Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nonfiction, Fact, and Truth

Recently I read LISTENING TO MADELEINE, by Leonard S. Marcus, a collection of interviews with protegees, friends, colleagues, and family members of one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle. This book and a 2004 in-depth NEW YORKER magazine profile of her referred to in the introduction (the author of that article, Cynthia Zarin, supplies the final interview in the book) jolted me with information about L’Engle’s life and writings that I’d never encountered before. I’m an ardent fan of A WRINKLE IN TIME and its sequels and related books, and I’ve also read the Austin family novels (non-fantasy) with pleasure. In nonfiction, I admire the richness of her theological writings and poetry. While I knew the Austins and the Murrys (from the “Time” books) reflected autobiographical elements from L’Engle’s own family life, I didn’t imagine them to be factual; what sensible reader would? I hadn’t known, though, that her children sometimes resented having their lives adapted (and idealized) into fiction. Her son, Bion, apparently the model for both Rob Austin and Charles Wallace Murry, is said to have hated the Austin books.

What shocked me, however, were revelations (to me, at least) about the nonfiction memoirs collectively known as the Crosswicks Journals. L’Engle’s daughter Josephine discusses how her mother altered the past in her writing to fit her vision of how events should have happened. When readers mentioned events in the Crosswicks books to her, Josephine would often reply that it hadn’t happened that way: “You have to remember that my mother is a fiction writer.” According to the testimony in these interviews, her children felt the memoirs were more “fantasy” than the novels. But nobody maintained that L’Engle deliberately lied: “She would make sense of a thing to her own satisfaction. Then for her that story was reality.”

Now, I don’t claim an author writing about her life has an obligation to include everything, no matter how traumatic or embarrassing. Nor do I cherish absurd expectations for beloved authors to have ideal lives and no human flaws. L’Engle had a perfectly good right, for example, to keep the alcohol problems of her father, husband, and son private. C. S. Lewis omits a major sequence of events from his autobiography, SURPRISED BY JOY—but he explicitly says he’s leaving out an important episode and apologizes for the necessity. L’Engle, according to several of the interviewees, didn’t so much purposely omit negative elements as deny them even to herself (at least while writing).

Does the fact that some details in SUMMER OF THE GREAT-GRANDMOTHER may not report what “really happened” invalidate that book as a memorial to her mother and an inspiration to untold numbers of readers struggling with caring for elderly parents? I don’t think so. However, consider TWO-PART INVENTION, her memoir of her lifelong marriage to Hugh Franklin, published shortly after her death. That’s one of my all-time favorite books about marriage and the death of a spouse. Does it diminish the value of the book as an inspiration to others that we now know Hugh had a drinking problem and engaged in at least two extramarital affairs? Alan Jones, L’Engle’s former son-in-law, says, “In the Crosswicks Journal, she idealized her relationship with her mother enormously. And while I don’t think her marriage was at all disastrous, it was complicated, and TWO-PART INVENTION was a tremendously idealized picture of the marriage. I always thought the title was suitably ironical.” L’Engle doesn’t simply omit facts in this book. She explicitly says Hugh didn’t have the trouble with alcohol that many actors have, and she refers to their forty years of keeping their marriage vows in terms most readers would assume to imply fidelity.

As Cynthia Zarin puts it, “The picture that Madeleine painted of herself—and this is often true of writers—was not necessarily who she was. . . . She painted in her nonfiction books a picture of her life as she wished it to be. Then, in her fiction, she painted a life that was in some ways closer to the truth.” In principle, I don’t have a problem with that. I won’t stop loving her work. But I do think these insights raise a vital question about how much the value of a nonfiction, autobiographical work as artistic or thematic truth depends on its factual truth.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Theme-Plot Integration Part 3: Fallacy Analysis

This is Part 3 of Theme-Plot Integration, and here we'll look at some glaring fallacies in our world.

Previous Parts are here:

I'm collecting stuff here for future reference on the aftermath of Election 2012 - and what all that has to do with THEME-PLOT Integration.  In this part of the series on Theme-Plot Integration we're using the classic "fallacy" as the focus of the exercise. 

Here are websites that may still be available with statistics on the Election.

I just happened to click on a fox link and found these by accident -- nice technology, but CNN is probably better. 

Here's a DICK MORRIS newsletter:

Read what he thinks led him astray in predicting the outcome of Election 2012 which differs so markedly from what he predicted. 

Morris highlights is important stuff about how fallacies work in drama illustrated in a real-world context.  Here he's digested a lot of information into a "briefing" that is perfectly constructed for busy writers to study.  And it tells you something very important about your target audience, the people you have to entertain to get them to buy your next book. 

The gist of it is the same comment I saw on CNN from their somewhat new commentator Van Jones.  Here's a clip with Van Jones reacting to CNN's re-election call.

Here's an article about who Van Jones is and how he got to be a CNN commentator.

The United Stages Demographics Have Changed.  

I'll bet you already knew that.  Thing is, do you know from what the demographics changed and into what they changed -- but maybe most importantly, why? 

"Why?" is important because in the worlds you build around this theme of "fallacies" need that aura of verisimilitude to draw your readers into your reality.  Your world must be in flux, and that flux must be driven by a reason.  Why does your built world have to be in flux?  Because your audience's world is in flux, and any world not in flux will not seem "real" to that audience.

This theme-plot integration series of blog posts is pointing out how to use popular fallacies in weaving Theme-Plot Integration -- this is subtle philosophical stuff.  But it's not difficult to master. 
See how I have plucked out just one tiny bit from all this election data and found an element to include in your worldbuilding that will improve your sales?  In this case, demographics in flux changes the politics.

Now, "world in demographic flux" also has to be woven into theme, and then plot. 

Consider that one demographic segment that might flow like a tidal wave over an established, static world upsetting the whole balance of power in your fictional world could be -- oh, say Religion, as a wave of conversions sweeps through.  Or a plague might upset the male/female balance.  Or an invasion of aliens (think of the TV show ALIEN NATION -- but increase the number of refugees to say 3/4 of the indigenous population.)  Each cause for a change in the demographics of your built world points to a different set of themes.  Within each theme, you can find a pivotal fallacy to generate your plot. 

Remember fallacies are fallacies because they reside deep in the subconscious, behind the assumptions that make life livable.  And that is where your Hero's main Adversary comes from, that's the origin from which the Villain is projected.  Psychology has uncovered how this works.  Each of us is a Captain Ahab bound to our Whale.  The whale isn't Ahab's problem.  The binding is the problem.  Those bindings are made up out of the fallacies we harbor. 

Identify and articulate the fallacy in your Main Character's subconscious, and you have determined not only who/what the Adversary is, but also what the Conflict Resolution is.  That Resolution defines what the Conflict is.  Follow the conflict back to its origin, and you'll discover where exactly your story begins -- and be able to craft a narrative hook that will grab a very large audience.

Again and again, I need to emphasize that I'm not telling you what to think about which fallacy, but showing you HOW TO THINK LIKE A WRITER (which is very, very different from how a reader thinks).  This is about how to look at current events, find the widely-held fallacy, identify it inside yourself (if it's not inside you, it won't produce a great novel), and create the "argument" that dispels the fallacy.  That "argument" is your plot. 

The argument goes like this:
a) Hero believes Fallacy because (X)
b) Villain or Adversary believes differently and attacks X
c) Hero defends X (Ahab scrambling to stock his ship and get that damn fish -- or Columbus begging money from royalty to outfit ships to sail off the edge of the world)
d) Villain wins - disproving X (that's the middle, the low-point for Hero)
e) Hero realizes he's believed a fallacy - what he knows to be true is in fact not true (grand angst moment)
f) Villain takes advantage of angst-moment to attack
g) Hero gathers himself and creates a NEW BELIEF (which might be partially fallacious if you need a sequel) and attacks Villain
h) Villain gets away
i) Hero pursues and triumphs having freed himself of the bond to the villain by eliminating the cherished fallacy

If it's a Romance, Hero and Villain might be the couple -- or the Villain might be vanquished by the Hero and Heroine getting together ( as in the Prince who elopes with the milkmaid redefining the King's view of reality.)

Whatever the genre, the argument over the validity of the fallacy is in the plot, and never (ever) articulated in actual words, not exposition or dialogue.  The argument is articulated only in action, in change of situation.  Plot is not about "what happens" -- but about what the characters do.  What happens is the result of what the characters do.  The plot is what the characters do, and the story is all about how the results of those actions change the fallacy they hold most dear.

All my traditionally published novels are formulated on such "fallacies" that become entrenched in popular thinking, different fallacies for different times, and the shifting demographic served by the particular publishing company I was working for. 

Oddly, the Sime~Gen Series is based on a fallacy that hasn't yet gone out of fashion.  For the Sime~Gen videogame, though, we are adding another fallacy and setting it in the space age. 

Fallacies you find in general media always work very well for generating popular fiction.

I saw a factoid flick by me (while watching data feeds on my cell and flipping channels on the TV, so I don't know where this came from) -- that last minute deciders cast ballots on the basis of the TV commercials they had seen, believing those political ads, just the way Bernays predicted people would behave (way before such tech as TV ads existed).

Here's a quote from Part 1 of this series leading you to study this fellow:

--------QUOTE FROM PART 1----------
Here's a link to Wikipedia (incomplete article in need of fact-checking)

Edward Louis Bernays (November 22, 1891 – March 9, 1995) was an Austrian-American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda, referred to in his obituary as "the father of public relations".[1] He combined the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud.

He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the 'herd instinct' that Trotter had described.[2] Adam Curtis's award-winning 2002 documentary for the BBC, The Century of the Self, pinpoints Bernays as the originator of modern public relations, and Bernays was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by Life magazine.[3
---------------END QUOTE------------

Thus "Public Relations" is a field that grows out of one genius's deep rooted fear of the behavior of his fellow humans, and a terrible need to "control" that powerful and evil force called "humanity."

---------END QUOTE FROM PART 1 ----------

PUBLIC RELATIONS wielded by the invisible hand of power behind the throne could make a NIFTY reason for the CHANGE IN DEMOGRAPHICS in your built world.  It could also work as the source of the fallacy that binds the Hero to the Villain just as Bernays' purported belief that society was irrational and dangerous because of the "herd instinct" and therefore more evolved people must command the direction of the herd -- members of which can't be allowed to make individual decisions about the course of their own lives. 

One good fallacy to base fiction on might be a belief that Bernays was mentally ill, that society isn't irrational and dangerous and there is no herd instinct among humans.  But Bernays created the herds of humans and drove them insane.  That situation would make a nifty alien planet for your invading refugees to come from - landing on Earth to find the same nightmare situation in play, and changing the demographic by simply being here.

Finding, articulating, and challenging such fallacies is the main source of ALL science fiction. 

Here's a post from Facebook by David Gerrold, a master of this plotting technique.  Read what he wrote about our current shifting demographic and how that affects fiction audiences and see why you must explore the worlds he's created.  Remember, he broke into screenwriting at an early age with his first sale TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES, an iconic Star Trek Episode, but went on to write some of the best, and most widely read novels in Science Fiction. 

----------POST ON FACEBOOK BY DAVID GERROLD --- is his author page on Amazon.  READ ALL HIS BOOKS!

-----------QUOTE FROM DAVID GERROLD----------
I haven't been reading a lot of science fiction lately, and I've skipped a lot of movies too. And it finally hit me after seeing Cloud Atlas what was bothering me.

I grew up in an age when science fiction movies were about vision and courage. Things To Come was about humanity triumphing over ignorance and leaping into space. Destination Moon and Conquest of Space were vivid predictions of what was possible. Forbidden Planet took us to far stars and 2001 was one of the great inspirational landmarks of the twentieth century. Star Trek, the original series, was about a future of exploration and partnership. All of these taken together said that human beings would survive our darker impulses, would learn how to live together in harmony, would assume the responsibilities of true sentience. And it's no coincidence that those stories helped motivate one of our grandest adventures -- the Apollo program that took us to the moon.

Today, too many books and movies and TV shows are about the failures of humanity. We see big impersonal cities or dystopic soul-crushing cities. We see failure and futility and hopelessness. We do not see people laughing, building, exploring, seeking, discovering, or rising to new heights -- no, we see them struggling for survival, squabbling with each other-- not uniting in common cause, not surviving as communities, but devolving into deranged and panic-stricken animals.

I know from personal experience that view of human nature is wrong. I've been at the center of a disaster and I watched as strangers came together to help each other, as neighbors gathered to make sure that everyone was safe and cared for.

I think that since the sixties, science fiction authors have become more and more overwhelmed by the future -- there's too much knowledge, too much research, too much technology for any one single human being to keep up. The "singularity" is crushing down on us even before it arrives. So it's easier to write about the collapse of civilization than to imagine a future where civilization has leapt to a new level.

But the history of our species is an astonishing chronicle of invention, innovation, and stubborn mean cussedness over the obstinacy of the physical universe. There is still so much we can be looking at, imagining, predicting, postulating, extrapolating, and describing so vividly that the reader will be certain we're time-travelers from the future. We have a whole solar system to explore. Getting into orbit, getting to the moon and Mars and the asteroids and the moons of the gas giants, all of those locales are opportunities for amazing tales of unknown possibilities.

This is my point. Everything in the world starts as a conversation. Everything. The conversation can be "I hate it when..." or "why can't we..." or "I wish it were possible to..." or "what if..." or even "that's odd..." -- but those conversations are the beginning of possibilities. Science fiction is about possibilities. It's the consideration of those possibilities that creates probability. And after probability, the next step is inevitability.

Science fiction is about the choices ahead of us. Every moment of every day, life is about choices -- not just the choice of the moment, but the results of that choice. Science fiction is about the results and the opportunity to make choices that will take us there. Science fiction is the conversation that illuminates the unknown landscapes of tomorrow.

That's the science fiction I want to read, that's the science fiction I want to see in the movies. Because science fiction is an opportunity to rekindle the enthusiasm for science as a world-changing adventure.
---------------END QUOTE---------

David -- being the genius I've always known he is -- nailed the core of the fallacy producing this crazy quilt of "results" -- elections with margins too narrow to reflect an actual, considered consensus.

The reason for this -- well, it's for fiction writers to speculate and write about, to turn the problem every which way and imagine different courses out of it, to find academic theories that account for it, to put American's peculiar constitution (peculiar in the sense of not being duplicated anywhere else in the world) into world-context, and human history.

Go out into the galaxy, find some aliens you invent, and explore what traits of human aggregate behavior are the source of this situation. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The World's Last Night

So the world is going to end tomorrow. Or not.

As I understand the Mayan calendar kerfuffle, the whole thing was spawned by a misinterpretation of a single inscription. In fact, the fateful date simply marked the start of a new 394-year cycle. The USA WEEKEND magazine of December 7-9 had the cover caption “The End of the World Is Not Near” and an article in which several scientists debunk fears of imminent catastrophes such as the shifting of the planet’s magnetic poles or the Earth’s getting hit by an asteroid or comet anytime soon.

A couple of Sundays ago, our rector’s sermon began with the assurance that the world isn’t going to end this month. I felt like asking, “How do you know?” It’s almost impossible to prove a negative. However, the odds are against it.

In 1979, Isaac Asimov published a book called A CHOICE OF CATASTROPHES, exploring all the ways doom might befall the world as we know it. One might expect him to start with smaller hazards and work up, but he moves in the other direction. After a brief discussion of myths about the twilight of the gods and the destruction of the world, he begins with “Catastrophes of the First Class,” those such as entropy that involve the entire universe, then going through disasters that would affect the stars, the solar system, and Earth alone down to “Catastrophes of the Fifth Class,” which might destroy civilization but not wipe out humanity. He finishes with the disasters he thinks we have some chance of preventing. Like all of Asimov’s entertainingly lucid science writings, this book remains worth reading.

On the religious side of the question, C. S, Lewis wrote an essay titled “The World’s Last Night.” He reminds us that trying to predict the end times and Judgment Day is futile because we’re explicitly told we can’t foresee those events: “No one knows the day or the hour.” Therefore, we have a duty to be prepared at all times, not by obsessing over the imminent end, but by doing our appointed tasks to the best of our ability. When the Last Day arrives, Lewis says, “happy are those whom it finds labouring in their vocations.”

It’s a little like the advice in a recently popular country song on how to get maximum joy out of life: “Live like you were dying.”

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Theme-Plot Integration - Part 2: Fallacy As Theme

Last week we listed a number of prior posts that form the foundation of this advanced writing exercise of integrating two huge skill-sets, THEME and PLOT.

I pointed out the origin of PR (publicity, public relations, shaping "public" opinion) and how that science has been so effective in molding our current culture. 

In November 2012, I saw the following tweet on twitter:
"Common perspective in India: when something comes from the Internet, it's free of cost" #ebkstats @DigiBookWorld

Please also note this Guest Post on this blog:

That "common perspective" concept is what I'm talking about here.  "if it's from the internet, it's free." is a fallacy for us and common sense for them. 

Remember our whole, long, discussion of "fallacy?"

I saw a post on Facebook in December 2012 from a person talking to a professional writer.  The person wrote that during a bit of research on the Web, looking for a quote from a deceased writer's work, a "free download" pdf of the novel came up.  The researcher was utterly astonished that anyone could possibly think they were doing a Good Deed to post free downloads of books -- and went to find one to buy that would pay the estate properly. 

I'm astonished anyone is astonished that book piracy is now considered a Good Deed.  That's a cultural concept, and a fallacy -- study it because it's exactly what either binds a couple in Romance, or repels Soul Mates from each other.  Fallacies are wondrous sources of conflict for your novel plots because they are, inherently, the material of THEME.  Pick the right fallacy, and you've got Theme-Plot Integration that is effortless, seamless, and beautiful to behold.

I used the key concepts behind misnomers and fallacies in my Sime~Gen Novel, Unto Zeor, Forever - which just came out from and also has paper and ebook editions.

If you're going to write about Alien Romance, you've got to be able to straddle the rift illustrated by that "fallacy" that the internet is free, and "sharing" anything is a Good Deed.  You must be capable of writing  convincingly from each perspective in turn, then resolve the difference (not for yourself personally, but as your characters would resolve their problem).  You must reduce the chasm for your readers, so both parties in the argument can straddle that chasm and hold hands, and admit they are Soul Mates. 

You can learn to do this if you understand culture.

But last week, I didn't mention one item that I've talked about a lot in these posts, the study of what culture is. 

A writer needs to study the definition of "culture" (anthropological definition) until it becomes very clear where inside the writer's own mind "culture" resides and what precisely that "culture" bin inside the writer's mind currently contains (and where that content came from; what fallacies reside there).  Then the writer must study culture as it functions in a lot of people that writer knows -- writers being natural people-watchers, this study does not take a lot of discipline.  In fact, it's hard for a writer-type person to resist becoming obsessed with this study.

Beyond studying yourself and people you know very well, though, you must extend that study to the general public around you, and then to the whole world.

Why does a writer need a "feel" -- on a deep, subconscious level -- for culture in order to write hot romance?  Because the hottest of heats is generated where cultures conflict.

And anthropologists have identified "female culture" and "male culture" -- in fact, there's women's language and men's language.  Human cultures usually develop private ceremonials for men and for women separately, in addition to public events that involve both.  In modern America, you see that in house parties where somehow the women end up in one room (often the kitchen or back porch) while men end up clustered in another room, (often the parlor or living room). 

I'm currently reading a self-published mixed-genre SF/Romance with time travel jumbled in.  It's a relationship driven novel.  I should like it.  But the author appears to have skipped this step of studying culture until it's second-nature, then learning how to integrate that study into Theme-Plot integration.  The pieces of this novel just don't meet at the seams -- like a building that's been added-onto and the floors and walls miss the seam by a couple inches, disorienting the eye.

So the study of how Public Relations science is being employed by the Big Money to shape our culture is important to the SF/Romance fiction writer who needs to create verisimilitude.

It's also important to the futurologist who wants to worldbuild a background for a novel set in the future.  You must extrapolate, using "What if ...?"  "If only ..." and also "If this goes on ..." starting with trends today, and extending them along the path they are traveling.  Then find the forces (such as the subconscious conflicts in the minds of those allocating Big Money to PR thrusts) that will CHANGE that future course.

Here is one such present-time trend to work this exercise with.

Big Brands Are Pouring Money Into Their Own Custom News Sites

On top of their multi-million dollar advertising budgets, huge companies are now diving into an arena previously dominated by traditional media. They're producing videos, releasing interviews with top executives, and providing unique looks inside their organization on their own specialized websites.

It's a way to present a carefully crafted message to consumers, and change the way traditional media interacts with companies. Content marketing overall has become at least a $16.6 billion business, and these sites are taking a growing share. 

We spoke to Alexander Jutkowitz, the managing partner partner of Group SJR, a digital firm which helps run content sites for GE, Credit Suisse, Target, and Barneys about why companies are doing it.

Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Where did the idea come from?

There are a few trends in the marketplace or in the world that we know about. There's media fragmentation, there is a lot of content, but frankly not a lot of great content, and there are a lot of organizations that have incredible knowledge that does not on a regular basis see the light of day. 

If it does, it's in a traditional sort of marketing model, whether that's advertising or even broadcast advertising. It's hard to transmit a lot of knowledge in 30 and 60 second spots. Traditional communications have been a bit lackluster in that sense because it's all about clear promotional content, and not content that really impacts and transfers knowledge.

There is both an opportunity for a great organization to communicate and to trend, and to really have their knowledge impact the world.

Read more:

-------------END QUOTE----------------

WRITERS REMEMBER!! "content" = "writing you can get paid for doing." 

I have recently seen tweets about how much a fiction writer makes.  It's less than minimum wage when you actually account for your time, and pay for all your expenses.  Finding ancillary sources of revenue you can tap using the same expensively-gained and maintained skills you use for fiction writing must be a part of your business plan as a self-employed writer. 

"Content" has value when it says something startling, something that stops the eye, baffles the mind, raises questions -- i.e. says something philosophically challenging to the reader. 

Where do you "get" the ability to listen to a business person (a publisher of a website, for example) say "I need suchandso" and just instantly come back with "How about this?" and provide what that content-publisher needs right now to attract eyeballs to the advertising on that website?

When the "this" that you propose turns out to go viral -- your employer asks, "How do you think of these things?" and you respond (having studied my posts here on Hollywood) "Oh, it just came to me." 

Why does it "just come to you?"  Very simple.  In a word, Philosophy.  Or, as writers refer to it, Theme. 

With your subconscious trained (hard) to be lean and strong in Philosophy, theme-plot integrated cultural statements "just come to you."  These vast ideas erupt in response to the vision of dollar-signs.  And that's just how it works. 

So the hours and hours you spend researching and learning the historical origins of PR allow you to understand how PR campaigns driven by the Big Money shape our ambient culture, but you don't get paid for those hours spent studying until you produce a piece of fiction that triggers that ambient culture into paying money to imbibe in your product. 

The entire concept of Love and Romance having some connection to "Marriage" has become a part of our culture as the result of a PR campaign.  (research that!)

So for our example in this study of Theme-Plot integration, we're looking at the broad subject of the "fallacy" and how it operates in the human mind, the "belief system" to shape our perception of reality.  Perception is more real to us than the objective reality itself. 

The residual results of any PR campaign can be found by listening for the phrase "they say."  Or "everybody knows."  Then watch the next generation of teens raised by those who know "they say."  Those new teens will not even question, but just know, what used to be a "they say."  It won't be "they" that say, but the teens themselves.  In fact, they may invent some word to describe that concept, thinking they originated the concept.  4-generations -- study the 4-generation span on these cultural beliefs, and learn to extrapolate them into the future.

This is how fallacies become bedrock cultural cornerstones never to be questioned.

Publishers perpetuate these fallacies by enshrining them in genre rules.  The Romance Genre (as well as Science Fiction itself) has fallen victim to this process. 

To illustrate how to investigate and then utilize an institutionalized fallacy to construct a theme-plot integrated story, we are studying the fallacy that Romance Is An Emergency. 

Maybe you don't think that's a fallacy.  It's OK - even true things can be treated as fallacy in fiction.  That process is the core of developing plot-worthy conflict. 

We left off last week with the following questions:

Why is Romance Genre singled out for scorn when all other fiction is even more unbelievable?

Romance Genre is special because everyone, in their heart of hearts, wants not just Romance, but entree into everlasting Love, solid and unbreakable Relationships, Family, enriched life.

Not only does everyone want it, everyone knows they are destined for it. 

Yet, time after time, in reality, they have had that promise of fulfillment snatched away.  The only possible psychological defense left is to believe staunchly that Happily Ever After is not possible.

Is Romance an Emergency?  When it happens, is it a life-or-death crisis in which one must drop everything and dash willy-nilly after the person who has evoked this vision of absolute fulfillment?

And if Romance is indeed an Emergency, then how should we treat it? 

How do we respond to Emergencies and Crises? 

Is there a malfunction in our society's training about how to respond to Emergencies and Crises?

Is our audience indoctrinated with some kind of fallacy that has warped our response to Emergencies? 

If so, what fallacy?  Where did it come from?  We, as writers, no doubt share that fallacy, so why bother to pinpoint it? 

The fallacy in our Emergency Response habits, if we can articulate it, can become our Theme, and the PINPOINTING of that fallacy  can become the plot of the breakout Romance that I've been talking about in this blog since I started looking for how Romance Genre can achieve the respect it deserves. 

---------END QUOTE-----------

The thesis I put forward last week is that Romance stories written as if falling in love is an emergency imbue the whole genre with the aura of a scam.  Scam artists use emergencies as a means of using their mark's greatest strengths (in the case of Romance, it's usually Trust) against them.

So when a Romance telegraphs that the "ending" -- the destination for this couple's relationship -- is HEA, or Happily Ever After, it is concurrently telegraphing that the emotional payoff of reading this novel will be unending pain -- it will evoke real world loss and real world hopelessness if you "buy into" the premise.

So that raises the two questions: a) is Romance an Emergency, and b) Is there something wrong with how we respond (emotionally) to emergencies?

Well, I have of course evolved my own answers to those questions.  Think yours through before reading further here. 

a) No, Romance is not an Emergency.
b) Yes, our culture has conditioned us via fallacy inculcation to respond to emergencies incorrectly.  The conditioning is so deep (via PR or Propaganda that I mentioned last week, a psychological Judo) that we can not find that fallacy to correct it. 

Those are my answers.  What good can my answers do you?  None.  None whatsoever.

But here is something that might give you a handle on how to construct your own novel about Romance. 

I will lay out my "work" (as in algebra, a derivation) so you can follow along and substitute your own reasoning point by point.  Again, my answers are of no value to you, but my system of reasoning through this problem might be.

Here's how it goes.

a) Romance is not an Emergency

Romance, usually arriving during a major transit of Neptune, is a matter of the Soul.  In fact, life itself -- existence on this material plane -- is really an adventure the Soul is taking, a dip into "life" to do a job.  It's a little like being in the armed services and being sent "abroad" to a theater where (if there's a war, or even if there is no actual war) the action is.

We come into this life to accomplish something, maybe more than one thing per lifetime.  There is a goal to our personal existence which is only about our own personal Soul -- and simultaneously that goal contributes to a larger job, known in the Occultist studies as The Great Work, a job which G-d created us to do.  Kabbalists identify that goal as making in this world a dwelling place for G-d, and that place is inside what they term your "Heart" -- not so much the physical organ as a level of being which powers your existence.  Very mystical stuff.

For the more highly evolved souls, Neptune transits bring prophecy, glimpses of the real reality underlying our reality, the truth behind the facts.  For the rest of us, Neptune drapes the world in a dense fog of wish-fulfillment fantasy, distortion, misunderstanding, (sometimes lies told or believed), or possibly of idealism, and very likely even a close encounter of the third kind with Religion, faith, belief in the impossible.

Bottom line: Neptune transits = Confusion

But during that state of confusion -- and in a lifetime, it's very probable you will experience many different sorts of Neptune transits that blur the world -- during that state of confusion is when Romance erupts into Life.

No wonder people marry the wrong person -- in a couple years, when the transit wears off, the hard edges of reality define the Relationship and it is no longer an Ideal.  Under Neptune, people marry to "rescue" (as in reform an alcoholic) and get trapped in the fog of co-dependency.

But for the more mature Souls, that "wrong person" ultimately turns out to be the right one, the most solid and dependable Relationship, the true Soul-Mate.

A Soul-Mate Relationship that arrives outside the window of a Neptune Transit doesn't begin with what is normally recognized as Romance. 

So, if the arriving Other is a true Soul Mate and this Relationship (whatever its form) is what this life is really about, then there's no way out of it.  The pairing will fasten down hard, and there can be no getting away from each other.  (as mentioned last week, Ahab and his whale, and Helen of Troy).

In that case, the arrival of that Other into your life is no emergency.  The Relationship will procede to Bonding.  You have only to choose (G-d endows us with Free Will) and accept.  Some call it karma.  If it doesn't crystallize in this life, no emergency -- next life will be soon enough. 

If this Other is not the true Soul Mate -- then nothing can be lost if the Other drifts away. 

So if there does exist such a thing as a Happily Ever After with a Soulmate, then that is the inevitable consequence of living well -- even if not in this lifetime.  Not everyone pairs in every lifetime.  The arrival of a Soulmate (even if not for the first time) is always exciting, energizing, riveting attention, consuming and delightful -- of highest priority -- but, it's not an emergency.

The principle is that what belongs to you is yours.  It's part of you.  You can't lose it and it can't be taken away from you (for long). 

b) Yes, our culture has conditioned us via fallacy inculcation to respond to emergencies incorrectly.

This is the core of the theme.  The Soul-Mate concept leading to the Happily Ever After is the signature of the Romance Genre, so it's not something we can challenge or alter, and in truth it is not the source of the Romance Genre being scorned.

So let's search for the fallacy in the way we respond to emergencies. 

Any soul-mate story's worldbuilding has to include some paranormal aspect, some presence or evidence of a G-d driven universe, because the very concept "soul" is paranormal by definition. 

In a universe with no G-d presence, how could you define Soul, the immortal spark of God-breath that energizes you and gives you stark individuality?  All Romance is set in a G-d driven universe, even when the Romantic liaison is just Happily For Now. 

So here we challenge the way we meet emergencies. 

Here's how it's done at the pinnacle of our society, out in public, by the public servants.  Here's the "model" we grew up seeing on TV News, and now all over the internet whenever an emergency happens.

DHS moves to allow oil tankers in Northeast to ease fuel shortage

Published November 02, 2012

Associated Press

The Department of Homeland Security is temporarily waiving some maritime rules to allow foreign oil tankers coming from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says she is waiving the Jones Act, which prohibits international cargo ships from transporting oil between U.S. ports , until Nov. 13.

The rule is being temporarily waived to help ease the fuel shortage in the Northeast in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Read more:
---------------end quote ----------

And another Hurricane Sandy aftermath story from the news:

‘No Red Tape’? New Jersey Turns Away Non-union Relief Crews
Posted on November 2, 2012

How desperate is hurricane-ravaged New Jersey? Not desperate enough to suspend a union monopoly that keeps the state in the bottom ten states for economic competitiveness (and #48 for business friendliness). Relief crews from Alabama who were specifically called to New Jersey found themselves diverted to Long Island, NY after they arrived because they use non-union labor. Alabama is a right-to-work state.

WAFF-TV of Hunstville, AL reports:

Crews from Huntsville, as well as Decatur Utilities and Joe Wheeler out of Trinity headed up there this week, but Derrick Moore, one of the Decatur workers, said they were told by crews in New Jersey that they can’t do any work there since they’re not union employees….

Understandably, Moore said they’re frustrated being told “thanks, but no thanks.”

With so much at stake–and lives still in danger–it would seem logical to tell special interests to step aside.

On Wednesday, while visiting cleanup efforts in New Jersey in the company of Gov. Chris Christie, President Barack Obama vowed: “We are not going to tolerate red tape, we are not going to tolerate bureaucracy.”

WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Read more:
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It's this way with ALL our laws now, all the "rules" -- all the "regulations."

And it's the way we live our everyday lives under the rules and regulations of societal behavior.

In an Emergency, it's then OK -- in fact required -- to throw the rules and regulations out, to CUT THE RED TAPE.

In fact, after suffering under some ridiculous rule, we consciously or subconsciously create emergencies so we CAN toss the pesky rule out.

The fallacy?  That rules, regulations and laws are supposed to be for NORMAL TIMES. 

Do an ALTERNATE UNIVERSE worldbuilding exercise with that idea.

What would an urban fantasy set in "today" but in an alternate world be like if in that world the fallacy that laws exist for the purpose of defining and constraining normal, everyday behavior had never taken root?

What if the only laws on the books were those to be obeyed in emergencies?

Take that as your exercise for this week.

If you need a SETTING to work out a "CUT THE RED TAPE" fallacy/Romance plot, here's one that works with a natural inevitability:

Next week we'll continue exploring how to extract a theme from commonly believed fallacies.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Sharing" is Piracy

Too many tech savvy people who ought to know better appear to be constructing new business models based on the assumption that it is legitimate and innovative to provide ways for "readers" to "share" ebooks, or links to where ebooks are stored.

They are mistaken. If they believe that anyone may lend and ebook to a friend simply because lending takes place on Amazon, and file transfers take place via Drop Box and its ilk, they are fooling themselves and their investors and customers.

Amazon pays something like a 70% rate to publishers who agree that an ebook may have "Lending Enabled", and they pay approximately 35% to publishers who do not wish "Lending" to be available. When an e-book is loaned, the original purchaser (who is actually a licensee, not an owner) does not have access to their ebook. The loan is of limited duration, and when the loan expires, the borrower loses access to the ebook.

Marilynn Byerly has graciously consented to share her articles on copyright.

Click on the "copyright" label for more info on various copyright issues.

As always, anyone here may use my articles on copyright at their own sites or blogs or whatever.

Marilynn Byerly

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Socially Assistive Robots

More about “socially assistive robots”: Here’s an article about a robot named Bandit that helps with rehab for stroke patients. A robot never gets tired or grumpy, and the fun of playing with it can encourage patients to persevere with demanding exercises that would otherwise get tedious:

Socially Assistive Robots

This more detailed article from three years ago discusses how robots are being taught not only to “see” and evaluate facial expressions but to react appropriately to sounds, heart rate, and even body heat:

Service Robots

Given that some people treat their Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners like pets, users tend to respond even more positively to devices that look and act sort of human. But not too much—these devices still have to avoid the “uncanny valley.” For example, autistic children prefer Kaspar, which looks like the conventional stereotype of a robot, over more human-like, doll-type androids.

Personal care robots as a concept are far from new in science fiction, of course. Remember Ray Bradbury’s story about a grandmother robot bought by a widowed father to care for his children, “I Sing the Body Electric”? They grow to love “her” as much as a flesh-and-blood caretaker. One unhappy little girl comes to see her as even better than a “real” granny because they can’t lose her to death.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Theme-Plot Integration - Part 1: Never Let A Good Emergency Go To Waste

So we continue to practice walking and chewing gum at the same time.  All of these posts focus on the nitty gritty of the craft of writing, with special emphasis on the specific challenges facing a writer who is combining Science Fiction or Paranormal with Romance of any type. 

I specialize in the relationship driven plot, (not always sexual or even romantic, as there was no romance between Ahab and the Whale!), but my own favorite type of story is Romance! 

Romance plots don't necessarily exclude war.  Do remember Helen of Troy!  And thinking of Helen of Troy, do remember that the entire situation of Helen of Troy was a blend of politics and religion, just as I have been discussing in the (so-far) 9 part series titled Worldbuilding With Fire And Ice.

So traditionally, from its very inception, the Romance genre has always included not only combat in all forms, but also the paranormal.  It's not like we're inventing a new genre.  It's more like we're teaching the publishing industry that we know how to turn out a great novel. 

We've looked at how to recognize, choose and structure theme, and how to tell theme apart from plot -- how to dissect out the independent variables within a completed novel.
And a vocabulary lesson on how I use the words "plot" and "story" to distinguish the moving parts of a novel or screenplay.

And here's one that has links leading back deeper into the posts on individual skills involved in crafting a plausible romance (for readers who don't believe that Happily Ever After is a point that real people in real life can achieve.)

Believing in Happily Ever After Part 4: Nesting Huge Themes Inside Each Other

Here are links to series of posts - they contain links to their previous parts. 

Here are links to 9 posts on "worldbuilding" -- a vast subject we aren't finished with yet (previous parts are linked in the last part).

And here is a series about Theme-Worldbuilding integration:

These first 4 parts on theme-worldbuilding integration focus on the current issue of bullying in our society, especially among children, and what that means in terms of targeting a readership.

For writers working with paranormal elements, here's a post on the outer-reaches of the philosophical:

And one specifically on the use of theme in Romance.

Assuming you have been following along through these posts, we're now ready to look at some of the raw material of our current society's unconscious philosophical assumptions which can easily be dissected into fallacies.  Discovering and revealing a logical fallacy (whether it is, or is not true!) in another person's thinking processes is one very powerful way to discombobulate and thus manipulate another person into doing or saying something they will later regret.

LATER REGRETS are the sum and substance of great romance -- once burned, twice wary.

Because our current culture is rooted in a plethora of fallacies, writers have a vast and rich array of materials to choose from, all of which lend themselves to the hottest romance plots.

Do you LOVE people who have a habit of pointing out dire errors in your thinking that undermine your conclusions?  Are you attracted to them?  Fatally, perhaps?

Do you come to trust someone who has proven you wrong on a number of occasions, so that when an emergency erupts you no longer trust your own instant assessment of what to do about it?

How many times do you have to be proven wrong before you become  convinced the prover is always right?  When do you surrender your personal sovereignty to another person's judgment?

Were you raised by parents who kept telling you that you had bad judgment and made bad choices?

Did you actually make any choices as a teen that you later regretted and came to understand as bad judgment? 

Or was your judgment sound, but your premise fallacious?  Do you trust your judgment now?

Are you a good judge of character? 

Did you pick the right Presidential Candidate based on sterling character traits?

Have you ever discovered a fallacy in your own reasoning? 

If you can't find an instance to relate to, just think back over all the TV commercials you've seen for products, and the money you've wasted on things that don't work as advertised.  That happens because you fail to see the fallacy in the commercial.

TV commercials are structured by a) LAWYERS (commercials can't ever say things that the company can be sued for -- they can lie, but the law allows lies) and b) MARKETERS who specialize in manipulating behavior of large groups.

To see what I'm saying here about legal-lies, read this post:

To see what I'm talking about for MARKETERS see this post on the Overton Window phenomenon and marketing.  Even Presidential campaigns are now woven of the substance of this science.

The creation of a popularizable "image" is often called "spin doctoring."  The creation of a character is a very similar procedure, alarming as that may seem.

These two disciplines combine to construct a funnel that sucks the customer's mind into a "world" they have "built" to house their fictional construct.

When it's done well, this technique can convince such a large percentage of viewers that some fallacious premise is true -- when it is not, and the authors of the commercial know it's not.

One such premise is that "cotton" is cooler to wear than artificial fibers.  The conviction that "science" shows it to be true has been driven so deep into the subconscious that people can verify this "fact" experimentally.  The subjective impression of coolness from cotton will conform to the assumption that it must be so.  Fact is, that "science" was commissioned by the cotton industry to prove that it's true because cotton was being driven from the market by competing fibers.

In our current culture, Science has become our "god."  Science is infallible (science says global warming is man-made so it's heresy to entertain the notion that this isn't yet proven).  Gods are infallible, and must be worshiped with out a doubt.  That need to worship something infallible is an inherent trait of human nature.  Read up on The Overton Window and all the science of Public Relations.

Here's a link to Wikipedia (incomplete article in need of fact-checking)

Edward Louis Bernays (November 22, 1891 – March 9, 1995) was an Austrian-American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda, referred to in his obituary as "the father of public relations".[1] He combined the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud.

He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the 'herd instinct' that Trotter had described.[2] Adam Curtis's award-winning 2002 documentary for the BBC, The Century of the Self, pinpoints Bernays as the originator of modern public relations, and Bernays was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by Life magazine.[3
---------------END QUOTE------------

Thus "Public Relations" is a field that grows out of one genius's deep rooted fear of the behavior of his fellow humans, and a terrible need to "control" that powerful and evil force called "humanity."

That is only one example of how active and powerful a well-driven fallacy can be in shaping subjective reality. 

But take a long view perspective on how Public Relations, Advertising, Spin Doctoring, and political campaigning tropes have shaped our current social reality, then take a long look at Bernays' life story.  You will see a real-world illustration of what I've been talking about in these posts -- the way the internal psychological circuitry of the main-character's mind projects that character's external reality, shapes his adversaries, and sets up the drama and its resolution. 

The writer must always create the Villain out of the substance of the Hero's internal conflict.  Or, you can do it the other way around, and create the Hero out of the Villain's inner problem.  However you go about doing it, the end product must show a match between the two of the story won't be plausible. 

One reason Romance as a genre has such a bad reputation is that Love is portrayed as "inexplicable."  It is inexplicable to the lovers!  But in a piece of fiction, it must be explicable if not explained. 

In a Romance, the two characters who fall in love are the "adversaries" or two poles of the conflict.  It's called "the battle of the sexes" for a reason, and all the "game" analogies also apply for that same reason -- the two are a pair, like Ahab and the Whale, or Bernays and The Public. 

Do that to a large enough group of people and they influence each other's solemn beliefs (the "herd instinct" referred to in that quote), and like "cotton is always the coolest fiber" popular beliefs become tangible reality.

Hence we have today's society composed of one "herd" that is absolutely convinced there is not and can never be such a thing as Happily Ever After and another herd (to which I belong) convinced that Happily Ever After is life's destination.

Here are some posts where we discussed and defined these two herds and how one individual reader can belong to either or both at any given moment.

Can a member of one herd join another?

I think so, but it's such a rare and improbable occurrence it makes a story!

In many instances in the above linked posts, I have noted that one reason the Romance genre is not given a lot of respect is that "Falling In Love" is always treated as an Emergency. 

Why would that concept be a source of scorn for Romance?

Here's the most often quoted instance of this concept in the media:

 Rahm Israel Emanuel saying "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."
--------------END QUOTE------------

What exactly is being utilized in this principle?

The principle is the Overton Window -- which is the title of a novel by Glenn Beck about a PR firm and various characters involved in a PR project utilizing the concept Beck did not invent called The Overton Window.  An explanation of all that and what it has to do with learning to write is in this post which I mentioned above:

This principle of using emergencies to make people do things which are against a) their nature, b) their better judgment, c) their true Values, d) their religion or even e) are suicidal is a tool of the grifter, the confidence man, the scam artist.

It is a basic discovery at the root of the science of Public Relations or more accurately, Propaganda. 

It is a TRICK - a way of turning an adversaries strengths against them so they kill themselves and you don't have to get your hands dirty. 

That's why the genre's habit of portraying ROMANCE as an EMERGENCY -- "drop everything and pursue this one true love, and if that one true love gets away, life is over forever, so nothing you've dropped would ever be worth anything anyway" -- is viewed as a TRICK and instantly labeled as "impossible."  Why?  Because "emergencies" area always "tricks." 

Every other time in life's experience in the real world that people have dared to believe in Happily Ever After, it always turns out to be an instance of being fooled by a grifter.  So they don't believe it in fiction, and want nothing to do with such.

Why is Romance Genre singled out for scorn when all other fiction is even more unbelievable?

Romance Genre is special because everyone, in their heart of hearts, wants not just Romance, but entre into everlasting Love, solid and unbreakable Relationships, Family, enriched life.

Not only does everyone want it, everyone knows they are destined for it. 

Yet, time after time, in reality, they have had that promise of fulfillment snatched away.  The only possible psychological defense left is to believe staunchly that Happily Ever After is not possible.

Is Romance an Emergency?  When it happens, is it a life-or-death crisis in which one must drop everything and dash willy-nilly after the person who has evoked this vision of absolute fulfillment?

And if Romance is indeed an Emergency, then how should we treat it? 

How do we respond to Emergencies and Crises? 

Is there a malfunction in our society's training about how to respond to Emergencies and Crises?

Is our audience indoctrinated with some kind of fallacy that has warped our response to Emergencies? 

If so, what fallacy?  Where did it come from?  We, as writers, no doubt share that fallacy, so why bother to pinpoint it? 

The fallacy in our Emergency Response habits, if we can articulate it, can become our Theme, and the PINPOINTING of that fallacy  can become the plot of the breakout Romance that I've been talking about in this blog since I started looking for how Romance Genre can achieve the respect it deserves. 

We'll kick around some of these questions in Theme-Plot Integration: Part 2 Fallacy as Theme

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, December 06, 2012


Over Thanksgiving weekend, as usual, we attended the Darkover Grand Council convention held just north of Baltimore. Despite the name, this cozy con of a few hundred fans and writers isn’t restricted to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s work but includes the full range of science fiction and fantasy. They have an excellent dealer’s room. This year’s guest of honor was Nalo Hopkinson. She spent part of her GOH speech talking about her life as an inhabitant of multiple worlds (culturally) and her childhood in Jamaica. I wish you could have heard her describing her grandmother’s recipe for Christmas cake (fruitcake raised to the ultimate) drenched in rum. Hopkinson also spoke about the craft of writing and mentioned the tendency of new writers to describe scenes from above and outside with a “camera eye.” She emphasized the importance of multi-sensory imagery and getting inside the “skin” of the POV character.

One especially thought-provoking panel she was on inquired whether minority (racial, gender, or sexual orientation) characters in fiction should get a “pass.” In other words, should they be a “protected species” not allowed to die or otherwise be subjected to horrible experiences? As you’ll remember, that issue arose when Tara was murdered on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Some viewers attacked the show for killing off half of a romantic lesbian relationship. At the time, I thought they were sort of missing the point. NOBODY on BUFFY got to enjoy a happy relationship for long, and no character was safe. Anyway, the panel at Darkover pointed out the importance of whether the minority character is a token figure introduced mainly to die (or otherwise get sacrificed) or whether characters in that category are presented as an integral part of the fictional society and developed as believable individuals instead of stereotypes of a class.

I read a bit of my humorous story “Dusting Pixie” in the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading, a group of authors from Broad Universe (, an organization devoted to the works of female writers of speculative fiction. Five authors read for ten minutes each. I participated in three panels: One was about how to make yourself start writing, keep writing, and become unstuck if you get stuck. It was fun and informative to listen to the problems and techniques of other writers. “Why a nonhuman?” discussed the pros and cons of writing from an alien viewpoint. The third dealt with alien romance and got very lively on the topics of communication, power relations, and whether we’re likely to encounter any nonhuman species with whom we can have sexual or even platonic love affairs. One panelist who happened to be in all three of these sessions wondered why authors feel it necessary to deal with racism or gender politics by displacing these themes onto imaginary creatures. He felt if we want to speculate about such issues, we should straightforwardly write about them in a realistic human context. I strongly disagree. In my opinion, a story about racism or other kinds of oppression set in our contemporary world might affect many readers as “same thing we’ve been hearing about forever.” “Fantastic racism” (as it’s called on, on the other hand, has the potential to startle us and make us see our own species through fresh eyes.

Plus, for me, such fiction is its own excuse for being. Speculating about interaction with nonhuman intelligent beings is just FUN.

A steampunk track has become an established feature of Darkover, partly making up for the sad demise of the annual costume contest they used to have.

The high point of the weekend, of course, was the customary Saturday night Clam Chowder concert. Afterward, the Clams always gather at midnight with a large crowd to sing the Hallelujah Chorus in the atrium, which I listened to from the window of our hotel room.

You can read all about the con here:


Margaret L. Carter,

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Science Fiction Romance Premise: What If You Could Control Mating Choices By Mathematics?

Headline for October 15, 2012:

NOBEL PRIZE in ECONOMICS goes to 2 Americans. 

Oddly, I'd done several blogs since 2009, nibbling at the edges of their work as basis for Science Fiction Romance novels.

"QUOTE FROM CNN: Roth and Shapley’s work focuses on finding the most efficient way to match parties in a transaction, whether it be students to schools or organ donors to recipients, according to the academy. Shapley used game theory to study matching models, and Roth built on them to make real-world changes to existing markets, including school choice and organ transplants, the academy said. Elements of their work are built into software that guides kidney donations in the United States, as well as in school choice models in New York, Boston, New Orleans and other U.S. cities, Roth told reporters Monday."
Nobel Prize for economics awarded to two U.S. economists -

Here's the CNN article:

I’ve blogged about the “Overton Window” and Game Theory -- links below, but first  .... 

....which concepts are used to shape and direct the behavior of large groups of people (e.g. writing commercials for TV or promotion "trailers" for novels).  Here in this Prize Winning work that theory is used to shape and direct the connections among individuals — in a way that anyone would approve of (i.e. organ donor with recipient in need).  But what about if this technique is used to PREVENT associations-networks from forming (as in preventing organizations that oppose a government/dictator from forming, or perhaps to shape genetics by preventing certain couples from mating)? 

You see how SCIENCE connects to ROMANCE here?  Romance as a mathematical phenomenon is nothing new -- control of associations, putting the power of mating-choice into the hands of other humans is not new (Regency Romance) -- but making the power of mating-choice a scientific technology (internet dating sites) is pretty new, and successful enough to give people who want power over all humanity (to fix us, you know, because we are so broken we can't be trusted with free will choices) -- aha, now THAT IS NEW and worth exploring in fiction. 

There’s a theory that says an individual has a limited number (about a thousand) people they can really know and associate with, a limit built into the human brain, the upper limit of a village before families pick up and move away.

If that's true, then you can fill people up with associates you choose, and you prevent them from associating in ways you don’t approve of. 

WHAT A SCIENCE FICTION PREMISE!   Now use this connect-the-right-people technique to do "Match Making" and control human genetics?  Here's where I've been nibbling around the edges of this concept.

The oddest thing about this Nobel Prize development is that it connects to my Science Fiction novel series, Sime~Gen.

Right now, there is a gaming company working at developing a Sime~Gen Videogame for handheld devices.  So I'm very involved in how GAMERS think.  That could be why I see the possibilities in this Nobel Prize.

To get news of this game as it develops, sign up for the free newsletter at:

The main premise of Sime~Gen is that HUMAN NATURE CHANGES in such a way that "survival of the fittest" is redefined from the "fittest" being those who are best at killing to those who are best at Compassion. 

This premise does not affect individuals or characters in the stories so much as it affects the behavior of large groups of people.  The peak of the bell curve of distribution of the trait of compassion among human populations gets moved just a bit toward higher compassion -- and as a result, group behavior such as depicted in the novels FIRST CHANNEL  and its direct sequel CHANNEL'S DESTINY -- and eventually in the timeline ZELEROD'S DOOM -- makes sense.  It's in a new paper edition and ebook formats.

Each of the new paper editions (and the 4 new novels that make a total of 12 ) has both the internal chronology of the stories in the universe, and the publication order chronology in the front so you can choose which order to read them.

You can find them all on Amazon:

And here is a recent article on genetic research which is being discussed on the Sime~Gen Group on Facebook:

Quote from inside this article:
"Most of the mutations that we found arose in the last 200 generations or so. There hasn’t been much time for random change or deterministic change through natural selection,” said geneticist Joshua Akey of the University of Washington, co-author of the Nov. 28 Nature study. “We have a repository of all this new variation for humanity to use as a substrate. In a way, we’re more evolvable now than at any time in our history.”
So we're in a high (maybe peak) population explosion phase where permutations and combinations of genetic variations are going to be tested to select out survival traits.  What happens to this soup of genetic variation when these mathematicians apply their new Nobel Prize Winning theory of connecting individuals to the online dating game? 

Where do cell phones - smartphones that can monitor your vital signs - fit into this?  Where does GPS tracking fit into this? 

What usually happens when humans try to impose our pet philosophies on Nature? 

"But, wait!  There's More!"  The Sime~Gen Game being developed is set in the space age where Humanity creates a new kind of star-drive and disrupts the patterns of commerce among dozens of alien species who think THEY own the galaxy.  What happens when such Aliens try to impose their pet philosophies on Nature?  On humans? 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Next Big Thing

I agreed to take part in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop, a promotion happening right now in which authors answer questions about their current works in progress. It works sort of like a chain letter. Each author answers the interview questions on her own blog and “tags” the blog URLs of the author who invited her and a few other writers who will be participating next in line. So here goes:

What is your working title of your book?

PASSION IN THE BLOOD, which will probably change. It refers to the metaphor of vampiric heritage being “in the blood” for the heroine because of her maternal bloodline.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Partly from the ancient vampire in Anne Rice’s series who acts as guardian for her family line through the centuries. I got interested in the idea of a vampire who has vowed to protect the family of his first human lover, watches over them in secret for a century and a half, and falls in love with one of their descendants, the heroine.

What genre does your book fall under?

Vampire romance.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Maybe a young Louis Jourdan for the hero. I loved him as Dracula in the BBC miniseries.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When Cordelia’s twin sister is kidnapped, Cordelia must turn to an old family friend for help and discovers, to her amazement, that not only is he a vampire, he knows secrets about her own parentage she never suspected.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I plan to submit it to an e-publisher that has released other works of mine.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Three or four months altogether, which is typical for me. However, this one was unusual because I stopped working on it about two-thirds of the way and came back to finish it over a year later.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Maybe some of Amanda Ashley’s vampire romances (in her approach to the motif, not that I claim to be on her level!).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Partly the desire to create a slightly unusual heroine for a vampire romance and give the vampire hero a plausible reason to find her attractive.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

My vampires belong to a naturally evolved species, not supernatural. The mother who abandoned the heroine and her twin sister, unknown to them, was a vampire, accounting for the psychic powers the heroine has.


Celia Breslin

Amber Skyze

Berengaria Brown

I'll write about Darkover next week.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Is Your Romance Novel Really A TV Mini Series?

What is a TV Mini Series? 

How is a TV Mini Series different from a novel?  (or is it?) 

At the end of July, I did a post here on the lack of variety and reruns of TV Series. 

My cry was "Where Is Everybody?"  -- meaning that the coordinated shutdown of TV series (new and used) meant simply that the cable delivery system is in failure-mode, that audiences have packed up and moved away.

Of course, by September we had new shows gallore vieing for eyeballs, and there is more than I can watch in my sparse and shrinking TV hours.  But the point is still valid.  Those hiatus weeks never were that barren when there were only 3 channels that broadcast only 5-11 PM. 

And of course I know where everybody went.  Besides "gaming" -- people are leaving CABLE TV in droves.

What little TV Fiction time anyone has left these days is easily filled by "streaming" services like Netflix, Hulu, Roku, Amazon Instant Video.  Both movies and TV Mini Series are available very quickly on streaming services.  Those who watch story-format trends indicate that the TV Series episodic format with story-arc is still growing in popularity as people wait for an entire season of shows to go up on Netflix or Amazon or DVD and then watch them all at once. 

And now Amazon is making movies, and I know of at least one other Web TV Streaming company planning to leap into the movie business. 

One kind of property that lends itself remarkably well to to the TV Mini Series format  -- or any video streaming delivery of series like pod casts - is Romance.  Romance stories have both built-in suspense lines (will she/ won't she?) and broad relevance to the lives of anyone, any where and any time. 

So what is the structure of the TV Mini Series that makes it so suitable to the novel type story? 

Have you ever read a novel that is divided into Part I, Part II, Part III ?  Or perhaps Book 1, Book 2, Book 3? 

Why is that single volume divided instead of being published as three separate items to hold, a trilogy? 

The reasons are various, of course, but here is what to watch for as you analyze your favorites:

A) The Parts or Books are so deeply connected you can't read them as stand-alone or separate parts.
B) The Parts or Books are too short for modern distribution to handle commercially as separate units.
C) The Parts or Books are set in different places, about different people, or in separate times. 

Then there is the non-fiction TV Mini Series structure.  These are usually documentaries, often with some kind of agenda, sometimes political.  They try to summarize the history of events, or present new evidence.

Think of the J.F. Kennedy assassination documentaries, or the wonderful compendium of episodes covering World War II which was, as a TV Mini Series titled "Victory At Sea." 

There are several DVD parts on Amazon, and it's all available streaming.

There are 16 parts to this one, but Parts 1 to 4 run collectively 1 hour and 47 minutes.  These were originally broadcast on TV after being collected from Theater "short subjects" as half hour episodes -- half hour broken by commercials.

The collection tells the story of World War II in the PACIFIC THEATER, not Europe.  It's only half the story! 

Now think of all the really great biographies you've read.  Usually a Biography or Autobiography will cover the entire lifetime of a long-lived person.  But somehow the scattered events are collected in threads that display the cause-effect-connection (what I've termed the Because Line in novel structure in previous posts) among events separated by decades. 

When you can see the overview of an entire lifetime, all arranged to display the connections, somehow "life" begins to make sense. 

In actuality, a life such as Theodore Bikel's is a TV Miniseries more than it is a novel -- there's growing up, there's the war itself, there's being a refugee, there's pursuing an education in Theater in England, there's a Movie and TV Career, there's today which is totally amazing.  But taken as a whole, it's not a novel but a T.V. Mini Series.

You can see that periodic yet flowing structure in his autobiography, THEO.

Is a biography or autobiography fiction or non-fiction? 

My answer to that is "hybrid" -- to be riveting and revealing, a biography has to have been constructed with the techniques of the fiction writer that I've been harping on in these blog posts.  You need to see the entire LIFE as A STORY -- but you also must compose that story out of the selected facts.  A biography or autobiography is not a transcription of every word a person said, everything they did from details of getting dressed in the morning to what they ate at every single meal. 

No, the story of a life is a STORY that happens to be factual.  And as I see it, it can't be a story without ROMANCE. 

What does that tell you about fiction?  About novels?  About romance novels in particular? 

We created the novel form from the basic "story" told around campfires -- which were pretty much morality tales and history re-packaged so children would remember it and tell their children.  Why do we remember history?  Because those who don't are doomed to repeat it.

So a TV Mini Series is a "series" first just as any piece of fiction is a "story" structured just exactly like real life.

We've spent some time this year studying our "real" world -- from politics to religion, and how to mix them - as a means of building fictional worlds that readers can immerse themselves in, feeling as if they are in a real world. 

So now we have the hang of building a fictional environment out of the components of reality shared with our readers.

Building a world is a huge task, which is why so many writers get lazy and just use reality.  Another popular form now is "Urban Fantasy" -- and again, the writer doesn't have to create anything except the elements that differ from the reader's everyday reality.  That also makes it easier for the reader to enter that world -- and it makes it easier to focus the story on the characters and their quirks.

But if you build an entire "world" for a piece of fiction, the only way to make it economical is to recycle it - to use that same set of rules and inventions in other stories.

When you change the STORY but keep the WORLD the same -- you have a series. 

Sometimes, as in a biography, the character is the same person at different stages of life, with accumulating experience redirecting decisions and life-policies.  An example could be the before and after of a drug addict.  Or you might consider the before and after of a single character who has lost an enormous amount of weight (say 150 lbs).

The TV Mini Series structure would then start with the character as a child, perhaps chubby but normally so, do a second episode about the Teen who is in angst and misery gaining weight, a third episode in college with all the rejection and things the overweight person couldn't do leading maybe to an eating disorder, ultra emaciation, then ballooning weight gain.  Then an episode about the therapy undergone to address this horrendous problem. 

Then ending with an episode about the person attaining a normal weight.  And a final episode proving the normal weight was maintained, and summing up what went wrong that caused this weight syndrom, and how fixing what went wrong actually caused other things in that life to go "wrong."  All of the "right" and "wrong" of weight issues are value judgements which make dynamite material (I mean explosive!) for fiction because they are so real in life. 

Such a TV Mini Series could be focused on ROMANCE -- the deep, committed and fulfilling romantic relationships of an extremely overweight person might be a healthy romantic relationship which would simply not survive the weight-loss efforts because it would be inappropriate to the thinner individual, who might then be miserable with loneliness until some other true-mate came along. 

How weight affects the establishment and maintaining of a healthy relationship could be a dynamite theme for a story, but you couldn't cover the nuances in a 90 minute feature film.

A "life" like that has so many phases, each with a theme, each theme related to previous life-themes and generating successive life themes -- and that is the essence of the structure of a TV Mini Series. 

Of course today, when you think TV Mini Series, you should think in terms of video delivery, of YouTube video trailers, and Kickstarter funding.

I recently got into a discussion of music in general which triggered a memory of this long-ago TV Series which wasn't a "TV Mini Series" but had a very long run.  It was informative, tackled the hottest topics of the day, illuminated issues, and educated viewers.  This was so long ago that TV viewers were expected to have an attention span much longer than those who've grown up on Sasame Street. 

I remember many of these shows vividly, but not all of them. Mostly I remember the feeling of anticipation, the reveling in the sheer joy of discovery, and most of all the introductory music and image collage.

Remembering the music, I rummaged in my mind for the title of "that old TV Series" -- and after a few days what surfaced was the word OMNIBUS.

But I couldn't remember the moderator, though I do remember how incredibly impressive he was.

So I googled Omnibus TV Series and came to the wikipedia page

that said Alistair Cooke. It's a very short entry but reminded me why the series was so impressive. It won a lot of really hard-to-win awards.

If you are looking for a TV Series on DVD to share with your kids over dinner on Sunday night, try this series.

If you want to study exactly how to put together a non-fiction TV Series that will be remembered for decades, get this DVD.

Now don't forget this is very primitive video because they didn't have much back then, and it's amazing it still exists. It's the material and presentation -- the title, the music, the manner of the moderator, but most of all the "make-the-most-of-limited-means" production.

The production values may look laughable now, but look at how this was funded by grant money -- it was an exceptionally low budget creation that relied wholly on content and elegance of technical execution.

If you are aiming to produce something for YouTube or to write a low-budget movie script, this TV Series is where to start studying how it's done. Penetrating and Memorable.

Here's from the Amazon page.  This is not the whole series of shows -- but a Mini Series excerpted. 

The People That Fascinated Us
The Places That Defined America

The Golden Age of Television's most distinguished production, Omnibus brought sophistication, refinement and sparkling intelligence to a national audience. Featuring such luminaries as Alistair Cook, Don Hewitt and Richard Leacock, this historic 2-disc collection features fourteen segments (broadcast between the years 1952 to 1960) that examine the iconic people and places that shaped American pop culture and society.

1. Philippe Halsman
2. William Faulkner
3. Frank Lloyd Wright
4. Pearl Buck - "My Several Worlds"
5. E.B. White - "A Maine Lobsterman"
6. Sugar Ray Robinson visits Stillman's Gym
7. James Thurber - Man and Boy
8. How the F-100 Got Its Tail
9. Leonard Bernstein's Musical Travelogue

1. The New York Times
2. Toby and the Tall Corn
3. Grand Central: Portrait of a Railroad Terminal
4. Dr. Seuss Explores the Museum that Ought to Be
5. New York's Night People

Also includes 20 page booklet with written contributions by Richard Leacock, Rosemary Thurber, Edgar S. Walsh and the Archive of American Television
-----------END QUOTE------------

I suspect this bottomless well of HISTORY is one big place "everybody went" -- that giant swaths of what used to be "the TV Audience" is now the "Streaming Audience" and people are exploring the wonder of old movies, the wealth of new releases rushed to DVD and streaming, and elegant old TV shows resurrected from the vaults. 

If you want to write a TV Mini Series, do something that will be remembered like Omnibus, or Victory At Sea, and encapsulate a slice of the reality of the 2012 world, the 20-teens as it were.  What you do may not be valued until decades from now, but when it is, then that will be where "everybody went."

Take for example the TV Mini Series I outlined on the issue of weight.  Make the story about Romance in today's world for the overweight woman -- and twenty years from now when a stem-cell genetic fix is available and nobody is overweight any more, your story will be a classic avidly watched on whatever replaces streaming video.  What a strange, bizarre, even cruel world we live in today.  DOCUMENT IT IN FICTION. 

Or maybe a lot sooner than 20 years!  a news story about do-it-yourself at-home genetic engineering. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg