Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Settings Part 2

Last week we had a Guest Post by J. H. Bogran who introduced the topic of Settings.


Considering this blog focuses on Science Fiction and Fantasy both -- with a plot based on Romance -- we have spent a lot of time focused on Worldbuilding, i.e. creating the setting from scratch.

You can go to any planet, any universe, any reality, any time -- it's a lot.  You start with an amorphous nothing -- just like in Genesis it says In The Beginning a void. 

When we start to write, we are in a void, with darkness on the face of our very deep minds.

And we have to create and cast a light into that darkness, form solid ground for ourselves.

We have started with worldbuilding, but each World you Build has many Settings in which you may place your story.

In our excursion into Worldbuilding we also covered Theme-Plot Integration and within that topic we examined a number of political issues.

The strange thing with politics is how it controls everything in the worlds we build -- we just don't have to deal with it by name.

However, we have an opportunity coming up in 2016 when the USA will once again have an "open" election -- without an incumbent President, so debate will be furious. 

This is an opportunity to market a novel with a Political setting, and I think I've found one you can exploit to the good of the Romance market. 

We all live in an Internet dominated environment, and the e-book is the least of it all.  Romance is all about Relationships, and mobile devices are bringing Relationship a whole new meaning. 

Here are a couple of links to articles related to decisions being made "behind the scenes" in your world, decisions that affect you, and could affect you and your Mate in different ways causing conflict and story to happen.

Here's one that's probably NOT TRUE -- nevermind, we're building a fictional world, so ignore the plausibility of this extremely dubious source. 


Here is an article (rivaling some of my longest posts here) digging into every detail behind this one about Obama's nomination for CIA chief, and there are at least 5 novels worth of international intrigue material buried inside this extremely well documented examination of the accuser's background and the accused -- and others involved peripherally.


And here's one that obliquely relates to the CIA Chief choice:


That is a story on how, due to technical issues of having old hardware running our current Mexican border sensor-net, we can't replace the worn out sensors handily because the new technology doesn't match the old.  (just think of when you get a new computer -- you need a new modem, a new router -- and then you need new "devices" that can use your new router).  In five years, your equipment is so old you can not replace it piecemeal and expect good performance. 

Here's a quote from the article:
According to CBP, it hasn’t been canceled outright — but it has been delayed for much, if not most, of 2013. The problem: The sensors can’t talk to the rest of the tech along the border. “We’ve determined that we need to resolve issues with saturated radio frequencies, limited bandwidth and system integration with the existing CBP infrastructure,” Jenny Burke, a public affairs officer with CBP, tells Danger Room. The agency will try again to replace its aging sensors “within the next six to nine months.”
-------------END QUOTE--------

OK, now one of your protagonists works for the CIA directly under this new Chief who has just been appointed and has no clue what's going on (or worse, is convinced of things that are in fact not true), and the other is a Border Security officer who really understands the Situation. 

According to the article, on the Border, officers are in harm's way because of the false-positives thrown by the worn out sensors.  Harm's way?  Hmmm, definitely plot material in there. 

What do you suppose happens next? 

What if one of your protagonists becomes a Ghost?  Or what if one of them is telepathic?  What if the "border" in question divides our everyday reality from a magical realm? 

Which brings up the issue of Communication. 

Communications is only a technological problem limited by science, right? 


Available "Official" and "Civilian" communications is entirely political -- 100% political.  You can get only what your politicians "let" you have.  Unless you break some laws, or use a loophole in the law hardly anyone knows about or knows how to exploit. 

Right now, the reason you can't have your landline phone number hooked up to your cell phone so that you only pay for the landline and your cell phone is an extension handset to your landline (not call forwarding, a single line) -- is there is a law against that.  And that law was rammed through by lobbyists funded by the companies involved, not by citizens who want just one phone number. 

To keep people from telling other people things you don't want them to know, you just make a Law. 

In fact, the technique that's always worked since the Middle Ages is to make a bewildering maze of tangled Laws, and then allow bureaucrats to selectively enforce the ones that deliver the bureaucrat's own enemies into their hands (think Inquisition -- selecting certain "Witches" to be burned, but not others.)

If you need some Setting ideas, watch some old Cold War Movies about the USSR.  Nobody trusted the Press which was government run, so they relied upon "rumor" which oddly was much more factual than the Press.  In fact, the government used rumor to ferret out dissidents and convict them of breaking whichever law that carried whichever penalty the Official wanted to inflict.  Watch a bunch of spy movies and you'll get a lot of ideas. 

The essence of Romance is Conflict.  The conflict you are looking for is inside the Setting.  The Setting is a section of the World you have Built.  Politics is a Setting.  In our contemporary world Politics is a place, State Capital or Washington D. C. -- in your Fantasy world it might be a Castle, or a Border Guardpost. 

Make enough conflicting laws (or in a Guardpost, make Regulations for the local villagers) and you can always convict your enemy of breaking a law requiring the penalty of greatest advantage to you. 

If you have enough laws, there's no such thing as an "innocent" person -- everyone is guilty of something that carries a penalty.  Most people are guilty of so many things, officials who find that person inconvenient just pick a penalty, then nab the person and convict them of violating that law. 

People attribute this strategy to the Communists, but actually it has been a tried and true method of Rule since Kings were invented. 

You can use it, even in contemporary Romance, but it works really well in Urban Fantasy.

Consider the Internet carefully -- we attribute the magic pictures that appear on our desk screens (and handheld devices) to science and technology.  But a well magicked looking glass or crystal ball would work just as well. 

Study our contemporary world and how communications are being controlled politically, then try to apply that to Magic in your Urban Fantasy -- or use Magic to get around the political blocks in Internet access.

For an example of Magic controlled by Government, see the TV Series Merlin --
a King Arthur rewrite that changes just about everything about the Legend. 

Romance is all about Relationships.  Relationships require communication.  If you want to run a civilization wide eugenics program, you can create or prevent Romantic Relationships by controlling communications.  You can also use communications to control who lives where by making certain places attractive to certain kinds of people -- walling others off. 

Here is a Video -- it runs about 25 minutes.  It is an interview with the author of a non-fiction book about our real world.  But if you listen carefully without letting your understanding of our real world get in your way, you will see a clear, stark illustration of two ways to use Government to control Relationships and population migration.  Pay attention and you will find ways to create your Protagonist and Antagonist to challenge, fight, and win against the World you have Built for them.  The Setting for this story is Politics, high-stakes Moneyed Politics.  Add in the two articles cited above, and you've got a nuclear explosion of a Romance.

This Video is a good description of a problem coupled to a lazy grab for a solution to that problem by using government as a hammer to force misbehaving people to behave "properly."

There is no mention in it that the price we pay for internet is elevated by hidden tax structures - so this video says the problem outlined is caused by government, and government is the solution.  Lots of logic holes in this argument for your Romance Novel protagonists to find and exploit. 

Pay attention, then write the story you see inside this Video, and in 4 years, you should have a political novel in print to take advantage of the election craze.


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

No comments:

Post a Comment