Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Reading Demographic Today

On the way to Nasfic near St. Louis where Linnea and I actually get to do a panel together -- I have a few thoughts on the mega-trends driving change in the publishing industry, particularly in the "genre" end of the field -- and specifically Science Fiction, Fantasy and SFR.

One definition of SF (and thus an important component of Alien Romance) is that SF stories are found at the point where technology impacts society. (the ipod is an example -- revolutionizing the music industry. Suppose it had been introduced by an alien civilization trying to destabilize the Earth civilization so they could take over?)

Well, a similar impact has been made on the publishing industry by technology, and this shift is a prybar separating generations of readers farther and farther apart.

What I've long called the Fiction Delivery System is morphing faster than we can chronicle it. (Second Life for example.)

We have to assimilate the significance of these changes -- and as Alien Romance Writers, we must extrapolate from them. To do that, we have to understand what has happened, what is happening -- and draw a line onwards to what may yet happen as a result. Take a person who is 6 years old today -- and when they're twenty, link them up with an Alien and see if the sparks of love fly.

Now consider the elements of the fiction delivery system now being developed.

1) E-books. The publishers aren't ready to edit to the Mass Market level. Reading devices are up to the job now. E-books are really coming of age.

2) VIDEO -- YouTube is breaking new ground. Animation software costs I think about $3,000 but is of course a whole different profession to learn touse.

We need software that lets a writer TELL A STORY without learning a bunch of technical skills. Graphic Novels are being turned into films all the time.

3) The burgeoning video/ feature film / TV market is hungry for fresh new scripts.
The problem is that the demographic the Historical Romance or Big Fat Book genres sell to has gone elsewhere -- and not just gabbing on the cell phones.

They're finding deep, absorbing, complex stories to become involved in outside the print-book market. If they read a book, it's because others they know have read it. (Harry Potter comes to mind. See my post from last week.)

People think the problem is that the generation of an age to read is wasting themselves on videogames and chatrooms.

I don't think so. I think the problem won't be solved by those who think that.
I think the real problem is that the demographic print books are aimed at doesn't read fiction anymore.

I think the reason they don't read fiction is that the reading demographic used to read fiction in order to feel a sense of communicating with the world.

To read the words of someone "important" enough to get published and to recognize within those words an echo of one's own self -- to feel in contact with others like yourself -- is the real reason people have read fiction in any day and age. But it's especially true of the SF/F and Romance Reader demographic.

Today, that feeling is delivered much stronger on SECOND LIFE, YouTube, Blogs and chats, online RPG's, posting fan fiction they write themselves, or commenting and discussing posted fan fiction -- etc. etc.

My book, Star Trek Lives! blew the lid on Star Trek fandom which published fanzines unlike any that it's root-stock, SF fandom, had ever published. Star Trek fans published fiction in their 'zines -- not just non-fiction. That spread to other TV show pastiche. Then moved from paper to the internet, and exploded into multi-billions of words being posted on every sort of TV show -- not just SF/F.

Some of the demise of paper publishing may in fact be my fault for doing that book on what Star Trek fans do because they love the show so much.

A generation ago, during the boom in publishing, families were being uprooted and moved around the country and the world by corporations -- uprooting kids from the hard won friendships at school and neighborhood.

That's still going on -- but kids have cell phones with circles, and buddies, and other deals that let them keep in touch with old friends during the day, and on their bedroom homework computer blogging and posting fanfiction at night.

It's the readers, you know, who indulge in fan fiction, not the "rest" of the population.

And if you look very closely, you'll find that the "Alien Romance" may have some tentative examples from prior generations (The Leather Stocking Tales come to mind) -- the real origin of today's "Alien Romance" genre is in the Star Trek (Original Series) fan fiction. (check out simegen.com/fandom/startrek/ for a unique early example, an Inspirational Alien Romance!)

When I ran the dynamics of the K/S Star Trek fanfic through my own creative mechanism, it came out as my vampire novels Those of My Blood and Dreamspy which are available on amazon.com .

Live Long and Prosper,
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, July 30, 2007

Polly Wants A Cracker, or The Issue of Trust in Romantic Science Fiction

The past few posts, such as Barbara Karmazin’s most recent one on alien sex, has raised a number of very interesting questions (an ideas) for writers and reader of romantic science fiction. Jacqueline Lichtenberg—here on this blog as well—has often referred to the RSF/SFR genre as “intimate adventure” and in viewing these posts, the reasons why that label is so apt can become clear.

The posts to date have for the most part explored the arena of human and alien in a first encounter or first contact situation.

But where do the stories—and the characters—go when aliens are not so alien?

Let me digress a moment and talk about parrots. (Yes, I’m tired, behind deadline and packing for Archon but bear with me, I will make sense eventually). It’s been my experience that most humans are uncomfortable with large birds. Sharp claws, large beaks and fluttering wings make us a bit timid. Children who willing stick their fingers through the bars around a kitten’s or puppy’s cage at the pet store stand with hands behind their backs in front of the parrot’s cage. “CAUTION: HE BITES” is often tacked to the cage.

The reason parrots bite are many but very often come down to two things. One, a finger thrust into their view is looked upon as potential food (based on instinct, which is why you always offer a parrot a fist, not a finger). More likely, though, is the fact that a parrot’s beak is used as a third foot. This is something most (non-parrot) people don’t realize and something I’ve learned after many years of being owned by feathered friends.
You put your hand into the parrot’s cage. He leans his head down and latches firmly on to your arm with his beak. NOT to bite (but he will if you jerk your hand away) but to steady himself so he can climb on.

It’s the jerking-away reaction that causes the bite, you see. The fear by the human who doesn’t understand the parrot’s methodology and mind set.

Since being owned by a variety of large and small parrots (that's our Amazon, Bird, above), my husband and I often now find ourselves being feathered-friend rescuers, for the simple reason we’re not afraid to approach any kind of bird or parrot. We understand a bit more about them—and their beaks. We’ve handled injured egrets, baby terns, seagulls, Muscovy ducks, lovebirds and cockatiels. We understand the beak, like a human’s hand, is primarily for grasping. It can, like the hand, also injure. But we don’t come into the situation with that mindset.

Which brings me back to alien sex, or romantic adventures with someone who is not a Terran of the human variety.

What if the aliens in your novel aren’t totally alien? What if they’re like parrots? Not feathered, though I wouldn’t rule that out. But what if they’re just another species or race that shares some of the same breathing space your human characters do, but without complete familiarity?
We’re very aware of birds in our environment on this planet. But most of us have no information or experience in interacting with them.

Think of Chewie in Star Wars. Han Solo—a human—was definitely very at ease with Chewie. There was no perceived human-parrot reaction (ie: I’ve seen you but I don’t really understand you). I don’t know if in Lucas’s universe there are any human-Wookiee couples, but given Han’s comfort level with Chewie, it wouldn’t surprise me. (And the image here is from fabulous artist Dave Dorman's site.)

I structured Ren, the gilled Stolorth in my Gabriel’s Ghost, more on the parrot mold. Chaz Bergren, the female human protagonist, knew of Stolorths and had seen many in her life but never really knew one. She knew what she’d been taught about Stolorths. She knew what others said about Stolorths. But until life (and my plot) threw her in close contact with Ren, Stolorths were—for all their visibility in her existence—still “other.” Alien. Extending your hand could as likely get your bit, as not.

Part of Chaz’s growth in the book was her replacing Ren’s “alien” label with one of “person.” Someone she was capable of understanding and trusting. And Ren was not the love interest in the plot (for those of you who haven’t read the book). But Chaz’s extension of trust to Ren paralleled and mirrored (and foreshadowed) the issues she had with Sully (the love interest and male protagonist).

And it turns out, of course, that Sully is far more “alien” than she suspected. A parrot in human clothing, if you will.

Captain Tasha “Sass” Sebastian also faced that issue (gee, you think it’s one I like?) in Games of Command. Branden Kel-Paten was a bio-cybe, a man/machine construct, his human familiarity now blurred by the knowledge of his cybernetic augmentations. Like me yet not like me. A known unknown. “Can I trust him?” was a huge issue for Sass even though Kel-Paten’s very “alien” qualities were created by humans.

Can we trust an alien of our own making?

One of the reasons I so enjoy C.J. Cherryh’s FOREIGNER series is that—excerpt for the first book—her aliens are a known alien to the human, Bren Cameron. Differences and lack of full information about each other are acknowledged and the extension of trust has begun. We’ve learned that a finger may get bit but a closed fist can tolerate the pressure of the (potentially injurious) beak.

That’s Lesson One and I think it’s a big lesson. Not that “You’re so totally different and alien that all I can do is react in fear” but “You’re different and alien but we have some commonalities, I’m learning some of your ways and looking forward to exploring more.”

The exploring more is the reason I write what I write.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Psychological consequences of Alien Sex

Psychological consequences of alien sex for the human character (... and, especially for the alien!)

By Barbara Karmazin


1. FIGHT or FLIGHT response: This is the very basic response pattern regardless of species.

Imagine that you’re a caveman/woman/child picking berries when you come nose to nose with a sabre-tooth tiger. While you were gathering, the tiger was hunting, and the sight of you makes his mouth water.

Evolution gives your body a set of automatic responses that take over in the event of an emergency. At the sight of the tiger, your hypothalamus sends a message to your adrenal glands and within seconds, you can run faster, hit harder, see better, hear more acutely, think faster, and jump higher than you could a few earlier.

Your heart pumps at two to three times the normal speed, sending nutrient rich blood to the major muscles in your arms and legs. The tiny blood vessels (called capillaries) under the surface of your skin close down (which sends your blood pressure soaring) so you can sustain a surface wound and not bleed to death. Your eyes dilate so you can see better.

All functions of your body not needed for you to fight or flee shut down. Digestion stops, sexual function stops, even your immune system is temporarily turned off. If necessary, excess waste is eliminated to make you light on your feet.

Your suddenly supercharged body helps level the odds between you and your attacker. Consequently, you narrowly escape death by leaping higher and running faster than you ever could before. When the danger is, you find a safe place to lie down and rest your exhausted body.

FLASH FORWARD to the present day. Despite the huge amount of technological change in the ensuing 25,000 years, you have the same set of internal body parts as that of your remote forefathers and foremothers. You're in the break room at work, hunting for coffee and gathering donuts.
Your boss walks in, hunting you. He says, "Could I see you for a moment in my office, please?"

At the sight of the tiger, er, uh...your boss...your hypothalamus sends a message to your adrenal glands and within seconds your body summons the strengths and abilities that your stone-age ancestor needed to fight a sabre-tooth tiger.

Blood pressure soars as you take the long walk down the hall to your boss's office. You remember a rumor you heard about an upcoming round of layoffs. Now your mind races, your heart pumps harder, your mouth dries up, your hands feel cold and clammy, sweat pours down your and you may even feel a sudden urge to go (to the bathroom). Maybe you'd like to run and hide or maybe you'd like to punch your boss in the nose, but you can't do either. Welcome to the modern era.

(Every time your body triggers the fight or flight response, for situations that are not truly life-threatening, you are experiencing, in effect, a false alarm. Too many false alarms can lead to stress-related disorders like, heart disease, high blood pressure, immune system disorders, migraine headaches, insomnia and sexual dysfunction.)

So, going back to our aliens. If an alien, vampire, werewolf or stranger suddenly appears in your bedroom, what’s going to happen? Are you going to open your arms and legs and invite him or her into bed with you for a sexual tryst? Or are you going to reach for the baseball bat you keep under your bed and clobber this intruder, then run away and dial 911 for help?

Keep this normal psychological reaction in mind whenever you set up a sudden meeting between human and alien.

I kept this fight or flight response in mind when I wrote the first face-to-face meeting between Sonia and Rulagh. And because Rulagh is an exo-biologist working for the Interstellar Humane Society, then this meant he would also be aware of this common response to danger and/or a potentially dangerous stranger. So of course, he uses that knowledge to defuse the situation and reassure Sonia that his intentions are harmless instead of dangerous.

2. Stockholm Syndrome: I’m sure you’re familiar with this syndrome.

The Stockholm Syndrome comes into play when a captor/abductor shows token acts of kindness to his or her prisoner. It typically takes about three or four days for the psychological shift to take hold.

A strategy of trying to keep your captor happy in order to stay alive becomes an obsessive identification with the likes and dislikes of the captor which has the result of warping your own psyche in such a way that you come to sympathize with your tormenter. Rescue attempts are seen as a threat, since it's likely the captive would be injured during such attempts.

It's important to note that these symptoms occur under tremendous emotional and often physical duress. The behavior is considered a common survival strategy for victims of interpersonal abuse, such as battered spouses, abused children, prisoners of war, and concentration camp survivors.

Needless to say, if your hero or heroine is a reasonably intelligent and educated human, then he or she would also know about the Stockholm Syndrome and would be suspicious of his or her feelings if he or she were captured, kidnapped and/or imprisoned by an alien.

I’m also sure if your readers are reasonably intelligent and educated, they would also be aware of the effects of the Stockholm Syndrome and would also be suspicious of the validity of any emotional attachments formed under this type of alien/human scenario. Last but not least, it’s a very common SF cliché to have aliens kidnapping human females for sexual experimentation.

So, if you’re going to have a situation where a human is abducted, number one, you need to make it a plausible abduction, not a cliché one and number two, you need to establish very quickly that the human is free to go within the first hour after abduction but decides to stay and help the alien resolve the issue that caused the abduction in the first place.

For example, the alien abducts the human because he or she needs a critical component to repair his or her spacecraft. Have the human and alien work together to solve a problem and in the process of solving the problem get to know each other better and watch the sexual attraction and emotional bonding grow before you have any sexual interaction take place. Create the sexual tension first. It’s a lot more exciting, sensual and romantic that way.

Another example or twist of the trite alien kidnap cliché could be a third alien enemy species who kidnaps the human and throws him or her into the holding pen with another alien species. This type of scenario forces the human and alien to work together to escape and of course they forge emotional bonds while planning their escape, escaping, eluding their mutual enemy and defeating their mutual enemy.

3. Florence Nightingale Syndrome:

Florence Nightingale Syndrome refers to an inappropriate attraction which can arise between two individuals, one of whom is receiving support or positive attention of some kind. In time, natural feelings of gratefulness and appreciation become exaggerated, turning into declarations of love. The receipt of medical attention is a prime opportunity for such interactions to take place. Obviously, the relationship between Florence Nightingale and the soldiers of the Crimean War, who were said to kiss her shadow as it fell across their bed, gives rise to the syndrome's name.

Florence Nightingale Syndrome is also used to refer to a constant and uncontrolled desire to protect and alter the lives of others, often without regard to whether one possesses either the right, or indeed the ability to do so. The feeling of providing help reinforces within the individual a feeling of power, and thus provides for the basic need to feel wanted and loved.

4. Dominance/Submission:

Many of the different animal species you will look at as models for shapeshifters and aliens have a complex social hierarchy that blends dominant and submissive behaviors to form their packs and family groups.

a. BDSM is a specific sexual subculture with specific rules and guidelines for the relationships within this subculture.

D/s consists of a consensual relationship that is based around a power exchange between two people. One person is the controlling one, known as the Dominant; the other person is the controlled one, and is known as the submissive (note that 'Dominant' is usually capitalized and that 'submissive' is not). The submissive gives a certain amount of 'power' to the Dominant over their lives. This can be as simple as the Dominant telling them what to wear each day, or can be as complex as the submissive having to ask the Dominant for permission to even leave the room. The important thing to note here is that we are talking about consensual relationships. The rights of the submissive are not taken from them without consent, they are given freely during a period of negotiation.

Total Power Exchange Arguably, the 'pinnacle' of D/s relationships is a Total Power Exchange (TPE) relationship, where the submissive gives up all control to the Dominant. Total means just that. The Dominant controls every aspect of their lives from what they wear or eat, to where they go and who they see. (You’re walking a very fine line between D/s and Domestic Violence with this type of relationship. Why? Because many abusers seek to control every facet of their spouse or lover’s life.)

Here’s a list of terminology within the D/s lifestyle:

Dominant - The person who has been given some amount of control over the submissive. Other terms describing them are Dom and Domme.

submissive - The person who gives some amount of control to the Dominant. Other terms describing them are sub, pet and slave.

D/s - Dominance and submission. A power exchange relationship.

Lifestyle - Generally those that practice D/s are part of 'the lifestyle'. It doesn't mean anything, it's just a descriptive term.

Vanilla - a non-D/s relationship.

24/7 - Living a D/s relationship 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To put it another way, you are always in a power exchange relationship.

Scene - The best way to describe this is to think of a 'scene' from a movie. This is one interaction between a Dom and a sub. It doesn't have to be sexual; all that is required is that a power exchange has taken place. Those not in a 24/7 relationship tend to have 'scenes' where the power exchange happens. Even those in 24/7 relationships can have scenes, where the exchange becomes deeper.

Top - A person who Dominates for only a scene. If you think of it as a 'one night stand' in the D/s lifestyle you wouldn't be quite correct, but it's a good start. This doesn't mean that the Top is a 'Dominant', just that the dominate for the one scene.

Bottom - A person who is submissive for only a scene. This does not mean the person is always a submissive, just that they are submissive for the scene. See 'Top'.

Switch - Someone who switches between the Dominant and submissive roles.

Safewords - These are words that are used by either Dom or sub to slow down, or stop a scene. Having negotiated a safeword is very important. It means that if something is happening that makes either person uncomfortable, they can either back off a little, or stop.

b. A Few Myths, D/s isn't about Abuse

Though the point has already been made it's important to emphasize that the normal D/s relationship is about a consensual power exchange. Whatever happens to the sub, whatever demands are made of them, they have agreed to this. If they haven't, if they never asked for this, or they don't want this, then it's an abusive relationship not a BDSM relationship.

Submissives aren't always women. If your image of a submissive is a woman, no matter how she's dressed, think again. There are a great number of male submissives.
Submissives aren’t weak. If someone has to have someone else run their lives for them they must be weak, right? Wrong. Many submissives are quite powerful people outside their D/s relationship: lawyers, managers, business people, police, soldiers and so on. For some, being a submissive in the home, or merely in the bedroom, is a way of escaping from the normal pressures of being in charge.

D/s isn't about Kinky Sex. Sure, D/s couples often have kinky sex. Then again, vanilla couples often do too. What defines a D/s relationship has very little to do with the methods used, so much as the power exchange. A simple 'no' when a sub asks if they can have a drink can have as much 'power' as getting them to kneel.
Entering a D/s Relationship. When two people are about to enter a D/s relationship, the first step is negotiation. This is a period where no power exchange occurs, but is a discussion where the parameters of the relationship are discussed. How much power will the Dominant have over the submissive? What hard limits do both have; that is, to what activities are one or both opposed? What will be the safewords? What will be the period of the relationship?

Often after negotiation a contract is drawn up, setting out all of the parameters discussed. In this way there can be no misunderstandings.

c. Erotic SF/F, BDSM and aliens

Many Erotic SF and Fantasy writers model their alien and futuristic human cultures using the BDSM culture. A few of the very popular stories walk a fine line between an abusive type of relationship and the classic Stockholm Syndrome psychological response.

You can incorporate elements of BDSM into your alien cultures but make sure you know what you’re doing and make sure you have a specific list of behavior/cultural rules set up for the culture when you do this. Don’t just do it on a random fashion and always show consent for the relationship. Know what rules you have and know how each rule effects the way the aliens interact with each other and with humans.

Because I worked for twenty-nine and a half years as a bilingual social worker in my day job and have had numerous cases that involved abused women, abused men and abused children, I’m very aware of this fine line. I also have a tendency to avoid the more extreme versions of BDSM culture and will often use only the mildest forms of sex play from this culture in my writing because of my past work and personal experiences.

When I created Rulagh’s alien culture for The Huntress, I modeled his entire culture on a basic pack family system where dominant and submissive members cooperate within their pack and fight all outsiders. Their corporate/business interactions are also very dependent on dominant and submissive behavior patterns with each corporation/business looking at the other corporations/businesses as non-pack members and enemies to be watched.

Sonia and Rulagh staged ‘scenes’ of dominance and submission during their sex games with one another and forged deeper bonds of love and commitment to each other with these scenes.

I combined the fact that reptilian sexual arousal is scent-based and the fact that many animal species use scent to physically ‘mark’ their territories. So, because Rulagh’s species has two penises, I decided that the second penis was used to ‘scent mark’ their women. Rulagh’s unique pheromone scent from his penis happens to be cinnamon.

Sonia and Rulagh had to fight the other alien members of the team sent to Earth on their animal control mission in order to establish their dominance and leadership of the team.

5. Cross Species References/Standards of Beauty and Sexual Attractiveness:

When you look at a horse galloping across a field, you recognize and admire the beauty of its body even though this is a different species. The same recognition and admiration occurs when you see images of wolves, bears, seals, dogs, cats and many other animal species.

You’re not sexually aroused because you’re aware that they’re animals and that their intellectual capacity and ability to communicate with you and interact with you is not on the same level as another human being. However, this doesn’t stop you from forming bonds of love. I love my furbabies, my dogs and cats. And I’m sure that those of you who are in this group who have pets, all love your pets dearly and you know your pets love you and return your affection with licks and touches and body contact and they enjoy it when you touch them and pet them also.

The key element here is intelligence. I went over that element in detail during my first lecture when I went over the definition of bestiality. Regardless of shape and form, if the intelligence is present and the intelligence level is equal to or higher than human intelligence, there is no bestiality. Without intelligence then there is no way to form emotional and sexual relationships.

Many SF writers when they write an alien often show the aliens looking at humans with disgust and horror because humans look so different from them and humans don’t meet their standards of alien beauty. Perhaps, but the ability to recognize the beauty of another species is already there despite the physical differences. I believe that aliens have this ability also and will be able to recognize the attractiveness of the human form despite the differences the same way humans can recognize the beauty of a horse, wolf or panther.

On the other hand, just as there will be aliens who can recognize and admire the physical beauty of other species, there will always members of the alien species who loathe anyone or anything different from their normal expectations of beauty and sexual attractiveness.

The traditional view of sexual arousal focuses on the physical changes associated with the genitals. Sexologists have broken the sexual response cycle into four phases, excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. The amount of time a person spends in each phase, and even the order in which they experience them may vary.

At birth we respond to sexual stimulation based solely on instinct. If we feel safe and our basic material needs are met, we will most likely respond to sexual stimuli very easily. This is perhaps why the simple acts of nursing and exposing the genitals to air results in sexual arousal in infants. At birth our bodies are very sensitive to external stimuli, and our minds have not learned "appropriate" sexual response yet. As a result, at birth, orgasm is probably controlled more by physical stimuli than mental thought processes. Orgasm is a simple physical reflex response at birth.

By the time puberty rolls around we have already been taught "appropriate" sexual response.

Sexual arousal and orgasm is a complex process involving the entire person, mind and body. The human mind receives in sexual stimuli from the body, processes the stimuli, and based on past learning and experience this causes a physical response. The brain may start the sexual arousal process in response to thought (sexual fantasy), visual stimuli (seeing a partner nude), audible stimulation (hearing a partner's voice), olfactory stimuli (the smell of a partner's body), and taste (the taste of a partner's body).

The mind and body while able to experience sexual arousal separately cannot experience orgasm separately. Orgasm requires both the mind and body to work together. Mental thought alone can trigger orgasm, but the actual sensations are physical reactions.

Then there is what I call the feedback loop in sexual arousal. Knowing and seeing that your lover is aroused makes you feel sexy. The same thing applies to your lover, when your lover knows that you’re aroused that increases your lover’s arousal. Back and forth this feedback loop continues throughout the love scene until both (or more) participants orgasm.

Many SF writers use this ‘feedback loop’ to describe two or more persons linked mentally while they’re making love and knowing and feeling the other lover/lovers reactions and arousal stimulates all to a mutually satisfying and mind-blowing orgasm.

What if your aliens have a special sensory and telepathic ability that occurs whenever they have physical contact with others? You could write very intense and involved love scenes using this concept.

Keep the complex dance of sensual thoughts, actions and reactions in mind when you consider how to show an alien’s POV (point of view) and their cultural matrix for interpersonal relationships. Try to apply this information on general psychological reactions to different situations and the basic information about sexual arousal when you create your aliens. The possibilities are endless.

Thank you.

Barbara K.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Romances With Aliens

Romances With Aliens...

Apparently, it was last Saturday --a week ago-- that the allegedly alien lights were seen in the sky over Stratford-Upon-Avon (but I did not see it on the news until Thursday).

Last Monday, the distributor from the UK sent me an email to tell me that Insufficient Mating Material is now in stock in the UK, in case I wanted to promote it a bit. I've cried Wolf! in good faith so many times to my friends in the UK, that it's a bit of a problem being believed, not to mention my own embarrassment!

Anyway, when I saw the TV report and heard the description of the lights, I had a "Close Encounters" moment.

"How can I make something of a triangle?" I thought. "As a signal!"

In my books --and probably every other alien romance or action adventure-- sign language is used, because not all species can speak, and because we're used to soldiers and swat teams making signals to one another.

"And, it has to be something to do with Romance or Sex."

Do you remember the childish designs we made using W, X, Y, Brackets?

So then, I put out a specious press release (sort of), claiming responsibility for something that had nothing whatsoever to do with me.

"Insufficient Mating Material arrived in the UK to widespread awe and speculation... and much confusion.

Alien Star Forces commanders assumed that Earthlings would understand that a display of a triangle formation was a signal of their peaceful interest in human pubic regions."

I know there were two other moving lights. I had an explanation for those, too. Now, I'm writing an interest in pubic triangles into the almost-finished next book.

What other news events are favorite PR hooks for alien romance publicity?

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Attaining Adulthood

An article in the April/May issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND, "The Myth of the Teen Brain," offers a thought-provoking rebuttal to the popular belief that the "incompletely developed" brains of teenagers predispose them to immature, impulsive behavior and that adolescent turmoil is an inevitable developmental stage in human growth. The author of this article, Robert Epstein, who has written a book called THE CASE AGAINST ADOLESCENCE, maintains that imaging studies of teenage brains, which purportedly demonstrate a neurological basis for irresponsible behavior in adolescence, don't actually prove what they are claimed to prove. Observed phenomena in brain wiring and chemistry can be the result as well as (or instead of) the cause of environmental factors. Epstein believes the roots of the behaviors that lead people to perceive teenagers as immature and incompetent arise from social rather than neurological sources. He points out that young people in many other societies don't display the same types of "adolescent" behavior (but when exposed to American culture, they often begin to do so). He also cites the findings of historians that "through most of recorded history the teen years were a relatively peaceful time of transition to adulthood. Teens were not trying to break away from adults; rather, they were learning to *become* adults." Teenagers in Western society today, by contrast, have no useful role to play. Stereotypical teenage turmoil results from the "artificial extension of childhood" past puberty. Studies show that teens are as competent as adults "across a wide range of adult abilities." Moreover, in some areas they're superior to adults. For example, as we aging boomers can testify, visual acuity, memory, and the ability to learn new things rapidly. These abilities make evolutionary sense, according to Epstein, because mammals begin to bear young shortly after puberty. If human teenagers hadn't been able to take care of themselves and their offspring competently, the human species would have died out long before the industrial age.

A similar thesis about the roots of teenage angst is proposed in the online article "Why Nerds Are Unpopular." (Google that phrase and read the whole thing. It's fascinating.) The author of this essay begins by asking why intelligence seems to make kids an object of persecution by their peers in high school, but he eventually moves on to the larger issue of what high school is for and the whole issue of how our culture deals with adolescents. Teenagers can't be turned loose to support themselves in a highly technological society, so the "artificial extension of childhood" inevitably ensues. Most American young people, as this author puts it, grow up in an environment "as artificial as a Twinkie," with no function for its form to follow. By contrast, prior to the twentieth century, teenagers were capable of making a genuine contribution to the economic well-being of the family (and, in the working-class level of society, required to do so). In our contemporary U.S. culture (aside from the rare computer-savant prodigies) nobody can earn a living wage without eighteen or more years of school. The only jobs open to most teens are minimum-wage positions in retail and fast food (the latter, as Epstein puts it, having developed specifically to take advantage of this pool of cheap, disposable labor).

Epstein's arguments about the ability of teenagers to learn quickly remind me of the "First Year" phenomenon in Jacqueline's Sime~Gen universe. Young Simes immediately after changeover (which coincides with puberty) have an amazing ability to absorb new knowledge and skills, including language, which for ordinary human beings becomes almost impossible to learn fluently after early childhood. It has been hinted that newly established Gens may also have some of that "First Year" learning capacity. It's easy for readers to forget, when reading HOUSE OF ZEOR and the other books in the series, that most of the "adult" Simes and Gens in the stories are teenagers!

In writing stories of human settlement on distant worlds, we should keep in mind that in a frontier society, young people just past puberty have to take on adult responsibilities. Many of them will marry at that age and start families while they have youthful health and energy, especially if the new colony has a desperate need to increase its population of workers. As Isaac Asimov points out in one of his essays, in preindustrial cultures a boy became a man when he grew a beard, and a girl turned into a woman when she became capable of getting pregnant. (As generations of lovelorn teens have reminded their parents, Juliet was fourteen.) And what about our aliens? Suppose we modeled an intelligent alien species on Terran creatures (many insects, for example) that live only a short time after breeding. They would have to cram all their "adult" living into the life stage we'd ordinarily think of as adolescence.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Is Harry Potter an Alien?

Whoo-hoo, the boy wonder is grown up!

I saw an interview with the actor on TV the other day -- in his real persona, he's scrumptious.

Teens everywhere have throbbing hearts. (so what else is new?)

I haven't read the final installment in the saga yet, though I will. I did see the Phoenix movie as I mentioned last week.

And I've been following all the hype in the media -- and the reporting on the hype.

Boiled down, the media sees the Harry Potter saga as "good vs. evil" and says that accounts for the popularity. (i.e. if it didn't have "good vs. evil" at the core, it wouldn't be popular - they say.)

So since today is Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the Hebrew Month of Av), the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and subsequent to that, a day when major blows have fallen on the world, (not a superstition, but historical fact if you look at the dates via the Hebrew calendar) I wanted to explore this "good vs. evil" theme that is so very popular that it lies unquestioned as a model of the real universe we live in.

The premise is that there's more true "Evil" in the world than "Good" and it is the job of "Good" to fight "Evil" even though "Evil" is terrifyingly strong.

And it must be a fight to absolute destruction.

Where "Good" encounters "Evil" there must be combat to annihilation (not Love, not Romance, not persuasion, not understanding, not empathy, not compassion, not problem solving, but COMBAT TO THE DEATH.)

Good vs. Evil is the conflict in Dresden Files, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Supernatural -- maybe not Forever Knight so much -- but many Fantasy novels focus on the vision of the universe in which there is a thin crust of "good" over a seething cauldron of "evil" and it's the plight of a certain few humans to keep "evil" from breaking through.

Potter's fight gets personal, so does the fight of Harry Dresden (who jokes about having Potter's first name, then points out he was named for Houdini.)

Why is Harry Potter such a success when these other shows and novels (which many would say are better written, better crafted, or better backgrounded) have not had similar play?

And where does that view of the universe as floating on a seething cauldron of Evil come from?

Frankly, I don't know any answer to Potter's success exceeding that of other novels except publicity.

I saw an interview on the Lehrer News Hour with a top Children's Librarian and a publisher, and their consensus was that it's the MEDIA that made Harry Potter more successful than other equally good books about the same topics.

I read a statistic that readers who gobble up Harry Potter novels, still only increase the sale of other books by barely 10%. Potter is ALL they read. For the rest of their time it's computers, games, music downloads, text-messaging, maybe Potter fanfic.

Harry Potter is a tiny (itsy-teensy) fraction of Scholastic Publishing's annual gross sales (Scholastic is the US distributor). But those same interviewees mentioned above considered that this whole set of novels will become a classic that new crops of 11 year olds will be reading into the far future. They will continue to sell.

This "Good" must fight "Evil" is a general portrait of reality that is, I think, not "believed" so much as "assumed" by the general public. It's never challenged or discussed in grammar school where you learn your view of the universe.

Here the question of whether Harry Potter is an alien (and therefore a fit subject for "alien romance" (definitely of the djinn variety)) gets really abstract.

Harry Potter taps into a somewhat new twist on a very old mythology. The prevailing Group Mind, or general mindset in the world today (including among those without the education to know what the word "philosophy" actually refers to) has changed drastically in the last 50 years -- maybe 70 or so years.

We've never been so obsessed with "Evil" since maybe The Inquisition.

To see how it all fits together, we have to be able to step back from our Civlization -- way, way back -- and view ourselves as the result of the flowering of the Greek culture.

The Greeks took over from the huge world-conquering Egyptian culture that spread mathematics, science and learning throughout North Africa and the Middle East all the way around the top of the Mediterranean. According to some archeologists, there is an odd coincidence between the bare beginning of the fall of Egypt and the best guess date for the Parting Of The Red Sea.

That's just a theory, but we're fiction writers here and we play with history and pre-history all the time.

The Greeks invented "democracy" made mathematics even more useful than the Egyptians did for building big things, and worshipped gods whose family relationships have to be described today as "dysfunctional" -- the Greek ideals included naked games, homosexuality and even what today in America would be statutory rape of young boys.

The Greeks fell and the Romans ate up their culture and made it their own -- growing bigger than Greece ever had, reaching all the way to Britain (I've been reading the lastest of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon series -- this one, Ravens of Avalon, by Diane Paxton).

Rome fell -- etc -- and after various invasions and so on, Britain erupted in fleeing Pilgrims who founded what eventually became the American Colonies - and then us.

Our modern Civilization is a direct descendent of Ancient Eqypt -- if you look at it like say, Francisco St. Germain (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's vampire) might.

Ancient Egypt was ruled by "gods" who became incarnated and often produced the Heir Apparent mating with their closest sibling.

But Greek philosophy gave us a way of looking at the world which is now and always has been diametrically opposed to the MYSTICAL or MAGICAL way of looking at the world.

The Greeks laid the foundation for the later works in Britain by Bacon which promulgated the scientific method.

The notion is that the Universe is a mechanism -- a giant clock -- and nothing more. It's just a machine, and it runs by itself. There is no such thing as a "seething cauldron of Evil" and no Evil to fight. The "worst" behavior of their gods (Dyonisis comes to mind) was actually celebrated and lauded.

Almost all of science is based on this Helenistic Philosophy. Our civilization has had enormous success applying this philosophy (remember Science used to be called Natural Philosophy for a reason.)

Just skipping over the Assyrians and Babylonians -- we're looking at the invention of the Wheel as around 3,000 BCE, The Patriarch Abraham at around 2100 BCE (give or take), and Egypt invades Canaan at around 1950 BCE, and the Israelites being enslaved in Egypt around 1300 BCE -- with Moses leading the escape around 1250 (that can be argued vigorously on a lot of sides. The general figure for the length of the sojourne in Egypt is about 400 years, but slavery came at the end) And the fall of Egypt around 1065 BCE (they had a couple changes of "dynasty" in there, struggling to survive.)

First Olympic games in Greece around 776 BCE.

Founding of Rome about 753. About 509 BCE The Roman Republic is founded. 399 BCE Socrates is condemned to death for heretical teaching. 323 BCE birth of Euclid. Egypt still exists but it's not THE power in the ancient world. 170 Rome invades Egypt. (see Shakespear)

When one country invades and conquers another, the conquerer acquires a lot of the attitudes and valuable accomplishments of the conquered. The cultures blend with every intermarriage. Remember, the Romans didn't care what god you worshipped as long as you also worshipped the Roman gods and the Emperor got his due. That's cool, until it runs up against Monotheism, and the Egyptians had sun worshipping monotheists who were not a majority though.
In Israel, the monotheists were a majority.

So today's secular majority relying on a view of the universe that sees reality as an uncaring machine that can be manipulated by science if only we know enough -- that SHOULD be manipulated by science to subjugate the world to our Will -- is the direct descendent of the philosophy promulgated in Greece.

Why would the Greeks, Romans and their spiritual ancestors, the Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyrians, have wanted so very much to believe the universe is just a mechanism, and there is no such thing as "good" and "evil?"

Just read the mythology -- how their gods handled power and personal relationships (seduction but never romance.) Those powerful, unseen, Evil Entities who diced with human lives and had to be appeased with offerings are the contents of that "seething cauldron of Evil." They became the symbol of "Evil" because they had immense power over mortals, but no love for us.

Can't you see why the Greek Natural Philosophers would think it would be so much nicer if those gods didn't really exist? Or didn't have all the power? Pythagoras comes to mind.

Running counter to the development of our "Natural Philosophy" called modern science there was the philosophy of the line of the Patriarch Avraham and all the cultures and religions that sprang from him.

Now I can't give a reprise of the Qabalistic view of the universe here. You can get a lot of the "real thing" on chabad.org if you want it. If you google Kabbalah and variant spellings you'll get all kinds of kooky nonsense mixed in with the version I'm talking about, so start at chabad.org .

But the essence of the notion is that the Creator of the Universe not only Created the world -- but continues to do so moment to moment.

Existence itself is sustained by the deliberate application of Divine Will. Every single moment and every single event in your very personal life is a miracle. All of this is a Word being spoken by the Creator RIGHT NOW. And it's a song of love.

The essence of Qabalah lies within its notion of the purpose of human existence, the purpose of Life.

The premise is that all souls were created at the moment of creation -- there are no newer souls (unlike some other esoteric traditions). Souls reincarnate enough times to master all 613 Commandments in the first 5 Books Of Moses (the first 5 books of the Bible).

The purpose of mastering the Commandments is to use them to uncover the sparks of Godliness hidden within all the elements of our material reality.

The Creator Created the world twice (this is described in Genesis). The first time the blast of the pure essence of this Divine Being shattered the vessels that held creation. The pieces flew apart and fell "down" -- chaos -- the second time, we got Creation as we know it today.

But the Divine sparks of pure good attract the flotsam of the shattered vessels and become encrusted with this dross. The dross isn't Evil and it isn't bad, it's also a result of Creation and exists by the Will of the Divine which is Good and basically pure Love.

Our job is NOT to "battle evil" or to cram it back down under the thin crust of good, because there really is no such thing as "Evil" -- there is only this icky dross clinging to and smothering the light of Goodness.

Our task is not to destroy that dross but to TRANSFORM IT INTO GOOD --to peel away the dross and uncover the gold within and send those golden sparks of divine substance winging back upward, and thus elevate the dross.

The idea is to uncover the hidden goodness within every individual and situation and to elevate the not-so-good to be better. Life is not a punishment detail -- it's what our souls were created for.

We're designed for this world and this job. So it's FUN. It's joy in its purest form to find goodness and unleash it. (classic Romance writing lesson: what does she see in him? How do you know it's "love?" -- answer: each brings out the best in the other's personality.)

Philosophically, the Qabalistic notion has battled the two other notions down through the ages with first one then the other predominating.

So there are 3 major philosophies extant today (plus a zillion smaller ones).

The "seething cauldron" model of reality. The "just a mechanism" model of reality. And the "big mess to clean up" Qabalah model of reality. (the process of cleaning up that mess is called Tikun Olam, fixing the world. You do it by love, not combat.)

Everyone HAS a philosophy, though very few know what their own philsophy is, and most deny having one at all. But it's like breath - you can't live without it.

They say "there's no accounting for taste" but that's not true. Your "taste" comes from your philosophy which resides in your subconscious and jerks your life around unbeknownst to you -- i.e. creates such things as "love at first sight".

The "taste" for the Harry Potter tale wrapped in its FIGHT AGAINST EVIL is caused by the philosophy that the world REALLY IS a thin crust over a seething cauldron of Evil and all we can do is fight or run screaming.

I saw an interview on TV with people standing in line to get the last Potter book, and one young girl in costume told the camera "yes, magic is real" (and from the tone of voice it was clear she didn't mean that metaphorically - we're talking 12 year old girl here).

Something in our current civilization has convinced a huge number of people that Evil is real and the only righteous response to Evil is to Fight it.

And thus Harry Potter is a Hero to young children who have imbibed this subconscious assumption from parents, friends, teachers, books, movies, films, DVDs, and GAMES, maybe past lives too.

I mentioned "love at first sight" -- there is (in the magical view of the universe) a certain reality to the "recognition" and "attraction" to things and people from past lives -- and who represent a subconsciously held highest aspiration.

The world today is very much like Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover -- the world where there is an intransigent war between the technological civilization from Earth and the indigenous ESP based civilization of the planet Darkover. That war is on moral grounds.

Today we "believe in science" and look to our labs to produce solutions to every ill if we only throw enough money at them. But something inside says "no, that's not the whole truth" -- or "Wait! There's More! If you phone right now - " --

People reach back into prior lives (maybe from Atlantean times?) and find the dim etching of an almost memory of the Magical View of the universe -- and they want that view to be true.

Remember, in my blog entry about the Robert Heinlein Centennial, I said I learned that Heinlein had held memories of past lives even into his teens. It is common for young children of the Potter reading demographic to have echoing memories of past lives -- lived in a time when Magic was considered "real."

But that view of the universe also scares people terribly -- because in Greece and Rome, the most power over "reality" was wielded by insane entities called gods who did not know how to love.

Most of the people who are trying to learn Qabalah today don't understand the thousands of years of history that spawned these 3 major philosophies.

So they look at the world, see really BAD stuff all around, and accept the explanation that Evil has to be Fought. (to me that's like cutting starfish in half to get rid of them).

They want Magic to be REAL, so they can have a tool to Fight Evil (because Science can't Fight Evil, because Evil doesn't exist in the scientific view of the universe).

It appears, in our modern universe, those are your only choices, fight evil, condone it or foster it by ignoring its existence. (Qabalah teaches a fourth approach to the problem.)

So Harry Potter as an adult now becomes a really sexy attraction because he has acquired the Power to Fight Evil! He's become our Protector. And from the scientific view of reality, he truly is "alien" because of that Power -- and science is losing the battle against Evil because Science doesn't know it's in a battle.

You shouldn't have any trouble googling up some hot-sweaty-sexy Harry Potter fanfic on the web. Look it over and think about what these people are really writing about in their own lives. Then think about other ways to parse the problem so it can be solved.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, July 23, 2007

A little this, a little that…

WHERE I WAS LAST MONDAY… thanks to those of you who emailed asking where my Monday blog was last week. I was flat on my back with a bad head cold, which I (and evidently a bunch of others) caught (or shared) at RWA National in Dallas, TX. Nyquil does have amazing restorative properties but it tends to knock me out cold. Monday (and a ton of laundry) slipped by whilst I snoozed.

WHAT I READ ON THE FLIGHT…a screenwriting book I bought at RWA National. Not that I have an interest in writing a play but I’ve long heard screenwriting how-tos are good for a novelist’s soul. This one had a cat on the cover so I bought it (if you don’t understand why then you’ve never read my books, been to my site or read this blog before). It’s called SAVE THE CAT!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. It’s less a how-to on screenwriting craft and more of a what to think about when writing and pitching your story (in any form). I’m discussing my take on the book on my Yahoo Group right now, so if you’re read it and want to comment, do join (gee, ain’t I sneaky?)! Go HERE to join my Yahoo Group. By so doing you not only get to fling your opinions on the book onto the loop but you’ll have access to all kinds of goodies, from sneak peeks of my upcoming novels (yes, more than what’s on my site) to the ORIGINAL VERSIONS of my older books (yep, the ones that go for huge bucks on eBay). Sometimes the group goes high volume on posts so digest is recommended for those of you (like me) who are perpetually on deadline.

I’M BEGINNING TO FEEL LIKE MY MIDDLE NAME IS “IN TRANSIT”… In April I was in Houston for the RT conference.

May was Denver and RWA’s Romancing the Rockies. June I was in Ohio (twice) for various book events and July in Dallas for RWA National.
First week of August I’m in St Louis (well, Collinsville, IL) for ARCHON, which this year is also the NASFIC site. In the midst of all that I’ve gone through edits and galley edits on THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES and am trying to write (with no rousing success yet) CHASIDAH’S CHOICE (sequel to GABRIEL’S GHOST). If you dropped me a bit of fan mail (I SO do love getting those!) and it landed on my laptop, be aware that I tend to forget laptop email when I get home to the main PC (a big honking Dell Dimension). So if you wrote me and I didn’t answer within ten days, drop me a nudging note, keeping in mind it may end up on my laptop again when I’m in ARCHON.

(Photos: LEFT: Yours truly and author Isabo Kelly at RT Houston. Note MY coffee cup is already empty... MIDDLE: My agent, Kristin Nelson with yours truly in Denver. RIGHT: RWA National, Dallas, Literary Booksigning.)

SPEAKING OF ARCHON…Here’s my schedule. If you’re in or around the St. Louis/Collinsville IL area, PLEASE come to the conf and say hi to me!

Thu, Aug 2nd, 3:00pm GC - Marquette A Do You Torture Your Characters Enough?
GC - Marquette A Do You Torture Your Characters Enough?: Carol Berg, Linnea Sinclair, Barbara Hambly, E.E. Knight, Beth Meacham, Cynthia Ward

Thu, 5:00pm GC - Ballroom D5 Let Me Hear You Whisper
GC - Ballroom D5 Let Me Hear You Whisper: Sheila Finch, Linnea Sinclair (M), John Kaufmann, Paul Chafe, David Marusek, Elonka Dunin

Fri Aug 3rd, 1:00pm HI - Ballroom B What do Aliens Mean in Popular Culture?
HI - Ballroom B What do Aliens Mean in Popular Culture?: R.M. Meluch, David Marusek, Lou Antonelli, Paul Chafe, Sheila Finch, Linnea Sinclair, Deborah Chester

Fri, 2:00pm GC - Ballroom C3 Hook 'Em Dano
GC - Ballroom C3 Hook 'Em Dano: Linnea Sinclair

Fri, 3:00pm GC - Ballroom C3 Workshop - Crossing the Genres Fantastic
GC - Ballroom C3 Workshop - Crossing the Genres Fantastic: John Dalmas, Linda Donahue, Alexis Glynn Latner, Rick Wilber, MaryJanice Davidson, Linnea Sinclair, Laurell K. Hamilton

Fri, 4:00pm GC - LaSalle Lobby (Autographs) Linnea Sinclair, Gene Wolfe, Laura Underwood, Nick Pollotta

Fri, 7:00pm GC - Ballroom C3 Which Comes First, the Plot or the World Building?
GC - Ballroom C3 Which Comes First, the Plot or the World Building?: Jean Lorrah, Linnea Sinclair, Linda Donahue, Rob Chilson, Mark Tiedemann

Fri, 11:00pm GC - Ballroom D6 Censorship Takes a Holiday
GC - Ballroom D6 Censorship Takes a Holiday: Laurell K. Hamilton, Linnea Sinclair, Alexis Glynn Latner, Daniel Kimmel, Carolyn Ives Gilman (M), Kelly McCullough

Sat, Aug 4th, 10:00am HI - Ballroom A How to Create Unforgettable Characters Workshop
HI - Ballroom A How to Create Unforgettable Characters Workshop: Carol Berg, Richard White, Joy Ward, Linnea Sinclair, Janni Lee Simner, Elizabeth Moon

Sat, 11:00am GC - LaSalle Lobby (Autographs) Barbara Hambly, Linnea Sinclair, John Dalmas, Selina Rosen

Sat, 11:00pm GC - Ballroom D5 Alien Sex - How Do They Do It?
GC - Ballroom D5 Alien Sex - How Do They Do It?: Paul Chafe, Ruth Souther, Robin W. Bailey, Richard Lee Byers, Carol Berg, Linnea Sinclair, Don Sakers

Sun, Aug. 5th 10:00am HI - Ballroom B Editing and Critical Thinking for Writers Workshop
HI - Ballroom B Editing and Critical Thinking for Writers Workshop: Alexis Glynn Latner, Linnea Sinclair, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Barri Bumgarner, Julia Mandala, Jean Lorrah, Janet Deaver-Pack, Joy Ward

Sun, 11:00am HI - Ballroom B Sleuth Facts - Real P.I. Procedures for Your Plot
HI - Ballroom B Sleuth Facts - Real P.I. Procedures for Your Plot: Linnea Sinclair, M.R. Sellars, Laurell K. Hamilton

Sun, Noon GC - Ballroom C3 Creating Convincing Characters Workshop
GC - Ballroom C3 Creating Convincing Characters Workshop: Linnea Sinclair, Carol Berg, Stacey Klemstein, Jayme Lynn Blaschke, Rachel Caine, Michael Flynn

Sun, 1:00pm HI - Ballroom A Plots that Work Workshop
HI - Ballroom A Plots that Work Workshop: Linnea Sinclair, Stacey Klemstein

Yep, you might recognize a few other names in that listing, like Jacqueline’s and Stacey’s. Oh, and Laurell K’s and…yeah, it’s quite a line-up. Keep in mind that panel structure is subject to change. This is the final schedule but from what I understand it's not really finalized. Take that as you will.
Hope to see you there (can I say, Meet Me In St. Louis?).

Hugs all, ~Linnea

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Alien Sexuality/Writing discussion #2

Using biology and animal reproduction to design alien physical and social sexual characteristics.


I know I'm preaching to the choir here but have patience with me while I explore a few basic concepts first.

The concepts are as follows, intelligence, informed consent, rape, child abuse and bestiality. Why am I exploring these concepts first? Because we need to review the correct definitions of these terms before we jump into the area of alien sex and designing alien physical and social sexual characteristics.

Intelligence: A general mental capability that involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend ideas and language, and learn. In psychology, the study of intelligence is related to the study of personality but is not the same as creativity, personality, character, or wisdom.

Informed consent: Person's agreement to allow something to happen, such as a medical procedure, that is based on full disclosure of the facts necessary to make an intelligent decision.

Rape: Rape is a crime wherein the victim is forced into sexual activity against his or her will, in particular sexual penetration. It is considered by most societies to be among the most severe crimes.

Child abuse: the physical or emotional or sexual mistreatment of children.

Bestiality: Sexual relationships between a human and a nonhuman animal. Also called zoophilia.

What separates humans from animals? Intelligence? Yes. However, if you look at the basic definition of intelligence, dogs, cats, monkeys, dolphins, human infants and children and mentally disabled humans all meet the general criteria. And don't tell me dogs and cats don't understand human speech. You know they do. Not every word but they understand enough to comprehend simple verbal commands and concepts. Chimpanzees and gorillas can be taught sign language. Animals can love. We all know that. Look at the bonds between humans and their pets. However, an animal's level of intelligence and comprehension is a lot lower than an human adult male or female. The same thing applies to human infants and children. Last, but not least, the additional factor of informed consent applies. Because the mental capacity to comprehend and verbalize consent is not present, then rape, child abuse and bestiality are the results. This includes mentally disabled adults. If their mental age is that of a young child, their ability to have informed consent is impaired and sexual contact with them is considered rape.

The majority of readers and writers have no problem with the concept of sex between a human and a shapeshifter, including while the shapeshifter is in his or her animal form. Why? Because, regardless of the physical shape or form, the shapeshifter is an adult who has the mental age and level of comprehension to give informed consent to the act of making love.

Believe it or not, Edgar Rice Burroughs delved into these topics when he created Tarzan. What is the dividing line between man and beast? There was this horror and fear involved in this story over the possibility that Tarzan was the offspring of human/ape sexual encounter. If he were, would this make Tarzan less than human? Would this make Tarzan an animal who didn't have the intellectual capacity to be human? Of course, this topic wasn't explored completely because Edgar Rice Burroughs established from the beginning that Tarzan wasn't the offspring of a human/ape sexual encounter, that Tarzan was a human infant raised by a female great ape who'd lost her own infant. He used the common knowledge and legends about different species adopting and raising infants who were not of their species.

The mythical founders of Rome, Remus and Romulus were placed in a basket after their birth and set afloat on the Tiber (note the similarity to the story of Moses). The basket came aground at the grotto Lupercal, under a fig tree called Ruminal, where the twins were found and suckled by a she-wolf, and later raised by the shepherd family of Faustulus and and his wife, Acca Larentia.

Kipling's Mowgli is another example of a human raised by animals. Historical accounts of

And, of course, all of us have read news accounts of cats adopting and suckling orphaned puppies and dogs adopting and suckling orphaned kittens.

Cross species love has been around for centuries. This ability to love and care is present across a broad spectrum of the animal kingdom. Of course, this type of love doesn't automatically equal sex.

Stories of feral children, as opposed to wolf children, have gained wider acceptance. One of the best authenticated cases is the Wild Boy of Aveyron. Discovered at about age 12 digging in a garden in the Aveyron district of France in 1800, the Wild Boy was mute, naked, and seemingly retarded. (Unlike most feral children, he did walk upright.) It was learned he'd been roaming the hills on his own for at least two years, living on handouts from obliging farmers and whatever he could steal. The boy was turned over to a determined doctor named Jean Itard who taught him to dress himself and perform simple chores. But he never learned to speak more than a couple words.

Feral children have long fascinated scientists. Apart from the sheer pathos of their stories, they raise some gut issues: how do we become human? If we fail to learn critical skills as children, is it impossible to do so later?

Most feral children have been severely stunted and remained so all their lives, suggesting that early human contact is essential to normal development. But others believe the children were retarded to start with. The child psychologist Bruno Bettleheim, perhaps not the best of sources, argued that the children were autistic, that is, severely withdrawn. Those unconvinced say no autistic or otherwise incapacitated child could survive in the wild for long.

A 1970 California case suggests the deprivation theory is closer to the mark. "Genie," a more or less normal two-year-old, was locked up by her demented father for 11 years, reducing her to a state of whimpering imbecility. Despite later training her language development never exceeded that of a 5-year-old. Being a wild child may conjure up visions of some Blue Lagoon-type idyll, but the reality is unspeakably cruel.

Love is NOT sex. Although for many adult humans, love AND sex are intertwined.

We also know that many adult humans use sex to harm others instead of using sex to express love.

Now, if we expand our definitions to include aliens, the fact that an alien has a different physical shape, that an alien has a non-human shape doesn't mean that sex between a human and alien is bestiality, does it? No, it doesn't. Why? Because the intelligence, the ability to reason and give informed consent is present.


Mother nature is very inventive with all of her creations in the animal kingdom. You can pick and choose any species on Earth to use as starting point to pattern your aliens.

Mammals would be the first choice, I'm assuming this is because they would be the closest physical type to humans when it comes to love and sex.

But then, when you look at mammals on Earth, there is a very wide variation, lions, tigers, wolves, bears, bats, kangaroos etc... Australian mammals have a unique place, many of them are marsupials where the female has a pouch to carry her young and nipples inside the pouch to nurse her young. Then there are the marine mammals who live totally in the and aquatic mammals who live in water and on land, such as seals, dolphins, porpoises, whales, polar bears, beavers, sea otters, manatee, walrus, the capybara (water pig), and hippopotamus.

Then there are the avian species. Winged humanoids are a common theme for SF Erotic Romances. The Fantasy theme involves angels and demons, of course.

My guess is that about 95% of Erotic Romance books, both ebook and print, that use Earth animals as a model generally go the Fantasy/magical/shapeshifting route with elves, vampires, werewolves and other were-beings. Look at Laurell K. Hamilton, Christine Feeham, Kim Harrison, Karen Chance, Mary Janice Davidson and Anne Rice as a small sample of successful vampire/were-being Romance and Erotic Romance type stories.

If you want to go the SF route, then you can either have aliens whose species evolved into beings with equal and or greater intelligence than humans or you can be looking at genetic engineering to create hybrids.

Interspecific hybrids are bred by mating two species, normally from within the same genus. The offspring display traits and characteristics of both parents. The offspring of an interspecific cross may be sterile. Sterility is often attributed to the different number of chromosomes the two species have, for example donkeys have 62 chromosomes, while horses have 64 chromosomes, and mules and hinnies have 63 chromosomes. Mules, hinnies, and other normally sterile interspecific hybrids normally cannot produce viable gametes because the extra chromosome cannot make a homologous pair at meiosis, meiosis is disrupted, and viable sperm and eggs are not formed. However, fertility in both female mules and hinnies has been reported with a donkey as the father.

If the two species are from a different genus, i.e. alien and human, then in order to procreate, the most likely scenario is in-vitro fertilization rather than natural fertilization through sexual intercourse. This is one of the reasons why I always laugh my head off at the alien kidnaps human female for reproduction through sexual intercourse. Human and ape DNA are 98% compatible but the two species cannot breed hybrid descendants naturally. Why would aliens from another star system be able to breed naturally with human females? This is impossible from a scientific point of view.

Did you know that in the early, original version of Star Trek, Spock was a test tube baby, not the result of natural procreation between a human woman and a Vulcan alien man? Later, they changed this by deciding that all of the 'alien humanoid' species in the Star Trek Universe had a common ancestor who 'seeded' all the different star systems with their DNA.

Another excellent example of stories about genetic engineering creating human/animal hybrids are Cordwainer Smith's stories about the 'underpeople'. In his stories, all the animal species were genetically enhanced with human DNA and they became human servants, i.e. 'underpeople'. Depending on what animal species you came from that initial was appended to your name. For instance, a dog/human woman was named D'Joan and a cat/human woman was named C'Mell and an elephant/human man was E'David.


Regardless of that factor, sex isn't just for reproduction.

If you're writing Erotic Romance, the focus is going to be on sex for mutual pleasure and expression of love, not sex for the purpose of procreation. Plus, IMHO getting the heroine pregnant usually ends that story fast because diapers and middle of the night feedings are NOT sexy.

Another interesting website shows dildoes of the penis from many different animal species. A very strange but educational website, IMO.



Here's an interesting piece of trivia about flamingos and flamingo reproduction. The only time that flamingos feel safe enough to have intercourse is when they are surrounded by other flamingos. In order to encourage flamingos to reproduce, zoo keepers have to place multiple mirrors in their cages to give the illusion of being surrounded by other flamingos. Imagine an alien species that can only relax enough to have sex in a public and group sex setting and would be scandalized by the concept of private, one on one monogamous sex.

Biology is important when you consider alien sex. Reproduction could be either sexual or asexual. In asexual reproduction, the parent simply splits off an identical copy or 'clone' of himself or herself. The aliens could have three sexes instead of two sexes like humans. The alien males could be the ones who carry the fetus in pouches like seahorses.

C. J. Cherryh's cat-like species in her Chanur series are aliens who have evolved from a lionlike ancestor. Their social/marriage structure consists of 'prides' where four to five females have one husband in common. When the sons reach adolescence, they are thrown out of the household and must fight and fend on their own until they can return to fight and kill a male adult and take over his 'pride'. Daughters are cherished. If you have too many sons, everyone pities you. Chanur are very proud of their ears. A common curse is to call another 'earless.'

The fascinating part about C.J.Cherryh's Chanur series is the number and variety of the alien species. She has seven alien species (counting humans) in this series. Even though the sexual aspects are not portrayed in any explicit fashion in this series, the cultural and social interactions are fascinating. I recommend this series if you want to see how she shows all the different alien cultures interacting together.

Mahendo'sat (singular mahe), black or brown primate-like creatures, human-size, very curious and political. The Mahendo'sat political system is based on the concept of Personage, a charismatic figure with a lot of social credit. (My impression of them was along the lines of bears as the model for the mahendo-sat.)

Stsho, minute, fragile, crested white beings (even their eyes are pearly white), xenophobic and non-aggressive. ( I saw the Stsho as based on moths and butterflies for their ancestral DNA.)

Tc'a, methane-breathing yellow five-eyed snakelike beings, and chi, yellow arthropod-like creatures.

Kif, bare-skinned, ash-black, long-snouted bipedal hunters. They are the tallest race in the Compact, slender, fast and deadly. They are strictly predators, requiring live prey; they have twin set of teeth, outer for biting and inner for chewing, and retractable claws. (Think vampire bats as their ancient ancestor)

Hani, feline-like race, maned, bearded, usually of red or tawny fur. (Physical and social structure patterned after lions.)

Knnn, the third methane breathing species, multi-legged tangles of wiry black hair, the most technologically advanced in the Compact: unlike others, they can maneuver in hyperspace and carry other ships with them. Only tc'a can communicate with them (or claim they can); the knnn are incomprehensible and therefore deemed dangerous by the other races, not to be provoked. They trade by snatching whatever they want and leaving whatever they deem sufficient as payment behind; it is an improvement over their prior habit of just taking trader ships apart.


When you create alien cultures, you need to consider the environment that influences their culture.

The physical environment in which the species lives. Desert type planet, ocean planet, methane atmosphere planet, planet with a higher gravity than Earth. Planet with a lower gravity than Earth.

The location and nature of the race's dwellings, including the spatial relationships between those dwellings. Think about bees and how they organize their hives. Think about beavers. If the species has wings, are they a cliff-dwelling species.

Their diet, methods of obtaining and consuming food, and cultural practices regarding the preparation of meals and eating. I remember reading an early Young Adult Robert A. Heinlein story where eating in public was taboo. In order to gain respect and to be treated as equals, the humans had to insist on private, curtained individual booths where they could do their shameful eating without anyone seeing them.

Processes which the aliens use to share knowledge. The species could be telepathic. The species could be one where they have no written materials, all knowledge is transferred mind to mind.

Customs and ideas regarding death, dying, the treatment of the race's dead, and the afterlife. For my book, The Huntress, the aliens did extensive research on death and brainwave patterns and verified reincarnation.

A wonderful website you can use as a reference model when you do your basic worldbuilding is here at

Last but not least, here is an excerpt from The Huntress to show you how my reptilian hero's sexual responses are triggered by scent and taste rather than by sight.


Sonia scooted back on the bed and hugged her knees. Her wet clothes had dried into dampness along the way to his room and her hair had frizzed out into a snarled mass of curls sticking to her shoulders and back.
Rulagh knelt on the edge of the bed, leaned forward and stroked her cheek with his finger. “If you’re not ssure, we can wait.”
She tilted her face into his hand and breathed in his spicy scent, a scent that had deepened into warm musk. He curved his fingers along her cheek in a gentle caress. A shiver raced down her body. She wanted to feel those fingers on her breasts, to have him touch her all over. What was it about him that made her want him so much? He had claws. She should be afraid of those claws. But she wasn’t.
His forked tongue was an important sensory part for him. He used it constantly to taste the air and her skin. Her heart stuttered in her chest. She sucked in a breath, expelled it in a long, shuddering sigh, then took his hand, pulled it to her mouth and licked the inside of his wrist in a shy caress. A combination of salt and spice tingled her tongue and sent a surge of pleasure straight to her pussy.
“Yesssss.” He seated himself beside her, pulled her into his arms and kissed her long and hard as if he wanted to devour her mouth.
The liquid warmth of his tongue made her throat ache with hunger.
When he ended the kiss and pulled away, she hissed and clung to his shirt. More! She wanted more.
Rulagh pulled her closer, rubbed his thumb over her stiff nipple under the thin cotton material of her tank top then traced the neckline. “Do you cherish this?”
She blinked. Why is he asking me this? His dark, scaled hand rested against the white fabric. “It’s just a top, nothing special.”
He flexed his fingers and extruded three-inch long razor-sharp claws. “Let me remove it for you.”
Her heart jumped into her throat. “R-remove it?”
“Like this.” He hooked his index claw in the neckline and waited.
Her face burned as if flames licked it. She wanted him more than she ever wanted anything or anyone before in her life. If she said no he’d stop, but her panties were soaked already with the juices of her arousal. She bit her lip and nodded. Her nipples swelled with anticipation.
He ripped the thin cotton apart from top to bottom and reached for her breasts. Hot, scaled skin like rawhide abraded the tender flesh. Her nipples tingled.
“May I taste them?”
The thought of his mouth upon her shuddered through her and soaked her panties even more. “Y-yes, please.”
He bent his head, closed his lips over her right nipple and suckled it with greedy, hard nips. The hot wetness of his mouth on her skin went straight to her groin like an electric shock.
He moved to her other nipple, gave it a playful nip and sucked it inside his hot mouth with his agile tongue. Ohgod. If his tongue and mouth felt that good on her breasts, how would it feel on her clit?
When Rulagh lifted his head from her breasts, her wet nipples ached for more attention. His eyes had darkened to almost pure black again. He flicked his tongue out for a split second. “Ssonia.” His hoarse whisper shifted her name into a sibilant burr that gave her goosebumps. “Your skin tastes like ssweet, iced melon.”
Her heart skipped a beat. She’d never thought about how she tasted before. Now, with him, taste had become a suddenly unique and erotic touchstone of their lovemaking.
He pushed her back onto the bed, reached behind her head and lifted her hair out of the way. His warm cinnamon musk flowed into her lungs like liquid fire. She stretched out on the sheets and opened her legs for him. Her heart slipped into the slow, hypnotic beat of anticipation.
He lifted her feet to his lap and removed her sneakers and socks. The scales on his palms tickled the soles of her feet. Her toes curled under the sensuous warmth of his gentle touch.
He moved her feet aside, bent over her body and unzipped her jeans. When he slipped his hands under the waistband of her jeans and panties to pull them down, she lifted her hips for him. He threw them on the floor, climbed on the bed and positioned himself between her wide-open legs. The spines on his scalp flared. The tips had turned dark red. Did that mean the sight of her excited him as much as he excited her? “Aren’t you going to take your pants off, too?”
Rulagh’s smile widened. He shook his head. “I haven’t finished tasting you.”
Or was there another reason why he kept his pants on? Could it be that he didn’t want her to see his cock yet? Was it scaled like the rest of his skin? What color was it?
Rulagh lowered his face to her pussy. His forked tongue dipped between the swollen lips and all conscious thought disappeared. His tongue swirled around her clit and tugged. A soft keening moan escaped from Sonia’s mouth. There wasn’t any time to think now, only react. Her hips jerked convulsively in an instinctive demand for more, more, more of his agile tongue.
“Yesss.” His voice vibrated against her skin. “Fuck my tongue. Show me how you want me to fuck you.”
The word ‘fuck’ slammed into her like a bucket of ice water. Her entire body stiffened. She sat up and pushed his head away from her crotch. Daniel used to say ‘fuck’ all the time and call her his whore. Did Rulagh think of her as a whore too?
Rulagh sat back on his heels and studied her face. “What’s wrong?”
“You said fuck.”
He cocked his head. “I care for you. I want to protect you and share pleasure with you. That’s the word they used in the holovids your father showed me. Did I use the wrong word?”
She stared at his face, at the red tipped spines rippling on his scalp. “No. It’s a correct word. I just didn’t expect you to use it. Did those holovids arouse you?”
Rulagh pursed his lips. “The images were educational.” He bent over, leaned his head closer to her body and flicked his tongue out, as if he wanted to lick her from head to toe. “They had no scent to arouse me.”
He traced a line between her breasts and down her stomach with a blunted forefinger. It left a delicious sensation, a line of fire from her breasts to the wet curls at her groin. “There was nothing for me to touch.”
He slid his finger into the moisture dripping from her crotch and inserted it deep inside her. Sonia gasped at the sudden feel of his finger inside her. He pulled it out, held it to his mouth, flicked his tongue out and slowly licked the liquid off. The spines on his head stood straight up and darkened from deep red into pure black. “The women had no taste to arouse me.”


Thank you. I hope these lectures help you create many wonderful aliens and stories about them.

Barbara Karmazin

Alternative-Read.com: REVIEW: Insufficient Mating Material ~ Rowena Cherry ~ Dorchester Publishing

Alternative-Read.com: REVIEW: Insufficient Mating Material ~ Rowena Cherry ~ Dorchester Publishing

In Form

I'm not here to talk about pecs, abs, and hard bodies. I'm here in celebration of pen-pushers.

There's nothing like filling out forms to clarify the mind and build the character. I don't mean your tax returns, or those of your alien hunk, though that is an idea if I ever decide to write a high finance romance. This week --in the persona of my next alien romance hero, 'Rhett-- I'm filling out certain Ministry of Justice forms in the interests of research.

'Rhett is the "Dirty Harry" of his rogue Royal family. He's Dirty Harry with a sword... and a spade, it would seem. He knows where the bodies are buried, and he is the family trouble stabber. I'd say "trouble shooter" but he prefers to use a long, sharp weapon. Not that he fires blanks. He's as "alpha" as his cousins and half brothers.

He's the Great Djinn who likes to do the right thing.... Of course, it is debatable whether the "camisole plot" to disgrace and destroy Tarrant-Arragon (in FORCED MATE) was entirely ethical, but dirty tricks are an essential part of interstellar diplomacy.

'Rhett crossed swords, albeit verbally, with Tarrant-Arragon again in INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL. Now, he's being sent on a dangerous quest because everyone wants him out of the way. He has to extract something from Earth, and he'd prefer to do it legally.

Not salt. Not a Ring. Not a moon rock. Could be a crashed spaceship? (Or not.)

So, I have obtained lawful "extraction" forms from One Of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State in the Ministry Of Justice, and 'Rhett is endeavouring to fill them out truthfully.

Full name of applicant.

Already this is not easy. If one writes really small, one can fit seven Royal and Djinn names into the box, but should one? Selecting just three would be less startling, but if only three, which middle name should one choose?


Which one? Prince? That's bogus! Great Djinn and lesser god? True, but unwise to tell humans so. Leviathan, Saurian Knight? That would arouse suspicion. No doubt, Mr would be the stealthy choice. Sometimes an alien is obliged to lie for the protection of the person reading the form.

Full address.

One does not have a Post Code or a Zip code aboard a Gravity Class, interstellar war-star. Nor a telephone number. Perhaps 'Rhett is going to have to deliver his forms in person, wave a gentle hand like Obi-Wan Kenobi and murmur "This is plausible." However, even this humble, simple, everyday question forces an alien to decide where he will reside (officially) for the three months that it takes the British civil servants and Principal Secretaries Of State to process "extraction" paperwork.

Time to contact a builder and discover whether it is possible that the house in Cambridge that Tarrant-Arragon burned to the ground on the night of March 31st 1994 (upon the occasion of abducting Djinni-vera) could have been rebuilt. Alternatively, one would need an hotel, remembering that a three-month stay will mean that one --and one's entourage of aliens-- is exposed to the business of May Ball time.

Thereafter, the questionnaire becomes increasingly intrusive and baffling, particularly for an honest alien hunk. With a family tree as complicated as theirs. Should one list one's father's second wife's offspring as brothers, half-brothers, step-brothers, or cousins?

Would a human arrest warrant be issued for one's father, because he broke modern, Anglo-American taboos which did not apply to him, being an alien god-Prince?

And then, one comes to the requirements for the exportation of that which is to be extracted. I have to chortle as I imagine how officialdom might react if, for instance, one submitted a letter from Captain James T Kirk, attesting that the USS Enterprise had been engaged to transport the (mystery treasure) to (wherever).

As one wades through forms and questionnaires, an author --who thought she knew everything about her hero-- discovers details that might need to be filled in. I never thought I'd recommend form-filling as a profitable way to spend ones precious writing time. But I DO!

By the way, I googled "form filling". I recommend you do, too.


Best wishes,

Rowena Cherry

Insufficient Mating Material is in the UK contest



Thursday, July 19, 2007

We interrupt your regularly scheduled post

Just back from RWA where I was totally surprised to win the Prism for best Futuristic of 2006 for SHOOTING STAR! Woohoo! I was totally blown away when they announced my name since I was up against really stiff competition Susan Grant and Liz Maverick. So now I'm an award winning author and I'm reaaly excited about the release of Star Shadows coming in November.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Silly Season


Well, here we are in the "silly season" -- and I just saw on TV a whole long feature on the "news" about UFO's! (Yeah, Roswell 60th anniversary, Buzz Aldrin's orbital sighting, the whole nine yards!)

Meanwhile, I had a run-in with the Medical Establishment. I have a very good doctor in a great group-practice. They have electronic records and state-of-the-art everything. But their front desk that does appointments is of a different order of being.

I had an appointment to have several routine screenings done -- so I finish the first part and go back to the desk, and they say "come back tomorrow".

I just moved heaven and earth to clear 4 hours for their convenience and they want me to come back tomorrow? Like I have nothing to do but dance to their drumbeat?

I said, loudly so everyone in the waiting room could hear, "Maybe I should get another doctor? When I miss an appointment, I have to pay a cash penalty. What do you pay me when YOU miss an appointment?" I said waving the letter they sent me demanding 4 hours of my time as if it were worthless.

I haven't seen Morehouse's film SICKO and I don't intend to. I have enough real-life experiences, thank-you.

Well, I got very loud and assertive -- and guess what? They had people standing around in back ready to run those tests and nobody in line!

So I got all my testing done.

Meanwhile, my husband had a run-in with the post office. One phone call to the Post Master revealed a new Post Man creed. It turns out that they now deliver the mail only if it's convenient for them.

If they're understaffed because of vacation or illness, they just skip some houses. If there's too much mail to sort, they just don't bother to do it all that day. This was said to him to explain why our grocery store flyers don't get delivered when they should even though the stores have mailed them on time. (also another local paper we subscribe to mails the issue -- but the post office can't be bothered to deliver.)

It's summer. Humanity estavates? Silliness erupts and takes over? Brains take a vacation?

I just met a new neighbor around the corner from me. Moved in last week. He was fixing a sprinkler pipe on the outside of his fence. Guess what? The real estate agent who sold him the house neglected to mention HE is responsible for the bushes and watering system between his fence and the sidewalk.

So I walked home thinking, "It's not just me!" It's not that somehow, suddenly I do everything wrong. There's something ELSE going on here.

It's the "Twilight Zone" feeling -- I don't recognize the world I live in.

Then I saw an episode of PAINKILLER JANE. (it's not a bad show -- on Sci Fi channel, and an original of theirs) In this episode a whole small town was under the mind-control of a "neuro" (the psychically talented people Jane's group hunts down and neutralizes by forcibly inserting a computer chip into them). The town was peaceful, happy, non-contentious, 0 crime rate, 0 homeless and so on. The picture perfect existence. (reminded me of a Star Trek episode where the whole planet was "happy" under a computer mind-controller.)

It was Jane's group that had to go to the mat (they actually lost a regular; killed her off!) to restore the town to it's "normal" degree of nastiness!

And I just read an article on how the American public seems finally to be sick of blood-on-the-walls movies!

Hollywood, movie fans shy away from "torture porn"
By Bob Tourtellotte Fri Jul 13, 4:19 PM ET
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Torture, it seems, doesn't pay at movie theater box offices like it used to.

Today, I'm into setting up schedules and meetings at NASFIC.

Jean Lorrah and I are collaborating (yes, again!) on a new story, and we plan to workshop on it at the convention called NasFic (North American Science Fiction Convention) that replaces the World Science Fiction Convention when the Worldcon is elsewhere. This year WorldCon is in Japan (Jean's going and is on the program there). And this year NasFic is in St. Louis -- and on a really odd date (beginning of August instead of Labor Day weekend.)

http://www.nasfic.org/ is the index page for NasFics -- this year's is ARCHON which is also known as TUCKERCON in honor of the famous SF writer and fan Wilson Tucker.

http://www.archonstl.org/31/index2.html is ARCHON

WorldCon index page is

To add to this "silly" mixture, I just finished reading Charlaine Harris's ALL TOGETHER DEAD - where she kills off a whole bunch of vampires and immerses us in vampire politics to the eyebrows. She's got a good series going there -- Sookie Stackhouse is a charming character who doesn't do much of anything except read minds and shrewdly apply what she learns.

In this one she meets a fellow telepath-human and they team up but they don't actually get along too well. She can't read vampire minds, though and that causes some complications.

And now I'm reading an e-book in the HOUSE OF THE ROSE series from awe-struck e-books (http://www.awe-struck.net/) (a historical vampire-rewritten gods-n-goddesses series). I do highly recommend this series -- it's kind of like Dark Soap Opera -- black-suds? All these immortals playing tricks on each other and trying to steal memories.

Here we have two characters, once male-and-female spouses, now reborn as both male, and one is freaked because "he" was a Knight Templar straight-arrow in this life before becoming a vampire.

I saw the new Harry Potter film (Order of the Phoenix). I noted the audience was utterly silent - no laughs, no gasps. The Potter theaters in the complex were not sold out, but TRANSFORMERS was sold out. Potter grossed more than other films that weekend.

Potter has a "parallel world" online -- check out this article:http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070717/tc_nm/arts_potter_internet_dc_1;_ylt=ArIU_GfXZV26BuNeM8AdKTIE1vAI
The mall was stuffed to overflowing and the theater complex was busier than usual on a Sunday afternoon but the Mall was fuller than the theaters. I don't see such crowds except at Christmas Shopping time - no parking places. Big sales, and a little "back to school" new stuff -- but not enough to account for that mob even on a 114 degree heat Sunday.

All this very "silly" mixture will no doubt color and "inform" the Sime~Gen story I'm working on with Jean!

The point of all this? There isn't one! Which is the point. This is the sort of "input" I gulp down all the time, and every once in a while it arranges itself into something that makes sense. This week - I don't see the connecting thread. Maybe you do?

The rest is left as homework for the student! (I do purely hate that phrase in textbooks!)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg