Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Depiction Part 13 - Depicting Wisdom by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 13
Depicting Wisdom
 Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The previous parts of this series are found here:

Wisdom is an intangible.  So how do you Show Don't Tell?

The PR (Public Relations ) science that creates ads for perfume, and even food -- both of which are tangible -- is really selling the experience of smelling or tasting, which is intangible.  So you learn depict Wisdom by studying TV Commercials, even web-ads.

Intangible aspects of human experience are rooted in the tangible.

You can look at this two ways:
A) that which is tangible creates the intangible
B) that which is intangible is the "Foundation" or creative channel which causes the tangible to manifest.

OK, you can sprain your brain on that one.

So lets look at some of the fundamental components of the general subject of wisdom as a means of generating one-liners that people will enshrine in those little digital samplers you see all over the place, with a tag crediting your Character with saying it just exactly so!

1) What is Wisdom?
2) Where Does Wisdom come from?
3) How do readers identify the Wisdom level of a Character?
4) Does Wisdom have anything to do with Truth?
5) Who was the wisest human in human history?
6) Does a real-world historical character's wisdom shape your reader's world?
7) If you see historical bits of wisdom creating the standards of wisdom in the current world, should you include some Historical Character in your Worldbuilding for your current characters to quote? If you should include such a quote, how do you include it?
8) Does your target audience respect Wisdom or despise it?
9) Is Wisdom sexist?
10) What historical real world females are quoted today as having achieved Wisdom?
11) Are there more Wise Men than there are Wise Women in your reader's real world acquaintance?
12) If your readers are largely female, do they need a Wise Character to look up to and emulate -- to strive to become?  Does that character have to be female, too?
13) Does the Romance Genre typically use the first encounter and process of internalizing a point of Wisdom as the plot-driver? 14) Are men sexually attracted to young women who utter Ancient Wisdom couched in Modern Vernacular?
15) Does the application of a point of Wisdom to real life create success in Love Stories, Romance novels, real life business, child rearing, rejoining a career track after childbirth?

Perhaps, for our purposes, the most important question would be how do you find a bit of Ancient Wisdom and re-cast it into modern vernacular applicable to a sizzling hot Alien Romance story?

Is the Wisdom component part of the story or the plot?  Or does it only belong in the Theme?

Is the "Theme Stated" Beat in Save The Cat! actually the quotable one-liner that encapsulates an Ancient Wisdom into modern vernacular?

   Those are just a few of the most obvious questions to ponder when creating the Wisdom factor in your fictional work.

There are a lot of ways to use these concepts in Fiction, and I'm sure that with self-publishing successes turning up, we will find and define many more ways to Depict Wisdom.

Via the biggest, broadest Markets, we have good illustrations of the methodology in Yoda of Star Wars and Gandalf of Lord of the Rings.  Both are male.

When Wise women are depicted, the writers aiming for the big markets usually grab for some caricature of the Witch.  In the days of Radio Drama, Black Women were given the wisdom lines, keeping the family on track ethically and morally.  But they were usually Grandmothers.

The world has changed drastically -- and the rate of change seems to be speeding up as people communicate electronically.

So we have plenty of examples of Wisdom in science fiction and fantasy genres.  But Wisdom as a salient component of Romance seems to have gone missing.  Young women, nubile females, with a yen for a Soul Mate are not depicted as "attractive" because of their deep Wisdom and ability to articulate the oldest truths.

We won't get through that whole list of questions in one post, but we can get started by pondering what exactly is meant by Wisdom, what it is objectively, what the modern world thinks it is...


...and perhaps what you can do to express your Theme in a Wisdom Quotable.

From a writer's standpoint, Wisdom is a component of Character -- and so part of this discussion relates to Depicting Characters, and also to formulating Character, creating a Character who belongs in your Story, is a product of his/her World that you have built and thus depicts that world, and does things to change that world.

Always ask yourself if you want to write fiction that can change the world, or if you want this particular story to simply state the problem in the world today.  Or do you want to write a story that, as Gene Roddenberry always taught, simply asks a question.  If you are asking a question, how do you pose that question in Show-Don't-Tell terms?  And how does this question manifest as the Theme that glues your plot to your story.

Here's an index to advanced, two-technique synthesis on Character.


Here's the series on Dialogue - it has more than 4 posts:


Here's the most elementary entry on Dialogue:

Dialogue is one of the most efficient ways of depicting Character, and those one-line zingers that get quoted forever are generally types of wisdom quotes.


If you enjoy the exercise in pondering the abstracts of which comes first, the Wisdom or its manifestation, you should read the posts on this blog about Tarot -- or grab the Kindle compilations to nibble at in odd moments when you're looking for a plot-twist or solution to a conflict.

You can find the Tarot posts on Pentacles (tangible) or Swords (not-so-tangible) elements here:



Each of those lists has links to 10 posts on each Suit of the Tarot.

Here is the Kindle version of all twenty of those posts, plus 20 more on the Suits of Wands and Cups.

My approach to Tarot is simple. It is no use whatsoever for "foretelling" the future.  But it is a potent tool for creating riveting Plots, especially Romance plots that explore scientific truth.

You've seen the "quotes" that I've strewn through this post so far.

As a writer, have you noticed the ones that impact you most strongly have the fewest words, writ largest?

For example, what is the most terse, transparent, and easy to comprehend definition of Wisdom you have ever encountered?

King Solomon, the son of King David, was known far and wide for his Wisdom, so at the end of his life he wrote down the principles he used that were regarded as Wise.  These principles are all derived from what is derived from (many generations) the Torah, the 5 books of Moses, but distilled into the vernacular of King Solomon's day and age.

King Solomon defined the beginning of wisdom as the beginning of Knowledge rooted in the fear of God.  I could argue against that definition in many thousands of words because I disagree.

Those who have read my extensive discourses in this blog on the spiritual dimension of the Soul Mate, of Love Conquers All, realize that I see the real world as fabricated out of Love.


In my personal view, LOVE of God is the beginning of Wisdom.

But King Solomon's father, David, was the man who ran for his life saved only by the Hand of God, fought more fiercely and bravely than King Arthur, and handed a United Kingdom to his son, Solomon.

So naturally King Solomon would see in David's fear of God the source of his wisdom, obedience and thus success.

In the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon wrote at the very beginning, right after his definition,


This historic figure whose Proverbs reverberate throughout our whole culture -- right alongside, interwoven with, often indistinguishable from the Helenistic roots of our civilization (Aristotelian Logic) -- implores us to pay close attention to our Parents.

King Solomon didn't make that up.

Here's a hint of his main Source.


Note the 5th Commandment is the link between the Commandments that depict the Relationship between humans and the Creator -- and those that depict the Relationship between humans and humans.

The link-concept between the two sets of Commandments is Creation.  The Creator created humans, and then fathers and mothers create more humans.

Another source of Wisdom encapsulated in this graphic is what you learn when you read across (pairing #1 with #6 -- #5 with #10) -- so that you ponder how it is that Honoring your parents (not necessarily loving or approving of or even respecting your parents, but rather just Honoring) is related to the process of not "coveting."

In other words, Honoring your origins prevents you from hating others who have things you wish you had but don't.  Hate, envy, resentment, and the impetus King Solomon cites as the sign of a lack of Wisdom that causes us to chase after bait like a bird getting caught in a net, come from not knowing or understanding or revering your origins.

Ever noticed how fans of an Superhero bore right down to "The Origin Tale?"  How much money and brain-power have been spent trying to discover "the origin of life?"  Or think about the relentless pursuit of the Big Bang origin of the universe.  We know, deep down, that knowing our origin is vastly important, and the beginning of happiness.  We just have to KNOW our ORIGIN.

And that's what King Solomon pegs as the beginning of Knowledge -- fear of God, an awareness of the Originator of our origin.  We just have to find out.

How exactly Characters in a Romance story might find out something about their Origin ("I was adopted. I don't know who my mother was.") is the substance of a Theme -- a huge theme that could support a long series of long books that could live forever. Consider Oedipus Rex.

So maybe King Solomon got his "Wisdom" which we preserve in the book of Proverbs from his Father's biography and fear or obedience to God.  David's main life-theme was Praising God (even when handed the dirty end of the stick).  He praised God even from the depths of his worst suffering (which was epic!)

Remember, King Solomon's father, King David, had one of those trick memories, and annually would recite the entire Torah (all 5 books) before the people.

The Torah itself is actually a SONG -- it's written to be sung, not spoken.  King David is renowned for his musical talent, and is the author of most of the Book of Psalms -- the songs sung in the Temple daily by the Levites.

So when King Solomon explains that the beginning of his Wisdom lies with his father and mother, he is telling us (today) how to acquire that magnitude of Wisdom which caused him to be revered.

The whole book of Proverbs consists of nothing but quotables -- often more quoted than the one-line zingers our motion picture industry prizes.  Solomon's pithy distillations are very short conclusions about very knotty subjects.

These Proverbs are potent, concentrated conclusions on these topics, not lengthy lectures, info-graphics or How To lessons.  Nothing Made Simple.

So through the ages, many great writers have written extensive commentary on each and every one of the entries in King Solomon's list of Wisdoms.

Here's an example of one of the most quoted Rabbis annotations to Proverbs:

Here is a quick biography of the Malbim (a nickname -- all the great Rabbis whose commentaries are quoted have nicknames -- the custom was not invented JUST for Twitter!)


It isn't "simplicity" to use fewer words.

The concepts behind the words are deep and abstract, the subject intangible.

The few words are the tip of the iceburg of the main thought.  It's up to the reader to unravel and delve deeper into the subject when they come to a point in life where they are questioning in that area.

The Proverb is a brief, terse, one-liner, so that it will be remembered and quoted until it becomes a cliche.  "A stitch in time saves nine."

Then one day, something happens -- you walk your Character into a Situation -- and the Proverb comes to mind.

If you write it well, the reader will think of the cliche-Proverb before your Character does and will be rooting for your Character to remember that principle.  The Character then has to morph the Proverb into a form that applies to that Character's problem.

That's why I mentioned The Malbim -- a much quoted commentator.  The commentators "update" the encapsulated Wisdom from Proverbs, giving it the context of their time.

When you read the comments from the 1800's in Europe (the Malbim's venue) you notice they may as well be about some Alien Species among the Stars.

That is why they are salient to a writer's arsenal. They give you an alien perspective, and for a writer of science fiction romance stories that alien perspective is a priceless treasure trove of Ideas.

Know the original Book of Proverbs, read the commentary, see how the commentator of the 1800's translated the Ancient World into his era, grasp the technique used, then transpose that original wisdom into something applicable to your interstellar civilization.

Even readers who have never read the Torah, the Bible, or flat disbelieve in God, will recognize these principles even after you have morphed them into the cultures of non-humans.  That sense of recognition of the alien provides the necessary verisimilitude so the reader can walk a parsec in your Hero's moccasins.

Each of these bits of Wisdom encapsulated by King Solomon are Life Lessons you will find pegged in every culture throughout time, maybe spun in different ways, maybe inside-out in Values, but lessons considered Wisdom.

Learning some bit of wisdom is your Main Character's job in life.

In a series of long novels, the entire series sums up to ONE such Life Lesson, while each of the novels depicts some stage on the way to that big insight.  King Solomon's Proverbs are each the theme of a long Series, while the Commentators give you the intermediate steps for the individual books.

If you quote one of the Proverbs or the Commentator's wisdom, be sure to get the attribution correct.  That's important for all kinds of mystical reasons.

Oh, and be aware that with these internet sampler patches, the quote attributions need cross-checking.  Many are not correct.  Some people just put a name on there to make you respect the saying.  There are websites where you can plaster any words you type onto one of these samplers, and attribute the words to anyone.

But accuracy of attribution is not why I've included the images I found on Pinterest and by Googling.
In fact, the ones improperly attributed or mis-quoted, are your most valuable resource as a writer of romance stories.

These quotes represent popular wisdom -- some of which may have a kernal of truth behind it -- but for you, the point of pondering these quotes is to discern how they depict our current cultural realities.

Some substantial fraction of your readers will believe these things.

If you adopt one of these as a Theme, your Plot must argue against the quote (as well as for it), or its interpretation and application by your typical reader.

You also have to pay attention to how you choose vocabulary.

Sometimes you want an obscure word to rivet attention and make people look things up.  Sometimes you want to teach the meaning of an obscure (or made-up) word via show-don't-tell, and sometimes you want to be clear, plain, unequivocal and accessible by using the most common vernacular.

So, to sum up -- "What is Wisdom?"  Our oldest texts defining Wisdom may be Chinese, but the most relevant to the U.S.A. today's culture is either Aristotle or King Solomon.

Your original contribution may be quoted for centuries to come if you can distill Aristotle vs Solomon into Interstellar Civilization.

King Solomon says "fear of God" is the foundation of Knowledge.

Then he describes how fools take "bait" like a bird flying right into a net just to peck at some seed.


King Solomon wrote -- "O Simpletons" -- yes, the great, revered example of the Wisest of all Men was not "Politically Correct."

Now, who will be the revered Wisest Of All Women and will she be Politically Correct?

Remember, Wisdom is intangible.  Show Don't Tell means make it tangible.

Give it a symbol (remember the Seal of Solomon and the Shield of David?).

Give that symbol to a Character and make it emotionally meaningful to that Character (a lone surviving photo of Parents, an old, crumbling book of poems or sheet music, a piece of religious-themed jewelry, a Sword with an engraved blade?), challenge the Character to internalize that Wisdom.

Start your story at the beginning.  As King Solomon did, start with the tendency to be lured by bait despite the discipline of the Father and the teaching of the Mother.  Start with your exceptionally smart Character being a "Simpleton" as King Solomon termed the gullible.  Start with a Love of Folly and teach your Character the Wisdom of Solomon.  If you get stuck, read the Malbim's commentary.

There is a more handy source than these printed books, though.  On iTunes,

Nach Yomi goes through the books of the Bible after the Torah, discussing the commentaries.  Just listen to the podcast for 20 minutes and you'll be brim full of story and plot.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"Likes" For Nothing

Does being apparently popular translate into sales? Who really knows? Since around Y2K there seems to have been a frenzy all over the internet of enterprises of all sizes trying bribe fun-loving individuals to "like" them, or "follow" them, or "friend" them, or "pin" them, or .... whatever term any given social site uses for the conspicuous attraction of attention.

One popular method has been the contest, which often ends up looking suspiciously like a lottery or sweepstakes. Sweepstakes are not legal in every state, and there are certain rules to be followed, certain phrases that must be included in every contest's rules in order to keep the promotion on the safe side of the law.

Such phrases should include "void where prohibited", "no purchase necessary", "full rules available at...", moreover, there should be alternate (write in) methods of entering, there should be a clearly stated start and end time and date for the promotion, the means of selecting the winner should be set forth. Ideally, there ought to be some skill involved to avoid the winner being chosen at random, but if the contest promoter satisfies two out of three criteria, he/she is probably fine.

Also, the contest promoter should be careful not to require "a consideration" (payment or a review or a "like" or some other valuable activity by the entrant.)

Here's a good guide: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/legal_guides/u-3.shtml
Here's another: http://contests.about.com/od/sweepstakes101/p/whatarecontests.htm

Here's a Thompson Coburn LLP law blog devoted to the topic:

The law may be changing, per the latter, for the FCC, but there is also the FTC.  The following quote caught my attention.
the FTC brought an action against [a famous shoe company] for a sweepstakes promotion asking people to pin pictures of [the famous shoe company's] shoes, as well as destinations to which they would like to travel. People who pinned pictures received an entry into a sweepstakes. The FTC took the position that the mere act of pinning constituted an endorsement, and a sweepstakes entry was a "material connection that had to be disclosed." In other words, [the famous shoe company] needed to make sure that consumers disclosed that they were pinning pictures, because they were hoping to win a prize.
Find the entire article on Lexology.com

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Personality Types... More Fun Than A Horoscope?

There are many ways to build a character, and one might be to do a 16 Personalities test on behalf of your nascent alien romance hero or heroine.

Try this one:  http://www.16personalities.com/intp-personality

You will have fun, and at the bottom of the page, you may see whether or not your own protagonist has a lot in common with a Game of Thrones or The Matrix or LOTR or Hunger Games character. You'll also find enough predictions to suggest a life story.

For myself, I used to be an INTJ, but now I am an INTP... or perhaps I lie online. That is always a possibility.

What are you?

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers! As usual, I'll be attending ChessieCon (formerly the Darkover con) this weekend. I'll report on it next week.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and, if you're leaving home, smooth travel and safe weather conditions.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 16 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg - Star Trek, Star Wars & Quora

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World
Part 16
Star Trek, Star Wars & Quora
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts of this series Marketing Fiction In A Changing World are found here:

I was asked by a connection on Quora the following question:

----------quote from email via Quora----------

Robb Ramshaw asked you to answer.
Which is more SciFi, Star Trek or Star Wars?
----------end quote------------------

There is ever so much more to say on this topic, but it is an orbital-view perspective on the evolving of science fiction into the broader mass market -- as a consequence of social change, not a cause of it. Of course, there's always the question of whether there is any difference between "cause" and "effect."  Feedback loops may govern chaotic systems for short times.

Without thinking much, I wrote the following answer.

Neither Star Trek nor Star Wars is "real" SF -- just the best imitation the broader audience will accept.

Here is an example: an old song by John Denver, Sing Australia, which fakes a digireedoo sound. If you know the native instrument's sound, you can recognize the edges of the hint of the instrument -- it isn't the real thing, but it evokes the real thing.


Now, that is the musical equivalent of what Star Trek and Star Wars did when taking science fiction to the broader audience.  It's fake, but it's also real -- it evokes the real thing without being the real thing itself.

In the Bantam paperback STAR TREK LIVES! I said many times that ST:ToS was the first real science fiction on TV, and that was true for decades until Babylon 5.  But every science fiction reader knows that ST (and SW) were 1930's SF.  Aimed at teen-boys, they excluded women.

With fan fiction, women fixed that.

Jean Johnson came to mass market Romance and then Science Fiction Romance via Harry Potter fanfic.


Now science fiction and fantasy (except maybe in TV and movies) are for adult men and adult women and adults in general.  There's much appeal to teens, but it isn't exclusive.  And I don't mean sex scenes -- I mean issues that mature adults must confront to be happy in life.  (like "What the heck is The Donald doing running for President?")  Real, adult, issues that are meaningless to teens.

On alien romances I discuss this at length.

ST and SW were not at all the sort of thing the readers were reading at that time.  The breakthrough, though, had to start "at the beginning" to bring the audience into the subject matter gently.

That's why Gene Roddenberry sold ST as, "Wagon Train To The Stars."  A Western TV show that was popular even among all the Westerns on TV and in the Movies, Wagon Train was about people trying to survive and travel through a hostile environment, cooperating in spite of animosities among them.

As Margaret Carter points out in a comment -- Kirk was also drawn from Hornblower.  A third ingredient is Roddenberry's own personality, and his real-life experiences.

 That comic penetrates the core of Roddenberry's experience of life. 

So ST's "people story" is very mundane, except for Spock, and ST's exploration-plot is very mundane (except for Physics and Warp Drive).  The Aliens are Indians, the Crew are just doing their job.

Science Fiction is about the impact of technology derived from basic science on the anthropology, sociology, and psychology of humans.

These are expensive productions and must draw a huge audience.

Each has real (even great) science fiction embedded in the worldbuilding, but it's not up front and demanding.  In 'real' science fiction you must bring a solid grasp of the science to the story in order to understand how the story is postulating that what you've been taught, what you use every day in your job as a scientist, what you know to be true, -- actually is false!  And "here" is how things really are.  You, as reader, must accept 6 impossible things before breakfast, reason within that altered frame of reality, and solve the Problem the plot is throwing at the Characters using this "false" science.

This mental exercise is FUN -- for scientists.

At some point soon, all humanity at every level of intelligence, must become "scientists" of some kind.  And we have to learn to discard established and settled science to reason adroitly in a world that just works differently than we "know" reality works.  That brain exercise is our most crucial survival trait.  

ST and SW have begun a trend, and we're in Stage 3 of that trend now.  Stage 2 began with the advent of fanfic, and its subsequent explosion online (remember the Internet was generated by ST fans wanting to play a game, and the Web came from overseas as a method of handling connections and seeing what's on the pages.)  You're looking at a bootstrap process, and we're almost up to loading the Startup Applications list.

You will recognize Stage 4 of the transition when big budget productions eliminate "action" and "war" and destruction-derby and spectacle for the sake of spectacle and start telling 'real' stories about very unreal people dealing with totally unthinkable problems they must solve by THINKING -- not hitting.

We've had some of those on TV tip-toeing around the core of the matter.  For example: the colonizing of strange worlds, the lost colony, the going back in time and colonizing primitive Earth (also done on ST:ToS but on another planet into an Ice Age epoch).

But each of those focused on physical prowess to survive life-or-death easily defined challenges.  In "real" science fiction, the challenge is not easily defined -- and in fact, as in a murder-mystery what you initially see is not what is really there.

You will see Stage 4 of this transition make fortunes on stories about solving problems with science, with thinking not hitting.  Consider the popularity of Sherlock Holmes re-imaginings and you will see the beginnings of Stage 4.

Consider the popularity of the TV Series MacGyver.  There have been a plethora of small hits like that.  We have medical shows, we have the TV Series House, and Bones.  Little by little popular fiction is inching toward real science fiction.

Getting into Stage 4 is not about making Hollywood produce real science fiction.  It is about the new audience now growing up learning to demand such TV or Streaming (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Indie originals) fiction.

The first real breakthroughs to Stage 4 may come in the Fantasy genre.

So far, though, mass audiences don't have the patience to sit through a story they can not understand unless they learn something they don't already "know" -- and they will not tolerate stories that postulate that what they know is not true.

That patience will appear in the mass audiences when grade schools start teaching kids how to think not what to think, and turning them loose to teach themselves.  Teaching yourself is fun.  Being force-fed is not fun.  We foster an emotional aversion to learning new things, to questioning all "facts" presented, to discarding "what you know" by our current test-oriented teaching methods. So we produce mass audiences who don't think learning (and un-learning what they know) is fun.

Entertainment has to be fun.  If you are psychologically blocked against learning and un-learning for fun, then the only alternative left to assuage the itch for fun is hitting, conquering, vanquishing, attaining ascendancy over others instead of learning who they are.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Other People's Work

I'd like to share some important writings by other  people. The common theme is big balls, for good or evil, at least, that's my take.

The first is a Tumblr post with links, written by E A Schecter, on the topic of plagiarism.

The second is a legal article from Lexology.com which latter I follow for information about copyright, trademarks, patents and other rip offs of intellectual property.  

This article is an entertaining explanation of fair use and judicial chutzpah by the law offices of Marc D. Ostrow that includes a couple of quizzes and a criticism of some legal rulings.

The third is also from Lexology, by DeBrauw, Blackstone, Westbroek--yes, from the Netherlands-- with an example of how one admirable little European country is supporting copyright owners and slapping down internet hosts who would protect anonymous sellers of illegal e-books.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Rowena Cherry

PS And then, there is the DOJ taking (a legal term) songwriters' works  and limiting the rights of songwriters to negotiate contracts, all for the benefit of Google, Spotify, Apple, Pandora and other Big Tech companies. See David Lowery's latest:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Better-Than-Nothing Technology

Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS column propounds the theory that the Internet "sucks" because we prefer it that way:

The Internet Will Always Suck

A strange claim, but Doctorow's explanation for it makes sense. We constantly tend to push new technologies "to the brink of uselessness," not because we like struggling with useless products, but because "something is usually better than nothing." Two of his examples: As an alternative to paying high long distance phone bills, people talk through voice-over-Internet even if it's unreliable. Someone facing a deadline crunch will download a huge file on a cell phone en route rather than waiting until he or she gets to the office, where the same operation can be done with much greater ease but perhaps too late.

He makes the point that as costs fall and technologies become more reliable, fringe applications that were hard or impossible become doable—and slightly better than useless. When these uses or products move into the mainstream, the next fringe technologies spring up. I understand this process from the viewpoint of a consumer with no desire to explore the fringe. As a non-early-adopter, when VCRs first came on the market I wondered why anybody would pay to own a commercial movie. That was when films on tape were expensive. When they became as cheap as books, buying them made sense to me.

On the other hand, we have on occasion bought into not-quite-useless innovations of which I have not-so-fond memories. The first "car phone," for instance, a brick-size device carried in a case. A far cry from the handheld STAR-TREK-communicator-size phones we carry in our purses, those early portable phones had to lie around in plain sight and acted as theft bait. (We had at least two stolen.) And their accounts didn't include hundreds of free minutes. Then there was our first computer, an Apple II Plus, which of course had no hard drive. The floppy disk with the word processor software had to be inserted, loaded, and removed, then a writable disk inserted for saving files. Its word processing program subjected the user's eyes to white print on a dark background. We had to pay extra to get a shift key added to the keyboard to switch between caps and lower-case without inputting a code. As for operations such as underlining, I didn't see those features on the screen. All I saw were the starting and ending codes. I couldn't be sure I'd done it right until I printed the file. Which, by the way, was limited in length by a restriction on how many words the screen could display at one time. As for printing, remember dot matrix? With a continuous roll of pages that had to be torn apart on the perforations? Yet this clunky system seemed like a miracle at the time. Never again would I have to retype a document!

No wonder the Internet, which we depend on for so many applications that have become vital to our lives, relentlessly pushes the boundaries of its technological capability. As Doctorow puts it, "Whatever improvements are made to the network will be swallowed by a tolerance for instability as an alternative to noth­ing at all." Although I'm a stick-in-the-mud with little tolerance for instability, I grok where he's coming from. Take the iPad: I view reading e-mail on a pad the way Samuel Johnson (I think) viewed a dog walking on its hind legs. You don't expect it to be done well; you're just surprised to see it done at all. Still, as tedious and frustrating as I find the experience, I check e-mail on my husband's iPad while traveling in preference to letting the messages pile up.

Where technological innovations are concerned, there are probably two kinds of people, cautious devotees of the time-tested and adventurers pushing the boundaries of usefulness.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Part 10 - Is Government Form Irrelevant? by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration
 Part 10
Is Government Form Irrelevant?
 Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Previous parts of this series are found here:


In Part 9 of this series on integrating your stated Theme (what you want to say about Life, The Universe, And Everything) with the World you construct around your Characters,


I wrote:
Worldbuilding is about analyzing our real world into bits and pieces, then synthesizing, putting them back together into a new pattern, building a new world from the same components we already have, and maybe one or two really alien ones.

Theme is about the organizing principle that arranged those bits and pieces to begin with combined or synthesized into the new principle you invent to build your fictional world around.

What makes fiction believable and the source of value to your customers is the internal consistency of the rules for your built world.
------------END QUOTE-----------

One of the most frustrating things I have found about reviewing the newest Science Fiction Romance or Paranormal Fantasy -- most of the new novels with or without an ostensible Romance -- is the absence of new, original thinking.

One of the singular attractions of this field is New Ideas.

That is why science fiction is called The Literature of Ideas.  Not because science fiction with or without a romance or love story is purely intellectual, dry, boring, abstract and/or philosophical, but because a whopping great science fiction novel makes you think of New Ideas wholly different from those presented in the novel.

You get new ideas from reading fiction.

The fiction doesn't "give you" ideas, and doesn't tell  you to believe this or that idea, or ideal, but as Gene Roddenberry taught, it asks questions.

The questions a good piece of fiction in any genre asks are the ones the writer does not know the answer to -- but may in fact know quite a few possible answers that only lead to more questions.

The core of the matter is questions.

Learning to wade into a new field, a matter, a problem, and sort it out so that useful questions can be posited is very hard.

It takes maturity, it takes experience, it takes training in scientific thinking, and it takes training in mystical thinking.

 Plotting a novel, with a romance story, a love story, and a mind-boggling Theme requires setting your Main Character(s) loose into a World you have Built, and blind-siding them with a Problem.

Chapter One does not have to open on the Problem, but does have to set the Characters on the path that leads to the Problem.

The trick to finding the Hero of the Story is knowing all the Characters, and choosing to tell the story from the point of view of the person whose inner decisions and mindset become implemented and cause the Problem to arise.

In other words, you can start with the Character as a kid, sitting on his bed, looking out the windows at the stars and wishing to be kidnapped by a UFO.

Pick out some aspect of that scene that leads to the Problem that kid will have to solve and show don't tell how the mystical forces of Universal Justice respond to that Wish.

Yes, "scary mad wishes do indeed make things come true."  I do understand why "Mr. Rogers" sang that wishes do not make things come true -- but they actually do.  That is why we recognize the odd resonance called, "Poetic Justice."

Poetic Justice is "the end" of your plot that starts with a wish to be kidnapped by a UFO.

It doesn't mean you will be kidnapped by a UFO, nor even that you will be kidnapped at all.  It doesn't mean you will meet up with a UFO.  It means that the reason why you wished to flee the Situation in the Household will be addressed by the overall shape of your life, and the Happily Ever After will not happen until you completely address all that family-induced "baggage."

 The writer has to address those connections in show don't tell, and stay completely "off the nose" as they say in screenwriting.

The writer has to dissect the reader's real world into bits and pieces, then reassemble it around the Main Character into a world where that childhood "scary mad wish" comes true, is faced, is vanquished, and Happily Ever After sets in.

The World the writer builds around the Character has to "reflect" the Character and his/her Problem, just as our own subjective realities are shaped by the problems we harbor within our subconscious minds.

"Scary Mad Wishes" erupt from the subconscious, and sometimes go back into hiding.  From that hidden place within, they orchestrate our personal downfall -- and perhaps our next rise.

Revealing to the reader just how the Character's Scary Mad Wish is manifesting in their life, without them knowing it at all, can show the reader just how their own repressed Scary Mad Wishes or Bright Longing Wishes are manifesting in the reader's own life.

It's a principle.  You can see other people doing this, but it's very hard to see yourself being your own worst enemy, getting yourself fired from job after job, being the victim of unexpected disasters.  The key to making it stop happening is to see it happening.

Only by resolving that Scary Mad Wish that the kid crammed down into the subconscious and made into a repression and/or neurosis can the succession of bewildering, adverse Events be redirected into fortunate Events.

These childhood repressions (OK, oversimplifying here) govern our close personal Relationships -- romance, love, marriage.

Marriages break up in two main ways:
A) the refusal to confront and resolve repressions which leads to insane fights or
B) the resolving of a repression changes the Character to where the pairing no longer works and the Bond is shattered.

In other words, married couples grow away from each other for two huge categories of reasons:
A) fed up with your repressions or
B) not co-dependent on you anymore.

So the Writer's Problem becomes illustration of the reasons why some married couples grow toward each other, not away.

The "hotter" the Romance that sucks them into Bonding, especially before the age of 21 (3rd quartering of Saturn) the more likely the attraction is rooted in something that will cause an explosive breakup.

The Astrology Just For Writers posts are listed here:


The ideal pairing in a Romance is between Soul Mates.

As I've discussed at length, positing a Soul Mate situation requires positing a Soul -- and the "reality" of the Soul is a Theme-Worldbuilding element.

If you posit Soul Mate level Love for your Couple, you are building a world in which the Soul is "real."  That may be a fantasy premise, and the rejection of that premise may be why so many readers disbelieve the HEA.

As I said in a previous post here:

To understand the infinitely large, one must have a solid understanding of the infinitely "small."

"Large" and "Small" are concepts that can not be defined without using "space" (the 3 physical dimensions, Height, Width, Depth).

If a thing doesn't have "size" how can it "be?"

Well, how big is your Soul?  How much does it weigh?

We can measure the "brain" but have not yet "located" (in space) the Soul.  Therefore, people who study this kind of thing have a hard time including "Soul" in their model of Reality.

Thus reading Romance Novels is "escape" for them because the best romance novels are about Soul Mates.  Free Romance Novels are flying off Amazon's virtual shelves very likely because  spending time in a universe where Souls are real is just the escape that is sought by Romance Reader.

The most profound thing I've ever learned about Souls came via a course on Kabbalah, where I learned the soul enters the material world through the dimension of Time.  Not SPACE -- but TIME.  The Soul exists through TIME -- but not SPACE.  The brain exists through SPACE and TIME.

Another thing I learned from Kabbalah while writing the 5 books on Tarot...


...is that the Soul descends into the body in stages, starting at conception and proceeding (I think by quantum leaps) to the threshold of sexual maturity at about 13.  This theory produces a unique paradigm for child-rearing, setting expectations expanding as the Soul gains a better grip on the animal body.  Given knowledge of what will be expected of him/her at given birthdays, and training to rise to that new level, maturity unfolds in a more steady way.
-----------END QUOTE--------

So Soul has no "dimension" -- nothing to measure and certainly has no "location" not even as indeterminate as the location of a "particle" (which is probably a wave).

Soul is not like a "particle" -- nothing material can find or measure it.  But its presence resonates in our awareness.

That's just one Theory of Soul.  You can create your Theory of Soul freehand with many other postulates.

If you posit Soul Mates, then you must posit Soul, and if you posit Soul you must include in your Worldbuilding the distinctive properties that define Soul in your fictional World.

To create verisimilitude, you must build your fictional World's Soul hypothesis around some feature of everyday reality that your readers are accustomed to.  Religion does the trick for a lot of readers, but today many have been raised without official religious instruction.

So the Romance Writer is left to recreate the anthropological dimension of Religion for the Cultures of their fictional Worlds.

If Religion and/or Soul is the Main Theme of your novel, then elaborate detail about the nature of Soul in your fictional World can be brought front and center, becoming the plot-driving-force.

Most Romance novels don't require long, elaborate thesis statements about the nature of Soul.  The point, after all, is the Romance not the Theology.

Theme is the point of your story.  Love Conquers All is the big, envelope theme for all Romance stories.

The big conflict in Romance is "Love vs. All."  Most readers have a set idea about what Love really is, so the writer's main job is to create an All for Love to conflict with, and All that prevents the Love from reaching the HEA.

The Love is an emanation of the Soul.

The All is the outside environment.

Remember in Romeo and Juliet it was social standing in an Aristocracy that was the All.  Aristocratic based government is the standard default worldbuilding element Fantasy wriiters use without thinking.

Much of the Paranormal and/or Fantasy Romance genre comes out of Victorian Romance because the appeal of the Victorian era is the purely Alien Ambiance.

Note that Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain series started with  The Palace, a novel set in an Aristocracy -- and the Vampire St. Germain bills himself as a Count.

Historically, in our real world, totalitarianism has always been the default governmental form.  Thousands of years B.C.E., Egypt, Persia, Assyrian, Babylonian, -- all totalitarian ruled by Aristocracy.  That's why the Ancient Greek contribution of the bizarre and strange (truly alien to human nature?) concept of Democracy, and the related compromise of Republic, were science fiction concepts of their time.

Look at the Middle East Mess Of Today -- where governments melt down, "strong men" take over ruling their "tribes" with an iron fist.  So the advent of a Sharia Law driven Rule By Divine Right is immensely attractive.

So we come to the crux of the matter -- Rule By Divine Right, totalitarianism by Divine Decree.

If your theme is Love Conquers All, and you are telling the story of Soul Mates bonding despite The All that opposes them, that "All" that opposes True Love is almost always a product of Governmental form.

In an Aristocracy, you have the arranged marriage for political purposes, welding Kingdoms together into alliances that can last generations.

In other words, for the sake of peace, the strong government thwarts the Soul Mates joining in True Love.

In a Rule By Divine Right government, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one (as Spock said and I noted last week.)

So despite the need of the individual to marry her Soul Mate, she is married off to the foreign King so there won't be war.

The form of the governmental structure dictates the Plot of the story told in the World you have built.

If this type of atrocity is not happening to your Main Character, it is happening to someone in your world.  The form of the government is never irrelevant to your Main Character, no matter the form or the social status of the Character.

Why is that necessary?

Think about your reader's life.  Think about your own life.  Think about the lives of people in the news.

We have a worldwide refugee problem because of collapsing governments and people fleeing the "Strong Man" out to destroy them.

We have a worldwide drug-cartel economy -- the most arable land in Afghanistan is forced because of the form of the government, to grow drug poppies rather than the food that would grow there in abundance.

In the U.S.A. we have millions of "illegal immigrants" -- here mostly because of the governments they are fleeing.  The form of government has a lot to do with the form of the economy, and people migrate if they don't have enough to eat or are hunted by thugs for being good people.

Amidst all that churning and ever migrating population are all the Love Stories, Romances, and thwarted Soul Mates who will have to wait for another incarnation to Bond with each other.

Click around in this history timeline map for a bit and muse over how urbanization spread across continents.  A Strong Man (tribal Chief, hereditary or on merit) government is all you need if the only people within 5 day's travel are members of maybe 5 or 10 families nomadic families.  Settle in by a nice tame creek with lush fields all around, a neat little forrest for hunting, and suddenly you need "government" because you have to defend your territory from those who envy it.

Look again at the Bible.  It traces the archetype of history so neatly.  From Abraham to the final entry into the Promised Land, the people had no government as such.  They had respected elders who decided disputes, and people lived whole lives around people they knew all their lives.

Once they moved into the Promised Land, the Law changed.  They had a nice river and lush farmland, and other resources and had to defend it.  Things got chaotic, and they had to deal with other people around them, so they asked for a King like everyone else had.

Tribal Elders everyone knows and trusts is a non-scalable form of government.  It doesn't work when you have to organize a defense of a larger group, and some people don't want to give their fair share of what that defense costs.

When the group grows, gradually the needs of the many begin to outweigh the needs of the few or the one.

So we appoint or elevate Kings who develop an aristocracy of would-be Kings to manage local problems.

The non-Aristocrats consider the Aristocrats to be "priveleged" but the Aristocrats see Noblesse Oblige -- that their needs are sacrificed by an accident of birth to the needs of the many.

Back to Astrology for a minute.  The needs of the many is represented by 7th House, the Public, and the marriage partner, and the family, tribe etc.  The needs of the few or the one are represented by 1st House, the Self, and the position of Self relative to Other.

The Natal Chart diagram is a circle divided into 12 sections, 6 pairs of opposites.  The oppositions represent that kind of tension between government (the many) and self (the one).

Another pair writers need to study is 4th House vs 10th House -- which is the Workaholic Spouse Story, the tension between Home and Career.  When that tension breaks, you get the cheating spouse and divorce story.

All the House pairs of oppositions define plot types.

The 4th House is your household, your home.  The 10th is Government.  4th House is symbolized by The Moon, and 12th by Saturn -- emotion vs. logic, Soul vs. Science.

The form of government (Saturn and Capricorn represent governance, regulation, management) dictates the form of the home, (The Moon repesents the reigning Need).  The resolution of this conflict is for the power of Saturn to be enlisted in the accomplishment of the Reigning Need.

That is the astrological description of the Happily Ever After result.

Note that the 1st House vs 7th House opposition is at 90 degrees (square or athwart) the 4th House vs 10th House.

The "square" symbolizes interference or the kind of challenge that builds strength as it is conquered.

That 4-way tension describes your reader's world in terms you, as a writer, can emulate in your fictional world to give the absurd things your Characters do verisimilitude.

You build the form of government which may be functioning outsiide your Character's purvue into the foundation of your fictional world where your reader may never see it.  The fact that it is there governing the Characters world gives the reader a feeling that this fictional world is real.

In a Romance story, you focus the plot on the 1st House and the 4th House -- Self athwart Home -- but to make Self and Home seem realistic, they must be under tension of opposition from The Public (7th) and Government (10th).

You choose the form of government to be an expression of your Theme, just as you choose the form of the Home to express Theme.

The Main Character, the Hero, is the one facing the Problem.

Back to the kid wishing to be kidnapped by a UFO.

Consider the popularity of the TV Series The X-Files.


Eventually, it is revealed that Mulder's sister was kidnapped by a UFO, which memory sank into his subconscious and set him on a furious and perhaps unreasoning (anti-Saturn, ungoverned) quest to prove UFO's are real, so he's not crazy.

The woman he's partnered with is a pure-science person who has an open mind but sees nothing that can prove UFO's kidnap people.  Little by little, she has to change her mind.

That's a typical Soul Mate Bonding process.

That's why the show was so popular.

They worked for the FBI (government - Saturn) and had their careers (10th House) ruined (thwarted) by their personal (1st House) needs.  So they got relegated to the X-Files -- made a laughing stock.

To write a Romance between an Alien and a Human, you have to create an Alien -- which means creating an Alien (non-human) culture.  To have a culture, you must have some "form of government" -- and for it to seem realistic, your alien government has to be something that would not work to govern humans.

If you can come up with something new -- some form of government and an alien species that would naturally develop that form -- you will have a science fiction best seller.

So consider the evolution of forms of government for humans and why they work -- from tribal elders to tyrants and totalitarian Kings in every form -- consider Democracy, Republics, elected Emperors like Rome, and all the way to religious refugees creating the absurd compromise of a Democratic Republic for the United States of America.

Then trace the erosion of the Republic of the USA back into a strange, hybrid totalitarianism where we elect people to make all our personal decisions for us.  Juxtapose the rise and fall of the Democratic Republic hybrid against the population statistics.

Ancient Greece had a microscopic population density compared to even the most rural parts of America today.

Most galactic science fiction postulates either Empires (STAR WARS) or autonomous world-kingdoms.  Some postulate more complicated representational governments.

What these novels ignore in creating galaxy-sized governments is the way our forms crumble when scaled up by orders of magnitude.

The USA Constitution worked wondrously for a couple million people all the way up to 60 million or so.  Between then and today's 320 million, decision after decision has led to more centralization of decision-making, more of the individual's decision-making being out-sourced to government.


Because the human brain just can't absorb enough information to make sensible decisions for such huge and diverse groups.

So we are trending toward imposing uniformity in order to "manage" (Saturn; Govern) the country.


Because if we can impose enough uniformity on ourselves, we have fewer independent variables to consider when making decisions -- with uniformity, we could keep on using the same old the human government forms we've already invented.

There are cultures that have a continuous history of thousands of years that exalt uniformity and elevate the needs of the many over the needs of the few or the one.  For them, totalitarianism in all its plethora of forms works just fine.

For humans totalitarianism and the kind of uniformity that it requires is the only thing we have proven to work in high-density populations for thousands of years.

Generally speaking, over human history, government by totalitarianism or dictatorships or centralized management (the Ancient Chinese are famous for their bureaucracy) usually means government by revolution.  The only way to replace decision makers with new ones is by long and bloody wars.

The French Revolution -- off with their heads -- is a grand example, as is the Russian revolution.  They had to kill all the aristocrats, but having done that -- the new leaders became aristocrats by a different name.

The Poul Anderson rule of science fiction is that you start inventing your aliens with their evolution and sexuality or reproductive biology.  The idea is that human government is a consequence of human reproduction methods.

One new theme might be that the nature of the Soul generates the form of the government.

So create the biology of your aliens, generate their cultures from that biology and/or souls, then from their cultures generate their forms of government.

As long as you keep the paradigm of opposites that your reader lives within, (1st House vs 7th House; 4th House vs 10th House), you will be able to convince your readers that your aliens are Alien, but comprehensible enough to be worth reading about.

The Problem your Characters must solve will then be obvious to you from the pairs of opposites.

For example, if you stand within the Individual, within Yourself, then your Problem is Others.  Others can be the public, the spouse, the family including in-laws, the ex-spouse, and anyone you are obliged to.

If you stand within the Home, your Problem is Career.  If you stand within Career, your Problem is Home.

4th House is what you need, but its opposite 10th House is what you must do, -- discipline is Saturn, and discipline binds Government (10th House) to Family (4th House).

That astrological paradigm is based on the configuration of our solar system.  Aliens might evolve a different paradigm if they originate in a different kind of solar system.

If your Alien system is based on this "tension between opposites -- thwarted by squares" layout of social forces, it will be plausible to your reader when your Earth Human falls in love with an Alien.

Looked at another way, family is the foundation of government (Cancer vs Capricorn -- Moon vs Saturn).  They are inimical to each other, but at the same time each contains within itself the seeds of the opposite.

Nurture (Moon) requires Discipline (Saturn).  That which you need (Moon) must be limited (Saturn).

Put another way, "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" -- Nurturing triggers a Saturn backlash.

You can't have everything you want (Moon) just because you want it.  Thousands of Romance stories revolve around the ne'er-do-well and attempts to reform him with nurture.  Nurture won't reform him -- what will reform him is discipline, Saturn, limitations.  You send him to the army and make him a private.

If the problem is Needs/Wants/Desire run wild, you have to create a hierarchy of values, and decide what to give up for what.  You can have anything, provided you are willing to give up everything for it.  That's Saturn in action.

Does your Alien Solar System have a Saturn?

We call the absence of government "anarchy."  But is it if you don't need government?

Many animals on Earth are 'territorial' -- living one per so many square miles of territory and chasing off rivals.  Are your aliens territorial?  If they live one per solar system, do they actually require 'government' at all?

Note what I pointed out above -- our governmental forms morph in lockstep with our population density.  People who live in cities, densely crowded tend to vote for policies that use governmental power to force the more capable to support the less capable.  People who live in rural districts tend to vote for policies that prevent government from using force upon them.

How much Territory does a human being need?  How many humans must a human have around them?  How large does a colony on another planet have to be to survive -- and at that minimal size what kind of government would they choose?

What about humans living among aliens -- how would the humans govern themselves?

I tackled that one in two novels, Molt Brother
and its direct sequel, City of a Million Legends.

Would humans raised among Aliens adopt the alien's government form?  Or impose human forms on the Aliens?  Or hybridize the two so the Aliens become Alien to their compatriots?

There is a lot of room for original thinking on Government Forms in the newly hybridized field of Alien Romance.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Nitpicker and Proud of It

How much impact do typos and other editorial lapses have on your enjoyment of a story? Does your attention snag on them and refuse to let go? Or do you notice them and move on? Some readers claim not even to notice or be bothered by small errors. Such things remind me of floaters in the eyes—you know, those minor imperfections that cause tiny, gnat-like dots to appear in the visual field, a usually harmless phenomenon that some people develop as they age. Most of the time, I don't see them anymore now that I'm used to them. Once in a while, though, they appear while I'm looking at a light surface, especially a page of text, and they're annoying. I can't easily un-see them. Same with copy editing errors. Once they catch my attention, they don't let go.

In Stephen King's new story collection, THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS, I reread some long pieces I'd previously bought in their original e-book editions. One has a blatant continuity error that I'd missed on first reading. (Possibly because I didn't read it in one sitting the first time; also, a disadvantage of e-books is that the reader can't easily flip back to check an earlier page, which I could do in the hardcover.) The title character has blond hair in his first scene and dark hair near the end of the story. (Yes, the context makes it clear that's supposed to be his natural color in both instances.) Once I became aware of that discrepancy, it nagged at me for the rest of the novella.

A certain novel by a very entertaining bestselling author in the steampunk subgenre is riddled with wrong-word errors. "Seen" (the verb form) substitutes for "scene" (the noun). "Pallet" (a pad) is used in place of both "palate" (a part of the mouth) and "palette" (a painter's selection of colors). In one episode, the title of a traditional Baltimore song, "Eat Bertha's Mussels," is consistently rendered as the cannibalistic suggestion, "Eat Bertha's Muscles." I silently fumed throughout the book, "Where was the copy editor?" This novel offers a glaring example of the fact that spellcheck is no substitute for editing.

I'm not bothered so often by punctuation, mainly because the most teeth-grinding mistakes seldom appear in professional fiction. I wince at the omission of the Oxford comma (comma after the last word before the conjunction in a series of three or more), but I know some publishers insist on that omission as part of their house style. While I flinch at missing or superfluous commas (why do many otherwise polished writers insert unnecessary commas between the two halves of compound verbs?), I can force myself to ignore them. I get jerked out of the story only by really ugly constructions such as "Hi George" with no punctuation before the vocative. What bug me most are apostrophe errors. "It's" (contraction) for "its" (possessive) is the worst.

Do copy editing and proofreading errors pull you out of a story? If so, which ones and how badly? As a former proofreader, I can't help noticing them. Actually, I've been that way as long as I can remember, which is one reason I became a proofreader.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Reviews 20 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg -- Jean Johnson's The First Salik War Book 1 The Terrans

Reviews 20 
 Jacqueline Lichtenberg
The First Salik War
Book 1
 The Terrans 
Jean Johnson

Previously, I reviewed Jean Johnson's ...
...mostly Military Science Fiction series, 5 books collectively called Theirs Not To Reason Why about a precognitive, half-human time-traveling woman.


I told you to read those books, even though they are not specifically or ostensibly "Romance Genre" -- there is a love story in there, and it does affect the story but not the plot.

Now I'm going to tell you to read her new, prequel-series, THE FIRST SALIK WAR, (1st book THE TERRANS), set centuries prior to the events of THEIRS NOT TO REASON WHY, and I'm going to tell you why you should read The First Salik War saga (which is hot-Trekfic-Style-Romance).  When you get done, you'll see the ROMANCE inherent in Theirs Not To Reason Why.

She is working on a huge, gigantic, multiplex canvas to display an artform to the mass market that hasn't actually been created yet.  She's at a forefront of things to come.  

Last week,...


...we discussed the impact of online fanzine distribution, particularly Star Trek, via a Guest Post by Kirok of L'Stok, and as an introduction to what he had to say, I pointed to The Terrans and how Jean Johnson had blended the writing craft styles of Romance into Science Fiction, bringing one to the fore and then the other.

To see where this is coming from and how it is not only changing the online fanfic market, but also the mass market paperback market, we have to look deeply at The Terrans.

Jean Johnson has made a good reputation as a Romance writer.  I met her on Facebook, and did a #scifichat with her on Twitter.  She's a good conversationalist, as well as a good writer.

She says she was writing Harry Potter fanfic and got a request from an editor at a mass market publisher for a Romance.  She had a book already written (see? that's the key -- write and keep writing, develop a file of stuff you have written), and "dusted it off" and sent it in.

That's another key.  You have to have a file full of material you've written a while ago, and when requested for something designed to mass market to a specific market, you have to be able to "dust it off" -- to update the writing techniques, rephrase things, scrub typos, and generally conform the raw artistic sketch to a specific market as requested.

And you have to be able to do that lickity-split -- it has to be just a few days between request and produced manuscript. Markets flow fast, reshape, open and close.

Publishers work a conveyor belt operation with specific dates set years in advance, a wide variety of different departments all producing pieces of the work (cover art, cover copy, copy-editing, publicity reserving ad space, all sorts of things you've never heard of if you don't work in publishing).

And budget - budget is the biggest item.  The longer a thing takes to do, the more it costs.  Readers will buy at a certain price, and balk at a price just 25 cents higher, and publishers know where the break-point is.  And they know their warehousing costs, trucking costs, etc.

As a writer, you have to produce an item that fits their conveyor belt within the time-slot of when their empty slot moves by the editor's desk.

Timing is everything.

In fact, that is exactly how we sold the non-fiction book STAR TREK LIVES! that blew the lid on Star Trek fanfic.

Prior to publication of the Bantam mass market paperback, STAR TREK LIVES!, reviewers for the large magazines and reporters for newspapers had never, ever, heard of fan fiction and had no idea what it was!  Now there are lots of books, academic and mass market about fanfic, and it is casually referred to in news stories and by Characters on TV Shows.

We are Marketing Fiction in a totally Changed World, that is still changing fast.


We sold STAR TREK LIVES! to Bantam (Fred Pohl being the editor at the time, and he knew me because he'd bought my first story, set in the Sime~Gen Universe but he didn't know the connection between Sime~Gen and Star Trek).  At Bantam, they had a conveyor belt filled with pre-contracted books, contracts with reliable professional writers with selling track records.

As happens, but rarely, one of the writers failed to deliver on time, but as with professional writers, enough warning was given so the panic in the offices was muted to, "We can handle this."

In midst of "handling this," Fred Pohl met one of my co-authors, Joan Winston, at a Meet The Authors event at a Star Trek Con in Canada, mentioned his problem with a vacant conveyor belt slot, and asked if the book he had turned down previously was still available.  It was, and had been rewritten a couple times since -- and it didn't have a title.  Fred chose the title STAR TREK LIVES!

And the reviews fastened on the FANFIC element we presented.

Sondra Marshak went on to compile the VOYAGES series of fanfic professionally published.  That went best-seller, and little by little, changed science fiction as a field and the thinking behind publishing.  Of course, all during that time, online publishing was rising, and computer-data-feedback from stories grew, and Amazon launched obliterating brick-and-mortar Indie Stories, and the world changed.

Into the aftermath of this melee in the business side of things, around 2007, Jean Johnson started publishing in the Romance arena, capitalizing on all the change rooted in Star Trek, carried forward by B-7 (which also had telepaths), and then transmitted to a whole new generation via Harry Potter.

And of course, the Fantasy arena likewise morphed, and some serious contributions have been made there.

The confluence of all these influences is launching us into a new epoch in publishing, in science fiction, in romance, and in science fiction romance.

Jean Johnson may be one of the leaders in this new Epoch.

It may not be on purpose, but I can easily see that she is writing to change the world.  Or at the very least, my world.

With Theirs Not To Reason Why, she presented a blend of the Fantasy ESP premise of the precognitive ability originating in an energy-based (shades of ST:ToS) beings mating with humans (shades of Greek Mythology), all seamlessly integrated into an interstellar war.

She billed that war as The Second Salik War, with only hints of what dire events had transpired in The First Salik War.

In 5 large volumes, she painted a mural of future-history.

Now in The First Salik War, she is taking us through the details of how Earth made First Contact with that galactic civilization filled with a panoply of species, fought in the war, and survived.

The writing style of The Terrans is mostly all tell, very little show.  It is, as I said last week, one huge expository lump after another, painting an enormous picture of Earth's history, and "current" mode of governing.

That violation of all science fiction structural "rules" has a certain validity, and it has a target audience.

The payload for wading through all that exposition is enormous.

Just barely arriving at the story/plot beginning at the 3/4 point of the novel, the book turns into the quintessential reason why Star Trek fanfic exploded out of an audience that would never touch a "science fiction novel."

It's the Romance.  That's it, pure and simple.  Adding Romance, in all its facets, to a life-or-death war situation complicated by clashing governmental forms, by laws, rules, unconscious assumptions, and RELIGION.

The Science Fiction Romace field has two requirements that few writers can meet at the same time in the same work:

1) the Aliens have to BE ALIEN
2) the Human/Alien Romance requires the ALIEN to be HUMAN (but still alien).

In both Theirs Not To Reason Why and The First Salik War, Jean Johnson has managed to fit both criteria without straining the underlying worldbuilding.

I've just barely met her, so I don't know how deeply and consciously she has thought through her worldbuilding.  She did tell me that she had been mulling and imagining this universe for many years, and that shows in the overwhelming plethora of detail she presents about it.

So I want to look more closely at the Content of The Terrans, as separate from the structure and writing craft choices, or even the artistic choices leading into using enormous expository lumps disguised as conversation, and telepathic conversation.

There are so many other ways to style the crafting of such a tapestry against which to fling an interstellar war Romance, a Helen of Troy With A Twist Romance, that you can read these novels, mull over what Jean Johnson has extracted from the Potterverse fanfic, combined with her audience's everyday experience of the world, and morphed into an interstellar war, and then use that same technique to create something vastly different.

If you can pick up what Jean Johnson has done, why she's chosen the tools she has chosen, what she injected into the blended field of science fiction romance with fantasy elements, and re-cast it into your very own, original concept, I think you can carry this New Epoch of the world of publishing forward yet another step.

So don't miss any of these books.

Meanwhile, think about this quote from STAR TREK:
McCoy: [Kirk runs in to the engine room and sees Spock inside the reactor compartment. He rushes over but McCoy and Scotty hold him back] No! You'll flood the whole compartment!
Kirk: He'll die!
Scotty: Sir! He's dead already.
McCoy: It's too late.
[They let go and Kirk walks to the glass and pushes the intercom button]
Kirk: Spock!
[Spock slowly walks over to the glass and pushes the intercom]
Spock: The ship... out of danger?
Kirk: Yes.
Spock: Do not grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many, outweigh...
Kirk: The needs of the few.
Spock: Or the one. I never took the Kobayashi Maru test until now. What do you think of my solution?
Kirk: Spock.
[Spock sits down]
Spock: I have been, and always shall be, your friend.
[he places a Vulcan salute on the glass]
Spock: Live long and prosper.
[Spock dies]
Kirk: No.
-----------END QUOTE-------------

Science Fiction and Fantasy-Action Romance stories require Heroism in the main character.

Many novels today, especially Fantasy, portray the main Character as a victim, not a Hero.  That's fine if the writer does it on purpose, having chosen deliberately for artistic reasons and telegraphed the reason for that choice to the reader.  But that fine-point is often overlooked.  It is a sophisticated technique many new writers haven't mastered when they first break into print.

I discussed "The Hero" a little in




Creating a "strong" character and casting that character into a Situation that is "beyond him/her" -- so that the Character is tested to destruction and rebuilt anew by the end -- requires a great deal of study of Human Nature -- psychology and all of its manifestations.

Jean Johnson says, on her Facebook bio, that she studied Religion in college.

In Theirs Not To Reason Why and now The First Salik War, Jean Johnson portrays some characters with a sense of the spiritual, but who eschew Religion, and some who are deeply steeped in their own (non-Terran) religious texts.

She deals with Prophecy -- one of the elements that make the Bible such essential reading for writers looking for hot-plots.

I discussed Prophecy and its plot-potential in the context of reviewing Jennifer Roberson's novels -- which I recommend across the board. Read anything by Jennifer Roberson you can lay hands on.




Strong Characters meeting Prophecy often brings some element of Self Sacrifice into the plot.

Heroism is often defined in the popular culture as self-sacrifice.

Some people regard self-sacrifice as noble.  Others think it's a stupid way to behave.

Both kinds of people, religious and anti-religious, shed a tear or two or three at Spock's (first) death scene.

We didn't know he'd be resurrected, and neither did those in charge of making contracts to get Leonard Nimoy to portray Spock again-still-once-more-forever.

In few other genres can writers resurrect characters and make such a wide audience believe and accept.  The Genesis Planet used science.  Alternate Universe travel, time travel, all sorts of nonsense Fantasy premises are turning into science now.

While the audience was held in the limbo of having lost Spock to a graphic death, we were all left to ponder this philosophy.

As usual Roddenberry put his finger on the central theme of the philosophy -- graphically depicted in prevailing religions -- of Self-Sacrifice.

More than 30 years ago, Roddenberry stated the conundrum of the confluence point of Government and Religion without apology.

Self-sacrifice is taken as a sign of heroism.

It is the eternal tension between the individual and the group, or in astrological terms, 1st House vs. 7th House which is discussed in these posts on Astrology Just For Writers where Character Development is also addressed.


The struggle between the rights of the individual and the rights of the groups supporting that individual's right to individuality continues today.

It is being worked out on the world stage via ISIS or ISIL or whatever they're calling themselves these days, the attempt to reinstate the Caliphate -- a theocracy.

Their particular theocracy is based on the idea that the highest spiritual reward, the most exalted heroism, is achieved by dying to kill those who refuse to adopt their religion.  Dying while killing earns a higher reward than saving a life.

In that theocracy, the force of government is brought to bear on those who disagree with government, and the religion is the government you must agree with or die.

The U.S.A. was founded on the Legal Philosophy rooted in the idea that a Monarchy (England) could not use Government to enforce conforming to a Religion (the Church of England).

American Government is a limited government designed to protect the rights of the few or the one from the power of the many or the majority.  In this philosophy of law, government does not impose the will of the majority on the individual but protects the individual from being bullied by a majority.

In other words, Spock cited a principle in diametric opposition to everything America holds sacred.

The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.  That's the political philosophy behind the modern concept of Human Rights, and most of the Legal Philosophy behind our concept of Justice.

Spock's voluntary sacrifice re-defined and/or confirmed the Spock Character as a Strong Character, a Heroic Character.  His reason for it posed the kind of salient question Roddenberry was always famous for.

In America, the rights of the individual outweigh the rights of the many -- UNLESS that individual voluntarily and without coercion (sword at the neck, ISIL style), and with informed consent, offers to wave a right for a specified time (such as in joining the Armed Services or taking an Oath for an elected Office.)

Jean Johnson showed us an individual in Theirs Not To Reason Why who made the sort of voluntary contribution that Spock made by giving his life.  (really, I'm telling you, you must read those books even if they aren't Romance -- really!)

The Hero of those novels had to fight her government to achieve a position where she was able to make that self-sacrifice.

In The First Salik War, The Terrans, Jean Johnson shows us another kind of sacrifice - a circumstantial and inevitable one, very much like the dilemma that Spock faced in entering the radiation-hot chamber to twiggle a device to avoid the ship blowing up.

In The Terrans, we meet this Character who has been embedded in the Political scene, working as a representative in Earth's world government.

Go read that novel, and we'll discuss more about the content in another post on this blog.

It raises questions.  Gene Roddenberry taught that good fiction doesn't answer questions, but rather asks them.

Posing a question in a form that depicts a problem that can be worked is an artform.

The art of posing questions is not taught in the early schooling in America today.  Schooling has also become political, a matter for a central government not parents.

There are good arguments on both sides of that dilemma, rich fields for Romance novels to find conflict.  How easy is it for parents to agree about how their children should be educated?  How much discussion of the High School education of children goes on during a hot Romance?

Yet, how many good marriages founder on a point of this sort -- how to educate children, how to pay for it, how many children to have and whether to choose the number of children or let God decide?

Yes, Religion invades education as well as Romance.

Religion is a bedrock component of Romance.  As I've pointed out,  you aren't likely to bond with a Soul Mate if you don't have a Soul.

The are of question formulation leads one to the obvious problem: if you have a Soul, must you also adopt a Religion?

And what has having a Soul, and a Soul Mate, got to do with good governance?  With choosing a form of government that is "scalable" -- that is can be scaled up to govern a humanity flung to the stars and beyond?

How do you govern Earth in such a way that we can become part of an Interstellar ciivilization that's already "out there."  What if our political philosophy clashes with that which we find out there?

What if their idea of where religion and prophecy belongs in the scheme of the Philosophy of Law differs from ours?  What if the ideas are incompatible?

What if the two people who make First Contact will die (or worse) if they obey the law?

Is there any such thing as a sacrifice that is not a self-sacrifice?

What is a sacrifice?  What is it if I sacrifice your life to my benefit, turn around and walk away happy that I have gained so much for so little?  Is it possible to "sacrifice" someone else?  If it is, what is the person who sacrifices another for the greater good?  Is that a Hero?  Can a villain be a Strong Character?

Where do ethics and morals intersect the Philosophy of Law, and what has Law to do with good governance, with global governance, with interstellar government forms?

If you've read Jean Johnson's novels so far, you can ponder those questions and see why a degree in Religion equips you well for a career in fiction writing.

For contrast check out the book I reviewed here:

When I find one of these writers, I just go on and on about them!

This is important work.  This is writing to change the world.  This is the kind of writing that can change the world.

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword.

War is nothing in the face of fiction.  Fiction reveals the "truth" of politics, law, philosophy, religion and opinion by examining the various shadow governments we can imagine espousing various religions, with and without the bullying of the minority by the majority, with or without the informed consent of the bullied.

Study this image again.  Think hard about it.


How do you pose such ineffable questions to build a world around the story that you want to tell?

These are the sorts of questions Jean Johnson has chosen answers to in her First Salik War saga.

Read the books, consider other ways to answer those questions and write your own novels rooted in such profound questions which your Characters answer in their own Characteristic ways.

This is content, not structure. Structure aims a novel at a given audience.  Content can be carried to any audience if you choose the correct structure, the structure that audience prefers. The structure is your vehicle.  The content, or payload, you put into your vehicle is your theme, what you have to say.

First, question everything you think you know.  The more positive you are that what you think is true is actually The Truth, the more likely you are missing something important.

Aliens may have that something important, and be missing something we think is obvious.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg