
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/12/theme-symbolism-integration-part-1-you.html

PART 2
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2015/08/theme-symbolism-integration-part-2-why.html

And this is Part 3 of Theme-Symbolism Integration - as well as Part 2 of Why We Cry At Weddings.

It is said that laughter is a response to pain, the edge of the zone of pain, the prospect of pain -- a tickle is a sensation that can escalate into pain, but doesn't, yet it sets the nerves on fire and we laugh, giggle, flinch away just as if it were pain.

Emotional pain works the same way -- the tickle of the edge of a painful emotion sizzles through the nerves and jerks out a bark of laughter. 

Like a sneeze, laughter is a reflex: the nerves fire, the muscles respond, on a sliding scale of intensity.

Last week, we discussed Vulnerability -- how a writer does not need to understand precisely where their reader is vulnerable to evoke emotion in the reader, but a writer needs to understand the condition of vulnerability. 

A tickle on a vulnerable spot can be experienced as pain. 

"Salt in an open wound" is an example of that.  Ordinarily, our skin doesn't respond much to salt -- though enough salt on the skin for long enough dehydrates and puckers the skin.  Scrape the skin a little, then trickle salty sweat over the raw spot and OUCH!

The most vulnerable spot people today have in common is, I think, the knotted ball of symbolism that grows out of Religion (all of them; not any particular one). 

Bride Praying Before Ceremony
Religious people are viewed as stupid, or at least uneducated, and who wants to be viewed that way?  So we have a lot of people who seriously believe in God, but disavow all Religion because Religious people are stupid.  Some of these have convinced themselves that they don't believe in God, even though they do.  Some accept the idea of Souls and Soul Mates, but not God. 

We seem to be in an epoch of human history where our penetration of understanding of Nature, of Stars, and Planets, Galaxies and Particles, Dark Matter, Strings, and even Life On Other Planets, is finally becoming common knowledge.

In general, even just a High School education exposes people to the miracles of genetics, neurology, disease treatments and even cures based on our understanding of nerve cells, and the brain as a whole.

Even Sanity is coming under scientific scrutiny.  Out of body experiences can be explained by brain activity.  Many severe psychological conditions can be treated by daily medication, and more miracles are in the works.

We can solve anything.  We are just animals with a little more brain matter than most. 

In many ways that is a very comforting thought, and it leads to clear positions on various difficult matters such as Abortion, Death Penalty Crimes, the morality of War, and how to perform Charitable Deeds (or not).  The list of today's dilemmas seems endless, and most of them are easily resolved once you understand the world in terms of the human brain's electrochemical base.

You don't need God to get married, or have children -- in whichever order you choose.

Even people who go to Church a few dozen times a year to salute the Unknowable Infinite still live their everyday life in a totally explicable Knowable world.

We rely on that scientific view of reality, base all our decisions and actions on it, and feel confident that we know what we're doing as responsible adults. 

Saturn rules Science.

Neptune rules Romance.

Saturn rules bones.

Neptune rules the Soul.

Bones exist - we know that.  Souls do not exist -- we're pretty sure of that.


Yet we search for, and often find and marry, our Soul Mate.

When we fall in love, we FEEL a new sensation on a vulnerable part of the psyche -- it is a loss of virginity, a new sensation, a new set of nerves connecting and sizzling with a message.

Pain and Pleasure are the same thing -- nerves stimulated in a pattern.  One we flinch away from and try to avoid; the other we pursue and try to repeat. 

Where we are vulnerable and tender, very faint stimuli register as intense.  Where we are calloused from repeated stimulation, even the most intense stimuli are barely noticeable.

As physical creatures, we seek stimulation as validation of our existence, of life itself.  Experiencing a response to stimulus is essential to our well-being.

The louder the music (however pleasurable), the faster it deafens (callouses) you. 

Sex works like that.  The more frequent and unrestrained the sex, the more intensity you need in order to feel it. 

Taste works like that.  The spicier the food you regularly eat, the more spice you need to taste anything at all. 

Smell works like that.  If there's a bad smell in your house, you get used to it and your best friend won't tell you how your clothes stink.  You wouldn't believe it, anyway.

What you are used to becomes imperceptible -- yet we seek perception. 

The term is "Jaded Palate" -- if you have a jaded palate, even good things don't seem noticeable.

So how do we, as writers, sneak around to the back door of our readers' Soul and tickle them? 

The main tool we use to get through our reader's thick callouses and pierce their Souls with emotions they can not name is Symbolism.

But randomly chosen symbols will not add up to a story.

Working against each other, randomly chosen symbols produce an undifferentiated fog of gray.

Choosing symbols specifically to explicate a particular Theme produces sharp contrasts, black and white, yellow and red, green and orange.  Emotions work just like colors. 
Armenian Couple Crowned & Blessed


There are Seven Colors in the Rainbow -- and Seven Primary Emotions.

The writer's creative medium is not words, not computer word processing, and not even imagery or poetry -- the writer's creative medium is Emotion.

Naturally, there's a lot of argument over classifying human emotion! 

In early 2014, The Atlantic published this article headlined:
http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/02/new-research-says-there-are-only-four-emotions/283560/

-----------quote-------
New Research Says There Are Only Four Emotions

Conventional scientific understanding is that there are six, but new research suggests there may only be happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted.

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

This theory is in contravention to the accepted model of 6 Primary Emotions: happy, surprised, afraid, disgusted, angry, and sad. 

There is a more classic list of 7 Basic Emotions -- Anger, Contempt, Fear, Disgust, Happiness, Sadness and Surprise.

In 2012, Discover Magazine carried a story about defining humanity's 7 primal emotions by studying rats and making them laugh.

http://discovermagazine.com/2012/may/11-jaak-panksepp-rat-tickler-found-humans-7-primal-emotions

---------quote from Discover article------------
Since the 1960s, first at Bowling Green State University and later at Washington State University, Panksepp has charted seven networks of emotion in the brain: SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC/GRIEF, and PLAY. He spells them in all caps because they are so fundamental, he says, that they have similar functions across species, from people to cats to, yes, rats.

Panksepp’s work has led him to conclude that basic emotion emerges not from the cerebral cortex, associated with complex thought in humans, but from deep, ancient brain structures, including the amygdala and the hypothalamus. Those findings may show how talk therapy can filter down from the cortex to alter the recesses of the mind. But Panksepp says his real goal is pushing cures up from below. His first therapeutic effort will use deep brain stimulation in the ancient neural networks he has charted to counteract depression. Panksepp recently sat down with DISCOVER executive editor ?Pamela Weintraub at the magazine’s offices in New York City to explain his iconoclastic take on emotion. His new book, The Archaeology of Mind: ?Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotion, will be published in July.
------------end quote----------

See?  Just understand the brain, and you are master of life, the universe, and everything.

There really is nothing else.  Right? 

We can research, re-invent and re-define our Primary or Primal Emotions, and re-arrange ourselves and our lives any way we want.  A little electrical stimulus fixes everything.

These articles on the brain and emotions make perfect sense to us.  What more do you need to know? 
So now you know, can you explain why you cry at weddings? 

If Grief is a Primal Emotion, then it's obvious why we cry at Funerals, isn't it?  Grief is personal, and composed of feeling sorry for oneself at the same time as feeling what it is like to be the person whose life has ended.  How will your life end?  Is there any meaning to anything we do?

Clearly grief is uncomplicated and thus Primal.

Notice the absence of LOVE as a Primal emotion.  Is that absence congruent with your model of reality? 

Now look at this Kabbalah inspired article on the 7 Primary Emotions
http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/277116/jewish/Introduction.htm

---------quote-----------
The seven emotional attributes are:
-----------end-quote------------

Note how each of the 7 Primary Emotions listed on that page is composed of "cross-terms" as they say in math, or harmonics as they say in Astrology, or how an artist mixes colors to make new hues, making a palate of 49 Emotions which these exercises are designed to mature.

With maturity of these emotional states, the corresponding negative emotions cited in scientific articles are absorbed and dissipated by the light of these powerful emotions.  One's internal emotional climate shifts -- yes, climate change -- and the world seems brighter.  And the burst of tears at weddings becomes more explicable, perceptible as a glimpse of something too bright to look at directly. 

Click the links on the page to find the mixtures, which make it easier to sort out the melange of emotions causing that Cry At The Wedding outburst. 

Note this list starts with LOVE.

It starts with Loving-Kindness.

What does it feel like when someone looks at you with Loving-Kindness in their eyes?  I know you've seen it, but have you ever named it out loud?

Also note that LOVE is a component of every one of the other 6 emotions in the list. 

This 49-element model of human emotion uses LOVE as the power-source behind all emotion. 

You can't act in Justice without Love, and so on.  Love is the primary component, the origin and the source powering all others. But look at what "all others" includes -- but most especially does not include in this list of 7 Primary Emotions that combine to drive the human spirit.

Also note Grief is not on the list of 49.  Nor Fear.  This 7-Emotion paradigm depicts a totally different Reality than any of the other lists of primary emotions.

So think hard.  Is this portrait of Human Emotion more akin to your own internal primary emotions?  Does this depict your reality, or the reality you glimpse at the moment you burst into tears at a Wedding?


You may want to buy the following book which explains (though that's not what it was written for) how to create plot-events or symbols from these abstraction emotions. 

In this book:
 http://store.chabad.org/product.asp?Product=bk-mlc-counteng
Which you can also buy on Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Counting-Omer-Simon-Jacobson/dp/188658723X/

...each of the 49 individual Emotions discussed comes with a do-it-today exercise that is a challenge to your ordinary way of looking at the world.  These exercises, done in this sequence, strip calluses and leave vulnerability. 

To find out when the Omer is counted, search the App store (iPhone or iPad, probably Android too) for Omer.  Or the Android store.  There are lots of free apps, and some with in-app purchases.  An app usually uses your phone's local time to alert you to the day of the Omer being counted.

Starting with Passover and going 49 days to The Feast of Weeks, each day contains a plot-twist, and each annual repetition is no repetition at all, but rather a unique experience in learning about Emotion. 

You've heard the term "Emotional Intelligence?"  This exercise is preparation for an Emotional Intelligence test. 

There is a mystical (Kabbalah) tie between the day of the Lunar calendar and the action suggested in the exercises.  The idea is that doing that particular exercise on that specific day amplifies the effect the action has on your Emotional Intelligence in a way that doing it at another time would not have. 

The greater your emotional intelligence, the more effective you can be as a writer orchestrating emotional responses in your readers by using concrete plot-actions coupled with symbolism.

With that understanding grasped, let's get back to Weddings as a plot-Event.

As previously noted, the Romance part of a character's story is generally over at the Proposal.

But sometimes the hottest Romances start with a Wedding scene for mutual friend or relatives where the couple first meets -- during or after one of those Crying At A Wedding moments.

Eyes swimming, they see each other through rose-colored tears -- all the sharp edges and harsh lines of character flaws blurred out, and Loving Kindness sweeps them off their feet.

Now why do we understand the Crying At A Wedding moment to be a natural prelude to meeting a Soul Mate? 

If you've never seen it happen, never heard of it happening to anyone you know, still you find it an acceptable postulate to kick off a Relationship driven story.

Another good moment to start a Romance is at a Funeral -- during or after the crying, and desperately trying not to cry scene.

Likewise, there are meetings over a parent's death-bed, in a Court Room awaiting a death sentence, at the scene of a car accident, by the ambulances in front of a house going up in flames, amid the rubble of an earthquake or bombing in a war. 

These are moments of peak emotion, moments when the whole nervous system is in fear-fight-flight mode, constant orientation response mode.

These are not normal, everyday, get groceries and pick up the kids from school moments. 

The emotional peaking stretches the old emotional scars and calluses that ordinarily cover up our emotions and blunt the ability to respond to minor incoming stimuli.
 
These are moments of vulnerability when we can let another person "in" and give of ourselves in ways we ordinarily do not.  Connections can be made at such moments where the cracks in our emotional armor are spread wide.

Emotions welling up can crack that shell from the inside and leave sensitive surfaces exposed, vulnerable.

That happens at Weddings, and other Life Event Ceremonies.  Retirement ceremonies work.  Presidential Inaugural, or swearing in ceremonies. 

But just feeling emotion welling up doesn't cause that very odd, very peculiar and distinctive flash of tears common to the "Crying At A Wedding" moment.

Commonly, the tears well at the moment Bride or Groom says "I do" (or whatever they've written).

Or at the giving of the token (symbolism) - traditionally a ring.

Or at the first kiss -- which is likely not the very first, but is the first as a married couple.

The tears burn up out of the eyes at the moment recognized as "Everything Just Changed."

This is the moment the Future morphs, partly because of what the couple did and partly because you recognized the shift in Reality. 

We live in a state of taking things "for granted" -- of relying on assumptions.  We understand science, we understand ourselves as mortal animals governed by a complex brain - and that's it.

We just can't handle all the variables necessary to envision reality on many levels, extending along many axes, beyond infinity.  It's too much.  We can't work the problems of our lives with too much information.

So we cut down on our perceptions, hide behind emotional callus, and won't admit there is anything there that we are not feeling the presence of.

In these peak moments of life, though, the callus cracks, stretches open and exposes the tender flesh that can feel the "salt" -- the foreign substance -- hear the faint whisper of mystical Presence -- smell the whiff of the Garden of Eden -- taste mana. 

I'm using Biblical references because most readers will understand them.  But this ultimate truth perception-shift happens for everyone of every faith (atheist, too). 

You can use the Wedding Tears as a symbol to move your readers because it is common across all belief systems.

It is a moment in which some people experience confirmation that their Beliefs are true, not beliefs at all but really True-Truth, and that is astonishing and too painful to encompass.  Such a discovery is always followed by flinching away from it -- as if it were painful.

It is also a moment in which some people experience confrontation with the knowledge that everything they believe about Reality just is not true -- or not as complete a picture of Reality as they thought.

Either way, the callus cracks, like the clouds parting and letting sunlight into a dark day -- and we wince just as when sudden light in darkness causes a reflex to close our eyelids.

It is a "pull the rug out from under you" moment, a moment of astonishment when nothing you thought you could depend on actually works.

It is the moment between being shot and noticing that you're dead.

It occurs at that point where pleasure and pain join, where the scream of pain and the shout of laughter are indistinguishable. 

The physical nerves "white-out" and something else continues to perceive .... something.  It isn't the universe as you know it, but the universe unfiltered by your defending calluses.

There is the Uncertainty Principle -- where the observer changes the observed by the simple act of observing.  By noticing that The Future Changed at the moment two souls join, you have changed The Future.

Hence weddings must have Witnesses.  The act of Witnessing is the act of changing.

And that is not possible in the World As We Know It.  Just because I see you does not change you. 

Yet in some other Reality -- yes, it is true.  Two Souls mate and the Third Soul composed of the Two United is changed by the observation of the Witnesses.  So who witnesses can change the course of the marriage.  "I danced at your wedding," makes a difference.

Reality itself warps during these Life Event moments (and with our population in the billions, there are lots of such Events every moment the Earth turns).  Reality warps again as the moments are witnessed.

You've heard the phrase, "Don't look! You can't un-see this!" -- often applied to a gruesome accident or an atrocity. 

Once you have witnessed something, it becomes a part of you and can change the direction of your life.  Hence WITSEC - the Witness Protection Program.  You see it; you testify; you can not be the same person anymore or they will kill you for testifying.

The same is true of Weddings.  The knowledge that you are no longer the same person causes the tears -- grief for who you used to be, joy for all the new possibilities in your life, and maybe Love of God or whatever you deem the source of that searing brightness that lances into your vulnerable cracks.
 
Is it God?  Do you need to postulate that God Is Real or to admit the Soul is Real to understand why you cry at weddings? No, you don't have to.  It is one explanation that works fairly well for some people, but not the only one that covers all the observations.

Few come away from a crying jag at a wedding convinced that God came down and married these two Souls.  In fact, most people would think you crazy for saying that. 

Most people can point to sentimental reasons, memories of other weddings, realization of hopes for the new couple, poignant sorrow at the failure of their own marriage, cynical foreknowledge that this new couple will likewise part, and a piercing hope that, "No, not this time!"

So many mixed emotions clashing with each other create quite enough almost-pain to account for the buckets of tears shed at weddings down the ages.

Compare the tears shed at a Wedding with the burst of tears when you witness (even via TV) a heroic act, or a life sacrificed to save another, perhaps a helpless baby.  Compare the Wedding sensation with witnessing an Event such as how the USA responded during the 9/11 Attacks, or someone's worthy deed being given a worthy award.

Consider any movie or novel that you cried through the last ten minutes or twenty pages.  Finally, finally it all comes out right in the end and your faith in human nature is justified.

Each of these moments speaks in symbols, in traditions, in customs, in passing the torch to the next generation and finding them worthy - in symbols that affirm the continuity of human civilization.

Those symbols, arranged just-so, blindside us with a stab of hot emotion too searing to bear for more than an instant.  Just as when the dentist drills into a tooth and your eye waters, something from outside your callused shell breaks through to exposed nerve and you FEEL it.

That "It" that you feel may as well not exist in your life at all before and after that moment, just like the dentist's drill is always in his office but doesn't always hurt you.

What is that "It?"  What is it that comes through your cracks and hits a nerve in those peak moments of life?

Those who are bored at Weddings, or do not cry or feel deeply (maybe only come to get drunk?) may simply be too afraid of the nascent pain to let their calluses crack open even a little, to let that sensation happen to them. 

Naming that "It" gives you a Theme.  Shrouding that "It" in symbolism gives you a way of explaining what that "It" is to your reader, who may be one of those bored at a wedding type people. 

We see that "It" as "light" -- the kind of Light by which the Third Eye sees.  The wince away from that Light at Weddings is the Third Eyelid squinching shut after Witnessing the souls joined.

The "light" is so bright, the flash through our cracks so sudden, we can't See what's behind it, what's causing it, what's emitting that Light.  To us, it is only "It." 

  

"It" is amorphous.  To make a novel out of "It" manifesting in this world, you have to Name it. 

Your thesis for your theme is a Worldbuilding element.  In this World where these Characters live, Magic is Real, Evil is Palpable and Profitable, Good Always Wins (or Loses?).  Those are themes you never state in words, but mold into the fabric of your World. 

What is the "It" that intrudes at Life Ceremony Moments? Name that "It" and the name becomes your Theme.  "This is a World where "It" is (God, Devil, Demons, Angels, Aliens).  Each choice is a statement about that theme, and dictates the symbols that will be meaningful to your readers.  


Weddings have symbols and traditions for a reason. 

Use that reason even when you have your couple write their own vows and create new traditions.  Every tradition was done for the first time sometime.  Not all first time traditions last more than a generation.









One way to research current traditions is to search Pinterest for Wedding, Bride, Bride and Groom, and related keywords you can think of.  Wedding Planners and Photographers and Caterers are using Pinterest to present their services, and encourage innovative Weddings that won't bore the guests.  You can use their posted images to develop the symbolism in which to discuss your Theme.

 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Advanced Copyright Issues On The Internet

This is a long .pdf (700 plus pages) and dates from March 2014 but every copyright owner or aspiring copyright owner could benefit from skimming it.

http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=35a047ff-4fe9-4796-9a8e-d5b258ad9838

My principle take-away from this is that copyright owners have many rights, but since the internet is global, users who create copies of a copyrighted work may have overlapping liability in many different countries, not all of which follow and enforce the same copyright laws.

Kudos to the law firm Fenwick and West LLP.

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Polygyny in a Matriarchy

I recently read A BROTHER'S PRICE by Wen Spencer and was fascinated by its world-building. The society in this novel has gender relationships and a marriage structure like nothing in our history that I've heard of. (The world of the novel seems to have some alternate-universe connection to ours, because Hera-worship dominates their religion.) The driving force of the culture springs from a vast numerical imbalance between the sexes; males are much rarer than females. As far as I noticed, the novel doesn't make it clear whether few males are conceived, most male fetuses die by miscarriage or stillbirth, or some of both. Since the technological level appears to correspond to our nineteenth century at most, maybe earlier in some fields, their medical science might not even know the ratio of male to female conceptions. As in Jacqueline's Sime-Gen universe, no explanation is offered for this status quo. It's simply a sad fact of their biology. Unlike the Simes and Gens, the people of Spencer's world don't have even a distant legendary memory of a time when things were different; at one point the hero and heroine laugh at the notion of a one man-one woman marriage.

Spencer explores the ramifications of these gender roles in a strongly plotted story full of emotion and suspense. She made me believe, for the duration of the novel, that a man could fall in love with a family of sisters and they could happily share him. Kinship altruism operates in this arrangement—that is, the organism "wants" to contribute to the well-being of an organism carrying many of the same genes. A group of sisters marries one man (some of the girls might be too young for mating at the time of marriage, but they're still legally his wives). He fathers as many children as possible on as many of them as possible. A family blessed with more than one boy child is unusually fortunate. When the younger generation reaches marriageable age, they either purchase a husband or, if they can't afford "a brother's price," trade brothers with a neighboring family. Women who want children but can't acquire a husband in either of those ways can go to a "crib," where men have sex with women for money (not paid to the men, who have no legal rights—paid to the crib owner).

I love the way Spencer develops the inevitable results of the gender imbalance in matters large and small. Naturally, in this world women perform all the significant economic and political roles, including military service. Men and boys are far too valuable to put them at risk in the wider society. They stay safe at home, caring for their younger siblings, until they're married off. The Whistler clan, to which the young hero belongs, is exceptional in teaching its sons to read, write, and defend themselves. They don't live in a culture of safety and luxury, not even the prosperous households. Families feud with each other. Piracy, banditry, and husband-raiding are not uncommon. Boys are guarded like Victorian maidens. Their sisters dress them to attract female admiration (but they shouldn't dress like sluts). They wear veils in public, and when the hero raises his veil in a city street, he's scolded for tempting women with what they can't have. Women treat males like girl children in our culture pre-women's-liberation, expected to be charming and brainless; women the hero has just met regularly address him as "sweetheart," "honey," etc. Boys are required to maintain their virginity until marriage, since custom places heavy emphasis on both men and women staying "clean," for an STD can spread from one person to a dozen or more within a marriage. (Examination for venereal disease, in addition to a sperm count, is an essential part of determining a boy's eligibility as a prospective husband.) If an illicit sexual encounter occurs, it's the woman's fault, and seduction is censured almost as sternly as rape. After all, a man learns from earliest childhood that he has to obey women. Some women do rape men, with the use of drugs. If male-on-female rape occurs, it's not mentioned in the novel, and we'd expect it to be very rare. Men virtually never have unchaperoned access to females outside their own families, and in a culture of male scarcity, virtually all men can hope to marry. The lesbian activity we'd expect to accompany a shortage of men is mentioned but doesn't play any part in the plot.

The story combines action and political intrigue with gender-flipped romantic problems. A naive boy from a family of prosperous commoners falls in love with a princess. Not only does she have to dig up an ancestral connection that makes him eligible to marry into the royal family, there's the added complication that in this world she has to win the consent of all her sisters old enough to have a say in the choice of husband.

Polygyny in A BROTHER'S PRICE differs from the same marriage structure in our world because of the social dominance of women, which in turn arises from their numerical dominance. In real-world history, with approximately equal numbers of each sex, polygynous societies allow rich and powerful men to accumulate multiple wives, while poorer men have to settle for one bride or none. In that situation, women have little overt power, while men rule society and their own households. In Spencer's world, males are far too few to dominate women, and it's the women, not the men, who have established polygyny out of necessity. In fact, men don't particularly want too large a number of wives (and women aren't particularly eager to share a husband with a huge number of sisters, so a family that grows too large tends to split amicably into two households).

This book fulfills the prime requirement of SF romance, that both the romance and the SF content are necessary to the plot. The story wouldn't work without both of those components.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Theme-Symbolism Integration Part 2 Why Do We Cry At Weddings Part 1 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Symbolism Integration
Part 2
Why Do We Cry At Weddings?
Part 1
by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg




Theme-Symbolism Integration Part 1 is here:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/12/theme-symbolism-integration-part-1-you.html

So why do you cry at Weddings?

At what point in the ceremony are you most prone to burst into tears, or at  least gasp and blink and wish you'd remembered to bring tissues?

Does the point where you burst into sniffles signify a different reason for the emotional upwelling? 

Do you get that same feeling just looking at the pictures later? 

If you, the Romance writer, have no answer to that question, "Why?" then how can you portray, depict or evoke that crucial moment for your readers?

Do you fall back on cliche, or tell not show and just say "she sniffled" or had to leave because she was sobbing out loud? 

Have you ever examined that inner-emotional-WHAM that fills your eyes to the brim, in step by step analytical detail so that you know all the elements that compose that sob/gasp/whoom!

Have you ever experienced that kind of blast/scream of mysterious emotion in any other context?

Can you summon it at will, turn it this way and that, and dissect it so you can recreate it for readers who have never experienced it? 
 

Yes, some of your readers have never felt that exquisite pain/pleasure of crying at a wedding.

Some just suffer through weddings and consider it boring, never responding to the emotion of the moment.  Some are too overwhelmed by their own resentment or jealousy that someone else is getting married and they have no chance of ever having that moment.  Some are too overwrought by responsibility for "everything to go right" and can't feel the moment.  Some have only been to weddings where they were bridesmaids in pinching shoes and "the wrong color" for their body type. 

But do you know that flashing-burst of emotion intimately?  Do you feel it only at weddings?  Or does it come at other moments? 

Is the "at weddings" flash the same as that which comes over you on other occasions?  Is there something similar tying together the "at weddings" tears with tears that flood over you at other kinds of moments? 

If you can catalog, then contrast/compare the wash of tears brought on by various triggers and put words to the cause, to what your heart-of-hearts is responding to and why it is tender in that area, then you have nailed the ultimate theme of all Romance, or at the very least of all Soul-Mate based Romance. 

Here is a recent article on "triggers" and how society is conditioning young people to handle triggers:
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

Does that spark of emotion akin to that at weddings just blindside you from time to time, get pushed aside because sobbing out loud would be inappropriate or embarrassing, and then disappear onto a dusty shelf in your mind, not cataloged by any keyword?

Do you pay attention to the whipsaw emotional responses you have as you wander through life?  If so, chances are good you are a writer -- even if you've never written anything other than your signature.

Classical Romance generally finishes off before the Wedding, perhaps at the proposal or the acceptance, but rarely continues into the practicality of planning a personal extravaganza.  Sometimes, driving off to Las Vegas for an Elvis Presley wedding makes a good Ending.  But mostly, the "romance" part is over when practical, real life begins. 

Astrologically, Neptune rules Romance -- the blurry veils that soften reality and make everything beautiful.  Saturn rules practicality, things like the Wedding budget, choice of menu, caterer, venue, how many guests you can invite to your Wedding, and so on. 

Wedding Planners make their living off the fact that the Romance is still smothering the Couple's ability to manage mundane details in a business-like manner.  The Wedding Planner's job is to create a cloud of dreamy beauty to cushion and waft the couple into a heavenly honeymoon. 

Meanwhile, the prospective in-laws are trying to repair the errors they made at their weddings by imposing their dreams on the new couple.

Criss-crossing currents of fury/hope/grim-determination (not to mention pinching shoes) often interfere with Event Planning.  So people today try to out-source it all by hiring a professional to put on a pageant where the Couple can be the stars of the show.

 One of the things Wedding Planners do is create that sentimental moment where there is not a dry eye in the house.  That's showmanship, it is show-don't-tell, and it is symbolism.  The key to invoking the most powerful symbolism is theme.

Here are some previous posts where we have explored how to use Theme and Symbolism and other techniques that build your fictional world around creating such a powerful moment your reader cries -- just as they would at a wedding. 

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/08/how-to-use-theme-in-writing-romance.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/05/index-to-theme-plot-integration.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/04/index-to-theme-worldbuilding.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2015/04/theme-plot-character-worldbuilding.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/03/communicating-in-symbols.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/05/theme-element-giving-and-receiving.html

To create such a tear jerker moment in your fictional wedding, you may not need to understand what is going on inside you when you burst-into-tears, and try to push down and contain your response.  But some writers do need to articulate the unnameable in order to nail it effectively.

If you have experienced that wordless sensation that causes the flood of tears, you can very likely replicate it for many of your readers.  But if you have just used the material (the symbolism) that jerks your tears, you may leave a good part of your readership cold because you did not include the symbols that represent their vulnerable spot.

Your vulnerable spot does not have to be the same as their vulnerable spot if you understand vulnerability in general. 

Most people do not understand why they feel the way they do -- and of course there is no one answer that explains any particular emotion in everyone.

Emotion is in that realm beyond language.

The alphabet of emotion is symbolism.

Neptune rules symbolism, and Saturn & Mercury rule vocabulary definitions.

Neptune rules Romance, and Romance speaks in symbols. 

Hence weddings fraught with traditional symbolism hit vulnerable spots in almost everyone -- but the spot and the vulnerability are different for each person.

The response of crying at a wedding is idiosyncratic, individualistic, and simply will not be crammed into a word.  There is no language to that gut-grunting-screech of a cry.

If the triggers are so diverse, and the inner-meaning so idiosyncratic, then why is the experience so wide-spread, so common?

Crying at a wedding isn't something that happens once in a lifetime.  Some people cry at every wedding.  Some people experience that wham of emotion under other circumstances besides weddings.  Baby Showers?  Christenings? And of course funerals, but those tears feel different.

So next week we'll look at this blindsiding gut-punch emotional flash in more clinical detail to  understand what you, as a writer, can do with it.

Meanwhile, go watch a movie that makes you cry, hit pause and feel that feeling.  Notice what it is doing inside you.  Watch for similar responses you have to commercials, to cute-animals on Facebook, to your kids' graduation, and even to funerals, or Award Ceremonies.  Tributes to fallen heroes.  Whatever stirs and moves you with a surprise flash and upwelling eyes.  

What is going on inside you when you cry at the sight of something external to you? 

You will find the images in this post on my Pinterest collection Entertainment and Information, with links to the Wedding Planners and other contractors a Bride needs.
https://www.pinterest.com/AmbrovZeor/entertainment-information-sources/

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com