Sunday, December 09, 2018
There are also strict rules about authors' contests. All wise authors considering a promotion to build up a mailing list, or to attract social media approbation ("Likes"), should read this article.
In nutshell, it might be illegal in your State, province or neck of the woods to run a "contest" where there is
1) a prize,
2) an element of chance in selecting the recipient of the prize,
3) a requirement that all contestants provide something of value to the contest organizer as a condition of entry.
This author has never yet seen another author sued for running an illegal sweepstakes where the prize is a free copy of an e-book, no skill is required to enter, and a chance to win the e-book is entirely conditional upon joining a Facebook group (or the like).
As for those Trojan Horses filled with geek warriors aiming to get the goods on little kids, PJ Media columnist Phil Baker shares some shocking data about forced scraping, dossiers, and data-mining.
Allegedly, all too many schools force K-12 children to use certain products that are deliberately contaminated with the vendor/developer's spyware. The children and their parents have no choice, either they accept the devices and the risk to their children's privacy, or they have to home school.
Also allegedly, school employees in Pennsylvania have been given permission to remotely access school computers that have been provided to children... when those computers are being used in the students' homes, without the knowledge or consent of the children or their parents.
Maybe every parent should stick an address label over the camera hole in their offspring's school-issued
Scraping children is especially bad, because many of the credit monitoring products are not available for youngsters.
Targeting advertising at little children is also, in this author's opinion, immoral because children's brains and powers of critical reasoning are not fully developed, and won't be until the children are about 26 years old.
What about businesses scraping other businesses' data? Is that theft or fair game? Without addressing the rights of a minor public figure who might wish to have a presence on book-lovers social media site X, but not on advertising-heavy social media site Y (and yet Site Y might create a presence for the public figure without permission), there have been legal skirmishes between businesses fighting over each other's inventory of members and their basic data.
Legal blogger Scott L. Satkin, writing for the law firm Newmeyer and Dillion LLP discusses what, if anything, counts as "unauthorized access" to "publicly available" data.
It is interesting to consider what, if any, rights a person or business that has collected "data" on members (or subscribers or users) might have over that data if that data is visible on the internet
Scott L Satkin and the lawsuits he discusses are about social media businesses and their subscribers. Authors seeking to build up a following might join a more successful author's social media group, and scrape the contact info and demographics of reader-members.
Scraping is rampant. Is it expected?
The authors of this blog do not (to the best of this author's knowledge) collect or save or otherwise exploit any information about any readers or visitors. From time to time, we do warn visitors that our host (Blogger) does place tracking cookies on visitors' devices.
All the best,
Thursday, December 06, 2018
One of my favorite authors, S. M. Stirling, recently launched a new alternate-history series with BLACK CHAMBER, published in July of this year. His website has begun displaying sample chapters from the first sequel, due in spring of 2019. Reading them started me thinking about the effects small or large changes might have on the historical timeline. The POD (point of departure) for the Black Chamber universe—the moment when it diverges from our reality—occurs in 1912, when President Taft dies prematurely and Theodore Roosevelt returns to the White House (instead of Woodrow Wilson becoming President). With no constitutional term limits for the presidency at that time, Roosevelt has free rein to shape the nation according to his principles. Not only the circumstances of U.S. involvement in World War I but the direction of the entire twentieth century will change. The main story line of the novel begins in 1916.
If you could go back in time and alter the twentieth century for the better, what single action would you take? Killing Hitler before he can do any damage immediately springs to mind, of course. However, aside from the ethical problem of murdering a person who hasn't yet committed evil deeds, killing Hitler never works. TV Tropes even has a page on this topic, "Hitler's time-travel exemption." One example: In an episode of the later incarnation of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, a time traveler from the future installs herself as a servant in the household of Hitler's parents. She finally manages to kill baby Adolf along with herself. The nursery maid, however, is so terrified of Herr Hitler's probable reaction to the loss of his son that she substitutes a look-alike infant taken from a beggar woman. So history still plays out with an Adolf Hitler, just not the original one. Nonviolent ways of eliminating Hitler might work, such as preventing his parents from meeting, kidnapping the baby and having him adopted by a nice English couple, or giving young Adolf a scholarship to art school. Would forestalling his political career actually prevent the war, though? Some authors speculate that, given the conditions of post-World-War-I Europe, the Nazi Party would come to power anyway with a different, possibly worse tyrant in charge.
Arguably, the most productive single thing you could do to avert the catastrophic events of the twentieth century would be to go to Sarajevo in 1914 and arrange for Archduke Franz Ferdinand's car to be re-routed so the assassin would never have a chance to shoot him. But would the erasure of the assassination definitely prevent the Great War? The nations of Europe, with their weapons development and entangled alliances, had been building toward that conflict for decades. It's not unlikely that some other spark would have set off the conflagration anyway. Various speculative fiction authors disagree about the ease of altering the timeline. Do we embrace the "Great Man" theory, where the removal of one person makes all the difference? Or do we lean toward Heinlein's position that "when it's time for railroads, people will railroad"? In Stephen King's novel about a time traveler who tries to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy, saving Kennedy creates a major disruption in the flow of history, but not for the better.
Jo Walton's fascinating novel MY REAL CHILDREN takes a unique approach to the theme. The protagonist, as an old woman in a nursing home, remembers two different lives in two worlds (neither of them our own timeline). In one, the more prosperous and peaceful version of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, she suffers through an unhappy marriage. In the other timeline, which verges on dystopia, she has a generally happy life. If she has the power to make one of them definitively "real," which should she choose?
In most of Heinlein's time-travel fiction, he reveals that no change actually occurs, because the traveler's actions simply bring about what was destined to happen anyway. The past as we know it already includes whatever input we contribute—as in, for instance, THE DOOR INTO SUMMER. Some other writers postulate that history inevitably tries to repair itself when "damaged." Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series illustrates the elasticity of the timeline. Claire (a visitor to the eighteenth century from the twentieth) and her husband Jamie can make small changes, but all their attempts to prevent or mitigate Bonnie Prince Charlie's disastrous 1745 campaign fail. The ultimate example of this principle may be "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed," by Alfred Bester. The time traveler assassinates a series of successively more important personages without ever managing to make a permanent mark on the past.
The opposite approach postulates that the slightest change will have vast consequences—the "butterfly effect." Appropriately, Ray Bradbury provided the classic example of this theory in "A Sound of Thunder," when a member of a tourist group traveling to the age of the dinosaurs alters his own future by accidentally killing a butterfly. The trouble with this story, alas, is that if a small change that far back could shift the entire direction of history, by the traveler's present day the alterations would have snowballed to such an extent that his native time would become unrecognizable, not just subtly distorted toward a dystopian outcome. On the same principle, consider the many alternate-history stories whose authors introduce famous people from the past in different roles from their real-life ones. Actually, depending on how far back the POD occurs, random alterations in meetings, matings, and conceptions would ensure that most if not all of those people would never be born. But what fun for writers and readers would that be?
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, December 04, 2018
The Reviews series have not yet been indexed. These reviews often discuss topics we've explored in other sequences.
On many occasions, I've mentioned the well styled and absorbing Series by Simon R. Green. They are Fantasy Action novels where enemy action is the driving force of the plot.
The Paranormal Romance at the core of the Secret Histories (and originating in the Nightside series) is between a Drood Family Field Agent and a Witch widely acknowledged as the most powerful Witch in existence.
This final novel bringing the two locations together shows how this Romance confronts its final test. The previous Secret Histories novels show how the Relationship between Drood and Witch develops from "mortal enemies" to "lovers" to "partners" to "married."
The long, complex novels give the writer space to set the tempo of change in both Characters to something that seems realistic. Each of them must change, mature, grow, come to understand their world differently, then they must become a Couple. All of this maturation and change is handled stepwise in a psychologically plausible way.
The action and fantasy writing, plus the deep and solid characterization are what have made these two series extremely popular, hitting The New York Times Bestselling status time and again. They're well constructed, tightly woven, with elements of Mystery and Suspense that you get addicted.
When you spot the Simon R. Green byline, you look forward to a visit with an old friend, his allies and enemies, and his personal evolution as a person as well as a member of a difficult family (filled with difficult but lovable people). And none of the books disappoint that expectation.
As I've long understood, both series as well as Green's ghost-hunter series, belong in the same "universe" -- a well crafted, complex, universe with magic and supernatural creatures as well as inter-dimensional intrusions into our world. The "rules" Green teaches you persist with logical consequences you can anticipate (dread) and remember.
The imagery is vivid, the banter up to the style of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, and the Characters (even the bit players) memorable.
The tongue-in-cheek take-off on well known Series (like James Bond) is always good for a startled laugh, and provides a feeling of camaraderie with the Author who tossed in a bit from the reader's everyday life.
In this concluding novel, Green brings together the Characters and Locations of the two (otherwise separate) series, Secret Histories and Nightside.
The Nightside is a magically created segment of adjacent reality, nestled in and accessible via the city of London in England.
The Secret Histories begin in London, and are about a Family (the Droods) fighting to protect our world from anything that might threaten us. The Droods wear "golden armor" provided from another dimension by a (presumably) friendly visitor befriending the Family.
The Nightside is the location of a "Free Port" such as Pirates might create, a place where "Law" is sparse and just barely enforced. It has many Magic features and caters to every warped taste in entertainment.
Green finishes off both series by showing what happens when The Nightside boundaries expand (inexplicably) and the Droods invade to put things right (the Drop idea of right, you see). The Nightside inhabitants object to being invaded, while the gods who inhabit a particularly famous tourist street, desert the Nightside (inexplicably), so much of the "power" has gone.
Read to find some of the answers and explanations.
There is an afterword that wraps up some of the loose ends -- there could have been more novels in the joined-universe, perhaps, but here is where the Romance becomes the "Happily Ever After" which makes Night Fall the correct place to end the Series.
Therefore, this is another long running, successful Paranormal Romance Series to study carefully. The "world" you build around the Characters is a big part of what makes a novel or series appeal to a broad readership. Most people who buy books read more than one genre - at least over a lifetime of reading. Often people read the same genre for years, even decades, before branching out. Give your readers a reason to branch out, and they will memorize your byline.
Here are some previous posts on this blog exploring some techniques in how to create the sort of addictive reading experience Green has managed.
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Heloise Wood and Natasha Onwuemezi wrote about it recently for The Bookseller.
If you are an author or a reader, perhaps you have attended a convention or event at a major hotel chain. It is likely that a lot of SFWA members, or Authors Guild members, or Romance Writers of America members, or Romantic Times convention-goers, or have been to a Marriott or Starwood Hotel or convention center in the last five years.
You surely will have heard of the latest data breach:
One surprising revelation is that some unfortunate, sociable people may have had their passport numbers, drivers license numbers, birth dates, credit card numbers and more exposed.
Do you have Malwarebytes? A professional genius suggested to me that Malwarebytes is a superior product to keep Apple products safe. No one has offered this author any incentive for saying this, but it does work well, it scans often, and unlike rival products that might or might not have the word "Trust" in their name, one can have Malwarebytes on and not be automatically blocked by banks and brokerage houses.
Malwarebytes gave subscribers an early heads-up on the Starwood breach. (RWA was next quickest to alert members.)
By email and by link, Malwarebytes offers great advice for anyone who might ever have had a Starwood hotels account. Their Data Breach Checklist is worth saving.
Of course, we all know that we ought to reset passwords.... and many of us procrastinate. In fact, before blogging today, this author logged in to her SPG account and discovered that her username had already been reset to a new one. The password could then be reset, but only by someone with access to the email account on file.
Credit accounts etc should be monitored. Anyone with a DISCOVER card can receive very good, free credit monitoring and an updated FICO score every month. Fifth Third Bank offers a credit monitoring service which costs approximately $7.00 a month. That's cheaper than Lifelock, which is about $12.00 a month. Those affected by the SPG breach are being offered Webwatcher for one year. Make a note of when your anniversary date with Webwatcher will be, or you may be surprised with an automatic renewal fee.
Credit freezing is now free, so is a good option if you aren't planning to sign up for a new credit or debit card or to take out a new mortgage.
No one wants to say it, but does one really need to share one's birth date with anyone who asks, including store clerks? I don't need a $10 Vera Bradley coupon mailed to me on my birthday. Every week through the snail mail, I receive coupons from all manner of vendors for all manner of apparel and accessories.
By the way, your doctor or dentist may ask for your social security number, but you do not have to give it to them. You don't have to give them access to your smart phone number, either. Just because they ask you to write a review of their practice does not mean you should. Do you want Google and Facebook to know approximately when you visited a gynecologist, and which office it was?
Speaking of HIPPA, the law firm of Hall Render Killian Heath and Lyman PC penned an interesting article some weeks ago about hospitals being fined for allowing a film crews to film patients without the consent of the patients who were filmed.
And, totally off topic, but to do with privacy, did you hear about the female student whose landlord evicted her just before her final exams because her suite mates (apparently inspired by the student's choice in political millinery) conducted a search of that student's room and private possessions in her absence and without her permission, and discovered a legally owned and safely stored gun, and complained to said landlord? This, in a State where gun ownership is lawful, and in a rental where the lease was silent about gun ownership.
All the best,
Thursday, November 29, 2018
As we do every year at Thanksgiving, my husband, our youngest son, and I spent the weekend at ChessieCon (formerly Darkover), just north of Baltimore. Guest of Honor was Jo Walton, author of FARTHING, TOOTH AND CLAW, AMONG OTHERS, MY REAL CHILDREN, a trilogy in which Athena tries to create Plato's Just City as envisioned in the REPUBLIC, and other great books. Walton read a chapter involving the exorcism of demons from her forthcoming novel LENT. On the basis of that selection, I'm looking forward to the book.
At the Broad Universe rapid-fire reading, I read a short scene from my humorous ghost story "Haunted Book Nook," recently published in the new anthology SWORD AND SORCERESS 33. Les (my husband) appeared on two panels, on military SF versus the real-life military and on the advantages of writing a series versus stand-alone books (including how to handle a stand-alone piece in an ongoing series). I led a discussion session on STEVEN UNIVERSE. Although the group was small, the conversation was passionate, and someone brought doughnuts. If you're not familiar with this animated series about a half-human boy and his guardians, the Crystal Gems (alien life-forms who are literally sentient gemstones, their humanoid bodies being essentially solid holograms), do check it out. At first, it looks like a typical children's cartoon, but as the series progresses, layers upon layers of depth unfold. Next, I participated in a panel on "Good Art, Problematic Artist," a fraught topic with much potential for conflict. Fortunately, we had an excellent moderator, and everyone who spoke (both panel and audience) addressed the subject with intelligence and sensitivity. Whether a creator's abhorrent attitudes or evil actions can be separated from appreciation of his or her art depends on many situational factors and is a nuanced question each person must decide individually. Is the artist alive or dead, recent or classic? If alive, does he or she benefit from our consumption of the art? Do reprehensible attitudes or opinions make themselves visible in the work or not? How much should authors and other artists from previous eras get a pass on their prejudices for being "of their time"? Naturally, we mostly discussed writers, and, not surprisingly, H. P. Lovecraft came up. However, we did touch upon problematic performers, mainly Bill Cosby.
Les and I took part in the group signing on Saturday evening. We had some nice chats with people passing by and actually sold a few books. I like that system (as opposed to individual book signings) because we get to see what other writers have to offer, and with all of us in one place at the same time, we lesser-known folks have the advantage of being seen by readers who come to check out the higher-profile authors.
If we didn't know better, we might think the hotel was getting tired of us, judging by the conditions this year. One elevator remained out of order the whole time. More critically, because of renovations in progress the heat didn't work right. The main downstairs corridor, the restrooms, and most of the meeting spaces didn't have any. Fortunately, the chill didn't extend to the guest rooms. On the plus side, it did seem that the speed of service in the dining room had marginally improved. We noticed evidence of under-staffing, though. Con attendance seemed to be down, judging from the low numbers of people in many sessions. Nevertheless, discussions were lively. The former members of Clam Chowder sang highlights from their repertoire, as usual, and the Saturday evening concert featured a pagan-inspired group called Kiva. From what I watched of their performance, I especially liked their version of the Yuletide folk song "Soul Cake." The musical guest of honor was filk musician Mary Crowley.
Happily, the ChessieCon tradition will continue next year. The Guest of Honor will be Charlie Jane Anders. You can read about the con here:ChessieCon
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Reviews posts have not yet been gathered into an index. Find them by searching author or title or Reviews or reviews.
Today we'll look at a huge, long, novel launching a new series THE SUN EATER Book One, Empire of Silence.
Here it is on Amazon:
You'll probably want the Kindle version because the font in the hardcover is rather small and crammed -- for a reason we'll be discussing here.
So as I was reading this book (all of it; it is a page turner!), I was also involved in editing the second book in a Trilogy in my Sime~Gen Universe, and there's a relevant story in that comparison.
This back-stage story I want to tell you is relevant to spotting trends in Publishing and figuring out their origins.
I have been involved in fanfic since I was in 7th Grade, wrote novels when I was in High School and college (thankfully unpublished), and dove right into Star Trek fandom when I first saw it because friends from Science Fiction fandom (Bjo Trimble among them) were pounding the table about this wonderful TV Series (yes, it was and is wonderful!)
So I wrote the non-fiction book, STAR TREK LIVES!
I aimed to rip aside the veil of contempt with which the general public shrouded all science fiction -- "kiddie crap" worthy only of comic derision.
I (and a cast of millions) blew the lid on Star Trek fanfic, and the world has changed.
As evidence that Star Trek had done something on TV that no previous Radio or TV drama had ever done, I footnoted my novel HOUSE OF ZEOR.
House of Zeor was at that time the first novel (but not first story) to be published in the Sime~Gen Series ( Sime/Gen was the logo then, but later changed by the fans to avoid the inaccurate "/" designation).
I had designed HOUSE OF ZEOR to appeal to the Star Trek fans who most loved the Spock Character, and to touch the same creative nerve that the broadcast TV series touched in them.
And as predicted, many Star Trek fans wrote Sime~Gen fanfic -- at one time there were 5 regular Sime~Gen fanzines being published offset and/or mimeo.
We have most of that fanfic posted for free reading on simegen.com.
My ambition was always to bring those fanfic writers -- and their original "take" on Sime~Gen -- to the wider readership who buy professionally published novels.
And we are doing that right now -- as I'm reading the currently published Hardcovers such as EMPIRE OF SILENCE from DAW books (which also first published several Sime~Gen novels in Mass Market Paperback originals.
So as Wildside picked up the Sime~Gen backlist, and also published the several novels that got swallowed in publishing house collapses later retrieved, we went ahead with our fanfic writers to put out the first anthology of original fan written stories (some from the old fanzines rewritten, and some brand new ideas the writers have had after years of writing Star Trek fanfic).
FEAR AND COURAGE on Amazon
That is THE CLEAR SPRINGS CHRONICLES - Book One is now available, and we were working on Book Two as I read EMPIRE OF SILENCE.
And the writing lesson is all about STYLE. The fanfic style, targeting an audience of those already steeped in the mythos of a fictional world (like Star Trek, Star Wars, vs. the professional writing style targeting a broad, or gigantic viewership.
CLEAR SPRINGS CHRONICLES on Amazon
Jean Lorrah, who joined Sime~Gen with her first published novel, FIRST CHANNEL (the third published in the series),
...has since been studying screenwriting craft and marketing screenplays (even won an award for it), and has fully internalized the terse, to-the-point, not-one-second of viewer time wasted or distracted with detail, STYLE required to tell a story visually. We were taught this style by Traditional Publishing's major editors, but visual story telling requires an even higher precision styling. Reading the SAVE THE CAT! series on screenwriting retrains the story crafting to the broadest of all audiences (the 4-bagger).
FIRST CHANNEL on Amazon
To broaden an appeal to a wider audience, ELIMINATE DETAIL, and "BTW" events, and decorative additions (detailed description etc). Put all that information in the plot.
The more TERSE the style, and the more clean and definitive the scene structure, the broader the potential audience.
SAVE THE CAT! on Amazon
That is true today -- but may not be true 20 years from now (say 2029).
The force moving to this direction of more lazy plotting, more larded on irrelevant detail, is the force that is making audiences for anything SMALLER (e.g. fragmenting the monolothic TV audience which had only 3 TV stations that broadcast only 4 hours a night).
That is STREAMING. All the different mega-giants in this industry of episodic story-telling (Netflix, Amazon - retailers of fiction) are trying all sorts of different topics, formats and styles that "narrow-cast" or more directly target a sensitive area of a small audience (creating fans).
In STAR TREK LIVES! I called that "the Tailored Effect" which is what made Spock fans love the show and never notice McCoy and Kirk (and Chekov) were equally mysterious and interesting.
Nobody calls it that now, but everyone is using that basic principle -- that the narrower your audience, the more intense their pleasure and resulting "glued to the page" behavior.
In other words, what is "popular" or "Mass Market" must, necessarily eliminate exactly what you most want in your fiction payload.
Science Fiction fans are always "unusual" people -- on the tail of some bell distribution curve. They may be at the norm in many attributes, but always have some specific attribute that is way off the charts. Most fans have more imagination than the norm of the bell curve -- are willing to suspend disbelief to read a Romance of a human and an Alien.
To appeal to the FEW, fiction has to be "cheap to make" because it must be made at a profit. E-publishing, and now Streaming media using digital cameras are RELATIVELY cheap to make. There are still the fixed costs of writing, editing, copyediting, and setting up the manuscript or recording the actors doing the play.
But those costs are coming down, and the means to create such salable items as e-books or YouTube video casts, are within the technological know-how and financial means of huge numbers of people.
Fanzines first arose using spirit duplicators and rapidly converted to mimeo (fans had Gestetner mimeograph machines and stencil cutting type writers in their LIVING ROOMS!!! -- equipment usually then found only in schools or corporate offices were obtained second hand by ordinary people for the hobby of publishing).
So, now, the means to professional produce and distribute (even publicize) fanfic are available to most people -- all you need to add is talent, skill, and will power.
Professional business structures (Traditional Publishers of books, Hollywood Studios), for-profit purveyors of expensively produced stories, are learning that there is profit to be made serving tiny markets but serving them well.
That lesson was the major point in STAR TREK LIVES! People with unusual taste in fiction are profitable.
One of Gene Roddenberry's major contributions to TV Science Fiction was the art of containing costs. He did a lot with very little money (yeah, and today that really shows, but on B&W small screen TV's it didn't show so much.)
Now the genie is out of the bottle. Tiny markets are being well served with stories in styles that please the taste of those tiny markets immensely (but might jar the nerves of many other markets).
To learn STYLE, a writer must read lots and lots of books they really dislike. It's the job. The more you dislike a book, the more you can learn to make your writing into something you will like - even love - 40 years later.
What Jean Lorrah did to Mary Lou Mendum's second draft of Mary Lou's Fanfic series which we published in an offset press run of a fanzine (about 1,000 copies) has not been done to EMPIRE OF SILENCE, Christopher Ruocchio's THE SUN EATER Book One.
Jean is broadening the potential audience by sharpening the craftsmanship (cut-cut-cut -- add back show don't tell in different places -- rearrange information -- rephrase more tersely). In the process, material cut from the fanzine version will be spun off into more stories.
That's what fanfic does best -- compress whole novel series into a few paragraphs and call it a scene in a larger story. That is, fanfic gives readers who know the Universe thoroughly a whole new perspective on what they think they know.
Star Trek fanfic gave readers a reason to view the shows again (and again) and go to the movies several times. Read a fanfic, go watch again and it's a totally different story you are seeing.
But to achieve this effect, fanfic lards in vast amounts of irrelevant detail, dwelling and dwelling on ideas, decoration, "depth" of characterization at the expense of plot movement.
Frankly, I like fanfic better than I like most professional fiction.
However, we now have a new audience, with new writers speaking to them about the problems of this new (tech based) world we now live in.
Christopher Ruocchio is one such writer who has plunged into creating a Science Fiction series, The Sun Eater, around a "colorful" Character (who might star in most Historical Romances!).
And to reach and grab this younger audience into his created world, he has not relied on the structures common in Gaming (which tends to emphasize plot, and opposing forces, at expense of Character Motivation). He has instead painted his world with excessive detail.
This novel, EMPIRE OF SILENCE,
Ruocchio uses the Historical Fiction technique of a Main Character, who was the key player in changing the course of galactic history, reminiscing about his early life and how he came to be that key player.
It is the presentation mode made famous in some Arthurian legend novels, and many very early novels in that legend. It goes back deep into the roots of human storytelling.
This is the kickoff novel creating a "world" -- as House of Zeor introduced Sime~Gen to the readers who had missed the short story in WORLDS OF IF Magazine.
But where House of Zeor is about 75,000 words, Empire of Silence is about 269,360 words and that doesn't include the appended glossary.
House of Zeor presents a whole new "language" based on perceptions that the reader does not have -- yet does not append a glossary.
In my estimation, about 25,000 words could have been cut from Empire of Silence without in any way impairing the visualization of this new galactic empire or the presentation of its historic movement.
Those 25,000 extra words are the reason the font in the hardcover is so small. Books can be produced only in certain page-counts. It is the job of the "book designer" to cram all the extra words into a page layout that comes out to be the exact number of pages in an integral number of "folios." A folio is the folded over unit you can see by looking down onto the top of a book. Printing machines can make only certain sizes of these folded over units - all the books from a particular imprint run through that same machine. So the book has to be expanded or contracted to fit the machines that print it. This is the reason some books have blank pages at the back. Think about that as you polish your final draft. The age of your target readership determines the optimum size print.
In doing such a line-edit cut, the Characterizations (and a nice Romance that is just skipped over in narrative), and the motivations as well as political concepts could have been brought to the surface in clean, unequivocal terms so that fanfic writers might pick it up and embroider on it.
Cutting, when done with deliberate craft to a specific point, can improve the art as well as broaden the potential audience which would revel in the romp of imagination.
"Deliberate craft" is what Jean Lorrah has mastered in screenwriting exercises. You will be able to see the results when the entire CLEAR SPRINGS TRILOGY is published. We are keeping the 3 Den & Rital stories online for comparison.
Mary Lou added the science for improving selyn battery technology to enable heavier than air flight to her previous fanfic plot-line of "launch a Sime Center out-Territory."
At some point, we might post the intermediate draft so you can see how Jean and I cut, polished, refocused, and cut-cut-cut, to make these novels both enjoyable (as the original fanfic) and conforming to professionally published Mass Market standards.
So, by reading this novel, EMPIRE OF SILENCE (which you will enjoy and will probably want the sequels), and by comparing it to Mary Lou Mendum's fanfic on simegen.com, and to the professionally published Clear Spring's Trilogy, you can (painlessly) gain a grasp of how fanfic STYLING has become DAW Hardcover Mainstream traditional publishing acceptable.
Once you can draw the line connecting all 3 "dots" (1970's Science Fiction Hardcover, 1990's fanfic, 2020's Hardcover/Streaming) , you can make a prediction of your own about how 2040's Science Fiction STYLING will blend Mass Market with Fanfic Styles.
Write the next STAR TREK LIVES!
Sunday, November 25, 2018
Authors exploit recipes. The recipe may be bonus material on a website or in a newsletter, or in a guest blog on a promotional blog tour. Recipes might be chapter headers. A murder mystery might hang on a recipe or two. This author created a truly tasty and healthy recipe involving sardines, from a scene in "Forced Mate", and gave her gynecologist permission to share the recipe (with attribution) to patients who needed to be persuaded to eat more sardines.
The trick is to choose one's own words as carefully and creatively as one chooses the herbs and spices.
Legal blogger Paul D. Swanson writing for the law firm Lane Powell PC on the Earth And Table Law Reporter blog explains in fascinating detail the potential problem of plagiarism and copyright infringement when one simply transcribes someone else's quirkily worded recipe.
In this author's opinion, this article is a must-read!
In other gastronomical legal news, a Belgian court has ruled that the taste of a food (in this case something cheesy) cannot be copyrighted.
Legally blogging for CMS Belgium , authors Tom Heremans, Lisbeth Depypere, and Eleonore Coucke explain that the taste of cheese is not objective enough or long-lasting enough to merit copyright protection.
Hogan Lovells bloggers Dr. Nils Rauer and Lea Kaase digest the same cheesy matter on the LimeGreen IP blog.
Quite right. Different people have different distributions of taste buds. How something tastes may depend on what one ate or drank or gargled with prior to eating the cheese spread in question.
All the best,
Thursday, November 22, 2018
Happy American Thanksgiving!
Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS column discusses whether the Internet qualifies as "revolutionary":What the Internet Is For
His answer: The Internet runs on a revolutionary principle but is not, in itself, revolutionary. The principle, as he describes it, is "the 'end-to-end' principle, which states that any person using the internet can communicate with any other person on the internet without getting any third party’s permission." We've become so used to the capacity to do this that we forget how mind-boggling it is. He goes on to examine computers and encryption from the same perspective. Finally, he asserts that the Internet is "a necessary but insufficient factor for effecting revolution" and offers support for that view. An exciting and optimistic article, recommended reading for the detailed explanations I haven't summarized.
This weekend, as usual, ChessieCon will be held just north of Baltimore, and my husband and I will appear on the program. I'll report on the panels and other events next week. Jo Walton will be this year's Guest of Honor!ChessieCon
Meanwhile, happy turkey day (or whatever your feast of choice may be).
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Previous Parts Indexed Here:
Most Romance readers are fairly young, or in the older demographic settled in with children to raise and imagining variations on Life. Who could I be after these kids are raised? How did I get into this mess? What can I do about it? What would be an improvement?
But these older readers usually discovered Romance in their early years, and come back to it.
It's the same for Science Fiction and Mystery. Readers are READERS first, and a demographic second if at all.
To recruit more readers to Romance and keep them reading through their busiest and most stressful years, we combine Romance with other compatible genres such as Mystery, Amateur Detective, Cozy Mystery, and Science Fiction -- all of which produce their most entertaining novels with the Love Conquers All theme.
The parent trapped with a gaggle of squalling children on a snow day is actually looking for a novel to explore HOW Love can conquer this insane mess.
We, as writers, have to nurture these readers, and inspire them to reach for their better selves - to be the hero their children need to see them being.
It turns out that a statistical study done by the Armed Forces holds a clue to "who" you are writing for, who reads your stories, and what they need to be inspired to do, be and become.
A huge percentage of young people are trapped by an unhealthy lifestyle and unhealthy body, surrounded with impenetrable walls of ignorance.
There is a point where the spirit just caves in and the body just won't do anything.
There is a point where the person just can't do anything to help themselves. This is a very real experience for many readers today -- and you can make fans of those readers by presenting stories that trigger a spark of inspiration, a vision of an attainable way out.
For example, I have been told by a fan (one of those elevator conversations) that she read my novels MOLT BROTHER and CITY OF A MILLION LEGENDS. (new editions in Kindle and Paper)
She read them while in college, in such a life-pickle she didn't know what to do, and became inspired to change her major to Archeology (the novel is about Interstellar Archeologists). Many years later, she was very happy with the decision she made -- after reading fiction (with a good love story, strange but solid family relationships).
But first you have to know what they are "in" and what the walls look like to them from the inside.
The bird's eye view is the one you need -- or orbital video view.
Statistics (yep, math) is the real key to gaining a portrait of your potential readership.
And this Pentagon study, triggered by Trump's ambition to build a huge military force, may be the very best result of the Trump Administration's activities. Think about that -- something good, spiritually inspiring, life affirming, coming straight out of Trump's Pentagon. Mind boggling concept.
That's the article I have to quote, which I found via a Facebook post of someone I met on Twitter.
Here’s the arithmetic: one in three potential recruits are disqualified from service because they’re overweight, one in four cannot meet minimal educational standards (a high school diploma or GED equivalent), and one in 10 have a criminal history. In plain terms, about 71 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds (the military’s target pool of potential recruits) are disqualified from the minute they enter a recruiting station: that’s 24 million out of 34 million Americans. The good news is that while the military takes pride in attracting those who are fit, educated, law abiding, and drug-free, they’re having difficulty finding them—manifestly because fewer of them actually exist.
Think about that. 71% of 18-24 year olds (college age kids) are ripe for the picking.
That 71% that are so messed up they are incapable of meeting Military Service requirements are potential Science Fiction Romance, Paranormal Romance, Fantasy Romance fans - ready to enter new worlds, gaze upon new vistas, and romp in fields where all is new and different, unexpected and glorious.
71% are ready to turn their lives around, and that is exactly the effect that reading Romance genre has had on uncounted generations of readers.
The difference today is that both men and women read Romance, so you have a shot at 71% of college age people.
The rest are way too busy and satisfied with their arduous climbing of the ladder of success to have time to read at that age. You will intercept them once they settle down into their 40's, and you will do that by creating a memorable byline among that 71% who will be joining them in being Middle Aged.
Many science fiction novels assume the Space Force (the traditional science fiction space force we all imagined), will have ships with military ranks, discipline, and very high IQ requirements.
But Robert Heinlein put whole families into space.
The sky is no limit.
Trump's Space Force is slated to be a branch of the Military, so run with that.
Read this article on recruiting problems the military is having (these are new problems -- World War II was won by America's farm boys re-purposing their skills) and then write to inspire that 71% that s left out of the Space Force.
Most of them probably could qualify if they don't fall into the drug addict, petty criminal pattern, stay in shape and get serious about school.
Women are famous for being turned on by muscle, by trim athletic men, and by men who understand the world.
Men fall for women who are in good physical condition, but happily rely on their men to protect them from other men.
Write that vision - make it real enough to inspire, make it reachable, attainable, plausible.
Solve the 71% problem.
Read the other articles:
Why the Air Force Thinks It Can Turn Gamers Into Its Next Top Guns
‘We’re Killing These Kids, We’re Breaking the Army!’
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The "cloud" may be in the bowels of a big barge, or in Maiden North Carolina , or perhaps under the control of Amazon Web Services, or in a large and environmentally unsound building in a desert, sucking up vast quantities of water (for cooling), and drawing in power, and emitting who knows what.
What goes around, comes around. Do you remember the pirate radio ships of the 1960's: Radio Caroline, and Radio North Sea International? Did you see the movie "The Boat That Rocked" aka "Pirate Radio"?
Thinking of these seaworthy (possibly) floating server farms, one would be forgiven for thinking that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It's just not all the sound of a needle on spinning grooved vinyl any more.
Until recently, modern pirate "ships" enjoyed safe harbors, especially those they were able to construct and hollow out within the DMCA. David Lowery discusses the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) as a virtual "island" nation in which the consent of the persons who are governed by the elites is not necessary.
If administrations become less friendly, as they have since the European Copyright Directive and Article 13, the pirate party moves offshore, or to a pirate utopia. Chris Castle discusses the TAZ.
Free stuff... isn't free. Someone always pays for it. Sometimes, the redistribution of the cultural wealth goes from the starving artist to Silicon Valley, or to profiteering politicians.
Georgia State University appears to have thought it could reduce the cost of a college education by stiffing authors. Since 2008, GSU has had a lot of support.
Andrew Albanese explains for Publishers Weekly readers how (and this is a loose paraphrase... not his drift) Georgia State University professors deliberately and systematically offered students pirated (unlicensed) digital copies of assigned reading materials as a way to avoid paying for legal, licensed course packs.
IMHO, it's a case of professors teaching piracy by example to generations of students.
Authors Guild shares an important perspective "Are Electronic Course Packs Fair Use?"
As the Authors Guild explains, academic authors have seen their income from text book work evaporate as other colleges and universities and schools have followed the bad example set by GSU, particularly after GSU's two court victories wherein the district court judge, Orinda Evans, even awarded the university's legal costs to be paid by the publishers who sued in 2008 over the alleged copyright infringement.
Not only losing a complaint of copyright infringement, but also having to pay the alleged infringer's legal costs is --or would be-- a truly chilling effect on copyright and the business models of academic authors and publishers.
Authors Guild points out an important factor in copyright law that none of the courts appear to have weighed appropriately, and that is the potential effect of copying works or portions of works on future markets for the works.
Legal blogger Mark Sableman for Thompson Coburn LLP identifies another nuance in the Fair Use wording in Section 107 of the DMCA that perhaps the GSU courts overlooked. That is, the meaning of "include".
To extrapolate, "include" does not mean "comprise solely of these four...", it means "among other considerations in addition to these four...."
"Fair Use Isn't Arithmetic" is well worth reading.
As he says, each excerpt that was included in the course pack ought to have been reviewed individually and holistically. What he does not spell out is that 10% of text book X, might have been 25% or 50% or even 100% of Author Y's contribution to the multi-author work that made up text book X.
Does stiffing a publisher matter? Yes. Look at how many publishing houses have gone out of business or merged or been sold in the last decade. Look what has happened to the advances that used to be paid to authors.
Looking back to 2008, an observer may now infer that generations of teachers, professors, judges, lawyers, social media platforms and search engines have fostered a climate that leads reasonable persons to perceive that piracy is profitable, useful, fun, fair and without consequences.
"No Left Or Right When It Comes To Copyright"
According to the Authors Guild, between 2009 --one year after GSU's original success in claiming that the alleged academic copyright infringement was fair use-- and 2013 (a year after Orinda Evans first, erroneously, ruled in favor of GSU), piracy alerts to the Authors Guild have increased by 300 %, and alerts have increased another 76% on top of that, through 2017.
It remains to be seen what will happen next with Georgia State. One thing is predictable. Lawyers will win.
All the best,
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Let us give thanks that this election cycle has ended, and we'll have a short rest from the acrimonious politicking. (Maybe. It seems that nowadays we hardly get a moment's peace before campaigning for the next election starts.) The political barrage reminds me of an entertaining article on that topic by Robert Heinlein.
Heinlein's essay and story collection EXPANDED UNIVERSE includes a short section defending his controversial novel STARSHIP TROOPERS and proposing, with varying degrees of apparent seriousness, alternative methods of determining who gets the right to vote. (You won't find this piece by scanning the table of contents; it's the Afterword to "Who Are the Heirs of Patrick Henry?") He suspects that one major objection to STARSHIP TROOPERS is that it portrays a political structure in which the franchise must be earned—a policy Heinlein seems to approve of. He asks us to stipulate that "some stabilizing qualification is needed (in addition to the body being warm) for a voter to vote responsibly with proper consideration for the future of his children and grandchildren—and yours." He points out that the "Founding Fathers never intended to extend the franchise to everyone"; a citizen had to be "a stable figure in the community" as evidenced by owning property, employing others, or the like. Heinlein skips over the part where the Founding Fathers didn't grant the vote to the Founding Mothers, much less people of whatever gender who belonged to the wrong race.
He goes on to suggest some possible alternatives to universal "warm body" franchise, in addition to the STARSHIP TROOPERS requirement for earning citizenship through public service. (1) The government's sole source of revenue comes from the sale of franchises. In other words, legalize the buying of votes. Heinlein believes if the price per vote were set high enough, few rich people would want to impoverish themselves to control an election. (2) Solve a math problem in the election booth before being allowed to cast a vote. As a variation on that plan, deposit a non-trivial sum of money first, which you get back if you qualify but lose if you fail the test. Under that rule, only citizens seriously interested in the political process would bother to participate. Considering that he thinks his idea of requiring people to solve a quadratic equation might be "too easy," I'm dubious of this notion. Having never really grokked math and having forgotten whatever I once knew about quadratic equations, I would surely find myself disenfranchised.
His final suggestion arises from the fact that female suffrage hasn't changed society and politics as much as suffragists predicted. Maybe the change didn't go far enough. Suppose, in a spirit of fairness, we don't allow men to vote for the next hundred and fifty years? Voting, office-holding, and the profession of law would be reserved for women. He goes even further with this modest proposal by pondering whether those rights should be restricted to mothers, who have an inescapable stake in society.
Like Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal" for eating babies, Heinlein's hypothetical ideas for reforming our political system sneak up on the reader so smoothly that, for a few seconds, one feels they almost make sense. He also mentions Mark Twain's "The Curious Republic of Gondour," which can be read here:The Curious Republic of Gondour
Under the system of this imaginary nation, every citizen automatically has one vote. They acquire additional votes, however, according to their education and wealth. A poor man or woman with a "common-school" education has two votes, someone with a high-school diploma gets four, and a university education bestows nine votes, a coveted and highly respected honor. The number of votes one is entitled to also rises in increments based on wealth, but those can be lost if the individual's wealth decreases. As a result, in the government of Gondour "ignorance and incompetence had no place. . . . A candidate for office must have marked ability, education, and high character, or he stood no sort of chance of election."
Imagine living under a government where we could count on those qualifications!
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Previous parts in Worldbuilding for Science Fiction Romance are:
Part 2 - Imagine An Impossible World
Now in Part 3, we look at the inhabitants of the built world.
The point of reading a novel is to explore how to break those "every single time" patterns in your own life. The power of fiction lies in the ability to convey to the reader a clue, an insight, about how the reader's life works and how the reader can take command of their life and "edit" their fate-destiny-plight-theme to be more amenable.
So you are looking (as you scan the headlines) for a popular theme which recurs because of a misconception you can spot. Once you fully understand the mechanism driving that misconception, then you can transpose that misconception into a well-built world where you can expose the misconception -- and be very entertaining as you do so.
I say "transpose" because this writer-craft process of crafting themes relevant to you, and to your reader, is just like adapting a musical composition to be played on different instruments and perhaps in a different key. It's "the same but different" which is what purveyors of fiction look for.
Let's take an example.
In Science Fiction Romance one must blend "science" (the study of physical reality) with "Romance" (the bonding process of the Soul).
In science, there is no such thing as the Soul.
In Romance, no scientific declaration of "impossible" is a barrier to two Soul Mates joining -- Love Conquers All is the master theme.
In Romance, there is such a thing as "science." But it does not govern the limits of the possible. In Romance, the Soul governs.
When you join Science (the study of reality) to Fiction, you alter the Science to fit the Story and use that altered Science (what if you can go faster than light?) to drive the Plot (Interstellar Wars).
When you join Romance (the experience of Truth) to Fiction, you alter the actual, real-life experience of people to fit the Story and use that altered version of Romance to drive the Plot (Helen of Troy).
In both cases you have to start with something to say (theme). That statement you are making has to be a reply to what your target readership is thinking and feeling.
In today's world, young people (teens-20's) have been immersed in a world that makes little distinction between thinking and feeling. In fact, what people feel is considered a more reliable determinant in all decision making. Thinking, while admired and even shrouded in the mystique of expertise, is a subordinate ingredient in distinguishing right from wrong, good from bad.
Those are the readers you are talking to, answering the questions they torment themselves over. Those are the readers you, the writer, are to show a way out of torment, a way to change "the story of my life" -- to edit reality.
One subject the Romance field took up decades ago is the thesis that reshapes all lives and all realities when adopted -- that the sexual impulse, sexual arousal, can be "irresistible."
The feelings, hormones, emotions of the Body pre-empt all thinking.
Many today regard the Body as the thinker, and much Science (grant money) is being channeled into studies of the brain, nerves, genes, cells, ostensibly to create cures or treatments for disease and to extend life-span.
Science is the Body for many people, at least when they are young.
Most young people (teens) do not have much awareness of having a Soul, of being a two-part composition.
So the writer looks for a theory of Body and Soul which is TRUE in the World she is building, and dubious in this real world. Choose a statement about Body and Soul, and build the entire fictional world around it (usually by starting with a Character.)
There is an occult theory that the Soul is first joined to the Body at conception, but only a tiny bit of contact is made. As the fetus grows, more Soul pours into the little body. At Birth, even more of the Soul is inserted into the Body, and then the contact is choked down to a tiny channel. By the teens, the channel has gradually opened to allow more Soul to pour into the Body. This continues to life's peak, and then the Soul (having learned the lessons it is here to learn) starts to retreat. With Aging of the Body, the Soul has only to pass on its lesson. Death is the complete freeing of the Soul from contact with this Body.
By this esoteric theory of Soul, "the story of my life" -- the thematic pattern that repeats every ^%&$#@@@ time -- is the Lesson the Soul is here to learn.
You have to pass age 30 to have lived long enough to identify some of these patterns, and perhaps 50 to see which one is the lesson of this life.
But in the teens, the awareness that there are patterns is what causes the teen-angst we are so familiar with (and scornful of.)
If your life is about your Soul -- and the Body is just a disposable vehicle like a phone or a car -- but you deny the possibility that Soul exists, you are in Conflict. That is an Internal Conflict.
If you deny that Soul is real, then meet a Soul Mate -- what do you do?
If the Soul "remembers" that every single &^^!@#$ time this new Soul has touched a Life you were living, everything went wrong, then how would the Soul/Body combination of this life react to yet another meeting -- another chance?
Now consider the Soul Mate Couple -- each has lived a series of Lives designed to teach them that the Soul is real, but neither of them has learned that lesson.
Into their Meeting Moment in this life, you put a Character who has complete Soul awareness, and whose body and soul are fully blended and activated.
This third Character would deal with each of them -- and everyone else he/she deals with -- as Souls, with the experience and awareness available only to Souls.
Other Characters in their lives, and the two Mates, would deal with each other as Body alone -- no Soul dimension to be considered. Body's Lust is irresistible, emotions are truth, humans are primates who talk. Do what's "natural" to the primate body - it's not healthy to do anything else.
The Other Characters behave that way because they live in the World you have built around them -- they fit their world.
The Third Character does not fit their world.
The Third Character is a source of Conflict, external and internal.
The Third Character is also the resolution of both Conflicts.
The way he/she resolves these Conflicts, leaving both Soul Mate Souls having learned the Lesson of this life, will be the thematic statement you choose.
Many Resolutions of the "I don't believe in Souls" Conflict are possible. Think about it. The Resolution might be "Souls Are Fiction" or "Souls Might Be Real" or "Some People Don't Have Souls And Are Just Primates That Talk," or "What's That Got To Do With Anything."
Complications and Plot Twists galore open up if you include a pregnancy.
To get more ideas, just go to the Mall and sit, people-watch for a while. We, in our current world, predicate our speech and deeds on the assumption that other people are just Bodies. We deal with store clerks, patrollers, wandering advertisers wearing sandwich boards, or handing out flyers, all with Body-to-Body dynamics.
Read The Dresden Files -- and other Fantasy Series -- that include "The Soul Gaze." When a Mage stares into your eyes, he Sees your Soul.
It is a common Fantasy element because Historically it was deemed a real world possibility.
Think about that. Do some research. Imagine what a world full of Humans who deal with each other Soul-to-Soul might be like. What Laws would they make? What manners would they adopt? How would they phrase statements and observations -- what would their Headlines say?
Such a world would seem strange, bizarre, uncanny, to your readers, but it might be irresistible.
Sunday, November 11, 2018
What a temptation!
The copyright of a photograph belongs to the photographer, doesn't it? Should one snap first, and ask permission later?
If you ask, and your reader says "Yes", must you get it in writing? Yes! But what if your reader says "No"? Alas, then you cannot use the shot. Readers have rights. Persons in the background also have rights. As discussed in a previous blog, graffiti artists whose "public art" might be on a building or subway wall in the background might also merit your consideration.
Legal blogger Terri Seligman writing for the law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein and Selz PC discusses copyright and subway advertisements.
Law School Exam Part 3: Real People Real Stuff (which is about adverts in subways that might or might not amount to a testimonial, and how to treat naming the person in the advert, depending on whether they are an actor playing a part or a real person.)
What about if a fan takes such a photograph, and shares it with the author via email, private message, or on a social media site?
Even if my fan, copyright owner of the photograph she took at an airport or on a subway of a one-time World's Sexiest Man reading a paperback copy of one of my books gave me permission to use it on my website, could I do so?
Authors can extrapolate from the legal advice from David Oxenford writing for Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP and the Broadcast Law Blog concerning things for authors to consider when podcasting in order to market books.
The trouble with publishing a photograph with real people in the background is that it might or might not invade a real person's privacy. Think Love Actually and the airport scenes. Those background people would all have been paid extras with contracts and releases. Consider whether any two people might strongly object to being photographed together, even if their appearance in your publicity shot is incidental.
Finally, and nothing much to do with the topic, authors who own websites do not necessarily have to worry about complying with the ADA's web accessibility guidelines.
If this issue is a concern to you, and for more information, read the ADA Title III News and Insights Blog of Seyfath Shaw LLP written by Minh N. Vu.
All the best,
Thursday, November 08, 2018
I recently got around to watching the Star Wars movie SOLO. On an e-mail list I subscribe to, someone asserted that it was a mistake to produce a film devoted to Han Solo's backstory. In this person's view, the great appeal of Han was his persona as an interstellar Man of Mystery. My reaction was just the opposite. The main thing I liked about the movie was that it revealed answers to questions left unexplored in the original trilogy. How did Han and Chewbacca become partners? How did Han win the Falcon from Lando? What's the Kessel Run, and how could achieving it in twelve parsecs be explained in a way that makes sense? I'm the type of reader/viewer who wants everything ultimately revealed and explained. Enigmatic stories can be fun, but I also want the fun of seeing them clarified in the end.
Thomas Harris's prequel to the Hannibal Lecter series, HANNIBAL RISING, has received a lot of criticism on a similar premise—that it undercuts the numinous mystery of evil embodied in Lecter's character in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Here, I must admit the critics have a point. In SILENCE, Lecter is presented as an almost preternatural monster, not quite human. (His six fingers, oddly colored eyes, and animal-like sense of smell reinforce this impression.) It would be almost impossible to create an origin story worthy of this characterization without resorting to the outright supernatural.
Then there's Disney's MALEFICENT, which not only reveals an antagonist's early life but effectively transforms her character from the way it appears in the original film (SLEEPING BEAUTY).
What do you think about prequels that create backstories for established characters? Should an author keep the "mystery" intact or offer the enhanced depth a well-crafted backstory can provide?
By the way, speaking of interstellar scoundrels, one of the frequent errors in fiction and film that grates on me the most is the tendency for careless writers to say "intergalactic" when they mean "interstellar." It's even used in J. D. Robb's Eve Dallas novels where the intended reference is probably "interplanetary." Well, granted, we're mostly in Eve's viewpoint, and she has a Sherlock-Holmes-like indifference to any scientific facts that don't relate directly to her profession as a homicide detective. But in most cases the author or scriptwriter has no excuse.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt