Saturday, January 25, 2020

Damned If You Do...

Social media is a minefield.

Anyone can make an accusation, anyone can repeat terminological inexactitudes, and although a reasonable person might think that it would be safe to set the record right, it's not. It might cost you.  You might give others the impression that the first person is... a liar.

And that is actionable.

John C. Greiner, writing for the law firm Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP discusses an emerging trend of using defamation lawsuits to resurrect untimely complaints of sexual assault (after the statute of limitations deadline.)

There's more this month on the topic of defamation in social media.

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy, writing on Law & Government for the AZ Mirror writes about a discussion taking place in Arizona about removing the current statute of limitations, which rules that a defamed person can only sue for defamation  within the first year that a libelous comment is published online.

Given that "the internet is forever", perhaps the current law is inadequate. Unless one obsessively "googles" oneself (which may not be a reasonable expectation), it is possible that one might not discover an untruthful and scurrilous assertion within a year of it being published.  Many authors, for instance, deliberately do not read their books' reviews.

Authors are discouraged from responding to published reviews, and if a reviewer could sue an author for defamation if an author were to suggest in writing that that reviewer was veridically challenged, there's all the more reason to stay away!

For any Scottish readers, Marianne Griffin, writing for Brodies LLP and the Enlightened Thinking blog explains the Defamation and Malicious Publication (Scotland) Bill.

It's worth reading, especially for those who re-Tweet others' social media comments without great mindfulness.

Happy reading!

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Anticipating Androids

In Mary Shelley's novel, Victor Frankenstein apparently constructed his creature by stitching together parts of cadavers. (His first-person narrative stays vague on the details.) Considering the rapid decay of dead flesh as well as the problem of reanimating such a construct, if we ever get organic androids or, as they're called in Dungeons and Dragons, flesh golems, they're more likely to be created by a method similar to this: Robotics experts at the University of Vermont have designed living robots made from frog cells, which were constructed and tested by biologists at Tufts University:


They're made of living cells derived from frog embryos. Joshua Bongard, one of the researchers on this project, describes the xenobots as "a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism." The frog cells "can be coaxed to make interesting living forms that are completely different from what their default anatomy would be." Only a millimeter wide, they potentially "can move toward a target, perhaps pick up a payload (like a medicine that needs to be carried to a specific place inside a patient)—and heal themselves after being cut." They might also be able to perform such tasks as cleaning up radioactive materials and other contaminants or scraping plaque out of arteries. While this process doesn't amount to creating life, because it works with already living cells, it does reconfigure living organisms into novel forms. Although there's no hint of plans to build larger, more complicated artificial organisms, the article doesn't say that's impossible, either.

If an android constructed by this method could be made as complex as a human being, could it ever have intelligence? In an experiment I think I've blogged about in the past, scientists at the University of California, San Diego have grown cerebral "organoids"—miniature brains—from stem cells:

Lab-Grown Mini-Brains

These mini-brains, about the size of a pea, can "mimic the neural activity" of a pre-term fetus. Researchers hope these organoids can be used to study brain disorders and perhaps to replace lost or damaged areas of living human brains. At present, they can't think or feel. But suppose they're eventually grown large and complex enough to—maybe—develop sentience or even consciousness? In that case, it could be reasonably argued that they should have individual rights. The "disembodied brain in a jar" that's a familiar trope of SF and horror, is, according to the article, a highly unlikely outcome of this research. If these miniaturized brains ever became complex enough to transplant into a more highly developed version of the frog-cell "xenobots," however, the question of personhood would surely arise.

Margaret L. Carter

Margaret L. Carter

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Reviews 51 - Shield of the People, a novel of the Maradaine Elite by Marshall Ryan Maresca

Reviews 51
Shield of the People
a novel of the Maradaine Elite
Marshall Ryan Maresca

This is the second in the Maradaine sub-series, Maradaine Elite.

The first was The Way of the Shield.

The set of Maradaine series (there are several already) from DAW FANTASY have become some of my favorite reading matter.  Each series focuses on a different level of society - the constabulary, the university students and faculty, the business people, the criminals, the territorial gangs who "run" their sections of town.

If the plots had more outright Romance, it would be even better, but it has relationship driven plots, family issues, and plenty of budding love stories.

Even with the author walking right by grand Romances as if blind to them, these novels are just fascinating.

They are Fantasy, in that Magic and Magic Technology are featured as part of the worldbuilding.  The Characters take this dimension of human power for granted -- it isn't remarkable, but just another element of the world that causes complications.  But science also works, and may be in hot pursuit of the mechanism behind Magic.

I'd say the Maradaine novels are Sociological Fantasy.  The world where Maradaine exists is a well built fantasy world, but the Characters are all embroiled in the push-shove jockeying for place, power, position, titles, authority, to function within the order of their society.

The Maradaine Elite title might refer to many things within the novel. There is a Cabal of landed, titled, rich and influential people called The Ten, who consider themselves Elite.  There is an Order of Martial Artists with aspirational idealism who are Elite fighters.  And there's a Political Elite who think highly of themselves.

Structurally, this novel is a thematic work of art, which could be why I like it so much.

It is about the pre-industrial society's method of counting ballots in a free democratic election.  The ballots are pieces of paper, and though counted in the out-lying cities where they were cast, they are put in lockboxes and transported by horse-drawn wagons over difficult mountain passes, to be officially certified in Maradaine, the capital.

Why this process is not accomplished Magically is not explained in this novel.

The Main Characters involved in rescuing the ballot lockboxes from those who would overthrow the will of the people belong to the martial order, priding itself on being a Shield of the People, never an aggressor, but are only trainees.

So the ostensible plot is focused on keeping an election from being falsified, but seething underneath that action-story is the conspiracy plot left from the previous Maradaine Elite novel.

There are those who respect and revere democracy (with no explanation of why, or where they got that idea), and there are those who think democracy is wrong, way too dangerous, and so they must rule.

Complex but very realistic political factions take shape, with no explanation of why these people (who are apparently human, but that is not established either) think exactly as the people of Earth in the 1700's.

There is no explanation of why Magic has not been harassed to create an industrial revolution.

In other words, these novels of various segments of the population of Maradaine, are hugely inspirational to the Romance Writer with a science fictional bent. Everything that is in the Maradaine novels is just fine -- it's what's MISSING that inspires.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Best of Good Faith, Worst of Bad Faith

Good Faith (or bona fides, or Fair Dealing) is the concept of sincerely intending to deal fairly with others without malice or the intention to trick or defraud or take advantage of someone else.

The internet makes it very easy and profitable to act with a lot less than good faith, especially with respect (or lack thereof) of the moral and legal rights of creative people... authors, writers, artists, musicians, song writers, composers, tattoo-artists, photographers, game developers, comedians, conjurers, stage hands and all the persons behind (as well as in front of) the movie camera.

The best guide this writer has seen to Bad Faith, especially with regard to Trademark law was written for the European consumer by Louise van de Mortel and can be enjoyed on the Novagraaf site.

Romance writers have endured a series of outrages since various actors or their assistants have attempted to trademark words we all use: cocky, dark, royal...  It is quite annoying to not be able to use the mot juste, or the ancient word that scores the most points!

To this day, there is an internet word game that consists of a grid of  five Scrabble- like tiles by six Scrabble-like tiles, that cascade as the player creates words out of contiguous tiles.... it will not allow COCK as a legitimate word.  HEN is perfectly fine. All manner of names for male wildlife seems fine, but not for male poultry.

Nicholas J. Krob, writing for McKee, Voorhees & Sease. PLC discusses the bad faith of concert goers using their smart phones to film concerts with the intention of publishing, distributing, and profiting either tangibly or intangibly from the performance.

As Krob suggests, it is remarkable how ignorant of copyright most social media "users" are.

In this writer's opinion, back before Y2K, would-be smartphone purchasers should have been treated like motorists. Just as it is a privilege, not a right, to drive, so it should be a privilege, not a right, to access the world wide web. There should have been basic instruction into copyright law and fair use/fair dealing, and an easy examination at the point of sale, and a limited term license that could be revoked for bad behavior and would have to be renewed periodically contingent on unremarkable behavior and passing an updated test.

In this article about copyright protections for creators, Music Tech Policy offers a fascinating, esoteric, detailed and disturbing look at --arguably-- the worst of bad faith in the highest of places:

Double dipping Music Tech Policy, because they have been particularly illuminating this last week this article compares user generated "content" on smartphones to nicotine and ammonia in cigarettes.

Wishing you all the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Freedom of Speech Online

Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS column explores the distinction between freedom of speech in the legal sense and the pragmatic limitations encountered on the Internet:

Inaction Is a Form of Action

He focuses on the effects of the dominance exerted by tech giants such as Facebook and Google. The Constitution forbids government interference with freedom of speech, but it doesn't prevent private businesses from setting their own rules. Constructing a parable of two restaurants, one that forbids political conversation on its premises and another with no such prohibition, he acknowledges that customers who don't like the restrictions of No Politics Diner can eat at Anything Goes Bistro. But suppose No Politics Diner not only buys up all its competitors but branches out to own a variety of other kinds of businesses as well? It's theoretically possible that soon there won't be any privately owned public spaces in town where customers can discuss politics. Without any interference by government, freedom of speech has effectively been limited.

With the pithy comment that Facebook "has hostages, not users," he applies this analogy to online services. When the giants have swallowed up so many of their competitors that (in an exaggerated but still chilling quote) the Internet has become “five websites, each consisting of screenshots of text from the other four,” policies set by these companies can restrict online speech even though no state censorship is involved. Services such as Facebook make rules, followed by exceptions to the rules, then additional layers of regulations to close the loopholes created by the exceptions. The resulting incomprehensibly complex tangle of exceptions and loopholes, according to Doctorow, "will always yield up exploitable vulnerabilities to people who systematically probe it." While the trolls run rampant, the rest of us may have no means of defending ourselves against them.

He has a list of suggestions for "fixing" the Internet to transform it into an environment "that values pluralism (power diffused into many hands) and self-determination (you get choose which tech you use and how you use it)." One thing he urges is breaking up the Big Tech monopolies. I have reservations about whether this course of action is practical (or, under current law, legal, but that's an area I don't know much of anything about). It's hard to argue with his summary of the problem, however: "When the state allows the online world to become the near-exclusive domain of a small coterie of tech execs, with the power to decide on matters of speech – to say nothing of all the other ways in which our rights are impacted by the policies on their platforms, everything from employment to education to romance to (obviously) privacy – for all the rest of us, they are making policy."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Headlines to Rip Stories From - Part 1

Headlines to Rip Stories From
Part 1 

OK, from which to rip stories! But who says that?

Since my house has been undergoing renovations, at the same time as I've had pneumonia, I have fallen behind creating these posts.

I do have plenty to say, and a number of topics to explore, but meanwhile, here are some articles that have captured my attention.

Here is a headline to "rip" if you need to make a Character mysteriously sick, or perhaps contrive a murder method.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, January 12, 2020

B.Y.O.B. (On Acronyms and Metonymy)

With acronyms, one has a choice.

B.Y.O. or B.Y.O.B. traditionally suggests Bring (you own....) and the optional, final "B" could refer to Booze, Beer, or a Bottle.

And "Bottle" could mean a container of strong liquor, which is also known as Dutch Courage (or Irish Courage), or in some parts of the word "bottle" is slang for courage itself.

Metonymy is a particularly useful literary device for alien romance world building, if one would like one's aliens to have their own slang.

This is an excellent starting point:

B.Y.O.B. could also stand for BUY your own BOOK.  Apparently, it is an established practice, especially among politicians.... and among writers with bread to cast on the waters.

Sarah Nicholas of Book Riot has an interesting History of Buying Books onto the Bestseller list, from how it all started up to the present day and what those little dagger signs signify on the N.Y.T. bestseller lists.

The article may not be quite even handed. One can be fairly confident that the counterparts of the cheating authors who were cited probably did the same thing, and may even have used taxpayer funds instead of mere campaign donations.

One might also find that Amazon will delete bad reviews for very well connected friends of Amazon, but for most authors, even bad reviews of books that have not been published, let alone sold, will stay up in all their miserable glory.

Amazon is also in the writing world news for (another) instance of rather poor quality control. "Waffle" is hardly literature, but one follows ones stream of consciousness, if only for the joy of the pun!

A Canadian over Christmas showed a little too much bottle (as in "willingness to take risks") when he took to social media to lambaste his American corporate employer over their seasonal gift to him of barbecue sauce. We are not told if it is the type of sauce that comes in a bottle.

His sauciness was not appreciated, and he lost his employment.

The American First Amendment protects one's right to speak one's mind, but does not guarantee freedom from the consequences of ill-advised speech... as CNN also discovered, and as is an object lesson to any humble participant in social media discussions of current events.

While DuckDuckGo-ing "B.Y.O.B.", one notices many references to a music group by that name. This blog is not about them, but they may deserve attribution for turning the acronym to "Bring Your Own Bomb".

But, on the topic of bombs, Colin R. Jennings, Ann J. LaFrance, Garon Anthony and Ericka Johnson blogging for the law firms Squire Patton Boggs, give timely advice for all internet users on preparing for the possibility of a well-coordinated cyber attack.

Lexology link:

Original link:

While an international cyber offensive would not be directed at alien romance writers, it might sweep us up in collateral damage if we could not back up our files to our preferred cloud, use credit cards, access our banks, etc.

Write safe!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Adaptation Weirdness

Has anyone else here watched the new DRACULA miniseries streaming on Netflix? This post includes spoilers on the assumption that by now anyone interested in the show will have either seen it or read reviews. Like most DRACULA adaptations, the program begins with a more-or-less (sometimes less) faithful rendition of Jonathan Harker's stay at Castle Dracula, but with the clever addition of framing scenes in which Jonathan narrates his ordeal to a nun in the nursing convent where he was taken after his escape from the castle. After the Castle Dracula sequences, like many other film treatments, the story, shall we say, veers. Sister Agatha reveals herself as Agatha Van Helsing, a Dutch nun residing at the Hungarian convent and a scholar of superstitions such as vampirism. Jonathan himself has been more radically changed by his experience than his book counterpart. The final scenes of the episode portray Dracula's attack on the convent while Sister Agatha strives to hold him at bay. The second installment of the three follows the voyage of the doomed ship Demeter to England. Unlike in the novel, where the Demeter is a cargo ship and Dracula remains hidden except from his victims, in this program the Demeter is a passenger vessel on which the Count travels openly. This change allows fascinating interactions between Dracula and his mostly unsuspecting fellow passengers. I admire the way this series restores the visceral horror of Dracula as a powerful, demonic vampire. (And I speak as a devoted fan of "good guy vampires" and a champion of Fred Saberhagen's THE DRACULA TAPE, with the Count as narrator and hero, as one of the best vampire novels ever published.) It's also interesting that Dracula can absorb memories and skills from the victims whose blood he drinks, a gift he uses with planning and discretion. The final episode, however, departs completely from the novel to skip from 1897 to the present. Count Dracula comes ashore at Whitby having remained dormant underwater, after the wreck of the Demeter, for 123 years. He's met by an armed security force led by the modern Dr. Van Helsing, a woman scientist who heads the Jonathan Harker Foundation for study of arcane medical conditions, including vampirism. I enjoyed the "fish out of water" dimension of Dracula's adjustment to the twenty-first century, while he remains both charismatic and terrifying. Aside from several familiar characters with the same names and similar narrative functions as those in Stoker's original, though, this third episode has no connection to the novel and, as some reviewers have noted, might as well be an entirely different story.

Since I'm more familiar with DRACULA than any other novel, I take intense interest in the various, often strange ways it has been filmed. Granted, the original is a long, complicated story that only a miniseries, not a standard-length feature film, could hope to render with any degree of fidelity. The 1977 BBC miniseries starring Louis Jourdan comes closest. Aside from combining Quincey Morris and Arthur Holmwood into one character and making Mina and Lucy sisters (a change I like because it reduces the element of wild coincidence in Dracula's first English victim just happening to be a friend of his solicitor's fiancee), this version follows the novel pretty faithfully. The classic Bela Lugosi movie, however, is derived not from the novel but from the stage play (in which Lugosi also starred), which takes place entirely in England. The Lugosi film restores the opening scenes set in Transylvania but otherwise limits itself to the general outline of the play. This version, oddly, has Renfield rather than Jonathan Harker traveling to Transylvania to finalize the Count's real estate purchase.

One of my favorite movies, although it follows the play and the Lugosi version more than the book, is the 1979 film starring Frank Langella, mainly because Langella makes such an alluring, sensual Dracula. A major weirdness of this adaptation comprises the reversal of names between Lucy and Mina. "Lucy," for all practical purposes, is actually Mina. The Lucy character, now called Mina, has also become the daughter of Van Helsing. A TV adaptation that starts by following the novel but eventually veers, the 1973 Dan Curtis production starring Jack Palance (in my opinion, one of the least suitable Draculas ever cast), draws upon the history of Vlad the Impaler, a cinematic innovation at that time. In addition, it introduces the trope of Dracula's obsession with a woman whom he considers the reincarnation of his wife, in this case Lucy. Coppola's not quite accurately titled BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (1992) adopts this motif, with Mina as Dracula's long-lost beloved, an element detested by many fans. This one also identifies the Count with the historical Impaler. Otherwise, this production does fulfill its claim to incorporate all the major characters and the general plotline of the novel, including the heroes' pursuit of the Count back to his Transylvanian lair.

The 2013 DRACULA TV series, while set in England in the 1890s and featuring several characters from the novel, otherwise strays so far from the original that I gave up on it after a couple of episodes. In this re-imagining, Count Dracula poses as an American entrepreneur who invests in scientific and technological innovation. His true agenda, however, is revenge on his nemesis, the Order of the Dragon—??!!—the medieval knightly order of which the real-life Vlad Dracula and his father were proud members. This character impressed me as so unlike any Dracula I could recognize that I quickly lost interest in him.

How far can a film adaptation of a book depart from its source before it becomes effectively a different story? Mostly, I have a low tolerance for movies and TV programs that claim to translate books to films but have little resemblance to their alleged originals. Other readers and viewers may happily accept more radical transformations.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Sime~Gen Book 15 Now in Kindle, iBooks, and Paper

Sime~Gen Book 15
Now in Kindle, iBooks, and Paper 

Here we are now in 2020, and just at the end of 2019, the 15th volume of my Sime~Gen Series appeared on Amazon, Apple iBooks, and probably places I've never heard of.  It is in e-book and paper formats.

We have talked about Star Trek, and the impact a mere TV Show has had on the world.  Teens and college students were (and still are) inspired to create the devices and capabilities Gene Roddenberry built deep into the background of Star Trek.

And those tantalizing possibilities still lure young people into the sciences.  New Series set in the Star Trek Universe are now Streaming hits.

How did that happen? Why? Could someone do this on purpose?

The first non-fiction book I wrote, STAR TREK LIVES!

 is all about why young people were so inspired, driven to develop skills to manifest their creativity.

To demonstrate the validity of my theory, I wrote my first novel, HOUSE OF ZEOR, appeal to the Spock fans among Star Trek fans.  I sold the (at that time very expensive) hardcover with a money back guarantee - if you don't like it, mail it back to me and I'll refund your money.  I sold 60, and never had one returned. 

I targeted a readership.  A very small subset of a huge readership.

The first novel in the series drew heaps of fan mail with questions about the worldbuilding.  I answered by letter -- and the created the fanzine Ambrov Zeor to publish my answers as I kept getting the same ones over and over.

STAR TREK LIVES! blew the lid on Star Trek fan fiction.  For years, fans had been publishing their own original fiction (with original characters not seen on screen), in fanzines.  That explosion of creative fiction was replicated by HOUSE OF ZEOR and subsequent Sime~Gen Novels.

As soon as I established Ambrov Zeor as a fanzine, I began to get fiction submissions even from people I didn't know.  I handed editorship of the fanzine over to a fan so I could go on writing books. 

At a Star Trek Convention, Karen MacCloud and Katie Filipowicz (two I didn't know at the time, since become best friends for life), approached me to ask to found other Sime~Gen fanzines.  They did exactly that and never had too few submissions of fiction and articles to get an issue out for another Star Trek con. 

By the time the second Sime~Gen novel was in hardcover print from Doubleday, one fan who was already a professional writer, Jean Lorrah, had written for the Sime~Gen fanzines just as she had written Star Trek fanfic.  Then she submitted to me a novel about the first channel to discover how to channel selyn.  We sold her novel to Doubleday and went on to do more Sime~Gen together -- then she wrote independently in Sime~Gen and I went on to develop the story line. 

So just like Star Trek, Sime~Gen captured reader interest and jolted creativity into motion. At one point there were 5 Sime~Gen fanzines - replicating the phenomenon in microcosm.

Star Trek, meanwhile, went on to generate Animated TV Series, and then new Prime Time drama series (most of which we love). 

Years later, Sime~Gen fanfic writers, some of whom had meanwhile become professional writers, made new, original, contributions to main-line Sime~Gen, first with a professionally published anthology

.. and now Mary Lou Mendum has transformed some of her Sime~Gen fanfic into professionally published novels, the Clear Springs Chronicles - a series within a series.

Her second Clear Springs novel is now out, and she's well into drafting the 4rd.

Plot and story lines had to be added to blend the fanfic onto the timeline, and she has been tasked with inventing some scientific advancements that change the direction of Sime~Gen history.

In the Clear Springs Chronicles, we follow the spread of Sime Centers deeply into Gen Territory.  As the interface between Sime and Gen deepens, creativity sparked and NEW science emerges.

Mary Lou is a Ph.D. in plant genetics, so we tasked her with identifying the plant source of a staple drink, adding to the Worldbuilding both a new kind of organic battery, inventing heavier than air flight, and a new disease.

Jean Lorrah is working on more novels covering the industrial spread of the organic battery via the Entertainment Industry -- and in the process, incorporating Mary Lou's new disease, showing how the death of one person from this disease motivates a descendant to transform the world yet again.

These fans are working, and re-working, the Worldbuilding behind the novels I have written. 

It is up to readers to decide what there is about Sime~Gen that seems to echo the effect on fans that Star Trek has had.

Mary Lou first drafted these new novels, then I made changes, Mary Lou re-drafted, and Jean Lorrah did a final polish edit -- then I did a polish draft, and Karen MacCleod did a copyedit, then it was sent in to the publisher, and we got back the usual final-final-final check this again, draft.

So here is Sime~Gen Book 15:

E-book for Kindle


You can find it on iBooks by searching Sime~Gen.

Books 16, 17 and 18 are in the works, detailing the way human personalities blend and clash to produce the structure of science and technology which transforms humanity's lifestyles around the globe, and eventually into space.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, January 04, 2020

One New Piracy Host, One Old Pirates' Friend

Linked In owns Slide Share.
It looks like Slide Share makes available a lot more than slides.

Linked In is protected by safe harbor under the DMCA as long as it removes infringing links, and also removes repeat infringers.

Here is Linked In's page to report infringement.

Some commentators feel that it is a waste of time to bother trying to take down piracy links because they are usually re-uploaded in a short period of time, however, there is a glimmer of justice on the horizon.

As Adi Shoval reports for Pearl Cohen, Cox Communications was recently fined a billion dollars for not removing repeat infringers (in this case, music infringers) from its platform.

The jury awarded $100,000 for the piracy of over 10,000 individual music works.

Meanwhile, just one senator is holding up the #CASEAct. For anyone active on Twitter, the CopyrightAlliance is asking creators and their friends to use the hashtag #AskWydenWhy and to tweet @RonWyden.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, January 02, 2020

SF Seasons

Happy New Year! The days begin to lengthen, even if imperceptibly at first, but nevertheless I have to brace myself for over two months more of early darkness and damp cold. We temperate-zone residents are used to a year divided into the conventional four seasons, recurring in a predictable annual rhythm. My family had a funny encounter many years ago at King's Dominion (an amusement park) in northern Virginia, while standing in line to check out of the hotel adjacent to the park. This happened on a day at the height of summer, and the weather was as expected in a Virginia summer, high humidity with temperatures in the eighties or low nineties. An apparently British couple in line with us asked whether "it was always this hot" all year around. Mentally (not aloud, of course) I collapsed with laughter. In this area we have four seasons just like most other locations in North America, with pleasant springs and falls and miserably cold winters. If our family's experience of living in Hawaii in the 1970s was typical, tropical regions have two basic seasons, rainy and dry, with little variation in temperature or length of daylight.

Science fiction and fantasy often feature imaginary worlds with seasons different from those familiar to us Earth dwellers, but the stories don't always take full advantage of the possibilities. The setting of the Game of Thrones saga famously suffers winters that last for years, whose timing and duration vary. Yet I don't remember noticing in either the novels or the TV series an explanation of how human civilization in Westeros survives those ordeals. How could enough food possibly be stored to sustain entire nations over a multi-year winter, especially with no way of knowing when the cold season will descend upon them? Maybe the southern regions of the inhabited world escape mainly unscathed and supply provisions for the affected areas? The economic effects would be calamitous, though, even if most people managed to scrape by. Isaac Asimov's classic story "Nightfall" takes place on a planet in the middle of a cluster of stars, so that it experiences full darkness only once in several centuries. Although a short story can't cover every aspect of worldbuilding, admittedly, even in the story's later novel-length expansion I don't recall any consideration of how different a culture that develops in perpetual light would be from ours. Agriculture alone would evolve in ways strange to us, wouldn't it? Recently I read SHADOW AND LIGHT and SHADOW RISING, the first two books in an excellent fantasy series by Peter Sartucci. They're set on a planet that revolves around a double star. No results of having two suns, in terms of either circadian rhythms or climate, are developed. As in "Nightfall" with its planet of multiple suns, not only weather but seismic phenomena would surely be affected. With more books to come, however, maybe this aspect of the setting will be elaborated later.

One novel I've read within the past year takes full advantage of its setting's weird seasons, as the title indicates: THE FIFTH SEASON, first book in the Broken Earth series by N. K. Jemisin, offers a devastating, in-depth portrayal of a world periodically ravaged by geological disasters of apocalyptic scope. Fifth Seasons appear at unpredictable intervals and can last from a few months or years to an entire century. At those times, worldwide tectonic cataclysms cause earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis, with side effects such as climate change, crop failures, poisonous fungal growths, etc. Appropriately, this world's cultures are crucially shaped by the Fifth Season phenomenon, which includes the ambiguous role of the few people with the gift of controlling seismic events.

Here's a page that lists eight SF novels about climate change:

Sci-Fi Books That Highlight Climate Change

And here's a different list of fourteen novels focusing on climate catastrophes (including some overlap with the previous one, naturally):

Sci-Fi Books for Earth Day

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Worldbuilding From Reality Part 12 - What You Learned As A Kid

Worldbuilding From Reality
Part 12
What You Learned As A Kid 

Previous parts in the Worldbuilding From Reality series:

I found this comic on Facebook - it is from a VERY CLEVER blog that can give you all sorts of plot ideas for Fantasy Romance - even Supernatural - if you apply the principles of worldbuilding we've been discussing.

Just like real people, fictional Characters learned something early in life that shapes opinions later.  Study this comic and transpose it to your universe and your Characters.

Here is the blog.  Do check it out.  And here is one of the entries. The image is large enough to read on the blog's archive page.

2020 is coming - have a great New Year.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Long comic strip about kid learning Quantum Computing and a Mom trying delicately to have "the talk" - but both mean quantum computing, not the obvious inference. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Heinous Hacks

There are certain times of day, and certain light conditions under which persons of a certain age with either glaucoma or cataracts or epilepsy or "flicker vertigo" should not drive a vehicle.

Here are some interesting online discussions:

When we think of fictional villains plotting to reduce a population, their methods for "thinning the herd" aren't particularly designed to eliminate the sickliest and the weakest. (Generalization, no doubt.)  Sacha Baron Cohen made a film, The Brothers Grimsby, in which the super villain hoped to infect soccer fans at the World Cup with a virus. One might infer that soccer fans were thought by the super villain to be intellectually and socially inferior.

More usually, bombs, plagues, viruses and illnesses are targeted at densely populated locations, or in the case of one Mission Impossible movie, at the source or headwater (or glacier) of a river or two.

It would surely be too far fetched for someone in power to develop something as commonplace as type of planet-saving lightbulb, mandate that everyone exchanged their old lightbulbs for this new, green type, and be aware that the bulbs could trigger life-threatening seizures and devastating migraines in susceptible members of society.

For Akerman LLP, legal health bloggers Robert E. Slavkin and Beth Alcalde discuss a particularly malevolent hack that apparently seeks to cause physical harm to a "curated" audience.


Back in 2015, Michael Cohen revealed that hackers can take control of a car.

Meanwhile, and less malevolently, there are concerns about how much your connected car might be spying on you.

Kathryn M. Rattigan,  writing for Robinson & Cole LLP's Data Privacy + Security Insider asks
How much is your car spying on you?


Presumably, it is only a matter of time before an innocent purchaser of an "unwiped" second hand vehicle, or a subsequent lessee of a rental vehicle could be caught up in a previous driver's web of international intrigue and nefarious texting acquaintances. What a good story line!

For those who are freaked out by the loss of privacy,
Jennifer Pike of Thompson Coburn LLP recommends 10 cybersecurity tips for travelers.

Original link

Maybe the smartest notion is an old fashioned one: don't use your phone while driving.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 26, 2019


Happy midwinter holidays! I hope everybody who celebrates Christmas had a merry one. One of my most thrilling gifts was a DVD set of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, which isn't available on Netflix or Hulu, so I had long since given up on being able to re-watch the series.

Having just finished watching the first season of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, I've noticed several continuity discrepancies with the original series. (It seems clear that DISCOVERY takes place in the universe of the original series, not that of the reboot.) Uniforms and the interior design of the starship differ drastically from those on Kirk's ENTERPRISE. More glaring, the Klingons have been re-imagined to look very different from Klingons in any other iteration of STAR TREK. Assuming these stories occur in the same universe as the original STAR TREK, the only way viewers can take these changes in stride is to accept them as elements in a retcon, a pretense that it's always looked like this. DISCOVERY also includes a major, worldbuilding-impact continuity problem, however: The spore drive. Its existence revolutionizes the speed of interstellar travel. If the spore drive had existed in the original series, the outcomes of many episodes would have been affected, and the day-to-day operation of the starship would have been noticeably different. To reconcile DISCOVERY with STAR TREK as we know it, at some point before the end of the series any use of the spore drive in the near future must be somehow rendered impossible.

The original series itself has continuity problems with Spock's backstory. It seems blatantly clear that the characters' personal histories weren't planned in advance but constructed ad hoc as the series progressed, particularly with Spock. In the premiere episode, he says one of his ancestors—not his own mother—was a human female. In a later episode, when Captain Kirk deliberately provokes him into a rage to negate the effects of the happiness-drug flowers, Spock says, "My mother was a teacher, my father an ambassador," implying that his parents are deceased. Only with "Journey to Babel" do we learn what then became canon, that his parents are alive but he's had a long-term estrangement from his father. That discontinuity can be justified, if tenuously, by postulating that in the earlier episodes Spock didn't know his fellow crew members well enough to speak frankly about his family background. A continuity glitch among the original series and its various spin-offs concerns money. Does the Federation use it or not? In some episodes, currency clearly exists, yet at least once it's explicitly stated that they don't need money. We can speculate on complicated explanations for this apparent contradiction, but on a metafictional level it seems likely that the writers didn't think through the implications, instead doing whatever worked for any given episode.

The vampire detective series FOREVER KNIGHT took a cavalier approach to its vampire mythology. The traits of vampires seemed to vary according to the whims of individual writers. For instance, by sifting all the evidence from various episodes, one couldn't definitively state whether holy symbols do objective harm to vampires or hurt a vampire only if the vampire believes in the item's potency.

Marion Zimmer Bradley famously disregarded continuity when the narrative requirements of a story demanded ignoring a precedent set in an older book. Of course, when she started writing about the world of Darkover, she didn't expect the fiction in that setting to become a series. It's understandable that she refused to be tied down by creative decisions made early in her career. At one point, she retconned the discrepancies by attributing them to the unreliability of in-universe narrators.

Arthur Conan Doyle, producing a huge number of quickly-written Sherlock Holmes stories over a period of many years, generated ambiguities concerning what part of Watson's body had been wounded and how many times he was married. Organizations such as the Baker Street Irregulars have fun trying to reconcile those ambiguities and weave them into a coherent narrative.

How much discontinuity can a creator get away with before the reader's suspension of disbelief ends up hanged, drawn, and quartered?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Worldbuilding from Reality Part 11 - Worldbuilding Does Not a Story Make

Worldbuilding from Reality
Part 11
Worldbuilding Does Not a Story Make
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous posts in the Worldbuilding From Reality series are indexed here:

When you are worldbuilding, you are weaving the black velvet that will cradle and display your diamond.  You are not creating the light that will make your diamond sparkle, or the diamond itself, but if you do a messy job of worldbuilding then no adjustments of light or cut of diamond will create the riveting effect you intend.

Worldbuilding is crucial, but should be as invisible as the black velvet of a jeweler's display case.

In this analogy, I'd guess the "light" is your theme, and the diamond is the Relationship you are depicting.

The Worldbuilding is an integral part of the light and the jewel it illuminates, and some genres, some authors, make the Worldbuilding into the whole plot.  Done well, this is also riveting.

For example, the long running Destroyermen series by Taylor Anderson with the 2019 entry in the Series #14, Pass of Fire.
I think the overall Theme of the Destroyermen novels might be, "The best defense is a vigorous offense."  The world situation, and how a handful of "can-do" American sailors can improve the situation, is the plot. The Story

I can't sing the praises of Anderson's Destroyermen too loudly.  The "world" is an alternate Earth (which a WWII Destroyer falls into from a storm in the South Pacific), and the building is how this tiny group of sailors orchestrates a reproduction of WWII, but with totally different factions, different species (some not human) and humans who fell into this world from different historic epics.  We also have the indications some of the humans from different epics are actually from different parallel universes than our own.

So there is a cosmic-level worldbuilding theory behind the series, and the World where the conflict is in progress when our Destroyermen land there is the result of the asteroid that triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs landing in a slightly different spot, rearranging the geography of Central America.

There are a couple of species of feathered lizards that have achieved sentience -- and a civilization based on feeding the voracious populace both with humans and with their own species.

Our Destroyermen take the side of the people being attacked and eaten, or attacked and conquered by some stray WWII Japanese.  Alliances form, war spreads, and the Destroyermen put the natives on the track of ever improved weaponry.

The 2029 entry in this Series is Pass of Fire (the fire being a series of volcanoes in Central America, the Pass being formed by the asteroid hit).

And from this base of intricate worldbuilding, the long-long sequences describing weapons improvements and what counter-improvements the enemies achieve (with the help of the Japanese), and what huge, world-wide, sprawling strategies and tactics can be launched, and which of the surviving Destroyermen are leading parts of the war, and which parts are led by those who learned from our Destroyermen, also describe the Relationships developing because of the battle-camaraderie.

The Characters gradually emerge as well rounded, understandable individuals with unique talents brought forth by vicissitudes.  But even the marriages and births are incidental, except as one more motive to fight.

Survival is the biggest motive for this war.

Hollywood romanticized WWII by telling many deeply romantic stories about couples meeting during war, or separated because of it.  War impacts real lives, reshapes life directions.

In an Action Genre, the war itself and how to conduct it, is the story and the plot.

In Science Fiction the science of war is shown as the key to winning.

In Romance, the impact of war on family relationships, and the highly intensified Romances sweeping people into Relationships they would never have chosen, is the Story while the war itself (strategy, tactics, weaponry advantage, resource allocation) is just background.  The Romance-During-War Novel Plot is not the war, but the insane chances people take to get back together.

The Destroyermen series has no Romance in it, but it does have a few plausible Love Stories woven through it.

A Romance writer should read this series to study techniques for weaving flawless, featureless black velvet.

The last thing an artist wants is to distract the viewer's attention from the work of art being displayed.

In a Romance novel, the Jewel being displayed, the work of art, is the evolving Relationship.  As the Relationship matures into Love through many classic stages (each experienced uniquely), the "action" unfolds on the field of Relationship.  What the couple will do next is the suspense line.  If they are soldiers in a war, which side wins the war is usually not the problem.  If they are running the war, they win it together as a team.

In Romance, the war happens only to fertilize and inform the Relationship.

In the Action Science Fiction genre, which the Destroyermen Series precisely nails to perfection, the Relationships happen only to infuse the winning spirit into the combatants.

I have found not one single flaw in all of the novels in Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen Series.

I've discussed a few previous novels in this series:

And we discussed Pass of Fire in the Theme-Plot Integration series.

Clearly, I can't stop raving about Destroyermen. It's flawless, for what it is,  but that just whets my appetite for a similar series, complete with intricately perfect worldbuilding, the science of weaponry, all used to create and showcase the developing of Relationships.

We are enjoined to love our fellows as ourselves, but we humans often fall short of that goal.  The way Romance genre can illustrate the moves, strategy and tactics of warfare might teach us what there is to love in every human.

Romance writers need to study the Art of War as illustrated in the Destroyermen Series to see how the worldbuilding doesn't make the Story, but this kind of worldbuilding from the realities of WWII could make a whopping good Romance.  Just keep asking yourself what's missing.  What's there is perfect - but what's missing is even more important.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Smart Christmas

For those who visit Pennsylvania and are unfortunate enough to be stopped by the police, the good news is that the authorities in that State do not have the right to look into your mind, and your password encrypted devices are considered an extension of your mind.

You do not have to reveal your password unless they have probable cause.

Andrew Crocker, writing for the Electronic Freedom Foundation explains that disclosing a password is the equivalent of giving self-incriminating testimony:

On the other hand, if you are accused of copyright infringement, you may be punished if you are asked to preserve evidence, and you fail to save your text messages.

Writing for law firm Seyfarth Shaw's Carpe Datum blog, Tushar P. Vaidya and Jamila A. Hemmerich examine what happens when a defendant wipes, discards, and does not back up his, her, or their smartphone.

There are other ways of getting into your mind....

Is anyone else rendered uneasy when an online provider offers you "curated" news? Personally, I think it is creepy that Tim Cook's or Mark Zuckerberg's people claim to have such perfect insights into my mind and my interests that they can dish up to me "curated" news to match my interests.

Either they are spying on me and assuming that I only want more of whatever I've consumed in the past, or they are pushing what they want me to consume and not necessarily being truthful about how closely it matches my real interests. I infer.

Concerning spying and intrusion from the wrong side of the TV screen, the good bloggers at Bass Berry & Sims PLC ask whether my smart TV might be too smart, especially if I bought it recently.

Authors Robert L. Brewer, Anthony J. McFarland, and Elizabeth S. Warren  offer six, must-read, smart steps for owners of smart televisions to take this holiday season.

Original article:

Lexology article:

It seems that too many of the goodies that might be in your Christmas stocking this year are too smart for your own good and well being. Both the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings to help consumers to protect themselves.

With the FBI and FTC warnings top of mind, legal blogger Linn Foster Freedman continues her excellent series of privacy tips for the Robinson & Cole LLP Data Privacy + Security blog (and you should check out #220 some time soon) with #219 on Holiday Shopping Tips.

Original article:

Lexology article:

By the way, for anyone who might wonder why it's worth checking out different links to the same article, Lexology offers links to other copyright or other intellectual property related articles on similar subjects. The original websites or blogsites are more likely to focus on that law firm's own articles.

And so, Happy Christmas!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Holiday Stories of Connie Willis

If you feel in the mood for winter-holiday-themed stories, pick up A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS (2017), by Connie Willis. This volume is an expansion of her earlier collection MIRACLE AND OTHER CHRISTMAS STORIES (1999). The twelve selections include five new pieces. Since three of them are longish, in my opinion they're worth buying the newer book for even if you've read the earlier one. Humor abounds, and in the manner of most good humor, the incidents are serious to the characters even though funny to the reader. In the majority of the stories, you can count on satisfying but not sappy endings.

My favorite pieces are two novellas that weren't in the old edition: Thousands of radio re-playings of multiple covers of "White Christmas," augmented by the stubborn insistence of a prototypical Bridezilla that she MUST have snow for her Christmas Eve wedding, spawn a worldwide blizzard in "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know." Snow even falls in locations that have never seen it before in recorded history. My other favorite novella in the book, "All Seated on the Ground," features the narrator's experience on a committee tasked with a first contact project. Aliens have landed. The extraterrestrial visitors don't behave hostilely, but they don't speak or otherwise give any indication of their purpose in coming to Earth. Until they're taken to a mall, where they hear Christmas carols—and respond to the line "All seated on the ground" by suiting their actions to the lyrics. Only the narrator, with the help of a high-school choir director, notices this reaction and manages to decipher its meaning. Hilarious, but as in all Willis's work, the humor arises from characters and situations portrayed with her usual dry, incisive wit, not mere one-liners.

Some other highlights: In "All About Emily," a cynical veteran Broadway actress reluctantly befriends a prototype android who has developed a burning ambition to become a Rockette. The protagonist of the bittersweet "Epiphany," a minister weighed down by depression in the bleak post-holiday atmosphere of January, responds to an enigmatic sense of a call by abandoning his routine duties and taking to the snow-covered highways in search of—what? The Second Coming? The narrator of "Newsletter" becomes convinced that aliens have invaded because everybody is acting too nice in the midst of the pre-Christmas rush. During the bustle of a church Nativity play rehearsal, the protagonist of "Inn" tries to cope with a lost, obviously poor young man and his pregnant wife, who don't speak either English or Spanish. You know where this one is going. The contrasts between the idealized portraits in the Bible illustrations and the bedraggled, bewildered couple and between the spirit of good will toward all and the minister's concern about homeless people stealing the Communion silver lend this moving story the sharp edge we'd expect from Willis.

A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS includes an introduction by the author about the challenges of writing Christmas stories, plus appendices listing her personal recommendations for Christmas-centered fiction and poetry, movies, and TV episodes.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Saturday, December 14, 2019

All About Face...And Image

This last week, the theme has been legal reversals (about face), about amusing, face-changing apps that come embedded with hidden dangers, a new trick by Facebook to "protect" users from inappropriate (age-inappropriate) paid advertising, and rampant, willful exploitation of artists' creative works.

Blogging for law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC, beauty and dispute resolution expert Jordyn Eisenpress discusses the new policy from Facebook-owned Instagram that new users must reveal their birthdays. Apparently, they will scrape linked Facebook accounts for "old" users to auto-add any birthday info that has been provided to Facebook.

Lexology link

Advertising Law link

My advice, be like the monarch of England. Have your real birthday, and a public birthday... and if a banker or stock broker or credit card customer service representative asks for your birthday, ask them to ask something else that only you would know.

Do you know where FaceApp comes from?  Can you live without it?
Allegedly, it comes from Russia. Love that!

Linn Foster Freedman, blogging for Robinson & Cole LLP warns that the FBI considers FaceApp a counterintelligence threat, and suggests that her readers improve their app hygiene. It's good advice!

For Manatt Phelps Phillips LLP, legal blogger Po Yi  asks whether Pinterest encourages, initiates and facilitates copyright infringement, and discusses why a recent copyright infringement lawsuit against Pinterest
questions the Pinterest business model.

In my opinion, as a Pinterest user, it would be very easy for Pinterest to add to the uploading process a pop up disclaimer where the user cannot complete the upload until they have affirmatively asserted under penalty of perjury that they own the rights to the image and are able to produce documentary proof if randomly audited by Pinterest.

Jeffrey D. Neuberger of Proskauer Rose LLP blogs about an expensive legal reversal in the case of copyright infringement by Zazzle, another company that has insufficient safeguards against immoral or ignorant users who upload other peoples copyrighted images or text for the purpose of commissioning Zazzle to create physical items displaying those images or words.

If you use Zazzle, know your rights, responsibilities and potential liabilities... but there are probably myriad authors who would love a quote (with proper attribution) from one of their novels printed across the front of a Zazzle T-shirt. Just ask.

For those who know their limitations when it comes to a knowledge of copyright infringement and the law, this is a very good guide (if you can access Lexology.)

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Finding Time to Write

Marion Zimmer Bradley recommended stay-at-home motherhood as the perfect job for a writer, because writing can be performed in short bursts in the intervals between the tasks required to cope with the house and children. My inner retort upon first reading that statement was, "Speak for yourself, Ms. Bradley." The time it would have taken me to settle into a creative mindset would have eaten up most if not all of each of those brief intervals. The talent for jumping straight into a writing project at a moment's notice isn't given to all of us, although admittedly one can train oneself to shorten the "settling down" part of the procedure. Bradley's advice, however, does highlight one important fact—one doesn't need long, uninterrupted stretches of quiet time to generate readable prose. It took me a long time to learn that principle. My natural inclination was to wait until I had a couple of free hours to devote to a project, hours that came along too seldom. Writing in short bursts can work. Hard as it was, at first, to believe I could produce anything worth keeping in sessions of a half-hour or less, I found that what emerged from my brain didn't turn out appreciably worse than the products of the uninterrupted hours.

C. S. Lewis once remarked that, upon rereading his drafts, he couldn't see any difference in quality between the passages that had flowed with ease and those he'd painfully labored over. The same principle, happily, seems to apply to outward working conditions as well as the author's mental state. In the years since I've taught myself to accept twenty or thirty minutes as an acceptable work period, if that's all I can fit in, I've discovered that 300-400 words can often be generated in those time slots. That's significantly more than zero. A thousand words per day add up to a draft of a typical novel in three months. Five hundred per day would accumulate to novel length in about six months.

Some writers swear by waking up early to churn out one's quota of words before beginning the day's mundane routine. I shudder at the thought, regarding anytime before 8 a.m. as the middle of the night and not becoming fully conscious until somewhat later than that. However, the advice to write every day, at whatever time fits one's own schedule, does make a certain amount of sense. If not every day, at least often and regularly enough to avoid losing the flow of the work. It's hard to get immersed in a story again after leaving it untouched for too long.

A pitfall I've often stumbled into is the impulse to clear the decks before starting. I feel I should get all the routine tasks out of the way in order to free up a time slot and brain space for writing. Unfortunately, that habit can lead to expending most of my allotted computer time on e-mail and other chores, leaving only a short span at the end of the afternoon for writing. In retirement, the truth of the adage that work expands to fill the time available proves itself all too often. It's more productive to start the day's writing first. The other stuff can get done later and usually will. One thing I've learned to do is to open the file of the work-in-progress first, right after turning on the computer. I can tell myself I'll write just a few sentences, maybe a paragraph or two, then come back to it after getting through the routine tasks. That way, I often trick myself into producing a couple of hundred words, so I feel I've accomplished something at least. A sense of accomplishment boosts my morale, encouraging me to generate more prose later in the day. Since I don't usually enjoy the first-draft process (I envy authors who do), I welcome any method of tricking myself into writing.

One school of writing advice suggests discovering your natural "chunk"—the amount of time you can comfortably write at a stretch—and devoting several sessions per day (depending on the time available) to those chunks. Once you've learned how many words you typically produce per chunk (comprising however many minutes), you can estimate how long, in total, it will take you to compose a draft of any given length. Any method that harnesses one's own natural inclinations can boost productivity.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Reviews 50 Finder by Suzanne Palmer

Reviews 50 
Suzanne Palmer 
Space adventure experienced by fully realized Characters meddling in "the affairs of Wizards" (with or without supernatural or magical elements), is another main staple of the science fiction reader which is replicated in the Romance field.

The displaced waif who takes a job as governess for a titled noble, becomes entangled in the situation of the children, defies the father over the problem, falls in love, and attracts the attention of the noble is a staple of Romance.  That is bucking the system.

Both Science Fiction and Romance are genres that cut into the life-arc of a main Character at a time when that Character is a "free radical" -- a molecule with an empty-spot just begging for a bond to form.  Free Radicals, in chemistry, tend to initiate chemical reactions.  In today's Health market, the "free radical" in our bodies is our enemy - not because it's bad, but because it tends to bond and disrupt our chemical balance. 

Science Fiction readers expect writers to know science -- and show no ignorance. 

Suzanne Palmer is a Hugo Award winning writer who wins for a good reason - she delivers a whopping good story driven by Relationships carried on a Plot driven by science.

C. J. Cherryh has shown us how humanity can spread to the stars, even without habitable planets in abundance, by building orbiting space stations, self-contained habitats filled with humans who mine their surroundings for materials and energy.

Suzanne Palmer has set this novel, Finder, (The Finder Chronicles Book 1) ...   ...amid a cluster of such habitats, cobbled together from junk right alongside real space stations built with class and money.  She built an economy for these people that would make sense to any reader of Heinlein's novels, and expanded the old profession of "Repo Man" to repossess spaceships instead of just cars.

Yes, you can buy a spaceship on credit, and if you don't pay up, your space ship will be gone -- even if you are an arch-criminal running an interstellar empire of trade.  If you don't pay, the ship just turns around and goes home.  Well, it does if you don't disable or reprogram the A.I. that runs it.  If you do that - well, the owner will send Fergus Ferguson to pick it up, and he has the secret password.  That will work, if only he can get close enough.

Not every professional repossessor could or would tackle the job, considering who might be upset.  But Fergus has a deep and wide acquaintance with the criminal enterprises of the galaxy. He's leery but not daunted - and he needs the money.

Things don't go quite as he expects when he arrives among the connected habitats.  The locals are embroiled in some political issues that leave him stranded and at the mercy of -- a woman.

As noted in Reviews 49, Bucking the System what we do, and what we love to read about.   In FINDER, Suzanne Palmer flings Fergus into the arms of the Vahn women - who own and live in one of the habitats in space.  They are all clones and just mind their own business until the system bucks them.  The system will be sorry. Trust me on that.

Fergus starts out thinking he's just a loner by nature. His story is about how he comes to a new opinion on his own nature.  The plot is about how this backwater cluster of human habitats deals with First Contact with apparently hostile Aliens.

Note, this is Book 1 in the Finder Chronicles. Fergus doesn't always repossess items from defaulting purchasers.  He has been s thief and a con artist, and uses those abilities to solve problems.  One problem looming is the new species of Aliens, and there are more adventures in store. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Who Sells Your Phone Number ... And Inaccurate And Defamatory Info About You?

When was the last time you "DuckDucked" your own phone number? (Apologies to Duck Duck Go, but I cannot bring myself to type "goed".)

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?

Deja vu?

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: 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. did not make it easy to opt out, and I spent some time poking around on that site but an email to resulted in prompt manual removal. 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. 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

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 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. 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 and a seemingly live and polite person will manually remove your info. 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!

Lexology link

Original link

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 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,

Rowena Cherry