Thursday, July 29, 2010

Multiple Universes

Did anyone watch the "multiple universes" episode of THE UNIVERSE on the History Channel last week? It's fascinating to realize that many physicists believe alternate universes actually exist. As far as I could understand the exposition (and I admit I wasn't paying rigorously close attention), there are theoretically several ways parallel or alternate universes may come into existence.

During the inflationary phase following the Big Bang, self-contained "bubbles" may have formed, each one a separate space-time continuum having no contact with the others. Or the quantum uncertainty principle may be invoked to imply that every event that can possibly happen has happened, each tiny change generating another universe. Infinite numbers of variants of ourselves and everything around us may exist in the "same" place and time, imperceptible to us. By extension, some alternate universes would be identical to ours except for one detail, others so different as to be incomprehensible.

Then there's the possibility that other universes may have radically different systems of natural laws—different elements, different physical constants, etc.

Of course, we'd never be able to make contact with those other realities, so there would be no way to prove they exist, much less travel to them, as I understand the situation anyway. Except by magic, perhaps? Through the wardrobe or down the rabbit hole?

By the way, I don't completely approve of the term "multiple universes." By definition, "universe" means the oneness of everything that exists, so "multiple universes" is grammatically equivalent to "most unique." I suppose you could argue, though, that if every space-time continuum is inaccessible to the others, for practical purposes each one is the only one and therefore can be called a universe. Anyway, SF seems to have permanently embraced the terminology of "universe" and "multiverse."

If you could travel to an alternate universe and meet "yourself," would he or she be the "same" person as you? If you believe in the soul, does each counterpart have a separate soul? More intriguing for SF romance purposes, suppose you crossed over to a neighboring space-time continuum and met the counterpart of your primary-world lover. Would the two of you inevitably fall in love in that world? There was an episode of LOIS AND CLARK when Lois and Clark were sent to a parallel world in which that-world Clark was in love with Lana Lang and didn't use his powers. This-world Lois and Clark persuaded him to become that world's Superman. He and primary-world Clark were definitely not only two separate individuals but different in personality in some respects. If you saw the newest Shrek movie, you remember Shrek had a tough time getting the alternate-world version of his wife to give him a second look. But she did finally fall in love with him all over again, suggesting that in their core selves, they were the same people in any version of reality. The cast of the TV show EUREKA is currently coping with a slightly altered present-day world they accidentally produced by traveling into the past to the time of the town's founding. Several characters' roles and relationships have changed, but at least one person also discovers that his other self in this altered timeline had a radically different personality from his. (So when they came back to the present, what happened to the "other selves" they displaced? The show doesn't raise that question, and I hadn't thought of it until this minute.) "The Dark Tower," an unfinished novel attributed to C. S. Lewis, postulates the invention of a window into an "Othertime" that appears to be an offshoot of our world but strikingly different in many ways. A character in the story involuntarily changes places with his double in Othertime. There the young traveler meets the Othertime counterpart of his fiancee. She turns out to be a nicer person than his "real" fiancee but recognizably a variation on the same woman. He, in turn, is definitely nicer than his Othertime counterpart. Unfortunately, the fragment breaks off just when the plot and worldbuilding get exciting.

If you've read Robert Heinlein's NUMBER OF THE BEAST, you'll remember its premise: In the infinite number of universes that make up the multiverse, anything that can possibly happen has happened somewhere. That means each person has an infinite number of counterparts, presumably with small or large variations depending on the degree of deviation. Moreover, "anything that can happen" includes anything that can be imagined. So all fictional worlds ever created exist out there somewhere among the parallel universes. "Pantheistic multipersonal solipsism," as Heinlein's characters call it, implies that if we had a suitable transport device (like the delightfully luxurious transmogrified spaceship in the novel), we could visit Oz, Burroughs's or Bradbury's Mars, Narnia, or any other imaginary world we wished.

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Emigrating To The Future

Lately, I've been scampering around the internet on a research project that actually relates to this whole issue of changing the perception of the Romance Genre in the minds of the general public.

I have 5 independent observations to toss at you, and a tentative conclusion that will no doubt change radically as I continue to delve into the past looking for the future. (few have ever accused me of living in the present!)


I am observing, everywhere, how the perception of the Science Fiction genre and its fandom has changed.

SF is now mainstream.  People think it's scifi and have no clue what they're saying when they say that.  They think what's on the syfy channel is SF.  There are still a few who know better.  But basically, the battle SF fen fought through the 1960's and 1970's has been won so well and so thoroughly that people born in the 1980's are pretty much unaware it ever happened, nevermind what it was about or what the consequences of winning have been.     

On #scifichat on twitter on July 2, 2010 the discussion hinged on SF fandom.  Even with the usual well read and well rounded viewing habits of the participants, I discovered that even some of the older people had no idea what fandom is, where it came from, what it's customs are/were/will be or actually anything about it.

The most ignorant of those folks had very deeply entrenched opinions about fandom and were absolutely sure they knew what they were talking about, especially if they had University degrees in social sciences.

But I was talking about something they'd never heard of and couldn't believe ever had existed.(it still does).

With the restrictions on twitter (140 characters per tweet; and they block you if you tweet too much too fast - they always block me when I get into a #chat) I couldn't bridge that enormous cultural gap.

But I did get the impression nobody wanted to have that gap bridged.

They know what fandom is and therefore don't need to know anything else about it.

Fandom is (for them) just a random scattering of folks who are fanatical about some thing - any thing. True afficionados are just crazier than the others. And that's it.

They seem to feel that since it's never changed, it never will change - or that was the impression I got from their (twitter restricted) tweets. I'm sure others have the same problems I do with twitter (though I love the medium!)

Yet a couple decades ago, the wide, general public knew what fandom was, and knew it wasn't what people today think it was. The general public knew the truth that I lived. Now they don't.

So I'm not going to explain what fandom really is/was because today, people aren't interested.  To them it's irrelevant "history" that probably never existed. Besides, they believe, it couldn't possibly matter.


Which brings me to another distressing point about "History" today.

I saw a "man/woman on the street" interview of younger people (20-somethings) for the 4th of July where people were asked what the 4th means -- they didn't know.

One hesitantly said Independence Day but wasn't sure.

Asked Independence from whom? Another whole set of folks didn't know. When prompted with random countries, (Greece, Japan) they'd guess any country except England.

When asked who lead the Revolutionary War army on America's side, they didn't know - not one said "George Washington" (OK, the network probably just left out the folks who did know the answers).

But the level of ignorance among a wide variety (apparent economic classes, ethnicities, and speaking accents) of people made my hair stand on end.

They had only one thing in common - what seems to me to be "youth" but surely doesn't seem that way to them. (20-30 somethings)

Certainly, the network had to search hard to find people that ignorant, but the fact that they found some makes my hair stand on end in a way it hasn't ever in my life. That's just terrifying. Worse was their attitude toward their ignorance -- as if it didn't matter at all. 


In wandering the internet looking at the past as it is presented to today's public (who reads books anymore?) I discovered something I knew but hadn't remembered or considered important until I just looked at it.

Juxtapose these 3 turning points in History and see if you see a pattern.

The Science Fiction Writers of America was founded by damon knight (one person on that #scifichat on fandom knew that damon knight was never to be capitalized, the others likely hadn't ever heard of him) in 1965.  Google him up, or read his wikipedia entry. 

He had founded the N3F (National Fantasy Fan Federation) complete with charter and bylaws, officers and elections, as an amalgam of several local SF fan clubs in 1941.

The Romance Writers of America was founded (according to their website) in 1980. I don't know if there was a formally organized Romance Fandom prior to 1980, but there was The Romantic Times. What preceded that Romance version of Locus? 


"Steam Punk" is huge right now. Has been burgeoning for a while. 

One online definition (they vary enormously) calls "Steam Punk" the intersection between technology and romance, and points to the 1980's as the origin. (when the Romance Writers organization was founded)

There were a large handful of TV shows that played fast and loose with myth and history and had a lot of marvelous fun with it all. Xena Warrior Princess (TV 1995) was one that comes to mind. Hercules was another.  The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne ( IMDB.COM describes it as "The fantastic steampunk adventures of the future science fiction writer and his friends, the Foggs and Passepartout.")

Books, TV shows, music, a thriving and burgeoning culture has grown up around playing fast and loose with "History" just for fun. A bunch I know on twitter are steam punk writers and fans.  It sells. 

The fun of it is that the reader/viewer knows what our "main universe" history really was, and sees this as alternative universe where great inventions of today were crafted out of more primitive technology. It's really GREAT FUN.

It's great fun if it is actually all in fun.

If everyone watching is in on the joke, it's fun. 

It was fun in the 1980's for readers educated in the 1950's who were 40-something and a little bored with the same-old-same-old.  Also correlate that change with the content of the Star Trek fanzines of the 1980's.  Everyone then loved having this history-bone tickled with these interesting twists. 

But the current 30 somethings interviewed "on the street" who didn't know what the 4th of July is about are the ones born in 1980 who grew up on this "all in fun" distortion of history, both in technology and in social evolution.


There's another wonderful good-fun trend in Romance Genre, especially in Historical Romance.

We now depict heroines of the Victorian era and before as modern day women who fearlessly assert their rights as indepedent adult human beings.

Now way, WAY back in history, and in different parts of the world, the modern attitude women have toward themselves has in fact been a natural part of a woman's self-image and the place of the woman in the world.

Subjugation was really short and temporary, viewed over tens of thousands of years.

But - real history as it really happened produced many generations of women who were kept in the state of childhood - dependent for food, clothing, shelter and even name, identity, and most especially self-esteem and self-respect on some man. That does things to the inside of your head.

Older Romance novels (pre-1980 when the Romance Writers of America was founded and Steam Punk exploded onto the scene) depict that childish state of mind pretty well because (despite advances made during World War II) women did define themselves by their man.

Modern Romance novels do not depict the conflict, the clash, between the independent woman and the world around her the way it really was say from 1850 to 1960. 

The pioneering women of the 1600's and 1700's in the USA were more "modern" than the women left behind in England, France, Netherlands, Germany.  The ones that weren't died and took their men with them.  But that changed, and prior self-respect was forgotten, and had to be regained in the 1970's. 

OK, it's not much fun to read from the POV of such a subservient, immature woman today.  I have a diary written by my grandmother.  I've seen the real attitude from the inside.  Today's Romance novels set in that era are incorrect depictions of the women of that time (1800's, early 1900's). 

But depicting our modern viewpoint in that bygone era and then adding any sort of acceptance among the general culture (even of other women) is distorting history in the same way that not-teaching 4th of July via fiction, and not-depicting the development of technology the way it really did happen, distorts history.

That distortion is just fine, just great good fun, if everyone is in on the joke. But just think how much of your vision of the past has been gained from novels written recently (not in the era depicted), and how much is derived from (gasp) Hollywood.  Are you one of those in on the joke?  Or one the joke is being put over on?

----Putting it all together--------

The ignorance of a random sampling of the person-on-the-street juxtaposed to the obliviousness of SF reader/viewers who really are experts in the field, juxtaposed to Steam Punk, juxtaposed to the evolution of the Romance field seems very alarming.

Today, the Post Office is applying to raise the price of a stamp 2 whole cents at once because Congress has not passed the bill that would allow them to eliminate Saturday delivery.

Since 6th grade until the 1990's, I have lived for the snailmail delivery.

Today, I don't care when the mailman comes. Nothing urgent ever comes in the snailmail, and I don't pay bills by snailmail. I rarely file manuscripts by snailmail. I rarely get paid by snailmail, and I don't even open snailmail catalogs to shop styles.

All my friends and business contacts are online, -- even my family. We may send packages for presents -- but usually via Amazon or some other outfit that mails it for you. I do more than half my shopping online. 

I have emigrated to the future.

I have forgotten my native language.

I am so far removed from "that culture" that I couldn't write a novel set there. 

It's a laborious, impossible chore for me to find an envelope, address it, find a return address sticker (I still have a few), find a stamp (usually I go to a dropstore near me and pay extra), and mail a letter.

When I got online with Prodigy and later via AOL, I emigrated to the future and never looked back.

I was never very comfortable in the past. Coming to the future was like coming home at last.

When they launched Web 2.0 with all the social networking, I tried it out and I've reported to you about how I see it changing the world (again) into another new future that I like better than the old future.

At some point, no doubt, a huge discontinuity, a generation-gap, a tech-gap will come along that I won't want to leap over.(yes, I want an iphone but don't have one - I want an ipad but don't yet have one - I do have an e-book reader that can get online via wireless phone connection and I will upgrade that soon). 

But so far, I just revel in this current world, and the future I see for it as people communicate with people in new ways.

This is the world I was born to live in, and I just don't want to look back. My attention is still focused on the future, the farther future the better I see it.

But I've been looking back recently, plucking out "dots" in the development that led to this world and seeing new patterns I hadn't noticed while galloping forward and leaping that gap.

And these last few weeks, I've had experiences like the 5 noted above where young people (even teens) who actually were born in this world have a very distorted idea of how the world got this way.

It's not that they don't know -- it's that what they know isn't true.

Well, not maybe "isn't true" because you don't really need to know "the truth" to arrive at useful conclusions.

It's that what they know isn't "true enough" -- not close enough, to be useful.  They're missing the pattern that makes the world make sense. 

What they are convinced of is a series of dots that form a line that does not lead from "then" to "now."

The distortion of history in modern fiction has given them a set of historical "dots" that don't make sense when you put them together into a pattern, but they're assured by everyone else that the dots they have do make sense.  So they see nonsense and are told it is sense.  

Since "then" is so irrelevant to "now" (because of the internet mostly) they aren't interested in resolving this confusion of sense and nonsense.  Why should they be?  I wouldn't be. 

Microsoft comes out with a new operating system and the world changes (again) and none of your old programs work anymore.  The past has to be dismissed, wiped out, expunged, because it'll only confuse you in trying to operate your new software.  In a month or two you won't remember the old commands. 

Forget the past, it'll only make the present unlivable. 

I can understand that because I was never interested in anything that happened before I was born, either.

I grew up in a world totally disconnected from that which my parents and grandparents grew up in.   And I had my eye on this world, "the future" where I wanted to go to live, where I do live now.

I really don't see why anyone born in say, 1980, should be at all interested in 1945 - or 1776 for that matter.

But in order to steer this world from where we are now to where I would like to see us go next, where life will be even easier, where people will be more friendly and less stressed out, better fed, healthier, -- in order to steer us there, those who are making the decisions need a line along which to extrapolate into that future.

They need some real "dots" from long ago, just a few, but ones that actually were the seeds of the present we live in and the futures we might craft from here.

Steam Punk worldbuilders haven't yet gotten the knack of re-creating the past to be possible seeds of the present - and contain the hints of our future.  Or at least I haven't seen those novels, and apparently the people I've encountered lately haven't seen them either. 

So the decision makers who are today in the prime of life don't have that line of dots from the far past that can lead us to the far future. 

The dots have been erased. Fandom was never organized and never had a constitution, elections, officers, and structure long before the Romance Writers of America existed. People built high-tech gadgets that did today's amazing things out of wood and iron, powering with steam. Women never had to knuckle under and remain children into adulthood.

Perhaps that's why "Lost Colony" stories, (like my own Molt Brother and City of a Million Legends -- see for free chapters) are so popular.

Today's 20-somethings are actually living in one of these Lost Colony worlds where "Earth" is a myth and nobody knows where it is located. These people have a history that started about 10 years before they were born, not more, and they don't believe the stories their parents tell them.  In fact, their parents may park them in front of the TV instead of telling them stories of their family's history. (Yes, I know people are finding long lost relatives online via sharing family tree information, but you have to know something to find something.)

There's an attitude I've seen that anyone who remembers anything at all that happened or existed prior to 1980 just doesn't know what they're talking about.

"The way it is now is the way it's always been," seems to be the irrefutable new reality for a lot of people. 

And yet, wandering the web searching out events of various years, I've found a lot of stuff I remember -- but had forgotten just as I'd forgotten my native language when I emigrated to the future. 

I pointed one out to you recently --  that the Supreme Court handed down the legal ruling that killed the mid-list in 1979, about a year before the Romance Writers of America was founded.

That decision created another huge canyon between the past and the future, changing the entire business model of publishing more radically than the internet and e-books yet have. It's one change I didn't want to see happen. I still prefer really "mid" mid-list style novels (which live on in the e-book field) and movies. 

If you want to follow my trek through history, you should read that article on the Supreme Court decision, then read about Lucille Ball on Wikipedia and what she had to do with Star Trek - and why that is important in shaping the world we live in today.

Follow all that and you'll see how CBS (the first network to turn down Star Trek) has now ended up owning and controlling Star Trek.  Just imagine how devoted they are to its success because of that.  The reason Molt Brother and City of a Million Legends don't have the sequels that were planned is that they were "inherited" by a publisher in just exactly the way Trek has been passed from owner to owner. 

Also note how the film studios ate each other just as the publishers ate each other.

Note how that has changed film exactly as it has changed publishing.

Read Wikipedia about how Lucille Ball was the central pole of the "mid-list" movie, what used to be called the B-movie, and how her taste shaped Star Trek, and the world we live in today.  The TV shows she chose to back were mid-list fare and she was very good at spotting what the public would go for. 

The whole story is there on and wikipedia if you have enough dots in your head about real history to make the pattern out of the dots in these articles.  

And now I need more data about the Romance genre writing careers of the 1980's. I live in the future. I've forgotten the 1980's and the language we spoke before that is gibberish to me now.  

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Babel Fish vs Brain Power

I have a mind like a dump. I can say that because it is my mind. One never knows what is buried in there and that might be turned up by an intergalactic bulldozer! Anyway, one of the authors participating in celebration of diversity in SFR currently going on at The Galaxy Express mentioned The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Jul 24, 2010 ... Science fiction for me was the dark dystopian future of 1984 stretching to the absurdity of HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. ...
Google Alert.... credit Kim Knox .

Following this diversity series has stimulated me to think about some of the less diverse aspects of SFR: how writers cope with communication between species and races. It seems to me, it's either some version of the babel fish (usually an implanted chip rather than a parasite) or it's brain power and hard work in the language lab (or hypnopedia in the only one of my books where I give a nod to the problem).

Is there anything else? Could there be? Possibly "Texting" gives us a clue. From time to time, I think about all the troubles we have with our computers and the internet (worms, Trojans, viruses, hackers, malware) and apply it to what might happen to people with a robotic "babel fish" implanted in their heads.

With that in mind, I allowed a "villain" (more of an opportunistic mischief maker who happened to be a world leader) to mess with undiplomatic holographic messages in Knight's Fork.

However, before posting what would have been a very short post on that point, I thought that I ought to check that the "babel fish!" reference that popped up in my mind was accurate and properly attributed. One does try to be responsible.

Imagine my delight when my "Babel Fish" research led to this! (Below. From Wikipedia. Apparently, free to share.) I love lists for worldbuilding.  Credits and attribution at the bottom of the post.

This is a list of races, fauna, and flora (as well as creatures without category) featured in various incarnations of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.



The popular anti-teleport song claims that "Aldebaran's great, OK", but the Aldebarans are better known for their liqueurs (sold at Miliways), and fine wines (as Trillian prepared for Zaphod after deactivating all the Heart of Gold kitchen synthomatics).


Advanced species known for their love of the movie Fight Club and their intense hatred of rabbits. It will take less than thirty of their dollars a day for hitchhikers to see the universe; so long as said hitchhikers avoid buying fruit drinks at Ursa Minor Beta nightclubs, which cost sixty Altairian dollars.

Amoeboid Zingatularians

The Amoeboid Zingatularians appear as a stellar replacement in the long-running comedic play No Sex Please, We're British at the end of fit the third of the radio series.


Inhabitants of the planet Bartledan. The people of Bartledan are similar to humans, but do not breathe. Due to their view on the Universe - that the Universe is what the Universe is, take it or leave it - they have no desires, dreams or hopes, to the point that the protagonist of a Bartledanian novel abruptly dies of thirst in the penultimate chapter of the book due to a briefly-mentioned plumbing problem earlier on. Bartledanian literature is renowned, and its books are notable for being exactly one hundred thousand words long. Netball is a popular sport among the people of Bartledan despite the fact that no one cares about winning.


The Belcerebons of Kakrafoon Kappa had an unhappy time. Once a serene and quiet civilization, a Galactic Tribunal sentenced them to telepathy because the rest of the galaxy found peaceful contemplation contemptuous. Ford Prefect compared them to Humans because the only way Belcerebons could stop transmitting their every thought was to mask their brain activity (or its readability) by talking endlessly about utter trivia. The other approach to dampening telepathic communication was to host concerts of the plutonium rock band Disaster Area. Thankfully, during the concert, an improbability field flipped over the Rudlit Desert, transforming it into a paradise, and cured the Belcerebons of telepathy. A Disaster Area spokesman said that this was "a good gig".


A race similar to humans in many ways.

Blagulon Kappans

Blagulon Kappans are methane-breathing life forms from Blagulon Kappa, which only appear in the books as the sophisticated police that attack Zaphod Beeblebrox. They die because Marvin the Paranoid Android causes their ship to commit suicide by sharing his overly pessimistic view of the Universe with it. This in turn renders their space suits, which are remote controlled by the ship, unusable. This proves fatal because they cannot breathe in the thin oxygen atmosphere of Magrathea. However, in the TV series the police are simply humanoids and able to breathe the air.


Dentrassis are the best cooks and the best drink mixers in the universe. The Vogons can now afford them by being professionally bad tempered. Described by the character Ford Prefect as "The best cooks and the best drinks mixers, and they don't give a wet slap about anything else." In most versions of the story, they help galactic hitchhikers board Vogon Constructor Ships "partly because they like the company, but mostly because it annoys the Vogons."
The Dentrassi were also a demo coding group for the Atari ST home computer.


Dolphins are the second most intelligent creatures on Earth, just above humans. They tried in vain to warn humans of the impending destruction of the planet. However, their behavior was misinterpreted as playful attempts to whistle for fish and jump through hoops. Their story is told in the novel So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.


Flaybooz are small, gerbil-like creatures. Though flaybooz have no ears, they are extremely sensitive to vibration and can actually explode in extreme circumstances. Thor, the Asgardian and sometime rock god, held the record for spontaneous flaybooz detonation when he debuted his new tune “You Wanna Get Hammered?” from a chariot in orbit around Squornshellous Delta. The record had previously been held by intergalactic rock stars Disaster Area, who dropped a speaker bomb into a volcano crater where the flaybooz were enjoying a static electricity festival.
Contrary to an almost universal norm, it is the male flaybooz who nurtures the young. A full-grown flaybooz can fit up to fifty young in his pouch, but generally there is only room for a couple, as males like to carry around a small tool kit in case of emergencies, maybe a few beers, and a copy of Furballs Quarterly. From the novel And Another Thing....

G'Gugvuntts and Vl'hurgs

Two species which existed in the distant past, a very great distance from the Milky Way galaxy. The G'Gugvuntt were enemies of the Vl'hurgs, and these strange and warlike beings are on the brink of an interstellar war, because of an insult uttered by the G'Gunvuntt leader to the mother of the Vl'hurg leader. They were meeting for the last time, and a dreadful silence filled the air as the Vl'hurg leader was challenging the G'Gunvuntt leader to retract the insult. At the precise moment, the phrase "I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle" (muttered by Arthur Dent to himself, which for some strange reason was carried by a freak wormhole in space back in time to the farthest regions of the universe where the G'Gunvuntts and the Vl'hurgs lived) filled the air, which in the Vl'hurg tongue was the most dreadful insult imaginable. It left them no choice but to declare war on the G'Gunvuntts, which went on for a few thousand years and decimated their entire galaxy.
After millennia of battle the surviving G'Gugvuntt and Vl'hurg realised what had actually happened, and joined forces to attack the Milky Way in retaliation. They crossed vast reaches of space in a journey lasting thousands of years before reaching their target where they attacked the first planet they encountered, Earth. Due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was swallowed by a small dog. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy states that this sort of thing happens all the time.
In the film, the phrase is stated as: "I wouldn't want to go anywhere without my wonderful towel." In the computer game The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, any remark that the text parser does not understand has a chance of triggering a story arc involving the player's poorly chosen words travelling to the negotiation table and becoming the aforementioned insult.


The Golgafrinchans are a race from the planet Golgafrincham that appears in fit the sixth of the radio series, episode 6 of the TV series and the novel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. In their ancient history, they tricked the most useless third (the middlemen) of their population to get on a spaceship and leave the planet, by spreading rumours of the horrific fates their planet was doomed to soon undergo, such as being eaten by a mutant star goat, or collapsing into the sun. The plan was to get them to crash on a "harmless" planet, thus losing any capacity for space travel; they would then be out of everyone's hair.
Soon after they managed to get rid of these people - including all the telephone sanitizers - the entire remaining population was wiped out by a plague contracted from a dirty telephone.
The survivors who left on the spaceship eventually did crash onto Earth, as planned. They managed to possibly wipe out the primitive, but wise, population of original inhabitants, thus corrupting Deep Thought's 10-million-year plan to discover the Ultimate Question to the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. They are presumed to be the ancestors of modern humans.
Ancient Golgafrinchan culture included a sect known as 'the great circling poets of Arium', who would abuse travellers, circle them and throw rocks at them. Afterwards, they would recite an epic poem which usually involved the rescue of a beautiful monster from a ravening Princess by five sage Princes on four horses.
See also: Listings for specific Golgafrinchan characters


The Grebulons are a race that appears in the novel Mostly Harmless. They are observing the Earth, but do not know why.
During the centuries-long spaceflight the Grebulons were all in suspended animation with their memories saved to the ship's computer (which was struck by an asteroid influenced by Guide Mark II). With the loss of the backup, after the robots carrying it also fell out of the hole made by the asteroid, the Grebulons awoke with no idea where they were going or who they were. What little instructions they could extract from the wrecked computer told them to "land" somewhere and "monitor" something, so they landed on Rupert and monitored the televisionEarth. transmissions from
Trillian later reveals that the Grebulons are a missing reconnaissance fleet from the war that she was meant to cover (which never happened because the Grebulons never arrived with their respective army).


The Haggunenons of Vicissitus Three were encountered in the fit the sixth of the radio series when Ford and Zaphod attempted to steal an Admiral's flagship from the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. According to the Guide, the Haggunenons "have the most impatient chromosomes in the Galaxy. Whereas most species are content to evolve slowly and carefully over thousands of generations, discarding a prehensile toe here, [...] hazarding another nostril there, the Haggunenons would have done for Charles Darwin what a squadron of Arcturan Stunt Apples would have done for Sir Isaac Newton. Their genetic structure is based on the quadruple sterated octohelix...." Their tendency to evolve almost instantaneously has the downside of discarding one deficiency for another. For example, when they reach for sugar for their coffee, they may evolve "into something with much longer arms, but which is probably perfectly incapable of drinking the coffee." They resent stable species, and wage war on them in their horribly beweaponed chameleoid black battle cruisers.
The Haggunenon Admiral turned out to have been sleeping on his flagship in the form of a chair while Ford, Arthur, Zaphod, Trillian and Marvin returned it to its proper time and place at the vanguard of an invasion fleet. It then evolved into a copy of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, from which Ford and Arthur were able to escape, but which ate Marvin, Trillian and Zaphod. Those three later made their escape when the admiral evolved into an escape capsule.
This monster also appears in the "Dungeons and Dragons Epic Level Handbook" as the Hagunemnon. Like their Hitch-hiker's counterparts, they too are unstable shapeshifters with a deep loathing for non-shapeshifting lifeforms.
See also: Haggunenon Underfleet Commander


A race with only a very small mention, at the start of Chapter 1 of the novel Mostly Harmless. Hailing from Arkintoofle Minor, they built spaceships powered by bad news, which is the only thing that travels faster than light. Their ships were very fast, but didn't work particularly well, and were extremely unwelcome wherever they arrived.


A Hooloovoo is a hyperintelligent shade of the colour blue.
Little is known of them, except that one participated in the construction of the starship Heart of Gold. At the launching ceremony one was temporarily refracted into a free-standing prism. This is probably analogous to the ceremonial multicoloured lab coats worn by the rest of the team.


Hrarf-Hrarf are a race of beings whose lifespans flow backwards in linear time. Their lives begin at death, and end "in a really quite extraordinarily pleasant birth." They are also described as the "only race known actually to enjoy hangovers, because they know it guarantees that a tremendously good evening will ensue."
The race is mentioned only in the radio series The Secondary Phase, written specially for that series by Douglas Adams in the mid-1990s.


Humans are bipedal creatures from Earth, and the third most intelligent species on that planet. (Surpassed only by mice and dolphins.) Originally thought to have evolved from proto-apes, humans may in fact be descendants of Golgafrinchan telephone sanitizers, account executives, and marketing analysts who were tricked out of leaving their home planet to arrive on the planet ca. two million BC. These Golgafrinchans apparently displaced the indigenous cavemen as the organic components in the computer designed by Deep Thought.
Interestingly, although the term "humanoid" is applied to many races throughout the galaxy, "humanity" refers specifically to the qualities of humans.


Jatravartids are small blue creatures of the planet Viltvodle VI with more than fifty arms each. They are therefore unique in being the only race in history to have invented aerosol deodorantwheel. before the
Many races believe that the Universe was created by some sort of god or in the Big Bang. The Jatravartid people, however, believe that the Universe was sneezed out of the nose of a being called the Great Green Arkleseizure. They live in perpetual fear of the time they call "The Coming of the Great White Handkerchief". The theory of the Great Green Arkleseizure is not widely accepted outside Viltvodle VI.
(A similar concept was used in the short story "God's Nose" by Damon Knight.)
For the 2005 movie The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams created a new character called Humma Kavula, a missionary whose apparent mission is to spread the religion of the Jatravartids. The Jatravartids are only seen on screen during two brief (and poorly lit) shots, though their discarded aerosol cans are found all over their planet's surface. "Caveman"-style illustrations of the Jatravartids feature in one episode of the Hitchhiker's GuideTV series.


This race of quiet, polite, charming and rather whimsical humanoids caused the most devastating war in the history of the Galaxy (with over two "grillion" casualties). Their homeworld, Krikkit, is surrounded by a black cloud, so they had no knowledge of the universe outside their world. When a spaceship crashed on the surface of Krikkit, the inhabitants quickly stripped it of its secrets and used them to create their own "flimsy piece of near-junk" craft, Krikkit One. Upon reaching the outer edge of the dust cloud and seeing the galaxy for the first time, the people of Krikkit marvelled at its beauty before casually deciding to destroy it, famously remarking "It'll have to go." The Earth game of cricket is a racial memory of the events of the Krikkit Wars. The story of these events is told in the novel Life, the Universe and Everything.


Lamuellans are a humanoid race from the planet Lamuella. It is on this planet that a passenger starship crashes, and Arthur Dent is the only survivor. There he becomes the planet's Sandwich Maker. The Lamuellans are led, more or less, by Old Thrashbarg, the tribe's priest to Almighty Bob. Other residents of the village include Kirp, a fisher, Grarp the Baker, Strinder the Tool Maker, and Drimple the Sandwich Maker's apprentice. The planet is also home to Perfectly Normal Beasts and Pikka Birds. The complete story is found in the novel Mostly Harmless.


They are sentient beings that live on planet Magrathea. In the past during the time of the Galactic Empire, they created and sold planets to rich customers. They are very mysterious and seem to show up whenever something important happens, which is seen the most in the third book:Life, the Universe, and Everything. In the first book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy it is revealed that they have been asleep waiting for the galaxies' economy to improve, but were awakened prematurely to rebuild the Earth after its destruction by Vogons. They are the race who built the Earth, at the request of the Mice. However, in the film, the Mice and the Magratheans are the same species.


Mice are the physical protrusions into our dimension of a race of hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings who commissioned construction of the Earth to find the Question to the Ultimate Answer of Life, the Universe, and Everything. As such, they are the most intelligent life form on that planet.
In their home dimension, a popular sport is Brockian Ultra-Cricket, a horribly violent game which involves hitting people for no readily apparent reason and then running away, before apologising from some distance - often through a megaphone. However, it is completely unrelated except in name to the earth sport of cricket.


Natives to the small forest world of Oglaroon, Oglaroonians have taken what is a fairly universal trait among sentient species (to cope with the sheer infinite vastness of the universe by simply ignoring it) to its ultimate extreme. Despite the entire planet being habitable, Oglaroonians have managed to confine their global population to one small nut tree, in which they compose poetry, create art, and somehow fight wars. The consensus among those in power that any trees one might observe from the outer branches are merely hallucinations brought on by eating too many oglanuts, and anyone who thinks differently is hurled out of the tree, presumably to his death.


An exceptionally pessimistic race from the star system of Pansel. Due to the Heart of Gold's Infinite Improbability Drive causing a wave of improbability when passing through the system, two-hundred and thirty-nine thousand lightly fried eggs landed on the surface of their home planet, unfortunately too late to save the vast majority, who had already succumbed to famine, though one did manage to survive for two further weeks, before dying of cholesterol poisoning.


The Shaltanacs are a race from the planet Broop Kidron Thirteen, who had their own version of the Earth phrase, "The other man's grass is always greener." Although, given their planet's horticultural peculiarities, theirs was, "The other Shaltanac's joopleberry shrub is always a more mauve-y shade of pinky russet," and so, the expression fell into disuse, and the Shaltanacs found they had little choice but to become exceptionally happy and content with their lot, which surprised everyone else in the galaxy, who had not realised that the best way not to be unhappy is not to have a word for it.

Silastic Armourfiends of Striterax

The Silastic Armourfiends were an insanely aggressive race who lived on the planet Striterax approximately twenty billion years ago "when the universe was young". They were extremely keen on fighting – one of the best ways to deal with a Silastic Armourfiend was to lock him in a room by himself, since he would beat himself up sooner or later. They wrecked the surface of their planet in constant wars, and the whole population lived within bunkers deep below the surface.
In an attempt to deal with the problems their violent nature created, the Silastic Armourfiends passed a law that anybody who had to carry a weapon as part of their normal work (including policemen, security guards and primary school teachers) must spend a minimum of 45 minutes each day punching a sack of potatoes. It was hoped that this would allow them to work off their surplus aggression. This plan worked only until someone had the idea to simply shoot the potatoes, and the Silastic Armourfiends were excited about their "first war for weeks."
During one of their more unpleasant wars, the Silastic Armourfiends asked the great computer Hactar to design the ultimate weapon for them. The computer complied, creating a hand-held bomb which would connect the core of every major sun via hyperspace, destroying the entire universe. The Silastic Armorfiends attempted to use the bomb to blow up a munitions dump, but fortunately Hactar had built a dud weapon since it could not conceive of any occasion when the use of the real thing would be justified. The Silastic Armourfiends disagreed, and pulverised Hactar.
Eventually, after smashing the hell out of the Strenuous Garfighters of Stug and the Strangulous Stilletans of Jajazikstack, the Silastic Armourfiends found an entirely new way of blowing themselves up, which was of great relief to the Garfighters, the Stilletans, and the potatoes.
"The best way to pick a fight with a Silastic Armorfiend was just to be born. They didn't like it, they got resentful"

Strangulous Stilettans of Jajazikstak

An enemy of the Silastic Armourfiends of Striterax.

Strenuous Garfighters of Stug

An enemy of the Silastic Armourfiends of Striterax.



Algolian Suntiger

The tooth of an Algolian Suntiger is part of the mix for a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. It "spreads the fires of the Algolian suns deep into the heart of the drink."

Ameglian Major Cows

See Dish of the Day (cow).

Arcturian Megadonkey

An animal featured in the proverb "to talk all four legs off an Arcturian Megadonkey", and also served grated at a dinner on the planet Magrathea.

Arcturian Megagnat

A creature from Kakrafoon. It is mentioned during a description of the many uses of towels whereby you can "huddle beneath it for protection against the Arcturian Megagnats under the stars of Kakrafoon."

Babel fish

The Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and is a universal translator which simultaneously translates from one spoken language to another. It takes the brainwaves of the other body and what they are thinking then transmits the thoughts to the speech centers of the hosts brain, the speech heard by the ear decodes the brainwave matrix. When inserted into the ear, its nutrition processes convert sound waves into brain waves, neatly crossing the language divide between any species you should happen to meet whilst traveling in space.
Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.[1] Arthur Dent, a surviving Earthling, commented only 'Eurgh!' when first inserting the fish into his ear canal. It did, however, enable him to understand Vogon Poetry - not necessarily a good thing.
The book points out that the Babel fish could not possibly have developed naturally, and therefore proves the existence of God as its creator. However, certain people say this proves the nonexistence of god as proof denies faith, and without faith, god is nothing. "'my, that was easy', says man, and goes on to prove that black is white, and gets killed on the next zebra crossing.


The Boghog is the only native animal of planet NowWhat, "all other having long ago died of despair".
Boghogs are tiny, vicious creatures with unaccountably thin and leaky skins. Boghog meat is almost completely inedible and is the primary source of food for the settlers on NowWhat.
The language of the boghogs consists of biting each other very hard on the thigh and thus was never learned by anybody else.

Damogran Frond Crested Eagle

A Damogran Frond Crested Eagle inhabites Damogran, a desert planet where Zaphod Beeblebrox steals the Heart of Gold. A Damogran Frond Crested Eagle incorporated the first two pages of Zaphod Beeblebrox's speech into its nest, which it built out of paper mâché, and "was virtually impossible for a newly hatched baby eagle to break out of." Since apparently the Eagle had, for some reason, heard of survival of the species and become opposed to it.

Equinusian packbeast

At the beginning of the radio series The Quandary Phase, the voice of The Book describes any attempts to appeal to the better nature of the Vogons as "flogging a dead Equinusian packbeast." Director Dirk Maggs answered that this expression can be read as either referring to a horse (Latin name Equus caballus), or a separate horse-like alien species, or both.

Fuolornis Fire Dragon

A majestic creature that, despite having "breath like a rocket booster and teeth like a park fence" was revered in the land of Brequinda for the mystifyingly sexy way in which it flew about the fragrant night skies, along with their tendency to bite anybody who didn't revere them. So sexy were the dragons that they would induce mass exodus to private quarters when crossing the full moon. Although generally peaceful, they nonetheless managed to bite and burn other people quite a bit; behaviour which led eventually to their extinction and use in making hamburgers. The most current edition of the Guide has yet to mention this crucial fact, much to the disappointment of hitchhikers. Also according to the Guide, most of Brequinda now seems to contain restaurants selling the dragon meat burgers, possibly indicating that some find the meat tasty. Dragons are shown as part of the defense system of the godly planet of Asgard in the novel And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer, but it is never said whether or not these are the same or different dragons.

Greater Drubbered Wintwock

According to the novel Mostly Harmless, these are no longer found on the planet Stegbartle Major in the Constellation Fraz.


Mattresses are friendly, dim-witted, docile creatures capable of speech. They are all called Zem and live in the swamps of Squornshellous Zeta. Many of them are slaughtered, dried out, and shipped around the Galaxy to be slept on by grateful customers, though they do not appear to mind this. Many of the movements they make, such as gupping and willomying, are so unique that etymologists have driven themselves half-insane tracking down new words for them.

Perfectly Normal Beast

The Perfectly Normal Beasts are a species that migrate across the Anhondo Plain on Lamuella twice a year (one direction in the spring then back again in the autumn). The migration takes about 8 to 9 days during which time they form a solid mass. They appear from thin air at one end of the plain then disappear again at the other. They are called Perfectly Normal Beasts because naming them normalizes the event of their migration and keeps people from worrying about its cause. It is likely that the Domain of the King was built to take advantage of this odd, mile-wide gap in the bi-yearly migration, situated as it is on a rather nice stretch of land that would otherwise be badly trampled every now and then (or, the space-time warp was specifically manipulated by the Domain's original builder as a matter of convenience).
The local Lamuellans capture the beasts and kill them for their meat. The method uses similar techniques to a matador but also requires use of the Pikka Birds to get their attention. The best of the meat is eaten straight away while the rest is salted and stored for consumption until the next migration. It was consumed on its own until the arrival of the Sandwich Maker and is now always placed between two slices of bread.

Pikka Bird

The Pikka Birds are birds native to Lamuella. They are known for being surprised by ordinary everyday objects and events such as the sun rising but completely ignoring unusual events such as spaceships landing. They are accustomed to staring blankly at a few anonymous atoms in the middle of the air. They are also used to attract Perfectly Normal Beasts. According to Arthur Dent's description of them in the radio series The Quintessential Phase and the novel Mostly Harmless, their eggs make rather a good omelette. On his first encounter with a Pikka Bird, Ford Prefect is disturbed by its physical similarity to the bird-shape taken by the sentient Guide Mark II.
(Pica pica is the Latin name for the magpie).

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal

The Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal is a creature that hails from the planet of Traal, and will eat anything. The beasts are impossible to kill. To deal with a beast, one should wrap a towel around one's own head. This creature is so mind-bogglingly stupid that it assumes that if someone cannot see it, then it cannot see the person. Despite this, the Guide did state, erroneously, that "ravenous Bugblatter beasts often make a very good meal for (rather than of) visiting tourists" in its article on the planet Traal. This led to deaths of those who took it literally. The guide's editors avoided lawsuit by summoning a poet to testify under oath that beauty was truth, truth beauty, and therefore prove that their claim, the nicer one, must be true. This led to life itself being held in contempt of court for being neither beautiful nor true, and subsequently being removed from all those present at the trial.
In the computer game The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Bugblatter Beast asks its victims their names before killing them, and carves the names on a memorial outside its cave. The game also describes the Beast as having Lasero-Zap eyes, Swivel-Shear Teeth, and several dozen tungsten carbide Vast Pain claws forged in the sun furnaces of Zangrijad, all implying that it is a cyborg.
According to the radio scripts, the Beast's eyes can turn red, green, then a sort of mauvy pink.
In the 2005 movie The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Guide has an entry on what to do if you face certain, unavoidable death at the claws of a Bugblatter Beast: the same method for "What to do if you find yourself trapped beneath a large boulder with no means of escape" from fit the eighth of the radio series. The entry is this: "Consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn't been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won't be troubling you much longer."
In the movie, the Vogons apparently have a Bugblatter Beast trapped inside a metal box, about the size of a shipping container. The Beast is never seen (apart from a large green eye), but the box is continually shaking back and forth. The Vogons use it to execute people who are convicted of crimes such as kidnapping the President, and as such Tricia McMillan was nearly fed to it.

Scintillating Jeweled Scuttling Crabs

Scintillating Jeweled Scuttling Crabs live on the planet Vogsphere, the Vogons' homeworld. Vogons eat the crabs, "smashing their shells open with iron mallets." They cook the crabmeat with the native trees. Although the Vogons migrated to the Megabrantis Cluster, the political hub of the Galaxy, every year the Vogons import twenty-seven thousand scintillating jeweled scuttling crabs from Vogsphere and "while away a drunken night smashing them to bits with iron mallets."

Vegan Rhino

Little is known about Vegan Rhinos. They are mentioned once in The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy when, while having dinner on Magrathea, Zaphod asks Arthur to "try some Vegan Rhino's cutlet. It's delicious if you happen to like that sort of thing"

Vogon Slapsticks

Vogon Slapsticks are odd creatures from the 2005 movie The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. They originated, most likely, on the planet Vogsphere. In shape they look like rust-brown poles stuck into the ground with a rectangle on top, sometimes having a hand print inside it. Ford Prefect pulled one out of the ground, causing it to squeal in a high pitched frequency. It escaped Ford's towel and then slithered into the ground. They smack anyone who thinks or has an idea, then disappear back into the ground. Their name originates from slapstick comedy, which involves exaggerated physical violence.


Fallian albino marsh worm

The Fallian albino marsh worm spends its life absorbing hallucinogenic gas from the marshes of Fallia. After it dies, it turns into a stiff-ish, cigarette-like object. Hitchhikers call these joysticks.
  • One puff and you feel blissfully happy. Love everybody, forgive your enemies, all that stuff.
  • Two puffs make you curious about just about everything, including the horrible death that is probably coming your way for you to have lit this baby in the first place. This is going to be great, you tell yourself. I am about to experience an energy shift to a new plane of existence. What will it be like? Will I make new friends? Do they have beer?
  • After the third puff, your brain explodes and you feel a little peckish. From the novel And Another Thing...


While not, strictly speaking, flora by itself, four bits of fluff collected in the computer game The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy can be made to grow into a fruit-bearing tree. The fruit gives its eater a glimpse of future foresight (necessary for winning said game).

Joopleberry Shrub

A mauvey pink russet plant from planet Broop Kidron Thirteen. It is the basis for the no longer used Shaltanac phrase, "the other Shaltanac's joopleberry shrub is always a more mauvey shade of pinky russet."

Ratchet Screwdriver Fruit

A bizarre crop with an unusual life-cycle. Once picked, the fruit must be kept in a dark, dusty drawer for several years, after which time the outer skin crumbles to dust leaving an unidentifiable metal object with screw-holes and various ridges and flanges. This object will inevitably get thrown away when discovered. There is general uncertainty as to the benefits of this behaviour to the ratchet screwdriver species as a whole.


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In my various adventures with ebook pirates, I've discovered that some pirates --who make declarations designed to bamboozle EBay staffers-- are under the impression that popular novels are available free, for all, under GNU licensing.

Only the author of a work ought to be able to "copyleft" (the opposite of copyright) her work, so if you see someone claiming that they have the right to "resell" a colleagues' work under a GNU license, you ought to report the instance.

Trivial Self-Amusement

Did the Staples (TM) saying "That Was Easy" come from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ?
'my, that was easy', says man, and goes on to prove that black is white, and gets killed on the next zebra crossing.

There's a rule of thumb that I was told (repeatedly) when I started entering RWA chapter contests and that is "no more than 6 adverbs per page". It might have been 6 adverbs/adjectives.

The adverbs and adjectives absolutely make this list. Are there any that you'd edit out?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fiction Delivery

RT BOOK REVIEWS magazine is getting it! In their August issue they conclude an article by quoting author J. A. Konrath: "The story isn't on ink, or e-ink, or a computer screen. That's only the delivery system. The story is in your head. The easier it is to get the words into your head, the better."

This comment comes from "Format Fever," an article about why publishers choose to release a book in hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, or e-book. The pros and cons of the various formats are discussed, e.g., hardcovers earn more money per copy, but many readers are understandably reluctant to buy them, not only for the expense but because of their size and weight. Paperbacks are more likely to be impulse purchases than more costly formats are. There's a sidebar about where and how bookstores display books. Hardcovers at the front of the store preferably sit at waist level or higher. That's because not only do sellers want those products at eye level for an adult reader, they want the books specifically at adult male eye level. Men are more likely to buy a hardback on impulse than women are. Who knew? Actually, I wasn't too surprised to read that women have more of a tendency to consider price, not to mention the question of whether a volume will fit in one's purse. Trade paperbacks lie on tables at waist height to invite easy picking up and browsing through. Book clubs like trade paperbacks, which often contain value-added content such as discussion questions that the mass market edition doesn't have. Mass market paperbacks are displayed near the entrance for, again, impulse buy purposes and for the "non-browsing" customer who wants to get in and out quickly. (Now, there's a personality type I can't relate to.)

Authors who've been "promoted" to hardcover mention getting hostile letters from readers, accusing them of greed. Many readers still don't understand that the author has no control over the format and pricing of the book. Personally, if I had the chance to get published in hardcover, I'd be dubious of whether the higher price would make up for lost sales. Sure, there would be a paperback edition six months later, but how many readers would wait to buy it in proportion to those who would forget all about the book by then?

Avon is experimenting with an innovation of releasing novels previously published in hardcover in both trade and mass market sizes at the same time. And of course, although the RT article unaccountably doesn't mention this trend, major publishers now more often than not release the Kindle or other e-book edition simultaneously with the hardback. The trouble is that some of them miss the point and over-price the e-book. Now, that IS greed. But not the author's fault.

The article remarks that readers may feel "it is very hard to justify $25 for eight hours of entertainment." (On the other hand, people spend seven dollars at a movie matinee for about two hours of entertainment; a book looks like a bargain in comparison. After all, the book is rereadable.) The RT writer doesn't even bring up the first question that leaps to my mind when I read this sentence: Who in her right mind would pay the $25-30 suggested retail price for a hardcover? First, if the book comes from a major publisher, one can borrow it from the library and, if it's a personal keeper, buy the paperback later. Or, if it's a "can't wait" author for that particular reader, has she never heard of or The only times I've ever paid full price for a hardcover or trade paperback since a merciful Providence gave us were for products from obscure presses that don't have their wares discounted with the Internet booksellers.

Choice is wonderful!

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Greed Is Good?

Gordon Gekko, fictional Wall Street Power User, dwells on the mantra

"Greed Is Good."

Here's a quote from:

 "Greed is good" was the maxim of Michael Douglas's 1987 film Wall Street. Now, his former wife appears to have taken the lesson to heart.

Diandra Douglas is suing the actor for half of his income from the new sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - though the couple divorced in 2000. The Oliver Stone film is due out in September, with Douglas reprising his role of Gordon Gekko - the self-styled "master of the universe".
--------END QUOTE---------

CNBC ran a poll on Friday July 1 asking if viewers thought greed is good.  It was nearly a split decision, from the way they asked the question.  They didn't specify good for what.

I'm telling you, greed is the writer's best friend! 

It is a perfect, High Concept character motivation.  Nobody, reader or viewer, needs an explanation of what greed feels like, or what it's like to go up against someone fired up with greed.

Now, beyond that, the thematic discussion makes perfect fuel for either a soft-sweet romance or a hot-spice romance, and you can even found a raging action-romance on it.

Greed is a good motive for a protagonist who "comes to his senses" because of love (or a good knock on the you-know-what) and it's a great motive for a villain who gets his comeuppance good and proper.

We discussed the film Toy Story 3 last week, July 13, 2010 on

On  you can read the analysis of Toy Story 3 and see just how important THEME is to this light-entertainment film that isn't supposed to draw audiences seeking "serious thought."

You should also note this entry on where a NOVEL is analyzed for "beats" --  can you see the trend in Romance there?  Just as I pointed out in my July 13 post noted above.  Theme and Romance and Novels and SCREENPLAYS go together.

Now, plot some stories with greed as the main theme subject.  The word "greed" by itself isn't a theme.  It can be a motif, a character motivation, or almost any other element in a story.  Make it a theme by taking a position on the subject.  "Greed is good" is a great starting point, but move on from there.    

Challenge yourself to a writing exercise.  This is like a pianist doing scales rather than playing an entire piece. 

1) Create a POV character who hates greed (because he/she is riddled with it and rejects Self). 

2) Create a POV character who lauds greed and proves (as Gekko) that greed is the personality trait to foster if you want to get rich or stay rich. 

3) Create a SUPPORTING ROLE character who fights greed in human society.  Generate a POV character from the supporting role (B story character), a POV character that the supporting character can redirect.

4) Create a Villain or simple antagonist who either embraces Greed or eschews it, but does so with way too much force. Explain why he/she's so obsessed. 

5) Create a character whose hidden fear is that his inner greed will overtake him - perhaps he starts out living the severe austerity of a street-begging Monk with a bowl and a robe, no sandals, and suddenly has to command a galactic fortune that's shrinking alarmingly fast.

6) Create a greed-theme based character with your own formula for a character.  Then build a world to display that character's lessons in greed -- such as Wall Street was chosen to display Gekko's philosophy.

Remember all the TV Series you've seen using Confidence Men (White Collar rules the roost at the moment) as lead characters. In the grifter's world, the handle they look for in a Mark is Greed. 

If you don't have greed activated in your character, if your greed doesn't rule you, no grifter can possibly get you to do anything against your best interests - and the grifters good at their trade, the ones who might succeed, won't even try you.  There are plenty of "Marks" in the world who wear their greed on their sleeves.  You don't have to be one of them.  That's a theme.  Work it every which way. 

The reason these exercises are relevant to success in the story marketplace today is the same reason CNBC and film makers are shouting about this film "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." 

We as a society will be, possibly for the next 20 years, debating how to "govern greed." 

I discussed the 20-year fiction-taste trend cycles here:
and here

It's Pluto transiting Capricorn.  Capricorn is the natural 10th House of Vocation and Government and is ruled by Saturn, Restriction and Discipline.

The financial meltdown of 2008-9 coincided with Pluto making stations on the USA Natal chart's 8th House (other people's money, inheritance) -- and for a Nation, 8th House is all about taxes.  Pluto is all about the hidden world beneath the world, and the nuclear magnitude power that seethes down there.  Pluto rules the Natural 8th House (Scorpio) just as Saturn rules the Natural 10th House (Capricorn). 

Greed is a natural desire magnified beyond all limits.

We have a natural awareness of the possessions of others (8th House), and the Values of Others (also 8th House).  The 8th House is naturally opposed to the 2nd House, our personal Money, Possessions, and Values.  So we're always comparing what we have to what others have.

The problem comes from coveting what others have.  When that natural tendency to compare gets magnified, it becomes a desire FOR what others have, not just curiosity.  Magnify that and you get Greed. 

Pluto's main effect is just exactly that, magnifying.  Pluto releases that subterranean nuclear level (super-volcano magnitude) power into the channel of a natural, normal, ordinarily good, human tendency of being aware of what's around us. 

So it's entirely possible we may see the whole USA society confronting a government (Saturn) exploding with unbridled (Pluto unbridles) greed for control (Saturn) especially of "other people's money" (8th House).

Or it might not go that way.  Don't let your imagination fail here.

People will be on all sides of this issue, subliminally worried about it and confused because the "Conservatives" who are deepest into Christianity pound the table about Greed as a Sin, while the rest of our world keeps trying to de-demonize sins in general, pounding the table about acceptance of what used to be taboo because it's based on primitive superstitious religion. 

That's a CONFLICT, in case you didn't notice. 

And so there's a building audience that will be grabbed by fiction that discusses all sides without taking a side. It's a puzzle everyone will be working on solving.  

Grab your piece of this action with all the greed you can muster.

But once you have done that, stuff that greed back into the lock-box that your emotional anti-virus software keeps for you. 

When doing business as a writer, keep your greed completely out of the transaction.  Agents and Editors will blacklist you if you don't.  They won't deal with someone who wants more than they're worth.

But if you don't know exactly what your product is worth, you will get taken to the cleaners.  (you know I love cliches for a reason).

Jacqueline Lichtenberg