Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Paradigm Shift

In another context this week, I was asked to give clues to writers on how to handle Writer's Block. This blog entry is actually one (of many) such clues I have to offer. If Writer's Block seems to be a problem for you, follow the thinking here, then go find totally different input data and replicate this kind of thinking. Eventually, you'll find something to say that only you can say.

Two online newspaper stories came to my attention last week about social change starting to affect other levels of our culture while at the same time this Alien Romance blog began examining some ethics and moral issues, and now Linnea Sinclair has brought up a George R. R. Martin anti-hero -- pondering that character's value in a Romance!

Of course, the most alien aliens in Alien Romance or any Paranormal Romance are humans. It's not only that "verisimilitude" thing we're talking about -- it isn't just that we create our aliens to have something human in them so readers can understand them. It is that humans are in fact alienated from one another, at a very basic psychological level.

The icon, or symbolic representation of this is the Tower of Babel -- the Tower Card in most Tarot decks refers to this psychological barrier we carry. (My Not So Minor Arcana Tarot books do not include the Major Arcana like the Tower Card.)

Our minds are fragmented by these Tower barriers, and we are divided from one another by them. And yes, the differences between genders are included in that compartmentalization.
As a result, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.

Criminals are too alien to comprehend for law-abiding folks. Infanticide is unthinkable to those who haven't been driven over that edge. And so on through all the "immoral" and "unethical" acts.

When normally sane people are driven over that edge, I think they are striking OUT at an anguish that originates INSIDE themselves.

The strike doesn't solve the problem because the target is wrong, so they hit harder and HARDER until someone stops them. Every blow at the external target makes the internal pain worse, but they can't see how they are hurting themselves.

The Tower represents the barrier that divides the inner self from the outer world, and the shocking experience of discovering that the two are one. When you hit OUT, you hit IN too.

Until you've crossed one of those barriers, you don't know they exist.

Loss of Virginity is one such barrier we cross. Those on one side really can't communicate to those on the other side of that barrier.

Being "blooded" as a soldier is another. Committing your first criminal act, or trying your first alcoholic drink -- or drugging with friends, are also losses of virginity. Those who have done these things are forever alienated from those who have not.

Maybe computer gaming is such a barrier.

Turning 30 is another. (Saturn returns to its place when you're 28-29 and by the time you turn 30 you have crossed one of those divisions. You can't shout back across that chasm to the younger people.)

Crossing such a barrier is a Tower experience. You thought you knew it all. You discover you knew nothing. And you have no clue that you're wrong about that too. The Tower is a kind of cluelessness.

If you take the familiar barriers, language, age, innocence, and analyze them you can create an analogous barrier between human and non-human, then stretch and reach to connect in a Relationship across that barrier. That's Alien Romance.

Oh, I do wish my Boxmaster Trilogy had been published so I could refer you to just such an exercise. I have a few chapters of each of the volumes posted at http://www.simegen.com/jl/boxmaster/

I was writing about the shift in values from the Hero's values to the Husband's values.

The first volume was bought by a publisher that went under before publishing, but they said it was Heinleinesque. The very long third volume was presented to several agents and editors and none could get past the breaking of the SF trope into a gradual segue into the Romance trope in Chapter 4. This is not an action series, but it has action in it.

Several things I've encountered in the last few weeks have kept putting me in mind of the Boxmaster universe I built. I wrote it to be a paradigm shifting entry into the literature. It never got published. And now that paradigm is shifting under the impact of other forces.

The news articles I've seen recently fit into the pattern that's been developing in fiction publishing in general, but also exemplify a deep shift in the paradigm underneath our society. Fiction and movies (and gaming) don't cause change. They reflect it.

This paradigm shift is like an earthquake miles deep under the surface. It's felt only slightly on the surface, but it sets up fractures that will cause future quakes.

A deep paradigm shift has occurred this last few years, and we are starting (only starting) into massive change.

These social changes are of interest to writers (of any genre, but especially Romance) because they reveal much about the internal "life" of the readers. You can see what's happening inside the readers by what they strike out at. (News article blog comments on Yahoo for example reveal a lot.)

These newspaper (or News Service like AP, Reuters) articles surface only long after the actual events, very like scientific advances appear first in discussions at conferences and then maybe 5 years later, in the general press.

By the time it's in the newspaper, it's old news.

The ongoing significance lies in the simple fact that it is now coming to the consciousness of the readers of fiction and so writers have to adjust.

What were the two that caught my attention this week?

for their lives

I posted article b) to my facebook profile and it started a long discussion when another writer (former professor) Jonathan Vos Post commented on it on my facebook page.


People who work with college students have seen the expectations shift over the last generation.

Put these two articles together and you see a trend.

The Web has conditioned a generation to expect whatever they want for free (well advertising, but ignorable advertising). They have never known a world without peer-to-peer music sharing, and other copyright violating activities.

There are many websites that post e-books that are under copyright protection. It's worldwide and nobody can make them stop.

Copyright doesn't mean much anymore.

As a result of the communications revolution, the firm footing under writers has dissolved in yet another way, too.

Article a) shows us that text on paper is not the business model of the future.

Well, you and I have known that for years. It's e-books and web-news!

But have you been thinking what free on the web means in terms of who pays for it?

"Who pays for it" is not something this youngest generation is equipped to think about because of their "expectations" as delineated in the NYTimes article. (see article b) )

In the world of young expectations (pre-Tower Experience - Virgin Expectations), nobody pays for anything.

They are entitled. The implications of that are huge. Grades are a proxy for wages and they aren't learning the cost of getting a wage. What about the government printing money to give everyone a check or build some handy things like bridges. Nobody pays for any of that. You just get entitled. If the government gives it to you, it's free. Right?

"Who pays for it" is an issue organically intertwined with all the issues of morality Rowena Cherry brought up in her post

People advocate Pro-Life choices, but avoid "who pays for it" and in what coin. (Personally, I'm pro-Life, but that's another issue.) Contraceptives and Abortion have wrought a social change in which young people see no COST to personal intimate behavior and so fall screaming off their Tower when confronted with an unwanted pregnancy.

The core of all moral and ethical rules is the concept that everything has a cost if not a price. And cost is the pure essence of all business. Marriage can be a business as all Regency fans know.

A business model is a circuit diagram that shows how activity pumps money around in a circuit and multiplies the money to a profit.

You put this-that-the-other-thing in one end of the black box, and this-that-the-other-thing PLUS PROFIT comes out the other end.

The business model is the tracing of the circuit inside the black box.

The business model of NEWS is that a bunch of people scurry around the world scarfing up interesting tidbits of news, run home, write it up, turn it in and get paid. They then have the money to go out and do more scurrying. Someone has to go find the news -- and finding costs a lot. So whoever gets to read the news has to pay the reporter a living wage plus expenses.

Authors have a business model that used to go like this:

a) Buy a typewriter, paper, ribbons, white-out (or today, computer, backup device, net access) huge up-front investment
b) dream up something
c) ruin a lot of expensive paper by typing black squiggles on it. (wear out a computer keyboarding)
d) sell the ruined paper to a publisher
e) go through rewrite hell ruining more paper; galleys; eventually it's done
f) get paid more than it cost to buy paper, ink, reference books, computer whatever tools
g) buy more blank paper
h) ruin the new blank paper
i) sell it

A writer's business model is to sell ruined paper so they can buy more and groceries too.

It's a pump. You put in words, you get out money.

We have long since shifted from ruining paper to filling up external backup drives with files that tend to go obsolete before we can re-sell the words to another publisher.

Newspapers are just facing the fact (and resisting mightily -- this recession may convince them) that the business model has to shift drastically. Some papers in Philadelphia filed Chapter 11 this past week. At least it's 11 and not 7 (total liquidation).

People still want to know what's happening, but they want to know NOW not tomorrow, and NOW not when the 6PM news goes on. NOW - like on their blackberry.

But someone still has to scurry out and scarf up news and write it and post it -- and faster news costs more. Someone has to pay the reporter to scurry around, the editor to edit, the distributor to distribute (websites that really work cost a lot).

Now look at article b) about student expectations.

Their parents expect the news to pop up on their blackberry in real time. The kids grow up in a world of entitlement, where everyone has access. Parents even give kids cell phones.

Students go to schools where they don't have to trek across town to the library to stand in line to use the printed encyclopedia for a school paper. They google up what they want and cut and paste (and get caught usually). Kids don't understand plagiarism or paraphrasing -- in fact, the generation that grew up on copy machines missed out on the fine points of copyright and have passed that blindness on to their children who see even less use in copyright. To them copyright is even more immoral than infanticide.

I read another article last year about how the new crop of college grads is forcing businesses to change their office-behavior codes to allow multi-tasking which includes texting friends, surfing the web, IM'ing, tweeting, all while working, all while on the employer's clock. They are, you see, ENTITLED to spend their time how they want as long as they get the minimum done, just as they were in school. Just showing up (as it said in the education article) gets at least a B; maybe an A.

There's a generation that feels ENTITLED to do as they please on their employer's time because in school they could do as they pleased and still get good grades even if they missed deadlines.

Read that article b) . It illustrates a huge paradigm shift in values, a shift way way deep down-down-down inside everything that makes us who we are.

This is only the surface vibration. Only the beginning.

What you must do to get something you want -- that's the raw basics of ethics, morals, and economics -- AND ROMANCE.

Do you take what you want? Do you beg for it? Trade for it? Negotiate (which is an aggressive form of warfare)? How do you get what you want? How do you know the difference between want and need? When are you entitled to take what you need?

This "entitlement philosophy" represents a huge change in how we establish and maintain all our relationships, including love, including finding a soul mate.

Imagine feeling "entitled" to a soul mate!

Imagine what happens to marriage when both partners feel "entitled" to a perfect marriage without effort, without cost.

And there's one more surface vibration from this deep quake.

It is the shift away from text to images.

Read this one:
Hollywood struggles to find wealth on the Web (Reuters)
Posted on Thu Feb 19, 2009 9:14AM EST

Psychology has long established the power of visual images as greater than that of text or spoken words without images. Images penetrate to an emotional level that is unique because of the evolutionary position of the EYE -- the amount of data it collects and the brain areas responsible for interpreting that data are way high. Visuals pre-empt everything for us.

One huge trend that I see in all this is the older generations fighting mightily to STOP CHANGE, and as usual the younger people want everything "old" destroyed RIGHT NOW with a mad urgency that is insane because they haven't created something better to replace it with. Middle aged people are usually at the point where they have created something to replace the old with, something they think is better.

The technology revolution has accelerated this old, established cycle of progress so that the middle-aged can't establish their new before the young set out to destroy it.

But perhaps one of the reasons we have death in our world is that without death, entrenched elders would refuse all change, and change is life. (This is a reason I love Vampire novels).

The core definition of life is CHANGE.

So I think the objective of elder generations might be better served by guiding change into new pathways that are chosen with conscious and deliberate wisdom.

On the third hand -- has humanity ever done that?

Under what impetus from what outside source would the denizens of this galaxy (presumably somewhat related biologically) re-think this whole "change" issue?

What does it take to shift the human paradigm?

Are we at that point yet? Are we really at an evolve-or-die threshold in human history?

Will some Alien species arrive here at last only to discover a dead world, not an atomic cinder but an ecological collapse?

If not, how will we get through all this? If our paradigm of Life is shifting, what is it shifting into?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. Welcome, Lillian/Sarah.

    Thank you for posting to let us know that you are here. Thanks for the encouragement and kind words.

    Kudos for your adoptpet info.

    Rowena Cherry