Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday Greetings

Happy Yuletide! Keep in mind that Christmas officially lasts until January 6 (Epiphany, aka Twelfth Night). According to THE BATTLE FOR CHRISTMAS by Stephen Nissenbaum, in some parts of medieval Europe the celebratory season continued until February 2 (Candlemas, best known to us as Groundhog Day), when the agricultural labors of the new year had to begin. Nissenbaum's book reveals that the Puritans had good reasons, in their worldview, for banning Christmas festivities. The true "old-fashioned, traditional" Christmas wasn't what we think of. That family-centered holiday was invented in the nineteenth century. The REAL traditional Christmas would look to us like a combination of Halloween, Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving, and New Year's Eve. Besides the feasting that we've retained in our own customs, the season focused on heavy drinking, noisemaking, licentious behavior in general, reversal of social roles, and the lower classes wandering from house to house making more or less cheerful demands for food, drink, and money, as memorialized in wassailing songs. In most of premodern Europe (as Nissenbaum explains), December was the only part of the agricultural year when people had both leisure and plenty of food, the one time when fresh meat in abundance was available. It's interesting to contemplate how different life in that seasonal cycle was from our present-day culture, where refrigeration and global transport bring even the poorest of us a variety of foods even the rich couldn't have imagined in the preindustrial world. According to THE BATTLE FOR CHRISTMAS, it was just this pagan seasonal cycle that the Puritans wanted to obliterate. As Nissenbaum puts it, people had always celebrated the winter solstice with feasting and carousing, and the Church, in consecrating December 25 to the birth of Jesus, tacitly allowed the festivities to go on pretty much as they always had. Christmas "has always been a difficult holiday to Christianize."

From the very beginning of the family-centered Christmas in the Victorian era, commercialization has accompanied the holiday and observers have complained about greed obscuring the spirit of the season. C. S. Lewis in the 1950s wrote an essay about "Xmas" and Christmas, lamenting what he called "the commercial racket." Apparently some things haven't changed much in almost sixty years. Yet I realize in some ways Christmas as I knew it in childhood must have been quite different from my parents' childhood holidays in the 1930s. Likewise, our children and now grandchildren have had Christmases in some ways like "the ones we used to know" and in other ways clearly different.

Speaking of "the ones we used to know," how many people in the U.S. who grew up outside New England or the northern parts of the Midwest remember white Christmases? In most of the places we've lived that had snow at all, it was rare before January. Just one example of how culture and the media shape our expectations. My stepmother loved snow and always yearned for a white Christmas, something she probably never saw during her childhood in the tidewater area of North Carolina. Not to mention sleighs with bells!

Here's the full text of "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know" by Connie Willis, a humorous fantasy tale in which the wish for a white Christmas gets fulfilled all too thoroughly:

Just Like the Ones We Used to Know

If you watched the TV series BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, you’ll recall their solstice celebration, Winterfest, adapted for the conditions of their own small subculture. Imagine how our holidays will morph into new forms while retaining the "spirit" of their original meanings as we move forward through the twenty-first century and eventually travel from this planet into space.

And speaking of space, for a midwinter treat here's a page of links to holiday SF filk songs by Suzette Haden Elgin:

Ozarque's Journal

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dialogue Part 2 - On And Off The Nose

Part 1 of this series was not labeled Part 1, but it is:

This Part 2 is an advanced lesson on writing.  Below you'll find a links to a plethora of relevant posts I've done here previously, because the subject of Dialogue integrates all the techniques I've discussed. 

And no, we're not talking here about characters who talk "down their nose" at other characters, or who stick their nose into others' business.  The metaphor is about "hitting it on the nose."  Saying exactly what you mean, defining things exactly, is "hitting it on the nose."  You "hit it on the nose" when you "reveal" something very concrete and specific about a murky topic, when you clarify matters, when you eliminate confusion, when you shatter an illusion. 

The term "on the nose dialogue" is from screenwriting, well, play writing too.  On the nose dialogue is one reason that a script would be returned unread.  If the first line of dialogue on page one is "on the nose" the script will be rejected. 

This is often true in novel or story writing as well, though you might get 5 pages to show you know how to keep dialogue off the nose. 

There is nothing more "murky" than the emotional life of a human being.  When you "reveal" that inner dialogue as spoken dialogue, you are writing dialogue that is "on the nose."  It's a tool in the writer's toolbox, and it can be used to devastating artistic effect, but first the writer must master that tool. 

And the first step toward mastery is definition. 

"Advertising copy" is a blatant example of "on the nose" writing.

An ad just says what it means.  If it doesn't, you get the effect we see with so many TV commercials (which I  have recommended you study for "show don't tell" techniques) where there's an amusing image or sequence, and you can't recall what product the ad is selling.

"Aflac" uses the repetition of the duck advising the injured that they need this insurance -- relying on the silly quack sound of the company's name to nail the message on the nose.

"Verizon" is having great success following Suzi's Lemonade stand to international corporation because of ease of communication using Verizon's tools -- but the commercial, while engaging, and on-the-nose about communications, doesn't differentiate Verizon from AT&T.  Suzy might do as well with AT&T or another carrier, we can't tell from the commercial.  But I do remember Suzy and I do associate her with Verizon, so it's a success. 

Who can forget the "Energizer Bunny?" 

So advertisements have to be "on the nose."  If you're selling a better razor blade, show it in the garage in a puddle as months pass, and not rusting.  Show someone picking it up, putting it in a razor holder, and shaving with it -- no cuts.  If you're selling razor blades, show a razor blade.  Show how yours is different from Gillette's. 

That's on the nose. 

People, on the other hand, in real life, don't talk "on the nose."

One of the reasons most books on the craft of writing don't actually help new writers learn the craft is that such books are usually about the craft -- i.e. OFF the nose, off the topic. 

If you pick up a writing craft textbook, what do you expect to find inside?  What topic should it cover?

As I was learning this craft, (and even today) the topic I keep hoping to find inside "how to" books on writing is what you do with your mind to create a story others will enjoy.  You know about the craft or you wouldn't have found the book.  Now you want to know the craft itself.  You want to do it. 

You need the concepts, some examples, and some ways to isolate specific craft functions and practice them in isolation. 

That's like a piano student learning scales instead of whole musical compositions. 

After you learn the scale, you try a short, small, composition using that scale, and you perform the composition.  You don't start learning piano by writing your own compositions (most don't.)  You start learning by performing someone else's compositions. 

Writing is also a performing art, as I have said I learned from my first professional writing teacher, Alma Hill.

I've introduced you to some of the "scales" involved in writing: worldbuilding, conflict, theme, plot, characterization, etc.  And now we're working on "Chopsticks" our first composition, "Dialogue." 

What exactly is dialogue?  Where do you get it? 

In real life, women tend to keep their conversation (not dialogue; that's for fictional characters) farther away from the nose than men do.  Workplace interactions (men or women in the USA) tend to be more on the nose than household interactions.

Of all the topics people converse about, Relationship and especially the Love Relationship, usually stay the farthest off-the-nose.  They have to be off the nose if they are to communicate real, reliable, meaning.

Yep.  The way to be reliably understood is to avoid saying what you mean! 

In other words, in certain circumstances, to communicate you have to say what you mean, and in other circumstances you have to avoid saying what you mean in order to be understood. 

Writers have to take that variation in behavior into account when creating dialogue.

Characters will speak differently to each other depending on where they are and what they're doing, as well as on who they are, and who they are to each other.  Every line of dialogue you create is a synthesis  of all the techniques we've explored so far. 

Perhaps we should coin the term "dialogue-building" because writing dialogue is very much like worldbuilding. 

Dialogue is not a recording of real speech.  Dialogue is to real speech as a Japanese Brush Painting is to a Photograph.  Dialogue is emblematic of speech.  It's symbolic of speech. 

Ultimately, great dialogue gives the firm illusion of real speech. 

The line between a reader and a writer can easily be defined as the line between someone who perceives dialogue as speech, and someone who can see through that illusion to the gears-wheels-and-grease inside the dialogue that creates the illusion of speech.   

People speak to each other because they have something to say -- to that person. 

Many people get upset if you forward something they've written to you on to someone they don't even know (or worse, someone they don't like).  The reaction is, "I would have written it differently if I'd known so-and-so would see it."  People talk that way, too.  Think about how specific our phrasing is in terms of who we expect to see or hear. 

We put our real message, the real information we want another person to believe, in "subtext" not "text."  That's why "keywords" don't really work -- to say something important, you don't use the vocabulary of that subject.  If you use the vocabulary of that subject, then what you are saying will not be believed.  It's the text under the text (the body language, tone of voice, choice of off-topic vocabulary, allusions, associations) that carry the real information.  That tendency to use subtext (to talk with your hands, and blurt "you know" every few words) is the part of communication that a writer must emulate in dialogue but without the "you know" interjections.  (because "you know" you don't really know which is why I'm telling you, "you know?")   

That's why we phrase things we say in a special and different way for each person we talk to.  The "subtext" or "relationship" is different, so the wording must be different. 

Here are some of my posts mentioning subtext:

To maintain the illusion that your characters are real, you must take into account how they would talk differently to this character than to that character.  That variance is learned under the topic of "Characterization." 

Does this character talk to his boss differently than he talks to his father?  If yes, then he's one kind of character.  If no, then he's another. 

Dialogue is not two characters talking to each other -- it's the writer talking to the reader through these two hand-puppets called characters. 

The quality of the dialogue-writing is judged not on what the characters say to each other, but on how firmly the illusion is maintained that the writer does not exist, that the audience does not exist. 

In stagecraft, that's called the Fourth Wall.  It's the wall between the audience and the stage, the transparent wall we look through into this other world where the characters live, but that the characters see as a solid wall.

Break that illusion, and POOF - the rest of your illusions are gone.  All that worldbuilding and arduous suspension of disbelief POOF, GONE.

So how do you maintain this illusion that these characters are talking to each other, not the audience?  You use the set of techniques I've discussed in this blog as "Information Feed." 

Here are four posts specifically discussing this topic, but from other angles.

And you need to employ all the tips and tricks from my posts on the Expository Lump.  You must never use Dialogue for either "Information Feed" or "Exposition" because that breaks the fourth-wall, the illusion that these characters are real people, the illusion that they're talking speech not dialogue. 

Here are some posts on Exposition:

Check out Part 11 of my series on Astrology Just For Writers which was posted on November 1, 2011

Here are some of my previous posts mentioning Dialogue:

Now, to the example that may illuminate all this for you, so you can practice this composition, this "Chopsticks" rendition.

Listen to a great writer (I'm not kidding, this is one terrific writer) play Chopsticks on his characters.

Here is Simon R. Green who has such complete mastery of all these techniques that he probably can't tell you how he does it. 

Here is a list of his more current  titles:

List of Simon R. Green titles

Here's a new series he's doing which uses such blatant "on the nose" dialogue in the most appropriately inappropriate places that you know it's done as broad comedy:

The opening chapter is a great example to learn from.

The characters are a field team of ghost hunters approaching a building and setting up their equipment. 

Green uses dialogue (which for these characters is workplace dialogue and should be "on the nose") to  give you all the worldbuilding exposition and feed you all sorts of information on the characters and their most recent adventures.  But he uses the "on the nose" dialogue to have the characters tell each other things the characters already know (a huge violation of all the rules of dialogue writing).

The genius in this piece is in the rhythm and pacing. 

Green has captured the very essence of the earliest science fiction style of awkward, blatant and even childish dialogue, and he's done it in such a way that you know he knows he's doing it to you on purpose.

He's playing with you, the reader, in a subtle way of buddies.  He telegraphs that he expects you to come into his world and play for a while, just for fun. 

Your Assignment, Should You Decide To Accept It  

Use the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to get the first chapter (or download the Kindle sample). Or better yet, buy the book so you can finish reading the whole thing.  As soon as the characters finish with this building, they're off on yet another assignment that's even more dire.  So you can take this first chapter in isolation and work with it. 

REWRITE that first chapter, pulling all the dialogue off the nose, re-coding the exposition and information feed that's currently inside the dialogue into a combination of a) description, b) narrative c) internalized thoughts d) sensory impressions e) show-don't-tell imagery (you can add things and give the characters "business" with things) f) exposition.

Remember, the 4 kinds of text you find in fiction are:

a) dialogue
b) description
c) narrative
d) exposition

Ideally, each sentence or paragraph should be a smooth mixture of all of those.

Simon R. Green is one of the best writers working in this field today.  I couldn't have produced a piece this exemplary for you to practice on.  This will work for you as a dialogue "Chopsticks" composition to learn on only because it's so incredibly well done. 

This first chapter carefully avoids going "off the nose" even when it would have been easier. 

If you read his other books, (he has several dynamite series going) you'll see he does know how to do what you're just practicing here.   

It doesn't matter how good you already are at dialogue, you can benefit from this exercise.  I was doing this in my head as I read it, and laughing until my ribs hurt. 

Your assignment is to turn this archaic rhythm&pacing exercise into a much more "modern" sounding piece.  And if you can manage it, convert all the comedy into drama, or even horror, inject some Romance (not at all hard considering). 

Change the genre by shifting the dialogue off the nose.  Make up stuff about the characters, make them your own, just as you would if you were playing Chopsticks -- creating a unique rendition all your own just as you would if you were playing Chopsticks for the first time.

You know you have to throw away the result of this exercise -- don't plagiarize -- but play this Chopsticks composition.  Render it to the limits of your abilitiy, and you will grow. 

Just as if you were playing Chopsticks for the very first time, you really don't want anyone to hear or see you do this!  But the results will be visible in your writing forever. 

BTW: I just started reading another new Simon R. Green novel this one in his NIGHTSIDE series - gorgeously executed, solid storytelling, great work.   This is one writer worth studying carefully, on the whole, not just a few pages of one novel. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Targeting the Audience

I’m working on a fantasy romance novella centered around a computer role-playing game, and my first set of critiquer comments started me thinking about how we conceive of a book’s or story’s target audience. Specifically, what can we assume the audience knows prior to reading the piece of fiction? I don’t know much about computer RPGs myself. I play Dungeons and Dragons, tabletop version with dice, but my knowledge of fantasy video games comes from overhearing my husband playing them and listening to his discussions with our sons about games they’ve played. So I thought the terminology I included in the first draft of my story was the sort of thing almost anyone would be familiar with.

Specific example: “VR” for “virtual reality.” The hero and heroine are both computer geeks. In her POV, she naturally thinks “VR,” not the longer phrase. To my surprise, the commenter didn’t recognize this term. I’ve often been chided for over-explaining in my fiction, and I thought this was one point that didn’t need explanation.

In a case like this, can the writer figure that anybody who’d pick up a story whose action occurs mostly inside a computer game would already know such things? Or should an author always write for a general audience that needs explanations for anything non-mundane? Spelling everything out might annoy the target audience, but failing to spell out enough could lose potential casual readers who might otherwise enjoy the story. Nowadays, of course, nobody writes like the erudite authors of past centuries who often quoted long passages in foreign languages with no translations, on the assumption that their readers, being (of course) university-educated, wouldn’t need translations. On the other hand, explaining things most readers already know feels like talking down to them, as well as leading to unnecessary wordiness. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Saint-Germain historical novels lean toward less explanation where background details are concerned. She uses period-accurate terms for clothing, etc., letting the reader infer what kind of garment is being described instead of defining it.

Yes, I know, when in doubt, we should work in bits of information in subtle ways that don’t disrupt the flow of the story. Still, is there a guiding principle on how much background one can reasonably expect of a reader? For instance, murder mysteries have different generic expectations from romance novels, and the author usually expects a reader who picks up a book in one genre or another to be at least somewhat familiar with the genre’s conventions and not balk at, say, a dead body in the library in a mystery or a “cute meet” in a romantic comedy. And I would have expected a habitual reader of fantasy to be familiar with the shade of meaning fans assign to the word “mundane” (another point that puzzled my commenter).

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sizing Up The Competition Part 4 Futurology

 This is Part 4 of the series of posts titled Sizing Up The Competition.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Last week I ended off describing how I'd upgraded my household tech starting with my TV.

I upgraded my household tech this year starting in January with my TV.  I got a Panasonic Viera and hardwired it to my router.  I got a Sony google-tv blu-ray player, and plugged the HD DVR from Cox into one HDMI plug of the TV and the SONY into another of the 3 HDMI plugs on the TV.  And I hardwired the Sony to my router separately from the TV.  So now my router has a wireless connected computer and 2 wired-connected computers on it plus a blu-ray google-tv device plus a Viera TV.  (Viera doesn't offer google TV - this is a hugely complex market but you need to understand it to solve our master puzzle subject here, raising the prestige of Romance genre among the general public.)

The Viera offers access to Netflix (as does the Sony) and some other things I don't use, but Viera's business model is to provide more kinds of online access with time -- I haven't seen any additions this year. 

Here's part of what I learned before, during and after this upgrade, after which I upgraded my computer.

Each one of these accesses provided by Sony or Viera is a business deal, and online Web content providers are really reluctant to cut these deals.

Almost all the bizmodels of content providers doing business with Viera or Sony are "subscription based" -- like Netflix.  You need to make an account with a user and password, and use that to access your netflix account which then charges your credit card for whatever you get from netflix.

That's why I got both the Sony and the Viera access for my TV.  Nobody offers everything.

The Sony has google TV which uses a built in Chrome browser.  Other than that browser which cruises the internet, your only access is what they provide by contract. 

I can access Amazon Prime and all its streaming movies and TV shows, with the Viera TV (you do that by registering the TV's online ID number with amazon so their computer recognizes your logon.)  It seemed complicated to me. 

The google TV is the powerhouse device, the one you should watch carefully -- though for bizmodel reasons, google-TV is being out-competed at the moment, and not making enough money yet.

So I didn't think I needed a ROKU device or any of those headaches.  I'd already ached my head enough to understand that I can see on my TV a lot of what is available on the web but not everything unless I hook up a laptop to the TV (I got the cable to do that). 

GOOGLE internet access via the Sony blu-ray player hooked to the TV has certain commercial stations blacked out -- you can't use google search to get into the TV network URLs that provide access to proprietary TV shows they deliver on the web because those networks wouldn't do deals with google. I also had tech issues with the Sony blu-ray switching back and forth to Google Chrome.  It crashes and has to be rebooted. 

And as I mentioned above, Cox Cable has gotten into this web-delivery model to compete with Viera and Google TV. 

In other words, Cox sized up the competition in the way that the big publishers have not (yet). At the moment, Cox Cable has an "app" for the iPad that lets you access a small handful of stations on the iPad, but only when it's on your home internet connection.  It doesn't work on the iPhone or iPod. 

So when Beck offered 2 weeks free to test out his new network,, I fired up my Sony and googled up and to my surprise I was able to WATCH A REAL-TIME WEBCAST!!!  (nevermind what antics he was up to!  It's irrelevant.  It's the fiction delivery system that's being remade here.)

I should post here an iPod photo of me with my jaw on my belt-buckle but I was too stunned to make one. 

Since Beck was selling the Roku headache, I really didn't expect the Google-TV connection to work, just the way Google tv users can't get at the USA network TV shows online. 

But it did work.   The webcast is HD, but doesn't fill my 42" screen side to side -- it's a squarish patch in the middle like the non-HD channels.  It's good color, movements don't blur, the picture is in every way acceptable though the sound is a bit dimmer than the cable sound.  But the TV's sound tuner was able to bring the sound up to comfort levels.

The picture didn't jump and lag as streaming often does.  He's carrying some commercials already, and will probably add more with time.  The really big bucks he invested was in that smooth-HD picture delivery, and he has a couple of cameras and a very competent crew, but in the first week they had a number of snafus and gliches like microphones and teleprompters coming unplugged.  The set he had built also cost more than the one he had on Fox, but that's a one-time investment he'll monetize. 

My best information at the moment indicates it cost him about 25 million to launch this venture, but within the first week he was out-drawing Oprah.  Yeah, Glenn Beck bigger than Oprah.  Think about that very hard because Oprah's audience is far closer to the typical Romance readership than Glenn's.  Oprah's stuck on cable, Glenn isn't.  Where did that marketing consultant (read the previous parts of this series) say his contemporaries are?  The web, not cable TV. 

Can you write a Romance novel using ONE set?  3 or 4 characters, 1 set, webisodes.  That's the toe in the door our project to elevate the perception of Romance needs. 

So I'm warning you, get yourself some sort of hookup of your TV to your internet, unless of course you really prefer your computer screen or tablet screen.  Another alternative is to get a really big computer monitor and hook that up to TV (lots of people doing that). 

Oh, and with both the Viera and the Sony I can access YouTube directly.  Do you see the POTENTIAL for Romance writers? Do you remember the coffee commercials that told a little story about neighbors borrowing coffee, getting to know each other?  Study the delivery system evolution carefully. 

Beck has rigged to deliver to iPods, iPhones, and iPads -- I downloaded the app for my iPod and it works just fine to bring up an episode of the Beck show (don't try to sit through the whole thing).  Do you see the potential? 

I think he'll expand the delivery modes and methods as budget allows -- he's going for the big time here, and I suspect he can become bigger than he ever was on Fox, considering how shrewd a businessman he is (again, nevermind WHAT he says, watch what he does.)

But BIG is no longer the bizmodel.  CUSTOMIZED is, just like Toffler predicted. 

Beck is customizing his product for a very specific, narrowly defined audience and pleasing that audience beyond their wildest expectations.  It's the narrowness of his focus that causes that intense pleasure.

His audience is not our audience (mostly, anyway).  But that doesn't matter.  If he gets people to hook up their TV's to the internet, he's giving us all the other members of that household, isn't he?

I'm telling you, watch what this guy is doing!  Pay attention to how he frames his message to his audience, figure out the business model and watch it morph over the next year.

Compare that, if you can find the time, to what Oprah is doing and how well she's succeeding at it.

Now, go back and check the beginning of Part 1 in this series on Sizing Up The Competition and tell me if I made my point.  Do you understand what I'm talking about and why I'm talking about it on a blog about writing craft techniques?

Can you now write an essay on what studying Glenn Beck's business model has to do with succeeding in the future of the Romance field, all aside from the concept that if you study his content you'll have plenty of firey inspiration for rich, deep, complex themes.  That inspiration would be useful only if you're not too tongue-tied by what he says to articulate the components of those themes. 

Another attribute of Beck's impact on his audience is the way he slices and dices a subject.  He admits he's trying to make the bits and pieces digestible for his audience.  I seriously doubt that's his own work.  He's got someone working for him who creates these essays or monologues.  That person's thinking style (not conclusions) is the key discipline behind creating novels with complex themes so deep that the reader doesn't know the novel even has a theme. 

Deep and rich thematic material is already native to your thinking.  But there's a writing craft trick to taking your own rich thinking apart into its components, then restructuring the ideas so you can hang a story on them without the skeleton showing.  We'll get at more of that next year. 

And don't forget to sign up for notification of what the twitter founders are doing.   

And I'm assuming you've investigated  and know all you want to know about Apple TV.  I've heard Apple will be coming out with an internet-ready TV set, no device to attach.  At this time, people use these things mostly to access movies (or old TV shows) on Amazon or Netflix which are Apple-TV's competition.  Again, each of these sources owns proprietary rights in certain products (movies, TV shows, originals).  Beck is producing his own original stuff you can't get anywhere else.  (News shows, kids shows, comedy shows, Features, new originals by subscription only). 

Netflix reported a larger drop in DVD-only subscribers than they had expected after raising prices steeply this year.  They're after the "streaming" customers, but aren't really getting the growth they expected.  They are on Viera and Google TV and Roku.

The bottleneck as demonstrated by comments on Beck's trying to sell Roku devices to his audience, is the technology. 

The slim percentage of tech-savvy won't stand for being locked away from the functionality they desire.

They hack their cell phones to get the kind of device they want onto the network they want to subcribe to. 

Here's a YouTube video of how to hack the current Apple TV (a device like Roku that you attach to your TV; you can buy the device on Amazon for about $100, but like cell phones and Google TV, it comes with "blocks" that keep you away from some information streams) in order to get to your Hulu streaming TV show account. 
You do subscribe to, don't you?  There's a free level and a Plus, or fee based level of Hulu subscription. 

Hulu links with the Roku device -- so you can indeed get to your Hulu que via Roku and watch your shows on your TV without cable or satellite subscription.  But, you see, the Roku/Hulu connection is a "deal" they make behind the scenes, and in order to get Hulu on Roku, you have to subscribe to Hulu Plus, which costs a continuing fee. 

Here's a page where you can see all the devices that can connect you to Hulu, including Apple.

But it doesn't include my Viera Panasonic TV or my Sony/Google-TV.

This is so reminiscent of the beginnings of AOL when it was a dial-up service with local numbers everywhere, but once you got online, all you could access was items AOL itself provided to you, not the whole internet that was outside AOL's sandbox.  

Now, remember the question we started with, a deep, far-reaching philosophical question that can generate limitless numbers of rich, complex themes to hang a Romance on:

It can be argued that the whole animal kingdom is at war, and it's all based on sexuality.  OK, it's a stretch to blame microbe-wars on sexuality since they don't have any, but still they eat each other.

The thesis is that violence is inherent in primate nature.  Violence is necessary to ensure that the strongest among us mate and proliferate the most. 

Is this format/contract game of keep-away and the violent fighting back (hacking your this to make it do that) an example of human sexuality properly expressing itself in competition to the point of annihilation of another group's (corporation's) physical resources so its own progeny will survive and proliferate?

Wars, throughout primate history, have centered on resources such as water, food, forests, then minerals like copper, iron, tin, finally oil.  Is information the next resource to trigger wars?

Have you been following the Middle East conflicts at all?  Do you know that the Israeli/Palestinian border conflict over the "West Bank" is about water aquifers?  If the Palestinians win, Israel hasn't enough water to support it's population and they die or leave.  If the Israelis win, Israel has the water and the Palestinians don't.  If they try to co-exist in the same area, they end up killing each other.  Is that human nature that can't be changed, or a problem to be solved by Love (as in Love Conquers All)?

"Water" is a wonderful symbol for "fiction" or "entertainment."  Or even for "information."

"Water" is a symbol for emotion, and fiction or entertainment both deliver an emotional charge.  Laughter is often proved to be "the best medicine" -- and it's an entertainment commodity. 

"Information" is also a "water" symbol because getting information produces the satisfaction of curiosity, an emotion. 

So these "proprietary devices" which limit your access to this or that stream of fiction, entertainment, or information, are an opening gambit in hostilities against the consumer -- and the answer is to hack the device and make it deliver what you want from it.  The counterstrike will be more hack-proof devices, or escalating legal penalties -- or some hostile regulation that requires companies to give away their product instead of getting paid for it.

It's "White Collar" violence (like the TV Show White Collar instead of, for example, the TV show Alphas or Burn Notice) but it's definitely a violence of a kind, a sublimated violence.

The Business World and the world of Games reflect each other.  People say business is based on Football, but I wonder if Business and Football are both rooted in that zero-sum-game competition for water, food, forests, etc:  the competition for the means for survival of me, mine, and my progeny. 

The Romance writer knows the power of raw, violent sex scenes.  There is something very primal there.  But is that primate-primal or Human-Love-Primal?  Or is one dependent on the other?

Questions like that lead to "rich, deep, thematic structures" as you apply "show don't tell" to them.

According to that marketing guru's consultant I pointed you to earlier in this Sizing Up The Competition series, the internet and the Web have significantly changed how younger people assess the threat of another person - how they size up the competition.

At the same time, there's been a cognitive shift away from using the mental shortcuts our ancestors always relied on to identify another human as a threat - race, color, village of origin, or just plain stranger.  That's a survival shortcut, kill first ask questions later.

You, as a Romance writer in SFR or PNR or any sub-genre, must write for the children of the current twenty-somethings, using that rapidly changing method of sizing up the competition, of identifying and nullifying threats.

To understand them better than they understand themselves, you need to experience their interface with the technological platform on which they are building tools to assess or nullify threats.

That's why I'm talking about Roku and Hulu and Amazon Prime and Apple TV and Netflix and this next venture by the founders of twitter 

These ventures and a half a dozen others I've encountered (maybe more than that) are all duking it out for the direct channel to you, the potential subscriber. 

One of them will be willing to carry a dramatic product of yours (a story in pictures, video, screenplay) to their subscribers. 

But so far none of them reach "everybody" - not even Facebook!  People get leery and shy away.

So we look at this field and we see "competition" to the level of escalating white-collar violence.  But are we really seeing something else?  Is this actually not competition at all but rather Customization of the sort Alvin Toffler described in his non-fiction book Future Shock?

Is it delivery-systems competing for audiences?  Or is it audiences competing for delivery systems?

Are audiences competing against each other for the scarce resource of fiction-delivery or information-delivery? 

That thing I talked about delivers video of Glenn Beck sitting before a big microphone doing his RADIO show. Lots of "radio" shows these days do a video posted to the web which consists of the talk show host talking into a (super-huge) microphone.  You even see such "radio" on TV, (Imus In The Morning for example). 

Why is Beck joining these people, web/podcasting an image of himself (and others in the room) doing a radio broadcast, webcast?   

Well, it's drawing an audience WATCHING him talk on the radio.

Why?  Whywhywhy?  Is it his content? 

It doesn't seem so to me because I've recently seen a big increase in the number of podcasts and videos of exactly this same format of radio show on a huge variety of subjects including talk shows about books.

Here's one source created by a friend of mine, Lillian Caldwell: 

That's a web-radio station she started but it's undergone a number of name and URL changes, tech upgrades, proliferation of shows MC'd by different people, and an ever growing number of "hits" or downloads or life streaming listeners.  The focus is on talk about books, author interviews, and listener interactions. 

Currently, the statistics stand like this:

Total listener base is 760,000.  Up 200,000 since 2010.  The station receives 34,000 downloads per day.  196 countries listen to the station on a daily basis.  Youngest listener is 13.  Oldest listener is 97. 

And it delivers a quality product much appreciated by the listeners, creating growing fame.  The radio station was invited by the 2011 International Miami Book Festival in late November to do remote streaming  & interviewing of their authors, publishers, & agents, and other activities going on.  PWRTALK (or Power Talk -- one of the newest names of this endeavor) is the only Internet talk radio station invited.

Passionate World Radio, Inc.  is another way this same endeavor is known.  That name changing happens because as it grows, it needs more succinct URLs and references.  The work Lillian Caldwell has been doing has been gaining prestige. 

Lillian was in Miami November 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, & 21st.  for the Festival, and they also invited her to participate with the delegation from China, take part in their Comic & Graphic Novel Section, and with their youth group.  She's took an intern to work with her crew which includes a videographer plus one other host from Washington, DC to help interview.  Plans included an interview with Al  Gore as well.

If you have a published book and would want to be interviewed on this web-radio station, email

Somehow radio - especially via the web now - has burgeoned, and the most popular shows are talk-shows, information shows, discussion and opinion shows that consist not of actors telling a story but of a few people sitting before over-sized microphones doing a words-only presentation. 

What do the people doing discussion table video podcasts know that we don't know? 

They are usually start-up entrepreneurs -- not well funded like Beck -- who enter the fray of massive competition and painstakingly gather an audience, customizing their product to the audience rather than trying to be all things to all people.

But they compete for audience-share, for advertising revenue, and try to create a viable business in a field that's changing as fast as the 20-somethings become replaced by the former teens. 

Study this roiling turmoil of shifting delivery system channels carefully.  Study the multimillion dollar start-ups and the $200 start-ups.  Study the few-thousand-dollar a year operations.

As the marketer's consultant pointed out, young people are assessing threats in new ways, using new tools, drawing new conclusions.

Many of these twenty-somethings don't own a television set, a landline telephone, or cable or satellite service and have no ambition to ever do so.  The significance of that has not been adequately assessed by the traditional publishers. 
I suggest you assess it.

"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

If you're the canary, you stalk that tiger. 

Wellll -- so I talked myself into it writing this and bought a Roku.  It displays the Beck show FULL SCREEN on my HD TV.  Full screen, not a patch in the middle of the screen.  It also has a few channels of offerings the other services don't have.  It has a channel that offers low-budget amateur films, Vimeo, which doesn't require another subscription as Beck's GBTV.COM does.  Vimeo may be on the other services too, but I didn't notice it.  It has a classical opera/symphony channel.  You just buy the Roku ($50-$100).  You don't pay a subscription to use the Roku, but still Netflix and the others all require a subscription which you sign up for and activate on your computer, then go to your TV and enter a code into the Roku connection. 

The competition in this biz is cut-throat and ferocious - more tiger than canary.  Very hungry tiger.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Announcing the SFR Holiday Blitz Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the great reads offered on this (alien romances) blog. They are, in no particular order:




Winners, if your profile does not link to an email address (Peta, Ayla) please post a comment marked PRIVATE and write in your email address. All comments on this blog are moderated and your address will not show up.

Thank you to everyone who entered, and good luck with the other contests in the SFR Holiday event.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Colonizing Other Planets

In the December LOCUS, author Charles Stross pours ice water on a well-established SF trope, extraterrestrial colonization. In his view, colonization (as opposed to simple exploration) of other planets is almost impossible. After a comment about the lethal qualities of even the terrestrial environment for most of Earth’s history, he remarks, “Even now, if you dropped an unprotected human on Earth in a random location, then 90% of them would die. This is because you will have dropped them on an ice cap, or in the ocean. Only about 10% of our planet’s surface area in the current epoch is habitable—even with protective clothing, equipment, and techniques.” I’m reminded of the conversation in Heinlein’s FARMER IN THE SKY where the young narrator tells his father about skeptics who maintain that Ganymede shouldn’t be colonized because it’s not a natural habitat for human beings. His father replies that neither is Los Angeles. Without advanced technology, southern California would support only a tiny fraction of its present population.

Stross denies the common fictional assumption that a colony on another planet could support human life, even in an enclosed habitat, with only a source of oxygen and a way of growing food. He highlights the fact that the micronutrients in the plants and animals we eat depend on the nourishment those organisms absorb from the life forms they consume, and so on all the way down the food chain. To ensure our long-term survival, we couldn’t just raise a select group of plant and animal species in a greenhouse; we’d have to bring along their entire ecosystem. We don’t know enough about the micronutrients we need for life to take short cuts. He contrasts biosphere experiments that have run for a year or less with the demands of supporting a civilization for centuries.

I’d never thought of the colonization problem in these terms. Here’s one of his essays on the topic, although most of it deals with the sheer difficulty of getting people to habitable planets in any reasonable time span. There are lots of interesting comments below his post:

High Frontier Redux

What do you think? Is Stross’s pessimism justified?

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sizing Up The Competition Part 3 Romancing The Web

As you can see, from most of my blog entries here, but especially Parts 1 & 2 of this Sizing Up The Competition series:

...I obviously spend a lot of time thinking about Love and Romance and how they relate to each other.  One place I study this relationship is on Amazon, among the reader commentaries. 

On amazon, I see a generational divide gaping wider.

Now, please remember the essence of the science fiction/fantasy fan is the retention of the Child-like Sense of Wonder far into adulthood.  That's CHILD-LIKE not childish.  It's a canary attitude.  Remember the canary from part 1 of this "Sizing up the Competition" series.

So we can't really parse this readership by age-group alone.  The science fiction/Paranormal Romance reader can be any age -- and each age contains all the other ages. 

Many SF/F fans are extremely mature even as pre-teens, and many middle aged fans love to read YA novels.  They may not get the same charge out of it that they once did, but from an older perspective they get a different, equally potent, affirmation of life. 

That demographic fact has confounded the major publishers ever since I can remember.  As far as I can tell, they're more confounded now than ever, and amazon is just making it worse for them.  Do read that "sleeping with the enemy" blog I linked in a previous part -- here it is again:.

On the other hand, there is a definite shift in the way huge numbers of people look at the world, at each other, and at the relationship among people. 

Here is a blog entry that defines the generation gap in terms of age and experience of Relationship.

This marketer, John Carlton, asked a young friend how young people size each other up these days -- what they look at among a person's possessions and connections, their choices on how to spend money, and their preferences in music, to tell whether to establish a relationship with that person.

The generational difference that the young consultant pinpointed was simply being "at home" on the web.

The internet, more even than the cell phone and texting, has caused a major shift in how people evaluate each other.

Your online footprint reveals as much, maybe more, about you as was once revealed by your book shelves and record collection. 

I noted that in sizing people up before entering a relationship, there was little emphasis on how a person dresses, their physical attractiveness or ethnicity. 

Now, the marketer was after a general impression, but here we're focused more on how people size up another person with respect to possible romantic, love-and-marriage, relationships and/or sexual potential.

"First impressions are lasting" as they say (which is very true) and apparently today's first impression is your web-presence, what sites you interact on, and who you "friend" or connect with in circles. 

The consultant pointed out that the world has changed in such a way that young people don't have what I call a "universe of discourse" in common now.  There are no particular songs or singers that "everyone who is anyone" follows.  There are no books or authors that everyone knows.  There's just nothing that "everyone" has in common to create an "everyone." 

As I've pointed out in previous posts this lack of the common experience is a stealthy but major change that few are taking seriously enough. 

I've been thinking that a lot of this fragmentation is not so much due just to the Web or Cable TV with hundreds of channels, plus games.  I've begun to suspect it's simply a result of population growth.  I recall a statistic from a study of Twitter that indicated that humans just can't solidify associations with more than about 1,000 people, and even that's a stretch.  500 or so is a real inflection point.

The world of 3-TV-networks that don't even broadcast all night, so that "everyone" watches one of the 3 eight-o'clock shows, is gone.  Long ago, studies of rush-hour highway traffic and the cost of building more lanes or more roads caused businesses to "stagger" work hours so people don't all hit the road at the same minute.  Even so, we still waste gas and health on traffic jams.  Maybe that's just population growth. 

Our entire economic system depends for its health on "growth" -- if the economy doesn't "grow" we are in dire straits.  Why is that?  Are we alligators or sharks that we never stop growing until we die?  Statistics indicate the number of new jobs that must be created because of the number of new people entering the workforce, and so the economy must grow or there won't be enough jobs for everyone.  But now we've reached an inflection point where the baby-boomers are retiring.  Will the workforce shrink rather than grow despite the number of young people looking for jobs?  Has our population (in the USA) topped out at 308,745,538 (census bureau as of 2010)? 

That's double 1950's statistic of 1950  152,271,417

Here's a portrait of 1964 which I assembled while working on my Memoirs for a publisher who wants the book sooner rather than later.

Color television makes its way into U.S. homes.
April 24, 1964, Socorro UFO sighting by a Policeman makes folks wonder anew.  Forgotten Roswell incident resurrected.
India Mourning Nehru, 74, Dead of a Heart Attack
June 1964 Civil Rights Bill Passed, 73-27
July 1964 Ranger Takes Close-Up Moon Photos gaining data on Landing Site for Man
Gal of gas costs 30 cents
USA Pop 191,888,791 (that's from a website )
More has changed than just the number of people crammed into the same USA borders.  We now import about 60% of our food supply (I heard that on TV last year; it might not be accurate now). 

Before World War II, we were net exporters of food and energy.  When war hit, we invented nylon and other synthetics because we couldn't import enough rubber to field our war vehicles with tires and gaskets and provide silk stockings for the women who marched out to fill in the work force as the men left to be grunts for the military.  So women wore nylons (with seams up the back and garter belts).  

We invented synthetics (mostly made from our abundant oil) because the natural sources of materials couldn't keep up with demand.  Then the baby boomer population continued to increase demand, so more synthetic materials (plastics in particular!) became marketable to fill the demand for buttons (formerly made of ivory or bone). 

It's all about competition, the Tiger and the Canary.  Tigers and Canaries are two different species, one living on the ground the other in the trees.  They could get along fine.  We humans are all one species and we all want the exact same living space, climate, easy abundant food and energy -- and materials for satin sheets and sexy clothing.  And we're competing hard for jobs and mates! 

Is the rise of infidelity (if there is a rise) due to that competition for a mate in close quarters, but in a teaming mass of people where it's hard to tell one from another?  Is Romance being killed off by sexuality?  If so, why?  If not, why?  (lots of novels in those essay questions)

Now go to and look up the popular films from the 1960's, check out the way Romance was portrayed.  See if you can find sales statistics and box office statistics on the Romance genre.  And all the while, takes notes for your next novel. 

The internet and the web 2.0 interactivity that I've discussed many times here is the real dividing line not just in the skills people bring to the workplace, not just in how people buy books or consume film and TV, but in how people actually choose a mate.

And I don't mean computerized dating services.  As this young marketing consultant pointed out, people raised with Facebook and Twitter, with blogs and texting, and social networking aggregators, with "feeds" and google, look at each other differently. 

That difference has to be affecting what seems plausible in a romantic encounter. 

I wrote about the now classic film You've Got Mail here:

And there's more to come.  In fact, it's happening as you read this.  There is an explosion of creativity being unleashed by the web, connecting people, engaging people in cooperative endeavors during which they "hook up" one way or another.

The co-founders of twitter want to back a new web-based venture that they envision, according to an interview with them I saw on television during Worldcon 2011, will connect people in new ways that twitter could not.

Here's where to sign up to be notified when they launch this thing -- which they aren't discussing yet in detail.

Note that it's not a "dot-com" URL.

The biggest surge of life-altering, perception-altering change that I'm seeing now is in the online video community.

YouTube was the ground-breaker, like twitter, and it's still going big time.  The most popular videos now approach professional quality production.

On twitter, and LinkedIn, and other social networks I've found a large number of folks "crowd-sourcing" the financing for low budget films.  Yes, I know you know about all that, but the significance of this development is much bigger than anyone has guessed.

The significance for the romance and science fiction market is huge.  This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and the young people who have grown up with this new method of assessing new associates from afar are the ones poised to exploit this opportunity.

There's a new application to all this as well.  For five or even ten years there has been a growing presence on the web of video presentations.  Now, though, we are seeing the launch of professional scale ventures using the web as a platform.

The 2008 and 2010 election cycles saw web-sourcing of funding and Facebook page "like" counts for candidates burgeoning.  I expect the 2012 cycle will find the web even more significant.  Already, the primary candidates are dueling on YouTube.

Every product imaginable (including novels) are now pitched with short YouTube video advertisements.  They're on every commercial page you visit - just roll your mouse over and a little video pops up. 

But here's the big development of major significance to Romance writers, especially those just starting out and enthusiastically mixing other genres into Romance. 


Not just little videos or advertisements, not just a movie or TV type Star Trek episode.  I'm talking about the genesis of an entire "network" -- or maybe "station"  or "channel" -- but I think it's going to become a network with lots of channels carrying the network shows and presenting "local" shows.

I'm talking about  -- yeah, the Glenn Beck exclusive subscription only channel.

Before you start jumping around and screaming, take a deep breath and dismiss the nature of the content from your mind.

We're business people here, and we're talking business model in a world where the 1964 writer's business model has collapsed (maybe because of population growth; maybe not).  Nobody missed the collapse of Borders bookstore chain this year, did they? You've all bought a Kindle Fire or Color Nook?   Now Amazon Prime (film/TV/fast-delivery) has added a free!!! ebook borrowing opportunity.  Publishers have to opt-in and get an advertisement or two tossed into the package -- and authors get paid if their book is borrowed -- but free for an annual fee for Prime.  Think business model, competition, and don't forget to think mating.  Mating spawns new growth. 

Publishing is poof-gone!  The traditional publishers are dinosaurs and, judging by the major, pro-active discontent among widely published authors, the publishers are finally getting the message.

Amazon's growth, proliferation into publishing, diversification, and international footprint have made that insignificant little online bookstore called Amazon the worst enemy and darkest nightmare of Manhattan's paper-based establishment.

Think again about that change in the way younger people assess others for potential relationships.  Amazon allows you to "share" wishlists and purchases, gossip in forums, every social tool there is! 

Think hard about that generation gap and the economic woes as the baby boomers retire.  The baby boomers didn't grow up on the web, they grew up with it.  Heck, they invented it. 

A new generation is finding uses for the Web that shatter the very foundations of society, maybe our entire civilization. 

"When you have a tiger by the tail, there's only one thing to do.  Swarm aboard and ride it." 

Almost at the same time that Glenn Beck launched his venture (it's not only his show; he's doing children's programming, comedy, and a huge charity venture too!)  the Oprah Winfrey cable network lost some major stars and reported dismal quarterly results.  Beck now has a bigger audience that Oprah.  When the goosebumps that idea gave you subside, think hard about what it means in terms of the mating game and competition. 

Cable TV in general has been falling off drastically in the number of viewers who watch any given show.  Cox Cable now provides (for no additional cost) access via the web for subscribers to watch TV episodes and movies -- pretty much trying to compete with Amazon Prime streaming TV, but only some content is available via the web.

Now think about the 16 year old's "Coming Out Party" from the Steampunk/Victorian era.  Girls have traditionally been "marketed" on the "marriage market" and competition has always been fierce.  

Re-read that young marketing consultant's comments.  People who live on the web, just don't have any given piece of fiction or music in common -- there's too much, the audiences have scattered. Yet marketers continue to try to use "social networking" to get these loosely interlaced circles to tell each other about products, to create or unify a market. 

The "Christian Mingle" online dating service advertises they gained more than a million subscribers last year. 

Did you see Microsoft unveiling their Windows 8 platform, designed to compete with touchscreen Apple devices such as iPod, iPhone and iPad?  It makes your desktop more like your hand-held. The iPhone 5 is reputed to be designed for a larger screen.  Consumer's Reports feature article on Cell Phones indicated none of them are good at voice.  Texting and Data is how people communicate now. 

Did you see how schools are equiping kids with iPads?  Schools are raising money for this technology upgrade by asking kids to solicit donations from friends and relatives. 

You're a writer.  Your task in this life is to connect the dots and make a picture of the world for your readers. In SF or Paranormal Romance, you need a dash of futurology.  Extrapolate where these trends are going next.  Keep an eye on that population statistic. 

Connect the dots I've highlighted in these 3 parts of Sizing Up The Competition.

There are lots of dots, and no two writers will make the same connections, display the same picture.

Broadcast networks are GONE.  Blockbuster Video is GONE.  Borders bookstore chain is GONE.  Large scale conglomerate-owned publishers are GONE or going.  Mass market is GONE, sales shrinking while e-books sales grow (and I haven't even talked about audiobooks, which my novels are now entering).

Listen to that marketer's consultant -- young people will not now and probably never will, form a "mass" of anything. 

Mass production may be GONE as Toffler predicted.  We are moving to customized production, not mass production -- though the statistics don't show that yet. If you wait until they show it to write your novel, you'll be too late! 

Mass EMPLOYMENT is likewise a dinosaur.  This generation coming out of college this year is the second generation headed for a life where "career" is not "get a job, keep it, retire."  This is a generation of job-hoppers raised by job-hoppers and ladder-climbers, and it will become the "self-employed" generation.

Remember "climbing the corporate ladder" meant moving your family from place to place for 20 years, so your kids had no continuity of associates, schools, or even state-requirements for graduation from high school.  Those corporate kids are now raising kids. 

So we have a second rootless generation now getting set to raise a generation that lives on the Web!

What do you want to bet "marrying the boy next door" will become "marrying my best Facebook bud?" 

Homeschooled kids best friends are web-acquaintances -- oh, yeah, and iPhone now makes facetalk a generally available way to associate, though the sound isn't so good. 

If you are going to write Romance with rich, deep, complex themes so that the novels you produce become cross-generation classics that last a hundred years and gain vast respect among non-Romance readers -- then you must write for this next rootless generation of Web-buddies, and for the kids they will raise, and for the next generation those kids will raise.

You must make the past of the Victorian era, the 1930's and the 1960's etc accessible, comprehensible, and respectable to those raised in the 21st century.

Even if you wrote such a masterpiece, or a series of them, how would you reach this fragmented generation?

Observe what happens with Glenn Beck's venture -- NOT the content, the business model. He's leaving Manhattan for the lower-tax, more business friendly Texas.  Could it be Manhattan is too expensive for web-TV?  Could that be the deathnell of the BIG CITY living-model? 

Watch what works, what doesn't, what they're copying, what they're emulating, and how they make money at it. Especially watch where they advertise and how much they spend on that.

Watch what happens to Oprah's cable venture, and figure out why. 

Watch for things like this: 

I met one of the fellows behind that one on Facebook through the actor who's reading the Sime~Gen novels for production -- whom I met on twitter.  It's ALL social networking, folks! 

Here's what I'm seeing right now.  

Beck beat the drum on his Web TV launch for months, with a subscriber price of $100/year (about the same as Amazon Prime) for access to all he presents.  ($50 for about half what he's doing online).

But as the launch date approached, all of a sudden he started offering a gadget to connect your TV to his show via the internet -- assuming you have high speed internet at home.  -- he's pitching the Roku device.

I tried it.  It's the same kind of deal as google-TV or Viera -- you see a screen full of little squares with logos of subscription services, click from your remote control, find a list of programs offered by that subscription service.  Some are free with ads, some cost an additional annual fee (most all require a signup routine using a computer or suffering through a signup using the half-assed remote control).   Netflix, as you've all heard, raised their fee and lost subscribers.  Now it's tottering on the stock market.  Find out where those subscribers went.  (Amazon Prime is one possibility, Roku another, Hulu is on most of the services that Netflix is on).  They're all "competing for a mate" now!   

If you read the comments on the roku installation somewhere on that website, you'll see not everyone can master it, make it work -- a lot of people were disgusted with the tricky-tech.  I didn't like it, but it only took me about an hour to make it work.  It produces good HD, better than Sony's service. 

I'm not ready to drop cable TV yet, but I can see the economic squeeze making people choose, and they will choose to maintain an internet connection rather than both TV and internet, if they must. 

You have to understand the desperate fervor among Beck's followers.  They are starving for more of the kind of show he put on Fox at 5PM eastern -- so he's now doing 2-hours instead of 1 hour, and he's starting at 5PM eastern, complete with studio audience, replicating the show that drew the largest cable audience and made everyone who follows audience-share statistics panic (which is why they attacked him, not really for his content, but because people listened to that content in preference to other advertising supported content -- business model, remember?)

So even this audience of younger people and older people who just can't cut the tech of installing Roku, want this content, but were not subscribing in sufficient numbers for computer-only apparently.  (or why would he offer a headache like Roku?)  Sales statistics last Christmas were showing "flatscreen tv" as a big item moving briskly and most of them have a plug to connect you to the internet via your household router. 

I upgraded my household tech this year starting in January with my TV.  I got a Panasonic Viera and hardwired it to my router (it's now on wireless to my router).  I got a Sony google-tv blu-ray player, and plugged the HD DVR from Cox into one HDMI plug of the TV and the SONY into another of the 3 HDMI plugs on the TV.  And I hardwired the Sony to my router separately from the TV.  So now my router has a wireless connected computer and 2 wired-connected computers on it plus a blu-ray google-tv device plus a Viera TV.  (Viera doesn't offer google TV - this is a hugely complex market but you need to understand it to solve our master puzzle subject here, raising the prestige of Romance genre among the general public.)

I now have a Roku plugged into the "Game" plug for my TV.  This is called market-research for a reason -- you have to look at markets and figure out what flies where.  

The Viera offers access to Netflix (as does the Sony and Roku) and some other things I don't use, but Viera's business model is to provide more kinds of online access with time -- I haven't seen any additions this year. Roku has a variety of offerings I don't see elsewhere. 

Next week we'll explore the fragmentation of the "audience" and the way content providers (like you, the writer) are spinning in bewilderment but boldly and heroically chasing that audience, or attracting new audiences, out-building or maybe out-competing their forebears. 

The Fiction Delivery System has changed.

You must understand those changes to take advantage of them to deliver your stories to your specific audience. 

But better yet would be to anticipate (as in the science fiction writer's mainstay, futurology) the future changes, so you can position your fiction where it can't be missed by the evolving system.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg