Theme-Conflict Integration Part 1 Battle of the Sexes
Buzzing through the June 2013 kerfuffle started by a SFWA Bulletin cover (classic brass bras Warrior Woman image) and a blog post that ignited another explosion in the sexism wars, I've been surveying some of the blog entries by both men and women writers on the acceptance of SFR by SF writers.
And of course, every day I spend a bit of time watching the TV news -- just for fun and inspiration.
And suddenly while watching the news after viewing an episode of NBC's J. J. Abrams REVOLUTION, the world flipped into a new focus.
It was one of those "artist's eye" things I've been talking about here since I started discussing writing craft techniques one at a time. (yes, we'll get to three at a time!).
And I went, AHA!!! -- that's THEME-CONFLICT INTEGRATION!!!
Trying to explain what I saw in a) our fictional environment b) our (allegedly) real world environment and c) our writer's marketing environment --- all three integrated, BANG in one 3-D vision -- is going to be a serious challenge.
But if you can grasp what I'm saying, then look at your world from your own personal point of view, you may become the one to launch this enormous breakthrough novel/film that we've been envisioning on this blog since I began the writing craft series here.
So you may want to review some of the elementary posts on structure, and where conflict fits into it all.
There are hardly any posts I've done that don't involve the use of conflict to generate the plot (and everything else in a Romance Novel).
But you might want to review these:
Conflict is absolutely the hardest thing for writers to master. Women have the hardest time with it, but I've seen men writers who just can't "get it" either. It's a blind-spot common to both genders at the beginning of the learning curve.
Once you get conflict, you start selling even if your stuff is really bad, an embarrassment so bad that eventually you adopt another pen name because you don't want your current stuff associated with that old stuff.
Conflict is the essence of story, and has been since the beginning of story-telling as an art-form (think cave man fireside entertainment).
And yet, it is very hard to learn how to go about arranging the distinctive elements of your story around a core of a conflict to create a plot.
You know it when you see it in a novel or movie, and you love it, every time. CONFLICT - WORKING OUT - RESOLUTION. That is a highly commercial winning sequence every time, regardless of the content.
However, there is "throw away" entertainment -- what they once called "the pulps" -- cheaply produced magazines to read and toss, and there is classic literature.
The error that we, as Science Fiction Romance writers, have been trying to correct is the assumption that Romance is "pulp" and only pulp. The assumption is that Romance is suitable only for lining bird cages and wrapping dead fish. Oddly, that was always the assumption about science fiction. Hmmm.
It is an unconscious assumption, and our entire civilization is founded upon it.
Once you see that manifesting in TV News, popular TV Series, and heated blog controversies over "sexism" you understand that we've been had. Big time.
Like Science Fiction, Westerns, and many other genres so disparaged, Romance is not now and never has been "throw away" literature. It is CLASSIC by it's very nature.
That fact is so terrifying that it is buried in the subconscious (Neptune, Pisces -- the best horror genre novels are fabricated out of NEPTUNE EVENTS (illusion) just as Romance Genre pivots on a Neptune Transit). Buried in the collective subconscious, that fact about Romance being Classic Literature by its very nature is left to suppurate and rot us all out from the inside.
Do you see how I've taken a CONFLICT (the battle of the sexes over the prestige of Romance Genre) and edged it over into a THEME?
Read the series of posts on Theme-Character Integration:
The process I just demonstrated, extracting a theme from a mishmosh of something else is discussed in those theme-character posts as is the crafting of the ending of a novel.
The ending is the point in time where the theme is rammed down the character's throat and becomes totally assimilated, thus ending the story. The ram is the Plot. At the ending of a story, plot and story become indistinguishable. That's how you know you are at an ending.
One of the most often repeated errors beginning writers make is to start at the end. And that's why beginners often can't grasp the difference between story and plot.
To find the beginning of a story, you must train yourself to think backwards from an ending or a middle that first occurs to you to find the place in the story-arc where the story and the plot both begin.
And that same kind of backwards, inside-out thinking is useful in extracting a theme from "the world" as it exists in a mishmosh.
I had immediately noticed that the SFWA Bulletin cover controversy hit critical mass when the simple blog post
ignited a firestorm.
And the firestorm was all about sexism -- in the SF community, and in the world in general.
Many horror stories emerged via comments on Ann Aguirre's simple and factual post about her experiences in associating with SF writers:
And the conversation became laced with outrage over sexism. All the old tropes were trotted out for an aria or two center stage. People complained that the same-old-same-old discussion was boring.
It is boring.
As Theodore Sturgeon pointed out many decades ago, writing science fiction is all about training your mind to ASK THE NEXT QUESTION. Don't just accept what is said. Question everything.
That's how art (all fields) is done, and that is the drill that produces (a few times in a lifetime) those moments such as I described above where everything flipped into focus, AHA! (such as when a character reaches THE END of the novel and the theme is rammed home by the plot events intruding into the story.)
People commented on the blogs with comparisons to 1953 -- saying that the women's movement had won in the 1970's so why are we fighting this battle over again? And others commented on that view saying things like we just have to wait for the old guys to die off -- or we have to fire them.
And others insisted this is a NEW WORLD. Everything's changed (which I've been pointing out on this blog for a while now) and we won, we defeated the ugly monster of sexism, so therefore it is gone. Why is it still here?
While reading commentary along those lines, I was thinking about J. J. Abrams (and the Star Trek movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness which I discussed here
And I was thinking of J. J. Abrams TV Series Revolution, and the news of the day (wall-to-wall-scandals lightly laced with murder trials and fresh new murders), and I was thinking of how we choose our (scandal prone) politicians for their sexy TV images rather than boring desk-jockey skills, and the next question occurred to me.
What if there is not now and never has been any such thing as a Battle of the Sexes?
That could explain why it is absolutely "un-winnable." It does not exist. It is an illusion of Neptune.
If you haven't read the posts on Astrology Just For Writers -- the whole Neptune and Pluto relevance is explained in these posts which are listed in this post:
Note the fellow who claimed responsibility for the NSA security leak involving data collection is a 29 year old. That's the year of the Saturn Return (when Saturn gets back to the place it was when you were born -- happens to everyone at that age, and every 29 years thereafter). The first Saturn Return is notorious for having certain kinds of dramatic effects (being an Ending and a Beginning just like in novels).
Knowing the clues in those posts on Astrology makes character creation and plotting very easy.
This Question -- what if ...? Is the core-essence of Science Fiction. Thinking out of the box, daring to ask the un-askable, the un-thinkable.
It is an unthinkable question because throughout recorded history, and as far as anyone can tell from pre-history, males and females have always been at war, and we all accept without question that sex and violence are related. There must be dominance in sex, right? Must!
Throughout the Middle Ages (the model for so much Fantasy-Romance with Kings, Queens, handsome Dukes, etc.) The Church kept women subjugated because of the story of Adam and Eve, which (to them) clearly says Eve was a bitch who tricked Adam, and therefore all women are Evil.
In the USA, we had to fight (FIGHT!!!) for the right to vote, have a bank account in our own name, etc. etc.
Now the fight is over abortion, equality in marriage, and equal pay for equal work.
Where does it end? What does Victory actually look like?
This Battle of the Sexes is like the wars in the Middle East where we hammered two countries to smitherines, then tried to get soldiers who specialize in killing people to "nation build." And then we leave, unilaterally proclaiming victory. Huh?
They coined a phrase to describe this process that we see in The Battle Of The Sexes. Mission Creep. Politicians call it "Progressivism" -- and I call them scam artists (like guys who just want to get you into bed, and leave when they get bored). Move on dot Sex!
I discussed grifters a little bit here:
It's a scam. The Battle of the Sexes is a scam just like on the TV Series Leverage -- a 21st Century version of the old Mission: Impossible.
One of the principles of running a game on a mark is that you must rivet the mark's attention AWAY FROM what you're doing -- like a stage magician, prestidigitation.
To do this, you create a problem for them -- it's not real, it doesn't exist, so it can't be solved, but while they're busy trying to solve it with increasing urgency as you "play" them, you have a clear field to steal everything they have.
In the case of the Battle of the Sexes, what is being stolen is Identity.
Your strength, your ability to cope with the world and stay alive in it, is based on your sense of individuality. Take that away, and you are helpless - a mark ripe for the grifter's art.
If you want to understand the world: Follow The Money.
Or to solve a Murder Mystery, find out who benefits from the death. Motive; Method; Opportunity.
Our mystery is Who Is Running This Scam?
Apparently, both males and females are the Marks. So who's the Identity Thief?
Who's playing "Let's You And Him Fight?"
Someone is cleaning up, big time. Bet on it.
Money, as I discussed in the Tarot Just For Writers posts, is a form of Power.
Here are the Tarot posts in case you missed them.
To understand power intoxication, read this non-fiction book I reviewed in depth under DIALOGUE titled How To Write Liar Dialogue:
The principle used by the best grifters is that the mark must never know he's being played until the coups. Then he falls down to the mud, head spinning, utterly paralyzed with the realization that he's been had.
Are we there yet?
Are we aware we been had?
Because that's THE END of this novel -- that's the point where the theme is rammed home into the guts of the story by the ram of the plot events.
Or are we waking up in the middle of the scam, not yet had, not YET fleeced? Do we have a chance to turn the tables?
There's a massive, blockbuster Romance theme in that idea of turning the tables on the grifter running The Battle of the Sexes, but if you try to write it outside SFR or Paranormal Romance, you will have a hard time selling it -- because it will be deemed implausible.
If you don't think The Battle of the Sexes is a scam yet, find another explanation for the entire kerfuffle over that SFWA Bulletin cover and a reasonably innocent blog post by a guy who apparently is being played by the grifters behind this thing.
Why is the Battle of the Sexes unwinnable if it is a battle at all and not a scam?
If it isn't a setup, if we're not being had, then what would the world be like after one side or the other WINS?
Post-apocalyptic is very popular right now -- J. J. Abrams TV Series, REVOLUTION being only one of many examples. Think of all the zombie stuff that nearly took over the world. We are obsessed with "what will happen after all this falls apart?"
What if the apocalypse is not vampires, zombies, werewolves, EM Pulse attacks, nano-whatevers? What if the apocalypse is "we been had." What happens after that?
Here are some comments I made online that convinced me to try to start this Theme-Conflict Integration series now instead of next year.
Jacqueline Lichtenberg: If there really is no difference in capability and potential, in respect due for accomplishment, between male & female humans, then why is every comment on this issue based on the assumption that there is a difference? If we believe what we're preaching, we should behave accordingly. There IS NO SUCH THING as "sexism" because it's based on a false premise. So to "fight back" as if the enemy has a case is to legitimize that case. We shouldn't be fighting. We should be explaining, as Starla Huchton pointed out -- because THEY HAVE NO CLUE WHAT THEY'RE DOING WRONG.
Jacqueline Lichtenberg: Consider the 'glass houses' issue, and first ask yourself what WE are doing wrong. Certainly we can't be entirely correct on every underlying issue in the SF vs SFR confrontation? Find the hole in our argument, fix it, then explain to "them" where the hole is in their argument. We should do a workshop at a con where everyone has read the same pair of novels demonstrating the dichotomy, and explain where both sides are right, and where both sides are making errors.
Jacqueline Lichtenberg: Look on Ann Aguirre's blog entry comment 387 by Carole Ann. She is from the UK. CONSIDER women are proven just as capable of being techs, and we read the SF-war-stories just as avidly, love ACTION (there is such a thing as action-romance, I hope you've noticed!), and we have attracted a number of men into reading, writing and discussing SFR. Think about what Carole Ann told us in that comment -- How can you win a "war of the sexes" and it not be a Pyrrhic Victory? The whole point of Romance is men and women love each other, fit together, make dynamite teams. Somewhere in History someone suckered us into thinking in terms of War. Do we have to let "them" (whoever they were) set our agenda? http://www.annaguirre.com/archives/2013/06/02/this-week-in-sf/
And from Gini Koch's blog
Gini Koch says she has nothing to prove, and I think she's nailed it. There is no controversy, there is no war of the sexes, there is NO CONFLICT here and thus NO STORY.