Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Theme-Marketing Integration Part 1, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Theme-Marketing Integration

Part 1
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Today, we'll examine why Star Wars: The Force Awakens was such a runaway box office success, even as Twitter and blogs filled up with anguished criticism. Facebook, likewise, overflowed with malaise and ennui, disappointment and boredom.

The film was a runaway HIT with some people, and a complete failure with others.

You've seen that with Star Trek "reboots" as well, and even felt it.

You love a film, and walk out of the theater giddy with inspiration, say something on Twitter and get flooded with negative comments.

Why this division of opinion?

Why so many see the film again and again, even if it is boring?

It is possible the answer to that question lies in Theme-Marketing Integration - a topic we have not discussed in detail, though we've explored Theme and Marketing.

If you think about it, Theme-Marketing Integration techniques are also being applied to the Presidential Election race, and the division in the audience runs similarly -- vehement opposition countered by enraptured worship.

So let's see if we can figure out why Star Wars: The Force Awakens is so popular and so disappointing at the same time.  What happened? What did "they" do ( well, J. J. Abrams who is also an architect behind Star Trek reboot).  Once you understand what they did and why, you can decide for yourself whether you want to do that with your own Science Fiction Romance.

Yes, Star Wars has all the ingredients of Science Fiction Romance, but does not exploit them for plot or story purposes.  The reason for that may become clear as we examine Theme-Marketing Integration.

This new series, theme-marketing integration, is a spinoff from Marketing Fiction In A Changing World.


The world changes, is changing, will change.  Nothing in fiction is set in stone -- including Stone Age Drawings.

Cave Painters aimed their art at their current audience (not at us), and depicted what they knew, what they wanted others to remember, and what they needed their children to know.  Cave Paintings have theme.


Short, pithy article noting this may be a depiction of a volcanic eruption, prevalent at that time. That is a theme - hunting is dangerous.

Consider, Cave Painters and shamans of the time didn't live very long, and "lore" got lost as parents died before children reached adolescence.

Those Cave Painters may be the beginnings of the Scientific Revolution we live with today -- because their Art transmitted Information to those who were infants at the time it was painted, or perhaps not even born.

In other words, as the old saying goes, we stand on the shoulders of giants.  This is true in novel writing and all artforms.

It is because of the knowledge and understanding gained by our ancestors that we have the easy life we have today -- and the hard life.  It is because of the records they left us and our effort to comprehend and build on that record that we have this modern world.

Today, our art is more ephemeral, preserved mostly just as electrons, perhaps illegible to future devices.  But we are depicting the pithy essence of our world and the life we live now.

Here is the Index to the series on Depicting:


The foundation for understanding Marketing is the understanding of "Demographics" -- separating and classifying people by age, gender, income level, education, native language, and then "targeting" something members of each group have in common with other members of their group.

Obviously, everyone is a member of all those groups, and when you assemble all the groups you are a member of, you find you are unique and don't march to the same drummer that others do.

However, sales statistics do reveal commonality.

Statistics only work in one direction -- predicting behavior of large groups of people.  There is no way to use statistics to predict the behavior of any specific individual, so therefore, to marketers individuals do not matter.

Grasp that firmly and never let go.

OK, given that Marketing is about hitting the largest number of a particular group or Group of Groups, with something they all want, lets look at one clue that we've discussed previously about how to understand why certain movies or books become popular.

Here's the previous post where we discussed Pluto and Plotting:


Here is a quote from way down that long post:

Pluto takes 250 years to circle the sun, but it's in each sign (or 30 degree swatch of the zodiac) for different lengths of time.

Remember to add say 15-20 years to see when these folks would have an impact on amusement markets because they have disposable income.

PLUTO IN LEO 1939 - 1957 (Became The Flower Children of 1960's and '70's)

PLUTO IN VIRGO generation 1958 - 1972 (Gen X)

PLUTO IN LIBRA generation (assimilating out of justice?) Late 1971 - 1984 (Gen Y? sort of)

PLUTO IN SCORPIO generation 1985-1995 or so (video game generation?)

PLUTO IN SAGITTARIUS generation 1995-2008


The popular press uses the 20 year swatch for a "generation" usually, or a demographic bulge of kids all born within 10 years to define a "generation." But think about the list above and see if it doesn't make better sense than the popular press definitions.
---------end quote----------

This Pluto cycle is the best explanation for the Generation Gap effect in taste that I've ever come across.

Pluto, in Astrology, can be understood as the Power that drives action. Other elements in a Natal Chart or transits will define goals, strategy, tactics, wishes, needs, ideals, drives and ambitions, but once all those elements carve out a path of action, Pluto is the source of power.

Mars triggers or starts action, Pluto finishes it.

So, as a writer always thinking Character and Story, I think of Pluto as "at all costs."  What will a character do to achieve a given goal (that's the plot, driving toward a goal), at all costs?  What is a Character willing to pay, to give up, to attain this specific goal at all costs?  The implacable, ruthless drive toward a goal is the signature of Pluto in action.

When targeting an age-demographic, a marketer looks (usually unconsciously) at the "at all costs" mechanism driving that age-group.

So look again at the Generational Positions of Pluto -- and remember, any given individual may have other planets, signs, aspects, that divert Pluto's energy in their life into something totally different than their age-mates, and Marketers just don't care about those individuals.

Remember, 20 years after birth, a generation makes its first mark on the world -- today, it may be more like 18, the voting age.

PLUTO IN LEO 1939 - 1957 (Became The Flower Children of 1960's and '70's) The flower children were all about "doing your own thing" at all costs. Drop out, at all costs. Pluto is related to sexuality, and Leo is The King (sovereign), so free choice in sexual practices as a big generational theme (and still is).  Pluto in Leo is personal sovereignty at all costs.

PLUTO IN VIRGO generation 1958 - 1972 (Gen X), Yuppies, materialism, white win, discrimination in food, and car and clothing brands. Virgo is the neat housekeeper who sees their house as messy.  All white apartments furnished in chrome and glass. So this generation wanted a NEAT WORLD at all costs.

PLUTO IN LIBRA generation (assimilating out of justice?) Late 1971 - 1984 (Gen Y? sort of)  Libra is the picky eater, and the conflict avoider. Balance, harmony, justice at all costs.  Peace at all costs -- so avoid getting the USA embroiled in another war at all costs, even surrender.

PLUTO IN SCORPIO generation 1985-1995 or so (video game generation?)  Scorpio is the Natural 8th House, connecting Sex for its own sake (not for love or Romance) and Death, Revolution, Change.  Pluto rules Scorpio, and thus when transiting Scorpio as this generation was born (who are now 20 years old from 2005 to 2015), Pluto was at the height of its power to affect Natal Charts and the world.  Thus we have a new-adult generation willing to die for Revolution - to CHANGE THE WORLD.

This Pluto in Scorpio generation has produced a determined generation. Each person, and sub-group of people, is determined to do something different from the others -- but they are all implacably determined to do whatever they'd chosen to do.

Thus we have young people organizing college campuses to impose political correctness, and the same generation equally determined to oppose that same political correctness.

The Pluto in Scorpio natal position also explains why a scattering of Americans and people all over the world, male and female, are susceptible to recruiting by Isil or Daesh - or any other totalitarian movement.  Pluto in Scorpio is totalitarian at all costs.  Or free at all costs.

PLUTO IN SAGITTARIUS generation 1995-2008 -- comes of age in from about 2015 through 2028.  Since the key attribute of Sagittarius is honesty, even brutal or tone-deaf honesty, we can expect "honesty at all costs."  Remember, truth is not the same thing as honesty.  Honesty does not distinguish between emotion or intellect. Jupiter is about International Treaties, all kinds of Legality, growth, inclusion, benevolence.  Small wonder the welcome matt is out for refugees no matter how mixed with invading soldiers the refugees may be.  Remember, Pluto is about "at all costs" and Sagittarius is about growth and honesty. Sagittarius is the Natural 9th House, foreign lands, International Law.  Welcome at all costs.

PLUTO IN CAPRICORN (now - 2023). These people will come of age in 2035 onwards. Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, which represents Rules, Law, Government, and the organized part of Organized Religion. Saturn is all about discipline, strict record keeping.  These people will want predictable security and privacy "at all costs" -- so perhaps they will finally do away with hacking.

The signature element of the Pluto Natal Position is not the target chosen, but the "at all costs" attitude.

The current 20-something generation is so susceptible to Daesh because Daesh also advocates chaos as the precondition for the End of Days being summoned.  Chaos per se appeals to that young generation because it is an extreme cost that fulfills the "at all costs" attitude fueling movement toward a goal, in this case the goal of revolution.  "At All Costs" is Pluto, and Scorpio is about change, (death being only one example of a change), and thus revolution.

Remember, the goal itself does not matter -- it is not encoded into the position of Pluto.  The only information Pluto encodes is the degree of determination, that easily escalates to implacable ruthlessness.  That attitude, running full bore and ungoverned by common sense, is fulfilled in acts of rape and murder.

When well leashed by life-long discipline, Pluto's implacable determination to achieve a goal can reshape the world for the better.

The choice of destruction or construction is entirely individual.  Nothing can compel a person toward construction or destruction -- it is a freewill choice.

Now mark this point because you will find it in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Construction vs. Destruction.  It is important to understand the "at all costs" element and the tactic of "construction or destruction."

Think back over how we have investigated the ways to account for personal taste in art.



With a film like Star Wars: The Force Awakens we are talking about the Marketers nailing the "taste" in entertainment of several generations.

As George Lucas planned, the main actors reprised the roles they played in their youth once again in their elder years.

Thus, though George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney, Disney nevertheless did fulfill the promise of the original project and brought us the future lives of the main characters, played plausibly by the same actors.

It was an epic plan, and well accomplished.

A lot of people complained that Carrie Fisher looked her age, 59, at the time of Star Wars: The Force Awakens being released.  Carrie Frances Fisher was born October 21, 1956.  Star Wars original Trilogy (1977–1983) was done when she was 21 to 32 years old.

The youngest part of the audience Disney aimed The Force Awakens at are a new generation - a generation born around the year 2000.  People born in 1995 (a baby-boomlet year) are 20 year olds.  The original audience for the first film is now in their 60's and 70's.

So the youngest part of the current film's audience is dedicated to change-at-all-costs.  The eldest, with Pluto in Leo, personal sovereignty-at-all-costs.

The favorite theme of the elders was revolt against tyranny, and how the individual can be the Hero on his own personal Journey.  The first Star Wars trilogy was structured on the Hero's Journey, which at its core has the assumption, a thematic assumption, that Life Matters.

Whatever you do in your life, it makes a difference. Free will choices (Leo, the King, the Sovereign) make a difference. You can (and must with Pluto in Leo) win.

But that world of can-and-must-win and free will choice makes a difference is not the real world the current 18-35 year olds live in.

They have come of age in a world where "you didn't build that" and "you can't succeed without government help" and "the system is broken" and "you can go to college, yes, but you will then be in debt the rest of your life."  A college degree might get you a minimum wage job, maybe.

In other words, they live in a world where life is futile.

To get that younger viewer to suspend disbelief and enter a galaxy far-far away, Disney changed the theme of the original Star Wars trilogy for a new theme aimed at the younger viewers.

To get anyone to suspend disbelief, a writer has to provide something in the world that is being built that the audience recognizes as real.

Since this series is about interstellar war, it is all about winning and losing -- or not.

The older generation would believe that the Good Guys would vanquish the Bad Guys -- that Good Always Wins.  If that premise were depicted, everything else would be believable and enjoyable.

The younger generation needed to see Revolution, Pluto style, destruction, especially by explosion.

And Disney went for the explosion-spectacle the younger generation wanted, Revolution By Explosion.  Given the state-of-the-art of digital film today, the result was something orders of magnitude more impressive than the original Trilogy.

Thematically, the Good Guys Win Sovereignty At All Costs, the Hero's Journey, is replaced with a clear vision of a core theme of "Life Is Futile" -- there is no personal sovereignty, and no decision matters.

Where do we see that?  Princess Leia is still fighting the same war, albeit as a general now.  Hans Solo is still scavenging.  Luke Skywalker is a failure, off on the periphery somewhere, and does not count.  Nothing he did mattered.  The Galaxy is still in the same state it was before -- tyrany reigns.

The theme is The Hero's Journey is Futile.

So a good chunk of the elder audience found this new film boring, dull, slow, pointless, and disappointing if not laughable.  They pointed at the "lame" dialogue sandwiched between action scenes with scathing comments.

And a major chunk of the in-between and younger audience loved it  for the explosions, destruction, the spectacle, the state-of-the-art visuals, and the reprise of the original trilogy's situation.  They liked the fact that nothing had changed.

The ending, with the young girl with a Lightsaber going off into the wild blue yonder seemed pasted on.  Obviously, it is meant to hint and foreshadow future films centered on her efforts to do what the previous generation failed to do - oust the bad guys.  But it does not grow organically out of the portrait of her when we first see her - scavenging for a mob-boss.

She is not driven, she does not have a goal, she is not  actively establishing personal sovereignty.  She is just existing, with no expectation of getting out of that situation.  She accepts the futility of life.

In the end, she's off with Chewy to seek her fortunes in far places, but there is no plan, no strategy, no tactic, no ambition or expectation of succeeding heroically.  She is free, but she can't see any reason to be free.  Freedom is futile.  It is just a reprise of Skywalker's emergence from his desert.

During the film, nobody builds anything, invents anything (the signature element of science fiction is SCIENCE, where discoveries and inventions are created to solve life-problems), nobody makes a better Light Saber, nobody  creates anything.

During the film, explosions, destruction, and futility are pictured and  mirrored -- the symbolism is world class art, but it symbolizes the futility of building,  not the Happily Ever After.

So the theme of Star Wars has changed from Life Matters to Life Is Futile.

When you change the theme, you change the target audience.

The same thing was done to Ursula LeGuinn's Earthsea Trilogy when it was made as a TV Feature.

It is what is always done to books made in to films -- because the target audience of the marketers of films is different from the target audience of  novelists.

That difference exists because of the difference in cost of making a film vs. making a book.

That gap in cost is shrinking.  The people born with Pluto in Capricorn may live to see video-processors as easy to work as word processors.

For now, though, the box-office success and failure of Star Wars: The Force Awakens should be studied.

For now, Life is Futile and Love Is Impotent are the dominant themes.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 01, 2016

EMF 24/7

Can one prove something that one does not want to prove?  Of course, but there will be a bias, and the bias may skew the results. Moreover, those reading the studies may read them with bias.

No one wants to prove that cellphones cause diabetes, brain cancer, dementia, pathological anxiety,
lowered IQ, childhood cancer, erectile dysfunction, reproductive problems, ringing in the ears, insomnia, migraines.....etc etc. But, what if they do?

In 2011 a working group appointed by the World Health Organization classified cellphone use as "possibly carcinogenic to humans".


Four prestigious American organizations concluded that there was not enough evidence/strong enough evidence/conclusive evidence/definitive evidence/replicable evidence. So, they will study the possibility for the next 20-to-30 years.

Meanwhile, a Chinese group of scientists did duplicate the Swedish studies.... and no one is talking about it.  https://betweenrockandhardplace.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/cell-phones-and-blood-brain-barrier-chinese-scientists-confirm-findings-of-swedish-salford-group/

During World War II, governments gave cigarettes to soldiers. Presumably, smoking the cigarettes wasn't compulsory, but even for non-smokers, there was no way to avoid second-hand smoke so they might as well have been compulsory.  Now, we have cellphones, and even dinosaurs who refuse to use cellphones cannot avoid the EMF of other people's cellphones.


What will humanity look like in thirty years' time after we have been "whole-body irradiated by man-made electromagnetic fields for the entirity of our lives"? Already some individuals are more sensitive than others. And perhaps children are most at risk.


Science fiction is full of dystopian worlds... and mostly-heroic mutants. Maybe EMF 24/7 is as good a way to explain the backstory as anything else.

And now for something completely... outrageous.

Seen on a blog that is well worth following

In a nutshell, it is probably a conflict of interest for a hosting site that makes money from copyright infringement to encourage alleged copyright infringers to file DMCA counternotices. When a counternotice is filed, the copyright infringing content goes back up, and stays back up, unless or until the copyright owner finds the financial wherewithal to commence a federal lawsuit.  Most copyright owners simply cannot afford to do that. The result is that their pirated works remain permanently available for the financial benefit of the site and the pirate, and the copyright owner gets nothing.

Here's a link from the recent World IP Day with an interview with Authors Guild President, Mary Rasenberger. http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2016/04/26/balanced-ip-system-content-creators/id=68646/

Happy reading. And writing!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Value of Boredom

A recent scientific study agrees with Neil Gaiman that boredom stimulates creativity:

Boredom, the Ultimate Creativity Hack

As Gaiman puts it, "boredom is the place you create from in self-defense." Instead of filling every minute with "productive" activity, such as scanning through phone messages while waiting in lines, we should embrace waiting times as a chance to "do nothing." The brain isn't literally doing nothing, though; those "empty" snippets of time can foster daydreaming, which leads to enhanced creativity.

Reminds me of those summer vacation days (in the childhood of our generation) when a mother would shove kids outside and order them to find something to do (with the spoken or unspoken corollary, "or I'll find something for you to do"). We usually came up with an activity to engage our imaginations, even if it was only playing school with our oldest sister as the teacher passing on what she'd learned in the previous term.

When we set aside electronic distractions and let our thoughts wander during down time, the mind "can take you into new and interesting territory." Okay, I can accept that premise. This article, though, focuses on high-tech means of filling every minute with activity. What about people like me, who carry books (in my case, usually "tree" books) everywhere? I don't read in store lines, of course, except maybe the magazine I've put in my cart to buy, but I'm always reading books in waiting rooms, etc. Sitting there doing "nothing" would lead to more impatience and anxiety than productive daydreaming. I wouldn't go anywhere without a book on hand, including in cars while other people are driving. I'm sure many if not most avid readers follow the same practice. How does that habit fit in with the recommendations of this article?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Part 11 Why is it wrong to blame the victim?

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 11
 Why is it wrong to blame the victim?
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Index to previous 10 posts in this series:

How do you know when a "world" depicted in a novel you are reading is advocating "blaming the victim?"

It makes your skin crawl? It makes your mouth purse up in distaste?
 What reaction do you have to a "world" (an alien civilization, a bit of humanity trying to colonize some hostile world, Ancient History on Earth, Alternate Reality) where the law, customs, unconscious assumptions, and traditions are built around the idea that blame rests with the victim?

How do you know when you've built such a provision into some Alien Civilization you are creating to house your Romance?

We live in a world that still does "blame the victim" but about half the people vigorously oppose any hint of blaming the victim.

Hence we have political furor over things like Illegal Immigrant kids dragged here by their parents (who may or may not have been legitimate refugees, or honest folks seeking work to survive) now grown and really Americans, some of the best among us, but denied citizenship. Are they "victims?"  Do we blame kids for what their parents did?

What about the kids of people planning to put a suicide vest on the kid and send him into a crowd to detonate?  Why would a parent EVER do that?  (Character motivation in that question is thematic.)

And in a High Drama (Pluto driven) case like that, which one is the "victim?"  The child?  The parent who was "brainwashed" or inducted into some Cult that "believes in" suicide?  The people in the crowd who were killed or traumatized?

How do you look at a complex situation -- with a "backstory" embedded in it -- and decide which Character is the victim and which is the instigator?

Whose story is it?

Do Victims make good Hero material for a writer?

All Main Characters, Viewpoint Characters, have to be the individual whose decisions are causing things to happen in their world.  The Events don't have to be world shaking, but they have to have 'consequences' because consequences create the plot.

Remember, plot is the "because line" -- Hero does this - which causes that, because that happened, Adversary does that, which causes this, because this happened, Hero must do something, because of that something, other things happen.  Because -- Because is the glue that connects scenes in a logical sequence all readers can understand.

All novels are Rube Goldberg devices, just like our real world.

If you don't think so, just spend 15 minutes watching Presidential Politics, and think again.

The typical TV Series or feature film is much more simplified, just as a comic or graphic novel is simplified.  That's why TV or comics seem so "thin" or ludicrous or childish.  It is the same material you'd find in a whopping good Romance, but edited down, simplified, squashed into less space.

Real life is a Rube Goldberg device -- a super-complicated way of doing super-simple things.

Complication makes it difficult to look at a real situation and determine which actor is the instigator and which the victim.

There are certain scenarios where we make instant assumptions about which is the Underdog, which is the Good Guy, which is the Victim.

Remember last week's post on Theme-Plot Integration titled Affairs of State (discussing Star Wars: The Force Awakens) discussed Blaming the Victim, and whether Rey is Hero material.  We touched on the depiction of Good and Evil, and how Evil always wins while Good can only "contain" Evil.

Can a Victim become a Hero?

If a Victim becomes a Hero, do they carry the Blame with them?

These are thematic issues, and no two writers will answer those questions the same way.  A usable novel theme will be an answer, not the answer, and the Main Character(s) will have to choose one of several answers the writer "plants" in the plot Events.

When building a World, a writer has to build more than one Character.  Usually, whether depicted or not, the entire World is a shadowy presence behind and around the Characters.

Much of a Character's motivation comes from the unconscious assumptions his/her upbringing has inculcated.  Much of the process of "maturing" (going from Victim which every Child is, to Hero which every Adult is), is about Guilt becoming Responsibility.

Consider what you know of the psychology of the abused child.  Even a child who is not abused experiences the feeling of being abused.  Not being master of your own destiny, not having any way to assert your own decisions and make your world behave the way you want it to behave, puts you in the position of "Victim."

There's a more abstract, maybe spiritual, way of describing that position represented by Childhood.  You can call it being on the negative pole of the transaction.

In the math of Electricity, Fluid Dynamics, even Newtonian Mechanics, processes go from Here to There -- the world and the universe have a 'direction.'  The point where a process originates is called the Positive Pole and the destination where the process completes is called the Negative Pole.

This is a model which is so generalized that a writer can apply it to modeling any World -- Alien, Human, Historical, Dead Galactic Civilization.

For practice, just look around at the real world. Identify processes, and identify the poles.

Remember in Star Trek, how Scotty would struggle with a problem, then declare, "Reversing Polarity!" and bam, the problem is solved.

You can apply this model of Polarities to all novel plots, to magical processes, to the power politics of Ancient Aristocracy and to modern democracies.

"Power" -- like Electrical or Mechanical -- is static, building and building or slowly leaching away.  Or it is dynamic, flowing from one point to another point.

Political Power does that.  Social Power, Wealth, Prestige, any kind of abstract human-created Power behaves like that -- positive pole to negative pole.

There is the saying, "It is more Blessed to Give than to Recieve."  Which says it is better to be on the Positive Pole than the Negative Pole.

Frankly, personally, I don't believe that and discussed that issue in a previous entry:


You can take any answer to the question of whether Giving or Receiving is 'better' and craft a theme out of that answer, then build a world where that answer is a reliable touchstone for deciding what to do in various circumstances.

When you build a world around a particular theme, you do need to create a "society" or more than one, that your Hero and Villain, or Protagonist and Antagonist, belong to.

This means you have to deal with issues of how Groups form, arise to dominance, and dissipate, in that World.

For example, in our world today, we assign each individual to be a member of a "Group" of some sort -- Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Generation, Child, Adult, Teen, Illegal Immigrant, Refugee, Invader, Educated, Rich, Poor, Middle Class (BTW always remember the USA does not have "Classes" as part of the social structure, so if you write about them you must explain in detail).

We all know that any given individual we meet must be a member of several such Groups.  For example: Black Female South African Rich Widow.

We often "Characterize" our Protagonist via the Groups he/she is a member of.  "Brilliant Street Orphan Pickpocket."  "Lazy Teen Party Girl."

We profile characters that way because real people in real life sort out everyone they know or see into categories like that.

That method of dealing with overwhelming heaps of data in complex arrays (e.g. the general public) is built into the analog functions of the human brain.  It is a shortcut that works (or used to, most of the time).  We classify the beasts of our jungle as predator and prey, so we know when to run and when to grab lunch.

Two of the categories pre-loaded into the human brain at birth are Predator and Prey -- or Victimizer and Victim -- or in general, Positive Pole to Negative Pole.

All human infants are born helpless.  And we scream a lot.

There is nothing more immediate, irritating, crazy-making to the adult human ear than the squall of a baby.  There are no words to that scream, but we know what it says.  We know what it feels like to need to make that sound.  Nobody remembers being that newborn, but our nerves still know.

It doesn't matter whether the infant is your own or not, you will try to make that cry stop.

Different people in different circumstances will do different things to cause the screaming baby to shut up.  But all will TRY.

We all have read the stories of new mothers beating their infant to death, smothering with a pillow, drugging them, throwing a newborn into the trash bin, drowning, -- there's no limit to human imagination. And reading those stories, we all wonder how anyone could do that.

Even if it is not your own baby, you wouldn't DO that - just not.

It is, however, well documented that sometimes a woman who has just given birth is "depressed" or otherwise in hormonal hell severe enough to attack the apparent source of the misery.  (or neglect the infant to death)

Think about your Alien Hunk that your Human has fallen in love with. Would an Alien comprehend this human behavior?  What would you write to explain it to him?

The Polarity model might be able to get the point across.

With an Adult vs. Screaming Infant transaction, the Power is all on the Adult side, right?  The Infant is on the negative pole of any transaction.

Is that how you see it?

Think hard.

When an Adult responds to an Infant Cry, who is 'calling the shots?'

Which side of that transaction is "in control."

Who is playing the tune that is being danced to?

All those quick questions are based on an assumption. Can you spot the assumption?

The assumption is rooted in the either/or model of Reality that we've discussed at great length in many posts here.

I just "gave you" two choices and told you to choose just one.

That zero-sum-game model of reality is the fundamental basis of what we call today Western Civilization.  It is not the only model of reality ever espoused on Earth by humans.  The Kabbalistic model of reality is totally different.  Zen, and many other philosophies don't use that either/or model.

Would your Aliens find the either/or model of reality "alien" to them?

So lets look at the Adult/Crying Infant transaction again.

The Polarity model of reality appears to describe the universe in an either/or zero-sum-game structure.  You are either on the Positive Pole (the Bully doing the acting) or the Negative Pole (the Victim being acted upon).

But the Polarity model allows for considerable "distance" between poles.  Energy flows from positive to negative, and a lot can happen in between.

And then there's Scotty reversing polarities.

In the case of the Screaming Infant, which "pole" the infant is on can be chosen by the Adult.  (what if your Alien Infant did the choosing, for example telepathically?)

The Adult can look at the Infant as a responsibility, and simply fulfill that responsibility with dispatch.

Or the Adult can allow the screaming sound to activate the unremembered "Helpless" condition of infancy, and FEEL that sound as an attack, feel victimized, put-upon, feel punished by that sound.  The response to being attacked is to counter-attack, or run, or destroy.

The objective of the victim is to get away, to MAKE IT STOP, or curl up and protect one's soft inner parts.

The Adult can respond to the infant's needs, and thus remain on the Positive Pole of the transaction.

Or the Adult can respond to the sound not the infant, to the irritation rather than to the needs of the other person, and thus adopt the position of Victim.

Whether you are a Victim or not depends on your Self Image more than on the Situation.

How prone you are to feeling Victimized when something awakens that unremembered position of Infancy depends on how strong and solid the transition from childhood to adulthood was.

It may also depend on individualistic personal traits, and on experiences in between.

So why is it "wrong" to "blame" the Victim?

If adult humans have a choice in any situation (even when being beaten, bullied, abused, brainwashed, etc) whether to adopt the Infancy position of being the Victim, why is it wrong to blame a person for adopting the position of Victim?

What would the world be like if there were no Adult Victims?  What if every recipient, every person on the Negative Pole of any transaction knew how to be the Negative Pole without being a Victim?

An Infant apparently can do it.  Most Adults will respond to an Infant's scream by feeding, cleaning, coddling, swinging, burping, caring gently for the Infant -- on the schedule the Infant chooses.

How many parents actually feel victimized by their infants?

Thus we live in a world of "alternating current" - where the one on the Positive Pole of a transaction is on the Negative then the Positive alternating until the transaction is complete.

We are "in conversation with" the Universe, with underlying Reality, back and forth.

Using the "wheels within wheels" model of the universe where the infinitely small is identical with the infinitely large, or where everything is composed of smaller particles, and those small particles are composed of even smaller ones etc., we can see that when building a world, a writer has to include this concept of every small thing belonging to a Group that composes a larger Group and so forth.

This is true of physical reality, and it is mirrored in social reality.

Thus every unique individual human belongs to Groups, usually many Groups.  And these Groups interact with one another along the Positive/Negative Pole axis, just as individuals do.

Groups interact with each other on the alternating current model, first one is Positive then the other is Positive.

Consider the Situation in the world today where children in school are "handled" as a Group by a Teacher (backed by ultimate Power in the school Administration).  If one of the students misbehaves, the entire class is punished -- even though few of them have any option for preventing the wild student from misbehaving.

We teach children to "blame the Group" for the behavior of an individual member of the Group.

Thus our Adults are conditioned to the idea that justice means "punish the innocent" to alter the behavior of the miscreant.

Therefore when an Adult becomes a voter and has to weigh in on public policy, the well-conditioned former-student will consider policies like "screening" all citizens to control the behavior of a few miscreants (who won't be deterred) justified.

So we spawn Groups like the TSA.  "All Air Passengers" are a Group.  A few might be miscreants.  The Group will not object when the entire Group is delayed, hassled, searched, stolen-from (yes, the TSA steals stuff, I've had it happen), and variously victimized by the Bully-Personalities that gravitate to such jobs.

Will this Group Punishment be any more effective than punishing a whole classroom full of students with extra homework because of one who speaks out of turn?

Do "All Air Passengers" have the power to prevent One Of The Group from carrying a dangerous object onto the plane? Or from using such an object?  Like a classroom full of children, they are all strangers to each other and have no power over each other.

Take cyber-security as another example. Some miscreant in another country perpetrates a crime against the Group Users Of Cyberspace.  All Users of Cyberspace are forthwith punished by having Legislators make a law forbidding members of the Group Users of Cyberspace from defending themselves with effective encryption technology.  Nobody objects to such bizarre practice because of that old classroom conditioning that the innocent are responsible for the behavior of the guilty.

THEME: Punishing the innocent will prevent the guilty from misbehaving again.

With children conditioned in the classroom to believe that justice and their own well being resides in punishing the whole class, it is no wonder that the Adults they grow into "feel safe" when all the passengers on a plane have been frisked, or all the audience at a concert have been searched.

One must, above all "feel safe."  It does not matter if you are safe. It only matters that you feel safe.  Face it, the action of instituting "screening" hoards of the innocent to prevent those bent on destruction from perpetrating destruction is ineffectual.

But as the twig is bent, so grows the tree. If whole classrooms are punished to get at the one guilty party, all members of that class have their emotional responses to future situations engraved on their subconscious minds. When a miscreant surfaces among a Group, the only solution that comes to mind is screen the entire Group.  We know nothing else because all the other solutions have been blocked from consciousness.

It is a little like learning a language natively. Each human language has a set of phonemes that carry meaning.  Learning the language natively means learning to block out of consciousness the tiny differences.  Those differences cause "accents."

For example, the words, Pin, Pen, and Pan are pronounced with very distinctive differences in some American English dialects, and absolutely the same in others.  Mary, Marry and Merry likewise sound different to some, and the same to others.

Solutions to basic problems work exactly the same way.

How you learn to solve problems gives you a problem-solving accent.  There is literally a set of thoughts that are as "unthinkable" as the "un-hearable" differences between those words.

To some people, the infant's scream opens the heart and looses a flood of love, caring, gentle kindness, and a need to soothe.  That's a problem solving technique - the problem is that the sound is unbearable and the solution is Love.

To other people, the infant's scream is an unbearable irritant that must be stopped at all costs, no matter what.  The problem solving technique is to focus on the urgency of stopping the irritation, rather than solving the infant's problem.

Just in an aside, here, I have to point out that up to about 3 months of age, an infant's hysteria can be soothed away by swaddling.  It works best with human hands. The technique is to wrap the infant's flailing arms in one hand, ans support the butt in the other, and rock back and forth.  This sends a counter-message of "safety" to the infant's brain, and works until the brain development gets to the point where other positions will work better.

This is also true for dogs. They now sell a kind of snug vest that will help an animal calm down during a lightening storm.

How you solve problems largely depends on your own self-image, your self-esteem.  A person who has high self-esteem but is also humble will spend most of the time during a problem solving session on the Positive Pole of the transaction.  A person who has low self-esteem and is prideful will spend most of the time on the Negative Pole of the transaction.

No given individual lacks Prideful moments, and even those of lowest self-esteem have magnificent moments of humility (where humility is defined as a ruthlessly accurate assessment of your own potential.)

Thus when you create an Alien Character, and confront the "What Does She See In Him?" question, and the "What Does He See In Her?" question,


...the answer is "it depends" -- because to be realistic, a Character has to oscillate between these polar opposites, just as real humans do.

All kinds of people (except maybe sociopaths?) will alternate rapidly from Positive to Negative -- giving and receiving -- spending most time around the middle, or slightly to one side or the other of the middle.  

Notice I keep saying receiving -- not "taking" but "accepting."  The Negative Pole is "accepting."  Trouble happens (e.g. victim-hood) when the Negative Pole of the transaction lacks selectivity about what to accept and what to reject.

If the problem is, "Find the Miscreant In This Group," these two problem-solving "accents" will go about it differently, just as they do when solving the problem of the irritating infant scream.

One type will insistently search for a way to separate the Miscreant without disturbing any member of the Group.

Another type will "default" to the routine problem solving method that his teachers "modeled" for him.

Both types will alternate behavior.

Just to make matters worse, other factors will come into play, enhancing or inhibiting problem solving until the two "types" are indistinguishable.

As a romance writer, you look for ways for Love to Conquer All, and a path to the Happily Ever After, no matter how incompatible the two types of problem solving may be.

This over-simplified description of human problem solving can be used to develop an Alien world and an Alien culture that is both recognizable to your human readers, and very Alien.

The trick is to observe Human Civilization from an Alien point of view.  Now have your human Character explain human behavior to your Alien.  None of that will go into the novel you write, but it will establish the Characters in your mind so that they will behave consistently during the story.

So, for example, your Alien asks, "Why is it wrong to blame the victim when it is impossible to tell which person is the actual victim?"

So you explain it, and the Alien asks, "So why do you punish the whole Group for the behavior of one miscreant?"

And you sputter, "But - but we don't!"

Explain that to an Alien from a species whose infants don't cry.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, April 25, 2016

Tuesday Is Intellectual Property Day

Tomorrow is Intellectual Property day.  

Creators, authors fill out your book titles and your name on this list

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Perils Of Being A Pantser

This week, a reader contacted me through my website (I have a new mail server, and not a lot gets through, but what does is all quality stuff) to ask when I will ever publish the story of Devoron and Demetra.

I painted myself into a bit of a corner at the end of Knight's Fork--that's one peril of being a pantser--by having an uncharacteristically pleasant Devoron announce that he had "found her". How complicated can his story now be? I've seriously cramped the timeline for wooing and winning the lady.

Devoron has always been an intersteller Scarlet Pimpernel... minus the affectations and lace-covered wrist. Therefore, I've been following rather different survival blogs from the ones I followed for J-J's marooned-on-an-island story. For Insufficient Mating Material, the enemy of the moment was hunger, thirst, lack of shelter, and deadly horny berries. (That was not a typo.) Devoron draws more on conspiracy theorists and preppers, and he cannot rely on his own biology --as the squid-like King Viz-Igerd of Knight's Fork did-- to sneak about inconspicuously, because his biology has been established already.

That does not rule out relying somewhat on the shortcomings of humans. For instance, there are sounds that humans cannot hear, and colors that humans cannot see.

There are ways to defeat facial recognition, which mostly concerns the modern lack of privacy, and which might or might not be useful thought-starters for plausible aliens skulking around on earth looking for long-lost relatives. For instance, nowadays anyone with the right camera could take a picture of a total stranger, and from that photograph, could go online and find out a great deal of private information including the contact information for that person.  Scary! Very Bourne Identity.

Usual standbys for eluding detection, surveillance or pursuit (which we've seen in everything from Rom Coms such as Three Men And A Little Lady to Bond movies to takes on Sherlock Holmes, so this is nothing new) would include reversible clothing, reversible hats, balaclavas, versatile scarves or headbands, malleable eyeglasses (for societies where eye wear is necessary and customary) where the shape can be changed with a firm pinch, ear-plug-like inserts that can change the appearance of the nose or lips, realistic masks (and there are $400 Leo Selvaggio masks available for sale which allegedly can thwart Facebook's facial recognition technology --did you know Facebook was that creepy?). There's stuff called NIR LEDs, too.  Also, there's hair styling and make up which can create such asymmetry that a camera does not recognize a face.

Where are those "80 nodal points" that facial recognition technology rely upon?
See here: http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/high-tech-gadgets/facial-recognition1.htm

Apparently, only 30% or so of the face need be exposed for the technology to recognize you. The drawbacks with asymmetrical hairstyles and make up is that one tends to look like one is doing exactly what one is doing, and it would take a while to change the effect.  It would be helpful, I should think, to have cat-like hair follicles, that one could control individually and at will.

Some modern habits would seem particularly idiotic to an alien romance hero who wanted to keep a low profile: piercings, tattoos, carrying a GPS device (cell phone), carrying credit cards embedded with "chips".

My apologies for all the parentheses today. That's another peril of being a pantser!

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Latest Cyborg Leap Forward

Medical researchers at Ohio State University have invented a device called NeuroLife, which enables a quadriplegic to move his hand:

Brain Implant

One end of the device is implanted in his brain, with external cables that run down to his hand, bypassing the damaged spinal cord. NeuroLife transmits nerve impulses generated by algorithms based on recordings of activity in the motor cortex (if I understand the explanation correctly). The experimental subject has regained enough precision control of his hand muscles to pick up objects and even play video games. I wonder whether he can use a keyboard; the article doesn't say. That would really be a leap forward. (I know about speech-to-text programs, of course, and many people seem to love them; if I were paralyzed, though, I would have a lot of trouble "writing" by dictation and would wish for the ability to type.)

This technique took a decade of development, and the patient had to undergo months of training to get the full benefit. So it won't be an instant fix, even when it becomes publicly available (and the article doesn't mention when that might happen). Still, it's a wondrous achievement.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Theme-Plot Integration Part 16 - Affairs of State by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Plot Integration
Part 16
Affairs of State

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Index to previous posts in the Theme-Plot Integration Series:


Believe it or not, we live in a storybook, and sometimes the "real" news headlines actually reveal that great secret.

In these writing-craft posts I focus on "how" to do the various tasks of the writing craft.  Most books on or about how to write just tell you to do this or that.  I've never found that helpful, so I am showing not telling how the writer's mind looks, sees, interprets and then uses the elements of audience appeal to create fiction that can become a Classic in its field. One sort of Classic that Romance dances around is Cinderella - the unknown girl marrying a Prince.

What Cinderella does not cover is the Pygmalion aspect -- what does Cinderella do once she is Queen and her Prince has died?  What is the difference between a working stiff and a Head of State?  Is there any difference that matters?

Study World History.  Previously I've recommended writing students read dozens maybe hundreds of biographies and autobiographies.

Here's a great biography to study if you have liked any of the Star Wars movies.


Now I'm saying combine World History with what you learned from Biographies, and add Contemporary History.

International Affairs are actually run as a story-plot generated by the internal conflict of the people who make the policy decisions (Heads of State, department heads, financial backers,  Powers That Be Behind The Scenes, Corporations...)

Here is a contemporary non-fiction book about our current shapers of Affairs of State that has gained much praise (and excoriation).


We saw that reflection of neuroses of Heads of State in our world during World War II. As a close reading of Hitler biographies will reveal, he had a psychological "need" to "cleanse" -- and he projected that need into the environment.

The magnification of Pluto related forces (which I've discussed at length in these blogs as the source of War and Drama), unleashed the Final Solution.  His drive to execute the riffraff causing him to feel "dirty" created the Death Camps, burning people to ash in ovens.

Or just look at any of the TV Series Dramas that include Queen Elizabeth I, such as REIGN - which is about Mary Queen of Scots in France.

Those are caricature-sketches of  International Affairs, of course, but this is the point to grasp when you've got a THEME that needs to generate a PLOT.

The theme generates the plot by fueling the internal conflict of a Character who is in a position in life where his/her actions can manifest externally.

"Life" has cycles. There are times you are trapped inside yourself and nothing you think, do, or feel has any impact on the external world.  And there are times every twitch of your eyebrow is gossiped about from the mail room to the CEO's office.

Jupiter, Uranus, Pluto, all the planets are 'cyclical' -- the cycles impact different parts of your life at different times, and sometimes manifest externally.

USA Presidential candidates have three or four properties that I've noticed.
A) their Natal Charts have some tight Relationship to the USA Natal Chart(s).
B) their transits ignite pure dynamic Energy,
C) their Solar Arc contacts trigger off something usually interpreted as Sexual, Romantic, or Social during the Campaign or the ensuing Term of Office.

Nothing in a Natal Chart can really indicate whether the person "wins" or "loses."

Transits just indicate peaks and valleys from a baseline.

The Natal Chart shows whether the person is "channeling" Energy into their own interior (unlikely to do more than a few whistle stops on the campaign trail) or into their Environment (very likely to hit a peak popularity)  Sustaining that peak means successive transits must continue to sweep energy into the Environment.

Which candidate "wins" -- well, sometimes becoming President is a way of losing in "life."  It's a brutal, massively difficult killer of a job, and it uses men up in the peak of their lives.

So is becoming President (or King, Queen, Dictator) a "win?"  Or a "destiny?"

That question can be a THEME.


So here's a sub-theme to ponder.  A sub-theme is a theme derived from a main theme.  It's not "another" theme grabbed out of thin air because you "like" it.  A sub-theme is a theme that is an essential component of the Main Theme.

So, a sub-theme for "Is being Elected President a Win?" might be something like the Hitler story encapsulated above -- playing out a Character's innermost Needs, Drives, Ambitions, Frustrations, on the International Stage then showing his demise as poetic justice.

If the Character has a ruthless streak (Mars conjunct Pluto in the Natal Chart often produces something like ruthlessness when triggered by transit or Solar Arc), that Character might take the Force of an Economy and an Army and sweep out into the world to accomplish what their internal neuroses demand of them.

This is not a "modern" idea or a new one. You see it in the Ancient Greek plays, in all that's derived from them, in modern History books, and in today's Headlines, and even in the Blockbuster films and video games of today such as STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

Star Wars is the saga of a galactic war long ago and far away.  The reboot by Disney, The Force Awakens, shows how a new generation picks up the "conquer or be conquered" theme.

The film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens depicts the Good Guys as the Underdog, and the Bad Guys as the Mighty.  The Bad Guys have a Grandmother of all Death Stars that sucks up a whole Sun, then spits out a beam that can destroy planets and stars halfway across their Galaxy. And to be sure you understand that, you see them blowing up planets of Good Guys with their new weapon.

Bad Guys return with bigger, badder weapons -- the same weapons, the weapons of destruction, just bigger.

In good comic book fashion, the Bad Guys uniforms are still the same ineffective, comical "body armor" with visible seams -- the bad guys wear white.

The whole movie is about explosions, and destruction. In fact, it is about destroying antique buildings, wondrous relics, and treasured people.

It brings back Light Sabers but simplifies the whole arcane concept of THE FORCE into Dark and Light, without any morality involved. Might Makes Right (a theme) abounds all over the place.

Hans Solo and Leia have spawned a son who turns to the Dark Side, and with a face-to-face trick kills his father -- saber through the chest, just as in the King Arthur Legend, and sends him falling from an immense height echoing previous fallen villains and heroes.

Luke Skywalker is the object of the hunt, and we see him in the final scenes.  He's supposed to be raising more Jedi Knights - we learn nothing of the training he is supposedly giving.

Absolutely not one thing is being BUILT in this film, not ships, buildings, planets, or families -- nothing is growing and prospering. Destruction reigns supreme, center spotlight, destruction of things, of Characters, and of every tradition (except possibly the Light Saber, but it is treated as simply mechanical.)  Look at Affairs of State around us today. What is being built?  What do people in their twenties remember of a world building things?

We never see anyone making a new Light Saber.

In our real world, plenty of people have made new things -- the Internet, the Web, the cell phone, the smartphone, phablets, and services like Uber and Amazon Prime, Netflix.  Most of those were founded more than 20 years ago.  The target audience for Star Wars does not remember the founding of these technologies.

In this movie, there is no originality, no creation, no invention, no moment of wondrous accomplishment.  The old Millenium Falcon is resurrected, the new ship Hans Solo has is destroyed. The ending depicts mere survival as a laudable goal achieved.

In traditional science fiction, the young hero is a kid with a lab in his parent's garage -- or a young married man tinkering with tech in the basement.  The hero has been learning things, (as Luke Skywalker had been when we meet him whomping sand rats), gaining skills, and is full of unrealized potential.  The young Luke Skywalker was a typical science fiction Hero.  Rey is not. Her highest aspiration is survival.

The typical young science fiction hero meets up with his Problem. He grabs hold of it, and through much fun and games, uses his apparently irrelevant, socially unacceptable skills and accomplishments, expertise about useless subjects, to solve the problem.  Rey has a few useful skills, but using those skills is not the fulfillment of her personal dream.

Rising to Accomplishment, to become something more than mere potential, is what science fiction is about.

It's what "science" is about.

Science is organizing knowledge into patterns that can be applied to solve bigger problems.  And so is Building Character -- becoming a strong, self-reliant adult upon whom others can rely -- more a matter of organizing "who you are" into a Persona, the science of Maturation.

The internal character becomes a Character by becoming externalized into the world.  That is the link between Story and Plot, between internal conflict and external conflict.

That externalization is what a writer has to accomplish by taking the theme, a "thorn in the side" of a very particularized individual, and externalizing that theme, making it real to other Characters in the play.

In the case of Star Wars The Force Awakens, we have new young Good Guys taking over from the old young guys, and doing the same things over again -- for no apparent thematic reason than that Good Guys Must Always Be Underdogs.  In other words, our promising young good guys didn't WIN, didn't conquer the Dark, vanquish it, establish a stable and functional galactic civilization.

The theme the movie works out is that Evil Always Wins and the best any Good can do is to hold the line, to contain the Evil.

Whether that's true or not, you (the Romance Writer) can easily see that the target audience for this film lives in a world where they have never, ever, known or seen any other situation.  The highest aspiration of the USA leadership is to contain the enemy.

It pleases and amuses that young audience that their favorite fiction reinforces their assessment of reality -- i.e. Good Must Not Win Or It Becomes Evil.

In our Reality - winners are always "bad."

Large corporations are large (and old) because they have WON. That's evil by definition, because they always (in reality) do become "corrupt."  Likewise the rich.  Likewise the economic powerhouse of the USA has "won" and therefore has generated a new "underdog" now coming to destroy it.

Look at STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES. Match what happens on that Trek series with what was going on in the Viet Nam war at that time -- keeping in mind some months lag between a Headline and a thematic statement being broadcast.

Read archaeology, back beyond Ancient Greek Plays, and you will find that cycle enshrined in the basics of our Literature, ancient mythology.

Rome fell -- for a reason.

Now, with all our new science and technology, can Humanity break that cycle of destruction?

Can our Affairs of State become the product of level headed sanity and benign morality?  Can Countries and Alliances become our idealized family of nations. Can Earth ever speak to the Galaxy with one voice?

Can we become constructors who do not destroy?

Those are themes that can be the "thorn in the side" of a major Character you promote to Head of State, and see if you can create a Galactic Civilization that is not a projection of some individual's internal neuroses, personal hell-transits, or life-cycle issues.

Science Fiction has postulated that Artificial Intelligence, A.I., could arise and yank command of the world from human hands because of our irrationalities being projected onto Affairs of State.

Would an A.I. who became Head of State (maybe of All Earth) be able to remain sane?  Is it "sane" to want to be such a Head of State? What would your A.I. Character/Hero go through to avoid being elected Head of State?

Would the A.I. Characters elect their own Head of State, create a civilization separate from Humanity.  Would the position destroy that A.I. Head of State's sanity?

Is there such a thing as "The Force" and if so could an A.I. command it?  Are the Jedi Knights like the Templars?  Does commanding The Force corrupt a Character?

We touched on the Templars as a fictional concept last week:

What could prevent absolute power from corrupting absolutely?

Pictures of things blowing up interspersed with inane bits of comic book dialogue do not fulfill the potential of the modern cinematic medium.

The establishment in Hollywood, with the megabucks to invest, are not the Underdogs.  Does that make them the Bad Guys?

They claim there is no audience interested in exploring traditional science fiction themes (which is why they expunged most of the guts out of Star Wars).  There are head-scratching moral questions always at the heart of real science fiction.  But what if a searingly hot Romance were the driving Force of such a movie?

What audience could such a mixed-genre science not fantasy movie target?

Remember AVATAR, while ostensibly science fiction, was dressed up as Fantasy, and that worked very well indeed.

Let your imagination roam, find a story in your heart that has an audience large enough for your movie to make a profit, write it as a novel easily transformed to a 90 minute script.  Be the Heroic Character.  See what happens next.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Of This And That....

This is my take on topical matters, mostly to do with copyright --as is my wont-- but with a few petty rants thrown in for good measure.

I'll save "the petty" for last.

For readers of this blog, it is possible that you may be considering use of images to decorate your own blogs, book trailers, vlogs, or even book covers. You probably are aware that everything on the internet is not necessarily "in the public domain" and free for all to use. If you are interested in the potential extent of your liability, consider visiting stockphotorights.com and check out their FAQ pages. They really are excellent.

"But, what," you may ask, "about Old Masters and photographs of Old Masters?" You might also do an internet search of "slavish" reproduction or copying. These may help.


If you are a celebrity, or are thinking of exploiting a photo you took of a celebrity, check out "image rights" as a search term.

While on the subject of blogs and vlogs, have you considered getting a trademark for your Blog name? (I did for my "space snark" blog on the assumption that one day, "snark" will be considered a positive.) It is not a cheap process, but this article on Lexology.com explains the advantages.

If you are an alien romance author (or any other kind of author... but I have to get my metadata in) who is trying to build up a following, beware of paying for Likes and Tweets. When social media was new-and-all, it seemed like everyone was bribing others to like them and to talk about them. Now, there is enough of it that a government agency sees the possibility of a revenue stream for the Treasury coffers. So, beware!

Isn't it odd that, when one spots one incorrect spelling on a site that ought to be reputable, more examples crop up in rapid succession? On April 7th I spotted a "recieve" on an official Amazon page (the Associates Central sign up page). I wrote to Jeff Bezos (kudos to Jeff for reading his incoming mail) and received a reply from someone named Bhaskar who assured me that it would take a bit more time than usual to look into the problem. Bhaskar promised to write back to me with more information. Well, it has been ten days, and the difficult research into how to spell receive correctly... has so far eluded them.

Mind you, it's probably not as simple as one might think. One of the most prestigious educational establishments in the country sent me a fund raising mailing, promising me that if I donated an obscene amount, I would "recieve" an ornament.

I blame the popular news media and their live streaming transcription services. One cannot be immediate and excellent as well. Editing takes time.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Making a Living (or Not) as a Writer

The current issue of CEMETERY DANCE includes an interview with Ray Garton. I retro-reviewed one of his best-known novels, LIVE GIRLS, on VampChix in March:

Live Girls

Garton is a pretty big name in the horror midlist, a prolific, highly respected author. I was mildly shocked to read in the interview that he wants to get back into tie-in writing, not only because he enjoyed it, but because he "need[s] the work." He also commented that he has been increasing his short-story production lately to pay medical bills.

Another vampire author, one of my favorites, with a popular series that ran for a long time and an avidly loyal readership, posts frequently on Facebook about her financial troubles. She supplements her writing income with fannish-themed craft sales to make ends meet.

Inference from these two examples (and many others could doubtless be cited): Popularity as an author doesn't necessarily translate into financial security. Once the high-selling books recede into the backlist, the author can't live on their royalties. Sure, I knew this fact, but it's disheartening to notice fresh evidence of it.

I'm not sure whether to take some consolation (for my own modest sales record) in realizing even authors I consider successful can't live on their writing income or to feel discouraged over the state of the market. More the latter than the former, I think. It would be much nicer to see people whose work I admire receiving the deserved fruits of their creativity.

Author Brenda Hiatt compiles information about typical earnings for book-length fiction on her "Show Me the Money" site. Here's the page for traditional publishers (large and small, "tree" and electronic), updated to about a year ago:

Show Me the Money

The "median" and "range" earn-out figures are very enlightening and make it clear why most authors can't survive financially on writing alone.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Reviews 25: Assassin's Creed --- Underworld by Oliver Bowden

Reviews 25
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Assassin's Creed -- Underworld
Oliver Bowden

First an announcement about a FanFic documentary airing in France.
A few months ago, the producer of a documentary contracted by the French version of PBS (France 4 TV) came to my house from France and video'd about 3 hours of me explaining fanfic. Two short clips of that made it into the final video which will air April 13, 2016 (or thereafter Events permitting). It will be dubbed into French, but I got a version with me talking in subtitles -- seriously cool, Career First!
Now we come to a touchy subject, especially as a component of Romance: Violence and Weapons.  

In Assassin's Creed -- Underworld, Oliver Bowden has depicted a Relationship between two Assassins, where the fight-scenes and "blooding" (killing humans) ARE the Romance.

Oddly, and gorgeously, and miraculously, this book, Underworld, reads like a Heroic Novel, a novel of courage, determination, righteous choices, upholding social law and order.

Yes it is about "Assassins" -- (who kill) -- but it is based on the Game Assassin's Creed.  It's about following an Oath, making the free will choice every day to do the "right" thing according to that Oath.

After all the training a young child goes through to become an Assassin (training imposed before the age of choice) the adult Assassin has a great deal of "power" -- naked, with no weapons, such a person can escape and kill any captor.

As with the old TV Show Kung Fu

...or with Spiderman or most of today's Superheros, with Power comes great responsibility.

As I noted above, the Romance is coded into the fight scenes. It is not hot.  It is not steamy. It is barely recognizable as sexual attraction.  It is seen from the male point of view as a young woman master's the Assassin's trade.  He falls for her big time.  She falls for him big time.  He's not sure she has and we don't know really what she's thinking.  In the end, he proposes.

I wouldn't even call this book an Action Romance. I don't think it earns the title of Love Story.

It is an odd book -- perfectly comprehensible out of context of the Game and other books, yet not "like" any of the usual novels that carry the title Romance.

Yet it delivers a huge Romance punch at the end.  It sneaks up on you. It blindsides you.

The external conflict dominates the entire scene, and totally occupies the Characters.  There is no searching for true happiness or yearning for a Soul Mate.  There is this horrendous conflict against impossible odds, a conflict being handed down from generation to generation.

The Opponents of the Assassins is an organization gripping London in a stranglehold.  They are called the "Templars."  But they are not like the Historical Templars who were an order of Monks who dedicated themselves to martial arts and led many Crusades.

These Templars are after Ancient, magical artifacts that will give them (and nobody else) powers such as Eternal Life.  They want to Rule, and Control the behavior of others.

The Assassins, on the other hand, seem more or less amenable to letting people choose their own life paths.  The point of view Characters are looking at everything from the Assassin's perspective.

Neither Templars nor Assassins abjure Violence.  Both train in the use of weapons -- bladed and other sorts.

Underworld is the 8th Assassin's Creed novel by Oliver Bowden.  I had not read the previous 7 novels, and I haven't played Assassin's Creed -- but this novel read out of context made perfect sense to me.  The sense might be different in context, but I recommend this novel.

I particularly liked that there were not too many fight-scenes, and those that are included move the plot forward without wasting words.  This book is an example of excellent writing craftsmanship.

Violence, per se, is not "glorified" (as the Klingons would have it) or seen as a convenient way to solve problems caused by people not behaving the way you want them to (as the 2010-2015 TV Series Justified depicts violence).


On the #scifichat on Twitter, we were kicking around another Science Fiction Subject and someone asked what the Relationship between Sex and Violence was.  I gave my Tweet-sized Answer: Pluto, 8th House, Scorpio.

I've covered that extensively on this writing craft blog, both in the Tarot series of 20 posts (and the books compiled from them with added material) -- and in the posts on Astrology.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/03/pausing-for-you-to-catch-up-with-me.html  Index to Swords

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/03/pausing-for-you-to-catch-up-with-me_23.html  Index to Pentacles

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/03/pausing-for-you-to-catch-up-with-me_23.html  Index to Astrology posts.

The linchpin between "sex" (usually defined as an act of Love - a gentle and joyful bit of generosity) and "violence" (usually defined as an act of aggression, theft, overpowering, where the "joy" lies in the "taking" not in the "giving") is in one word, Pluto.

That "planet" is considered, in Astrology, the upper octave of Mars.

What does "upper octave" mean in that context?  It means it has the same general character, but has more energy.  Pluto magnifies.

You may write a sweet, cozy Romance with lots of once-in-a-lifetime Events, some heroic life-saving action, and melting hearts.  That's Neptune creating what many readers see as implausible.

On Television, we see "life" depicted as a series of implausible, rare, but horrendous Events happening not just to one person, but to everyone that person knows -- Life is depicted as immense hammer blow after grandiose hope for True Romance, to dashed and shattered destruction of all hope, to glorious moments of peak joy, shattered by another hammer blow.  That's Soap Opera.

Both Romance and Soap are considered implausible life patterns by those who have not lived through such a series of Events.  But Ancient Wisdom informs us that such patterns generally come in threes.

In Astrology, we see that planets that "go retrograde" (an optical illusion from Earth) can pass over a particular point in the Zodiac three times.

In Astrology, Pluto signifies the ebb and flow of Power between Self and Other.

Pluto is the ruler of the Natural 8th House - other people's values, other people's money, other people's property, or in general other people's resources.

The Second House  (Natural Second House is Taurus, ruled by Venus) signifies your personal Values, Money, etc. Opposite it on the wheel of 12 is Other People's Values, Money etc.

The adage is that Money is Power.  Or that Power can be Monetized.

Venus and Pluto are the same, but different.  They are opposites, yet can't do without each other.

Quick thumbnail definitions: First House is your Self.  In the "Natural" chart (not a person's natal chart which is a snapshot of the heavens at time and place of birth) the First House is Ares, ruled by Mars, male sexuality (yes, even for women). The Second House is Taurus ruled by Venus (yes, even for men).

When your values interact with the values of Others (parents, siblings, classmates, fellow workers, society in general), you change, or the Other changes, or most likely both change.

Sound familiar?  Romance is all about the forming of Couples wherein each individual CHANGES -- is transformed -- one out of two, bonded.  Two hearts beat as one.

Neptune (Romance) changes by dissolving barriers between people, but Pluto transforms by churning and winnowing the depths of Identity.

Transformation is what happens when you marry and form a Household.  There is no more "yours" vs. "mine" as when you are just living together.  Suddenly, everything is "ours."  "Ours" is 8th House/2nd House resolution of tension by establishing a steady-state balance.

And that describes the sex act, too.  Think about how that goes.  There is you.  There is me.  There is giving. There is recieving. And then, if it all works right, there is SHARING a moment of divine glory.

So where's the supremecy, the violence, the TAKING despite the OBJECTIONS?

When sex works well, there is no savage dominance leaving the Other diminised or victimized.

But to be honest, sex doesn't always work all that well.

Nor does Society work all that well all the time.  The blending of "yours" and "mine" into "ours" (e.g. taxes) does not always work so smoothly.

When the balanced harmony of a transaction between opposites is disrupted, the human animal slips out of its spiritual harness and behaves like any other animal on this planet -- dominating all others in order to achieve the ascendency of me and mine at the center of things.

Reasserting that Harmony does not usually work until after an explosion of violence.

Pluto's slow-slow transits (it takes 247 odd Earth years for Pluto to complete one orbit of the Sun) can be viewed as slowly increasing potential energy, and then releasing that energy either all at once (in violence) or a little at a time (in passionate, sweaty sex).

Sex (not love; sex) and violence can be viewed as two manifestations of the same thing -- the human will to LIVE.  (or at least to not be killed).

We want to survive, and if that means someone else has to die, then so be it, however much sad regret that may bring.  Being alive to be sad is better than being dead.

So human society, since Cain and Abel, has been rooted in the dynamic of "If it's you or me, then it's you who dies."

That's the either/or choice inherent in the confrontation of opposites -- depicting the world and life as a zero-sum-game.

The Astrological Natal Chart  is depicted as a circle divided into 12 compartments, slices, or "Houses."  Each House that represents something inside you has an exact opposite that represents the same thing in your outside world.

This very Ancient paradigm is the root of the "story/plot" structure of the modern novel, Screenplay, TV Series, and now Video-games.

In fiction, we look to depict, reflect or mirror "reality" well enough for the reader to believe our Characters are real, so the reader can feel the emotions the Characters are going through.

One of the salient aspects of reality we use in storytelling is that division into "inside me" vs. "outside me" -- the inner dialogue your Character is thinking as they assess the Lover's intentions, and the outer actions the Lover takes.

The internal conflict generates the external conflict for your Character.

Now most people don't go through real life aware that what is happening in their life is actually caused by or governed by their subconscious emotional state.

In fact, most people strenuously resist noticing any hint of a connection between what is inside them and what other people do to them (violent or otherwise).

But likewise most of your readers do know people who sabotage their own lives, "You are your own worst enemy."  -- and they know people who win one occasionally by "following your heart."

So there is both a treasuring of our private inner life, and a determination to be the conqueror in our outer-life.

In other words, your market, our current social culture, is bound and determined to solve the problem of their inner pain by controlling other people and the world outside themselves.

Many Ancient Wisdom theories indicate the Happily Ever After "ending" can not be achieved without recognizing some connection between one's inner pain/joy and the happenstances of external life (working for a nasty boss, losing your driver's license for too many "accidents," serial marriages to different versions of the same man.)


So, to avoid changing our minds, to avoid recognizing the relationship between our inner emotions and the Events that beset us in the outside world, we have a new social norm codified as "don't blame the victim."

That lesson is hammered home so hard that it has become unthinkable to examine one's own inner Self for the origin of Events that happen TO the Self.

Keep in mind as you read novels published long-long ago, that we came out of a culture that always and only blamed the victim and never blamed the victimizer.  Always-and-only one way vs always-and-only the other is not how Astrology depicts human life.

Ancient Wisdom says don't point your finger outward at the miscreant you just noticed messing up your life.  Point that finger inward at your own heart when looking to finger the "blame."

That Ancient Wisdom has been discarded, with an absolute, adamant, intensity. It has been stomped out of existence with violent, grim, very Pluto-style, war against anything Ancient.  Victims are always innocent by definition.

Read older novels, and you will why we have stomped out the idea that the victim is ever complicit in crimes that target them.

We have gone from one extreme to the other, and may soon turn back and head for blaming only the victim.

This issue -- victim vs. perpetrator -- is one of the core themes of Assassin's Creed: Underworld by Oliver Bowden.

These Assassins defend the innocent, whether the innocent are victims or not.  These Assassins don't victimize the guilty - they vanquish them.

In the novel Assassins Creed: Underworld, Oliver Bowden shows us with the bare hint of a sketch how the things that happen to these Characters originate within the Character or the Character's ancestor.  This illustrates how you are what you were "raised to be." You had no choice in the matter.

This works with the theory that children are blank slates, clay to be molded by their parents.  But clay has characteristics that can't be changed by molding -- thus we have an Assassin who can't find it in himself to kill in cold blood.  By this internal resistance to the role he was raised to fill, this Character confronts an inner misery all too familiar to the modern reader.

There is a resonance with the reader because the thematic statement  in UNDERWORLD is clear -- you don't have a choice.  You are what you were taught to be, what you were raised and trained to be -- you are the helpless victim of your parents and teachers.

Therefore, nothing that happens TO you is your "fault."  You are a victim and all you can do is make the best of a bad situation.   You have been shaped by Others -- you can't help it, so don't try.

And there's a corollary to this.  The things you believe or the things you do because of what you believe are not your "fault" or "responsibility" either.

The theme in UNDERWORLD is that you, the reader, are a misfit, miserable in life through no choice of your own.

The reader can wallow in the Assassin's Creed world and come away feeling the weight of personal guilt lifted.  You don't ever have to point that accusatory finger at your own heart.  All your misery is someone else's doing.

In 2015 we saw a court case of a Teen drunk driver let out on probation despite having killed "innocent victims" with his car -- because he's a "victim" of "affluenza" (being too rich).  In April, 2016, he was sentenced to 2 years in jail.

But he was let out in 2015 because, being rich is proof positive that you are Evil beyond the pale and must be robbed until you have the same amount of money as everybody else, or you'll drive drunk.

The theory is that given Power (money, guns, land ownership, any rights not regulated by government) - any human being's humanity will cause them to behave in an asocial manner.

There is an inner need to control the behavior of Others.

When we accept the child's view that all misery comes from outside, (parents deprive us of ice cream before dinner, curtail playtime to force us to read books), our whole problem-solving attention is riveted on "controlling" the behavior of others, especially those who have what we do not have.

Whether either quote in the image above is really a quote from the named people in that image, the writer in you should be finding how Love can Conquer that particular All.

This need to control others, or to appoint a third party to control "them" for you is currently highlighted in the arguments over what the proper role of government in the electronic age must be.

In UNDERWORLD, the Templars represent "government" (that seeks total power over citizens) and the Assassins represent personal freedom under self-control, kept orderly by pledging to uphold a Creed.  Assassins are fighting (and murdering) to "free" London from control of the Templars.

Of course, London has a government in place -- but the Templars have "infiltrated" it and control that government without the knowledge of the people.  If you've been paying attention to politics recently, that paradigm must sound familiar.  UNDERWORLD puts our headline conflicts as a nation into an oddball setting, giving us a look at ourselves from another perspective -- that is an attribute that makes for best sellers, and for classics.

UNDERWORLD is just one book in a huge, sprawling and complex World.

Thematically, we can see that since we are all helpless victims of our upbringing, we can't be trusted with Power of any sort, certainly not the power to inflict harm on others (which is why Assassins kill Templars).  So government has to become the parent and keep power out of the hands of other people -- because we're all helpless victims and everyone knows the biggest  bully in the class is the helpless victim given Power.  So again, that's the reason Assassins kill Templars.

In UNDERWORLD, the ones with the Power (magical) are the Templars.  The Templars goal is to control everybody.

In fiction, those who want to control are 'villains' and those who resist being controlled are 'heroes.'

In our Reality, in our current politics, it seems the opposite is the case. Government exists to prevent people from misbehaving in a way that inconveniences you, which used to be the job of the parents in a large family.  Today families are small and government is large.  Parents kept the family safe. Today parents get divorced and it is the government's job to keep the children safe (Child Protective Services is called that for a reason!)

How many great Romances have you read where one of the principles grew up in Foster Care?  Consider that most of your readers know someone who did, or who went to visit their father on alternate weekends.

Look again at the long-running Foreigner Series by C. J. Cherryh.

There, the Aliens control the honesty of government officials via the Assassin's Guild, which is also the "Secret Service" protecting the government rulers.  But those folks are not human.  The humans on that world have worked out a representative democracy of sorts, without Assassins.

So the Theme comes down to, "How Do We Assure Humans Behave Well?"  The Romance Genre answer is, "Love Conquers All."  Those who are loved acquire self-control.

Read UNDERWORLD, and re-cast its theme into Love Conquers All Which Creates Happily Ever After.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg