Thursday, May 23, 2019

Monopolies, Publishing, and Online Media

Cory Doctorow's latest column briefly surveys the history of antitrust enforcement, considers the effect on creative artists of the concentration of market share in a few mega-organizations, and analyzes a provision of the European Union's new Copyright Directive. Spoiler: He's against it (that one clause, anyway).

Steering with the Windshield Wipers

I must admit my initial reaction to the first paragraph was amusement at a tangential thought. Doctorow illustrates the monopolizing of an industry by a few corporations or only one with this suggestion: "Take off your glasses for a sec (you’re a Locus reader, so I’m guessing that you, like me, are currently wearing prescription eyewear) and have a look at the manufacturer’s name on the temples." If you need glasses to read text on a screen, how are you supposed to read the brand name on them when you take them off? I tried, and as I expected, the print is way too small. LOL. Anyway, Doctorow reveals that most eyeglass frames and lenses are made by the same company that owns the major retailers in the field. (So my personal choice, Lenscrafters, isn't really independent of its alleged competitors such as Pearle Vision. We live in a weird world, all right.) From that point, he asks how we got into this situation and proceeds to discuss Facebook and other Internet social media engines. He offers examples of "overconcentration blues" in film and TV, the music industry, publishing, and social media sites (with particular emphasis on Facebook's privacy problems).

He strenuously objects to the EU Copyright Directive's clause that requires online providers to "block anything that might be unlicensed, using automated filters." In Doctorow's opinion, "This is a plan of almost unfathomable foolishness." One of his primary objections is that the policy won't stop infringement, because filters are susceptible to abuse, "imperfect and prone to catching false positives," and "cheap and easy to subvert." He also believes the rule will be so expensive to comply with that smaller companies will be squeezed out, to the benefit of the mega-conglomerates.

In near-apocalyptic language, he works up to the conclusion that "monopolies are strangling the possibility of a pluralistic, egalitarian society." This article, however, doesn't answer the logical next question: What must we do to be saved? As for the publishing industry, it doesn't seem to me that the dominance of the Big Five (possibly soon to become four) is quite so dire for authors as it used to be. We now have alternative outlets that didn't exist in the past, in the form of a multitude of small presses and e-publishers, as well as inexpensive self-publishing.

Some services, in my opinion, SHOULD be provided by monopolies. Maintaining utility infrastructure such as the electrical grid or the sewer system, for instance. But not publishing.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Index to Soul Mates and the HEA Real or Fantasy

Index to Soul Mates and the HEA Real or Fantasy
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Why don't people believe a Happily Ever After "ending" is possible in real life, and if it isn't possible to achieve in reality, what's wrong with reading about it?

This series explores this complex issue from several directions.

Part 1 Are Soul Mates who find each other destined for an HEA?

Part 2
Why do readers reject the Romance Genre, but accept the Love Story sub-plot?

Here is a set of links to previous posts in other series of posts on this blog being applied to this problem in the series of posts on Soul Mates and the HEA series:
We have discussed the plausibility of the Soul Mate hypothesis and the Happily Ever After goal hypothesis in many different contexts.
If the HEA is implausible, how come it happens?
The Cheating Woman
Nesting Huge Themes Inside Each Other (building the foundation of a series)
And What Does She See In Him?

Part 3  of Soul Mates And The HEA Real or Fantasy -Convincing Your Reader

Part 4
Is Monkey Sex Best There Can Be?

Part 5
Domestic Violence During the HEA

Part 6
Love Vs. Romance

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Other People's Medical Misfortunes

Just because Amazon has made a movie --about the infamous tossing (out of a car window) of  a severed male member-- does not mean that any writer can write about such an event. That particular event preceded HIPAA (medical privacy law), and movie rights were probably bought and sold.

Legal blogger Kristin Starnes Grey, writing for Ford & Harrison LLP  discusses the pre-HIPAA case on the HR Entertainment Blog and offers wise advice when one is tempted to write about another person's medical misfortunes.

or here:

On the other hand, apparently, HIPAA does not protect medical information revealed by some of those for-entertainment-only "fitness" tracker apps. The proprietors of those apps, especially if you allow "sharing" with your Facebook "friends", are lawfully allowed to sell any information you provide to Facebook.

I doubt that Facebook is much interested in whether you drink zero or 8 glasses of water. I can't help wondering if those treacherous little trackers can tell whether, and for how long, you --if you are male-- shake hands with the otherwise unemployed in a North-North-Westerly elevation with a 6" range of motion.

Maybe you should take your Fitbit off sometimes?

Given that some European country is talking about making it illegal for parents to bring up their children Vegan, maybe one should think twice about the dietary information one fills in and shares.

Legal blogger Sara H. Jodka for the law firm Dickinson Wright discusses the finer points of Medical Privacy and HIPAA, and advises app users to beware.

or here:

To make what I hope is fair use of one tiny weeny tip in that very useful blog, read that HIPAA form that the receptionist asks you to sign.  Cross out any wording in the fine print where you give the doctor permission to share your ultra super secret private medical information over any unsecure method (email perhaps?) that the doctor and his staff deem convenient.

You know that certain free mail providers read your e/f/g/ymail and track your purchases, if you have receipts emailed to your email account?

Finally, and perhaps not medical-misfortune-related, Microsoft has a new and thoroughly helpful process to discourage the politically incorrect writer from articulating, or even thinking inappropriate thoughts.

Presumably, for now, this technology is optional.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Thoughts on Genre

A blog post by fantasy author Seanan McGuire on what genre is and is not, plus her own expectations for genre:

Genre Is Not a Prison

For one thing, it can be easier to tell what genre a particular work is not than what it is. McGuire cites one of the clearest examples, romance. Concluding with a Happily Ever After (or at least a Happily for Now) is essential to the definition of romance. Without that feature, a story isn't a romance regardless of any "romantic elements" it may include. GONE WITH THE WIND and ROMEO AND JULIET are not romances (in the modern sense, leaving aside the various medieval or Renaissance meanings of the term, which don't necessarily entail "love story" content). Her explanation reminded me of another component that used to be considered integral to the definition of "romance": Decades ago, a scholar of the genre defined a romance as the story of "the courtship of one or more heroines" (e.g., PRIDE AND PREJUDICE). The field has changed to make that definition obsolete; a romance novel today might focus on the love story of a male couple.

McGuire brings up the often-debated distinction between science fiction and fantasy, noting that people "can take their genres very seriously indeed" and that, for example, "Something that was perfectly acceptable when it was being read as Fantasy is rejected when it turns out to be secret Science Fiction." That potential reaction caused some disagreement between my husband and me, as well as with our editor, when the conclusion of the third novel in our Wild Sorceress trilogy revealed our fantasy world to have been an SF world all along. I worried that some readers might react with annoyance to what they might see as a bait-and-switch, and the adjustments we had to make to accommodate the editor's reservations validated my concerns. On the other hand, fiction with a fantasy "feel" that turns out to be SF isn't all that uncommon. The laran powers on Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover look like magic (and are viewed as such by the common people of that world), and a reader who starts with the Ages of Chaos novels might well be shocked when the Terrans arrive and Darkover is revealed as a lost Earth colony. The abilities of the characters in Andre Norton's Witch World series seem to be true magic, yet the stories take place on a distant planet rather than in an alternate world such as Narnia. And both authors' works are considered classics of the field, so those series' position on the fantasy/science fiction borderline hasn't hurt their enduring popularity.

I don't entirely agree with McGuire's comment about fantasy and horror: "Fantasy and Horror are very much 'sister genres,' separated more by mood than content." While true as far as it goes, this remark sounds as if all horror lurks under the same roof as fantasy. Granted, my own favorite subgenre of horror, which I encountered first and still think of as the real thing, is supernatural horror, a subset of fantasy—defined as requiring "an element of the fantastical, magic, or impossible creatures." As the Horror Writers Association maintains, however, horror is a mood rather than a genre. In addition to supernatural or fantastic horror in a contemporary setting, we can have high fantasy horror, historical supernatural horror, science-fiction horror (e.g., many of Lovecraft's stories), or psychological horror (e.g., Robert Bloch's PSYCHO).

McGuire does acknowledge the importance of mood in assigning genre labels: "Because some genres are separated by mood rather than strict rules, it can be hard to say where something should be properly classified." Does that mean we should give up on classifying fiction according to genre? Quite the opposite! I tend to get irked rather than admiring an author's bold individuality when he or she refuses to let one of his or her works (or entire literary output) be "typecast" as science fiction, horror, or whatever category the work clearly belongs to. McGuire seems to feel the same way: “'Genre-defying' is a label that people tend to use when they don’t want to pin themselves down to a set of expectations, and will often lead me to reject a book for something that’s more upfront about the reading experience it wants to offer me." Some authors seem to view the very idea of "expectations" with disdain, as if genre conventions inevitably equate to "cliche" or "formula." Do they feel equally dismissive toward the fourteen lines and fixed rhyme scheme of a sonnet?

As McGuire puts it, "And when someone wants something, they really want it. I react very poorly to a book whose twist is 'a-ha, you thought you were reading one thing, when really, you were reading something else entirely, whose rules were altogether different!' ” Genre, she says, at best resembles "a recipe. It tells the person who’s about to order a dish (or a narrative) roughly what they can expect from the broad strokes." Making it clear what ingredients the "dish" contains is one of the main jobs of marketing. Nowadays, a reader can discover works in exactly the niche he or she is looking for. On the Internet, a book needn't be shelved in only one category, and its genre components can be subcategorized as finely as the writer, publisher, or sales outlet chooses. So a fan of, to quote McGuire's example, “Christian vampire horror Western,” can find stories by like-minded authors.

The concept of "fuzzy sets" can be useful in thinking about genre. A book that's an unmistakable, nearly archetypal example of fantasy would fall in the center of the "fantasy" circle. A different work that has many characteristics of fantasy but doesn't check all the typical boxes might belong somewhere between the center and the boundary of the circle. Some works feel like sort-of-fantasy but not completely and may include markers of other genres. They might fit into an overlapping zone between the "fantasy" circle and the "science fiction" or "horror" circle. A historical novel with a romantic subplot might appear at the intersection between historical fiction and romance. None of this hypothetical fuzziness, however, means that there's no such thing as genre or no point in categorizing fiction.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Soul Mates and the HEA Real or Fantasy Part 6 - Love Vs. Romance

Soul Mates and the HEA
 Real or Fantasy
Part 6
Love  Vs. Romance 

Previous parts in the Soul Mates and the HEA series are:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

In a post About Building a Hero Character from the fabric of your Theme,

I mentioned the TV Series NCIS
as lacking in "Romance" which prompted Margaret Carter (who posts here on Thursdays) to comment:

I have reservations about your comment on absence of Love (Romance) on NCIS. In the course of the series, we've seen McGee and Jimmy (the assistant medical examiner) fall in love, get married, have children. Given the genre of the series, these are necessarily subplots, not main plots, but they are there. And we saw Tony give up his NCIS career to move out of the country and become a father to his newly discovered child (not romance, but familial Love -- although, granted, this event removes him from the series).

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

Margaret Carter (a widely known scholar) is, of course, correct that, from time to time in the long-running NCIS Series, we have seen Characters become involved, move in together, break up, marry, have kids, and generally have a real life outside crime-solving, behaving like "everyone else" living in 21st Century USA.

And I do believe romance writers can learn a lot by studying the scripting of NCIS episodes to a depth where the nuances between Love and Romance -- and the overlap zones  between the two -- become more vividly apparent.

Studying TV Series, or book series, by watching or reading the episodes in rapid succession is a worthwhile exercise because, after much repetition, you internalize the format, shape of the story, pacing of the plot, and perhaps most important, the boundaries of a genre.

Successful, long running, expensive-to-make TV Series, give you an understanding of the narrow tolerances of a broad audience.  Failed TV Series (3 seasons or less, regardless of budget), give you an understanding of the wide tolerances of a narrow audience.

Romance readers are, actually, a very broad audience, narrowly focused on how couples get together -- and even, how there can be an HEA in your future after the heartbreak of a relationship failure, or a widowhood.

TV audiences are even broader, as they must include people who hate "mushy stuff" or Romance in any form, who think spaced-out "In Love" condition is a form of insanity bound to lead to a nasty breakup, and who know from experience that happiness in real life comes in flashes, quickly overshadowed by Harsh Reality.

Dark, Gritty, Grim, Bloody -- those are the attitudes Characters must have toward their fictional realities in order to seem "realistic" to the broadest audiences today.

Today -- but not long ago, and perhaps in the future we will see a brighter view of Reality re-assert itself.

Currently, there is a strong current of disbelief of the existence of anything resembling an HEA - a Happily Ever After ending, the very "ending" that defines the Romance Genre.

Just as the "adventure" genre (to which science fiction has been erroneously thought to belong) requires the Hero to "win" at the end - to vanquish the villain, to overcome all obstacles, to succeed - the Romance Genre requires the Couple (as a unit, as a Hero) to form a lasting bond despite all obstacles.

The Romance writer's main plot-search is always for creative obstacles to keep the Couple apart, strand them as separate individuals.

Love Conquers All is the over-arching Romance Genre Theme, but the definitions of "conquer" and "all" are wide open to interpretation.

So, Margaret's observation deserves deeper scrutiny. 

In the series, NCIS, there is plenty of Love -- every sort of bonding and Relationship Driven Plotting has been touched on over the 15 (or more) years this show has run.

But in the various sub-stories of the lives of the Special Agents (and of the criminals, and the victims), we find no HEA presented. 

Our Main Hero, Gibbs, is single -- with 6 marriages behind him.  No HEA, and no further hope burns within him. A glimmering surfaces from time to time, but his life is all about murders and destroying criminals. 

NCIS exemplifies the lives of those who have given up the search for a Soul Mate.  They live in worlds circumscribed by the HFN - Happily For Now - flashes of happiness sprinkled along the time-line of otherwise dark/grim lives.

The other Special Agents on Gibb's team have other Dark/Grim/Pluto-driven lives -- Tony had a kid he didn't even know about until the mother (arguably his Soul Mate) was presumably killed.  He ditches the job he loves to move to Paris to raise that kid.  What had seemed a bright Romance in his life, flirting and teasing for years, is dashed to bits.  More pain is in store as it seems possible Ziva might be alive.  Is this the story-arc of true Soul Mates?

As Margaret noted, we have seen the assistant medical examiner and McGee (the resident computer Geek, complimenting Abby's wider skills) "fall in love, marry, have kids." 

This raises the question of what the difference is between "falling in love" and "Genuine Romance." 

The Main Character in NCIS (the hero, the Star of the Show, the one whose face is on screen more than any other), Gibbs, has the key-life-pattern that sets up the theme for all the Relationships on the show.

To be a work of Art, a TV Series has to have thematic coherence.  In real life, the people who work together on a team generally do not have that sort of coherence.  When Karma is active, though, even in real life task-forces and groups teaming up to a single purpose do, indeed, have the potential for thematic coherence. 

When you see that coherence emerging in a real life Group you belong to (sub-sets of Star Trek fans, for example, or fans of a particular author), it can set your hair on end.  It is downright spooky.  Like seeing a ghost, you know it is not real, but it is real --- it is more real than Reality Itself.

Fiction, such as TV Series or novels, reveal that dimension of Reality -- or conceal it -- as part of the thematic structure of the Worldbuilding.  That depiction is the Art of Fiction.

Romance Genre is designed to reveal the reality of an otherwise invisible dimension through which the Bond of Soul Mates operates. 

In ordinary consciousness, humans can not perceive that dimension where those Bonds tie us together.  During certain Neptune Transits to your Natal Chart, that perceptual channel is activated, sometimes opened wide, sometimes just tingling with energy. 

Neptune adds a dimension to perception of the nature of Reality.  It isn't a choice -- either reality has an HEA built into it, OR it doesn't.  No-no, that is not how humans apprehend life.  It is more a matter of "sometimes you can see where you're going, and sometimes you can't see." 

Neptune perceptivity comes and goes -- and usually comes on bright and irresistible only once in a normal lifetime. 

As noted on NCIS, Gibbs had a Soul Mate and a child, and they were both killed.  He, while still in charge of a unit at NCIS, sneaks off an murders the man responsible for their deaths. Some of his team know what he did -- he gets away with it.  That is "Dark" - "Grim" - "Gritty" - and a life-story-shape incompatible with the Romance Genre.

Gibb's biography is re-echoed in the biographies of all the other Characters he searches out, vets, and accepts onto his Team.  The Team reflects the darkness that envelopes his soul.  And he does have a soul!  He is both at ease with the murder of the murderer of his Soul Mate, and endlessly anguished about it. 

All of those he accepts onto the Team have the beautiful light of Gibb's Soul in common with him, and are thus willing, able, and eager to Love, to bond (with each other, and with spouses, children, etc.).  But they also share the Dark, the failures, the guilts, the horrible dramatic (Pluto-driven) tragedies akin to Gibb's biography.

One external symbolic sequence that illustrates the patched-over-Souls struggling on with life in a dim, grim, duty-and-responsibility job, was when the producers destroyed the Office section where all the desks are grouped.  They all hate the orange/reddish color of the wall paint, and many are not comfortable with the skylight, yet when the place is rebuilt after the explosion -- it is repainted that exact shade of orange.

Emotional and spiritual lives are reconstructed and repainted like that -- mimicking the past in a desperate grab at continuity. 

That sequence is worth studying as an example of the use of symbolism.

The NCIS Series shows us a world powered by love - love of fellow workers, love of law and order, love of innocent victims, love of special individuals, love of elder-mentors, love of children, and an occasional glimpse of love for a parent or grandparent. 

Margaret is correct.  The Series is permeated with Love, and occasionally, temporarily, Love wins out.

The Art of NCIS the TV Series shows in the unending job of  solving crimes. There's never a lack of crime, especially murder of Marines, on and off duty, active and retired.  The blackest, darkest, most vicious aspect of human nature is bottomless, endless, –– law and order can't WIN against this element of human nature.  The job is a pure description of a life of utter futility -- definitely Grimly Ever After. 

But they solve the crimes. These torn, shattered people team up and WIN against criminals (more so than other teams.)

But their wins are just temporary flashes - HFN.  Something to celebrate, then move on.

This artistic statement of the nature of humanity and human life poses the question, "Is life a futile groping through darkness spangled with flickers of Love?" 

And the Romance writer answers, "No, life is Love, floodlit by goodness, punctuated with meaningful obstacles."  Every obstacle overcome by Love is a Soul-lesson well (and cheaply) learned.

So you can write a cop-show that is a Romance, around a main character who is living his/her HEA, joyfully upholding the law, learning about humanity's aspirations toward goodness, kindness, and generosity of spirit.

One mystery series that seemed to start out to be such a story is Faye Kellerman's Decker/Lazarus novels, starting with a true Romance Mystery Detective cross-genre award winning novel, The Ritual Bath.

The series follows the couple after Decker rescues Lazarus and marries her (and her kids), through them having a child of their own, through putting the children through school, through visiting in-laws, through a whole cop-career, to retirement to become a small-town-cop. 

The series depicts the world of NCIS via civilian Homicide division in the big city - the endless and overwhelming job - without the failed HEA being the core organizing principle of the Theme.

A successful marriage, plenty of drama, lots of personalities and conflict, but a very realistic HEA situation.  This series almost defines what an HEA looks like in our real world -- plenty of dark grit, plenty of awkward social situations, but Love fueled by an unending Romance energizes these Characters.

The dimension of Reality that Romance adds to mere Love is (very oddly) stability.

Romance, as I've noted is made available to real life people during some Neptune transits to their Natal Charts.  Neptune "dissolves" reality, wipes away barriers.  That is the definition of the Romance Genre (Love Conquers All).

Love, on the other hand, is made available to real life people during certain Venus transits to the Natal Chart, or Solar Arc transits of Natal planet to Natal planet.  It is Venus to something, or something to Venus -- Venus is always in the mix. 

Neptune is famous for destabilizing, and Venus is famous for giving nice feelings, wealth and pleasure.  Venus rules Beauty (Taurus) and Justice (Libra). 

When Neptune and Venus combine in an easy-flowing way, you get stability, or something like Chemistry's "steady state" (which is always changing, but always returning to a central value).  You find pleasure and profit in mystery, change, processes that alter your opinions of what is just and right, discoveries of what is inside.

Neptune (Romance/altered-consciousness) and Venus (Love, Beauty) combine in many different ways to produce a dynamic stability we call the HEA -- Venus being "happy" and Neptune being "ever after" (uncertain future.)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Digital Theft Is Like Selfish Motoring. Really? (A Rant)

EFF compares the unlawful practice of reproducing and distributing copyrighted works in violation of the lawful rights of copyright owners (copyright infringement) to bad driving (a civil traffic infraction).

EFF also calls anyone who would protect and preserve their copyrights "a troll", but name-calling is not remarkable. It is a pity that digital theft of intellectual property is equated with selfish non-adherence to driving or parking rules.

They tell their followers "prevent copyright trolling: tell your Representatives that copyright claims can't be treated like traffic tickets."

Is that an accurate representation of the C.A.S.E. Act? How are traffic tickets treated?

Wiseman Trial Law blog explains what happens to a person who commits a traffic offense and is spotted and stopped by an officer of the law. The driver either constructively admits guilt and pays a fine, or they go to district court to dispute the grounds for their "ticket".

If they are repeat offenders, what might have been a civil infraction for a first timer becomes a criminal felony, for example if they were driving (badly enough to be stopped) while knowing that their license to drive had been suspended.

Under current copyright law, the statutory penalty could be as much as a $150,000 fine per instance, but the copyright owner would have to identify the infringer and take him or her through a federal court case at enormous expense (estimated at around $350,000 for the copyright owner) and long term inconvenience for both.

If the C.A.S.E. Act becomes law, the fine for the infringer would be capped at $15,000. Is that comparable with traffic ticket fines?

EFF suggests that one individual Claims Officer would award damages, but the Act discusses a small claims court, with a Claims Board of three Claims Officers to hear both plaintiff and defendant.

One similarity might be the "three strikes" idea. With traffic tickets, if you get too many points on your license, at some point, your license is suspended. With the DMCA, in theory, repeat offenders are supposed to be banned from some internet access.  In practice, few platforms ban repeat offenders, and there are no measures to prevent banned individuals from rejoining with a new name and a new email address.

Keith Kupferschmidt blogs about the problem of the platforms whose business models reward their wilful blindness to the piracy from which they profit.

There can be no working together as envisaged by the DMCA, when copyright owners know that works are widely pirated, and that take down notices are an endless, fruitless cycle of whack-a-mole, but the platforms insist that the take down system works perfectly.

In haste,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Reformed Villains

I love a good "redeemed villain" story, but creating a good (i.e., plausible and emotionally engaging) one isn't easy. The chief villain of Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT, Duke Frederick, undergoes a sudden conversion at the end of the play, repents of usurping his brother's dukedom, and enters the religious life. Not very believable in real-life terms, but since the change of heart occurs in a romantic comedy, we can suspend disbelief. Usually, redeeming a bad guy is more complicated. How can his or her character arc be made convincing?

A traumatic backstory that arouses audience sympathy can help. So can showing hints of goodness in the character, however tenuous (the "save the cat" moment Jacqueline often mentions). Regina, the Evil Queen in the TV series ONCE UPON A TIME, commits several murders, both by her own hands and by proxy. Her reign is characterized by tyranny and cruel atrocities. She magically curses not only Snow White but the entire realm. Flashback episodes, however, show Regina as a victim of her dictatorial mother, who slew Regina's true love and forced her to marry the king. Although kind to Snow White at first, Regina developed bitter hatred for her because young Snow's carelessness betrayed Regina's secret love and led to his death. As mayor of Storybrooke in our world, Regina adopts Henry, illegitimate son of Snow White's daughter (who initially doesn't know her own true identity—yes, this series is complicated). Regina's love for her adopted child, at first mostly—though not entirely—autocratic and self-serving, gradually develops into a deeper, unselfish affection, which plants the seeds of her repentance and desire for redemption. While I enjoyed seeing the Evil Queen grow into the heroine she becomes by the end of the series, I did, however, have trouble suspending disbelief in her redemption at times, because she commits some horrifically evil deeds in the flashbacks. But the series does show her growth toward goodness as she struggles with the terms of her redemption and her reconciliation with former enemies. For instance, whereas in her youth she pursued implacable, disproportionate revenge against Snow White for the results of Snow's childish mistake, in a later season Regina demonstrates maturity in forgiving a mistake by another character that also threatens to destroy her happiness.

Jaime Lannister in the "Game of Thrones" novels and TV series doesn't have a "save the cat" moment early in the saga. Instead, he's introduced with a "shoot the dog" moment. Caught in an incestuous act with his sister, Cersei, he pushes the witness, young Bran, out of a window, maiming him for life. This is one of several evil deeds Jaime recently mentions in rebuttal to the lady knight Brienne of Tarth when she calls him a "good man." His self-awareness about his dark past highlights the change in him over time. Among other changes, his relationship with Brienne has evolved. At first, he treated her with mocking scorn; now they are friends and lovers. Some details by which the series lays groundwork for Jaime's redemption: He slew the former king, gaining the title "Kingslayer," from sound motives, effectively saving the country from a mad tyrant, but as the nickname indicates, he's regarded negatively for this act. Most of his evil deeds are inspired by love and loyalty toward his twin sister and their mutual children. Yet when she crosses lines in ways too extreme for him to accept, he breaks with her, showing that he possesses a core of honor and decency. The audience also feels sympathy for him when his sword hand is cut off. By the current climactic season, he has demonstrated his reformation in action by offering his services to the heroes trying to overthrow Cersei.

Some fans may feel his past crimes are too serious for any credible redemption, though. What does it take to achieve a plausible reformation and redemption arc for a character guilty of egregious evil? Is there ever a "moral event horizon" that, once crossed, can never be re-crossed?

For fans of vampires, werewolves, witches, and demons, Brian M. Thomsen and Martin H. Greenberg edited an anthology on this very theme, THE REPENTANT (DAW, 2003). I reviewed it here in my "retro-review" monthly blog post series on VampChix:


Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

When Should You Give Up On A Manuscript, Part 6 - Should You Ever Rewrite Your Previously Published Novels

When Should You Give Up On A Manuscript
Part 6
 Should You Ever Rewrite Your Previously Published Novels
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in this series indexed here:

With all the "remakes" of old movies, and of course the long history of stage plays being re-mounted by new players, how could any writer resist the urge to completely rewrite the earliest versions of their works? Well, some do resist, and with good reason. Others dig in and do a complete rewrite, and others just polish out the typos or change wording for smoother reading.

With New York Times Bestselling writers retrieving their rights and self-publishing their backlist titles in e-book, paper and sometimes audiobook, you have to wonder how close the newly re-published version may be to the original.

Some writers (me, for example) consider the original (sans typos, of course) is valuable in its original form because of the awkward sentences, dated values, unskillful scene cut-aways, drifting point of view, run-on-descriptions, and other mechanical errors.

In among those mechanical writing craft errors lies the key to the charm, vibrancy, inspiration, and maybe even the "message" or theme.

These older novels, for any writer, become an embarrassment, but the more-so with a series that has become a towering success, an icon of the field.

Marion Zimmer Bradley's first published Mass Market novel, Sword of Aldones, became, for her very cringe-worthy. With time, the novel that had been published (and reprinted a lot as more and more Darkover novels were published to increasing acclaim) became not at all the novel she wanted as part of the Darkover series.

So when the opportunity arose, she rewrote Sword of Aldones into a novel that could form a cornerstone for the series she had been trying to write. And so, she retitled the story -- which had morphed considerably -- to be Sharra's Exile.

Sharra's Exile covers the same time period, but is not at all the same novel. So I recommend reading both.

Reading this long series, in publication order, gives you a good understanding of why the first published novel needed to be rewritten -- and then, actually, re-created as a different novel.

Many writers of series, especially sets of novels written over a long number of years (with many other projects between them) -- series not written as a single story, but many stories flung against the tapestry of a common background, are going to suffer from having the early novels that enchanted so many readers just not stand the test of time.

Even if a writer's craftsmanship does not improve much over the decades (because it didn't need much improvement), the writer herself will mature, grow, and the readers will likewise be growing older.

Original fans will be pointing to the earliest novel to try to hook younger people on the series -- but it won't work.

If the time span is thirty or forty years, that is about two generations. And the world has changed.

If you are writing contemporary Romance, well, suddenly your novels are Historical Romance -- pre-cell-phone. Or pre-smartphone.

Historical Romance novels which had a genuine historical setting will suddenly seem "dated" because the Characters' attitudes and problems are not the attitudes and problems of the current teen readership. For older readers, the attitudes of the Historical Characters are just fine -- they fit the ostensible period, and how people thought then. But for younger readers, those Historical attitudes are offensive, wrong, illegitimate, and just plain not-fun-to-read.

Futuristic Romance is even trickier. The current readership is firmly convinced that today's attitudes and values will become more firmly entrenched, more widely respected, and taken for-granted in the future.

An older readership would know better, having read the Greek Classics, Roman Classics, and novels from the 1800's and so forth -- social progress surges and retreats, staggers, and zig-zags, and never permeates all nooks and crannies of a society at once.

If you are working in an interstellar society, you can lure your readers into suspending disbelief by showing how cultures on isolated planets tend to diverge -- months travel from each other. And Aliens are the wild card.

We have discussed what to do about FAILED writing projects, but the bigger problem is what to do about successes.

We have a new example of approaches to the problems posed by success in the famous, ST:ToS fanzine series about Spock's illegitimate son, Sahaj, a series now retitled Gematria.

Buy it here:


Gematria 11.8 - Continues the story of the developing relationship between Spock and his now 11.85 year-old-son, Sahaj.  389 pages; 189,685 words FanQ winner, 1978, best writer, best artist (Alice L. Jones) $10.00

Join the Sahaj Continued Group on Facebook:

Many Romance novels today focus on the "Single Mom" -- after divorce or widowhood, or perhaps just unmarried, with a child to raise.

Most of those Single Mom Romance novels focus on young women struggling to launch a career, maybe doing college courses on the side, aspiring to go to Law School, or become a doctor. The Sahaj fan novels focus on Spock, Second Officer, Science Officer, top of a career he finds satisfying and rewarding, suddenly discovering he has a young son who has had a traumatic beginning to his life, and whose abusive Vulcan mother is now dead after trying to use the son as a weapon to murder Spock.

Spock's struggles to deal with his mostly Vulcan son, and all the human elements in that son's early years, all the ancient Vulcan tendencies left to flourish without a modern Vulcan upbringing,

The original fanzine publication of the novel, THE FORGING, hit Star Trek fanzine readers like a tornado, and created a new alternate universe for other writers to play in (with permission of the author). The Forging won fanzine fandom's highest award the year it came out -- the Fan Q. And it well deserved it, too!

So decades later, with all the modern online tools available, and old printings on paper now deteriorating, becoming collector's items, it was time to issue Sahaj in electronic form. New fans were curious.
But what to do?  It just didn't read as smoothly as it once had, and wouldn't relate to the new readers.  

With the support of the Sahaj Continued Group on Facebook, Leslye Lilker set out to rewrite and upgrade this famous novel to speak to the modern audience.

I think she succeeded.  And in the process managed not to obscure the fresh-faced-earnestness of the mostly-Vulcan kid fostered by a human family.

You might not understand this single, stand-alone, novel as a Romance, but the series will deal head-on with Sahaj's Vulcan arranged marriage, and his ambitions for his life and career.

The Forging sets the tone for Spock's desperate efforts to raise his boy -- after his own conflicted upbringing.  He is so determined to do right by Sahaj that he messes up, big time for every major success.

One core element in every Romance is the "backstory" of the Characters. Where did they get these emotional problems?  

Following Sahaj from his inception (angst fraught as it was) through his urgent/earnest 5-year-old's needs being filled by humans, gives us the perspective to understand the Human/Alien love story innate in his Vulcan family choosing him a Vulcan bride.  

Just how Vulcan does Sahaj want to be?  And why?

The author says of the rewrite: 

I decided early on that the story centered around the forging of relationships: Sahaj's relationship with himself and every other character; Spock's relationship with his son and how being a father changes his relationship with everyone else. ; with Jim and Bones' forging of a new relationship with everyone else and a smattering of Sarek and Amanda thrown in.  In short, the events in this novel set the stage for everything that is going to come in the future.
------end quote------

That's why I want you all to read this novel.  As with the first-published Darkover novel, it sets a foundation for a modern adult story.  And that is why the original (to be re-read and cherished) had to be updated, even rewritten, to firm up the foundation of the broader work.

This updated, polished, refined, edition of The Forging is more insightful than the original.  This edition adds depths and facets to Sahaj while showcasing all the original charm that captivated a generation of fanfic readers. 

I can't heap too much praise on this updated edition.  The rest of the series is likewise being organized and re-issued as a single, long, complex, work which beautifully showcases the way skills increase over decades.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 05, 2019

On The C.A.S.E.

This is a call to action for authors, and friends of authors.

The C.A.S.E. bill has been reintroduced in the new Congress. The EFF doesn't like that... so perhaps you should like it.

C.A.S.E. is the acronym for Copyright Alternative in Small-claims Enforcement (act). It is also known as HR 2426 and SR 1273 and it brings together Hakeem Jeffries and Doug Collins; John Kennedy, Thom Tillis and Mazie Hirono.

If C.A.S.E. receives enough Congressional support to become law, it will mean that copyright owners can enforce their copyrights in small claims courts.

As matters stand today, if a copyright owner sends a DMCA notice to stop illegal exploitation of their copyrighted work online, the illegal copy may or may not be taken down, but the uploader has the option to file a "counter-notice" disputing the take down.  If a counter notice is filed, the illegal copy or link will be reinstated... forever... unless the copyright owner has $60,000 or more available to pursue a federal lawsuit in federal court.

If you would like to urge your own Senators and Representative to support C.A.S.E., the copyrightalliance has made it easy, as long as you can spare ten to twenty minutes of your day.

Click this link.

This will take you to a copyrightalliance web page, where you can choose whether to write to your own Senators, or your Representative (you can do both, but separately).  You click their link, enter your address and zip code (which automatically identifies your own congresspersons).

Next, you are taken to a pre-written letter imploring your Congresspersons to co-sponsor and vote for the C.A.S.E. act.  You can simply send it, but that would be "astroturf" (not much more convincing that signing a petition... which is still much better than doing nothing at all), but you can also EDIT the letter to insert personalization, deploy synonyms, leave out some of the "as you know, Bob" info dumps, perhaps add a real anecdote from your own experience of being ripped off by pirates.

Thank you for considering the importance of supporting the C.A.S.E.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Copyright Conundrum

One of my favorite authors, C. S. Lewis, published many books of essays over the long span of his career. A few of the early volumes have been allowed to go out of print. Aside from fabulously overpriced used copies, they can be found only in libraries—and not many of those. The copies I was able to read came through inter-library loan from the one library in Maryland that accumulates and retains a huge collection of older books that most public libraries tend to cull (for lack of space, I know, but the practice still pains me to contemplate). Many of the essays in those volumes have been included in more recent collections released by the Lewis estate, but not all. I made photocopies of the otherwise unavailable items I wanted to keep and reread, for my own private use.

Thinking about those "lost" Lewis books recently, I've been contemplating a hypothetical ethical question about out-of-print works. Consider a deceased author whose writings are old enough that some have lapsed out of copyright, even though most are still under copyright and being published by his estate. (I don't know whether any early Lewis works are in fact old enough to be in the public domain; he just happens to be the author who started me thinking about this situation.) Suppose those out-of-print, public domain works are hard to find and impossible to buy at any reasonable price. Suppose a devoted reader scanned those books, articles, or stories and made them available online for free. (Not that I plan to do any such thing; it would be way too much work!) Obviously it would be wrong, even if technically legal, for an individual fan to charge money for them. A reputable publisher might offer such works for sale with editorial material for added value, but I would hope such a publisher would notify the estate of its intention as a courtesy, at least, even if not required to under law.

Now, it seems clear that scanning and distributing such works would be legal, because in this hypothetical example they're in the public domain. My imagined reader doesn't make any changes in the text and certainly doesn't claim the writings as his or her own. This person's sole motive is to make "lost" works available to other fans. Would this activity be ethically permissible? I believe it would. Not only is it legal, the author's estate has effectively abandoned the books. Having not reprinted them since their release in the 1920s or before (which would have to be the publication date for the material to be in the public domain), it clearly has no intention of ever doing so. The hypothetical scanner and distributor would be performing a service for other fans who want to read those "abandoned" writings.

This seems to me at least as ethically okay as publishing books such as PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, which add extra material to the largely unchanged text of a classic novel while making no claim to ownership of the original work. Any thoughts on my hypothetical scenario?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Index to When Should You Give Up On A Manuscript by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

When Should You Give Up On A Manuscript? by
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Should you rewrite endlessly? Should you scrap work just because it didn't turn out very well?  Should you stop trying to market a manuscript that's been rejected? And if your novel was published, way back at the beginning of your publishing career, should you rewrite it to your current skill level, and re-publish it?  If so, should you change the title?

Part One Hitting a Brick Wall

Part Two Troubleshooting

Part 3 Wrecking Ball For Brick Walls

Part 4 What To Do After You Give Up

Part 5 The Writing Prompt Vs. Creativity

Part 6 Should You Ever Rewrite Your Previously Published Manuscripts (May 7, 2019)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Unjust Deserts

This opinion piece is not about a miscarriage of justice in the dunes, but about the destructive power of repetition of a particular word: "deserve".

A purveyor of a skin care regimen says that if you have breakouts, you "deserve results" so you should use its products.

A Medicare Advantage plan spokesman querulously says, "I wasn't getting all the benefits I deserve..."

An eloquence of  lawyers promise to "fight for the compensation you deserve", or "the settlement you deserve," or the "results you deserve", or most blatantly, "the money you deserve". One offers representation for "deserving victims".

(For a compendium of collective nouns such as "eloquence of lawyers", look here: )

A laser surgery provider claims that viewers "deserve the difference..." that that provider makes.

"Get the relief you deserve," boasts a circulation boosting product.

"The justice you deserve," promises a body camera marketer.

"... women are standing up for what they deserve..." which turns out to be vaginal lubrication jelly. Ouch.

"You deserve" = "You are entitled".

Why is anyone entitled to flawless skin, silver sneaker gym membership, compensation, relief, the right to video record strangers without their knowledge or permission?  The answer is, one is not entitled. One "deserves" that for which one pays. Those who do not shell out, are by implied definition "undeserving". If some victims are "deserving", by what criteria are other victims not deserving?

Netflix told us, perhaps tongue in cheek, that Frank Underwood was "the leader we deserve". Until he wasn't.  This point was made in a fascinating NY Post article that charts the migration of "deserve" language from product hype to political language.

Well, slogan writing is writing. Speech writing is writing. Awareness of words, their power, and how they are used is the bailiwick of the writer. A writer should be curious and inquisitive. Is the popularity of "deserve" mere imitation, laziness, a tried-and-true signature tag of one advertising house, or could one float a conspiracy theory?

If writing the backstory of a dystopian novel, would one include the concept of "deserve" or something similar to divide and rule, to overthrow and subjugate and stir discord?

Does hearing "you deserve..." tend to make discontented those who cannot afford to buy that (product) which they allegedly would deserve, if they did buy it.

Words, like water, have power to undermine, to create sinkholes, to wear away stone. In this age of television, film, internet, social media, the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," is no longer true.

If you do a search for "Deserve", you will find some pretty ugly posters.

By the way, of the new "words" added to the dictionary last year, perhaps the saddest is TL:DR (too long, did not read).

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Inspired by a True Story

I recently watched the movie THE GREEN BOOK, about a famous black concert pianist in the early 1960s who hires an Italian-American as a driver and general assistant for a tour of the Midwest and the South. The film bears the caption "Inspired by a True Story." This label seems to serve as notice to the audience that the script may portray events and people differently from the way they existed in reality, as well as including invented episodes. For example, reading about the movie and its factual background reveals that the pianist had multiple brothers and was on good terms with them, while his film counterpart claims to have no family except one brother, from whom he's estranged. People who knew the real-life musician describe him as less uptight than the character shown in the movie. As for particular incidents shown on the concert tour, I didn't come across any information about which actually happened (if any) and which were invented.

Most movies "inspired by" real-life happenings seem to alter the facts to one degree or another. I'm thinking mostly of stories about people within recent memory, with friends, relatives, and colleagues who are still alive, rather than historical figures of the distant past. Some members of the Von Trapp family were famously upset by the inaccurate portrayal of their father as rigid and cold in the early part of SOUND OF MUSIC. Moreover, in escaping from Nazi-occupied Austria, the family didn't flee over the mountains by night; they openly boarded a train, left the country, and didn't return. SCHINDLER'S LIST, understandably, concludes with the end of the war, then skips to the present-day view of "Schindler's Jews" and their descendants visiting Schindler's grave. It doesn't mention the breakup of his marriage or his failed postwar business ventures. SHADOWLANDS, about C. S. Lewis's marriage to Joy Davidman Gresham and her death of cancer, had two feature film adaptations "based on a true story." In the second, better-known movie (starring Anthony Hopkins), one of Joy's two sons is deleted. I consider this omission rather serious. On the other hand, changing the first meeting between Lewis and Joy to have Lewis's brother present (he wasn't) seems justified for dramatic effect. I found it mildly annoying that Lewis is shown driving a car (he tried to learn to drive at one point, and everybody involved quickly agreed that the attempt should be abandoned) and having no idea how to comport himself at a country inn (something he had ample experience with), but those departures from fact don't mar the story. It's a much more serious distortion to portray Lewis as an ivory-tower academic with no prior experience of either suffering or women. His mother died of cancer in his childhood, he was wounded in World War I, and he and his brother shared a busy household for several decades with the family of a woman Lewis had "adopted" as his foster mother.

What's your opinion of movies allegedly based on real people's lives that take broad liberties with the facts? In my opinion, minor omissions or unimportant deviations from actual events can be acceptable for dramatic purposes, but larger changes are problematic. I just tend to laugh or groan at blatant errors in films set in distant historical periods. With events that happened within living memory, though, I hope for stricter attention to accuracy.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Theme-Story Integration Part 3, Sexy Villains by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Story Integration
Part 3
Sexy Villains
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous Parts in Theme-Story Integration:

Part 2 ended off:


Only in children's stories or "comics" (not graphic novels) do people just suddenly, and without explanation or motivation, change into the opposite of what they've been seen to be in a plot-sequence.

So, bit by slow, detailed, bit at a time, you reveal the inner structure of your world that you built -- and make it clear how your world differs from everyday reality such that this "impossible" thing is possible. 

In our Reality - "As the twig is bent; so grows the tree," is a true statement about human nature. Also the apple doesn't fall far from the tree is true of humans.

What is different about your World that makes those two statements about Human Nature false? 

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

You as the writer, creating this fictional world-structure as science fiction can do what Romance Genre writers can't usually do -- change a parameter of the reader's Reality and induce the reader to suspend disbelief.

Romance genre can do this, somewhat, in the Historical venue, and sometimes in action-stories of adventure into strange and unexplored regions of the world.  For example, Westerns, or stories of Mountain Men fighting their way West across the buffalo herd infested plains to the far mountains where furs can be collected and (if you can get back to a Trading Post) sold for actual cash.

But in Science Fiction Romance, especially Paranormal Romance, you have the added advantage of being able to alter the parameters of "reality" to include your impossible outcomes.

In most readers' view of reality, Souls are either irrelevant or excluded as unnecessary postulants. 

Many readers who live in such reality, suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy a Soul Mates Unite And Live Happily Ever After Because They Are Soul Mates story. 

Soul Mates is the sexiest postulation Romance has come up with in decades.  Happily Ever After, and the over-all theme, Love Conquers All, have always been the core of Romance, but when the strict genre walls started to evaporate, we added the Fantasy postulate of Souls -- first with ghost stories. The TV Series from movie, from book,

THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR is an example.

Then actual physical sex scenes became acceptable in the Romance genre. Physical sex scenes were specifically, totally forbidden in any novel with the Romance genre designation. Any sex happened by implication, between scenes, without being referenced. Then new, young readers growing up with different standards, abandoned the genre until publishing gave in and allowed (gradually, step by slow step) actual sex scenes.

Romance writers working for specific imprints were given (still are) instruction sheets for how many sex scenes there can or must be, and where they can be, and how long they can go on.  Honest - it was a written, express and precise formula.  I had a 4-hour Manhattan lunch with the owner of one such publishing house who was exploring the potential audience for Alien Sex Scenes - having noted we broke that taboo in Star Trek fanfic. 

Science Fiction, viewed as boy-action-adventure literature, had such a "formula" about fight-scenes, combat, and chase scenes, limiting dialogue strictly.  I never was sent such an instruction sheet, but I was taught the structure by editors.

So once it was established (by fanfic) that Human/Alien Sex Scenes could be included in popular Romance novels, it was allowed in Fantasy worlds. Whereupon, the worst of the bad-boy villains, THE VAMPIRE, became fodder for Paranormal Romance.

The Vampire Genre exploded onto the scene in mass market paperback (no, Anita Hill, Vampire Hunter, was not the first, nor was Interview With A Vampire).  Vampire Romance became a fad, rising and falling in a couple of decades. 

Writers hear from editors, "We are overstocked on those novels. Show me something else."  Overstocked means they have bought (maybe not had delivered yet) enough of a certain kind of story to last through the expected declining market demand. 

My Vampire Romance novel, THOSE OF MY BLOOD,
reached the market just as the market peaked.

At one point, the hardcover edition of Those of My Blood sold for over $400 to collectors.  Then came various e-book editions.

After Manhattan publishers refused manuscripts with Vampire Romance stories, slamming their door shut, writers went to the embryonic e-book market.  Many new publishers sprang up, looking for ways to distribute novels without printing them.  The e-book field languished for a long time as hardware makers searched for a way to create readable screens -- and as soon as that became available, the whole e-book field was taken over by Manhattan publishers.  Underneath all this was a long struggle with copyright -- a story for others to cover.

The problem Vampire Romance writers were trying to work out was simple: Vampires (Dracula style) are purest Evil.  How can your reader identify with a woman who can love a Vampire? 

Add science fiction and you have the obvious answer: artificial blood makes killing by sucking the woman's life out of her (Dracula style) not only unnecessary, but un-attractive to a human-turned-vampire-against-his will who still has a Soul. 

Most of our readership may not believe in Souls as a part of everyday reality, but use the word freely to refer to the innate impulse to do good.

We recognize a basic human desire to do Good -- and how it can happen that a human enflamed by emotion can do something very Bad (Road Rage) without becoming a bad person.

In fact, many people don't think a person can be a bad person -- just occasionally do something bad.

After childhood, most people rarely examine the minutia of what constitutes goodness or badness -- what makes a true Villain - a Black Hearted Person.

But writers who want to build world distinctive from our everyday world, where impossible things are possible and even plausible, have to consider what the reader assumes about "good and bad" -- and what about the everyday world would have to change to validate the fictional definition of "good and bad" necessary to tell the writer's story.

That core difference is the THEME.

The theme is the writer's statement about how this fictional reality differs from the reader's.

And in Science Fiction Romance, that fundamental difference is about how Souls mate.

Throughout human history, almost every culture mentioned  in the Golden Bough has defined "good" and "bad" via some paradigm of Soul. 

If you're out of ideas - go read that book.

There are so many theories of Soul and reincarnation, some blending easily into modern American views, and others clashing or challenging the science-based views, that a writer has to be careful not to choose elements at random.

For a reader to be lulled into suspension of disbelief, the writer has to have some underlying structural consistency against which to test every line of dialogue, every scene decorative detail, and every plot development and conflict resolution.

That's what THEME is -- the touchstone against which you test elements, and discard everything that does not bespeak the theme.  Consistency is the essence of good writing.

Different novels in a series can have different themes, in fact use different characters to bespeak different views, but to be a series, there has to be a consistence thematic structure that makes sense. 

So, many writers with a hot romance story to tell will revert to our everyday reality -- a structural matrix both reader and writer are familiar enough with that nothing need be said about the shared unconscious assumptions.  Reality has plenty of conflicts and puzzling inconsistencies - why create something else? 

Science Fiction is about challenging "authority."  It is about "what if this pivotal belief is wrong?"  What if we can go faster than light?  What if humans can 't, but Aliens can?

Science fiction stories are built on some postulate that differentiates the story world from everyday reality. 

What if ...
If only ...
If this goes on ...

Those three, if you can  formulate them all into one story, are the essence of science fiction.  Add two Souls incomplete without the other, overcoming whatever obstacles keep them from uniting, and you have Science Fiction Romance.

The postulate you need to create that story is simply the idea that Souls Are Real.

That is the idea that set off the Vampire Romance explosion using the Gene Roddenberry technique.

To create Star Trek as Wagon Train To The Stars, and make it not a Western set in our everyday reality, but real science fiction, Roddenberry had to postulate a PERSON WITHOUT EMOTIONS (Spock.)  Everything is the same, except one thing. 

To create Vampire Romance, and make it not Horror Genre but Science Fiction, a genuine Alien Romance, we had to postulate A VAMPIRE WITH A SOUL. 

That single change in the DRACULA view of the world, a twist in the good/evil paradigm, opened an entire conversation that lasted at least a generation.

Traditionally, villains have been portrayed as "black souled" or "dark souled." 

The hero, who is a source of good, has been portrayed as "light." 

We enjoy reading the Anita Blake Series

because of the struggle Anita, the necromancer, has falling in love with a Vampire, being sucked into an ever darker world, and rationalizing dark deeds as necessary for survival.  We see her CHANGE her code of ethics, and how that changes her opinion of herself. 

What is "sexy" about her Master of the City Vampire?  He has a "heart."  He can love.  He values loyalty.  Becoming Master of the City to displace a true villain vampire, he is in a complex and changing political/magical position that exactly reflects Anita's position among her ethical dilemmas.

They belong together. It is inevitable (if your world building includes inevitability as a part of your reality.)

The Anita Blake series is an excellent example of Gray-to-Dark story arc.  Anita discovers that her personal code of ethics she prides herself on is actually an anti-life code.  It is not possible to survive in her world (of magic and were-people) by adhering to her code. 

Her code is one based on extreme pride, and total lack of self-awareness, and thus I term it a "gray" code, rather than  an example of "white" or "light."  There are better codes to live by.

We've discussed The Lone Ranger at length:

... but we love Anita because she has a Code and she gives up her extreme pride in order to modify her Code to one that can sustain her life and identity (in her world, which is so different from ours, we suspend disbelief.)

Now consider the less popular, more difficult to write, Black-to-White story arc.

A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force.

Thus if you take a Black Soul, or a Soul becoming darker,  and turn it to the Light, you need an outside force to change that soul's story-arc direction.

This is the classic "rescue" Romance –– where for the love of a woman, a criminal goes straight. 

Rescue Romance has become a cliche in mundane Romance genre, but there are many new frontiers for the Black-to-White story arc in science fiction, paranormal, and Fantasy Romance.

When one member of the to-be-united couple is defined as not-human, you can vary the trait that is missing, or different, and generate the sexiest villains, bad girls and bad boys who have potential, saving graces, and exceptional effects on their World.

One kind of world that works nicely for Black-to-White Story Arcs, is the occult premise based on the Bible's concept of punishment for defying God's Law is to be "cut off."

Many people puzzle over what "cut off" means and why it would be a bad thing to happen to you.

The explanation that generates the most story directions is very simple. Suppose Souls are like coaxial cables, many threads twisted together to form a rope.  Inside the cable are threads, as in an optical cable, that carry "light" from the Source into the world via the instrument of the human body.

Being "cut off" would be having one or more of those optical fiber threads go dark.

The "light" that comes through those threads into the body-and-mind from the Soul is Holiness, or the light by which humans distinguish good from evil. 

How you define Good, define bad, define Evil, depends on that light shining out of you, into the world around you, illuminating and highlighting color-texture-depth, creating the image of the reality you must live in.

We generally define good as that which promotes life, and bad or evil as that which destroys life. 

So one who is "cut off" lives in darkness and can't distinguish good from bad.  If only a little bit is cut off, maybe colors become shades of gray, maybe texture isn't perceptible, maybe the world becomes dull and uninteresting.

When we depict a Character who is "in love" we often describe how the senses become more prominent.  Food tastes better, jokes are funnier, flowers have distinctive aromas, life comes alive to all the senses.  "Paris in Springtime" is a sensory reference. 

Likewise, being "in love" means shelving conflicts.  Boorish and offensive public behavior (cutting you off in traffic; running red lights and making you slam on the brakes) is shrugged off.  Life is too good to waste time being angry.

Being "in love" means being "connected." 

Falling in love changes the state of being, the criteria of excellence, and the priorities. 

The esoteric explanation of this "in love" connection is that there is an aspect of the Divine Creator of the Universe, the feminine spirit, Shechina, that pours "light" into the connection between the couple.

When a Soul has been "cut off" - and has become a Black Soul, (or maybe just gray) a villain, the experience of Love can reconnect that Soul to the divine, and change everything that person does because Love changes what you are able to "see" with the mind's eye.

Love is not just biological.  It is a phenomenon of the Soul, and the essence of Love is "connection." 

But it's not an either/or -- zero-sum-game -- thing.  You don't either love or not-love.  Like the fiber optic cable, threads can be lit with the fire of love -- while other threads are not lit.  A human is a construct of thousands and thousands of nanometer size threads. 

We don't just love our sex partners.  We love parents, role models, friends, family, co-workers, even acquaintances.  The more different people we love, the more threads light up, the better we can see where we are steering our life-story.

The sexy Villain is the one who "lights up" at contact with the main character and makes plot-action-choices that increase or expand the main character's chance at surviving.

If this seems too abstract an idea to use in crafting fiction, do read SAVE THE CAT!
and play with the advice to open a story on a character acting to "save a cat."

Read that series of script-writing books, and analyze the movies and TV shows you love most -- seeing how you became entangled in the affairs of a main character you consider a Good Guy (even if he's the villain of the piece.)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Telling Tales

In the USA, the Persuasive Litigator blog offers advice on seven ways to improve storytelling in front of the jury in the courtroom.


The storytelling tips from legal blogger Dr. Ken Broda Bahm, writing for lawfirm Holland & Hart LLP  are entertaining, succinct, vivid, and just as handy for writers as for litigators making court appearances.

"Four pirates went to trial...."   It sounds like the beginning of a long joke.  Apparently Spain is no joke for persons allegedly investing heavily in online infringement sites. The prosecution is seeking massive fines and jail time for the defendants.

Andy of tells the beginning of the story.

The Privacy Matters blog tells of Online Harms and a white paper in the UK about harmful online content and the accountability, or lack thereof, of the platforms that host the harm.

Writing for DLA Piper (and the Privacy Matters blog), Christopher Wilkinson and James Clark report on a possible new regulatory framework for social media sites, to put a bit of a lid on cyber bullying, election interference, and other online harms.

Please don't forget that this coming week is World Intellectual Property week.

Happy Easter.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Hopeful Futures

Kameron Hurley's column for the April issue of LOCUS explains how her writing has recently shifted from a pessimistic to an optimistic view of human possibilities. She decided "being grim and nihilistic is boring" rather than "exciting or edgy." Instead, in a world that seems increasingly darker, she finds her writing "to be a perfect outlet for exploring how people can still make good decisions in bad situations."

The Future Is Intrinsically Hopeful

This message resonates with me. As argued by Steven Pinker in THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE and ENLIGHTENMENT NOW, we are living in the best of times, not the worst of times (although, admittedly, with considerable room for improvement).

A few striking quotes from Hurley's essay on why she believes in the future:

"Humanity didn’t survive this long because of its worst impulses. We survived this long because, despite all of that, we learned how to work together."

"What a time to be a creator, when believing humanity has a future that is not just a series of dystopic post-apocalypse nightmares is the most radical position one can have."

"What if what we are presenting to our audiences, as artists, is 'This is how the world could be really different. Have you thought about how to get there?'"

"Increasingly, I find that writing any type of work at all is hopeful....It is profoundly optimistic to assume there is a generation after ours that will create a society one hundred years from now that is recognizable to us at all."

The last two quotes seem to me to encapsulate a major theme and purpose of science fiction. Dystopian futures serve the important function of warning us and potentially motivating us to change our course: "If this goes on...." The other classic SF question, "What if...?" is equally or more important, however. One reason the original STAR TREK became so beloved was surely its optimism about human destiny. At the height of the civil rights movement, the Enterprise crew portrays men and women (even if female characters didn't fully come into their own until later iterations of the ST universe) of many races and cultures working together to discover new worlds. In the middle of the Cold War, STAR TREK envisions Russian, Americans, and Asians exploring space as a team. And many of those "predictions" have come true! THE ORVILLE, as a drama-comedy homage to ST, further develops that hopefulness about mutual tolerance and cooperation and the joy of discovery in the context of 21st-century sociopolitical concerns.

Writing as if we "believe in the future" can infuse readers with hope and perhaps inspire them to create that kind of future.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt