Thursday, March 30, 2017

ICFA 38 Report

As always, I had a great time at the annual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando. This year's theme was "Fantastic Epics." The special guests were Steven Erikson, Edward James (Guest Scholar), and N. K. Jemison (who unfortunately couldn't attend because of a family emergency). The Wednesday opening session, a panel on Epic Fantasy, and a panel on Epic Fairy Tales (which at first sight struck me as an oxymoron) all spent considerable time trying to define "epic" and never reached a consensus. Most people did agree on some common elements: Wide scope, the illusion that we're seeing an entire world (even if the "world" is only a village); stakes (the consequences of failure must be catastrophic); and, usually, multiple viewpoint characters. Another panel suggested that epic fantasy typically explores the cultural values of a society and involves a clash between two or more cultures. Not that a unanimous definition of any term can be expected from either scholars or fans! Debating such things is part of the fun. The discussion tended to evolve into a "fuzzy set" approach; as someone put it, the most useful question isn't "Is it epic?" but "How epic is it?" (or "How is it epic?").

I presented a paper on the first few books of Brian Lumley's "Necroscope" vampire saga with a focus on the Cold War era setting. I chaired a session on Stephen King, which I enjoyed a lot because not only is King one of my favorite authors, the three papers dealt with some of my favorites among his works, CARRIE, REVIVAL, and the Dark Tower series. Some other sessions that stand out for me: A panel on the TV series PENNY DREADFUL. A group of three papers on werewolves and the HANNIBAL TV show. A "round table" discussion of the Star Wars film ROGUE ONE, with many references to the Disney movie machine and the prospect of "A Thousand Years of Star Wars." A panel on humor in fantasy and SF—one participant advanced the principle that the humor has to grow naturally from the characters, and it doesn't tend to work if it's obvious that the authorial voice is trying to be funny. There was much debate about when humor crosses the line from funny to offensive.

An exhibit of cover art by Don Maitz and Janny Wurts was on display. The book room, in the process of downsizing the thousands of used volumes that have been stored and placed on sale for many years, offered hundreds of free books for the taking. On Sunday morning, two long tables of paperbacks were packed for donation to a thrift shop. I momentarily conceived a mad wish that I had all the money in the world (for shipping costs) and owned a separate house just for books like Forrest Ackerman, so I could take the entire collection home.

We had a small adventure (in Bilbo's sense, "Adventures are nasty, uncomfortable things that make you late for dinner"). The hotel's electricity went off for a couple of hours in the predawn period one night. Fortunately, the power came back before daylight, so the inconvenience was minimal.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Depiction Part 27 - Depicting Love by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 27
Depicting Love

Previous parts of the Depiction series are indexed here:

You'd think in a writing blog about Alien Romance that Depicting Love would be the first topic in the series on how to "depict" the intangibles that make a novel truly memorable.

Love is both the most obvious, simple, easy intangible for a Romance writer to depict, and the most difficult, slippery, nebulous topic to find a concrete "show don't tell" symbol to convey.

We've discussed depicting Love many times from different directions.

Here is "What Does She See In Him?" and "What Does He See In Her" -- a primary question every reader wants a concrete answer to right up front in Chapter One.

And how to make what one person sees in another into a "symbol" -- something that could be photographed when they make the movie of your novel.  It has to be something that can "arc" or change for those characters because of the events of the novel, and turn up again and again (as a theme does).

And most especially - why we cry at weddings.

We've also discussed Love At First Sight as part of the Happily Ever After ending.

Many good Romance novels start with a Divorced Character, or a widowed Character -- someone who had a good relationship that went sour.  Sometimes the story focuses around an Affair -- that ends well or badly, destroying other people's happiness.

One thing that has split good marriages apart is Politics.  The initial Romance following Love At First Sight often masks the deepest beliefs that form a person's self-image.

People in the USA choose to be Republican or Democrat (or Independent, or Libertarian, or nothing-much) because they encounter "messaging" from a number of Candidates expressing the party's platform.  At that time, a person will identify people who seem to be saying believable things, and "join" that party.  People look for a party that represents what they already believe, or at least some most cherished belief.

Over decades, the USA Parties redefine themselves with the turning of the generations, and espouse different (often contradictory) causes and stances.  The final bundle of positions on issues the Party settles on at the Convention is a mishmash of philosophically contradictory stances.

This happens because the Party platform is "negotiated" by committee.

In fiction, thematic unity is essential.  Fiction is art - a selective representation of reality, not reality itself.

The real reality your Characters live in has no perceptible thematic unity -- which is why people seek that unity in recreational reading.

Readers often pick up Romance novels to get away from the chaotic contradictions of a very confusing world.  The reader is looking for a trip through a world that makes sense.  Readers often look to get away from it all, to get relief from confusion.

Your job as a writer is to depict a world that is not confusing, but is enough like reality to be convincing.

If a novel is too simplified, too much lacking in confusion (Red Herrings), it seems childish and unconvincing.

We discussed a galactic war adventure novel series, with excellent tender-romance here:

The main character, a Prince serving in the Military, loves a couple of different women for exactly the reason any Romance reader woman would want to be loved in real life -- little to do with appearance and everything to do with admirable accomplishments to be proud of.  He loves women of Strong Character because of their strength of character.

Nevertheless, the story comes off as too childish simply because the Characters are rewarded vastly for little real effort, and seem to understand way too much of their world with far too little work.

When Characters accomplish too much with too little real effort/angst readers just don't believe the story or the plot.

That's one reason "Love At First Sight" is often viewed with skepticism by readers who have never known anyone it happened to.

But when Love At First Sight happens (and I know it does, so I have adjusted my view of reality to include it), the Lovers are usually too smitten with each other to ask the kinds of questions a Matchmaker would -- or the sort of questions you might find on a good Dating Site.

The impact of "This Person" is so overwhelming that the inquiring mind just does not ask.

The couple might evaluate each other on Values and Principles, but fail to ask why those Values and Principles were adopted, where they came from, and whether they are all consistent with each other.

In fact, most Romance readers aren't looking for a novel that depicts Characters who have stringent philosophical consistency.  Most humans don't revere logical consistency and in fact are convinced emotions have no logical basis.

So the beginning Romance writer, or a writer like Dave Bara and his Lightship Series, may be convinced that Love is not Logical, emotions in general are not connected to or originating in the cognitive functions part of the brain.

Love Is Not Logical is a Theme.

It is a statement about the reality of the human condition, a summation of many assumptions and a conclusion that implies how life is to be lived.

The Theme of my Star Trek fanzine series, Kraith, is Love Is Logical.

There is a view of human history that is held dear by those who are convinced Emotions Are Not Logical, a view that is based on the assumption that Emotion Is Logical.  That view of human history shows how one civilization rises, collapses, and gives rise to another civilization, one culture spawning another.

Cultures through history are like our children, made up of the same genes but rearranged and even mutated into something else.

Beliefs are like our genes -- containing much that has gone before, one or two traits that are new, and the whole rearranged to seem new, but it's really old.

We love Regency Romance and Historical Romance set in Castles, arranged political marriages, as Dave Bara uses in his Lightship Series, Rulerships, Kings, Dukes -- we love reading about those times.  But today's novels of the Aristocratic Times whitewash some of the ugliest parts of that reality.

Politics is one of those Cultural Philosophies that propagates as our genetic children do -- like us, identical to us, but vastly different.

In January 2017, Rowena Cherry wrote in this blog:
I gained a new perspective on why so many folks in society have so little respect for copyrights and the right of musicians, authors, photographers, movie-making participants and others to be paid for their time, talents and effort from the free Hillsdale College lecture covering the difference between Originalists and Progressives when it comes to the rights of an individual.

According to Professor Ronald J. Pestritto, the Progressive ideology is heavily influenced by European--especially German-- thinking, and holds that the needs of the Community is always superior to the needs (and rights) of the individual, and far from certain rights such as the right to Life, to Liberty, and to the Pursuit of happiness being bestowed on mankind as a birthright by the Creator, all rights that an individual has are permitted by the government depending on convenience and expediency.  (And can be revoked.)

How expedient and convenient do you suppose it is to uphold individual copyrights?

---------end quote-------------

The Progressive Movement article on Wikipedia is illuminating:

The thesis is that the Progessive Movement began in 1890 and ended in the 1920's.

There is a Liberal or Progressive movement, actually several different ones within each political party, today -- and using different labels and symbols, targeting the same social ills that were identified in 1890.

There are several basic ideas about "what" a human being is, where and how humans originate, and under what social contract terms humans can live together -- and those sets of ideas do neatly separate into two camps, two mutually exclusive ideologies.

Note the element Rowena Cherry focused on relevant to Intellectual Property Rights -- or actually, just property rights in general -- does a human own what they make, or not?

Notice how very basic that THEME concept is!

THEME: humans own the product of their own labor

THEME: humanity owns the product of any human's labor

Every two year old coming into the ability to use language learns NO first, maybe MaMa and PaPa, but definitely NO.  And then comes major lessons in MINE.  Toddlers learn to POSSESS their possessions, and the very concept of possession.  They have not, to the adult's way of thinking, earned it, but they own it.

So the concept MINE comes before the concept EARN.

Parents love their children -- and through that love, teach the concept "no" and "mine" and "you can't have that because it is mine."

"You can't take that because it is mine" is an expression of LOVE.  It is a way of depicting love.

MINE is an extremely abstract concept.  Just try explaining it to an Alien whose species does not have that concept.

We discussed explaining humans to aliens, and how it can help writers do solid worldbuilding here:

One rock that marriages founder upon is POSSESSIONS -- as well as TERRITORY.

If a Couple is split on the issue of regard for another person's possessions and personal space, or territory or privacy, the marital combat will be feral.

The arguments - regardless of what the ostensible subject is (toothpaste tube, toilet seat, cleaning the trash out of the car, overdrawing the checking account, inviting guests without asking the cook) will take on basic animal characteristics.  The combatants are fighting for their LIVES - for their very existence.

The concept MINE lives in us at that pre-verbal level where the 2 year old can only scream red-faced and clutch the toy they just stole off the store shelf.

The adult will defend what is MINE with that same ferocity -- even if what is being defended is only a symbol of the toy their parent would not buy for them (long before they knew about the connection between earning, buying, and mine.

Sometimes LOVE is best symbolized by not-buying that toy.  And sometimes a good marriage is based on not-taking the spouse's possessions.

Children absorb the very definition of what marriage is by the way parents handle and regard the spouse's possessions.

One magnificent depiction of LOVE in symbolism is the way the loved-one's possessions are regarded and handled, not because of what that object is, but because of what it means to the loved one.  Sometimes the most penetrating drama comes with the way a Character handles a possession of a deceased loved-one.

The connection between a person and their possessions (yes, somewhat like the gypsy scam artists claim, or you see in many Fantasy or Paranormal Romances) is a mystical force in this world.

We experience MINE as a mystical force, perhaps because it is one of those pre-verbal learning experiences.  Even dogs know what is theirs and what is not.  Children get it very, very young.

The next lesson in growing up that humans learn is how to make something MINE -- how to acquire what holds meaning.  Seeing the toy on the store shelf, screaming "Mommy, buy me that!" or just "I want!!!"  Then comes Mommy's lesson in how to love -- "Be good and I'll get it for you next month."

You want to own something, you must comply with the wishes of others.  Love is unconditional -- possessing is conditional.

If that's how you are brought up, that is how you will conduct your marriage -- whether you know you are doing it, or not.

That is how deep into the subconscious, into the brain-synapses developed in childhood, that the concept MINE goes.

With age, you learn you have to do chores to get money to buy things -- then get a summer job to earn money, then work your way through college -- and so on.

Along through those years, you may change your mind about possessions, come to see the massive contribution to your prosperity made by your community, society, family privelege, etc, and understand a portion of what you earn belongs to everyone (taxes, insurance).

You may change your behavior so drastically that during a hot Romance, you display only community awareness, not the 2 year old's selfish MINE.  But within months of marriage, that 2-year-old's MINE will assert itself, sometimes to your dismay.

Other 2-year-olds may have learned MINE in a different way, with support and respect for the exclusive possessions of an individual being sacrosanct.

If an adult with a commune mentality of "everything belongs to everyone in the family" marries a "what's mine is mine; what's yours is yours" person, there will be primal-scream-level-combat where neither party knows what they are really fighting for or over.

At some point, that mixed marriage may well crack -- and you, the writer, will have a Character ready for a second time around Romance.

By that point in maturity, the Character will be grappling with the vague and confusing question, "What is Love?"  How do you know if you're in love after being so bitterly disappointed by that Selfish Bastard you gave your heart to?

Or, on the other hand, that mixed marriage may gel and solidify into a happily ever after for real.

How can that happen?  If the very concept of MINE is not shared, how can two people meld into One?

It has happened.  I have seen it happen in real life.  Compromise is not the answer.  Winning a negotiation is not the answer.  Asserting your rights is not the answer.  Separate bedrooms is not the answer (though sometimes it helps.)

Even Love may not be the answer.  MINE may be something that Love can not conquer, at least not by itself.

One human's love for another human may not be up to the job of welding two such disparate views of what a human is into a single marriage.  This is the kind of welding job you write about in an Alien Romance, where a human has to apprehend the true alien quality of this strange Soul Mate.  If the weld is sturdy enough and flexible enough, you do end up with a Happily Ever After between Soul Mates.

Making that HEA ending seem plausible to your modern day readers is tricky.

We've discussed the HEA ending perpetually, and here we go again.  It is based on the validity of the concept, Soul Mates.

If your readers accept the concept of Soul Mates, they may not be ready to accept the concept of Souls per se.  That could take some convincing, a series of long novels.

The concept Souls comes with the question of what they are and how they came to exist -- and what the rules are about mating souls.

You can depict the Love of Soul Mates who nevertheless have primal-screaming-fights about MINE, and whose marriage may founder on that concept, and or its political manifestation (today: Democrats vs Republicans), Fiscal Responsibility, Health Care, Obamacare, Trumpcare, -- who must pay for the healthcare of the poor?  Who is responsible for making people poor to begin with, and for keeping people poor (and why would anyone do that?)

So Soul Mates may end up in Divorce Court.

Or maybe not.

There is a fundamental force in the Universe, a variable related to Love, which some call Delight.

If both Soul Mates become aware of the spiritual forces moving in the world, of the finger of God stirring their lives, (sometimes pregnancy brings this awareness, if only momentarily), and experience a peaceful moment together, they may transcend awareness of MINE.  It won't resolve the issues they fight over, but it will put the Values involved into another perspective.

Remember, we've discussed the two-valued either/or zero-sum-game model of the universe in many contexts -- that model is the foundation of most Conflict, and conflict is the essence of story.

If it is mine, it is therefore not-yours -- is zero-sum-game model.  There is only so much wealth to go around, a pie to slice, and it is not fair if some people get more of the pie.  That is the zero-sum-game model.

Then there is the infinite, expanding model of the universe wherein any human makes something and thus adds to the sum total of human wealth while at the same time keeping what has been made, dubbing it MINE.

The infinite, ever expanding model of reality has no pie to be sliced.  Whatever you make, you keep and divvy up as you choose.

Humans have the capacity to choose to do justice, to give away a portion of what they create.  That behavior is rare in the average 2 year old just encountering the concept MINE -- but it turns up often in the 3 or 4 year old who sees parents giving, and experiences love when recieving.

After having been the recipient of giving, a child learns the even greater delight of being the giver.  You can't experience that ineffable delight of giving unless what you are giving is MINE.  You must create/earn and acquire something of your very own, which you have no obligation to give away, and then give it to another (for whatever reason).

The delight of giving is a spiritual experience - an experience that happens, like Love At First Sight, at the soul level.  It lights up the brain circuits, true, but that is a pale reflection of the vast ignition of the Soul.

Possessing that which you have created and/or earned is a pre-requisite to experiencing that ineffable delight of the soul.

Sharing the experience of soul-level-delight can weld a couple into a single whole, a whole that readers can view as deserving of a Happily Ever After life.

So sharing a moment of Soul Delight can work as the climax of a Romance plot, and the Story climax is the realization by both that the moment of supreme intensity was indeed shared.  This Selfish Bastard you want to ditch actually has a heart.  That's a game-changer discovery.

The fabric of the universe is woven from shades of Delight, according to one ancient source.  Here it is in poetic form:

A bird builds its nest, a tree spreads its boughs, a cloud floats across the sky—and we see there beauty, ingenuity, wisdom and might.

But behind it all is delight. The delight the Creator takes in each thing.

Each thing begins with delight; delight condenses to become wisdom; wisdom condenses to become ingenuity, consciousness, love, might and beauty, and all the other fabric of the universe.

“Nothing is higher than delight,” says the Book of Formation. It is the quintessence of all that exists.

-----end quote-----

Think about that.  Delight and thus its derivative Love is more primal than MINE, is woven into the soul way above the point in cognitive development when the toddler learns "No" and "Mine!"

You can't get Delight by taking, only by giving what is Mine.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, March 26, 2017

2016 White Paper Concludes That Online Consumers Don't Understand Copyright

You don't say!

In January of 2016, a government task force concluded in a White Paper on Remix, First Sale, and Statutory Damages that, when consumers download ebooks, music, movies etc, they do not understand what they can legally do with these copies (or what they cannot do).

Now, on April 18th, 2017, this government task force is going to talk about it.

How long has online piracy been a problem for authors, musicians, movie-makers, artists, photographers? Since 2003? Should we say "better late than never"? Anyway, on April 18th, 2017, the government is prepared to "facilitate a dialogue" with the public about whether or not the government can help.

If you happen to be in Alexandria, Virginia, you may attend in person, space permitting. Registration is free. The event will also be webcast, so you may watch. Webcast information is on the USPTO's event page.

Forgive my snark, but it appears that the copyright notices that every ebook publisher prints in the front matter of every ebook is no protection whatsoever, and copyright infringers who "share" entire ebooks including the copyright page, may be "innocent infringers", and ought not to be fined as much as the law currently allows if they are caught.

It seems that "all rights reserved" and "no portion of this work may be reproduced" and "this book... shall not be lent... resold... hired out... or otherwise circulated..." is not clear and understandable. 

So, this meeting will focus on "identifying what copyright-related terms and conditions are important to communicate to consumers...".  Unfortunately, instead of communicating to copyright infringers what the law says, the liberal USPTO intends to discuss how many "lends", "resales", "shares" and "transfers of ownership" are reasonable and ought to be allowed.

The Task Force will also facilitate discussion on whether a "Buy" button ought to be called something else, if the author does not intend to transfer all rights including copyright and resale rights.

Here is some excellent advice for self-publishing authors about their front and back matter.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

European Law Requires...

European law --and Google-- requires us to inform our European visitors that this site hosted on (the Google owned) "Blogspot" puts cookies on your devices. Google does so, even if you request it not to do so. It does so even if we ask it not to do so!

We (the authors of this blog) are required to obtain your consent. By visiting this site, even briefly and by accident, you are presumed to consent to receive a cookie.

Apologies for the inconvenience.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, March 23, 2017


This week I'm attending the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando. Eighty-degree days! Nice change from the sudden resurgence of winter we suffered at home last week.

This year's theme is Fantastic Epics. I'm delivering a paper on Brian Lumley's Necroscope series. Next Thursday I'll report on the con.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Depiction Part 26 - Depicting Humanity by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 26
Depicting Humanity
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Previous parts of the Depiction series are listed here:

Well, now we're turning into Spring (Northern Earth Hemisphere) and the world is pretty much in a lot of trouble.  It's a mess.

So, how do writers of Alien Romance "depict" such a multi-leveled mess?

One of my favorite pastimes is to "explain" human behavior (individual behavior and mass behavior) to non-humans.

I've noticed something on TV News lately -- after the shift to interviewers asking only "leading questions" (never any real questions, only telling the interviewee what to say next), we now have almost every person "interviewed" as a talking head using a tone of voice that is either whining or condescending.

What do we mean by "whining" -- well, it's that tone of voice that projects "pleading" to understand what I'm saying.  It has an underlying texture of "complaint" to it, a whine for you to change your mind.  This is what a child does when parents say, "No."  They come back with, "But, you don't get it!"

What do we mean by condescending?  It's that tone you now hear on almost all voice-overs for commercials that are "telling" (not showing or arguing) you why you need to buy this product or service.  It's the way a parent talks to a child who just isn't old enough to understand complicated things.

So TV voices are using tones (in American English) that are either child-to-dense-minded-parent, or adult-to-incapable-child.

It has been a long time since I've heard the tune or underlying voice song behind words that indicates adult to adult communication.

I heard adult-to-adult in a short clip from some Trump Administration folks talking to the media, then it was gone.

The stark contrast between adult-to-adult tones and child-to-adult whining and adult-to-child "sweet-kind-condescension" just blows you away if you notice it.

So listen for it in the daily news clips you run across.  It is not in the words, but in the melody behind the words.  The tones are most easily spotted when the song does not match the words, the information behind conveyed.

There is an "announcer" song -- which has in it a flaw I've spotted where a word is emphasized by a pause afterward, wholly inappropriate for the grammatical flow of the sentence.

If you tune out the words and just listen to that underlying song you will notice how the song is chosen to affect the emotional response to the words.  The words require one sort of response, but the tone is urging (pleading for) another emotional response, usually an inappropriate one.

This analysis of how people talk, rather than of what they say, is one thing you'd have to explain in depth and in detail to a Vulcan, or any other non-human.  Suppose you are introducing an Alien, a First Contact Situation, to this world we are suffering through today.  What would you say to this Alien, and what TONE OF VOICE (song behind the words) would you use?

There is a rule in public speaking that I've seen disobeyed consistently, and then gradually expunged from our TV Voices (talking heads).  That rule is, "Never Uptalk."

Uptalk is a song where assertions are inflected with an upward tone, as if asking a question when finishing a declarative sentence.  It is common in Southern USA dialects, and if you move from North to South, you will pick it up without noticing.

Uptalk is passive-aggressive -- since you aren't actually saying something is so, but rather asking, you can't be countered.  You take the weaker position in the exchange, and as the weaker you can't be attacked or the other person is a bully.  Passive-aggressive.

How do you explain Uptalk to an Alien?

By tone of voice and facial expressions, humans convey vast amounts of information separately from the denotation of words.  If the three channels of communication carry conflicting messages, we often conclude the human is lying.  If the channels carry the same, harmonious, information, we believe the information is true, or at least the person is honest.

How do we tell if an Alien is lying?

More interesting -- how does an Alien tell if we are lying?  And how do you explain to an Alien that since all the humans know this person is lying, it is OK -- everyone knows what he "really means."

By matching the words, tone of voice, and body language (whether the smile reaches the eyes, and other tiny signals), we figure out what we think about what is being said.

Thinking requires concentrated effort.  Generally speaking, people are too busy exhausting themselves on daily tasks, chores, and life-or-death-decisions (like how to pay for health care).  Just staying even takes all our strength.

So living in today's world, we may pause to figure out what a news item means, or which news anchors are lying, or what interviews are 'canned' (rigged, scripted).  It's hard work trying to sort out which of the 3 streams of information you get from television (words, tone, body language) is the true one, and which are the lies.

So once a human has figured our what "the truth" is, they paste a label on that truth and try very hard not to revisit that decision because all subsequent decisions will have to be changed, too.

Most people want to be honest with themselves (at least), even politicians, but don't especially value being completely honest with all other people.  We select who to be "honest with" -- and that is a kind of intimacy called "being close."

Politicians do that.  They hold one, personal and private position, sometimes sharing it with other elected politicians of similar rank, and a totally different position publicly, a position crafted to get votes.

Thus if there is a "hack" of a private communication (such as an email) which reveals the private position, and how it differs from the public position, the public often stands aghast.  Then things settle down, and the public slaps a label on the individual whose private position was revealed.  The problem is just that one person, not all politicians.  And you tell the difference by the labels.

In fact, the whole commercial industry is based on labeling -- a type of labeling called "branding."

If you want to buy a GM car, you want it to have a GM label on it somewhere.  If you want Dole pineapple, you want to see the Dole logo.

Why do you want certain brands of an item, but not other brands?

Shortcut thinking.  Radio, TV, Magazine, media advertising methods use that "tone of voice" plastered over words that do not match to engrave on your mind that this Brand is better than that Brand.  And it might actually be better.  You never know until you try it, yet when you try it, your preconceived notions may color your tasting experience.

Labels matter when they are shared among humans.  Labels, short-cut-thinking, accepting the opinion of others who "know better" is learned in childhood.  At some point you are expected to mature, to shed the thought habits of childhood, and "think for yourself."  But thinking is hard work, so after you've thought, you do not want to re-think.  So you slap a label on your conclusion and move on with the business of survival.

Explain that mental shortcut I'm calling "Labeling" to the Alien you are falling in love with.  Can you understand his explanation of how his people use shortcut thinking, labeling, whining, condescension and Uptalk?  Do they even have an equivalent?

As an example of an emotionally charged yet completely abstract (i.e. thematic) element in Depicting Humanity, consider political science, philosophy, and history.

Modern record keeping is allowing us to revisit and rethink Labels invented about a hundred years ago, more or less.  Printing has allowed even minor works to be preserved.  Historians study these records, as do journalists, and often exhume Labels invented to cover certain cultural Idea Bundles that were "sold" to whole communities in the past.

Explaining individual behavior to Aliens is easy compared to explaining our mass movements, shifting cultural norms, and vicious arguments over what the facts were, and what those facts have now become.

Yes, as part of the labeling shortcuts human cognition uses, we change the "values" of the facts as time progresses.

Labels used in short-cut thinking are like the X, Y, W, symbols used in algebra -- they stand-for-something rather than be that something.  So we can manipulate labels the way we manipulate terms in algebra -- it is abstract thinking, and the kind of Aliens you could plausibly use in a Science Fiction Romance would very likely use this type of thinking.

Assemble a group of Ideas under a Label, (say X, for example) then juxtapose that group of ideas to a different group (say Y, for example).  Then try to find a relationship between them that holds through time -- perhaps requiring the invention of another Label or Symbol called W.

For humans, I expect this systematic explanation of human belief systems is impossible.  Humans as a group, (it seems to me) will fight any process that threatens to reveal the truth about their behavior.  We love and admire irrationality as a method of tricking our most dire foes.

Thus, definitions of Labels used historically change -- I expect in a 20 year cycle, and an 80 year cycle.

Academics, today, are struggling to redefine and clarify the Label "Fascist" -- I've seen at least 5 mutually exclusive definitions bandied about on social media, often with legitimate academic credentials attached.

Since these definitions usually come in cold text only, there is no tone of voice or body language to analyze, just words.

We have equally shapeless, whipped cream type Labels being shouted about - Liberal, Conservative, Religions, Atheist, etc.  (e.g. Zuckerberg suddenly came out with the statement that he now sees Religion as important last year, and some instantly speculated he's planning to run for public office.)

Journalists and Academics (often with identical credentials) are trying to Group the beliefs and tenets under sharply contrasting Labels, so they can call them X, Y, W and manipulate them before your eyes.

You can't make this stuff up, but maybe you can explain it to a visiting Alien just discovering humanity.  If you can get this point across, you may hit the best seller list because people will talk  (shout, argue, get red in the face, and cry inconsolably) about your novel.

You hit an emotional core response when you rip Labels apart and re-arrange what those labels stand for.  Imagine the disruption when a packaged food your family relies on is under botulism recall!  Now imagine if a Label you are absolutely sure of is "recalled" and re-formulated.  Explain to your Alien Character just how disruptive his people arriving on this planet will be to our nice, neat, reliable labeling system.

As an example, or perhaps inspiration in how to go about writing an explanation of human short-cut thinking and what happens to us when our short-cuts are disrupted, read this article all the way through.

You already know the information in this article -- Donald Trump is a Populist.  But there are dozens of definitions of Populist going around, some from serious academics, all mutually exclusive.  Historically, the Label Fascist is being redefined, reorganizing a Group of behaviors some of which were evident in Italy, and some not.

Don't worry about deciding which Label is accurate and applies to whom.  Read carefully with an eye to explaining to your Alien Character how humans use (and abuse) Labeling as a cognitive process.

This is a difficult exercise.  I warn you, the article will make you fume and stomp, maybe shout and snap at anyone who talks to you for the next day.

While you read, remember that "right-wing" means the opposite in Europe than it does in the USA, and it means something entirely different in the Middle East (explain THAT to your Alien).  I have no idea what "right-wing" might mean in China but I'm betting the meaning does not resemble anything I've ever heard of.

The point of this exercise is to gain the kind of perspective on humanity that Gene Roddenberry had when he invented "Number One" (the emotionless female) and Spock (the half-human Alien), then combined the two Characters.

Roddenberry was fascinated by "emotion" -- actually explored it from another angle in a failed pilot he made where a human being was from a culture where the worst invective was to Label something Inconvenient.

Because he was interested in how humans were affected by Emotion, he created a Character who "had no emotions" (we know he walked that back later, due to the exigencies of commercialized fiction).

That's what you can do with this exercise.  Create an Alien who has NO LABELS -- who does not understand the cognitive shortcut we use when we apply Labels (or Branding).

If you can succeed in reading this (explosive) article without blowing your top, you may be able to create such a Character who will haunt readers for generations.

Donald Trump isn’t a fascist
A leading expert on 1930s-era politics explains that Trump is a right-wing populist, not a fascist — and the distinction matters.
Updated by Sheri Berman  Jan 3, 2017, 1:00pm EST

Of course, an expert must know what they're talking about.  Would your Alien assume she did?

Pay particular attention to the article section:
Four key characteristics of fascism (not in evidence in Trumpism)

Note the contrast with Liberalism.  Maybe you thought you were a Conservative?

All of these labels are tossed about in this article as if they are "real" -- as if everyone agrees on the definitions.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Note also that the "four characteristics" are treated independent variables.  There is no thematic connection among them (as would be required in a novel).

If you have one of the four variables, that does not mean that you have the other three.  The other three are not generated by the one -- not consequential.

What if your Alien's psychology could not encompass a notion of thinking beings functioning in such cognitive chaos?

Explain how humans can believe contradictory things.

Given that humans do believe contradictory things, why should the Galactic Community accept humans as intelligent?

You might also want to explain to your Alien Character how Fascism, as defined by this article (or maybe some other articles about it) differs from government by Aristocracy.

How is a Dictator different from a King?

A King controls life or death over individual citizens, is the chief justice of the supreme court, is the speaker of the house, and the president pro-tem of the senate, as well as the superior to every corporation's CEO.  In fact, a King is CEO of all the businesses in his Land.  The King owns all the Land and grants tenancy to Dukes etc.  The King can revoke tenancy of anyone at any time (if he can get away with it politically).

So how do Fascists differ from Kings?

We write a lot about historical times when Kings ruled, and we have projected the Aristocratic model of government into Fantasy, and even Galactic Civilizations.

We also use the constitutional monarchy model in Galactic Civilization - is that Fascist?

Suppose your Alien objects to your explanation, "But the role of government is to protect the individual from government!"

Do you answer with the ancient wisdom of humanity that without the strong hand of government, humans would eat each other alive?  Humans misbehave if nobody tells them what to do.

So read

if it's still available - or if not, Google fascism and see what you find as a definition, then explain it to your Alien.

In that explanation you come up with, you will find your Alien Romance Theme -- and you will find what barrier Love must Conquer to forge your human/Alien couple.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Moral Rights Deadline, Keeping Your Contest Legal.

If you feel that, as an alien romance author (or any other type of author), your moral rights ought to be increased or more vigorously protected by the US Government, you have until one minute before midnight Eastern Time on March 30th, 2017 to submit your brief (or lengthy) remarks.



Moral rights are non-economic rights that are personal to an author, such as the right of attribution (giving you credit for being the author of your work), and the right not to have your work distorted in a way that harms your honor or integrity.

LaVar Oldham, of the law offices of Workman Nydegger has written a helpful article on Moral Rights in the USA, and why authors might wish to provide comments. Other countries provide greater protection for authors' moral rights than does the USA, partly because the American "First Amendment".

Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP have a helpful article about staying on the sweet side of the law while running a contest to promote one's work.

This is the first of a series. In this part, they define what makes a "contest" look like an illegal lottery ("a prize", the element of "chance", and "consideration" or "anything of value") and how to tweak your contest so that it is not an illegal lottery.

Many independent authors, and some traditionally published authors run contests that appear to cross the line. This looks like a series that is worth following.

Kudos and attribution for the sweepstakes advice go to Darren S Cahr, Tore Thomas DeBella, and Mita K. Lakhia.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

PS. My apologies for not posting last Sunday. I blame Stella (the storm).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

We're All Mutants

This article on the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND site uses the "X-Men" series as a springboard for an overview of genes and mutations:

We're All X-Men

Popular culture tends to think of "mutants" as extraordinary freaks of nature to be either feared or envied (in superhero stories, often a bit of both). Yet alterations in DNA are common and pervasive. The article estimates that human beings "accumulate 100 to 200 mutations each generation." Some changes, while nowhere near as amazing as Wolverine's super-healing power, have had far-reaching cultural effects; think of the fact that, while most ethnic groups have lost the ability to digest milk in adulthood, a few have retained lactose tolerance all their lives—so we have dairy products and herding societies. Some mutations are both good and bad. The gene that causes sickle cell anemia also offers protection against the malaria parasite.

Recommended reading: A book titled FREAKS OF NATURE: WHAT ANOMALIES TELL US ABOUT DEVELOPMENT AND EVOLUTION, by Mark Blumberg, explores "monsters" in human and animal development, whether produced by genetic mutations before conception or by environmental influences or developmental glitches during gestation. As the subtitle indicates, studying "monstrosities" can provide insight into the normal course of development in an individual or species. For example, one chapter analyzes the way malformations of limb development in many different animals can be caused by either environmental toxins or changes in DNA, yet the underlying cellular processes that produce anomalies or absence of limbs are similar, whether in people or animals born with missing arms or legs or in naturally limbless snakes.

Without variations for evolution to work on, we wouldn't be here, since life on Earth wouldn't have changed from the primeval, microscopic proto-organism. As the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND article says, the electronic mutant detector in one of the "X-Men" movies "wouldn’t have just identified Mystique as the camouflaged mutant; it would registered all of the humans in the room as well." On the cellular level, we're all mutants.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Reviews 31 - Dave Bara The Lightship Chronicles

Reviews 31
The Lightship Chronicles
David Bara

I have not yet done an Index Post listing all the previous 30 Reviews posts, but you can find most of them by searching for Reviews in the search slot for this blog at the right.

This Review of Dave Bara's Lightship Chronicles series might also belong to the series Marketing Fiction In A Changing World.

We have been discussing the impact of Star Trek and Star Wars -- and other hugely successful movies and TV Series such as Avatar and Stargate -- on the science fiction novel field.

If we can figure this out, we may have an inkling of what to write now that will become hugely successful 10 years from now. Dave Bara may have hit on one important change that is still ongoing, and I am recommending you read and study The Lightship Chronicles.

In the 1930's and 1940's, "science fiction" was an obscure field, barely represented in public or High School libraries, not even known by the general public as existing.  The few dozen writers and few thousand readers just buzzed along in private, much as fanfic started in the 1970's.  When ordinary people (Muggles) heard about what we read, they greeted the entire thing with scorn.  The comic strip, Dagwood, got more respect.

On this blog, we have been analyzing what we, as Romance Writers, can do to convince the "general public" that the Romance genre in general, and science fiction romance in particular, are worthy of respect.

Meanwhile, that general public's respect for our field may actually be rising.

Gini Koch's Alien Series - that I've been raving about on this blog for years - is still prominent and the series is growing.

I've noted several other works that touch the edges of "The Love Story" -- novels about interstellar war, Aliens, dimension travel, or paranormal inter-dimensional travel.  Many writers, and their editors, are dabbling at the edges of the depicting of a Universe where Love Conquers All, producing a Happily Ever After.

So we are marketing fiction in a changing world, and some editors are willing to publish novels that would never have been accepted for Mass Market in the 1970's.
And as usual since then, DAW Books is a leader in changing the publishing landscape.

DAW has now brought out three of Dave Bara's Lightship Chronicles novels.


Find them at

These are space-war, military science fiction with a Star Trek like leap into an era that emerges from what technology might do with today's science.  Now, we see that technology only via Mathematicians speculating and Physicists dreaming up experiments.

That speculative leap into a future where humans live with the results of applied science creating impossible technology  is the hallmark of great science fiction.

The science makes the fiction.

But fiction is about Characters living through a Story - in spite of, or because of the Events that happen, the Plot.

Human Characters have the same character flaws (and strengths) that the readers do.

Human Characters make mistakes, boast egotistically, embarrass their parents, offend everyone, ingratiate themselves, and regularly pull of miracles -- just like you and me stumbling through Life.  Human Characters fall in love.  Learning to tame the force of Character we all bring to bear on Life is Story.

The Story is the Character Arc where the Character learns an abstract lesson, a moral, a rule of thumb, and gains maturity.

If you examine the early Star Trek fanfic, you will find a type of Character drawn with broad strokes, who is painfully close to the typical reader of such fiction.  That Character was branded "Lt. Mary Sue" after the lead Character in an particularly egregious example of the sub-genre.

Today, we refer to such stories just as "Mary Sue" stories.

Now, oddly enough, I am a blatant Mary Sue fan.  I loved the stories as they were published in T-Negative, and I still love this type of story.  My definition, therefore, may differ from that in current usage.

One feature of the Mary Sue Character is the absurdly long and varied list of accomplishments, talents, abilities, and credentials Mary Sue has garnered before she graduates from Star Fleet Academy at an age younger than others.

She skips ranks, solves any problem with apparent ease, and because of her precocious accomplishments, she has little respect for authority.

At the same time, Mary Sue has an emotional maturity somewhat below her age-group, does not understand people and can only evaluate any situation from her own point of view.  She has no clue why people don't trust her and admire her.

For the most part, people define the "Mary Sue" as a type of story not worthy of their respect.

The reasons the Mary Sue story does not garner admiration and respect center around how "unbelievable" these Characters are -- the Character is "unreal."

Mary Sue is implausible.

That is the exact complaint readers have about Romance -- Love At First Sight is implausible, Romance is not realistic, and Love always Loses -- there is no such thing in real life as Happily Ever After.  Maybe, Happily For Now might happen, but not as a result of Love Conquering All.

We all know how many people regard Romance, but most of us do know a few people who have experienced real life romance, fought through vicissitudes and then lived many decades "Happily Ever After."  Real life examples abound, and we are aware of a few.

In real life, many people look at a "Happy" couple and imagine the discord they keep private.  Then they conclude the couple is not actually happy.  That turns out to be true enough times that people conclude happiness does not exist.

So, if we know that Romance does indeed strike, Love forges Couples amidst vicissitudes, and those Love-tempered Couples do have good, long years of "Happily Ever After" then why is Mary Sue implausible?

Many people do not know a Mary Sue in real life.

I, on the other hand, have met quite a few, dealt with them, done business with them, and watched them try to cope with not fitting in.  So I do not find Mary Sue implausible, just as I don't find Romance implausible.

I noted this disparity of experience when Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced Wesley Crusher.  Fans reacted explosively.  Some adored him and were relieved to see such a Character on TV -- someone they could identify with.  Others loathed him because he is so implausible -- no real person could be like that.  Others objected to the Character being introduced into the show because it struck a sour note -- this Character does not belong in this Show.

I suspect Wesley Crusher was the first presentation of a Mary Sue Character in a Professional venu -- and not a mere Mass Market Paperback, but a TV Series.

At first, in 1987, I didn't notice anything odd or strange about Wesley Crusher (I was already a Mary Sue fan for life) -- I've known a few real people like that and found them very amenable and not at all remarkable.  But I understood the objections when I heard them, but disagreed.

The Character Wesley Crusher is probably the best known example of what has become known as the Marty Stu -- the male version of Mary Sue.  Spock, as a child, must have seemed like that to his peers.  He outgrew it, as most do.

But through the ensuing 1990's, we did not see this type of Character turn up in Mass Market paperback Science Fiction or Romance.

Throughout the 1990's, the online communities were growing faster than the technology.  The fans of my Sime~Gen novels were, likewise, writing millions of words of fanfic set in my universe -- at first on paper, and then online in various hosted communities.  We moved several times before launching our own  So I had a ringside seat during this transition, and now host classic Star Trek 'zines on

Today, and others host a wide variety of fan writers enlarging on stories they share with others.

In fanfic, the Mary Sue and Marty Stu stories flourished.  Very likely, people enjoy writing them more than others enjoy reading them.  The scorn is just as hot now, but the Character Type is still common.

And now, after 2010, we are seeing the Marty Stu Character turn up in Mass Market.

Gini Koch's Kitty Kat (ALIEN SERIES) is a more tame, plausible, believable Mary Sue because, written from inside Kitty's own mind, we see her uncertainty, her struggles, her misunderstandings, her mistakes, and flaws.  Kitty Kat is aware of her own flaws -- and that is a signature of Maturity.  Kitty Kat has out-grown her Mary Sue years when we first meet her.  But we can imagine what a pain she must have been as a kid, and so we understand why her Mother didn't tell her "everything."

Kitty Kat apparently grew up among Marty Stu Characters, and that spurred her maturation.  And she has matured markedly through her adventures in this Series.  She's adorable and lovable because she's not a Know It All and is accepted by others for her unique Talent.

In the last six or seven years, I've been finding Marty Stu Characters strewn through Mass Market paperback Science Fiction.  Gradually, the "wraps" have been taken off this Character, and even so he is still selling books.  Yes, people buy books to follow a Character.  Create the Character for your Readership and it will sell books.

Which brings us to the Magic of creating a Character that readers remember for years even when they don't actually remember that they remember.

Picking a book to read may merely be a matter of liking the cover art, or something about the packaging seems similar to some other book which was a pleasurable read.  It is very intangible.

And somehow I did it.  I picked a book without remembering the writer's name, or the prequel title. I started reading convinced I'd never read IMPULSE by Dave Bara.

I was several chapters in when the story finally twanged my memory -- and it was not the main Character, Peter Cochran, that reminded me.  It was a secondary Character -- and not even that Character, but his technology, that had lingered in my mind.

In IMPULSE by Dave Bara, we learn about an FTL ship exploring the cosmos -- encountering hostiles, fighting frantically and being nearly beaten.  This FTL ship gets its technologically advanced weapons and propulsion systems via a group of humans called Historians.  I didn't remember what they were called, but I did clearly remember the one feature that distinguishes Bara's universe from all the other Military Science Fiction, and galactic war stories I've read in between.

And therein lies a lesson for us all.  Hollywood wants, "The Same But Different" -- and this is the reason why.  I remembered the Historian, his name and his Character, but mostly his personal transportation -- a whole ship attached to the bigger FTL ship and almost indistinguishable from it.  It's a whole private apartment, loaded with technology and know-how the main ship does not have access to.

That unique feature of Bara's Universe stuck with me.  It's fabulously interesting, and the secondary Character (the Historian) is the one who has my interest (as Spock riveted my attention no matter what Kirk ever did).

This is a lesson in how to write for a market.  Lightship Chronicles is "just another" galactic war story -- except for The Historians.  It is the same, but different from all others.

That alone is a good reason to read this series if you want to write Science Fiction Romance.  But another reason that you'll enjoy the Lightship Chronicles is the classic, indefatigable Love Story.  There is Romance in there, but it is a Love Story with a lot of friction, and a lot of reasons why this Couple can never make it to Happily Ever After.

The main Character, Peter Cochran, is Marty Stu.  He is "royalty" from a planet that is trying to forge a union of planets to stand against the current attackers.  He has "intuition" measured at the top of human range, but he makes mistakes that get dozens of those under his command killed.  His bridge station is under the command of the resident Historian, and he has a security clearance above the Captain's.  He is a classic Marty Stu, by accident of birth and by on-paper accomplishments.

His list of heroic accomplishments would win him respect, but he's just too implausible for his compatriots.

But he is clearly on his way to maturity.  We are seeing through his eyes as he is attracted to the one particular woman who is an awkward fit for his personality and position in his society.  He values her for the exact attributes all women want to be valued for -- accomplishments not appearance.  She is beautiful to him because of her accomplishments, and she just can't see what's happening.

The Marty Stu motif is born out in STARBOUND by an awkward and inept writing style absolutely conforming to the average fanfic.

This is Hardcover/Mass Market publication upholding the best of the fanfic style.

The first thing I noticed in STARBOUND was the inept use of dialogue.  I recommend studying this novel just for the dialog lessons you can learn from this.

1. Dialogue is used where narrative should be, to inform the reader.  The Characters tell each other what the Characters already know.

2. Dialogue is used where symbolism and action (in screenwriting, this is called "business" -- little things the actors add) should be.  The Characters argue at length during action scenes.

This second item is really big because it both conveys and undermines Peter Cochran's Character and Situation.

This is a military exploration vessel, armed to the teeth with the latest weapons, going into enemy Territory on a stealth Extraction Mission (which they never bother to mention again or complete).

In each and every instance in the opening chapters, where an official order is given, whoever that order is given to answers back with an argument or objection (that is ridiculously inappropriate).  This dialogue exchange actually is there to inform the reader what is going on - but it is typical fanzine writing in that the craft-tool of Dialogue is substituted for Narrative.

It would work if in only one instance an order was objected to, but it is in every single instance.

So you have an illustration to study here explaining to you exactly why we keep saying "SHOW DON'T TELL" -- and that whatever you show and whatever you tell, it all must explicate the THEME.

The way dialogue is used in these action-opening chapters (space battles etc) shows us this is a lax, non-vertical chain of command where laid back argument and discussion is encouraged.  We are shown that Orders are not Orders, and the life-or-death-by-the-second decisions are not really life-or-death (except people die because of the discussion intervals).

But we are TOLD - that this is military exploration on a rescue mission, a stealth extraction of spies.

What we are shown does not match thematically with what we are told.

You really must study these three novels, and the market shifts their publication indicates.
Read the review praises in the front page in the LOOK INSIDE feature.  Every sort of reader is loving these books.

OK, the next fanzine structure issue in STARBOUND comes around page 100, where after they get the ship shot up and so damaged it has to go back to repair dock, Peter Cochran and his woman are sent to testify about their losing their previous ship (in the novel IMPULSE).

Now we go to Peter's social duties as a royal heir, and he goes home and gets bumped up a rank, then off to testify on another planet.

This interval is a drastic shift of pace -- it is another book entirely -- with totally different themes and conflicts.  The plot connects but the rest of everything just does not go together artistically.

This kind of "lurch" in pacing is typical of fanzine writing.

It is also something I rather enjoy reading -- fanfic has its charm.

But I am seeing this in Mass Market Paperback -- knowing what my editor would have done if I'd ever turned in a book structured like this -- and I know I'm looking at the taste of a readership that has grown up on fanfic.  They know real Marty Stu people, and believe they exist and can grow up to be mature and respectable.

In our current world, you can be born with a silver spoon in your mouth, score incredible successes before age 30, be an utterly immature and abrasive idiot in your 40's, and come into your 60's scoring even bigger successes while displaying mature Character.

Mature Character is an independent variable from Success in our world.  So readers find the Mary Sue and Marty Stu Characters acceptable, and even respectable in their adult form.

We live in a whole new world.  We are writing for a whole new readership.  Evidence here indicates they can be convinced that Love Conquers All and leads to Happily Ever After.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Brain-to-Computer Communication

A research project at Stanford University enables paralyzed people to type on computers by moving a cursor with their thoughts:

Brain-Computer Interface

This technology, according to the article, produces the desired output up to four times as fast as previously existing methods. It's supposed to be superior to the eye-tracking method of operating a computer, which sounds to me as if it would be tiring as well as difficult to master.

Imagine combining a perfected brain-computer interface with the Second Life environment discussed a few weeks ago. Individuals locked into their bodies without even the ability to speak might be able to live a fulfilling life in a virtual environment that feels as multidimensional as the "real world."

Or consider the shell people in Anne McCaffrey's THE SHIP WHO SANG series. Such artificial bodies for people with no control over their physical bodies might become more feasible in actuality once the robotic form could be completely operated by thought alone.

Does the interface described in the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN article allow speechless people to communicate (through a computer) with something like telepathy? Well, not exactly. The user doesn't beam thoughts through the ether. Wired connections between brain and machine have to be installed. Still, it's an exciting beginning.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Depiction Part 25 - Depicting Hatred

Part 25
Depicting Hatred
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Index to Depiction Series:

In Part 28, we looked at the sweeping, long wave of change in science fiction and fantasy genres in how Aliens and Supernatural Beings are depicted, and noted how one crude but unmistakable method of labeling a villain is to tell rather than show.  Just make him/her say "...and then I'll rule, forever!" preferably with venom and triumph gleaming.

Villains aspire to RULE.  That's how you know they are villains.

Did the Lone Ranger yearn to rule?  Does Superman want to rule Earth forever?  Did Captain Kirk secretly politic his way to Admiral status so he could step up to rule the Federation?

The Hero has no interest in Ruling.

The Villain wants nothing else but to Rule.

What was it in the character of The Evil Queen (in the TV Series Once Upon A Time) that changed to make her not-evil-anymore?

When she was Evil Queen, she wanted to RULE - when she became Good, she did not hurt people to make them knuckle under.  She didn't steal hearts and put them in boxes anymore.  That Heart-Stealing bit is a graphic (show don't tell) of a very abstract set of concepts, and it is brilliantly done.

Do humans (maybe Aliens, too?) yearn to Rule people because they Hate those people?

Or is there something more complicated going on?

Remember, the master theme of Romance is Love Conquers All.

In the TV Series Once Upon A Time, they use True Love's Kiss to overcome impossible obstacles of magical origin.  True Love's Kiss undoes the most powerful spell.

All Romance is about how Love Conquers All -- so it is up to the writer to create a formidable obstacle for Love to overcome.

One formidable obstacle that has been the plot generating conflict in many of the very best Romances (especially in the Science Fiction or Paranormal Romance) is Hatred.

When the Couple first meets, it is Hate At First Sight.  The story experience transforms that hate into love as a series of misunderstandings is unraveled, and the depths of human (and/or non-human) psychology are penetrated.  Many of the very best Romances flip Hate into Love.

Love is generally considered the only thing that can dispel Hatred.

There are many psychological studies of affinity and aversion that can be used to plot such a Romance, so the more widely you read, the better you will write.

December 2016, I found an article in Slate

This article, Why Dictators Hate Chess, begs to be studied by those puzzling over the question posed in Depiction Part 28 - why do villains yearn to rule forever?  Or rule at all, for that matter?  Heros don't yearn to rule - why do villains?  What has Ruling to do with Love and Hate?

Notice that Love, Hate - and even Rule - are abstract concepts.  Remember that a stage play, TV Series or Movie is a "story in pictures."  The task of "Depicting" hatred is the task of making an emotion visible and concrete.  So a writer of Romance has to study Hate very closely to understand what the readership will interpret as "That One Is The Villain."  Or "That One Is The Obstacle Love Must Conquer."

Make the readers root for the Villain to melt in the bright shaft of love-shine, and you have a winner.   This works even in all the other genres.  See why every novel needs a love story.

That article in Slate is an interview with the former world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, talking about Vladimir Putin and dictators (rulers) in general.

Note: the USA has a President, not a King, because a President does not rule and has no power to rule (if he obeys the law).  The USA does not have a "regime" and Presidents do not "come to power."  This is because a President has no power; voters do.

Presidents serve not as decision makers but as managers who create policies to carry out instructions of voters.  Presidents are supposed to do what the the majority of voters elected them to do.  Kings rule.  Rule means make others do what you want, whether they want to or not.

"Want" is an emotion, and like Love, Hate, is very abstract.  The writer's job is to make it concrete, a story in pictures depicted in text, in symbols.

Here is Part 4 of the Theme-Symbolism series with links to previous parts.

Here is a quote from the article in Slate:
Why Dictators Hate Chess
Garry Kasparov on Vladimir Putin’s meddling and America’s response.
By Jacob Weisberg

Interviewer: That also sounded to me like a chess player’s analysis. You’re the greatest chess player ever. Is Putin playing chess, or is he playing a different game?

Kasparov: No, I always wanted to defend the integrity of my game—when people said, Oh, Putin played chess, Obama played checkers. Putin, as with every dictator, hates chess because chess is a strategic game which is 100 percent transparent. I know what are available resources for me and what kind of resources could be mobilized by my opponent. Of course, I don’t know what my opponent thinks about strategy and tactics, but at least I know what kind of resources available to you cause damage to me.

Dictators hate transparency and Putin feels much more comfortable playing a game that I would rather call geopolitical poker. In poker, you know, you can win having a very weak hand, provided you have enough cash to raise the stakes—and also, if you have a strong nerve, to bluff. Putin kept bluffing. He could see his geopolitical opponents—the leaders of the free world—folding cards, one after another. For me, the crucial moment where Putin decided that he could do whatever was Obama’s decision not to enforce the infamous red line in Syria.

---------end quote-------------

What if this "game" were being played out on a Galactic canvas?  What if the Putin-Character were non-human, playing against Earth?

How would humans assess the Character of a Galactic Authority that was not "transparent."  What if that Authority abhorred transparency, but had no desire to "Rule" Earth or anything else?  Would the veil of mystery be taken as Villainy?

Is Kasparov's assessment of Dictators hating Chess universally valid, or is it a cultural trait that might not turn up everywhere?

Is the burning desire to Rule a certain sign of villainy?  Or is that a human thing?

It may be that wherever humans are involved, Ruling = Villainy.  Or put another way, absolute power corrupts absolutely.  No human is fit to exercise rule over another.  Maybe that's not universally true for non-human people -- and therein lies a complex tale.

For humans, though, the it certainly seems that the ambition to Rule, to Conquer and to Win Ruler-ship, is innate in our biology.

See Part 19 and Part 21 of Depicting which discusses how that innate human goal of Ruler-ship is related to Testosterone:

Part 19 - Depicting the Married Hunk With Children (especially daughters) (Testosterone effect)

Part 21 - Depicting Alien History (Testosterone revisited)

This new scientific research on testosterone psychoactive dimension tells us a lot about why humanity self-organizes into hierarchy -- or behind a Leader -- or in allegiance to a King.

When beaten, a man knuckles under to his ruler -- not from cultural custom but from the abating of the biological urge to conquer.  When raising his own children, the man's need to take insane risks abates -- we call it maturity.

Not everyone experiences the urge to Rule in equal degrees, but don't forget women also have a need to dominate, to prevail, to get things to go their own way.  If that requires Ruling, then Rule She Shall, and she shall enjoy the heck out of it, too.

So humans are hard-wired to compete for Rulership, and nobody really wants their Rule to be temporary -- so Rule Forever is an innate goal, set in our genes.

Consider, Happily Ever After is the innate goal of Romance.  After What?  After Love Conquers All.

Conquers being the Keyword to ponder, along with "ever after" (i.e. forever).

Both the Villain's Quest and the Lovelorn's Quest are searches for a definitive, permanent, eternal solution to the problem.

The human male seeks to conquer a female.  The language of sexuality is fraught with the language of war, conquering, taking, having, getting.  The language of Romance is about convincing, wooing, maybe fooling, seducing.  The language of Love combines the two.

Love is about conflict, and the satisfactory and permanent settlement of that conflict.

It has been widely proposed that the opposite of Love is not Hate but Indifference.

Love manifests as an affinity, gravitating together, combining.

Hate manifests as a bond, focusing attention, defining goals according to the hated person -- to vanquish that hated person, to conquer or thwart or neutralize that hated and rejected person.  Where this is active hatred, there is no fleeing or giving up everything to get away.  Fear causes flight.  Hatred binds.

Like Love, Hatred comes in thousands of styles and flavors as well as degrees of visibility.  Sometimes a person who smolders with hatred doesn't even know the feeling is hatred.

Hate comes in a variety called Baseless Hatred -- where the feeling of being locked in a fight to the death is not caused by the person or situation that is ostensibly hated.  There is no objective real-world reason for the feeling, but that feeling dominates and motivates, oblitterating all other purposes in life.  Baseless Hatred very easily becomes an obsession detached from all rationality.

People blame external events, other people, random occurrances and situations for their emotions.  Not all humans do that, but ways of avoiding it are absorbed by children before they can talk.  Where emotions lie on the spectrum of values is a cultural norm, and as far as we now know, not biological in origin.

Baseless Hatred makes a good story dynamic for the Horror Genre, and for Action Genre where the point of the novel is to depict a righteous and sanctioned killing.  This is the sort of vanquishing you often see in videogames where you just "kill" anything that gets in your way.

Monsters are motivated by Baseless Hatred.

When writing a "slay the monster" story, you don't have to provide a comprehensible motive for the monster.  Nothing the hero did or said has anything to do with why the monster is fixated on killing the hero.  And the Hero doesn't hate the monster.

The monster has no power over the Hero, so the Hero does not hate the monster.  The monster is just a "force of nature" - a formidable adversary bent on destruction.

The adversary motivated by Baseless Hatred makes a great plot element for Action or Horror genre, but not for Romance.

Baseless Hatred is conquered by Love, but not love of the Monster.  Love conquers the Monster by binding the humans into an unbreakable defensive wall.  The love of one human for another conquers the Monster.

Once fully consumed by Baseless Hatred, the Monster is irredeemable, but harmless to those who Love.  Many good Love Stories revolve around rescuing someone from going down the path of Baseless Hatred.  The rescue process resembles the AA 12 step program, or deprogramming someone from a Cult. Those make very potent novels, but rarely produce the best of Romance.

Hatred that is based in reality, in the actions and situations that exist in truth, and that readers can recognize as legitimate causes for hatred, provides a much wider and richer spectrum of plots and stories for Romance writers.

The classic, as mentioned previously, is Hate At First Sight that eventually turns to True Love.

In real life, very often we hate that which has power over us.  Love has that kind of power, the power to change our very identity, or sense of self.

When you fall in love, you literally become someone new, someone different.

Humans do fear change, and do fear anything with the power to change them -- hence our fascination with werewolves and shapechangers.  Can you "change" so radically and still be you?

We also love novels about how Love At First Sight turns to hatred -- the escape from the clutches of a man you have given yourself to, then discovered he's Bluebeard incarnate.

So the opposite of Love is Indifference -- not feeling any bond at all.

So to depict hate, make sure your Character is deeply bonded, enthralled, captivated, obsessed with the object of hatred.

Depict a cause or basis for that hatred -- and ask what this Character would accept as proof that this "cause" is actually not the problem at all -- that what he/she thought was true is in fact not true.  You can't do that with Baseless Hatred -- and you can identify baseless hatred by the non-falsifyable nature of it.  Nothing would be a convincing proof that this is not a real source of the problem.

If you're writing Alien Romance, and you want to drive your plot with hate, then consider what makes humans hate (for cause).  Build Aliens who are different in that regard.

Consider the two posts on Testosterone in this Depiction Series.  A human who is beaten, vanquished, defeated utterly, will lose the desire to hurl himself against the one who defeated him, and will be generally less aggressive.

Among humans, the winner "rules" - the loser knuckles under.  Now, if the defeat is not utterly complete, the loser may smolder with hatred, and eventually burst into rebellion.

Is that how it works among your Aliens?

We hate that which rules us - (even sometimes if what rules us is Love!).  We just purely hate to "be ruled" -- whether it is forever or not.

Anyone who rules is justifiably hated.

Rulership is hated.  It is human to hate having free will thwarted by the will of another.

The Hero knows this, and has no desire to be hated, thus no interest in ruling.

What if Aliens ruled all Earth?  Would the Hero rebel?  Or would the behavior of the ruling aliens make a difference?

Hate is a bond comparable to Love -- maybe a little less binding, for Love Conquers All.

To depict Hate, don't tell the reader this Character hates that Character.  Don't put the word "hate" in dialogue.  If someone says out loud, "I hate you," you never believe it.  Teens hate their parents -- right?  How many times do they say it?  How many parents believe it?

To depict hate, show the Character behaving in opposition to what the Character sees as pure Evil, a force loose in the world that must be destroyed, something that must be conquered.  Show the Character choosing death rather than submission.  The reader will hate that which oppresses that Character.

It's not that simple, of course.  It is never simple where humans are involved.

Start into the messy tangle of Character Motivation by finding the target of the hatred, and decide if it is Baseless Hatred or hatred for just cause.  Then introduce Love into the dynamic to overcome the hatred.

Do your Characters hate that which they resent?  Do they hate that which has power and/or Authority over them?  Do they hate that which they are jealous of?  Or do they hate that which they admire?  Do they see Love as a threat because Love does conquer all?  Do they hate God because God has betrayed them by ignoring their entreaties because Ultimate Power should always be kind?  If they gain power, do they use it for kindness?  Do they hate kindness?

It seems to be in our biology to sacrifice everything to Rule, to be sovereign, to admit nothing in power over us.  And it seems we hate anything that has power over us.  But just as children need the discipline of their parents, so do we knuckle under to a Ruler, to a dominant power.  So it is for humans -- are we a special case in the Galaxy?  Ancient Wisdom indicates there are ways for the human spirit to tame the animal spirit -- the ways of Love.

These emotions drive the Story, and the reasons for the emotions drive the Plot.  We have discussed theme and plot at length previously.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Death of a Life-Saver

Weird-bearded men, some with black-banded battle braided hair and thick chains hanging from their waists and pockets, stood silently in a semi-circle on the beach with their mates, their heavy "bovver" boots planted firmly on the sifted white sand, facing into the stiff onshore breeze and the wind-whipped rising tide.

A ceremony was about to begin. Curious, I joined the back of the crowd.

A man in tartan played a familar hymn on the mournful bagpipes. An all-male team of rescue-swimmers, bare footed, wearing dark boardies and sash patterned tops stood with their hands folded like soccer goalies stood at a tangent to the sea. With them stood double ranks of men in dark uniform tracksuits.

There was one easel holding red and white flowers in the lozenge shape of a red cross. At the water's edge was a pure white surf boat, broad, shallow, with the prow pointing inland and the blade of one oar resting on the side.  Midway between the rising tide and the assembly was a lone, freshly painted, orange baywatcher's high chair flanked on each side by two rescue floats. A furled flag lay across the seat.

A man read the words of the seaman's hymn "For Those In Peril On The Sea" as a prayer. Several people spoke into a hand held microphone and into the wind. The wind carried many of the words away, but it became clear that this was a funeral service for a lifeguard who had died too soon. When all who wished to share memories had done so, the bagpiper played "Amazing Grace".

The rescue-swim team received something... two somethings... and proceeded to the surfboat and launched it with difficulty into the high and heaving surf. One man did not make it into the boat. Perhaps he was not supposed to.  The oars were raised vertically in a formal salute, and then they rowed up into the roaring breakers, over the foaming tops, now hidden from the shore on the windward side, now thrashing up the rising face of a near Macker.

Past the surf line, past the impact zone, and into choppy but waveless water, the surf boat turned parallel to the shore and again raised their oars like a forest of masts in a vertical salute. Something bobbed and floated. After a while, they rowed parallel to the shore, then turned and came surfing in, riding the churning waves.

When the surf boat was beached and the crew had tumbled out and rejoined the funeral afterglow, one lone strong swimmer swam like a champion back out to sea, heading for whatever it was that was still floating. I watched him and worried. Was this supposed to happen?  With quiet competence, he retrieved a life-saver's float, and also a washed-ashore lost oar.

This interesting ceremony made me wonder, what might an alien funeral be like?  For inspiration, I googled "strange funerals" from different parts of our own world.

Some traditions are widely known. Anyone who has watched the James Bond movies has seen the Jazz funerals of New Orleans, and the Zoroastrian "tower of silence". The Neanderthal "flower funerals" might have inspired the burial of Rue under flowers in the first "Hunger Games" movie. Possibly the Arthurian myths of Merlin trapped in the bole of a tree by Morgan Le Fay might share something in common with a Manilan culture that buries its dead inside hollowed tree trunks. Not dissimilar is the culture that pulps the remains of the dead, and inters what is left inside totem poles.

Another woodland culture suspends the dead in containers from ancient trees. Yet another people hang occupied coffins from cliff sides so that the spirits may be conveniently close to the sky.

Other "sky" burials in arid or mountainous countries such as Tibet involve the willing participation of vultures. Allegedly, even recently, there are communities where the dead are a valued source of protein and there is a strict pecking order about which relative may consume specific body parts. (Apparently, a sister-in-law may enjoy a deceased female relation's buttocks.)

While some of us seafaring folk, or small islanders who cannot spare meager farming or rainwater catchment areas for cemetaries may cremate and scatter ashes at sea, and sailors on the high seas sink weighted bodies reverently into the depths of the ocean, other communities compress the dead into reef balls to enhance the reef habitat for fish.

Other cultures compress corpses of loved ones into colorful beads that can be kept as ornaments. Yet another business turns ashes into carbon, and then crushes the carbon to create diamonds so that loved ones can become precious rings for their survivors' fingers.

Banned now is the practice of female survivors being forced to hack off parts of their fingers whenever a close family member died. Apparently, the ancient Hindu requirement (suttee or Sati) that widows throw themselves (often not willingly) into their deceased spouse's pyre  may not have been quite extinguished. Many misogynistic customs that kill off widows have implausible rationales, but most boil down to the physical and financial security of the males.

Arguably more tender are the societies that mummify their dead, and treat them as if they are still alive. Most mummification requires the dearth of moisture and the absence of bugs.  The most remarkable process might be the 3,000 self-mummification exercise carried out by priests who would eat a 1,000-day fat-reducing diet of nuts and seeds, succeeded by another 1,000 days of eating bark and perhaps pine needles and poisonous tea to make their flesh unattractive to bugs.  This would also make the monk or priest violently ill, which would further dehydrate him. After that, he would be walled up with only an air tube and a small bell to ring once a day until he died of starvation. Finally, his air hole would be sealed and his remains would be left for another 1,000 for mummification to be completed. This process was recently described in DISCOVER magazine, and also in one of the online sources mentioned below.




I've omitted mention of many practices, but, perhaps this inspires some ideas for alien romance fiction funerary customs.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry