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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
...we looked at some of the fundamentals of how Theme, Story and Plot fit together to create Pace. There's more to be said on that topic, and it gets more interesting as we add Style and Voice to the mix of skills.
Here, we pause to look at some examples where the breakneck pacing leaves no room for relationships, or romance.
Here are the three novels to compare.
When mastering a skill, it pays to look at where others "fail" to incorporate that skill. What does a novel look like if it is "fast paced" and what sorts of Characters spend a part of their life in the fast-lane of life?
Many of the most popular novels ever written - and most popular now being published - are extra-fast paced. Historically, that hasn't been the case, but popular, mass market, fiction generally reflects the daily realities that people deal with in their real lives.
Some genres specialize in opening a window into a differently paced world. For decades, Romance, Historical Romance, and suspense and crime novels provided a markedly different pace than life was taking on.
We talked a lot about "The Information Explosion" as computerization took shape, communications went Satellite, CNN delivered real-time battlefront news, and topics proliferated. The speed at which Universities published new discoveries on a wider and wider variety of fronts, from Medicine to Astrophysics, increased perceptibly.
And then everyone just got used to Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, E-Newsletters, and the tsunami of information flowing over them every day.
We are now in a period of consolidation and digestion of this increase in human life's pace.
A new generation is growing up taking online devices for granted from the age of maybe 5 or so - maybe younger. Parents are worrying about how young brains can be differently wired because of the pace of digital experience, and the "blue light" of screens having unknown effects on the whole body.
But these young children are adapting to the world they enter, just as previous generations have adapted. Humanity's most potent survival trait is adaptability -- but individual human adults don't adapt. Each generation fossilizes in a certain configuration, adapted to conditions of their youth, and decries the deformation of their children by new circumstances.
This is a new phenomenon in human evolution. For millions of years, parents taught their children how to cope with the world the parents grew up in, and that knowledge worked fine, with a few minor tweaks, for the rest of that child's life. Change took many generations.
All that changed with the printing press and movable type.
The speed of change is still increasing. What once took more than a hundred years now happens in twenty (or less).
Science Fiction Romance has arisen (along with Paranormal and Fantasy Romance) because those purely technological changes have now soaked down deep into our cultures -- and cultures are fighting back.
For astrologers, this is a change cycle traceable by Pluto. Pluto (whether it's a planet, or not doesn't matter - the effect is perceptible if you know how to look) is now transiting Capricorn. Pluto is sexuality and the raw, basic urge to reproduce and survive, which includes "war" in the sense of grabbing the territory and resources of others. Pluto "rules" Scorpio, the natural 8th House, which is other people's resources, opposite the natural 2nd House, your personal resources.
Values are a resource. That makes Values an 8th House, Pluto/Sex (not Romance or Love, just Sex/Reproduction) phenomenon.
Starting in the 1950's and erupting onto the Headlines where writers could rip it off and craft novels about it, the Sexual Revolution has attacked the very foundation of the cultures (all of them) that existed before the printing press and movable type.
The women who suffered, died, worked themselves to death to win (or elsewhere, lose) World War II, stood up and screamed ENOUGH ALREADY!
The children they raised, raised another generation that knew nothing about the oppression their great-grandmothers lived and died under.
They didn't know they were free because they didn't know there was such a thing as legalized, culturally embedded, values (a whole system of values) based on the unconscious assumption that female-ness automatically meant slave, non-entity and stupid.
The generation born with Pluto in Scorpio grew up on the concept of the "kick-ass heroine," completed "the sexual revolution."
For decades the pants-suit and short haircut was the uniform of the liberated woman. "I'm as good a man as you are," was the fashion statement. Anything a man could do, a woman could do (probably better).
But a new generation is now emerging into adulthood, bolder, more self-confident, and happily adorning themselves in long hair, dresses, skirts and wearing pants to every sort of event as they please.
These women devour the Kickass Heroine novels and model themselves after action-hero figures, in novels, games, movies, and TV Series.
We are seeing the chip-on-the-shoulder confrontation against masculinity wane, even as men complain of the attack on masculinity.
We are seeing a cross-cultural revolution.
We are seeing Values morph.
We are seeing sharing of values diminish, leaving culture crumbling.
Into this real-world mixture of change, comes the Science Fiction Romance, boldly going where no one has gone before.
We are watching, in our real world lives, how Love is Conquering Culture Shock.
The readership you are targeting is in the medical condition called "shock." The interlocking physiological systems are dysfunctional because of this shock. We don't know yet, medically, how dire this may be, but we know that "stress" unrelieved, unrelenting, "fear-fight-flight" states wear our bodies out.
Fiction can be an anodyne to culture shock.
Fiction about Relationships, Love, and Romance, about people (human or not) coping with super-stressful, action-packed, blinding-speed, high-stakes games of survival amidst crumbling cultures may shape our future reality.
Star Trek is one of the examples of fiction informing reality. As with Robert A. Heinlien's novels, the portrayal in Star Trek of human beings using advanced tools, tools that current science declared impossible, released the imagination of a generation that created many of those impossible tools.
That's the "science" part of science fiction. The tools change, and the power of a single individual to do harm, or good, increases exponentially.
That increase has, in itself, not been a problem until recent decades when the foundation of shared values has dissolved. Both the Values themselves have changed (women aren't born to slavery), and the sharing has diminished markedly.
The digital revolution diminished the "sharing" component of Culture.
The printing press kicked off the information explosion, and the digitalization of the world disintegrated the audience.
In the 1950's there were 3 US spanning TV networks, and they stopped broadcasting about 10:00 PM (then came Johnny Carson and midnight talk shows.) Everyone watched the same shows - especially the big hits. Everyone could carry on a conversation using those referents. It was a common, shared, culture.
Today, there are hundreds, maybe thousands if you count streaming from other countries, of TV Series, Movies, Variety entertainment, Cooking Shows, National Geographic channel, -- just try to find 5 people in the grocery store at the same time who all watched THIS OR THAT last night!
Only small Groups on Facebook gather around discussing a particular print novel. Nobody else knows or cares.
We simply don't have a universe of discourse in common, and so the dissemination of Values is not working the way it has in previous generations.
You might not believe it, but only a small percentage of the population pays attention to politics. It's the loudest thing in the media right now, but only a small percentage of the population grasps enough of the subject to define a "value."
This fragmentation is an important consideration if you want to market fiction.
I have here three novels you probably never heard of, and most likely won't read, possibly don't care about at all. They are mass market publications by very big, traditional publishers, mass market to tiny fragments of the 5 or 10% of the people who read books. Yes, they are in ebook formats, too, but none of these by themselves constitute a large enough "reach" to matter.
Taken together, however, they make a point you should consider.
What do these 3 books have in common?
All 3 have a female protagonist, though Salvation Day by Kali Walace also has an alternating Point of View Character who is male.
Any of these 3 novels could have been published as Science Fiction or Fantasy in the 1970's.
Read the blurbs on the covers, and the "Look Inside" snatch on Amazon.
Now substitute male names for the Main Character.
Any of these books could be old fashioned "neck-up science fiction" the teen-boy-aimed genre which excludes all complications of the plot due to the story, the psychological morphing due to falling in love.
All these novels are about the same length (one of the requirements for mass market), and because of that length requirement, if there is to be "action" there is no room for "relationship."
Some exquisitely skilled writers can fold in a strong, plot-driving, internal-conflict-resolving Relationship even with a strict length requirement, but the current market does not have an appetite for that sort of novel.
These female, kick-ass heroines are just heroes. There is nothing feminine about them. It is as if half the Character's character is lopped off with a carving knife.
You can't craft a Soul Mate for a Character like that -- because such half-character Characters have no "Soul" you can find to build on.
They are powerful, tough, and desperate, as well as goal directed and emotionally engaged in their projects. They have enemies, and meet those enemies. They can tell the good guys from the bad guys, and they all oppose badass villains with true grit.
That's how they are just like men - and it is a portrait of the modern woman - but the other half of the novel is missing. How are these women different from men?
We live in a culture in flux, and it is currently a very fragmented culture where the definition of masculinity, femininity and humanity are all changing.
Different groups espouse different values, and as always with humans, those most cherished values are held subconsciously, as beliefs. See Mysteries of Pacing Part 6, How To Change A Character's Mind.
Most of our beliefs are non-falsifiable hypotheses about the nature of life. We don't question them, or prove them, or test them. So any "ass" that gets in our way is fair game for kicking.
These 3 novels all draw a stark, black vs white, picture of right and wrong, and don't provoke the reader to ask hard questions about these currently changing aspects of our everyday world's cultures.
While delving deeply into the qualities of character necessary to surmount overwhelming odds, these three novels do not share the depth of thinking behind Science Fiction and Fantasy published in the 1960's. That's not to say the older novels were "better." Those novels were aimed at their readership, and these novels are aimed at a different readership.
None of the three is, in itself, particularly outstanding. They are all well written, could use a more vigorous editing for repetitions of information and lame dialogue, and tackle the job of extrapolating current trends into the near future or an alternate reality.
They may all be taken as cautionary tales, but none point the way out of this current cultural fragmentation.
It will take a Science Fiction Romance to illuminate that path out of the current state of affairs.
Children born with Pluto in Aquarius -- 2024 and on -- will be the ones to crystalize a new culture from this fragmentation. They will be of age in 2050, and current predictors are skeptical that Earth's biosphere can support human life past 2050, at least not "life as we know it." Civilization may be doomed, so we'll need to crystalize a new one.
I haven't yet seen any Science Fiction Romance novels about that coming epoch.