Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Crumbling Business Model of Writers

This is a lesson on the business of writing in our everyday world (very much the topic , but contributes much to Colby Hodge's discourse on When A Story Doesn't Work, and how the craft of writing blends into the Business of Writing
as well as the issue of "worldbuilding" of a fictional world, and also references the Expository Lump problem writers face. Oh, this is a long post covering a lot of territory.

And the point of all this rambling and muttering over many, many posts here focusing on the real world (on a blog about Alien Romance) is to gather the necessary data to figure out why Romance in general and Alien Romance in particular is not regarded with the respect we feel it should garner and what we can do about that.

We all love our fiction, but few readers, game players, movie goers, video-watchers -- i.e. fiction consumers -- still think in terms of how the creators of their entertainment can make a living good enough to keep on producing top notch entertainment.

As I discussed last week

(where I beg you to go read the comments that correct a mis-statement on my part!)

the business model of most industrial revolution businesses is busted, and some new thing is coalescing out of the shards of our civilization's economy.

Those who properly divine what that new thing is, how it works, why it works, will be making the new founding fortunes of this century and probably the next. Very few have yet figured out just how profound the shattering of the foundations of our economy is at this moment.

But one SF writer may have a grip on explaining it. C. J. Cherryh.

C. J. Cherryh's marvelous SF novels (with a good dash of alien romance) showcase her talents at their best in her FOREIGNER series. The latest is CONSPIRATOR, and it's book #10 which will likely be the first of another trilogy in the series. Series composed of trilogies seem to be all the rage again.

Read those 10 novels (preferably in order) just for the sheer pleasure of a good story -- a refreshing joy to read such a well written, good story about what I like to read about (smart people caught in impossible predicaments, plights, and stymied by cognitive dissonance).

Put in perspective, those 10 novels give you a vision of our own society from the point of view of the anthropologist. It works better than studying anthroplogy in college courses though - because it is the application of the basic principles of the interface between science, technology, and culture to a Situation (Cherryh is the best in the biz at Situation).

The world C. J. Cherryh is working with is a human colony isolated on the world of the Atevi. Atevi are so similar to us, sex is possible, but "love" is a word that applies to a salad not a person. Atevi are driven by emotions about 45 degrees off the direction of human emotions. Not opposite, not at right angles, but skewed in a dizzying way.

Atevi are more herd creatures than humans are. But not really. They're just Alien.

It takes many novels to let Cherryh draw us into the mindset of these alien creatures. Cherryh is an expert at avoiding the expository lump, yet the narrative goes on and on about the multi-axis Atevi political situation. There's a little repetition, but it provides emphasis, points you might miss if you were skimming. While you're reading about what seems to be completely comprehensible politics, in fact boring politics, you're actually learning to look at reality from an alien point of view.

These long political analyses seem to be expository lumps, but they aren't. They move the story along quite briskly, setting up the action even in future novels. If you are following the anthropology and commentary on humanity, you see things beyond the politics.

Yes, it's an intellectual exercise, but that's what SF delivers as part of the pleasure.

In the FOREIGNER series, Cherryh has also recently introduced other aliens "out there" among the stars, and they're very likely to make their first visit to the Atevi homeworld too soon, so all the Atevi politics has to do with preparing for that eventuality. Meanwhile, the main character is a human whose job is to see to it that human technology does not destroy Atevi culture with potential world war as a result (the Atevi don't do "war" -- but they fight and assassinate a lot).

And here I go inserting exposition into this discourse on the Business Model of Writing.

See my blog post on expository lumps at:



Reading this 10th Foreigner novel right after writing last week's post about the massive shift in the "business model" that isn't confined to publishing, gave me a different take on just how dire this culture-quake we're in may become.

This week's news is once again about North Korea rattling atomic bombs at us, and all about the cooperation between North Korea and Iran and the arms race that's being unleashed into a ferment of cultural-warfare (which is what this whole Terrorist thing is about; the culture generated by certain religious outlooks). Meanwhile, the USA is facing the legalization of gay marriage which seems a dire and horrifyingly revolting change to some and pure justice to others. It's cultural change.

Cherryh starts CONSPIRATOR with the basic problem being a speech that Bren Cameron, our human POV character who is translator between human and atevi, has to write trying to stop the atevi from adopting cell phones.

The rest of the novel illustrates why the Atevi must adopt cell phones, and why they must not! It ends with the speech unwritten and undelivered. I expect that speech to be a roaring occasion for violence in the halls of the Atevi legislature.

Today's multi-function cell phones are web-access instruments, wireless windows on everywhere. The newest features give you direct access to facebook, twitter, and other social networking tools.

So when you talk cell phone, you talk Web 2.0 -- which means you're talking about the force that is pulverizing the industrial revolution business model, bureaucracy and even democracy itself -- certainly pulverizing capitalism! Perhaps destroying our cultures even more traumatically than the human technology leaks are destroying Atevi culture.

Pulverizing our culture just as a sound wave pulverizes kidney stones.

Most Americans don't even know what culture is. Can you point to your culture? Which pocket do you carry it in? What ringtones have you downloaded into your culture?

We have the TV Show REAPER where parents sold their son's soul to the Devil -- and this season ends with the boy's girlfriend selling her soul to the Devil on the chance of getting her boyfriend's soul free.

A whole, very successful TV show about the SOUL - but can you point to your soul?

It's like "air" was say, a thousand years ago. You don't know it's there because you live in it. It took science a long time (and a lot of computers and satelites) to get a model of weather that's almost working! It's hard to study something you're inside of.

The book I best like for conveying a concept of "what" your culture is, so you can look inside yourself and find it (trust me; it's there somewhere) is

But like souls and air, you miss your culture only when it's GONE.

So we all know the term culture-shock but most Americans who have never lived isolated abroad (with no American community and no one who even speaks British English around) simply don't know what "a" culture is, nevermind their own.

And that's why alarm has not been more pervasive in the USA as our culture crumbles. We don't know it's there, can find no use for it or value to it, and we just don't care.

But we should. Global Warming is nothing compared to this.

You can barely see the cracks in the foundations of our culture yet, but one of those cracks is the downfall of our huge 19th and 20th century corporations. General Motors going bankrupt practically on the 100th anniversary is just one example of failed business model, a surface crack caused by a movement in the foundation underneath our CULTURE.

And C. J. Cherryh has explained what's happening today in an SF novel ostensibly about alien politics, the 10th in a series. Yes, you can read it as the first novel you read in the Foreigner universe, but I've been reading them in order as published, and I see bits and pieces of information I'm using that I picked up in each of the previous novels.

The whole set of 10 Foreigner novels makes this image of our culture under attack by our technology so clear.

Start with the first in the series here:

Now let's skip all the way back into "reality" -- and refer to the series of posts I've done here on Web 2.0 (read them in the following order if you haven't already)







You see? All this is adding up to something, and giving you a view of the gears-and-chips inside the writer's mind.

This is how a writer thinks, and what a writer has to think with, the reasoning laid out like a beginning Algebra student has to write out each step of the solution to a problem with liberal application of imagination.

So far as I know, only a few SF writers have twigged to what is going on beneath our feet, in the vast unconscious of the human species, because of technology.

In past posts and in my review column
I've surveyed the trend toward depicing "reality" as a thin film over a seething cauldron of EVIL. That portrayal of the world is so popular now, you can barely sell anything that doesn't express that philosophy.

Here, in an article in Wired magazine, you may find the reason WHY you can't sell any other kind of fiction lately -- or when you do, it plays to a very narrow audience that leaps for joy over it because it's such a wonderful breath of fresh air.


My previous post on Wired can be found here:

The social networking and Web 2.0 developments I have been talking about in the above linked posts are barely the tip of the iceburg.

The banner headline for this article in Wired says:
THE NEW SOCIALISM: Wikipedia, Flickr, and Twitter aren't just revolutions in online social media. They're the vanguard of a cultural movement. Forget about state ownership and five-year-plans. A global collectivist society is coming -- and this time you're going to like it.

Frankly, I'm not so sure about the "like it" part which may just be the "slant" of this particular magazine. But this article fingers something very important about what's happening, and C. J. Cherryh's latest novel, CONSPIRATOR, describes that very thing from an alien perspective which makes it more comprehensible (as Spock added the alien POV to Star Trek and let us see ourselves from the outside).

But if the panicing Chinese (and other country's) attempts to "block the internet" -- to dictate what Google links will or will not work if you're inside their blackout curtain -- definitely bespeaks a deeply spooked humanity.

This Web 2.0 development may be even worse for humanity than Cherryh depicts it is likely to be for the Atevi. (oh, I do wish everyone had read the whole Foreigner series to date! This is all part of the STAR TREK discussion I haven't gotten to yet.)

The A-bomb proliferation race breaking out may just be part of this sense of panic set off by the forces described in this article in Wired (you can read it free online).

The totalitarian governments have the knee-jerk response of trying to "control" these new technologies, keeping them away from the poor peasants who would use them to overthrow centralized government control. Control is of course absolutely necessary. Humans can't exist without our betters controlling us. We all know that.

Why just look at the mess in society because we gave up the arranged marriage. Control is necessary, you see, and everything is getting out of control!

I don't know where to start telling you about this article "The New Socialism" in Wired Magazine. Every three or four paragraphs I put a post-it note onto the text to remind me to quote it at you, but this little essay is already too long.

The article quotes a book, HERE COMES EVERYBODY by Clay Shirky, from which the article takes a 4-part division to help sort through the effects of social media.

It targets work, how you get paid for what you contribute, and how people get access to what you've created with your work.

It doesn't harp nearly enough on the cultural aspects of the changes in these economic foundations of society. (A culture and a Society are not the same thing. Different societies can share a culture and do just fine relating to each other. What's happening because of Web 2.0 is that the cultures themselves are being pulverized.)

The culture generates the economy (think about Moslem law being the foundation of their banking system -- it seems to be working for them). The economy generates a zillion societies. Take a "society" to be just a group of people who agree on a certain set of laws -- like driving on the right, not having a King but a President, protecting property rights of the individual from the government, rule of the majority strictly limited to protect the individual)

We're currently trying to extend our "social contract" to include healthcare for everyone. Corporations discovered it's economically advantageous to provide healthcare for workers -- they work more consistently and productively. So now "society" wants to model itself on corporations and declare a social profit to having everyone healthy. Do you see any holes in that, other than trying to pay for it?

Our culture says "be kind to the less fortunate" -- our society says, "health is a right not a privelege," and our economy says, "I'm dying!"

Where do writers fit in all this?


That's right, copyright is dead. Really. It's been uninvented, and the law hasn't caught up with the CULTURAL VALUE CHANGE that has left the old industrial revolution values pulverized.

Quick, GOOGLE creative commons, and see what turns up. The Wired article sites Creative Commons and GNU licenses as the newly invented concept, (ethical platform) replacing copyright.

http://creativecommons.org/ is only the beginning of what you'll find. Check the Wiki entry, since this Wired article sites WIKI as an example of the new economy.

A whole new set of ethics underlies this new culture. I mean really pulverizing all the unconscious assumptions implanted in our cultures since the 1600's and the invention of the printing press and the business model of publishing (which didn't start as a for-profit business, you know. You have read Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain series, particularly Borne in Blood - where St. Germain owns a printing business in Amsterdam, I think it is.)

In fact, the internet and the web are forces unleashed into our world that are as huge or maybe more huge than the printing press was in its time.

I've been on a number of panels at conventions about how evil the copyright laws are.

This article in Wired takes that to a whole new level.

The writer's business model is based on COPYRIGHT. Or it has been.

That business model is still functioning, but about as well as General Motors was functioning in say, 1990. Lehman Brothers did pretty well in the 1990's. They seized what appeared to be the new business model (securitizing home mortgages). It killed them.

These behemouths are corporations. Each individual writer is a corporation -- whether you incorporate or not (writers are legally allowed to incorporate and make their corporation the owner of their books. Several revisions of the law ago, this was the best deal you could get on your income taxes as a writer. That's why you see some books copyrighted by some corporation that almost sounds like the author's name.)

Alongside the writer's business model of the 1600's, we now see the business model described in this article in Wired as an application of a principle in the book "Here Comes Everybody" -- 1. Sharing, 2. Cooperation, 3. Collaboration, 4. Collectivism -- and this blog post is an example of the new business model. I'm writing. You're not paying me unless you link to this blog entry in a post of your own, mention it on some popular blog comment space, twitter it, digg it, I don't know what all.

Think about what I said about Alvin Toffler's book Future Shock in this post:

The human brain can make only so much change in a lifetime, make only so many decisions in a day, -- we have a hard-wired physical limit.

Think about historically what happened to the American Slaves abducted from their slow-changing culture in Africa and then systematically stripped of their culture here, to break their Will so they'd make good workers. They borrowed, desperately preserved, and just plain invented a new culture. A few decades ago, the novel and TV miniseries ROOTS explained to a vast majority just what they'd lost and where to go to find it again. The result has been a black President of the United States (who couldn't be proud of that accomplishment!)

That black President though had a father whose parents and grandparents had not had their culture stripped from them.

Humans need that multi-generational cultural grounding. It is our strength.

The internet and the Web have riven our generations apart, like a hot knife through butter.

The young people today are starting to live in exactly the world "The New Socialism" by Christoph Neimann describes.

The older folk, and even not-so-older folk, RESIST. E-book readers, high-tech phones, twitter, (follow me on twitter http://twitter.com/JLichtenberg ) myspace, flickr.

The Google email spam sorting mechanism is a perfect example of the exact kind of "socialism" the article talks about. We, the people, decide what is and is not spam by our votes.

Now, why is it that I am so at home in this new world, while others my age don't even have a computer, nevermind social network memberships, RSS feed reader (I use Feed Demon), friendfeed and other aggregators. I'm using 2 different aggregators for Twitter and haven't found the one I really want, yet. I don't text much, but I would gladly if I were dragged away from my desk more. I text people's phones from my desktop instead.

Why? How is it that I DO ALL THIS? And blog too. There are so many people so much younger than I am who just don't.

Why am I undaunted by Web 2.0? Why do I feel that the advent of all this culture pulverizing tech is not at all disturbing? Why don't I resist it? What's different about me?

Three guesses, and the first two don't count!

I grew up in FANDOM!!!! I was in 7th grade when I wrote my first letter to the editor of an SF magazine, and they published it (with my snailmail address -- something that could never happen today; it was a much safer world back then).

My parents' mailbox became stuffed with dozens, then hundreds of letters from fans all over the USA. I had just learned to type, and I learned that in "fandom" typing was more intimate than handwriting, and if you didn't type a letter you had to explain for at least 3 paragraphs why your typer was broken.

That's a CULTURE. Fandom had it's own language (fanspeak) just as texting today has developed a condensed spelling shorthand.

In fandom, it was rude to address anyone, but especially someone older than you, by their last name. In fandom, culture demanded not only first names but NICKNAMES - fan names.

"fandom" is a kingdom, (fan = fanatic dom = domain as in Kingdom) floating amongst the real world, above it, interspersed with it, but having no fixed geographic location. The fannish calendar is divided into before and after Worldcon (which used to be Labor Day weekend, but now it too floats dates). Worldcon = World Science Fiction Convention. Most conventions (not CONFERENCES!!) have the infix "con" in them somewhere, if only by allusion.

I'm on a mailing List (an email List; an entire concept made obsolete by Web 2.0 but still existing and growing) for the Las Vegas SF fandom organizations. Recently a new member joined and a veteran Fan, Arnie Katz, sent the new member the following welcome message which may give you some idea of "what" fandom is (other than what you think it is if you joined after fandom moved online).

-----------FROM ARNIE KATZ on VegasSFAssociation@yahoogroups.com ----------------

I saw your premiere post on the VSFA listserv and thought I would drop you a note of welcome and introduction.

I'm not big on writing autobiographies, but let me attempt one so you at least know who is talking to you. I'm a 62-year-old professional writer and editor, married to Joyce Worley, also a professional writer and editor. I'm from New York, she comes from Missouri and we moved here in 1989. I've worked in a number of fields, including science fiction/fantasy, popular culture, collecting and collectibles, video and computer gaming, sports, adult and professional wrestling.

Joyce and I met in Fandom in the mid 1960's. She was a leading fan in St. Louis (she chaired a worldcon and got a Hugo nomination for her fanzine) and I was similarly well-known in New York. Hyndreds of pages of correspondence led to Joyce moving to New York and we got together pretty much upon her arrival.

Fandom is kind of a busman's holiday for us, as it is for many creative people. We're known for our writing and publishing for Fandom. I was chosen as the number one fan in the world in 2009 as well as the hobby's best writer.

Enough about me... Let me tell you a little about the entity that you have just encountered, Fandom.

Fandom arose in the late 1920's, born in the letter columns of the professional science fiction magazines. The people who filled those letter columns began writing to each other directly, easily done in an era in which such letters carried full addresses.

The first fanzines appeared around 1930 and the field quickly grew and evolved. The earliest fanzines were little more than blurbs for upcoming prozines. The hobby slowly progressed from a fixation on the stories and authors to an interest in discussing the idea contained in the stories. During the 1940's, that stretched to include ideas not derived from specific stories, but which seemed "scientifictional." By the early 1950's, though, Fandom embraced talking about anything under the sun, including personal experiences and Fandom itself. That's pretty much where the hobby is today.

The current incarnation of Las Vegas Fandom dates from 1989 and the formation of SNAFFU (Southern Nevada Area Fantasy Fiction Union), the city's formal, open SF club. SNAFFU (and Las Vegas Fandom) broke out of its isolation when they met Joyce and I. We introduced them to the like-minded folks around the world and Vegas Fandom has prospers ever since.

There are two other clubs in town, VSFA is by far the smallest, little more than a video-watching group. They're nice enough, but very mundane and pretty much uninterested in the creative side of Fandom. VSFA, through a cooperative arrangement among the three clubs, puts on the annual Halloween Party.

Las Vegrants is the largest fan group in town with two to three times as many members as the other two groups combined. It's an informal, invitation group that includes the city's top fans, many of whom are professional writers and editors.

I'm pretty much the answer man around here, so please feel free to ask any, and as many, questions as you may have about all this strangeness. To get you rolling, I'm including a copy of the second edition of THE TRUFAN'S ADVISOR, a little guide that I turned out a year or so ago. It should be fairly helpful.

Don't hesitate to contact me if there is anything I can do.


Arnie Katz

Over the years, I've welcomed many mundanes into fandom and I've had to teach them the inherent values of fandom which I learned in 7th grade and have lived ever since. If you read a fanzine, even if you paid for a hardcopy, you only paid for ink, printing and postage, and you owe a LoC (Letter of Comment). That's true of blog posts too -- you PAY for any post you find valuable by dropping a comment.

Barter is coin of the realm in fandom. You get something good - you give something. Your words, your coolie labor collating a fanzine (minding a website), your thoughts, your arguments, your publicizing a convention by mentioning it on big blogs, or as Arnie here above has offered, his ANSWERS for a neofan. Perhaps the best thing you can do for a blog you love is to "follow" it by RSS or subscribe because there are aggregators out there that position a blog in their search results according to how many subscribers it has.

So the coin of the realm has a new design, but the principle hasn't changed. As ever, coin of the realm today is your words, and your LoCs are more valued than you know until you've gotten one on something you wrote.

The LoC comment can be critical, lambasting the author for any number of errors or omissions, even typos -- but the praise garnered in LoCs is important too. Fanspeak has a name for that praise; egoboo -- a boost to the ego. It's food for the ego, and for the culture of fandom as a whole. Praise for one person's accomplishments feeds the ambition of others to contribute accomplishments. It's not boot-licking or toadying to praise a blog post or web page. It's contributing to the new Culture 2.0.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about fandom is that it has no government, needs no government, but is not "ungoverned" -- it isn't an anarchy, but it can't tolerate "organization" as a top-down-management style except in small endeavors like, perhaps an ad hoc committee putting on a convention.

Now that Arnie has introduced you to fandom, go read that article in WIRED.

If you understand fandom, and read this article -- you will see that this "new socialism" is actually not so new. It's not an 'ism. It's a 'dom. Webdom maybe.

If you understand C. J. Cherryh's FOREIGNER universe, the Atevi culture, and why human technology is such a threat, you will understand that the magnitude of the threat to our current world from this growing "The New Socialism" collectivist society is so pulverizing, and especially pulverizing to the business model writers have used since the 1600's.


And no, I'm still not going to talk about the new movie or the script or acting or directing etc.

It's the IMPACT of Trek on our CULTURE.

Remember THE PRIME DIRECTIVE -- and then think about the Atevi.

Now look back on history and see how fandom, and our world has changed under the impact of Trek.

OK, Trek hit in the late 1960's, and the 1970's are famous for Women's Lib and of course the rise of Black Culture after Roots in 1977. In 1975 my non-fiction book STAR TREK LIVES! was published and blew the lid on Star Trek Fandom -- and fandom in general.

The Star Trek conventions were about getting together to meet the people you'd only snailmailed before -- to brainstorm ST fanzine stories, to tell stories, to buy and sell and exchange paper fanzines, and little by little, a track of programming was added (well attended but not the heart of the matter) where the stars of the TV show stood on stage and later signed autographs.

The ST cons were modeled after (and run by BNF's Big Name Fans) SF cons, but that proved to be non-scalable, so the structure gradually evolved to be big enough for the crowds.

So LITTLE ST Cons popped up, just for 'zines, costumes, how-to-run-a-con practice and so on.

Star Trek took the CULTURE of SF fandom and scaled it up, filling fanzines with more than just articles and as Arnie says "life and life in fandom." SF fandom used 'zines the way most people today use blogs, for the meta-conversation. But Star Trek fandom injected FICTION into the fanzines, and sold those zines for paper and postage only, no labor charge.

That's the model Christoph Neimann is describing in his article, calling it a "new socialism" -- but it's neither new nor socialism. It's FANDOM!!! Star Trek style.

Now back to the envelope subject of this whole series of blog posts that's probably bored away the entire readership of this co-blog.


We must study how culture evolved, (or as C. J. Cherryh said in CONSPIRATOR -- adjusted) to accomodate the new forms of communication.

Fandom evolved from the SF magazine readerships, readers meeting in micro-cons in New York. Star Trek fandom likewise started in and around New York.

What is going on now that has allowed SFR and PNRomance to get a toe-hold is e-books and e-media and Web 2.0 devices like http://www.goodreads.com .

What is happening in the world today, this whole pulverizing impact of social media on our culture could (it's not that big a stretch) be attributed to the success of STAR TREK, or perhaps more importantly of STAR TREK LIVES! a little Bantam paperback that went 8 printings in the 1970's.

The conventions and fanac (fan activity) surrounding Star Trek became public knowledge as the New York Times and other big papers picked up the hints in STAR TREK LIVES! about K/S and other exotic fiction experiments.

Star Trek itself went only 3 seasons then grew in syndication. The media execs wanted to repeat this "fandom" phenomenon, and thought they had it with SPACE 1999, which Trek fans sneered at and stayed away from though it was advertised as Star Trek fans will love it.

Likewise the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA -- (not the remake which is Intimate Adventure
http://www.simegen.com/jl/intimateadventure.html and Ronald D. Moore has even said so
http://www.simegen.com/jl/intimateadventurecomments.html )

They tried and tried, and they just could not duplicate the appeal of Star Trek. But Trek fans took the K/S premise and "slashed" combos of characters in other shows and made fascinating reading in fanzines for shows that have absolutely no SF appeal.

We eventually got Star Trek films, new series, a few new series, and a hiatus, now a new Star Trek movie, with the one thing no fan would have gone for in 1990 - NEW SPOCK AND KIRK ACTORS.

That's the test of a classic role - when a succession of generations of actors play the role successfully, the role becomes bigger than any actor.

That's important to understand. It's vital. It means Hollywood has stopped excluding SF from the concept "classic." And that's happened gradually as SF and Fantasy movies have won Oscars (which was unthinkable before Trek).

Star Trek and Trek fandom broke down a wall in our world, and now Trek has spread to all levels of the ambient society and culture.

Don't forget, it was Trek fans in a university environment that basically invented the internet to play a video game from campus to campus. A Trek type video game.

Christoph Niemann goes on and on about the social networking and the internet changing our very economy, our entire concept of personal property is being changed.

Gene Roddenberry's concept of the Trek universe was that it had no MONEY - money wasn't used anymore, nor were pockets needed to carry money. People weren't hired to crew the Enterprise; they were volunteers. Honest, that was his concept and few have ever understood that.

So Star Trek spawned the Internet, and the older SF fandom which spawned ST fandom has now spawned what Niemann dubs "the new socialism" in Web 2.0 and social networking.

Any number of us on this blog have mentioned how disregarded readers of SF were in the 1950's and 1960's. Disparaged. Held in open contempt wouldn't be too strong a wording for the attitude we endured for liking science fiction. Fantasy was even worse.

Then came Star Trek. It got cancelled because it was science fiction. (really, the network execs who made the decision didn't care about the tons of fan mail -- they just didn't like the show. That's it.)

So "we" fans organized in just the way Niemann describes what he thinks is a new cultural form, and we beat Hollywood to its knees and produced this new Star Trek film which has been given rave reviews and a HUGE amount of space in Variety, the NYTimes, Wired Magazine, Time, Newsweek, Business Week -- you name it. Talk about prestige.

WE WON! We fought for decades. We used the oldest tool in the fannish arsenal, FANDOM ITSELF, its strange organization, its unique way of using words, its intrinsic value system and economy of sharing -- most especially fueled by the LoC.

And we won.

Science Fiction and Fantasy are now mainstream.

How did that happen?

Star Trek -- Wagon Train To The Stars. (based on the incredibly long running TV show that everyone watched Wagon Train).

Star Trek, OK nobody else will ever notice this is true, because it took 40 years and everyone's forgotten everything about that long-ago time -- none of the salient facts of how this happened have ever been recorded for posterity because Star Trek and SF in general was not important.

Star Trek provided the pivot point in history, the inflection point, the "place to stand" and eventually with the films, books, and fanzines, provided the "lever long enough" and we changed the world into the vision Niemann is talking about in Wired.

These people who are inventing Web 2.0 devices, un-inventing copyright and all the industrial complex business models, in fact uninventing currency itself, these people are the descendents barely 2 generations removed from those who envisioned the future world of Star Trek.

The impact of Star Trek is just beginning to be felt (will never be identified officially, I'm sure) in the pulverization of our culture and our society and our business models. But we can take a lesson from all this.

The world was inimical to the SF fan. SF fans flocked to the first real SF on TV. We changed the world to be friendly to SF and SF fans.

The world is inimical to Romance. Romance fans need a vehicle to flock to. Then we will change the world.

The vehicle SF fans flocked to was a TV show, because at that time about a third of all the adults in the USA watched TV. There were 3 networks. What else was there to do in the evening but listen to the radio which didn't have any good shows anymore.

The vehicle Romance fans need has got to be Web 2.0 based.

Look at the numbers and websites with numbers that I talked about last week


Nobody watched TV anymore. And the TV watching public is graying fast. Any TV watching younger people do is on the web.

The web as a fiction delivery system is burgeoning, and copyright and other business model elements from the 1600's to the 1900's only strangle that burgeoning growth.

We're having our economy shattered by the new business models, uninventing money and labor for a wage, etc.

Do we, as Romance readers, writers and fans, do we seriously want to add a shattering effect from Romance, which is our fundamental life's relationship to this deadly mixture?

Or do we, as Romance readers, writers and fans, bear an obligation to produce that Romance vehicle that will draw us together to become a Web 2.0 force, (and Web 3.0 is already in launch mode!) to provide the SOLUTION to the pulverizing, culture shattering, social fabric ripping effects of the loss of copyright?

Which is it? Tell me by commenting on this post that's longer than a chapter in a long book!

If you got all the way to the end of this post and have any idea what I'm talking about, you owe me a LoC according to Christoph Niemann.

Live Long and Prosper,
Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Well, I got to the end, so here is your LoC. :)

    Oh, wait. One expository lump, first.

    My understanding was that the internet was conceptualized and developed by the war department as a means of "cellular communication". Not relying on a central source in case said source of delivery was compromised.

    That the university kids found a more pastoral use for the concept goes just as far to emulating the original ST concept as saying the kids invented it in the first place.

    Now as to the new world model, I've not read any of the Wired articles cited, and probably wont, because that model is all around me. But here's a curiosity I see, and you dont mention it.

    You say the old business model is crumbling, and for brick and mortar businesses, that's pretty much true, though I still think it's more of an evolution than a crumble. At least for those *willing* to change. :) For the rest, crumble works just fine, and good riddance.

    It's in the on-line world, the world within the world, as it were, that crumble simply doesnt apply. Evolve might be a better description, but it's happening so fast that "morph" might be better still.

    Consider email as a point source example. I'm not talking about the technology itself so much as I am referring to the usage, or even the need. We went from emailing everyone under the sun to IMs because they were faster. Instant gratification. Then we went to creating entire networks of IMs and called it twitter. Throughout all these changes, we who use this technology morphed right along with the new models. It USED to be that consumers created a demand for a product, and a product was created to fulfil the need. Now, we shape ourselves to fit the products, and we started doing that when we stopped NEEDING to understand how a thing worked, like computers.

    If there is any one thing that can be said to prompt the new business model it's that we are unabashedly willing to change ourselves to fit it.

    With that in mind, lets consider Romance.

    I'm counting myself as an empirical example of that kind of self morphing. A few months ago, I would have told anyone who asked that I wouldnt be caught dead reading romance, and yet, here I am *writing* it. Granted, my M/M nich is pretty narrow, but it's *still* romance, and I've altered virtually all of my perceptions on the subject in order to keep writing it.


  2. (Part 2)

    In order to promote it, I find myself on Facebook and Twitter, commenting on blogs, and even writing my own.

    This from a guy who prided himself on not turning up in a Google search, right? So why the turn around?

    Simple. I'm fitting myself to the tools at hand. Is that some kind of cop out? Nope. No more so than learning that funny shorthand used to write on a Palm Pilot.

    The point is that it's not just a matter of learning how a product operates. It's a matter of changing the way I think in order to use the tool at all.

    I wouldn't ordinarily comment on a blog, until now. Did someone come along and say "Hey! Gimme my LoC or you arent paying your dues!" Nope. It just sort of happened, as a natural progression from one mode of thinking to another. No grand revelations, no huge mental shifting, just a quiet, nears constant shift from there to here.

    That's the center of your new business model, Jacqueline. That constant evolution from there to here. Those who cannot or will not do it will eventually become extinct, howling and roaring the whole time. (Read: The newspaper industry)

    As a fledgling writer, now, I have a pretty cool opportunity toshape what's to come, by how I personaly define "Romance", and from that, what I put out into the world. Obviously, one cannot reorder the universe in a single book and expect it to fly, but if one is aware of the gradually shifting nature of the worlds within worlds, one might be able to nudge those shifts along a given line. In five or ten years, maybe M/M romance will no longer be the furtive guilty read it mostly seems to be now.

    After all, if I can announce to the world through twitter that I write "Romance, guy to guy" someone else might be able to shout back "And I'm reading it!"

    Stranger things *have* happened. :)

    In the meantime, I'll just keep morphing along....

  3. I was puzzled when I went to a panel on "fandom" at a small con many years ago and found a room filled almost entirely with middle-aged and older men, whose concept of fanzines appeared to be completely nonfictional. My idea of a "fanzine" was a magazine of fiction derived from a pre-existing text. The fan culture I was beginning to be acquainted with at that time was something different from the previous generation's fan culture! Thanks for the summary of the historical shift.

    STAR TREK was never consistent about the supposed abolition of money. Even in the original series, we saw monetary transactions such as the marketing of Tribbles. And later we had the Ferengi. The only way I could mentally reconcile the inconsistency was to assume they really meant money was abolished WITHIN Starfleet -- crew members were given all the necessities of life. But as "The Trouble with Tribbles" illustrates, they were obviously paid a salary they could use in off-ship environments.

    I question the assumption that "everybody" in the younger generation has abandoned TV watching for Internet watching. Our youngest son and his friends definitely haven't; they combine the two modes of watching film content.

  4. Patric:

    On gradual morphing and reshaping yourself to fit the tools -- there comes an age when the person can't DO THAT anymore (not won't, can't).

    Rober Heinlein lived to be very old, and never reached that point.

    Others I know reach that point in their 50's. My 80 year old husband (he's older than me, folks) does email and surfs the web for classical music and news stories in various languages -- on his own computer.

    I reshaped myself to the electric typer, then totally reshaped the way I create fiction when I got my first computer in the early 1980's.

    I'm still reshaping and reshaping first the internet itself, raw, (remember Veronica ?) then the web, and now Web 2.0 and social networks.

    I gotta find out what Web 3.0 entails before it bites me!

    Just found a whole bunch of Sime~Gen fans that popped up on my feeddemon aggregator. None of them knew simegen.com exists. I had to mention (in a comment there) the slash S~G in CZ that won an Award -- maybe I should have told them it was a Surak.

    Listen, if THAT award could happen, you could be selling Alien Romance in no time -- to mass market.

    Go check out these slash fans who remember S~G so fondly:

    Think about WHY.

    Information dissemination in a fragmenting world -- an exciting challenge.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  5. Margaret:

    Oh, yeah, fanzine NEVER had fiction in it. We traded amateur fiction via snailmail, one copy at a time, not in a 'zine.

    Maybe I should write on Round Robins here?

    Live Long and Prosper,
    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  6. Anonymous7:00 AM EDT

    I got to the end also, so here is your LoC. I come from one of the current internet Trek fandoms, I mod a couple of trek message boards, I write fan fiction, I have a Live Journal, a web site complete with domain, and I'm 62 years old. So yes I do understand where you are coming from.