Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Big Love Sci-Fi Part V: Modesty, The Scrimmage Line of Big Love

This series started with Part I Sex Without Borders and continued each Tuesday concluding with Part VIII on August 9th, though we may be back to this subject for additional entries later. 

Here's the first post in this series:

And here's Part II in this series:

Part III in this series:

Part IV in the series:

This Big Love Sci-Fi series is about how a Romance writer (any sub-genre) can create suspense, both romantic-suspense and action-suspense. 

The Love Story is an ingredient I've used in almost every bit of fiction that I've sold so far.  Romance isn't always my focus, but it's always there driving the personal issues of my characters whether they know it or not (yeah, past life karma adds "depth" to characters.)

The Love Story is my personal favorite thing, before, during or after the Romance, because in my life Love is what Makes The World Go Round.

I'm pretty much sure that "Love" is central to all human cultures, even those currently obsessing on teaching their children "Hate." 

Reading Romance is virtually a degree-course in human Psychology,  especially modern Romance, because the modern culture is furiously erasing the border between public and private.  So we're watching characters suffering through the problems that confusion creates.  That two-sides-of-the-coin relationship between Love and Hate is something I don't have to explain to Romance readers.  And today's Romance readers have an in-depth grasp of the relationship between Sex and Violence, too.  So no explanations needed. 

But, ah, "Modesty!" -- that became a political football (scrimmage line; get it?) in the 1970's.  Today it's almost a dirty word, a codeword for repression of women by men  (well, as a matter of pure fact, it was!). 

We're seeing an actual, violent, scrimmage line developing as more Muslim women adopt the veil for reasons most Western women either can't understand or actively despise.  Isn't that curious? 

Yeah, in this blog, I will tread where most would fear to go, and all of it in the name of Love. 

There's a thesis here for this "Big Love Sci-Fi" series of posts.  It could be (maybe) that the general public has little respect for Romance because the general public has no idea what Love is.

Now there's an unthinkable concept!  Unthinkable concepts are what it takes to create SF!  We're onto something Big here. 

 It's going to take a Romance writer, probably SFR writer, to explain that in a blockbuster feature film.  So we need to train up Romance writers to regard "Love" and "Romance" as the "science" in the SFR. 

The first thing a scientist needs to learn in order to become a scientist is to DOUBT EVERYTHING.  Question everything. 

You don't know anything you have not proved yourself.  Other people's proofs don't count.  You can't use a fact in your thinking until you, yourself, have proved it.  That's what you learn in your first Geometry course. 

To lead a readership on a Quest for facts that they can prove in their own lives, an SF writer must ask the kinds of questions the readership would never, ever, be able to pose.  Those are the questions that confound, confuse, mystify, disconcert, challenge the foundations of reality, and ultimately cause the reader to question all their own innermost unconscious assumptions.  The name of this process is "Philosophy" and it enters into fiction writing at the level of "Theme."   Philosophy can be the "science" in the "science fiction" of an SFR novel.  (I've done that many times.)  Philosophy is the source of all the best Themes writers use because Philosophy poses unanswerable questions, or questions that are unanswerable within the confines of the reader's culture. 

Our question today is, "What exactly is the place of Modesty in Love and Romance?"  (if any)

Maybe before we get into the examination of "Modesty" we should agree on a working definition of "Love" vs. "Romance."  (I figure we all know what "scrimmage" means, though we may disagree on what "Love" is.)

For definitions, let's hark back to my Astrology series here -- and assign the word "Love" to Venus and "Romance" to Neptune. 
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/03/pausing-for-you-to-catch-up-with-me_30.html  is an index to the Astrology series. 

And here are my accompanying posts integrating Tarot and Astrology, all focused just on what a writer can learn from these disciplines (to create this dynamic suspense line for a Love story with or without hot Romance).



Venus forms bonds; Neptune dissolves them. 

Venus rules Taurus, the Natural Second House of material possessions (OK money).  It also rules the Natural 7th House, Libra, of  Relationships and the public sphere of functioning (i.e. not private -- the OTHER SIDE of that barrier we've been working with.)  Venus thus straddles the line between private (your personal possessions and philosophical Values) and public (your spouse, Others that you bond with. )

Neptune rules Pisces, the 12th House of Matters of Ultimate Concern (heaven, idealism here on Earth).  When you die, your ties to Earth and all the people living here dissolve (often gradually, but when not so gradual we find our beloved Paranormal Ghost Romances!)

Neptune blurs your sense of connectedness to "the world" so that your attention can drift to "higher matters" (i.e. Philosophy). 

In a Romance, both "lovers" are in a mental state ruled by Neptune (disconnected from "reality").

That mental state is usually caused by a Neptune transit to a sensitive and significant point in the Natal Charts of both members of the couple. 

Our prevailing, science hammered culture, regards that state of being "in the clouds" as, if not unhealthy at least unrealistic.

Very typically, a shared Neptune transit effect becomes an "Affair."  It can even trigger such an affair in a person who is married, because Neptune dissolves existing bonds and sets you free to drift through a world criss-crossed with anchoring bonds but not notice them.

That is Neptune alters your perception of your own "reality" -- it dissolves your perception of that "barrier" we've been talking about.  Thus in an affair situation, a person may blurt out all kinds of private things about their spouse that they'd never mention to a stranger ordinarily.

Neptune alters your perception of reality and sometimes replaces your personal Ideals or gives you a vision of new Ideals you will then lust after (for a time.) 

The odd thing to consider here is that many world-class Engineers and research scientists are Pisces dominated.  Neptune is art and inspiration, and that's the basis of good science.  Neptune is creativity, the visionary.

Which way Neptune manifests may have something to do with the individual's spiritual development as a Soul.  It is said more advanced Souls manifest Neptune in a useful and positive way. 

The idea is that Neptune alters your perception of "reality" -- and the Question the writer must ask is, "Does this character see reality more clearly under this transit, or less clearly?  Does this other character wax psychic enough to penetrate the illusion of reality and come back with actual knowledge that is really true, despite it defying all common sense?"

Saturn is "common sense."  Neptune is "idealism."

Which reality is true?  That's the kind of barrier-line across which a writer can draw a suspense-line and generate a plot based on a theme rooted in Neptune vs. Venus.

As an aside, President Obama was elected with Pluto transiting opposition his Venus and Neptune transiting his Ascendant (according to one guess at his natal chart).

OK so now Venus. 

One can bond with one's possessions, become a hoarder, a collector, a curator, or just filthy rich.

One can bond with one's "Significant Other"  -- that's the 7th House relationship.  It's social networking, too.

If ordinarily people don't like you, chances are under the right Venus transit (happens every year for a day or so) you might be elected to office, given an award, sell a novel, or get invited to a party (or have one thrown in your honor).

People born with Venus positioned just so are people who are just plain liked, who are popular, make friends easily, and everyone says they're "nice."

So, in today's world, girls who want to be the most popular girl in school (at least with the boys) adopt tight clothing, exposed cleavage (if they have one yet), and show as much skin as possible. In fact, it's a competition among the girls to see how much they can get away with.  (not like this is new)

They're on the market, telegraphing they're ready to put out (sometimes this starts so young they don't even know that's what they're doing.)

Now, fast-forward to her mid-Thirties and two or three kids later, and what do you see?  Assume she's married, has two or three kids, and still has a husband. 

You look at a High School girl or college girl and you know what they're doing.  So?  What else would you expect?  It's not immodest for a 16 year old to put the goods out there.  It is, however, for a 10 year old, or at least I think so, while other mothers might not.  (oh, yeah, domestic dispute scenes over teen dressing have a place in second-time-around Romance novels, where you can get in a lot of characterizing while moving the plot forward at blazing speed). 

You look at this mother of 3, and you judge her by how she's dressed.

If she dresses like a High School girl on the prowl, it's distasteful, and maybe the word hooker comes to mind.  Dressing twenty-years too young is not age-appropriate and invites assumptions.  You might have doubts about her character, intentions, maturity, trustworthiness, values, maybe suspect a mental handicap. 

But if she's 30-something in tight jeans, a low cut tight sweater, or sleeveless shirt, it's just battle-gear for kid-raising.  If she's in a short skirted business suit, it's battle-gear for feeding her kids.  In a business suit she might actually be showing cleavage and today's haircuts might be loose-hair seductively cupping the face.  But that wouldn't be considered "immodest" in the Western world.  Battle-gear is never immodest.

Notice how News Anchors (now almost 50% women!!!) covering hard news show cleavage and hips while men delivering the same information wear suit and tie securely closed?  For a while, female News Anchors wore business suits - started with pants suits, then skirts were a necessity -- now it's slinky-sexy dress.  Sex sells.  But the public perception is that such clothing is not immodest or demeaning of the Anchor's womanhood.  (well the female perception - not at all sure about the men)

If your thirty-year old mother of 3 is going out to a formal dinner, cleavage, sleeveless, clingy satin around the hips, heels to die in, would not be immodest.  If she dresses like that to mow the lawn or hit the supermarket, take the kids to soccer practice, you've telegraphed something totally else about this character. 

So how you dress your characters relative to their age and activity causes readers to judge the character's modesty, according to the customs of the segment of our culture they belong to.

But is "modesty" really about CLOTHING?  Isn't too much cloaking actually immodest because it draws attention, shouts "Look at me! I'm modest!" 

In fact, does modesty have anything at all to do with clothing, or is that a smokescreen to divert attention from the actual issue of "modest?"  (A good Romance theme might be "Modesty is not a Virtue.")

Or maybe clothing just a symbol for the dimension of modesty?

Previously in this Big Love Sci-Fi series of posts, I mentioned that our culture suffers from a blurring of the line between private&public which has led to a loss of definition (Neptune, idealism) of the difference between Private and Secret.  This makes the Romance writer's job much more difficult when developing Romantic Suspense. 

Private is something that's nobody else's business.

Secret is something that is everybody else's business but you are preventing them from knowing it.

Today, the TSA has had to revise their standards for body-searching 6 year olds.  There was a case of a child of that age group who moved during the scan, and was immediately sent for intrusive personal pat-down, which traumatized the child.  This tidbit of news may signal a renewed debate over the difference between private (as in body parts) and secret (as in carrying something harmful to others.)

Secrets make dandy plot devices, and create automatic suspense (when will they find out?)

In today's fiction market, "Private" is much harder to handle because the readers have no actual, concrete idea of what Private really is.

A society which did still have the notion of "Private" would never have allowed the TSA to come into existence, no matter the risk. 

It isn't about government intrusion into private space.  It's about any intrusion into private space.

The entire notion of "Privacy" has become political, and equated with "Secrecy" and thus "Dirty Secrecy."  (Yes, I'm thinking of Wiener and such similar revelations.)

If there's anything in your life that you wish nobody but you to know about BECAUSE it's not relevant to them, then in today's world you are basically taking an asocial stand! 

The public has a right to know (even if Google and Microsoft don't). 

Even if the public doesn't have a "right" to know, your reluctance to reveal is paranoid. 

Now you can argue against that statement.  The software companies, especially "security" companies, go through all kinds of gyrations to "protect" your privacy.

But notice the choice of words.  Security.  Protect. 

Implicit in that is the notion of external hostility (yes, I know there really are hostile hackers doing harm; this is about social philosophy useful to ROMANCE WRITERS, not about politics or reality.)

So why is the "exterior" world hostile?  Because you are keeping secrets.  Anything "private" is now considered "secret."

Here's another TSA anecdote taken from real life.

From this you might conclude that modesty is now illegal in the U.S.A.  (wonderful worldbuilding premise)

I know a family that made an international vacation trip recently. 

They are a middle-aged couple with a 12 year old son.  The husband is diabetic (diabetes I, really problematic on trips, very much life-threatening and developing heart disease which the wife knows about).  For traveling, the wife wore a long skirt and loose blouse, comfortable for sleeping on a long plane trip. 

On the way home, they went through "Security" and passed the screening machine.  But because the woman was not wearing tight jeans and a tight sweater, form fitting clothing, they were delayed for a physical pat-down of the wife, right in front of the eyes of the adolescent boy and the husband who was in distress from the diabetes.  They were racing to make a connection. 

The woman made an issue of the pat-down and demanded a private pat-down, which was provided, but by a man.  She then delayed things further by asking that her husband be present.  A big argument ensued with the TSA worker.  But there was nobody to watch the son.  So he was there while his mother was essentially violated (whether the TSA worker saw it that way or not, the mother experienced it that way.  She had recently encountered a TSA worker via her job who was not fired after being convicted of sex crimes.) 

With all the delay, they missed their connecting flight, a dire problem for a diabetic since food isn't served and with all kinds of food restrictions, there was nothing eatable available to buy on the concourse.  Stress like this takes years off a diabetic's life by deteriorating the organs. 

All travelers have seen this kind of thing happen, had it happen to them, and now a huge segment of the US population has "adjusted."  It's the price of security.  *shrug*

See last week's post about how Big can Love be in Science Fiction?  It was about the sensitivity level going down in our society. 

Subjecting such a wide swath of our society to this kind of intrusive search (and I'm not addressing the Constitutional angles here because that doesn't matter in this subject area) hits and hits on those sensitive areas of our collective psyche and forces us to adapt by become insensitive, coarsened, calloused to sexual intrusion.

Science Fiction writers have long accepted that humans are extremely adaptable.  Many build worlds where humans are altered to be able to live on other worlds where they must adapt or die.  And humans adapt.

We are adapting to this social fabric shift that erases the barrier between public and private, between privacy and secrecy.

But it's a scrimmage line.  Those who want "safety at all costs" are pushing the resisting and desperate line of those who wish to live a life where there exists such a thing as privacy which is not secrecy.

Eventually, it will come to a vote, and Public (Venus) Ideals (Neptune) will be established, probably permanently.  We bond with our Ideals. 

But while it is a battleground, Romance writers weaving Science into their fiction can exploit the tensions across that Public/Private barrier using philosophy as the science.  Just watch the headlines and read between the lines! 

This public debate over privacy may affect the generally accepted definition of "Love" because one of the essential elements of "Love" is Intimacy.  You can't have intimacy without private space that isn't secret.  Intimacy is the exploration (adventure into) the private space of another, sharing private space, melding two private spaces into one.  That which happens in the family stays in the family.

If we give up personal body privacy, we in essence destroy the "family" which is the group that shares private space.  Re-read my posts on astrology, then go learn more about "The Houses" in astrology, which divide the human psyche into 4 quadrants.  It's a graphic depiction of the definition of Privacy.   There's a whopping big Romance novel in this.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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