Sunday, June 23, 2019

Teachers Taken To The Woodshed

One would have preferred a highbrow homage to "Sartor Resartus", but the go-to translation app does not check out, so one settles for alliteration.

Two recent legal cases result in a righteous smack down for educational establishments that defended some form of stealing.  In one case, the stealing was copyright infringement. In another, it was shoplifting.

From the early Oughts, copyright advocates have compared shoplifting and copyright infringement with varying degrees of success. One of the best examples was penned on June 18th, 2012 by David Lowery.

Revisit the 19th and 20th paragraphs beginning
"What the corporate backed Free Culture movement is asking us to do is analogous to changing our morality and principles to allow the equivalent of looting .... " 
And  also
"But it's worse than that. It turns out that Verizon, AT&T, Charter etc etc are charging a toll to get into this neighborhood to get the free stuff. Further...."

Fast forward to this week. Legal blogger Krista L. Cox, writing for the "Above The Law" blog discusses a case where a Houston school district purchased a few very useful study guides (that had copyright wording including "Copying this material is strictly prohibited") and made multiple copies and distributed the illegal copies throughout the Houston school district and beyond.

One teacher allegedly committed to email that she knew the material was copyrighted and that she was "ok with violating... (copyright)". Krista L. Cox makes it clear why that email was a particular slam dunk for the plaintiff's winning case, and offers an expert explanation of the limits on fair use of copyrighted materials in an educational setting.

Also this week, commentators Suzanne Fields, also Brent Bozell and Tim Graham reflect on Oberlin College's $44,000,000 loss for alleged defamation and other alleged interference with a local grocer's ability to conduct business, allegedly because the grocer had zero tolerance for shoplifting and Oberlin College staff allegedly took exception when a student was arrested for shoplifting.

Finally, given the trouble one can bring down upon oneself for words stored on devices, the Parallax offers some sensible advice for readers who plan to take devices with them on international travel and who would like to protect their social media privacy.

All the best,

EPIC Award winner, Friend of ePublishing for Crazy Tuesday

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Writer's Burnout

Kameron Hurley's essay in the latest issue of LOCUS focuses on burnout. This isn't the same as "writer's block" (which some authors maintain doesn't actually exist, as there is always an identifiable reason for being "blocked").

The Singular Cure for Burnout

She discusses the "hustle culture," the need to work two or even three jobs to make financial ends meet. I must confess I'd never thought of freelancers as "working class folk," as Hurley classifies them in this article. In terms of income, though, a moment's thought makes it clear that the earning level of most freelance creators places them in the same income bracket as working-class employees—or lower. The typical writer's annual income, divided by hours worked, falls below minimum wage. Hence the "side hustle" that Hurley vividly describes. As she puts it, she couldn't afford to quit any of her day jobs because she was "hustling for health insurance."

Some of her comments strike me as chilling to contemplate:

"How are we monetizing our hobbies, our passions?" Isn't a "passion" something we pursue for the love of it?

"If you can’t carve out an hour in your day [to squeeze in writing between the day jobs], you must just not be working hard enough…." If many creators have to work nonstop like that, no wonder they tend to suffer burnout.

"I could have it all, it seemed. I just couldn’t remember much of it. I was too exhausted." Just reading that sentence makes me feel tired.

"I found that the only personal experiences of any note that I was mining for my writing happened in my twenties. All I could remember of my thirties was… working."

Upon googling remedies for burnout, Hurley discovered, "All the advice was the same: seek 'balance.' Meditate. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy." None of those sources recommended the "cure" mentioned in her title: "Do less." Her overall conclusion is, "Our culture worships busy-ness, but we, individually, don’t have to." Yet how does one do less and still pay for necessary expenses, not to mention the all-important health insurance?

The only time I came close to "burnout" was during graduate school, especially while working on the PhD. I wrote little or no fiction during the years of attending classes and producing my dissertation. Constant, high-volume academic writing left my brain too numb for imaginative creation. Throughout my adult life, I've been lucky to have what every author needs—a well-employed spouse with a secure career and high-quality health coverage (in our case, through the U.S. Navy). Unfortunately, not all writers are in that position (or, maybe, want to be).

It's fortunate that most of us don't write mainly for the money. On the other hand, royalties have symbolic importance, because they represent readers. We write in the hope of being read. Low sales can make one feel there isn't much point in writing, since nobody will read the stuff anyway. While that feeling in itself isn't exactly burnout, it can get discouraging. That "What's the use?" malaise sometimes creeps over me, especially with three publishers folding under me within the past few years. While I haven't stopped producing new fiction, right now I'm mainly working little by little on getting the "orphaned" works re-released, partly through a new publisher (Writers Exchange E-Publishing) and partly through Kindle self-publishing.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Reviews 46 - Police Family Love by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Reviews 46
Police Family Love
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Reviews haven't been indexed (yet). 

In the entry, Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration Part 11 - Arranging Marriages,
we discussed the TV Series, Shtisel, made in Israel, in Hebrew with English subtitles.

The title, Shtisel, is after the Shtisel family it follows through the harrowing issue of arranging marriages amidst a secular culture in Jerusalem. 

It is reminiscent of the Chaim Potok novel about a talented artist, MY NAME IS ASHER LEV.

But Potok wrote in novel style, and was thus able to address deep and far reaching nuances of his theme about family and the misfit artist.

I noted that, as a TV Series, Shtisel couldn't do that and stay on the air.

Here, I want to point you to a series I've talked about before, by Marshall Ryan Maresca, set in his fictional/fantasy city of Maradaine.

He has crafted a series of series -- focusing on different levels, layers, and professions that make up a huge, sprawling port city. 

Here are previous discussions of this huge work of art in the making:

And now we have two more books.  Note that -- books, not just TV episodes. Each of these novels is replete with details revealing the depths of a World you could never imagine, but which seems totally familiar.

  The Way of the Shield (A novel of the Maradaine Elite)

A Parliament of Bodies (A novel of The Maradaine Constabulary) 

The Way of the Shield has a sequel, Shield of the People, out October 2019.

"The Shield" is a martial arts "order" -- part of the previous culture, struggling not to be lost amidst a changing society.  Think of the parallels to the TV Series, Shtisel, which I recommended previously:

If you do a deep contrast/compare study of the martial arts order, how hard it is to live their life, what they swear to do, how seriously they take that oath, with the lifestyle depicted in SHTISEL, you will learn a lot about the writing craft.

But include the novels of the Maradaine Constabulary, along with two American TV Series, NCIS and BLUE BLOODS,
and you begin to see where Alien Romance fits in the genre-mix that is most popular today. 

We have a long history of great Detective Series, novel series made into TV Detective series (Perry Mason comes to mind), and many stories of how teams of police and/or lawyers become bonded into a family.

A working group of crime fighters (even superhero alliances) bond the way combat veterans have bonded with buddies from time immemorial (really, pre-Rome days).

It is the nature of humans to bond with those who face adversity with them.  It is in the whirling blades of combat (physical or psychological), that the true core of a human's personality is revealed.

Thus many of the best Romance novels mix in another genre that includes some sort of danger, testing, supreme effort.  Becoming part of an organization, such as a Martial Arts Order, where you must pass a test to be accepted, forms that sort of bond.

These procedures (reduced to hazing in the case of the college fraternity - kid's games compared to real life) do forge MARITAL BONDS, true marriage for life, and perhaps beyond.

In the USA, we have had influxes of immigrants over the centuries, and such communities have settled together and formed major bonds that last generations.  Some groups have assimilated easily, and others have resisted for many generations.  Some just soak up Americana and adapt it.

In the 20th Century we had the Italians and the Irish, as well as the Jews of Eastern Europe.  New York's Irish Cops became famous.

All three of these incoming groups were famous for their family strength, keeping family ties going for generations before intermarrying and becoming part of the 50% divorce rate statistics. 

The TV Series, Blue Bloods, focused on a multigenerational Irish family in the process of complete assimilation.  Being a cop (or in one woman's case, an attorney) was the family business.

It's a stereotype for s reason -- non-Irish people knew many such families. 

In the sub-series, The Maradaine Constabulary, Marshall Ryan Maresca has given us a multi-generation family of cops, tough men and women of impeccable loyalty to law and order.

The inexplicable element in the Maradaine law, to me, is how it replicates USA law, the legal protection against search and seizure and other rights of individuals that cops can't violate and get a conviction in court. 

While these concepts date back thousands of years, and are part of the Magna Carta -- survived a multitude of dictatorial Kings, and somehow became codified into USA law, they are by no means universal among countries today.  Even where such law is on the books, it is often ignored.

There is no explanation (so far) in the Maradaine novels about where they got these ideas -- but they do have an Aristocracy as well as a Parliament.

The novel, A Parliament of Bodies, has major elements of Horror Genre, but likewise incorporates both unbreakable family ties and love/loyalty between spouses.

Setting aside the inexplicable World Building puzzles, both these novels and the sub-series they represent are well worth your time to read.  They are not Romance novels, but love and loyalty are the plot-driving forces that depict what a strong family really is. 

Always remember that "strong family" is the single most critical element in the Happily Ever After ending for a Romance.  If the marriage doesn't nurture children, a next generation and a next beyond that, who love, understand, appreciate, and above all honor, the couple forged in Romance, then you didn't have Soul Mates to begin with, and thus no HEA is possible.

So study the limits of what the publishing industry can allow right now, and, like Srugim and Shtisel TV Series, break that boundary, challenge the stereotype, find a new angle to view your story.

Just don't miss the Maradaine novels. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Creepy, Snoopy, Moribund... And All In The Best Possible Taste

Extrapolated from an alert on the Yahoogroup "AuthorsAgainstEBookTheft":

For authors who were published by, it has something in common with the Monty Python parrot. It is no more.

The website has an announcement:

The smart move would be to visit and obtain a screen shot in case this is the only proof of return of rights that is available.

Note: Margaret L. Carter has pointed out that she received a full and proper return of rights directly from Mundania. Apologies if the above note was in any way inaccurate.

For Americans who might or might not have someone in the household nearing or older than sixty, beware of unexpected, unsolicited phone calls from persons claiming to be from Medicare. They are not. They quite possibly found your/your loved one's contact information and age on a site such as Been-Verified (which is not a reliable site, and which may well have complete and utter elderly strangers listed as living at your home with you... and their system provides no way for you to correct this error), and what the callers want is
a) to record you saying, "Yes?"  (Never say Yes to a stranger.)
b) to get your personal information and secret(ish) numbers.

Or perhaps some files were badly consolidated and some creepy snoopy sites got bad information from the Microsoft data breach.

Look here for scam warnings.

OK. That is not writing or copyright related, but even writers get older. Moreover, authors are obliged by the nature of their business to put out more information on back matter and on public sites than most people.

Writers, be like The Queen of England. Keep your real birthday private, and celebrate an "official" birthday for social media purposes that is not your truthful birth date.

Finally, for anyone who is interested in SUPER (voting) POWERS that affect the big social media platforms, the trichordist has an eye-opening expose by Chris Castle on how supervoting works and why Zuckerberg (for one) has nothing to fear from shareholders.

One reason why Mark Zuckerberg maybe should be reined in is his alleged interest in monetizing other people's menstrual periods.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Inside Apollo

The June 2019 issue of SMITHSONIAN magazine includes a long article on little-known aspects of the Apollo lunar exploration project. Unfortunately, the online publication is behind a paywall. Here's a sample of the article:

What You Didn't Know About Apollo

Pick up a copy of this issue if possible. It contains some shocking revelations (shocking to me, anyway). Despite his inspirational public speeches about the race for the Moon, President Kennedy stated in private that he had no particular interest in space as such. He simply wanted to beat the Russians. A significant percentage of Americans considered the space program a waste of money. In 1968, only four weeks after the Apollo 8 flight, a Harris Poll survey revealed that only 39% of Americans favored landing a man on the Moon. When asked whether the project was worth its cost, 55% said no—even though the war in Vietnam was costing more per year than the total price of the Apollo program so far. Aside from the excitement of televised launches, most ordinary citizens didn't give much thought to the Moon project. Even scientists, polled in 1961 by Senator Paul H. Douglas, were divided on the importance of a manned Moon mission, 36% believing it would have "great" value and 35% "little" value. This attitude seems so remarkable to me as an SF fan, since I've regarded the vital importance of space exploration as obvious for most of my life. In October 1963, funding for the Apollo program was being reduced. Ironically, if Kennedy had lived longer, lunar aspirations might have faded away, whereas President Johnson "was an authentic believer in the space program."

Equally astonishing to me, as described in the SMITHSONIAN article, was the United States' level of unpreparedness for the promised goal of a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s. When Kennedy announced that goal, "he was committing the nation to do something we simply couldn't do." As the article puts it, "We didn't have the tools or equipment" and furthermore "didn't even know what we would need." We didn't have a list of requirements; "no one in the world had a list." And yet we proceeded to do the impossible, producing along the way results such as the most advanced computers created to date, "the smallest, fastest and most nimble computer in a single package anywhere in the world." Furthermore, NASA invented "real-time computing." Not being a tech person, before reading this article I had no idea what a revolutionary development that was. Previously, the only way to get problems solved with a computer was to submit a pile of punch cards and wait hours or days for the printed results of the calculations. Clearly, the space race gave us a lot more than Tang!

It felt strange to read this article and realize how the groundbreaking achievements of our nation's space program, which now seem like a foregone conclusion of unique historical significance, often hung by precariously slender threads.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration Part 11 - Arranging Marriages

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 11
Arranging Marriages

Previous posts in this series for advanced writers on blending individual techniques so readers never notice you did anything are:

The previous entry in this series of posts is about How To Marry A Billionaire.  It used to be "millionaire" - but, inflation, you know.

The symbolism of "rich" is desirable not just for looks, but prowess.  The self-made billionaire is sexy because he/she can provide for children and ease the burden of motherhood with maidservants etc.

Considering what happens when a billionaire comes into the spotlight of the media, do you really want to be the spouse of such a hot property?


Check out this series of posts on symbolism:

The billionaire is the one-step-solution to all life's problems rolled up into one symbol - being rich.  Likewise the Duke, the King, the Prince -- all the royal titles or heirs to such titles come with the implication of rich, and an easy life.

But novels are not about living EASY.  Easy is what happens after the novel is over - (or the series) - in the HEA part of existence.  To get to the HEA, you gotta suffer!  And you have to work for that ending, really work, searcher your soul, change your habits.  (My Fair Lady!)

So to marry your Soul Mate, you have to know your own Soul.

Generally, readers (in any genre) don't buy a book to learn how to search their own Soul, but will remember a book that illustrated (in show don't tell) how to determine what you really want in life.  You only know you got the right answer decades later, when having what you want has gone on-and-on until it becomes the norm.

Novels can happen at the point where that norm is threatened, and the Characters must question whether they made good choices as children.  Most often, those characters, slogging through those confrontations, are ancillary characters, supporting players (not spear carriers or red-shirts).

So here we'll study how the World you build shows (without telling) how to determine what you really want in Life.

I suggest you watch 2 TV Series, one on Netflix and one on Amazon Prime, imported TV Series with English subtitles (that aren't always accurate).

1. Srugim on Amazon Prime

2. Shtisel on Netflix

If they aren't there when you read this, Google around a bit.  They are popular for a reason.  But companies are playing games of keep-away against viewers these days.

We discussed Srugim here

The world it is set in might as well be another planet full of people who aren't quite comprehensible to normal humans.  They march to a different drummer.

In Srugim, the Characters in the drama are all young people searching for a true mate, and over the course of 3 seasons, most of them settle down.

In Shtisel (the word is a family name), we see a whole family with grandparents, retirement age parents, and adult children with young children approaching marriageable age.

It is a family drama set in a world most viewers have to learn as they go, but since it is not an American made series, it assumes the viewer knows things Americans probably don't know (or think they know the opposite).

Shtisel has been hailed as a breaker of stereotypes, and as such is worth studying carefully -- because writers of Science Fiction/Paranormal Romance are breaking stereotypes.  Most of the blow-back against the HEA ending is coming from that source -- people are comfortable inside their "world" composed of stereotypes, and find it painful when you break them.

The Theme of Shtisel might be stated thusly:

A) Ancestry Matters
B)  To maintain coherence, a family must change with the World they live in.
C) No family can survive in a changing world.
D) Religion doesn't help anyone understand the World around them.

It's unclear which theme would be more descriptive, and that lack of clarity is the problem with this TV Series.  At the same time, the lack of clarity in the theme is what makes this TV Series about the role of Romance in Marriage worth studying for all writers -- most especially Romance sub-genre writers.

The plots of the episodes turn on marriages broken (widowhood, abandonment, divorce), and marriages made or mended.  The only solid, continuing marriage is almost completely off-stage.  The episodes are set in Jerusalem, and the successful religiously solid couple lives in Tel Aviv and has adopted different practices from their ancestors.

The Tel Aviv couple's only interaction with the main story line is to invite the (stubborn, reluctant) grandfather to come teach Judaism to their children who are learning a different tradition.  It's a little like Catholics vs. Protestants, but not really the same thing.

So one stray, modernized, couple mends estrangement from ancestors -- but that whole story line is barely mentioned.

The main plots turn on a young Rabbi with a nice teaching position in a primary school environment where his father has taught, and eventually becomes Principle.  But the young Rabbi wants to be an artist and paint portraits, thus estranging himself from his entire family.

A daughter of the Rabbi's father is married with 4 then 5 children, is abandoned by her husband, but keeps that quiet, lies about it, and supports her family by herself, by taking over the (somewhat illicit) currency-exchanging business of an old widow in the same Care Facility as the grandmother of the young artist-Rabbi.  Her lies are rewarded when her strayed husband comes home, and she takes the advice of another Rabbi to not-know too much about what happened.

Another brother with a marriageable daughter comes back from Europe looking for a husband for his daughter, and thus a Matchmaker (time-honored profession) is brought on stage.

We follow several attempts to match a couple in the ultra-orthodox way that is still rather successful in these modern times.

All the while that meetings are being arranged for possible young couples, we see all the men involved sitting over books, studying Torah and Talmud on the adult level, as we see the elementary school students being introduced to the material.

This is their World, framed by ancient laws of how to behave gently and forgivingly to other people.  These are the Characters - members of a family with a lot in common, and even more in divergent interests and standards of behavior.  And that is the Plot -- get married, already!  All of the Themes suggested above surface many times, but none of the themes actually crystalize.

The reason the Themes in the TV Series Shtisel don't sizzle off the screen with vivid portraits illustrating how to decide what you want out of Life, which mate is right for you, what sort of destiny you want to guide your family toward, is not a flaw in what is there on your TV Screen.

The reason the Themes of Shtisel don't crystalize properly is what is missing from that TV Screen.

That missing material is what we'll focus on here, despite all the other elements worth delving into.

The element missing from your TV screen is one that can be crafted very smoothly in a novel, printed text, but is commercially impossible (so far) in a TV Series.

You'd have to break a stereotype to get the fully realized THEME that belongs to the TV Series Shtisel (and even to Srugim) onto public TV Screens.

You'd have to SHOW DON'T TELL how the Hand of God moves the real world, in everyday reality.  In other words, you'd have to convince your readers that their world actually does have the potential to deliver to them a Happily Ever After ending for their lives, an ending that leaves an indelible legacy stretching back to the Beginning, the family of humanity.

The stereotype that lulls people into security is the portrayal of every person who understands God as a real, close, present force in this World is just deluded into superstition.

The production company behind Srugim and Shtisel, "YES" is their English name, probably couldn't get that kind of disruptive stereotype-breaking show on the air, and I'm not sure if anyone on their staff actually understands the HEA or Soul Mates as a concept.  I don't think they know what a Matchmaker really is -- at least not from the Character portrayed in Shtisel.

But if they could, if Shtisel were a Romance Novel (and it has all the makings of hot-stuff Romance), what could they add that isn't on the screen now?  What could draw that show-don't-tell image of how to recognize what you really want in life -- at first glance.

The principle behind the Matchmaker concept is that such an individual is very close to God, very much an instrument of the Creator of the Universe, and is given prophetic insight beyond the simple facts about a person's ancestry and temperament.

Matchmakng is a divine profession.

But it only works if the young people behind matched are enough in tune with their Creator, enough attuned to their own Souls, to be open on the highest wavelengths, and able to recognize their Soul Mate and fall in love at first sight.

The young, matched, couple only gets two or three brief meetings in a public setting to determine whether to marry.  It has to be love at first sight, and that's not a quality of the person you are looking at, but rather a quality of yourself.

So, given this TV Series is about the arranged marriage, thematically it lacks the dimension of an explanation of how and why matchmaking works, and what could prevent it from working.

Conflict is the essence of story.

Conflict means there is a goal, a reason to reach the goal, and an obstacle to prevent reaching that goal.  The conflict is between the goal-directed person and the obstacle.

Shtisel has that conflict laid out nicely.  The Characters have internal conflicts that are projected into their lives, reflected in the other Characters.

But the plot never addresses the reason why the obstacle is there, or the methods of removing or surmounting the obstacle.

The thematic element completely missing from this TV Series is the content of the material we see everyone studying.

Because we are not given the content of what is being learned, we can't notice how or whether the behaviors and events in the family's daily life illustrate that wisdom contained in that content.  If the content were added, though, the writers would have had to add a Character and change the character (and eventual fate) of the Matchmaker, then play the two off against each other to illustrate the dynamics driving the religious lifestyle.

One thing the American audience might miss because it's not mentioned in the series, is that there are specific pages of specific books assigned to be learned on specific days.

Because it is a set calendar, if the content were specified, it would date the show, and that might prevent it from surviving enough years to earn back its investment.

However, because it is a set bit to be learned, what does happen in real life, too often to be mere coincidence, the content of that assigned page to be learned does manifest in surrounding Reality.

It is just plain spooky how often that happens.  It happens so often that when it doesn't happen, someone who pays attention to correlations knows that they've missed something.  It happened, but you just didn't see it.

So the characterization of the TV Characters is just plain "off" somehow.  Several of them are Rabbis, and the rest learn and pray routinely.  But they don't understand their World in terms of those assigned readings.

What little is revealed of the content is contrived to sound boring and irrelevant (when in fact it is not).  With one exception, each Character who is studying from a book gets interrupted and just ignores what they're reading as if the interruption is more interesting and compelling than the material.  The exception is a very mentally disturbed young man no one in the audience wants to become.  (he gets saved by the woman who falls in love with him)

The stereotype the series did not break is how for normal people, Talmud is boring to learn, and religion is an irrelevant waste of time that just keeps you from having fun in life, or a refuge for the unbalanced.  Religion can't be the key for understanding what's really happening in the real world.

The stereotype the series did break is how helpless and illiterate the women of arranged marriages are.

All of the women Characters in Shtisel read, learn, and think for themselves.  They are dynamic businesswomen, faithful employees with skills and talents, adventurous and indomitable -- just like real people.

These women who have chosen husbands who were suggested to them by a Matchmaker are not helpless victims of an outmoded system.  They are the backbone of the family heritage.  They matter.  They count.  They make their own decisions and carry them out vigorously.  And sometimes they choose a husband who was not selected by the matchmaker!  Sometimes that works out very well.

So, dig up this TV Series, Shtisel -- and the other I've discussed, Srugim.  You will visit an alien world, and learn how to create a Romance with an Alien that will put your Characters on a glide-path to their own, individualized, Happily Ever After ending.

Really - having a blast watching TV is not wasting time.  To be the writer you were born to be, you have to understand why this TV Series, Shtisel, couldn't live up to its potential.  Use that knowledge to build the world your Romance Novel needs.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Bad Faith

Assuming that the opposite of good faith is bad faith, the latter is this author's theme this time.  This week's news in the legal blogosphere has been thin for copyright-related matters, but the lack of good faith seems to be a common thread.

For a cautionary tale about crowdfunding, legal bloggers Kathleen K. Sheridan   and Melissa Landau Steinman  writing for the law firm Venable LLP point out three rules to live by, including that it is vital to keep promises made to investors.

All About Advertising Law source:

Lexology source:

For advice for authors from Zach Obront about using Kickstarter to crowdfund your book launch, find tips here:

The balance of the good and the bad relate to the use of other people's photographs. In one case, the photographer prevailed against a commercial publisher, in the other case, the photographer appears to have gone after a safe-harbor-protected big fish, instead of the possibly culpable little fish.

Legal bloggers Mariah Volk and David Grossman writing for Loeb & Loeb LLP examine the case of Downs v Oath, and explain why Oath --which owns HuffPost-- is not legally responsible under the DMCA for publishing contributor-uploaded copies of copyrighted works that are uploaded in defiance of HuffPost's TOS..

See here:

or here:

It took an appeal to the Fourth Circuit for the photographer to prevail against an alleged infringer, as legal blogger Jodi Benassi discussed for the law firm McDermott Will & Emery.


How someone can crop out the copyright wording from a photograph and then claim that they had a good faith belief that the photograph was not copyrighted is... beyond belief.

Jodi Benassi's breakdown of the four factors of  fair use and the "heart of the work" is especially worth reading.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Beliefs, Facts, and Action

Sometimes it doesn't matter whether one has accurate beliefs about facts as long as one's beliefs have a correct or useful effect in practice. In one STAR TREK novel in which the crew brings aid to a planet suffering from an epidemic, they advise the local healers of the importance of cleanliness. One of them says something like, "Yes, we know dirt attracts disease demons." Later Spock gives her a medication with the statement that disease demons can't abide it. Whether the healers believed in disease demons or germs, what mattered was the treatment being applied. The British Navy realized lime juice prevented scurvy long before vitamins were discovered. Likewise, cooks knew food would spoil if not stored in the proper conditions, even though they knew nothing about bacteria. During medieval epidemics, the spread of disease was controlled by quarantine when doctors still thought illness came from unbalanced humors or malign astrological influences. The heroine of Henry James's short novel DAISY MILLER dies of malaria, which the story attributes to the miasma emanating from the swamps near Rome. Although people then didn't know malaria was spread by mosquitoes, they knew hanging around swamps and other sources of stagnant water often led to catching the disease. Of course, as a literary symbol of ancient, corrupt Europe destroying a young, naive American girl, a swamp works better than a mosquito.

Before astronomers accepted the Copernican model of the planets revolving around the sun, they believed Earth was the center around which the planets (including the sun and moon) and the sphere of the fixed stars revolved. People still managed to navigate by the stars, and astronomers and astrologers could use the incorrect model to predict the movements of heavenly bodies. The triumph of the Copernican model, however, allowed more elegant predictions and opened the way for the revelation that the planets and stars obeyed the same Newtonian gravitational laws as objects on Earth. Contrary to popular belief, by the way, the Earth-centered universe theory didn't mean people thought Earth and the human race were special in a good way. Unlike the heavenly bodies outside the sphere of the moon, Earth was flawed, the lowest point in the cosmos, where the dregs of creation ended up. The moon was imperfect, too; it changed on a monthly schedule, and it displayed visible spots. The planets, sun, and stars were thought to be composed of different, perfect material. The main shock of the Copernican revolution wasn't that we lost our place at the center. It was that the heavens were as changeable as Earth and the objects on it, made of the same kind of matter. Speaking of Newton, the classical laws of physics worked fine in practice for centuries, despite the fact that theories of relativity and quantum mechanics eventually revealed the inadequacies of classical physics on the macro and micro levels.

Often, of course, erroneous beliefs about facts do make a practical difference. Long before Mendel and the later discovery of DNA, farmers knew how to breed animals and plants for desirable traits. However, they also believed in prenatal impressions—that the experiences of pregnant mothers left their marks on the offspring. According to the book of Genesis, Jacob induced his father-in-law's flocks to produce spotted offspring by placing spotted twigs in front of the breeding animals. Columbus was mistaken about the size of the Earth. If he hadn't bumped into a previously unknown land mass by sheer luck, his expedition would probably have been lost long before getting near Asia. When medical science discovered the risks of excessive cholesterol in the bloodstream, authorities assumed dietary cholesterol should be restricted. People unnecessarily reduced their intake of innocent, nutritious eggs, until new studies identified trans fats as the main dietary villain. Pediatricians used to recommend that babies sleep on their stomachs or, later, face up in an inclined rather than flat position, for fear they might spit up and choke. Better understanding of the physiology of sudden infant death has led to a complete reversal, so that babies now sleep on their backs. Ideology drives policy on matters such as punitive incarceration of drug offenders versus treating addiction as a medical problem or what kind of formal sex education (if any) adolescents should be offered in schools—issues in which mistaken beliefs about real-world effects can result in undesired actual outcomes.

What factual beliefs might our present-day culture hold that will be disproved in the future, maybe with real-life consequences? What universally held assumptions of ours might future generations or visiting extraterrestrials consider as absurdly wrongheaded as we consider the heliocentric cosmos or the "humors" theory of disease?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Part 21 - The Couple's First Fight

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 21
The Couple's First Fight 

Previous entries indexed:

Just because you're Soul Mates, does that mean you actually LIKE each other?

Science Fiction and Paranormal Romance writers may be able to avoid answering that question if they end off the novel at the first "I Love You."

But does Love=Like?

The HEA advocates promote the idea that you can't love someone without also liking them, that you two could get along with each other for all the decades ahead, and even prefer each-others' company.

The idea is that just feeling the sexual stirring at the sight of a person necessarily means you love them and therefore will never dislike them.  But more pragmatic HFN advocates sit through the blush of Romance expecting that First Fight at any moment.

Disliking the person you live with prevents any form of Happiness.

And that First Fight is a game-changer in a Relationship, setting up whether the two will LIKE each other after sexuality is no longer a factor (that is where the "ever after" part comes in.)

How can a Science Fiction or Paranormal Romance writer create that First Fight scene between Soul Mates and still leave the reader convinced (even if the Characters aren't convinced) that this is a Soul Mate match, and that Love will indeed Conquer the strife?

Can strife be vanquished by Conquering?  If your answer is yes, you have one set of themes to choose from, but if it is no, then you turn to another set of themes.  Does the application of Force cause humans (or your non-humans) to change their unconscious assumptions about the nature of reality?

The First Fight scene declares where the author stands on this obscure point.  The First Fight is the first time one member of the Couple attempts to use Force (yelling, stomping, throwing pillows, maybe breaking something, or even tactics like crying) to assert the preeminence of their own view of how things are and how they should go.  When the other member of the Couple responds with similar Force - you have a "fight."

Previous disagreements ... where to stop for lunch; which movie to see ... were settled without pyrotechnics, but this issue somehow hits a raw nerve and suddenly asserting preeminence is necessary for survival, for personal integrity, for Identity.  It is suicide to desist.

To engage the reader in this scene, so the Characters don't seem silly, immature, mis-matched, or headed for a murder-suicide scene, the writer must foreshadow all the elements of the argument.  Before the First Fight scene, the reader has to understand how deeply invested each Character is in the eternal truth of their assumption.  The writer has to show-don't-tell how the Character's Identity stands or falls on this pivotal issue.

With the reader thus waiting for the Characters to clash over this defining issue, the writer can frame that crucial, Relationship developing or dooming scene.

Scene Framing and development is taught very well in the SAVE THE CAT! series of writing books by Blake Snyder.

We discussed scene structure in these posts.

Scenes, the building block of fiction, are plot elements, driven by "rising action" -- the increase in reader expectation of what will happen next.

In other words, each series of about 750 words must connect what just happened to what MIGHT happen next, and make the reader want to guess where we go from here.

In the typical action-fight scene, two people square off and go acrobatic, landing blows, throwing each others' bodies around and into walls, blood flows, and eventually one doesn't get up. The one left standing "wins."  Study fight scenes on TV (and chase scenes), take notes, observe how long each sub-sequence within the fight lasts.

The best fight scenes, in the longest running TV Series, engage the audience because they are graphic re-enactments of marital quarrels or fights.  Draw the connections between physical blows and psychological blows.

The opening clash in a fight scene defines the outcome.  Most "action" fight scenes define the outcome by defining the fight as a zero-sum-game -- I win; you lose.

We discussed how testosterone works in humans in a previous post.  As with many animals, a human male who has been conquered will not challenge that conquerer again. Testosterone levels of the loser of a fight plunge, while the winner rises.

Here are a few posts discussing that knuckling-under phenomenon, and how marriage and children can shift a man's testosterone profile:

Depicting the married hunk:

Depicting Alien History

Depicting Brain To Computer Links - (online bullying prevention)

Soul Mate of the Kickass Heroine

As we noted in the previous post in this series, ...

...the reader is on a quest to solve the mystery, What Will Happen Next?

That's what keeps readers turning the pages, and buying the next book in the series.  It is what makes a book "interesting" --- not the topic, not the presence or absence of a love story, not the setting, or any of the elements readers point to when asked what interests them.  Any topic or setting, any Character, can be swathed in the cloak of mystery and lure any reader into turning a few pages.

LIFE is a mystery to be solved -- and a mystery every single living person is pursuing the solution to.  So all our "interesting" fiction hooks us with the mystery of  "Where do we come from?"  "Where are we going?" "Why are we here?"

These are mysteries leading us into the highest possible abstractions of theoretical thinking.  But the answers writers offer have to be applicable to everyday reality problems, such as "We just had our First Fight! Now what?"

While a couple is in the white-hot-heat of conflict (the essence of story is conflict), they rarely stop to grapple with the underlying philosophy of their own unconscious assumptions.

People fight over "do it my way" or "it's my turn" or "don't you dare" -- they don't fight over the definition of "I."

People fight over Who Is Right, not What Is Right.

If you want some examples of people actually arguing, not fighting, and arguing about what is right rather than who is right, check out the Talmud where each Rabbi's conclusions are carefully recorded with his name, preserved and studied.  Sometimes the issue is not resolved - and people choose to go with one or the other.

If nebulous abstractions such as right vs wrong enter the arena, it is generally only by powerful, screamed assertions not laying out of details of reasoning from the axiom behind the derived opinion.

So the fight becomes all about "Who Is Right" -- with nobody using the word "why" as anything but an accusation of malfeasance.

So to create that First Fight dialogue and make it convincing, the writer has to keep the actual issue over which the free flow of energy between the two lovers has become disrupted.

By keeping the dialogue "off the nose" (assuming you've read the whole Save The Cat! Series) you can inform the reader about the unconscious assumptions behind made by each Character, and you can display the essential incompatibility of the two different assumptions.

This pattern of unconscious assumptions gives the writer the opportunity to anchor the disagreement in everyday Reality -- even if the details of the issue being disagreed over have non-human, interstellar civilization, ghostly, angelic, demonic, origins.  The essence of Alien Romance is that each is alien to the other.

Each member of the Couple will be using a Visualization of the Macrocosmic All, a model of the universe, a model of reality, constructed in their minds, and the on-the-nose issue is really which model of reality matches actual reality closest.

NOTE: Consider the cliche argument between driver and map-reader when lost on unmarked country roads, where the map doesn't quite match what they are seeing out the windshield.  These days, imagine they have no cellphone bars way out there, and the car's built-in nav isn't working.

Should we stop to ask for directions? Who should we ask, the kid herding sheep by the side of the road?  The farmhouse over there?  The next gas station? The police station in the next town -- or the one behind us?

Both might agree that to get information, one should search where the information is likely to be.  But they might FIGHT over which option would be most likely to produce reliable information.

This type of argument (which comes in all guises) is really about two different assumptions about how the Universe is constructed.

The fictional universe which the writer constructs to convey the theme of the fictional work (Love Conquers All) has answers to those kinds of questions (where and how to get information most expeditiously.)

The best novels show how each Character's assumptions about their World are correct even while being mutually exclusive.  That is the resolution of any Conflict that generates plot and story -- you're both right and both wrong.  Here's what neither of you knew before.

Each scene, each chapter, and the book as a whole, starts with a specified CONFLICT, brings conflicting elements together releasing energy that drives the next developments.  The energy is released when the conflict of the page is resolved.

Many writers can specify a conflict nicely and neatly, but can't deliver a resolution that leaves most people delighted to have their assumptions validated or enjoying the partial validation that causes them to ask more questions.

So how does a writer resolve the map-reading controversy?

You look at the World you have built, at which elements differ from the reader's reality, how they differ, and what you want to say about that difference.  What you want to say is your Theme.

For example: Does God manifest in your fictional world? Would praying help the lost Couple find the farmhouse they are looking for?  Is there such a thing as ESP and does one of them have it?  Could the map reader telepathically pick the mind of the roadside shepherd?

Would the driver take the map reader's world for it?

If the driver takes the map reader's word for it, do they actually get where they're going?  The answer to this question is a Plot Development.

When they get more lost or arrive at destination, what has each learned?  The answer to that question is a Story Development.

Continuing the metaphor of a road map representing the Character's Visualization of the Macrocosmic All, the Character's notion of the shape, texture and moving parts of Reality, look at how closely the Character's map of reality represents his/her actual Reality (which is not quite the Reader's Reality).

The more your model of reality resembles your actual reality, the more successful your actions will be, the more accurately the results of actions will be predicted.  In other words, the mystery of life will be easier to solve, and thus the reader's quest for a solution to that mystery will be successful.

Remember, Romance is signified in astrology by the planet Neptune, and the blurring-of-reality effect Neptune transits have on people.  Neptune transits re-set priorities, generally bringing spiritual matters such as Souls into a higher priority than practical matters (Saturn) such as a paycheck (Venus).

Once the Neptune transit has wained, the Honeymoon is over, priorities revert and the new spouse is seen in a different light.  That's usually where the First Fight of memorable proportions occurs because each had set aside their ordinary priorities while falling in love.  Neither had been able to perceive the ordinary priorities of the other, didn't know they had differences or how crucial those set-aside beliefs were.

One reason so many people reject Romance as a Genre, reject the idea that Love can Conquer anything permanently, is that in our everyday world, we have observed very few examples of couples who have executed their First Fight smoothly.

Primate studies have shown the pure animal nature of the primate female has the odd property of having to LEARN to be a mother, to care for an infant. Female primates raised without a mother, without observing mothering, don't accept and nurture their offspring.

There are many basic human behaviors that we never think about having learned -- maybe because we learn them before we are verbally fluent, when tone of voice and posture speak more loudly than words.

Perhaps one of these behaviors that must be transmitted to our children early is about how to fight with a Soul Mate, and how to resolve conflicts.

Most likely, the First Fight scene happens before the couple has children to observe it, but how future fights progress to resolution (yes, it can take years to resolve some of these issues) will be determined by how the First Fight resolves.

Conflict Resolution is a huge topic in psychiatry, psychology, and every sort of life counseling and coaching.

One reason our everyday world is so fraught with strife, flame wars of vile language meant to inflict personal damage, and International flinging of bombs at each other, may simply be that these adults grew up without role models who fought and resolved personal conflicts.

On the most basic, psychological, level -- inside ourselves, between "Me, Myself, and I," we don't know what to do when challenged, contradicted, pre-empted, denigrated, set aside, ignored, or directly targeted (often by displaced anger or rage.)

From the point of view of the non-human, Alien From Outer Space, (the Spock Character, for example), our international disputes and the mud-slinging vitriol those disputes engender, seem utterly childish.

Look at some random international or political headlines -- the raw material you use for your novels.  Listen to the wording, and distinguish between the Journalist-headline-writer, the subject being quoted, and the target-audience for that headline.  Now go to the nearest K-6 school and watch kids in the playground during unsupervised or unstructured play.  Can you see a difference?

Watch some chimpanzee videos.  Look for similarities to headlines.

It becomes harder to imagine an Alien hunk falling in love with a human woman.

If the Aliens have matured past projecting their playground animosities onto the World Stage, your Hero would feel little but revulsion at the sight of a human.

If the Aliens have never had this behavior pattern, humans would be too alien to them for a Soul Mate bond to gel.

One good Conflict to build science fiction around would be genuine Soul Mates born so alien to one another that the natural attraction is more than countered by the innate revulsion.  It's been done several times and done well.

The Romance writer, of any sub-genre, looking to argue the anti-Romance readers into believing in the HEA, has to be able to argue both sides of the HEA issue.

If the HEA is possible, what conditions have to be met?

Is the HEA a "special case" in the World you are building?

Or is the HEA an inevitable consequence of that World's structure?

Assuming the HEA is an inevitable consequence of the structure of the world you have built, provided only that true Soul Mates meet, how do you live happily ever after if you discover you don't LIKE the person you LOVE?

Add an element to the world, the physics and spiritual reality of that world to answer the question of whether love=like.

Do Soul Mates always love each other? At first sight, or does love have to be built?

Is Love temporary (e.g. you can fall out of love because of a fight), or is Love  simply eternal, so live with it because you can't get out of it?

Your definition of Love, rooted in the premises of the world you build for your Characters, will determine how that First Fight comes out.  But whether they learn how to "fight fair" and how to apologize, and how to "make up" must grow out of the Characterization you've "depicted" prior to that first fight scene.

What you build into your Characters and their World also determines the outcome the fight.  If one wins, the other loses part of their Identity (which can become an open wound decades later).  If both win, or both lose, that sets up a process of compromise later -- leaving everyone unhappy over what was lost.

The "ever after" part of the HEA ending is the springboard into the expectation that the Couple will resolve every future conflict with the same firm, smoothness that the reader has seen in their First Fight.

To get that smoothness, there can't be winning and losing.  Compromise means each loses something, and that may seem fair and right to some people, but it won't seem HAPPY.  "Happy" is getting everything you need and most of what you want, with the prospect of getting the rest eventually.

Happy is satisfied.

How do you reach that kind of a resolution to a conflict?  By not having one prevail over the other.  No defeats, no sacrifices, no deprivations for the sake of the other.

As far as I know, the only disagreements that can be resolved without the win/lose, zero-sum-game paradigm of Reality are the disagreements about WHAT is right, based on the unconscious assumption that it will FEEL GOOD to discover any mistakes you've made in determining what is right.

Take the driver vs map-reader example.  They both want to get where they are going -- maybe house-hunting a rural farm.  It doesn't matter which of them made what mistake.  It matters only to discover the mistake and FIX IT, both adopting the best solution.

Most people HATE IT when their mistakes are on open display, especially before someone whose good opinion matters to them.

So if a spouse digs out a mistake the other spouse has made, that mistake has to be put on the table WITHOUT BLAME.

If the First Fight scene ends with uncovering a mistake, and the discoverer uses it as a club to bludgeon the other's emotions, or in some fashion uses some very private, very personal information to evoke EMBARRASSMENT, then from that moment on, there may be love (and even great sex) but the embarrassed one will not LIKE the embarrasser.

Perhaps the First Fight ends with both parties standing corrected.  They can share their chagrin.  And that would bond them more deeply.  Love and Like can come together.

And even stronger bond of liking the lover can be forged where there is real, palpable guilt, embarrassment, loss of self-confidence, in the one who made the mistake, and the one who had the correct answer responds to the instant defensive attack of the embarrassed one with a kind, gentle, understanding.

If the defense is met with a shift in perspective executed using intimate knowledge, the defense would come down and apologies wouldn't be necessary or even appropriate.  No winner.  No loser.  Just a correct course plotted to their new home.

The Relationship will then gel instantly when the embarrassed one watches as the correct one shields their PRIVACY by not letting anyone know what happened.

Readers will believe this Couple has won through to an HEA because privacy is guarded.

Be sure to note the difference between privacy and secrecy - huge topic, so here are a couple of places I mentioned it.

And that may be the greatest key to the HEA -- both members of the couple build a wall of sacrosanct privacy around themselves.  They guard each others vulnerable spots so they trust each other to fight fair.

In our current culture, the very notion of Privacy is being challenged.  Could be that the Romance Genre's HEA will point us all to a better attitude.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Flattery Will Get You.... In Trouble

They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery... until they call it plagiarism or copyright infringement.

And then, there are famous hairy features, attractive hairy features, mind you. If you pay homage to such things for fame and profit, you might violate a famous person's valuable rights to publicity.

Legal bloggers Linda A. Goldstein and Amy Ralph Mudge blogging for the law firm Baker & Hostetler LLP discuss  the lost case of iconic eyebrows and a product named without permission.

Celebrities forfeit a lot of personal privacy by virtue of being celebrities, but they retain the right to profit from their own personas--or to prevent others from exploiting their names and likenesses for commercial gain.

This pdf from Alan L. Friel of BakerHostetler is interesting reading.

This writer's takeaway for authors is, never, never reveal that your hero's bedroom eyes were inspired by a famous living actress, or that your heroine is based on a reality star.

Also, if you want a famous person on your cover, be sure you have all rights.  Cover heroes can be tricky absent a signed, written agreement.

And then, there is the problem of asking for flattery, aka incentivizing reviews. Just because a lot of your competition does it, does not make it legal and safe.  The "best" reviews are freely given, not solicited and not paid-for.

Legal bloggers  Leonard L. Gordon  and Tyler Hale blogging All About Advertising Law for Venable LLP  explain.


Although authors may not think that the FTC case about free food in exchange for a screenshot of a flattering review applies to them, it well might.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Omnivore's Dilemma

No, not the book of that name, which was the only reference that popped up on a full page of Google results. I first encountered this term in the section on "Disgust" in HOW THE MIND WORKS, by Steven Pinker, who attributes it to psychologist Paul Rozin. The omnivore's dilemma encapsulates the double-edged nature of our ability to digest a vast variety of different foods. Therefore, human beings can survive in almost any environment on Earth. The negative side of this advantage is that we can't be sure whether a new potential food source is safe to eat until we've tried it.

As Pinker puts it, "Disgust is intuitive microbiology." After a certain age (when they outgrow the "put everything in their mouths" phase), children avoid things we would consider intrinsically disgusting, such as decayed organic matter or body fluids and excretions. Most people will even refuse to put in their mouths harmless items that resemble disgusting objects (e.g., fake vomit). Contact or resemblance equals contagion, an emotional aversion that overrides mere rationality. But what accounts for "disgust" reactions to items that we dismiss as inedible but many other cultures classify as food?

Pinker points out that we accept a very narrow range of animal products as food, even though those we shun are perfectly edible. Most Americans confine their animal diets to chickens, pigs, cattle, sheep, and selected types of fish and other seafood. From the mammals we raise for food, many of us eat only certain parts of their bodies and avoid the rest (e.g., organ meats, feet, tails, etc.). Pinker discusses how we learn these dietary prejudices as a byproduct of the omnivore's dilemma. In infancy and early toddler-hood, the "put everything in their mouths" stage, children have to eat what their parents offer them. When the child gets mobile enough to forage for himself or herself (in a hunter-gatherer society), the "picky" stage sets in. (It's probably not a coincidence that the food-finicky phase coincides with the drop in appetite when the rapid growth spurt of early life slows down.) Now the child regards new foods with suspicion. The items fed by the parents during the early months are accepted as edible. All other potential foods are, by definition according to the child's world-view, repulsive. Whatever isn't explicitly permitted is forbidden and therefore disgusting. As a practical corollary of this process, it seems parents should try to introduce their toddlers to as many different foods as possible during the sensitive learning period.

I was reminded of this section in HOW THE MIND WORKS (a fascinating, highly readable book—check it out) by Facebook videos of our seven-month-old grandson trying his first solid foods. He likes avocado. Until recently, he liked applesauce. Last week, he rejected it; maybe that's just a temporary fluke. Babies, like human beings in general, crave sweet tastes, because in a state of nature our ancestors depended on sweetness to tell them when fruit was edible. This natural attraction to sugar inspires infant-care experts to advise starting babies on less sweet foods (e.g., vegetables) first, rather than letting them get fixated on sugary things such as fruit right off the bat.

Pinker, by the way, says that not only are most parts and products of animals considered disgusting (see above), but also most or all disgusting things come from animals. Vegetables may be rejected because they taste bitter, but they're not viewed as disgusting. I reacted to that statement with, "Speak for yourself, Dr. Pinker." As a child, I was disgusted—i.e, nauseated—by several kinds of vegetables because they were served in a cooked-to-mush condition. The combination of change in taste from overcooking and the yucky texture made my stomach revolt. I believe, by the way, that the cliche of children hating vegetables arises from the crimes perpetrated on perfectly harmless plants by 1950s cooking styles and the prevalence of over-processed canned veggies in the American diet of that period.

One especially interesting issue: What about bugs? Why don't many cultures—ours included—eat insects and similar arthropods (e.g., spiders)? We often pay high prices for the privilege of consuming certain other arthropods, such as lobsters. And we happily eat one kind of insect secretion (honey). Yet we abhor the termites and grubs that form an important part of our ape relatives' diets. The easy answer in American culture is that bugs aren't included among the "permitted" items we're fed in childhood. But why aren't we?

An article from SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN attempting to answer that question:

What's Stopping Us from Eating Insects?

And one from the anthropology website "Sapiens":

Why Don't More Humans Eat Bugs?

Neither of these articles exactly repeats Pinker's hypothesis, which makes a lot of sense to me, although the second essay touches upon it: Gathering enough insects or other small arthropods to provide sufficient protein isn't a very efficient process. It takes a lot of time and energy. Therefore, people incorporated bugs into their diets only if those creatures were abundant (in the tropics, for instance) and nothing better was readily available. Where a society could obtain plenty of protein from more efficient sources, such as raising herd animals, they didn't bother to eat bugs. And since whatever isn't permitted during the early learning period is by definition forbidden, bugs are disgusting to most of us. This cultural phenomenon drives the humorous appeal of the popular children's novel HOW TO EAT FRIED WORMS, since at a certain age many kids develop a sort of queasy fascination with yucky things.

One lesson for future interplanetary explorers might be that colonists should conscientiously expose their children from infancy to all sorts of safe native foods in extraterrestrial environments, even if the parents find those items repugnant.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Part 20 - Why Love Matters

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration

Part 20

Why Love Matters 

Previous parts in Theme-Worldbuilding are indexed here:

All readers, of fiction or non-fiction, are detectives working a mystery case.

First they want to know what this book is about, and why should I waste my time reading it.  A closed book is a mystery.

Once hooked by your first line, your reader becomes YOUR READER.  They have "entered" your world, they have invested themselves in opening the book.

At that point, the mystery becomes, "what are the rules of this "world" and how do those rules differ from the rules by which I live my everyday life."

A story becomes interesting by posing a question, and part of the intriguing nature of a question is the unconscious assumptions behind the frame of the question.  Those unconscious assumptions behind your crafting of a first line are in fact the elements that frame your theme.

The theme of a work of fiction must be stated, baldly, in "on the nose" vocabulary once in a work of fiction, first at the end of the opening scene -- about 5% of the total wordage of the work -- and then near the end, right after the climax.

The theme is what the story is about, but whether the thematic statement is true for your reader has to be argued in the Worldbuilding part of your story, not in plot, story, character, action -- all of the other components of a work of fiction illustrate the theme, and the theme is the statement of the essence of the World your Characters must cope with.

The mystery the reader is working through is, "How does this fictional world differ from my everyday world?"  And beyond that, whether the fictional world is an improvement on the everyday world -- or perhaps if the thematic thesis somehow illuminates or explains the everyday world.

The overall, core, theme of Romance is Love Conquers All, and beyond that, once "conquered" then All will deliver the Happily Ever After smooth glide through life.

In everyday reality, it's hard to see that happening to anyone, least of all yourself -- and very probably yourself while you are in love.

People who "fall in love" are usually astonished, bewildered, and experience the state of mind and heart as a "game changer."

Today, there is a lot of research going on focused on the brain, while even more money is being poured into research on the mind.  Scientists are trying to prove that the mind is a product of the brain.

If they can establish this beyond doubt, then they will have proven that the hypothesis of the existence of a Soul is an unnecessary complication, and all human behavior can be explained simply as a function of the brain.  Occam's Razor logic says go for the simplest explanation that works, so that will be the thematic basis of the science of the future.

To write SCIENCE FICTION -- and therefore to write SCIENCE FICTION ROMANCE -- the writer takes an idea that is currently unquestioned by science, something assumed, an axiom, or so well proven it may as well be an axiom.  Then the writer builds a world around the premise that this axiom of science just is not true.

The mystery the reader is solving is, "How would the world be different if this axiom of science is not true?"

No single novel, or single author, can compile all the possible differences a shift in axioms might bring, so we have to select one possible consequence and build the entire fictional world around that.

The THEME is composed of A) the axiom that's wrong, B) the corrected axiom, C) the consequence of the new axiom.

Suppose science concludes there is no Soul, but in fact there are Souls, therefore the meaning of life has nothing to do with the appearance, or fate, of the body.


Or maybe




Whether Love can Conquer All might depend on whether it is an attribute of the brain, the mind, or the soul -- and that writer's decision is called world building.

Here is an article (which may not be true, but makes good fiction fodder) posted in Elite Daily:

which says


If we really want to get technical, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans *actually* measure oxygen levels in the tiny veins in our brain, not just "the brain." For those of us who aren't literal brain scientists (hi), the take away here is that there's a lot to be learned from observing brain scans, especially when it comes to love. Finding "The One" has been linked to increased activity in the areas of the brain associated with sex, reward, and memory. And what's better? Being in love is also connected to decreased activity in brain sections linked to fear and dislike. So basically, being in love means more stuff is happening in the good places of your brain, and less stuff is happening in the bad.

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

And that is science completely about the brain.  Is that all we are? Cells, and nerves, electrical signals?  Or is there a Soul that science can't detect?

You might want to reread the 6 or more parts of SOULMATES AND THE HEA series:

If your thematic thesis is that there does exist a Soul, then your story, or your novel, would be about a particular Soul ripped, torn, mashed, stretched, and flung through a learning experience.

As you specify what Soul, starting where, going where, doing what, with which consequences, and what obstacles to conquer, your story emerges complete with plot, characters, situation, setting, etc.

Two good examples to contrast and compare are these novels:

Tanya Huff's Peacekeeper Series is one to watch -- #3 in the series, THE PRIVILEGE OF PEACE is about a second encounter with the defeated obstacle of previous episodes, Big Yellow, an alien spaceship which seems to mean humanity no good.  It's a takeover attempt, invading the body-brain of humans, and doing more than just spying.

Now contrast/compare THE PRIVILEGE OF PEACE with C. J. Cherryh's 1997 entry in her MERCHANTER series, part of the ALLIANCE-UNION saga she is still expanding for us with the 2019 entry, ALLIANCE RISING (#1 in the HINDER STARS series).  (note this was from Warner Books, not DAW, so it's hard to get since she went back to DAW as her main publisher).

"Finity's End" is the name of a starship.

I enjoyed re-reading FINITY'S END after that ship turned up, brand-spanking-new in ALLIANCE RISING.

So I puzzled over why I enjoyed this old story so much -- and concluded it was the meticulous world building that generated the vivid, deep, torn and tormented Characters, shattered by war and loss of those close to them, but now healing, re-connecting, creating a new vision of a better future.

Tanya Huff deals directly with a sexual love bond, while Cherryh explores the strife/strength axis of family bonds -- great-grandmother, cousins, aunts, etc. extended over (rejuvenated) lifetimes complicated by the time-dilation of FTL travel.

But they both write in universes where the Soul is a real component of the world building, while the Characters (just like us) have no clue about that and don't want to know.

This world building technique (what the Characters don't know about their world and aren't curious about) lets the reader either see it's there or firmly believe that it is not there.

Ambiguity is one of the most difficult aspects of Art to master, and both these writers have achieved that. 

But in both these novels, you see that ambiguity used in broad strokes to great effect.

Why does love matter?  Because, whether there is a Soul or not, Love reconfigures the brain and that changes what you do, when you do it, why you do it, and even whether you'll do it or not.

Love configures behavior by reconfiguring the brain.

Since the brain is so plastic, so impressionable, it is entirely possible that love could be reconfigured out of the circuits.  And therein lie a lot of novels.  The question could become, "Can love conquer the obstacle of its own lack of existence?"

Jacqueline Lichtenberg