Saturday, December 07, 2019
I was prompted to conduct internet searches of my phone number mid-week, after receiving a number of very early morning phone calls from expectant people in Canada who seemed to think that I'd called them.
Who benefits from that sort of mischief?
This happened --and I blogged about it-- only a few weeks ago. This time, I got more curious than usual. My phone number is listed on one "Who Called?" type website as "Suspicious" (alas), but so far, there are no complaints from humans.
In no particular order, here's what I discovered:
usaprofilepages.com had my phone number and altogether too much information about me, but in the footer there is a link called "Delete My Identity" and it works.
WhoEasy.com did not make it easy to opt out, and I spent some time poking around on that site but an email to email@example.com resulted in prompt manual removal.
peoplebyname.com had an online process. I think. I remember calling one site that tells the world that I cohabit with three impossibly ancient gentlemen with uncommon Biblical names.
findoutwhocalledme.com is a "beenverified" site is highly inaccurate and has probably destroyed a lot of romances judging by all the ladies who write glowing reviews claiming to have discovered that their (probably innocent) lover is married or living a double life.
They claim that they will remove a listing if you email firstname.lastname@example.org
But they don't. Beenverified claims that it will remove your info. You can call 888-579-5910 and a robot will provide instructions for opting out via beenverified.com/optout. However, this only works if you have one name, and one home.
They will not permit you to delete your info if you have a second home or timeshare.
areacode-Lookup lets you opt out online.
www.callersmart.com is a tricky site and not worth your time. They appear to require you to open an account in order to opt out, and also require you to give them far more information than they already have, which you --by virtue of using their site-- authorize them to use. Moreover, if you are foolish enough to link up using a phone, they will scrape your address book and annoy all your friends.
The solution is to email email@example.com and a seemingly live and polite person will manually remove your info.
Spokeo.com has an opt out form on their site.
Then there is zabasearch, intellius, and radaris.
I left radaris alone because they had scraped so much information about my writing career and writing awards (I think scraped from a long-abandoned social media site) that I was overwhelmed with pleasant nostalgia.
As for the phone calls, I cottoned on by the second call, but the Privacy and Cyber Security Update legal blog by the impressive international team at Skadden gave me insights into what's probably behind the international annoyance. Equifax!
Impressive cast of experts
Thanks to the sloppy people at Equifax, everyone should search their own names, dates of birth (always provide a memorable fib on social media sites), addresses, phone numbers, passwords (oh dear!!!), email addresses, driver's licenses, and credit card numbers.
Even if you freeze your credit and subscribe to various bank, credit card, and commercial "locking" services, you are not safe from telephone annoyance.
As for piracy, and nothing to do with abuse of telephone numbers, Bookza is back as "Zlibrary" with fake blurb about how they respect creators and intellectual property. If you send them a DMCA notice to firstname.lastname@example.org a robot will reply promptly to assure you that your books have been removed. Here's the kicker, if you revisit the page, it may tell you that the legal owner has removed the link, but they provide would-be book thieves with a link to where the work can be found on a TOR site.
It's almost as bad as the internet search engine that most transparently removed piratical links, only to display them --still negotiable-- on a virtue signalling page of their own.
All the best,
Thursday, December 05, 2019
In 2005, country singer Jo Dee Messina musically proclaimed, "My Give-a-Damn's Busted." (I still wince at typing that phrase outside of fictional dialogue, even though it's been eighty years since Rhett Butler shocked audiences by speaking it in the final scene of GONE WITH THE WIND.) At a point when current events may tempt many of us to embrace that attitude, Kameron Hurley meditates in her latest LOCUS column on the value of caring about people and causes:The Power of Giving a Damn
She once believed "it wasn’t cool to care too much about things. Caring about something too hard made you vulnerable. Weak." She attributes this feeling partly to "American cinema and storytelling, much of it geared toward portraying the rugged masculine ideal of the loner hero whose dedication is not to individual humans, but to himself. His world was littered with backstabbing femme fatales and best friends who betrayed him, and the worst parts of humanity were always on display. Don’t care too much about things, these loner-hero stories seemed to say; people will let you down, and humans are just a few steps away from destroying themselves."
This description of the American "loner hero" archetype doesn't sound quite plausible to me. Isn't the classic film image of the solitary, wandering hero more often that of a man who stands alone against injustice, eschewing personal ties to move on to the next town when his task in this place is done? That's the paradigm of the lone gunslinger upon which Stephen King models Roland in the Dark Tower saga (with more complex layers, of course). Or do I have a skewed idea of that figure because I haven't viewed more recent media incarnations of him? (Considering the two examples Hurley offers are FIGHT CLUB and AMERICAN PSYCHO—hardly icons of heroism to be emulated, from what I've read about them—she seems to veer away from her stated emphasis on the lone hero.) She recalls, "I was big on apocalypse movies as a kid, because they advanced this libertarian fantasy that each of us was fully equipped to live a long and productive loner life as long as we kept people away from us."
As an adult, she came to realize the "lie of self-sufficiency." Nobody survives, much less thrives, without depending on the social network, physical infrastructure, and material technology provided by the generations that came before us and the people who work to build and maintain those things. When Thoreau retreated to the woods to live by Walden Pond, he took manufactured tools with him. Even a hermit on a deserted island relies on the products of society; Robinson Crusoe couldn't have gotten far without items he salvaged from the shipwreck. (A gruesome short story by Stephen King imagines the probable fate of a man stuck on a barren island with nothing but his clothes and carry-on bag. The protagonist amputates his own limbs and eats them raw, killing the pain with illegal drugs he happens to be transporting.) In more realistic post-apocalyptic fiction than the type Hurley admired in her teens, the people who survive to rebuild society are those who band together for mutual support.
Discovering, "We are all connected," Hurley summarizes, "I’ve found that it’s not weakness to care about others, or to care about a cause. The true weakness is when we are too afraid to care about anything at all." As romance writers, we create worlds in which caring is of central importance and love conquers. That seems like a worthwhile message to promote anytime—especially in the grim times.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, December 03, 2019
Defiance squared - no, cubed - is the essential quality of a) a Romance Heroine, and b) a science fiction Hero of any species.
Here's the thing about both Romance and Science Fiction readers. We are very aware of how we differ from the majority, while at the same time feeling close kinship with that majority.
You will find the "me against the system" plot arc in long series (C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner novels, etc) and in stand alone novels, or series kick-off novels. The Science Fiction Hero is out to change the world, whether he/she knows it or not.
In the Mysteries of Pacing series (part 7 lists previous parts)
https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/11/mysteries-of-pacing-part-7-art-of.htmlwe've looked at "how" a writer can form and mold raw material (the "I've got an idea!" flash of the complete life of a Character) into a linear sequence of Events (plot) and Lessons (story) that tickles the curiosity bump of a specific "majority."
Here is a kickoff novel with long series potential by Joel Dane titled CRY PILOT, with the sequel BURN CYCLE that I haven't read yet.
The title doesn't seem to make sense. One "cries" out for a Corpsman when a soldier is wounded. But that's not what this "cry" means.
Science Fiction fans love a mystery, so a confusing title has a solid place among science fiction novels -- unlike other genres.
So we have to look closer at this oddly titled novel, and right off we are lured into the mindset of a guy determined to outsmart the system he was born embedded into. Aha, my kind of novel!
With a carefully light brush, Joel Dane fills in the intricate and complex world building he's done to create the main Character's goal.
Maseo Kaytu is the odd name that also rivets the attention, a main character determined to survive a mission billed by the system as a suicide mission. Some "Cry Pilots" do survive the flying of these fearsome but old and decrepit weapons platforms.
The current "system" doesn't still know how to build such flying platforms, and just barely knows how to repair them. Resources to do such repairs are scarce, and the enemy they fly against is rapidly destroying these machines.
They are A.I. equipped machines, but will not fly a mission without a human "pilot" (even though the pilot doesn't do much, other than die from G-stress maneuvers.)
The enemy is the Earth itself, seething with bio-engineered, fearsome weapons left over from a doomsday war. Currently, the cobbled together system of government has fielded a counter-bio-engineered weapon designed to "heal" the whole Earth -- and it has made significant progress. Humanity is fighting for time.
Into this system, Maseo Kaytu flings his defiance. He is a criminal with the ambition to earn his way out of the sewer of the system. But there is a lot going on that he doesn't know about. Achieving his immediate goals leads him into a wider battle, and embeds him among a team of equally oddball individuals who just might have a chance - if they work together - of being part of the solution, not the problem.
So you see, this is a novel to read for the plot. But as Maseo's array of acquaintances grows, you will find him focusing on a few women, (one in particular with psi talent) and finding how Relationship is the key ingredient in a winning team effort.
This novel is science fiction in the grand manner, but uses all the modern science you could ask for. It isn't Romance, but has a nascent love story embedded in the plot.
It is a page turner, and well worth a studious read. Think hard, and you will find that to make this series a Romance, you only need to start later in Maseo's life, and trim some scenes to make room for more private adventures.
Sunday, December 01, 2019
Lee Israel is said to have believed that her forgeries were the best work of her life. The greatest mistake of her life (perhaps apart from misspelling "arse"), may have been in not accepting a bribe.
This is a fascinating read:
On the topic of lies, I was reminded of a song by Greenslade that I have always like very much for a particular line that I probably should not quote, because songs have so few lines that it is easy to infringe the songwriter's copyright by accident. The line is about untruth in journalism.
I believe this link will take you to "Newsworth" and Greenslade or their estates will be inadequately compensated, but compensated somewhat.
Sequeing to estates and estate planning...legal bloggers Joseph B Doll and Michael J. Kearney, writing for Cole Schotz PC, discuss what happens when a bitcoin investor dies unexpectedly, without making sure his or her or their loved ones have the cyber key and passwords to unlock his/her/their digital property.
Or, for the original:
One can also lose invaluable photographs and other intangible delights if they are locked up in Facebook or Drop Box or a proprietary "cloud".
For Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP, Joshua Boughton discusses digital assets with a focus on the inheritance dilemmas of British persons.
Harking back to copyright and private letters, legal blogger Ken Moon, writing for AJ Park examines the case for copyright infringement when a newspaper publishes substantial portions of a living celebrity's private and personal letter.
It's all food for thought concerning the enduring value of letters, especially for authors and creators. One might also give some thought to the preservation (or not) of text messages and emails... and unpublished works.
One might also consider leaving instructions in one's Will concerning social media accounts, ancestry-related social media accounts, health and fitness logging accounts.
At least it wasn't Amazon that acquired the ability to track your heart rate and daily steps and swings of the arms via a device that you paid to purchase, not to mention the details you uploaded to the site to record your water consumption by the glass, your dietary choices, your weight and more!
All the best,
Thursday, November 28, 2019
Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it today!
This will be the first Thanksgiving weekend since sometime in the 1990s when we won't be attending Chessiecon (formerly Darkover). That's because it went on hiatus this year while preparing to move to a different hotel in 2020 (still in the Baltimore area). I'll be sorry to miss it this weekend. On the plus side, we'll get to participate in the first Sunday of Advent at our church, which usually conflicts with the con. There's always an Advent-wreath-making session, which we enjoyed when our sons were little.
Here's a page with some background and interesting facts about Advent:Advent Explained
It explores the way customs surrounding Advent, like those associated with Christmas, have been embraced by large numbers of Americans who aren't religiously observant. Clever marketing has expanded the family fun of the season in directions I hadn't heard of before. For quite a few years we and our kids opened daily windows on Advent calendars to reveal pieces of chocolate candy. We also had one that told the story of Dickens' CHRISTMAS CAROL day by day. Many calendars, though, follow unusual themes or dispense other kinds of treats. A FROZEN Disney Advent calendar should be expected, I guess. But how about a Star Wars LEGO Advent calendar? And for adults—designer nail polish? Whiskey?
These phenomena aren't too surprising, considering the millions of Americans who celebrate holidays such as Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, etc., without reference to their religious roots.
Thanksgiving, in a way, is the ideal holiday for a secular, multi-cultural society. Almost everyone can enjoy a feast and be grateful to somebody for something. Surely when we venture out beyond this planet, we'll take a similar festive occasion with us.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Previous entries in the Mysteries of Pacing series:
Part 3 - where we discussed the TV Series Outlander
Part 4 Story Pacing
Part 5 How Fast Can A Character Arc?
Part 6 - How to Change a Character's Mind
As previously noted in this series, each genre has its own preferred pacing. When an editor calls for "fast pacing" it is relative to the genre in question, not an absolute measure.
We have previously defined "action" as "rate of change of situation."
Pacing is more than action. Pacing is more than "what happens next," or how few words come between what is happening now and what happens next. What "happens" is plot. Pacing includes the plot's links to the story.
We use the term "story" for the Character's internal conflict progressing to a resolution, and the word "plot" for the Events the Character's actions and decisions cause to hurtle toward a resolution of the external conflict.
Terminology varies across texts on writing craft, but all writers and editors (even marketers) search for and identify these two elements, plot and story, in any piece of fiction.
Pacing Mysteries lie in the interlinkages between plot and story, in what the Character wants but doesn't have, what the Character does to topple the dominoes of his life and start the plot rolling, and what the Character learns from the events caused by that toppling.
This interlinkage effect is why there is so much confusion about Plot and Story, and why they are used interchangeably as if they refer to the same thing. The truth is, they are the same thing -- a LIFE in FLUX.
Both plot and story are integral parts of your THEME, and the world you build to showcase your story is constructed on your THEME. Theme is what you want to say about the form, shape, and dynamic change, of the relationship between Plot and Story.
How a Soul interacts with Reality, and what to do to cause which result, and why even bother trying, are the warp and woof, the very substance of the relationship between Plot and Story.
The Plot is "the story of this life." The meaning of this Character's life is the story, and that story fuels the plot (because people do things to make their life go as they prefer).
Take for example, finding your Soul Mate. How do you do that? How do you choose what to do to make that discovery happen?
What actions lead to finding your Soul Mate reveals something so fundamental about the structure of the universe that science hasn't dug down to it yet.
A Soul is a spiritual concept, and so far science can't even determine if such a thing exists, never mind what it is and how it interacts with reality.
From time immemorial humans have KNOWN all about Soul and the Meaning of Life.
Science investigates these questions, refutes Ancient Wisdom for decades, and eventually comes around to confirming at least the general idea if not the details.
Right now, science is in hot pursuit of how the brain works. We looked at a scientific study of the brain which reveals little or no difference in the areas of the brain activated during sexual arousal in men and women.
But people, being people (your main audience) already know, without doubt, that men and women respond differently to different cues in flirting, foreplay, and hot flying.
There are many other things people know, without doubt, that science disagrees with. Yet at the same time, Ancient Wisdom and some classic writings, agree with your audience's position on the matter.
One stable opinion that lasts generation after generation, derived from personal observation, is how very stubborn people are about their opinions and ideas.
People do change their minds -- people can be persuaded. A whole math based science has arisen around methods of changing the behavior of large groups of people. It's called Public Relations (PR) and we've discussed it under many topics here. It is how we change minds about who to vote for, or what breakfast is most healthy.
Everyone knows it's expensive to launch a product (or book) because of how long it takes and how many times a person has to see a message from apparently different sources before it will be accepted as true.
Novel readers work the same way. They will accept that a Character has plausible reason to change behavior or opinion (the great pivot to "I love you!") if there are enough iterations of the message that finally "gets through" during the novel.
There is an ancient science called Rhetoric that was developed to persuade people on a logical level. But you can't reach the "Happily Ever After" ending and make readers believe it is possible if a Character is convinced they have found their Soul Mate only on a logical level.
On the other hand, without a logical level, there is no conviction either.
You need both the emotional and logical levels in the Main Character to finally come match each other, to say the same thing to the Soul. That moment, when mind and emotion come to the same conclusion for the first time, is the resolution of the Internal Conflict, and thus the end of the Story. The Plot should end on the same page.
Here is an article indicating how observation of human behavior has fairly well penetrated the fog and revealed exactly how life works.
Your readers know all this, whether they've read this article or not, so use that knowledge to convince them your Characters are real people -- because your Characters succumb to persuasion just like real people do.
Reviews of a novel will complain of cardboard characters or thin plotting - but the actual problem from the writer's point of view is that the story is not related to the plot in a form, method, or manner that the reader can recognize as real. Pacing is all about revealing, explaining and arguing for your worldbuilding element that delineates the relationship between people and their lives. "What does she see in him?" "What does he see in her?" "What did she do to deserve this?" "What did he do to deserve meeting her?"
The answers to those questions have to be derived consistently, precisely, and absolutely from the Theme in order to convince readers to suspend disbelief and enter your fantasy world, take a spin in your flying saucer.
And don't forget con-artists do this all the time, artfully. A con artist Character makes a great foil for a Hero.
Sunday, November 24, 2019
Facebook is doing it. Amazon is doing it. Bad actors in the advertising world are doing it. EFF would like you to worry, and they may be correct (but never right!).
Electronic Freedom Foundation policy analyst Matthew Guariglia highlights how bad Amazon's Ring is, especially for passers-by whose faces are caught up by a Ring-using household's surveillance device and shared for all time with the police without their knowledge or consent and without a warrant or probable --or improbable-- cause.
Nathan Sheard, also writing for the EFF, has a follow up, calling for an About Face protest.
Legal blogger Sean C. Griffin, writing for Dykema-Gossett PLLC, discusses a class action lawsuit against Facebook's facial recognition technology, which matches up faces in their database with unidentified faces in uploaded photographs, and suggests "tags" to link the photograph to the person allegedly identified by Facebook as being in the photograph.
The question is, does a person need a concrete injury in order to sue Facebook?
Perhaps eventually, Facebook will misidentify someone in the background of an uploaded photo of what turns out to be a crime scene, and then the proverbial cat will be among the pigeons.
Meanwhile, the British grocery chain Tesco got itself into hot water when it relied on a Getty image license for a photograph of a celebrity.
Hallam Whitehead, writing for Virtuoso Legal, discusses the issues at stake when commercial use (as in advertising) is made of a celebrity's face without her knowledge or permission.
Authors who want a celebrity on their cover art need to obtain a model release from the model in addition to a copyright license from the photographer.
There have been advertising campaigns that have tried to "get around" the problem of a perfect but reluctant celebrity by using lookalikes.
Legal blogger Barry M. Benjamin, for Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton LLP lays out the issue of "false endorsements" and what can be done about it.
Also, author Po Yi, blogging for Manatt Phelps and Phillips LLP describes what Sandra Bullock and Ellen DeGeneres are doing to fight the pernicious problem of "Celebrity Endorsement Theft".
This may not seem like it would affect us, but if we were to come across a photograph of a major influencer reading a paper copy of one of our books, a temptation would arise, wouldn't it? Get permission!
All the best,
PS. For our European readers, please check your caches. The authors of this blog do not intentionally track you, but Amazon, Facebook, Google and many others do so.
Thursday, November 21, 2019
Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS column discusses the renaming of the John W. Campbell Award. We might also mention (although Doctorow doesn't) other similar controversies recently arising in the SF/fantasy world, such as the renaming of the Tiptree Award and the retiring of the H. P. Lovecraft bust as a trophy for the World Fantasy Award.Campbell Was a Fascist
A panel at a recent Chessicon (which I participated in) addressed the quandary of how to deal with the works of an author whose personal life and/or beliefs violate our contemporary norms. Do the creator's flaws as a human being negate the value of his or her art? One all-too-recent example outside the realm of literature whom we discussed was Bill Cosby. If not aware of his real-life transgressions, wouldn't we still consider his comedy and TV programs worthwhile? And what about the other actors, innocent of wrongdoing, who suffer when reruns of those programs are made unavailable? Similarly, when a certain deceased editor is credibly accused of immoral conduct, would it make sense to boycott volumes edited by that person when the editor isn't alive to suffer, but innocent authors whose stories appear in those volumes are?
I recently heard a podcast reacting against (as I understood the part I heard) a movement to demote Paul Gauguin from the artistic canon because, as shown by his behavior in Tahiti, he was a pedophile and a racist. Should we deal with problematic authors, artists, filmmakers, actors, etc., differently depending on whether they're alive or dead, and if the latter, how long ago? It's understandable that a reader (viewer, etc.) may not want to give his or her money to living creators guilty of reprehensible behavior or known to hold beliefs the reader considers repellent. In cases of long-dead authors and artists, they're unable to either benefit or suffer from audience response to their works. What about recently deceased objectionable creators? Some audience members may object to giving money to such people's estates, but why? More often than not, the heirs are probably innocent of the dead person's offenses.
Concerning creators who lived so long ago that nobody now alive can be harmed or benefited by our treatment of their works, I see no problem with separating the art from the artist. The former can be great even if the latter was a terrible person. Of course, any individual or group has the right to boycott an artist's work as a form of principled protest. Moreover, the issue of actively honoring a problematic creator by naming an award after him or her is a different, more complicated question. In general, however, it seems to me that if we rejected the work of all artists who were flawed or immoral, we wouldn't have much of a canon left.
Doctorow puts it this way:
"Life is not a ledger. Your sins can’t be paid off through good deeds. Your good deeds are not cancelled by your sins. Your sins and your good deeds live alongside one another. They coexist in superposition."
Likewise, the sins of creators who are or were deplorable human beings coexist alongside their accomplishments as artists. Neither cancels out the other.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Previous parts in the Worldbuilding From Reality series:
When building a fictional world that an audience will find "immersive," stealing a few bits from Reality -- the shared reality among members of that audience, and your own reality - is the easiest way to go
So looking at old cliche aphorisms and sayings can be very productive.
- "The way to a man's heart is through is stomach."
- "Seeing is believing."
- "Love at first sight."
- "His eyes are bigger than his stomach."
- "Flattery will get you everywhere."
For centuries, mothers have been teaching daughters that the way to "get" a man is to present yourself with whatever "appearance" (style, manner, dress, speech, hip-sway walk) was currently deemed proper-but-hot by the extant culture, and social circle.
In other words, if you want the part, dress the part.
Clothing, hairdo, perfume, matching shoes, makeup (even if you're too young to need it), walking with a book on your head, speaking only when spoken to, diction, modulating voice, sitting with knees together, crossing legs at a slant, precisely correct undergarments (used to be corsets pulled tight), are all necessary, all things taught in "finishing school" to give the impression you are a woman who "knows her place."
Oh, boy, has the world changed.
Good grief, has nothing really changed?
Today, sexy-long-hair worn loose -- a style from 60 years ago -- is back, but this time with short, tight, shrink-wrap dresses cut down to here!
The pants suit has given way to body-clinging skirts and dresses of stretch fabrics that really do what people tried to do with thin-knit wool.
All this fussing (expensive fussing with hair, dye, makeup, premium diet food, gym memberships) to present a vibrantly feminine appearance.
All of this is based on the oldest old-saw, that males are turned on by VISUAL CUES. They will follow their eyes.
But women are different. Women want something else (which has not been adequately defined. Admiration, attention, protection of strength, a good provider, praise, exclusivity? Women differ from each other, and change throughout life.
In science fiction world building, we take ONE (and only one) settled, irrefutable, well proven, widely accepted fact about reality and challenge it.
Science fiction is a busman's holiday for scientists. It is entertainment for the adventurous thinker who is entertained by intellectual stretching.
So we have the suspension of disbelief - which is easy if there is one and only one thing to not disbelieve. If the writer lards on a whole series of randomly selected premises, the systematic thinkers in the audience will just leave - drop the book in the trash, bad-mouth it to colleagues.
If the writer focuses tightly on refuting one, and only one, known fact, then builds a world where that single element differs from the audience's reality, and pursues that difference to a rigorous, logical conclusion, then the Stephen Hawkins's of this world will devour that novel and talk about it loudly.
We have discussed targeting a readership in great detail:
The "concept" is the core of the pitch a writer uses - one sentence, one paragraph, the elevator pitch - to sell a project to a publisher. And the publicist uses a different description of the same work to sell it to the prospective audience.
The Concept is a topic of interest to a segment of humanity, stated in terms that are comprehensible to that segment.
We are currently (and once again) wrestling with the entire concept of I.Q. - of intelligence -- or just of what is it that defines what we recognize in each other as a difference.
We all can enter a room full of people and instantly recognize if we belong there, if "they" will accept us, or if there's any reason to accept them.
We see, know, and recognize differences, and act on that inner knowledge.
More than a century ago, the concept I.Q. - a mathematically measurable trait to define that "difference," - was invented to make it easy to tag people objectively.
It didn't work. It doesn't work. But very clearly there is promise that something science can measure WILL eventually work. We have pursued genetics and now neurological brain studies, and all sorts of spiritual and scientific paths of investigation .
Nevertheless, we persist. This means here is an area where fiction can inspire new generations to innovate, create new options that can change everything - for real.
Here is one graphic that turned up to my attention on Quora, on one of the many threads about I.Q., that I keep pondering from a world building perspective.
We discussed this one previously:
Notice how FEW people have very high or very low IQ. Low IQ people, the below 70 segment, are likely not going to be reading text novels. The high IQ segment, over 130, will likely spend their reading time (and they read VERY fast) focusing on their technical area of expertise, or kicked back watching football.
The segment between 90 and 120 is the biggest segment of the readership and just where you'll find an audience for mixed-genre such as Science Fiction Romance, Paranormal Romance.
Notice it's 100 (the average) to 110 who learn from written materials.
Those are an important segment of book-buyers, and many will buy Romance novels.
This segment of readers will buy novels that address topics where they'd like to learn something -- Historical Romance, Science Fiction, that have real world facts, but challenge one (AND ONLY ONE) of those facts to generate a world and a story that makes them think, re-evaluate reality.
These are the people who enjoy imagining.
Such novels are not "High Concept."
What Hollywood means by High Concept is a story springboard that is familiar and attractive, easily understandable by the vast majority of humanity.
Ideas that excite I.Q. 120 and above will not be comprehensible to I.Q. 90 and below. So they are low concept -- you can't spend a fortune making such a film and get your investment back on opening weekend.
However, most anything an IQ 90 audience can get their teeth into will be comprehensible, and sometimes even entertaining, to I. Q. 120 and above, if it has enough action, innuendo, and gosh-wow special effects.
"High Concept" means a broader audience, which requires an appeal to both high and low I.Q. because no matter what, humans come in that bell-curve spread of abilities.
Concept is almost entirely involved with world building -- the setting, the rules, the Character Relationships not too complex, and the humor.
I. Q. and that bell curve distribution by social and job outcome includes (theoretically) both men and women. These days, one assumes it is a jumble of "all genders." In fact, today the very concept of "gender" is finally being explored in depth.
Science Fiction has long explored the flippant way humans just toss off facts about gender.
More than 50 years ago, after it became known that some animals shift gender, Ursula LeGuin won both the Hugo and Nebula for The Left Hand of Darkness
And now science is exploring exactly how some animals shift gender:
I used some of those concepts in my two novels, Molt Brother
One of the world building premises of my Sime~Gen novels is that when humans split into Sime and Gen, the difference between Sime and Gen far eclipses the male-female difference which still remains but is important only some of the time.
Gender, per se, has long been a topic of interest to science fiction readers because of the mysteries about sexuality left to be explored with science. And it is one of the science topics that I. Q. 90 and below can fully grasp. Therefore "sex sells" -- or gender based science fiction (e.g. science fiction romance) is high concept, and sells big time.
So recently, science has been addressing what science fiction long ago proposed as a key topic -- is there a difference between men and women?
From the point of view of an Alien from Outer Space, there might be no perceptible difference. Humans come in so many sizes, shapes, and colors that gender simply gets lost in the mosaic.
From the point of view of a human, and most of your readers are probably somewhat human, gender matters, big time.
Science, however, may be edging up to the conclusion that gender doesn't matter.
Here is a study of human brain activity (which may or may not actually be true) indicating that the male and female brains exhibit little if any difference when becoming sexually aroused.
Both men and women enjoy the sight of a potential mate in full feather. No doubt about that. But maybe social constructs, cultural myths made real, have conditioned us to exaggerating the male response to the sight of an eligible female?
Maybe the sight of a well-dressed, polished female does not render a male helplessly aroused? Maybe boys are raised (thus have brain circuitry configured) to assume they are helpless and so, during the teen years, do not develop selectivity.
Therefore, men used to blame their behavior on women - because of how the women dress. Many still do, but there is cultural blow-back against this notion. The whole "sexual harassment in the workplace" issue is based on the idea that men are NOT helpless if they glimpse a tightly-dressed female behind.
There was a time when showing a bit of ankle, even clad in high-laced boots, was a sexual come-on before which the male was utterly helpless.
For most of human history, humans didn't wear very much in the way of clothing. The naked body is not, per se, a sexual invitation. The entire concept of "modest dress" depends on being able to dress at all.
Yet once clothing options became available, the choice of what to wear when in the sight of whom became a code for sexual availability.
By Biblical Times, there were already exacting standards of "modesty," of ways of saying, "I am not available to you."
Biblically derived cultures insist on men and women dressing modestly (i.e. as not-available) in public.
They all have different ideas of why we should dress modestly, and vastly different codes of what constitutes modesty, all of which shift drastically through the centuries.
Even today, women cover their hair to indicate un-availability. One excuse for this is that a woman's hair is sexually arousing. But men's hair is identical when allowed to grow.
In Star Trek, Roddenberry adopted the then-extant code of having unavailable women wear their long hair bound up, but down and loose when they wanted to be available.
In every era (so far) people have blamed intrinsic, unalterable, inexorable male response for the dress codes they have imposed on women.
Only now, science has shown there is no such thing.
Men are not more visually aroused than women. The brain patterns and responses just don't show a distinct difference.
So the imposition of dress codes (on men or on women) are clearly artificial, and thus subject to choice.
Your current potential audience is part of the current sweeping alteration in dress coding for availability.
How, where and when does a human signal sexual availability?
How do humans learn to choose when to become aroused, and when not to?
Just as it is possible for a woman to learn not to cry (military training imposes this by force), likewise it is possible for a male human to learn not to be aroused by female clothing, hair, exposed skin, even cleavage.
But what do you have to put a boy through so that the resulting man will have full command of that choice? Today, wouldn't that count as child abuse?
So the scientific facts, what the general public believes about the scientific facts of gender, and the cultural norms all matter when you build a world around themes derived from gender specific responses to stimuli.
How much is culture, how much is choice, how much is real? Does sexual arousal render humans morally unanswerable for the consequences of their actions? Where does Soul fit into physiological responses?
Is there such a thing as irresistible temptation? Or is there only human stupidity? Note that IQ graph page - higher I. Q. humans seem to be better at foreseeing consequences.
Higher I. Q. seems to protect from death. (note how it's the exception that proves the rule)
Clearly, this I. Q. measurement thing is onto something -- what that something might be is clearly unclear! This is the gray area science fiction romance was invented to explore. Romance (Neptune Transit) suspends the ability to make realistic, practical decisions, using I. Q. Smart people and intelligence-challenged people all together, all experience this Romance effect. Romance is High Concept - comprehensible to all I.Q. segments - but according to this Swedish study, a slender portion of humanity has a better chance at long life.
Romance is the Happily Ever After genre -- but according to that article, I. Q. does not correlate to Happiness. At least, not for humans.
In Romance, not all your characters have to be ultra-smart, but in science fiction, you need some really smart Characters for the scientists to identify with.
Build your world around gender, challenge one (and only one) premise we take for granted about gender, sexuality and the relationship between them, and write a High Concept, Mass Market Best Seller that can become the basis of a TV Series (the streaming market is huge and growing, as noted here:)
In Science Fiction Romance, you can invent Aliens whose culture is rooted in how "happiness" is in fact correlated with I. Q. (whatever that is for them).
So maybe your Alien is hired as a tutor for a Human who needs to learn to choose when to be aroused by the sight of an enticing female? Only it turns out the enticing female is the Soul Mate of the Alien?
Hoo-boy, the world is about to change! So apparently it will matter if arousal is gender specific.
Saturday, November 16, 2019
This past week, the most interesting copyright-related legal blogs centered on art, artists' moral rights, and the rights of those whose trademarks were depicted in commercial art.
Starting at the bare bottom, legal bloggers Annick Mottet Haugaard, Olivia Santantonio, and Ruben Van Breugel discuss --with illustrations-- the legal objections brought by a maker of one of the world's finest Champagnes to an artist's repeated commercial use of their trademark in his works.
Lexology Link (which at the time of this writing is displaying the pointillismish bottom)
Original Link (which unfortunately has broken links for the illustrations)
The bare-bottom-with-bubbly case has not been settled, but for any author who is considering using someone else's trademark in her cover art... beware.
Beware, also, what you re-tweet. Defamation laws around the world are different, as J. Alexander Lawrence blogging for Morrison & Foerster LLP's Socially Aware blog explains.
Even if you have the right to express yourself in 120 characters or more, someone else may have the right to sue you.
Talking of being sued, Susan Okin Goldsmith writing for McCarter & English LLP has an inconvenient warning for owners of websites or blogs that allow third parties to comment or upload material (presumably or links) that might infringe on the copyrights of others.
Register your agent with the Copyright Office, or risk liability for whatever your visitors may post. The article is well worth reading, and gives detailed instructions on how to register and what it will cost.
Finally, and quite startlingly, Aysha Alawi-Azam blogging for Clyde & Co LLP reveals that an owner of a work of art may have difficulties if they change even the frame, let alone if they heavily restore the art, and the still-living artist objects.
Sometimes we buy art at an estate sale, for instance, and it never dawns on us that it might be unwise to switch out one frame for another. It's worth reading the original... there are some glorious illustrations.
All the best,
Thursday, November 14, 2019
One episode of the BBC series PLANET EARTH: BLUE PLANET II highlights denizens of the ocean depths that thrive independently of energy from the sun. They rely on energy from other sources, and some have no need of oxygen.
Some live in methane-rich environments known as "cold seeps" or "cold vents":Cold Seeps
These spots aren't "cold" in the absolute sense, just less hot than the hot vents referenced below. Bacteria, mussels, and tube worms live happily in the methane or hydrogen sulfide of these ecosystems. Some individual tube worms have been estimated to survive for 250 years in such locations. If similar life-forms developed on other planets in environments like these, in the absence of competition from oxygen-dependent and sunlight-dependent creatures, and eventually became intelligent, a lifespan of that length would allow them plenty of time to learn and pass on their learning to future generations.
Other organisms have evolved in the volcanically active areas around hydrothermal vents, where water can reach temperatures of several hundred degrees Fahrenheit:Hydrothermal Vents
Like inhabitants of cold vents, life-forms in hydrothermal vents also depend on chemosynthetic bacteria for food. Crustaceans, tube worms and other types of worms, gastropods such as snails, and even eels are among some of the creatures that populate these locations. It's believed that life on Earth may have originated in an environment like this. Again, on a planet where this kind of environment dominated, we can imagine that hyrdrothermal-vent species might evolve sentience and intelligence.
So living creatures can exist right here on our planet in conditions that would be lethal to most Earth species. The quest for extraterrestrial life needn't confine itself to oxygen-rich environments. Moreover, we don't have to expect advanced beings to conform to the familiar humanoid shape. In Heinlein's HAVE SPACE SUIT, WILL TRAVEL, the teenage narrator describes the villain, an invader from a distant solar system. He's puzzled that these decidedly inhuman-looking aliens can survive in Terran environmental conditions, until he reminds himself that spiders resemble us much less, yet they live in our houses. We don't have to search beyond Earth's ecological systems to find bizarrely alien creatures.
The Wikipedia articles include some color photos of those exotic organisms. Take a look.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Previous parts in the Targeting a Readership series:
Readerships are a moving target, and the motion is getting faster with technology.
But then, so is the motion of the writers getting faster.
As noted previously, we live in a world where the social fabric is disintegrating and reforming rapidly. One way to understand the change in social integration (and strength of the culture) is to note the changes in the decades between having only 3 coast-to-coast networks in the USA, (ABC, NBC, CBS) through the advent of Cable where new networks (Weather Channel, National Geographic, History Channel, etc) proliferated, bleeding viewers off of the three networks.
Meanwhile, the total population of the USA grew and grew, while access to television sets and broadcast channels peaked and waned. Yes, with Cable, and now Satellite, broadcast signal is getting harder to find, and what contents there just is not what is being discussed over business lunches.
This trend toward fragmenting the total viewership is accelerating with online streaming. Gaming competes with Series Fiction productions, live sports from around the world, and so on. There is too much for one person to watch everything. Where you could watch 1/3 of everything (before VCRs when you couldn't record the other 2 channels), you could hold an intelligent conversation with anyone.
Today, we do not have that common thread.
It might re-develop, at least to bind segments of our total population into groups, but meanwhile the opportunities for new writers are proliferating at a dizzying pace.
New markets with new requirements are popping up all over. Soon a number will fail, or be bought, and the number of scripts sold, the number of novels optioned for streaming-movies, will suddenly shrink.
The elephant in the room is Netflix. You can get Netflix on all the "devices" (and many TVs have it built in) - Netflix pioneered and still dominates the marketing in the streaming industries.
|Apple TV Example|
This year, Netflix is building on its award winning history (which astonished everyone a few years ago), and now has not only picked up cancelled TV Series and continued them (such as Longmire), but is spending big on creating original content.
.@Stranger_Things 3 is breaking Netflix records!
40.7 million household accounts have been watching the show since its July 4 global launch — more than any other film or series in its first four days. And 18.2 million have already finished the entire season.
3:33 PM - Jul 8, 2019
Twitter Ads info and privacy
38.4K people are talking about this
And immediately, doubt was cast upon that claim -- which to other streaming original producers is very scary, though to those worried about our fraying social structure and culture, 40 million is good news.
Here is an item discussing Netflix's reporting habits:
Remember Netflix is a publicly traded company.
Such public companies have been buying each other up at a mind-boggling pace the last 10 years or so. The new combined companies own warehouses full of backlist material, potentially a gold mine as content-hungry streaming proliferates.
But the real money is in originals - which is where you and Science Fiction Romance come into the picture. We have an opportunity here.
Here is an article about 2019's "in-development" list at Warner Media.
Recently, the old radio turned broadcast TV turned Cable channel, CBS (after much not-so-polite buying of companies) ended up with the rights to make new Star Trek. They used Star Trek to lure their target audience into subscribing to CBS-All Access and are withdrawing many of their backlist properties from Netflix (and elsewhere), making it so that you can only view their content via a subscription to their service.
Other elderly media giants are following suit.
But the new ones have made their subscriber base from streaming rented content from those elderly giants. Now Wall Street is expecting the profitability of these new media giants (Amazon, Sling, Crackle, Hulu which just got bought, and many you've never heard of) to plummet.
However, the new original content created by the new streaming media companies is winning legitimate awards, and huge viewerships.
This fall, Apple is jumping into the fray, having spent a couple of years trying to duplicate Amazon Prime, Roku, Google, and other streaming delivery services while spending big time on new, original content for their Apple service.
To get the Apple service, you generally have to buy a little box to plug into your TV set -- and all of these services will be trying to leap to more pixels per screen and 5G internet speeds. Then you have to enter your subscription credentials (username and password) into the App on the TV Screen. You pay for the little box, and then pay monthly subscriptions to all the services you want. Both Apple and Roku offer "free" services, but likely not the ones you want.
Tivo is in the same "little box" business, so once you have their DVR/box, you connect to the internet and use Tivo's collection of Apps to enter your subscription data. Due to a lawsuit, Tivo has a Hulu App but you can't get "live TV" service via that Hulu App. You can get Hulu Live TV via Roku's Hulu App.
What you can get, and what it costs you, depends on contracts and court orders, not the socially healing effect of the content.
They will all be producing hits, some of which will carry the Romance Themes which may be the most "healing" themes in fiction. Amazon Prime has some hits, Netflix is rising in huge audiences for its hits, Hulu has had some original hits -- they all have.
The streaming services "original" production money is leaning heavily on novels, and series of novels, for material -- just as some of the very biggest, longest running TV Series from the Black&White days did. Perry Mason was one series made from books. Sherlock Holmes has been done in a lot of versions. Many writers, popular and not, have had books made into TV movies, and
Popular books are most likely to be chosen, so Romance is being courted. Look at what Starz did with OUTLANDER,
then right in the middle of marketing OUTLANDER onto Netflix, Seasons 3 and 4 were withdrawn in favor of the new individual-channel-subscription offer.
Maybe in 2020 you will see the beginnings of the Cable business model (one subscription to a bundle of networks) take hold in the streaming space.
Meanwhile, independent authors with material that appeals to a narrow, but easily defined audience, will be able to market text-fiction to video-production.
The "exclusive content" wars will further shred our social fabric, but it might be possible that Facebook will provide the model for bringing us back together.
Google pointed the way by using crowd-sourcing to conquer spam. We need a new way to sort the torrential stream of entertainment and information media. Crowd-sourcing filtering might work to bring audiences together.
I doubt we'll ever get down to just 3 "everybody I know watches this" topics, but it seems to me Romance and its sub-genres has what it takes to bind up our wounds so we might heal.
Meanwhile, the war for Original Production Streaming Products continues - and the giants we thought were dead have come alive, eaten each other, and produced some new, voracious, media giants. They are stealing content from each other, actors, production staff -- there is a tremendous and growing market for video-skills.
Think about the dynamic forces behind this article, and where you might fit into this war.
Early last year, Universal Pictures won a heated Hollywood bidding war when it agreed to slap down up to $160 million to fund Dwayne Johnson’s upcoming action adventure blockbuster, Red Notice, based on a pitch meeting and Johnson’s star power alone. No script.
That included a $20 million payday for Johnson, an eight-figure check for director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Skyscraper) and what we assume to be significant salaries for Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, who would later join the cast. Yet on Monday, in the midst of a progress-to-production timeline lapse built into the contract, Universal pulled Red Notice from its 2020 release schedule and shopped the script to Netflix, which had previously been an aggressive bidder.
Who's going to win this war? Probably not the consumer. But you are a writer, talent-on-the-hoof, (very cheap talent; writers aren't the expensive part of movie making). You produce the content these big guys are fighting over. As little as writing costs in a production budget, you could fund the rest of your life by landing just one of these contracts.
What do you have that targets a specific, defined, precise viewership - that is of keen interest to just a few million people out of Earth's billions of people?
Remember, with Netflix in the game, "the market" is not the USA consumer but the entire world.
As we've discussed previously, video fiction is "a story in pictures" -- fewer words and more images.
Like a graphic novel, panel after panel of pictures unfolds into a story.
Many movies and now TV Series are being made from video games which are based on old comics.
Be the "old comic" of the 2020's so that in 2050 your source material will be the blockbuster, award winning, title of the year.
Be the original source of the defining Romance to build on the OUTLANDER series.
Say something new, that hasn't been said in Romance before.
Saturday, November 09, 2019
It's not Thomas Hood's November.
Then, again, this is not Hood country.
So, here's a November To-Do list for authors and website owners.
It's NaNoWriMo time. If you haven't started the November novel writing challenge, you are nine days behind, but could still have a productive month.
Most inconveniently, Linda J. Zirklebach and Danae Tinelli blogging for Venable LLP come up with an unwelcome reminder that it is time to renew our DMCA designated agent with the copyright office and to update our websites.
Not every author needs to do that, but it's a good reminder for internet hygiene. Is every stock photograph on your website or blog or book cover either your own or properly licensed?
Meanwhile, MUSO (an anti-piracy business) is sharing a "White Paper" which suggests that there is a real benefit to taking down copyright infringing posts on pirate sites. And Yahoo is doing away with its groups. Most people are migrating to groups.io (groups).
All the best,
Thursday, November 07, 2019
The Fall/Winter issue of MYTHLORE includes an article by Katherine Sas on creating the "impression of depth" in a work of fiction (specifically, in this case, in the backstory of the Marauders in the Harry Potter series), a term coined by Tolkien in his classic essay "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics." One of my favorite themes in fiction is the overshadowing of the present by the deep past. That's one reason I find Stephen King's IT enthralling, a feature that the new movie tries to present a bit better than the old miniseries, but still not adequately. So I'm glad to have an official name for this theme. Sas herself paraphrases this effect as "a sense of antiquity and historical reality."
The essence of the "impression of depth" consists of a feeling that the author "knows more than he [or she] is telling." Tolkien refers to the creation of "an illusion of surveying a past...that itself had depth and reached backward into a dark antiquity." He mentions the crafting of this effect in BEOWULF by "allusions to old tales." In his own work, Tolkien uses invented languages, frame narratives, references to ancient tales and lost texts, and "hypertextual layering" (i.e., metafictional features that draw attention to the text as an artifact). Such techniques produce the illusion of a world that has existed for a vast expanse of time before the present action and contains places, peoples, and events glimpsed at the edges of the main story.
Within a more limited physical setting, King's IT creates an illusion of deep time by the gradual revelation of how the monster originally introduced as merely a supernatural killer clown has haunted Derry since the town's founding—revealed by Mike's research into the generational cycle of the entity's periodic return and hibernation—and, eons before human settlement, came through interstellar space from an alien dimension. Likewise, the TV series SUPERNATURAL begins on a small-scale, personal level and expands to encompass an entire cosmology. At the beginning of the series, all we know about the background of Sam and Dean Winchester is that their father is a "Hunter" (of demons and other monsters) and that their mother died in a horrific supernatural attack when Sam was a baby. The brothers themselves know little more. We, and they, soon learn that their father made a deal with a demon. Eventually it's revealed that Sam and Dean were destined from infancy, not to save the world, but to serve as "vessels" for divine and diabolical entities. As they strive to assert their free will against this destiny, they uncover secrets of their family's past and the worldwide organization of Hunters (along with its research auxiliary branch, the Men of Letters), they clash (and sometimes ally) with demons, angels, pagan deities, and Death incarnate, and, incidentally, they do save the world and visit Hell and Purgatory several times. They learn the real nature and purposes of Heaven, Hell, and God Himself. The hypertextual (metafictional) aspect of the series is highlighted in episodes such as a visit to an alternate universe where the brothers are characters in a TV show and their discovery that a comic-book artist who turns out to be a prophet (as they believe until he's revealed as the very incarnation of God) has published a series that chronicles their adventures.
Tolkien's colleague and close friend C. S. Lewis reflects on the literary impression of depth in two articles reprinted in his collection SELECTED LITERARY ESSAYS, "Psycho-Analysis and Literary Criticism" and "The Anthropological Approach." In both pieces, he concludes that the ideas of hidden, half-forgotten, multi-layered dimensions in place or time and disguised remnants preserved from the ancient past are alluring in themselves. We're fascinated by the suggestion of "the far-borne echo, the last surviving trace, the tantalizing glimpse, the veiled presence, of something else. And the something else is always located in a remote region, 'dim-discovered,' hard of access." We're thrilled to enter "a world where everything may, and most things do, have a deeper meaning and a longer history" than expected. Many readers (although admittedly not all) enjoy the idea "that they have surprised a long-kept secret, that there are depths below the surface." Tolkien's exposition of this effect, as well as the creation of it by him and other authors who use similar strategies, offers valuable hints to writers who want to produce that kind of impression.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt