Theme-Character Integration Part 2 - Fire Up That Love Life
Part 1 of this skill integration sequence is here:
Previously we discussed What Does She See In Him (an essential ingredient in firing up a love life)
So today we'll discuss the TV Series VAMPIRE DIARIES and the Science Fiction/Fantasy pulp classic image of the Warrior Woman in a Brass Bras which stirred public controversy (again) in June 2013 when used as the cover of a SFWA Bulletin issue (#200).
And all of this relates to choosing and targeting an audience for your Science Fiction Romance, an essential part of raising the profile and respect granted to SFR by the general public (that probably doesn't read any SFR).
Note the underlying assumption here that the general public is convinced that it is appropriate to hold fast to an opinion on a topic without researching the facts personally.
Note the title of this piece includes the word THEME -- and we've discussed theme individually and at length in combination with plotting. Theme is the underlying, barely revealed, almost never stated in so many words, philosophical ARGUMENT which generates the plot, characters, story, conflict, and most importantly the resolution of that conflict.
Any number of "endings" are possible for most Romance stories, as long as it seems the new couple will live Happily Ever After -- HEA.
The choice of which ending your story will have is not arbitrary once the beginning, the opening scene, is crafted. And new writers, beginning writers, often don't know where to start in telling the story that's popped into being with, "I've got an idea!"
As discussed at length in previous posts here on Plot, the Beginning, Middle, and End are a set, a collection, and they must match.
One way new writers become aware of stories they want to tell is by having the ENDING pop into mind all rounded and fully colored in with emotions resolved. And many failures to sell a novel happen because the writer opened the story at the ending. (the opposite is often true, too, the story may be opened way before the beginning of the story). And some failures to sell happen because the writer just kept on writing long, long after the story ends.
Choosing any one of these three points or what are termed, in SAVE THE CAT! by Blake Snyder, "beats" of your story determines the content of the other two.
We've discussed crafting openings, and crafting middles that don't "sag" -- now let's look at starting a novel by choosing the ENDING.
The resolution of the conflict may be the first thing about your characters that you become aware of. Recognizing that it is an ENDING involves an entire orchestrated set of skills being brought to bear on your problem.
Here let's look very deeply (themes are deep, abstract philosophical ideas) at bringing together theme and character in an explosive love life (life is character).
What's in an ending? Define Ending.
Your choice of ending bespeaks the thematic statement of your novel.
In a Romance, that statement has to allow for or include -- or at least imply -- that Happily Ever After is possible in real life, even though it's rare and difficult, a heroic achievement.
We've noted previously that there is a huge audience for Romance that simply can not accept the HEA as part of their real, everyday reality. Happily For Now is the very most they see as real, and even that is ephemeral.
The very existence of the HEA is a philosophical statement of huge proportions, and it is a topic which is heated and controversial in the general readership of all novels -- especially self-published novels!
Definition of Ending
The ENDING situation of your characters is the point where the main Point of View Character, the Hero that the reader has been rooting for -- i.e. protagonist, -- understands the theme of his/her life.
This understanding can be:
a) Aha, I never knew that!
b) Aha, JUST AS I ALWAYS THOUGHT!
c) Aha, she was right all along and I was wrong.
d) Aha, I was right but it would be wrong to rub it in.
The key ingredient is the AHA part -- something has changed, and here at the ending it is perfectly clear to the protagonist what changed and what it means. The change that constitutes an ending is the dispelling of confusion, the lifting of a fog, the purifying of a philosophy, the clarity of understanding in the light of experience.
ENDING is defined as the point where the protagonist understands the theme, and so does the reader.
Targeting an audience.
The EMOTIONAL impact of that understanding of the theme that the reader gains by riding inside the protagonist's head defines the audience targeted.
For the HEA to work, the audience must experience the emotion of PLEASURE that the Starring Couple in the novel has achieved an HEA.
Readers who are living in a world they see as streaks of darkness marbling grayness have their "suspension of disbelief" broken at the HEA and they do not experience that as a pleasure.
Readers who have glimpsed flashes of light in their real life experience pleasure at the HEA.
Two different readerships, each to be targeted with different themes.
No matter how good your craft skills at characterization may be, no matter how well you lure your anti-HEA reader into living in your character's skin, if your THEME violates their beliefs, they will not experience pleasure at the character's AHA!
New writers tend to focus on arcane writerly skills such as characterization. New beta readers, and even professional editors, tend to give feedback in terms of "the character is not likeable" or not believable. And that sends the new writer on a quest to master 'characterization' when in fact the failure was in THEME.
So what do you do? Change your philosophy so you can sell novels? No, I don't think so.
What you can do is tell exactly the same story that has occurred to you (in that flash vision of The End Scene), tell it with the same protagonist and same point of view character, but move the time-frame backward or forward in that character's life to a point where a THE END situation occurs that drives the lesson into the character in a way that the targeted readership would enjoy.
In other words, you can still write about that character, but at a different point in their life.
Or you can choose a different target audience.
This blog series focuses on the audience that can accept the HEA, however leery they might be of such a radical departure from reality.
This blog is about writing Alien Romance, exotic Romance, Paranormal Romance, Futuristic Romance -- writing about things that don't actually exist.
The writer's task is to convince the reader, if only for the few hours, that these things which don't exist, which can't exist, actually do exist for these characters.
That is, to suspend disbelief long enough to make a point -- a particular type of point native to the science fiction genre.
Science Fiction is defined by 3 story parameters:
a) "What if ....?"
b) "If only ...."
c) "If This Goes On ..."
Fill in the blanks, and for this Romance Genre dealing with the imaginary future, what you fill in those dots with is HEA.
a) "What If I could live Happily Ever After?"
b) "If Only I COULD live Happily Ever After, I would ...?" (do what? believe what?)
c) "If This Goes On, we will create a world where everyone lives Happily Ever After."
Those story parameters filled in that way take ROMANCE GENRE and meld it seamlessly with SCIENCE FICTION GENRE.
The Best SFR is built out of all three statements, just as the best SF is built from all three simultaneously.
SFR is built on the premise that our emotional lives can be studied scientifically, and what we discover from that study can be used to deal with Life just as we use science to deal with our environment.
The "science" in Romance becomes the science of EMOTION. The study of emotion.
What? That's idiotic, you say?
Well, yeah, but so was the vision of a galactic civilization back in the 1930's and 1940's. Back then we had no idea if there were other planets around other stars. Then a few decades passed when accepted science told us (with mathematical clarity) that it was idiotic to think there were earth-like planets around other stars. This last few years, a single telescope has been studying a very tiny slice of ONE little galaxy, and found so many planets (large and small and earth-like too; now termed exoplanets) I can't keep track.
Look at the second image in this article:
That image shows how little we've explored and how much we've discovered.
Neuroscience has likewise been studying brains of various animals, including human cognition.
During this time-span, mostly before your primary readership was born, two major philosophies (thematic source material for stories) have been waging Armageddon over the heads of your readers, and even inside their minds all the way down to the subconscious level.
There is an old saying, "There's No Accounting For Taste" -- but I maintain that there actually is a way to account for taste if you understand not only the science of what a human being is and what world a human inhabits, but also understand that humans consist of two major parts each living in a different environment, Soul and Body.
That's the theory behind the HEA -- which depends entirely on the assumption that humans have Souls. The HEA happens when Soul Mates meet and unite in this life.
Here are index posts (updated) to my set of posts on Astrology and Tarot exploring methods of thinking about these abstractions in a way that can generate concrete story ideas.
Astrology Just For Writers:
Tarot Just For Writers:
These are not topics to "believe in" -- but to study looking for philosophies that explain how and why people develop a "taste" for this or that in art or friends.
These are the topics that answer the questions "What Does She See In Him" and vice-versa.
You can read up on all this, and learn these topics, and come up with wholly different conclusions than anyone else who has ever studied them.
That is what science fiction authors do for a living: study up on a science and come to a different conclusion than the professional scientists working in that field.
Which brings us to the SFWA controversy of June 2013.
Science Fiction Writers of America, the organization of professional science fiction writers (fair disclosure, I'm a life member), publishes a magazine called The SFWA Bulletin. Issue 200 ignited a controversy that exploded with issue 202 which was discussed in a blog post that posted several SFR novel covers and then talked disparagingly about SFR.
The cover image of the Bulletin was simply yet another Science Fiction/Fantasy cliche, the Warrior Woman complete with brass-bras style fighting gear.
The thesis that triggered eruptions on many confused topics of tangled philosophies was that Science Fiction Romance is not legitimate Science Fiction because it violates the tropes and the writers seem to ignore (or be ignorant of) classic Science Fiction ideas.
Usually, SFR is excoriated for violating science as it is now known. This time we got excoriated for not knowing imaginary science. Isn't that delightful? It must be progress.
Read here for the blog post that re-ignited (according to the writer of this blog, Stuart Sharp by accident) this old argument:
And here for opinions about that post:
And here for one of my favorite writers, Ann Aguirre, whom I've reviewed here whose book was included in that first post.
Do check out the lightening that struck Ann Aguirre -- she posted at the end of her original post, some email responses she got (hate mail) as an immediate response to her post.
Squint your eyes almost closed before looking at that hate-mail section of that post, and STUDY IT.
Here is a discussion by another author, Gini Koch one of my favorites whose ALIEN series I keep talking about here -- and who had a book cover highlighted on talking-sci-fi-romance
And here is a later post (one of several) where the author of talking-sci-fi-romance answers
Stuart Sharp comments there that at the time he posted his accidentally inflammatory post, he hadn't heard of the SFWA Bulletin cover controversy.
Here is a response from the President of SFWA (in 2013 that was still John Scalzi) (who almost gets it right, and that reveals something important you need to understand in order to craft your novel-endings where a character absorbs a theme with an AHA!)
We could spend a long time here discussing whether the offense was intentional or accidental, or whether it is due to a generational, ideological or perceptual schism. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, too many of our members have felt their contributions and their place in the industry and within the organization belittled; too many of our members see other members being treated so. If we believe that we represent and serve all our members and not just some of them, then we need to listen and address those member concerns.
That begins with recognizing the problem. And here is the problem: SFWA, through the last few issues of the Bulletin, has offended many of our own members.
As president of the organization, I apologize to those members.
Note he didn't say "If we've offended you, we apologize."
But the apology is FOR OFFENDING -- not for what was done wrong. If he admitted what was done wrong (sexism advocated as a high standard of art and behavior, but advocated "off the nose" and by assumption, by force of cultural custom) - then he would offend the other half of the members!
He's a good president, and a good politician -- and generally, a good guy. This world doesn't produce people who are very much better than this guy at being a good guy.
So we need to look at the WORLD more than at these particular individuals, and analyze why these swirling currents of philosophical disagreement are forming into a tornado right here in the Science Fiction Community.
*my opinion* Resnick and Malzberg are also good guys, great writers, very representative of the SF world in general.
So our problem solving attention has to be devoted to the context, not the individuals. This process, raising your focus from the trees to observe the forest, is an essential exercise in training your inner eye to be the eye of an artist. We need to observe the patterns, then reveal them to our readers.
That's hard, and takes a lot of exercise to make our inner-eye-muscles strong.
So one more quote from out-going SFWA President Scalzi:
5. I am aware that my apologies here will be taken any number of ways, depending on who is reading them and their opinion of events. That is the nature of an apology. Be that as it may, I believe that apologies matter, if they are sincere and they are followed up by right action. It’s what we are trying to do.
Let's focus on apology and the nature of apology just for a moment, where it comes from and why we do it, what it means, and how the definition has morphed in our culture over the last few decades.
The modern apology has appeared out of thin air in just a few decades, and the change has never been remarked on that I know of.
Read some historical novels -- novels written say, in the 1930's or 1940's, and study apologies.
Today we apologize for hurting other people's feelings, for making them feel bad, for embarrassing them, or for OFFENDING.
We express SORROW (an emotion) for triggering someone else's emotion, and that ends the matter.
"If I offended you, I'm sorry." That's not an apology. Why? (thankfully the SFWA President didn't say that!)
It's not an apology because it does not in any way indicate that the apologist has any idea what they did wrong or why it is wrong to do that. It's not a story-ending where the apologist has had an AHA moment where the theme has been driven all the way into the subconscious so the person would experience unbearable self-loathing if they should even consider doing that again. It does not indicate that the person knows why the deed was wrong.
The only thing that's wrong is the way someone else reacted, and that was an accident!
In other words, there is no reason for the apologist to change their behavior, except to avoid offending the other person again. There's no internally driven reason to change.
It's become "wrong" to offend others, but the offending behavior itself is not inherently wrong. Therefore, if you do a right thing, and it offends someone, you have to apologize for doing right!
This is a subtle point and difficult to follow but it is just one symptom of a major change in our culture (better or worse, you judge that!).
In apologizing, we are taking responsibility for the emotional reaction of others, but not for the error in our (subconsciously held) philosophy that generated the action. There has been no AHA ending.
Actions no longer have inherent, absolute, objective and measurable "rightness" or "wrongness." As a result, other people's emotional reactions to actions don't have to make sense, and do not indicate to us that we have an error in our own internal value system that must be corrected so it will not generate another action which is wrong. As far as the apologist is concerned, there is no rhyme or reason to other people's emotional reaction -- it's random, and therefore irrelevant.
Apology used to be an admission of an error in whatever it is inside us that generates our actions. Apology indicates we have corrected our error in our Value.
Without external, objective Values against which to measure ourselves, we can not possibly apologize, because you can't ever be in the wrong in your own eyes.
It's more important to avoid offending others than it is to do the right thing -- because there is no thing to do that is more "right" than any other thing to do -- because all Value Systems are equal.
But people still have emotions, and emotional lives inside themselves, as do story characters.
Think again about the SFWA Controversy. What exactly is the problem people have with Science Fiction Romance? What's "wrong" with Romance that it is so OFFENSIVE?
Perhaps it's a Story/Plot thing?
Science Fiction has been traditionally all plot, almost no story. If characters learn anything in SF, it's a scientific principle, or that some trusted principle isn't true.
But Romance is all about Story, usually with very little plot (Gini Koch's ALIEN series is an exception which could be why it got nailed in that blog post
Now we are into the THEME part of theme-character integration.
So firmly fix this frame into your mind as you read on:
Novels have both PLOT and STORY. As I've defined these terms in my previous posts on each of these skills independently, plot is the sequence of external events started at the beginning, generated by the conflict, and ending in a resolution.
Plot = External Events on a BECAUSE LINE.
Story is the sequence of emotions, issues, concerns, thoughts, and INTERNAL EVENTS that define what the external events MEAN to the POV character. (i.e. the plot events have to happen to someone for them to have meaning to the reader, so the story is what the plot is "about")
Story = Internal Events on a philosophical development line (or an emotional line).
Theme-Character Integration is about Story
That's right, we're talking story here, not plot or the usual structural elements we discuss here. We discuss plot and its structure at such tedious length because plot is the most prominent feature of Science Fiction (though not of Romance).
To drive a lesson, a moral of the story, an Ineffable Truth, into a Character's Soul at the climax of the Story, your story needs a structure as disciplined and precise as the plot's structure. Astrology provides that structure with all the precision you could ever want. (you just don't let the reader know you're using astrology).
The thesis presented in the links to Astrology and Tarot I offered above boils down to the idea that Emotion is generated by Philosophy, and Philosophy resides in the subconscious. You can't change your emotions or actions without changing your philosophy -- apology means you've changed your philosophy because you understood you were wrong.
Religion and ideas about Souls and Life After Death (such as is dealt with in ghosts and Paranormal Romance) likewise is rooted in the subconscious, entwined with our Culture. Culture resides in the subconscious -- that's why you don't know you have a culture until you run into someone from a different culture who discombobulates you.
Over the last several decades we've seen the fruits of the Women's Lib movement shifting our culture faster than a human being can adjust at that subconscious level. At the same time, the internet has changed communications, and the family has disintegrated. That shifted culture defines your potential readership, a culturally confused readership.
So we see older people who have not adjusted to these shifts, and we see older people who are actually ahead of that curve, still living in a future we haven't imagined yet. Some older people offer wisdom, others offer complaints.
Develop both types of older characters in your novel and bespeak both points of view eloquently - you'll have a best seller.
Now we reach back into pre-history to find the roots of this culture that has suddenly changed so that apology doesn't mean apology any more.
Egypt created a towering civilization, trading far and wide, dominating the Middle East and at least half of Africa, all the way to Morocco and almost to China. The Jews weren't the only population they enslaved. Conquering armies brought home slaves as booty, as wealth. The Jews already lived in Egypt, so that was a no-brainer for Egypt's politicians.
After the Jews left, Egyptian civilization fell, but passed the torch of light and learning to Persia (modern Iran mostly), thence to Babylon (Iraq, Syria parts of Turkey), whence that torch of light and learning passed to Ancient Greece (much of the geometry and math we attribute to Aristotle is actually rooted in the previous civilizations), and now we're approaching recorded history as the torch of light and learning passes to Rome.
The Rise And Fall of the Roman Empire is well documented, leaving Latin a language ingredient in every language-stew of Europe.
Burning of the Library at Alexandria, Peloponnesian Wars etc. very significant events during Rome's reign. If you haven't learned this history, go read up on it. Lots of good ebooks real cheap! Writers, especially of Romance, need to know more than is ever taught in school! None of the really important stuff is taught in school now. Most of what you learn in school isn't true anyway -- so go educate yourself.
Of course, China likewise had rises and falls, and India, too, (Indus Valley or modern Pakistan is a big player in trade and learning), so don't forget them.
But visualize for the moment, the way that science, learning, trade and innovation, pulsed over time, rising and falling alongside governments of slightly different, ever evolving governmental forms.
The people who lived in those times were just like you, except for one significant point: Culture Shock.
Culture Shock is a documented form of mental derailment that occurs when someone is isolated in a culture that is foreign to them. Read up on it if you don't know about it. Classic example is the kid sent off to boarding school who cries all night every night for months but that is a phenomenon of the modern world.
Culture didn't CHANGE within the life-span of a person, and people passed on their craft and trade skills to their children unchanged from when they got them from their parents and grandparents. Maybe they acquired one or two minor innovations, but the fundamentals of life and livelihood didn't change.
There was continuity. A parent knew what a child had to master to be successful in life.
That was true up until maybe 1920 or so.
Cars, telegraph, radio -- the printing press took about 2-300 years to sink in and generate what we think of as industry and technology, the information explosion.
Now, assuming you know a couple thousand years of human history at least by trends and major turns, think about it as seen from high above, from an elevated perspective, as if you're looking down on Time the way we look at a map of the world.
Onto those swirling forces and tides of human events, we're going to project or superimpose another pattern.
Grasp this one point, and you will understand the SFWA controversy (and the concept of the Modern Apology) in a whole new light, and it won't disturb you. It will excite you and trigger an explosion of creativity, and put real fire into your Love Story. (Fire is Wands/ Love is Cups)
See the last 2,000 (or 5,000) years of human history as a War of Philosophies.
Let's call them Phil-1 and Phil-2.
The Founding of the USA can be seen as a crescendo Battle of Philosophies to put the sinking of the Spanish Armada to shame -- eclipsing The Trojan War, making the two World Wars seem like peace.
As I view the matter, I see the USA (and many other countries) as having two Natal Charts, one governing one population with one philosophy, and the other natal chart governing the other population with the other philosophy.
Phil-2 won that epic Battle at the Founding of the USA over Phil-1.
Defeated, Phil-1 retreated, regrouped and infiltrated and undermined Phil-2's brave new world. And now it's on top (again; has been on top a number of times).
Phil-1 has been the world's dominant philosophy since the time of Noah. Remember the story of Noah (and the Rainbow - don't forget Rainbow). Noah was the most righteous man of his generation, but he wasn't much we'd admire. He did have the guts to go against society (that mocked him) and build the Arc. Vindicated, he landed the Arc, and planted a vineyard, made wine and got so blotto his sons had to walk backward to cover his nakedness.
Noah's philosophy, expressed by that priority of getting drunk as soon as possible, might be stated as Phil-1, Emotion Rules Life.
As we know now from modern science, most all emotion can be accounted for by neurons firing, by life's tendency to flee pain and seek pleasure. Emotion is a thing of the physical body.
Remember, STORY = EMOTION
Phil-2 comes into the picture of Western Civilization with Abraham being called by God to Walk In His Ways. Abraham's priority (the story goes) was to Walk In His Ways. The story that's been preserved about Abraham is that after offering the Covenant to all the other Nations of Earth, God came to Abraham and said "Come Walk In My Ways and .." and before God finished the sentence, Abraham was out the door WALKING, asking only which way?
All the other Nations, so the story goes, listened to the "...and I'll make of you a great nation." part and asked what they'd have to DO to get the REWARD -- they worked the risk/reward equation like shrewd businessmen, but God wouldn't bargain. Abraham was not interested in any of that -- he just wanted to DO God's Will. (Plot = Do)
After some 80 years of life, having inherited his father's idol making shop in what passed for a city in those days, Abraham knew the little statues he sold were "empty" and curiosity gnawed at him about the REAL DEAL -- so when God came to him and offered Ways to Walk In, that was it for him.
Abraham is all about PLOT, all about DOING. Remember, Abraham is the character who circumcised himself, a deed that elevates the Mind over Emotion. The body seeks to avoid pain. The mind has other ideas. Abraham was of the mind.
Remember, PLOT = ACTION
At Mount Sinai, after leaving Egypt, God gives the 10 Commandments and the Nation answers WE WILL DO and WE WILL LEARN -- DOING FIRST just like Abraham.
And then comes the whole Covenant, the Torah, the teaching. The Torah is taught by Moses (a man about whom no story of drunkenness is recorded; a man very different from Noah). And if you've read that teaching, you know it is ever so very intellectual. There's lots of juicy scandal, misdeeds and sexuality, (lots of hot sex stuff in there, and it's very different from what the History Channel movie depicted). But it's all about how to BEHAVE, what to DO and how to DO IT.
The prescriptions for misdeeds all involve doing something, but the misdeeds targeted by these remedies all involve doing something motivated solely by emotion, placing emotion above rational thought, the urges of the body above those of the mind.
The emphasis is on keeping "apart" from the Nations. What is being separated from what?
At danger of over-simplifying, let's call it Phil-2 is being separated out of and walled away from Phil-1, thus creating a counter-culture minority embedded in the whole of humanity. Humanity is descended from Noah and operating on the supremacy of Emotion over Mind, just like Noah. Abraham likewise is descended from Noah, but turns down a different path.
It doesn't matter what religion you practice (or don't practice), and it doesn't matter whether you think the events depicted in the Bible ever happened or not.
From our over-view of time, looking down on the history of the world, superimposing onto what we know of history this view of history as a War Of Two Philosophies, you can see where the first one is the majority, and always has been, and where in Time a counter-current was injected.
How that injection happened, and who did it, you can decide for yourself. To understand the SFWA Controversy, you need only be able to See this Battle of Two Philosophies as very ancient, and very much the issue of our day mostly because it's ancient.
Today, the two philosophies have inter-mingled and gotten mixed into one another, as the the Bible says must not happen.
Like two galaxies colliding and inter-mingling their stars, then pulling apart again, leaving new stars, composite stars, and hungry black holes behind, the two philosophies are pulling apart again, each taking with it parts of the other. What a mess. What an opportunity for stories! Talk about the War of the Worlds!
You might be thinking that there aren't enough Jews in the world to matter, so who cares? And that's true, except for one little problem.
Christianity and Islam are daughter philosophies of Judaism, thus composed mostly of Phil-2.
I'm not sure if all together the adherents of Christianity and Islam constitute a numerical majority over Hinduism et. al., but after all these centuries of missionary zeal, all the rest of the world has been infused with some of the "stars" from the Phil-2 galaxy.
Which brings us to Vampire Diaries (the TV show).
The object of these writing lessons is to show you what the world looks like from the eyes of a writer.
Writers don't watch TV the same way that viewers do.
So in June, as I watched the season finale of VAMPIRE DIARIES, I saw within it this Phil-1 vs Phil-2 vision of the target audience (basically I'd say 14-30 yr olds for this show, but I love it!) exemplified loud and clear.
I'd also been watching Season 5 of Gray's Anatomy on Amazon Streaming video. Really great without commercials.
Both these shows have a lot of plot, both are very well written (i.e. the plot and the story are integrated by solid and clear thematic statements).
Vampire Diaries uses some wild variants on the Vampire mythos, but here's one element that is a great example of Worldbuilding, using show-don't-tell to make an abstract point.
Vampires can turn their emotions off. And on again.
When they turn their emotions OFF, Vampires become the Evil Scourge of traditional vampire myth, and have no compunctions about murdering humans, care only about self-gratification, and have little or no regard for other Vampires (thus very little Romance potential).
When they turn their emotions ON, Vampires become just ordinary people, with their old human personality showing through, with whatever sense of respect for human life that they had during their own lives. They're just very long lived, very durable, human beings, as bad or as good as humans usually are.
THEME: Absence of Emotion Is Definition of Evil.
Or put another way, the theme of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES is that the only thing that makes humans Good (however good any given human can be) is EMOTION. All goodness is emotion.
That is a clean, bright, definitive show-don't-tell of Phil-1, the oldest philosophy, Noah.
Here's another example. On Gray's Anatomy and on Vampire Diaries, couples are changing partners all over the place, trying out sex with this and that one, getting all deep and introspective over the question of whether they love this one or that one more (which you can determine only by whether the sex is better). It's so important to find out who you love because you absolutely must do what your emotions lead you to want to do.
I Love You is a statement regarded as a surrender to an inevitability. I can't help who I love. It's just a mystery. And if I love someone, I must be with him -- regardless of all other considerations. And I can't help it. Good common sense and solid reasoning have nothing to do with it. "Forbidden" has nothing to do with it (such as if you fall in love with a cousin, or an under-age kid, you must have sex with them regardless).
The Theme says, "We are victims of emotion." Both those TV Series (ultra-popular TV Series) depict that philosophy -- how you feel determines what you must do, and doing anything else is unhealthy.
Emotion dominates, emotion leads, action must follow emotion. Thought is not allowed to enter into it, at all. That is a clear statement of the core of Phil-1, Noah.
Now, go back over the Tarot posts, where I lay out the "Worlds" of Kaballah according to one (of several) schools of thought. Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles. Idea, Emotion, Deeds, Results. (Fire is Tarot Suit of Wands/ Love is Tarot Suit of Cups)
That is the sequence I explained in those Tarot posts, but there is another sequence taught by a different school of Kaballah. Idea, Deeds, Emotion, Results. And I think that's a closer depiction of the Phil-2 explained in the Torah. There are good arguments on each side, and that's what makes for a great novel!
In either case, Idea (thought, intellect, mind) leads, emotion comes in between, results come last.
Phil-2 from the Torah commands that men put a blue thread in the fringe of their garment to see it and REMEMBER (mind) the Commandments and NOT FOLLOW YOUR HEART that you yearn to follow, not follow emotion, but REMEMBER what you've promised to do and do it.
Judaism also encompasses the concept of the Tzadik, the truly righteous man, who has completely harmonized Mind and Heart, thought and emotion flowing smoothly into deed and result -- so smoothly it seems like Magic. Remember any technology that's advanced enough will seem like magic. With Astrology and Tarot you are looking at a technology just that advanced.
Which brings us back to the SFWA Controversy and whether it is actually about sexism, or not.
Phil-1 says if you feel something, if you want to do something, you must do it.
Phil-1 says people are best off, healthiest, when they understand that they are just smart animals with an animal body. Male animals are attracted by female beauty, and when that happens it is the male's duty to the species to attack the female. (in many species, females don't put up with that)
Phil-1 says males can't help (you are helpless before your emotions and the body rules) being aroused by feminine beauty, and when that happens, it's unhealthy and morally wrong to resist your emotions.
Phil-2 says put a blue thread on your garment, and gaze upon it and THINK FIRST. Remember your promises, keep your word of honor. Blue, oddly enough, is considered the "cool" color, emotionally low-key.
Phil-2 says humans have a Soul breathed into the flesh by God, and the Soul is infinite (most of it resides "above" and only part inhabits the body). The human Soul is the Fire of God's Love. Because of that Soul, humans have Free Will and may choose their course of action. The Soul rules the body and its emotions, not the other way around, but since you have Free Will, you can allow the body to rule the Soul, you can allow emotion to rule action. It is your choice.
Phil-2 says women are closer to God. It's pointed out in the Torah and the Mishna any number of times that when the People as a whole sinned, the women did not participate. So therefore, many of the remedies for the propensity to allow Emotion to rule action, are not incumbent on women (such as the blue thread). (Honest! Lots of maligning rumors have been promulgated about Judaism, many of which are believed by Jews who thereupon find Judaism revolting. The idea that Judaism is sexist is one of those lies. I didn't make that up.)
Phil-1, the older philosophy of Noah, subjugates women because men can't help attacking them.
Phil-2, the newer philosophy of Abraham, elevates women because men can control their bodies.
OK, that's way oversimplified, but we're looking for a way to extract a simple framework from what passes for "reality" and use it for what publishing considers "fiction."
The counter-arguments abound. There's the whole issue of Biblical Commandments that treat women as chattle (a man buying a wife, making contracts for women who are living in their father's house or married, testing the woman for adultery but not the man). Each of those could make the basis for worldbuiding an entire alien culture. And of course, these Commandments were directed specifically at Jews. Everybody else is responsible only for the 7 Noachide Laws:
THE 7 LAWS
Acknowledge that there is only one G-d who is Infinite and Supreme above all things. Do not replace that Supreme Being with finite idols, be it yourself, or other beings. This command includes such acts as prayer, study and meditation.
Respect the Creator. As frustrated and angry as you may be, do not vent it by cursing your Maker.
Respect human life. Every human being is an entire world. To save a life is to save that entire world. To destroy a life is to destroy an entire world. To help others live is a corollary of this principle.
Respect the institution of marriage. Marriage is a most Divine act. The marriage of a man and a woman is a reflection of the oneness of G-d and His creation. Disloyalty in marriage is an assault on that oneness.
Respect the rights and property of others. Be honest in all your business dealings. By relying on G-d rather than on our own conniving, we express our trust in Him as the Provider of Life.
Respect G-d's creatures. At first, Man was forbidden to consume meat. After the Great Flood, he was permitted - but with a warning: Do not cause unnecessary suffering to any creature.
Maintain justice. Justice is G-d's business, but we are given the charge to lay down necessary laws and enforce them whenever we can. When we right the wrongs of society, we are acting as partners in the act of sustaining the creation.
So Noah was never expected or tasked with putting thought or intellect above emotion, not directly, but it seems to me it's the easiest way to accomplish those 7 goals. Since when do humans elect to do things the easiest way?
Look around at this world today, and you see both of these philosophical attitudes expressed in a tangled up, mixed up, confused mess, without regard for ostensible religion, creed, color, or culture.
In fact, you probably think my summary of Phil-1 and Phil-2 with regard to women is nonsense because of the criss-crossing and conflicting assumptions in your subconscious. Take this idea I'm presenting here and go around observing the world with writer's eyes for a while and see if you can tease apart some of these tangles and find the two warring philosophies (regardless of what you call them).
Humans are capable of absolutely, solemnly and really believing two mutually exclusive things at once. So Phil-1 and Phil-2 can both be held in the same human mind at the same time.
The resulting tangle of motives and deeds produces a similar tangle of mixed results that are very confusing to analyze.
Which brings us back to the confused fulminating about the SFWA Bulletin cover being sexist, and comments on the objections just adding fuel to the fire leading to disparaging comments about SFR.
SFWA is supposed to be home to those who train to think "outside the box" and to "go where no man has gone before."
Science is the fearless and systematic examination of all ideas, and the organizing of the results of experiments into a reliable and repeatable body of knowledge. These are the people who are supposed to be the best trained imagineers in the world.
And they are very confused, which accurately reflects the confusion in this society as a whole (which accurate reflection makes a professional writer, professional.)
If you've ever written a melee battle, or just watched a movie with a good melee depicted, you understand what happens when two huge armies interpenetrate, just as when two galaxies collide.
The sequence of events (plot) gets lost in confusion, and all there is left is the story -- the subjective impressions and personal meaning to the individual fighting for life, for mere survival.
That's what we are living inside -- the interpenetration of the army of Phil-1 with the army of Phil-2, formations dissolved, one-on-one combat to the death, and the battlefield is inside our subconscious minds where the story of our life happens where we can not see it. But we smell the smoke.
Myth depicts this as Armageddon, or the final battle of the gods.
Judaism sees it as the prelude to the arrival of the Messiah. (Maybe some Islam sects do, too).
Christianity sees it as Good vs. Evil.
I see it as the collision of two galaxy sized philosophies.
Or maybe more accurately, the MATING of two philosophies -- fired, violent, messy, sweaty, grunting, and utterly ferocious.
So take this multi-thousand year perspective of a battle between philosophies, one extracted from the older, larger other, and see if that vision yields a new perspective on today's headlines. Then take that new perspective and generate your screenplay or novel and see if there's a fired up love life in there.