Sunday, September 25, 2016

Art vs Tech (Art Lasts)

This is a must read paen of praise for art and culture, and especially for music, and some deep scorn from the inventors of the internet for those who say that artists must become marketers.

Please read:

All the best,
Rowena Cherry.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Please Sign The Copyright Alliance Petition

The Copyright Alliance has penned an open letter to the 2016 Political candidates, pointing out that the need to protect creators' rights to publish and distribute their own work and to profit from their own work is not a partisan issue.

Please read the letter here:

If you agree with the sentiments, please consider adding your name, zip code, and email address to the petitition.

Just today, I received a telephone call from someone with a foreign accent claiming to be from Microsoft, and offering to help me since my "microsoft computer" had sent them a signal that it has been hacked.

Yeah, right!  These people will give their intended victims a "serial number" to prove that they really do work with Microsoft, and really have received communications from "your microsoft computer" but this is a number that all computers have.

The sixth thing to do when the Microsoft phone scam targets you is "Tell People". Here is a good article about the scam:
It is written for our British friends, so if you are not British, don't bother with the Action Fraud link. Otherwise it is helpful.

Continuing the theme of dishonesty and the internet, ZDNet put out a helpful article about ransomeware this week:

ZDNet also published some advice from Edward Snowden:

Last, but not least, you probably know that 500 million Yahoo users have had their names, email addresses, passwords, birthdays, security questions, phone numbers and more compromised.

Here's what to do asap:

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Feminist Bonobos

Among bonobos (formerly known as pygmy chimps), older females often protect younger ones against male harassment:


This behavior is especially remarkable because female bonobos, unlike some other species of apes, typically leave home at adolescence and join other groups, so adult females in a bonobo band mostly aren't relatives. Yet they form coalitions with unrelated females. Bonobo society has been described as more matriarchal than that of common chimpanzees; males derive their status from the status of their mothers. Bonobos have a reputation as the "make love, not war" apes because their social interactions depend more on sexual overtures than on aggressive dominance displays. They've even been known to make conciliatory sexual gestures toward members of other troops rather than attacking them.

Many behaviors formerly thought to set apart human beings as unique among primates have been observed in chimpanzees, e.g., tool-using, cooperative hunting for meat, and, sadly, rape, murder, and something like war. Bonobos especially demonstrate such features as non-reproductive sex for purposes of affection and bonding, oral sex, the importance of the clitoris in erotic stimulation, same-sex erotic activity, and face-to-face intercourse. The riddle of why human females ceased to have estrus cycles becomes less significant when we learn about non-reproductive intercourse among bonobos. The status of "receptive" to mating vs. "non-receptive" turns out to be a continuum rather than all or nothing.

These apes can shed light on human social evolution. They still, however, leave unresolved the big differences between Homo sapiens and all other primates—habitual bipedalism and the loss of most body hair. We're the only "naked apes." As Elaine Morgan discusses at length in her fascinating books on the "aquatic ape hypothesis," the replacement of fur with fat is unusual only among land animals. I still find her arguments compelling, even if she may have made some errors in detail and if a few of the big problems of human development she tackles in THE DESCENT OF WOMAN (e.g., intra-species aggression, perpetual sexual receptivity) have become less problematic in recent decades.

Jared Diamond, author of GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL, also wrote THE THIRD CHIMPANZEE, which explores human evolution on the premise that an alien observer would view chimpanzees, bonobos, and Homo sapiens as three equivalent, closely related species. Diamond speculates on why our variety of "chimpanzee" evolved to become the dominant species on the planet.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lost Fleet: Beyond The Frontier - Leviathan by Jack Campbell

Lost Fleet:
Beyond The Frontier
by Jack Campbell

I've recommended Jack Campbell's space-war novels (actually several series in the same world he has built) since 2013, and I'm still recommending them considering the 2015/2016 entries in this series of series.

Here are some previous discussions pertaining to Campbell's worldbuilding in space: 

These Jack Campbell novels have several love stories in them -- super fantastic love stories -- and the material for a Romance is right there on the surface, but these novels are not category Romance.

I've discussed them from several different angles, all of which are salient to the Romance field in general, science fiction Romance in particular -- and even Historical Romance because Jack Campbell is doing meticulous worldbuilding.  The same worldbuilding techniques he uses apply to Romance -- though the worlds and themes might not.

He focuses on the combat, the politics, and the "bear trap" plot of a mostly regular sort of Character volunteering for a job and finding out that it entails much more than expected, leadership of an entire battle Fleet, or several solar systems.

Technically, both the Lost Fleet and the Lost Stars series are not "war stories" or even battle stories.  All of these series, including the first contact with Aliens novels, are about what happens after a 100-year war, how humans can't adjust and after 5 generations of war just do not have the cultural background to think non-war-thoughts.

This is the fabric of dynamite Romance, and it is not plagiarism to lift a concept like that from published work and run with it.  There is much more to say about how humans would relate to each other across interstellar distances.

In the Lost Fleet and Lost Stars series, Campbell has explored what would happen if Aliens (really alien aliens) discovered humanity expanding among the stars and played a high-tech game of "Let's You And Him Fight" (a situation you can rip from today's modern headlines about the Middle East).

By ripping the material from modern headlines, Jack Campbell has produced a timeless work of art.

To get that "timeless work of art" perspective, you need to read most all the books, think about them and remember them as you read on.  It is the Big Picture that shows the art.

Large portions, pages after pages, of these novels are pure narrative describing space battles between fleets of ships (a fleet is like a symphony orchestra, composed of many kinds of instruments that must be brought into play with precise timing).  These battles take place under strict and limiting Newtonian laws of motion.  The fleets maneuver for hours or days then flash by each other in split seconds at perhaps .2 Lightspeed, which requires weapons to fire by computer.

The world Campbell has built includes two kinds of FTL travel, one natural wormholes and one kind using "Gates" that people can build and put places where wormholes are not stable.  Transit is different depending on which kind of entry is used.

So fleet maneuvers can include dodging in and out of some other dimensional space.  When sitting in Newtonian space, sensors "see" only at Lightspeed -- so when ships appear on the other side of a solar system from the Fleet you are in, you "see" them appear hours and hours after they actually appear.  Computers can compensate for some Relativistic distortions, but not others.

Campbell has figured the time-delay issue into Fleet Maneuver decisions and DEPICTED the effect Newtonian mechanics and the Lightspeed limit would have on success or failure of Fleet combat.  He includes some inertial damping on his ships, but it is not perfect.  Human presence aboard limits what a ship can do when changing vector.

Here is the index to Depiction

What can a Romance writer learn from reading the depiction of Newtonian space combat?

Combat is a form of communication where each maneuver is a sentence in a conversation.

Sex is a form of communication where each maneuver is a sentence in a conversation.

It is very hard to learn to write great sex scenes.  Reading great combat scenes is boring to Romance writers.  Combat, fight scenes, are just plain boring.  So, since you do not get caught up in the material, do not bring a thousand assumptions to the scene, you are able to penetrate the facade of the scene down into the mechanism of the writing craft that produces the scene.

Once you can see what Campbell is doing that so enthralls his intended audience, you will be able to block a sex scene that moves your Romance Plot ahead just as compellingly as Campbell's fleet battles move his vast Interstellar Politics and Human Nature plot ahead.

In THE LOST FLEET: Beyond The Frontier: LEVIATHAN, Campbell explains (in show don't tell) how and why it is that his Hero, John "Black Jack" Geary, has no interest in taking his Fleet to the home world and taking over the government, setting himself up as emperor or something like that.  Many people want and expect him to.

In part, Campell depicts the Character of Black Jack as dedicated to the Republic model of government by democratically elected officials by showing how he befriends (in previous novels) the aliens called The Dancers (because of their ship Fleet maneuver grace), and now by how The Dancers choose to help him defeat this new enemy.

And we come to the new enemy.  It is "the enemy within" -- and enemy created by the very government Black Jack supports.

When the interstellar war against the other half of Humanity (the Syndic) was being lost, Black Jack's side created a last bastion the government could retreat to if they lost their home world. And they created a Fleet of battle ready ships, with no human crews, because they thought there wouldn't be anyone to man a fleet if the home world was overrun.

This fleet was run by autonomous Artificial Intelligence recently programmed to flight like Black Jack Geary.  In other words, Black Jack must now pit his fleet against HIMSELF.

And, in true Major Motion Picture form, Campbell brings Black Jack's win from a B story, a sub-plot, led by a Character who seemed mere window dressing (a love story distraction).  She turns out to be The Hero of the final triumph.  Yes, Black Jack wins by dint of the efforts of women who get full credit for their efforts, not just from him but from society.

By this point in THE LOST FLEET - Black Jack is married to the Captain of the flagship from which he commands his Fleet.  There's a lot of sexual tension on that bridge.

But there are two major lessons in the fleet battle scenes: A) They Occupy The Place A Romance Would Have A Sex Scene, and B) If The Battle Scenes Bore You, You Now Know Why Romance Bores Other Readers.

Note how many words each battle scene goes. Note where you lose interest.  Write your sex scenes to the length you want the battle scenes to be, and you will broaden your readership.

Beyond that, you can learn a lot about worldbuilding by noting how Campbell "reveals" bits and pieces of the entire canvas of interstellar civilization(s) he is using.  He does not tell you everything at once, does not spend pages and pages giving you information about politics, the different planets, their economic inter-dependencies etc.  If you learn any of that, you learn it by figuring it out.

Examine the entirety of all of these novels and you will see that you do not need to use everything you invent for your universe.  The reader does not have to know most of it.

Note how Campbell using a very tight point-of-view technique to show you the slice of that whole universe he's built that actually pertains to this one person's life and life-choices.

The dilemmas and conflicts that drive Black Jack Geary are clear, human, immediate and comprehensible -- even though he lives in an incomprehensible universe.

Now remember that to most of your readers, the condition of being "In Love" -- the reality that suddenly becomes tangible to those caught in Romance -- is as alien as Black Jack's interstellar civilizations are to you.

Depict and explain it to those readers in Show Don't Tell.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dishonesty And The Collapse of Moral Authority

Earlier in the week, Margaret posted about the loss of privacy in the internet age, and I happened to read her post  while I was outraged by a breach of my own privacy.

There's no turning off or opting out of the online spying by Google and Facebook, but their "targeted" and "interest-related" advertisements go too far (IMHO) when those adverts suggest that an individual is a liar, a cheat, a fraud. It is almost defamatory, isn't it?

To digress....On the other hand, there is little civility on the internet, because one has the illusion of anonymity when one can adopt an alphanumerical nickname, and can write mean-spirited remarks that one would never say to someone's face. That may be an illusion. Just yesterday, a retired spook advised everyone to put a piece of tape over the camera hole on ones computer. It's not just Big Brother who is watching you!

What kind of mindset exists in America when students cheat routinely, and businesses set up shop blatantly to facilitate cheating? Apparently, this sort of thing is tolerated, expected even. How, then, can we ever be sure that anyone is qualified for anything?

What kind of future world will we see, if humankind continues on this path? This path where the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that it would be an intolerable hardship if politicians could be punished for lying to
the electorate?

(The Obama administration allegedly presented a friend of the court brief that for candidates to lie to get themselves elected is protected speech

How 1984 is that?

No wonder so many science fiction novels are dystopian. Do we really want a dystopian future? Is there a non-totalitarian way to turn the tide of moral decay? Could honest people wear a futuristic version of a Mood Ring that would change color when one lies? Would it be possible to turn those podiums that political candidates grasp into lie detectors?
All the best

Rowena Cherry


This is an older account by someone claiming to be of immigrant descent, who has seen everything from roofers, to auto repair shops, to dentists.... all cheating customers, and even to hateful food workers spitting into the food of restaurant diners.

A discussion of tolerance of dishonesty in American society.

An expose of the cheating crisis in schools

and the names of businesses that profit from helping people cheat.
Scientific American has a copyrighted article describing some experiments to study the thoughts that occur before one makes an honest or dishonest decision.

In the words of Warren Buffett, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it."

PS.  I apologize for the size of the print.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Privacy Under Siege?

Speaking of privacy, as Rowena's recent post does: Cory Doctorow's column in the latest LOCUS delivers warnings about privacy threats from the Internet and the cutting-edge "Internet of Things."

Privacy Wars

Doctorow discusses the "absurd legal fiction" of the ubiquitous "notice and consent" requirement. You know, those policy statements and conditions of use for which we have to check "accept" before we can run software or access certain web content. As Doctorow points out, nobody can really read all that stuff. To do so in detail with every device or program would eat up most of our waking hours. Yet by checking "accept," we often give permission for all sorts of tracking software to interact with our computers and phones, without even realizing we've done so. Pokemon Go players probably realize the game "knows" where they are at all times, but they accept that knowledge as part of the cost of playing the game.

I don't own a smart phone and never plan to get one (unlike my husband, who upgraded to such a device a while back). So at present my activities and movements in the physical world can't be tracked by any incarnation of Big Brother (public or private—and isn't it interesting that Orwell envisioned an all-seeing government, yet nowadays it's mainly commercial entities that observe us?). I'd direly miss the convenience of ordering from my regularly-visited websites without having the enter information every time, though. And it's a great boon, when I'm not sure whether I own copy of a certain book, to learn from a glance at the Amazon book page whether I've bought it already. To get that convenience, we have to accept cookies and all that comes with them.

Doctorow's vision of the totally connected future takes on an apocalyptic tone, as in this paragraph:

"You will ‘interact’ with hundreds, then thou­sands, then tens of thousands of computers every day. The vast majority of these interactions will be glancing, momentary, and with computers that have no way of displaying terms of service, much less presenting you with a button to click to give your ‘consent’ to them. Every TV in the sportsbar where you go for a drink will have cameras and mics and will capture your image and process it through facial-recognition software and capture your speech and pass it back to a server for continu­ous speech recognition (to check whether you’re giving it a voice command). Every car that drives past you will have cameras that record your like­ness and gait, that harvest the unique identifiers of your Bluetooth and other short-range radio devices, and send them to the cloud, where they’ll be merged and aggregated with other data from other sources."

Do you think our digital footprints will, on a practical level, become that detailed and all-pervasive anytime in the near future? What company or agency would have the time, resources, or motivation to aggregate and make active use of so much miscellaneous data? On the other hand, I agree with Doctorow that the mere fact of having all this information unguardedly accessible SOMEWHERE is frightening.

Coincidentally, in an interview in the same issue of LOCUS, Charles Stross speculates on the benefits and potential hazards of living surrounded by interactive objects. He narrates an anecdote from the pioneering days of microprocessors, back in the 1970s. Someone joked that eventually the chips would become so cheap we'd put them in doorknobs. Everybody laughed. If you've stayed at a hotel lately, you've routinely encountered computerized door locks. Stross proposes the example of replacing city sidewalk pavement with stones containing chips that have "the equivalent of an iPhone 4 in computing power." Then suppose most pedestrians are wearing clothes with radio ID tags designed to interact with the washing machine for optimal cleaning—which incidentally also contain unique identifying data. If a person collapses from a heart attack, the sidewalk could summon an ambulance instantly. But a fully networked city could also track us everywhere we go.

Forsooth, smart technology can indeed be a mixed blessing.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Targeting A Readership Part 12 - What If Your Fans Strike Back by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Targeting A Readership
Part 12
What If Your Fans Strike Back
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in this series on Targeting a Readership (writing specifically for certain markets) are indexed here:

So today we look ahead in your writing career to the point where you have hooked a large number of fans, and then somehow disappointed them.

There is a very well written, tightly reasoned blog article that has made an online splash that you should read and think about.  I flatly disagree with the premise, yet can easily see how it might be considered plausible.  I adore the title, Fandom Is Broken.  And I must admit that if you target a readership, expect them to target you back.

So read this essay By  .

This article on Fandom Is Broken came to my attention when a fan of my novels and non-fiction posted a link to it on the Sime~Gen Group on Facebook, where I replied I had to write a whole blog about this topic because I flat out disagree with the premise that fandom has changed in any way at all.  The "national character" of fans is to be loudly, inconsolably acrimonious, utterly possessive, and completely proprietary where fictional characters are involved.  That's the way it is supposed to be.  It is the nature of who we are within the matrix of mundane society. Our ferocity knows no bounds.

My credentials for disagreeing with the premise that "fandom is broken" are rooted in being part of active fandom since 7th Grade, and continuing to be involved in the online fan community as well as fans of my own work (a hair raising experience as you can imagine having someone else write your characters or re-cast your themes.)

Just pause a moment and visualize what will happen after you've got your science fiction or paranormal Romance published.  People will read it.  People will react. What will they say to you or to each other behind your back?

Depending on the Readership you have been Targeting, your fans may react in a number of ways, very likely a few will gravitate toward each of these reactions, while most will come back at you with one or another of them.

A) Just find another writer to follow
B) Vociferously denounce you in Amazon reader comments etc.
C) Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc etc tirades (example)
D) Personal threats and attacks to "force" you (and/or your publisher, producer, editor, etc - the whole commercial fiction delivery system which your work must please before it can reach that targeted readership) to re-plot the direction of the story (make one character gay, make another go from hero to villain, or villain to hero)
E) To H*** with you, and post fanfic demonstrating that you wrote it all wrong, and THIS is how the story must go!

Obviously, I am of the Part E) attitude.

Possibly the author of the essay FANDOM IS BROKEN thinks attitude E) is un-fannish, or a sign that fandom is broken. But the truth is, insisting the story go your way, even if that differs markedly from the author's way, is fannish.

He should have been a fly on the wall while I was talking to Andre Norton about her writing a sequel to STAR RANGERS (telling her the plot for her novel) and she told me that I should write it, whereupon I did and sold it as the Dushau Trilogy (and won the first Romantic Times Award for Science Fiction!)  It took a trilogy because I didn't use her universe, but recreated the salient parts in an original universe.

Or maybe he should have listened to me telling Gene Roddenberry why he was "doing it all wrong." Of course, being who I am, I didn't vilify or threaten either great writer, (just not my style), but extreme vehemence ladled on thick over an adamant attitude is my style.  As a double-dyed Fan, I will have it my way!  (with Romance!!!)

When "they" (NBC and Paramount) cancelled Star Trek, I and hundreds (actually thousands) of others just wrote more and published on paper, in fanzines, sold to each other at conventions at which Gene Roddenberry was often a Guest.
 A printed volume of Kraith

I engineered the Kraith Series
to invite people to contribute to this alternate Star Trek Universe and over time, 50 other very creative people did that -- and several fanzines appeared carrying my alternate universe into yet another variant. Kraith was the subject of an article in the New York Times Book Review.

Kraith was designed to prove the theories I presented in the Bantam paperback STAR TREK LIVES! which blew the lid on fandom and fanzines -- garnering the attention of the New York Times and arousing vast public interest (both in deriding fandom and in becoming a creative, active fan).

In April 2016, France 4, a public station in France, aired a documentary on fan fiction partly based on a book I have an essay in, titled Fic: Why Fan Fiction Is Taking Over The World.  It shows the Professor who compiled this book teaching Kraith to a University class, then clips of an interview with me, and then some French fanfic fans.  Trust me, fandom is not now broken.  We've only barely begun!

My first novel in my own series, Sime~Gen, titled House of Zeor,
 Sime~Gen 13 Book Series on Amazon

was cited in STAR TREK LIVES! in a footnote, offering further proof that I understood why fans loved Star Trek (faults and all). I sold House of Zeor with a money-back guarantee to Star Trek fans who loved Spock.  60 hardcover copies went out on that guarantee, none were returned.

To show that Kraith was not an accident, just popular because it used a TV Series as a platform, I created more novels in the Sime~Gen Series to appeal to that same "Part E" segment of Star Trek fandom.  The proof appeared as paper fanzines (at one time there were 5 Sime~Gen fanzines), and later made the transition to the Web where printed stories are now posted for free reading alongside millions of words of never-printed-on-paper fan fiction.

Now, several contributors to Sime~Gen, some professional writers, have created a professionally published anthology of Sime~Gen stories, and one writer is expanding her posted fan fiction into a professionally published novel trilogy.

So, you can see I am well acquainted with how fandom started (having known those we call First Fandom, who started science fiction fandom in the 1930's), with how it morphed into TV/Media online fandom, and with many fan-feuds and bitter controversies lasting decades.

I know "fandom" from two sides -- having been a lifelong active fan, then grown up to be a professionally published writer whose fans have written in my universes, both with and without my permission or knowledge.

And I have been studying the dynamics driving the massive shift in the Fiction Delivery System under the impact of the Web, Print On Demand, Self Publishing (via and Amazon Kindle, etc).

It is not just the business model being morphed by the new communications media, social and anti-social as they may be, but also the content, form and function of fiction in general -- genre fiction in particular.

We are looking at a feedback loop phenomenon -- where there is no chicken/egg problem, no actual origin (storytelling goes back to the beginning of language; bees dance their stories of where to find pollen!).  Fandom is part of a dynamic process.

It did not have the name "fandom" until the 1930's, but I am certain this feedback loop between story-consumer and story-producer has been revving up since shamans inspired audience around camp fires.

The term "fandom" has its origin in a word-creation process much used by science fiction fans.  It blends the word "fanatic" which is the derogatory for "enthusiast" with the word "domain" or "kingdom" which is the place you live and defend with your life.

Fandom created the first "cyberspace" using the old purple gel spirit duplicator invented for offices, restaurant menus, and school tests to make quick but perishable copies.

Fans wrote essays like blogs do today, discussing (lauding or excoriating) books, their authors, as well as editors and publishers. They mailed their essays to a "publisher" who mailed copies to other fans.  The price was money to cover paper and ink (or sometimes just free out of the editor's pocket) or a contribution to be printed for which the writer would get a copy.  In other words, the face-to-face "bookclub" experience was extended nation-wide via the U.S. Postal Service because nobody knew anyone in their neighborhood who read "that stuff," too.  

This bookclub discussion group type "fanzine" publishing grabbed onto each advance in publishing technology and expanded its reach -- via hand-cranked mimeograph, electric motor driven mimeograph, and then with the much larger readerships gathered by Star Trek Fandom, on into offset press, and today etc etc.

Today, even full live-actor productions of fan-written/acted/produced unauthorized episodes of Star Trek are thriving.

Huge amounts of current fanfic are uncritical of the original material, approving, or wallowing in a romantic sea of unmitigated adulation for the original.

But as extreme as approval has gone, there is likewise an extreme of disapproval, a critical attitude that rips the original to shreds and/or injects incompatible ideas into the basic theme of the original.

Fandom has spanned that whole spectrum of responses as far back as I can remember, and as far back as those who founded science fiction fandom have told me they can remember.

The article FANDOM IS BROKEN acknowledges the tension between creator and consumer, between writer and customer, but glosses over the innate rancor, and fiery temper which is the signature of the science fiction the fannish personality:

There's always been a push and a pull between creator and fan, and while it can sometimes be negative it was, historically, generally positive.
----------end quote----------

No, historically, the reason fans grow up to become professional writers is that the Relationship with the writers they first read was not generally positive.

The proto-writer personality reacts generally with, "No!  No! THAT IS ALL WRONG!" and then proceeds to do it their own way, which is "right" in their way of looking at things.

Fans used to raise their voices to save canceled TV shows or to support niche comic books, but now that we live in a world where every canceled show comes to Netflix or gets a comic book tie-in or lives on as a series of novels the fans have stopped defending the stuff they love and gotten more and more involved in trying to shape it. And not through writing or creating but by yelling and brigading and, more and more, threatening death.
----------end quote--------------

Well, the writing and creating part does come later, true.  First comes the screaming in anguish, and today that is magnified in the Twitter echo chamber.

Yes, STAR TREK fandom is traced back to Bjo Trimble's famous write-in campaign (which failed to get the show revived and earned nothing but contempt from Paramount until the Conventions swelled into national news events).

Other groups have tried to recreate that, and in fact "Hollywood" now pays some attention to fans (if not out of respect for their taste in story material at least out of greed for their money.)

One thing Bjo Trimble's "how to write to Paramount" mailings emphasized was that calm, reasoned statements were more effective than threats and insults, and that 'defense' of what we love in Star Trek was not going to convince a network to pick up the show again.

The reason for that is simple.  Network TV does not select or shape TV Series around "content" -- fiction is just there to glue eyeballs to the screen during commercials.

Today, that's changing as the subscription-model replaces the advertising model -- Netflix, Hulu, even YouTube and Amazon are dabbling in the subscription model delivering fiction uninterrupted by commercials.

The subscription model can foster more emphasis on content - but only popular content because video production is still expensive (way more than purple spirit duplicator copies).  To make a profit, they need large numbers to subscribe, so the content of the fiction will conform to the "lowest common denominator" taste.

Read this quote from later in the "Fandom Is Broken" article siting other instances of current fan outrage:

It's all about demanding what you want out of the story, believing that the story should be tailored to your individual needs, not the expression of the creators. These fans are treating stories like ordering at a restaurant - hold the pickles, please, and can I substitute kale for the lettuce? But that isn't how art works, and that shouldn't be how art lovers react to art. They shouldn't be bringing a bucket of paint to the museum to take out some of the blue from those Picassos, you know?

The AV Club's piece ran a day too early, it turns out. The same day the piece hit the internet exploded in another fan outrage, this time coming as a result of Steve Rogers: Captain America #1, a new Marvel comic that revealed - dun dun dunnnn! - that Captain America had actually been a Hydra double agent his whole life.
--------------end quote----------

The Fandom Is Broken article seems based on the assumption that "the internet exploded in another fan outrage" is a new, or "broken fandom", phenomenon.

The assumption seems to be that fan-outrage is somehow "non-fannish" or a new characteristic that has appeared because something changed, something broke.

The opposite is true.

The nature of those who become "fans" -- not FANATICS mind you, but FANS -- includes an ensemble of characteristics that pretty much define the difference between fans and "the lowest common denominator" central market film makers must aim for -- the market large enough to support a video production at broadcast quality, nevermind theater quality.

1) Sharp Intelligence
2) Vivid Imagination
3) Strong Sense of Personal Identity
4) Unswerving Determination
5) Clearly Reasoned Opinions
6) Independent Minded
7) Collector of trivial facts by the thousands

Any two or three of these traits can be found at peak values in vast numbers of mundane people.

Fans call non-fans, mundane.  Mundane is the previous jargon term for muggle.  There's nothing wrong with being a mundane -- they just don't understand you when you talk about what matters to you, especially if you're "exploding in outrage" over a story-development.

I derived that list of traits from people I know.  I know a lot of people, writers and readers, who have all 7 of those traits at the maximum strength any human can have.  They're fans -- not necessarily of science fiction per se.  Fans of Romance or Mystery genre have the same profile.  Even fans of God -- people who are into Religion or Mysticism -- max out all 7-traits in that profile.

So if you, as a writer of science fiction and/or paranormal Romance, or any mixed genre, have that 7-trait profile all to the maximum degree, chances are you will write for others who have that profile.

Here's the problem.

That profile is rare.

As I noted above, any 2 or 3 of those traits are maxed out in huge numbers of people.  People who have all 7 maxed out are very rare.

TV or even online Video fiction Series are expensive to produce.

Self-publishing a book is much less expensive today, but still a big capital investment: A) time to write, rewrite, polish, edit, lay out, book design, B) buying cover graphic, C) crafting promotional campaign that can involve buying ads, D) fixing mistakes.  If you only sell a few hundred copies, you won't make even $0.50/hour on that investment.  Even selling to a publisher who does most of the work, you still won't make more than $10/hour unless you sell hundreds of thousands of copies.

If the Readership you are Targeting is rare, you will sell a few hundred copies, and that's all, over years.  So to be a professional writer, you must broaden your "reach" -- how many people will find your work satisfying.  That's what editors do to "almost" manuscripts:

So there is a financial barrier to fan-made fiction Series for the online video audience, but as the cost of video equipment goes down, and the knowledge and skills to get the most out of the cheapest equipment (a cell phone for example) becomes more prevalent, online video fiction or fan-fiction will proliferate.

Even so, to break even or make a profit, the audience targeted has to be larger than the "rare" market of fandom.

And that is the view from the Traditional Publishers skyscraper offices, or from Hollywood.  Fan outrage simply does not register, not because the outrage is not real or well expressed or legitimately based, but because that "rare" personality is RARE -- it is just too small a market segment to MATTER.

Fandom is not broken.  Fandom has always operated this way -- taking personal possession of the fictional material doled out by Publishing (or now Production), taking proprietorship of that which has been created by others, and insisting that the fictional material conform to personal expectations.

In the 1930's and 1940's the "outrage" against professional science fiction writers was aroused by errors in scientific fact -- or a failure to imagine (imagination being one of those 7 traits) far enough out or failure to incorporate the very latest discovery.

Even through the 1950's and 1960's any professionally published science fiction or fantasy writer who displayed ignorance of the then-current scientific facts (or in the case of Fantasy, the pantheons of dead civilizations, or the "rules" of magick) would get heaps of letters complaining about the mistakes (on a par with making Captain America a Hydra double agent his whole life - an error of fact in the audience's reality on a par with not knowing the difference between the Solar System and the Galaxy.)

If a science fiction story with an error of science was published in the magazines, the editors would get heaps of letters and publish some of them, sparking long, arcane and heated arguments about how to extrapolate current scientific fact to account for the story's premise.

Note that one of those 7 traits is the propensity to collect trivia -- the geek who is a nerd with an eidetic memory at least for certain stories.  As a writer in any sub-genre of science fiction, you must understand that the target readership will notice every single mistake you make.  They collect trivia. Collectively, they know everything.

Many professional writers talk to each other about their fans who know their universes better than they do.  I have quite a few of those!

The FANDOM IS BROKEN essay makes the point that the modern, online fan has a new attitude developing: because they buy the story, pay money for it, they are therefore "entitled" to satisfaction, as the consumer of any product would be.

Think, for example, of a car owner with Takata Airbags -- after all the recalls and so forth, news broke this past Spring that brand new cars are still being built with the defective design airbags. Having paid so very much for a car, wouldn't you feel entitled to an air bag replacement that is NOT defective enough to kill you?

So, after paying such an unconscionable amount for a theater ticket or to a cable TV/internet provider, don't you feel entitled to fiction that satisfies?

As a writer, you must keep putting yourself into that mindset every time you drift out of it. You are writing to satisfy the reader - not yourself.  "The Reader" includes people like you, with all 7 fan traits maxed out, but most of them only have a few of those traits, and they pay the bills, so satisfy them, too.

What satisfies those who have all 7 of those traits maxed out would bore or distress the more ordinary folks. So learn to keep scenes very short - 700 words maximum.

Another thesis in the FANDOM IS BROKEN (really, you must read this long essay, including the quoted death threat) is the following:

I don't want to pretend that this is some sort of generational shift; if that death threat above is to be believed the guy who made it is either in his 40s or fast approaching his 40s. This underbelly has always been there in fandom, going back to Doyle and beyond. There are new wrinkles for younger fans, a group that seems uninterested in conflict or personal difficulty in their narratives (look at the popularity of fan fics set in coffee shops or bakeries, which posit the characters of a comic or TV show or movie they love as co-workers having sub-sitcom level interactions. I had an argument with a younger fan on Twitter recently and she told me that what she wants out of a Captain America story is to see Steve Rogers be happy and get whatever he wants - i.e, the exact opposite of what you want from good drama), but while the details change the general attitude is the same: this is what I want out of these stories, and if you don't give it to me you're anti-Semitic/ripping off the consumer/a dead man.
---------end quote---------

Do you realize what the writer of this essay is saying?

Read that quote above again.

"what she wants out of a Captain America story is to see Steve Rogers be happy and get whatever he wants - i.e, the exact opposite of what you want from good drama) "


What she wants is ROMANCE and an HEA for an Action Character.

For me (and likely you, too) real drama is in becoming and in being happy - especially ever after!

Isn't that what we write?  Isn't that what we seek out to read?  What do you mean, Romance is not dramatic????

Romance is what life is all about, bonding, children, family!  I can think of any number of great TV Series and films that embody the Action Hero happy amidst FAMILY LIFE (after a hot-steamy strife-ridden romance, of course).

Think of a few of your own.  Here's the beginning of a list:

1) Little House On The Prairie
2) The Waltons
3) Daniel Boon
4) Ponderosa
5) Babylon-5
6) Star Trek -- especially DS-9 - any of the ensemble shows where the ensemble becomes family
7) Murder She Wrote (Perry Mason, or almost any Police Drama with ensemble cast).
8) Lois And Clark
9) Beauty And The Beast (TV Series)

Science Fiction, Action, Mystery, and Romance genres mix and match very well.  That was proven beyond a doubt by the way science fiction fandom gobbled up Star Trek and produced endless millions of words of "Get Spock" stories and then generated "Slash" which has since proliferated to almost every other TV show.  Keep in mind that before Star Trek fanfic, all science fiction 'fanzines' contained nothing but non-fiction about the books people were reader, cons they went to, other fans they knew.

If you don't think Action Genre goes with Romance Genre perfectly, go watch the very old movie, African Queen.

Fans love adventure, love the lone-wolf, the unattached hero (Kirk, Spock, McCoy), but the reason they love them is that these action-hero types are in the process of pursuing the Happily Ever After ending - the goal of adventure is to get home, and live a quiet and secure life raising children!  To get home, one must leave home.  The stranger who comes home makes home strange.  Or better yet, pioneering to make a new home.  Right now, N.A.S.A. is rumbling on about a Mars or Moon colony.

The author of Fandom is Broken apparently does not see Romance as Drama.  But as I've noted many times in these blog entries, every story needs a Love Story.

Take the Fan Profile of 7 traits and manifest that identity as a Romance Reader, the very strong personality (male or female) who understands that Home is the destination of every Adventure, that peace is the destination of Action, and then you can see why this one woman on Twitter was in a passionate fury to see Captain America finally get what he deserves -- His H.E.A. ending.  And we want the whole story of what happens during that ending.  Remember BEWITCHED?  Peace and happiness are not the opposite of good drama.

Remember how Superman "grew up" when they finally let him get together with Lois?  Lois & Clark is THE TV Series Superman for me.

The growing fury of media fans, fueled by the fast-cheap communications on social media, is going to produce a radical change in the Fiction Delivery System, and perhaps in all reality.

After all, it was college Gamer folks who pushed the networking of computers between campuses, and someone from the other side of the Atlantic created HTTP ( the markup language concept that lets your browser translate computer code into stories you can read.)

The fury and rage pointed out by FANDOM IS BROKEN is not a sign that fandom is broken, but rather fandom shows a gathering determination to change the world (again).

This is the way fandom always functions.  The energy gathers, becomes defined, gets targeted, and manifests as a sudden shift in the reality the mundanes live in (Star Trek in animated for kids, in films, on the air again (and now yet again!).  The first orbital flight. The International Space Station. Orbital telescopes. Maybe "hyper-loop" travel NY to CA in a couple hours.

Robert Heinlein opened a kid's novel with a guy riding a horse, and his phone rang, so he opened the pommel of the saddle and answered a call from Mars.  That was decades before cell phones.  Now iPhones! It took 70 years, but look at the change!  Fans of Robert Heinlein prevailed in changing the reality mundanes live in.  That's what fan fury accomplishes.

If the quote -- "what she wants out of a Captain America story is to see Steve Rogers be happy and get whatever he wants - i.e, the exact opposite of what you want from good drama) " -- is a good definition of the target this time, then Science Fiction Romance is the genre that will prevail.

Love and Romance and the extreme-drama-HEA will become the warp-and-woof of the fabric of mundane reality.  We might even have Peace in the Middle East!

So if you disappoint your fans and they try a hostile takeover of your Work, that is as it should be (as long as you get paid if only in publicity and homage -- I'm a big fan of copyright, but as a fan I know that homage is coin-of-the-realm) Just consider whether you want to disappoint your fans on purpose or by accident.  Then think carefully about which segment of your audience you are willing to disappoint -- the ones with all 7 traits maxed out, or some of the others?

Fandom is not broken. Fandom is functioning perfectly. Fandom is revving up to change muggle-dom. Again. I want to see the change be toward increased respect for Romance Fandom.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 11, 2016

On Privacy, Your Rights, Others' Rights (and a Rant)

September  25th 2016 is the last day to change your privacy settings to prevent What's App from sharing your phone numbers, contact lists, usage data, with Facebook. After Sept 25th, users will not be able to stop What's App sharing info with Facebook.

Facebook will use the info to "serve" advertisements to you and suggest friends.

What's App makes it a little complicated to find the mechanisms to opt out. The Electronic Freedom Foundation url walks you through the steps.

In another blog, EFF explains why you might mind

Kudos to EFF. On this occasion. Mostly, I follow them because IMHO they are no friend to copyright owners.

Are you a rightsholder? If you ever posted an original photo that you took... posted it on Facebook or Twitter, you are a rightsholder.

There are interests that would like to deny you your rights, and exploit your image/words/creation for their own exclusive benefit, if interested, read more here.

The (a go-to site for information relating to songwriters, who may be the canary in the coal mine for other writers) publishes a revealing article about copyright-threatening corruption within the current administration. 

(warning.... strong language! That is the Rant.)

Are you a Social Media influencer? If so, you may want to check out this article by Klein Moynihan Turco LLP about your legal liability.  If you are paid for your blogs and posts, you may be wealthy enough to sue

 Biggest take away, watch out when re-posting/sharing/retweeting photos and names of real people. They have Right of Publicity.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Writing About Sex

Diana Gabaldon has released a new e-book (a little over 100 pages) titled "I GIVE YOU MY BODY": HOW I WRITE SEX SCENES. If you're a fan of the Outlander series, you may have read this advice book already; if not, you'll want to rush to Amazon and buy it. For those unfamiliar with the series, all you need to know in advance is that Gabaldon has a gift for creating sensual, emotional love scenes. This e-book is packed with detailed, specific advice about writing effective sex scenes that won't turn off readers or make them laugh (unintentionally). With extensive examples from her own novels' love scenes, which she dissects paragraph by paragraph, the author discusses topics such as using all the senses, taking advantage of settings, conveying emotion, presenting different character viewpoints, evoking atmosphere, the "non-sex sex scene," etc.

One element posing special difficulty in the writing of sex scenes is language. Do you use the closest thing to neutral terms available in English, which are actually (as C. S. Lewis puts it) the language of an anatomy textbook? Slang words along a sliding scale of explicitness? Metaphorical descriptions that avoid the problem altogether but maybe at the cost of seeming too "flowery"? In my own experience of writing erotic romance, I found that the publisher sometimes wanted more "four-letter words" than I was comfortable with, on the grounds that their readership expected and liked that language in erotic scenes. To complicate the problem, slang terms that I considered rather amusing or sexy were sometimes rejected as crude by the editor—and vice versa. Everybody has an individual level of tolerance and a unique opinion on what's exciting rather than gross! Gabaldon's book includes a chapter on "Terminology." In general, her fiction doesn't feature many explicit mentions of the sexual parts of the body, on the grounds that the reader already knows what's what. For fun, however, she does provide a long list of words for various parts, ranging from euphemistic to porn level.

If you ever have occasion to describe intimate encounters between your characters, don't miss this little book. Or even if you just like to read such scenes, you'll enjoy Gabaldon's witty analysis of how she writes them.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Part 15 - What Is At Stake

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 15
What Is At Stake
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous entries in this series can be found here:

Most writers would assume that "What Is At Stake?" is a PLOT question.

And yes, it actually is a plot question.  The two plot forms that demand the stakes be clear in the writer's mind are:

A) Johnny Gets His Fanny Caught In A Beartrap And Has His Adventures Getting It Out.

B) A Likeable Hero Surmounts Overwhelming Odds Toward A Worthwhile Goal.

Writers generally think of these as "the beartrap story" and the "Quest story."

Many teach this as

There are only two plots in all of literature:
1) A person goes on a journey.
2) A stranger comes to town.

Or as the classic set of 7 Plots outlined in Wikipedia:

The division into a person goes vs a person comes is not PLOT at all, but SITUATION - a component of plot, as I use the term plot.

The list of 7 is a mixture of genre/mood and Goals (not always worthwhile).

The difference between these two lists and what I'm talking about in these blogs is point of view.

Those lists are concocted by reading what has been written.  Looking in from the outside of the writer's mind leaves the writing student without a clue about HOW to do it - how to plot, how to take the story boiling over inside the mind and lay it out in a narrative with one thing after another, thus engrossing the reader.

I'm talking about the mechanics of doing the writing salable in a commercially driven marketplace. Those lists are talking about the nature of humanity that makes us want to consume stories.

Thus the classic Science Fiction plots - Beartrap and Quest - are helpful to the writer of Science Fiction Romance.

For Romance genre the two classic Science Fiction plot-forms can be transformed into "Love At First Sight" (the beartrap) and "Me! Me! Me! Pick Me, Not Him!" (the Quest to Win The Heart)

Love at First Sight usually strikes when you can least afford to be diverted from a career path.  That creates natural conflict.

Romance where the main character's goal is to "win the heart" of a particular person qualifies as a Quest plot.

In the Beartrap plot, the stakes are whatever has been prevented by stepping into the Beartrap (a career, acceptance at a particular college, maybe even your Religion.)

In the Quest plot, the stakes are the goal of the quest, which in Romance are the coveted words, "I do."

Note that in either plot form, the key to making the story interesting to a specific readership is the choice of the Stakes.  What does the main character stand to lose, and what does the main character stand to win?  What is at stake in the game of life?

So it is not just a plot question -- but also a commercial marketing question.  Who would read this story?

How do you figure out what the stakes in the story you want to tell must be to attract the reader you want to attract?

Sometimes the story idea comes to you as the stakes, as the objective or the potential loss.

If you start with a knowledge of the stakes, chances are your subconscious has already built the entire world around your characters, and your job is to tease that integrated conception apart into a sequence of information to feed the reader in a way that makes sense and builds suspense.

But sometimes "the stakes" is the very last decision a writer has to make.  Everything else is clear in your mind's eye, so you start to write and discover you have no idea what the stakes are, or what audience would be fascinated by playing for those stakes.

When that happens, it helps to rephrase the question from "What is at stake?" to "What is this story about?"

The "stakes" should symbolize the theme (theme is what the story is about).  The stakes would be a concrete, visualizable representation of the epistemological statement your theme makes.

That statement is your theme, and everything (every detail and every functioning part) of a novel is derived from the theme.  (Or vice-versa, the theme is derived from the details that popped into your head.)

The Theme is evident in the "world" you build behind your characters.

You can write Contemporary Romance that is Science Fiction, as Gini Koch's Alien Series clearly demonstrates (yes, you must read that series).

So to discover what is at stake, what might be lost or what might be gained at what price, the writer has to examine what this romance novel is to say about life, the universe and everything.

For this exercise, let's focus on a common, pervasive thematic issue in our world today, Risk.

Risk Management is a core issue in everyone's life today.  No matter what readership you are going for, those readers are in angst over RISK.

Writers consider the abstracts, pick a thematic statement, and make that abstract concept into a concrete but distantly "other" world for the reader.

Fiction, as I've said in the books on Tarot,

is the alphabet of the left hand -- of the non-linear part of the brain that deals in gestalt imaging.

"The Stakes" is the concrete representation of an abstract concept.  "The Stakes" are a symbol of the Main Character's subconscious values, or possibly only fears.

You can choose "the stakes" by fleshing out your character in a character sketch.  If your subconscious has already completed the worldbuilding behind that character, you will stumble upon the stakes he/she is gambling.

But what do you do if you are asked for a story, or have a novel under contract with a deadline, and your subconscious has not done the work to concoct The Stakes?

One remarkably effective ploy is to go scan the day's headlines looking for a major issue of deep concern to your intended audience.  What matters in your reader's everyday life?

We examined ripping fictional material from factual (and not necessarily so factual) Headlines in many previous posts, notably:

Tabloids are great for this exercise.

If you can find a set of Headlines apparently on different topics, but all about problems stemming from a single cultural, legal, or Values issue, you may have found the Theme you can derive Stakes from.

A look at the headlines from May 2016 gives a good set of examples.

Just on The Hill website, we have a whole set of articles on the TSA and long wait lines, congressional hearings, and what to do about it all.

And on May 31, 2016, a heightened threat level for all Europe was announced, especially large public gatherings such as sports matches. Just going on vacation can be accepting a Risk.

Obviously, voters are upset with the flight delays by the TSA wait lines, so law makers do what they were hired to do -- spend money.  It is the only tool they have, so they use it on all problems. Spending more money than you have income creates a Risk - it is a gamble that income will appear before the debt is due.  The Stakes is all about The Risk.

Each of the air travelers caught in the massive delays has something uniquely their own at stake, and more to lose beyond that one thing.

For example, being late for a vacation reservation may mean forfeiting a night's lodging costs, but it might also mean disappointing a treasured child by not turning up at their graduation, and that might mean the kid went off and got drunk partying, got into a car crash, and is responsible for a death for the rest of their life.

An incident like that could make wonderful "backstory" for a Main Character.  The same might happen if the hapless passenger misses his plane because of a sudden Love At First Sight -- whereupon he stops to rescue damsel in distress who may not want rescuing.

The ostensible 'stakes' can be just catching a plane, train or bus "in time."  The ramifications of winning or losing those stakes can support an entire series of novels.

The clever writer will look at the TSA mess, and try to find what it has in common with other headlined boondoggles plaguing the target readership.

Take the current Presidential Election, for example. We have the usual 3 Parties fielding candidates -- Libertarian, Democrat, and Republican.  After a year of jockeying for position, we have 3 sets of President-Vice President contenders.  None of them suit anything like the electorate's concept of an ideal person for the job in these times.

So what is a Character you have invented to be your voter to do?  How does the Character make this decision?  What themes would fit such a novel, set in the "world" of "reality."

Think of a Contemporary Romance.  As a writer, you know you must do just as much worldbuilding to create a Contemporary Romance as you do to write a space-adventure Fantasy or Science Fiction novel.  The "reality" you create for your characters resembles the reader's everyday reality but it is not reality.

Just as dialogue is not the way real people really speak, but must have verisimilitude (must resemble the way people talk, but still advance the plot and story apace), so too does your worldbuilding require a resemblance to reality.  Here is the index to posts on dialogue.

Real-reality just does not work in text based fiction because the reader has to "visualize" that world, injecting their own artistic twist on your work, using your work as a template to create their own story.

Therefore a Contemporary Science Fiction Romance writer has to create a "Reality Template" against which to tell the story.

So you take a pair of Characters and depict them against the backdrop of your selective representation of the reader's Reality -- your Japanese Brush painting that merely suggests so they can imagine.  We covered that process in the series on Depicting.

You have created a pair of Characters embedded in a semblance of the reader's Reality, and this new pairing is living through a period of Political Hot Potatoe Games -- where politicians are jockeying for position, slinging mud, creating "straw man" opponents and using the names (or lurid nicknames) of the real nominees of the opposition parties.  Be sure not to depict something too "real" as lawsuits can happen to writers and publishing contracts hang the entire liability on the writer.

Now each of your pair of Characters have decisions to make.  "Do I know enough to form an opinion?"  "If I don't know enough, should I vote anyway?"  "Which bozo clown should I vote for, or against?"  And what about down-ballot?  Can I offset the impossible choice by picking opposition candidates for House and Senate?  What if I'm wrong?

Suppose both your Characters are comitted to voting "responsibly" -- maybe they are even working for this or that Campaign going door to door (and that's how they meet?).  Each is completely wound up in the details of their choices-- but of course, if this is a genuine romance novel, they will start out supporting different Candidates.

So, with "reality" as your template, you do not have much worldbuilding to do, and with a political campaign as the plot framework, you have a focus for your Theme, which is dictated somewhat by the Romance Genre theme -- Love Conquers All.

The "All" that gets conquered here would be a Political Disagreement.  Since this blog is about science fiction/fantasy/paranormal Romance, we can assume the two Candidates the new lovers are supporting have an "issue" difference that hinges on something scientific and/or paranormal.

For example, one Candidate might support the Space Program, but not support N.A.S.A. (say, for example the private company that wants to put a colony on Mars).  The opposition might support N.A.S.A. but leash it with appropriations earmarks such that it can never launch a colonizing attempt, or support N.A.S.A. in such a way as to destroy civilian entreprenuership in space because Space must controlled by the government.

Neither of your Lovers would have all the facts at the beginning of your novel, and neither would be prominent enough at the beginning for their influence to sway large numbers of voters.  At the beginning of the story and the plot, the Stakes are just personal, a matter of personal integrity and honor, possibly just opinion.

To do this novel as a Fantasy Genre, the argument might be over government funding for cross-dimensional exploration -- sending an explorer into a parallel universe.

To do this novel as a Paranormal, perhaps one of the Candidates has a lurid past as a Ghost Hunter, or maybe he or she is a telepath or empath with great power to sway the opinions of huge crowds (who then stay swayed).

The Reality Matrix is Contemporary Political Campaign, and the Romance sub-genre is chosen by the issue -- science fiction, fantasy, or paranormal.

So ostensibly, at the opening of the novel, "the stakes" for each of your Lovers Stories would be "Who Becomes President?" If the wrong person wins, the Passionate Personal Project will be put off for a generation or more.

In science fiction and fantasy genres, long series are the norm, so you don't have to resolve all the conflicts in Book I.

Notice how The Theme, Love Conquers All, suggests that the writer has to reach for an "All" that is ostensibly un-conquerable, then show how it could happen that Love could conquer that particular "All."

Personally, I have seen marriages break up over politics.  The arguments become too fundamentally passionate.  But such novels are hard to write as Romances because Love spurs Characters to want to discovery "why" the "other" thinks so stupidly and "correct" that errant behavior by "informing" them.

Note how, in developing this approach to finding "the stakes" for this novel here, we have sifted and focused down to a handful of possible themes.

Having chosen the LOVE CONQUERS ALL theme with its underlying premise of HAPPILY EVER AFTER IS REALISTIC, and cast that against the Contemporary Romance genre, added in "Ripped From The Headlines" politics, we now have a very specific novel series emerging.

Yes, it resembles Gini Koch's ALIEN Series, but is distinctively different.

Note how the political positions of the candidates the Characters are supporting define "the stakes."  Maybe one of the young Lovers has set heart on being a member of the Mars Colony team?  "The Stakes" then become very personal, the future career of that Character.  Maybe the other Character chooses to support the opposing Candidate because Humankind has virtually ruined this world and has no right to go ruin Mars, too.  "The Stakes" for that character is the future of Earth's Ecology.

If people think they can easily escape Earth's ecological crash by just moving into space, they won't spend the resources and focus genius on fixing Earth, so all routes of escape must be cut off.  The Stakes Are Too High.

If people think Humanity can survive the current Species Die-Off we are in, and we can't, it will be too late to establish colonies in space and Humanity dies.  The Stakes Are Too High.

And there is your core theme for this type of Contemporary Science Fiction Romance-Politics: THE STAKES ARE TOO HIGH.

Thematically, The Stakes Are Too High is based on a bundle of assumptions, each of which needs a Character in the novel to live out an illustration of what if that assumption is correct or what if it is not correct.   The single classic short story everyone remembers that pulls this trick off exceptionally well is titled The Cold Equations.

Note how much this story is studied, and what a classic piece it is (non-Romance).

Here it is on wikipedia.

I could argue each and every point academics and even fans make about this story, but one point is not arguable.  It is exactly what a short story should be -- memorable, and full of unanswerable questions posed in a way that seems clear, but isn't.

Pull off a thematic trick like that with a series of Romance novels about Politics, and you could generate a Black Swan Event, an Overton Window Event in World Politics -- some 30 or 60 years after publication. We now have a space station, so this story's scenario which was not possible when it was written (except as a lost-at-sea-story) is actually possible today.

One of the rules of screenwriting is "Raise The Stakes" on the correct "beat" -- that is along the plot line, you come to a point (located by which structure you are using, 3 or 4 Act) when the writer "reveals" what more is at stake -- what happens if the Hero fails?  What happens if the villain wins? What can be lost and what would that loss mean?

You, the writer, must "draw the reader" into the story by making it clear what the loss would mean.  That imagining of the Character's possible future creates suspense, and is in fact the very definition of "suspense."

What Will Happen Next?

That's what "the stakes" are all about.  In Romance, the stakes are "Happily Ever After" -- who gets to be Happy?  How do the Characters go from the Beginning to the Happily Ever After end?  What has to CHANGE?

Plot is the sequence of Events that Change of Situation.

Story is the reason why the Characters feel this or that way about the Events of the Plot -- and therefore, the reason why (motive) the Character acts in response to the Event in a particular way.

The STAKES are the symbolism ...
has a list of previous posts on Symbolism including "Why Do We Cry At Weddings?"... which the writer explains to the reader what exactly is motivating the Character -- explains by depicting the subconscious motive that the Character does not even know is driving him/her.  This creates suspense in the story-line because the Reader is rooting for the Character to "see" what the reader "sees" inside the Character.  At some point in the story-arc, the writer must create the "epiphany" where the Character sees what the reader has seen.  In Romance, that shock usually results in the "I Love You" statement.

Character Motivation is subconscious to the Character. Story takes place in the Character's Subconscious, running parallel and tandem with the physical real-world Events on the Plot Line.

As emotional responses in the subconscious change, the character "arcs" changing their opinion and ideas, their evaluations of given concrete realities, and Values.  Values are the hierarchy by which people sort out The Stakes into more important and less important all the way down to discarding as Unimportant.  We throw away everything for Love.

So, if you've chosen to do a Contemporary Science Fiction Romance set amidst a Political Campaign where the Issue of the Day is either Space Travel or just "How To Fund And Thus Control Space Travel?" the plot driving Conflict will be the disagreement between your Lovers over which course, and thus which Candidate, is the better choice.

If The Wedding takes place in Chapter One, and then they discover they disagree as the Campaigns get rolling - you have one kind of novel.  The middle could be filing for Divorce, and the Ending could be getting re-married.

If The Wedding takes place in the Middle, where they have decided their Love is more important than politics, the Ending is at the filing for Divorce -- and the sequel developes their new Romance (likely via two triangle Relationships).

If The Wedding takes place at the End of volume 1, Volume 2 begins with one or both climbing the political campaign ladder, maybe becoming delegates to the State Conventions, maybe the National Convention, maybe the Electoral College.  Maybe running for Congress or Senate themselves, both winning, and opposing each other across the House and/or Senate Floors -- and more sequels where they run against each other for President and/or Vice President (though Gini Koch pre-empted that scenario, so you should think of something different).

You could go international intrigue and stage a fight over planting flags of Nations on various planets and moons in our solar system -- claiming possession in the name of a Nation.  Or you could do the same with, say, the United Nations Flag and a joint effort to plant it everywhere.

Maybe one of your Lovers is devoted to the United Nations and one world government, and the other is a Nationalist, Protectionist type, who sees such large and diverse masses of humans as un-governable.

Which path you choose will depend on The Stakes.

Since we are positing science fiction romance as the genre, note that in Science Fiction the Main Character is generally The Hero, usually on The Hero's Journey (look that book up if you don't know it).  Star Wars began with Luke Skywalker embarking on a typical Hero's Journey which is why it played to such a broad audience, not just space-adventure fans.

The Likable Hero surmounts overwhelming odds toward a worthwhile goal.

The worthwhile goal is The Stakes.  What if you don't make it?

You don't make it to the goal, you lose The Stakes.  What then?

In solving any problem, particularly High Stakes Adventure, every choice the Character makes has to be in consideration of THE RISK.

That's what "The Stakes" means -- what if you lose?  What can be lost? What do you do then?

For example, suppose you open the story with your Female Lead Character being kidnapped by a rapist, held at knife-point and assaulted.  She has to figure out what The Stakes really are.  The classic advice is to just lie still and enjoy it because rapists rarely actually murder the victim afterwards.  So thinking the Stakes are just your virginity, you might decide not to fight.

But thinking the Stakes are your actual life, you might decide to fight which shows the reader she is one kind of person, or she might decide to cower, which shows she is another sort of person.  In either case, more choices have to be made.  What move can you make that might succeed?  What are the odds of pulling it off?  What happens if you strike out and fail to frighten him off?  What if you cower, and that just invites more cruelty?

What if you get pregnant by this bozo?  More decisions. The Stakes Are Raised.

Calculating the odds, taking The Risk, is what the Hero (male or female) does.  The Hero Acts.

Classic wisdom says that the one who just "reacts" is always the loser.

Initiating Action is the signature of the Winner (not necessarily of The Good Guy).

Science Fiction is about heroic action in the Highest Stakes Games -- life or death, the survival of an entire species, -- using weapons such as star-killers or planet busters -- or simply about solving problems by disrupting the assumptions of the adversary with something like a new scientific discovery.

One historic example is the use of the Atomic Bomb to end World War II.  That was an Overton Window Event.  It was done at enormous risk.  The horror of it could have caused the world to destroy the United States.  Or the bombs might not have actually exploded as planned.  The plane carrying them might have crashed at sea (lots of planes crashed at sea in those days; planes weren't as dependable as they are now.)

Writing engrossing fiction requires making the Character's attitude toward The Stakes and the Risk (both upside and downside Risk -- sometimes a Win is a Pyrrhic Victory) very clear to the reader.

That does not mean spelling out in excruciating detail all the Character's thoughts during this Calculation of Risk.

Good writing is all about Show Don't Tell.  Make the reader figure out what the Character is thinking, and the Reader will easily believe it and become engrossed.  So the Character's calculation about Risk is shown-not-told to the Reader by Symbolism.

The Symbolism chosen by the writer is derived from the Theme and the Reader derives the panorama of the world behind the story from the Symbol chosen.

Thus an heirloom Ruby necklace might be the symbol of a Throne at Risk, or a Heritage to be discovered (such as finding an ancestor who died at Treblinka.

In the case of a Political Campaign, or Lovers working on different campaigns, a slogan placard might be the Symbol of The Stakes.  Or it might be a YouTube video depicting what will happen to Earth if this or that Candidate does not win.  Are You Willing To Risk This?  Scare-tactics, it is usually called.  Fear mongering is used because it works.

Then of course there is the temptation of manufacture evidence to "prove" that fear of this, or risk of that is "real."  That can "thicken" a plot, especially where the rivals are on different political sides.

The thematic choices for political science fiction might include:

1) Government exists for the purpose of keeping everyone inside its borders safe.  Life should be lived without risk. (see above mentioned TSA articles)

2) Government exists for the purpose of keeping everyone inside its borders well informed of  risks.  Life should be lived for the sake of personally choosen risks and accepting consequences of one's own choices.

The Stakes are Life -- a lifetime, or at least decades, of predictability or unpredictability.

Science Fiction adventure heroes usually choose to take Risks, as do Fantasy Heroes.  Consider Bilbo Baggins.

Adventure means living on the edge, calculating risk and plunging toward a goal, like Captain Kirk in ST:ToS.

For one theme, the Worthwhile Goal is Safety -- what makes the goal worthwhile is the achievement of a NO RISK situation.

For the other theme, the Worthwhile Goal is Moving the Overton Window, creating the Black Swan Event, the event that changes the way everyone thinks about everything.  What makes that goal Worthwhile is the Risk Itself -- the idea that everything depends on you, yourself, all by yourself, and if you fail you have nobody to blame but yourself.

There is one school that believes that Life=Change.  That is, if you take no risks, you are not alive.  Or put another way, Life can not be lived without risk, and pain and suffering are just part of the process of change.

There is another school that believes that a risk free life is a human right.  Safety is the only worthwhile goal.

These two basic views each form the basis of political definitions of The Stakes in an election.

Exploration of Space or another Dimension would be taking a risk, and The Stakes would be human survival, just as in the Kidnap-Rape scenario it is the survival of an individual.

Calculate whether action or inaction has the lesser Risk.  Then choose.  One school chooses the greater Risk because of the greater reward; the other school chooses the lesser Risk because "A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush."

You see these two attitudes toward Life in child rearing (to let Johnny go swimming or not), in Investing (get out of the Market because it's going to crash), in starting a business (to buy a Franchise or go Indie), or schooling (drop out of college to start Microsoft in a garage), or deciding whether to hold the Olympics in a Zika infested country.

What risks are you willing to take for The Stakes of Happily Ever After?

When you choose The Stakes your protagonists are playing for, be sure the Stakes symbolize your thematic statement about the place of Risk Taking in your reader's world.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg