Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy U.S. Thanksgiving! This weekend, as usual, we'll be attending Chessiecon (formerly Darkover Grand Council). My husband and I will each appear on a couple of panels. I'll report next week. This year Thanksgiving falls very early, nice for driving weather, but it feels sort of strange to have the date sneak up on me so fast.

Yesterday, of course, was the anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. If you're old enough to remember 1963, where were you when you heard the news? I was in class (history, I think) when the announcement of the shooting came over the school loudspeaker. The first thing I thought of was the alleged "curse" of death in office on Presidents elected in years divisible by twenty. For the next three days or so, television stations broadcast continuous coverage of the assassination, its aftermath, and the funeral observances. My stepmother, who idolized Jackie, ran the TV constantly.

Two other distinguished men also died on November 22, 1963—C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley (author of many works of fiction and nonfiction in addition to his classic BRAVE NEW WORLD). There's a fascinating little book by Peter Kreeft, BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL, that depicts a meeting of Kennedy, Lewis, and Huxley immediately after death in a kind of celestial anteroom. As they wait for whatever comes next, they debate philosophy and theology. Lewis, naturally, represents mainline "mere Christianity," Huxley the eastern pantheism that dominated his thought in his later years. Since the real-life private religious views of Kennedy, who in this book speaks for modernist Christian humanism, aren't well known, he serves more as a foil for the other two positions. Highly recommended!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Depiction Part 34 - Depicting Prophecy

Depiction Part 34
Depicting Prophecy 
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous posts in the Depiction series are listed here:

In the Depiction study we have discussed Proverbs and Psalms

It is assumed the writer who wants to write Romance (with or without sex scenes) would study the Bible (all of it).  A lot of it is erotic poetry, and a lot more is depiction of a world view at odds with your reader's world view, and thus perfect fodder for Science Fiction, and creating Aliens who see the Universe differently than we do.

The appeal of Science Fiction lies in the encounter with the Unknown and the assessment of whether it is knowable (or not).  There were Science Fiction and Paranormal Magazines called, Unknown, Astounding, Amazing, Worlds of If -- and of course STAR TREK "where no man has gone before."

Science is about exploring the world we live in.  Fantasy is about exploring what is propping up the world we live in.  Science Fiction (Romance, Paranormal or Fantasy) is all about EXPLORING.

A good Romance starts with a First Encounter with the to-become Significant Other, and how that Encounter re-configures the couple's notions of "reality" -- of what is possible, of what is preferable, of what it would cost to abandon a career and move where they could live together.

Very often, a Romance may start with an encounter at a Psychic Fair with a Tarot or Astrology reader.  The famous "Tall Dark Stranger" line is famous and enduring for a reason -- Encounter With The Unknown.

The Unknown is sexy.  (Witness: Spock's Ears)

The writer of Science Fiction Romance is at an advantage for structuring a "page turner" because the genre includes both Romance and Science which are "adventures" -- Romance is the adventure into another person's headspace, and Science is an adventure into Reality.

Each is a process of facing the Unknown.  Any book on writing craft will instruct about the necessity of keeping your eye on "so what happens next" -- because readers turn pages to find out "what happens next."

As I have said many times in these entries, to make Romance plausible (and science fiction, or fantasy, too) you need more than "what happens next."  You also need BECAUSE this, THAT happens next.

Characterization is one variable that reveals BECAUSE.

Watching a Character absorb and respond to a Prophecy reveals to the reader vast amounts of information about the Character and the Character's interface with the Reality around him.

The Scientist Character gets curious and starts constructing experiments to test the Prophet and the substance of the Prophecy.

The Gullible Character lets the substance of the prophecy determine future actions, and even emotions (horrible things will happen = paralyzing fear)

So the existence of a Prophet (whose pronouncements materialize in Reality on time, in place) tells the reader about the Nature of your World.

Remember, the Bible is all about Prophets who delivered messages from God, who is deciding what happens next.

The Oracle at Delphi was consulted as a Prophet.

The film Oh, God, staring George Burns as God and John Denver (very young) is about a modern day grocery clerk called by God (the real deal) to deliver a Message to modern mankind.  Like Jonah, he tries to flee this task, but it doesn't work and he has to stand up and proclaim the Prophecy.  If you haven't seen that movie, be sure to look it up.  It is a comedy.

At that link, you will also find a list of similar movies listed below it -- check out the ones you haven't seen.

So like ESP (telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation etc.) Prophecy (prescience, some might term it) reveals lot about the scientific underpinnings of the Reality you are introducing your readers to.

Is this Prophecy the educated guess of an Astrologer or perhaps the psychic impression of a Tarot reader?  Or is this Prophecy a message from the Creator of the Universe (for real).

Today's readerships contain a high proportion of people averse to the notion there is a Creator.  They want fiction set in a world free of such dictatorial restrictions.  Other readers are comforted by seeing Characters doing Good Deeds as specified in the Bible.

So if you inject Prophecy into your Worldbuilding, you (not necessarily the reader, just the writer) need to know how it works, what the existence of it implies, and how the World you are Building differs from your target readership's Reality (both as it really is, and as the reader wishes it to be.)

That is a lot of information -- and it could come as a plot-stopping, expository lump.  We studied Expository Lumps here:

Only put on the page the specific fact the reader needs to know - after you have evoked the reader's need to know it (not before!).  Make the reader curious, then satisfy that curiosity with a tidbit that suggests more questions.

Putting a Prophecy (or a Prophet) or the hint of one in your first Chapter awakens that curiosity -- will the Characters take it seriously?  Will acting on it bring them good or bad results?  Will fleeing it lead them to disaster?

Prophecy may be distinguished from Oracular Pronouncements (by Psychics or Astrologers, or actual Priestesses of Delphi) by noting the way Prophecy of the Old Testament is written, and how it "came true" or seems about to.

A message from the Creator will come true.

In the era of The Prophets there was a vetting method for finding the real Prophets.  There was a lot more going on than the Book of Prophets preserves - so you might want to study up on that.  God spoke to the Prophets in dreams, and they reported what they were told.  Then, when their Prophecy came true many times, they were proclaimed a Prophet (there were hundreds more than those recorded).

They spoke to Kings, (who mostly ignored them), true, but ordinary people consulted many of these long forgotten Prophets who would "sleep on it" and bring a reply that would prove reliable and useful (not like an Oracle, speaking in metaphor and tricky veiled references).

So when you inject a Prophecy and/or a Prophet into your Worldbuilding, you reveal vast amounts of information about that World in a "Show Don't Tell" way that avoids the Expository Lump.

Last week
we looked at two recent novels by Simon R. Green, Dr. DOA and Moonbreaker (two volumes but one single, continuous story and plot).

At this writing, I do not remember which volume the consultation with the Drood's resident oracle/prophet scene happened.  I suspect it was in Moonbreaker.  I read both in one continuous session.

In this episode of The Secret Histories series, Eddie Drood has been poisoned by some alien substance no magician or scientist can cure him of -- he is dying.  He and his Witch sidekick make an offhand, somewhat low priority, casual stop to talk to a Prophet/Oracle known to speak in riddles, but also known to be correct.  It's just that you can never see the "correct" coming, or figure how to use the information to make things come out as you want.

Sure enough, the Oracle tells them that to survive Eddie must die.

And that is exactly what happens, but not the way the reader expects.

The existence of an entity that has access to such previewed information tells you a lot about the Natural Laws governing both Green's "our reality" Universe and his "Fantasy" Universe (called The Nightside.)

Both Eddie Drood and his Witch partner have had their adventures in The Darkside.  Most readers will have read some of the Nightside series novels.  The Prophetic dimension is not a surprise or new for most readers.  How the prophecy works out could be predicted if you understand the rules of the two Universes and how they connect and reflect each other.

And that is how you depict Prophecy.

It must arise from your Universe Premise, and be true in every instance and every bit of science and magic, even the items you do not use or reveal in a particular novel.

It is consistency.  

Consistency is the key to Characterization -- characters must not act "out of character" without a plot-generated "because."

And consistency is the key to Worldbuilding.  Every detail is derived from the basic universe premise -- not chosen as they occur to you as bright ideas, or a real cool thing to do, or something that is marketable.

You build the elements into your world from the Top Down -- and the reader decodes them from the Bottom Up.

God Creates the Universe from the top (nothing) down, and Science decodes what He has Created from the bottom (here) up.  There's a whole lot of "nothing" out there!  We really have to discuss Dark Matter sometime.

The reader sees the tiny details and infers what is behind them.

You decide what is behind all the details, and derive the details from that.

If the writer is consistent, the reader has a grand time decoding, EXPLORING (which is both Science and Romance's driving purpose) and feeling like a meticulous scientist discovering the truth about reality.

You amass the plethora of consistent details all pointing to whatever is behind your premise by establishing that premise in our own mind (not necessarily in your notes).

The relationship between your Character and their Universe, as it works out in the plot, in the problems they are confronted with and the goals they choose, the tools they create to conquer their problems, that relationship is the Master Theme you are working with.

Here is the series on Theme-Worldbuilding Integration:

Here is an entire Fantasy-Kickass Heroine series by Jennifer Roberson (one of my favorite writers) with a searing hot Romance leading to marriage and kids, all based on a generations long Prophecy and now in e-book:

We discussed Jennifer Roberson's series here:

We discussed Jean Johnson's series -

which includes a scientific Time-Travel/Prophecy plot mechanism here:

So you can write hard-science novels with prophecy -- and you can write Fantasy novels based on prophecy.  You can base your Prophecy mechanism on the Paranormal (a ghost or "control" tells me) or on Astrology and psychic vision -- or God whispers in dreams.

You can have prophets who understand what they're saying -- and those who have no clue, just repeat what they "hear."

And you can have both (Moses is an example of both - faithful repeating, then reaching a real understanding of what was said).

You can write novels based on Prophets in a God-Is-Real and Soul Mates are real universe and Prophets where some other forces direct destiny (Greek gods who play at keeping Soul Mates apart.)

You can have cruel gods and merciful or capricious gods that use humans to delivery information not otherwise available to humans.  And as Jennifer Roberson wrote, you can have a single Prophet whose words are cast in poetry and passed down for centuries in expectation they will come true some day.

There is one thing you can not do when depicting Prophecy.

You can not just inject a Prophecy into a story without you, (not necessarily the reader) knowing exactly what mechanism makes it come true (or fail).  Where did the information come from, how did it get into this Prophet's head (or out his mouth), can it be changed, can it be fulfilled symbolically?  You must know the features of your World that you Built that enable Prophecy.

You might not know it consciously, but the reader will stop "buying" it if you let any contradiction enter your story.

Depicting Prophecy requires Worldbuilding consistency.

Readers remember (and believe) what they figure out for themselves - not what you tell them is so.  All your readers are 'scientists' in the sense that they figure your world out, concoct experiments to test their hypotheses, and accept only what they can prove.  So show them, don't tell them.

And if you use Prophecy as a plot element, as Simon R. Green did, then how it works out is your THEME.

Prophecy (or an Oracle) is an "Elephant in the Room" item, not decoration you can ladle on top of your main plot.

You must account for its existence in some way -- if the Prophecy comes true, the theme statement is Foreknowledge Is Possible -- but if avoided, Foreknowledge can be useful -- and if no avoiding maneuver is done, the Prophecy is ignored and nothing comes of it, then the theme is "scammers abound."

Don't believe everything you're told is a great Theme.

Failing to heed good advice leads to disaster - is a great Theme.

Theme is depicted by the Relationship between the Character and the World he is working in.

Don't use Prophecy or an Oracle -- or a seance or uncanny ghost, as a plot device without accounting for it in Character, Plot and Theme.

Remember, much of what the writer "knows" about the World they are Building resides in the writer's subconscious.  So if you don't know that you know, don't panic and make something up.  Go exploring into the world you are building -- be a pantser for a draft or two -- but don't turn out the final draft leaving the Prophecy mechanism, and how "time" works, as a loose end.

You need to know - but you don't have to tell all.  And you can change your mind later.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 19, 2017

On Losing It (Privacy, That Is)

This week, I was notified by a bank that they had taken "the difficult decision" to close my accounts. I believe it is because I refused to give them my cell phone number.

Aol (now it is an "Oath" company) continually harasses me with "Hey, this is important" default screens, and delays my ability to log in to my email, because they want my cell phone number. Google does the same. I am sure that Facebook would do so, too.

Am I obliged to purchase an expensive device and an expensive service that I don't want, simply because it is a convenient way for big companies that sell advertising to find out lots of information about me?

By the way, why is it that an increasing number of services require that one is a member of  Facebook? I noticed the other day that there is an author/book promotion service that will not accept business from anyone who does not give them a link to a Facebook page. It's not an option. Is that lawful?

What focused my mind on the cell phone issue was Argument IV in an article about the awfulness of Amazon by Jorge Carrion. "Against Amazon: Seven Arguments, One Manifesto."  Also Argument II

Argument IV is about how much Amazon knows about you... in addition to your real, physical, legal and banking and location data, the Zon knows what you read, write, eat, buy, wear (and your size), give as gifts (and to whom). Soon, they'll know what you drink.
Argument II proposes that we have all turned ourselves into cyborgs, because we are all so dependent on cell phones that they might as well be an implant that controls us.... I must say, some people do seem to be slaves to their smart phones. I remember feeling the same about my Franklin Planner...

If you haven't given Facebook your cell phone number, consider how much your mobile phone number exposes.  Jessica T. tells you:
"Anyone can use your number to find out a wide range of personal information about you from your full name and educational or career history to your current home address, a list of your close friends, relatives and known associates, where you used to live and even pictures of you and your family."

In an older, but still relevant article, Quentin Fottrell explains why hackers want your phone number. A smart phone is a data storage device.
"typing just a mobile number into Facebook will reveal the profiles of the owner if he or she added it to their account information."

If you plan to rob a bank (which is not something this writer recommends), consider buying a map to plan your route(s) and leaving your smart phone at home. Suspects have been charged based on their smart phones telling the police their vicinity at the time of the crime.

Talking of spying, Jorge Carrion's Argument V is "Because I don't want them to spy on me while I am reading." When I read a print book, I enjoy absolute privacy. No one can track how many times I turn back to the cover of an alien romance novel to admire the alien hero's pecs or gluteus maximus, or how many times I re-read the affirmative consent scenes, or which pages I skip. (I never skip, dear reader!)

Email scammers today are very convincing, and take full advantage of lists from the dark web. Pastebin seems to be a preferred source of names and email addresses... and of twenty-year old passwords. One phishing email that I received this week was convincing enough to fool PayPal. It  purported to be from PayPal, and told me I had made a very large donation using a PayPal account I almost never use, and that I keep barely in the green. I forwarded it to The clever bots at PayPal replied that the email was genuine, and suggested that I'd made a transaction at EBay. Who uses EBay in order to donate to a charity or cause? So, beware. Good bots can be wrong.

In the snail mail this weekend, I received a Domain Name Expiration Notice from iDNS. If you receive one, this is not an organization with which to do business without doing due diligence. See here.  If you own a trademark, you may receive deceptive mailings suggesting that you need to renew that.  It could be a scam.

However, if you do use a trademark, be aware that if you don't use it, you could lose it. The USPTO is modernizing, as explained in this USPTO Director's Forum Blog on Improving the Accuracy of the Trademark Register. If you have any thoughtful insights on "streamlining" trademarks (and perhaps making it easier for people who want a trademark for their own commercial use, that is currently registered to someone else but not in commercial use) you can submit a written comment

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Domesticated Brain

Another article about self-domestication:

The Incredible Shrinking Brain

This article gives an overview of a book called THE DOMESTICATED BRAIN, which ranges over many fields such as evolution, childhood development, genetics, neuroscience, and social psychology in an exploration of what makes us human. In domesticating ourselves, we became able to live together in groups, with all the benefits of that lifestyle. As a result, we became more dependent on each other.

One intriguing feature of domestication is that it tends to make animals' brains smaller. That trend applies to human brains, too. Several hypotheses are suggested to explain this phenomenon, but no definite answer is given. It does seem to have some connection with our development into highly social creatures. For one thing, lower levels of aggression mean less testosterone, which is linked to smaller brains.

I wonder whether a reduction in typical brain size might have something to do with our developing a corporate memory. We don't have to rely on our own knowledge for survival. We can draw upon facts and lore known by our neighbors, handed down from our ancestors through tribal traditions, or (once writing is invented) recorded in fixed form to be available to everybody theoretically forever. We don't need to grow our brains to ever-larger size because we have access to an external mind of potentially unlimited scope.

The linked page comprises the preface to the book, THE DOMESTICATED BRAIN, which looks interesting enough that I ordered a copy. It seems to be out of print, but Amazon lists multiple used copies.

When we encounter alien species, will we discover that living in social groups is a prerequisite for advanced intelligence in any species (at least, any humanoid or mammalian creatures)?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Reviews 34 - The Implausible Made Real by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Reviews 34

The Implausible Made Real


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

As the AI singularity approaches, social values are experiencing whiplash as strong and turbulent as this year's hurricane season.

In fact, global warming may be accompanied by a kind of values warming.

People rely more now on modern society, what their friends (often strangers known only on Facebook, or met by chance at a street rally) believe, than on Ancient Mystical texts.

Countercurrent to this is a revival of Spiritual Pathwork, a neopaganism, pursued by those who sense a non-material aspect to our reality, or wish they did.

And most astonishing of all, there are megachurches forming all over.  This year I've heard of new giant churches being built in Texas and Arizona, right in the heart of their respective radical socialist populations.

The philosophical life of your target readership is swirling as energetically as the hurricanes scouring buildings flat.

People get caught up in the fury of the moment, usually in details of matters they can do nothing about, except donate some money or pray.

Meanwhile, fiction on TV and movies -- and books -- portrays the fraying and broken families, severing links of love and understanding between generations -- grandparents are not revered simply for having survived.

So what seems plausible to the modern reader is very different than it was just twenty years ago.

In fact, today, a good swath of the Romance Reader target audience is convinced that the past was never good, and all the great historic figures were dirty rats in angel's clothing.  Tear their statues down quick before someone gets the idea that we respect their accomplishments (even the accomplishments that weren't racist, few as those may be.)

We are rewriting history (again).  Remember, history is written by the victors, and the vanquished rarely get a fair shake.

So if you set out to write an "off-beat" Romance, one that challenges current notions of right, wrong, good, bad, and the decisions made by those who lived in a different epoch conforming to different values, then you have to give some thought to plausibility.

The Implausible can be made Real to a readership by explaining it from a specific and well established point of view - a Main Character's point of view where you can follow the decision making process step by step.

Way back when, the Romance field frowned on sequels and never did reprints.  I know established best selling Romance writers who were appalled when an older title of theirs was reprinted.  Romance genre was regarded as read-and-toss fiction.

Today, that trend has reversed and we now see Mystery Romance series about the same characters, and Paranormal Fantasy series, and so on - with an ongoing and evolving Relationship.

One of these, which I've recommended many times, is by Simon R. Green -- two distinct series with different characters, set in two separate worlds, but both belonging to the same built world and followed for many novels.

Green is now converging these two series in a very natural way.

One is about "the Nightside" -- a literally dark world where all manner of perversions and creatures abound --- and The Secret Histories (of the Drood family.)

We follow a Witch and a Secret Agent from being mortal enemies to being lovers, and now a very committed couple.  They are obvious soul mates, but their lives in this wild fantasy/magic world interefere with their settling down to raise children.

In fact, the total lack of children running around the Drood family castle/home just rings false to me as the characters keep referring to growing up there.

The two novels in question today are actually one novel published in two books.  It looks to me as if Green just wrote this very long story, and the publisher decided it had to be severed in half because it was too big.

The first of the two is titled DR. DOA,

and the second is MOONBREAKER. 

DR. DOA starts with the realization that the main character, Eddie Drood, has been poisoned with something that can not be identified (possibly unearthly origin), and is relentlessly dying.  And it ends with a solution, hinted at obliquely by an oracle they consult along the way, that depicts poetic justice at its very best.

The plots of all these novels move from odd location to more and more bizarre and implausible locations, with combat against ever stranger and more twisted opposition.  Victory is not always assured, and never without cost.

The Witch and the Drood rescue each other, fight side by side and back to back, and drill relentlessly forward toward their shared goal.  In these two novels, the goal is to cure the poison eating at Eddie Drood.  The poison is implausible, the cure is implausible, and the ending makes the implausible real.

The banter among the characters -- including a flying, time and dimension traversing, talking dragon (yes, fire breathing) -- is bound to tickle any BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER fan.

The writing is relentlessly smooth, seemingly effortless, as Green is a virtuoso of wordsmithing.

So these are easy to read novels, and easy to remember so it is easy to pick up the next book a year or more later.

This is writing worth studying just for the techniques, but the underlying story is a pithy commentary on the modern world around us, as it has been, as it should be, as it will survive to become.

The Witch and the Drood are partners, and Soul Mates, equals in power, intelligence, imagination, determination and moral strength.

They do, however, not share exactly the same moral code at the beginning of their relationship -- and very gradually, over many books, corrupt each other.

The Witch loves punching adversaries with her magic -- and is a former Magic wielding Terrorist.  Eddie Drood loves solving problems with psychological judo these days, but has been a proponent of clean devastation as a solution that lasts.

They have each, separately, been to the Nightside, the location of the other branch of this series.

Now they have been summoned to deal with a new problem together, the violation of a treaty that keeps the Nightside separate from the day.  The Nightside is expanding -- and must be stopped.

Do you see the Gulliver's Travels style social commentary on today's politics in that?  Treaties broken, advancing armies taking Territory, and an underlying tussle of a debate about whether to stop them with brute force or somehow negotiate without killing (very many) opponents.

The battles cross dimensions, time, and space, and reveal a panoply of creatures (some quite horrible), most of whom might eat you but not consider you an enemy.

These two Characters, the Witch and the Drood Secret Agent, combine the very traits that made them arch enemies into a Force the enemies of Earth and us muggles truly fear.

This is the Implausible made Real by the Characters -- because you can't help but wish we had heroes like this.

On the other hand, maybe we do.

Study how these novels, set in two world of the same Universe, show us ourselves through a Romance tinged lens.

 Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The (Lost?) Art Of Reading Between The Lines

Artificial Intelligence may be all very well for the sort of jobs that pigeons used to do, but it is probably not very good for culture. Nor is piracy good for culture.

Look what happens when underfunded and overworked people rely on technology. Spell check does not know the difference between the "wether" (castrated ram) and the"weather". Nor did the developer who named a subdivision "Whethersfield". Does it matter? Apparently not. Should it matter, though?

This week, a financial blogger wrote gloomily of a "viscous" downturn in the gold market, and someone blogging with a political bias for an Oath company wrote of discovering a treasure "troth" of damning information.

I use those two examples because--for someone who savours words-- there is some wordplay in each. Less entertaining spelling mistakes and typos and misused homophones are legion, and they will multiply.

Perhaps a common thread is that readers trust these news/opinion bloggers, but the bloggers are not paid for their writing. Cable network news reporters, presumably, are paid, and ought to know the difference between a "cache" (not dissimilar to a trove, and from the French verb "cacher: to hide"), and "cachet" (having or conferring prestige). Unfortunately, polite politicians echo their interviewer's gaffe and will probably repeat it..

There are also published authors who use the wrong homophone....  but I won't go there.

By the way, the Alphabet spellcheck on this blog does not recognize the correct name for a neutered male sheep. It also objects to a proper name (albeit a made-up one). It doesn't like the English spelling of savour, either. It should accept British spelling, after all, Blogspot Bloggers are reminded every time they log in that they must cater to Europeans and remind them every so often that this blog puts nasty little tracking "cookies" on their computers.

One ought to be aware of the power and the weaseliness (which is another word that gives Alphabet's AI a red squiggle fit, but it is here and elsewhere, too) of language.

Take EFF. Or leave it.  They write here  a masterfully misleading bit of prose about a case of global copyright infringement.

"Does Google U.S. have to obey a Canadian court order requiring Google to take down information around the world, ignoring contrary rules in other jurisdictions? According to the Northern District of California in Google v. Equustek, the answer is no.
A court in one country has no business issuing a decision affecting the rights of citizens around the world. The Canadian order set a dangerous precedent that would be followed by others, creating a race to the bottom as courts in countries with far weaker speech protections would feel empowered to effectively edit the Internet."
The weasel word that caught my attention was "information". Copyright infringers and their apologists like to call novels, movies, music, games..."information." In this case, "information" is proprietary trade secrets and resultant products.

Do citizens around the world have a "right" to stolen property? Do Chinese and Russian citizens have a right to take illegal copies of our in-copyright novels, change the names and locations of our characters, and republish our novels as their own creative works?

Maybe we cannot stop them, but our impotence does not confer a "right" on them, and most people wouldn't call plagiarism "free speech."

The Equustek case is comparable.  Dani Deahl explains it well here.  Equustek took another company to court for allegedly relabeling (or re-labelling) an Equustek product and selling it as their own, and also of allegedly acquiring Equustek trade secrets and using them to create other products. This other company does business on the internet, and in countries other than Canada.

That's why the Canadian court asked a certain ISP to voluntarily remove the infringing products everywhere within its power to remove them.

A witty judge wrote of the case using double negatives
“This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values. We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods.
Freedom of expression does not require the facilitation of unlawful sales of goods!
As Graham Henderson, President of Music Canada said, "This is welcome news for creators of all stripes who rely on the internet as their primary market and for whom illegal online activity can instantly wipe out careers and destroy investment in new releases."

The Guardian published an article about how ebook piracy can destroy a traditional publisher's enthusiasm for investing in new releases of subsequent books in a series if the first book in the series is widely pirated.

"We're told we have to be grateful we even have readers": pirated ebooks threaten future of serial novels

I recommend reading the Guardian article, and donating a dollar to them while there.
All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, November 09, 2017


Once upon a time, the only way to watch old movies was to wait for them to show up on late-night television or possibly on weekday afternoons in lieu of soap operas. And those were OLD films. TV channels didn't start airing more recent movies in prime time slots until sometime in the 1960s, if I recall correctly. (I remember what an exciting novelty the feature "Monday Night at the Movies" was.) We had three television networks (aside from the few people who went to the trouble of installing UHF reception equipment). If you didn't catch an episode of a show, you'd simply missed it and had to hope a rerun would eventually appear. I remember wanting to see the episode of the one-hour TWILIGHT ZONE featuring Hitler's ghost and being bitterly disappointed that I managed to miss it each time it was on. (About fifty years later, I finally viewed it by buying the DVD of the season.) All we knew in advance about TV shows was what we read in the newspaper TV schedule blurbs. The only prior knowledge of movies came from theater previews, studio ads, or maybe information that "leaked" in magazines for fans. So getting "spoiled" with plot details was practically impossible.

Nowadays, of course, we exist in a media environment that's the extreme opposite. Thanks to the Internet and cable, it's almost impossible to avoid spoilers. The era when an entire audience waited week by week to watch each new episode of a program at the same time has vanished. Fans view shows on demand, in some cases even before broadcast. This past Sunday, for instance, a fellow OUTLANDER fan mentioned to me that she planned to watch the latest episode during the day, several hours before its official network debut in the evening. People "binge-watch" entire seasons within a span of hours. We can buy recordings of programs and movies to watch over and over, memorizing every detail of our favorites. If we want to avoid surprises and see an episode or movie "unspoiled," simply not reading reviews isn't enough. We have to purposefully stay away from social media, online fan discussions, entertainment news sites, anything that might reveal what we don't want to know.

Some classics carry their own inherent "spoilage," because their basic premise pervades our culture, even among people who've never read the books or seen adaptations of them. Everybody knows Frankenstein created a monster and Count Dracula is a vampire. The first readers of those books upon original release didn't, unless they'd picked up reviews first. Adaptations of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE always show the doctor's fateful transformation early in the story; in Stevenson's novella, the truth about Hyde is a mystery not solved until near the end. TV Tropes has a page about this phenomenon titled, "It Was His Sled," referring to the revelation in the final scene of CITIZEN KANE that's no longer a secret to anybody with even a casual knowledge of classic films.

Personally, I don't mind being spoiled—except maybe in the case of mysteries. The first time around, I don't want to know in advance who the murderer is. Even in that genre, though, I do reread and re-view favorite mysteries. There's so much more to enjoyment of a story than being surprised. The second and subsequent times, one can have the pleasure of noticing the clues and how they fit together to lead to the forthcoming revelation, which we couldn't have fully realized on the first reading or viewing. We're not looking so much for surprises (as C. S. Lewis says somewhere), but for "a certain surprisingness." The anticipation of knowing what's coming can actually enhance the pleasure of the suspense. Sometimes I want to know just enough about the ending to be sure my favorite characters survive. When the catastrophic series finale of FOREVER KNIGHT aired, I was glad I'd read a summary of the plot in advance, because the knowledge enabled me to brace myself for the worst. Upon actually watching the episode, I was able to think, "That wasn't quite so bad as I expected." On subsequent readings or viewings of a work we've enjoyed the first time around, we're no longer consumed with the drive to find out what's going to happen, so we can savor other aspects of the story, themes, and characters.

In AN EXPERIMENT IN CRITICISM, C. S. Lewis says that an invariable trait of what he calls "unliterary" readers (casual readers, who would find our devoted absorption in books bewildering) is that they never voluntarily read anything more than once. True book-lovers, on the other hand, often read their favorites multiple times over the years. How do you feel about being "spoiled"? Do you want to know nothing at all in advance? A tagline of TV GUIDE length? A back-cover blurb? Or do you not mind knowing some details of the plot or even a hint about the ending?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

What the Romance Field Is Up Against by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

What the Romance Field Is Up Against
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Here is an item you should read, once over quickly, looking at vocabulary.

It has a male byline, but I don't know if the editor or headline writer was male.

The click-bait headline is: (and you need to study headline writing)

Raunchy replicants and amorous aliens: How real is sci-fi sex?
As part of our report exploring the future of sex, we get hot and sweaty with science fiction from "Blade Runner" to "Her." Not all of it is so far-fetched.

The tone of the writing seems flippant, and it seems the writer hates the topic he was assigned and can only sneer at the concept.

It contains two blatant falsehoods you should note:

1) science fiction as a field is represented by film or TV.
2) the measure of "reality" in fiction is how likely or possible the sex act may be.

Ponder this attitude.

This writer has encapsulated the precise reason Romance in general and fantasy/SF/Paranormal Romance in particular is worthy of scorn.

Under the intense hostility to the field of science fiction, I detect a distinct note of fear -- maybe terror -- of Relationship.

Note the absence of my favorite citations for SFR film, The Day The Earth Stood Still and Starman -- neither of which have any sex in them but are really hot Romance.  

The writer of this article -- or maybe just the editor who demanded the article and edited the piece that was turned in to suit the perceived readership -- seem to hold sexuality per se in utter contempt.

Most of these films contain hints of SFR, but none are mentioned here.  They might have been edited out - but C/net is a huge and widely read publisher, aiming at the Tech industry and all who use the tech gadgets taking over our lives.

Also in August 2017, we had a dust-up at Google when an employee published a piece about why women are not more abundant on Google's tech staff.

If you remember this kerfuffle, you don't have to go back and read up on it.  It is enough to ponder what a huge problem we have left in front of us.

Note specifically that this article on sex in science fiction focuses on SEX -- and does not deride, or castigate truly romantic science fiction that sort of skips over the sex part.

In STARMAN, for example, yes they have sex and yes a kid is born because of it, -- but that's not the point of the first film.  It is carried on through the TV series, and I love it and wish for more.

Also igored is ENEMY MINE, where a child results without what we ordinarily think of as "sex."

If you don't want your novel/film-to-be to get targeted by this kind of way-off-the-point scorching rebuke, leave the actual sex scene as go-to-black.

If, on the other hand, you want to bait these people, make them punch you in the gut, so you can point to them and sneer at their ignorance, pepper your work with sex scenes.  Choose your enemies wisely.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 05, 2017

All's Fair In Love And War... But What About in Trade?

In John Lyly's novel "Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit", published in 1578, and "Euphues and His England" from 1580, a young man said to be "well endowed by nature" and who would probably be
accused of sexual harassment nowadays, is associated with the quote, "the rules of fair play do not apply in love and war."

1578 predates the Geneva Convention (1949).  Also Title IX.

The saying" "the rules of fair play do not apply in love and war" are said to be the inspiration for "All's Fair In Love and War".

"All's Fair..." is quite an Orwellian statement, because it really means the opposite. Any dirty tricks, deceit, coercion, compulsion are acceptable when one's objective is conquest.

What is "Fair"?
Everyone has a notion. When one speaks of Fair Trade, one means to suggest that every participant is willing, and is equitably treated in reciprocal dealings. "Free" trade is often considered "Fair" trade. (NAFTA ?) Interestingly for the copyright enthusiast, "Fair Trade" was once a euphemism for smuggling!  "Fair Means" is defined (at least in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable) as with no deception and no compulsion.

"Consent" orders don't seem to me to have much to do with "consent" or lack of compulsion, since they force musicians who may not have been born when the first "consent" orders were imposed, to make their music available to radio stations and other for-profit purveyors of "music services" without negotiation, and for remuneration rates dictated by the government.

And then, there's "Fair Use"... which is often in the cynical and immoral "All's Fair" tradition, especially in the context of User "Generated " Content, which is all too often not generated, but merely uploaded by a site user.

The Copyright Alliance promotes a link to Neil Turkewitz's discussion of UnFair Use, and Untruth in arguing against NAFTA renetotiations of copyright protections for original creators.

Neil  Turkewitz, "Nothing in NAFTA pits one group of creators against another-- except to the extent that some putative creators want to be able to use others' works without authorization."

I infer that when Neil Turkewitz writes "putative creators" he is being exceptionally polite.

For authors and other original copyright creators, the Copyrright Alliance is offering an opportunity to be a featured artist. One has to answer five interview questions (one of which is to describe ones experience of having ones copyright infringed).

Finally, the Authors Guild has a splendid article about Unfair Use of copyrighted works by uneducated university faculty.

If you are aware of educators who are duplicating and distributing entire works by authors to save students from having to rent or purchase copies of the works, please know that this is not fair, right or moral.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, November 02, 2017

The Plausibility of Modern Legends

I subscribe to the magazine SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, which I highly recommend to fans and writers of SF and fantasy. Its coverage of myths, legends, and hoaxes offers lots of story seeds and can help authors ensure that their characters respond rationally to incredible events rather than acting overly gullible. The latest issue contains a review of a new book about the Loch Ness Monster. I would like to believe in the monster (alas, the only mark of its presence we saw on our one-hour Loch Ness cruise during a tour of Scotland was a steep hill where Nessie was supposed to have slid down into the lake). Everything I've read about it, though, seems to support the position that the reported sightings in modern times comprise a combination of mistaken perceptions and deliberate photographic hoaxes. That a breeding population of large animals could survive in a confined area with no physical evidence being found after decades of searching does seem unlikely. (If the monster weren't a natural animal but an intelligent, magical creature, as in Jean Lorrah's Nessie series, that would be a different matter.)

Bigfoot (which I'd also love to believe in) seems more plausible. If Sasquatches existed, they'd be a small breeding population of a near-extinct species of primate, a very few individuals living in a vast tract of millions of acres of forest in the Pacific Northwest. There's nothing inherently unlikely about their existence being real but unproven, since they would have a strong motivation to remain hidden.

On the other hand, while I certainly believe life exists elsewhere in the universe, I reluctantly disbelieve all UFO "evidence" I've read about. Sightings and photographs have been convincingly debunked. As for the personal narratives of face-to-face contact and abductions, they sound like attempts at writing science fiction by people who don't know much of anything about science fiction. They don't make sense in terms of motivation. If aliens advanced enough to travel here from other stars wanted to make contact with us, maybe to pass on their wisdom and save us from extinction, wouldn't they reveal themselves openly to people in a position to change the world? Would beings of superior intelligence and unimaginably powerful technology make contact with an alien planet by grabbing random inhabitants whose reports are certain to be disbelieved? And if the aliens wanted to observe us without being noticed, they'd surely have the ability to do so.

Now, maybe they're observing us and don't care about remaining unseen. Maybe they're gradually accustoming us to their presence, like Jane Goodall with the chimpanzees. In that case, though, the alleged abductions don't make sense; the events as reported couldn't be telling the aliens anything about us they don't already know.

Slightly more plausible motivations: Earth is under galactic quarantine; visits to our solar system are forbidden under the alien equivalent of the Prime Directive. The briefly, ambiguously glimpsed craft in the sighting reports aren't supposed to be here. They're interstellar smugglers or other shady characters taking refuge from pursuit in a forbidden zone. As for the abductions, if they actually happened, I can think of only one credible explanation—the aliens are just messing with our heads. Either the rogue visitors are playing random pranks in a spirit of cruel fun, or extraterrestrial scientists are conducting psychological experiments on us inferior beings to find out how our culture will interpret this irrational behavior on the part of superior entities.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What Futurologists Do Part 2 - Futuristic Conflict In Romance

What Futurologists Do

Part 2

Futuristic Conflict In Romance


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

In What Futurologists Do Part 1,
I presented the meme-quote from Carl Sagan's 1996 book The Demon-Haunted World.

He encapsulated a vision we must ponder because it is so close to the world we are currently living in and plunging beyond.

Sagan was known for his non-fiction, and certainly not for writing Romance novels.  But Science Fiction Romance -- romance between human and alien, or just plain Relationship between human and non-human -- is the main topic on this blog.  To blend the Science Fiction genre with the Romance genre, we have to know a little science, yes, but also a lot more about how scientists think.

Not, mind you, a lot more about WHAT scientists think, but rather about HOW the thinking is done.  Where do the conclusions we read in popular science articles come from?

One of the first things to consider, to habitually ask yourself, is, "What do they know that I don't know?"

And second most important habit for a writer tackling alien dialogue creation is, "What do I know that they don't know?"

What the writer knows that the aliens don't know is precisely what the reader knows that the Alien Characters don't know.

The results of focusing on these questions can be seen very clearly in the film, STARMAN.  The 1984 version starring Jeff Bridges is the one I'm talking about here.

With the B&W very early THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL film, you have the beginnings of Science Fiction Romance in the video industry.

The captivating, moving and eternally memorable aspect of these Alien Romance stories is the "learning curve" -- the encounter with something utterly alien yet somehow familiar.

Futurologists do this kind of thinking along the time-line rather than between planets.

But the question the writer is asking inside their own mind is the same whether it is catapulting a self-image into some future world or bringing an "alien" (from the future such as The Terminator, from the past such as Iceman, or from another planet such as Starman, osr both such as DOCTOR WHO) into the reader/viewer's present reality is always the same.

"What do I know that this (alien/time-traveler) does not know?"

This key question has an answer that lies in the reader/viewer's blind spot -- the psychological black hole that forms the center of consciousness.

A newborn baby comes into this world knowing nothing, learning a million things a second.  The votex at the center of our being from which our sense of "reality" comes, our sense of "right and wrong" and everything we judge acceptable or which must be exterminated is rooted in that big blind-spot at the center of consciousness.

Exploring that big, dark, churning mass of experience is often the main occupation of adulthood, especially for artists of all sorts.

But audiences are composed mostly of people who don't want to explore how they know what they know -- and in many cases, want to avoid knowing what they know that convinces them of the validity of their current opinions.

Challenging current opinions, boring into the black hole at the center of consciousness is the function of fiction in general, but especially of science fiction.

Fiction is an artistic, selective representation of reality.  Science is the organization of our tested knowledge about reality.

There is a contradiction between those two mental processes -- organizing facts and testing them vs. depicting the truth we associate with what we know.

Science vs. Art -- many assume they are mutually exclusive and one must necessarily be superior to the other.

Science Fiction is about the seamless blend, the harmonious unity of these two modes of thinking so that the reader is treated to a vision of how the world works when science and art blend perfectly.

Nowhere in the Literature of science fiction is this blend better illustrated than in the First Contact story.

That is the category that Starman belongs to.

There are many classic stories in this First Contact category -- one of my favorites is In Value Decieved by H. B. Fyfe, November 1950 Astounding.

It has the flavor of a Gordon R. Dickson story -- or one such as Lulungomeena  -- YouTube audio of a Galaxy Magazine story done for Radio - X-Minus One.

Notice I'm citing items that have lived in memory of thousands of people for many decades.  Do you want to write a Classic science fiction romance?  Study the classics of the field that is just barely old enough to have classics!

These are all-time classics because they explore with a delicate probe and half-smile the sensitive depths of that black-hole at the center of the audience's mind, the one place we are most loath to explore.

Put it "out there" as "alien" and certain people will look at it willingly, and perhaps like and remember it because it allows them to access the depths of their own minds without shuddering.

What you know that the Alien does not know, and how the Alien reacts to learning what you know, teaches you about what what you know that you didn't know you knew and didn't want to know you knew!

Literature Professors often refer to the sensations this causes as Cognitive Dissonance.

In fiction, in Art, it can be induced in mild forms and be examined in a pleasurable context.

But in everyday reality, as Carl Sagan has indicated ...

...when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority;
-------------end quote-------

... factions are chipped off the social whole, the social fabric frays, or whatever metaphore makes sense to you -- when communication FAILS, and individuals have "lost the ability to set their own agendas" then emotion erupts.

It is incomprehensible how a member of society, how a citizen of the country you consider yourself a citizen of -- how the OTHERS you have always thought were "like me" can possibly think what they (seem to) think!

Such thoughts, and such thinking is so evil, so anti-life, so apallingly counter-survival that it is necessary to eradicate the thinker of such thoughts, to expunge the pollution from the social fabric.

The rejection of the "Other" is visceral, and the more virulent because at some point that person or people like them were considered "us."

It is the seminal Horror trope -- that which is killing you is inside you, eating your guts.  Yes, like cancer.

Sagan is talking about (what was to him) the future in which society is fractured by an inability to communicate about the highest levels in technology (Artificial Intelligence was purely fictional concept back then!), and the most abstract issues of social cohesiveness (such as race relations, gender pay-equality, and the proper role of government in civilization).

Each faction "knows" something with absolute certainty that the other factions don't know or could never believe (or don't want to believe).

This "knowledge" resides in that black hole at the center of being which gains its content in the first, pre-verbal years of life.

As Sagan notes, something drastic has changed and it is reflected in the media now relying on brief sound-bytes to "inform" the general public.

It is clear there is a "they" who knows things the "we" don't know.

Transmission of that knowledge from they to we -- or from we to they -- is just not happening.

All the factions seem to be talking different languages, chattering on about different topics, and when no listening is happening, the conclusion is reached that the "Other" must be irradicated.  At all costs.

This is the situation readers now live in -- the futurologist writer has to leap over this maelstrom and depict the situation that will prevail 30 or 50 years from now, perhaps a thousand or two years from now.

Science Fiction does not have to be futuristic.  It has to blend Science (the study and organization of our knowledge of physical reality) with Fiction (the study and organization of our knowledge of emotiional reality).

The classics of science fiction romance will be about "What do I know that this one does not know?"
And with the Romance genre angle completely blended in, the classics of our genre will be about, "How Do I Transmit What I Know?"

You can transmit what you know without knowing you know it -- all parents do that with their infants -- but you can't recognize successful transmission unless you actually know what you know.  Parents are always shocked when their three year old behaves the exact way the parents have behaved.

Children learn at a stupendous rate, but adults depend on what they have learned.

What do you know that your readers do not know? 

Your readers are adults -- so they learn more slowly.  Can you transmit your knowledge of human emotional reality to your readers by using agreed upon scientific facts?

Carl Sagan has pinpointed the crux of the conflict that drives all Romance, particularly science fiction romance in this modern era.

The plain lesson is that study and learning - not just of science, but of anything - are avoidable, even undesirable.
-----end quote--------

There is such a thing as "The Battle of the Sexes" -- and the battle is over "I know better than you!"

Put another way, the Battle is over whether what men "know" is true, or not.

Today, this is played out on the public stage by Conservative vs. Liberal -- "What I know is true is really true but what you blieve is true is actually false."

That is the core conflict of all Battle of the Sexes Romance novels - what I know is true but what you know is actually false.

As Sagan wrote, we don't want to study or learn what OTHERS think is true because that might call into question what we know.

Do we even know what we know?  And how do we know it?

In his non-fiction work, FUTURE SHOCK, Alvin Toffler explained as of the 1970's how the acceleration of acceleration of "change" in society was making change run so fast that the basic human organism can NOT adjust fast enough.

Humans are adaptable and adjustable as infants -- our genetics and epigenetics discoveries are showing how individualistic and adaptable humans are, and later how very slow to adapt in elder years.

Even in the 1970's, what older people knew (from the content of their Black Holes) had already become false or irrelevant in that decade.  Look how many who were adults in the 1970's did not adapt to the computer revolution of the 1980's.

What you KNOW is the enemy of your survival in a fast evolving world.

Even younger people are subject to this as their "black hole" was filled by yet older people.

There is a trend among Millennials to have their children later in life -- those children are being filled with OLDER truths.  The rate of change of this society may slow down because of that.

This human limit is the essential source of all Romantic Conflict.

Can "Love" conquer this aversion to study and learning?

That is an important question to explore in fiction, using all the social science and brain studies you can find because  studying and learning your spouse is the key to the Happily Ever After.

You can not agree to disagree -- therein lies misery ever after as the gulf of knowlege unshared grows ever wider with our accelerating rate of change.

Men must learn to look at the world through their woman's knowledge of truth, while women must understand the world through their man's understanding of facts.

Truth and facts should coincide, but due to black-hole-programing, they don't always quite make it.

The truth/fact dichotomy is the "All" that love must "Conquer."

Now the question is: "Does Conquering Actually Work?"

Does winning a war cause war to end?  If so, how come we still have wars?

With all our change, have we "progressed" or have we "regressed?"

Ponder the Battle of the Sexes.  Does the winner have a survival advantage?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 29, 2017

**it Happens. Or Doesn't.

In a week when Jeff Bezos became the richest man in the world, David Gaughran writes of the perils of promoting your book more than Amazon thinks you should, in more places that Amazon thinks you should, and of making more sales in a short time than the behemoth's bots think you should and of getting rank stripped without recourse as a publishment for apparently "cheating".

As interesting as the original piece are the comments.  Especially fascinating is the exchange between the David and Kevin, who says that he used to do intelligence work against black hat operations and shares some insights into scammers and gamers of the KU system.

The musicians share a couple of really excellent videos (hosted on vimeo for obvious reasons) of a bearded musical songwriter type conversing with a Silicon Valley Goliath executive type to show the problems that copyright owners face in trying to use the DMCA to stop copyright infringement.

The Trichordist wonders why "librarians", or the American Library Association, are actively campaigning against individual authors having the right to sue alleged copyright infringers in small claims court.
Do genuine bricks-and-mortar public libraries infringe copyright?  I doubt it. Some online "subscription" libraries hosted behind privacy walls or in foreign countries appear to do so, but one doubts that they are members of the A.L.A.... especially the ones that post blurb claiming to respect the coyrights of the authors and not to host any files but only to redirect subscribers to where the files are actually hosted.

And now for something completely unrelated to copyright.

But, ours is a sedentary business, with hazards in the **IT department.

Happy reading! And write-on.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Microbiome Universe

Here's another article about the microscopic ecology inside our bodies:

Microbes Rule Your Health

The microbes that use us as a habitat outnumber our own cells by 1.3 to one. Many of them dwell in symbiosis with us and serve beneficial functions. Living in a state of complete sterility would not be good for most people. Jack Gilbert and Rob Knight, authors of DIRT IS GOOD, referenced in the article, explain why exposure to germs and other "impurities" in the environment strengthens our immune systems. Not only that, "Microbes in the gut talk to the brain." So it's to our advantage to encourage our "good" internal tenants to thrive and multiply, and the article mentions several ways to accomplish that goal.

This topic reminds me of Madeleine L'Engle's novel A WIND IN THE DOOR, in which Meg and her companions become submicroscopic to enter the body of her critically ill brother, Charles Wallace. There they meet the farandolae, sapient creatures dwelling in the mitochondria of Charles's cells, to whom his body is a galaxy. Meg and these infinitesimal beings, whom she helps to heal, awaken to the interdependence of all things in the universe, from minute farandolae to distant stars.

Considering our microbial inhabitants along with other creatures we harbor, such as eyelash mites (I know, squick), an alien observer might think our main purpose for existence is to provide a home for trillions of smaller life forms. If our tiny tenants had intelligence and could communicate with us, what wisdom might they impart?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What Futurologists Do Part 1

What Futurologists Do
Part 1
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

I found this highlighted image post on Twitter, posted by Brandon Morse ( @TheBrandonMorse) 

It is a quote from a book by Carl Sagan, titled The Demon-Haunted World and the post had amassed over 27,000 Likes.

Would you like to sell another 27,000 copies of your latest novel?

Study this quote, and note it was written before 1996 - travel back into history and study the previous 10 years Sagan had just lived through.

Think about what his world and the younger people in it seemed like, what they wanted and what they were willing to do to get what they wanted.

One more consideration -- think about what actions the 20-somethings of 1996 believed would cause the result they wanted.

Sagan is talking about a mis-match between how the currently emerging into power generation thinks the world works, and how it actually does work.

And by "the world" I mean physics-math-chemistry-spirituality.  Notice his disparaging remark about mysticism, which you might expect of Sagan.

By "the world" today most people mean politics, social justice, what the majority have the right to take from the rich minority - the 1%, and the loss of a distinction between a right and a privelege.

Now, sitting in the head of a futurist in 1996, look at 2016 -- a nice 20 year generational shift.

Note what information he had to work with, and what conclusions he drew.

Match his conclusions to the actual reality of 2017 (and pretty soon, 2018).

Now you are sitting in 2018 -- what does 2038 look like to you?

What can you write today that will be quoted on Twitter (or its successor) in 2039?

We are convinced Love Conquers All -- but we rarely consider what "all" there is to conquer.

We hear politicians adamantly affirming they "fight for you" -- for your rights, for the betterment of your life -- but they never say who they are fighting against or define precisely why that enemy of yours is out to destroy you, and why you can't defend yourself without their help.

And we continue to read novels about Love Conquers All -- most often without actually defining what there is that has to be conquered.

Write THE definitive novel about "the all" that must be conquered, define it, nail it, name it, and show its weakness, show how it can be conquered by Love.

Consider whether you are the enemy that must be conquered by love.

Look at what Sagan wrote -- he sketched an "all" that needs conquering by Love.  Consider how that can be done.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Copyright-Related Reading and Dirt

This week, a publisher wrote to authors about the dismal prospects for newbies and traditionally published "mid-list" authors.  "Mid-list" is probably a euphemism for everyone who is not a bestseller.

If commerce is about "supply and demand", the supply for digital versions of books is mind-boggling (just Google any title and author) but also, the internet and auction sites have made it possible for anyone to find a used paperback (and sometimes a "used" digital version) for less than a publisher or author can afford to sell a royalty-earning version. So, where is the demand for bricks and mortar store copies?

That publisher blames the economy, and Amazon. The publisher does not mention piracy, but piracy is ubiquitous and unstoppable.

For more, read the red-haired legal hero George Sevier of Gowling WLG on online infringement. It is a very good piece. You should look at it.

This author mentioned his hair hue because there is a vigorous debate online (in some quarters) about whether or not novelists should buck perception and make their heroes ginger.

But... Talking of Amazon....
Douglas Preston writes about an alarming "grey market" for books, and how and why authors "get zilch".

FWIW This author is a seller on Amazon, and the Amazon fees for selling an author's stash copy of a paperback are typically $4.24 (for Amazon) for a new, unread, untouched stash paperback copy advertised for $5.70 with free postage paid for by the author.  Or $4.14 for a new, never opened paperback being sold for $5.00 with free shipping.

Just for comparison/reference, I am also trying to sell a very rare, factory sealed Pocher Rolls Royce model kit for $1,085 and Amazon's fees would be $165 if I sold it, but even though no one else on Amazon has one to sell, Amazon shows the world that there are none available, and may never be available. You see, I don't pay Amazon $30 a month, so I will never get the "buy button".

I'll be taking it back to EBay within the week. (I do not consider this self-promo because no one reading an alien romance blog is likely to be a rare and outrageously expensive car kit enthusiast.)

I cannot imagine why this author identified this (below) as being one of the most interest copyright-related reading of the week. With hindsight, it seems pretty dry reading.

However, for authors who may not be absolutely convinced that their publisher submitted a best copy of their published work to the Library of Congress, it might be instructive bedtime reading. Or not!

Finally, some odd goings on behind the scenes at Facebook.

And the legal view of the matter from Peter S. Vogel of Gardere.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Value of Horror

"Horror Is Good for You (and Even Better for Your Kids)," according to Greg Ruth. I wish I'd had this article to show to my parents when I was a thirteen-year-old horror fanatic and aspiring writer, and they disapproved of my reading "that junk" (not that they'd have paid any attention):

Horror Is Good for You

Greg Ruth leads off with a tribute to Ray Bradbury, who was my own idol in my teens—based on his early works collected in such books as THE OCTOBER COUNTRY, full of shivery, deeply stirring, poetic stories. Here is Ruth's list of reasons in defense of horror's value for children. Read the article for his full explanation of each:

(1) Childhood is scary. (2) Power to the powerless. (3) Horror is ancient and real and can teach us much. (4) Horror confirms secret truths. (5) Sharing scary stories brings people together. (6) Hidden inside horror are the facts of life.

The article ends with, "The parents that find this so inappropriate are under the illusion that if they don’t ever let their kids know any of this stuff [the terrors of real life], they won’t have bad dreams or be afraid—not knowing that, tragically, they are just making them more vulnerable to fear. Let the kids follow their interests, but be a good guardian rather than an oppressive guard. Only adults are under the delusion that childhood is a fairy rainbow fantasy land: just let your kids lead on what they love, and you’ll be fine."

Stephen King's fiction often highlights the connection between childhood and the primal, timeless fears haunt the human species. Particularly in IT (which I recently saw the excellent new movie of), King's central theme focuses on the power of childhood's imagination, a wellspring not only of fear but of the strength to overcome it. The boy hero Mark in 'SALEM'S LOT realizes, "Death is when the monsters get you." In his nonfiction book DANSE MACABRE, King offers the opinion that all horror fiction is, at its root, a means of coming to terms with death.

Ruth's defense of horror reminds me of C. S. Lewis's comments, in "On Three Ways of Writing for Children," about the mistaken belief of some adults that fairy tales are too scary for children. Lewis says it's wrongheaded to try to protect children from the fact that they are "born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil." That would indeed be "escapism in the bad sense." He goes on, "Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker. . . . And I think it possible that by confining your child to blameless stories of child life in which nothing at all alarming ever happens, you would fail to banish the terrors, and would succeed in banishing all that can ennoble them or make them endurable. . . . if he is going to be frightened, I think it better that he should think of giants and dragons than merely of burglars. And I think St. George, or any bright champion in armour, is a better comforter than the idea of the police."

I might add that, in my opinion, the best supernatural horror (which is the type I mainly think of when contemplating the genre) has a numinous quality. In a secular age, human beings still crave something that transcends the mundane and merely physical. It's no accident that the Gothic novel was invented during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, and the peak of the classic ghost story occurred during the industrialized, science-minded late Victorian era (along with a craze for seances and psychic research in real life). Ghosts, vampires, etc. feed our yearning for and curiosity about life beyond death, even if they frighten us at the same time.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt