Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pausing For You To Catch Up With Me Part III

Parts I and II of this series of pauses are found on this blog for the Tuesdays March 16 and March 23.  They list the 10 posts on the Tarot Suit of Swords, the Tarot Suit of Pentacles, and a few reviews looking at trends in the SFR and PNR fields of Romance. 

This list of posts is in response to the question of what is Magic Realism (a sub-genre of Fantasy) and how do you write Magic Realism which appeared on Twitter in February 2010 during the #scifichat.

The first part of my answer is that you study the worldview through the eyes of the real-world history of the Magical View Of The Universe.  This is in contrast to the view of the Magical View Of The Universe you can see through the eyes of The Scientific View Of The Universe.  It's all about Shifting Point Of View, an exercise writers do everyday, three times a day at least. 

I believe that the Magical View Of The Universe is most easily accessed by the science-trained writer of today via the study of Tarot and Astrology. 

This study is not about discarding the scientific view of the universe (do that and you lose your readers) but rather about incorporating the scientific view of reality into the (older and larger) magical view of reality. 

The two views are not incompatible but complimentary.  The scientific view drives Science Fiction and the magical view drives Fantasy genres.  But in the current marketplace, the two views are starting to blend into one, producing some remarkable fiction, SFR being one example.

So over the last few years, I've done a series of posts here giving an overview of Astrology, singling out the least technical premises that can be of use to writers building a world for characters and readers to romp around in. 

This series is called Astrology Just For Writers.  It can also be used to start learning enough of the magical view of the universe, and how it differs from and incorporates the scientific view of the universe, to create a Magic Realism story. 

Here is a list of the URLS for the Astrology Just For Writers series. 

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2008/07/astrology-just-for-writers.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2008/07/astrology-just-for-writers-part-2.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2008/10/astrology-just-for-writers-part-3-genre.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2008/12/astrology-just-for-writers-pt-4-high.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2008/12/astrology-just-for-writers-part-5-high.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/10/astrology-just-for-writers-pt-6.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/11/astrology-just-for-writers-part-6.html  (This is actually Part 7)

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/12/astrology-just-for-writers-part-8-beat.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/01/astrology-just-for-writers-part-9-high.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/08/astrology-just-for-writers-part-10.html


http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2011/11/astrology-just-for-writers-part-11.html

That is obviously not all I need to say on the subject of using Astrology as a worldbuilding tool.  With time, I hope to cover the whole subject and show how it can be used to increase the regard the ordinary reader has for the field of Romance, particularly SFR and PNR.


To do a large job, you need large tools - and Astrology is the John Deere of Soul Moving Equipment manufacturers. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com (currently available fiction)
http://www.simegen.com/jl/ (complete index of works)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Whither Fiction?

In Jack Vance's "The Book Of Dreams", the hero was a newspaperman. Newspapers were still printed and distributed. I inferred that would-be readers paid for them.

Is this a sustainable business model? While staying at a Wyndhams motel, I noticed that I could receive .75c credit on my stay if I opted to decline a morning copy of "USA Today". That was a shock. I've always accepted that my "complimentary" morning newspaper is part of the package.

I don't subscribe to a newspaper. My mother does. I don't. Initially, I did not appreciate the oxymoron of paying for the "Free Press" and I wasn't offered "The Telegraph" or "The FT". Now, I'm accustomed to getting my news from AOL and Google.

Ultimately, I suppose that I pay Comcast for it, since I pay Comcast for my internet connection... just as I paid the Wyndham motel for "USA Today".

For the record, I'd prefer it if Comcast would charge me less for my internet access, and allow me to break out whatever I don't want. I'd rather pay for that to which I subscribe. I don't approve of the "entitlement mentality". I think it's a bad precedent. Mr Murdoch is trying to put the news genie back in the bottle, but it's always harder to monetize something once people are accustomed to getting it for free.

Same with music. Same with movies. Same with fiction.

For that reason, I don't approve of Amazon, and I don't approve of Baen. One needs clarity, and they've muddied the waters. Copyright was pretty straightforward. An author has the right to control the reproduction, distribution and performance of her work. Copyright means that a reader cannot create a new copy of a book (or several copies) in any form (photocopy, CD, email etc), nor may he re-sell or share the copies.

There are two paranormal romance authors whose e-books are continually  available on EBay auctions. I assume that those two authors don't mind if their novels are (rightly or wrongly) believed to be in the public domain by thousands of EBayers. Other vampire-and-paranormal authors who need the income from legal sales of their ebooks, and whose books are included in auctions of "191 Vampire and Fantasy Books" are hurt by the lack of clarity.

An apparently overwhelming number of internet users seem to believe that all fiction ought to be free. If they own a computer, and they have an internet connection, everything on the internet ought to be available to them at no further charge. The Net Neutrality advocates seem to believe that someone who spends his entire day and half the night up- and down-loading "free" movies and romance novels ought to pay the same for his internet usage as someone who checks his emails twice a week.

"If we like it, we'll donate what we think it's worth" seems to be the attitude towards creators. So, will we authors return to a Shakespearean business model? Will we rely on holding out the collection cap in cyberspace?

I think not. Allegedly, EBay cannot find copyright owners to notify them of an infringement report, even when the author's name is on the cover of the infringed novel. Allegedly, Google cannot find the authors of "orphan works", especially if they live overseas. So, how likely is it that someone who clicks a link on Astatalk and reads "Forced Mate" and very much enjoys my creative writing is going to find me, locate some means of paying me, and send me money?

It has never happened. It is not going to happen.

By the way, MediaFire has introduced the functionality allowing thieves and all their friends to "share" files to Twitter, Facebook, Stumble Upon, Digg It, and MySpace... and also to embed illegal links.

In my opinion, just because MediaFire posts small print saying that their registered users agree that they are responsible for the content they post does not absolve MediaFire from responsibility. Their "agreement" is with their users, not with their victims. It is MediaFire that makes it possible for an URL to be shared with millions. Like this http://www.mediafire.com/?mjwvmfjwjyd

So, how else did The Queen's Men earn their living? By pleasing a rich and powerful patron. That's how.  It won't be good for creativity, accuracy, journalistic integrity. Nor will it be good for the reader. But, as they say, "You gets what you pays for."

I wonder what kind of powerful crackpot would sponsor alien romance authors? The future would probably offer slim pickings for those who would make heroes of vampires and werewolves, too. Bodysnatcher romance might be okay.... but I won't go there.

Seriously, the world changes really quickly. I was listening to a 2010-set Tom Clancy novel. NetForce. Tom assumed that Britain would have a King by now. Some things don't change that quickly! If we write speculative fiction, it's likely that future heroes and villains will still want sex, power, and wealth not necessarily in that order. What else they do for fun and profit might not involve ink and paper. It's more likely to involve multiple choice and pixels.

The other possibility I foresee is a return to the oral tradition of troubadours and travelling storytellers. The only way not to be ripped off and to get people to pay for our creativity would be if we could be more like the evangelists... Joel Osteen?... Fill a ball park with people who'd come to hear us tell a story.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

Last week I spent Wednesday through early Sunday in Orlando at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. It combines most of the best features of academic and fan cons (except for costumes, and usually no music—that's one thing I'd like to see added). Dozens of editors and authors attend in addition to the scholars. A full day of content-rich panels and evening activities, plus good food and great weather (usually)—what more could anybody ask for?

Well, I could ask (and have, fruitlessly) that the sessions don't start at the bloody crack of dawn, i.e. 8:30, but I wouldn't want to give up any of the sessions.

This year I chaired a panel on vampires in anime and manga. The scholar guest of honor, who's Japanese, was on the panel; we had a lively, substantial discussion. Unfortunately, because we had the 8:30 slot on the first full day, only six people showed up in the audience. Sigh.

Later that day I did a reading from my lighthearted erotic shapeshifter novel, LOVE UNLEASHED.

The Lord Ruthven Assembly, the vampire and revenant division, gives annual recognition to distinguished books and other works. This year our fiction award went to THE STRAIN, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, an innovative treatment of vampirism as an infectious disease. The nonfiction award went to a scholarly work called VAMPIRE GOD, by Mary Y. Hallab, about the allure of the vampire in popular culture. We also honored a Korean film called THIRST, which I haven't seen.

One of the sessions I enjoyed most included papers on the Disney princesses and on the evolution of Tinker Bell.

As always, I enjoyed hanging out with friends I see only once a year, including Jacqueline’s co-author, Jean Lorrah. After the Saturday night banquet, on Sunday I flew home and turned back into a pumpkin for the rest of the year.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pausing For You To Catch Up With Me, Part II

Last week I listed the 10 posts I've done here on the Tarot suit of Swords.  That's a lot of reading, but if you've managed to get through it all, and maybe some of the review style posts I've done here, you might be ready to absorb the following posts on the Tarot Suit of Pentacles.

This is all drill for building a world in which to tell a story using Magic Realism -- really making the magical view of the universe sound and feel "real" to a reader who is predisposed to disbelieve any of these ideas.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/10/ace-of-pentacles-setting-up.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/10/2-pentacles-affairs-of-wizards.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/11/3-pentacles-doctorate.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/11/4-pentacles-almighty-cliche.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/11/5-of-pentacles.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/11/6-pentacles-social-contract.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/12/7-pentacles-right-answer.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/12/8-pentacles-kavanah.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/12/9-pentacles-youve-made-your-bed-now-lie.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/12/10-pentacles-cake-comes-out-of-oven.html

Soak up all that, and next week we'll tackle Astrology.  I haven't finished talking about all the aspects of astrology that can be useful to a writer (or reader for that matter), but this is a pause for catch-up and I don't want anyone to be lost as I forge ahead into deeper discussions.

You'll note that these posts date back to 2007, and I post here once a week.  That's a lot of very long posts, but they are all connected to the theme of Romance, SF and Paranormal Romance, the entire field of the Romance novel and the SF novel (perhaps most all genres, certainly including Westerns, maybe not Mysteries), and how these genres are regarded by the general public.

The objective is to solve the puzzle of why such genres are held in such unmitigated disrespect.  And to consider what we can do about that.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com (currently available fiction)
http://www.simegen.com/jl/  (complete index of all works)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pearls, Rebels and Lovers

A mish-mash of blatant self promotion today.

Last night HOPE'S FOLLY won the PEARL award for Best Romantic Science Fiction--something that was quite a surprise. I love the PEARL awards because they break down paranormal romance subgenres into categories. It's touch--especially when you write the quirky subgenre of science fiction romance--to compete against vampires romances and fallen angel stories. The characters, the plot lines, the things that make readers go yes! yes! yes! just aren't the same. With the way the PEARL defines their categories, it gives all the subgenres a logical chance against similar books. Also in the winner's circle were Susan Grant and Jess Granger. Both top notch SFR books. It's a total honor to share the winner's circle with them. Both Susan and Jess write to the same premise that I do, and I can highly recommend their books to my readers. Not that I can't also recommend books by other authors who write paranormal romance, but I've learned--or am learning--that there's not a true and consistent cross-over from readers of, say, Sherrilyn Kenyon or Nalini Singh to the kinds of stories that Susan, Jess, and I conjure up. We batted back and forth on this blog (as well as on others) the differences between SFR and the rest of the PNR subgenres, and whether or not we even belong in the PNR corral. Point is, with the PEARL awards, we get our own little corner of the galaxy. And I do heartily thank those at the Paranormal Romance site and list for doing so.

Also happening this week--tomorrow, actually--is REBELS AND LOVERS. It hits the bookstore shelves (and should already be pre-shipping from the online sites) March 23. This is book four in the Dock Five Universe series which started with GABRIEL'S GHOST. I've also just signed the contract with Audible for audio books for the series. Nope, no clue when they'll be available but as soon as I know, you'll know. This is an exciting process--I've never been out in audio book format before.

Other than that, the conference silly season is starting for me. To say I'm going nutzing futz is an understatement.

Happy reading, all! ~Linnea

REBELS AND LOVERS, March 2010: Book 4 in the Dock Five Universe, from Bantam Books and Linnea Sinclair—www.linneasinclair.com

Kaidee hated when her ship didn’t work. Dead in space was not a place she liked to be. Especially with an unknown bogie on her tail, closing at a disturbingly fast rate of speed that made her heart pound in her chest and her throat go dry.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Break for alien romance inspiration

I'm sure it has been done before. Almost everything has.

However, I believe that Spring Break is a uniquely American phenomenon. I don't recall mass collegiate exoduses (exodii?) to the coast... although, there was Club Med, now I think back. Also, there was some kind of young, singles, tour operator that once took me on an absolutely dreadful ski holiday. And that would probably make a better story than my musings on Spring Break in Florida.

No matter. I am here, I've given myself a mandate (by posting a title), so I will plow on, regardless of better ideas.

Dara Joy's brilliant alien romance "Knight of A Trillion Stars" made superb use of venue: that of a science fiction convention to set the scene for the almost-abduction of the heroine. Spring Break would work almost as well, especially if one could substitute near nudity for otherworldly costumes.

In fact, now I am brainstorming about this, I see possibilities for Viz-Igerd, the King who is too proud to wear clothing, and who lost his Queen in Knight's Fork. I'm not working on his story at the moment. I put him on a back burner because naked guys with fully retractable genitals and a Wolverine-like "warhand" are a logistical nightmare for this writer who has her mind wrapped around the cold North sea.... but, Jax Beaches in late March might work for Viz-Igerd.

Thor-Quentin would probably enjoy Daytona Beach at Spring Break. I must look into that. He's the other anti-hero on my mind, but too young to settle down. But, I digress.

What is Spring Break? Why do thousands of college students head for beaches en masse at Easter? If they don't do so in Europe, is it a matter of economics or climate? Does it hark back to some primaeval time, like our human version of bird and fish migrations? Certainly, a great deal of displaying takes place, also a lot of self- and reciprocal grooming (especially involving sun lotion).

If one were adapting Spring Break to a colony world, or to an alien culture, what would the pre-requisites be? You'd need seasons. You'd need a designated holiday period for all young people of prime mating age. They'd have to be mobile. You'd need a destination. The locals would have to be more than tolerant, because Spring Break involves the closing of roads (or parts of roads) and residental tower blocks appear to be virtually beseiged with their parking spots annexed. Roads are clogged to the point of crawl pace. Woe betide anyone who needs to get anywhere in a hurry. If there were to be a hurricane or tsunami during Spring Break, escape inland would be improbable.

Spring Break also involves an incredible amount of noise pollution. Also litter. Also vomit in the streets. A more orderly world (or society such as the Germany I loved in the 1980s) would never tolerate it... or else would make a vast amount of income in fines from vigorously enforcing the anti-litter, anti-noise-pollution laws on the books with on-the-spot fines. California should consider that!

As for my own, European "Spring Break", I cannot recall what possessed me to think that I might like skiing. My balance has never been good, and my ankles are not sturdy. The tour put me in a group which involved some highly creative and altogether delightful males from Australia, who danced on other people's (my) balcony wearing minimal clothing, brandishing beer, and comparing various bodily odours (their own) to the smell of decaying wildlife.

Our tour operator went bankrupt and ceased operations while we were away. The hotel sent us to the airport without telling the coach driver that there was no plane. While we waited at the airport, the coach driver, thinking he was off duty, went back to the resort and helped finish all the drinks left in the bar... by the time I did return to the UK, I was a day or two late and had caught the most dreadful case of laryngitis. Trying to cross Europe while totally unable to utter a word is an experience! If one is mute, one is assumed also to be deaf and stupid. But that is another story.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, March 18, 2010

International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

As you read this, I’ve flown to Orlando for the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, which combines the best features of an academic conference and a fan convention (well, except that nobody wears costumes). Lots of editors and authors attend, in addition to scholars of all fields of speculative fiction in various media. Today (Thursday) I’ll do a reading from my erotic shapeshifter romance LOVE UNLEASHED and chair a panel on vampires in anime and manga.

I am SO looking forward to the warm sun and hoping the few predicted showers don’t materialize. Though I’m not one to waste prime panel-attending time that I’ve PAID for by lounging around the outdoor bar, I do like to take a daily walk outside. This hotel sits next to an artificial lake where some people professed to have seen alligators last year. I didn’t glimpse one, but maybe this year—from a cautious distance, of course.

By the way, today my monthly post about vintage vampire novels on Michele Hauf’s VampChix blog goes up. I’m discussing the fluffy 1969 satirical novel DRACUTWIG. Check it out:

VampChix

Margaret L. Carter
Carter’s Crypt

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pausing For You To Catch Up With Me

I have a lamentable habit of writing posts which would be long even as a book chapter.

Nothing I can do seems to mitigate that habit. Every time I write something really short, I read it over and it gets longer and longer.

I know there are readers here who save these posts intending to read them later, and then just don't have time.

So I'm pausing to let you catch up.

Someone turned up on twitter recently discussing "Magic Realism" and I said that it was basically how magic really works in the real world, instead of the broad, dramatic and melodramatic strokes used in most Fantasy works.

I have said on panels at conventions that Magic is to Fantasy as Science is to Science Fiction, and I think that sums it up. "Magic" as handed down from the dawn of time, the pre-scientific, pre-Aristotelian view of the world is the source material for Fantasy.

Much of what I present here, especially "Love Conquers All" and the HEA ending thesis, is predicated on the assumption that you've read and absorbed the material presented in these very abstract posts that I've done on this Alien Romance blog on the magical view of the universe.

One of the big problems with writing by USA natives is that we have mostly grown up with a mono-lingual tradition, speaking reading and writing only English, and American Standard English (or a dialect of it) at that.

We are mono-cultural and wear blinders so dense that we don't even know what that means. It gives the fiction we write a false note heard only by members of other cultures.

To break through that and build fantasy worlds that ring true, we need to step into a world view that includes but is not limited to or by the scientific view of reality.

So you might want to read or re-read what I've said about the world as viewed through the eyes of that tradition which includes a magical view of the universe and which can be used to generate "Magic Realism" worldbuilding suitable for PNR and other genres:

On Tarot:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/08/folks-first-i-have-to-say-that-at.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/08/two-of-swords.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/08/three-of-swords-commitment.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/09/4-of-swords-gestation.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/09/5-of-swords-co-dependence.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/09/six-of-swords-love-conquers-all-as.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/09/7-of-swords-conflict-avoidance.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/10/8-swords-yes-but.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/10/9-swords-nightmares.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/10/10-swords-your-chickens-come-home-to.html

Read those in order and it can leave your mind stunned and unable to absorb another word of these far-out abstractions.

So to lighten things up, take a forray into some of my reviews and discussions of worlds others have build - not necessarily Magic Realism!

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/02/tv-shows-leverage-and-psych.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/11/doubleblind-by-ann-aquirre.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/12/recommending-devon-monk.html


http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/02/happily-ever-after.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/04/dresden-files-interview-with-jim.html

Next week, we'll review the Suit of Pentacles and explore some points of view even more mind-boggling than that.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com (for currently available novels)
http://www.simegen.com/jl/ (for total index of my work)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

EPIC Awards

Last week, the annual EPICCon, the gathering of e-book authors and publishers, was held in New Orleans. I wish I could have been there, but its March date falls not only in the middle of legislative session (the crunch period in my day job) but also the same month as the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, one of my two yearly can’t-miss conferences. So I can justify also going to EPICCon only in rare years. It’s always a deprivation to miss the outstanding workshops and Jeff Strand’s inimitably hilarious Master of Ceremonies gig.

Rowena won the Friend of E-Publishing Award! Congratulations!

The full list of winners can be seen here:

EPIC EBook Awards

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Worldbuilding From "Reality:"

On twitter on #scifi chat on Friday Feb 26th, the discussion centered on Urban Fantasy. That was the day after I saw the Healthcare Summit on live feed. Talk about a reality check!

"Reality" of course means your subjective bubble reality that you live inside of.

We all walk around inside bubbles and see the world through reflections of ourselves and ghosts of what's out there.

This blog is about Alien Romance, Science Fiction Romance, and what goes on inside a writer's mind that results in a well concocted universe and a story that fits into that universe artistically.

The main Worldbuilding Posts that I've written are here:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2007/02/worldbuilding-and-art.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/12/worldbuilding-by-committee.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/01/worldbuilding-for-science-fiction.html

I've done a number of posts not listed above describing the worldbuilding process, the way a writer creates a "selective representation of reality" against which to tell a story about characters who encounter problems tailor made to break the character's psyche in half, and how the character learns to heal that broken psyche because of the traumatic events.

That applies to action stories as well as to romance, though romance is much better at breaking psyches than action is. Combine the two, toss in some skewed SF speculation, and the resulting story can resound down the ages as a lesson to be grappled with.

Nothing arouses the emotions to the breaking point like politics. Politics can break a good marriage! The human species is still trying to find a method of governing that actually works.

So science fiction writers keep exploring the options, looking for some new ideas, generating a whole sub-genre of "sociological SF" which lends itself particularly well to Romance, especially Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy.

Alternate universes and alternate histories are in style as venues for telling such stories -- but I haven't seen any really NEW ideas lately.

Fantasy genre tends to default to Aristocracy and Kings as the governing method. Maybe that's just lazy writing.

Destroy our current civilization and we start over basically with the same-old, same-old. You've seen that happen in "reality" on TV news as other countries, knocked back by natural disaster or war, re-form their organizations around "strong men," gangs, religious leaders, -- anyone who can command enough loyalty to defend a neighborhood.

Crowning Kings is what humans do. We need "Kings" to unite us in defense, and to go conquering to pacify larger territories, get water and arable land, etc.

I talked a little about that a couple weeks ago in this post:

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/02/how-does-intelligence-work.html

In that post, I explored the origin of the I.Q. test and how it originated in politics and might still be used by politicians because the concepts embedded in it lend themselves to creating an Aristocracy.

At the moment, most of the world and particularly the USA is using a government format that is rooted in Aristotle's philosophies.

That's right, our concept of how to govern ourselves is THAT old!!!

Nearly a hundred years of dedicated futurologists and really original thinkers writing SF and Fantasy haven't yet come up with a new idea.

But if you look at the Romance field, you see how crucial are the assumptions about how the overall government around the bonding couple works.

Bonding into a couple is fragile at first, and very often in "reality" defies local "authority" and gets bashed down hard, sometimes too hard.

Human couples form that wondrous, and unbreakable, bond across the artificially created lines of politics, religion, and cultural taboos, and somehow, against all odds, coupling prevails because of romance, not because of practical everyday strengths.

Once formed, that human coupling bond is stronger and more compelling than any other force, even politics most of the time. It's especially stronger than religion. But both politics and religion can crack open a marriage, especially after children arrive which "raises the stakes."

So you might expect the Romance field to have produced some Fantasy Romance using something other than Kings, Queens, and aristocrats.

Fantasy has used various sorts of aristocracies -- some based on merit where the Hero(ine) has to swing a sword better than anyone else or pass some other test, or have an ESP Talent to qualify.

But, in Urban Fantasy and PNR, the default format of what can somehow, almost, manage to govern humans is a bureaucratic, autocratic or mystical aristocracy.

The assumption is that some people are just inherently better than others, that some people are born to rule.

But our real world does not laud that theory at all.

In our reality we keep trying to get this election thing perfected, and let vast numbers of people select people to go solve our problems from a central location (with the implication that once we choose the right person, we don't have to pay any more attention).

That lack of constant attention by the electorate is starting to evaporate under the impact of social networking online.

The pendulum seems to be swinging toward the general public micromanaging elected officials.

And concurrently, we are getting more of an assumption that the highest elected officials have been tasked with micromanaging our individual lives.

That's a view from inside my personal subjective bubble. Your view ought to be different (I hope).

This blog is not about what my (or your) political bias is. The point is that we all have a bias, and the very existence of a bias or perhaps a scorn for those who have a bias, makes a great conflict to embed in a world you're building -- so the bonding couple can have a hard time and learn from that.

Another subject we've been discussing here is screenwriting, or "visual storytelling."

Text-narrative writers have to do this, too, but with different tools.

A feature screenplay or TV show can simply specify the visual clues in the environment that illustrate the emotional undercurrents and richly built world behind the drama.

A text narrative has to accomplish the same thing with tools more like a Japanese Brush Painting, illustrating the rich detail with a few, bold, vivid strokes that engage the human brain's ability to fill in the gaps by inference.

If you do a quick survey of the Urban Fantasy novels of the last 2 years, two things leap right out at you.

1) There's almost nothing but SERIES, and some are not numbered but labeled "A Violet Simpering Novel" or whatever the main character's name is.

2) They use what I've called the "thin film over a seething cauldron of Evil" vision of reality to create dark, ugly, underbelly-of-civilization stories.

The most popular are told in our everyday universe where in some adjacent universe with evil, bad, ugly, threatening beasts plot to invade and destroy or take over our reality. The only thing stopping them? Our Hero(ine).

The evil is among us and someone has to live a nasty life in order to save us - whether we want that or not.

Amidst this all-encompassing "darkness" we sometimes have a pair of lovers who somehow find each other against all odds (I personally love that story!)

Now duck back into everyday "reality" and take a look what's coming off your TV screen.

The USA is in the midst of take-2 of the Healthcare Debate.

OK, now everyone is standing up shouting at me, either "healthcare is a right!" or "healthcare is a privilege" -- or whatever your opinion might be.

SHELVE YOUR OPINION.

This is a writing exercise that requires looking at "reality" as objectively as you can in order to create a few swift strokes to depict a fictional reality where everything is sooooo diffferrrennntttt!!

To be different, you have to figure out what you're different from.

So we need to look at the US government with an artist's eye, with a visual story-teller's eye, and with a philosopher's eye.

Where have we been with governmental forms? Where are we now? Where are we going? Extrapolate - "If This Goes On ..." where will we be?

Worldbuild the place where we're going, and set your romance there and it will be sociological SFR.

Well, that's what I do everyday, even when I'm not particularly focused on building a new world or writing a new story.

So a couple weeks ago, I sat all day Thursday and watched the antics of real world politicians before national cameras "discussing" healthcare reform. Well, truth is I multi-tasked, cooking while watching.

And though I searched, I didn't see any discussing at all.

The POTUS ordered "no talking points" and everyone proceeded to utter all their most polished talking point lists uttered in perfect sound bytes.

Each person at the huge, square table gave a prepared speech, and only acknowledged anyone else at the table in cursory asides that made it seem like a conversation -- but it was not a brainstorming, problem-solving, solution-inventing session, which is what it should have been.

I mean, we pay their salaries to solve these problems. They wasted our time right in front of our faces. Personally, I'd dock their pay.

If you wanted to hear what these people were thinking, you did well to not-watch the 7 hours of television. I've seen miniseries that were shorter.

On the other hand, it was a feast set out for a writer!

Defiance of authority seemed interesting to me as talking-point after talking-point was uttered but only one man got scolded by Authority. Since I knew the back story, I found that had subtext galore.

I was particularly interested in the face of authority defied. Lots of good drama there.

But there was other really rich material, especially for a romance writer.

Because the networks kept cutting in to insert commentary and commercials when someone they didn't like was talking (sometimes when POTUS was talking), I ended up switching to my computer and watching it "live streaming" where they showed every single moment.

And I'm glad I did because later, comparing the clips shown on TV to the view via live-streaming, I SAW THINGS in the room that I wouldn't have seen, things the TV shots left out, visual clues which I could use to make up a story.

Perhaps the 7 hours is archived online somewhere, I don't know. If you have a day to waste, you might want to hunt it up and watch.

But here are my observations.

The one single, loudest cry from the voters that I've heard consistently from all shades of the political spectra is that "Government Is Broken" -- this from the people who want a public healthcare option and from those who are against it. Both sides are convinced "government is broken" because they can't seem to get government to do anything, and when it does do something, it's disastrous immediately, or in the future.

Government Is Broken

If you've wondered if government really is broken in the USA, it might be informative or at least stimulative to the imagination to watch a good portion of the live-streaming feed of this healthcare summit meeting.

Now, I've wondered about this idea that government is broken. And I keep thinking a good SF writer ought to be able to posit a fix for the break, if it exists.

Note that above I said that the best Romance is written by taking a character, breaking the character's psyche with Events, then healing that character by lessons learned from those Events.

Government has experienced an Event (the Financial System meltdown).

If they learn from it, and heal, then "broken" is a really good way to be at the moment. If they don't learn and heal, then "broken" portends personal disaster for us all.

But why would the financial system meltdown Event "break" government?

Was that Event the source, or just a trigger?

Let's say it was a trigger.

We have to look for the source of the weakness. Something within the governmental philosophy behind the structure of this government FAILED.

What was it?

The electorate is gearing up to "throw the bums out" and get ourselves some "new bums" which has always worked before.

A democracy representing a Republic, that's the nested structure of the USA. We have a Representative Democracy.

As far as I know, we're the only democracy that uses the form of government we have -- everyone else uses the British parliamentary system or some variation on a multi-party system.

Ask The Next Question.

What could cause a representative democracy to fail?

Well, let's look at how the Federal Government functions.

a) No Congressman or Senator ever reads all the Bills they vote on. In fact, the elected folks don't WRITE the Bills - aides do that.

b) Congressmen and Senators are on multiple "Committees" and "Subcommittees" -- all of which cram meetings and hearings into the very few work-week hours these people are officially on the clock.

c) They have to show up in person on the Floor to vote, but they DO NOT SIT THROUGH the "Debate" on any bill. I've seen on CSPAN and elsewhere any number of really important Bills debated. The speaker stands up at a microphone and reads a prepared speech TO AN EMPTY ROOM except for the presiding officer (usually not the actual top official who should be presiding) and a secretary.

OK, it's true this stuff is televised and they can watch from their offices, but do you think they're hanging on every word? Do they read the Record or even read the text of the speeches from the opposing side?

Why aren't they all at the floor sessions, listening? Well, they're on committees, in meetings, or out to lunch with lobbyists. They're on the phone with constituents. They're all over town, and in some cases actually doing some work. They're too busy to sit and listen.

d) There are exactly 2 Senators from each state, regardless of the population of that state or its physical size. 100 Senators.

e) There are a fixed number of Representatives (that could be raised but hasn't been for a while) apportioned among the states by population and among the counties of a state by population, all according to the 10 year Census.

This from Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_of_Representatives

----------
Each state receives representation in the House in proportion to its population but is entitled to at least one Representative. The most populous state, California, currently has 53 representatives. The total number of voting representatives is currently fixed by law at 435.[1
-----------

Do you see what I'm getting at?

I've run through the population growth statistics of the USA here a few times because anyone trying to market fiction has to learn to think in terms of "market share" and market composition. You need to know what the numbers mean.

Roughly, the USA population grew from 200 million to 300 million from 1960 to 2000 and today is estimated to top 330 million.

That's a 50% rise in 40 years.

The 1790 Census stood at 4.55 million. That's the kind of population magnitude the structure of this government was created to handle. That was before California was discovered. (Gold Rush was 1849)

http://www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/decennial/1790.htm

At the time the Constitution was framed, who could IMAGINE 400 million people under ONE GOVERNMENT, all of them voting and micromanaging the government via twitter?

In Business, the corporate structure is periodically examined with an eye to "scalability" -- and very quickly and efficiently restructured as the company grows.

But in government, the same structure is pushed to govern through growth of 2 orders of magnitude.

OK, government added Representatives -- but a single body of 435 disparate voices all concerned about local things but not national things is just way too large to manage.

We added States so we added Senators. We started with 26, you know. In a body of 26 people, everyone can talk to everyone and make group decisions. In 100, it can't happen. In 435, it's ridiculous.

How many corporations have TOP management of 535 individuals all with equal authority? (Senate and House).

If the USA government is broken, then I suspect it's because of scalability in the structure.

Not only do we have about the same number of people doing the governing work as for 200 million, but we've INCREASED the amount of work they have to do.

And it's not just population growth that increases the work load on Congress and the Senate. Today, no sooner do they get something done than they have to do it over because the world changed.

We made it through the industrial revolution, but we've totally drowned our government with the technological revolution.

They can't make new laws fast enough, nevermind anticipate what laws we need governing what new invention.

That's how the financial meltdown occurred.

Some bright people had the brilliant idea of a way to make a huge profit off of loans that were certain to default and never be paid back.

They went global with the idea (the group was originally based in London).

It worked gangbusters, mostly because no government had authority or power or the computerized tools to audit, regulate, or assess these instruments. They were HIGH TECH instruments nobody understood, least of all the inventors and others who pretended to understand.

Because our government is stuck in the stone age of mainframe computing, and because all our laws are archaic, and can't be deleted and replaced as fast as corporations can invent and ditch technologies and strategies based on video-game-speed transactions -- we got destroyed.

Because our government is designed to govern 4.5 million people, and is now governing maybe 350 million (soon to be 400 million I don't doubt - and that's not counting illegal immigrants though the early census counted slaves), and because our government is not state-of-the-art computerized, we will crash again. Maybe this summer.

In today's age, it should take Congress and the Senate maybe a day to write a Bill, and get it passed by the President. It'll be obsolete when Microsoft releases its next operating system.

If our government can't move that fast, we will be thrown back to the stone age -- or become an anarchy. (I'm not sure we aren't already an anarchy, but Congress hasn't noticed yet.)

So What Shows That USA Government Is Broken?

If you're writing a book or screenplay and need to show a government that is broken, what would you show -- what images would you use.

Here's an idea:

1) Show the governed doing business. Show a corporate meeting. Show "Go To Meeting" or some other teleconference. Show a brainstorming session where actual problems are solved.

What would you see in a real working meeting of a functional international group?

Computerized "white boards" -- whole wall flatscreens like you see on TV tracking elections or weather where the reporter kind of waves his hands over the screen and windows open and move, text boxes show up with statistics all organized. A big iphone screen.

Watch TV news. Say CNN. The commentators sit at a high table with notebooks or netbooks open before them, earbuds connected to producers.

Watch yourself doing some real work. If your internet connection is down, you can't work. You need google and bing and whatever to look stuff up to be sure of your facts.

2) SHOW the broken government doing some work, holding a meeting, solving a problem. (Healthcare is not something to fight over; it's a problem to be solved and it should take about 2 hours to write a whole new healthcare system, and update it next month.)

If you wanted to show the broken government trying to manage a populace armed with computers, earbuds, cell phones, etc, you would concoct the visual images we saw at Obama's Healthcare Summit.

To invent a totally new form of government for your novel, you have to incorporate clues that tell the reader you understand the current state of affairs, so your invention seems plausible not naive.

So you have to study the visual differences (show don't tell) between the governed and the governors as it stands today, then invent visual differences to indicate how well the invented form of government works.

What did I notice in the healthcare summit live-stream that I could use to show broken government, and generate a visual indication of a non-broken government?

a) Only on the live streaming internet view, I saw closeups of each person at the table, looking DOWN on them. I saw all around the table, everywhere. I saw the table in front of each person. NO COMPUTERS, no netbook, no handheld (even Obama didn't have his blackberry and had to be handed a paper note at one point). This is our government at work. They may as well have met in 1790, not 2010. I was so horrendously embarrassed, you have no idea. Crushed!!!!

b) I saw stacks of bound printouts we were told were the passed Healthcare bills. They were thumb-indexed with sticky index tabs.

c) I saw a several page printout we were told was from the website posting Obama's proposed Reconciliation bill. We were told that once written up properly it would be that huge. As I said above aides do this, not actual elected people we have given the sole authority to write bills.

d) I saw a couple aides sitting behind people at the table who had cell phones or blackberries. I saw Secret Service people with nothing in hand paying actual attention to everyone around and about.

e) I saw what each person at the table was wearing (very informative). I compared what they were wearing then, to what I see them wearing in Hearings to what they wore at the State of the Union address and the Inauguration. I noticed how they wore their hair.

f) I saw what people at the table were doing while other people were talking.

g) I saw the speaker system set up in the open square in the middle of the table.

h) I saw one cameraman with a camera on his shoulder -- obviously there were others, someone took the picture of the cameraman. Usually, at committee hearings, there are a few dozen cameramen/women squatting before the speakers or on the sides by the wall.

i) as the day wore on, I saw water GLASSES (few plastic bottles) appear before people while the camera I was watching through looked elsewhere. I saw after lunch a couple of COFFEE CUPS -- gold gilt, open handle, very elegant presidential grade china cups with embossed saucers, set behind where they wouldn't be in the TV broadcast camera shot.

j) we were told there had been debate whether the attendees would eat while before the cameras and it was decided to have a buffet style lunch served off camera. We were told the menu (elegant - nothing I'd care to eat).

k) at the lunch break which was delayed because speakers ran over time, they HAD TO BREAK then because the Representatives had to go to the Floor to vote. That's important. That happens at Hearings, too. They don't have time to listen to debate on the floor, they just run in and vote and run out. They're not doing the work we hired them to do. Why not? Because they don't want to? Or because they've got too much work?

We saw them walking out across the street from Blair House wearing what they wore inside even though it was really cold in DC, though not snowing as it was in NYC. They did return (presumably after the buffet lunch) pretty much on time, and the POTUS allowed the whole discussion to run 1 hour over the announced time and he called that good for a DC meeting.

l) That night, I was thinking about all that I saw, and noticed something else that hadn't struck me at the time. These folks, I know most of them by sight because I do watch congressional hearings sometimes, these folks are the heads of committees, the ones elected to internal offices of their parties, (like Majority Leader and Whip) functionaries of the Congressional organization. These were not the everyday worker bees of Congress -- these were somebodies at the top of their careers. Mostly elder white males, a couple young white males, a couple of women also not young, I recall only one other black male besides Obama, again not young.

This group did not visually represent a statistical cross section of America. No Indians, no Spanish accents, no Hispanic looking people, no Orientals of any ilk, and no American Indians (though 17 Healthcare bill amendments inserted a specification that a paragraph or another applied to American Indians, too, all 17 submitted by one person).

m) Also noted how the microphones had red circles that glowed when the mike was on, and a switch the person sitting at it could control. Didn't hear any howls of feedback, so that tech was pretty modern.

n) noted the hanging ivy behind the POTUS, artfully draped over the old mantle but no skylight in the room that I could spot. It was a room the size of a ballroom at a hotel, with a good carpet and fine acoustics. I didn't see any ugly gray duct tape on the carpets securing wires for the microphones but it might have been there. I think the system was wireless. At least that. *sigh*

o) I also noted, many times, the horridly uncomfortable straight backed cane chairs, ever so stylish period pieces, but everyone seemed to sit so still, straight, and stiff when the cameras were on. Maybe nobody wanted to show their age or infirmity when the cameras were on. I felt that a really functional government would have provided chairs that wouldn't distract participants with pain.

I do know that Congress and the Senate are a lot more "diverse" than what I saw and Congress itself has slightly more modernly ergonomic chairs.

Now there's your visual portrait. Think about those points.

Nevermind the incendiary subject they were discussing, nor the total lack of HEAT from any of them except POTUS scolding one Senator.

Think about what you see in that image. And what you do not see. And what you see among the working people these folks are there to govern when a group sits down to solve a problem with corporate policy.

The USA government is behaving as if the internet is irrelevant. These are "executives" (the level that doesn't type and doesn't make coffee and does take inordinate pride in their practical disabilities).

They are publicly, (knowing they're on national television) showing you how wonderful they are, how on top of everything, how much you can trust them to do this job, and how fabulously efficient they are at it. Some of them are up for re-election this November and really need to get that message across.

Not a handheld or computer. Not an earbud. No way to find a page of that bill they're discussing and project it to the overhead, use a laserpointer (no laser-pointers in breast pockets or on the table) to highlight an item and discuss it. If they had networked laptops, they could all be referencing the same sentence and could hash out what to change it to. Nope. But they're supposed to be showing us how competent they are to manage our government at Broadband Speeds, do an end-run around corporations and protect us from corporate predation.

At one point one person challenged another person's statement about a "fact" -- saying the fact referred to was not a fact at all, but didn't say what the real fact was.

After that challenge, there was no equipment brought in to overhead project or whiteboard illustrate where the cited fact came from and what the true fact actually is.

How can this group solve the healthcare problem (or any problem) if they don't even bother to ascertain the correct facts?

The total lack of computer equipment, the reliance on hand written (hand written, not even typed) notes likewise indicates a total lack of competence to do the job they've been elected to do (make laws faster than corporations can circumvent them).

These folks aren't incompetent. They're among our brightest and best!

It's not the people we need so much to change (you can't find better people anywhere), but the scalability of the government structure.

The way this government does its work -- not the work itself -- is broken because it has not been updated to keep pace with the governed.

The second-biggest-failure in the history of the USA (the financial meltdown) happened because our government is unscalable and obsolete.

The first biggest (the Great Depression) happened for essentially the same reason and a measure was passed to prevent that happening again -- the act which separated deposit banks from investment banks. That act was repealed a few years ago, but not replaced with something more modern. Lawmakers could see the original act was way obsolete, but could not see what to replace it with.

The government can't move fast enough to keep up with the governed.

So we need to invent something new in governmental forms and that's the business of futurologists, essentially SF writers of all stripes and ilks, including SFR writers.

The thesis here on this blog is "Love Conquers All" -- and it seems to me if a philosopher is going to arise to point us at the first totally new form of government in, what?, 2500 years (if you don't count Sharia Law circa a thousand years later, but as I understand that system, it's another form of dictatorship or totalitarianism where the governed don't get a sayso; anyone know more about it?), then it'll happen because of LOVE not because of politics, hate, or healthcare.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Monday, March 08, 2010

Serendipity and Persistence


This is a story that took about eight years and isn't over yet. This is a story about a young man with dreams, a young man who served his country then--still struggling with his dreams--started serving meals, waiting tables in a Palm Beach, Florida restaurant.

This is also the story of an author who--when she was a struggling writer with dreams--was helped by other authors on the path, and who has a habit of leaving her bookmarks everywhere, such as along with the cash to pay for the meal in a restaurant.

"Hey," says the waiter, returning to the dinner table with the change, "you're an author. I've always wanted to write a book. But I don't know where to start."

"Hey," says the author (who writes much better dialogue than this in her books), "I might be able to help."

They exchange email addressess (under the watchful eye of author's husband who long ago gave up on his wife's tendency to collect strays), they exchange ideas, the author sends suggestions. Read Dwight V Swain's "Techniques of the Selling Writer." Read Browne and King. Read Bickham. URLs are sent, guiding the waiter-writer to sites like Sime-Gen's World Crafter's Guild and the worthy advice on sites run by Orson Scott Card and Holly Lisle.

During the next year (which was 2003)--and many more meals at that restaurant--the waiter-writer actually sends the author a few sample chapters.

"Hey," the author says in a return email, "you have talent. But you've missed a few key points. Reread Swain. Reread Bickham." She makes notes in his chapters, suggests changes.

The author and waiter-writer lose touch for a while. Then every once in a while, another chapter hits the author's email inbox. She sees talent, she sees progress. She crits and sends it back.

Fast forward to 2009. The waiter-writer has moved to Connecticut, finished his first novel, and sends drafts for query letters and synopses to the author. After thwacking the waiter-writer via cyberspace for not listening to her when it comes to queries, the author sends more instructions on crafting queries and by 2010, the waiter-writer gets it right.

Fast foward to March 2010. The author offers to send a letter of introduction on the waiter-writer's behalf to her literary agent. This generates a phenomenom knows as "jumping over the slush pile." Author isn't sure--she's never sure--how the literary agent will feel about waiter-writer's book. It's edgy contemporary fantasy, sharp and gripping but with a very distinct voice. Or as waiter-writer calls it, "It is a blend of the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter having lunch with Tom Clancy and Dean Koontz."

The manuscript hits the email pathways and within two weeks, the literary agent gives author a heads-up: she loves the book. Loves it. Totally. The agency is going to offer waiter-writer representation.

Waiter-writer has just become an author. His name is Steve Vera. Watch for him as this author has a feeling he will sell and sell quickly.

Corrollary: A couple of things to be learned from this story.

1) Believe in yourself and don't be afraid to ask someone farther along the path than you for help. I try to mentor two to three writers a year (that's honestly the limit I can handle because as Steve can tell you, I do very intense critiquing). Many other authors do the same, but even if you can snag an author as a mentor, authors do blog, do teach classes, do share their tips and tricks on their websites. Utilize that.

And...

2) When authors share, listen. We've arrived where we are by employing certain methods that work. Recently there was a discussion on another blog where a poster decried the "rigid rules of writing," indicating that those kinds of writing rules weren't necessary. Big fat hint: they are. A lot of writers are natural writers; they innately have the cadence and flow of commercial genre fiction. But that's the muse part, the art part. Being an "ar-teest" is not enough. You must, absolutely must understand and employ the craft of writing. That doesn't mean you can't bend the craft rules. But you must be able to employ them well before you can bend them skillfully. Writing only "from the muse" is rather like letting loose inside your house an out-of-control toddler with a tray full of fingerpaints. The muse needs the discipline of craft.

As soon as Steve has a book deal, I'll post. And yes, outside of getting offers on my own books, watching one of my "students" fledge is the best damned wonderful feeling in this galaxy. Which brings me to a final and necessary rule of life called Random Acts of Kindness: Good karma. Pass it on.

Namaste,
~Linnea


REBELS AND LOVERS, March 2010: Book 4 in the Dock Five Universe, from Bantam Books and Linnea Sinclair—www.linneasinclair.com

Kaidee hated when her ship didn’t work. Dead in space was not a place she liked to be. Especially with an unknown bogie on her tail, closing at a disturbingly fast rate of speed that made her heart pound in her chest and her throat go dry.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

An alien's view of make-up and human health care

Greetings, my brother.

There is no point in asking whether or not you are in good health, and obliging you to reply. By the time your reply reached me, your answer would be several cycles old.

I'm on a planet called "earth" by the sentient species of animals with whom I've communicated. "Earth" means "dirt" or "soil" to them. Illogically, this planet consists mostly of water (salt water).  I digress. This is a distracting environment.

No doubt, you remember our discussion about the question, "Do wild animals mutilate themselves?" We thought that the answer was that animals only mutilate themselves if demented by boredom or stress, perhaps in captivity. We don't include defensive shedding of tails or other appendages as a means of distracting a predator.

Well, brother. I've found an exception to our rule. I haven't figured out what causes these animals to mutilate themselves, and their offspring, and their companion animals. In some cases, they seem to find it attractive in spite of the practical drawbacks.

For instance, in stressful urban settings, they take colored inks and powered needles, and stab themselves until words or images are "tattooed" (as they call it) permanently on their skin. This is not a punishment for criminal activity, as you might expect. I could understand it if antisocial individuals had a warning of their bad habits written on their faces or arms. Instead, animals appear to pay other animals to torture and mark them.

This can be monotonous. Greater variety can be achieved through the messy daily application of colored paints and powders and grease. These chemicals often contain poisons and carcinogens. Nevertheless, some working animals, mostly females, are forced as a condition of "employment" to smear these poisons on their faces and are often expected to pay for their own care if and when the poisons cause illnesses. "Employment" is what these animals do to obtain tokens which they exchange for food and other necessities.

To digress again, this payment for health care business doesn't strike me as fair or reasonable. There are exceptions, of course, but there are no penalties for self-induced problems. That baffles me.

The prudent, abstemious, provident and healthy are forced to pay for the care of the wasteful and self-destructive, as well as for the unfortunate who might deserve help. Thus, some animals spend all their discretionary income on liquid pleasures, or expensive things to chew, or stinking weeds to burn in their mouths, or on dangerous sex. Then, when their lifestyle catches up on them (or on their mates and offspring), they cannot pay for the care they need to restore them to health. So, others who have not spent all their money on sick-making habits, are forced to pay for their fellows. If they object, they are savagely punished and impoverished.

On our world, we'd expect this sort of stupidity to lead to social unrest, wouldn't we, brother? But on our world, the healthy outnumber the sick. It's the reverse on this earth.

This will shock you. If these animals don't know what a certain body part is for (or don't like what it's for), they will go to great expense and trouble to cut it off or out... parts of the gut, organs in the throat, even parts of their genitalia!

I've heard, but have not yet found a way to eyewitness this, that there's a very large country where they routinely cut off part of a newborn male child's positor which they consider superflouous and unattractive. This cruel procedure is done without pain remediation, and the child suffers agonies. Later in life, the positor is not as sensitive as it ought to be, adult males require drugs. Some of these drugs, I hear, are not without unpleasant side effects.

Ludicrously, after all this suffering and trouble, the results of the cosmetic surgery are seldom displayed. Even when in use, the positor is covered in a thin synthetic glove. When I find out why they bother, I will let you know! That is not the most unnecessary of surgeries, but it is one of the most routine, and is one of the few that is forced upon a baby animal that cannot consent to it.

Captured, display and companion animals cannot consent. Some have parts of their tails hacked off. Others have parts of their ears cut off. Some types with sharp, retractable claws have their claws pulled out by force so that they cannot defend themselves.

This is a dangerous and illogical world, my brother. Fortunately for us, our mind control abilities are effective. The most intelligent and dangerous animals are relatively easy to brainwash.

I'll write again when I have something interesting to share.

Your brother,
Thor-quentin.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Essence of Paranormal Romance?

In Issue 61 of CEMETERY DANCE, Michael Marano's "Mediadrome" column includes a diatribe against paranormal romance. In his view, this subgenre is "about sexual frustration" and represents "a screwed up rejection of one's own sexuality." Vampires, werewolves, etc., he says, "are presented as sexual ideals because of their *otherness*. Their sexiness comes from their inhumanity." Through these figures, "human sexuality is pushed into the inhuman" and "made alien and 'other' through that act of projection." Thereby, paranormal romances "present human sexuality as a thing not best-suited for humans. It's *other*. It's not of *us*."

As a devotee of relationships between the human and not-quite-human—going all the way back to my teenage ardor for vampires and, later, my fondness for Spock in STAR TREK—I feel there's something wrong with Marano's argument. For one thing, the allure of the Other surely goes beyond sexuality, or, rather, precedes it. The Other as an erotic object is a subset of the Other as fascinating for broader reasons. The friendship between the human riverboat captain and the vampire in George R. R. Martin's FEVRE DREAM, for instance, has no recognizably sexual component. When eroticism does enter the relationship, in the best-written of these stories the nonhuman character finds the otherness of the human character equally alluring. For the reader, moreover, I think a well-constructed werewolf, vampire, or demon embodies some aspect of humanity (whether erotic or otherwise) isolated and expanded upon in the image of the "monster."

Anyway, as illustrated in James Tiptree's classic story "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Pale Hill's Side," human beings instinctively tend to exogamy. The old adage "opposites attract" confirms the universality of Tiptree's premise that, among ourselves, the urge to mate with the exotic Other from the far side of the mountain (or from another race—there's a reason why Young Massa on the plantation spent so much time visiting the slave cabins) keeps the genes circulating and the species healthy. Why else does the "Romeo and Juliet" theme perennially attract audiences? (Not that Romeo and Juliet offer a prime example of the premise; aside from that silly feud, they would have made a perfectly matched couple, coming from the same social class, culture, and religion.) The currently dominant opinion among paleontologists seems to hold that our fully human ancestors never mated with Neanderthals, but I suspect they did, even if those encounters left no descendants. The fact that Neanderthals and Cro Magnons didn't look much like each other wouldn't have prevented a few illicit romances from occurring. Similar differences don't prevent cross-cultural and interracial romances nowadays. Would Marano categorize such matings as a sign of "rejection of one's own sexuality"?

For the record, I’m a big fan of human sexuality. :) (I’ve been married over 40 years and have four children.) However, I don’t see a need to write about it in exhaustive detail unless it’s the couple’s first sexual act or a turning point in their relationship. Human-nonhuman sexual encounters, though, are another matter. Aliens, ghosts, vampires, and werewolves presumably make love differently from the rest of us. I want to see what goes where and how those differences play out in the couple’s journey toward intimacy. In a love scene with the Other, if the details aren’t supplied I feel cheated.

So, as I said, Marano's argument feels wrong to me, but I'm having trouble pinning down my problem with it. Any suggestions?

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Conversation on Twitter

If you've been following my entries on the blog, you know I'm examining the rising phenomenon of "social networking" as part of the way "publishing" is changing under the impact of the Web and e-book. Those changes are re-shaping Genre, and allowing for the explosion of Cross Genre novels, mixed Genre novels, and mashed universes where characters by one author meet characters from another author's series.

Here is a scattered sample of some of my posts here on social networking.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2008/11/i-love-web-20.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/03/new-cb-radio-come-on-back.html

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/05/writing-tips-tweets.html

and the attempt by "marketers" to use the social networks to promote their products, many of them bewildered why it doesn't "work."

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/09/marketing-via-social-networking.html

Twitter has rapidly become one of my favorite social networks because I keep discovering people, and finding links to things I want to know about but had no clue that I was interested in (and thus would not have googled for the subject).

Here is a conversational exchange with a person I follow, who follows me so that I can hear what they're saying and they can hear what I'm saying.

scripteach I greatly enjoyed #TheHurtLocker, but thought the direction rocked, not the script. It felt like it drifted off the rails in 3rd Act.

jlichtenberg @scripteach "It felt like it drifted off the rails" doesn't help a writer learn not to drift off their own rails Say why and how to fix pls

scripteach @jlichtenberg doesn't help a writer learn not to drift off their own rails Say why & how to fix pls In less than 140 characters is hard!

scripteach @JLichtenberg I'll try to blog about #TheHurtLocker soon. For now, the protag's unauthorized mission into city & return home felt false.

jlichtenberg @scripteach Good point about "unauthorized mission" motivation failing. How do you spot that in your own work? #scriptchat

scripteach RT @JLichtenberg: How do you spot in your own work? #scriptchat Beware of what YOU want protag to do v. what the character should want to do

jlichtenberg @scripteach Ur nutshell " #scriptchat Beware of what YOU want protag to do v. what the character should want to do" ROCKS!!! @susansizemore

I flagged Susan Sizemore on that because she and I exchanged tweets about staying with POV character. She tweeted that she'd made herself a problem by following too many minor characters, and that made me think (but not tweet) the complex relationship between following minor character's pov and using minor characters to reveal major character's motivations.

And @scripteach was talking really about a MOTIVATION problem in this very prominent film.

The #scriptchat hashtag can be searched on to produce all the tweets by everyone on twitter who inserts #scriptchat into a tweet -- regardless of whether you're following them or not.

People (ppl) discussing The Hurt Locker use the hashtag #TheHurtLocker and see each other's posts.

Anyone searching on a hashtag may (not will; may) see your tweet if you include that tag.

And they may, not will, follow you to see what else you say.

Having conversational exchanges like this is one the most rewarding and instructive functions of social networking.

Now of course I should write one of my humongous posts on what @scripteach has said and what it means and how you can use it.

For the time being, though, memorize and think about

"Beware of what YOU want protag to do v. what the character should want to do"

I'm not good at nutshells. It would probably take me 2500 words to sketch a means of employing that bit of wisdom.

If you want to research it - check out the writing error technically termed "contrived."

-------
I also found via twitter that the SHOOTING SCRIPT of this film has been released in print with additional pages of illustrations etc. at 160 pages --
----------
FROM AMAZON:
In addition to the complete shooting script, this Newmarket Shooting Script® Book includes an exclusive introduction by Kathyrn Bigelow, a 16-page color photo section, production notes, storyboards, and complete cast and crew credits.
-----------

And here's more about it on Amazon:
The Hurt Locker: The Shooting Script (Newmarket Shooting Script)

This is indeed a strange new world where to get a story out printed on paper it must first become a major motion picture winning awards right and left.

The alternative is to become a TV commentator.

I ReTweeted (RT) the tweet that alerted me to The Hurt Locker as a script on paper and flagged @scripteach thusly:

jlichtenberg RT @MattDentler: Some thoughts on THE HURT LOCKER screenplay (and the party last night celebrating it): http://bit.ly/baTR84 @scripteach

And @scripteach answered that he would read the script thusly:

scripteach RT @JLichtenberg: RT @MattDentler: Some thoughts on THE HURT LOCKER screenplay): http://bit.ly/baTR84 I'll read script & see what I think

That's why it's called "social networking" -- and that's why marketers can't afford to do it. At no time did the publisher of the shooting script participate in this exchange. I don't even know if they're on twitter. I didn't go out to sell a copy of the script. I was just curious how a screenwriting teacher would explain a script's hole to writing students on #scriptchat so I asked, and got a great answer, and picked up on someone else mentioning a blog about the film's success which has on it a link to the shooting script published as a book on paper.

That's a "net" and it got "worked."  

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com