Thursday, February 20, 2020

Social Media in the Raging 20s

In her latest LOCUS post, Kameron Hurley writes about tension and anxiety in the era of instantaneous communication and miscommunication:

Into the Raging 20s We Ride

She discusses misinformation, the pitfalls of following news bites in real time, the anxiety caused by exposure to floods of "unfettered" and unfiltered content, and feelings of helplessness when overwhelmed by what appear to be irresistible, impersonal forces. The essay begins with this generalization: "I’ve found that the insidious problem for me in scrolling through social media is that it feels like action. Ironically, it also creates – in me – a profound feeling of being out of control over events in the wider world, while generating a huge amount of anxiety and worry."

We tend to think if we Like or Share a post on a vital topic, we've done something about it. We often forget to dig deeper for reliable information or to seek out something concrete we can do in the real world. Hurley recommends rekindling the joy of creation, as well as becoming more intentional and selective about the online sources we expose ourselves to. She points out, "Our always-on culture has been driven by organizations that seek to get an increasing share of a finite resource: our attention. The more attention I give their services and algorithms, the less attention I have for the things that matter to me." The "luxury of deep focus" is an important resource of which social media can deprive us; Hurley writes about the need to rediscover that focus.

I was surprised at her remark that she's trying to spend more time on books. When and why did her book-reading decrease, I wonder? I can't imagine not reading a portion of a book-length work every day (in practice, two or three, since I always have several books going at one time, each for a different reading slot in my schedule). Unlike many people, including Hurley, I don't get ensnared by Facebook for long sessions. Some days, if time runs out, I barely glance at it or don't open it at all. When I do scan my feed, I devote only twenty minutes or so to it. Since I've friended or followed so many people, the content is effectively infinite, so there's no point in trying to consume all of it. The organizations and individuals I'm really interested in, I see regularly near the top of the page. My personal infinite black holes in terms of online reading are Quora and TV Tropes, where I have to make a conscious effort not to get sucked in except during free time I've specifically allotted to recreational surfing.

Hurley's comments about the illusion of taking action remind me of some lines from C. S. Lewis's THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS. (Like Shakespeare, Lewis offers an apt quote for almost any situation.) With regard to steering the victim's "wandering attention" away from what he ought to be spending his time on, senior demon Screwtape advises his pupil, "You no longer need a good book, which he really likes" to distract the "patient"; "a column of advertisements in yesterday's paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes but also in conversations with those he cares nothing about." Later, Screwtape says, "The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel." Screwtape would probably get a lot of mileage from the temptation to chase an endless chain of web links down multiple rabbit holes. In a different work (I can't remember which), Lewis points out that our brains weren't designed to cope with infinite demands on our sympathy in the form of a torrent of news about crises and disasters in distant places that we have no power to affect. I wonder what Lewis would say about social media and the 24-hour news cycle. His reaction would definitely not be favorable; in his lifetime, he avoided reading newspapers on the grounds that the content was often distorted or downright false.

Hurley's essay concludes with a declaration that's easy to applaud but often hard to practice: "Our attention, like our lives, is finite. Choose wisely."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic Part 4 - Fifty Year Test

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic
Part 4
Fifty Year Test

Previous parts in "How do you know if you've written a classic?" series are:

Part 1 in this Series is about writing a "classic" illustrating the long time fan discovering new entries in a series.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-do-you-know-if-youve-written.html

Part 2, Spock's Katra, is a long answer to a request for material for an online blog.  My answer focused on Theodore Bikel and his roles in Star Trek.

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2015/10/how-do-you-know-if-youve-written.html

Part 3 answers very insightful interview questions from a Podcast host.  The verbal podcast interview is very different, but here are answers done with some time to think of how to explain the invisible connections between Star Trek, my deep study of the fan dynamics of the TV Series, and my own original universe Sime~Gen novels.

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/07/how-do-you-know-if-youve-written.html
Now in Part 4 we look at an OLD historical mainstream novel (written in the mid 1960's) - not a Romance Genre item which leaves you room to shift genres and make a truly original contribution to the field.  Study its marketing and now re-marketing as an ebook (I picked it up on Kindle, free, when advertised on BookBub).

Romance Genre needs marketing like this.  There are plenty of Historical novels as good, and even more that are just plain better, set in the 1800's, that should be promoted like this.

https://www.amazon.com/Tai-Pan-Epic-Novel-Founding-Asian-ebook/dp/B07HB94TBJ/


This novel is about the founding of Hong Kong.  In 2018, Hong Kong exploded into the news with "protests" and marches against being "ruled" by China.  China is in the news with "trade negotiations" -- and intellectual property theft (a crime that didn't exist when Hong Kong was founded).

The THEMATIC issues that a Romance writer can lift from Clavell's "Asian Saga" will seem as if they were ripped from the headlines of the 2020's.

Clavell played up the sex and violence.  If you re-set this entire "founding of" and the rise of an international mogul into the coming Space Age where nations fight for trade among the planets and asteroids with a focus on Romance, in 50 years, you might see your themes repeating in the headlines.  Clavell didn't live long enough, but did see the sure success of a classic.

I am seeing his "style" of writing emerging in the science fiction field, so blend Romance into the mix, study the style, create a new genre if you add dimensions of Soul Mates to politics and the forces that move human history.  Don't forget to include E. E. Smith's Lensman Series premise and themes. 

Yes, humanity never learns, or maybe new souls have to take the same courses of instruction in the school of hard knocks, but that stubborn, dense-headed element of humanity is what you can exploit to create a Classic Romance of the magnitude that Clavell has reached.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Worldbuilding From Reality Part 12 - Worldbuilding Focuses Plot Options

Worldbuilding From Reality
Part 12
Worldbuilding Focuses Plot Options 

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

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2017/05/index-to-worldbuilding-from-reality.html

Part 11 is about "Worldbuilding Does Not A Story Make" -- which is true.

But Theme is the foundation of Worldbuilding -- what is the substance, nature and function of "reality" -- what does it mean, "the science fiction world," "the art world," "the financial world?"

"World" seems to have both an objective and subjective component or connotation.

Our subjective "world" is focused on our major interest of the moment, on the one thing that looms largest in our perceptions, what we understand as the generator of the parameters within which the future (or at least our own lives) will flourish.

In other words, "world" means "Happily Ever After."

World defines not only what we see, but what we don't (or refuse) to see.

So the subjective perception of "the world" around us does not make the story of our lives, but rather defines the options for actions that will generate the conflicts which, when resolved, reveal what the Story of Our Lives is really about.

One of the definitive points in the life/story/plot of a generation is the War of the Times.

We talk about World War I and World War II, which have generated many movies, many Romances.  Romance flourishes during War because life-or-death-risks are so very primal.

We talk about the Korean War, especially these days with the North Korea vs South Korea conflict in play, with North Korea still allied with (or under the thumb of) China.  We talk about Vietnam, still in living memory of adults now putting their children through college.  Vietnam War is of special interest to today's young audiences because the US politics of the time fractured under the stressful question of whether the USA should be involved at all, while at the same time we still had the Draft which attempted to force young men to go fight.

Every generation has had young men (and now women) blooded in combat, and those who have fought aver that it changed them, opened a gulf between them and those who did not get deployed into real explosive danger.

While you're up to your ass in alligators, it is hard to remember your objective was to drain the swamp.

Our objective, as writers, is to explain how, in everyday reality, a reader can act in order to achieve an actual, Happily Ever After expanse of decades of life.

Right now, in 2020, the HEA as a real life achievement seems to be an idiotic idea.

But in Science Fiction Romance, in Paranormal Romance, you can find not only hope, but a workable plan.

There still exist aspects of everyday life that respond to your personal actions and decisions.  Finding them is one thing, and then presenting those options to your readers is yet another hurdle to leap over.

Here is the principle behind using fiction to convince a reader that they have such options, and the personal ability, fortitude, heroism, and luck to be able to implement that option - make it real in everyday life.

People don't believe what they are told.

People believe what they figure out for themselves.

The harder they have to work at figuring, the more convinced they become of the ultimate truth behind their discovery.

The writing principle is SHOW DON'T TELL.

Once the reader SEES, they figure out for themselves what it means.

Here are two series of posts about how to structure a convincing argument for the Happily Ever After ending.

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2016/11/index-to-believing-in-happily-ever-after.html

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2018/02/index-to-theme-symbolism-integration.html

SYMBOLISM is how the writer SHOWS without TELLING. Master its use.

The reader, in times like these, is looking at a world boiling over, spoiling for a fight (or an additional fight), whole massive groups of people trying to force other massive groups to change their behavior.

Historians have often determined that wars are, at their root, all about economics.

We seem to be in an epoch of human history boiling over with passionate religious convictions, one of which is that it is a religious duty to force everyone to adopt your religion, forsaking all others.

But look deeper, and you may find where that same hardwired human propensity for believing is filled up with belief in things other than deities.

Some believe in socialism with the same religious passion others believe in capitalism.  A writer searching for a theme could ask questions about whether any "...ism" is healthy to believe in.

Apparently, humans must believe something.  If that mental  component of our "world" or "world view" is empty, something noxious will crawl in to inhabit it.

Whatever is hiding in the "belief" compartment of our world view will manifest in our behavior.

Behavior, both habitual and adopted (such as living on junk food vs. going on a keto diet) behaviors are plot generators because the internal conflict kicked up between what hides in "belief" and what we, ourselves, or others around us, try to stuff into that belief compartment is a War To The Death.

"War to the Death" internally generates the external behavior that matches it,  thus driving the Plot.

To be a novel, that plot (or sequence of actions) must evolve all the way to a resolution (not the resolution, but at least a resolutions) of the internal and external conflicts.

In our everyday real world, the hatred and revenge fueled wars (large and small) are not likely to be resolved in our lifetimes.  But the internal war between what we believe and what others insist we must believe (or die) can be resolved.

Once that internal conflict is resolved, the INDIVIDUAL is at peace, regardless of the video clips bombarding them from all sides.

That state of internal peace, shared by a couple, reinforced by the coupling itself, is in fact the Happily Ever After.

Here is an article which indicates a connecting link between economics (the source of war) and behavior (the source of dramatic plots).

https://www.inc.com/melina-palmer/these-5-simple-concepts-of-behavioral-economics-can-drastically-improve-your-marketing-efforts.html

Subtitled: The human brain doesn't make decisions in the way we think it "should."

The article is about how marketers use your beliefs to trick you into behaving as they want you to, even if it is against your best interests.

Find a story that goes with such conflict and plots as hinted at in that piece and you will have a novel series.

To find the story, find the Characters who live in that "world."  Their subjective world is nestled in an objective world they can't see because of a belief jammed in under the beliefs they think they espouse.

If you can create that World-within-World structure with your worldbuilding, any story you tell will be vivid with verisimilitude.

Here are two more posts discussing how all this fits together with our modern, contemporary headlines -- ugly headlines we can rip Romance out of.

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2016/06/depiction-part-14-depicting-cultural.html

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/09/soul-mates-and-hea-real-or-fantasy-part.html

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Tax Time Checklist For Writers

Does your business have a name?  Do you write as an LLC?
If you are an LLC, do you have an EIN, (Employer Id Number) even if you have no employees, and have you filed an annual report with your State and paid the fee?

Is the business an ongoing one?  If not, when did you dispose of it?
Do you have an inventory?
If you do, was there a change in the quantities, costs, or value between your opening inventory on Jan 1st 2019 and your closing inventory on Dec 31st 2019?

Were you involved in the business on a regular or substantial basis?
Did you pay anyone more that $600 to assist you with your work, if so, have you prepared forms 1099 for them?

You can get these forms mailed to you free from the IRS website. You do not need to enrich any office supply shop. If you need 1099s, you will also need 1096s for the government.

Who paid you?  Do you have 1099-Ks?  How about 1099-MISCs?  Royalties? Sales?  Did you charge tax?

If you sold produce, what was the cost of your materials and supplies? Were there other costs? (Mailing, perhaps?)

Are you depreciating your business inventory?  If you have computers, iphones, ipads, printers, scanners, antivirus subscriptions, thumb/flash drives, a subscription to register.com or its like etc, you could be depreciating those.

What about your expenses?  Are you paying for advertising? Do you have travel expenses... to the post office or to your mail box or to your local office supply store?  Do you have parking fees or tolls in connection with business... maybe to attend an Authors Guild or RWA local chapter meeting? If you went off-site, can you claim for hotels, and meals, and registration fees, and taxis and goodness knows what else?
If you were lucky enough to buy a best selling author or an editor a drink, you might claim for that (if you kept the receipt)!

How about your expenses in attending an AGM or convention?

Don't forget about insurance. Did you pay to protect yourself in case you are sued for whatever reason, rightly or wrongly?  An author must protect himself/herself/themself. Other than health insurance, an author can probably claim a deduction.

Did you pay a lawyer?  Did you pay a webmaster? Did you pay a designer? An editor? A reader? A printer? A publicist? A babysitter?

If you are using a specific room in your home exclusively for your writing, you can deduct a fraction of the costs of your home for whatever percentage the office is of your home size... so what is your mortgage? Or your rent? What are your heating bills? What are your electricity bills? Water and sewer? What are your burglar alarm bills? What are your internet/cable bills? Phone bills? Repair and maintenance bills?  ETC.

Are you making enough from your writing to fund an IRA?

Do not forget supplies: ink, toner, paper, envelopes and mailers, storage and filing supplies, files, folders, staples, replacing surge protectors, storage, etc.  Also any repairs and maintenance and geek squad visits or paid visits to the genius bar.

Did you keep a record of the taxes you have paid, the license fees.

You can also claim for your subscriptions, memberships, union dues, and your PO Box.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry





Thursday, February 13, 2020

Where Are the Editors?

It's discouraging that, while reading books from major publishers, I run into "Where was the editor?" moments all too often. As a reader, I've always been picky about details, and working for over twenty years as a legislative editor exacerbated that tendency. I can't NOT see errors in printed publications. (Spotting them in my own writing, of course, is less reliable; like many if not most writers, I tend to see what I thought I wrote rather than what appears on the screen.) I grind my teeth and mentally scream, "Where was the editor?!"

Some examples from novels I've read lately: "Putting on the breaks" instead of "brakes." Putting someone "through the ringer" instead of the "wringer." That hardy perennial "it's" (it is) for "its" (possessive). And not exactly an error, but a little odd—"damnit" instead of the more usual "dammit." (Many years ago, I read a book review containing the remark that "damnit" sounded as if the curse were directed solely at immature lice.)

In a particular book co-written by one of my favorite authors, the text constantly substitutes "snuck" for "sneaked" and "anyways" for "anyway." Granted, the younger generations habitually use those words, so they're appropriate in the dialogue of teenagers and young adults. However, this novel also has those errors committed by a middle-aged bookstore owner and an immortal elf, as well as the third-person narrative voice. In the latter case, it might be argued that the narrator is echoing the mental processes of the tight-third-person viewpoint character (if that happens to be a teenager in a given scene), but I maintain that this usage makes it sound as if the authors themselves don't know better.

And then there are factual errors, which I don't spot so often. (After all, noticing them depends on whether the problem relates to a subject I know about.) A 2019 contemporary fantasy I enjoyed very much makes it clear—repeatedly, not in what might be an isolated lapse—that the authors think Long Beach, California, is in San Diego. They're in two different counties!

Maybe some readers don't notice or cringe at typos and errors. As both an English major and a former proofreader, I find such things distracting, although seldom enough to spoil my pleasure in a book. If the lapses are so frequent they cast doubt on the author's command of language, of course, that's a different matter. What bug and baffle me are obvious mistakes in otherwise good books by bestselling authors from major publishers. Have standards and/or staff budgets fallen in recent decades? Or am I falsely remembering a nonexistent golden age when novels were more thoroughly edited? Nowadays, it's a refreshing pleasure to read through an entire book without once muttering, "Where was the editor?"

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Soul Mates and the HEA Real or Fantasy Part 10 - Smallest Indivisible Particle of Soul

Soul Mates and the HEA
Real or Fantasy
Part 10
Smallest Indivisible Particle of Soul 


Previous entries in the Soul Mates and the HEA Real or Fantasy series are indexed here:

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/05/index-to-soul-mates-and-hea-real-or.html

Romance genre focuses on the moment two people meet with the CHIME of True Love echoing from the collision.

Like the music of the spheres, that CHIME is "audible" to the Soul, but not so much to the ears (usually).

Combining with a Soul Mate often, but not always, leads to the Happily Ever After point in life.  It is not an "ending" but a new beginning, setting sail on calm seas, knowing there will be storms tossing life into new courses, perhaps running aground.

The "life course" that the new couple embarks on reflects the progress of the joining, combining, uniting, the fertile Mating of these two Souls.

It is often confusing, bewildering, even enraging and embittering, to experience the abrasive polishing of your Soul by another.

One reason everyday people live through marriage with volcanic emotional eruptions, alternately loving and hating their Soul Mate is the lack of a THEORY of what a Soul is.

THEORY

Theory of what the universe is, what reality is, what human society is, is for, is right or wrong, generates the underlying, envelope THEME of a novel.

Any given writer may produce novels on several (often mutually exclusive) theories of reality, of what love is, what hate is, where it comes from, how it affects the course of decisions and consequent events.

Picking a theory, and generating a theme, is the foundation of Worldbuilding.

Most often, the choices are not conscious - as the writer just sits down and records the story the Characters tell her.

The act of writing, though, often creates a consuming interest in a new theory, generating new, divergent themes that just have to be written about because new Characters start shouting their stories into the writer's ear.

Writing begets writing.  That's why the advice to beginners, and those who are just suddenly stuck staring at a blank page, is  simply WRITE.  Just write something - you can change it later.

We have often touched on the fertile source of theories and themes we find in everyday headlines.  We rip stories from the Headlines and run with them into new worlds, alternate realities, or historical epochs.

We started to collect some real world headlines to rip Romance stories from:

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2020/01/headlines-to-rip-stories-from-part-1.html

And here is an index to posts about using real world headlines:
https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/08/index-to-posts-about-using-real-world.html

There is another, major, source used by writers such as Ursula LeGuinn, Andre Norton, and many others who are my favorite authors -- Ancient Mythology, Great Philosophers (Aristotle, etc), Ancient and Modern Religions.

All the, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" thinkers and writers fascinate me.  I, however, have more of a physics-math-chemistry style of thinking, so I use tools such as Astrology and Tarot, searching for (and mostly finding) solid links between that thinking and Biblical thought.

Chabad.org is my current favorite source of well organized, and thus usable, worldbuilding concepts.

So, when it comes to Romance between Soul Mates, here is where I find the most lucid and readily applicable description of the mechanism of love, mating, and living life.

Why do we fumble through so much pain?

Develop a theoretical answer to that question and you will generate themes galore.

We look at Souls as a single THING -- a component of our selves.

Maybe that view needs refinement, just as we have had to refine our view of the atom.  Remember the Ancient Greeks coined the word Atom to mean the smallest INDIVISIBLE particle of matter.  Turns out there is no such thing.  We split the atom (with explosive consequences), and went on to dissect the particles the atom flew apart into.

All particles come apart. But they have an organizing structure.

If this is true of the components of solid matter, perhaps it is also true of Souls.

I've noted many times that I learned in a class, years ago, that the Soul enters manifestation through the dimension of time.

This explains why we can't measure it with instruments made of matter. It has no dimensions -- no height, width, length, weight. It has DURATION, and is manifest, but the Soul has no physical properties.

Now, here below is a link to an article which explains one of the oldest notions of how Souls are structured, and it seems to me the structure echoes the structure of matter as we have now discovered it to be.

We start thinking the Soul is a single, indivisible, component of our Self.

But when we meet a Soul Mate, we find internal parts of our Soul jostling for attention, for prominence, to lead the process of fusion.  Other parts may shrink from anticipated pain.  Simple animal lust of the animal soul that energizes the physical body may overwhelm all the nuanced emotions of the inner components of the complicated Soul.  Every aspect of Identity is disturbed.

How do we explain loving someone so much you hate them?

If you use a theory of reality that views Souls as complicated, existing on different levels, and each level performing a different function, fusing into Relationship with the Mate's (also complex) Soul, suddenly you can explain the bewildering confusion of "falling in love."

So here is one theory you can use to generate themes upon which to build worlds in which Characters wrench, twist, and scrub their way into Relationships that redirect the course of human (and non-human) history.

https://www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/380651/jewish/Neshamah-Levels-of-Soul-Consciousness.htm

This web page delineates the characteristics and functions of the souls termed Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, and Yechida.


What does it take to reach the other side of Romance where the Happily Ever After Ending is only the beginning of ever more intense levels of joy, satisfaction, revelation?

Watch the Headlines of your favorite news outlet and try to see the people, events, deeds, decisions, and consequences in terms of the interactions of the multiplex components of Souls -- internal conflicts playing out externally where you can see them.

Find a theory of the HEA, how it starts, how it functions, what sustains it, and what it takes to get there all depicted graphically in the explosive headlines of this year.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Nuts

If you wish to read about testicles, this is not the venue. At least, not this day. Nor do I intend to discuss a staple of the vegan diet.

This is about copyright-related news that does not make sense.

Yesterday, on a very prestigious forum for authors, in a thread about ebook piracy, one correspondent opined, "It's just downloading..."

In fact, it is the downloading that creates multiple, perfect, illegal copies.

Meanwhile, on one of the most-watched financial channels, a panel was discussing Artificial Intelligence, and the scraping of social media sites for privately-taken and also commercially-taken photographs for commercial exploitation and facial recognition technology.

The one aspect that the anchor and panelists never mentioned at all was the massive copyright infringement.
Anyone who takes a photograph owns the copyright to that photograph. If you post a selfie, you do not automatically grant Clearview AI or anyone else a license to sell your face to the fuzz.

Sputnik news has the scoop:
https://sputniknews.com/science/202002061078248616-facebook-demands-facial-recognition-startup-stop-scraping-images-from-platform-/

Even that very informative article glosses over a very important term: "publicly available".
https://www.lawinsider.com/dictionary/publicly-available

There is a difference between something being available to view, and available to copy and re-publish and distribute.

Another nutty misunderstanding that is prevalent among pirates is of "public domain".
https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Public-domain

Just because someone uploaded an illegal copy of a novel to a website does not mean that that novel is lawfully in the public domain.  Not if the author is still alive, or deceased within the last 70 years.

Likewise, those who are curious about their ancestors and long lost relatives do not necessarily intend to donate to a government DNA database. If Heritage/Ancestry/ 23&Me keeps pestering you to give permission for your DNA to be used for "research", do not agree. They've probably already sold your DNA is a job lot and are trying to clean up their bases.

If you gave a spit, you'd better keep a diary, and have an alibi for every hour of every day and night!

Allegedly, Amazon is getting in on the use of  faked or fake people to avoid having to pay royalties to real people.  If one is famous --or merely attractive and popular-- and they have multiple views of your face and tracks of your voice, there's no limit to the liberties "they" can take.

Chris Castle writes:
https://musictechpolicy.com/2020/02/07/the-singularity-is-nigh-amazon-fake-brand-personality-follows-chinas-fake-news-presenter-with-us-right-of-publicity-infringement/

Also Amazon-related, there was one rare victory this last week against the inexorable incursions of Amazon and AI on authors' rights was that of the Association of American Publishers against Audible Captions.
https://publishingperspectives.com/2020/02/copyright-coup-as-association-american-publishers-succeeds-in-audible-captions-case/

Copyrighting anything including one's photographs is not as expensive as one might imagine. Wiki How explains the steps:
https://www.wikihow.com/Copyright-Photographs

Copyright.gov has the fee schedule in effect from 2014, (and one can copyright a batch of photographs for one fee.)
https://www.copyright.gov/about/fees.html

Act quickly. Copyright registration costs are likely to rise by more than 20% this coming Spring 2020. Except for batches of photographs. No increase is proposed for that.
https://www.copyright.gov/rulemaking/feestudy2018/proposed-fee-schedule.pdf

Finally, the Copyright Alliance.org is asking (again) for action to encourage Oregon Senator #JustOne Ron Wyden to stop his opposition to anything that might improve copyright protections for authors, musicians and other creators.

https://copyrightalliance.org/ca_post/why-is-senator-wyden-the-only-obstacle-standing-between-americas-creators-and-justice/?_zs=TqSBb&_zl=bOTw1

One of his felon-friendly* rationales for blocking the #CASEAct is that mere downloaders ought not to face any disincentive for "stealing" or "sharing" copyrighted content that the creators rely on to pay their bills #MySkillsPayBills.

Apparently, @RonWyden would also like to change Fair Use from a defense for defendants to a negative proposition --i.e. that the infringement was not fair use-- to be proven by the plaintiffs.

That's just nuts!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 
SPACE SNARK™ http://www.spacesnark.com/ 

*PS....copyright infringement is not a felony. 



Thursday, February 06, 2020

Going Deeper

A few weeks ago, the associate rector of our church delivered a sermon sparked by the question, "What do you want?" Beyond and beneath the superficial needs and wishes, what do you REALLY want out of life? As a recurring motif in the talk, she repeated several times, "Go deeper." The admonition to "go deeper" applies to writing, too.

In the January 2020 RWR (the magazine of the Romance Writers of America), Shirley Jump's regular column "Your Writing Coach" dealt with the topic, "Creating deeper motivation: The rule of six." What does your protagonist want and why? We have more than one motivation for almost everything we do, and in creating a believable protagonist, the writer should delve deeper. Jump recommends digging down for six layers of motivation, hence the title of the article. By the time the writer gets to number six, she says, the process should become hard. She also notes that the character's true, deepest motivation is not the one he or she recognizes on the surface. The first motivations that come to mind are likely to be external factors, while the last layers uncovered tend to be "the deeper internal motivations." One of her examples imagines a character who wants to save her grandmother's farm because that's the wellspring of her happy childhood memories. The deeper motivation not recognized by the character herself, however, is that the farm serves as her "security blanket" because she doesn't want to leave her familiar community.

Jump demonstrates the technique by analyzing the character of Shrek from the first movie in his series. First, he wants to get the intruders out of his swamp. To accomplish that purpose, he has to confront Lord Farquaad. Shrek is angry and "helpless to fix this himself." He's angry because he wants his sanctuary (the swamp) back. The root cause of this desire, according to Jump, is that he withdraws from other people and creatures to avoid pain (as demonstrated by his preemptive rejection of Donkey). She refers to "layering in" the characters' deeper feelings and motivations and also recommends making sure each scene conveys some aspect of those motivations.

Her "saving the farm" example brings to mind GONE WITH THE WIND. In the beginning, teenage Scarlett thinks she'll attain complete happiness if she marries Ashley. She barely hears her Irish father's passionate speech about the importance of land, the only thing that lasts. Her obsession with Ashley lingers until the very end, when she wakes up to the realization that her alleged love for him has been only a girlish fantasy all along. Meanwhile, though, a newly discovered motivation dominates her actual behavior and decisions—saving Tara. All her major choices (except marrying Rhett, and she admits she does even that partly for the money), such as tricking Frank into marriage and becoming a hardheaded businesswoman, are motivated by the need to support Tara and her family. The deeper motivation for that need is the role of Tara as a symbol of stability and material security. The deepest motivation breaks out in the iconic mid-point scene when she fiercely vows, "I'll never be hungry again."

The "layering" image strongly resonates with me, because that's how I tend to revise my fiction. Many writing experts advise that proper revision consists of cutting, that later drafts should be shorter than the first draft because rewriting should trim extraneous material. Well, not my revisions; my second drafts are almost always longer than the first. That's because I start with dialogue, action, and necessary description and exposition. The emotional, sensory, and to some extent descriptive elements of scenes are always on the "thin" side the first time around. I need to expand and enhance those elements to make scenes and characters come to life. Sure, I often cut on the micro level, since my sentences are often unnecessarily convoluted or wordy (maybe a side effect of having produced so much academic nonfiction over the years). On the macro level, though, the total word count nevertheless increases more often than it decreases. In my current WIP, the heroine faces the certainty of losing her job in six months because the business (an independent bookstore) is going to close. Therefore, it becomes vital, not just a pleasant prospect, to sell the graphic novel series she and the hero have created to a major publisher, so she'll have a financial cushion. Digging to the next layer down, getting that cushion is important to her not only for practical reasons but for emotional ones. Because her father's gambling addiction almost destroyed her parents' marriage in her teens and young adult years, she's obsessed with financial security. Her unhappy memories of those years also make it hard for her to trust the hero and lead her to leap to negative assumptions whenever it seems he might let her down. Those don't quite add up to six motivations, but the general idea is the same.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Whacked Moles

While I am no proponent of cruelty to visually impaired, mammalian insectivores that enjoy a subterranean lifestyle, I do rejoice when prolific violators of copyright laws get their come-uppance.

Authors, if you go to Slide Share, which is owned by LinkedIN, which is owned by Microsoft, and type in your name or your book titles in the Search bar, you may find that your books are being "shared", but if you cut and paste the urls of the the titles and the urls of the infringers onto the complaint form, the infringing "slides" will be taken down promptly, and the pirates may well lose their accounts on that site.

Kudos to LinkedIN, and also to the Authors Guild.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry
www.spacesnark.com


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Science in SF

A LOCUS article by Kelly Lagor discusses how accurate the science in science fiction needs to be:

Putting the Science in Science Fiction

She distinguishes two aspects of the use of science in stories, "how science plays a role in a story’s message" and "how it is portrayed within the story itself." She quotes numerous SF writers on the issues of factual accuracy of the science in fiction, the author's responsibility to the reader, and how the reader's trust can be won and kept. Elizabeth Bear, for instance, "distinguishes between how different types of stories require different types of accuracy."

Personally, I lean strongly toward the "accuracy required" end of the opinion spectrum. If, as one author quoted mentions, the science in the story is based on present-day facts and theories, it's particularly important not to violate that present-day knowledge, because some readers will certainly notice and object. In a more speculative, futuristic story, the writer has more scope for imaginative variation. And then there are the familiar tropes with no solid basis in contemporary science, such as FTL drives and time travel, which can be accepted as fictional premises for the sake of setting up the background for the plot.

In works that use science fiction tropes for purposes of allegory or satire rather than quasi-realistic extrapolation from real-world facts and theories, I concede that accuracy doesn't hold the highest priority.

The only science fiction I've written consists of stories in the Darkover anthologies. Hard-SF people might not consider Darkover true science fiction because of the unproven status of psychic powers in real life. Although my vampire fiction features naturally evolved, not supernatural, vampires, I don't venture to call it SF because the biology of my vampire species isn't worked out in depth. I include just enough of a biological rationale for their traits to (I hope) suspend the reader's disbelief. So it's more like "science fantasy."

Regardless of faithfulness to current factual knowledge, the writers surveyed in Lagor's article agree that authors must consistently follow the established rules of their fictional worlds. This precept applies to both science fiction and fantasy (not to mention all kinds of "realism" as well). That's one reason I prefer to write fantasy; one can invent one's own rules as long as they make internally consistent sense.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Reviews 52 - The New Improved Sorceress, Book Two of Wayward Mages

Reviews 52
The New Improved Sorceress
Book Two
 of 
Wayward Mages

Reviews posts have not been indexed.

The previous book by Sara Hanover, The Late Great Wizard,


was discussed related to Soul Mates in this post:

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2018/12/reviews-43-late-great-wizard-by-sara.html





Now we will look at the second book in the Wayward Mages series, The New Improved Sorceress.

2020 as a year will be one replete with headlines to be sliced, diced analyzed, and re-purposed for your own worldbuilding. 

The themes, the drumbeat of civilization, is shifting tempo.  New styles and new artistic statements will be emerging -- well, not "new" new ones, just the very oldest from pre-history onward, repeating in an ever progressing spiral.

Finding the deepest, most invisible issues readers are wrestling with sends authors to the top of the charts. 

Sarah Hanover has amalgamated the themes and symbols that have electrified readers for about ten years now.  Hanover might be finishing off the discussion of these topics using these symbols -- Phoenix rebirth in fire, ordinary girl thrust into world of magic, magical politics (various mythical creatures organized and opposing each other, trying to stay unnoticed by our world), and many other symbols.

Hanover's new series, Wayward Mages, is Urban Fantasy illustrating the secret world under/beside our "real" world.  Because the readership for this kind of World has "read it all before,"  she has created a number of characters just being introduced to the magic side of the world who shrug and accept it. 

This late in the cycle of Harry Potter Urban Fantasy, the Characters have to behave this way so the story can just get on with it.  Readers of this genre are no longer fighting their way into believing there is more to reality than they see.  So the Characters don't fight that battle, and just get on with conquering Evil and saving the world.

This is a series you should pick up and follow because it may be one of the last of its kind. 

Hanover uses the whole pantheon of magical creatures -- Phoenix, Harpies, Elves, inter-dimensional ghost, etc, etc -- and brings those odd species to life for us. She doesn't portray the magical creatures as "Aliens" -- (as science fiction aliens from outer space) -- but simply makes them plain American type ordinary people with magic-imperative agendas. 

You could identify with any of these "people." 

And they do intermarry among themselves (which causes trouble) and with humans (more trouble). 

You can now see a budding Romance between the main Character, Tessa, possessed by a magical object that has embedded itself in her hand, and the Professor (a Phoenix in process of regenerating).  But something sizzles between Tessa and the local, magic-user Cop.  It is definitely the plot-driving Relationship of the series, so far.

As more books come out, we might find the overall theme is, "What exactly makes Souls Mate?" 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com


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.)
https://graydon.law/sexual-assaults-and-defamation-litigation-an-emerging-trend/

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.

https://www.azmirror.com/2020/01/08/internet-libel-lawsuits-social-media-posts/

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.
https://brodies.com/blog/dispute-resolution/katie-price-and-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 
SPACE SNARK™ http://www.spacesnark.com/

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:

Xenobots

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
by
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
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

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.
https://www.novagraaf.com/en/insights/need-know-bad-faith-trademark-law

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.
https://www.filewrapper.com/filewrapper/when-youtubers-cry-prince-concert-videos-deemed-not-fair-use?filewrapper=true

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 
SPACE SNARK™ http://www.spacesnark.com/  

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.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/11/researchers-find-dangerous-fda-rejected-drug-in-supplements-by-reading-labels/

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

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.
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/bottle

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:
https://literarydevices.net/metonymy/

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.
https://bookriot.com/2020/01/06/buying-books-onto-the-bestseller-list/

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!
https://writersweekly.com/in-the-news/in-the-news-01-09-2020?utm_source=mailpoet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=writersweekly-com-112119_67

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.
https://www.foxbusiness.com/lifestyle/fastenal-fires-worker-who-criticized-holiday-gift-via-twitter

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.
https://www.dailywire.com/news/breaking-covington-catholic-student-nick-sandmann-gets-settlement-from-cnn-after-275-million-lawsuit

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:
https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=e781baf6-c91e-43fd-8d99-507b520a2c2d

Original link:
https://www.squirepattonboggs.com/-/media/files/insights/publications/2020/01/why-the-threat-of-an-iranian-cyberattack-should-matter-to-your-organization/36730--giwc--why-the-threat-of-an-iranian-cyberattack-should-matter-to-your-organization--alert.pdf

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,  https://www.amazon.com/House-Zeor-Sime-Gen-Book-Sime-Gen-ebook/dp/B004N3AZJG/


...to 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
https://www.amazon.com/Shift-Means-Sime-Gen-Springs-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B07YYRBRSM/

Paper:
https://www.amazon.com/Shift-Means-Clear-Springs-Chronicles/dp/1479445053/

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
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

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.
https://www.slideshare.net/

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.
https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/ask/TS-NCI?lang=en

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.
http://pearlcohen.com/news/2019/12/31/us-internet-access-provider-hit-with-a-billion-dollar-verd/

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