Sunday, April 29, 2018
Perhaps an alarming keyword, that might even have been added without the author or publisher's knowledge. As we see with "bedding", damning words do get added mysteriously.
Please see Samantha Cole's blog:
Some take the problem so seriously, there is an app for that, or at least, a free service:
Yet, allegedly, Amazon is one of several venues that allow third party sellers to purvey lifelike child sexbots.
John F. Banzhaf explains on valuewalk.com.
One wonders why those things are not in the infamous Amazon dungeon!
Also of possible concern to authors are the allegations that Amazon's CreateSpace provides a "safe haven" for textbook scams, money laundering, and rampant piracy. Nate Hoffelder writes:
And then, there are the paid, misleadingly glowing reviews that Amazon's paid-review-purges miss, (versus the unsolicited, genuine glowing book reviews that are censored... not that this particular Washington Post article is about books), as discussed by Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg.
On the perils of selling on Amazon, legal bloggers Charlotte Duly and Angharad Rolfe Johnson of the UK intellectual property rights specialist law firm Boult Wade Tennant analyze the legal consequences of Amazon product codes, and perhaps of Amazon "Buy Boxes"..
Apparently, a listing on Amazon that is created by one seller, may be used by subsequent sellers, and sometimes (in this writer's experience) new sellers are forced or confused by Amazon into using the same listing.
This happened to a seller of genuine Chinese flagpoles, and another seller of replica Chinese flagpoles. The problem was compounded by Amazon's "Buy Box" policies, which often give the "Buy Box" advantage to whoever sells a similar product for the lowest price. The replica flagpole seller was found liable for trademark infringement and "passing off".
Legal blogger Nina Goodyear for the international law firm Taylor Wessing commented on an infringing act of selling beds on Amazon. Trademark infringement, that is. The unsuccessful defendants' defense was that someone else had added the claimant's trademarked brand name "Birlea" to the listing without their (the defendants') knowledge.
It is better to be a buyer on the Zon, than it is to be a seller!
Amazon is not liable for copyright infringing products sold on its website, as Cheryl Beise J.D. explains.
Mark Schonfeld's legal blog from 2016 for Burns & Levinson LLP asks, "What are we going to do about Amazon?" in the light of what happened to Milo & Gabby in a Seattle court.
Apparently, this applies even when Amazon advertises a product as "shipped from and sold by Amazon.com".... or perhaps not. Wade Shepard for Forbes discusses how the Milo & Gabby ruling might have given Amazon too much rope. Now Daimler may turn the tables with what Wade Shepard eloquently describes as "the most unglamorous smoking gun in legal history. Wheel caps."
If Daimler prevails, the dam may burst, and also an alleged bubble may burst. Michael Harris (a financial blogger) calls it The Mother Of All Bubbles, owing to its profits allegedly coming largely from its web services to enterprises such as the CIA and Netflix.
According the Philip Davis, the rest of Amazon lost a lot of money. But, that's another story.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
My husband, our youngest son, and I spent the past weekend at RavenCon in Williamsburg, Virginia.RavenCon
This was our second year of attendance and the first year my husband (Leslie Roy Carter) and I have participated in panels there. The 2018 writer guest of honor was horror author and STAR WARS tie-in writer Chuck Wendig.
My husband and I appeared together on a panel about "Collaborating as a Couple." It wasn't quite what I expected, because the other couple weren't writers; they worked in film on special effects, makeup, and costuming. They provided lots of interesting anecdotes and information about their profession. I took part in a session on "The Evolution of Horror." Of course, we couldn't adequately cover such a wide topic in fifty minutes, but we had an engaging discussion with plenty of audience response. Les also participated in "Ask a Scientist," "Weapons Engineering," and "One If by Air, Two If by Sea" (mainly on military science in real life and fiction).
I especially liked the panel on SUPERNATURAL, one of my favorite long-running TV series. "Medicine in Fantasy" was full of intriguing information plus opinions on realistic and not-so-realistic depictions of healing in fantasy, and it could easily have gone much longer. Some writing-related sessions I viewed all or part of included "Life Hacks for Writers," "Ignore This Advice: Writing Tips That Aren't So Great," "Writing Outside the Box," and "Writer Without a Day Job" (featuring a group of full-time writers whose apparent productivity put me to shame). "Everybody Dies" discussed good and bad ways to handle character deaths. "Vampires, Monsters, and Ghosts—Oh, My" didn't particularly focus on vampires, as I'd expected; it was about using monsters in general in fiction. "Is That Blood on Your Dress?" dealt with the history and appeal of Gothic romance. "Morally Ambiguous Bad Guys" and "Longing for the Love of Monsters" were a couple of other highlights.
I enjoyed the filk group Misbehavin' Maidens, who performed lively, funny, mildly bawdy songs (mildly in the daytime show I attended, anyway). The set included "Dumb Ways to Con" (what not to do at conventions) and, as a sign of the times, a piece about consent. The Saturday night masquerade didn't have a huge number of entries, but they were all worth seeing. My favorite was a couple enchantingly costumed as Beauty and the Beast. Also, there was a woman in a green dress and matching green antlers whom I found very impressive, though I can't remember what the outfit represented. The con naturally had film and anime tracks, none of which I watched because of attending panels or going to bed in time to get a reasonable amount of sleep. In the snack and relaxation space labeled Ten-Forward, a fan group screened some original STAR TREK episodes they'd produced, of which we watched a few minutes. The films seemed to have quite a professional look.
The hotel has a confusing layout for the uninitiated, but this being our second year there, I began to get the hang of it. The spread-out nature of the space made the gathering feel uncrowded even though the total attendance (from what I heard) significantly exceeds that of our Thanksgiving weekend event, ChessieCon.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
All the Previous Parts of the Dialogue series Indexed :
In particular, remember Part 5 on writing the Liar's Dialogue
And be sure you have read A SPOONFUL OF MAGIC by Irene Radford.
This is a series where Magic is Real, where only certain people (usually families but not always) have different specific talents for certain things, where Imps (and presumably other mythical creatures) are real and can be used by Black Magic users, and where humans can be turned Evil by the sheer impact of discovering they have "Power."
None of that is anything I can match to my personal vision of Reality -- but I just absolutely love this novel, and have enjoyed Irene Radford titles without exception. The craftsmanship is exemplary, the conceptualization broad and daring, and the thematic issues spot-on for these times.
So with this great example of how to use the BIG LIE in a story of families raising children to withstand the temptations of magical power that their associates can not match, consider how to write the dialogue between the Liar and the Character who is fooled by the lie, who believes the Big Lie because the person saying it passes muster.
You love someone, you believe them. Does that make that person truthful?
We live in the era of Fake News - and fake Facebook posts - and a totally fictional view of reality masquerading as true (even science - but fake science has always been the trusted source for a firm minority, with UFO non-fiction ruling the roost since the 1950's.)
So the sense of betrayal when an intimate family member is revealed to be a Liar is the fabric of grand fiction. Irene Radford has put her finger on a main issue being researched by (real) science. How much, how often, and why do we lie? Do we all do it? If you say you never lie, are you a liar?
And beyond that, what makes a lie a white lie? At what age do we learn to twist words to cast illusions? Does this practice do us harm on any level? Are there certain people we never lie to?
If someone lies to you and you believe them, does that make you a victim?
Here is an article from some months ago - that may not still be available:
Here are some salient quotes:
What's more, a study published in the journal Psychological Science noted that your chances of detecting a lie is about 50/50. However, this isn't because you don't actually think someone is lying. While your initial reaction might be to call out a fibber, the study found that your conscious brain overrides the unconscious part that can spot a liar, which is why most of us are likely doubt our initial instinct when we think we're being lied to. Meyer calls this a "truth bias."
"Research suggests that Americans are especially predisposed to a 'truth bias' when dealing with other Americans," Meyer told Fraud magazine. "In general, they presume good faith on the part of others, and they believe that people are innocent until proven guilty. When someone answers the phone and says, 'I was just going to call you. You read my mind,' many of us give the benefit of doubt, even if we're not entirely convinced."
Here is the reason people insist on an actual, in person, meeting to settle an issue, to interview for a job, or just communicate over an emotional issue. People learn, probably from the age where they learn to recognize their mother's face, to dicipher micro-expressions and decide if they "trust" this person (even if a person is a Liar, you might trust them to sift information to favor your agenda.
Meyer explained that most people have a "tell" that lets others know when they're lying, and the most common tells are called micro expressions. A deviation from normal behavior, micro expressions can be anything from unusual facial expressions and overly formal language to how you hold a backpack, she told Fraud. People who are skilled in reading micro expressions can determine whether or not someone is lying with 95 percent accuracy.
In her TED Talk summary, Meyer gives some tips for how to identify some micro expressions, and some of these tells are the opposite of what you might expect.
On his blog, Dr. Joseph Mercola, author and physician, provides additional non-verbal cues from Susan Carnicero, a former CIA agent and author of Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception, that can help you detect when someone is lying. These tips include unusual pauses in conversation, grooming gestures (like fidgeting or playing with their clothes), and hand-to-face movements (touching their face or hair). In the TV show Shades Of Blues, Lt. Matt Wozniak (Ray Liotta) is able to determine Det. Harlee Santos (Jennifer Lopez) is lying because her tell is pushing her hair behind her ear when she's being deceitful.
And here, in that article is the PLOT CLUE you need to move your plot with dialogue. The Big Lie and the Little Lie and the White Lie all indicate the point where you use Dialogue to merge Plot (what happens) with Story (what the even means). Apply this list to your dialogue and see if it improves your technique.
According to Awareness Act, Meyer explained that people lie in order to avoid being punished or to avoid embarrassment; to protect another person from being punished; to exercise powers over others by controlling them; to protect themselves from the threat of physical or emotional harm; to obtain a reward that’s not otherwise easily attainable; to get out of an awkward social situation; to create a positive impression and win the admiration of others; to maintain privacy; and to gain advantage over another person or situation.
Read this article and chase down the references, especially the Ted Talks. Puzzle out how to apply the White Lie to Romance. Don't forget Aliens might be like Vulcans and tell the bald truth (mostly), or they might have no biological reason to shade the truth -- or they might never use words to convey the truth. Maybe they don't even have the concept "Truth."
Saturday, April 21, 2018
If you wish to tweet about creative women who rock your world, the hashtag is #worldipday
Going one better, the copyrightalliance.org is co-sponsoring an entire business week of Intellectual Property related events (April 23rd - April 28th) with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) across the country, and at each event honoring a local female or creator's advocate.
Some of the VLAs are Arts and Business Council of Greater Nashville; California Lawyers for the Arts; Chicago Lawyers for the Creative Arts; Springboard for the Arts; St Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts; Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts; The Ella Project; Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLANY); Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts
Recently, the copyrightalliance.org interviewed Carolyn E. Wright, an attorney who specializes in the legal needs of photographers.
Whether you are a professional photographer, an amateur photographer, or someone who makes use of photographs you find online... check out her words of wisdom.
Only a copyright owner may report copyright infringement, but that does not mean that friends and good citizens cannot help out. The copyrightalliance.org can help persons who wish to pass on a tip to a copyright owner.
Malcolm Harris blogs on The Authors Guild platform about the value of a word. ("How Much Is A Word Worth?"
If you wish to be paid for your writing, this type of knowledge is power!
If you are looking for a copyright attorney, here's a resource:
Happy IP day!
Thursday, April 19, 2018
Recently on Quora someone asked why human beings can't stay awake for a week straight and then sleep for the same amount of time, instead of alternating sleep and awake time every day. The most convincing answer is that we evolved to live in harmony with the alternation of light and darkness. We are diurnal mammals, and our (roughly) 24-hour circadian rhythm harmonizes with daily changes in sunlight levels, making us active by day and at rest by night. We need that period of dormancy every night for our brains to repair ongoing wear-and-tear and process the events of the previous day. Not all animals function the same way, of course. Some are nocturnal. Cats sleep in short stretches throughout the day, with a lot of activity around dawn and dusk (crepuscular). Dolphins, some other aquatic mammals, and some birds sleep with only half of their brains at a time, so one brain hemisphere is always awake.
It occurred to me to wonder what our lives would be like if we hibernated. I would be happy to sleep through the dreary, cold stretch from January 2 through the third week of March, when the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts convenes in Orlando. Aside from skipping the worst of winter, I could gorge on goodies over the holidays, then painlessly burn off the fat while asleep. I've read only one story featuring a sapient species that hibernates, Melanie Tem's unique vampire novel, DESMODUS. Her non-supernatural vampires are essentially humanoid, intelligent vampire bats. The females, the dominant sex, are the only ones who hibernate through the winter. The males migrate. With access to human culture's modern technology, they drive south every year in a convoy of huge trucks, in which the sleeping females and the young (cared for communally) are safely ensconced. How would their clan manage if they all had to hibernate, though? Wouldn't they be overly vulnerable?
Risks of vampire-slayers finding their dens and slaying them while dormant might be minimized if Desmodus had a metabolism like that of bears, which don't really "hibernate" in the strictest sense, Instead, they enter a state of torpor from which they can wake up quickly and easily if the need arises. In true hibernators, heartbeat and respiration slow drastically, and body temperatures decrease to the level of the surrounding environment. Arctic ground squirrels may even reduce their abdominal temperatures below freezing.
Could a hibernating species develop an advanced technological civilization? What would happen to their machines and infrastructure during prolonged periods of universal dormancy, with nobody available to perform upkeep and maintenance? Maybe a hibernating intelligent race might be limited to preindustrial technology. If we discovered such a race on a distant planet, we could supply them with machines and technicians to care for the equipment, but the natives would remain dependent on us for those resources. Of course, such a species might instead take their cultural evolution in a completely different direction from ours and produce a civilization that doesn't rely heavily on physical technology—biologically based, perhaps. It's hard to imagine, however, how they could achieve space flight, so I visualize their being confined to their home planet when we meet them.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Previous Parts to the Strong Characters discussion are:
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2014/11/definition-of-sf-what-is-science.html -- which is about science fiction romance and Strong Characters.
And we've discussed what editors mean by calling for manuscripts with "strong characters" (not big muscles, either).
Here are some entries where we discussed Characters from many angles.
And this one recent one about sexual harassment
So, with the understanding that strength of character is invisible, and thus must be DEPICTED -- shown via something visible, a symbol, or dialog, or mode of dress, or something more subtle such as responses to provocations -- we understand that the "strength" referred to by editors is all about the story, not the plot.
You can have strong characters in Action Romance -- bulging muscles, or not. But you can showcase the strength of a character in any genre -- the wimpish looking Geek in a science lab, the UPS delivery woman, the counter clerk, the person answering tech chat calls, or the kid born without a foot who becomes an Olympic Champion skier.
Strength of Character is about vision - imagination mostly - the ability to see what the results of success at a sequence of endeavors will be, and to assess whether those results are desirable enough to be worth the cost.
How much of yourself - your inner self where you seem to be real to yourself - should you invest in achieving something external (such as Olympic Gold, the CEO's office, the Presidency?)
The Strong Character has a good, solid (if perhaps erroneous) assessment of their own inner resources, their own emotional stability and balance under duress, and their own personal view of reality.
A devoutly religious person may be a Strong Character with serene conviction in their idea of God. These ideas can range from the most benign Christian view to the most savage destroyer-of-world, or one who demands destructive acts of followers.
Whatever the religion's portrait of Supernal Forces in charge of Destiny (I'm assuming you've studied Greek Mythology, Roman Mythology, Mythology in General, maybe Assyrian and Egyptian and possible some of the Oriental ideas), the "Strong Character" will not just believe, not just cling white-knuckled, not just sacrifice himself idealistically -- but will study, know, understand and adhere to that religion's view for reasons.
Those reasons may seem perfectly rational to the Strong Character, so you as the writer must portray the Strong Character's reasons in a way that convinces your reader (all of your readers, no matter their personal opinion of religion) that this Strong Character is Righteous.
If your novel's Theme is about Religion, or the structure of the universe as discovered by science, or the nature of humanity (as opposed to Aliens evolved on another planet), you have a big problem convincing the whole spectrum of readerships that this Strong Character is Righteous.
Ponder the Depiction Series for ideas of how to show-don't-tell that a religion you make up for your Aliens is righteous.
Now consider the currently extant theory that Atheism is actually a Religion, or at least a "religious belief."
Study Anthropology and Psychology, and you may find how the human brain and mind has a "place" -- like a compartment -- a structural space designed specifically for "belief."
It is a survival trait, or so most people think, to be able to accept and integrate a diversity of facts, some of which contradict each other, and act in ways that stake your life on a set of such unproven, assumed, or acquired-from-others facts.
Some think that the most potent survival trait of humans is the need to "fit in" -- to become part of a human group (Tribe, Club, Nation, Culture) by adopting the predominant belief, wearing it as badge of honor, fraternal lapel pin, declaring membership in the Group.
"Blending in" is one of the primary lessons learned (often the hard way) in High School. In dress, accent, mannerisms, and taking "sides" (clique joining), teens learn to become one of the Group - whereupon the Group defends them and makes them feel safe.
This basic mechanism becomes internalized throughout life, and becomes the "default" behavior (if it was successful in High School) the person goes to under duress - during crisis situations.
Strong Characters usually have "default" behavior patterns that have been successful for them in the past, and that apply to a wide variety of situations.
The Atheist will reject any course of action proposed by a Religious person applying the tenets of Religion to a problem. ("Turn the other cheek" seems ridiculous to the Atheist).
The Religious person will reject any course of action proposed by an Atheist who is applying the tenets of "God is a Delusion" to a problem. ("Nobody's going to help you; you're on your own" seems ridiculous to the Religious person).
There have been many TV shows and films about passivist religions such as the Quakers being provoked into hitting back. That is almost a cliche by now.
But what about the heroic Atheist, the go-it-alone, it's all up to me, Character who is "provoked" into not-hitting-back?
What would it take to make an Atheist who is being attacked (physically, socially, psychologically) look at the attacker and see the attacker's torment?
What would it take to make an Atheist Strong Character - absolutely convinced Atheism is correct, not a blind-religious-superstition - flip to an understanding of reality wherein their fate, destiny, and future rests in a decision made by The Creator of The Universe Who is assessing their Devotion to the Creator's purpose?
We all know the maxim that a battle plan does not survive the first contact with the enemy.
We all have heard the adage that there are no atheists in a foxhole.
There are interactions (human-to-human or perhaps one day Alien-to-Human) during which "anything can happen and usually does."
The outcome of any such wild, pure-chance, situation often reveals the Master Theme of a novel or series of novels -- I've called it "Poetic Justice."
Scan the headlines any day, glance through Facebook for YouTube videos, and you'll find many examples of Poetic Justice.
It is not usually easy to see in real life -- how things come out the way they "ought" to come out, Justly and Beautifully.
But every once in a while, you can see Poetic Justice in the outcome of a real world situation.
The job of a writer is to reveal that Poetry inside and underneath everything in this real world. That is what artists do -- show the reality behind what we "believe" is real.
Examining the nature of "belief" and our subjective assessment of "reality" is what science fiction writers do. Take some humans, ram them up nose-to-nose with some truly alien Aliens, scrunch them together hard, and crack some skulls -- find the Poetry behind reality.
That's what Gene Roddenberry did with Star Trek and the non-Emotion of Vulcans. Roddenberry was a "Humanist" and so created a lot of stories where the Enterprise met what seemed to be a Supernatural or God, and revealed the mundane truth behind that illusion.
Subsequent producers have taken a more atheistic stance.
Set yourself the problem of creating a commentary on your target audience's "belief" system (or lack of system), and then take a Strong Character with settled convictions and change that Character's view of Reality in such a way that the Character naturally changes response to a Situation.
That is the thematic material of a series of novels.
In a Comic or Graphic Novel (maybe most Games) such changes take place in the blink of an eye when presented with concrete evidence. We all wish life were that easy.
Romance makes a Character suffer while changing their basic view of Nature and their Self Image.
Marriage is a process of changing self-images (of both parties), a learning process, often called "learning to love."
What would make an Atheist pray?
Remember why we cry at weddings:
Consider Romance, ripening to true love, becoming marriage, and then some horrible threat to the life of one partner which the other can do nothing about.
Now consider all those years of growing together. How many instances of Poetic Justice have occurred? Are there enough strange outcomes to tricky situations for the one left in a helpless position to connect them and "see" a "Finger of God" moving their lives poetically, with purpose and Divine Love?
What sort of person could or would put "two and two together" and break down and address a foreign deity -- maybe a Catholic praying to Allah, or a human praying to some Alien's deity?
The point here is not to pick out the correct vision of the Creator, but to Depict how humans assess reality and act on their assessment, even if their assessment is not their own.
In Comics or even Film, it is usually depicted as one, singular Event and the person totally abandons their former view of the universe to embrace a new one.
In good drama, in Romance novels, in Science Fiction Series, it is never that simple.
There is the saying, "You have to have been there."
This refers to the tiny, baby steps, experience after experience, that adds up to a Poetic Justice outcome too vast to put into words, or even think about consciously.
Epiphany works that way -- it is the last step in a long series of steps that lead to what seems to onlookers a "sudden" change.
But it is rarely sudden. What would it take for a Strong Character Atheist to have that final epiphany and appeal to a Deity?
The Stronger the Character, the more novels it takes.
Notice how long the TV Series "X-Files" (yes, a fabulous Strong Character Meets Strong Character Romance) took to get ideas and evidence, proof, and belief all in line?
How many different explanations were adopted along the way?
Bringing an Atheist to prayer is a long process.
Breaking a Devout person's belief is usually swift sudden and unexpected. For example, the undeserved death of a loved one, absolutely no justice to it, despite real, genuine prayer filled with begging. And the person "blames" God, or comes to think others are correct, and there is nobody Listening.
Atheists are usually harder to convince. Are they stronger?
THEME: Atheists Are Stronger In Their Belief Because They Are Correct.
Try it. See if you can write it, then construct the biography that would set the Atheist up for a change of opinion or a Religious person for a glimpse of "The Cold Equations" of a godless mechanism that is reality - where "life" is just an accident of chemical combinations and the sense of "self" is an illustion.
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Targeting pharma advertisements seems wrong to me. Would the business that selected persons for pharmaceutical suggestions have any liability if their targeted recommendations proved seriously unsuitable for the targeted person?
Hospitals post signs advising visitors not to use their cell phones, but not explaining why not. Perhaps it is because cell phones have GPS, and therefore, strangers and authorities could know that the cell phone owner is inside the hospital, perhaps even in which department, and for how long. Of course, most modern cars will tell strangers and authorities that the car owner is in the hospital parking lot.
Was there an ulterior motive behind "Cash For Clunkers"? Why did those surrendered clunkers have to be crushed? At the time, we thought that Big Brother didn't want spare parts available to repair older gas guzzlers, but maybe they wanted us all to be in trackable vehicles!
This You Tube skit from June 2006 on ordering a pizza in a world where salespersons have access to medical, credit card and financial records is prescient and very Jason Bourne.
And, this is a later version of the same video, with more detailed attribution.
All the best,
Thursday, April 12, 2018
A heartily recommended story in APEX (which can be read at no charge): "A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies," by Alix E. Harrow:A Witch's Guide to Escape
There are two kinds of librarians in the world, "the prudish, bitter ones. . . who believe the books are their personal property and patrons are dangerous delinquents come to steal them; and witches." This story's narrator, a librarian of the second kind, makes it her life's mission to guide readers to the books they need. Delightfully, books in her library have feelings and WANT to be read. A deeply unhappy boy in the foster care system finds his way to the library and becomes enthralled with tales of travel to other realms. Of one obscure novel whose "happy ending" returns its protagonist to the mundane world, the boy says, "The ending sucked." The narrator knows what he needs is the book whose title forms the name of the story, but to give him access to it, she would have to break a fundamental rule of her vocation.
Tolkien, in his classic essay "On Fairy Stories," lists the three primary functions of "Faerie" or "Fantasy" as recovery, escape, and consolation. About escape, so often condemned by "realists" as "escapism," he says, "I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which 'Escape' is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside literary criticism give no warrant at all. In what the misusers are fond of calling Real Life, Escape is evidently as a rule very practical, and may even be heroic. . . . Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter." C. S. Lewis, commenting on this passage, asks which people most dislike talk of escape; he answers, "Jailers."
This past week, I read THE HAZEL WOOD, by Melissa Albert, with a seventeen-year-old girl narrator whose grandmother wrote a collection of dark fairy tales that has become a cult classic. The narrator discovers that the world of the tales, as we would expect, actually exists and that the truth of her own past is inextricably bound up with the reality of her grandmother's stories. This novel combines my two favorite fantasy motifs, portals to magical worlds and a hero's discovery of his or her own other-than-mundane origin. (In THE HAZEL WOOD these revelations come with a grim twist, for the faerie realm the narrator enters is a far cry from Narnia.)
Another recent metafictional portal fantasy that grabbed me was Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children trilogy (EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES, BENEATH THE SUGAR SKY). It centers on a boarding school for children and teenagers who have traveled to fantastic worlds, have returned against their wills to the "real" world, and find themselves unable to adjust to the change. Their oblivious parents expect the school to "cure" them of their "delusions," but in fact the founder of the home is a former traveler herself. Each inmate searches desperately for the door back into his or her true home; few ever find it. Such fantasies of "escape" incorporate the poignant realization embodied in many of "James Tiptree's" stories as well as countless other speculative fiction works: There is a place where I truly belong, but it is not here.
As more than one author has pointed out, it seems funny that critics often labeled science fiction "escapism" when that field grappled with world-changing issues such as nuclear war, overpopulation, and climate devastation long before they were on the radar of most members of the general public. (We may hope that attitude is fading away, now that many blockbuster films are SF or space opera and a science fiction romance—THE SHAPE OF WATER—won an Oscar.) Fantasy and SF, of course, aren't the only fictional escape portals available to us. Horror can serve as a consolation for real-life evils because the monsters in horror stories are clearly defined and able to be destroyed. In murder mysteries, including those populated by the bloodiest of serial killers, we escape to a realm where truth is revealed and justice prevails. Even a "realistic" novel about the dreary problems of a mundane protagonist can offer temporary relief from our own dreary problems, because art gives shape, structure, and direction to the turmoil of ordinary life. And aren't truth, justice, and artistic structure worthwhile phenomena to contemplate regardless of genre?
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Previous Parts in Theme-Conflict Integration:
In Part 4, we looked closely at the TV Series The Orville, first season.
Now we will compare that brilliant TV writing to a novel, a completely different story-medium.
I like Dave Bara's novel series, The Lightship Chronicles, which we discussed previously:
I like and even love them because of the presence of various favorite ingredients of mine. So I'm biased in comparing these two stories THE ORVILLE and LIGHTSHIP CHRONICLES - one arising as homage to STAR TREK and the other exploring what happens to humanity after we spread to the stars.
After the Star Trek epoch of human history, when the civiliazation we have built collapses, then what do we do? And why do we do it?
Sound familiar? Yes, my interest in that question dates back to way before I sold my first story -- which is the Sime~Gen story, Operation High Time, set in the epoch after the collapse and even after the rebuild of Earth's civilization when humanity is at the verge of exploring the Stars (again?).
So variations on that far-future story are irresistible to me.
Dave Bara has created a universe with a different History from what I have played with but retained the element of "Love Conquers All" that is my special interest.
In Bara's hands, the Romance theme becomes more a matter of "Love Conquers All After Love Causes All The Problems."
Problems caused by Love are usually the worst sort.
So while both THE ORVILLE and LIGHTSHIP CHRONICLES have strong elements of STAR TREK (the Galaxy spanning canvass), lots of explosions, fireballs in space, daring rescues, etc., they are each designed specifically for their delivery medium.
As I have noted in the Theme-Conflict Series, The Orville is tissue thin drama, hammering on Teen Themes played out in Adult lives - a miss-match that annoys a lot of folks who grew up on Star Trek.
The Lightship Chronicles are dense drama, hammering home one of my favorite master themes, "Don't judge a book by its cover."
Or put a more old fashioned way, "All is not as it seems."
The Orville is "on the nose" in theme and dialogue.
The Lightship Chronicles strives mightily to stay "off the nose" and only fails in action scenes.
The Orville is a stripped down, crystal clear (to adult viewers) depiction of a life of adventure working beside various Alien species -- comically recreating 21st Century social issues (such as prejudice against gelatinous beings as Chief of Engineering) -- a broad parody of current US culture for adults that seems plausible to the kids it is aimed at.
The Lightship Chronicles is a deep, complex depiction of interstellar trickery, betrayal, illusion, power-play strategies, firm alliances, trustworthy indivduals in a non-trustworthy bureaucracy. The substance is adult fare -- the writing craft inadvertently creates the Marty Sue effect referred to in my previous review of the Trilogy.
If I were 10 years old, reading this trilogy and watching The Orville (not acquainted with the previous decades works), I would be screaming for the depth and substance of the Lightship Chronicles done as the TV Series The Orville is done.
I wouldn't know as much about why I see it this way, or why it could never be this way. So I would set out to make it this way.
The themes and conflicts that are possible on TV (even now that we have the episodic structure of series replacing the anthology structure Star Trek had to use) are expanding as the audiences become redefined.
The Orville is a major network, prime time, production aimed at the broadest and thus lowest common denominator -- what is called, in screen writing, High Concept. So it has to glue more eyeballs to the commercials than a novel.
A printed novel doesn't have to glue eyeballs to the page. It has to induce individuals to part with a chunk of change, and that's it until the sequel is published.
These two different functions define the difference in content.
However, if you've been following my "changing world" posts,
...you know how enthusiastic I am about the expanding opportunities for video-production storytelling to reach small, but well defined audiences. Streaming, and "originals" from Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, Apple YouTube, and more jumping into the fray every year, provide platforms for works to reach a narrow audience in a cost-effective way.
That audience may have narrow tastes but it is scattered worldwide. Netflix is distributing (and redistributing) worldwide. I watch non-USA produced TV Series on Netflix and Amazon (with subtitles in English!). Many are more substantive than US TV fiction.
Long series with deep, complex themes are beginning to appear.
However, most of the deepest and most complex video drama series are running one or two seasons, not twenty years as is necessary for the real depths to emerge.
There is hope to see some of these complicated novel series with abstract IDEAS (science fiction is the literature of ideas, and must become the video of ideas very soon!) to reach small audiences via streaming-original productions. Pilots for such series are now appearing as 90 minute movies, not labeled pilots.
Violent action, solving problems by killing people and destroying things still sells better than problem solving by understanding and love.
Soon those small streaming video audiences will be nurtured by additional offerings, and the numbers watching will grow to commercial success magnitudes.
Small is not a property of "streaming" as a delivery channel, but rather of the type of theme and which of all the conflicts inherent in that theme are deemed most popular.
Right now, the prevailing theme that The Orville (and The Lightship Chronicles) are bucking is, "Success = murder, theft, dishonesty, trickery"
The only way for a Hero to win is to break his/her code of Honor, and breaking that code makes the Hero righteous.
Dave Bara uses the novel structure to pose the question, "When, Why, and How must we destroy to survive?" Many thematic questions of right and wrong -- and of Identity -- are posed by the material Bara is working.
The scene structure craft deficiency Bara displays leads to his Characters coming off as children (not very bright ones, at that). So he generates every action scene by the orders of the one Character authorized to give orders being challenged, discussed, or suggestions being made DURING the action. In real life, this behavior leads to the questioners dying very quickly, and the rest learning when to speak and when not to.
Scene structure and information feed skills we have discussed in these Tuesday posts would cure that quickly, and re-form this marvelous material into something that could translate to a TV Series. I think it could be made into something that would draw a wide audience.
The strength of Bara's presentation lies in the Main Character having a trait of "Intuition" -- he just knows things that others don't.
On The Orville, the First Officer (ex-wife of the Captain) likewise has Intuition but focused more on reading people (of various species).
Yes, the oddball trait of knowing things others don't, things the Character can't possibly know but does, is one of the main ingredients in stories I love the most.
Bara's Main Character is right, bucks authority, acts on his own recognizance, and wins. He's my guy.
It's clear why his subordinates don't take his orders without question. But placing the questions during the action destroys the effectiveness of this trait.
Do an in-depth contrast/compare between Bara's Peter Cochran Character and:
A) Jean Johnson's Ia
B) Gini Koch's Kitty Kat
Both rise from lower ranks to Command Rank, just as Bara's Peter does -- for similar reasons, a lightening fast intuitive response to danger, and to knowing what others believe you cannot possibly know.
This Character portrait was DISALLOWED in Action-genre in general and in Science Fiction in particular for many decades.
We take it for granted today -- but it is new, powerful, and the signature of a maturing audience that such Characters sell action stories.
There is hope for deep, broad, far-ranging thematic compositions to make it to the Big Screen theatrical release, or 20 year TV Series (TVs aren't so "small screen"ish anymore.
Check out the TV Series on Netflix, "Transporter" a 2012 spinoff made from a Movie Trilogy. Big screen to small screen evolution.
It is a pure action premise (I could wish this guy could teleport; that would have made it more interesting to me).
And it follows the rules we've been talking about:
Transporter: The Series (French: Le Transporteur : la série) is an English-language French-Canadian action television series, spin off from the Transporter film series created by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. It was co-produced by the French Atlantique Productions and the Canadian boutique entertainment company QVF, Inc., and broadcast by M6, RTL Television, The Movie Network, and Movie Central. Originally, HBO and Cinemax were involved, but they dropped out in 2013.
The series follows the events and concept of the film trilogy, continuing the adventures of Frank Martin, a professional freelance courier driver for hire who will deliver anything, anywhere for the right price, and lives by three "unbreakable" rules, which he frequently breaks. Chris Vance takes over the role of Frank from Jason Statham and was joined in season 1 by Andrea Osvárt as his office manager Carla Valeri, Charly Hübner as mechanic Dieter Hausmann and François Berléand, the only returning actor from the film series, reprising his role as Inspector Tarconi. The second season added Violante Placido as Caterina "Cat" Boldieu, his new booking agent. Unlike Carla, who did not make it to the second season, Cat usually joins Frank on his adventures.
Twelve episodes were ordered in 2012 for the first season with an overall budget of US$40 million or €30 million. The show premiered that year on 11 October in Germany on RTL, and on 6 December in France on M6. The Canadian premiere was on 4 January 2013 on HBO Canada and Super Écran 1 (with the first episode available online from 18 December 2012). The series started broadcasting in India on 25 January 2013 on Sony PIX, and premiered in the United States on TNT on 18 October 2014. Twelve more episodes were ordered for season 2, which began production in Morocco in February 2014. Season 2 premiered in Canada on 5 October 2014 on The Movie Network and Movie Central, and in the United States on TNT on 29 November 2014.
On November 26, 2015, it was announced that the series was cancelled and would not be renewed for a third season.
Read that whole article -- it is textbook for the future of Series Development. Various countries, various production companies, various funding sources -- 3 movies and 2 seasons of TV episodes.
The series premise didn't even have teleportation and they couldn't sell it as a Gunsmoke, 20 year project.
The theme bundles contained within "Might Makes Right" are waning in popularity. Questioning that theme, posing different problem solving strategies (e.g. "Love Conquers All") now has a chance of reaching a receptive audience -- an audience to be nurtured.
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Legal blogger David H. Evans for Kelley Drye & Warren LLP (USA) explains with highly readable dry wit that "Ozzy Osbourne is an Antitrust Plaintiff."
IMHO, if Ozzy Osbourne proves that it is anti-trust for a creator to be obliged to play in (what that creator feels is) an undesirable venue in order to be allowed to play in (what that creator feels is) a desirable venue...would this have implications for creators in other categories of the Arts who wish to "play" in one arena, but not in another?
For instance, in an Amazon book store, but not in KU?
And from Down Under, Oz legal bloggers John Hannebery and Lachlan Sadler for Davies Collison Cave explore the possibility that "You won't own copyright in photos taken with Google's new camera."
Although the article is written for an Australian audience, the bloggers suggest that the "Clip" might have the most interesting consequences for American photographers.
All the best,
Thursday, April 05, 2018
I've been reading the early books in the Honor Harrington series. The one I'm into now, ASHES OF VICTORY, includes a conversation about the possibility of teaching the intelligent, telepathic treecats American Sign Language so they can communicate with humans. (A few have empathically bonded with human partners, as in the link between Honor and her treecat, Nimitz, but even so the content consists of emotions and impressions, not language.) One of the greatest difficulties mentioned is that treecats, as a fully telepathic species, don't have a verbal language of their own.
This isn't the first place I've encountered the assumption that telepaths wouldn't develop language. (Those who "speak" freely with members of their own species mind-to-mind, that is, not touch-telepaths like Vulcans or others for whom mental communication depends on a personal bond.) But is that necessarily true? Granted, they wouldn't need to evolve language if they possess fully developed mental communication. Wouldn't they eventually have reason to invent it, though? Once a civilization becomes complex enough to require long-distance communication, it seems that a language composed of words or analogous symbols would be vitally needed. Furthermore, it's hard to imagine how a civilization could advance beyond a certain level without a means of recording information in a permanent form. Also, technology arises from science, and science needs mathematics. Math is a language of a sort. So by the time we made first contact with a society of telepathic aliens, it seems they would probably have a concept of language in some form; they would therefore be open to the concept that we "handicapped" mind-deaf Earthlings need that kind of medium to share information.
The dragon character in Heinlein's BETWEEN PLANETS belongs to a species whose vocal apparatus can't produce the sounds of human languages. He wears an electronic device that translates his speech into English. Something like that might work for telepaths. If their culture is advanced enough to have invented math, they should be able to understand the purpose of a device that shapes thoughts into audible or visual code.
In one STAR TREK episode, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy get captured by highly advanced aliens (again!) and meet a young woman who's empathic and mute. Her innate lack of speech suggests that her species communicates solely through mental channels. We can't tell whether she understands the human characters' thoughts or simply feels their pain.
What do you think? How hard would it be for a telepathic species to grasp the concept of words and syntax, then learn to use them for communication?
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, April 03, 2018
Sunday, April 01, 2018
When marketing a song, the vinyl model was that it was worth giving radio stations one's blessing to play the song, because the more a song was heard, the more likely it was that a listener would like it, and the more a listener liked it, the more likely they were to buy the vinyl.
The internet is funded by advertising. Perhaps the biggest question is, who pays? (Quis solvit.)
For Crowell & Moring LLP, legal blogger Christopher A. Cole asks "Is the Cambridge Analytic Scandal a Watershed moment for the Ad-Funded Internet?
The legal blog article mentions the use of blackmail and dirty tricks to influence elections, and also the use of information scraped from Facebook "friends" for the purpose of psychological manipulation.
There's a lot of passive blackmail and extortion on the internet, anyway, and deleting social media accounts is not a viable solution. Public figures and would-be public figures are obliged to join social media sites to protect their own names and identities. We writers probably all know of someone who had to become "thereal...." because his or her real name or pen name had already been taken by someone else.
That does not mean that one has to give these sites one's true birthdate (as long as one can remember the lie), or be bullied into giving answers to their questions. Remember, the more you reveal online about cousins' names and memorable streets where you have lived, and school names, and youthful crushes, the less choice you have when filling out those banking secret questions/answers that have to be changed every few years.
Moreover, ages are not private. In "A Dark Day For Hollywood..." legal blogger Tony Oncidi for the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP reveals the gob-smacking truth that a Californian law prohibiting online commercial sites' publishing of Hollywood actors' ages is unconstitutional.
Apparently, it's a free speech issue. If a commercial site wants to sell true information about how old you are, even if you object, they may do so.
For the law firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP, legal bloggers John F. Delaney and Aaron P. Rubin reveal that over the first half of 2017, Facebook received almost 33,000 requests from law enforcement for user "data" and 57% of those "requests" forbade Facebook to notify the users that their information had been requested by the authorities.
Coming back to Christopher A. Cole, he suggests that advertisers who buy into "data analytics" to target their pitches will need to pay attention to the sources of the "data".
"Data", by the way, comes from the Latin "dare" (to give), and its singular "datum" used to mean "that which is given". How ironic! (I shall now go back and edit to add a plethora of "give" words.)
I cannot help wondering if everyone is missing the woods for the trees. By what metric do the purchasers of advertising know if their advertising budget is well spent? Clicks, perhaps?
If advertising is the problem, it is helpful to know how pay per click (PPC) works.
Christopher Carr of Farotech tells us that 64.6% of people click on Google ads when they are looking to buy an item online.
Why buy online? Oh, yes, it is convenient. Instead of a check out clerk knowing that you buy (insert most embarrassing product) ... you'd rather risk all the internet and the Dark Web too knowing your buying habits, and embarrassing afflictions, and monetizing the knowledge.
But, if you want to buy online, why not do the research, clear your cookies and cache, and go directly to the website without clicking a Google ad link?
Perhaps the problem is not the ability to buy online, or the convenience of clicking through. It's the aggregators' interest in TARGETING the advertisements. Even that probably does not serve the purchaser of the advertising or the recipient of the advertising. If I bought a houseful of perfectly fragrant and safe, 30-year guaranteed hardwood flooring three weeks ago, how likely is it that I want to replace my new flooring with more of the same this week?
As a Romance writer, what am I supposed to think about the advertising executives at a brassiere-selling business if they seem to expect me to rip my bodices and need replacement underwear every single day?
Which brings me to Under Armour. They've been hacked. According to Lifelock, (2 days after Wired, Fox and NBC broke the story) approximately 150 million social exercisers using the MyFitness Pal app need to change their passwords immediately.
Don't let your computer or your ISP or the "cloud" store your passwords for you.
By Peter Loshin
IMHO, permissionless "targeting" is akin to stalking. The most elegant legislative solution would be to give legal standing and force to a Do Not Track request. Right now, too many sites ignore a "Do Not Track" setting and install tracking cookies regardless.
All the best,