Sunday, February 28, 2010

Does the gender of a SF author matter?

Until I chanced upon Ann Wilkes's blog, I'd forgotten that I'm also a member of Broad Universe. It's worth checking out.

Ann Wilkes very graciously consented to allow me to repost her Thursday's blog in which she asks

Why do I read more male SF writers?

I've been wrestling with an interesting dichotomy for a while. I'm hoping to stir some good non-healthcare related debate here. I belong to an organization which has as its sole purpose, the advancement of female-written speculative fiction, Broad Universe. I love my club. I have participated in it on many levels throughout the three years or so I've been a member.

Here's my problem. I'm an advocate of women writing speculative fiction because, well, I'm a woman, and more importantly, a woman who writes speculative fiction. But if I'm such an advocate, why do I read novels by men far more than those written by women?

Perhaps it's because I know I won't get any romance in my science fiction. Mind you, when I find romance, I get sucked in like any other warm-blooded female, but afterward, I feel cheated. I chose the book because it promised science fiction or fantasy. And I'm not your typical female. I don't like to shop. I don't like attending baby and bridal showers and Tupperware parties.

We know that men and women think and act differently, overall. Why assume that they will write the same? There have been a few women writers whom I've read that have managed to write a good story without the romance derailing the plot, but it seems like they are few and far between. When men do throw romance in, it's more like how I shop: get in, get out, go back to more important tasks. When men—and the few women who can pull it off like men do—write romance, they do it to add an additional layer to the plot, not to drive it. And when they don't throw in romance, I don't miss it.

From the beginning, when I first started writing science fiction, I assumed that men would comprise the majority of my audience. I thought, and still do, that more men read science fiction than women. That may not be true of fantasy. But I prefer science fiction with a few very special exceptions. Like I said, I'm not your typical female. I have always gravitated to the male conversation at a party. I don't want to talk about diets, shopping and fashion. Maybe it's not just the romance at all. Maybe it's because I prefer talking with men, so I prefer reading from their perspective.

Women are inherently more concerned with relationships. We have to be. We have historically been the ones nurturing the children. It's how we (well, most of us) were made. If you're a female spec-fic author, is it a constant struggle for you to write for a male or mixed audience and keep the romance at bay?

Or could it be that I read more male writers because the women aren't getting the same exposure? Many of the male writers I read are well-established, not an unknown quantity. Are there fewer women writing science fiction? Are there fewer of them getting published?

I want to hear from you. Tell me there are plenty of women who can write without including romance. And please, oh please, tell me who they are. Tell me I'm an unromantic cold-hearted woman. (I love romance out in the real world, by the way.) Or tell me you know what I mean. But don't be silent. Let the discussion begin!

To follow the discussion that followed Ann's challenge, go here

About Ann Wilkes In Her Own Words

I'm a SF author. I write flash, shorts, novels. See full publication credits on my website. On this blog, I interview other SF and FY authors, talk about science fiction, writing or writing science fiction. Publicists and authors may email with interview requests. I also review books for the "beyond reality shelf" at

Learn more about SF Author, Ann Wilkes, at

Check out this link to Review Places, too

Awesome Lavratt

Beautiful Aranna Navna plans to conquer the galaxy one planet at a time using the Awesome Lavratt, a mind control device, she stole from a freighter in Horace Whistlestop's junkyard. She takes Horace, too. With the Lavratt, Aranna manipulates the thoughts and desires of everyone around her—until she gets to the Emperor of Calistania.
Read the glowing review at The Book Smugglers . They use words like "wicked sense of humor", "brilliant", "genius", "quirky", "off beat"...

Thank you very much for allowing me to share your blog, Ann!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Saturday, February 27, 2010

February 28th and end of month deadlines

I've just, by the skin of my teeth (horrible image) set up my Authors' Guild website or

This weekend, my funny interview on The Authors Show is being replayed... which is totally off topic, although I do attempt to define futuristic romance for radio host Don MacCauley.

I'm currently involved with copyright issues especially on GoodReads and Facebook. On Tuesday my Crazy Tuesday radio show will officially launch "Authors Without A Yacht" (a reference to the fact that most authors whose books are pirated are not excessively wealthy) with a two-hour chat with literary agent Richard Curtis, Brenna Lyons, Carly Carson and Marilynn Byerly.

However, I had the very good fortune to obtain Ann Wilkes's permission to repost her blog about men and SF writing for Sunday.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Winter Is Relative

Winter has definitely lasted too long when we greet 40-degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures with cries of joy. The snow following our two record-setting blizzards continues to be piled so high, in some places, that there’s a non-trivial chance some of it may hang around until the end of March. Having grown up in Norfolk, Virginia, 200 miles to the south, I have always thought of March as a spring month. Sure, it had cold, miserably wet periods and occasional snow, but in general we could count on some nice weather, too. In Maryland, the first half of March is still winter, and the second half isn’t reliably that great, either. The year we lived in Charleston, I was surprised to discover that South Carolina has the same winter temperatures as Virginia. It’s just that Charleston’s winter comprises only a few weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s. During our three-plus years in Hawaii, I became so acclimated to temperatures in the 70s and 80s that anything under 65 degrees felt downright cold. Oahu, however, like Southern California, does have a winter—otherwise known as the rainy season.

Remember the TWILIGHT ZONE episode when the world suffered a crippling, permanent heat wave? At the end, the protagonist woke up in a hospital to find the heat had been a fever dream, and the world was actually blanketed by snow. After her harrowing dream experience, she found the frozen climate a relief. It’s all relative.

Weather control is a familiar motif in science fiction. Many futuristic settings present as a given that the weather (at least in cities—often under domes) will be artificially controlled. An old anthology called HUMAN AND OTHER BEINGS includes a story about a married couple from an advanced planet assigned to Earth as part of a team installing climate control systems. In a rural area of the South, the couple gets attacked and the wife raped. At the end of the story, the husband uses his weather control equipment to create a storm that floods out the assailants’ town. In our current controversy on climate change, it seems to me that a warming trend is pretty clear, but the question to what extent human action affects the trend seems legitimate, as well as whether we can change the situation without side effects worse than the problem.

My aunt always says it’s a good thing God is in charge of the weather instead of us. Faith demands that I agree, but in practice I often wonder why we couldn’t arrange a climate like Camelot’s: Rain allowed only after sundown. Winter strictly limited to December through February. I’d love that.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Making the Olympics was a former dream of mine. While I was ranked in the top 6 divers in the US. only two divers made the team and I never qualified. But of course I'm always very interested in the games. And it struck me anew how similar writing books is to trying to make the Olympics. Yes, I sit in a chair most of the day instead of burning up lots of exercise calories. But writing is hard work. too. Mental toughness is part of the game. And a writer can work years without ever selling a book--just like athletes have no guarantee of success--neither do authors. So why do we do it?

Why spend years of hard work, hoping for success? Bottom line: you have to enjoy it. And just like I've never regretted the years I spent at the pool, I feel the same way about my books. I've never been prouder of a series of books then the Pendragon Trilogy. I love the stories and the characters and the plots. Will the books succeed beyond my dreams? Become a movie? Make number one of the Times list? Not a chance. And yet, lots of readers write to tell me they love them. The reviews are good. I love the covers. Life is good.
PS. JORDAN is in stores now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Does Intelligence Work?

My entries (every Tuesday) on this blog are about the mechanism inside the writer's mind, how writers do what they do. I talk about and demonstrate skills and craft techniques, and I describe the real world from inside a writer's eye.

This week I want to give one answer (among many I have to choose from) to the perennial question SF writers face that Romance writers are sometimes spared because it seems obvious where Romance writers get their ideas. But of course, the obvious answer is not the actual answer.

When you combine SF and Romance, you get pushed right back to that old question -- essentially, "Where do you get your crazy ideas?"

Romance writer's "ideas" don't seem "crazy" (just trivial and ridiculous) to the general reader.

SF ideas seem "out of the box" crazy, and worse, pointless.

So here I want to show you where to "go" to get crazy ideas that can make up into an SF Romance, ( SFR ) and what to do with that raw material once you assemble it.

This is not about what I think, but HOW I think - what I think about, and how I come up with whole alien civilizations before breakfast.

In previous posts here on writing craft, I've established that a writer can't write a story without something to say. The motive, the fuel for writing any fiction is the burning need to say something important to the writer, that the writer thinks it's important for readers to understand.

That something will be something about the real world that non-artist eyes don't ordinarily see.

The writer is an artist with a "vision" - with a way of looking at things that reveals hidden truths that can come in very handy when a reader goes to live their real life.

You are the engineer of your life, and reading fiction is to you just as mathematical models are to a bridge builder. If you don't want your life to fall down when the traffic load maxes out, you have to "model" your life and build it accordingly. Fiction reading helps you "model" lives, fiddle, tweak and adjust, avoid mistakes in real life.

The fictioneer is the software designer of the modeling software readers use to model their lives.

So to build good fiction, the fictioneer has to reference real life, and extract elements to rearrange into different patterns -- just to see what happens.

And that's what I'm going to show you how to do.

This isn't about what I really think. It's not about my own opinion. And it's not about your real world.

I'm going to lift bits and pieces of "reality" and re-arrange them into a matrix you can use as a springboard for your imagination. If you follow along, then grab that concept, that vision, and build a fictional world around it, you'll be writing a novel before you know it. And it'll be a "glue-you-to-the-page" novel, too.

They say "write what you know" -- but I say "write what you have known so long you've forgotten it." That's how you do the connect-the-dots exercises I've been showing you for the last few weeks.

How Does Intelligence Work?

I'll bet readers of this blog already know exactly what Intelligence is and probably think it's silly to ask "how" Intelligence works.

Asking silly questions is step 1 in "getting a crazy idea." And it should be a question about something people just take for granted and never think about.

Intelligence is something you hardly ever think about because you've known it for a long time, you've known all about it so long you've forgotten everything you know about it. That fits the "write what you know" prescription -- the knowledge has sunk in so deep you can create with it.

OK, so now's the time to use your knowledge of intelligence in worldbuilding.

But why would you want to use intelligence in worldbuilding?

It's more the subject of bathroom humor than a seriously vital subject for worldbuilders and romance readers to master.

Look at this book on Amazon which had no reviews posted at the time I looked at it:

Intelligence is a perfect subject for SFR because it straddles the line between science and love -- we still have the problem of "men" shying away from "intelligent women." It's a cliche already, and you know how I love cliche.

We've all taken "I.Q." tests, so we know how intelligence works, right?

We all learn a dozen things every day, not just the one thing a day regimen recommended to stay mentally vigorous.

What's to discuss when it comes to intelligence?

I don't mean military intelligence, nor artificial intelligence -- also very interesting subjects especially for Paranormal Romance enthusiasts, but not the point of this inquiry. I mean the brain-function we call intelligence.

We have been measuring "Intelligence" since 1904.

This quote, a bit or maybe a piece, is from
Intelligence testing began in earnest in France, when in 1904 psychologist Alfred Binet was commissioned by the French government to find a method to differentiate between children who were intellectually normal and those who were inferior.

"Inferior" -- ???!!!! Oh, now that's politically incorrect, isn't it?

Politically incorrect hot-potatoes make great material for fiction. In film, that's called "edgy."

How far have we come in a century of studying intelligence scientifically?

The article concludes:
In 1989 the American Academy for the Advancement of Science listed the IQ test among the twenty most significant scientific discoveries of the century along with nuclear fission, DNA, the transistor and flight. Patricia Broadfoot's dictum that “assessment, far more than religion, has become the opiate of the people,” has come of age.

We've learned a lot in the last century, but is what we know now any more informative than Binet's original testing concept?

Do we really know what we know? Or is what we know just a matter of the opinion of the majority formed not on the basis of information but on the basis of what other people (sometimes bona fide experts) think, believe, theorize or wish were true?

Things get kinda slippery and scary when you start thinking about thinking (meta-thinking), don't they?

Feel that slippery and scary quiver inside, really focus your attention on it. That feel is the same feeling that people get when they're falling in love. It's disorientation, the stuff of action-drama.

It's the feeling people get when the specter of a real committed relationship looms before them, hot and ready.

That disoriented "falling" feeling is FEAR.

But what's it fear of?

It's fear of something that doesn't exist. (yet)

It's fear of something imaginary.

In the case of "falling" in love and accepting commitment, it's fear of change - fear of a change in lifestyle, fear of not-knowing what that might imply, fear of "it" (meaning the new lifestyle) not "working" - fear of emotional PAIN. But that pain doesn't exist (yet).

It's fear of a specter. Or the specter of fear.

So in the case of thinking about intelligence, what causes that gut-wrenching panic, that flutter of fear?

It's fear of something imaginary, which makes it far worse than fear of something that now exists.

So we're at the threshold of Step 2.

We've asked a naive question and found a CONFLICT GENERATING emotion, a plot generating dynamic hidden inside our innocent question.

A protagonist gripped by FEAR will set a GOAL of getting away from what's feared, avoiding-at-all-costs, and then as the protagonist "arcs" the protagonist will heroically turn to face the most feared thing - an imagined threat. The more intelligent the protagonist, the more imaginary the threat, the more severe the reaction.

Take a concrete example, fear when a burglar breaks your window -- no time to sit and gnaw on abstractions, you throw something and run screaming, or decide to duck, hide, or just stand very still and hope not to get hurt.

You REACT to the threat. You don't think about it.

How can you "react" to the threat of thinking about thinking?

What exactly are you thinking about thinking?

What is the threat?

That YOU are "inferior?" by the old French government definition?

Well, the application of the mathematics of statistics has shown that no matter what trait you measure and graph distributed among a large enough population, it'll graph out as a bell curve.

No matter what kind of I.Q. test you administer, if you test enough people, the traits you're measuring will form a bell curve.

The "norm" is the middle swatch of that curve, so that half the population is below the norm and half above the norm. HALF.

If you are in the middle of that curve, you aren't "safe" - you see, you are in a distinct minority!

In a majority rules world, you have no power if you are "normal."

Normality may not be something to aspire to. It might be a threat, to be labeled "normal."

That's scary.

I remember a sociological SF novel about a society structured around an intelligence test. Here's a Wikipedia item about it. The title of the novel was World Out Of Mind by J. T. McIntosh.
J. T. McIntosh is a pseudonym used by Scottish writer and journalist James Murdoch MacGregor (born during 1925 in Paisley, Scotland).

MacGregor used the pseudonym for all his science fiction work, which was the majority of his output, though he did publish some books by his own name. His first story, "The Curfew Tolls", appeared in Astounding Science Fiction during 1950, and his first novel, World Out of Mind, was published during 1953.

It wasn't a horror novel. It portrayed being at the top tenth of the top percentile rank of all humanity as a good thing. It made the reader aspire to become such a person, and be recognized as such by objective measurements.

But the cold reality of such a structured world society would not be so very grand. There's a lot more to be said about using science to structure society, and those novels have yet to be written.

That scientific bell curve distribution though is a bit of science that hasn't yet (even in fiction) been fitted into the pieces of human character, morals, religion, aspirations, sentience.

Half the people in the world are inferior to normals. Half are superior. (which half is which is a matter to be explored by worldbuilders - but neither half can out-vote the other in a majority rules world.)

So "Intelligence" as a measurable trait was actually invented as a tool of government (in France).

Most of us took "intelligence" tests in school. Check back over the last 20 or 30 years worth of political campaigns (state, local, federal) and you'll see both parties "take a stand" on "Education." Government runs our "public" schools, and even private and homeschools have to meet the "standards" set by Federal and State government. (whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is a variable for worldbuilders to fiddle with)

The majority rules on what "intelligence tests" actually mean, and nevermind the actual science - the majority thinks the "science" is what some expert tells them it is.

What teachers may and may not do with the results of the test is not usually determined by the individual teacher or the parent of the child in question. Most public school boards strive mightily to involve parents of the students in the school district in the "running" of the schools, but worldbuilders might ponder a problem with letting parents decide how to educate their children if the children are actually more intelligent than the parents (or less intelligent).

What if the parents are intelligent but not educated? What if the parents have been taught contempt for education?

The potential for plot-conflict is enormous here. What would be the psychological condition of an adult subjected to an early education distorted by the push-pull tug of war between government, education experts, parents, and normal childhood rebellion? Can love conquer that?

The wonder of the internet produced for me this 1955 article about a book (that cost a whopping $3!!! back then, but I remember reading it from the library) about "Why Johnny Can't Read -- and What You Can Do About It",9171,807107,00.html

The article cites the book as establishing that the problem with children (at that time) who weren't learning to read was the teaching method adopted without challenge or question as the best way to teach children to read.

The method is the whole-word recognition method. I was not taught that method. I was taught by the one-letter-at-a-time and "sound it out" method which I used to teach my children to read.

Later, I recall finding research on yet another generation that was reading-deficient, and the problem was traced to lead in fuel exhausts impairing brain function of children (who are much more vulnerable to concentrations of toxic chemicals).

That later generation is now in their 40's and basically in charge of the world. They don't read for fun.
They watch movies and TV. Their children text and post YouTube videos.

The gap between generations is widening fast, but the old bell curve distribution still prevails. No matter what trait you map, half the people can, half can't.

Today, we no longer confuse the ability to learn to read with the ability to think.

We've discovered "learning disabilities" and the prevalence of ADHD, Aspergers and dyslexia, etc. Diagnoses are rising and rising and rising.

We've found mechanical geniuses who are dyslexic, and techie-geeks who are socially challenged. Every trait eventually turns out to be good for something humanity as a whole needs.

Now we're edging into step #3.

"What if..." speculation. What if genetics finds a way to take that bottom half of the distribution and erase it - or flip it, so that those who are deficient in a trait become as much more than "normal" as they were below "normal" by "turning on a gene?"

Then we come to some challenge for the whole global human population that requires one of the erased traits - but we don't have that trait.

This is not smoke and mirrors speculation. It's generated a few good SF novels, but it's nearer reality today.

Note this article on cloning a Neanderthal.

The title of that article says it all:

We May Soon Be Able to Clone Neanderthals. But Should We?

At the same time that article was being touted all over the internet, we have more action in the combat zone of government vs. schools.

Remember, this is the world your reader lives in. These are the problems worldbuilders need to turn inside out to reveal new perspectives. Put a cloned Neanderthal child into a modern classroom and see if the Teacher can handle that. Two Neaderthals, male and female?

In February 2010 "authority" has decided to act once more, re-engineering our school's functions, just as the French government wanted to in 1904.

Here's a quote from:
The American Psychiatric Association announced Wednesday that it is proposing to eliminate the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome from the official diagnostic guide of mental disorders. The revised manual would place kids who are currently said to have Asperger's within an expanded definition of autism.

That change might affect how families get special education services in public schools. Currently, parents of children with autism turn to the federal law that guarantees a free public education for students with disabilities. Kids with autism clearly qualify, but for kids with Asperger's, it's much less clear. They are often highly intelligent but have social problems that make it hard for them to thrive in school.

Has something changed with this rise in autism diagnoses? Or have we just discovered something about the differences among people that have always existed? I'll leave that question for worldbuilders to ponder as well.

In the 1940's, children would be "held back" if they didn't complete an elementary grade's work, or "skipped" ahead if they were faster than their age group. School was about giving each child the education they needed to make their way in the world, regardless of what "the majority" of their age group could or could not do. School was about acquiring skills.

By the 1960's, government had decided that school was about "socializing" children so they could be happy in adult life. So kids weren't "skipped" because that was bad for them, and others were promoted with the class because we can't stigmatize someone just for not learning something.

Remember Star Trek in the late 1960's -- and really more in the 1970's, popularized and iconicized SPOCK - the brain, the super-intelligent geek-prototype. (crazy sexy too)

While people, especially college age people, were adoring intelligence (and the women, maybe some men, were lusting after super-intelligence), our schools were "socializing" children instead of teaching them.

Read this article on Emotional Intelligence:

The subtitle is:
A Site Dedicated to Communicating Scientific Information about Emotional Intelligence, Including Relevant Aspects of Emotions, Cognition, and Personality

That's a page that indexes scientific articles on emotional intelligence -- note the layout of this index page: "emotional intelligence made visually simple" is what I'd call it.

The index is visually designed to be all about exalting "emotional intelligence" so people who can't read (or maybe can't actually reason?) won't feel so bad that it's hard to learn about emotional intelligence?

OK, maybe the subject of Emotional Intelligence does not deserve a stab in the back like that -- but I'm focused on worldbuilding that might get fiction readers to think about intelligence, which is real scary to do.

The term emotional intelligence may have been first used in a doctoral dissertation in 1985. Here's another website, and as you read this I want you to think about "politics" and "education" and "intelligence first measured at the behest of the French government."

And don't forget this is a worldbuilding exercise in Science FICTION Romance.

Here's a quote from that article:
In 1985 Wayne Leon Payne, then a graduate student at an alternative liberal arts college in the USA, wrote a doctoral dissertation which included the term "emotional intelligence" in the title. This seems to be the first academic use of the term "emotional intelligence." In next five years, no one else seems to have used the term "emotional intelligence" in any academic papers.

Then in 1990 the work of two American university professors, John Mayer and Peter Salovey, was published in two academic journal articles. Mayer, (U. of New Hampshire), and Salovey (Yale), were trying to develop a way of scientifically measuring the difference between people's ability in the area of emotions. They found that some people were better than others at things like identifying their own feelings, identifying the feelings of others, and solving problems involving emotional issues. The title of one of these papers was titled "Emotional Intelligence".

Read between the lines of that historical reprise. The FIRST person to come up with an idea is not the one historically credited. People with solid CREDENTIALS get the credit. Not intelligence. Not inventiveness. Not thinking outside the box. Not imagination. Credentials.

There is so much CONFLICT behind stories like that, you don't need help finding it. So let's move on.

In surveying this seething field of the study of Emotional Intelligence, I ran across the statement that emotional intelligence is not set at a certain level when you're born, but rather is something that develops over time.

Other studies I've seen show how learning speed and ability decline with age. So maybe "Intelligence" declines with age, but "Emotional Intelligence" increases? What of someone who's 900 years old? A Vampire?

The concept the French government was chasing was the idea that people ARE what they are born and the important thing about them, the thing that distinguishes one from another, doesn't change. (if that's true, then love can't conquer all)

That "you are what you're born" theory actually is a notion growing out of the concept of the "Aristocrat" that gives rise to government of the many by the few - Kings, totalitarianism, and all the forms that say a few people know what to do and the "many" just don't are all based in this notion that a peasant is a peasant. That's what the French government was likely trying to "prove scientifically" because science was the new legitimizer, the new "political correctness" that couldn't be challenged publicly.

The USA was founded by aristocrats, land barons, and the privileged who harbored the exotic theory that government doesn't rule, it serves.

The IDEA was that the "majority" can choose government servants for themselves because all that's needed to tell a good presidential candidate from a bad one is "emotional intelligence" or the ability to judge character. Men of good character would make good decisions "for the people."

So the USA did not become a "Democracy" at all, and still isn't. It's a REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY and "stands for" a REPUBLIC. Totally different notions from what's going on now that the Internet and blogging has opened up whole new avenues of communication among us peasants.

We are supposed to choose people to govern us on the basis of a judgment about their essential "character" -- and then turn them loose to do as they see best (Aristocracy). We don't elect a President, we "dub" a President and then crown him/her.

That may also true of elected School Boards who run our schools, choose textbooks, select "what" to teach children to "believe" (or not) and what to protect them from learning.

Schooling, even home schooling, is political indoctrination of one kind or another. (in home schooling, parents can teach what they want as long as they cover the test material, true, but still parents do select what the child may or may not be exposed to, and that's political.)

So we've all been indoctrinated in early schooling, and "broken out" in college or university or maybe just in "life." It's part of maturing. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?

Well, step back and look at the results in the modern world.

Some people have a lot of money and, even in this recession, no fear of not having enough for everything they need and most of what they want.

Some people are living in the streets and dying for lack of medical care.

Some people go through a weekly endurance trial known as "paying the bills" -- having to decide which ones to pay and which to let slide, and worrying if another job will ever turn up.

What's the difference among those 3 groups?

Emotional intelligence?

Does the misery of poverty (or anguish of hand-to-mouth paychecks) have anything to do with how well developed your "emotional intelligence" is?

Does emotional intelligence help you pay the bills?

That question is an example of Step #4.

You take the original question, "How Does Intelligence Work" - add some bits and pieces, shake well, and produce a new question that connects the abstract world of thinking about thinking to the reader's world of daily worries and conflicts.

Well, yes, oddly enough, Emotional Intelligence might pay the bills.

Because, you see, what really differentiates the Well Heeled from the Worriers from the hardcore poor is a College Degree.

OK, there are of course exceptions, and I know a lot of them personally!

Remember that bell curve distribution. It wouldn't be a bell curve if it didn't have asymptotic tails, and "readers" are on one of those asymptotes - we just aren't "normal" by any means. It's always been only about 5% - maybe 10% - who buy books. You can get up to 10% only if you include people who read one or two books a year, and include non-fiction. We readers just don't count in the bigger scheme of things.

There are ultra-rich like Bill Gates who don't have a college degree. And there are really poor people living on the streets who do have a college degree or even two!

Statistics only work in one direction. Statistics can predict the behavior of large groups. But you can't work the equation backwards. You can't predict the behavior (or dominant trait) of a given individual by the statistics of the group(s) that individual belongs to. That's the main cognitive error most people make.

But statistics are very revealing of the larger picture. Just look at this government website:

That's a 2008 bar graph of education vs unemployment rate

Study that graph that shows unemployment rate vs. variety of diploma in 2008. Unemployment hadn't reached 10% yet, but I recently saw some statistics I can't now find about 2009's unemployment picture, and the distribution seen here does hold through 2009.

Very clearly, if you have a doctorate, even in the midst of this replay of The Great Depression, you have a WELL PAYING job, or will get one tomorrow.

There is NO UNEMPLOYMENT among those with advanced degrees and precious little unemployment among those with a solid middling education.

To refresh your memory, the recession of 2000 was the tech recession where degree holders got hit, and before that it was middle management that got eliminated and replaced by computers.

Today, however, there's something even stranger going on.

Before the crash of 2007-8, we had a growing scream of anguish from employers who could not, no how no way, FILL JOBS.

We had farm hand jobs going unfilled, whole fields going unpicked unless they could get illegal labor over the border.

But even more, we had high tech jobs, advance degree jobs, and higher management position jobs going unfilled, stretching and stretching the limits of what a company could accomplish without having their jobs filled and the work done.

Even before the baby boomers started retiring (which is happening right now - people born in 1948, right after WWII, are 62 and many are in ill health and need to retire) even before the boomers started retiring, there were more top level jobs, jobs that take 30 years to learn to do, going unfilled, work going undone.

It's my (worldbuilder) theory that the lack of getting that work done is what caused this economic collapse.

Yes, I know, it's really over-borrowing; but has anyone thought about why businesses borrow too much?

It could be because they can't fill the jobs and get the work done themselves so they have to borrow to buy stuff they would ordinarily make or do themselves.

To protect USA workers, the government made laws against importing the high-level, advanced degree workers we needed, and against importing the farm labor we needed. Today we import over 60% of our food. I saw that statistic a couple years ago and it horrified me enough that I remembered it as a dot I keep connecting.

I actually live in a house in a tract on what used to be very productive farm land. Orchards north of us are gone, replaced by tract housing.

The US population has increased, as I've noted in previous posts, very steeply, and we can barely build houses and apartments fast enough to accommodate the increase when times are good. Right now, housing demand is building up until affordability comes in reach of newly formed families.

This is my connect-the-dots futurology thinking. Every time I had read one of the (many) articles about jobs going unfilled and unemployment being too low but population exploding, I knew in my futurologist bone that we were in for a humongous collapse of the economy.

Following the crash of 2007-8 we still have that pre-crash scream of anguish from employers who can't fill vital jobs!

We have a government earnestly scrambling to spend tax dollars on "creating jobs" when in point of fact, we have too many jobs already!

Here are facts and figures in Forbes Magazine

I love that illustration at the top of that article. I wish I had a visual-intelligence like the fellow-gal who thought that one up!

But look at this quote from that article:

We all know America's labor force is graying. Workers over the age of 55 will swell to 20% of the total in five years, compared with 10% two decades ago. The oldest boomers turn 65 next year. While a rotten economy and a rocky stock market will force many to cling to their jobs, they'll eventually have to go. Surprisingly, new hires of the right sort are tough to find: 2.4 million positions--many in professional services, health care and education--are going unfilled, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "We have high unemployment that will persist, but we've also got a coming talent shortage," adds Tamara Erickson, a workforce consultant in Boston.

Read that whole article. It will chill your worldbuilder bones and make you wonder how love can possibly conquer this! Out of that wonder may come the novel of a lifetime. (Don't forget the Neanderthals and the French government initiating the I.Q. concept.)

We have a bureau of labor statistics, a government agency, complaining we have too many unfillable jobs, and we have a government scrambling to alleviate a jobs shortage by emergency action.

I did hear a government official say on TV, "Never waste a good emergency." And he wasn't talking about the "other" party.

Just remember that even with 10% unemployment, we have too many jobs unfilled, high paying good jobs, and no unemployment worthy of graphing among those with higher degrees. You have to study that graph of degrees vs. unemployment and think about that bell curve -- half the people are not smart enough to get those advanced degrees, it's just that we don't know which half is which.

Remember all those times Alan Greenspan testified before various Senate and Congressional committees, saying directly to the camera that the key to preventing a major collapse of the economy was to RE-EDUCATE THE WORKFORCE. The tone of voice telegraphed an assumption that anyone could learn to do anything. The I.Q. concept says that's not so.

The worldbuilding question is "Which is true?"

Greenspan used the word "education" over and over. Savings rate (i.e. not going into such deep debt) and education were the two keys to preventing disaster. The politicians on those committees (I watched their faces time and again) did not listen, did not hear, or maybe just could not understand, what he was saying and why he said it.

OK, it was ALAN GREENSPAN. His version of the English language is nearly incomprehensible to those who can't read 5 syllable words and parse complex-compound sentences, but I listened carefully and I can attest that Greenspan's grammar and vocabulary usage are impeccable, correct, precise and totally comprehensible. But our elected officials did not heed his warnings.

Similar testimony and warnings have come down from the halls of Education, and similarly been ignored, as indicated in the Johnny Can't Read article I pointed to above.

So, how does Intelligence actually work?

Step #5 in this process is to check back to the original question.

Is there a connection between intelligence and education?

Intuitively, we would think so.

Let me specify my personal definition of intelligence, so we're all thinking about thinking about the same subject.

Let's say "Intelligence" is the ability to LEARN, and I.Q. tests should, ideally, measure the speed with which an individual learns. NOT "what you know" but "how fast you learn something you've never encountered before."

Under that definition, which I didn't make up but learned, emotional intelligence is just intelligence, and measures the speed with which an individual learns emotional matters (like love and commitment).

Ethics, morals, even religion and faith can come under my definition of Intelligence, as can "intuition" -- the speed with which the individual apprehends a pattern that has not manifested on the material plane but exists only in the individual's imagination.

Now, remember what we found out about the shift in educational emphasis from a meritocracy based on the speed of acquisition of hard facts and the ability to manipulate learned facts to generate hypotheses and theories, to a meritocracy based on "fitting in" on "socialization" on "citizenship" and emotional intelligence alone.

With a school system geared only to reward those who have high emotional intelligence, who excel at social skills, it's small wonder Aspergers and ADHD kids who are often extremely "intelligent" are sent off to special ed where they have social skills pounded into them but are starved for intellectual stimulation and success at the things they're really good at (geekish stuff).

So if high emotional intelligence is what elementary schools look for, foster, and reward with high grades, it's those folks who get to go on to tech HS and college, get the degrees, and STAY EMPLOYED EVEN THROUGH A MINI-DEPRESSION!!!

I would expect today's Ph.D.'s have extreme emotional intelligence coupled to a fairly high I.Q. or intelligence for learning hard facts.

The reason our schools turn out too few Ph.D.'s to fill those high level jobs, and have turned out too few for so long that the high-level admin positions that take 30 years on the job to learn are now unfilled and emptying fast -- the reason we have too few of these high-level professionals is that very few of us have both high level emotional intelligence or the capacity to develop it, AND high level math-science intelligence.

You're looking at the intersection of two bell curve distributions.

Maybe something has gone wrong with our schooling, not with us?

This is the world your reader is living in. "Model" it in your worldbuilding, and ask new questions about it, find new solutions to old questions.

Older people (say 80 year olds today) will tell you that these young people today, regardless of how many degrees they have, just don't have the education "we" used to get. (hey, I'm not 80.)

People who have a long-time perspective attest to the deterioration of educational standards, and though I haven't any hard statistics to substantiate this notion, it seems to me that the takeover of our schools by the "emotional intelligence" admirers parallels the deterioration that the old timers see so clearly.

It may or may not be a "deterioration" but I'd say there's no escaping the notion that it is a change.

And that change has not been designed according to objective criteria.

The change is directed by politics.

Whether this is good, bad, or indifferent is a matter for worldbuilders.

But let me refer you to my blog entry of last week,

which discusses the changes to our civilization currently splitting generations apart.

The biggest change is of course, social-networking, and I took a long, connect-the-dots futurologist's look at social networking and the mistakes being made in understanding what it is, nevermind what it does.

The March 1, issue of Fortune Magazine has an article titled THE FUTURE OF READING, Tablets? Smartphones? Netbooks? They could all save newspapers, books, and magazines -- or destroy them. Or both.

The import of this article for you, the online public, is not what it says but who says it. Fortune Magazine! All the major media are now taking e-books and systems like Kindle (wi-fi download of current magazines, blogs and news) seriously.

And everywhere you turn (even here) you will find people talking about social networking and "how to use it" -- as if we haven't been using social networking since the dawn of human intelligence.

Online Social networking, if you read the how-to articles, is really the tool of the well educated, High Emotional Intelligence, netizen. And in the Microsoft era, just getting online and staying online takes a considerable I.Q.

There is, however, still ongoing disrespect for that combination of skills - the high I.Q. and high E.I.

And of course someone had to connect E.I. to Darwin.
The earliest roots of emotional intelligence can be traced to Darwin’s work on the importance of emotional expression for survival and second adaptation.[3] In the 1900s, even though traditional definitions of intelligence emphasized cognitive aspects such as memory and problem-solving, several influential researchers in the intelligence field of study had begun to recognize the importance of the non-cognitive aspects. For instance, as early as 1920, E. L. Thorndike used the term social intelligence to describe the skill of understanding and managing other people.[4]

And the two kinds of cognitive skills are still seen as different, or independent variables.

Yet as evidenced by the total lack of unemployment during a mini-Depression among those who have passed both the E.I. screening of elementary school and the I.Q. screening of university, our culture, civilization and society reward awesomely those who have both.

At the same time, we disrespect those who exercise both emotional intelligence and cognitive skills by mastering the internet and/or computer games early in life.

Here's an article titled:
The Internet Will Make You Smarter

And a quote from that:

[the survey] was prompted in part by an August 2008 cover story in the Atlantic Monthly by technology writer Nicholas Carr headlined: "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"

Carr suggested in the article that heavy use of the Web was chipping away at users' capacity for concentration and deep thinking. Carr, who participated in the survey, told the authors he still agreed with the piece.

"What the 'Net does is shift the emphasis of our intelligence away from what might be called a meditative or contemplative intelligence and more toward what might be called a utilitarian intelligence," Carr said in a release accompanying the study. "The price of zipping among lots of bits of information is a loss of depth in our thinking."

So you see, even those who spend a lifetime studying how intelligence works have still got no clue!

We keep inventing these different sorts of intelligence. Contemplative Intelligence? Utilitarian intelligence?

Think about Wilmar Shiras's landmark SF novel about super-intelligent children.

Here's a quote from wikipedia on her work (which is brilliant!)

Her story "In Hiding" was submitted in 1948 to John W. Campbell, Jr.'s influential magazine Astounding Science Fiction, where it was published in the November issue. The story, about extraordinarily gifted children who were struggling to find their place in the world, struck a chord with readers and became a classic, rapidly appearing in multiple anthologies.[1] Shiras published two sequels in the magazine: "Opening Doors," and "New Foundations." The three stories then became the first three chapters in the novel, Children of the Atom.[2] It was published during her later-in-life sophomore year in college, attending the College of the Holy Names.

I got my copy autographed by here during a party at Marion Zimmer Bradley's house. What a moment!

If you take a really long point of view and look for dots to connect, you might see the frantic, even panic-stricken, thrashing about for a way -- any way -- to appease the demand of the French government of 1904 to find an objective scientific way to tell the difference among people.

The assumption is that there is a difference. Alan Greenspan's apparent assumption is that there is no difference except education which can be paid for by government.

To the culture of 1904, "scientific" was the imprimatur of legitimacy. And though the French Revolution was a thing of the past, (1789 - 1799), it was barely 4 generations previous to the demand for an I.Q. test.

How do I figure 4 generations? Well, the demand was made by older men, men raised in say the 1860's by people born in probably 1830 and who had grandparents who remembered the revolution. If you take "20 years is a generation" you miss the transmission of cultural values as the counter to the driving force of "change."

Look at the emancipation of the slaves in the USA. That was over in 1865, yet it was 1965 before the Civil Rights Act was pushed through the US Congress against violent objections. And even today, Blacks have their civil rights violated routinely and nobody notices because that's how it's always been, right?

So think about the mind set of the elder leaders of France a mere hundred years after the French Revolution, and the massacre of "the aristocrats" regardless of the personal politics of each aristocrat.

A new kind of aristocracy had invented itself and taken charge of the rabble without letting the rabble know it. Read some historical romances and think hard about why you like them so much. Use your emotional intelligence to analyze your responses.

The French Revolution was against inherited wealth and position, not against a basic philosophy.

The instigators were educated intellectuals who knew one philosophy from another, but the rabble had to be roused with something a tad less scary than thinking about thinking which is what philosophy (my favorite subject) really is.

You see, from the point of view of France's new leaders, there HAS TO BE a difference among people, if the natural aristocrats, the few, are to "rise to the top" and govern us. And they do have to rise and govern because otherwise we're a rabble, right? Rabbles can't govern themselves. The real problem was which aristocrats were in charge, not that someone was in charge. Liberty means something different to each person who uses the word, just like Hope, or Love.

But the founders of the USA believed that all men - one man, one vote, and only for men, white men at that - were good judges of character, and it's good character that we want to govern us. They felt the rabble couldn't govern itself, but the rabble was wise enough to choose the correct aristocrats to do the governing -- but even more than that, the philosophy behind the USA's success is that the rabble has the right to be wrong.

Of course, that was only for men, and they expected the only men who ever could run for high office were landed gentry. Then there was Abraham Lincoln -- but he just proved the point. He was a success in spite of starting out with nothing.

He was a success through education.

OK self-education

He READ BOOKS - so the legend goes - by firelight. Have you ever tried to read by a wood fire's light? Try it, and not with an e-reader that's backlit.

So how does "intelligence" work - whatever it is?

Do you need to go to school to become "educated?" Well, a lot of people are having great success (I know a few) with home schooling because the internet has made textbooks, curricula, and association among parents and among students so much more accessible, and computer screens are backlit.

Local public schools are being drained of their academic best by Charter Schools, by parochial schools, and every alternative. Parents are bailing out of the public school system because it doesn't prepare kids for college (because public school emphasizes emotional intelligence) -- and it is increasingly apparent that only a college degree (which needs a high I.Q.) will keep you employed through recessions, and even that's no real guarantee.

Government runs the schools through the School Board, State requirements, and Federal programs and selects what "kind" of Intelligence will get you that coveted degree.

States and school districts have to comply with Federal standards to get Federal money. As I've said on this blog many times, to plot a good novel, learn the oldest adage of civilization -- if you want to understand what's really going on, follow the money.

Read Alvin Toffler's book Future Shock where he shows you, with an avalanche of factual evidence, how civilizations generate schooling for children.

He shows how in our civilization, since the industrial revolution our governments have shaped and conditioned schools to turn out factory workers and bureaucratic cogs for our wheels.

The Industrial Revolution is considered to be 1700's through the 1800's -- so in 1904 when this Intelligence thing became a government project, the social changes the Industrial Revolution generated were just appearing. The internet dates from the early 1970's, sort of, and the Web is really a phenomenon of the 1990's. We haven't begun to feel the impact of this online social networking thing.

What we teach, what we emphasize, what we arm our children with is what our most coveted employers prefer in their workers.

Or so it was through the 1970's when Toffler observed, compiled and wrote. Most of what he predicted has come true.

In fact, in many ways, Alvin Toffler predicted the effect of the internet. He predicted "cottage industry" -- home based businesses and independent contractors instead of corporate employees becoming the base of our GDP. He predicted telecommuting. Yeah, before the Web or social networking existed, he predicted the effect all this would have.

But the principle he revealed is still working, I think, though it's veered onto what seems to be a new tack.

Government generates the curriculum for the schools, both the overt curriculum (what it says in the textbook and tests that you have to pass) and what Toffler called the covert curriculum which is the most important.

The covert curriculum is conveyed by what the teacher telegraphs to the students by classroom rules, the punishments for breaking those rules, by who gets called on how often, by tone of voice when discussing one or another module in the text, by approval and disapproval, by simply being a product of the world he/she lives in.

Both of overt and covert curriculae are about what it takes to succeed in the world, in life.

Step #6 in getting a crazy idea.

Take a worldbuilder's view of the shift to a curriculum rewarding Emotional Intelligence, fitting in, socialization -- and excluding those disruptive, hyperactive kids who can't conform emotionally.

By excluding those kids, you're teaching the rest conform-or-die in a covert curriculum mode. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

Having been "hammered down" as a child, an adult will make a great protagonist or antagonist for a novel.

Now go back to the idea of an aristocracy that governs because they know best and because it can, through the auspices of government, solve the problems that distract you peasants from earning a living (and paying taxes).

The advent of social networking and blogging has shifted the dynamics of the society of the governed, of the rabble, of the peasants.

Social networking has made it easy to rouse a rabble with a rumor or two. It's also easy to fact-check, but not everyone can find a website they trust to check facts on.

How many of you have actually followed the links I've inserted here and read the articles to see if they say what I said they say?

And of those, especially those who found discrepancies or who just plain disagree with me, how many have "asked the next question" -- which is "Does it matter for the sake of this discussion that the fact is wrong?"
This is a blog about Alien Romance, about non-human intelligence and human emotional intelligence. To write this imaginative stuff, we need meticulous worldbuilding. To do meticulous worldbuilding, we do not need actual REAL FACTS. We need an apprehension of facts that allows a flight of "what if?" "If Only..." and "If This Goes On ...."

We're looking to find a problem that love can conquer, a problem important to the readers that they don't at the moment know exists.

So if we concoct a notion of how intelligence works that seems plausible to our 21st century readers, we've got a building block for our next "world."

So let's go with a thesis (you can pick a different thesis when we're done with this one) that "Intelligence" and the I.Q. test, and the subsequent invention of other kinds of intelligence, is really just a figment of the imagination of would-be Aristocrats that want to take over government and rule the rabble.

Someone in the French government in 1904 grabbed hold of Darwin's theory (published in 1859 when he was 50 years old) and tried to gain scientific legitimacy for the philosophy that says aristocrats do exist, or the blue blood inherited trait of rulership exists. There really is some definable property of an individual that suits him to rule, and science can select out those gifted individuals.

I seem to recall reading recently that intelligence can be inherited but genius can not. With studies of criminality, they are looking for genes that somehow govern morality. Or sanity.

What steers the direction of scientific inquiry? Government funding? Religion? Both?

So, if you were one of those who moves in the upper circles of our modern aristocracy -- money, power, government -- and you saw the rabble suddenly able to communicate via the Web and uncover your attempts to rule instead of govern, then what would you do to ensure that your children could inherit power, position and privelege?

Would you use government funds to shape education that would sharpen young minds for independent thinking early in life? Would you turn them loose with a freely accessible internet, twitter, texting, communications systems?

Remember the case of the laptop cameras used to spy on children:

Or would you set up what looks like an earnest attempt at an education system (that mysteriously fails to teach reading and writing) and fund and fuel that system with rewards for emotional intelligence?

Would you set up a system that would bestow rewards on those smart enough to spend most of their effort on reading other people's emotions instead of novels of far away places with strange sounding names and incendiary ideas?

Think about this from a gamesmanship standpoint. 3 Times is Enemy Action. It's an adage for a reason.

Have our schools been "reformed" and "refunded" 3 times and failed 3 times?

Is the chronic failure condition of our schools actually enemy action? Is it "the enemy" succeeding to do what they set out to do?

Remember The Peter Principle?

The adage that applies is "Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity."

The people who are "reforming" our education system are people who are the product of that failed education system. Can love conquer that?

You know it can, it just hasn't yet in real life. Build a world where love has conquered The Peter Principle.

With the government reporting all the failures of our education system and drawing on more and more tax money to "improve" our schools (thus increasing the amount of power certain officials wield), but still reporting mysterious failure after failure (and the drop-out rate is still incredible among Blacks, Hispanics and inner city kids), could you possibly entertain the notion that the schools are doing exactly what the government wants them to do?

Mallice succeeding? Or stupidity floundering? It's for worldbuilders to choose, then pursue to a logical conclusion.

Does the application of the theory of "Emotional Intelligence" actually produce followers rather than leaders or iconoclasts like Warren Buffet?

That's a book called
Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently

From Publishers Weekly
Psychiatry professor Berns (Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment) describes an iconoclast as "a person who does something that others say can't be done." Though keeping his promise to reveal the "biological basis" for the ability to think outside the box, Berns keeps technical explanation to a minimum, instead using themes like perception, fear and networking to profile a number of famous free-thinkers.
-------------END EXCERPT-------

An Iconoclast is a human somewhat like C. J. Cherryh's "Aiji" from her Foreigner series which I highly recommend. The concept of the "Aiji" is essentially the Iconoclast by this neurological definition, but with a few twists you need to be able to see our education system, founded on the I.Q. and E.I. concepts in a new light.

Read a few novels about Medical School and Internship and Residency - and the hierarchy in hospitals, in the medical profession. Read about the legal profession and listen for the sounding of similar notes.

Do you suppose the "failure" of a certain type of person, driven to drop out of school and found a career running drugs or worse, is due to the identification of that type of person by "authority" as Darwinianly unfit to join the ranks of the rulers?

Do you suppose Obama is the Lincoln of today?

Is Intelligence a figment of government imagination, a tool to keep the rabble in check and clueless that they are being kept in check?

That's by no means a new idea. People have been fighting the use of I.Q. tests on that basis for more than 50 years. But have all the worlds that can be envisioned from that idea already been used in SF?

If they have, then good, because now we can do "the same but different" and add a twist of Romance.

The idea that using the internet makes you stupid, i.e. undermines your intelligence, would be propagated as part of the covert curriculum in schools if the use of the internet actually makes you smarter than those who are in authority over you and fear your ability to think about thinking.

But I don't think it really is that way.

Still, it would make a dynamic premise for worldbuilding behind a really hot Alien Romance.

Now Step #7, build yourself a series of alternate universe worlds, some fantasy, some SF, some paranormal romance ones.

1. A sub-variety of human evolved along a different line on this chart,

maybe brought into the modern world via cloning --

where "intelligence" (whatever that is) is bestowed upon certain chosen young the way bees make a queen out of one of the eggs, while all the rest of the young are left to be "peasants."

2. An alien species - maybe ruling an alternate Earth with a gateway into this world to make it an urban fantasy. This alien species would have the ability (maybe not all of them; only a Talented few) to tell intelligent human fetuses from us dullards?

3. An Earth colony on some distant lost world founded by super geniuses for super geniuses and genetically selecting their progeny for even higher "intelligence." Now they get discovered by us dullards.

There are 3 crazy ideas that can be springboards into the craziest romances you have ever read.

All of the writers reading this could write any of those 3 "crazy ideas" and none of the books would be copyright infringements. You can't copyright an "idea."

And the truth is, you can start with any of those 3 ideas and by the time you finish writing a novel, the idea itself will be completely invisible. You could make a career out of writing just one of those in all its possible variations.

And so now you see exactly how to go get yourself a "crazy idea" - this one about the civilization built around a philosophical idea of what constitutes "intelligence" is only one crazy idea that's out there on the internet waiting for you to put the bits and pieces together and ask the next question -- as Theodore Sturgeon taught us:

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, February 22, 2010

2009 PEARL Award Finalists!

From PNR:

"Here they are at long last, the finalists for 2009 Paranormal Excellence Awards for Romantic Literature (PEARL). Congratulations to all the writers who were nominated and those who made the roster of finalists. We also want to thank each reader participating for nominating their best reads of 2009."

2009 Finalists are:

NIGHTWALKER by Heather Graham
THE SWORD AND THE PEN by Elysa Hendricks
THORN QUEEN by Richelle Mead

OBSIDIAN PREY by Jayne Castle
HEART CHANGE by Robin D. Owens
GUARDIAN by Angela Knight
SCARLET by Jordan Summers
BLAZE OF MEMORY by Nalini Singh

ANGELS' BLOOD by Nalini Singh
WHITE STAR by Elizabeth Vaughn
BURNING ALIVE by Shannon Butcher

DIAMOND STAR by Catherine Asaro
HOPE'S FOLLY by Linnea Sinclair
BEYOND THE RAIN by Jess Granger

BURNING WILD by Christine Feehan
DRAGON MOON by Rebecca York
MORTAL SINS by Eileen Wilks
BRANDED BY FIRE by Nalini Singh
LEADER OF THE PACK by Karen MacInerney
WILD HIGHLAND MAGIC by Kendra Leigh Castle

TIME FOR ETERNITY by Susan Squires
GUARDIAN by Angela Knight
CREIGHTON MANOR by Karen Michelle Nutt

TURN COAT by Jim Butcher
FROSTBITTEN by Kelley Armstrong
BONE CROSSED by Patricia Briggs
DEMON MISTRESS by Yasmine Galenorn
PREY by Rachel Vincent

OVER MY DEAD BODY by Michele Bardsley
DARK SLAYER by Christine Feehan
STAY THE NIGHT by Lynn Viehl
BAD TO THE BONE by Jeri Smith-Ready
RAPHAEL by D.B. Reynolds

THE LOST by JD Robb, Ruth Ryan Langan, Mary Blayney, Patricia Gaffney
MEAN STREETS by Jim Butcher, Thomas E. Sniegoski, Kat Richardson, Simon R. Green
STRANGE BREW by Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Karen Chance, P.N. Elrod, Rachel Caine
MEN OF THE OTHERWORLD by Kelley Armstrong
BELONG TO THE NIGHT by Cynthia Eden, Sherrill Quinn, Shelly Laurenston
MUST LOVE HELLHOUNDS by Iona Andrews, Charlaine Harris, Meljean Brook, Nalini Singh

Chloe Neill
Kimberly Frost
Tammy Kane
Gail Carriger
Cheryl Pierson

DARK SLAYER by Chrstine Feehan
THE GIFT by Deb Stover
DEAD AND GONE by Charlaine Harris
MORTAL SINS by Eileen Wilks
BLAZE OF MEMORY by Nalini Singh
DARKNESS CALLs by Marjorie M. Liu
PREY by Rachel Vincent

For more information on PNR and the PEARL:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Future Of Music

Other people's music may be as dangerous to your health as other people's other emissions (such as very strong perfume).

At the moment, in America, we are obliged to suffer unprovoked assaults on four of our five senses, with a few exceptions. Off the top of my head, we are not obliged to witness other people relieving themselves in the street; we are not expected to tolerate the spectacle of full nudity in public places (unless we pay); Post Office workers are not forced to listen to customers' cell phones; in some states, small children are supposed to be protected from the sound and fury of loudly spoken obscenities; most citizens can go about their business without having to worry that strangers will touch their bellies --pregnant women excepted.

In the future, this may change, at least as regards noise pollution. Possibly, it was a foretaste of the future when a book-warehouse worker was fired for making unpleasant noises.

No doubt this is an unpopular point of view, but I think I ought to have the right to drive along quietly in my car, alert for sounds of police or emergency vehicle sirens. I don't wish to hear the boom-boom-boom from other people's cars, and I do believe that the sound and vibration are bad for my health. The music may sound lovely to the person playing it --and I don't deny anyone the right to listen to music-- but by the time it reaches my ears, it is distorted. I think the beat resembles an elevated heartbeat, and my own pulse quickens in response.

I suspect that other people's music may cause road rage, but much would depend on the senses of the majority of the population. My own sense of hearing is unusually acute. Who else can hear an ipod charging? It sounds very much like the zing of a filament bulb that is likely to burn out the next time the light switch is turned on.

A quick check of the internet suggests that music is not welcome on submarines... at least, not for overnight visitors to a museum submarine.

For a night about the USS Cobia, visitors are not allowed to bring radios, music players, games systems, TVs.

However, it appears that music is very important to a number of astronauts, and many take their own musical instruments up to the international space station (after NASA has conducted rigorous tests of the instruments to make sure that they don't emit noxious fumes or radiation, or interfere with the electronics, or constitute a fire hazard). Apparently, playing music relieves stress.

I wonder what would happen if astronauts' musical tastes were incompatible. I wonder whether music would be considered safe if there were hostile space ships around, and if part of the mission involved running silent.

It is popularly said that "Music soothes the savage beast,"  (actually, the phrase was coined by William Congreve, in The mourning bride, 1697:)
Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
'Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv'd the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg'd
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?
In my alien romance world-building for my "Alien Djinn/god-Princes of Tigron" series, I decided that there should be no music for commoners, and the only music should be for State occasions, such as the mating anthem at royal weddings, and should be heavily choral.

I didn't spend a lot of time explaining why there was no music, but the rule gave me an opportunity for some fun when my earth-educated hero of Insufficient Mating Material sang classical rock songs to relieve his stress, and thoroughly puzzled the alien princess who was marooned with him on a desert island.

The Wii game system seems to me to have a lot of potential for healthy(ish) entertainment in confined spaces because a player does have to move more than her thumbs, and indeed can play until certain body parts are quite sore. However, the accompanying noises might drive non-players absolutely bonkers.

Apart from futuristic military uses or bans on music, and whether or not it could or should be controlled by the State to add extraordinary pomp and circumstance to State ceremonies, I find Patrick Ross's blogs about music and copyright fascinating fodder for my imagination.

Index with excerpts of February 2010 posts:

I don't pretend to be musical, but as I understand, music is a created by permutations of 8 notes. Won't we eventually run out of possible combinations? No doubt, the tunes for hymns were written for the greater glory, and were donated explicitly or implicitly to a sort of ecclesiastical Creative Commons. I'm probably absolutely in the wrong to feel indignant when I hear good Lutherans putting their own words to tunes I learned from the Church of England fifty years ago.

Maybe recycling a good tune is okay. Maybe Mash-Ups are going to be increasingly unavoidable in music. I wonder what will happen when it's almost impossible to create an original song. After a couple of thousand years of composing, it will happen, won't it? Would there still be an incentive to be a song-writer?

Could all music be created by a super computer? Could all music be formulated like a chess game? After all, in chess, there are only ten possible first moves. How many possible first notes are there? Eight? Fifty-two?

If so, would all computer-generated music be royalty free for anyone to perform?

Words, I think, are different. There are tens of thousands of words in the English language alone.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Irredeemable Hero Material?

Watching THE VAMPIRE DIARIES (I liked the books very much when they were first published and am enjoying the TV series) reminded me of the reincarnation motif so common in vampire romance. I don’t care much for that trope, but lots of readers obviously do, and it goes back all the way to the original DARK SHADOWS. Remember how Barnabas kidnapped Maggie because he thought she was the reincarnation of Josette? I’ve had an idea about a story focused on a vampire obsessed with his dead lover who uses his hypnotic power to make a female victim believe she is, and act as much as possible like, his lost love. He does this to a succession of women, starting over with a new one whenever the last one is “used up.” Suppose he and the heroine fall in love and for some reason he can’t or isn’t willing to brainwash her like the others. When she finds out what he’s been doing to other women all this time, will she continue to love him? Will she ever feel she can trust him—or trust her own feelings for him?

What acts would disqualify a character from being a romantic hero? Murder? Probably not, depending on the circumstances. He might have had a good or at least excusable reason for killing. I’d think any form of premeditated child, spouse, or animal abuse would be an absolute downcheck. However, I could visualize making a hero out of a man who’d committed domestic violence in moments of impulsive anger, if it’s clearly shown that he feels remorse and has taken steps to redeem himself, such as anger management therapy. Or, say, he was drinking when he did it and has since gone through Alcoholics Anonymous and stayed clean for years. I can’t see myself as having the skill to create such a hero, but I can imagine a gifted author who could. Rape? That wasn’t a disqualification in older historical romances, provided extenuating circumstances existed (e.g., the hero mistook the heroine for a prostitute and her resistance for play-acting) and the man was portrayed as a good guy at heart. The conventions of romance have changed in recent decades, though. Marion Zimmer Bradley redeems a rapist in TWO TO CONQUER, which, however, isn’t a romance. Thomas Harris ends HANNIBAL with a portrayal of a cannibalistic serial killer as the hero in a “Beauty and the Beast” love story—but I think Dr. Lecter is a unique and inimitable example!

Any thoughts on what actions in a character’s past would absolutely disqualify him as the hero of a romance?

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Strange Benefit Of Social Networking

First I have to thank the renowned editor, Victoria A. Mixon, for mentioning my blog entry of last week (*blush*) in her own blog where she wrote:

Author Jacqueline Lichtenberg has written a  long and eye-opening post contradicting the standard publishing wisdom, “You determine your own success or failure by just how compelling your story is.” Lichtenberg is looking at TV shows as fiction, as well as books, for which I think she builds a good case. Pay attention to what she’s saying, folks! This is the keystone.

Her post, in turn, refers to an article by Andrew R. Malkin describing his career in publishing promotions.

And Malkin refers to Seth Godin. I mean, these days who doesn’t?
--------End Quote-------

Victoria's blog is one you should subscribe to!  Here's the link to that particular entry, but just look at her others!

So to this week's topic is about the mistake people are making when trying to understand online social networking, a mistake so huge it's invisible to the naked eye.

Victoria A. Mixon's reference to my blog post is a case in point on social networking that is more pertinent because I have no clue how she found my blog entry.  She might have picked it up on twitter or via the Agent Rachel Gardner's blog (which is rated #4 on Technorati's list of 100 top book blogs) or might have found mentioned on Galaxy Express here: where the full title is
10 Steps To Making Science Fiction Romance A Contender

You see?  Social networking creates these nebulous networks where the networkers don't know where the information came from -- it's on the network!

So I was thinking about that "network" concept and how the e-world differs from the ancient world (pre-WWW) and I suddenly saw a pattern while trolling twitter.

I will attempt to connect three improbable dots and show you this pattern:

A) Puberty
B) Publishing
C) Commercial exploiting of social networking

As far as I know (which isn't very far) nobody else has discerned this pattern from these particular dots.

If you stick it out through this huge post, I may make you crazy.

Here's how it all came together. 

I had just filed my September review column for The Monthly Aspectarian, which is published on paper in the magazine, then posted to their website ( then finally archived at

The books reviewed this year are posted on that 2010 index page and you could look them over and see what the ones you've read from that list have in common.

The September column is about books where the main hero is fully engaged in defending a particular USA city from some form of paranormal attack, and I noted some things cities have in common.  If you read those books carefully in close sequence you will see how the authors exploit the mechanics of social networks within cities that propel the plot dynamics.  But that wasn't the exact focus of my column.

Right after that I ran across another tweet on Twitter:

@michaelpinto: #kidscreen it's not until kids hit age 12 do they use social online services

Michael Pinto is Creative Director of Very Memorable Design, Publisher of and Editor of -- has over 2,000 followers on twitter, and his website is

And I offhandedly shot back at him:

@jlichtenberg @michaelpinto #kidscreen "socialization" awareness of "other" may be primarily part of the reproductive urge?

To which he answered:

@michaelpinto @JLichtenberg actually most of the social media at that age is your immediate peers, so it's more of a tool thing

And the head-wheels start spinning! (I do love twitter!)

The image that flashed into my mind was the typical Middle School school yard during recess and the behaviors of various age-groups of children.

It's something I had noticed when I was a child and continued to notice throughout the years, and to puzzle over.

Watch the 4th Grade girls -- they gather in groups, sometimes larger, and they PLAY, they do things, they engage in activities, and the only things they say to each other are in regard to the activity (Dodgeball, jacks, races, games).

Watch the 5th Grade girls.  Some play, some gather in small groups and talk.

Watch the 6th Grade girls.  They ALL gather in small groups and TALK-TALK-TALK.

Something happens at puberty that shifts interest from the activity to the people.

Most of the focus of that talk is "I-I-I" -- it's all about Self.  But watch the 7th and 8th graders.  The talk is 'you' and 'look at that cute boy'.

There is a major shift of awareness we call socialization, and it is a shift from I-self to You-other.  There is a dawning (before puberty) of awareness that others exist, have feelings, and an inner emotional life separate from all activities.

There is a dawning of awareness of the inner emotional life of the Self -- and then a seeking of the mirror of the Self in Other.

The yen for BONDING starts, and it first manifests in those cliques gathered to talk-talk-talk.  I've seen groups of 4 or 5 girls walking home from school stop in the middle of an intersection, totally lose awareness of any approaching cars, and just focus tightly on talk-talk-talk and the talk is all about FEELINGS and interactions with others.

The search is for those who have similar feelings, and the process brings the individual's emotional responses into conformity with the majority or dominant individuals until a group is formed that has very similar emotional responses.

Last night I saw a feature on PBS about the psychology of investing, about neuroscience and other really detailed scientific studies of fear and risk and herd behavior among humans.  And one item struck me relevant to social networking.  The science behind human herd behavior has revealed how neurologically a human being will subordinate the individuality in order to be accepted by the group -- out of fear, out of risk aversion - out of the very sort of "Primal" responses Blake Snyder talks about in his SAVE THE CAT! books.

And that TV feature brought to mind that school yard full of little knots of girls chattering at each other, seeking emotional conformity and emotional bonding with each other (and talking about cute boys, of course, what else is there to talk about?)

Today's cliques of pubescent girls use texting and social networking, but as Michael Pinto observes, it's a tool to carry on the exact same transaction I had observed so many years in schoolyards.  Now they'll text each other across the yard.  But the transaction is the same - bonding self-to-other.  First in small groups.  But today's world is much bigger.

A couple days before that, I ran into the following news article on Yahoo that says YouTube is 5 years old (only 5 years!) and details the changes its advent on the scene has made.

5 years!  Today's pre-adolescents don't remember the world without Youtube and video-via-cell-phone.  It's just a tool they use to assuage their bonding urge.

Remember, some time ago I did several entries here about social networking especially as used by marketers:

The point of that post was essentially that advertisers who tried to use social networking to force a message to "go viral" in order to make a profit were shooting themselves in the foot by following the oldest adage of Marketing.

Mastering this oldest adage of Marketing is a hurdle as difficult to surmount for budding marketers as "show don't tell" is for budding writers.

It is "You Are Not Your Customer."

And I pointed out why Marketers can never succeed at using social networking to promote a product on purpose by citing successful social networking examples such as Linnea Sinclair.  (one of the contributors to this blog )

In social networking, YOU ARE YOUR CUSTOMER or you fail because the society will reject you violently and with extreme prejudice.

This rejection phenomenon is not new any more than puberty is new.

Way back when Science Fiction fandom (before Star Trek) was a tiny, closed community of people social networking via snailmail, it consisted of several circles of people who knew each other and knew different circles of professional writers personally.

Science Fiction fandom was so closed that people who took a new interest in the fandom without coming from an encyclopedic knowledge of the fiction admired by the groups were viewed as unwelcome intruders.

But of course, "science fiction fandom" was so tiny that even publishers of science fiction paid no attention to it.

Even if a book sold to all the social-network connected science fiction fans, that alone couldn't make it commercially viable.

A book's publishing overhead required that it sell to 100's of times as many people as ever connected to SF fandom's little in-group.  Sales volumes of books that sold to most of fandom and those that sold to no fans were statistically indistinguishable.  The "Hugo Winner" didn't sell enough additional copies to make a difference. Neither did "Nebula Winner" though when BOTH appeared on a book it meant something commercially.  (that changed gradually, year by year, and then SUDDENLY in the 1960's into a "Golden Age." You can look up dates if you like.)

Then came Star Trek in the late 1960's and with the conventions in the early 1970's and the explosion of "trekkies" as opposed to people like me known as Trekkers, started to change book sales patterns. (but Trekkies would buy spinoff novels but not follow an author into their own non-Trek works!)

"Trekkies" is a derogatory term used to designate people whose motives are similar to those of "roadies" -- starstruck fanatics who follow rock stars around the country screaming at concerts.

Trekkies is an odious term because it's a static psychological state.  It's like an addiction.  Instead of making progress in life because of the interest, learning skills, gaining expertise, widening horizons, acquiring stabilizing associations and contacts with people above you on the ladder of success, the "trekkie" just sits at the feet and goes gaagaa.

"Trekkers" are active and growing people -- people on a Trek, a JOURNEY.  They are going somewhere.  All their efforts are toward an attainable goal and they do attain that goal.

Trekkers wrote amazing fan fiction, and many of those fanfic writers became professional writers (after a few were shut firmly out of mainstream publishing because they were known fanfic writers).

Fanfic generated social networks within networks, all connected, knowing each other or knowing of each other.  And those generated whole conventions where thousands of dollars changed hands just with the buying and selling of fanzines (on paper no less.)

More than that, the efforts of Trekkers produced the fan-run Star Trek Conventions (not the "shows" where the Stars posture on a stage, sign autographs for money, and disappear -- the CONVENTIONS where the Stars might drop in and speak on a stage, then go buy stuff in the Dealer's Room and converse with trekkers but ignore the trekkies).

The Trekkers got sucked into Science Fiction and invaded Science Fiction conventions causing an immense backlash of rejection because a lot of Trekkies got mixed in, and Trekkies didn't read the "right" books to be accepted.

This invasion changed the face of SF fandom and actually changed its prestige among publishers because of the large numbers of people and the among of money that changed hands. But individual authors didn't see TV show fans grabbing SF novels off the shelves unless they were TV show spinoffs.

Don't forget that YouTube effect. It's a 3rd generation video-entertainment-only development.

My own Star Trek fanfiction (text-only), the Kraith Series (which attracted 50 creative fan contributors who wrote and drew in my alternate Trek Universe) was nominated for the Fan Writer Hugo (SF Fandom's top award) (and lost because of that backlash of text readers against TV-fan invaders - resentment continues for that, too).

Kraith can be read for free online at

Here's an image of the Hugo runner-up certificate :


It's a good thing I didn't win the trophy because the Trekkie-invasion issue in SF fandom was incendiary, and the person who won really REALLY deserved it.

However, that was an inflection point, and today Science Fiction conventions and even Worldcon have "media" track programming (which was so resoundingly rejected at first).  If the resistance hadn't gone on so long, Worldcon would have been the Event that Dragoncon is now - media and gaming.

These are now two immiscible social networks in fandom, media and books.

Here are a couple of websites listing conventions:
Here is the Locus list of cons:

On #scifichat on twitter (Friday afternoon Eastern Time - Follow @scifichat for info ) David Rozansky (a publisher who runs the chat) advised writers aiming at text-publishing:

@DavidRozansky Attend literary-focused #scifi cons, like WorldCon or MileHiCon. Media-focus cons are fun, but won't help you. #scifichat

Of course he was talking about launching a career in book publishing, not media.

He also said that writers today need to develop their own following (of fans of their writing) before they can become well published, and the way to do that is social networking.

So far, nobody I've run across has pointed out what I have pointed out -- that for social networking to become a vehicle for your message, you must first and foremost be a part of that society. You Are Your Customer - or you are nobody -- in writing novels.

Any writer of heroic fiction has learned the principle of what makes a leader in real life.  A "leader" must emerge from the group he/she leads.

If you don't put that into your fiction, nobody will believe it.

In fact, implicit in the concept "leader" is "emerging from the Group to Lead."

But in our real everyday world, "leaders" are often chosen from outside a company.

Everyone who's gotten a job where they come in to manage people who were expecting promotion into that spot knows they have to weed their group of those ambitious ones before they can lead that group.  The first job of a leader is to bond with the group.  THEN they have to "separate" from that group (as Captain Kirk illustrated with his "loneliness of command" theme.)

In the real world, the CEO search goes OUT - rarely do top people get promoted from within.

In fact in order to get to such a pinnacle, a candidate may have to climb the ladder inside a company, then switch to another company and climb there a while, then get head-hunted as CEO of the original company that employed them.  (I've seen that career track happen several times lately in the real world).

Mystically, and practically, a "Leader" has to be or have been a member of the society he/she is to lead.  (think King Arthur)

But Marketers learn bone deep, "you are not your customer" -- it is their mantra.

Alienation on the one hand, and membership bonding.  A dichotomy and a tension line.

Marketers come into social networking determined not to "be the customer" but to "sell to the customer" - retaining the clinical distance, the emotional disconnection of an outsider but attempting to lead the herd into a behavior (buying this brand of product).

Yet playground training in early life, the very first pre-pubescent bonding experience, is not to follow someone who is not organically, emotionally bonded to the group.  And that dynamic turns up in individual investing habits, too.

Physicians learn to be "objective" and Healers learn Empathic Bonding (I explored that dichotomy in depth in my first Award Winner, Unto Zeor, Forever which is about the medical career tracks of physicians vs. healers).

The key element here is the Group Mind vs. Individual Mind and the relationship between them, as in the several novels about Cities.

I discuss that in my September Review column  

(You should be able to access the actual column there sometime after October 1, 1010)

To be a leader, you must first be a member.

If you're not a member, when you behave like a leader you become a tyrant.

That's the playground principle the marketers who are trying to use social networking to move product are ignoring and they will regret it. It is a "Primal" principle that every writer knows in their bones, and it's rooted in (oh, yeah, you knew this was coming) ROMANCE! And it's all about reproduction, successful reproduction which involves rearing the young, which requires bonding.

Yes, successful commercial marketing is all about sexuality, all about the fundamental psychological components of which love is built.  

I discussed a possible solution to the marketer's problem in this post:

Now let's look at the world from a fiction writer's perspective again.

If we're worldbuilding and we get down to building the society Our Hero is embedded within, then we have to ask ourselves, who's connected to whom and how?

In other words, to create the drama that we wish to display, we must embed Our Hero in a society -- a social network.

Why is that? Why must worldbuilding include social networks we make up out of thin air?  And why is it so easy to make them up?

Because all heroes (even the villain is the hero of his own story) are "connected" -- like The Mob.  The Mob is a "family" or a network of families, some of which are connected by being adversaries, opponents, or rivals if not actual enemies.

Look at the "flip-outs" we hear about in the news.  A person gets fired, broods over it a while, grabs a gun and sprays bullets at the group which rejected him/her, or deliberately shoots at people who are members of a social network which has rejected the shooter.

A bit into the news cycle and we learn this person was a "loner" -- a nice person, quiet, kept to him/herself, had become distant from family (or had none) -- was not active in groups, volunteering, or any of the things you and I always do. But went out of the way to be "nice" while holding forth with opinions that separated them from the group.  

Watching such a news story unfold, it's so hard to understand why this person flipped out and sprayed destruction upon those who "rejected" -- because we get rejected all the time (sometimes 3 times a week for months on end) and don't grab guns and spray bullets.

Why does REJECTION hit some people in the VICIOUS BUTTON triggering a killing spree?

Or suicide.

Life rains blows upon us from all sides.  Mostly, we spend a lot of time feeling like punching bags and emotional garbage cans, recipients of other people's eruptions. We endure the flame wars on Lists and try to be very quiet until it dies down, or sooth things over off-list.  We engage actively with other people's emotions, but we don't kill them. 

What's the difference?

You and I are connected seven-thousand-ways-from-Sunday into dozens of social networks. Many dozens.  From that early playground experience to today, we keep adding networks.

Even standing in line we exercise networking skills.  The worse the situation at airports gets, the more we chat up the folks behind us in line, play canasta with the person next to us on the stuck plane, or entertain their kids.  Every point at which you find yourself in casual touch with someone becomes a conversation just like those play yard conversations - emotional interchanges that form social networked bonds. 

The people who dump on us are either members of one of our own networks and are dumping because they need a friend -- or they're NOT on our network but on some other that regards all members of our network as the source of all the problems in the world. Or source of best friends.

Either way, the emotional blows that rain down on us push us off center emotionally, and we push a little on our supporters, who push a little on theirs, and the blow gets absorbed by a huge number of people, soaked up and dissipated.

People on line now are almost all also on their cell phones!  That can annoy us, but probably because nobody's calling us right now.

Think how snow shoes work.

Snow is not strong.  All those little crystals tend to come apart when you press on them.  Step on it with your boot, and you'll sink in.  Strap on a snowshoe and spread your weight over a larger area, and the snow will support you.

Social networking works just like that.

By being socially connected to many, MANY people, we become more stable.  We become able to soak up and dissipate blows that are way beyond our personal capacity.

(And I'm not even including any connection to the Divine in this -- this works even without any sort of religious connectivity!  Just plain humans supply enough support for most of life's vicissitudes.  Add the Divine and boost the effect to a whole new level.)

The sign of a mentally healthy person is that membership in many social networks.

Is the social network the source of sanity or the result of it?

Does it matter?

Wherever you find humans, you find social networks no matter how inconvenient or difficult the connections are.  (Even before snailmail social networks existed and functioned).

Who benefits from the existence of social networks?

The individual (as anyone who's on Twitter and Facebook knows) expends a lot of time and energy networking socially.

Marketers have poured lots of brainpower into trying to figure out how to get the effect that individuals get from networks without spending that much time or energy because it's just not cost-effective.

For every single shortcut they invent, they lose more respect from networkers who observe them.

Why is that?  What's really going on with social networks?

We, as Romance Writers, need to know because

a) all Relationship stories, nevermind actual Romances, depend entirely on the answer to that question. and

b) how in the world could we build an alien, non-human society without social networks and have it believed by our readers or accessible to our characters?  Where's the drama without social networks?

Why can't marketers duplicate our results?

Take a single company - advertising via social networking.

What do they expect as a result?

Emotional support in times of stress?


They expect PROFIT and expect to measure that profit in INCOME.

Why do you social network?

What is the real motive in your heart of hearts when you click into twitter?

You might want to repeat a pleasure you've had - finding out what's going on, who's interested in what.  Some bit of random mental stimulation such as I've pointed out I find in twitter all the time.

That's what you get.  What company would want that?  What SEC form could they file for that?

But what's your real motive in networking (and blogging, even just reading blogs, is networking), not the conscious one?

The real source of PLEASURE, the payoff from social networking is the GIVING.

There's a whole mystical dimension to Giving and Receiving that I've discussed in my Tarot posts.  I don't recall exactly which of the 20 posts it's in, but you wouldn't understand it without reading them all.  Start with the most recent one of the 20 and follow the links back, then read them in order of posting date:  

There's a spiritual charge we get out of just giving.

But to "give" there must be a recipient -- an element on the other side of the transaction that accepts what was given.  (for a blog, that's a reader who drops a comment).

With social networking, who's the recipient of the huge amount of energy out pour out?

Think hard.  It's not just the bloggers who drop a comment or link to the blog as I pointed out with the Editor and Agent and fellow Romance blog that linked to this blog.
  If it were JUST that first level commenter, it would be private communication such as on the pay ground.

It's all the people those people reach! And all they reach beyond that.

The real recipient of what you GIVE (that corporations are trying to avoid giving because it's too expensive in terms of the profit in money that comes back) the real recipient is SOCIETY.  The real recipient of what you pour out into your social networking is the network itself.  The social fabric of society.

That's why it's called social networking.

You as an individual participating in social networking are pouring your personal energies into a huge, open, black hole.  AND NOTHING COMES BACK.

But you experience pleasure for having poured yourself out.

The whole point is that NOTHING COMES BACK.

That network must be energized, constantly maintained by those who pour themselves out into it, "fruitlessly."

The existence of those social networks is the very foundation of our civilization and more, even of our personal SANITY!!!  And sexuality.  And successful reproduction, transmitting social values to the next generation.

The beneficiary of your social networking skills and contributions is society itself.

If you're not a member of that society, if you're not your customer, you really do drain yourself dry and get nothing for it.

If you are a member, you benefit by membership, but it costs you more than you will ever be able to get out of it, just like rearing children costs more than you get.  You pay it forward!

The benefit or profit that you, personally as an individual, derive from your non-cost-effective investment is really huge, though.

What you get from the existence of the society you belong to is emotional support, ethical support, moral support, even perhaps spiritual support, and ultimately the stability to absorb huge blows.  Ultimately, what you get is immortality in the form of posterity.

As long as that social network lives, part of you survives even if you have no progeny of your body.

I wrote about this a little in my two novels HERO and BORDER DISPUTE, which can be found on Kindle as a single volume:  

Free chapters at

Because of your outrageous expenditures on social networking, you can rely on being sane and stable enough to absorb the blows that life flings at you because the energy of those outrageous events will dissipate into your social networks harming none, least of all you.

That is not a benefit a corporation can return to shareholders as a dividend, so they have no business doing business via social networking.

But let's look again at the history of publishing.

I've discussed this in prior posts here. A change in the US tax law regarding books kept in warehouses changed the whole business of publishing.

The essence of the change was that books became treated as if they were bolts or hammers -- just stock produced in advance and warehoused until sold.  Each year you keep books in a warehouse, you pay a tax on those books even though you haven't sold them and they've reduced in value.

It used to be that publishers would print thousands more copies than they could sell in a year, hold them in warehouse and sell through a trickle until it sold out - maybe remainder the last couple thousands.

Under that new law, about thirty years ago I think, the business of publishing was nearly destroyed and then shifted into modern publishing which is entirely for profit, choosing titles on a totally different basis than before that tax law.

Print runs were reduced, and titles were chosen only if they could sell out before the tax deadline -- shelf-life cycles were reduced by weeks and months.

Under the pressure of that, publishing grabbed at the Print On Demand concept, but even today that hasn't entirely caught on.

Under the old tax law which didn't penalize publishers who published books that "ought" to be published for literary or social merit, pricing was all about what people could afford to pay, or would be willing to pay.

Today, pricing is about how soon the e-book edition will come out.  And publishing in general is much more sensitive to price-points than ever because of numerous other shifts in tax laws that treat books as commodities not social treasures.
This image is from
And you should read and ponder that whole article:

And today publishers and distributors and warehousers and all connected enterprises (printers, shippers) are in dire financial straits.  People blame that on the economic woes of the housing bubble collapse, or cyclical recession, or the impact of the internet.

But think about it more carefully.  Step back and connect all these dots in your mind.

Who benefits from PUBLISHING?

Well, publishing, as I pointed out with the story of SF fandom, Star Trek fandom, and the explosive blending of the two, generating fanzines, and from Star Trek fanzines, a plethora of fanzines devoted to other TV shows, spawning a generation of writers who transformed the face of Romance with SF-Romance, Paranormal Romance, Futuristic Romance, etc etc.  Other genres have experienced the same.


Social networking.

Remember the story of how I got into Science Fiction fandom?  I wrote a letter to the editor of a Science Fiction magazine and they published it - my first published words; instant addiction!  But they published my address, and I was instantly invited to join the N3F, the National Fantasy Fan Federation - a network of networked SF fan organizations, founded by the same man damon knight (small letters deliberate) who founded SFWA, the Science Fiction Writers of America, which I'm also a member of.

Networked networks -- social networks that take more out of you than they ever can give back.

Book publishing is just a larger version of fanzine publishing, and in fact grew out of it before fanzines ever existed!  The Gothic Novel - check the history of that back to the early 1800's.  Go back to the 1600's and the printing press revolution.  The American Revolution and the "Broadside."

Think about it.  That new technology was first adopted by amateurs doing nothing but social networking with a tiny, closed group of people who liked to read.

PUBLISHING is nothing but a giant social network of networks, just like the N3F.

They've tried to make it into a business, just as the marketers are trying to make social networking into a business.

It's a doomed effort.


Because of the nature of the social network.

If I'm right, and publishing is nothing but a social network (so large we can't see it as one), then the beneficiary of all the effort poured into publishing by writers, editors, publishers, marketers, publicists - the whole apparatus - only benefits SOCIETY.

The beneficiary of the effort expended is the network itself, which out-lives the individuals and carries their immortality forward.

The end result of all these social networks?  We call it "Civilization."

People think the definition of "Civilization" is from the root of the word and means CITY-DWELLERS.  (remember we started this with my September 2010 review column on books about cities being defended from paranormal threats).

Under the old tax law, publishing was treated like a social network that existed solely for the benefit of society.

Under the new tax law, publishing can survive only as a profitable business.

If I'm right, publishing is doomed until the tax law is changed back.  But I don't think even that will restore things because we now have the whole rebellion against the concept of copyright which is the foundation of publishing.

So the 3 things to connect:

A) Puberty
B) Publishing
C) Commercial exploiting of social networking

Publishing and Puberty - the connection is the way sexuality and the reproductive urge toward immortality creates social networks.

If I'm right, Publishing is a social network, or it used to be and needs to be by its nature.

That's why the concept of copyright has become an odious one.  Publishing practiced as a for-loss industry under the old tax law was justified in using copyright because it contributed more to the social fabric than it took.

Publishing was a member of society, a member of the network.

The tax law changed that viciously and I think forever.

So that now Publishing is the stranger, the intruder, the alien, the tyrant attempting to "lead" the social network without being part of it.  Publishing is no longer the customer but the marketer.  So morally it does not deserve the protection of copyright.

Marketing attempting the commercial exploitation of social networks is just an extension of what the bean counters are trying to do with publishing, make it

Marketing, advertising on TV, on the net, everywhere it intrudes, is attempting to lead without ever having been part of what it is leading.

The resistance is gathering.  It is the same force that a play yard clique generates to repel the outsider, the rejected kid.

And that force is the very force that powers sexuality.

Who will win?  Marketers or sexuality?

Lay your bets, pour yourself whole heartedly into your social networks, build your immortality, then watch to see what happens.

Perhaps the nature of publishing will change so much that it no longer is, at core, a social networking phenomenon.

If that happens, will you still read books?

Or will you just hang out on YouTube and watch videos and movies (yes, they're doing streaming of feature films now). 

Or wait!  YouTube is a social network, isn't it?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg