Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Astrology Just For Writers Part 3 - Genre Ghetto

Part 1 of this series is at:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2008/07/astrology-just-for-writers.html

Part 2 of this series is at:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2008/07/astrology-just-for-writers-part-2.html

Part 4 will probably appear at:
http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/2009/

From time to time, http://www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/ contributors have kicked around the question of why the Romance Genre doesn't command the respect it deserves. I've commented on some of these discussions, all of which have been powerful presentations by very knowledgeable people. As far as I can tell, all of them are absolutely correct.

In some instances, comparisons were made to the change in the public attitude toward Science Fiction over the last few decades. Westerns have come in for their share of sneers, especially Romance with a Western Setting, and that market has changed drastically.

Mystery Genre seems to command a bit more general respect, but it's still a "genre" in the eyes of publishers. And "genre" per se seems to be a stigma.

If "Romance" -- especially, SF Romance, Paranormal, Time Travel, etc -- is going to break out of the ghetto walls that appear to be built by publishers and even TV and Film producers, professionals in the field of Romance need to find a new way of thinking about the problem.

All the solutions that have been posed on this blog should have worked. They're all good, targeted, reasonable. So why hasn't that great new blockbuster Romance appeared -- the work that would be equivalent to Star Trek and its impact on Science Fiction as a genre?

Buffy The Vampire Slayer certainly put a few cracks in the walls around Paranormal Romance. Many fantasy-romance novels are now pouring out of the Manhattan publishers demonstrating the Buffy style of universe building and how it can support a Romance plot. But they don't win the Nobel Prize. In 2008 (30+ years after Star Trek), an SF novel won the Hugo and Nebula and was by a Nobel Prize winner. SF films have won Oscars. Where are the Romance Genre big general Award Winners?

What would it take to make a Romance internationally "significant" enough to win the Nobel Prize for Literature?

What are we missing here? If our solutions don't change things - maybe we're not parsing the problem correctly?

What is it that people who don't read Romance sneer at in the genre?

A lot of people don't read Romance because others sneer at it -- so they wouldn't be caught dead anywhere near the label. On the other hand, some such embarrassed people often read under the covers with a flashlight -- just as people often read Star Trek fanzines under the covers, very late at night.

Public opinion does put a limit on the popularity of a genre -- but the appeal of strong content, controversial content, outrageous content, can eventually overwhelm or undermine the levees. Star Trek created that "hurricane" for SF by being the first real SF on TV.

Prior to Star Trek, everything on TV that they called SF was either comedy or horror (also genres). Even today, very little of what's on the SciFi Channel is actually Science Fiction.

But genres are slippery to define because they are defined by reader taste (and today, by computer sales reports) which changes faster than you can surf the web. What is published under the SF label today would not have been acceptable in the 1940's as SF. The same kind of evolution in the definition of Romance is currently under way.

I have noticed lately that many novels published as SF or Fantasy have the pacing, content, and plot structure of some of the most popular Star Trek fanzines. Sometimes, I really can't tell the difference! And many of those early Star Trek fanzines had the structure of a Romance. One, now posted at:
http://www.simegen.com/fandom/startrek/showcase/ is, I believe, the first Inspirational SF Romance.

It's taken decades, but the relationship driven SF story has emerged. That story is as much at home in Fantasy as SF -- because in Fantasy, the "aliens" are just from another dimension or have mixed heritage with Elves or Demons, or are humans born with Powers.

So already the genre labels are being redefined. That has always been the process with genre.

By the way, my definition of "genre" is the opposite of that used by Mass Market publishing. I have discovered that the real operational definition of genre used by readers, rather than editors, is based on what is LEFT OUT of the story, worldbuilding, background, and plot rather than what is put in.

For example, if a story had an Alien From Outer Space in it, it automatically could not be published as anything but SF by the publisher's definition. Thus THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (a classic film you can get on DVD) is classed as SF even though it's really a Romance with an Alien in it. Likewise, STARMAN, the film not Andre Norton's novel, is a Romance. Both these films are SF Romance and genre defining. Neither won the Nobel Prize.

There was a time when a writer could not sell a Vampire Romance to a Mass Market publisher -- because Vampires "are horror genre" and "our Romance readers won't touch anything with Horror in it." Romance genre was defined by what you put in -- not by what you leave out.

Laugh if you want, but there really was such a time when you couldn't sell a Romance with a Vampire in it.

If you use my definition of exclusion, "Vampire Romance" makes sense and can be seen in advance to be a sure hit -- and very possibly the Nobel Prize winning material we're looking for.

What do you leave out of a Vampire Romance to make it a Romance?

Well, you leave out everything that you normally leave out of a Romance.

How do you know what to "leave out" to make it a Romance?

Aha, now we come to the Astrology part as noted in the title of this piece, then we'll get to the brain research part, and finally put them together.

Do you remember, I said Romance field professionals need a new way to think about this problem in order to generate a solution that will work?

In order to "think" one must have not only something to think about, but some tools to think with.

What we're thinking about is the prestige problem of the Romance Genre.

Any reasonable person can instantly see that a fiction genre based on a universally acknowledged truism should be held in high regard.

The Romance Genre is based on the truism that "Love Conquers All." Vampires, for example, fall into the "All" category, hence they are a natural part of the Romance Genre.

Most people know that Love is divine -- the archetype behind Love is actually God. When humans Love each other as God Loves us, miracles happen. All religions I know of, and even atheists, have acknowledged the existence of these unique, highly improbable Events we call Miracles when Love is in the vicinity.

It makes no sense that such a Literature and its fans should not command high prestige.

We on this blog have been thinking about this problem using the tools of Publishing, Publicity, Promotion, Marketing, Sociology, Criminology, maybe Anthropology and Psychology too. The authors on this blog have brought to bear some of the biggest guns known to the intellectual world. And still we need a new approach.

So here let's think with the tools provided by Astrology.

When you set out to think about a problem, you have two tasks ahead of you. First you must define the problem. Then you must solve the problem.

90% of the solution to any problem lies within the definition of the problem. The other 10% is usually perspiration, but sometimes inspiration.

If you find you can't solve a problem you're working on, then restate the problem.

For a bit more on the concept of restating the problem to solve it, see my blog entry about a thought problem posing an ethical dilemma:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2008/05/exogamous-human-female-ive-been.html

In that example, the only reason there was a dilemma is that the problem was not correctly stated.

I believe the only reason we still have a prestige problem with the Romance Genre is that the problem is not correctly stated.

So I'm going to try a restatement, and maybe that will lead someone else to restate, and another to try a restatement using different thinking tools -- and maybe we can get somewhere with this and finally win one of those international prizes.

So let's start with a statement of the Romance Genre Problem using Astrology.

"Love Conquers All" is the central theme and major plot resolution mechanism of Romance.

What is Love?

In Astrology, "Love" is divided. Venus, Mars, Pluto and Neptune all have something to say about it. The Moon and all the other elements add nuances.

The Romance Genre as a whole is the analog of Science Fiction's "First Contact Story" where humanity meets a new alien species. The driving dynamic of the First Contact plot is all about discovering "Who" that "Other" really is. Most First Contact stories pivot on a misunderstanding, an idealism psychologically projected, or an alliance forged in improbable ways.

There have been hugely popular, widely respected novels and movies that are "Love Stories" -- in fact, there is one called Love Story. Helen of Troy comes to mind. The "Love Story" is not a Romance. The Love Story can involve Venus, Mars and sometimes Pluto symbolism, but usually excludes (remember my genre defining principle) Neptune.

The Romance Genre story often excludes Venus, Mars, and Pluto -- but always includes Neptune. Or, using my principle for defining genre, The Romance Genre is defined by the exclusion of everything BUT Neptune. Put another way, though Venus, Mars, Pluto and all other symbolisms may be in a Romance, Neptune trumps them all except sometimes Pluto.

The dominance of Neptune automatically blurs, dissolves, or renders unimportant the influences of all other planets (except sometimes Pluto). That's its nature by Astrological definition.

So using my "exclusion" definition, the presence of Romance automatically excludes everything else. Romance wipes out the world around you leaving only the one person you have become totally focused on.

The sub-division of Love that the Romance Genre focuses on is the process of "falling in love" or being "swept off your feet" and that is ruled by Neptune.

So we start our restatement of the Problem by examining the characteristics of Neptune-ruled processes.

Neptune rules Pisces, the natural 12th House, the End Of Matters -- matters of ultimate concern such as Life, Death, God, Bereavement, Self-Destruction, Idealism, Dreams. Neptune rules the stuff you can't get ahold of. Neptune, the god of the sea, rules the DEEPS, the unseen.

Oddly, Neptune is intimately connected with modern technology. On Star Trek, Scotty was the purely Pisces technician. Many of our geeks and techies have strong Pisces emphasis, though electricity is ruled by Uranus. Pisces provides focus on the unseen, spiritual and even psychic.

Barak Obama's natal chart is actually unknown, but some astrology websites have given him an Ascendant of 23 degrees of Aquarius and that would mean Neptune transits his Ascendant at the time of the Presidential Election. (Obama's Sun is in Leo.)

If that Ascendant is correct, then for ten years or so prior to the Presidential Election, Neptune transited Obama's 12th House.

Because Neptune rules the Natural 12th House, Pisces, Neptune's effect is magnified when it transits your personal natal 12th House.

Barak Obama has apparently mastered the purely spiritual energy of Neptune. This has bestowed upon him a larger than life glamour, and a huge popularity. Crowds "fall in love with" him -- study that effect and you'll come to understand the essence of Neptune's effect.

That's not the way it ordinarily works for ordinary people.

Neptune transiting the 12th House is famous for being a time of life when major changes in the foundation of life are tested and often dissolve. People go from job to job never seeming to stay long enough to be 'vested' in the Pension Fund. People change their major in college three or four times. People undergo religious conversions or fall into an endless tangle of unclear situations where they simply can't get ahead no matter how well they do. Records get lost or altered. Friends, family, and strangers come to think of the person undergoing a Neptune transit of the 12th House as rudderless, not in command of their life, a flake, a drop out, a burden or a patsy. Drug addiction is common under this transit if it is indicated elsewhere in the Natal Chart.

But Neptune is also known as the Santa Claus of the zodiac -- bestowing grand gifts. Even ordinary people may win the lottery, land the dream job of a lifetime, or get swept off their feet by Prince(ess) Charmings, be catapulted to fame and glory under some Neptune influences.

Neptune transits to various points in a Natal Chart can make you gullible, easily fooled by shysters, confidence men, fortune tellers etc. You really think that what you believe ought to be true, actually is or can be if only you do this one simple thing.

Neptune rules Hollywood, scintillating glamour, rock star status, everything to do with the stage and screen, with entertainment by illusion, or the delusion that the world really is your Ideal. Neptune also rules mind-altering drugs such as LSD -- mushrooms that give you Visions.

Neptune is hard to define -- because it is hard to define!

Yet, once you notice an example of it working in a situation you are familiar with, you will be able to identify its influence in various other situations.

For those new to Astrology, remember Neptune is just one of 8 planets (Earth doesn't count) plus the Moon and Sun, all variables (but not independent variables) that move against the fixed pattern of the moment when you were born (Natal Chart) bestowing challenges and opportunities.

Neptune will have a different effect for each person who experiences it in a specific sector of their Natal Chart such as the 12th House. That's why there are so many Romance Novels already published and we've hardly scratched the surface yet!

So, most romances are ruled by Neptune. Neptune rules the sign Pisces.

In Astrology, "rule" means "associated with" or maybe "proxy for" or possibly "avatar of" -- "rule" means that the two things share the same symbolism or archetypes, not that one is superior to the other.

Pisces is the 12th sign of the Zodiac. The Zodiac is the band of 12 constellations that encircle the Earth. There's lots of other constellations, but we don't try to calculate with them, only the 12 that delineate human psychology.

As the zodiac is imagined, each constellation occupies 30 degrees of the circle, and each constellation is a "House" -- i.e. a House is 30 degrees of the 360. The Houses are numbered; the Signs are named. House and Sign and planet ruling the Sign all share a set of symbols or archetypes.

So lets start to draw a diagram of the basic outline of human personality.

Take a piece of paper and draw a big circle. Draw a vertical diameter and a horizontal diameter at right angles to it. Slice each quadrant into 3 equal pie slices. Now you have 4 groups of 3 Houses each. 4 X 3 = 12

The point on your left where the horizontal diameter meets the circle is called The Ascendant. It's the point where the Sun rises. The 12th House is the slice of pie right above the Ascendant. That's the home of the constellation Pisces.

In the Natural Zodiac -- the Houses and Signs are exactly aligned. So the 12th Sign, Pisces, is the 12th House.

Astrology divides these 12 pie slices or Houses or Signs into 2 different groups called the Quadruplicities and the Triplicities. (the 4's and the 3's)

The first group is Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable, 3 modes of functioning.

The second group is the Elements (alchemical Elements, or psychological states, not Periodic Table elements). Earth. Air. Fire. Water.

Every constellation and every House has 2 properties, an element and a mode of functioning within that element. It goes like this (trust me, this is important for understanding Romance plotting!).

1st - Aries - Cardinal - Fire
2nd - Taurus - Fixed - Earth
3rd - Gemini - Mutable - Air
------------
4th - Cancer - Cardinal - Water
5th - Leo - Fixed - Fire
6th - Virgo - Mutable - Earth
-----------
7th - Libra - Cardinal - Air
8th - Scorpio - Fixed - Water
9th - Sagittarius - Mutable - Fire
-----------
10th - Capricorn - Cardinal - Earth
11th - Aquarius - Fixed - Air
12th - Pisces - Mutable - Water

This is easiest to understand if you actually draw yourself a sliced pie diagram and label each slice with all 4 of the labels in the table above - number, name, triplicity and quadruplicity. You'll refer to your drawing at the end of this article, so do it now and it'll save you paging back to find this table.

Put Aries on your left, in the slice right under the horizontal diameter. Down from Aires, put Taurus with its properties. Then keep going around the circle until you put Pisces on your left right above the horizontal diameter line.

Notice that Pisces, ruled by Neptune, is a WATER SIGN, and there are 3 Water Signs, Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable; a Triplicity.

The "element" Water (not actual water) is associated with emotion, feelings.

The other Water Signs are Cancer and Scorpio.

If Pisces ruled by Neptune is the heart and core of all Romance, what do the other 2 Water Signs have to do with the Romance Genre?

Pisces is MUTABLE WATER -- it's Emotion that is Changeable (i.e. Mutable = morphable = changeable)

Pisces and Neptune rule (or describe) psychic experiences -- telepathy, empathy, prophecy, psychometry.

Pisces deforms on impact -- i.e. takes an impression. Neptune rules things that don't have a shape, that can't be defined by space and time borders. Mutable Emotion.

Mutable Water is the state of mind in which one is open to emotional change -- able to Receive in the mystical or Qabalistic sense. When those 12th House, Pisces or Neptune associated bits of your psyche are activated and influencing your perceptions, things about yourself that have previously defined YOU -- things which delineate your identity and things about yourself that you take pride in (such as your ethical sense) -- can CHANGE.

The essence of your Identity can change. Who you feel you are can change.

Mutable is change; Water is Emotion -- emotions change only when the very foundation of Identity Definition changes.

And that's what happens when 2 people become 1 -- when Love Binds. "We" becomes "I."

Impact with a Soul Mate boots you one more step toward becoming your Ideal Self. (Neptune is Idealism, remember?)

So, if the nature of Pisces and its Ruler Neptune is Mutable Water, Romance Incarnate, what is the nature of Cancer?

Cancer is Cardinal Water. What do you mean, Cardinal?

"Cardinal" in astrology generally refers to the "active principle" or the "male principle." The Cardinal signs represent taking the initiative, being pro-active, aggressive, getting projects started (but not necessarily finishing).

Water is Emotion, Cardinal is a spark, an initiating start of something. So Cancer and its ruler The Moon, represent the Emotion that Initiates -- and is best understood by associating Cancer with Motherhood, the nurturer, the roots of your personality.

Note that Cancer is the 4th House and appears on the diagram at the very bottom. It's the FOUNDATION of your Life. It's where your feet stand. In this diagram, the point where the bottom of the verticle diameter meets the circle is called the 4th House Cusp or I.C. and represents the point where the Sun is at mid-night (on the other side of the Earth from you).

Cancer is the Home Maker. Cardinal is the MAKER. 4th House is HOME. Ask yourself why husbands hesitate before doing something they know their wives will not like? Wife is Cardinal. Wife is in Command. Wife Builds. Wife Raises Kids. Wife sends you out to chop wood and you jolly well better bring back an armload! Wife's main weapon in the battle of the sexes is emotion. Mother controls by poking your Guilt Button. Cardinal Water.

The 3rd Water Sign is Scorpio. Fixed Water.

Scorpio is the Natural 8th House, Inheritance (The King Is Dead, Long Live The King), Public Finance (current economic crisis coincides with a transit of Pluto over the USA Natal Chart's 8th House cusp), Spouse's Resources (an insurance policy? Alimony?) Death and Taxes are 8th House matters.

Fixed Water -- now that's a contradiction in terms (i.e. contradiction = CONFLICT which is the Essence of Story). Water flows, deforms its shape to the shape of its container, water evaporates and condenses. Fixed means just that -- doesn't change. Fixed doesn't start things. Fixed FINISHES THINGS. The Cardinal Signs are starters and leaders, Mutable Signs control the course adjustment rockets, Fixed signs just keep going the way something started them going.

Fixed signs are about momentum. It takes a lot to get them going -- but once started, they can't be stopped.

Remember, everyone has all the signs and all the planets -- everyone has everything somewhere. The differences between us are in the way it's all arranged. So everyone has Scorpio and its ruler Pluto somewhere -- everyone has something at which they can not be stopped.

Scorpio is the Juggernaut. It just rolls right over you and you are no more.

Water is strong. Think about torture by drops of water. Think about caves with stalagmites and stalactites - drip drip drip - even rock gives way after thousands of years.

Scorpio is ruled by Pluto, god of the Underworld. The force is unseen but unstoppable.

That's why Scorpio-ruled people have such a reputation. They can use emotion (Water) in such a way that they can't be stopped (fixed on course) and you'll never see it coming.

Scorpio then is fixed purpose of emotion. Pluto, the ruler of Scorpio, rules the gonads. Pure, raw, animal sexuality, untempered by the intellect, the heart, the mind.

When it's a Pluto fueled Romance, you don't ask "what does she see in him?" because she doesn't SEE and she doesn't care that she doesn't see. "He" doesn't really matter. Only getting off matters - BAM, explosive FINISH.

Fixed is about finishing, Pluto is all about power, explosive power (Uranium is the associated symbol). When manifesting as sexuality, it's all about getting off for the sheer power of it. And yes, it can edge over into S&M, Bondage, and even rape. It's all about POWER unleashed explosively -- to a CONCLUSION. Finishing. Fixed is about finishing, getting to the finish-line, nothing stopping that force that drives to a fixed target. BAM!

Scorpio, Pluto and the 8th House are all about the end of life, inheritance, -- that's the goal of all life, to reproduce and pass on the survival traits, and die.

These 3 water signs give you all the emotional parameters that drive the Romance plot elements, and they even provide the template for the Worldbuilding that supports the Romance.

April in Paris -- walking along the river (water, inexorable snowmelt runoff), an artist colony focused entirely on Fantasy Entertainment (Neptune), an Incident that requires one to rescue another, bind wounds, nurse through a dire fever, (Moon rules Cancer). An adventure forges a lifelong Bond.

These 3 Water Signs are usually present in a wide variety of stories.

When Cancer leads, you have Little House On The Prairie and The Waltons. When Scorpio leads, you have James Bond, Terminator, The Borne Identity. When Pisces leads, you have the whole Romance Genre with all its sub-genres -- a moment outside of time and space when ALL THAT MATTERS to the two people in love is each other and their vision of their future together.

Stories where Cancer leads are respected family fare. Stories where Scorpio leads are respected by men who love action stories and anything men like is respected (and the guy always gets the girl; not vice-versa).

But stories where the three Water Signs are led by Pisces are NOT respected. Why?????

I found an article that gives a clue - from science, no less!

This article, a Health for Life article titled Sad Brain, Happy Brain by Michael Craig Miller, M.D., was published in NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE, September 22, 2008.

http://www.accessmylibrary.com/comsite5/bin/aml2006_library_auth_tt.pl?item_id=0286-35217285
But you have to sign in to get access to the article. I think it's free though.

Some people respect NEWSWEEK as a factual source. But I see a bias in this article. There might be an "agenda" behind this article in that many readers of Newsweek want very much to believe that everything there is in human experience can in fact be explained by brain chemistry (which might be true). The idea is that you never, ever, need to postulate an immortal soul to explain any part of human experience - not even love.

Other surveys contend that most Americans do feel a spiritual connection to a Creator -- though again, most Americans would rather not associate too closely with any organized Religion!

So Newsweek has presented this straight science report on brain research which is very factual, and coincidentally very reassuring to those who want to delete God without deleting Love. You can have Love without God in your philosophy -- you just don't automatically get the "miracles" effect that I mentioned above. You have to come up with another postulate to explain miracles.

The subtitle of the article is "What cognitive neuroscience is uncovering about the fascinating biology behind our most complex feelings. As it turns out, love really is blind."

Now doesn't that explain it all? Here is a national publication using science to lay the foundation for disregarding the Romance Genre. "Love Is Blind" as "Love Conquers All" is a legitimate theme. And "Love Is Blind" can even be used to write a Romance.

It's a fairly long and involved article. Near the end, in the section titled Faith, Love and Understanding, there's a quote I want to draw to your attention:

NEWSWEEK: "... And there's scientific evidence that love really is blind; romantic love turns down or shuts off activity in the reasoning part of the brain and the amygdala. In the context of passion, the brain's judgment and fear centers are on leave. Love also shuts down the centers necessary to mentalize or sustain a theory of mind. Lovers stop differentiating you from me."

Well, yes, isn't that the whole point?

Most people who search the spiritual realms for some meaning to Life other than grubbing in the dirt till you die generally find theories, avatars, gurus, Initiators, etc who try to explain how it is that, though we are all separate and alone, we are also nevertheless connected to each other and to something out there that is Ineffable.

Experiencing personal Love with a Soul Mate is just about as close as you can get to a personal experience of that Ineffable.

So there are two philosophies here.

One philosophy says that the experience of the Ineffable, especially through love, is an illusion (Neptune rules Illusion). All experience is just brain chemistry.

The other philosophy says that the experience of the Ineffable, especially through love, rips away the illusion and exposes the Idealistic Truth (Neptune) -- that we are all One.

Maybe love is blind -- but blind to what? To the Illusion or to The Truth?

There you are on a street corner, and you step out into traffic and jump back, narrowly missing being hit by a car. The driver yells, "What's the matter with you? You blind?" and drives on. It's not his fault he didn't see you -- it's your fault. You are defective.

Blindness is something you accuse someone of. Blindness disqualifies you from being respected in normal society.

We all have our opinions of that opinion, but the truth is, it still prevails. Blindness is a stigma, a disqualification.

If you are blind, you will make mistakes that could be fatal to yourself or others. If you are blind you CAN NOT do things "right." You can't "see" what's right in front of you -- what is obvious to everyone else.

Physical blindness is a metaphor for the kind of blindness that Neptune transits bring.

When Neptune transits certain points in a natal chart, the person loses the ability to see other people's faults (even obvious ones). The person loses the ability to assess their own faults or limitations. The person loses the kind of critical judgment this society values, the judgment that lets you tell the good guys from the bad guys.

We become "non-judgmental" -- and thus able to accept what we would reject at any other time.

This society sees that loss of critical judgment as a flaw, a weakness, a danger to ourselves and others. This society (as any writer or practitioner of the Arts will tell you) sees imagination and idealism (two Neptune traits) as worthless unless tempered with critical judgment.

Now, think about this very hard.

If you live in a universe where there is no God taking a personal interest in us, and you think this article on brain research is correct, and everything in human experience can be explained by brain chemistry -- and that "love is blind" as I've quoted above -- then you must force yourself to believe that the Romance Genre is a bunch of crap that no worthwhile person could possible associate with.

Why must you convince yourself of that? Because Romance Genre's core theme is "Love Conquers All" -- that the goal of life is to suspend that critical faculty that builds a psychic barrier between individuals and really see no difference between Self and Other - to JOIN.

When you manage to suspend that much-prized critical judgement -- and only when you can vanquish it totally -- then you can touch Truth and cause miracles to happen. "And they lived happily ever after." The Prince marries the housemaid and they live happily ever after. (Princess Di notwithstanding.)

Whatever threat has been barreling down on them is averted by Love. True Love overcomes all obstacles, vanquishes every challenge, dissolves all social barriers (My Fair Lady) makes everything come out right in the end (even if it costs an arm, a leg and maybe your native accent.)

That core theme - "Love Conquers All" - is utter, blithering nonsense without the "miracles" attached. And its the miracles they sneer at. They know about Princess Di.

If, however, (even unbeknownst to yourself) you live in a universe where The Ineffable can be accessed through Love, and when accessed, can be argued into producing a miracle or two, you know that in the harsh light of reality, only Love matters. And so Romance Genre stories make sense, match your perception of reality, and define a goal to shoot for.

Now, humans, being human, don't always know what they believe, think or feel about the Universe. Many aren't old enough to have an epistemology -- others developed one haphazardly and have no idea what they believe or believe contradictory things about everything.

Those bewildered (Neptune rules the bewildered and perplexed) folks are the primary readership of Romance novels. They deem Romance an important part of life and want to figure out how to inject some into their own everyday existence.

The novel or film that can show them how to do that will break the ghetto walls around the Romance Genre.

That book or film has to explain the mechanism by which Love causes miracles to happen so that indeed Love does conquer all.

That book or film has to explain how it can be that, blinded and without critical judgment or a modicum of fear (the amygdala, the article explains, is activated when you feel fear), you actually make better decisions and do "right" things rather than "wrong" things to steer your life.

That book or film has to explain how it can be that, blinded by Love, you are less of a danger to yourself or others.

That book or film has to explain how this world is illusion and the world of Love is the truth. (which it is, in my opinion)

The book or film we need to see out there has to challenge the thematic thesis that "Love Conquers All" and show the harmonious connection between Pisces (the Ideal, the Illusion, the Dream), Cancer (the Home), and Scorpio (Sexual Power).

It has to be fascinating and entertaining to the people who are scared of the Ineffable, so they'll listen to the explanation of how Love works and why it conquers all.

Remember my definition of Genre rests on what is excluded?

Well, the definitive work that will bring Romance Genre the prestige it deserves has to INCLUDE All. Thus, it wouldn't actually be a Romance Genre work, but a wider work that has the scope to define not just the one genre, but the concept "genre" itself.

Let's go back to the Astrology table associating the 12 signs of the Zodiac with their properties.

The driving power of the Romance Genre is entirely Neptune /Pisces /12th House.

The Romance Genre formula takes that one essential ingredient in Life (everyone has Pisces somewhere; everyone has Neptune somewhere) and isolates it from most of the others. Neptune is hard enough to make sense of in context nevermind out of context! So let's put it in context.

The essence of story is conflict. What conflicts with Neptune? In Astrology, Squares and Oppositions give "conflict" as challenges and opportunities, as pressure to develop and mature in personality and spirit. "Story" is about a character changing under pressure of life's patterns and we've drawn a diagram of life's patterns.

Look at the pie slices you've drawn and find the natural conflicts that generate plots.

Opposite Pisces is Virgo - Mutable Earth. Virgo is ruled by Mercury (thought, travel). Virgo is organized, defined, practical, the Accountant, the bean-counter personality, all about DETAILS. You know the kind of person who packs a suitcase with everything in ziplock bags and shaped into rectangles laid in precise rows? That's a kind of Virgo -- not necessarily Sun in Virgo, but an emphasis in Virgo and/or the 6th House (Virgo is the Natural 6th House of Service). John McCain has Sun and 3 planets in Virgo, all about Service and balancing the budget.

6th House is your "work" -- what you do to make money, not your vocation. So Neptune transiting your 12th House opposite your 6th House tends to dissolve away your job(s) but not your vocation.

Square Pisces is Gemini, Mutable Air, also ruled by Mercury, but usually a messy housekeeper who thinks fast, communicates faster, and just can't be still. Barak Obama probably (his exact chart is unknown) has Moon in Gemini, and oddly when asked what his worst fault is, he responded by noting he keeps a messy desk and has trouble finding things. So maybe the websites have his chart nailed.

Square Pisces in the other direction, opposite Gemini, is Sagittarius, Mutable Fire -- ruled by Jupiter, (the inclusion principle). Sagittarius is all about Truth. Sagittarius can't tell a lie, not even a "white lie" and in fact is apt to blurt out the truth at inopportune moments.

Notice what conflicts most with Pisces/Neptune are the other Mutables. Like repels like.

Pisces is Sacrifice -- Virgo is Service. Same thing? Or opposites?

Gemini is communication -- Sagittarius is honesty. Same thing? Or opposites?

Now take Cancer - opposite is Capricorn, squaring are Aries and Libra.

Now take Scorpio - opposite is Taurus, squaring are Leo and Aquarius.

Look up the associated traits of the opposition and squares of any sign, and presto, you have a theme, a plot, and the elements of the World you must Build to display them, and all the elements will automatically be in harmony -- AND ordinary readers who know nothing of Astrology will recognize the conglomeration you've created as a coherent set of things that reflects "reality" and lets them suspend disbelief. Using these sets defined by Astrology, the writer can create "plausibility" without seeming "contrived."

Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio form the Grand Water Trine -- three elements that work easily together without conflict. They advance each others' causes, progress smoothly. Whichever one you're working in, the other two are supportive. Each of the three is opposed and squared by the signs that give it the most trouble -- and incidentally the most opportunity for growth and self actualization, the most opportunity for a writer to demonstrate character growth.

Aries, Leo and Sagitarrius are the Fire Trine. Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn are the Earth Trine. Each is opposed and squared by a naturally conflicting sign.

Think about that and you should see the conflicts, themes, and Worlds which could present the argument for the Romance Genre thesis, Love Conquers All.

The trick here is to put Romance, and the Neptune effect of stripping away judgment, into context and argue that without our normal fears and judgments, without the barriers between us that define us as individuals, we function more in tune with the world, and get more accurate, profitable and usable results.

Astrology, with this neat pie-slice layout of Triplicities and Quadruplicities provides writers with a uniquely compact paradigm for all the available Archetypes and their natural conflicts -- plus the natural resolutions that most people would be able to see as "Poetic Justice."

To me, Astrology graphically shows us that "life" isn't about conflict, war, strife, dominance, submission, angst, grief, or competition. The Wheel of Life shows graphically that Life is really about balance, combinations, resolution and above all Peace.

So what do you leave out to make a story a genre Romance?

From Astrology and modern brain research together, we learn that you leave out "critical judgment" factors, the ones that rely on the difference between Self and Other and the ones that rely on the amygdala which is actived when fear is triggered. These are the factors which keep you from blending with the Ineffable by bonding with a Soul Mate.

So, using "Love Conquers All" as your main theme means that you may include things which are monstrously fearsome, horrible beyond all imagining, repulsive (one mythical frog/prince comes to mine), Vampire, Alien From Another Planet, or terrifying in some primal way (Simes come to my mind instantly).

To make a story pure Romance Genre, you leave out the POV character's response of FEAR! Love is fearless. Romance is the state in which one is capable of overcoming barriers to reach out and Love. So to make it a story, you must start with the part where there are barriers -- impossible barriers -- then show how they dissolve as Love grows.

The point that would win The Nobel Prize in Literature might be, as I said above, that in the state of not-fearing and not-distinguishing between Self and Other, one makes the best of all possible decisions - not the worst, as common wisdom currently holds.

For a glimpse of a real world model of how this dissolving (Neptune) of barriers (Saturn) between people is currently in progress, read this article on surfing the web affecting brain circuitry and social skills:

http://tech.yahoo.com/news/nm/20081027/tc_nm/us_technology_ibrain_tech_net_1
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

http://www.simegen.com/jl/

5 comments:

  1. Wow.

    A great deal to think about in this post. Nothing like a brisk mental workout first thing in the morning to get your day off to a good start.

    If someone really can write a book that can "...explain the mechanism by which Love causes miracles to happen so that indeed Love does conquer all." they would do more that more Romance out of the Genre Ghetto. If they had a sure-fire way to explain that mechanism so that every one could use it, that you could go a big way toward solving most of the worlds. problems.

    I'm too much a hard headed science type to think that where any individual mass it the moment I was born has anything to do with how I will live my life, but I think that using Astrology to parse personality traits, is a great tool, sort of like a metaphysical Meyers-Briggs test.

    I find the idea of using the Astrological chart to enhance and balance a plot fascinating, and I'm looking forward to trying it to help with some trouble spots I've been working through.

    Thanks for such a though-provoking post.

    One last thing, and this is tangential to the topic of the plot, but in regard to the brain chemistry study, I would argue there is a third, probably small group of people who believe there is a God, but also thinks all human experience is rooted in brain chemistry, even our experience of God, because God is as much a part of his/her evolving creation as brain chemicals, DNA, or sub atomic particles.

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  2. mfitz:

    Yes, when you apply Astrology as a thinking tool (rather than something to "believe in") you can't avoid edging into the territory of God, religion, spiritual matters such as Soul, etc.

    This post got so overly huge (way beyond what belongs on a blog) that I only edged the issue.

    But one reason I like Astrology as a thinking tool for novel plotting is that it DOES include God and the Soul as a dimension, and is completely compatible with all Earth religions (whether they know it or not).

    Any novel writer has to have some kind of grasp of human personality, of character, and thus of Psychology as a science. If you don't have some understanding in this field, your characters turn out "wooden" or "paper tigers" and your plots are "contrived" with endings that "peter out" instead of climaxing.

    So I studied all the "schools" of psychology I could find in my library (a lot) -- and I just couldn't find anything useful in them. Then a friend showed me how Astrology really works (not TV Guide Astrology) and WHAM - I had a model of personality that INCLUDED Soul, karma, reincarnation -- any crazy thing you wanted -- and automatically gives your reader the satisfaction of "poetic justice" in your endings.

    It's a neat and complete tool for a writer because it does include the immortal soul. As I've mentioned in Worldbuilding discussions, a writer has to model the alien cultures on human cultures. If you've read The Golden Bough, you know all human cultures have something to say about God, Creation, and Cosmology.

    So your Aliens have to have that dimension, too -- even if they're atheists because that too is a statement about Religion.

    If generating the xenology of your aliens is built into your thinking tools, you can build worlds faster, write more, make more money.

    If it's an independent variable, then your alien religion might not be plausible to human readers. If it grows organically out of the structure of the Zodiac, humans will accept it for the sake of the story.

    In reality, of course, when we actually meet Aliens, their zodiac will be shaped differently -- and we won't understand them or believe they're "for real."

    Oh, and yes, I'm of the personal opinion that brain chemistry explains all human experience -- but that is not inconsistent with postulates about Soul and a Creator. If I were Creating this universe -- I'd have Created brain chemistry just like that. Wouldn't you?

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

    http://www.simegen.com/jl/

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  3. Yep. :-)

    I come to believe in my older age that God is an unexplainable natural phenomena, and the real Grand Unified Theory would be one that explains the truths of both science and religion as part of the same whole.

    I also have no problem with God and evolution, but that is getting way, way, way off topic.

    One of my major pet-peeves about SF as a whole is that it treats the idea of religion and people of Faith as foolish, misguided or out and out evil. SF tends to see religion and or spirituality as something that will be outgrown rather than a key part of the human experience. I'd like to see us out grow religion as culture war without out growing religion as a tool to understand the Universe.

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  4. A person does have a choice whether or not he/she decides to use drugs or not. The planet Neptune has nothing to do with his/her decisions. Astrology is just a guide in our daily lives, like horoscope which cannot precisely give accurate results.

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  5. alcohol intervention

    Possibly you didn't read this entire sequence of posts.

    Nowhere have I said that any astrological influence, least of all a planet, could CAUSE a person to do anything.

    If you read my book on the Tarot, NEVER CROSS A PALM WITH SILVER, you will find that I go to great lengths to explain that the reason that Tarot and Astrology CAN NOT PREDICT THE FUTURE (or anyone's future or any human being's actions) is that human beings have free will.

    How you choose to use the resources at your command (and an astrological transit is a resource put under your command -- the zodiac is nothing but a big clock), is entirely a matter of your own free will choice.

    Neptune is tricky. Most people don't realize they have a choice in how to use it.

    It's best use is altruism, dramatics, public speaking, charisma, and religion.

    It's your personal choice, but which choice will be harder and more costly and which easier and more natural depends to some extent on your natal chart AND YOUR SOUL. Your personal individuality lies in your Soul, the immortal part of you. Natal Chart and Soul are two different things, independent though related.

    What you do with your natal chart is a free will choice.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg
    http://www.simegen.com/jl/

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