Sunday, October 31, 2010

Suspension Of Disbelief

I've renewed my library book five times, so far. It's not exactly a "page-turner" and I'm starting to wonder why exactly I am finding "Gulliver's Travels" such heavy going.

It's a classic. It's considered a children's book. It's said to be a clever and witty satire. It's humiliating to me that I cannot enjoy it. What's wrong with me?

One issue, which I may have mentioned before --and I am afraid it is in very poor taste to mention this, not for the first time-- is that poor Gulliver has been a prisoner for several weeks, tethered securely by an ankle to a tiny temple which is just big enough to shelter him when he lies down full length on a specially constructed pallet bed.

His captors are less than six inches tall.

Great lengths are taken to calculate how much food and drink he needs (as much as 1728 Lilliputians). Much is made of the size of his hat, and so forth. There is also some ado about the fact that the Lilliputians consider and reject the notion of killing the potentially dangerous "man mountain". They worry about the smell of his decaying corpse, and the probability of pestilence and disease if he dies, owing to the logistics of disposing of a dead body of such a size (twelve times their own).

But the most interesting and necessary feat of domestic engineering is not mentioned at all.  There ought, by now, to be more than one eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the vicinity, even if the unfortunate Mr. Gulliver is on an exceptionally low fiber diet.

Jonathan Swift has not succeeded in making me suspend my disbelief. In fact, I find that as every day of Gulliver's captivity passes, I am more and more aware of what he is not passing.

It could have been dealt with. An enormous bed pan would work for me. A plate on wheels (shades of a haemoccult test). A leashed walk to the seaside twice a day. A Big Dig. A conveniently exhausted local quarry. His own hat, even! The matter could have been managed in the totally indiscreet style of a French levée of the Sun King, or under cover of a newly mandated curfew.

We have precedents in our own history for almost everything imaginable.

It seems to me that perhaps the Lilliputians are a mockery of Freemasons.
"I was demanded to swear to the performance of (Articles); first in the manner of my own countrey, and afterwards in the method prescribed by their Laws; which was to hold my Right foot in my Left hand, to place my Middle finger on the Tip of my Right ear."
Is that it? Frankly, I was expecting something more sophisticated, particularly after the lengthy and laudatory introduction to the work.

The punctuation from the 1894 printing is also an annoyance. Each antiquated spelling, or unfashionable upper case character pulls me out of the story.

One wants one's reader to suspend disbelief, and to become totally wrapped up in the story. That means that bothersome questions must be answered, or they will niggle and fester. Spelling, punctuation and grammar should be as "invisible" as possible. That's why many educators prefer the use of "said" instead of a couple score of pretentious synonyms.

Should one spoof Swift? If one did, would it be pitched as "Lemuel Gulliver meets Thomas Crapper"? (I added first names in the interest of good taste.)

Trick or Treat?

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Presumed Dead?

Here's a news article about an 89-year-old woman in our area who was mistakenly pronounced dead:

Baltimore Sun

In brief, neighbors called 9-1-1 because she had not been seen in several days. Police found her on the bathroom floor, "blue" and apparently not breathing. Concluding she was dead, they contacted her family and discovered she had planned to donate her body for anatomical study. After she'd lain on the floor for three hours, an official from the anatomy board arrived to collect the "body" and noticed movement.

Sadly, she died for real fifteen days later. At this stage in the investigation, there's no telling whether she would have recovered if given prompt treatment. Of course, the primary lesson of this incident is that the local police need better training in dealing with medical emergencies.

However, some thoughts for Halloween week:

As a lifelong reader of horror and fantasy, I couldn't help thinking that if I were writing this story, the woman would recover and survive for a long time—but changed. She would have "really" died, and another entity would have taken possession of her body to restore it to "life." A TWILIGHT ZONE episode involved a "dead" man who came back to life in his coffin during his funeral. We're not sure whether he's truly himself or a demon in his body, until the final scene when he produces fire from the tip of his finger. As far as I can remember, this character seemed like a fairly benign demon; he didn't do any harm and apparently just wanted a body to live in. A delightfully chilling, yet subtle and understated classic horror story, "Clay-Shuttered Doors" (1926) by Helen R. Hull, has the same premise. A woman appears to die but comes back to life. It gradually becomes clear that some other entity dwells in her body. And, of course, the entire plot of Stephen King's PET SEMATARY (one of my favorite horror novels of all time, and one of the small number that have actually scared me) rests on the concept of a dark power animating bodies interred in the cursed burial ground., an irresistibly fascinating Internet time vampire, has a page devoted to this motif, "Came Back Wrong."

In my erotic ghost romance novella "Heart Diamond" (Ellora's Cave), I have the ghost taking over the body of his brother at the moment of death, one of the few ways I could think of to give a ghost and his mortal lover a life together. In this case the possessor has a benign motive.

Not-so-benign ghost possession goes at least as far back as Poe's "Ligeia," in which the dead first wife apparently kills the second wife to steal her body.

Suppose aliens who needed a new home but couldn't survive on our planet in their natural forms decided to establish a life here by taking over the bodies of the recently dead? From their perspective, they wouldn't be doing any harm; the deceased aren't using those bodies anymore. (Contrast the alien minds-in-fishbowls in one STAR TREK episode who take over *living* bodies among the crew of the Enterprise.) That's sort of what the hero in STARMAN does, except that he doesn't possess the dead husband's body; he generates a clone of it from a lock of hair. Think of the young widow's emotional confusion multiplied by thousands or millions—such an "invasion" could produce quite a social upheaval.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Worldbuilding with Fire and Ice Part I Failure of Imagination Part IV

Worldbuilding with Fire and Ice Part I
Failure of Imagination Part IV

Politics is surely fire, especially in the run-up to an Election.

Philosophy is surely ice, especially in the run-up to an Election.

Mix in pair-bonding in any variety or style, especially if you include Soul Mates which implies some dimension of spirituality, immortality, possibly reincarnation - i.e. a larger point to your life than is apparent in this life itself --

Stand back and just admire the mushroom cloud.

And that tall mushroom cloud creates the potential for a huge audience "reach."

But you (the writer) have to make the mushroom cloud comprehensible as a mushroom cloud.

You have to show-don't-tell your readership and audience that it's beautiful and captivating and they should just sit back and enjoy the show.

How, exactly, does a writer do that? How does a reader become a writer?
What is the transformative moment when the passive person who just imbibes and enjoys fiction becomes the active creator and purveyor of that inner pleasure we all know but can't name (probably because English doesn't have a word, or the word has fallen into disuse).

As I've explained and explored in a number of posts, the key ingredient in the writer's craft tool box is philosophy.

That's why it's so hard to explain to a new writer what a "Concept" actually is (as opposed to an Idea For A Story) and how to identify a "High" concept.  A High Concept is that cap on the mushroom cloud mentioned above.  At that moment of recognition: "My Idea Is Actually A High Concept" a reader may be spurred to write, if not become a writer.  Very often a reader sees a novel they are reading as a movie -- or a movie as a novel -- or a TV show as missing a "story" (hence fanfiction).

The artist's job, role in "society" is to translate the abstract into the concrete, to make theory visible, to make aspirations and dreams tangible, to give the customer a whiff of what life on Earth will be like when they reach "success" (whatever that might be for the individual) -- which for us means the elusive HEA.
Right now, the USA has returned to a knife-edge balance, half passionately convinced that one philosophy is the only honorable and true philosophy, and the other half convinced that the opposite philosophy is the one and only honorable and true philosophy. A hefty percentage of the electorate stands in the middle of this half-and-half split, convinced that neither side is right, but both sides are right.

Few, if any, are doubting or questioning what they "know" to be true.

Leaders, entertainers, and information vendors (i.e. "news") are using every sophisticated tool in their toolboxes to sell their ideas, to convince a lot more people that this one idea is correct.  But they aren't thinking in terms of Concept - the highest crest of that mushroom cloud that can be seen from afar. 

Read again this description of High Concept and why it serves so well to convey Idea to so many. 

Read Sarah Beach's comment of Sept 9th on that page where she says:

I’ve always felt that High Concept was like seeing a line of mountains on the horizon. You know exactly what is in front of you, and even at a distance, you can see the main features of it. Low Concept was like a rolling landscape where features are hidden, waiting to surprise you.
Notice that High Concept can also have surprises in the detail (like hidden canyons and rivers). But you still have a very clear idea of what you’re heading into.
-----END QUOTE-----

Or you can think of it as the top of that huge mushroom cloud formed by the explosive force of Fire and Ice, Politics and Philosophy. 

But there are some whose work is extremely effective and efficient who are indeed thinking in terms of Concept rather than Idea. 

My blog post on October 19, 2010, "Glenn Beck Didn't Invent The Overton Window"...
...flicked past this issue which I'm going to explore now from the point of view of the Failure of Imagination preventing the popularization of the Happily Ever After concept of real life.

See my post FAILURE OF IMAGINATION PART III, September 28, 2010 on
Failure of Imagination Part II is

Part I is

Where Imagination has Failed is in questioning basic assumptions about the nature of reality.

We saw in Where Expert Romance Writers Fail that when asked, ordinary people say the reason they refuse to read "Romance genre" novels is that the HEA isn't "realistic" or is a requirement of the genre that just does not satisfy them in their hunt for an emotional payoff.

We discussed that "emotional payoff" problem referring to a blog post by an SFR writer reviewed on chaffing at the "restriction" of the HEA requirement for storytelling.

See my post on on September 21, 2010 titled "Do Your Lovers Live The HEA"

From our point of view the HEA is not a restriction or formulaic requirement but the natural, inevitable, unavoidable point at which "the story" is over. Until you get to the HEA, you haven't finished the story. Would you think you'd finished having sex if you didn't finish?

From our point of view, it's inconceivable that anyone could possibly even think, nevermind actually say, that the HEA is a recipe for boredom.

But that's a point of view, not a fact of life.

It's hard to understand how it might be possible for anyone to fail to understand that the HEA is NOT a "fact of life."

But that's what writers (artists of all stripes) do for a living. Understand the alien. Explain it.

We have to put yourselves into the mind of "other" people - people who really do live in "alien" universes, who look out of their eyes and do not see what we see.

We have to be able to understand how different people see the world, then create a piece of art that explains one kind of people's views to the other kind of people.

What kinds? Men. Women. Gay. Bi. Rich. Poor. Democrat. Republican. Independent. Christian. Muslim. Hindu. Jew. Human. Non-human. (WRITING EXERCISE: extend that list to 10 more kinds of viewpoints.)

Take any category from that list, and explain it to another category.

To achieve that explanation, you will find yourself grappling with politics, philosophy, religion, sexuality, morality, ethics, -- all manner of intangibles that must be made tangible in order to tell the story.  Show Don't Tell. 

To present that story, you must worldbuild.

You must create the "world" that one kind sees that the other kind does not see, and create it in show-don't-tell so that it can be understood by those who can't see it, won't believe it if they do, and must suspend disbelief to enter the story.

Neither one of those worlds will be your own world (most of the time).

But your own world, your point of view on reality, your essential take on Creation, The Soul, Evolution, Justice, Ethics, Morals, will show through.

Not only can you not help it - you should not help it, because that show-through is the carrier wave of your own ART. It's your "voice" - the thing that makes you distinctive as a writer.

OK, now back to the "real" world.

It has been noted any number of places, the Glenn Beck show in particular in 2010, that in the last 50 years or so, the "Liberal" political viewpoint has become utterly dominant in Hollywood.

There was a whiff of Liberalism in "Hollywood" in the 1950's which sparked the Witch Hunt conducted by Senator McCarthy - if you're too young to have studied the McCarthy Hearings in school, go google it up. Hold your nose and read carefully.

McCarthy was right - Communists and proto-Communists and pre-Socialists, and people who were generally critical of and obstinately against many of the values held most dear in the USA during the 1800's had begun infiltrating the entertainment media.  Or perhaps the entertainment media had summoned them because they had a High Concept to display. 

Being writers, creative types, they re-invented the entire vocabulary by which their vision of how a country should organize its economy and government could be discussed, a vocabulary of images and characters, of symbols. They renamed philosophies without changing the tenants much. They set out to use their artistic skills to change the "image" of the then-demonized philosophies.

Three generations later, according to Glenn Beck, they've succeeded. He's made a huge fortune exploiting the absolute lack of his point of view in the media.  He has hit on a High Concept and tickled imaginations into gear with it.  Remember, this man is an actor who got his start in comedy, exploiting his ADD tendencies to advantage, and never lets you forget he's a recovering alcoholic.  He's a performer who presents himself as an overgrown child, but does that in and of itself totally invalidate what he's saying?  After all, he employs 40 researchers in addition to the Fox News resources.  His imagination hasn't failed.  And he's making money from it.  He's holding out, as a carrot on a stick, the inkling of a suspicion that the HEA might be possible in real life, and it's making him a fortune. 

Maybe he's right - maybe not. Our question is, "Does it matter?"

CAUTION: don't for a moment think that I'm a "Conservative" -- or for that matter "Progressive" or "Liberal" -- the "politics" that describes my personal philosophy does not exist on this Earth and as far as I know never has yet.  I'm a writer.  I build worlds to ask entertaining questions.  You have to do the answering. 

If you let yourself get all wound up in Glenn Beck's politics, you'll never be able to discern the mechanism he's using behind that smokescreen.  So take a few deep breaths, cool off (yeah, it's hard, but being a writer is not an easy life), and study the phenomenon Beck has created with his High Concept. 

That's the kind of phenomenon we need to create for the HEA driven fiction that is the core of the Romance and SFR and PNR genres. 

Part II of Worldbuilding with Fire and Ice next week.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 24, 2010


So, you want to take over a world. Are you sure? It's been done. No point reinventing the wheel.
Assuming that you have identified a suitable world, and are certain that it is right for you,
your first "tough choice" is going to be about the mess.

You're taking property away from those who already own the world.
They're not going to like it.

How will you handle their objections to being taken over?
Do you want to kill them, enslave them, infiltrate them, or assimilate them?
Does your choice depend on how easily duped your targets are? How docile? How useful? How many?

Will you pass yourself off as one of them, and destroy them from within?
(Cuckoo model. Convergence model. Sith.)

Will you conquer by force of arms and assimilate as far as pragmatic?
(Romans, Christians, Normans, European Empires)

Will you eradicate as many of them as possible, and settle the new land?
(War of The Worlds, Independence Day, Sauron. Conquistadors.)

Can you live side by side, making use of them?
(The Time Machine. Parasite model.)

Dhimmitude model
(Dhimmitude is a system of taxing aliens while encouraging aliens who wish to avoid taxation to convert.)

Beauty/Beast model
Most babies are irresistibly cute, even babies of another species. Presumably, one could infiltrate and conquer
through love of the alien as a baby until the adoptive parents are vulnerable to tyranny.
(Tribbles. Gremlins. Cuckoos again?)

Washington Watch This

You may have noticed heated discussions about "COICA"

This is what it is:
S.3804 -- Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (Introduced in Senate - IS)

I won't summarize it. It's not a long document. Moreover, as you read the bill itself, there is a function (look for the + sign in square brackets) so that you can submit your own comments.

There is also a comments page (2 pages, now) where copyright owners are voicing their opinions of pirates and their own suggestions for what needs to be done about internet copyright infringement.

If you don't like the bill as written, suggest improvements! It's your right, and a unique opportunity.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Teens, Trekkies, and Heroic Ideal

I remember back when I was just a reader I thought authors knew everything about their worlds and how they worked.  Naturally, authors who’ve been around know a whole lot, but I’m a brand new baby author and, let me tell you, I feel pretty stupid most of the time.  Much of what I do know I learned right here on this blog, like Theme. 
Ophelia is a Trekkie.  She’s the heroine of my YA SFR, Sugar Rush.  Why is she a Trekkie?  It all comes down to Theme.  The story’s theme is Achieving the Freedom to Live.
Ophelia and her sister are obsessed with movies.  They live in a small, isolated Alaskan town.  Movies, via a massive DVD collection, and the Internet are their windows to the world.  Ophelia’s favorite movies happen to be Star Trek.  Ophelia went to a real movie theater in the big city when she was diagnosed with diabetes at age nine and her sister has never been to one. 
This brings to mind a hilarious movie starring Eddie Murphy, Daddy Daycare.  He’s an unemployed dad who opens a daycare with a friend. (I used to be a professional childcare provider, so I loved this movie.) 

After overcoming some initial bias against male childcare providers, they begin caring for a few children.  One little boy seems to speak only gibberish.  When Eddie must hire a new dad-care provider, the new employee, a Trekkie, immediately recognizes that the little boy is speaking Klingon, a fictional language from the Star Trek universe.  Very sweet, but I was most intrigued by the little boy who constantly wears a superhero costume.  He wears the costume of a superhero, because he’s working through his fear of the new daycare situation.  A superhero fears nothing, you know.  Once the little boy learns to trust his new caregivers, he takes off the costume. 
The bad guys have Ophelia cornered like an animal in Sugar Rush.  She’s a smart girl desperate to be free, but she hasn’t figured out her own strengths or how to use them.  Like the little boy wearing the superhero costume, she clutches a Captain Janeway Christmas tree ornament (her boyfriend gave it to her) at her father’s funeral in the first half of the book.  Her courage matures over the course of the story, however, and by the last battle she’s on her own.
A hero or heroic ideal helps even an adult focus and believe in themselves.  In the story, it’s not enough for Ophelia to have a perfect grade point average.  She needs to believe herself capable. 
And that is why Ophelia is a Trekkie.
Speaking of heroes, the authors of this blog helped me believe I could achieve publication too, and here I am!  A great, big, huge THANK YOU!
Kimber An

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Technology Predictions

There's an article in the fall issue of the Phi Beta Kappa newsletter called "The Manifold Problems of Technology Forecasting," by Andrew Odlyzko. Two important points the author makes: That "what people do with technology differs widely from what inventors had in mind" and that instead of replacing old technologies, new ones "frequently serve to strengthen their predecessors." One example he cites is the relationship between railroads and horses. Contrary to expectation, the railroad didn't make the horse obsolete, because the need for transportation to the railheads created a bigger market for horse-drawn transportation. Referring to more recent developments, he refutes the prediction that faster communication would result in less need for transportation, for instance, that the Internet would enable telecommunication to replace physical presence and thus get traffic off the roads. So far, it hasn't happened. He argues against the belief that transportation and communication are "substitutes for each other." Instead, they're complementary.

The example that first comes to mind for me is television. Television didn't kill radio. Nor did it kill movies, as might have been expected. The movie industry found ways to use TV to its advantage. Similarly, I don't have any fear that new media will destroy the book, nor that e-books will make paper books obsolete any time soon.

As for the effect of new media on reading in general, Isaac Asimov pointed out decades ago that the percentage of the population who are dedicated readers (as opposed to reading when there's absolutely nothing else to do, or not reading at all except when forced to, for information) has always been a tiny minority. What changes from one era to the next is what kind of entertainment they choose instead of books. We might even argue that the rise of the Internet means more people are reading more than ever before, even if not the kind of sustained, long-format reading a novel invites.

As for new technology's being used differently from how the inventors had in mind, the Internet, of course, was first developed for military applications. And I wonder whether anyone who saw the first automobiles take to the road around 1900 would have predicted suburban "sprawl," the impact of oil on the global economy, or the car's profound effect on American courtship patterns?

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Glenn Beck Didn't Invent The Overton Window

It's OK if you don't want to read this because it's polluted with Glenn Beck.

But this is about a novel written entirely for commercial purposes targeting a very specific and huge audience that's been #1 on Amazon and NYTimes and gosh knows where else for weeks and weeks. It's about how and why that sales record was achieved, not about politics.

I have loads of opinions about the persona Glenn Beck shows on TV, positive, negative, neutral, plus professional opinions and a lot more opinions -- all of which are irrelevant to the point of this blog post, but let's get some of them out of the way first.

1. He says things I know to be true about American History
2. He says things I know to be false about American History
3. He says things I know to be irrelevant about American History
4. He says things I know to be uninteresting about current events
5. He says things I know to be highly commercial, very slick pitches
6. He says things I DO NOT KNOW and have to go look up.
7. He says things I forgot but really need to keep in mind.
8. He says things I need to create an opinion about, but don't have one
9. He says things I'd rather not create an opinion about
10. He does NOT say the things I would like to hear him say, and the lack puts his work in the "Failure of Imagination" category I've blogged about here:

He digs up facts and carefully leaves out facts so the scattering of facts will seem to make sense and then lead people to a particular conclusion.

But if you include all the facts, you would come to a different conclusion.

I have opinions about the conclusions he appears to be leading his audience to but my opinions don't matter one whit.

If I understand the mechanism of what he's doing correctly, he's not leading that audience, he's following it by careful analysis of instant ratings of his shows. His techniques are worthy of careful study by anyone who wants to gather a pro-Romance readership into a coherent force in the commercial world.

Professional writers study like this for a living. Leave your opinions at the door like muddy galoshes and walk into someone else's life.

Glenn Beck's pick-and-choose facts to make a point is the technique used in every textbook I can think of offhand. I use it myself, on this blog, to clarify writing craft issues, and to put some spring in the springboards I build into story-ideas I hope someone will dive into.

Pick-n-choose is a technique which is fun and works fine if everyone is in on the joke, as I pointed out here where I discussed how history is being lost:

Glenn Beck and the organization behind him are really, really GOOD at "working" his audience. I can see that because sometimes on a couple of things I'm part of that audience. I'm just the sort who doesn't like to be "worked" so I wait to get the point, then flip the channel.

But the "Glenn Beck Phenomenon" is something to be studied, carefully.

It's not worth forming a political opinion about the content of Beck's shows. But it's worth studying that content because it reveals a great deal about audiences, not just his audience.

Read my post on targeting a readership, and the posts cited in it.

Here though we are focusing on finding and engaging an audience.  We are not focusing on "who" Glenn Beck is or wants to be.

Occasionally, I have the TV on when he's on and I comparison shop news broadcasts, surfing from one channel to another to avoid commercials or analyze commercials. Sometimes I watch most of his segments, though, and it is very instructive.

As a writer, I don't see or hear the same things readers and viewers do. I see an entirely different world, a world of mechanisms that produce illusions rather than the illusions themselves.

Beck produces and projects a powerful illusion which I'm certain has nothing at all to do with who he really is.

His technique would work for any subject. He's combined the "reality show" with the "news commentary" shows that have become so popular.

I could fill this blog with an analysis of the acting, directing, writing, and research on his TV show. But why bother? I'm not in the business of shaping your opinions!

I just want you to notice
a) that he's invented a genre
b) that he's popularized it just as we want to popularize SFR and PNR

I would recommend, though, that if you don't understand what that "Glenn Beck" TV show is, take a look at the spiffy, flashy top page.

Also note they'll sell you, for about $75/year, access to exclusive web broadcasts of Beck's shows via Insider Extreme. His TV show in the late afternoon spot (it's rebroadcast later at night, too) pulls 3 million viewers, his radio show reaches more. It's amazing how many have turned away from TV to radio! Relative to other TV broadcast or cable shows' audience sizes, we're talking a major audience here. Sports pulls more, as do live-disasters, but for a boring lecture complete with blackboards, this audience size is huge. And they read. They buy books at amazon!

Note the masthead on --

Doesn't that sound like the mixed-genre PNR or SFR that we love so much?

THE FUSION OF ROMANCE AND LOVE (not the same thing, but few know that)

Do you begin to see what fascinates me about this Glenn Beck Phenomenon?

We need to do that. So we need to figure out what he did and how. And why it works so well. We need to avoid having our imagination fail just because of the content of a message. We need to focus on how the message is delivered, to whom, and why they eat it up.

Notice the ART behind the graphic displays, the colors, the words, the images, and the html behind that display on .

It takes tremendous art and technical expertise (I mean extremely expensive expertise) to achieve that trashy look. It's so expensive it looks cheap, which is its whole point. Glitzy. Slick. Ooozing money from every pixel.

You need to look rich to attract riches.

But riches aren't the point. Examine that top page closely, all the way to the bottom margin. The art of that page actually depicts the projected Glenn Beck persona (I don't know this man, or really anything about the real person. I am examining only the created persona, not the real person. Think of him as a character in a book you didn't like. Now figure out why you didn't like it (or why you did).)

Now go to and check out Glenn Beck's books.

Glenn Beck Books

Next check out his 2010 novel, THE OVERTON WINDOW on kindle

The Overton Window

Note that The Overton Window by Glenn Beck has over 500 customer reviews (nevermind the fulminating - the number is what counts here)

Here's the link to the Hardcover page which has a "look inside" feature

The Overton Window by Glenn Beck

Check the Acknowledgements page, page VII.

Look at all the people - with names.

Note JACK HENDERSON "for pouring his heart and soul into this project"

I have read this book, every word, cover to cover.

I read it because of the title, and a sound-byte I heard in passing on Beck's TV show -- that he got this "Overton Window" concept from a think tank.

I went to the think-tank's web page:

And I googled and found via wikipedia that there is an entire mathematical branch devoted to calculating the behavior of large populations.  Well, I knew that, but not the research of the last few years. 

The Overton Window is an application of those mathematical principles which form the basis of "Madison Avenue" advertising (and all political advertising, especially now the YouTube videos). One of the founders of the Mackinac Center think tank named Overton codified the application to make it useful for politics.

The objective of the application is to MOLD PUBLIC OPINION - and then to MOVE PUBLIC OPINION toward the objective you have chosen.

It doesn't matter what the objective is, this principle and process applies to changing the behavior of large masses of people.

The think tank applies it to politics, as Beck's novel illustrates (but without the mathematical clarity that would allow you to use it yourself). I'm sure you've seen that Overton Window principle being aimed at you from your TV screen - magazine covers, articles, books.

It lends itself to use by those who use the technique I described Beck using - selecting certain facts from the mish-mosh of history in order to illustrate a point. The point may be true, but not the only truth worth considering. Having someone who sees such a point select the facts that describe that point is a convenient way to learn - provided you don't forget that there exist OTHER facts that might muddy the picture.

But this principle of the Overton Window is THE touchstone, gut-level, seat-of-the-pants intuitive knowledge used by all successful publishers and editors. Just read about it on the Mackinaw website. And note how THEY are yelling about Glenn Beck popularizing their technique! It was obscure and known only to scientists before Beck put it on TV and in a novel.

He reached down and selected this ONE technique that supports his overall point - that someone is manipulating you to a plan you didn't know existed.

But now many millions of people know the term OVERTON WINDOW (even if they have no clue what it means) and they didn't know it before.

The book is a best seller even though it's very badly scarred.  It's full of expository lumps, badly designed scenes, and rewrite scars.  I felt as I read it that there was a powerful writer involved who desperately wanted to say something, but had no idea how to SHOW DON'T TELL, and at least two other hands who tried desperately to tame that exposition into an actual plot.  There are flashes of brilliance squashed by exposition.  But there is a hand in it that is strong and experienced at "Intrigue" genre.  That hand plastered over the cracks so well very few readers would know or care that they're there.   The whole book would never make it without Glenn Beck's marketing machine behind it. It's just not good enough. 

This Overton Window technique is the primary tool of political campaign strategists. And that strategy is designed to get you to do what they want you to do, even if (or especially if) it is against your best interests to do that.

If you've heard of Glenn Beck's 8/28 gathering in Washington, you've heard of it because that event was formulated to illustrate The Overton Window technique, though I've never heard Beck say so (but I don't listen to every word).  

That's what happened with STAR TREK - it moved The Overton Window for the imagination of the American (and eventually worldwide) Public.

Understanding how "they" use this "Overton Window" technique to change the behavior of huge numbers of people, to create "movements" out of scattered opinions, clarified a lot for me about what happened when Star Trek hit the airwaves. Star Trek went on the air before color TV was widely distributed, before Cable TV was anything but a curiosity.

It's impossible for me to determine the cause-effect chain between Star Trek and coincident and subsequent events and technological applications, or even the flow of basic research dollars.

But in the Astrological view of the universe, cause-effect does not work along a time-line as it does in the scientific view of the universe.

In Astrology, effect can precede cause. It's called an "orb of influence" - and before the actual transit contact happens, an Event described by that symbolism can materialize as an effect caused by that whatever might happen at the contact.  That concept spooks scientists, but Fantasy writers and readers have no problem with it.

So leaving aside the issue of cause and effect, looking at the timeline of history from 1950 to 2010, you can see the sweeping eruption of creativity subsequent to Star Trek's being greenlighted for production.

20 years after first airing, when those in college when Trek first aired had achieved positions of power in the scientific community, technological innovation exploded. The basics were laid down by college age kids during the first airing of Trek.

We, as a culture, went through an OPENING OF A WINDOW INTO THE FUTURE - a glimpse of what we might do energized creativity and thousands of very intelligent people surged through that window into our future.

Star Trek opened the technological window into our future.

But Star Trek fans opened another window, a window into emotional maturity in Relationships, a window into Romance, Love, and what Gene Roddenberry kept expounding on, "Wisdom" -- he would say, "In the future, WHEN WE ARE WISE,..." we will do this and that differently.

It's now up to the Romance community which has embraced SF and Paranormal formats to pry open that Overton Window, and shove it along the track in the direction of HAPPILY EVER AFTER being a logical, reasonable, normal expectation of life.

Live Long and Prosper,
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Splatterpunk and "DRACULAS"

What does "Horror" have to do with "alien romances"? Not much! However, some Horror straddles other genres, such as speculative fiction, particularly if it involves vampires-as-aliens.

Draculas ("a novel of terror") by Blake Crouch, Jack Kilborn, Jeff Strand, and F. Paul Wilson doesn't involve aliens --although images from the Sigourney Weaver movies are used as comparisons-- but it does offer an interesting and heroic reinterpretation of Vlad The Impaler's motives.

Is an alternative historical fragment of backstory sufficient to reinvent "Splatterpunk", and confer upon it the same respectability that "Steampunk" and "Cyberpunk" enjoy?
Splatterpunk—a term coined in 1986 by David J. Schow at the Twelfth World Fantasy Convention in Providence, Rhode Island—refers to a movement within horror fiction distinguished by its graphic, often gory, depiction of violence and "hyperintensive horror with no limits."[1][2] It is regarded as a revolt against the "traditional, meekly suggestive horror story".[3]

Splatterpunk may also been called "Gross-out" or "Gore" Horror or "Extreme Horror" but not every horror aficionado agrees that the terms are synonymous.

I googled "splatterpunk and Konrath" just to see what I'd find, and found this on The Pontifications of Maurice Broadus:
Maurice asks: What's the difference between splatterpunk and extreme horror (or even gross out), and why is that sort of approach making a comeback?

JA Konrath: If the goal is to cause fear, it's straight horror. If the goal is to make you gag, then it's extreme horror. Or extreme something. It's possible to write a disgusting scene without blood or violence.

The written word is provocative. Always has been. If used properly, it can make people laugh, cry, think, get angry, or get ill.

As a species, we're fascinated by disgusting things. As writers, it's our jobs to make our readers feel something. Put the two together, and some writers are bound to go for the gross out.
 In the front matter of Draculas, JA Konrath warns the gentle reader:
"…And it's going to freak you out.
If you're easily disturbed, have a weak stomach, or are prone to nightmares, stop reading right now. There are no sexy teen heartthrobs herein.
You have been warned…."
  No romance, then. Expect extreme gore. Since Jeff Strand and JA Konrath are involved (Konrath uses his splattery alias, "Jack Kilborn" as a red flag), expect levity also.
I recommend watching this book for two reasons which have nothing whatsoever to do with its literary merit. Horror isn't really my cup of tea, (humor, however, is) and I may have been sent an ARC because I joined a particular GoodReads group. Or, it could have been because I reviewed "Afraid".

FWIW, I joined Horror Aficionados to support my online friend Guido Henkel in a discussion of e-book piracy.

Joe Konrath is well known for being tolerant of e-book piracy and copyright infringement.

One of his collaborators, F. Paul Wilson, is rather less tolerant.

I will be fascinated to see whether and when this book is upped to the pirate sites, and who --if anyone-- writes DMCAs that are posted on Chilling Effects, and who --if anyone-- publicly learns from whom.

The other reason is "Draculas" groundbreaking response to pirates' exhortations that authors should not only write better, faster, cheaper, but should also add plenty of extra content. This ebook does it all. Well, almost all. I didn't see that it was "enhanced" in the sense of containing moving illustrations or sound effects.

Another caveat: I don't know if it is exactly "better" than individual works by Blake Crouch (,  J A Konrath (,  Jeff Strand (, or by F. Paul Wilson  (, but from the timeline and transcripts in the back matter, this book does seem to have been written in about four months, and it is selling at the pirate-recommended price of $2.99 on Kindle.

Approximately half the book is bonus material, with free short stories, interviews, transcripts of the emails exchanged between the four co-authors as they plotted and edited the developing book, deleted scenes, and more. It's fascinating stuff, and I predict that it will one day be added to an academic syllabus somewhere.

As I wrote in my requested review, 

"DRACULAS" is worth its weight in gold for the bonus material alone.
FWIW, below is my review, which was solicited, and was written to satisfy a quid pro quo agreement (free read for review written and posted on amazon, goodreads, facebook, blogs).

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Upping The Ante On Nasty.

In the beginning, Joe wrote these words (among others)
"…And it's going to freak you out.
If you're easily disturbed, have a weak stomach, or are prone to nightmares, stop reading right now. There are no sexy teen heartthrobs herein.
You have been warned…."

I do have a weak stomach, I am prone to nightmares, and I don't enjoy fainting. But I also have a strong contrarian streak, so when Joe Konrath warns me that I'm probably not going to want to look at his collaborative effort with Jeff Stand, Blake Crouch, and F. Paul Wilson, curiosity will impel me to look.

But, I started cautiously at the back. Worth the entire $2.99 by themselves are the bonus stories, one of which begins with the awesome line, " The hardest thing about killing a hitchhiker is finding one to pick up."

“DRACULAS“ is worth its weight in gold for the bonus material alone.

Curiosity, killed cats, and other red herrings aside there's another reason to devour every bit of this exceptionally well-written, highly entertaining and disturbing book.  Joe Konrath hangs ten on the crest of the most powerful waves and this book could be the way authors write faster, add extra value and thrive.

Here's how. Four first rate spec fic and occasionally hilarious authors put their heads together to horrific effect. Each chose their own hero/victim/evil-doer from a cast of characters, and each dashed off a parallel novella of approximately 20,000 words, then they sliced and diced and cobbled each author's bits together into the literary equivalent of a Frankenstein's monster. Only, it's Freddy on steroids. It gives a whole new dimension to sucking face, and not a nice one.

The dedication --"For Bram Stoker, with deepest apologies"-- is a perfect foretaste of what to expect from “DRACULAS“. Irreverence. Dark humor that is so wry, it's twisted. Offensive stuff, and indeed there is a scene involving bowels and a clown who likes to make rather different balloon animals…. Lots of "wet work", and they maybe ought to have offered apologies of some depth to Clint Eastwood, too!

The prologue (not that they call it that) contains the mother of all hooks.  Erroneously, I imagined the conversation those 4 bad boys of grim *might* have had, before I looked at Joe's generous back matter, and learned how it really was. Their conversations make entertaining reading!

"Let's dig up a head."
"Let's make it really old…"
"And evil. It must be evil."
"Let's attach something nasty to it. What?"
"A curse."
"Wicked teeth."
"Maybe we make those teeth like… like Sleeping Beauty's spindle."
"Dracula's deadly prick…"
"We need sex…"
"You can't have sex with a severed head…"
"Oh, yes you can!"
"Look, we'll call the person who gets hold of the head More Cock."
"And we'll give him an incurable disease."

The foregoing is my imagination. This conversation did not happen… but the gentle reader should remember that Joe Konrath aka Jack Kilborn once wrote a Christmas story about an amnesiac werewolf who discovered that his midnight snacking habit was abnormal after he noticed buttons and coins in his poop.

These "Draculas" have the compassion of hornets, the dentition of sharks, the voracious appetites of shrews and no respect for garlic whatsoever. If you can contemplate a rabid, blood thirsty Edward Scissorteeth in a maternity or pediatric ward, using a severed artery as a drinking straw, or lashing out among the blind… go for it, but with your eyes open.

Do not pay $2.99 merely to find out what's in “DRACULAS“ (and don't go looking for it on the pirate sites, either). There's more than enough in the free sample chapters to give you an accurate idea what to expect.

Know before you buy that you're going to be ambushed by some of the grossest, sickest, most disturbed, politically incorrect and indiscriminate bloodlusty slash fest that four insensitive guys can think up.

Disclaimer. This is an author review. 4-stars is as low as I go.  Five Stars!

For those who like promo tips, did you know that you can now cut and embed your GoodReads review wholesale with illustration and links to blogs and websites?

Apparently, you can.

Also good to know is that Amazon now does "teaser" pages before Kindle books go on sale.

Blake Crouch instructed friends:
ON OCTOBER 19, please post your review onto Amazon’s DRACULAS page:

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUY THE BOOK TO POST A REVIEW ON AMAZON, you just need an Amazon account. If you want to review the book on Amazon on the 18th, you’ll have to post it to the DRACULAS teaser page, which is here:
Another  promo tactic they are using is to have a special website for the launch:
The website will also feature all reviews, as well as a forum, which is now open….please stop by and say hello! Blake, Paul, Jeff, and Joe will be visiting frequently.
To our knowledge, this type of marketing experiment has never been attempted on this level. What is the power of a couple hundred reviews all appearing on the same day, and on Amazon? Is it enough take DRACULAS viral? To debut high in the Kindle store? That’s our hope.
  They resisted the temptation to make a "make a splash" pun with their splatterpunk novel of terror. So, I just did. Keep an eye out....


Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Value of Wolves

An intriguing angle on the benefits of restoring wolves to Yellowstone National Park:


Here's the article's summary of the fascinatingly complex results of the disappearance of wolves from the region:

"When we exterminated wolves from Yellowstone in the early 1900s, we de-watered the land. That's right; no wolves eventually meant fewer streams, creeks, marshes and springs across Western landscapes like Yellowstone where wolves had once thrived."

The short version of the process explained in detail in the article: Without wolves, elks overpopulated their habitat. They fed on willow and aspen seedlings. Without those trees, beavers declined. In the absence of beavers, the rivers suffered, and so did all the creatures that depended on rivers and wetlands for food and shelter. The entire ecological "web" unraveled without the top predator.

These are the kinds of relationships writers have to consider when building their own worlds. The wolf example also illustrates how risky it is for our species to perform large-scale, forcible alterations of the environment to "improve" it for human use. As that old commercial used to say, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature."

In S. M. Stirling's wonderful series that began with DIES THE FIRE and just had its latest book published, HIGH KING OF MONTIVAL, the gods get fed up with heavy-handed human misuse of Earth's resources. To put things right, the Powers That Be cause all advanced technology to stop working instantaneously (in the first chapter of DIES THE FIRE) and permanently. The human race has to re-learn how to live with the natural world in a more hands-on way than most of us (Stirling's audience in the industrialized West) have ever experienced. One hint: Suddenly being a devotee of some "crazy" hobby such as the Society for Creative Anachronism becomes a valued survival trait.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Genetic Mechanism By Which Love Conquers All

Looking for an article posted online because I had browsed it in a waiting room in a paper copy of DISCOVER magazine, I got stuck reading this article:

See, that's the problem with being "a reader" -- doesn't much matter what words are stuck in front of one's nose, you'll read them. Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, 3 thousand year old grocery lists, doesn't matter. Everything is fascinating to a writer.

That's one of the ways you know you're a writer. Everything implies something that could make a story.

So I got stuck on this article on mental illness, a subject which bores me stiff, so of course I got all excited about the Romance story potential in it.

------Quote From Discover--------

Each of our brain cells contains the same set of genes we were born with and uses those genes to build proteins and other molecules throughout its life. The sequence of DNA in those genes is pretty much fixed. For experiences to produce long-term changes in how we behave, they must be somehow able to reach into our brains and alter how those genes work.

Neuroscientists are now mapping that mechanism. Our experiences don’t actually rewrite the genes in our brains, it seems, but they can do something almost as powerful. Glued to our DNA are thousands of molecules that shut some genes off and allow other genes to be active. Our experiences can physically rearrange the pattern of those switches and, in the process, change the way our brain cells work.
------END QUOTE-------------

So then I read the beginning of the article which explains how lab experiments with mice show that a baby mouse that got attention from its mother (licking its fur) grows up to be harder to startle and more willing to explore while a baby mouse that didn't get attention grows up to be a scaredy cat.

Receiving affection changes you. 

I haven't found experiments on how giving affection changes you but I bet it does.

The article does describe how certain proteins stuck to or surrounding certain genes control whether that gene expresses in your body, or not.


Genes may set up the dropdown menu from which your life-choices are made, but experiences can "gray out" items on that dropdown menu.

In other words, they are getting close to solving the problem of "Nature vs. Nurture" and the solution they see right now is the one I've always thought the most likely -- it's not either-or, it's both-and.

Nature (your genes, your astrological natal chart, your starting conditions you can't change now) does set up parameters which govern the shape of your life. But nurture - the things that happen to you, that you draw from your environment by dint of being you - can alter the way your Nature expresses itself.

Then I saw this article on a Discover blog taking another "discovery" to task for being ill designed and executed:

----QUOTE blog--------

that around ~30% of the outcome of financial decisions are heritable. That is, that ~30% of the variation in financial decisions within the population can be accounted for by variation in genes within the population.

-----END QUOTE-------

The blogger challenges the connection between genes and financial decisions, and I don't buy that connection either.

BUT WHAT IF....?????

It makes a great SFR premise, doesn't it?  Your wealth is genetic? 

-------Quote blog--------
Over time shared home environment, what your parents model and teach you, tends to wear off, and gene-environment correlation increases the correspondences between particular genetic makeups and behaviors (i.e., identical twins resemble each other more at maturity than in their youth). For most behavioral traits heritability increases with age.
-------End Quote---------

The idea that your original nurture effect wears off with the years does not correlate well with the idea that these proteins wrapped around your genes can cause the genes to express or not express, and that can be determined by nurture - and changed later by experience or therapy.

In other words, human personality remains PLASTIC through life.

If that's true, then love counts. Finding your soul-mate can change everything. Finding your connection with the Divine can provide the strength to kick an addiction and change your life.

Back to the Discover article on mental illness.

Look at the last page of the article. "Epigenetic" is the term for the proteins bound around genes that control whether the gene expresses. 

-------Quote Discover---------
Depression, for example, may be in many ways an epigenetic disease. Several groups of scientists have mimicked human depression in mice by pitting the animals against each other. If a mouse loses a series of fights against dominant rivals, its personality shifts. It shies away from contact with other mice and moves around less. When the mice are given access to a machine that lets them administer cocaine to themselves, the defeated mice take more of it.
--------End Discover Quote------

The article then describes work on brains of deceased humans, some who lived out normal lives and some who committed suicide, showing a difference very similar to the differences found in defeated mice. The article ends with work done on mice that were depressed by being defeated. An injection into the brain caused the symptoms of depression to dissipate even in adulthood by changing the epigenetics. 

Now, nobody is going to investigate whether finding love in adulthood can change the brain chemistry of humans enough to vanquish depression or other such illnesses.

Nobody is going to investigate the effects on humans of just plain acceptance by others, or niceness in society.

But what is here does suggest that the great dust-up over bullying in school yards may have substance behind it. Being beaten up by mobs of kids can really change you and your chances of success in the world.

Some other kind of experience may predispose humans to diving into a cycle of poverty, gambling, or being unable to hold a job.

There may be more kinds of "assassination" than simply murdering someone, or "character assassination."

It may be that simple unkind words can destroy a life.

Speaking unkindly about anyone may in fact be an act of aggression that has dire consequences.  Maybe it might have consequences to the speaker.

If that's true, then a kind word may save a life, perhaps your own.

Do any of the writers here see the PNR applications to the novel structure element called CONFLICT?  If you write Urban Fantasy with magical rules, this kind of "magic" can make a great conflict source, thematic source, character quirk, or plot.  And we're not even touching on love potions and the ethics behind that.

Faith Healing is for real?

Can you heal yourself by changing your opinion of yourself?

How do you go about that? Do you need help from outside? Can the help of a clinician really do the trick? Or do you need true love?  Or will you resort to an injection into the brain? 

Is the real barrier to finding true love somehow in your brain chemistry itself? Do you need an injection into the brain in order to be capable of pair-bonding?

The SF possibilities for SFR are endless here.

What about kids decanted from artificial wombs then raised in a creche among mostly other kids?

What about kids raised in total isolation from other kids?

If you've been following the developments in nano fabrication, you can see how close we are to having brain implants that can do things like fix blindness and deafness caused by brain malfunctions. All kinds of nano-implants for various purposes are ridiculously close. Research money is currently pouring into projects to use nano-tech to bring solar-power up to where it's cheaper than say coal-fired power plant power.

The spinoff from that power research could be the brain implants, and other nerve replacements that could cure, say, paralysis.

Between implants and chemistry -- personalities can be engineered so that people grow up to have a "talent" and ability for specific jobs.  Do you want government deciding your career before you are born and tailoring you to it? 

Maybe stupidity can be cured? Maybe we can all be engineers?  Who decides? 

The question is, do we want these things imposed from outside, or are we as a society going to get busy and cure most of it with love?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Free" and "Freely Available" does not mean Legally Available

Yesterday, I wrote to the Government to offer my opinions on copyright and on what should be done about pirates.  I'd like to share what I wrote.

What I wrote is likely to be posted on the government website for the purpose in any case, and by the way, the public posting of protests by authors is one of the many ways that book pirates and their sympathizers covertly try to intimidate and silence those who are harmed by piracy.


Dear Sirs,

Thank you for your focus on copyright protection and innovation on the internet.

I am an author and a rights holder, and my rights have been infringed by corporations, charities shielded by the Chafee Amendment, and by individuals both for profit and for popularity. Advertisers, advertisement aggregators, hosting sites, file sharing sites, auction sites, subscription sites, and individuals have benefited in a small way from the illegal distribution of my work without my permission and in violation of my rights.

Under the DMCA, many sites that facilitate copyright infringement are obliged to remove infringing works, but only if and when they receive a notice from the copyright owner herself. If the author is unaware of infringement, it continues unchecked.

As I see it, there is no real downside to piracy. The worst that can happen is that the pirate benefits (as does PayPal, for instance, from fees on payments made by individuals to "pirates") until the file is removed at the request of the author. Many times, the pirate then simply "re-ups" the file.

Here is one example of where just one of my books is being pirated. This novella costs $2.50 to $3.50 depending where it is purchased legally.

The copyrighted artwork has been "lifted" without my permission from my website, a further infringement.

You will notice that Astatalk provides instant sharing functionality, so that anyone at all with a click of a mouse can "share" the link to my work with all their contacts on Twitter or Facebook or any other site.

Please look at this page.

Here, you may see the "top" members of Astatalk, and how many works they have "shared".  Notice that this pirate site has more than 580,000 registered members. Note that the top member appears to have shared over 34,000 items.

If you look here you can view the wide variety of copyrighted works being "shared".

Astatalk is one of dozens of such sites.

In my opinion, there are many useful and reasonable measures that could be taken by the government to protect rights holders.

1. Part of the problem with piracy is lack of education and information. Many internet users "share" because they do not appreciate that what they are doing is illegal and harmful.

2. Terms should have a legal definition.

"Free" and "freely available" are used to describe in-copyright works that have been uploaded in violation of the rights of the copyright owner, thus misleading the honest public.

"Sharing" is a euphemism that suggests that the act of copyright infringement is socially acceptable, and benign.

"Information" is currently used to refer equally to fact and fiction. Works of fiction are "entertainment" not "information" or essential "knowledge". A distinction ought to be made. While individuals may have an intrinsic right to acquire "knowledge", they may not have an equal right to free "entertainment".

(It should be noted that public libraries provide legal, free access to works of fiction and also reference works.)

Other poorly understood terms with respect to e-books include "Fair Use", "Ownership", "First Sale Rights", "ReSell Rights", "Public Domain", "Library".

3. It is not helpful that the current law forces authors into an adversarial relationship with readers -- if the authors wish to protect their copyrights.

4. Rights owners are silenced by intimidation. If one sends a DMCA, one's private information is liable to be made public. The same standard does not apply to "pirates". Their anonymity is protected. Alleged infringers should not have a greater right to privacy than their victims.

5. If a person abuses equipment and breaks the law (a car, a gun etc) that abuser loses the privilege of driving, gun ownership, and sometimes their freedom, etc.

Use of the internet is not a human right, it is a privilege and a convenience. Chronic abusers of the internet should perhaps lose their "right" to privacy, and possibly be permitted only to use the internet via fee-based mobile devices and computers in public buildings such as libraries.

In the case of a confirmed and proven "pirate" a portion of the fees they pay for "Minutes" (on mobile devices) should be garnished to fund reasonable restitution to the copyright owners or else to fund a copyright enforcement body. The current fines upon conviction ($250,000 per work) are ridiculous and must tend to promote hostility and defiance on principle.

6. Copyright is the only retirement plan some creators have. Creators do not receive 401Ks or employer sponsored pensions, or matching contributions, or health care coverage, etc. Therefore, copyright protections ought to be long-lasting. (As they now are).

If we must agree to shorten copyright to achieve international conformity --so all Berne signatory nations enforce the same standards-- fifty years might be reasonable. Ten years is too few, since many times it takes more than ten years before a work comes to market and generates income for the creator.

If a creator cannot expect to make a fair return on the investment of expertise, time, and labor, creators will either produce work of lesser quality, or will turn to other endeavors. In either case, our culture is impoverished.

If "entertainment" is to be defined by the government as essential to innovation and growth, and if "entertainment" is to flow freely, then the government must compensate the providers of the "entertainment". It would be better NOT to so define "entertainment" and to leave entertainment to the private sector.

As the law currently stands, all vendors of e-book readers that permit limited "sharing" are in technical breach of copyright law. Patently, the law must change.

Owing to e-reader manufacturers' beliefs about what the public wants, authors are obliged to offer up to 10 e-books for the price of one without negotiation. Under some publishing contracts, an author may be permitted to "share" a mere 5 free copies of her own e-book. Any Nook owner may share up to 10 free copies of that same author's e-book. Surely, the owner of the copyright ought to have more rights than the man in the street.

While making copyright logical, fair, clear, comprehensible... it seems to me that the same rules should apply to schools and universities as applies in the real world.

For all their formative years, young people are taught the version of copyright that applies to educational institutions. What we would consider "piracy" is commonplace, and condoned within schools. Then, the young people graduate, and all of a sudden they are expected to understand and obey copyright rules that are very different from everything they've ever been taught or have experienced or have seen authority figures apply.

It's no wonder so many readers are skeptical, incredulous, and outraged by the DMCA.

Finally, as you work to
  1. Generate benefits for rights holders of creative works accessible online and make recommendations with respect to those who infringe on those rights;
  2. Enable the robust and free flow of information to facilitate innovation and growth of the Internet economy; and
  3. Ensure transparency and due process in cooperative efforts to build confidence in the Internet as a means of distributing copyrighted works.
please consider that one of the most frustrating aspects right now is the violation of an author's right to negotiate and benefit from the reproduction and distribution of their work. An author may reserve valuable Audio rights, or E-Book rights from a print publishing contract because she intends to market them elsewhere.

If those rights are not available, they are simply taken (sometimes legally). Moreover, the author is judged upon the poor quality of those illegally obtained and illegally published and distributed results, adding insult to injury.


Rowena Cherry

"Copyright is a writer's pension plan" (Allan Lynch)
EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing for Crazy Tuesday

For more discussions of piracy, please visit my personal blog

Where I ask, "What would you think, if you saw this in your email?"
Another 54 Complimentary Books. 
Book Mix 20
Dear Members
We are sure you will find something of interest in this terrific mix of complimentary books!
Another 54 Free Books for Everyone! (Book Mix 20). When you click the link below, follow the simple instructions on the book page to arrive at the download links page. Easy!
Would you realize that you are about to become a thief? A receiver of stolen goods?

If you are told --twice-- that the books you are about to receive are "COMPLIMENTARY" and once that they are "FREE", you'd expect that the authors and the publishers had given permission for this.


The books have been stolen, pirated, illegally uploaded to a hosting site or pirate site in violation of the authors' copyrights... "shared".

You don't know this. You've no reason to suspect that you are doing anything wrong, so you click the link.


Sounds good. In fact, the books are only free to everyone who chooses to steal them. And they are not really free. You are about to get your computer loaded up with tracking cookies. Also, you will probably be asked to send $2.00 to PAYPAL (and PayPal will take at least 44 cents as their commission for being part of this sale of links to stolen goods), or you will be asked to click on a link to watch an advert.

Notice the instructions to "Skip Ad" after 5 seconds.

Its easy to collect all the books below for FREE!
Simply click the link below, watch the advert for 5 seconds, then click on the YELLOW BUTTON (Skip Ad) as it appears at the top/right of your screen and you will be directly taken to the main book page!

Scrolling down....

Please note that we are not the 'hosts' of any books, neither did we upload them to any hosting provider. We simply find links to books, that were freely available on the web and share our findings with our members!

Get a clue. This disclaimer is here because these people know that what they are doing is on the shady side of the law. Are they an "Online Service Provider"? If so, the DMCA applies to them, and the safe harbor provisions protect them.

Here's what Chilling Effects says about safe harbor

In order to qualify for safe harbor protection, a service provider who hosts content must:
  • have no knowledge of, or financial benefit from, infringing activity on its network
  • have a copyright policy and provide proper notification of that policy to its subscribers
  • list an agent to deal with copyright complaints

But, are they hosting content? Is a list of links to illegal books "content"? Is a list of links a copyright infringement? You cannot copyright titles.

Ah! Here's the thing. They may not be hosting the books, but they are hosting the COVERS. Cover art is usually copyrighted. A lot of people think it is in the public domain, but they might not be right about that.

There's more... but this post is long enough. If piracy interests you, please check out my blog, and scroll back a day or two to see what Cheryl K Tardif (Cherish) has to say on the subject.


Rowena Cherry

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Public Domain

Cory Doctorow writes about public domain works in the latest issue of LOCUS:

Proprietary Interest

While I have reservations about some of Doctorow's opinions on copyright, I agree with this essay. Extending copyright protection too far leads to diminishing returns. For lesser-known authors, particularly, keeping works in copyright too long after the author's death doesn't protect the creator so much as doom the work to oblivion. I'm viewing the issue from the perspective of an editor, my first two books having been paperback anthologies (CURSE OF THE UNDEAD and DEMON LOVERS AND STRANGE SEDUCTIONS). In my opinion, the main purpose of reprint anthologies is to preserve in more permanent form worthy pieces of fiction that would otherwise languish in the obscurity of old periodicals or out-of-print story collections. Presently, print copyrights extend to 75 years after the author's death. If the editor can't determine when the author of an older story died, much less track down the current copyright owner, that story can't be reprinted. New readers who might enjoy it can never see it. Fortunately, in almost all cases a work that lapsed into the public domain before the 1978 accord took effect (before that, the maximum length of copyright in the U.S. was 56 years) can't be re-copyrighted, so an editor or publisher is safe in reproducing a story or book dated before about 1920. For materials published after that, they have to start worrying.

One positive effect of the Google digitizing project for "orphaned works": Books that might otherwise never have been seen or heard from again will become available to new readers.

If I'd been writing the law, I would have decreed that the copyright clock starts ticking on publication—a date much easier to determine—rather than depending upon the accidental and contingent factor of the author's death date. Make copyright last a century from publication date, if you must; then the longest-lived author won't outlive his or her own rights in the work.

Doctorow doesn't address this problem specifically but does point out other aspects of the public domain system I hadn't thought of.

The site he mentions, Vintage Ads, is fun to browse:

Vintage Ads

And here's their sister site, which displays hundreds of covers of pulp magazines and comics:

Cover Browser

The fact that copyright doesn't last forever makes possible books such as PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, though some readers may consider this not necessarily a Good Thing. More unambiguously positive are books like DRACULA variations and sequels such as Fred Saberhagen's delightful THE DRACULA TAPE and Barbara Hambly's novel about Renfield, or Sherlock Holmes pastiches such as THE SEVEN PERCENT SOLUTION. I wouldn't want to have missed those creations, and as long as copyright stays in effect, such "derivative works" can't be professionally published. As a fiction writer, I heartily support fair recompense to authors and the vigorous banning of piracy, but as a reader (and former editor) I wouldn't want to see those rights extended in perpetuity.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt