Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Internet of Things

Cory Doctorow discusses the Internet of Things, a term I hadn't come across before. This blog post on that topic has a link to his article in LOCUS on the same subject:

Dear Internet of Things

This concept refers to all the personal gadgets that collect information about us and transmit it to companies that compile such data—e.g., medical implants, GPS systems in cars, prisoner-tracking ankle cuffs for house arrest, etc. The process is usually claimed to be for our benefit but is often not under our control.

Doctorow proclaims that human beings should be "sensors, not things to be sensed." He makes an interesting distinction between the Facebook model and the e-mail model. With the former, the content source controls what we can see. With the latter, we decide for ourselves what we want to receive, block, respond to, or store. Not surprisingly, Doctorow advocates the e-mail model for the Internet of Things.

The main direct exposure to this kind of thing I've had is the "smart meter" recently installed by our local electric company. Smart meters keep the power company informed of each customer's energy use so there's no need for a meter reader to visit each house in person. Some members of the public viewed smart meters with alarm when they were introduced (more for concerns about radiation than about privacy, from what was reported in the news) and chose to opt out, a process the electric company discourages, naturally. Personally, I thought the advantage of having the energy provider know instantly when and where power failures occur outweighed any hypothetical drawbacks. No more ordeals of being the last remaining block in the neighborhood with no electricity after a storm and wondering if the company has forgotten our existence! We also have an intelligent thermostat, intelligent enough for two-way communication with the provider, anyhow. During heat waves, the electric company can remotely cycle off our air conditioner for brief periods (with our prior permission, and we get small discounts on electric bills for participating). Then there's the cable company, which can sometimes remotely reboot our TV set-top boxes if we're having an intractable problem—far preferable, in my opinion, to waiting for a repair technician all afternoon.

Consider how much information we already allow to be collected about us, for the sake of convenience (through credit card use and online purchases, for instance—think of cookies, without which our browsing and shopping experiences would be much less smooth). The important thing, as Doctorow suggests, is that the future of these magical devices and systems should be steered so that they serve us rather than vice versa.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Depiction Part 12 - Depicting Rational Fury by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Depiction Part 12
Depicting Rational Fury
 Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Here's the index post for this series on Depiction:

Last week we looked at The Flicker Men, a brilliant but purely science fiction novel.

Not much in The Flicker Men depicted the emotional tangles that drive human relationships and therefore govern (or fail to govern) the movements of large numbers of humans.  There is, however, a great deal of emotion, and psychological truth underlying the actions of the characters.  A solid, Happily Ever After Love Story, or a genuine Romance, could have changed all those events.

For example, if the main character had been living an HEA with wife and children, with brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, family reunions, weddings, birth celebrations -- if his life were peppered with events that held deep emotional significance on the positive end of the spectrum, then when he discovered the truth behind the structure of the Universe, that this universe is just a holographic representation created by another Universe's scientists, then he wouldn't have quit his job and destroyed his life with alcohol and drugs.

Yes, his self-destruction is "realistic" -- but it is not real in an HEA universe.

What if you take The Flicker Men premise, and add the dimensions of human emotion we deal with in the Romance Genre -- that is, take a pure science fiction novel about the impact of a dark discovery on an unstable man who stands alone -- and redesign the Characters so that they interact and bond in a psychologically healthy way?

We live in a new world, with the advent of smartphones and social networking.  People growing up today will have a different idea of what a healthy relationship is and how to meet people, how to present yourself (you don't have to comb your hair before posting your first tweet of the day), how to share and thus dilute an emotional reaction.

Look at how people vent fury at a Flight Attendant or Grocery Clerk by posting vitriolic commentary, or embarrassing pictures, or scorning certain businesses by name.  And those are mostly people who grew up before smartphones.  What will the next generation think of as "healthy" psychology?

We are already seeing hints of what is to come in the entertainment media and the news media -- and in government, the military, even schools, college campuses, strip malls, everywhere decisions have to be made so that lots of people can move on through and get their objectives accomplished.

Accomplishing Objectives is what the Hero of the story does.  If your main character does not accomplish his/her Objectives, you haven't found the character whose story you are telling.  You are avoiding conflict by viewing events from another perspective than the one confronting opposition.

One neat way to re-align your thinking into that of a story-teller is to sit down with the Book of Psalms and just read it right straight through.  Most of them are by King David, a Warrior King, and most of what he discusses with God is all about Enemies, his own enemies and God's enemies.  It's all about Enemies, not about King David at all, and therefore it is about enmity in general and how to deal with it.  Then go read through the Book of Kings, the stories of the Kings with their ups and downs, just blitz through it and don't regard it as "scripture" but as a simple template for the perpetually repeated story of humankind.

So after soaking up these classic psychological attitudes of the template of the Hero Paradigm, read through some of my posts on Targeting A Readership --
and how necessary it is for a writer to understand the world the reader lives in, and to incorporate that understanding into the worldbuilding deep inside and underneath (invisible to the reader) the rip-roaring just-for-fun story you are telling.

You've found the point in your main character's life where his/her story is happening.  You've found the beginning point of that story, where the Character first confronts or stirs up the force that will oppose the Character's moves to Accomplish Objectives.

You've found "the stakes" -- what will happen if the Objectives are not accomplished.

Now you have to DEPICT how the Character who is living through this rip-roaring good story actually feels about Accomplishing the Objective, about what they think will happen if they don't, about what alternatives exist, about what alternatives the Character might generate that don't yet exist, and how to go about attaining an objective that does not yet exist with tools that do not yet exist.

In other words, the Hero of the story is the person who does not "do all I can" but rather creates new abilities.  We see the yearning for this by the general readership in the popularity of the Meta-Human, Super-Hero stories on TV, and especially in fanfic even in mundane genres like the TV Series White Collar fanfic.

Look again at how King David generates new situations beyond his ability to create.  He prays.  He explains his situation to God in terms he knows God uses.  On the validity of his understanding, David then suggests what God might do, or what objective He might allow. (smite my enemies; smite your enemies).  Then look in the Book of Kings for what happened on the battlefield.

In Depiction Part 11,
we looked at depicting complex (galaxy sized) battlefields.  And we discussed the galaxy sized battlefield with the added dimension of Time in reviewing the famous Romance writer, Jean Johnson's Theirs Not To Reason Why Science Fiction, Galactic War Series (which has spinoff novels we will be discussing.

Now look at the world around you.

You can do this real-world survey from various points of view rapidly and efficiently with the app or browser version of  -- it is a news aggregator.  Apple is launching a new News Aggregator, and there are many others around, but I am currently using flipboard where you can subscribe to a multitude of international news sources.  Just reading the headlines is instructive -- stop and read a full article or two with awareness of its source, compare the same Event covered by other sources, notice the commentary posted on blogs (yes, you can subscribe to blog feeds on flipboard), and get an idea of what "the world" looks like to your Target Readership.
You can follow my news item selections here:

Soon, you'll be making your own magazines.  The point of making a magazine (for a writer) is to collect stories to read in juxtaposition while putting yourself into the mind and emotional framework of people you'd never voluntarily associate with.

Now, to depict a Character who is the Hero of their own story, but not necessarily Heroic by nature, you have to depict the ups and downs, the contrasts, in the Character's emotional life.

Most new writers will insert long paragraphs of multi-syllable words telling the reader all about how and why this Character feels this or that, maybe including the Character's early life story (how they were abused as a child), and go on and on about why the Character feels as they do.

Seasoned writers do it in dialogue one-liners, maybe half-a-line with lots of empty space on the page.

Here are a few posts discussing dialogue, its creation, and its use in plot-character integration:

Yes, we've been at this topic a long time, but it is literally endless.  Every time "the world" changes, every year that new young readers take up a genre that had been "too old" for them, the details of how to write great stories change -- but the essence of the framework, the techniques, do not change.  They have not changed since Shamans told history over the campfire.

Study this image.  It is THE LOVER'S QUARREL done in "show don't tell."

That image shows how to write dialogue.  Characters, like real people, don't talk about what they are talking about.  That, in screenwriting (see Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT! screenwriting books), is called "off the nose" dialogue.  You execute it with lots of white space on the page -- the empty space speaks volumes.

Dialogue is all about communicating.  It is not real speech transcribed.  It is point of view, conflicting subjectivities.

How a Character speaks, and how the Character speaks differently to different Characters, depicts the Character's character.

Dialogue is the writer's tool for convincing the reader that this Character whose story is being told is actually a perfectly level-headed, rational, sane person who totally understands what is TRUE (not "Truth" in that diagram but one of the shadows of Truth.)

The trick you play on your readers, the wink-and-a-nod agreement between you and your reader, lies in convincing the reader that you, the writer, know "Truth" -- all sides of it -- but understand how the Characters you are following each see only part of the truth, and the shadow of Truth that they see is True.

How do you resolve a conflict between True and True?

Also remember humans don't generally change their minds about what is True because they lose an argument.  Once the heat of the moment is over, they look again and see what is True -- and it is just that, true, therefore since it is true it can't be false!  So they go back to their old way of thinking.

Here's an example "ripped from the headlines."  Internet Security is a huge issue in your reader's world.  Since it is a huge issue, politicians have leaped in to offer to solve your problem for you (which is their business model in action).

So we have an internet supporting the "world wide web" (and a Dark Web run outside the purvue of Government).  The Internet was built via a few Universities connecting mainframes in order to share research.  It attracted graduate students who wanted to play Star Trek games, and set about improving the connections.  Off across the Atlantic, brilliant contributions created the foundation of what we call today a "browser."

All of this was created by well meaning, good people who couldn't think like criminals to save their lives.  The absolute most wrong-doing any of them might have been guilty of would have been pre-empting the credit line on a paper nobody but peers would ever read.

For years, that was the sort of person who used email and the internet.  Then commercial interests swept in to make a profit, and on their coat-tails came criminals, and after them came true nefarious actors.

Now governments want to make laws outlawing the "dark web" or outlawing encryption.

As with guns, law-abiding citizens will not have encryption but the outlaws and government-sponsored-hackers from our Enemies (think King David) will have unbreakable encryption.

Legislators want to make laws that say that software manufacturers have to leave 'a back door' in all their software so that government can break into anything (given a court order.)

The argument is that without being able to stealthily penetrate widely-used email or blog, social network software, and the backbone servers of the Internet, they can't protect the population from Terrorists.  That's TRUE.  Look at that diagram carefully.  It's true, but is it truth?

The FBI or CIA or whatever it's called in your country is probably saying what is in fact true  -- that they can't break the encryption the Enemies are using. (think King David; think Hero).

We have tasked "government" and thus the law-makers with the Objective of "keeping us safe" and defined "safe" as NO POSSIBILITY OF HARM EVER.  We are not "safe" if we feel (rationally feel) that there exists a finite possibility that we might be harmed in some way.

Is that a "heroic attitude?"

Is it a rational attitude?  Can you depict the rationality of a Character who has that attitude?

OK, now consider King David, and creating impossible alternatives that suddenly come to exist. Today we call King David's attitude, "thinking outside the box."

So let your Character who rationally chooses the objective of "no harm can be threatening my cyber-life at all, ever. I am safe online," discover another True thing, a different shape.

Again, think dialogue and white space.  An argument doesn't have to use the vocabulary of the subject matter. Innuendo and inference speak much louder.  Go watch The Godfather, or read the script.

For example, your Character discovers that the software that provides this "safety" makes his computer run unacceptably slowly.  Understanding the problem, he wants to buy a faster computer, but can't because it costs too much.  Only the very rich can afford smartphones or computers that have enough capacity to run the Government Mandated version of ordinary software.

Lets suppose that the Government backdoor lets the government snoop into your stuff, but at the same time, as a trade-off, actually does prevent malware, viruses, worms and whatever comes next.  Remember, this is science fiction, so a couple of absurd concepts have to be made plausible.

But the price is slowing hardware, or only the rich can afford to function at full speed in this new world.

Or take another situation.  Suppose the government mandated anti-encryption measure leaves you wide open to anything hackers want to do to you.  But the government mandate does allow your paltry level of hardware to run at a good speed.

Take one of those scenarios, or create a different one, and let your Main Character whose story you are telling get out of High School and come up against the Cyber-Security Problem.

Now, some Characters would major in Law and become politicians.  Others might go into Computer Science.  A few might major in Divinity and become Preachers.  Still others might major in Criminal Psychology.  Then there's the drop-out who creates Facebook or Microsoft.  A few might major in Literature and become writers.

Pick a Character, let his/her Enemy steal his Identity, or perhaps send him/her into the Witness Protection Program.  Now what?

If this is a science fiction romance book you are writing, you can go research the Cyber Security field as a whole, all the way back to its origins, and perhaps the psychological origins of the concept Security, and re-think it.  Perhaps you want to use a galactic setting, and introduce Alien Ideas about what constitutes cyber-security.

Consider, for example, re-defining "the problem" (again, think King David and generating impossible options such as "smite my enemy.").

The problem is there is an Enemy who has done you damage.

Unlike King David who voluntarily goes to a Third Party (God), here a Third Party comes along and offers to solve your problem for you, convincing you that it's their job to solve your problem.

You welcome that Third Party's solution, and pay the requested fee.

The Third Party's solution is to pepper your life with obstacles, making everything you do slower and more difficult, so you won't do anything that might let your Enemy harm you.

Meanwhile, the Enemy that is your problem has their path smoothed and sped up.

Since so much of your money went to paying your Third Party protector, and so much of what's left of your energy is expended overcoming the obstacles the Third Party created in your life to protect you, you therefore have very little left to fight your Enemy.  You are now an unarmed, sitting duck etched against your Enemy's horizon.

Note that Kind David prayed to his Third Party to smite his enemies, pledging that his Enemies were also Enemies of the Third Party.  King David requested help from a carefully chosen Third Party, made alliance, and was thus able to smite Enemies.

The Enemies felt that smiting, severely.  The target of all that output energy was the Enemy, not King David, who fought most of these truly forlorn battles before he became King and thus took over "the government."

If your Main Character is a Hero, his/her "Security" does not consist of being disabled before Enemies by Friends or Hirelings.  "Security" means Friends and Hirelings focus their smiting upon the Enemy, not upon the Main Character.

Since, in your reader's real life today, Cyber-security is accomplished by hampering the reader's ability to function without touching the reader's Enemy (hackers), you have an excellent chance of engrossing your reader with a tale of a world where the characters representing the reader's Enemy get the brunt of the smiting.

This happened when Google crowd-sourced spam filtering.  Just take a look at your spam folder on gmail.  Very seldom does a spam get through to your inbox.  At one point, it was 300 spams to 1 genuine email.

Email users' rational fury was redirected by Google's crowd-sourcing data-mining to target The Enemy, whereupon The Enemy got the brunt of the smiting.  Since a few spams still get through, and there are still a trusting few who click where they should not, spammers still try to bring down the Internet Backbone by overloading it with spam messages -- and they somehow make a profit.  Or it is possible they are paid by foreign governments to make running Internet Backbone Servers more expensive -- with the objective of bankrupting the more advanced countries.  Enmity.

Google didn't punish the recipients of spam, but let the recipients pour out their fury on the spammers.

Right now, your readers are feeling the government pouring out its fury (we must have access to your everything in order to protect you) on the readers of websites rather than on the disruptors (hackers) of web-services, web commerce, and reader privacy.  

In our real world, we practice a principle, "Don't blame the victim."  In the case of cyber security, the smartphone user, the web browsing public is the victim, but the only solution being offered is to punish the victim, hamper the victim with privacy restrictions.

Think outside the box.  Suppose, your Aliens' idea of cyber security was to equip every victim with the ability to strike back at any intruder with lethal force?  Suppose any hacker who penetrated a server had his/her equipment blow up in his face?  Suppose the target of all efforts at protection was the Enemy, not the enemy's target.

OK, that isn't possible with today's hardware, software, and the whole psychology that created our Internet.  Think King David.  Think about an Ally that can do miracles.

That Third Party, that Ally, is the "Game Changer" you insert into your Worldbuilding.

Fury that your Main Character directs at his/her true Enemy will always seem rational.

Fury misdirected at the proponent of a different version of "Truth" (see the image above) that, while different, is still true, will not seem rational.

Your Hero may have irrational moments, and in those moments do things that later cause plot-complications, and serious trouble, but to be the Hero, your Character must fix what he/she has broken or ruined.

The Hero can't remain a Hero in the reader's eyes if the Hero spews vitriol or rage at another Character's TRUE facts without searching for that central figure that joins the Hero's True Facts to the Antagonist's True Facts -- thus revealing "The Truth" to both of them.

If both Hero and Antagonist are "rational" and furious for rational (true) reasons, then discovery of "The Truth" at the center of things will make them Allies, friends forever, possibly a Bonded Pair living Happily Ever After.

If one or the other clings to what is True because of Enmity for the other, the Fury will continue in a fight to the death.

The one exhibiting irrational fury is the one the writer has to kill off to give the reader "closure."

The Hero must win through to an unrestricted field where life can be re-created freehand, reflecting the Hero's own will, a field shared only with those the Hero chooses.  That is one defining parameter of the Happily Ever After -- the ability to choose, personally and without restriction, who does or does not share your living space, how large that space is, and what it's shape is.

That means choice of profession, lifestyle, associates, and how loudly you play your music.

The writer can convince the reader of the rationality of a character's fury simply by allowing that fury to arise only against restrictions imposed by an Enemy or a Confidence Operator pretending to "protect" by "restricting."

"Happily Ever After" means you don't have to protect yourself, or pay someone to protect you, because your Enemy has been smited out of existence, and anyone with the power to harm you is your ally.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Invisible Hero

Invisibility is a great ingredient for science fiction, and for implausible action movies.

James Bond had an invisible car. Harry Potter had a cloak of invisibility. In my earliest book (Forced Mate) one of my spaceships had a virtual invisibility mode. Many science fiction movies and series have "cloaking", which is explained in various ways. Or not explained.

I'm considering paint.

A few weeks ago (maybe more), I read about fish that see colors that humans cannot see. It was in a DISCOVER magazine article.

In the last couple of days, I've been pondering how a heroine who does not know that she is not human, but an alien djinn might describe a hero whom she can see, but no one else can. Obviously, he is a color for which there is no name in the human language.

I want a type of blue, because there is an English phrase (for depression) "blue devil". Owing to my sense of humor, which is a bit blue, too, I considered her thinking that he is the color of urine trails in a public swimming pool.... but I was reluctantly censoring myself, because that is just not Romance.

Today, I saw this:
My thanks to and to Rhiannon L. Crane

"The American kestrel can see ultraviolet light. It enables them to locate the urine trails left by voles..."

So, should my heroine see urine trails?

My best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Doing It Over; Water on Mars

This past weekend, my husband, my sister, and I attended our 50th high school reunion. (Technically, it was her 50th. Our three graduating classes, which happened to be consecutive, held a combined celebration.) Aside from touring our old school and observing how the building has changed (they have a swimming pool adjacent to the gym—WE didn't have a pool) and peering at name tags in search of people I knew, I was reminded of the movie PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED. The heroine, at her 25th reunion, travels backward in time to her high school years, fainting in the present and waking up in 1960 as her teenage self with her adult memories. She tries to change her future for the better, incidentally affecting her friends' futures, and avoid what she regards as the mistake of marrying her husband. Of course, she ends up rediscovering why she fell in love with him in the first place.

If you could go back to do your life over, would you? A while back, in discussion group at our church a woman around my age made a remark about wishing our children or grandchildren could have the kind of childhoods we did. I retorted that I certainly would not wish that on them. Not only because I had a mainly unhappy childhood and youth, but for the less personal reason that in most ways I think the present has so many advantages over the 1950s and early 60s. People often say things like, "I wouldn't do that if you paid me a million dollars." Well, for a million dollars, I MIGHT consider living the 1950s over again, but not for less. On a personal rather than cultural level, the prospect of correcting the mistakes of youth is tempting. But suppose in trying to smooth your path and improve your future, you accidentally made things worse? Even if you had the power to "put right what once went wrong," should you yield to the temptation? "Not even the wise can see all ends." (The protagonist in Stephen King's time travel novel who voyages into the past to prevent Kennedy's assassination returns to his own era to discover that his heroic deed has produced a horrific dystopia.) In hindsight, I recognize that my stumbles and wrong turns contributed to getting me where I am now. In trying to undo the mistakes, I might erase the good stuff too. Also, I'm not sure how I'd feel about becoming a teenager again with full knowledge of my forthcoming adult life. We often say we wish we knew then what we know now. But imagine being trapped in a child's or teen's body with an adult's mind and memories. You'd have the comfort of knowing things would eventually get better as well as the perspective of knowing the teen years won't last for the eternity they felt like the first time around. On the other hand, you'd have to put up with the powerlessness of being underage and all the Mickey Mouse restrictions of adolescence in full knowledge that they're Mickey Mouse. You'd have only a limited opportunity to make any effective use of your adult knowledge. I think I'd go nuts.

And in news of general SF interest, you've probably read about the apparent discovery of liquid salt water flowing on Mars now:

NASA Announcement

Not in distant past epochs, but right now! How exciting to contemplate the possibility of present-day Martian life raised by this discovery. Earth life includes some organisms (e.g., certain bacteria, algae, and fungi) that flourish in high salt concentrations, called "halophiles." So why not expect similar life-forms on Mars? And what about Martian life in the past? It's fun to speculate that eons ago the Red Planet might have harbored intelligent beings with an advanced civilization. As their world died, maybe they retreated to underground cities, where the remnants of their population still dwell, deliberately hiding from our probes. I don't think I've ever come across a novel on that premise.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reviews 19 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg - The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka

Reviews 19
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka

The Flicker Men is a novel set at the intersection of math, physics, and The Soul.  It's about the nature of reality and where humans fit into reality.  

On this blog, we focus on Science Fiction Romance and Paranormal Romance, involving ourselves with the issue of Soul Mates and the Happily Ever After ending.  

The Flicker Men is about all of our topics, without being a Romance.  If you're writing science fiction romance, you need to read this novel.  Here's why. 

On the September 15, 2015 post, we focused on our surrounding "real" world and how readers who live in it are looking for the best romance books that fiction publishers are producing.

Readers who seek "escape" are looking to writers to lift them up out of the daily tizzy, to live in another world for a while and let their nerves settle down.  From that far vantage point, they can view their problems in a whole new light.

After a book vacation, a reader can return to the real world and make better decisions, execute better actions.  

Why do we seek escape reading?  Can we achieve escape from daily life by reading realistic fiction books?

We all live in different "realities" -- our subjective reality and some people believe there exists an objective reality.  Some people believe there is no objective reality, just shifting subjective landscapes.  We create our own lives as a bubble of illusion around us.  

Frankly, I lean more toward the idea that there is an objective reality, and it is a human's business to strive to define it, explore it, know it, master living in objective reality.  

But I also factor in the plasticity of human consciousness.  The things that really matter to us, as living creatures, matter because they are subjectively real.  The important part of reality is that which we perceive.  

There is one subject that brings the objective shape of Reality together with the individualistic, idiosyncratic, personalized subjective reality of each of us.

That subject is popularly known as the Art of Tarot, and it overlaps and interpenetrates the science of Astrology.

That is astrology as a science, an organized body of empirical observations, not astronomy which is also an organized body of empirical observations.  

Astrology is coincidences recorded, and maps out the ups and downs of our subjective reality where it interfaces with external events.  Tarot maps out the ups and downs of our subjective reality pretty as it responds to external Events.

Does that sound familiar to writers of romance books?  Your novel, or the stories you write, need a structure.  

Astrology can suggest plots, the sequence of life events that seem part of objective reality, outside the self, way out of a Character's control.  Tarot can suggest how a Character reacts to those Events consistent with character traits familiar to the reader.

For example, my first award winning novel, Unto Zeor, Forever, depicts the main character's Saturn Return as he walks through the Tarot lessons of the High Priestess and the Empress.

Science Fiction has been defined as the story of how discoveries in science impact single human beings, or civilization as a whole, or both. 

Who would you be if you lived in a galactic civilization with lots of aliens?  Or during Earth's first exploration of the stars, seeking First Contact?  

Reading a good book of that type can qualify as "escape."  But even better, it can qualify as another perspective on your life, your identity, and the possibilities for solving your current real-world problems to get on to the next phase of your existence.

For decades, the best astronomers accepted the mathematical analysis that said the existence of other planets, never mind planets enough like Earth to harbor life as we know it, was so improbable as to be impossible.

So Alternate Universes and Fantasy Genre became a very popular form of fiction.

Now Hubble and other imaging sources have provided proof that there are other planets, some of them within the "life as we know it" zone.  "Life" is still a big maybe, but traces and hints are turning up indicating there are DNA chains and complex chemicals "out there."  

So science fiction is coming  back into fashion with interplanetary and galactic stories such as we looked at last week with Jean Johnson's "Theirs Not To Reason Why" series.

She used an entirely plausible depiction of TIME as the basis for taking the reader into a new perspective.  Her main character, Ia, is a precognitive who can scan the life events of individuals and their descendents for a thousand years.

After the TV Series Numb3rs (available on Amazon Instant Video) popularized the practical applications of some very esoteric mathematics, we have seen more popular science articles explaining how astrophysicists are applying mathematics to unravel the fabric of space-time, defining and re-defining what a "particle" is/might be and what waves have to do with that.

Einstein's Relativity is holding up well, but there are applications where it does not seem adequate.

The part of the theory that pertains to The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka is neatly summarized here:

Here is a classic graphic showing the Earth's gravity well.  Note how as you get closer to Earth, the shape of the boxes changes, so it takes different amounts of "Time" to traverse a box depending on where you are.

Space and Time are not separate.  OK, some recent work is showing Einstein's model fraying at the edges.  It may not be the whole story, but it's very dependably real where it does apply.

Einstein didn't have any satellites to experiment with.  He came up with this idea via mathematics and physics.  It was a totally useless fantasy for his world.  It is the basis of our current space program explorations.  And it is the basis of discoveries being made in particle physics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another thing I learned from Kabbalah while writing the 5 books on Tarot
is that the Soul descends into the body in stages, starting at conception and proceeding (I think by quantum leaps) to the threshold of sexual maturity at about 13.  This theory produces a unique paradigm for child-rearing, setting expectations expanding as the Soul gains a better grip on the animal body.  Given knowledge of what will be expected of him/her at given birthdays, and training to rise to that new level, maturity unfolds in a more steady way.

A fictional character given the advantage of such an upbringing, such an understanding of Body and Soul and their Relationship is better able to cope with the challenges of meeting a Soul Mate.

Working on the current exalted level, cutting edge mathematicians are now inventing the mathematics being used to describe and hunt for particles such as the Higgs Boson and Dark Matter and mini black holes.

Armed with great new mathematical tools, particle physicists have revved up the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2015 to run  to see what happens at the smallest level.
Scientists will be watching for the existence of mini black-holes when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator becomes fully operational this spring, because the detection of those black holes could change what we know about how gravity works, according to a new physics paper.

The existence of the mini black holes would lend support to string theory, which posits that different dimensions could exist and parallel universes are possible, according to a paper by physicists Mir Faizal, Mohammed M. Khalil and Ahmed Farag Ali, published in the current issue of the journal Physics Letters B.
----------END QUOTE-------------

So the long standing science fiction premise of "alternate universes" --

Here is Jack of Eagles by James Blish (who wrote SPOCK MUST DIE many years later).  This cover

Jack of Eagles by James Blish

is from the 1982 Avon Edition, but it was probably first published in 1952, possibly based on a 1941 concept.

Here is a story description from Google:
Danny Caiden is on the run - from the FBI, the SEC, the Justice Department and the Mob. Only recently, Danny was an average New York copywriter, until he suddenly found he had ESP...
----------END QUOTE-----------

The kind of ESP Danny Caiden developed had to do with "hearing" telepathic voices and leakages across universes, across Time. Other than that hypothesis, the book was pretty standard, built on what might, today, be called a book writing template.

So speculation such as Jean Johnson used in her Theirs Not To Reason Why series has been around since the 1930's, but though there has been a lot of work done in the field of Einstein's Relativity, it's only recently that hard-science experiments and long-range-observations from orbit have inched us closer to understanding Space-Time and the whole Wave/Particle thing.

Ted Kosmatka has picked up the thread started by James Blish -- even if Kosmatka had never heard of Jack of Eagles -- and breathed Soul into the speculations of mathematicians and particle physicists.

What if there are other "dimensions" -- whole universes adjacent to ours?  What if the "fabric" of space-time was thinned at some point and penetrated?  What would we learn?  What would we risk?  What has that to do with Space, Time, and Soul?

The TV Series Warehouse 13 explored this to some extent, as did The TV Series Sliders, but even more to the point, the TV Series Fringe gave us more possibilities.  These shows popularized the basic idea, as did Star Trek (the famous ST:ToS episode Mirror Mirror, and also did Time Travel).  Quantum Leap took us back in time, and focused on "repairing" or fixing things that went "wrong."  But Quantum Leap didn't dwell on the mathematics of Space and Time.

If you travel in "Time" -- you will likely land in empty space because the Earth MOVED as did the Sun.  So if you travel back in Time, you must also move through space to where the Earth was "then."  So Sliders seems to me more plausible than Quantum Leap.  But Quantum Leap dealt with the concept of Soul in a quantized universe.

All these popular TV Series have given the general public a notion about alternate realities formerly familiar only to science fiction readers, but that notion is, "It's a nice story, but I know the difference between fiction and reality."

Any scientist working on the cutting edge of these astrophysics and particle physics investigations knows the difference between objective reality and subjective fiction.  Most of these people live in objective reality, using imagination to push at the edges of human knowledge.

Most of these people are very certain the Soul does not "exist" because it has never been "found."

If the Soul has no spacial dimensions, then it will never be "found," unless we learn something about "time" that we don't know now.

So currently, scientists working at the edge of this "alternate universe" discovery are very certain about a few things they do know and they tend to be dedicated to objective reality.

One distinctive hallmark of good science fiction is that the plot turns on a discovery.  When that discovery confounds the scientist and derails the very sanity of the discoverer, you get the very best science fiction.

That is the issue that Ted Kosmatka deals with in The Flicker Men.

Kosmatka starts with a man, Eric Argus, a theoretical mathematical physicist who is renowned in his field for papers published.  Nobody knows why Argus quit, walked away, disappeared.  We meet him when he's just barely recovering from bouts of drunken stupor.  A friend gives him a job in a think tank, -- no assignment, just do some new original research, we won't tell you what to do.

He languishes around the place, meeting people seemingly at random, knowing he's on probation and has to write up something to present to the board -- but has no ideas.

He refuses to touch the work he was doing just before he walked off into a drunken haze.

Then "out of the blue" he discovers a bit of antique equipment in storage, unpacks it and replicates the classic double-slit experiment that demonstrates the wave/particle properties of a photon.  He also rigs up the detector that illustrates that an observer changes the photon being observed.

But his time-wasting doodling around with an unproductive experiment produces an odd discovery.  If it is an animal that observes, the change in the observed particle does not happen.

So he tests other scientists, and they all produce change when they observe.  He tests all kinds of animals at the zoo, and none produce change.

An anti-abortion group gets wind of the experiment, decides the difference in results of observation changing reality and decides the agent of change upon observation is the Soul.  They want to prove that fetuses have Souls in the womb and therefore must not be aborted.

Their experiment on the unborn produces mixed results.  Some fetuses produce the change, and some do not.  The results are the same regardless of developmental stage - some do, some don't.

The question then is do all adults have enough Soul to create change when observing?

So one of his colleagues takes off to test a lot of people to see if their observations change "objective reality."

The answer he finds is that no, not every adult human can observe and produce change in the observed.

This is confounding beyond belief.

The social fabric is stressed.  People try to kill him, destroy the place he works.

Against his will, Argus is driven to pick up the threads of the work he had dropped -- and we discover what scared him to the depths of his soul, left him deranged, depressed, and unable to think about the subject.

He has created a window into an alternate universe.

Things get even stranger from there.

You have to read the book to discover what Eric Argus does about all this, and what effect his actions have on his objective and subjective realities.

Is "The Soul" real?  Does it matter?  Can science detect Soul?

This is not a Romance Novel.  Eric Argus barely interacts with anyone.  He has known and related to people previously, but does not connect with them now.  He meets a lot of people now, but does not deeply connect with them though he obviously is capable of caring about others.

The story is about Eric Argus making his personal peace with the concept that The Soul is real.

The plot is about the scientific community and the general public coming to grips with the concept that The Soul is real.

The ending is about the question, "Does humanity really need to know that The Soul is real?"  That question is complicated by discoveries about how alternate universes are generated.

There's some cutting edge speculative mathematics woven into Kosmatka's ending involved in seeing our world as a hologram.  That's a subject hitting the popular press now.
Our Universe May Be a Giant Hologram
Physicist Brian Greene explains how properties at the black hole’s surface—its event horizon—suggest the unsettling theory that our world is a mere representation of another universe, a shadow of the realm where real events take place.

When we learn to model our universe as a complete hologram, we generate another Universe in the chain which causes destruction of prior universes.  Those living in prior universes naturally want to stop us from modeling the universe as a hologram, thus destroying them.  Can the Soul fix that problem just by observing?

How would you feel if you had no Soul, but others did?

There is a lot more to be written on this topic, especially in the Romance genre.

While the Large Hadron Collider is in hot pursuit of Dark Matter, is NASA in hot pursuit of The Soul?

If there is no such thing as a Soul, then there can be no such thing as a Soul Mate, and thus the Romance Genre can only write about sex, not happiness.

Do you want to escape to a world where Souls are real?  What if you had a Soul, but others don't?  What if the reason so many people don't believe the Happily Ever After ending can be objective reality is that you can't have it without a Soul?

Maybe everyone has a Soul, but not every child is raised under conditions that allow the soul to descend and possess the body?

Maybe that non-possessed-by-Soul condition is the source of all the spooky stories about Possession by demons or whatever?

If you want to write your romance novel, you should read The Flicker Men and James Blish's Jack of Eagles.

Neither has any Romance in it, but they describe a world that would be confounded by scientific evidence, undeniable proof, of the existence and function of Soul.

Think about how climate science has become "settled science" - that denying what we know presently is tantamount to being without a Soul.  Suppose the general public accepted scientific proof of the Soul with just as much fervor as we now accept man-made climate change?

What sort of an objective reality would that be?  What sort of fiction would be created to escape that reality?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Forced Consent

Forced Consent.  Now, there's an oxymoron for you, but that is exactly what "Consent Decrees" are--in my opinion--and I am talking about Government and big business imposing their will on writers, not old-fashioned romance.

Where is the consent when a Government-backed internet retailer decides to pay authors 0.006 per page read?  (Source: The Guardian ) (Aso Erica Verillo)

Where is the consent when Government-backed radio decides to pay music authors 0.004 per spin played?  (Source: The Trichordist )

Notice the similarity of the zero-point-double-0-digit rates!

Through "consent decrees" dating back to before most still-active musicians were born, the Government has treated songwriters as would-be exploitative monopolists, and has protected otherwise-hapless terrestrial radio broadcasters and internet music service providers by having one or two unelected, Government-appointed judges decide how much (or how little) a music copyright owner should be paid every time their music is played.

(BTW.  Consent Decrees are the reason that, come election time, a right wing politician will choose a theme song, and use it, and the left wing musician who wrote that song will object in vain.)
"...the consent decrees effectively substitute the opinion of a federal judge for that of a fair negotiation to set the rates at which those services compensate my fellow songwriters and me. After 73 years this has effectively become an unlegislated compulsory license. The consent decrees walk and talk like a compulsory license and after decades of practice they effectively are a compulsory license..."

Source: The Trichordist "Consent decrees violate individual rights..."

It's been a slow ride to the bottom for musicians, and book authors may find themselves in the same sinking boat.

The old music labels may have exploited musicians, but at least they promoted, edited, identified and groomed new talent and put out a quality product. Also, they stood up for the sale of albums as well as singles (with B-sides).


Likewise the traditional publishers may have exploited authors, but at least they paid advances, edited, and groomed and sometimes promoted new talent.  Also, they promoted new authors by putting out multi-author short story anthologies.

The music consent decrees applied to the Labels, but it also applies to the independents.... to the musicians who have their own labels.

Since Amazon allegedly complained to the Government that Apple and the 5 major publishers were endangering its monopoly of the ebook market (some would call it a monopsony), the door has been opened to consent decrees setting the market price for ebooks.

The Government did so, that time, for two years.... but even if agency has returned, it is "modified" and the new terms are applied to small press and indies as well as to the 5 publishing houses that may have "consented" to the "settlement".

AG's more measured explanation:
As part of a settlement with the Department of Justice, the publishers signed consent decrees requiring them to use the “wholesale” pricing model, where the publishers would sell books to retailers at list price, and retailers could set consumer prices as low or high as they wanted. Each publisher was free to return to agency pricing with Amazon after the expiration of its consent decree with the Department of Justice.
For an explanation of the original musical consent decrees,which are being reviewed:
In the United States, royalties from the performance of musical compositions are collected and distributed by the Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) ASCAPSESAC and BMI. Of these organizations—which distribute revenue to their songwriter and publisher members—ASCAP and BMI are governed by “consent decrees” originally issued by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) as a means to curb the anticompetitive tendencies of the publishing sector.
Consent decrees are limitations agreed upon by parties in response to regulatory concern over potential or actual market abuses. Back in 1941, there was only one legally recognized copyright in music—the musical composition—and the balance of power in the industry was heavily tilted to the music publishers and ASCAP. At the time, ASCAP acted as a kind of gatekeeper to the world’s most valuable musical repertoires, to the extent that the DOJ took action that same year to balance the scales. The result of this intervention are consent decrees that, to this day, govern how radio, whether AM/FM or digital, licenses compositions. BMI was placed under a similar set of conditions in the same year. ASCAP’s consent decree was last updated in 2001; BMI’s in 1994.
In the old days, for musicians, the tour was the marketing strategy (or a second revenue source) and the vinyl sales were the bread and butter.  Now, musicians are forced to subsidize internet start ups such as Pandora and Spotify, they are told that touring is their bread and butter, and having their music distributed by anyone who wants to distribute it is a marketing strategy.

Upside down!

Authors aren't being told to perform on stage, but incomes are down, and they are being encouraged to allow their stories to be all but given away, and their income is supposed to come from marketing, advertising and affiliate fees. How sustainable is that?

Especially since, it appears, that the cat is about to come out of the bag regarding how effective internet advertising really is. (Hint, a lot of the eyeballs that "see" "traffic" are merely bots, which will never buy the advertisers' products, even if the bots click the links.)

According to the Authors' Guild,

"Overall, the survey results showed that author incomes are down, hybrid authorship is up, and authors are spending more time marketing than ever before. In short, the business of authorship is both more varied and less profitable than just six years ago. The following document summarizes the results in more detail.
Click here to view the survey brochure that summarizes the results in more detail. "

My apologies for the somewhat disjointed flow.  I prefer to write, print out, edit on real paper.

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why We Like Animals

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN has a special "Collector's Edition" on sale titled "The Science of Dogs and Cats." (Try to find it in your local store; it's quite substantial.) Articles cover the latest research on topics such as how dogs and cats evolved from wolves and wildcats, the inner emotional lives of cats and dogs, canine and feline communication, whether animals display true empathy, whether they have anything that could be called "ethics," and whether they have a "theory of mind" (modifying their own behavior on the basis of what they think other creatures know or believe), among others. The piece on the Toxoplasma parasite especially intrigues me; that's the organism that makes infected rats attracted to the odor of cats instead of scared away from it. The effect works on the same part of the rat's brain involved in the sexual drive. A real-life biological analogy for one of the familiar fictional tropes I apply to my naturally evolved vampires—that vampires exert an irresistible allure to make victims eager to be preyed on!

"Dogs are unique in the animal kingdom because they have figured out how to join the community of an entirely alien species"—what a cool concept! The first essay in the publication (something between a thick magazine and a thin trade paperback) explores "Pets: Why Do We Have Them?" My first reaction was along the line of "duh," as this question seems to me like asking why we like to eat or breathe. As the tagline of the article says, "People have an innate interest in other species." The familiar reasons are discussed: Pets reduce stress, as proven by objective measurements such as blood pressure. Many domesticated animals trigger affection because they fit into the "cuteness" pattern of large, round heads, soft contours, and wide eyes, like human babies. Some people value pets' capacity for "unconditional love" and actually regard their dogs as "role models for a better life." As a fantasy fan and writer, however, I like to believe there's an even more fundamental motive for our attachment to animals.

C. S. Lewis says in the chapter on "Affection" in his THE FOUR LOVES, "The higher and domesticated animal is, so to speak, a 'bridge' between us and the rest of nature. We at all times feel somewhat painfully our human isolation from the sub-human world. . . . It [an animal] has three legs in nature's world and one in ours. It is a link, an ambassador. . . . Man with dog closes a gap in the universe."

Lewis's friend Tolkien in "On Fairy Stories" puts the same thesis even more eloquently, when he considers why talking animals and magical comprehension of animal speech play such a prominent role in fairy tales. He remarks on the profound human desire "to converse with other living things," a wish "as ancient as the Fall," rooted in "the sense of separation of ourselves from beasts.” He says, "A vivid sense of that separation is very ancient; but also a sense that it was a severance: a strange fate and a guilt lies on us. Other creatures are like other realms with which Man has broken off relations, and sees now only from the outside at a distance, being at war with them, or on the terms of an uneasy armistice. There are a few men who are privileged to travel abroad a little; others must be content with travellers' tales."

As I see it, the same desire to know the mind of the Other impels us to imagine talking with animals as well as communicating with trees, machines, or nonhuman aliens.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Reviews 18 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg: Theirs Not To Reason Why by Jean Johnson

Reviews 18
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Theirs Not To Reason Why by Jean Johnson 

The general topic of this blog is Alien Romance which means Romance between someone like you and someone very much not like you.

Perhaps the alien is a ghost, a being from another planet, a human/alien half-breed like Spock, someone from another Dimension, or as the Ancient Greeks had it, a "god" who mates with a human to produce a Hero whom they then proceed to torture with various forms of abuse.

The best science fiction takes the current bleeding edge scientific theories and applies the speculations:
A) What if ....
B) If Only ....
C) If This Goes On ...

The kind of science fiction I like best plays out those speculations against the human dimension of Relationships.

The very-very best have Human Relationships galore plus a Romantic Ignition of real Love, a Soul Mate, and a huge scientific problem that, if not solved, will destroy the Relationships and prevent the Romance from culminating in Happily Ever After.

In other words, the "stakes" in the main plot involve the HEA goal of life.

The opposition, or conflict, that causes Characters to take chances, make decisions, commit to insane courses of action, to play for high stakes in order to be able to solve the problem and attain the HEA, is Ignorance.  What you don't know can kill you.  Or worse, destroy you.

Some really great novels turn on the Ignorance of Characters where what they do not know is already known to others -- e.g. secrets, international intrigue, spying, or just the "secrets" adults keep from children.

But in science fiction the "ignorance" obstacle is about something that nobody knows, no human has ever known, that may in fact be (at this point in time) unknowable by the human brain which has yet to evolve the capacity to know it.

In order to bring the Romance to fruition, that Ignorance must be dispelled.

To live Happily Ever After in a science fiction romance novel, the Characters must discover something nobody has ever known before.

Sequels are generated as these Characters try to disseminate their new Wisdom.  They may be living the Happily Ever After life they fought to achieve, but now that they are happy, they can not endure the misery of others.

"If only everyone knew this!" then everyone would be happy like we are.  But of course, nobody will listen.

When was the last time you lost an argument and just changed your whole view of the universe to the winner's notion, changed your religion and politics, to the opposite of what they were just because someone proved you wrong?

In comics aimed at children, you often see a plot where a character just Changes from one illustrative panel of the story to the next because they learn something from another character.

In real life, we all know how stubbornly we cling to the views we have invested in emotionally, regardless of new facts uncovered.  Even when we profess to have adopted a new belief, even when we believe we have adopted a new belief -- the old belief still creeps into our behavior.  Real change takes years, even decades, to integrate into behavior and values, into emotional responses.

New science describes certain brain functions that make some people more capable of changing their minds about their beliefs than others.  Humans differ from each other, and some differences are hardwired into the brain structure, or so new science reveals.

In old fashioned science fiction (published to the market of adolescent boys), new facts changed minds if only the main character could prove them.

In modern science fiction, and a lot of Fantasy, the main character has to kick butt and go their own way to save the universe.

Jean Johnson
has given us a wonderful example of the lone woman from a tight-knit and loving family who accepts the responsibility to save the galaxy's civilization as she knows it, just because she discovers something nobody else knows.

This is the 5 book series, Theirs Not To Reason Why by Jean Johnson.  The main character is named Ia.

Here are all 5 books as a single Kindle download.

You can get the paper ACE Books editions, but several of them are very thick with small type.

Note the volume titled Hardship is more slender with larger type as it was split off from the 5th volume, Damnation.

The series was planned as 4 books, then the final volume split.  Hellfire is 476 pages in paper, and the type is telephone book size.

The 5 volumes tell one continuous story focused tightly on the character named Ia.  The writing cleverly allows you to enter the series at any point.

Each volume is a complete story, and the backstory is well enough sketched that everything makes sense and reads smoothly.  But the series is a series -- it's more fun in read order.

A Soldier's Duty
An Officer's Duty

Hellfire and Damnation are ship's names.  Hardship and Damnation were to be one book titled Damnation.

It is military SF set in a galactic war situation, tightly focused on the main character, a woman named Ia who enlists in the Service, does boot camp, rises from an enlisted grunt to top Admiral with a lot of power-titles bestowed on her by various allied civilizations.

The reason I enjoyed it so much is that the story is a mature, adult version of the standard "Mary Sue" fanfic that I love so much.  Then the last book in the series ends off with a surprise "reveal" that changes your perspective on whether it is a "Mary Sue"  because well, maybe it's not.

On her website Jean admits she did go to professional writing after writing fanfic, and she knows the fanfic field.  I consider that a plus.

Theirs Not To Reason Why as a series, is a very well constructed multi-volume story arc, and has a standard Galactic War plot line, standard (if ridiculously successful) military career arc complete with a change in service branch.

But to this familiar structure, Jean Johnson adds the Fantasy dimension of Precognition raised to the level of science.  And that makes the rocketing rise in military grade completely plausible.

There is no explanation though for the maturity level of this 18 year old girl who over the course of a few short years becomes trusted with the destiny of the galaxy by older, wiser, heads.

Predicting the future accurately (even with a fudge factor for lesser probabilities that manifest) does not give you judgement.

So suspend disbelief and just gobble up these novels.  They comprise one huge, great read.

In the Theirs Not To Reason Why series, many people (human and otherwise) in this galactic civilization have working precognition that spans anywhere from a few minutes to maybe weeks or months.

But ONLY our Heroine, Ia, can "see" up the timestream for more than a thousand years.  Such a person was prophesied and at least one planet has believed such a person would come onto the scene.  She wins their recognition as that prophet of a thousand years.

Ia sees a galactic invasion coming, tries to find a way for her galaxy to survive it, and can see only one way through.  She knows it will cost her all hope of an HEA at the end of it all.  It will cost her every good thing that life brings -- and eventually it will cost her life itself.  But it will save the galaxy.  One life to save trillions.

The threat Ia sees coming will arrive in about 300 years.  She could choose to live out her life, claim her HEA, and a cozy familiy life.  But she can't because she can see the disaster looming via Precognition.

She tries to find another way and can't, so she launches into a career to make the reputation she needs to gain the credibility and political power necessary to save the galactic civilzation.
Her every move is guided by her Precognition.  She anticipates the results of each move everyone in a pivotal role will make and because of her accuracy in prediction, she gains support.

That's a Mary Sue premise -- that people will accept someone who is correct because they are correct.
All you have to do is prove you are right, and people will accept you even if not exactly love you.

Real life doesn't work that way, so suspend disbelief to read these novels.  Ultimately, it will be worth the effort because there's plenty here to enjoy, and Ia does take a lot of flak because she is correct which adds a dash of realism.

So with a background in fanfic, Jean Johnson grabbed my heart, and with a background in professional Romance Novels, she warmed my heart.  In July 2015, the top page of carried some comments by Jean about Fifty Shades of Gray and where it fits into the Romance genre.

-----QUOTE from Jean Johnson ----------

It's normally considered polite to "not say anything bad" about another author's book, as a sign of professional respect...but during the recent media storm and counter-storm regarding the movie adaptation of "Fifty Shades of Gray" being released on Valentine's Day (which I will call FSoG for short), I have decided to put my reputation as an author on the line.

Now, to get this absolutely clear: I do not object to the existence of FSoG. I think it has every right to exist as a written work. Furthermore, I came from fanfiction myself; I know what gets written in fanfic genres. I know the quality of writing can also vary widely from...well, juvenile quality of the sort which most people would never dare show in public, to highly sculpted, truly beautiful prose of a level I myself am still trying to somehow magically attain (i.e. take several more years of hard work and practice). I therefore have no problems with that side of things, either. And if the novels (there are 3, fyi) were written to be, say, psychological horror stories / abuse survivor stories, I'd have no problems with the subject matter at all.

However, I do have a problem with FSoG being promoted as something good, desirable, and emulatable in a romantic relationship.

This series has been repeatedly analyzed by experts in fields of psychology, psychiatry, domestic abuse, AND the kink communities out there, as an utterly unhealthy relationship. These experts in their fields pretty much all agree that the majority of the three stories are not at all romantic, and in fact are rather alarming when considered in the light of the way FSoG and its sequels have been promoted as something which men and women should want, should aspire to, should seek out, and should emulate in their own lives. Indeed, the experts pretty much agree that the FSoG books appear to be romanticized domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse is a subject which I take very seriously. It is not romantic.
---------END QUOTE-------

I read that quote after I finished reading the novel series Theirs Not To Reason Why, so it did not color my enjoyment of the books.

I've been thinking lately that we're lacking in TV Shows, films and books that portray characters worth emulating, portray someone you want to become, or whose existence is a breath of fresh air energizing you to become a better self.  Heroes who enjoy life, challenge, risk, and throw themselves into it with zest like Star Trek's Captain Kirk seem to be missing in action.  Jean Johnson's work may change that.

These two facts obtained from her website explain exactly why I fell in love with this series.  I respect this author -- vastly, emphatically, and unshakeably.

She's got two factor identification with me -- fanfic and Abuse Is Not Romantic.

This two-factor-identification between author and reader is a point I've made in several series of writing craft posts about targeting an audience and using theme to target an audience.

Ultimately, the people who like to read your novels are people who have an affinity for something you are saying, and therefore are willing to listen to you say it if only to disagree with you and discuss that disagreement with their friends who they will insist must read your books.

There are a lot of technical craft problems with Theirs Not To Reason Why, a lot of scenes I'd have cut or condensed, many words I'd have cut, pacing that's just a bit off, characters I'd have framed differently, but there are two things Jean Johnson nailed to perfection that are worth studying:

1) Military Career (telescoped in time due to precognition, but realistic), 2) Precognition.

Johnson has postulated a theory of the nature of Time itself, and depicted it with ruthless consistency.

She has allowed for the vagueries of probability, thrown some curves at her Heroine, baited her with temptations to seek happiness instead of saving the galaxy.

This postulation of a theory of Precognition based on a concept of "Time" that holds water (well, tightly enough for fiction), makes these books "real" science fiction, not just a military action story set in space.

The presence of a Love Interest that is not allowed to blossom into full Romance because of the need to save the galaxy from invaders makes this not-quite-but-almost Romance.

The combination sets up an opening for other writers to explore.
The publishing industry is morphing and genres are being redefined.  Theirs Not To Reason Why by Jean Johnson is a pivotal, watershed work in the combining of Romance and Science Fiction.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the Alien Romance angle.  Ia, the Heroine, is only half-human --- she is half energy-creature with teleporting powers.  Her love interest is a human male.

Already a National Best Selling Author with a number of genuine Romance Novels to her credit (and more to come) Jean Johnson has our hearts in her hands and our minds in her clouds (or timestreams).

If you read nothing else the rest of this year, read Jean Johnson's Theirs Not To Reason Why series.

There are more novels set in this series universe yet to come, so you will want the series in your background.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Intellectual Property Rights, Hypocrisy, Transparency, Immorality (By Others)

I mean to write about government "consent degrees", which seems to me to be an Orwellian term for the situation where authors (whether of music or of literature) are forced to accept reduced royalties and loss of negotiating rights by the heavy hand of the government which favors Big Business political contributors, and enables these "disruptors" or exploit writers.

However, my thoughts aren't fully formed, so for now, I will post some thought-provoking links to other writers' blogs and articles in honor of Talk Like A Pirate Day, which was yesterday.


(Credit and kudos for this collection goes to The Trichordist although I am re-mixing their links and adding comments of my own here and there.)

For instance, I am surprised to find myself agreeing with Robert Reich (an advocate for the redistribution of property)... or at least with his headlines. IMHO, the "sharing economy" takes from the copyright owners the right and ability to be paid --or paid fairly-- for their work.

Robert Reich: The sharing economy will be our undoing | Salon
Robert Reich: Is Big Tech Too Powerful....

Amazon, Facebook and Google have the same secret  | Salon
* Our modern tech monopolies made billions and transformed the economy in different ways, but this was the base.
This Salon article points out that Microsoft has enjoyed a monopoly because its business model is based on intellectual property.
"Apple, Oracle, Google, Facebook, Amazon) have been accused of antitrust violations. But even when the antitrust cases have gone against them, the basis of these monopolies in intellectual property has limited the effectiveness of remedies." 

Randolph May and Seth Cooper explain why the Founding Fathers valued copyright protection for creators.
Why intellectual property rights matter | The Washington Times
* The Founders believed ownership of one’s labor is a natural right
"...a substantial amount of online piracy is attributable to the contemporary “downgrading” of IP rights by otherwise law-abiding people. With so much information so readily available on the Internet and so easily copied, distributed, recopied and redistributed, ad infinitum, many suppose online content is there for the taking."
IMHO Consent degrees suggest that a single, appointed judge in New York should decide who decides on what is a fair price for a song or for an ebook and whether or not the creator may negotiate. 
Film Producers Sue 16 Popcorn Time Users in Bid to Curb Piracy | PC Mag,2817,2490549,00.asp
IMHO, the suit against Popcorn Time USERS could be a turning point, because it is the viewers, rather than the piratical uploaders, who may be being pursued.
"Survivor Productions admitted that it had not personally identified the users, but had obtained IP addresses and their general location. The company also knows that they are Comcast customers and says it may be able to identify them with the provider's help."
Allegedly, Popcorn Time is "Netflix for pirated movies". Given the possibility that xfinity or u-verse service providers have the ability to help, this sort of piracy might not be worth the risk.
The MovieTube Litigation Part I: Who Needs SOPA? | Law Theories
IMHO, this doesn't sound like current, compelling reading.... but it is! Allegedly, MovieTube was a movie pirate site based in Singapore, and since the copyright owners had little chance of shutting the pirates down in Singapore, they parsed the existing DMCA (nothing to do with SOPA, which failed) and found arguments that an American court had the power to compel the American sites that made MovieTube possible (and perhaps profitable) to disable links to it.
"Nonetheless, a group of tech giants, comprised of Google, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Yahoo, filed an amicusbrief arguing that “the proposed injunction violates Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65 and the safe-harbor provisions of the DMCA.” Specifically, the amici claim that an injunction against MovieTube couldn’t bind third parties such as themselves because Rule 65(d)(2) and Section 512(j) of the DMCA wouldn’t allow it."
IMHO, that is a weird. reading of Safe Harbor.  The tech giants weren't being fined, or anything like that. They were simply --as I understand it--being deprived of an illegal revenue source that they shouldn't have been exploiting in the first place.
This is a follow-on story:
Hollywood, Silicon Valley Sharpen Their Swords in Piracy War | Variety
Here's hypocrisy (exposed by Jonathan Lamy):
"Jonathan Lamy, spokesman for the Recording Industry Assn. of America, painted the anti-copyright forces as hypocrites. “During the SOPA debate, the common response was that existing law or agencies like the ITC were the appropriate ways to deal with overseas rogue websites,” he said. “Fast forward three years, and apparently those statements are ‘no longer operative.’ Our job is to hold them to their word.”
Of hairy legs and cross-hairs....
"of Carl Crowell, a one-man police force for Hollywood studios seeking to protect the value of their movies. He’s waging a battle against a widespread belief many Internet users hold: that content should be free, regardless of who produced it or under what conditions."
Go Carl!!!

Finally, if "finally" can refer to a steam of five more urls, here are a bunch of links to very much music related stories. I include them without further comment because, IMHO, authors--even alien romance authors--should watch what happens and has happened to the intellectual property rights of songwriters.  They are probably canaries in the coal mine.
The More Money Spotify Makes, The Less Artists Get Paid | Digital Music News
A Stream on Apple Music Pays Songwriters And Publishers 33% More Than A Stream On Spotify | Hypebot
WashingtonWatch: Pre-’72 Royalty Battle Adds Another New York Lawsuit | Grammy Pro
Radio Giants Facing Bicoastal Legal Demands to Stop Playing Pre-1972 Songs | Billboard
What EMI’s six-month sample amnesty means for the music industry | The Guardian
Have a profitable week,
Rowena Cherry